CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the Epic Proportions challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Mercy is for the Just
By sHaYcH


Part Five

Streets of the 4th Ward

Warehouse District

Pier 14

Another hour, another round of bars and clubs without clues. Then, in the middle of a bar with a karaoke machine, Emily had a burst of inspiration. "Damn," she muttered as she and JJ stepped outside. "I should have thought of this sooner."

"What's that?" said JJ interestedly.

"Karaoke bars," mumbled the brunette agent while she fumbled with her phone. "Call Lockley," she added.

JJ nodded and dug out her phone while Emily put in a call to Garcia. In less than ten minutes, they had a whole new list of places to check.

"I feel like such an idiot," said Emily as they navigated through traffic. "Sticking to clubs that only had drag acts was probably a good idea back when Coleman's face wasn't all over the media. Even though she's been exposed, she still needs to fulfill the urge to kill. Whatever fantasy she's built up around being a drag performer isn't going to matter, so long as she can find a victim. She'll go wherever she can to fill that need, even if it means vacating her comfort zone."

"All right, let's start with this one," said JJ as she punched in an address into the SUV's GPS system.

The sign outside had once proclaimed the establishment to be "Joe's Place" but time and vandalism had reduced it to the oddly entitled, "J's Pace". Stepping through the doors was like pushing through a window of time back to when bars were thick with the smoke of cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, only now the vapor so densely hazing the building wasn't carcinogenic. It was, however, cold. The glitter of disco balls competed with the flash of multicolored strobe lights, laser effects, and the thrumming beat of retro music.

A Plexiglas bar ran in a semi-circle around the room and was echoed by a half-circular stage that sat opposite. Brilliantly glimmering LEDs outlined several large speakers while on the stage, a group of three tonally challenged men attempted to drunkenly shout their way through, "I'm Your Boogieman".

Making their way to the bar, Kate and Elizabeth dodged skimpily dressed dancers, gyrating couples, and the odd business-suited escapee from a cube farm. The bartender was a young woman with more piercings than Elizabeth had tattoos. She smiled at the women's approach.

"Getchoo sometin'?" Above the noise, the bartender's query sort of ran together and came out half-drawled, half-shouted.

As she had done many times that night, Kate pulled out the police sketch of Michelle Coleman and placed it on the bar. "Have you seen this woman?"

Picking up the flyer, the bartender squinted at it for a long moment. As she set it back down, Kate prepared to hear yet another one of the multitudinous ways of saying, "No," when the young woman surprised her and said, "Sure. She was up on stage about ten minutes ago. Sang some boring shit and then headed for the powder room."

At the words, Elizabeth was off like a shot, while Kate said, "Thank you."

The bartender shrugged. "Sure, sure. Look, if'n your friend don't nab her in the ladies', just stick around. Red's been hollarin' at us all night, and I don't expect she'll be leavin' anytime soon."

Laying a couple of worn twenties on the bar, Kate pulled out her cell and headed for the front entrance. Speed dialing JJ's number, she said, "We have a lead."

The bathroom was empty, but Elizabeth wasn't too concerned. Now that she had some hope of finding her prey nearby, she was able to use the symbiote. Slowly, she extended her senses, reeling a little at the overload of emotions that emanated from the crowd of dancers.

On stage, the drunks finished their performance by falling into a tangle of arms and legs that took three bouncers five minutes to separate. Once they had been escorted outside, the stage went dark to give the next act time to prepare.

Like a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower, Elizabeth's empathic senses touched briefly upon the crowd, seeking the one darkly stained blossom that would resolve into the killer. It was an arduous process and took far longer than the vampath would have liked.

The stage came alive in a blaze of light as a woman stepped through the curtains and began to croon softly. When Elizabeth glanced over, she realized she wouldn't need to look any further. Michelle Coleman was on stage, singing Faith Hill's, "Breathe".

"Gotcha," whispered the vampath as she started to make her way toward the stage.

Luck had it that Emily and JJ were less than five minutes away from Joe's Place, so they were able to arrive quickly and meet Kate outside the bar. Pulling on her Kevlar vest, Emily said, "I've called the others. Our job right now is to keep a low profile and prevent Coleman from leaving or harming anyone."

Kate nodded. "Understood. Doc's inside keeping an eye out for her." Her phone chirped, and within seconds of answering it, Kate was smiling. "Coleman's on stage. Should be easy enough to get her."

They were fateful words that the investigator would come to regret.

Everything went as smoothly as possible. Using their IDs at the door, Emily and JJ were able to get the bouncers to start escorting customers out of the bar while they went inside and took up positions near the exits. Kate and Elizabeth staked out the other potential points of egress and waited for Coleman to finish her song.

However, they didn't count on the suspect's powers of observation and heightened mental state. Within moments of their arrival, Coleman spotted JJ, and possibly recognizing her from the press conferences, the suspect shouted, "Fire!" into the microphone and ducked through the curtains.

Panic quickly ensued as drunken dancers staggered, ran, shoved, and pushed their way toward any exit they could find. Emily and JJ were stuck trying to calm the crowd while Kate and Elizabeth fought to make their way to the stage. The vampath arrived first.

Behind the curtains, Elizabeth discovered that the backstage area was little more than a short hall that led to a storage alcove and another exit. The door was still slowly swinging shut, allowing the draft to pull in the stench of rotting garbage and a faint trace of perfume. She followed, but the alley was empty.

The vampath extended her senses and was rewarded with a blast of fear, frustration, and anger that was moving steadily away from her. Cursing softly, she pulled out her phone, dialed Kate and growled, "She's out. I'm following. Will update with position ASAP." After her partner's acknowledgment, she stuffed the phone into her pocket, leapt for the roof, and began running toward the shimmering ball of emotion ahead of her.

Kate made her way over to Emily and shouted, "Coleman got away! Elizabeth's following her, but we need to go, now!"

Emily nodded and, catching JJ's attention, indicated that they were heading toward the exit. Minutes later, they met outside. Kate's phone chirped and she answered it, spoke briefly with Elizabeth and then said, "The warehouse district. Doc said she spotted Coleman heading toward the docks."

"Right," said JJ as she put in a call to the rest of the team.

"I'm going after Elizabeth," said Kate. "Just follow me, okay?"

"We're right behind you," said Emily.

They say luck is a fickle mistress, but this night, she was passing out her favors like a drunken mall Santa with a sack full of candy canes. Tommy Reynolds had awakened, fed, and made his way over to one of his favorite places to chill, a local disco spot with a wacky name and a kick ass sound system. Had he been less lucky, he might have arrived too late and missed the flash of scarlet and glitter as a woman in heels and an evening gown raced by his van.

Instead, he was looking right at her when she came around the corner and dodged his vehicle by only the slimmest of margins. Tommy watched in silence as the woman then spotted a parked motorcycle not more than twenty feet away. If asked, he would have said that the look that came over her face at that point would have been best defined as relief.

Bemused, the vampire could only chuckle when the woman kicked off her shoes, jogged over to the bike and, with a speed and skill obviously born of long practice, proceeded to hotwire the vehicle. It was only when she looked back to see if anyone was coming that he recognized her.

"Holy shit, it's the bitch that tried to kill me!" he said excitedly as she took off toward Lake Michigan. Gunning his engine, the young vampire followed.

"Jareau. Yeah, we're still following Lockley. I don't know, the suspect's in the wind. We're on –" JJ waited for a passing street sign to flash by before she said, "Forty-seventh, heading toward the lake." Through the phone, she heard the sound of sirens. "Yes Sir, I understand, Sir." She ended the call and said, "We've got authorization to use any means necessary."

Emily nodded tightly while a cold knot formed in the pit of her stomach. Something told her that whatever the outcome, this night would not end quietly.

"Come on, come on, Doc, where are you?" Kate briefly took her eyes from the road to search the rooftops in hopes of spotting her lover, but saw only shadows and streetlamps.

"She's out there, Boss. Don't worry about Doc, she can handle herself," said Dersk.

