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For Fear of Falling
By Kassandra Luem
You look at her back as she walks away and it takes everything you have not to cry out to her. To tell her that you were wrong. That you don't love him. You love her.
But you don't, because you lost the right to do so the second your words placed that fathomless sadness in her eyes and made her professional mask slam into place.
You never thought that one day she'd use that mask to keep you out. You always prided yourself on being the one person she let in. The fact that priviledge also means responsibility only occurs to you right now.
Now that it's too late.
Because inspite of all the vows you've silently taken everytime she opened up to you, everytime she let you see that hidden vulnerability of hers, you've hurt her. Badly.
And only because you were too much of a coward to take a risk with love. Because it was so much easier to pretend you're in love with him than dealing with your feelings for her. And now you're standing here and you just know that you've broken what could've been your one chance at happiness.
Suddenly there's a hand on your back and it irritates you beyond words because the only hands you want to have on your back right now are hers. But you chose this. And so you try to shake off the irritation and turn to the person behind you. He gives you that warm smile of his and you do your best to return it in kind. He doesn't notice something's off. She would've known, you're sure.
But she's not him and you just made her walk away, telling her you loved him. Which you're no longer sure is the truth. Crap. Which you now know not to be the truth. Still you take his hand in yours and let him guide you to the car.
Because this is what you chose and now you have to live with it. You got no right at all to start complaining.
Part One Emily
It's been two weeks since she told you she didn't love you. Two whole weeks.
You have no idea how you survived this long.
You suppose that burying yourself in work and then drowning yourself in scotch as soon as you get home would be the adequate answer.
You thought you knew her, you think bitterly as you play with the glass in your hand and marvel at the different shades of amber. You thought she loved you. A bitter snort escapes from your mouth and the sound seems to hang in the silence of your condo for several moments.
Like hell she did. By now you suppose she was just lonely and thought that while she was waiting for Mr.Right she could as well have some fun with you.
As if someone like her could ever love you. It's true, she has her demons as well, who doesn't in your line of work. But to you, she'll always be your shining angel. She's far from innocent, but to you she's always been the epitome of purity. She's not like you, with your compartments, your armors and defenses and your trust issues.
And for all the anger you're nursing so eagerly to get you through the day, you can't help but think that maybe she's right choosing him. Maybe he'll make her more happy than you ever could. Because he can care for her, comfort her, love her, without second-guessing himself every second.
As you know you would.
Because you would be scared to do something wrong. Because you don't know how to love her without being afraid of losing her.
Well, at least now she's gone you don't have to live with that fear any longer.
In one gulp you drown the rest of your scotch and move to get a refill. Your thoughts are still far too focussed for your liking. And you don't really care that tomorrow you'll have to apply an extra-layer of make up to work yet again. You just pray to God that it'll be enough. The guys may be your family but that doesn't mean you can stand the thought of breaking in front of them. As long as they don't ask you what's wrong you're fine. As long as they don't give you the "you can tell us, Emily, we're family, we want to be there for you"- thing you can hold yourself together.
But you're afraid that as soon as someone merely shoots you a sympathetic glance you'll fall apart. You'll break into a million pieces and you have no idea whether you'll have the strength to put yourself back together again. And right now you're not even sure what's the point in trying.
You drag your body over to the cabinet where you put your bottle of scotch and while you watch the thin jet of amber liquid falling into your glass you think about tomorrow.
You'll walk into the office as if nothing happened. As if you don't have a killer headache, as if you don't dread the morning meeting during which she'll look so beautiful it hurts and as if you don't notice her avoiding any kind of eye contact with you. You'll act for all the world like confident, strong Emily when you know that in truth, you're neither. And when you get home, nothing will have changed. Tomorrow you'll find yourself in the exact same spot. And somehow you can't even find it in yourself to care.
Suddenly the bell's chiming and you almost drop your tumbler in surprise. A quick glance confirms your first thought: It's way too late for ordinary visitors. Who the hell could be at your door at 3.27am?
Somewhere deep inside you already know the answer, but your brain refuses to acknowledge that. You want to take a little extra time, to pay her back at least a little bit by making her wait in front of your door but you find you can't. Worry makes you quicken your steps and you actually make it to the door in record time even though your vision's blurry and your movements are sluggish.
You open the door and as always her beauty takes your breath away. But for all your worry, you can't bring yourself to say anything. You're afraid of what will come out of your mouth once you open it. She'll have to do the talking. After all she's the one who turned up on your doorstep at almost 3.30 in the morning.
She raises her gaze and for the first time since that fateful evening you make eye contact.
