DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Yes. Major for "Demonology".
An Open Door
"Where can I drop you?"
Despite the quiet comfort of Rossi's presence, she felt the pull of the cold, empty night too keenly to accept his offer.
"Actually, I think I'll just walk," Emily Prentiss replied softly, her eyes already looking past the older agent and beyond the harsh flashing lights of the crime scene to the welcoming darkness.
Her companion simply nodded, his dark eyes understanding. If there was anyone familiar with the small rituals needed to heal the wounds of the past, it was David Rossi. Emily's lips twitched: not a smile, but a tiny gesture of gratitude for the older man's steadfast presence and quiet, unquestioning support. An unlikely ally, but one Emily had come to value greatly.
The profiler could feel his gaze as she turned away from the almost crime scene, an imagined warmth at her back as she moved farther from the organized chaos.
Wrapping her coat around her, Emily placed one foot in front of the other, than another, than another. Her steps at first hesitant and unsure, weighted with shock and grief and the clinging, tangling memories of past pain, they slowly became more fluid and sure. The flashing blue and red lights from the police cars gradually faded, slipping away behind her to leave the sharp night bathed only in the soft, sulfur glow of streetlights reflecting on snow.
The cold white powder continued to fall, gently caressing her face and cushioning her steps. It settled on the darkness of her coat and hair like a mantel, softening the edges of her world with frigid tenderness.
Gradually Emily's mind slowed. Her thoughts drifted with the careless snowflakes until the simple motion of walking consumed her, the activity a haven of simplicity even as some part of her embraced the physical manifestation of her need to put the past behind her.
The church was not a surprise. Her feet paused without conscious direction but Emily easily accepted the destination. Too much of her recent and aged pain had come from God's House to let her simply walk past. Like worrying at a wound, her psyche couldn't let it go just yet.
Dark eyes blinked in the dull light, beholding the great wooden doors, closed against the biting winter air. Closed. How appropriate, she mused with bitter irony. There were so many doors in her life that were now closed to her.
Taking out the faded, oft creased photograph, Emily stared at the flimsy remnant of a time long gone, and could still hear the sounds of slamming doors in her memory. Dark gaze looking not at the fragile paper but into the past, she let the memories come unhindered this time. Youth, in all its pain and uncertainty and fleeting joy washed over her and she closed her eyes, letting it come.
Like a tide of blood it swept through her, washing away old wounds, sweeping aside the doubt and fear and regrets of the past and carrying her to the present. An imperfect one to be sure, but the present nonetheless.
Blinking stinging eyes, the silent woman shook herself, suddenly feeling the telltale heat of blood that was all too real.
Breathing the still night into her lungs, Emily watched in horrified fascination as the drop of claret liquid fell from her nose to mar the photo in her hand. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry at the symbolism the dark haired woman settled for practicality and wiped it away.
Some things were just too much to think about when one was trying to lay aside the demons literally and figuratively of the past.
Some measure of pain however, was unavoidable. The smear of blood, the tiny manifestation of her life on the picture, brought with it Mathew's parent's words to her, and the accusations twisted in her heart once again. She hurt everything she touched.
And suddenly it wasn't the church's closed door Emily was seeing.
The walk took longer this time. The gentle benediction of the snow had long ago ceased to be wondrous and was now simply cold and wet. Her fingers and toes were stiff and burning with cold and her body felt achy and clumsy when Emily finally took out the worn brass key and let herself into the lobby of the building she hadn't entered in nearly a year.
This time when her feet paused, it was not facing massive panes of carved oak, but a simple, plain white door with the brass numbers. A door that she had stepped through so often.
The wrenching familiarity of her position however, stilled the dark agent's hand in its habitual motion of knocking and she struggled, trapped between the past with all its joy and pain - and the as yet unwritten future. Longing and fear warred within her as Emily Prentiss stood dripping on the serviceable, industrial carpeting, alone in the silent hallway.
How long Emily stood there she had no idea as the silent battle waged inside her. How long she might have stood there would go unknown as, in the end, the path was chosen for her.
Dark eyes blinked in surprise and Emily pulled back reflexively as the door was opened to reveal the source of her conflict.