Kate had the half demon on the line, feeding her location information garnered from the GPS chip in Elizabeth's phone.

Coming to a stoplight, Kate blew out a frustrated breath and said, "I know, but I wish that I had my bike. This damn car can't go into a lot of places."

Ahead, she saw the first few buildings that demarcated the warehouse district. Reminded of their work at the vamp nest the previous evening, Kate said, "Gotta go, need to pass something on to Prentiss and Jareau."

"Okay, it looks like Elizabeth is sticking to a lakeward direction. Call me when you can. And Boss? Be careful. I might grumble and bitch, but I really do like working for you."

Smiling fondly, Kate said, "Love you too, Snake Boy."

Elizabeth Blaine was not unfamiliar with taking the "rooftop highway" as she liked to call it, but she was also not fond of long journeys across the peaks and valleys of Chicago's skyline. One misstep and she could easily become a greasy stain on the street below, and that would really put a kink in her day. Fortunately for her, most trips were short and had a known destination.

Only rarely did she have to endure a longer, more uncertain trek over apartment and house, office building and strip mall. When Michelle Coleman had stolen the bike, Elizabeth recognized that keeping up with the woman would be tough, but as long as she could stay on the rooftops, she'd be able to keep track of her with the binoculars she kept in her jacket pocket.

Perched at the edge of a twelve-story office building, Elizabeth peered down at the suspect and gauged her whereabouts in relation to the pursuers.

Coleman's rather erratic route appeared to have no true destination other than Lake Michigan in mind. The vampath speculated that the suspect might have a boat or some other conveyance stowed on one of the docks, so she put in a call to Dersk and told him to pass the info along to the FBI, as well.

Pocketing the binoculars, she abandoned the perch and headed for the next building.

"Well doesn't this just beat all?" Elizabeth muttered as she jumped from the edge of a building onto the top of a shipping container. Coleman's path had taken her right into the very same area where they had recently cleaned out a nest of vampires. Shrugging, she said, "At least I know where I am."

Close by, she heard the growling purr of a motorcycle, and an idea began to form. "Oh Dick, you are so not going to love me after this," she muttered. I should have put on my armor…

Moving from the cargo container to the top of an abandoned guard shack, Elizabeth got herself into position. When the bike came into view, the vampath leaped from the top of the single-story building. With a yell of triumph, she crashed into Coleman and forced the bike to skew sideways. Motorcycle, suspect, and attacker tumbled across the pavement in a twisted, shrieking mass of metal and flesh.

The impact knocked Elizabeth for a loop. As she fought off unconsciousness, she watched in disbelief as Coleman managed to drag herself free of the wreckage. Battered and bleeding from dozens of scrapes and gashes, the suspect shot her attacker a look of pure hatred and then started to limp off toward the darkened rows of cargo containers.

"Ow," muttered Elizabeth as she dragged herself upright. Slowly, she began to jog after the rapidly disappearing form of Michelle Coleman, even as the sound of sirens and revving car engines could be heard approaching from the distance.

As soon as the derelict fence that surrounded his former home came into view, Tommy abandoned the van and took to the more familiar territory of the rooftops of cargo containers and warehouses that lined the docks. From no more than fifty feet away, he watched as a stranger took down the redhead on the bike. At that point, he nearly acted, but something held him back.

Perhaps it was the half memory of a rumor he'd heard of a woman who had all the powers of a vampire but none of the pesky drawbacks, or maybe it was just that he didn't want to share his kill – Tommy couldn't quite say – but there was definitely something he did not like about the stranger.

When his prey staggered free of the bike wreckage, he followed silently, waiting for the moment when he could act.

"Where is she?" said Emily softly as Kate spoke hurriedly into her phone.

"Near – maybe two or three rows over," said Kate as she closed her cell. "Come on, Coleman's not too far ahead of her."

Drawing their weapons, the three women ran until they caught up to Elizabeth, who was limping slightly. The vampath pointed into the shadowy distance beyond them.

"In there," said Elizabeth. Wincing slightly, she added, "She wasn't moving too quickly."

Emily took one look at the redhead and said, "You're hurt. Why don't you and Kate stay here? JJ and I have this." With a lopsided grin, she added, "It's our jurisdiction anyway."

Raising one blonde eyebrow, Kate said, "I didn't realize that PIs needed to argue jurisdiction with Feds these days."

"Guys, while this is as interesting as all get out, I'd rather be kicking some murdering bitch butt," growled Elizabeth. "So if you'll kindly move out of my way, I'm going to do just that." Pushing past Emily and Kate, Elizabeth started to run after the now vanished figure of Michelle Coleman.

"Elizabeth!" hissed Kate, but the vampath ignored her.

Just ahead, Elizabeth could make out the glittering sparkle of Coleman's dress. "Michelle Coleman!" she yelled.

The figure stopped, turned, and glanced back at Elizabeth. Pale gray eyes met the vampath's unblinkingly.

Softly, the suspect said, "They're all evil, you know. Wanting, taking, needing, digging, grasping, and eating at your very soul with their sexual ways. I had to do it, you understand, don't you? That I had to do it? I had to get clean." Thin, mascara tainted streams of tears trickled down her cheeks as she raised her hands up pleadingly. "You understand," she whispered.

Slowly, Elizabeth approached. "I understand," she replied softly. "But it's over now."

The words seemed to deflate the suspect. Letting her arms fall to her side, Coleman said, "All right."

"Well, it might be over for you, Babycakes, but to me it's just getting started!" Tommy Reynolds had practiced his grand entrances in front of his cohorts many times, and when he finally got to use one, he didn't waste the opportunity. With a perfectly timed leap, he jumped from the top of the cargo container and landed just behind Michelle Coleman. Before Elizabeth could act, the vampire grabbed the suspect and, baring his fangs, bit deeply into her throat.

"No!" Elizabeth reached for the stake hidden inside her coat and charged. Injured in the tumble from the bike, the vampath's balance was off, and her movements were too easily telegraphed.

Tommy dodged, kicked out, and sent Elizabeth flying headlong into the solid metal side of a container. Again, luck kissed the young vamp's hand. Elizabeth landed wrong and was stunned. With a grin of triumph, Tommy turned back to the dying woman in his arms and said, "Drink of my blood and you will live forever."

"For-ever," whispered the dying woman.

"Yes, forever. We will be together, you and I. And we will reap a bloody harvest from the lands of mortal men." Tommy had no idea what it meant, but it had sounded good on a movie, so it must be the perfect thing for a super evil bad guy to say. Taking out a knife, he clumsily opened a vein in his wrist and thrust it up against Coleman's mouth. "Drink," he crooned, and then moaned when she latched on and began to suckle.

Three sets of flashlight beams suddenly landed on his chest.

"Stop! FBI! Step away and put your hands up," said Emily authoritatively.

Tommy looked from one woman to the other, and then laughed. "Sure thing, Ladies. She's not my problem anymore." Shaking the now-sated woman from him, he moved backward until he stumbled into Elizabeth's legs.

The vampath grunted at the impact, and then clumsily grabbed for Tommy. Hissing, the vampire reacted with the speed inherent to his kind and tossed her away from him, and then leaped for the top of the cargo containers. Groaning, Elizabeth stood to follow.

"Doc, let him go!" yelled Kate. Elizabeth shot her a glare, but nodded as the distant sound of approaching sirens could be heard. She turned to Emily and JJ. "Look, I know you don't want to hear this right now, and I know your boss is coming, but I'm positive that this case is no longer in your jurisdiction."

The two FBI agents looked mildly shocked. "What do you mean?" said JJ as Emily started to approach the suspect.

"Trust me when I say that you really, really, don't want to know," said Kate.

"That's not good enough," said Emily. She was not more than three feet away from Coleman when Elizabeth stepped in front of her.

"I can't let you get any closer, Agent Prentiss," said Elizabeth softly.

The brunette agent raised her gun and took aim. "Move out of the way, Miss Blaine," she said. "I don't want to have to shoot you."