You're shocked to see tears glistening in her eyes and even more shocked at your own reaction to the sight. Your stomach's tightening with worry and you feel a sharp jolt of panic hitting you square in the chest. You're just about to berate yourself for your emotional response, wanting to tell yourself that you no longer have the right to care about her like this, when she begins to speak.
Her voice is thin and childlike in its highness. You're so captivated by her tone that it takes a moment for the words to sink in.
"He asked me to marry him."
Part Two - JJ
You have no idea what kind of reaction you were expecting when you told her, but surely not this.
She doesn't move a muscle. Not even her lids are twitching. She just looks at you, her face slack and expressionless, her eyes merely reflecting the light of the lamps on the wall.
You've never seen her look this blank.
And then she just turns and walks into her apartment, leaving you on her doorstep without a word. You have no idea what to do. You have no idea what you're doing here anyway. Really, what did you expect from this visit? You don't know. You just know that you felt like you finally had to talk to her as soon as he posed the question.
You've been avoiding her for two weeks and it feels like hell. Sometimes you miss her so much you feel like suffocating. But then you tell yourself you don't have the right to feel like this. It isn't fair, neither to him nor to her. And so you've just been waiting for the feeling to pass. Except it never did. So maybe this is why you're here, at this ungodly hour.
You're still standing on her doorstep, uncertain whether you should just go or enter. Uncertain what she wants you to do. You remember her walking away that day, the rigid posture of her back, the tension you could see radiating from her shoulders. The way she refused to drop her head. And the sight makes your heart ache even in retrospect.
You're brought back to the present by the sound of smashing glass. Without further consideration your feet carry you into her living-room. You find her sitting on the couch, hands on her knees, back ramrod straight. She looks like an ice statue, sharp, hard, beautiful and ready to shatter. Her gaze fixed on her own reflection in the window. The lights are out and you only notice the shards of glass on the floor beside the window as they catch the light from the floor outside.
You have no idea what to do. You want to wrap your arms around her, to tell her that you're sorry, that everything was a big mistake, but you're not sure you got the right to do so anymore and quite frankly you don't know how to do it, since she still doesn't acknowledge your presence.
You don't know how to deal with her when she's like this. You've never seen her this unresponsive, this far away and it scares you. It adds to the mountain of guilt you already carry around and suddenly the sight is too much and you feel like it's going to crush you if you stay any longer. So you whisper the only words you can think of and turn to go.
"I'm so sorry, Emily."
The sound of her voice stops you mid-turn.
"And now you're going back to him, aren't you? Why did you come here JJ? Just to rubb it in my face? I get it, thank you. You don't want me. But can't you at least leave me alone now? Don't you think you did enough damage? But no, you just have to come back for more, right?"
Her voice is quiet, not above a whisper really. But it's raw, deep and toneless. You wouldn't have thought you'd ever hear her voice sound like that. It breaks your heart into a million pieces, especially as she adds
"Go back to him, JJ. Go away. Just go."
Part Three Emily
You don't turn to look at her as you tell her to go, because you know her eyes would be your downfall. The hands on your knees are starting to tremble and you know it won't be long before you break. You desperately want her out before you do.
You know that she knows she hurt you, but you refuse to let her know just how much she meant to you. Still does, in fact. So you don't really care if you have to be rude with her to get her out, as long as she doesn't see you falling.
You may not have anything else left, but you still got your pride.
Yet she doesn't move. She's standing behind you, motionless, and her presence starts to burn your back. You refuse to turn, refuse to even acknowlegde she's still there. You can just imagine what she looks like now. Wide eyes, fixed on the back of your head, hands, wrung tightly together. Her mouth just slightly open, trying and failing to find words. The mental image doesn't exactly make it easier for you to hold the tears back. You're fighting hard to keep your head up, your back straight and your eyes dry.
She won't get to see you break. She won't. She won't.
Suddenly you hear a sob behind you and your head flies around so quickly you almost twist your neck. She's crying. Really crying, her head hung low, her face hidden in her hands.
You're too surprised to do anything.
So you just stare at her until she lifts her head and looks you in the eye. She's beautiful. Inspite of the mascara running down her cheeks, she's still the most beautiful thing in the world to you. She's fixing you with those clear, blue eyes of hers and you can feel them starting to creep behind your defenses. No matter how hard you try, you can't keep them out and soon you get that familiar feeling of being laid bare in front of her.
"I'm so sorry."
She whispers again and you get the impression that she knows exactly how close you are to breaking. And for a moment you start to hate her for how well she knows you. And then you see another tear make its way down her cheek and you simply can't hate her anymore. So you just nod, you don't want her pity and you don't want her to feel guilty over her decision.
