DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Originally posted to my fanfiction.net account under the same title.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To howlingturtle[at]hotmail.com
Never Apologize for That
Cases like this one always unsettled the team, especially when the win was so empty. They had solved the case and caught the guy, naturally. And he was to face the death penalty for the torture, rape, and murders of seven preteen boys. Even though they knew the man would never get the chance to hurt anyone ever again their victory was hollow.
They hadn't been able to save the last victim, Warren Slothley.
They'd gotten to him too late. Warren had died on the way to the hospital and the EMTs had been unable to revive him. The BAU team had caught the boy's tormentor, but too little too late. Any sense of accomplishment they'd had quickly faded at the news of Warren's death. He would be remembered by the BAU team, as are all the people they aren't able to save.
But now the case is over, all that's left is to write the reports. Once that's done it's vacation time; they're all overdue for a reprieve from the traumas of their work.
It was a relief to be heading back home, away from the media, away from the sense of shame they all have for not being fast enough, away from the looks of grief and anguish Warren's parents gave them, away from the place where they hadn't been good enough. Of course they knew it wasn't their fault, they had done all they could, but their rational minds could not outweigh the pain in their hearts. It was easy to see in all of them. It dulled their senses and added new lines to their brows. It had formed deep purple bags beneath their eyes and put frowns on their faces. Their shoulders sagged and their heads were bowed. They were the picture of defeat.
They would each find their own ways to deal with this. They had to. They needed to come back on the job, after their short break, ready to face the worst this country had to offer. They needed to constantly be at the top of their game so they can catch and keep America's worst criminals off the streets and away from the people they hurt.
But they weren't always on the job. Yes, they were always alert, but they weren't always working. Usually after a case they'd get a couple of days off, to readjust themselves and find some redeeming quality in the human race to make their job a little easier. Going to museums and galleries and parks to see what good people are capable of, what beauty they can create, but that only offsets the horror of their job a little. Seeing the marvels the human race is capable of only barely tempers the repulsion felt after witnessing the depths of depravity humanity can sink to.
Or at least that's how Emily feels. She knows that the profilers experience the worst, the most awful, that civilization produces. They see it all first hand. A few of them have even had the misfortune of being the victims of mankind's various evils. Still, they deal with it the best they can. Finding ways to decompress, to find their balance again, to enjoy being alive.
Emily had found her balance in the form of Jennifer 'JJ' Jareau; not that the press liaison knew it. Nor would she ever know if Emily could help it. Eye-shagging the younger woman was a particularly guilty pleasure of Emily's; not getting caught was tricky, but she'd managed so far. As best Emily could tell JJ was peacefully oblivious to her interest. And that's the way Emily liked it. So long as JJ was unaware, Emily could ogle in peace. Sure she felt a little like a stalker, but it's not like she followed JJ anywhere. She just quietly admires her whenever they happen to be in the same place, which unfortunately is mostly at work.
Of course she marvels at JJ's poise and composure while on the job, but she wishes she could see the blonde in unguarded moments. Moments when she isn't trying to maintain absolute control of herself, moments when she's not a half-step away from breaking down, moments when she's honestly happy, or irritated, or zoned out; she wants to see the real JJ and she has no idea how to make that happen without rousing suspicion from JJ or any of the rest of the team. Since she had no way to have what she really wanted, she'd settle for what she could get; and that was a lot of clandestine gazing and whimsical fantasies.
Thinking of JJ led to looking at JJ, who happened to be talking with Reid and Morgan in the bullpen. They were all supposed to be writing their reports, but obviously none of them were in the mood to recall the events of their most recent case. At least while JJ was distracted by the other two agents Emily could liaison-gaze unnoticed. She thought it was a little like bird watching, only infinitely more interesting and appealing, and it didn't require binoculars though a guidebook would certainly be appreciated. Then perhaps she'd be able to figure out how to get JJ to open up to her.