Behind her, Emily heard JJ say, "Kate Lockley, you're under arrest for obstruction of justice. You have the right to remain silent –"

Holy God on a stick, could this go any more wrong? The FBI agent tried to pin down just when things took a right turn into Craptasticland, but could only focus on the obdurate figure of the crazy redhead in front of her.

She, JJ, and Kate had run after Elizabeth only to come around a blind corner and spot the weirdest sight she'd seen this side of a horror film. In her line of work, Emily had seen a lot of depravity, but watching Michelle Coleman suck the blood from the wrist of a pimple-faced teenager while Elizabeth lay only feet away, unmoving, had to rank up there with the worst of them.

"Emily," said Elizabeth softly, her voice almost hypnotic in its lulling smoothness. "This isn't your case anymore. Take JJ and get the heck out of here before you regret it."

"Was that a threat, Blaine? Because I'm thinking that right now, I'm the one with the gun and you're the one who's bleeding."

Kate said, "You don't know what you're dealing with." She tried to raise her weapon, but JJ shook her head warningly.

"Then tell us," said JJ, even as she pulled out her cuffs.

"You wouldn't believe it." Kate let out a wry laugh and reluctantly surrendered her sidearm. "Hell, I still don't want to believe it, and I've lived with the knowledge every day for seven years."

Elizabeth locked her gaze with Emily's. "Please, Emily. This is more dangerous than you could possibly know."

Peering over Elizabeth's shoulder, Emily took in the slumped form of the suspect and said, "She doesn't look like she could hurt a fly right now, Elizabeth. Now move out of my way."

"Looks, as they say, Agent Prentiss, can be delightfully deceiving." The voice that came from behind Elizabeth was low, throaty, and filled with a sensual promise that made the hairs on Emily's arms prickle to full alertness.

Elizabeth spun around, and the stake she had palmed earlier dropped down into her hand.

"Oh, look, it's the hero of the hour, come to slay my day away. I don't think so hero – you see, I'm just a newborn babe in the woods, and I'm very, very hungry." The vampire licked her lips and then, smiled as her face metamorphosed, exposing the heavy brow ridges and long fangs endemic to her kind.

"What the hell?" whispered Emily softly.

"I told you so," retorted Elizabeth. "Now will you take JJ and get out of here?"

"I'm not running away from some freak in stage makeup," retorted the brunette agent.

The vampire hissed and leaped toward Emily, but Elizabeth blocked her.

"Oh no you don't, you fang-faced bitch. You're gonna have to get through me first."

"With pleasure!"

They struggled; each trying to assert dominance while Emily attempted to get a bead on Coleman. She fired, twice, but the bullets appeared to have no effect on the suspect.

Turning to look back at Kate, Emily yelled, "Is this some kind of new drug?"

Kate said, "No, it's a vampire. Welcome to my world, Agent Prentiss. Can I have my gun back now?"

"You're full of shit, Lockley. JJ, don't let her interfere."

JJ was about to cuff Kate when Michelle broke free of Elizabeth's grasp and, just like the young man, leaped to the top of the cargo containers with seemingly little effort.


The brunette agent turned in time to watch as Elizabeth followed in the vampire's wake.

"Holy shit," she whispered. Then, "Fuck!" as she realized that her suspect was, once again, in the wind.

Stunned from all that had taken place, JJ was even further surprised when Kate snatched back her sidearm and took off running after Elizabeth.

"JJ, stay –" Emily began to shout.

"Not on your life," said the blonde agent. "I won't be separated from my partner again."

The harsh edge to JJ's voice cut through the heavy shroud of adrenalin that raced through Emily's blood stream. Jumbled in with all the thoughts whirling in her mind, one word emerged: Georgia. Instantly contrite, Emily said, "Sorry. Come on. Hotch and the team can catch up to us later."

Her eyes shaded with remembered horrors, JJ said, "I'm right behind you."

The chase took them through five sections of containers before they caught sight of Elizabeth and Michelle. Trading blows, the two women seemed evenly matched. Both were bleeding from numerous cuts, though Coleman seemed far less fatigued than Elizabeth. Kate tried to get a clear shot, but after two misses, she decided that it wasn't worth the chance of striking her lover.

At her left, Emily was following the battle with her gun, but was just as unsuccessful at finding a shot. JJ fired three times, each shot a perfect hit: thigh, shoulder, and head. Michelle jerked with every impact, but easily shook off the attack and continued the fight with Elizabeth.

"I should call Hotch and tell him Coleman's on some kind of pain-deadening drug," muttered Emily, still unable to accept the truth before her eyes.

"It won't do you any good, Agent Prentiss. That woman is not on any drug; she's a vampire. An undead creature of darkness – basically, the soul is gone and a demon has taken up residence in her body," said Kate. "Bullets won't kill her. Staking, beheading, fire, and holy water are your only choices."

"You fired at her," grumbled the brunette agent. It came out so plaintively, that JJ shot her a fondly sympathetic smile.

"I load a special kind of round. They're a mixture of wood, blessed silver, and holy water. Good for all kinds of nasty things that go bump in the night."

"You're quite the whacko, Lockley. I think I know why you're not on the force anymore." A look of true anguish washed over Kate's face at Emily's words. It was so poignant that the agent almost apologized.

"Em, why don't we assume that Kate's right, for the moment? Whether Coleman's on drugs or something else –" JJ very carefully did not name that something else. "We still need to apprehend her."

Emily bit her lip and shook her head. "You're right. Okay, we'll do it your way, Kate. How do you catch a vampire?" If Emily felt more than just a little silly asking the question, she tried not to let it show. After all, if they did capture Coleman, the suspect would become someone else's problem, and she and JJ could get on the jet, write a couple of long, boring reports, and go home.

Shrugging, Kate said, "I don't know. I've never tried to catch one before. Usually, I just kill them."

Michelle was tiring. Even the seemingly unlimited strength of the vampire was flagging in the face of repeated attacks as well as the presence of several bullet holes. Delivering one last, solid punch to Elizabeth's jaw, Michelle danced away from the falling vampath and ran toward the lake.

The sound of a car engine pulled her up only feet from where she'd dropped the vampath. A van appeared from the shadow of a building and as she came near, the driver's door opened and Tommy Reynolds jumped out, catching her as she staggered to her knees.

"I got you, baby," he crooned as he opened the sliding side door.

"Put her down."

Tommy looked up to see the rather tense figure of Kate Lockley not more than five yards away from him. Behind her, the two FBI agents stood with weapons drawn, twin expressions of resolution on their faces.

Eyeing the gun in Kate's hand, Tommy said, "Lady, if you think your little toy pistol scares me, you really need your head examined."

"Do I have crazy hair or something? What is it with everyone assuming that I'm insane today?" groused the investigator. "I am perfectly sane," she said, emphasizing her words with shots from her weapon.

The first was slightly off, and struck the vampire in the elbow. It was enough to make him release Michelle, though, and she didn't waste any time hanging around. Tearing free from Tommy's feeble grasp, she took another bullet in the thigh as she continued her journey toward the lake. The third shot was a little high, smashing into Tommy's cheek and shredding his emerging vampiric features into a mass of bone and tissue. Screaming as the holy water within the bullets burned through his body, Tommy barely noticed as the fourth and final shot as it took him in the heart.

There was a moment of absolute stillness, and then the vampire seemed to turn in on himself. Emily and JJ watched with open mouths as the young man's whole body went perfectly rigid and then crumbled to dust, all in the space of a breath.

Blowing on the tip of her sidearm, Kate said, "That, my fine, fibbie friends, was a vampire." Ignoring the two stunned agents in favor of her downed lover, Kate went to Elizabeth's side and checked for a pulse.

The rumbling idle of the van ceased when JJ shut off the ignition. Still gape-mouthed, Emily watched as Kate gently attended to her partner, more than a little surprised when Elizabeth came to at the soft touch of the blonde investigator.

Seeming no worse for wear, though covered in blood and bruises, Elizabeth stood and said, "She's not too far away. Come one, I'll lead you to her."

