DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for shaych03ís birthday. This is very last minute as I only discovered the important date yesterday morning. Itís a bit serious for a birthday fic, but itís the fandom that counts, right? Special thanks to mrswoman for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
No More Fear
"Hey, anyone seen JJ? I need to ask her something about this report." Emily held up a thick file and looked across the desks of her co-workers. She'd already been to JJ's office to find it unoccupied and had waited ten minutes before deciding to go in search of the press liaison. Her search had been unsuccessful.
A mop of unruly hair peeked over the top of a tall stack of files. Reid's voice filtered around the large pile. "Not since she dumped this load of folders on my desk. She did say something about going to retrieve more though."
A groan came from the desk opposite Reid's. "I know we've been out in the field most of this month, but I hadn't realized how behind we'd gotten on our paperwork." Morgan stood and stretched almost catlike. "Surely Hotch doesn't expect us to finish all of this in two days." He gestured to an equally tall stack of files that sat on the edge of his desk.
Emily took just a moment to glance over at her own stack. She'd come in early and had made a good size dent in hers. Turning back to her colleagues, she noted the huge smiles that had formed on their faces; they weren't the best profilers in the country for nothing.
"Oh no, fair is fair. I had just as many files as the both of you. You're on your own." Emily grinned at the pitiful look both men now sported, barely able to keep the laugh from escaping as Reid tilted his head and poked out his bottom lip. "Forget it guys, those looks don't work on me."
Resigned to his fate, Morgan plopped down in his chair and reached for another file. "Well, you can't blame us for trying."
Chuckling, Emily left the room once again. She couldn't sign off on her current report until she was able to confirm a couple of iffy facts. JJ was the only one who could help her.
Thirty minutes later, Emily sat in the chair in front of JJ's desk. She'd been all over the building and still hadn't been able to locate the other woman. She'd even checked the parking lot to be sure JJ's car was parked in its spot, finding the red 4Runner exactly where she'd expected it to be. Emily had even taken the time to place her hand on the hood to find it was cold. JJ had to be somewhere on the Quantico grounds.
"Damn it, I guess I can save this file for last." Emily pushed to her feet and started towards the bullpen of the B. A. U., stopping halfway down the corridor as an idea suddenly came to her mind. Smiling, she changed directions. If anyone could find JJ, it would be Garcia.
Emily found the technical analyst tapping away at her keyboard and moving her head and shoulders to the beat of whatever sound was playing in her ears. Emily stepped just to the side of the blonde and waited for Garcia to notice her presence. A couple of shakes and shimmies later, Garcia turned towards Emily and smiled.
"Hey, Emily." Garcia pulled the earbuds from her ears. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm looking for JJ; have you seen her?"
"No, but give me just a second." Garcia had already turned back to her keyboard, pounding out a series of codes as she watched the different monitors change from scene to scene, each focusing on a different area of the building. Finally, her fingers halted their rapid movement, and Garcia pointed toward the center monitor. "There. She's on the roof." Garcia frowned and then quickly glanced at the white time and date stamp in the bottom corner of the screen.
Emily leaned forward and focused on the monitor, her eyes widening at the sight of JJ standing on the ledge, looking down at the street below. Turning, she raced toward the door.
"Call Morgan and Reid and tell them to meet me on the roof!"
"Wait, Emily!" Garcia's words fell on deaf ears; Emily was already halfway to the elevators. Garcia glanced at the phone and sighed as she sat back in her chair. She continued to watch JJ on the roof's edge.
In the elevator, Emily tried to calm herself and focus on the situation at hand. What was she going to say? She'd had no idea that JJ had been troubled or depressed. In fact, just the other night, JJ had seemed to be having a wonderful time when the team had gone to a downtown bar to wind down from their latest case, and if Emily hadn't known better, she'd have sworn JJ had been flirting with her most of the night.
The ding of the elevator alerted Emily that she was out of time. She was just going to have to try to keep JJ calm until Reid and Morgan arrived. Rushing out the doors, she headed directly for the stairway at the end of the corridor. Seconds later, she was standing on the roof, trying to get her bearings. She remembered seeing a large air conditioning unit on the monitor, and spotting the landmark, she hurried toward it, quickly spying JJ as she rounded the mass of metal. Emily's heart caught in her throat.
JJ was no longer looking down at the ground; she was now focused on the clouds above, seemingly mesmerized by the different shapes which passed her by. Emily cautiously inched her way forward, not wanting to startle her friend. She just hoped that when she finally reached JJ's side, she'd know what to say. Glancing over her shoulder, she wondered what was keeping Morgan and Reid.
