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Emily Prentiss ran her index finger around the rim of her glass as she stared into the depths of the dark amber liquid pooled at the bottom. The ocher tinted alcohol was what she considered to be the best single malt produced, and she was drinking it neat. Which, even in her semi-inebriated state, she found rather ironical considering the complete and utter chaotic mess her life had become. She absentmindedly picked up her glass and knocked back the smooth liquid fire, reveling in the slow burn marking the alcohol's progress. A quick motion with her hand brought the bartender over to pour another two fingers of scotch.
Tucker Callahan MacGregor was an experienced bartender. He'd stood behind this particular bar for nearly four decades helping celebrate momentous occasions and helping commiserate just as many devastating losses. He prided himself on being a good judge of people, which would have amused the profiler before him to no end if he shared that little fact with her, and he could tell that the dark haired woman before him who was making a significant dent in the bottle of Aberfeldy courtesy of her black AmEx was hurting. So he obligingly poured her another drink at her behest, and as he set the bottle back down on the bar he asked, "E'rything alright with ye lass?"
Emily looked up in surprise at his deep, Scottish brogue. She paused for a moment, considering her response before she just shook her head and answered quietly, "No. Not really."
"Aye," he nodded. "I did'na think so. Wanna tell ol' Tuck about it?"
She smiled a small, tired smile, happy to be on the receiving end of a small slice of kindness. "Nice to meet you Tuck. I'm Emily. And it's nothing just the worst day of my life."
He nodded in understanding and leaned forward to rest his elbows on the bar, obviously waiting for the stoic brunette to elaborate.
Emily shook her head and lifted her glass to take a more controlled sip of her drink. "I've had a number of bad days in my life," she began in a detached, offhand voice, as if the story she was about to tell belonged to someone other than herself. "I used to stop my personal list of supremely bad days at four, four days that were just absolutely crushing. But today today definitely deserves the top spot in the list."
Instead of answering, Tucker just reached below the bar and grabbed himself a glass. He poured himself a double from the bottle of Aberfeldy he was serving Emily from and topped up her glass as well. He set the bottle aside carefully and picked up his tumbler to tap it's rim to the brunette's. "Cheers." He took a small sip of his scotch, closing his eyes for a moment to truly savor the vanilla, oak and tannin notes of the liquor. When the warmth had spread to his belly he set his glass down and leveled his gaze onto Emily. "So, if yer list was at four, and now it's at five what is worst day number five?"
Emily sipped her drink and nodded thoughtfully as she let her mind travel back in time to that cool spring day in New Haven. "Day number five is the one day I let myself pout about like the child I was never allowed to be," she shared. "It was the day I graduated from Yale. I was top of my class, summa cum laude, valedictorian, the whole lot," she waved off his look of awe. "It was to be expected. My mother, the Ambassador, told me as much over the phone on the day she had her aide help me move into the freshman dorms."
"Expected or not "
"A Prentiss always does what is expected of them," Emily replied drolly. "Anyway, there I was, top of the class, waiting to give my speech when a courier shows up out of nowhere and hands me an envelope with a letter inside. It was from my mother, letting me know that she had a lunch date with some diplomat from Paraguay and would be unable to attend the ceremony. No Congratulations. No I'm proud of you. Nothing," she shook her head. "I'd worked my ass off for four years trying to finally make that woman proud of me and it meant nothing to her."
"Ah, lass," Tuck sighed, unsure as to what else to say.
"It's alright," Emily shrugged as she offered him a self deprecating smile. "I've gotten over it. Moved on, and all that."
He nodded in understanding, but his eyes told her that he didn't believe her dismissal of the whole thing one whit. "Aye, but still "
Emily waved him off as she took another healthy sip from her drink. "Trust me, days four through one definitely make that one look pathetic. Worst day number four is really a combination of days, but in the grand scheme of things they all revolve around one central event so I just group them all together."
Tuck sipped at his scotch and nodded for Emily to continue.