"How can you tell?" said JJ.

"I can sense her. It's a long story, which I'll be more than happy to relate at some future date when my ribs aren't cracked, my wrist isn't broken and my head isn't reeling from a major concussion." Limping steadily, Elizabeth resolutely set off in the direction that Coleman had taken earlier.

Quickly, Kate moved to one side of her partner and said, "Lean on me, love."

Grateful, Elizabeth draped an arm around Kate's shoulder. "Thanks."

"I'll take the other side," said Emily softly.

"Are you sure?" said Kate. "If you stay here, you can tell your boss that you lost her."

"No. I can't do that. You guys were right; I really didn't want to know about this. But now that I do, I can't let Coleman escape. Vampire or not, she's still a serial killer, and she needs to be stopped."

JJ nodded in agreement. "We don't have any magic bullets, but an extra pair of eyes and ears can't hurt."

Chuckling, Elizabeth said, "Dick, give them your stakes. You're a better shot than you are a hand-to-hand fighter."

The investigator nodded. "Right." She reached into her jacket and pulled out a bundle that at first appeared to be a set of nunchaku but was quickly revealed to be a pair of stakes. Handing one to Emily and the other to JJ, she said, "Go for the heart. It has to be a firm, solid thrust. Don't hesitate and whatever you do, don't look into her eyes."

Emily blinked. "You mean that hokum about vampires and mind control is true?"

"No, but if you listen to anything I tell you tonight, then you should remember this: that thing is not a person. It is a demon. It has no soul and no compunctions about killing you, or JJ. It will rip out your throat and drain you of your blood in seconds. But vampires don't like to fight for their food. They like easy prey and know that humans are by nature compassionate. It will use whatever tricks it can to get your guard down so that it can strike. Don't give it the chance."

They talked while continuing to follow Elizabeth as she led them inexorably onward. Coming to the entrance to a pier, the vampath suddenly pulled away from Kate.

"She's up there," she said, pointing to a barely visible figure at the end of the jetty. Narrowing her eyes in concentration, the vampath let out a sharp gasp of disbelief. "She's got a hostage!"

They ran toward the pair at the end of the dock, stopping a few yards away as Coleman spun around, and revealed that Elizabeth was right. One arm was wrapped tightly around the throat of a uniformed security guard. "Stay back!" the vampire shouted. "He's mine. I'm hungry, and he's all mine. You can't have him! He belongs to me." She began petting the visibly frightened man's head. "Mine, mine, mine. They're all mine. Tasty, silly men who wanted, wanted so much, and I wanted, wanted so much and I couldn't have because it was so, so wrong, but now it's so, so right." Swaying as she crooned, the vampire lavished kisses and caresses on the terrified guard.

There was no way Kate could get off a shot without hitting the guard, and she was not a believer in the maxim of, "When all else fails, shoot the hostage".

"Kate, you know I love you, right?" said Elizabeth softly.

A thousand different answers crowded on Kate's tongue, but the one she chose to say was, "Without a doubt. I love you, too, Elizabeth." Her voice broke a little, and she struggled to control it. "Go get her, Doc. I'm tired, and I want to go home."

Flashing a brief, brilliant grin, Elizabeth said, "You got it, Dick." Turning to Emily and JJ, the vampath said, "Please don't shoot me, digging bullets out of my ass hurts like a bitch." Then she took three running steps and leaped for the vampire.

As she connected, she used every ounce of strength to yank Coleman's arm away from the hostage and then allowed their momentum to carry them both over the side of the dock and into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan.

As soon as the hostage was free, JJ and Emily ran to catch him even as Kate raced to the edge of the dock. Shining her flashlight onto the lake, she searched for any sign of her lover and the vampire and was rewarded by the churning splash of the combatants as they battled for dominance under the water.

"Fucking meth heads," the security guard said. "I hope that other agent drowns the whacked out bitch. I've been robbed before, but it ain't never been like tonight." He rubbed his throat and coughed softly. "I thought she was going to tear my fucking head off."

"You're safe now, sir," said JJ reassuringly. "Why don't you tell me what happened?" As the guard began to relate his abduction, the rest of the BAU arrived.

Hotch, Morgan, and Rossi were the first to make it to the pier, with Reid close behind. All had their weapons drawn, and it took several minutes of rapid-fire questions before Emily was able to get them to understand that the suspect was in the water with Elizabeth.

"Doc?" called Kate softly while the agents discussed what to do next. There was no answer for a very, very long time. For several minutes, Kate called out for Elizabeth and got no response. Then, just as she was about to give in to the nagging sense of dread that was teasing at the back of her throat, she heard the sound of someone surfacing. "Elizabeth?" she cried, shining the beam of her flashlight over the water.

Inhaling great, gulping gasps of air, the vampath fought to keep afloat. Kate looked around for a life ring or some rope but came up empty. "Hey guys," she called out loudly. "I'm going in, Elizabeth needs help." Without waiting for response, she dropped her weapon and flashlight on the pier and dove into the lake.

It was all over. Michelle Coleman was dead; her dust was now one with the silt at the bottom of Lake Michigan. Kate and Elizabeth, both wrapped in several blankets while EMTs hovered around them peering into every available orifice, were safe. The guard was on his way to the hospital for a thorough examination, and JJ and Emily were completely unhurt.

JJ brought her right hand up to massage her temple. For the moment, Agent Hotchner had accepted their story that Coleman and Blaine had both gone into the lake at the same time. There was a dive team out there now, looking for the body. Only four of the people present knew that the search would be futile.

The notion sat like a leaden weight in JJ's stomach. For a long, long time the press liaison had fought to forget certain childhood memories. Visions of a forest filled with monsters that were real had haunted her for years and to have the truth of those dreams thrust upon her so solidly and suddenly had left her more than a little unsettled.

In some ways, she had taken the existence of vampires a little easier than Emily, but unlike the older agent, who would eventually come to accept the change in her worldview, JJ wanted nothing more than to go back to the moment in time when she had been given a chance not to know. Sometimes increasing one's knowledge is not a good thing. If life were like the Matrix, she'd have taken the blue pill and been happy of it.

Instead, JJ was forced to examine all that she held to be truth, and at that moment, the only truth she wanted to hold on to was the fact that she was exhausted and needed to crawl into a bed, preferably one where Emily was a part of the cushiony foundation upon which she could lay her head. In between delivering a shortened, highly edited version of the night's events and checking on the condition of their new friends, JJ had watched as an array of searchers gathered to comb the waters of Lake Michigan for any sign of Michelle Coleman's body.

Nothing would ever be found, of course, but neither JJ nor Emily could, or would, say anything to the contrary. Not if we don't want a first class ticket all the way to the land of the nutty and home of the continually unemployed, at least. God, I need coffee, something decadently sweet, and Emily's mouth on mine, right now. The blonde agent was glad of the chill in the air that effectively disguised the pink shading of her cheeks when she thought about how good it would be to grab Emily and kiss her until it became impossible to breathe.

There was a card in her pocket containing the phone number and address for Kate's private investigations agency, and it had come with a softly whispered, "If you and Emily want to know more, come and see us tomorrow. We can have breakfast and discuss your new reality."

The words scared the young agent far more than she was willing to admit, and for once, she considered not following up with the civilians involved in the case. Just this one time, maybe she could let that job fall to another member of their team. Someone who didn't have the weight of unwanted knowledge shredding its way through their gut.

Sitting in the back of the ambulance, wrapped in blankets, and leaning against each other like a pair of half drowned rats, Kate and Elizabeth stared out at the chaos that had erupted on the docks.

They had given their statements and were now waiting to be pronounced healthy enough to leave. The symbiote was working overtime, having healed both women of the injuries they had received, and now they were exhausted and hungry.

Elizabeth sighed softly and laid her head on Kate's shoulder. "You know," she said quietly. "I love killing vampires. I love the chase, the fight, even the feel of the stake as it slides through flesh and bone and into their cold, dead hearts."

