DISCLAIMER: I do not own Criminal Minds or its characters. I wish I did, because it's an amazing show and Paget Brewster and A.J. Cook are hot, but...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I just want to apologize to everyone who has waited on this update for so long, and thank everyone for sticking with me. I hope this makes the wait worth it, and for those of you who sent me supportive emails or wrote reviews, THANK YOU so much. It's because of you that I was able to work past a prolonged case of writer's block and overcome the exhaustion and illness caused by my struggle with the H1N1 virus and its aftereffects to write again.
SPOILERS: None too specific. General plot points and such from across seasons two and three.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Psychopathology: The scientific study of mental disorders
Date and Time: May 1, 2008, 20:58
Location: Outside the Miami Police Precinct, Miami, Florida
Emily leaned against the wall of the precinct building, ignoring the heat and humidity as best she could. JJ was talking to Will inside, probably comforting him over the loss of his friend and the revelation that the man had been gay, and she didn't feel any need to be present for that conversation. She heard footsteps nearby and looked up, seeing Will making his way toward the parking lot with a defeated, angry air about him. She almost said something, but stopped herself, not up to a confrontation.
The tall woman pushed off from the wall, making herself somewhat visible.
The blonde turned, finding her in the darkness and approaching slowly until they were within arm's reach of one another. After a long, silent moment, the liaison took the last step needed to be wrapped in a hug, and Emily was more than happy to oblige her. In the dim light the profiler could barely see her partner's face, but she could feel the tension in the body she held and the way the blonde seemed to lean both into and away from her, just as she had whenever things became too emotionally intense in the past month.
The dark-haired agent got the sense that her companion wasn't there with her, a feeling she'd had repeatedly in the last few weeks. Physically Jennifer was as present as ever, but mentally, emotionally, she was elsewhere. She was back in Texas, maybe, or New Orleans, or even West Virginia, but she wasn't in Miami with the woman who loved her, the woman who wanted nothing more than to go to her knees and beg to be seen, to be touched, anything that might tell her that her Jennifer was with her and not somewhere very far away, hiding some fear from her. With a silent sigh, Emily pressed a gentle kiss to JJ's lips and turned away, trusting the shadows to hide her tears.
"Whenever you're ready to tell me what's going on, I'll be here," she murmured, knowing by the quick intake of breath behind her that the liaison was listening, "but I can't keep doing this, JJ. I don't know what to do, or what you're so afraid of, but I'll wait for you to be able to tell me. If you can choose me over him and over a life that would probably be easy and comfortable and predictable, then I can wait. Just..."
She trailed off, trying to swallow a lump that was trying to choke her with the old fears of both rejection and vulnerability.
"Just remember that I love you, but I'm not invincible. I need you."
Before her body or voice could give her away the brunette started walking, slipping quietly into the precinct and to the back office they'd been working out of. Once there Emily sat down heavily and stared at the wall, wondering how things could have changed so much in a month. It had been sunny when they'd gotten home from Texas, but she had barely noticed the weather. She was still concerned about the side-effects of the drug cocktail her partner had endured. It could have been judgement day itself and she still would have ignored the outside world in favor of the woman she loved. After a few days Jennifer had seemed mostly herself, if a little quieter than usual, but they had gotten distracted again by the need to get the dog house built and the property's fence checked to be sure it could hold Keira's beloved pets. Shal and Ze'ev had been excited to see them when they'd gone to pick them up, and Johnny the hunter had too. The two dogs had been slipped sedatives, and the cross-country flight had gone much more smoothly than Emily had hoped it might. They'd explored their new territory with interest, and had settled in far faster than she'd thought possible. When she'd called Johnny to give him an update, she'd mentioned the observation to him, and he'd chuckled.
"Dogs're smarter than most people in some ways. They know when they're home, and when they have it good. And I swear them dogs have a li'l of their people in them. The kid and Ms. Resman would have loved to know you and your lady, Emily."
She chuckled to herself, remembering that conversation, but sobered at the thought of his last comment.
She didn't know. She felt like Jennifer was slipping out of her reach somehow, even though they shared a house, even a bed. For a month she had kept her hands to herself, not out of prudishness or shyness but because she didn't want to push JJ when the blonde was as unsure of herself as she had become lately. While they had work to do the press liaison seemed her usual calm, collected self, but when they were alone her partner became uncertain and quiet. The strange distance between them wore on her, as did the constant internal battle to keep from just letting go and touching Jennifer as the blonde had touched her under the influence of those damned drugs.
She looked up, trying to find the energy to smile at the Latina detective standing in the door.
"Detective Lopez, what can I do for you?"
