DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The fic was somewhat inspired by Within Temptation's 'Angels'. The song, to me, is sorta compatible with the fic but this is not a songfic. The lyrics are much darker than the fic is, at least that's what I was aiming for This one's for lysachan; for your encouragement, poking, friendship, picspams and especially for being such an awesome person.
SPOILERS: Not really. Takes place a year or two in the future.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
BETA: darkbard0. Thank you.
Forever Has an End
Sitting behind the wheel of her car Emily was nervous, more so than she usually allowed herself to be, and her nails were a testament to the fact. She was on her way to meet her friends from work at a bar they favored after hard cases, but it wasn't meeting them that had her on edge. For the first time ever, she was bringing her girlfriend with her. She'd been putting it off for weeks now, always relieved when something had come up at last minute, and, in one case, she'd chickened out herself. But now, it felt like it was time.
She glanced at the woman sitting next to her. They'd met almost six months ago and things were going well. So well in fact, that about a month ago Emily had finally mentioned her girlfriend's existence to her co-workers, a decision she had not come to overnight. As a person who protected her privacy, it wasn't easy for Emily to trust people. But this woman, she had something special. Though their work schedules often conflicted, they'd managed to spend most of their free time together and the more they'd talked and the more they'd spent time together, the more permanent their relationship seemed. It was comfortable, passionate and though it was still hard to believe at times, Emily was happy.
One of the first things Emily had shared about herself was her profession. Right from the start she'd wanted to make clear what she did and how important profiling was to her. She'd expected some negative comments about the nature of her work, but to Emily's surprise it had been interest the other woman had shown. The best part of it all was that though work kept Emily away a lot, often forcing her to call and cancel their plans, she never heard a complaint. It was the enthusiastic greetings when she returned that told Emily how much she'd been missed.
Emily grinned. The day before the team had returned from a four-day trip to Tennessee and the welcome she'd received had lasted till the late hours of the night. She'd been unable to stop smiling even as she'd been back at the office. It had taken Garcia, JJ and Morgan all of 30 seconds to notice and start pressuring to meet the mystery woman that made their friend so content. Knowing the impact of bringing the two facets of her life together, Emily had still been hesitant, but had finally decided it was time. She wanted the people she spent her days with to get to know the woman she went home to.
Unfortunately reminding herself of her earlier resolve did nothing to settle her nerves that were now coiling in her stomach. More than that, her girlfriend who was usually calmness itself was clearly nervous as well. As Emily parked the car and locked the doors, she almost groaned. This was so typical of her; acting like a nervous wreck when everything was bound to go well. These were her friends they were meeting. Garcia, Morgan, JJ and Reid. There was nothing that could go wrong.
They entered the bar hand in hand and almost immediately Emily spotted her friends sitting at a booth near the back wall. She started to steer her girlfriend to their direction when her companion let go of her.
"I'm going to get us something to drink and I'll join you then," the woman told her.
Emily nodded and gave her a quick kiss before making it across the bar to where her friends sat.
She was greeted cheerfully and responded alike, though by now the butterflies had returned, only to leave her stomach and fly all the way up to her throat. Reid rose from his seat next to JJ and moved over to the other side so Emily was left to sit next to JJ. If the brunette realized the irony in sitting between JJ and the woman she was practically living with, she chose not to acknowledge it.
"I meant to tell you a few days ago already; Henry loves the book you gave him," JJ told her, her voice slightly raised so she could be heard over the music.
"He did? I'm so glad. How is the little tyke?"
"He's doing okay. Will asked to have him this week as he's got something planned for the next one so I only went to see him after work," JJ smiled, though Emily could tell how being away from her son was affecting the woman. The breakup with Will had been clean and amicable but Emily knew it was a small comfort when JJ had to return to an empty house.
Switching the subject, JJ leaned in closer to Emily, "Don't worry about tonight. It'll be fine."
Emily smiled gratefully. Profiling might not be in JJ's job description but the woman could still read people easily enough.
JJ's effort of putting Emily at ease nearly worked, too, until she saw the shock on Morgan's face. Before Emily had time to ask him what was wrong, Garcia's face turned into a close imitation of Morgan's, "Oh my ever-gorgeous eyelashes."
Emily was about to look behind her to see what caused the two to react the way they did when
"Elle " Morgan's voice acted like a giant break. Emily frowned. How did Morgan know her girlfriend? And why was Garcia looking like she'd seen a ghost?
Trying to piece things together, Emily was about to voice her confusion when she was interrupted again, this time by Reid.
"Wow if it isn't Elle Greenway! I didn't know you were back in town. When did you come back?"
As Emily's brain scrambled to keep up with the new information she felt like she was drowning. She could hear Elle cheerfully replying to Reid but she couldn't focus on the words. There are too many thoughts in her head for her to keep them in order.