"It's good to love your job," Kate replied absently as she wrapped her arm around Elizabeth's waist.

"Yeah." The vampath sighed again and said, "But I didn't want to kill her, Dick. She was so fucked up and never had a chance. In the water, just before I staked her, she begged for mercy, and for a brief moment, I almost let her go." Elizabeth's voice was soft and reed thin, as if the words were barely breaking free of her tongue. Then, louder, and more strident, came, "But I didn't. I couldn't."

Kate nodded. "I know, love, but mercy is for the just, and demons don't qualify."

In a hoarse whisper, Elizabeth said, "It sucks."

Pressing a kiss onto the crown of the vampath's wet hair, Kate could only squeeze her lover tight in answer.

Out of the corner of her eye, Emily kept watch over JJ. As the night wore on, the younger agent seemed to wilt under the pressure of the massive, whale-sized secret they were being forced to carry. The rest of the team appeared to sense that one of their own was flagging, because without discussing it, Morgan, Reid, Hotch and Rossi all did their best to intercede on the blonde agent's behalf when it came to dealing with the multitude of questions that Captain MacPherson and his men seemed to have.

If the truth were to be told, Emily would admit to feeling less than stellar herself. The events of the night were fading into the back of her mind and becoming cloaked in the dense fabric of shadows and maybes. All that remained was a nagging sense that she had somehow been right about Elizabeth. There was something very, very inhuman about the woman, and after having the truth about vampires so graphically proven to her, Emily found herself curious to know if there was something equally mystical about the enigmatic redhead.

The breakfast invite seemed like the perfect opportunity for discovery, but she wanted to talk to JJ first because, in all honesty, it wouldn't be worth having the knowledge if there was no one with whom she could rationally discuss it. Telling anyone else at the Bureau, even Garcia, was out of the question. There's always that guy from Arizona. She snorted, thinking about the strange guy that Garcia had sworn she would adore. Something tells me that he'd believe me. It's too bad I don't have any need whatsoever to spend any quality time with him. Emily looked at JJ again and was smitten with the desire to wander up to the younger agent and pull her into a never-ending embrace.

"Hey Prentiss, you guys should think about heading back to your hotel," said Morgan as he came up beside Emily. "JJ looks beyond exhausted, and you're not doing much better."

Emily shrugged wearily. "It's been a long couple of days, Morgan. I'm just glad it's almost over."

The darkly handsome agent chuckled ruefully. "I hear you. All that work for nothing sure makes you wonder sometimes."

"It wasn't exactly nothing; it's just that Coleman's body is probably halfway to Canada by now." The lie was bitter and left Emily feeling more than a little ashamed. I should have done something. I should have been able to stop this from happening.

Mistaking the bitterness in the other agent's voice, Morgan said, "Hey, there was nothing you could do, Emily. Some days we get our man, and some days we don't." He put a hand on her shoulder and said, "Why don't you take JJ and get out of here? We got you covered."

Emily glanced over at JJ, and then took in all the activity around her. Cops and crime scene techs, divers, and reporters swarmed the area. She and JJ had given their reports, and there wasn't much else for them to do, except search for nonexistent evidence. With a sigh, Emily nodded and gave Morgan a tight smile. "Thanks, Derek. I think I'll do that."


The Reliant Hotel – Room 321

The ride to the hotel was silent as both women were far too tired to fill the blessed warmth of the vehicle with inconsequential chatter. It was better, by far, that when they had left the scrutiny of media and peers, Emily had reached across the seat and calmly enfolded JJ's hand in hers.

As the streets of Chicago flashed by, JJ concentrated on the warm pressure of Emily's grip and clung to that sensation like she would a rock in a maelstrom. By the time they had reached the hotel, she had gained enough strength from Emily's solid presence that she turned to the brunette agent and said, "Your room or mine?"

Charmed by the soft, knowing tone to JJ's voice, Emily said, "It doesn't matter, as long as I'm with you."

"I'll need to get a few things from my room. Are you hungry? Do you want to grab something from the diner?"

Emily smiled. "I could eat. Lunch was a long time ago. I'll tell you what, here's my room key. I'll go grab us something edible while you get your things. Then we can lounge around, eating bonbons and watching television."

Laughing, JJ said, "More like pass out after stuffing our faces with grease and junk, but okay, sounds like a plan to me."

Emily made good on her word, and soon, she and JJ were comfortably ensconced in the bed, dressed for sleep, and sharing a box of chocolate covered ice cream bites. The remains of their dinner – a couple of chicken sandwiches from a nearby Wendy's, some fries, and sodas were spread on the table, awaiting the morning for removal.

The television was on, turned to an old black and white movie that featured aliens, spaceships, and terrified people running to and fro, screaming in abject, but perfectly gorgeous, fear. JJ reached into the box and pulled out one of the treats and said, "You know you didn't have to do this."

Emily chuckled. "I wanted to. We deserve a little something extra after today."

Turning her head to stretch her neck, JJ said, "I hardly know what to think or believe. It's tough to doubt what we saw, but at the same time, I want to forget it.

Aren't the things we see everyday horrifying enough without having to consider the possibility of real monsters?"

Pensively, Emily retrieved the last bonbon and then tossed the empty carton into a nearby garbage can. As she chewed, she watched the action on the television for a moment and then said, "I don't know, JJ. It kind of makes me feel better to know that man's evil can be surpassed. That maybe, if there are such things as vampires, there are also angels, and that gives me hope."

The blonde agent reached a hand back and started to rub at the base of her neck. With a sigh, she said, "Well, do you want to have breakfast with Kate and Elizabeth?"

Emily got to her knees and slid behind JJ. Pushing the blonde's hand out of the way, she began to massage her neck and shoulders. JJ's head fell forward and she let out a soft groan of pleasure.

"You can stop that in about a hundred years."

Laughing, Emily bent her head down and pressed feather-light kisses along the exposed length of JJ's shoulder. "I do, but only if you'll be there, too. I don't want to go home and not be able to talk to you about it."

Tipping her head up to capture Emily's mouth in a brief, heated kiss, JJ said, "I'll go with you. I want us to be able to talk about anything and everything, always."

Slowly, Emily slid her fingers away from JJ's shoulders, skimming them down her chest where she stopped to briefly cup the blonde's breasts before wrapping her arms around her waist in a gentle, cradling embrace, and then said, "I wish we were already home."

Left breathless and wanting by the ghosting touch, JJ whispered, "I do too. I want so much for you to touch me." She covered Emily's hands and pulled them upward, pushing back against the brunette as she did so. The day had been filled with so much insanity that right now, this little bit of perfect reality was all that JJ craved.

"God, JJ," Emily whispered brokenly. "We shouldn't-"

JJ kissed her, hard. Twisting in Emily's arms, JJ straddled the brunette agent and said, "I know there's so much we can't do right now, but I want-" JJ's voice broke as the effort of speaking became overwhelmed by the need to act. Her mouth was a plea, teasing kisses and promises from Emily's lips and body.

Running headfirst into the wildfire of JJ's desire, Emily pulled the blonde agent against her and let the fog of their need surround and carry them as far as it would go.

Later, tousled and tired by their actions, JJ lay with her head resting against Emily's shoulder, her hand dappling teasing patterns on a patch of exposed skin on the brunette's stomach. With eyes half-closed, she watched as sleep stole over Emily's face, relaxing away the lines of stress and leaving behind a visage so peaceful that JJ wished she could imprint the image on her heart, just to have it with her forever.

They had not made love. After only a few minutes, exhaustion, location, and the relative rawness of a relationship molding itself into a shared path had conspired to gentle the urgency of their passion. JJ let her eyes close. Now that she'd had a clear view of the destination, she was more than happy to let life carry her along for a little while.

Making love to Emily could wait. It was only a matter of time until her body followed the same path as her heart.


Apartment of Kate Lockley and Elizabeth Blaine

Over the fluffiest blueberry pancakes Emily had ever eaten, Kate and Elizabeth gave the agents a complete portrait of their lives. Bemused, they listened, sometimes forgetting to eat, as they grew caught up in the adventures of the two relatively normal-seeming women.