"I'm taking your friends out for a night on the town... Kind of to get you to see the other side of Miami that isn't serial killers? I think you should come with us. Would do you good."
Emily almost said no, almost gave in to the urge to push past the woman and disappear into the dark, scorching night, but behind the detective she saw Jennifer looking towards her, a half-hopeful, half-pleading expression on her face. With a sigh she rose, nodding slowly. When had she ever been able to say no to those blue eyes?
"Do I have time to go back to the hotel and shower?"
Lopez grinned, leading her toward the other agents gathering near the door of the precinct,. Emily just allowed herself to be led, carefully stopping herself from touching the blonde who appeared at her side.
"Everyone wanted a chance to get cleaned up, so yeah," Lopez was saying, "I'll meet you all at the hotel in an hour, then we'll head out. Okay?"
Everyone agreed, and they packed into the vehicles they'd been loaned. As she walked into the hotel room, the profiler looked around, suddenly hating the small set of rooms. JJ had gone into the shower almost immediately, leaving her alone with her thoughts, which were starting to go down a familiar, fearful path. More and more after they'd returned from Texas she'd had moments of terror, seen shadows of that damned bomb shelter overlaying wherever she happened to be at the time... And it was usually in one of the countless hotel and motel rooms the team found itself in. Finally she'd broken down and talked to her therapist about it, who had calmly asked her what she'd been feeling when the flashes had occurred.
"Trapped... Scared. Alone," Emily remembered herself answering, "It doesn't make any sense. JJ's right-"
"Stop, Emily. What did you just say?"
Emily thought back, confused. She didn't think she had said anything that could have garnered his suddenly intense focus, but she tried anyway.
"I said JJ-"
"Not Jennifer?" he asked softly, and the profiler was surprised to hear a hint of grief in his usually neutral voice. Then what he was pointing out sunk in, and her world spun. When had her Jennifer become JJ again? It would sound utterly ridiculous if she said it aloud, she knew, but in her mind there was a distinction, as she and the therapist had discussed more than once. JJ was out of reach, a close friend and colleague, but not more than that. Jennifer was her partner, and eventually would be her lover.
"Emily, you have to talk to her about this. Ever since the kidnapping she's helped you stay on track with your recovery. If you start having flashbacks again without that support,.."
And she had. She did. She was living it, after all. Despite their close proximity, she and Jennifer had reverted to the old habit of circling each other without ever getting quite close enough.
She opened her eyes and tried to smile, but her mind was side-tracked by the vision of the tanned woman wrapped in nothing but a towel and steam. Whatever else might be awry with their relationship, the brunette decided, the attraction and love were still there in equal parts. It was the damn fear getting in the way.
The agent shook her head, this time able to summon a real smile, even if it was a trace sad.
"You're beautiful, you know," she murmured lovingly, deliberately stepping into Jennifer's space as she gently cupped a soft cheek in one hand, bending to brush a kiss against the liaison's lips. To her surprise, the blonde caught her hand before she could pull away, looking up at her with so much longing that Emily's heart missed a beat.
"When did I stop being your Jennifer, Emily?"
The profiler blinked several times, taken off guard by the pain in her partner's whispered question, a question that unerringly echoed her own thoughts.
She sighed, squeezing the hand still holding hers. This wasn't exactly the setting or timing she would have chosen to have this conversation, but she knew better than to evade the question. Lately she'd had too few opportunities to be honest with her partner to risk squandering such an obvious one.
"You still are... Or I hope you are. But I can't get near you, and I don't know what to do about it. You're shutting me out, and I don't know what I did to make you do that, or how to fix it. I've tried, but every time I do you just put that wall back up between us. So I guess all I can do is wait for you to sort through whatever this is, and I'll be here if you need me. In the meantime, I can't think about us. I can't think about all the things I want to say... or all the things I want to do. It hurts too much."
Emily sighed, seeing the hurt in blue eyes and feeling tears try to fall from her own brown-black. She took a deep breath, forcing her emotions back into their little box for the moment.
"I love you, Jennifer," she finished sadly, "So I'll wait. Just... just tell me when you figure out what's going on, and how you feel, because I need to know."