Greenway? That's That's not right Elle's last name was Collins But it's her married name. Legacy of the four-month marriage to the sales manager she couldn't get away from fast enough. Wait Elle Greenway? That's the name of the agent she replaced oh god. No. Elle wouldn't she wouldn't hide something like this
But next to Emily, she could feel JJ stiffen and mutter a curse. Even through her haze it was a piece of information that a distant part of Emily's brain filed for later analyses. Dominating her thoughts though, were betrayal and disbelief and the growing need to escape.
Emily looked up at Elle who was still standing and smiling somewhat uncomfortably. As the woman's eyes focused on her, Emily knew it was guilt she saw in them. Guilt for secrets kept and hurt caused.
From the silence that suddenly descended on the table it was clear everyone was putting together the same pieces, coming to the same conclusion; Emily had had no idea that her girlfriend, whom she had brought with her to introduce to her friends, was someone they already knew. More, someone they had worked with before Emily had come along.
The humiliation Emily felt was clear on her face and her need to escape was by now overwhelming. Standing up abruptly, she looked somewhere in JJ's general direction and mumbled an excuse before she ran out.
Outside the bar she leaned against the wall, oblivious to the stares of the people walking by. She was gasping in one lungful of air after another, knowing she was close to hyperventilating.
What she just learned and the meaning of it was all jumbled up in her head. She had never felt this out of control. Her famous compartmentalizing skills, for once, had deserted her. Stupid, stupid, stupid! How could she not have known? How could she not have seen this? How was it possible she hadn't pieced it together? Elle Collins her girlfriend of almost six months and someone she had seriously contemplated sharing the rest of her life with was the same Elle Greenway that she had replaced at the BAU.
Not only that, but in one moment Elle had made it clear to everyone sitting at the table that Emily had had no idea, that she'd been played for a fool and that she was so clueless that she'd never pieced it together. So many things suddenly made sense.
Elle's constant understanding of Emily's long hours at work, her repeated trips away somewhere around the country to chase monsters. Emily had thought herself incredibly lucky to have found a woman who was so understanding, so willing to let her be who she was, who didn't ask for her to have a nine to five job and demand to know why she sometimes stayed at the office till late in the night. But now she knew the reason.
Elle understood the demands of Emily's job better than Emily could've ever expected, even... oh god, even the way Elle had seemed to understand the people Emily was working with. Emily thought back to Elle sometimes commenting "That doesn't sound like Reid" or "Bet Morgan loved that." At the time she'd put it down to her being perceptive. But of course she'd understood. She'd known who she was referring to. She'd been part of the team after all. Oh, the team. How was she going to face them after this? Emily had to focus on her breathing so as not to throw up.
She didn't want to face anyone. She was afraid she might see pity in the blue eyes and as rotten as she was feeling, she didn't want that. As their eyes met, though, all she saw was genuine concern and some fire.
"Hey, you okay there?"
"I can't believe I didn't know," Emily whispered. She looked away for a moment before returning to the blonde's supportive gaze. "I can't go back in."
JJ closed the small distance between them and laid a hand on Emily's shoulder. "Well, if it's the team's reaction you're worried about, don't. If anything you should've seen how Morgan and Garcia were gearing up to give Elle a verbal flogging. None of us are happy about how she's obviously handled this."
Hearing this helped a little, Emily had to admit.
"Really? I mean, she was a member of the team. She worked with you guys," she voiced her lingering doubts.
"True. But that was already quite a few years ago. She left. And don't forget that she was at the BAU for a little over a year. You've been with us for a lot longer. You're the one who's part of the family now," JJ reminded, giving her friend's shoulder a gentle squeeze.
"You make us sound like the Casa Nostra," Emily said and tried to smile but it failed to reach the eyes. She couldn't will the hurt away. Why hadn't Elle told her? Had she even cared or was it just some twisted way for her to stay connected to BAU? Emily dismissed the thought as soon as it appeared, but none of this made any sense. Her head was still spinning. What could she really know for sure? The woman she thought she knew so intimately now felt like a stranger.
"Are you feeling well enough to go back in?" JJ asked.
"Erm, I can't," Emily admitted. She had no desire to deal with Elle tonight and though JJ had shed light on how the others had reacted, she didn't want to face them just yet, either. "I need to get home."
"Okay," JJ replied lightly. "Let me just go in and get your bag and we'll get outta here."
"You don't have to come with me," Emily objected.
"I know. But I want to."
"Really JJ, I'll be fine," Emily tried again.
"Yes, I know," JJ was having none of it. "You're strong. You're exceptional at compartmentalizing. But right now? You have a lot on your mind, you're hurting and I'd feel better if I knew for sure you weren't out there driving with your focus somewhere besides the road and the traffic."