"I got pregnant when I was fifteen," she told him in a clinical, indifferent manner. "My mother was stationed in Rome and I got drunk and let my friend talk me into having sex with him. Worst thing was, I knew at the time that I was gay. But he was there; he liked me, he was nice to me, he made me feel needed. It was more than I had going for me at home, so I agreed even though it wasn't really something I wanted. The whole experience was terrible, your typical teenage groping and awkwardness," she shook her head at the memory. "Not two days later his parents caught him smoking pot and they shipped him off to a boarding school in Austria. A few weeks after that I'm buying a home test from the corner Chemist and it's positive. I was scared, alone, and I knew that it would have been devastating to the Ambassador's career if her daughter turned up pregnant, so I went to another friend of mine for help who found a doctor willing to do an abortion for cash," she took another drink, draining what was left in her glass and smiled softly as Tucker automatically refilled it for her. "Needless to say, my priest didn't agree with the decision."
"I canna tell ye how sorry I am for ye lass," Tuck muttered as he watched the brunette take yet another fortifying sip of her drink.
"I've never set foot back in a church since that day unless it was for a wedding or work," she shared softly. "But, 'eh what doesn't kill us makes us stronger right?"
"Aye," he nodded, his brow creased with concern. "But oh, lass, t' haveta do that without yer mum "
"She wouldn't have been much help anyways," Emily assured him with a wry smile. "Being emotionally available isn't one of my mother's strong suits."
Tucker just nodded and lifted his glass in a silent toast before taking a drink. He felt sorry for the woman and could tell that on some level she was still hurting from that event, but he also knew that she wouldn't want to hear anything from him beyond generic platitudes.
Emily took another drink, reclining back in her chair and crossing her legs as she settled into her groove. She was feeling a definite buzz a good quarter of a bottle of scotch will do that to a person but she was also feeling some relief from sharing her stories with the kind Scotsman whom she'd never see again. "So, worst day number three? Still want to hear about it?"
Tuck smiled warmly, thinking that he'd sit there until dawn if she needed him too. "O'course lass."
Emily nodded her thanks and drew a deep breath. "My third worst day ever happened only a few months ago. I'd been having some medical issues," she explained vaguely. Even a barside confessional deserved a small measure of secrecy. "So I went to the doctor to get everything checked out. After the exam the doctor had me go and wait in her office while she saw her last patient of the day, and when she finally came into her office she told me that there was a significant amount of scar tissue on my uterus from the abortion and that because of it I'd never be able to conceive or carry a child." She took a drink in order to avoid the look of pity that crossed the older man's face before she continued. "There were other issues involved, but that's really what it all came down to. It's funny how you never want something until you realize that you can never have it. I never once gave having children a second thought. They were for other people to have, other people to raise. Not me. I had my job. I didn't want that. Until I was told that I couldn't have it. And now ," she let her voice trail off as she shrugged.
Tucker Callahan MacGregor didn't know what to say to that piece of information, so he just topped up her glass instead.
"Ta," she muttered absently, earning herself a surprised look from the bartender. He'd not heard that one since his last trip back home. Emily sighed and closed her eyes as her chin dropped to her chest in defeat. "But I'd suffer through those three days happily, and be thankful for them to boot, if I could just forget the other two."
Tucker, facing the door to the bar, saw the blonde the moment she cleared the threshold. Even from a distance he could tell she was a beautiful woman with a lean build and just the right amount of curves to drive a man or woman to distraction. Her walk was slow, measured, unsure, as if she was fighting the urge to run in just as much as she was fighting the urge to run away. As she got closer, he noticed the anguished set to her jaw, her red-rimmed eyes and what looked like tear marks on her cheeks. He watched as she stopped a few feet from the bar and silently looked at Emily, her arms crossed over her stomach as if she were trying to hold herself together. He arched a brow questioningly and nodded at an empty chair invitingly but the blonde declined his invitation with a small shake of her head as she remained frozen in place.
Because her eyes were closed, Emily was completely unaware of what was happening around her, and it was only after another half minute of pensive silence that she continued on. "The second worst day of my life was when I let the woman of my dreams walk away from me." She shook her head, negating her own statement as she opened her eyes and frowned at her own dishonesty. "That's not right. The second worst day is the day I pushed the woman of my dreams away."
Tucker noticed that the blonde's right hand moved to cover her mouth in surprise at Emily's words, but she made no motion to interrupt so he let her be. His gut was telling him that this was the woman Emily had pushed away, and his heart was telling him that maybe if the reasons for that were known all might be forgiven. "Why on earth would ye do that, lass?"