JJ's hand fell away, leaving the brunette feeling cold and adrift. To hide the tears that were threatening again, she turned away, taking clothes out of her bag without really looking at them and slipping into the bathroom. The blonde watched her until the door closed, hiding her partner from sight. Her heart was racing, because of both Emily's kiss and her own fear. She didn't know what she'd expected, but that answer had caught her off-guard, leaving her reeling mentally. The press liaison had seen the pain her dark companion had tried to mask, had seen the tears, and her heart was feeling a little more broken than before. She had done that to her beloved Emily, and now she needed some way to fix it. She blinked as an idea occurred to her, the simplicity and obviousness of it making the blonde agent want to smack herself for not thinking of it before. After dressing and scribbling a quick note for Emily, she slipped out of the room, hating herself for leaving her partner alone with her dark thoughts but hoping the end result would be worth it. A press of a button on her phone had her in contact with Garcia. After being sworn to secrecy, Penelope listened to her plan with growing excitement, but after she had finished talking the voice on the other end of the line abruptly sobered.
"Jayj," the analyst started in a voice that was both unusually stern and pained, "if you're going to start this, you have to promise me and her that you're going to see it to the end. That woman has been waiting on you long enough. She adores you, JJ, but if you keep running on her she's eventually going to walk away. Emily can't wait forever and you've been hurting her a lot."
JJ might have said something, but Penelope wasn't done.
"I know what you're thinking, and no, she hasn't said a word to me about it. You know how she is. But all you have to do is look at the way she looks at you when you're not looking, and Jayj, you haven't been looking for a while. I know this is gonna sound really harsh, and I'm sorry 'cause you're my best friend and I love you, but you're taking her for granted again and treating her like some kind of stuffed animal you can put up on a shelf and take it down whenever you need it, ignoring it the rest of the time. If Em didn't love you so much, she'd probably be long gone by now. I don't want to have to remind you again, JJ... It hurts enough doing it now, but I think you need to hear it."
"You got some of that from Morgan, didn't you?" Jennifer asked dryly once she got her voice under some measure of control, the words still coming out somewhat strangled.
The press liaison chuckled miserably.
"Just tell me he didn't have you practice in front of a mirror until you got the voice right."
Silence was her answer, and JJ shook her head and sighed. She could easily picture Derek coaching the tech goddess on just how to deliver the near-rant, and her heart broke a bit more with the knowledge that the team had again seen something she should have long before she did and hadn't felt they could tell her about it, or didn't think it would do any good. It didn't particularly surprise her that Derek and Garcia had been talking about it, and talking about how to bring it up with her. Those two in particular had become more protective of Emily since the Samis incident, but generally that protectiveness didn't get directed at her. This time, though, she knew she deserved it. Still, she had a way to at least try to make things right, but she couldn't pull it off alone.
"Garcia, I'm serious about this. I don't think I've ever been this serious, actually. Please help me. I can't make this work without you and she deserves it. I promise I won't chicken out at the last minute or something. I want to do this for her."
That was apparently enough for Penelope, who JJ could hear setting to work on her keyboard, the keys rattling even faster than usual.
"Okay, phase one is set!" Garcia declared after a few minutes, "Go get your girl, Jayj! We'll take care of the rest."
"Thank you, Garcia," the blonde murmured, staring at an expanse of blank wall as she thought about what she was going to be doing in just a short time, "I owe you big time."
"Just you wait 'til I'm done, missy. Now scoot!"
Jennifer returned her phone to its holster, shaking her head in bemusement at her friend's ability to switch tracks so easily. She went downstairs to the lobby, where most of the team, sans Reid and Hotch, were already waiting. A glance at Morgan told her Garcia had informed him of his part in her multi-stage plan, and his quick, confident grin bolstered her own confidence. With a nod she acknowledged the look, quietly joining the rest of the group. She was talking to Rossi about something or other, responding to his comments more out of habit than any conscious thought. Next to the stocky Italian, Morgan suddenly stiffened, looking over her shoulder toward the elevators. JJ turned, almost forgetting herself at the sight of Emily. The dark agent was wearing a deep red top under a light-weight black vest and black slacks. The silver buckle of her black leather belt was off-center in a way the blonde had always found both teasing and adorable. Her own tight white pants and pale gold top felt drab next to the dark beauty, but the look in the brown-black eyes as they caught sight of her said otherwise.
"Everyone ready?" Lopez asked once Emily joined them, and various sounds or gestures of agreement prompted the Latina detective to wave them toward the door of the lobby. Their vehicles were already waiting for them, and the blonde started to climb into one when the sound of her name and hurried footsteps stopped her.
"JJ, I want to talk to you," Will's voice called from the door of the lobby, and JJ turned, looking up at the New Orleans detective. She could feel Emily's eyes on her and found her partner looking at her over his shoulder. As soon as their eyes met the brunette turned away, her body language hurt and lonely as it had been whenever the brunette thought she wasn't being watched. Jennifer wanted to go to her, to promise her that the mistake she had once made wouldn't be repeated, but first she had to face Will and make that true. Then she had to get up the guts to fix the damage she had caused, and that was the hard part. It had taken her a month already, a month of knowing what to do, and not doing it. Now she had a plan and the courage, but there were so many things that could go wrong in that moment, and Emily was giving up hope.
