DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for the ever-demanding ralst. Special thanks to the wonderful mrswoman for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Happy Birthday to Me
By Ann


The spray of hot water washed away the last evidence of sleep from her eyes as Emily Prentiss reached for the lavender-scented soap, resigned to start her day. Waking with the realization that another year had gone by and, specifically, that she was another year older had Emily wishing she could just pull the covers over her head and hide away for the rest of the day. Instead, she'd done the proper grown-up thing and crawled out from the warm comforts of her bed and directly into the water she currently stood under. This year would be no exception; it would mark yet another year she wouldn't receive the present she truly wanted. It hadn't mattered what she'd wished for through the years, for some reason or another, she'd never received it and had actually grown used to the disappointment. Shutting off the water, she dried herself, wrapped a towel around her middle, and headed into her bedroom. The sight that greeted her stopped her in her tracks.

There, on the dark blue sheets she'd barely left, lay a naked JJ; all except the red bow draped loosely around her body. The blonde smiled sexily and said, "Happy birthday, Emily; it's time to unwrap your present." JJ extended an inviting hand, and mesmerized, Emily started for the bed. Finally, one of her birthday wishes had come true. And what a wish it was.

Beep . . . beep . . . beep . . . beep.

The tantalizing image of JJ vanished just before Emily could touch her as the sounds of the alarm broke through the fantasy and landed Emily back into the real world. Reaching over, she swatted the annoying alarm and slowly opened her eyes. JJ was gone, replaced by the body pillow she kept by her side. Emily grabbed hold of the satin-covered pillow and burrowed her face into its silky softness. Screaming in frustration, she pulled the covers over her head. This was so much worse than the birthday dream she'd had about riding the pony she'd asked for but had not received. At least with that dream, she'd actually ridden the pony before she'd awakened.

Two showers later, one cold and one hot, followed by a hastily consumed cup of coffee and a frantic drive into work, had Emily racing into the morning briefing and offering up an apologetic lie.

"I'm so sorry – traffic." She smoothly slid into her chair and grabbed the top file from the neat stack, her fast heartbeat keeping her erratic breathing company.

"No problem; we've just begun." JJ flashed a smile across the short distance before returning her focus to the file in her hand. "And so, to recap . . ." Emily barely heard a word; she was too busy trying to remove the earlier image of the bow-covered JJ from her head.

Hours later, Emily was in a completely different mind set. Gone was the frustration and embarrassment, replaced with feelings of hurt and confusion. Not one team member had wished her a happy birthday – not even a fully clothed JJ. And Garcia, the queen of organization, who'd always made sure to acknowledge each team member's birthday with a homemade cake, hadn't so much as offered her a cupcake. The day Emily had told herself that she'd wanted to treat as any other day had become just that – an ordinary day, nothing at all special about it. A single acknowledgement by someone – anyone - would've been nice.

Emily once again checked her cell phone, knowing full well her mother wouldn't have called. She comforted herself with the thought that the ambassador had at least made arrangements to have dinner with her daughter, choosing to ignore that the only reason was more than likely because her mother just happened to be in the city for the day. Emily wasn't even sure her mother had remembered that it was her birthday. It certainly wouldn't be the first time the ambassador had forgotten.

Sighing, Emily picked up another file, consoling herself with the knowledge that when her mother finally did remember she'd buy Emily something extravagant – not necessarily something Emily wanted, but extravagant nonetheless. Her musings as to what the gift might be were interrupted by the arrival of Penelope Garcia.

"Hey, Emily."

Emily looked up to find the technical analyst standing beside her and holding a small plate, a rather scrumptious-looking muffin centered in the middle of the dinnerware. Emily almost beamed with excitement. She should've known that Garcia wouldn't forget the significance of the day.

"Hi, Garcia."

Garcia returned Emily's broad smile with one of her own. "Have you seen Morgan around? I promised him I'd bring him a chocolate chip muffin from that bakery around the corner from my apartment. He just loves them."

Emily loved them, too. "Um, I think he went to ask JJ a question."

"Okay, thanks." Garcia winked and headed off to find the other agent as the smile fell from Emily's face. Garcia was giving Morgan her birthday muffin.

As the day progressed, so did the lack of birthday acknowledgements. The icing on the proverbial non-birthday cake came near the end of the day when Garcia walked into the bullpen area to ask Reid what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday which was still a month away. No one heard Emily's softly muttered, "How about a nice forget-me-not cake," as they were too busy offering different suggestions for the event that was, in Emily's mind, an eternity away. Grabbing up her files, she eased out of the room, grateful that the day was almost over, and she was surprised to find herself actually looking forward to a quiet birthday celebration with just her mother.

Later that evening, Emily strolled into the Citronelle eager to experience the extraordinary meal offered at the private Chef's Table. She'd limited herself to visit this particular restaurant only on the occasions when she'd dined with her mother, and she'd always looked forward to the unique ten-course meal prepared especially for her palate. Her mouth was practically watering when her cell chimed from her purse.

"Prentiss." Emily stepped to the nearby wall for a bit of privacy, hoping that some emergency wouldn't pull her away from the one high point of her day.

"Emily," said the ambassador in an apologetic tone, "I'm so sorry that I won't be able to meet you at Citronelle tonight. My meeting is running much longer than I anticipated, and I'm afraid it'll be at least another hour before I can get away."

At the sound of her mother's voice, Emily had already started toward the Maître d' to cancel their reservations. "Okay, Mother. We'll try again the next time you're in the city." Emily pointed to the reservation listed under Elizabeth Prentiss and shook her head. Not for the first time that day, she'd wished she'd just stayed under the covers of her bed with her JJ body pillow.

The drive to her apartment seemed to take forever as Emily hit every single red light, but finally, she placed her key in the door and stepped inside, wanting nothing more than to change into something more comfortable and then to lounge on the sofa with a glass of wine.

"Happy birthday to me," Emily whispered into the dark room as she slipped off her shoes and moved further into the apartment. A flash of bright light halted her steps and had her reaching for the gun that wasn't behind her back, the subsequent yells of 'Surprise' stopping her from reaching into her purse.

"What? Who?" Emily stuttered her confusion and glanced around the room at the familiar faces.

Garcia wore a smug smile and held a basket filled with muffins, Reid and Morgan grinned like a couple of cats who'd eaten their respective canaries, Hotch and Rossi stood against the wall, smiles threatening on both men's faces, and JJ and Elizabeth Prentiss rounded out the group, both women already moving toward Emily. In the background, Emily was just able to spy the presents which surrounded the decorated cake on her dining table.

"Surprise, Dear," said the ambassador as she reached Emily first and pulled her into a loose embrace. Emily wasn't sure what surprised her more – the party or her mother's rare display of affection. She didn't have long to ponder her query as her attention was drawn to JJ. The blonde agent wore a bright red shirt and offered a sweet smile.

"Happy birthday, Emily; it's time to unwrap your presents." JJ extended her hand in invitation, and Emily was taken back to her earlier dream of that morning.

The smile JJ wore wasn't as smug, the red shirt wasn't a bow, and JJ had used the plural of present, but Emily couldn't have been happier. Of course, a naked JJ would've made her happier, but for right now, she planned to enjoy the moment.

Laughing, she took JJ's hand and headed for her guests. This was the best birthday she'd ever had, and this year, she knew damned well what she was going to wish for when she blew out her candles.

The End

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