Emily sighed. "Because I didn't think she'd go. I wanted her to look at the man I was pushing her toward and realize that he was so incredibly ordinary that he could never be enough for her. And then I wanted her to look at me and see that I could be everything she ever needed. I wanted her to choose me. I wanted her to want me. Tuck," she sat up straighter. "She's she's amazing. Smart, funny, beautiful. With the brightest, most beautiful blue eyes you've ever seen. When she looks at you with those eyes, you feel like you are the center of the universe. She has the biggest, most caring heart of anybody I've ever met. You wouldn't understand, but our job it can kill your soul, seeing the things we do. And she sees more of it than the rest of us yet it doesn't dim her smile one watt. She's incredible."
JJ felt her heart clench in her chest at the brunette's words as another batch of tears coursed down her cheeks. Dammit, Emily! Why didn't you tell me this before?!
"But I said 'go' and she did," Emily smiled sadly. "And that, Tuck, is the second worst day of my life. Because I not only let her walk away from me, I gave her the push to do it."
Tucker glanced over Emily's shoulder at the silent blonde, his heart breaking for the brunette who looked too beaten down to cry and the blonde who had tears pouring from her eyes. He caught her gaze and she shook her head, unwilling or unable to make her presence know just yet, so he let her be and turned back to Emily. "Lass did'na anybody e're tell ye to hang on to what's important to yer heart?"
Emily licked her lips and nodded sardonically. "It gets worse. Worst day of my life number one today the boring, ordinary, slow talking southern detective I told her to go to shows up completely out of the blue to announce that she's pregnant and they're engaged. It was like, that last tendril of hope that I'd been clinging to that she'd realize he wasn't who was right for her and that she'd somehow find her way back to me had snapped with his announcement. I tried to smile and congratulate them, her really. You know, play my part ," she paused to take a drink from her glass, " but it felt like my heart was being ripped right out of my chest."
Tuck hazarded a glance at the silent blonde and decided that she'd overheard enough. "Ye gonna sit down lass?"
Emily froze with her glass halfway between her lips and the bar, her surprise at Tucker's question evident on her face as she slowly turned in her seat to find JJ standing behind her. "Jennifer?"
JJ sucked the corner of her lower lip between her teeth and nodded at the Scotsman, studiously keeping her teary gaze away from the surprised brunette. "Can I have an orange juice, please?" she whispered, her voice rough from too much crying.
Tucker nodded, the drink request confirming his suspicion that this was the woman Emily'd been talking about. He pulled out a tumbler to match the brunette's and filled it with orange juice from a carton below the bar. "Here ye go lass," he murmured as he set the glass down in front of her before taking his own and making his way to the end of the bar, giving the women some privacy as he began washing the trays full of dirty glasses from the evening.
Finally finding her voice, Emily addressed her friend because, even after everything that'd happened, she still considered the blonde her friend. Her best friend, really. "Jay, how long were you standing there?"
JJ took a sip of her drink, holding the acidic juice in her mouth for a moment as she fought to regain some control over her emotions before answering Emily's question. "Worst day of your life number two. Which, ironically enough, is the second worst day in my life as well."
"Ah," Emily nodded slowly as she processed what, exactly, the media liaison had heard. "You were in here that long, huh?"
JJ nodded slowly as she finally turned her gaze to the brunette's. "Mmm. I was. And, really, after overhearing that I am so incredibly tempted to kick your ass right now Prentiss it isn't even funny."
This unexpected anger threw Emily for a loop. "What? Why?"
"Because I never wanted Will!" JJ replied a little more harshly than she'd intended. "I never wanted him. I wanted you. But you told me to go and I figured that meant you didn't want me, so I went."
"Stupid?" JJ offered, arching a knowing brow at the brunette who simply nodded. "Yeah. But it was one of those things where if I couldn't have you at least I wouldn't be alone."
Emily didn't have an appropriate response for that one. "Oh."
"Yeah. And then one thing led to another and suddenly I'm pregnant and in a relationship with somebody I don't even want."
Emily, still at a loss of words, could only offer the blonde a noncommittal, "Ah."
JJ frowned thoughtfully as she turned her attention back to the glass in her hands. "Why didn't you ever tell me, Em? Why?"