"What about?" she asked as she followed Will into the lobby, trying to keep both her frustration and her pain from her voice, "I thought I made it clear the last time we talked-"
"Look, JJ, we had sex," he interrupted, "I thought we were having a good time, then you disappear without a word. You barely told me anything in that one phone call. Why can't we be together? What is it, another guy? Your team doesn't like me? What? I thought-"
"What?" she hissed, suddenly almost unbearably angry with him, and with herself, "You thought what, Will? That we'd live happily ever after, that you were the best I ever had, and now we should have kids together? That I'd move to New Orleans, or you'd move to Quantico, and we'd start our new life?"
"That's not fair, JJ," he complained, looking stricken, "I love you! I want to marry you... But not if you won't have me. I thought maybe we could at least talk over drinks or something. I don't want to leave things this way!"
She felt a little guilty for taking out her anger on him, but she couldn't take back the words, nor would she if given the chance. She was angry and hurting, but what was worse was being aware of Emily standing outside in the miserable, wet heat just so she wouldn't have to watch her talk to LaMontagne, and knowing the team was watching them too. JJ sighed, her anger draining away as she looked past Will to the tired, beautiful form outside. She could run away, she knew. That's what she'd always done, even with Emily, and here again was the perfect excuse. Worse was knowing that if she were to go with Will tonight, Emily would stand back and let her go, because the profiler was, as she'd observed so many times in the last month, losing hope. She would go home, play with the dogs, and when Jennifer came in she would pretend she hadn't been crying. And to go home and face Keira's beloved dogs after...
"No," she replied softly, shaking her head, "No, Will. I've made a lot of mistakes, and I need to start making up for one of the big ones tonight."
"Just give me a date and time and-"
Her glare silenced him, but then the liaison sighed, looking past him again to see Emily straightening, looking as if she was about to walk away into the night rather than go with the team to the club.
Detective LaMontagne watched as the woman he'd dreamed of marrying jogged out of the hotel, catching the brunette agent, Prentiss, as she was about to leave. Prentiss looked as if she were going to turn away again, but JJ gently grabbed her arm, saying something Will couldn't hear from where he stood. Agent Prentiss started to turn away again, this time visibly struggling for composure, but again JJ grabbed hold of her. This time, however, the blonde didn't waste time talking. Instead, in full view of a crowded hotel lobby, she pulled the dark head down for a kiss. Agent Prentiss looked surprised at first, but as JJ started to talk again he distinctly made out the shape of the words "shut up", and the taller agent kissed her back. He started for the door, his mind blank, torn between appreciating the fact that two women were making out in front of him, and at the same time, angry and hurt because one of those women was supposed to be kissing him.
"Finally," the athletic Agent Morgan muttered from a short distance away as he stepped back inside, apparently realizing they wouldn't be leaving right away and not wanting to stand in the sweltering heat. He was watching the pair appreciatively, but with none of the lust or lewdness Will might have expected from a guy like him. Stocky Agent Rossi and skinny Dr. Reid were with him, and Rossi nodded knowingly.
"Mmm. I thought she'd never do it."
He strode away to join Agent Hotchner and Lopez near one of the waiting SUV's, leaving the younger men alone.
"It's been what? A couple months now?" Reid asked, and Morgan chuckled, thinking something over before responding.
"Yeah, something like that."
Both agents shook their heads, then caught his stare. Will, for his part, was shocked. Not only did the entire team apparently know the two were a couple, this had been going on for months!
"You guys are just... Okay with that?" he asked, retaining enough control to keep his voice down in the buzzing lobby. The profilers shrugged, and Morgan nudged the skinny kid before he could launch into something long-winded. The Latina detective strolled back over, watching the pair kiss and then giving Derek an appraising stare, which he returned calmly.
"Didn't think you had it in you to ignore that kind of show," she remarked, her tone almost casual but with too much danger to quite manage. Morgan shrugged, taking another moment to think before he spoke.
"Emily and JJ are like sisters to me. They're family. Do I think they're hot as hell? Yes. Would I ever, ever want to intrude on them or disrespect them? No way. Even if I did want to, JJ's got aim like you wouldn't believe and Emily can kick my ass."
"And so you're just okay with it, even though it flies in the face of a dozen regulations?" she persisted, and the dark man suddenly hardened, his demeanor changing from flirtatious and amused to something like wariness and anger, but he wasn't the one to respond first.