Emily recognized the time of defeat when she saw it. It was no use to try and talk JJ out of her decision. The woman made the media dance to her command for a living, so she knew what strings to pull and what words to use. Besides, JJ was genuinely concerned and that's what made it count.
Nodding her assent to JJ, Emily added, "Can you tell the guys and Garcia that Well, that "
"They know. I'll just let them know we're off."
It took JJ less than two minutes to return with their belongings and Emily felt somewhat relieved. She'd get to go home now. She was suddenly longing for a hot bath and a glass of wine.
Unfortunately her relief was short-lived as she could see Elle coming up right behind JJ. Not wanting to deal with her, Emily turned away and headed towards the car, certain that JJ would follow her.
"Leave it, Elle!"
JJ's angry voice made Emily turn back to see the two women facing each other. JJ was standing in Elle's way, blocking the former agent's path.
"JJ, this is none of your business."
"When it concerns a friend of mine, it is," JJ stood her ground. She only spared a quick glance behind her at Emily, who was now standing a few feet away, unusually quiet. JJ took the silence to mean that she was not overstepping any boundaries. "Look, whatever you want to say, you can save it till later. She'll call you when she's ready." When Elle still looked mutinous, JJ added. "You caused enough pain for her tonight."
"She's my girlfriend so I'd say it's more my concern than yours," Elle claimed and tried to walk past her former colleague only to be blocked again.
By now JJ was starting to truly lose her temper and she steeled her voice even further. "Perhaps you should've concerned yourself with her well being when you were keeping something like this from her. Damnit, Elle! If you know her at all, you know it's not easy for her to trust people. Who the hell do you think you are? How could you do this?"
Finally at a loss for words, Elle seemed to relent and back off. JJ resisted a further verbal trashing and instead focused on Emily who had drifted further away. The brunette agent's behavior was completely out of character and it had JJ worried. Emily was usually very determined not to let anyone fight her battles for her. The silence was a clear indication of how big a blow tonight had been.
It didn't take them long to reach Emily's apartment. JJ was still worried and, she had to admit, reluctant to bid Emily goodnight. She didn't think it would be wise for Emily to stay alone, but she was almost certain Emily wouldn't want company. So when Emily started to talk about them choosing dinner, JJ was surprised.
"There's always Chinese," Emily suggested. "There's a good take-away place close by. There's also a Nepalese restaurant a few blocks away that delivers and a decent pizzeria."
Somehow JJ managed to hide her surprise at the turn of the events. "Anything you feel like having is fine with me."
"Nepalese it is then," Emily decided.
On their way inside JJ couldn't help but smile. She'd fully expected to call a cab and go home but she was certainly not opposed to spending time with Emily. JJ reminded herself that though it seemed like Emily was about to be single again, this was definitely not the best time to be hitting on her. What the other woman would need was a friend, not a co-worker who had never had the guts to admit her attraction.
Besides, JJ wasn't even sure if Emily still had those feelings towards her. It was undeniable that they used to have something between them but fear, sense of duty and the fact that neither wanted to compromise their friendship had made sure they'd never done anything but dance around each other. They'd never even talked about whatever it was that they had between them, avoiding it as if that would make it go away. Then JJ had gone and had her thing with Will JJ shook her head.
It had started as distraction from Emily, something to keep her mind off of whatever she couldn't have with the other agent. Only then there had been a positive pregnancy test and before she knew it, things were getting way out of her control. It still made her irate when she thought about him going against her wishes, telling everyone about them, about her being pregnant, his proposal things she had wanted to talk to him about in private but when he put her on the spot, it felt like the choice was made for her so she'd tried, only to end the charade a month ago.
As they stepped inside, Emily dropped her bag on the floor and made a beeline to the kitchen, where she dug out a menu for the restaurant.
"You know I didn't realize how hungry I am," JJ said as her eyes poured over the multitude of choices.
Emily's response was cut short by her cell phone ringing. She checked the caller id and sure enough, it was Elle. Disconnecting the call without answering she returned her focus to the menu. It was only a few seconds before the phone rang again. This time Emily ignored the phone, and by the third time, she just stared at it, willing it to be silent.
"Do you want me to tell her to leave you the hell alone?" JJ offered.
Emily smiled a little. JJ rarely cursed and tonight she'd succumbed several times. "No, that's okay. But thanks for the offer."
For a few minutes it was silent and the women came to a decision about what they wanted to eat, but then the phone rang again. Emily considered giving in. If she just answered and told the woman to stop calling... Emily almost snorted... like that would ever happen. Elle could be incredibly pigheaded when she wanted to be. The ringing stopped only to start again a few seconds later.
Finally Emily grabbed the phone and started to make her way upstairs. "JJ, can you call the restaurant, please? The number is on the other side of the menu. I'm gonna take this."