It's not her fault she can't love you.
You don't trust your voice. She's sorry. Sorry that she hurt you. And still she'll go back to him. Because she never loved you the way you loved her. And that's the final straw. You move to get up and stand right in front of her.
"Please go, Jennifer," you say with a breaking voice and she nods sadly and actually starts to make her way to the still open door.
As soon as you're sure she's on her way out you turn and practically run into your bedroom. You just manage to close the door behind you before you collapse onto the bed.
Tears are falling from your eyes unchecked and you feel like drowning in your own grief, your own despair and hopelessness. She's going to marry him and she never loved you. You've been a fool to tell yourself otherwise.
You feel like you can't breathe and you realize you're close to hyperventilating. What a mess you are. You start to hate yourself for being so weak. For being so unlovable. And you dig your nails deep into the skin of your hands. Just as they are about to draw blood there's a gentle hand on your back.
Part Four JJ
You stand in the corridor of her apartment and somehow you can't bring yourself to go. You know you should, she explicitly told you so. Almost begged you, even.
You shudder, remembering her voice. It sounded so empty that your heart broke all over again. And the knowledge that you were the one who took the feelings out of her voice makes you hate yourself even more than you've already done those last weeks.
No, you don't have the right to be here anymore. She was right to throw you out. The least thing you can do is to respect her wishes now.
You take the first step towards the door when you hear it. The sound of someone crying, sobbing in a way that makes your skin crawl.
It's Emily. Emily's crying.
For once your heart overrides your brain and in a matter of seconds you're standing in the door to her bedroom. You feel tears welling up in your eyes at the sight that greets you.
She's lying on her bed, her knees drawn up to her chest and she's pressing her fists into her eyes. Her breast is rapidly rising and falling, her body heaving with sobs. You take a step towards her, everything inside of you yelling to go and comfort her. Everthing inside of you screaming to do something, to somehow make it better. Her pain is ripping through you, your guilt is slicing you to shreds.
Seeing her like this is breaking you. Still you hesitate. You love her, but you're not sure that's enough right now. Because she doesn't know. Because the only thing she knows is that you left her to be with some Southern detective.
You realize she's hyperventilating and as you move to be closer to her you notice that she's pressing her fingernails so tightly into the sensitive skin of her palms that they're about to break it.
You can't hold back any longer and inspite of all your doubts, your guilt and your fear you reach out to touch her.
You just place one hand on her back, but the reaction is immediate. From one second to the next her body goes utterly still. For an instant she just lies motionlessly, then she turns to look at you.
Her dark eyes are glistening with unshed tears, a few of them hanging from her lashes. Her lips are deep red from where she bit down on them. The expression in her eyes is one you can't place.
She's asking what you're doing here, why you left her, what she's gonna do without you and if you're gonna stay. All in one long, deep glance. You sigh and move your hand to touch her cheek. For a second she allows it, before drawing back again. You sigh once more and lower your head.
Now it's time to confess.
You're afraid of what she's going to say. But you won't hold back. She deserves the truth and if she still wants you, if she can find it in herself to forgive you then you'd be the most blessed person in the world.
Because it would mean that maybe the two of you can start again. Maybe. Just maybe. You tell yourself not to get your hopes up, because after everything you did to her you know you don't deserve to be taken back. But you have to do this.
Even if she doesn't take you back, perhaps it'll take a bit of her pain away to know that it was your fault and your fault alone that things turned out like this. That she never did anything wrong.
On the contrary. That everything she did felt so damn right it scared you. Which was why you ran away. God, you don't even understand your own reasoning anymore. And if you don't even understand it yourself, then how are you supposed to make her understand?
Nevertheless you softly take her chin into your hands, slightly surprised that she allows the move, and make her look into your eyes. Then you launch into your explanation.
Part Five Emily
She's nervous, you can tell from the way her hand plays unconsciously with your blanket.
She seems about to tell you something, even though you have no idea what she could possibly say to make this whole fucked-up situation any better. Most probably she's just going to apologize again.
At that thought you feel the by now familiar pressure on your chest again, the stinging of your eyes.
Nothing has changed.
And then she takes your chin in her hands and the feeling of her skin against your skin startles you in a way that leaves you paralyzed. It's torture and redemption at the same time.
Once again you feel like falling and her hand on your face is the only thing that keeps you anchored to the present. But you know that sooner or later she'll remove it again. Every attempt you make at steeling yourself for that moment falls short as she looks into your eyes.
Deep, crystal blue that appears darker than usual from the lack of light. Her gaze pierces you in a way so intense something inside of you starts to shake. It's like she's trying to burn herself into you and suddenly you're scared of what she's going to say.