At one point, Emily said, "There's a group of teenaged girls dedicated to killing vampires? Like, Little Miss Van Helsings?"

Elizabeth chuckled. "I suspect if either Buffy or Faith heard you call them that, they'd kick your ass, Agent Prentiss. They're more like Xena with a stake, only with far better fashion sense and less with the lesbian subtext."

Resuming the story, Kate went on to describe how she had left Los Angeles and come to Chicago to escape the horrors of the nonhuman world. "It didn't work," she said ruefully. "Once you've seen behind the veil of the shadows, it's very difficult not to act." She held each of their gazes; JJ looked away.

"It's quite possible that you can go back to your lives. The type of things you deal with leave you little time to look beyond the scope of the immediate case. You might never encounter something from our world," said Elizabeth softly.

"That would be perfectly fine by me," JJ said fervently. "I spend enough time looking at the results of human evil; to consider anything worse disturbs me more than I want to admit." But as she thought about it, an idea began to form. If she approached what Kate and Elizabeth were telling her as pure information, perhaps she could use it. And the day I stop learning is the day they kick dirt over my coffin.

Kate nodded. "I understand. When I worked Homicide in LA, all I wanted to do was solve the crimes and put the bad guys in prison. In the nonhuman world, there are no courts of law, no prisons, and certainly no cops. The only justice is what you can carve with your own hands."

"How do you do it? How do you fight the supernatural?" said Emily. "Elizabeth, I saw you take blows that would have killed a man twice your size, and Kate, you knew exactly how she planned to take out Coleman and yet, you did nothing to stop her. Why not? The waters of Lake Michigan are cold enough to kill."

The redhead exchanged an enigmatic glance with her partner. She then shrugged and said, "It's easier if I show you, but first, I want you to give your weapons to Kate."

Warily, Emily and JJ looked first at Elizabeth then at Kate. The investigator smiled warmly. "It's all right," she said. "It's just a precaution. Please, I promise you won't be hurt."

One of the first lessons a cadet in the FBI learned was not to lose control of their weapon, and Emily had always striven to heed that wisdom. Yet in this case, her curiosity merged with her growing admiration and trust for the two women who sat across from her. Still, there was a small, cautionary voice within her that urged restraint.

JJ felt no such compunction. Having made the decision to hear what Kate had to say, she wanted to know everything, if only to use the information as a guide against those cases where the crimes were so horrific, that it would be a relief to realize that the mind behind them was, truly alien. Wordlessly, she unclipped her holster and handed the sidearm to Kate.

The investigator inclined her head and set the weapon on a nearby shelf. "Agent Prentiss?"

Still a little reluctant, Emily followed suit. Once her sidearm had joined JJ's, Emily crossed her arms and said, "All right, show us."

Elizabeth smiled.

Feeling the color drain from her face, Emily stared at the redhead while JJ gasped softly.

"I thought you said sunlight was deadly to vampires," said Emily after a long, long moment of silence. Her voice was tight and every line of her body told the tale of how much she regretted surrendering her weapon.

"Was this all an elaborate setup? Some kind of playacting designed to put us at ease so that you could help Coleman escape?" JJ's voice was so flat that Emily shot her a glance to make sure the press liaison was okay. "You should probably know that Agent Hotchner knows where we are."

"I'm not a vampire," said Elizabeth softly. "But I was, once. I'm a vampath now. This is not a trick; Michelle Coleman really is dead."

Emily frowned. "How do you go from being a vampire to not being one? Is there a cure? I seem to recall something about demonic possession. And what is a vampath?" The sight of Elizabeth Blaine's incredibly realistic looking fangs barely mitigated the utterly ridiculous nature of the conversation. "Are you sure this isn't a hoax? It wouldn't take much to get a cosmetic dentist to make implants like that."

The vampath sighed. Looking at Kate, she said, "I tried it the easy way, honey. I'm sorry." Before anyone else could act, Elizabeth produced a knife and slashed her palm open to the bone.

"Oh my God!" cried JJ.

"Holy shit!" said Emily, and then she leaped up and grabbed a wad of napkins from the counter.

Meanwhile, Kate sat calmly, watching as Elizabeth wiped her knife clean and then took the blade from her lover.

"You've really got to find a less violent way of doing your show and tell, Doc," said Kate.

Shrugging, Elizabeth said, "My way gets the job done, Dick." She accepted the napkins from Emily and then said, "Watch." Holding out the injured hand, she wiped away the blood and revealed that the wound was already closing.

Fascinated, JJ and Emily leaned in to examine the vampath's hand.

"How is that possible?" said Emily. The cut had already stopped bleeding and the edges of the wound were knitting together.

Elizabeth pressed the napkins into her hand and said, "Eight years ago, a body came into the morgue at which I worked. It was a vampire. To make a very long story short, I was bitten and eventually turned by him. You must have known that I was in Romania for a while. What your files will not tell you is that during that time, I was a vampire." She closed her eyes briefly in remembered pain. "I died there. Luke tried to save me, but in the end, all he could do was free me from the curse of vampirism."

"But you're here now," said JJ. "And forgive me for saying, but you don't seem very cursed to me."

"You're right. I'm not cursed. Not anymore. When I was dead, something – an alien entity, a benevolent demon, an extra planar life form – whatever you choose to name it, came to me and offered me a deal: life for life. It gave me back my life, but now I am responsible for maintaining its life. It's a symbiotic life form known as the Tos ki'Dren, and it is the reason why I heal as well as I do, and also why I could sense Michelle Coleman's presence. The symbiote has made me into an empath – I can feel and manipulate the emotions of others."

"I don't think I want a demonstration of that ability," said Emily dryly. "Any more surprises? Are you a werewolf, Kate?"

The investigator chuckled. "No, but they do exist."

"Of course they do, because what would a world with vampires in it be without werewolves to complete the circle of horror?" Resigned now to believing, if not completely accepting, the word of the private investigators, Emily turned her attention to a more important issue. "So, just how does one go about defending oneself against vampires, demons, and other things that go bump in the night?"

"It's like I said yesterday: holy water, wooden stakes, beheading, and fire. You'll find that many of the methods described in folklore actually hold quite true in the reality. Some things – the garlic necklace comes to mind – are pure invention on the part of popular culture, but others – such as a vampire not having a reflection – are quite true." Kate stood and retrieved her jacket. "Aside from loading a special bullet, this is my standard 'monster slaying kit'." From the inside pockets she withdrew two wooden stakes, a vial of holy water, a silver dagger, and a jar of a white, crystalline substance.

"What's this?" said JJ as she picked up the jar and gave it a shake.

"Salt. Some of the creatures from the nether planes can be destroyed by it." Kate set her gun on the table. Pointing at the attached flashlight, she said, "I also have a UV filter for this. It's not much, but if you point it right into the eyes of a vampire, it can permanently blind them."

"Oh, and the holy symbol myth is true, as well. Vampires cannot abide the touch of the cross, or any other talisman of faith. It burns them," said Elizabeth.

Unconsciously, Emily's hand rose to touch the tiny gold crucifix she wore next to her heart. "Does size matter?"

Kate smirked. "Generally no, but in this case – the bigger the cross, the bigger the burn, the faster a vampire will try to get away from it."

JJ's phone rang. While she answered it, Emily said, "Why do you do it? Why do you risk your life – your soul, if my understanding is correct – for so little reward?"

Kate smiled sadly and said, "Let me ask you something, Emily. Why are you an FBI agent? Specifically, why are you with the BAU, rather than sitting at a cushy desk job in the Foreign Service somewhere? I know you have the connections for it. It doesn't take very much time on Google to learn a little something about the Prentiss family."

"Because I'm good at what I do; better than others who are more suited for cushy desk jobs," replied the brunette agent.

"Why should my answer be any different? No, I don't make any money at this, but there are other forms of payment. I sleep very well at night knowing I've done what I can to stem the tide of evil that is slowly trying to drown the world."