Emily chuckled darkly. "I don't know," she sighed. "No, that's not right either. I do know. I was so scared to lose you completely that I decided it was better to never try. I needed you to make that first move, so I pushed. I pushed, hoping you would just tell me that I was full of shit and to open my goddamn eyes already. I miscalculated, obviously."
"Yeah," JJ nodded. She wanted to lay all the blame for their situation at Emily's feet, but she was just as guilty. "I should have asked you if you really didn't want me that day."
"Mmm," Emily shrugged as she lifted her glass to study the alcohol inside it. "Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it?"
JJ nodded thoughtfully as she considered everything that had come to light in the last twenty minutes or so. "So what happens next?"
Emily frowned as she turned to face the blonde. "Worst day of my life number one I lose you to Will," she answered slowly, her confusion evident in her tone.
JJ played with the glass in her hands, swirling the juice inside it. "I never said yes," she replied evenly. "When I told him about the baby he proposed because that's what he thought he was supposed to do, but I never said yes. In fact, once everyone left after his stupid announcement that I didn't even agree to making, I broke it off with him."
"Because I'm not in love with him and I never will be," she answered softly, incredulous that after everything she'd said Emily still didn't understand. "I love him, sure, he's a nice guy. Caring, understanding, thoughtful. He will make an excellent husband some day. But he wasn't you," she confessed, taking that first step Emily had said she needed her to take. "The whole time he was rambling on in that damned nearly unintelligible accent of his, all I could think about was you. All I could focus on was you. Not him. Not the life he was trying to create for us. You. So, while he will make somebody an excellent husband that somebody could never be me."
JJ took a deep breath before taking one more small metaphorical step toward Emily. "Will hopefully have at least three parents who love them a lot. I'm going to keep the baby, Em. I've always wanted kids," she smiled obliging at Emily's arched brow. "Okay, so maybe not quite like this, but what's done is done. I think given the chance we can give him or her a wonderful life."
This was just too much at one time for Emily's scotch-addled mind. "We? You and me?"
JJ nodded, purposefully holding Emily's beautiful brown eyes captive as she attempted to explain what she was feeling. "Today was the worst day of my life too, you know. Watching you struggle to remain in control of yourself after Will told everybody that I was pregnant and that we were engaged nearly killed me. You hid it well, but I could see it in your eyes. You told the bartender that it felt like your heart was being ripped out I felt like I was the one doing it, and the pain was nearly suffocating. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. I would have given anything in that moment to save you from the agony I could see in your eyes. You, Emily Prentiss, are everything in the world to me."
"So," Emily murmured hesitantly as she moved to cover JJ's left hand with her right. "If you broke it off with Will and plan to keep the baby, which I'm happy about, by the way, what happens next?"
"Whatever we want," JJ murmured, turning her hand over underneath Emily's so she was able to twine their fingers together.
Emily smiled and looked down at the joined hands, struck by how perfectly they fit together. The day had been the worst of her life by far, but this evening this evening made the pain she'd felt earlier disappear. She had JJ's hand in hers, and the blonde had confessed to wanting her not the stumbling, bumbling, slow talking southern detective. Her life, as far as she was concerned, was perfect because the future she'd been too timid to do more than hope for was now hers to claim.
JJ watched the small smile lifting Emily's lips and couldn't help but smile herself. "What are you thinking?"
The profiler lifted their joined hands to her mouth to press a soft, adoring kiss to the back of the blonde's knuckles. "I'm thinking that I would like to take you out on a date, Jennifer."
JJ's answering smile was radiant. "You would, huh?"
"Mmm," Emily nodded.
"I would like that," JJ nodded shyly as she slid off her stool. "Perhaps tomorrow?"
Emily smiled and nodded obligingly.
JJ nodded in return, a happy smile lighting her face as her future that only hours ago was blurred and confused suddenly became clear and more defined. "Would you care to walk me up to my room?"
Emily bit her lip and smiled, her normally stoic and serious eyes twinkling with happiness. "I think I can manage that, Ms. Jareau," she replied chivalrously as she stood. "Shall we go?"
Tucker Callahan MacGregor watched the two women walk out of his bar hand in hand and nodded knowingly to the empty room. The Scotsman prided himself on being a good judge of people, and he had a feeling that those two had a very bright future in front of them indeed.
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