Her first words go completely past you. The blood drumming in your ears makes it impossible to understand what she's saying and it's only from the second sentence on you actually hear her.
" was a mistake. I should never have told you I loved him, Em "
You actually flinch at that. You, Emily Prentiss, who never flinches at anything, flinch as she makes you recall that moment. But then again, you suppose tonight it's too late to care about poise anyway.
The thought crosses your mind that you should never have given her that much power over you. Well, it wasn't exactly like you had a say in that. You're sure she caught your slight movement, because for a moment her eyes seem to darken, but she goes on speaking anyway.
"I was so wrong, Emily, I knew it the moment I saw you walking away. I shouldn't have gone. Ever."
You now have some sort of idea where all of this is heading and your stomach clenches and unclenches in a most unnerving pattern. Her gaze is still holding yours and in the darkness of your bedroom, her eyes seems to be shooting sparks at you.
" because I love you. It has been you all along. I'm so, so sorry I let my fear get the better of me. I shouldn't have run. I'm sorry my cowardice caused you so much pain. I'm so sorry, Emily."
At this she lowers her gaze and the brief surge of joy you felt at hearing her say she loved you is quickly replaced by bonedeep weariness as the reality of your situation kicks in.
You don't know what to say.
So everything was one big mistake and if you just say yes the two of you can jump back to the way things have been before? Somehow you don't think it's that simple.
You just have to tell that to the tiny shards of your heart that have already started mending at the prospect.
You feel torn. Torn between your desire to just fall into her waiting arms and give yourself to her. And the fear that's resonating deep inside your belly. That sooner or later she'll leave you again. That she gets scared, or that she finds someone better than you.
Because somehow you can't believe that she's here for real, that what she's saying is for real and not just some crude joke of your own mind.
You don't even realize that you haven't said anything since she finished speaking until she says your name in a tone you've never heard from her before. It's quiet, almost timid, dread and hope woven into her voice in equal parts.
You raise your gaze to meet hers and you're falling again. All you want is to lose yourself in her. But you can't allow yourself to do so, not until you're sure that she's for real, that her words and promises are for real. And so the only answer you can give her is a question.
"Is this really what you want, JJ? Are you absolutely sure this time? Because if not, please, don't do this to me. Don't do this, JJ."
Part Six - JJ
She looks at you and tears are falling from her dark lashes again.
You want to reach out to her, to brush them away, but the expression in her dark eyes keeps your hands in place.
You should have expected it, but the fear you can read in her dark eyes, hear in her tone, sends a sharp jolt of pain through you.
She's scared of you.
Scared of how much you could hurt her yet again. And still, there's just this spark of hope settling behind her eyes. Tiny and weak, but it's there. And it's the glimpse of this sparkle that makes you smile as you take her hand in yours and lift your other hand to brush the tears away from her cheeks.
"I've never been more sure about anything in my life, Emily. I love you, and only you. I know I don't deserve your forgiveness, I don't deserve anything from you, except a kick in the ass, maybe. But if you could just give me the chance to try and show you just how much I love you... Because I really do. With everything that I am."
You desperately need her to believe you, to see that you're being honest now.
You think you can live with the fact that maybe, she'll never forgive you, that she'll throw you out the very next second. It's your own fault, really. But you can't stand the thought that she throws you out, thinking you never loved her.
Because you love her. Just too much for you to cope with.
You tell her why exactly you ran and she's crying even harder. Finally you stop and it takes you a moment to realize that you're crying as well.
You've said everything you had to say. You've laid yourself bare before her and now it's up to her to decide what to do.
Part Seven - Emily
She tells you she loves you.
More than anything.
And her eyes bore into you, as if trying to make you see only through the intensity of her look. She tells you that what the two of you had felt so perfect it scared her. So much that she ran.
She's squeezing your hand tightly, almost as if to show you that she's here now. A quiet promise that she won't be going anywhere.
And as you look into her teary eyes, looking at you with a mixture of hope, guilt and love you find yourself inclined to believe her. Because no matter what you're telling yourself you still love her. You never stopped loving her. You can't even imagine not loving her.
So the only thing you can do is believe in her, believe in her quiet reassurance and let it go. Let yourself fall again. But this time, there's something in her eyes, a warmth and security that gives you the certainty that she'll be there to catch you.
And now that you think about her words, you suddenly realize that maybe you're not the only one who feels like she's falling. That for her, these feelings are just as new and frightening as they are for you.
You tighten your grip on her hand and as you lean in to kiss her you think that as long as you are falling together you don't really care about hitting the ground.
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