It was through this staring that Emily noticed just how strained JJ was, how forced her smiles, and how tense her body. When you study a person as much as Emily had studied JJ you tend to notice the little signs that a person is way too stressed out. For instance, how JJ's smile was frozen in the corners and didn't reach her eyes, how her back was ramrod straight and shoulders set back, how her left hand was clenched into a tight fist at her side, and how she shifted from foot to foot restlessly. Emily was sure Morgan could tell how uncomfortable and distracted JJ was, but he was making no mention of it though he did shoot Emily a rather pleading look and indicated JJ with a tilt of his head. Reid probably thought JJ's agitated state was a normal reaction to coming down from an adrenaline high, he certainly behaved that way sometimes.
Emily caught Morgan giving her another 'get-over-here-and-FIX-HER' look, which she decided she couldn't ignore even to keep watching JJ. She got up and approached the press liaison, making sure not to startle the blonde (she remembered the one time she had startled her and faced the barrel of her automatic, not an experience she's eager to repeat).
Emily's hand found the small of JJ's back as she greeted the group, "Hey guys, what's going on?"
She noticed a little of the tension in JJ's shoulders release as her hand rubbed along her back.
Morgan smiled gorgeously, as he always does, and replied from his position leaning on the desk "Not a lot. Just talkin' about maybe gettin' some drinks later. Reid's buyin' first round. You in?"
Emily nodded in ascent and answered, "I think we could all use a little relaxation after that case. JJ?"
All eyes turned to the beautiful blonde as she snapped to attention, "Uh, actually, I don't think so. Sorry. Maybe next time."
Before anybody could have a go at convincing her to come out with them JJ was halfway to her office, fleeing their attention. Emily, concerned for her friend and secret love-interest, followed.
Though JJ had closed the door to her office Emily entered without knocking and closed the door behind her. She locked it too, just to ensure privacy. JJ looked startled about Emily's sudden entrance, but she quickly put her poker face on and started shuffling through the files on her desk in an attempt to look busy.
Emily rolled her eyes at the obvious avoidance and said "Don't bother. You just got in here JJ. I know you weren't doing anything yet."
JJ quirked an eyebrow at the dark haired agent and said stiffly "Doesn't mean I wasn't going to start. I want to have as much of this paperwork done as possible before I go home tonight."
"Fair enough. Now do you want to tell me what's really going on?" Emily remained in her place by the door, unwilling to invade JJ's space any more than she already had, but still wanting to press for answers.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Em. I'm fine." JJ hadn't looked at her. Now Emily knew something was really wrong. A large part of her communication with JJ was through their eye contact, JJ refusing to make any was a definite sign of trouble.
Taking just one step closer Emily said "You're not. You're tense and stilted. I understand that the case may have gotten to you, but you've never been this curt with me. Please tell me what's wrong."
JJ still wouldn't look up. Her hands had stopped moving files though, now they were flat on the desk with fingers splayed. Emily decided to press her lead, however minor. "I just want to help, JJ. You seem off. Morgan and I are concerned."
"Is that why you're here? Because Derek sent you to check on me? Because we relate better 'woman to woman'? Because I have to be freaking perfect to make sure the team runs smoothly? Well, thanks but no thanks. I don't need your help."
Emily was shocked by the anger and pain in JJ's voice. She wished desperately that she could see JJ's eyes, to read what was in them, and perhaps figure out the best way to proceed.
She took a chance and said with a little heat of her own and several steps propelling her to the blonde's side, "Of course not JJ! Don't be stupid!"
JJ's head shot up at the minor insult and Emily pressed on, quietly, "I'm here because I care about you. You're obviously upset, and that's fine. Everyone's allowed to fall apart once in a while."
She held up a hand to forestall the response she could tell JJ wanted to make and continued, "So long as someone's there to put you back together. If something's wrong, if you want to go to pieces, please, please let me be here to put you back together. I couldn't stand it if you were hurting and alone. Let me be here for you."
