DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHO'RS NOTE: This is another attempt at a music-themed drabble… as you can see, it ran away from me. The song, in this case, was Daughtry's "Home".
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By sHaYcH


There's a place in the California hills where the rocky terrain meets the Pacific Ocean. It is here that Emily goes when she wants to feel apart from the close conformity of her life.

This is not home. It will never be anything but alien to her, and that is exactly what she seeks whenever she visits the gray wilderness of sand, stone, and sea.

Salty, chill wind buffets her, the cold easily going through the layers of her dark blue suit, but she does not sense it. Up the road, a small community is still reeling from the horror of twelve dismembered bodies.

Finding the killer is easy; almost routine. What has Emily standing alone on this beach, this foreign place, is the struggle to face a truth in her heart that has grown too large to contain.

She has no box in which she can shove the way her breath catches at the faintest hint of jasmine perfume. There isn't a storage unit big enough to house the butterflies in her stomach that appear whenever she catches sight of flaxen hair.

The sun is a watery golden globe creeping across the landscape, racing for its inevitable resting place at the bottom of the sea. With her hands tucked into her pockets, Emily stands, statue-still as the murky water turns into molten gold.

Crunching sand warns of a visitor's approach, but the FBI agent does not turn. After two years, she knows the sound of JJ's confident stride.

"I always thought I'd show you this place," Emily says in a near conversational tone. She doesn't show her surprise at being followed, but she can't quite embrace rapidly erupting hope, either. It's a mirage. False, like water in the desert – she's only here because I turned off my cell and Garcia was able to find the rental by GPS.

Surprised, JJ responds, "Well, here I am. What'd you want me to see?"

Emily's expression is equal parts sad and uncertain. Once, when flirtatious grins and heart-stopping near kisses had drawn them together, she had envisioned bringing JJ to this place to offer her a piece of her heart. Now, she can only see JJ's life in terms of Henry and Will. Might-have-been's aside, there was no room for Emily in a family of he and she. "Nothing. It's long gone." She turns away from the fading sun and says, "We should go."

"Emily, wait," comes JJ's soft request.

The wind picks up, tossing curtains of sand toward the water. Neither woman speaks for a long moment until JJ moves toward Emily, reaching to lay her hand on the other agent's arm.

"Em, I'm here." JJ's gaze is warm and full of laughter. "Whatever it is, I really want to know."

The heat of JJ's hand is shocking, her touch a surprise that scrambles Emily's thoughts. She cannot speak; all her words are caught behind her eyes.

JJ wants to understand, to find the key that opens the mystery that is Emily Prentiss. As the wind shifts direction, pelting them with sand, Emily licks her lips.

"Jennifer," she whispers, slowly reacting, and covering JJ's hand with hers. Their gazes meet, but they are locked in silence.

Emily's fingers are like ice, but there is a core of heat that JJ feels all the way down to her bones. She's been away; a relationship that fell apart two months after the test was positive has left her heading toward an uncertain future. He's a good man, and a good father, but he's not the face she wants to see for the rest of her life.

Coming back to work has been like coming home. It isn't just the team, though God knows she's missed them all. No, it's walking into a room, meeting Emily's eyes and feeling her heart jump.

Just like it is right now.

Emily's grip tightens, and then begins to drift away. She breaks their gaze to look toward the parking lot and JJ knows that if she doesn't act now, whatever impulse drove her to follow Emily to the sea will fade like noontime fog.

"What did you want me to see, Emily?" JJ pushes herself into the other woman's personal space. "What are you holding back? Tell me."

Emily's eyes close once. When she opens them, the unshuttered emotion waiting therein is like a fist in JJ's gut.

Acting on instinct, she frees her hand to reach up and push Emily's overlong bangs out of her face. "I didn't know," she whispers.

Emily's smile is half mockery, half challenge. "Now you do."

JJ realizes that Emily expects her to run; to turn away from the answers to the thousand questions she's forgotten to ask. Instead, she ghosts her fingertips over the other woman's cheek then pulls her down for a kiss that's an answer, a question, and a promise.

When they break apart, JJ shakily whispers, "I hope you're good with kids."

Emily pulls JJ into her arms, strokes her cheek lovingly and just before kissing her again, says, "I'll learn."

The End

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