Silence still held sway in the impersonal space and for a moment the air was charged. Uncertainty and recrimination, sadness and regret, hope and remorse and a thousand other emotions swirled unseen between blue eyes and brown .and then something gave.
Like the weight of a snowflake on a mountain pass, its exact nature and impact were immeasurable, seen only in the affect the eventual avalanche that becomes its legacy.
JJ's face softened, summer sky eyes taking in Emily's disheveled state and pale skin.
"Come in Emily," the blonde agent spoke softly, her voice holding a mixture of trepidation and fond exasperation at the dark haired woman's appearance.
Feeling now as if she was entering uncharted territory, Emily nodded silently and stepped gingerly into the warmth of the entry way. The smell of coffee and JJ drifted to her nose and memories crashed over the dark agent, nearly making her stumble.
If JJ noticed, the blonde said nothing, but her hands when she took Emily's coat were gentle and her touch lingered perhaps a second longer than necessary. Still seeing the past, the dark agent relived a hundred other tiny moments just like this one. Moments when the simple caress of a shoulder and the act of taking a coat turned into something much more intimate.
Looking up, Emily caught the faraway look in JJ's eyes before the endless blue irises focused on her, and understood that perhaps she was not the only one thinking about what might have been tonight.
Swallowing, JJ gestured toward the kitchen.
"Would you ah, would you like some coffee?" the blonde agent offered, hesitation in her voice.
Emily raised an eyebrow in question, knowing how JJ had avoided the drink during her pregnancy.
Seeing the look, JJ's eyes narrowed slightly and then she seemed to make a decision. "I'm not breast feeding anymore. It won't hurt Henry. And you look like you need a cup."
There it was, hanging in the air. The physical manifestation of everything that had happened between them. And yet the offer was still there, and this time, Emily found herself accepting.
"I'd love some thanks. Its freezing out there."
"Well what did you expect, it is snowing."
The light banter was a bandaid over a ragged wound, but it was comforting all the same and it continued until JJ handed her a cup of steaming coffee. Emily wrapped her hands around the smooth, heated ceramic, bringing the cup to her nose and inhaling deeply. This time however, the pull of the past was held at bay by the sight of JJ watching her, and the flash of naked longing on the blonde agent's face was enough to tear at Emily's heart.
You hurt everything you touch.
But she was tired of walking away: tired of closed doors.
"Thank you," Emily spoke softly, holding JJ's eyes.
The press liaison nodded. "How are doing Emily, really?"
Taking a sip of the rich, bittersweet brew, the dark agent closed her eyes and tried to compose her answer. "That is a very long and complicated answer," she replied carefully.
A feather light touch on her hand shocked her eyes open, searching JJ's face.
"I have time."
"Are ah, are you sure?" So many layers to those words, and underneath the simple question lay a fragile hope.
"Will's gone Emily. And I will always have time for you."
The dark agent felt the admission settle around her, as gentle as the snowflakes of earlier, but warmer and somehow less ethereal.
The two women moved the couch, curling up in long unused but never forgotten positions. Emily cradled her coffee and closed her eyes, holding on to the image of JJ's intent gaze as she dove once more into the past.
"If I'm going to answer that, I need to tell you about a boy named Mathew and a girl named Emily "
Outside, the snow continued to fall, lending the city its ephemeral beauty while inside JJ's apartment, Emily slowly laid the burdens of the last days, months, and years to rest.
When her words finally brought the past to connect to the present and she trailed off, tears had slipped form her eyes to stain her cheeks. Before she could wipe them away however, a tender touch traced the glistening tracks. Emily opened her eyes to find JJ's, shining close to her.
The blonde agent wiped Emily's tears and then dropped her hand to thread her fingers through the dark woman's, a gentle squeeze all that was needed to convey sorrow and support.
Peace suffused the moment as the two gave themselves over to the tenuous connection forming once again and Emily felt something ease at long last inside her.
Will was gone, back to where it was warm and sticky and snow would never blanket the city, softening its edges and covering the scars.
"I miss you," Emily said softly.
"I miss you too," JJ replied replied.
It was a beginning.
It was the opening of another door.
It was enough.
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