"JJ and Emily saved each other," Hotchner observed quietly, appearing behind them as if summoned, "As agents, I can't replace them. As people, even less so. I made a choice, knowing that I could lose my command in doing so. I stand by that choice, and I will continue to do so if they choose to go public,. I would rather have them together, where I can be there to step in if their relationship affects their work, which it hasn't to date, except to make them better. And lastly, it's no one's business but theirs. No one asks you what you do in your off hours, Detectives. I certainly wouldn't presume to ask my agents or attempt to control them."
"But they're right there, flaunting-"
"The case is over," the man interrupted firmly, his voice and hawk-like eyes conveying warning without ever seeming to change tone or expression, "They're officially off the clock, and what they do is their concern. Would I prefer more discretion? Of course. But both of them have earned the right to do as they will, without question from me. And before either of you goes too far down the road of regulations and reporting my agents, try to remember how you would feel if your superiors meddled in your personal lives."
That shut Detective Lopez up, but LaMontagne didn't want to accept that answer. The last few days had pushed him to his limit, and between finding out that a man he had thought he knew and understood had been secretly gay and seeing JJ with the other woman in a relationship that had apparently been going on for a while, he was not in a mood to just let it go. He was angry, hurt, and frustrated, and a part of him just wanted to get into a fight, just wanted to have someone to lash out at so he wouldn't have to deal with so many conflicting emotions
"If she was out there with you, would you be complaining?" Agent Morgan asked him suddenly, his usually friendly smile replaced with a coldly assessing stare. The New Orleans detective stared back at him, startled by the question and the intelligent menace being directed at him.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about, LaMontagne," Morgan growled, taking a step toward him, away from his colleagues, "You're pissed because you want JJ, and she's out there with someone else, with a woman, and you can't do a damn thing about it. If you were the one out there with her, you'd be happy as hell, and it'd never occur to you that anyone would say a word."
"I am not on the same team, or even in the Bureau!" Will objected, more than a little surprised to find himself under attack, "I doubt your regulations would approve of an inter-team relationship, much less-"
"If I hear the words I think you're about to say come out of your mouth, I swear you'll find yourself out flat on the floor," the dark agent threatened, his hands clenched into fists. Will sized him up, realizing the black man had height, reach, and probably weight on him, and most of that weight would be muscle. A fight with him would be a losing fight. Lopez was staring at the man she'd been casually flirting with this whole trip, obviously amazed at the transformation and at his fierce defense of the two women.
"Emily and JJ are family, and I won't have some-"
The single word froze the big agent in his tracks, and Agent Hotchner stepped between them, stocky Agent Rossi just behind him.
"That's enough, both of you."
Something in the man's bearing told Will that he would be worse off against Hotchner than he would against Morgan, and it had nothing to do with muscles. Will looked over his shoulder and saw that the two agents had parted, and JJ was talking earnestly, the hand she still had wrapped around Prentiss' arm switching from restraint to a sort of intimate possessiveness that looked both natural and profound between them. Breaking away from the group, he strode outside in time to hear part of what JJ was saying.
"-and it's not about Will or the team or anyone else. It's just... If we do... It's real, it's done, and it could go wrong, or one or both of us could get hurt. It's knowing my family would never accept you and yours wouldn't accept me. Mostly it's about how I've always, always run away before now, but I don't want to run away. Not from you, not again, and-"
The blonde stopped as soon as she saw the expression on Prentiss' shadowed face shift, turning without ever quite letting go of the woman as if she were afraid the brunette would disappear otherwise.
"This is why we can't be together?" he asked hoarsely, not really wanting to hear the answer, but hoping that somehow he could salvage the situation, could still be with this woman who was everything he'd ever hoped for. He couldn't just stand by and watch her slip away, especially not after the last few days. It was too much, and his mind seemed to tunnel, limiting his thinking to who to blame and how to make them hurt the way he was.
JJ sighed, looking uncertainly at Prentiss before straightening, taking strength from the other woman somehow.
"Yes," she replied simply. That was all. No explanation, no excuses, just an affirmative, and that was too much.
"Damn it, JJ! You know we'd be good together! You were there that night! What happened was right, it was natural, and I think you're just running away! I think you're afraid to be with me, afraid I might want you to move or give up your position, and you're afraid to just be happy! You're just running scared, right into her! And why her, JJ?! Why-"
"You don't know what you're talking about," JJ growled, blue eyes flashing at the interrupted insult to her -what? Lover? Friend? Girlfriend?- but instead of advancing as Morgan had, she took a step back, very deliberately moving away from him and toward Prentiss, "Yeah, I was there that night. I was there because I was running away, not toward something. You and I having sex just happened, that doesn't make it right! It wasn't right for me, and it never was!"