Somehow Emily had sunk to her knees without noticing as she pled with JJ. Her hands had found the younger woman's and she held them gently, almost cradling them. Her eyes had finally caught JJ's, their soulful brown depths speaking to JJ's soul with an eloquence Emily couldn't achieve with speech.
Emily watched the thoughts race in those blue orbs she so loved. She watched as those same eyes studied her, studied the messages left unspoken but shining brightly, reading her soul, looking for answers she didn't know the questions to. All at once JJ seemed to reach her decision and her whole demeanor changed, warmed, and she slid out of her chair to the floor and into Emily's waiting arms. Then she started sobbing.
Emily held her close, not daring to move at first save to rub her back or stroke her hair, whispering nonsense noises of comfort. Eventually she rocked the distraught press liaison gently, allowing her to fall apart just as she'd told her to do.
Emily didn't know how long they'd been in that position before she was pressing feather-light kisses of comfort to JJ's forehead, temple, and cheek, hoping to ease even a little of the pain she knew the younger woman was going through. She didn't know how long it took for JJ's sobs to ease into hiccupping breaths, then into sniffles, but she kept rocking and placing gentle kisses wherever they happened to land until JJ released her suffocating grip on Emily's ribs and pulled back just enough to look her in the eyes again.
Emily's heart nearly broke at the sight of those beautiful blue eyes rimmed red and the tear tracks streaking smooth cheeks. Without conscious input from her brain her hands were cupping that face she so adored and her thumbs were softly wiping away the moisture she found there.
So intent on her unconscious task was Emily that she failed to notice the speculative and hopeful look JJ gave her as she studied the older agents face. Emily also failed to notice JJ taking a deep calming breath and leaning forward. Emily definitely noticed when soft lips met hers in a tentative, exploratory kiss.
A part of her brain may have melted at first contact, which would explain why it took a full three seconds before she responded. Had she been expecting the kiss she was sure her response would have been instantaneous.
Emily allowed herself to get lost in the sensation of that kiss. Lost in the warmth, in the passion, in the shivers it sent throughout her whole body and the goosebumps it raised along her arms. She held JJ impossibly closer, feeling the way their bodies fit together perfectly, feeling the way her heart seemed to pound in sync with JJ's own. She had dreamed of this for so long, of being permitted to touch JJ like this, since practically the moment she'd met the stunning blonde agent. She had believed that her fantasies would stay just that: fantasy. But here she was, with JJ's soft, warm lips caressing her own, leaving a faint salty taste tempered with the strawberry Emily knew was lip gloss.
Reality was so much better than fantasy!
Emily (mind thoroughly blown) took a moment to savor the sensations coursing through her, absolutely certain that she would never experience anything so wonderful again in all her life and also positive that she was hopelessly incontrovertibly in love with the amazing woman still in her grasp, before opening her eyes.
When her eyelids were no longer in the way she could see JJ watching her with a faintly amused expression. She panicked when JJ looked about to speak. Again without conscious thought her hand acted and she was suddenly looking at three of her fingers pressed gently to JJ's lips preventing her from saying anything.
She was a little ashamed of letting her insecurities get the better of her, but still Emily needed her turn first, "JJ, whatever you're about to say, please, for the sake of my sanity, don't apologize. Whatever it is, please don't say you're sorry for kissing me." Her eyes, she knew, were begging JJ and telling the younger woman far more about her feelings than Emily was ready to admit to but couldn't prevent showing.
JJ took Emily's wrist and placed a kiss to her palm that made Emily's breath hitch and eyes darken with desire before looking into her eyes and giving her a lopsided grin.
JJ leaned forward and pressed a short but sweet kiss to Emily's lips, then she said "I was going to apologize for ruining your shirt."
Emily looked down at her, indeed, ruined shirt. She gave a bark of nearly hysterical yet relieved laughter and waved her hand dismissively, "I have others."
JJ never told Emily what had been bothering her, but after the cathartic release in her office she was much happier and so was Emily for that matter.
JJ also never apologized for kissing Emily, and she never would. Emily wouldn't have it any other way.
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