Reaching for her own phone, JJ couldn't help but wonder if Emily was going to forgive Elle. Even though Elle had done a rotten thing, Emily had seemed so happy lately. Burying her emerging jealous feelings, JJ reminded herself that as long as Emily was content, it was something she could deal with, even if it meant Emily and Elle making up.
It was right after JJ had placed their orders that she heard a shouted curse from upstairs followed by a sound of something hard hitting a wall. Using all of her formidable restrain, JJ managed not to dash upstairs to see what happened. Instead she selected a bottle of red from the counter and started to search for the opener and glasses. She was fairly certain a glass of wine would be welcomed by Emily when she came down. JJ certainly needed it. She was pouring the wine when Emily reached the bottom of the stairs, holding pieces of what used to be her cell phone in her hand.
"Think Hotch will make me pay for a new one myself?" Emily knew full well JJ must have heard her outburst and therefore didn't even bother to try to pretend it hadn't happened.
Holding out a glass for Emily, JJ looked at the remnants of the phone and cringed. "I took the liberty of opening a bottle. It should probably breathe, but "
The older woman accepted the offering with gratitude and drowned half the glass at once, clearly not bothered if it had had time to breathe or not.
The two fell silent. Both were feeling it was the time for a more serious talk if they were going to have one, but neither knew where to begin. JJ wanted to help, was desperate to do so, but didn't know how. Emily was an intensely private person and JJ felt she couldn't push the brunette more than she already had. If they were going to talk, Emily was going to have to be the one to initiate the conversation.
Just as the silence was threatening to stretch to the point of being uncomfortable, Emily grabbed the wine bottle from the counter and went to sit down on the couch. Taking her cue from Emily, JJ followed, being careful to sit close but not too close.
"Oh hell How could I have been so stupid?!"
"What?" Emily's outburst left JJ stunned. She had not realized Emily had been blaming herself since the bar. She'd thought Emily was just mad at Elle, but she hadn't even considered how pissed off the woman was at herself as well.
"Emily, you can't blame yourself. This is all on Elle."
"Most of it, yes. But not all. How could I not have seen it? I mean "
"Hey, listen to me. Look at me." JJ waited until Emily met her eyes. The pain and the vulnerability in the brown orbs tore at JJ's heart. She longed to just hold Emily, but knew it was logic and reason her friend needed more. "You and I know better than most people how easy it is to take the blame. And just like at work, the 'what ifs' aren't going to do you any good. Were there things you could have seen and suspected she was someone else than she led you to believe? Possibly. But you can't be in a relationship doubting the other person's every word, trying to see if there's some other meaning they're not letting on. You're supposed to be able to trust them. If they fail at that, then it's not on you."
Emily's eyes pooled with tears as she struggled with her feelings. "I'm a profiler."
"Yes, at work. I know you sometimes can't help but profile outside the office because it's not just something you do, it's who you are. But I've heard you all say it. You try not to bring it to your personal lives, 'cos very soon you can't keep them separate. You have to allow for the people in your life the freedom of not being scrutinized for every choice they make, for every gesture and facial expression. It comes down to trust."
A tear and then two escaped Emily's eyes and she wiped them away. By then JJ found it impossible to just sit next to her. She took one of Emily's hands in her own and was pleased when she didn't pull back.
"My head feels like it's going to explode," Emily confessed. "Not like a headache. I mean, it's all of this. I keep remembering things Elle said or did that at the time made it feel like she just really understood me and now It's all tainted. And she knew you guys were going to be there tonight. Why didn't she tell me? Why did she wait till we were at the bar?"
"I know it sounds like a cliché, mostly because it is, but Once you sleep and get some rest, it'll start to clear out. You might not have all the answers, but it won't all be so jumbled in your head."
The brunette agreed by nodding silently.
"It won't be easy, but do you think maybe if we ate and watched a movie or something, it would help you keep your thoughts away from her for a while. Just until you go to sleep," JJ suggested.
"Just until morning."
"Just until things are a bit clearer."
Emily was mulling it over when there was a knock at the door. As she got up she decided a movie was just what she needed; something else to think about. And if JJ stayed, so much the better.
After paying the delivery guy for their meals she carried the cartons to the kitchen area. "I have a few DVDs I haven't had a chance to watch, yet. They're at the top of the DVD tower. You can choose while I set this up."
As JJ was trying to make up her mind between three movies that had immediately caught her interest, Emily was piling their meals on plates and stealing glances at the blonde as she did so. She knew it was much too early yet, for both of them, but she couldn't help but wonder what her life would be like if it was JJ she had woken up next to the last few years. Or if it was something she would do sometime in the not so distant future.
"JJ, if you want, the guest room is set up so you're welcome to stay the night if you want," she blurted out before her courage failed her.
Hotch was already in bed when his phone signaled the arrival of a message. Finding his phone in the dark, he squinted his eyes at the bright light of the display.
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