Emily turned her attention to Elizabeth, who shrugged and said, "I've a lot to atone for; my soul is heavy with the knowledge of my crimes as a vampire. It'll take a lifetime and more before I feel as though I've made up for the consequences of my stupidity." There was a look of such regret and horror on the vampath's face that Emily felt the remains of her distrust vanish. Whatever Elizabeth was, she was not a threat to society. Her focus was firmly fixed on removing the same element as the FBI agent, and Emily was glad to have the vampath on her team.

"Part of that long story?" said Emily sympathetically.

"Yeah. Maybe one day I'll write a book."

JJ pocketed her phone. "That was Hotch. He was letting us know that we're wheels up in thirty." Ostensibly, JJ and Emily were getting a follow up report from Kate and Elizabeth about the prior evening's events. However, the two private investigators had negated the need for the agents to spend time pouring over questions by presenting them with neatly typed reports detailing their versions of the night's activities, all references to the supernatural conveniently withheld for obvious reasons.

Standing, Emily said, "I'd like for us to keep in touch. I don't know how much I want to be involved with this world of yours, Elizabeth, but God knows that I'm not going to stick my head in the sand just because I'd prefer not to deal with it." She pulled out a card and scrawled something on the back. "Home phone and email," she said as she handed it to Elizabeth.

The vampath nodded and produced a similar card, solemnly offering it to the agent. "Call anytime, Agent Prentiss."

JJ gave one of her cards to Kate. "I may call you if something that seems like it's more in your jurisdiction crosses my desk."

Chuckling, Kate said, "And I'll call you if I run into something the BAU should hear about."

There was a round of handshakes as the agents retrieved their weapons and then excused themselves.

"You think they'll call?" said Elizabeth as she helped her lover to clear away the remains of breakfast.

Kate shrugged. "If they run into something like what Coleman became, probably. Otherwise, I won't hold my breath."

Glancing down at Emily's card, Elizabeth pursed her lips thoughtfully. "I might have to borrow the computer later, Dick."

The investigator wandered up and wrapped her arms around Elizabeth's waist, pressing her chin into the vampath's shoulder. "Looking to be recruited by the FBI, Doc?"

Elizabeth turned her head to press a kiss into Kate's temple. "Nope, I just can't help but think that it would be nice to have some friends with a little clout in the secular world."

"Mmm," muttered Kate as she tipped her head up to nibble a line of kisses across Elizabeth's jaw. "I like the way you think, Doc."

Abandoning the business cards, the vampath turned until she could pull Kate against her. "I like this train of thought better, Dick," she murmured as she began kissing her lover.

"I agree," said Kate as she fell into the languorous kisses being lavished upon her by the vampath. "I heartily agree."

we are for each other: then

laugh, leaning back in my arms

for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

from "since feeling is first" by ee cummings


Apartment of Penelope Garcia - Washington, DC

Confetti exploded in a bright, glittering hail of paper fragments as Emily and JJ walked into the apartment.

"Happy third week anniversary!" crowed Garcia cheerfully. Beside her, holding the bag of confetti was Derek Morgan. As soon as the two women crossed the threshold, he dug out another massive handful and flung it at them.

"Morgan!" Emily grumbled as she brushed the flecks of foiled paper from her dark ruby silk shirt. "Don't think I won't get my revenge."

"Prentiss, you're gonna have to get up pretty early in the morning if you're gonna attempt to bite my style."

Shaking out her top, JJ said, "But I make the assignments, Derek. Are you that interested in doing the In-Services for all the departments in say, Juno, Alaska?"

"Ooh, JJ, you do not play fair," said Morgan as the three of them made their way over to the sitting area. Large bowls of snacks decorated the coffee table and the guests knew, from long experience, that there was plenty to drink in the refrigerator. From the kitchen, they heard the sound of clinking glass and knew that Penelope was about to present them with the first of the evening's libations.

Taking one end of the couch, JJ sat and then pulled Emily down to nestle between her legs, brushing a few stray pieces of confetti from the agent's hair as she did. "When it comes to Emily, you bet your ass I don't," said JJ, which earned her a pleased grin from the woman in question.

Seated in a chair at the other end of the couch, Morgan smirked. "Oh, so she's got you whipped already." He was not expecting the clout to the back of the head that Garcia delivered with more than a little force. "Ow, hey Baby Girl, don't go scrambling my brains before I've even had one drink."

"Behave, my big hunk of chocolate dream surprise, or else this Baby Girl won't share." She dangled a bottle of Guinness Extra Stout in front of his face and gave it a gentle shake.

"Gimme," he said, half-petulantly, half-pleadingly.

Pulling it back against her chest, she said, "What's the magic word?"

In one smooth motion, Morgan stood and pressed himself into Penelope's personal space. Tipping his head down as if he were going to kiss her, he said, "Pretty please with a chocolate covered maraschino cherry on top?" As he spoke, he wrapped his hand around the bottle and gently eased it from Garcia's unresisting grip, and then kissed the tip of her nose.

"Oh no you don't," said Penelope as Derek started to sit. Wrapping one arm around his neck, she pulled him down and planted a long, wet kiss on his lips. "Now that's the way to say 'please'," she said as she wandered back into the kitchen.

Emily had her mouth covered with one hand, mischief dancing merrily in her eyes as Morgan turned six shades of purple.

"If you ask me, I believe the only person in this room that's whipped is the one with the 'luscious pink' lips," said JJ coyly.

"Maybe so, but I'm the one with the beer, so all's good in this boy's world," retorted Morgan as he settled back in the chair.

From the kitchen, Penelope called out, "So ladies, which one of you is the party pooper tonight?"

"Actually," said Emily as she gingerly leaned back against JJ. "We took a cab." After three weeks, it was still difficult for the brunette to get used to being affectionate with JJ in public. They'd gone out for lunch a few times, dinner twice, and once, they'd taken a trip to DC and spent the day wandering around the various museums and historical monuments. In all that time, they rarely did so much as hold hands for fear of being seen by someone they knew.

It wasn't that they were afraid of being Outed, or even that they were ashamed of their feelings, it was that what they shared was so new, so deliciously undefined that they hadn't even gotten to the phase of thinking of each other as "girlfriends". And if I were being completely honest, I'd rather think of JJ as my lover. Emily knew that the moment of their complete transition from friends to lovers was drawing near, for in those hours they spent encapsulated in the safety of each other's arms while sharing a glass of rich merlot at Emily's apartment, or wrapped in a thick layer of blankets while watching the snow fall from the back porch of JJ's house, the brunette agent had felt whole new vistas of emotion unfold before her.

I am, without any doubt, completely ass over teakettle for this woman, Emily thought as she tipped her head up to look at JJ and smile over some of the blonde's comments.

"We know better than to come to one of your movie nights expecting to leave sober," said JJ as she curved one arm around Emily.

"Oh my God, where's my camera?" Garcia handed Morgan the two bottles of beer she was holding and hurried over to where her purse was slung from a hook on the back of the door. "Don't move, my lovelies," she admonished a bemused Emily and JJ. "Don't move a muscle."

Lounging against JJ, Emily said, "If I see these pictures in the department newsletter, Garcia, I know exactly who to blame – and where to bury the body."

"Oh honey, this isn't for public consumption, this is for my family album," said Penelope as she snapped a series of photos including the two women and then, after encouraging Morgan to move over, all three of her guests.

Emily grinned wickedly. "Ah, well, in that case, you won't mind if I do this!" said the brunette, who then proceeded to twist her face up into the goofiest expressions she could.

Morgan and JJ, seeing what their cohort was up to, joined in the fun, making crazier and crazier faces while Garcia attempted to take pictures without laughing herself sick.

Eventually, they tired of the silliness. Morgan stood and took the camera from Garcia. "All right Baby Girl, get your butt over there and sit down. It's my turn to play cheese master." The technical analyst pouted slightly, but gamely made her way to the couch where she was dragged into a squishy three-way hug with Emily and JJ.