He might have tried to get a word in edgewise, but JJ wouldn't let him, her expression changing from angry to sad.
"I was looking for a way to go back to my family, Will. A way to go home that wouldn't mean endless fights with my family and hers, fights with the Bureau and always having to watch myself for a conflict of interest. It didn't work. It can't work, because Emily is my home. I was running away, and I'm sorry that you got caught up in it. I'm sorry I led you on, and I'm sorry you're getting hurt now, but being sorry isn't enough. I don't love you. And Emily-"
She hesitated for a moment, then took another half-step back, coming into full contact with the woman behind her, looking up at her in exactly the way he wanted JJ to look at him before turning back to him.
"I'm not going to move to New Orleans, you're not going to move to Quantico, we're not going to have a dog and 2.5 kids together. My family wanted that for me, so I thought I should want it, but no. I have a house, I have dogs, and I have Emily. I am happy, for the first time in my life. So please, just accept that the answer is no, and it isn't going to change."
He started forward, though he wasn't sure why or for what purpose, but suddenly the quiet, still shadow he had almost forgotten about while the liaison had spoken moved, slipping around to place herself between him and JJ. Suddenly all his rage and hurt and shattered hopes had a target, and all control vanished. He lashed out, but the tall woman wasn't there anymore. She had side-stepped his wild punch, letting him overbalance and stumble past her as she pulled the blonde away from him.
"Don't, Detective," she warned quietly, her face half-hidden by shadows but her voice calm and controlled, "get a grip and walk it off before you do something you regret."
Some small part of his mind knew she was right, knew he had to stop, but the rest of him, the part deafened by the rushing of blood in his ears and blinded by rage, refused to answer to logic. He went at her again, further enraged by the ease with which she slid herself and JJ out of his path as she had before.
"I'm not going to warn you again, Will," she told him, but a sound of bestial rage escaped him as he charged again, his mind blinding him to everything the sight of her pulling the beautiful blonde away. This time she didn't side-step. Instead, she ducked under his outstretched arm and caught him in the belly with her shoulder, turning the move into throw that landed him on his back on the concrete handicap ramp. He blinked, momentarily stunned, then rolled to his feet, trying to catch his breath. The sight of her standing calmly with JJ looking at her with such concern and affection drove logic to the wayside again, and he went at her in earnest. Prentiss just never seemed to be where he expected her to be, and after a moment he found himself on his back again, unsure how he had gotten there, with a knee in his stomach and a strong forearm at his throat. He couldn't move without choking himself, not even to get his hands on her, though he tried to throw her off. She kept him pinned until he was seeing gray from lack of oxygen and stopped struggling, and only then did she loosen her grip. Over her shoulder he could see Morgan and JJ, both looking at him with anger and a desire to cause harm, but Emily's dark eyes drew him back, and there he found a surprising amount of understanding.
"I know I'd fight for her if I were in your place," she murmured, her voice for his ears alone, "but you need to stop before you get hurt. JJ wouldn't want that, and neither do I, not really. I'm going to get up, and when I do you can either walk away, go back to New Orleans and comfort a grieving woman, or you can swing at me again."
She kneeled there for a second longer, maybe to give him time to think about his options, then rose slowly, turning toward her colleagues. He pushed himself to his knees, then his feet, panting, then lurched toward the retreating shadow. Dark hair flew as she spun, and the last thing he saw was a fist coming at his face.
"Damn it," Emily muttered, looking down at the Louisiana detective, rubbing her bruised knuckles, "Now I know why they tell you to never hit a man in the head with a closed fist."
Despite himself Derek chuckled, and she smiled a little, glad the joke had worked to defuse some of the tension from her colleague. JJ, she knew, would need more, but for now the younger woman settled for taking her hand and examining it carefully, as if afraid that Emily had done more harm to herself than some bruising.
"We should probably do something with him," she remarked, looking down at the detective. She almost felt bad for him, knowing the back of his head and the growing bruise over his temple would hurt when he came to, but at the same time, he had attacked her. She had given him every chance to stop, and he hadn't. More importantly, he had attacked her because he wanted to take JJ away, and that wasn't something she could have stood by for.
"He can do whatever he wants when he comes to," Detective Lopez declared, joining them, "but for now he can roast for all I care. That was a sweet punch, Agent Prentiss. Not many women could knock a man cold like that."
"I told you she could kick my ass," Morgan shot back, grinning. Jennifer watched the pair banter for a moment, then turned to her, blue eyes pained.
