DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: This comes after the episode 'Birthright', it mentions the case non-specifically.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
This had been a hard case for all of us. Girls being abducted and brutalized always hits us hard. Harder than almost any other type of case, save only those involving children. And JJ, poor sweet JJ, is always right in the middle of everything; meeting with local police, talking to the press, interviewing suspects, comforting the families, or holding the victims (when we find them alive, that is).
She takes too much onto herself. She sees the worst that human kind has to offer spread across her desk every morning. She wades through case after case and has to decide which one the team will handle. I can tell that takes its toll on her. Seeing all the victims, the bodies, reading about all the horrors the unsubs can think up and visit upon other people, and trying to decide which one is more important, more dangerous, than all of the rest would break anyone. And JJ sees it all every day.
The team and I only see the end result of all her work; we see the one case where she has seen dozens more just like it, or worse. We don't have the hundreds of other victims that weren't chosen clamoring for attention in our minds the way JJ does. Guilt doesn't tear at us the way it does her. She feels guilty for all those people we can't save, all the cases we can't solve, because we just don't have the time. Hundreds of victims, she's seen their faces in the files on her desk, they haunt her. I can see it in the shadow of her eyes, the lines around her mouth, and the set of her shoulders.
But this last case, it was awful. Young women, all JJ's age as Hotch pointed out, abducted, burned, raped, and made to dance as though at a party. A homicidal legacy passed from the deceased father to the son he never knew by way of diary. It's disgusting what people can do to one other. We found the two most recent victims alive in that cave, one barely alive the other hysterical with relief and fear. JJ held her and comforted her as best she could.
The stress of the case had marked JJ. The deep purple bags beneath her eyes and a new line between her eyebrows spoke of just how much pressure JJ felt. And still she found in herself some reserve of warmth to comfort the victim. I'll never understand how she can just keep on going, how she can focus so completely on the victims and ignore her own feelings to do so.
I'm just glad to be home, or at least back at the office. The unsub is dead, thank God, and life in that small town can get back to some semblance of normal.
"Anybody else need a drink?" Morgan asks as we all prepare to leave.
"How about five?" I say, grabbing my jacket and bag. Then I notice JJ stacking files into her hands, "You coming, JJ?"
She shakes her head and replies without looking up, "No, I've got to finish up some paperwork."
I make a sympathetic noise and rub her back for a moment, wanting to convince her to come along anyway but unsure of how she'd react to any pressure. I decide to accept her answer for now and head out with the others, Hotch in the lead.
It surprised us all when Hotch got served the divorce papers. Suddenly I didn't want those drinks anymore. Any euphoria we might have been feeling for solving the case and saving two of the victims had vanished. I milled around with the others for a bit, but then I noticed JJ had disappeared. Knowing how sensitive she is and how much pressure she's been under lately I decide to find her instead of leaving.
I found her in the first place I looked, in her office surrounded by stacks of paperwork. She was staring at the papers in her hands without reading them, completely lost in her thoughts. They didn't look to be very good thoughts judging by the pensive frown and the misty eyes.
"JJ?" It was said quietly, but she jumped up startled anyway.
A confused look settles across her features, "Em? Do you need something?" A tilt of her head punctuates the question.
"No, but I can see that you need to get some rest."
"I told you, I have to finish this paperwork. Besides, I'm fine." She resumes her seat and shuffles a few papers around, avoiding my gaze.
"Liar." That shocks her into looking at me again. "You aren't fine. You're exhausted and stressed and you need to get some food and sleep."
"No, I need to finish this paperwork so I can start looking for a new case." She sifts through the papers a little more aggressively, trying to prove she's fine.
"The paperwork can wait, JJ, one more day won't hurt it." I walk around her desk until I'm beside her, my hand on her shoulder.
Quickly she stands up and glares at me furious, "One more day can get people killed!" And just as quickly as the anger came it vanishes, leaving her drawn, sad, and avoiding my gaze once more.
I reach out again putting my hand to the small of her back and rubbing gently. "JJ, you can't keep going like this. You work too hard and you'll burn out. I don't want to see what would happen to this team without you. We need you, JJ. I need you here." I want to comfort her, but I'm not very good at things like this, and she's so achingly vulnerable that I don't know what to do.
She takes a shuddering breath and looks at me, there are tear marks down her face and her eyes are filling up again fast. "You know what I need right now, Emily?" she asks thickly, "I need " She trails off and more tears fall.
"What, JJ? Tell me. Let me help." My hand is still moving, still rubbing small circles on her back. I'm resisting the urge to just pull her close to me and hold her until everything disappears, until her tears stop and she can look at me with that beautiful smile of hers shining. I know it's probably wrong for me to think of her like this, to think she's so damn beautiful with her eyes all puffy and red and tears leaving sticky streaks down her pale cheeks, but I can't help myself.
Another breath and she speaks again, "I need I just need a hug." And then she looks at me with those baby blues imploring, and I'm powerless to resist.
I open my arms and hold them out for her. She slips into them, a perfect fit, as though she's meant to be there all along. "Can you just hold me for a while, Em?" The question is muffled by her speaking into my neck but I know exactly how to respond.
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