Many photos, several beers, and a lot of snacks and movies later, Morgan and Garcia escorted the two slightly inebriated women down to a waiting cab. On the front steps to the complex, Garcia paused and gave her friends gigantic hugs.

"I'm so glad you took a chance," she whispered into their ears. "It sucked being the only secret couple at work."

As Garcia released them, Emily said, "Next week, dinner at my place. I'll cook."

"Score!" said Penelope with a wide grin. Even Derek looked more than pleased with the situation.

"Hey, maybe we could all go take a drive or something beforehand," he said. "If it's not cold enough to freeze the mole off a witch's nose, that is."

JJ laughed. "We could take advantage of the cold and plan a little ski trip somewhere."

"Ooo, now there's an idea," said Garcia. "I'll Google it and get back to you."

Nodding, Emily said, "We've all got vacation time coming. Maybe we'll get lucky and be able to use it."

Morgan frowned. "Hey, wait a minute. JJ, I thought you were supposed to take your vacations opposite of us? Sort of the Bureau's way of making sure we have plenty to do while you're gone, or something."

"Usually, yeah, that's how it's supposed to work, but Hotch mentioned the other day that he was thinking about bringing in another liaison to help with the backlog. I should think that a junior agent would be capable enough to handle the caseload for a few days."

The cabbie honked his horn and shot the group an impatient look.

"I guess that's our cue to quit lollygagging about and get a move on," said the blonde agent. "Let us know what you find, Garcia. I'd love to go play in the snow for a few days."

Another round of hugs was given, and then Emily and JJ hurried over to the cab and got in before the annoyed driver took off.


Home of Jennifer Jareau – Quantico, VIRGINIA

It started to snow during the ride to JJ's house. The hissing sound of the falling flakes provided an eerie counterpoint to the expectant silence within the cab. Several times, the cabbie had tried to engage the women in conversation, but his attempts had fallen flat as Emily and JJ spent their time trying desperately not to look like they were madly in love. Whether they succeeded or not, they would never know because as soon as the car stopped out in front of the blonde agent's brick-fronted bungalow home, Emily thrust the fare at the man while JJ got out and hurriedly raced to her door.

"Keep the change," said the brunette agent. "And have a good night."

Surprised, the cabbie accepted the money with a grin and slowly pulled away.

Moments later, Emily came up behind JJ and waited while the blonde paused to dig out her keys. Stuffing her hands into her pockets, the brunette agent scuffed her foot on the concrete of the porch and said, "I guess I should get home before it gets really nasty out here."

JJ pushed her door open, reached in, and clicked on the light. Stepping up into the foyer, she said, "I'd rather you stayed, Emily." She reached out, put a hand on the other woman's arm and gave a light tug. "I haven't woken up next to you since Chicago, and even if nothing else happens, I need to feel your arms around me, see your eyes when they open first thing in the morning, and taste the warmth of your kisses over coffee and breakfast."

A faint, bell-like tingling that had started as soon as JJ spoke suddenly burst into a full chorus of words that, without so much as a by your leave from Emily, spilled out into the space between them. "Oh Jennifer, do you know how much I love you?" Emily felt herself drawn closer and, haltingly, she gave in to the inexorable pull that had always linked her to the beautiful, brilliant woman smiling at her with such innocent joy.

As the door closed behind them, JJ whispered, "If it's half as much as I love you, then I guess I'm a very lucky woman."

Moonlight was the sound of blonde hair as it fell from JJ's shoulders onto the pale skin of Emily's naked chest. Starshine glitter came from the kisses that started slow and ended hot. If hands were the instruments of affection, then Emily felt as though her body were being slowly shaped into the living display of JJ's ardor.

Wet was the flavor of a tongue bent on painting every inch of Emily until she was begging for the release of JJ's mouth on hers, their kisses stealing breath and melting bone. Soft, so soft, was the plea of JJ's warm, unhurried fingers when they paused, ever so delicately, at the apex of Emily's thighs.

Looking up, meeting the shadow-silvered blue of JJ's eyes, Emily reached down, covered her lover's hand and whispered, "Touch me, Jennifer. I need to feel you inside."

Release was the crashing finale of Dvorak's New World Symphony echoing through Emily's body, a hushed and total surrender to the woman who held her so gently.

Under the brush of Emily's touch, JJ was all shades. Black, white, and gray, with the full palette of color exploding in between like vibrant motes of dust scattered on a sunlit window.

The press of kisses against her collarbone reminded JJ that life was a flowing river of emotion. Honed to whisper-fine sharpness, her senses gleamed with every caress, every trail of fingers against skin so taut, it hummed. Emily's mouth was like rain, dappling her throat, chest, and breasts with a shower of nips and a storm of kisses that built into a raging flood of desire.

Thunder crack strong, the sensation of that beloved mouth tracing an erotic landscape of need against JJ's most intimate self was the trigger that released her voice. Thick with passion, softly whispered cries of, "Emily, oh, Emily," brought the bright flash of teeth, a hum of laughter, and an unhurried stroke of fingers against JJ's hip.

When sight returned, JJ found herself looking up her lover's darkened amber eyes while threads of moisture streamed from her own. With the colors of her emotions boiling around her, JJ reached up to thread her fingers through Emily's sweat-slicked hair.

"You are the best kind of wonderful, Emily Prentiss. I could grow quite addicted to that," she said throatily.

Emily ducked her head to capture JJ's lips in a brief, teasing kiss. "Then I guess it's a good thing that I'm not on the Controlled Substances Act, hmm?"

Laughing in between kisses, JJ said, "For that, I am truly grateful. I would hate to be arrested while trying to score my daily fix of Emily."

With a low chuckle, Emily said, "Well, we wouldn't want that, now would we?" Retracing newly worn paths of desire, the brunette scattered a trail of kisses from JJ's throat to her hip and then laved the protruding bone with a series of soft nips until the blonde was forced to grab hold of Emily's head and drag her up for a long, open mouthed kiss.

"I love you, Emily Prentiss," she said as she traced the line of her lover's jaw with one finger.

Capturing the wandering digit between her teeth, Emily replied, "I love you too, Jennifer Jareau."

JJ smiled. "Now that we got that out of our way, why don't you go back to what you were doing?"

"Promise not to interrupt?"

"Never, but I do promise to enjoy the heck out of it."

"Oo, promises, promises," murmured Emily as she nibbled the skin at the base of JJ's throat.

On a hitched breath, JJ whispered, "Emily? Shut up and make love to me."


Office of Lockley and Associates – Chicago, ILLINOIS

It was after midnight. The graying shadows of sunset had long since been replaced by the sable silk of night. Outside, snow fell in spiraling flurries, patching the darkened streets in splotches of rapidly brightening white. Illuminated only by the single lamp on her desk, Kate hunched over her computer and slowly pecked her way through typing up a report.

Business was good. Dersk and Elizabeth were out, tracking down a stolen talisman while she recovered from the nasty cold she'd developed just days after her ill-thought dive into Lake Michigan. Sneezing once, Kate reached for the cup of tea that her lover had thought to leave for her and drank, wincing at the chill, bitter taste of the brew.

Cocoa would have been preferred, but the milk content would have only exacerbated the cough she tried hard to ignore. The bells above her door jangled, and Kate looked up, surprised by the two heavily bundled figures that stood on the threshold.

A shiny gleam of reddish blonde hair gave her a clue as to the identity of her visitors, but when hats and gloves were whisked away, she smiled at the sight of her errant, erstwhile business associates.

Willow Rosenberg grinned cheekily and said, "Honey, we're home."

"Hey, yeah, did we miss anything?" said Kennedy as she tossed her gloves into a chair and wandered over to the coffee pot.

In response, Kate laughed hoarsely.

"Ooo, I think we did," said Willow as she accepted a cup of hot coffee from her lover. Sitting in one of the empty chairs, she looked over at the investigator and said, "Tell us a story, Auntie Kate, please?"

Kate sighed, took another drink of tea and then said, "Well, it all started with a headline in the paper…"

The End

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