Understanding, the brunette glanced at Hotch, who nodded, then took her partner's hand and led her away, out of line of sight of the lobby.
"Jennifer, it's all right," she assured the other woman before she could speak, "I kind of expected that and worse from him. He obviously thought you would be leaving with him."
"It's not 'all right', Emily! It's all my fault-"
"Enough of that," the brunette interrupted, "You weren't the one throwing punches, he was. And I'm guessing he attacked me because he saw us together after you told him you were choosing me over him earlier. Right?"
The blonde could only nod, and Emily smiled slowly.
"Then no, Jennifer, you have nothing to apologize for. You told him, and me, the truth. He made the choice to keep attacking me after I warned him off. It sounds like Morgan warned him off too, and that didn't stop him either. So it would have come to a fight eventually. The only thing I wonder about is why he pushed so hard. I didn't actually expect him to keep coming at me. It's like he thought he had some special claim to you."
"I don't know," Jennifer sighed tiredly, "I've told him three times now that there wasn't anything between him and me."
"Well, I can't exactly insult his taste," Emily observed. Derek started to say something, but just then one of Lopez's colleagues showed up, and after a brief conversation the Miami detectives enlisted some help from the hotel to get him up to his room, then she got the rest of the team headed off to the club, telling them she wanted to take a quick statement from Emily for formality's sake. She did, but it was one of the briefest questionings she'd ever encountered. As Lopez signed and handed off the paperwork to her coworker, Emily sat down on the hotel stairs, trying to gather herself. The fight had rattled her somewhat, but what had been more disturbing had been the wildness in Will's eyes when he'd attacked her. She'd never had someone other than an UnSub look at her like that. To get that from a member of law enforcement, someone who wanted Jennifer...
"We're going to keep a guard at his door and ship him back home with friend's effects tomorrow on the first flight," the Miami detective informed her as she approached, "We're also sending a recommendation to his captain that he get some counseling."
"That's good. I think this case might have really messed him up," Emily remarked, thinking about saying more on the subject.
"We leaving?" she asked instead, turning away slightly, not wanting the other woman to see the cloud that had settled over her. She saw Lopez nod and slowly got to her feet, trying and failing not to think about Will LaMontagne and everything he'd gone through in the last few days. Losing his friend, losing JJ, finding out both were gay and he hadn't known...
"There are a lot of clubs in Miami, but the one I'm taking your people to has a generally better atmosphere and much better food than most of the others," Lopez offered, obviously trying to draw her out out of her thoughts and growing depression.
Emily nodded, following the other agent out to her car after collecting the purse she had set down when LaMontagne had shown up. She kept quiet during the drive to the club and spoke only to greet her teammates once they got there and to the table the BAU agents had claimed. To her surprise JJ wasn't there, though her purse and light coat were. When Rossi saw her looking at them he shrugged, gesturing silently to one section of the club where the DJ's booth and restrooms were housed. She assumed her friend had gone to the bathroom and sighed quietly, listening to the music that was playing while her colleagues chattered around her. Apparently it was requests and open mic night, and whoever had put in the last request had not been in a good mood, it seemed. That was fine. The melancholy song matched her own mood just then.
Goodbye my almost lover
Goodbye my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
Should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do
I cannot go to the ocean
I cannot drive the streets at night
I cannot wake up in the morning
Without you on my mind
So you're gone and I'm haunted
And I bet you are just fine
Did I make it that easy
To walk right in and out of my life?
As she listened the profiler desperately wished her medication allowed her to drink. The lyrics were hitting a little too close to home. She wondered idly where JJ was as Reid handed her a glass of ginger ale, the closest she could come to beer, feeling oddly detached from her surroundings. When the song ended she was absently grateful, and was just glad her companions didn't seem to be aware of how distant she was. A new song started, and but she couldn't identify this one just by the opening bars. A flash of blonde hair caught her eye near the platform used by those brave enough to get up and sing the songs they wanted their friends or significant others to hear. She didn't think much of it other than to wonder where her blonde was, but a startled sound from Reid made her look up and take a second look.
"Jennifer..." she whispered, her eyes widening as she finally recognized the woman wearing form-fitting white jeans and that gold silk shirt that made her skin seem to glow. All Emily's detachment and exhaustion fell away, replaced by an intense need to know why JJ was up there and what she was going to sing.
"The last request really struck me," the blonde started, her voice carrying easily to where the BAU team sat, "because I'm someone's 'almost lover,' but that's not what I want to be. I want to be..."
JJ paused, then shook her head, adding wryly as her eyes swept the room, "I want to be a lot more than their lover, and I think I'm messing that up. The more I listened to those lyrics, the more I wondered if they would ever turn their back on me, and I started to think I might deserve it. I can't apologize enough, but I have to start somewhere."