"We go through life making decisions and hoping that our choices are the right ones, hoping that no one else is hurt by whatever we decide."
Emily froze at the sound of JJ's voice. The other woman had not given any indication that she knew Emily was there; she'd just quietly spoken without taking her focus from the clouds above.
"To live in fear is not to live at all." JJ's voice cracked on her last words, and she blinked away the tears that had formed.
"It's never too late, JJ; never." Emily slowly closed the distance. "Whatever is wrong; whatever you're feeling, will get better. I promise you."
"For me, maybe, not for her; never for her." JJ finally turned towards Emily, the sadness radiating from her in waves. Emily reached forward, pleased when JJ allowed her to take hold of her hand.
"Why don't you come down from there? We can go to your office and talk."
JJ stared down at their joined hands and then stepped from the ledge, choosing to lean back against the concrete barrier instead of walking away. "I was just a freshman in college when I met Terry. She knew what she wanted out of life and was determined to get it." JJ hesitated for a moment but pushed on, needing for Emily to understand. "We were the best of friends, inseparable for the first year, but then Nicole came along and Terry fell head over heels in love."
Emily moved next to JJ and squeezed her hand in reassurance. She nodded and patiently waited for JJ to continue.
"The two of them dated for the next couple of years, but Nicole was a year older and was graduating in the spring. Terry was ready to quit school and follow her, but Nicole insisted that they wait to move in together until after she was settled into her job. So, Terry agreed to get her degree and then follow her."
JJ turned toward Emily and tilted her head in question. "You know that expression absence makes the heart grow fonder?"
"Yes." Emily answered simply, knowing the question was more rhetorical in nature.
"It didn't have that effect on Nicole. She was so involved with her work she rarely gave Terry another thought. She loved what she was doing. It was all she needed."
"And, I take it Terry missed her like crazy." Emily sympathized with the other woman. She certainly wouldn't want to know what it would be like not to see JJ almost daily.
"Yeah, you could say that. Several months later, Terry showed up on Nicole's doorstep with her luggage. She told her she'd planned to quit school and wanted to move in. Nicole said she wasn't ready and that she wasn't sure if she'd ever be ready. She told Terry that she was afraid she'd lose her job if it became known that she had a female partner."
JJ turned her focus back to the clouds and smiled sadly. "Terry used to love to go up to the roof of the dorm and watch the clouds go by. She had the most vivid imagination and always enjoyed coming up with outrageous descriptions of the cloud formations."
"What happened to Terry, JJ?" Emily had noted JJ's pensive tone and the way she'd spoken of Terry in the past tense.
"The morning before graduation, I found her up on the roof, standing on the ledge. She was just staring up at the sky. It was a beautiful day, and there were so many clouds, so very many clouds." JJ's voice broke, but she bit down on her lip to regain control of her emotions. Emily waited quietly for her to continue.
"I walked over and asked her what she was doing. She turned toward me and said, 'To live in fear is not to live at all.' I asked her what she meant. She just tilted her head and smiled the most beautiful smile, replying, 'I hope you never find out.' Then, she just stepped backward." JJ released a sad sigh. "Every year, I go to a rooftop on the anniversary of her death, trying to piece together what she was thinking and wondering if there was anything I could have said or done that would have caused her to change her mind."
"JJ, how did you know to go up on the roof that day?"
JJ looked off in the distance. "I don't know. I just had a feeling that something was wrong."
"So, Terry never intended for you to come upon her. It sounds as if she'd already decided her fate."
"Perhaps, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept. I'll always wonder if I could've saved her."
Emily nodded her head in understanding, knowing if their roles were reversed, she'd constantly wonder the same thing, but at least today, there was something she could do.
"Hey, JJ; Hotch said we have two days to complete our reports, and I'm already three-quarters of the way finished. What do you say we take a ride in the country and find some quiet place to have a picnic?"
"You're not serious." JJ couldn't believe her ears. The always professional Emily Prentiss suggesting they leave work for a day of pleasure?
"I most certainly am." Emily smiled easily and gripped JJ's hand tightly. "We can even try to come up with different ideas for the cloud shapes."
A smile slowly edged its way onto JJ's face. "I think I'd like that."
"Well, let's get to it then, shall we?" Emily started forward, pulling JJ along behind her. A few steps later, the two women were striding side-by-side, their joined hands swinging to and fro as a ray of sunlight guided their way.
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