DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I just had to address this episode before I could move back into my dream world where there are no babies, no bangs, and no William LaMontagne.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

It Only Hurts When I Breathe
By Ann


I knew there was something going on between JJ and Detective William LaMontagne. Hell, everyone knew it. But until I saw them kiss, there was always the slim possibility that I'd been wrong. After all, profiling wasn't an exact science; I just wished this was one of those times when the process had failed. The worst part was that I'd been the one to push JJ to go after him. Did my subconscious think she'd laugh off my suggestion and turn those blue eyes and gorgeous smile on me instead? Why didn't I keep my mouth shut? Why didn't I ask her to go out and maybe get something to eat or drink? Offer to help take her mind off the man she'd just broken up with even though I wasn't supposed to be privy to their relationship in the first place.

Reid and Morgan came into the room and stepped next to me, stopping my self-incriminating questions, and I found myself uncharacteristically nervous that I would be the next one profiled, so I offered a teasing remark, hoping my rather flat delivery would go unnoticed by my colleagues or at least be chalked up to exhaustion. It seemed to work as they joined in, confirming my earlier thoughts that they, too, knew the extent of the relationship between JJ and the New Orleans detective. The three of us must have looked a sight, standing on the sidelines, watching our teammate and her lover engage in a sweet, and from all indications, loving kiss. Stuffing my hands deeper into my pockets, I offered a parting shot and turned to leave, not able to bear witness to something I would never have for myself. My hopes and dreams had shattered right before my very eyes.

I returned to the hotel to pack my ready bag as I was certain that we'd be leaving Miami and its stifling heat behind within the next couple of hours. I'd reached for my cell phone several times on the ride over from the station, needing desperately to talk to someone who'd understand my complete and utter devastation at the turn of events, but the phone just continued to ring and ring and ring. Where I'd always been able to rely on Garcia to listen to my private thoughts concerning JJ, even she was no longer available to me. She had Kevin, JJ had LaMontagne, and I had no one.

Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, I stared across at my reflection in the dull-looking mirror of the room as I took slow, even breaths. The dull pain that had started in the center of my chest when I'd watched JJ kiss her lover began to intensify with every passing second until it was painful to draw in a single breath. I needed to hold on just a little longer. Soon, I'd be in the comforts of my own apartment, and then I'd be able to allow myself to deal with the many detrimental effects their relationship would have on mine and JJ's. No longer would I be able to read anything into those subtle glances and stolen smiles JJ always sent in my direction; no longer would I spend night after night contemplating the reason behind them; no longer would I believe those gestures held a hidden meaning.

My world was spiraling out of control; my thoughts a whirlwind of hopelessness and despair. How could I have allowed myself to believe that it was only a matter of time until JJ and I sat down and professed our feelings toward each other? How could I have let myself believe that it wasn't a possibility of an 'if,' but rather the certainty of a 'when?' When did the realist in me lose all touch with the very reality I'd come to depend on my entire life? When had I become such a hopeless romantic?

I sat unmoving until the call finally came to meet Hotch downstairs at the SUVs. I hadn't come to terms with any of my questions, and I wasn't sure that I ever would. I just knew that I needed more time alone, but it appeared that wasn't going to be the case. Reaching beside me for my ready bag, I gripped the handle tightly and stood, gazing one last time at the stranger in the mirror – so different from the usually confident woman. Sighing, I walked toward the door with every intention of avoiding JJ for as long as possible.

The ride to the airport was peaceful and quiet as I'd managed to slip into the back seat of the SUV occupied by Hotch and Rossi. Morgan, Reid, and JJ had leapt into the other truck and had pulled out behind us, and I had to force myself to keep my eyes forward, biding my time by trying to figure out how I could possibly hide away from the others in the small confines of an airplane. As it turned out, I only managed to stall at the SUV long enough for the others to board in front of me. Time had run out.

The moment I stepped through the door of the jet, Morgan's rich laughter made its way to my ears. I knew he wouldn't miss the opportunity to tease JJ, and as I made my way down the aisle, I spotted exactly what I'd expected to see – a red-faced JJ wearing a bright smile, not even trying to shy away from the attention. I briefly wondered if she'd have reacted the same way had the teasing remarks been made in reference to us. Would she still smile as brightly?

Plopping down in the seat across from JJ, I pretended to be as amused with the situation as Morgan seemed to be. Even Reid grinned and joined in on the fun, but he was the one that asked the question that had been on all our minds.

"How long have you been seeing Detective LaMontagne?"

A grin spread across JJ's face, and she gave me a wink before she started in on the story of the relationship of JJ and William. For just a second, I tuned out her words and pretended that the gesture was a sign of her affection meant solely for me, but the mention of New Orleans brought me back to the here and now. She talked of Mardi Gras and the subsequent weekends they'd spent together as my heart sunk lower and lower with each story.

With great effort, I pasted on a smile and created the illusion that I was so very happy for her. My mind began to war with my feelings, and I fought against my desire to move as far away from the others as possible. Instead, I sat up straighter and listened intently.

I could do this; I could maintain this façade until we landed and parted ways. After all, it only hurt when I breathed.

The End

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