The liaison took a deep breath, her eyes landing and locking on Emily. Then she started to sing, her voice untrained but controlled with the discipline of someone who used their voice for a living.
I like the way you sound in the morning
We're on the phone and without a warning
I realize your laugh is the best sound I have ever heard
I like the way I can't keep my focus
I watch you talk, you didn't notice
I hear the words but all I can think is we should be together
Every time you smile, I smile
And every time you shine, I'll shine for you
Woah-oh I'm feeling you baby
Don't be afraid to jump then fall
Jump then fall into me
Baby, I'm never gonna leave you
Say that you wanna be with me too
Cause I'm gonna stay through it all
So jump then fall
Well, I like the way your hair falls in your face
Oh, You got the keys to me, I love each freckle on your face
Oh, I've never been so wrapped up, honey
I like the way you're everything I've ever wanted
I had time to think it over
And all I can say is come closer
Take a deep breath and jump then fall into me
Cause every time you smile, I smile
And every time you shine, I'll shine for you
Woah-oh I'm feeling you baby
Don't be afraid to jump then fall
Jump then fall into me
Baby, I'm never gonna leave you
Say that you wanna be with me too
Cause I'm gonna stay through it all
So jump then fall
The music picked up and the blonde spread her free arm, her leg keeping the beat as her eyes stayed glued to the dark woman, holding her in their intense blue gaze. Emily couldn't have turned away if she wanted to, not when the woman she loved was looking and singing to her with such honesty and emotion... not to mention all the love and devotion. That wasn't a consideration at all, really. Had she been less focused, Emily would have laughed at herself and her denial.
The bottom's gonna drop out from under our feet
I'll catch you, I'll catch you
When people say things that bring you to your knees
I'll catch you
The time is gonna come when you're so mad you could cry
But I'll hold you though the night until you smile
Woah-oh I need you baby
Don't be afraid please jump then fall
Jump then fall into me
Baby, I'm never gonna leave you
Say that you wanna be with me too
Cause I'm gonna stay through it all
So jump then fall
Jump then fall, baby
Jump then fall into me
And every time you smile, I smile
And every time you shine, I'll shine
And every time you're here, baby I'll show you
I'll show you you can jump then fall
Jump then fall
Jump then fall into me
By the time Jennifer's rendition of the Taylor Swift song faded the people in the club had all fallen under the spell of her voice, hearing as clearly as Emily had that she had put her whole heart into the song, something incredibly hard to do under any circumstances, but even harder for someone as private as JJ. The blonde stayed where she was for a moment, just staring at Emily, then her shoulders dropped a fraction and she handed the mic off to the next brave soul, disappearing off to one side, apparently taking whatever she saw on her lover's face as rejection. The brunette was frozen where she was, though, torn between her heart wanting nothing more than to go do exactly what JJ had just asked of her and the part of her mind that wanted to just slip away and brood, distancing herself from all her friends and the beautiful liaison in particular.
"Are you really going to let that walk away from you, Prentiss?" Rossi asked quietly from her side, startling her. The others were all watching her, but she ignored them, focusing on the Italian. He was looking at her with that piercing stare of his, but there was something else there, something that spoke of emptiness and a great many lonely days and nights.
"Sometimes listening to that angry little voice is a good idea," he went on intently, as if he could read her thoughts, " It keeps you safe from people who have caused you pain before. But do you really think this is one of those times? People in our line of work don't often get a chance to be happy. Yours is right in front of you. Are you so afraid that you'll turn your back on it just to keep from getting hurt? I've got news for you, Prentiss. It happens anyway. Might as well have someone who cares enough to help you heal."
She wanted to ask him what he was talking about, how he knew, or why he was encouraging her, but none of that came out. All she could do was stare at him, and he looked right back. Suddenly his piercing gaze softened, and he smiled wryly.
"Besides, I think you two would make a great couple. You balance each other. In our line of work, balance is a rare thing. Too rare to waste."
Emily stared at him a moment longer, then turned to her team members, all of whom clearly agreed. The angry voice inside of her tried to remind her again of all the hurts, past and present, and all the reasons not to let go of them, but Rossi's gaze was unwavering and wouldn't allow for any excuses.
"Why, sir? Why is this so important to you?" she asked softly, and he smiled again, shrugging. His eyes, though, were still intense, refusing to let her turn away.
"Because it's important to you."
She froze again, staring past him to the stage, thinking about the state Rossi had been in when she'd said those words to him and the varied emotions on his face when she had. She blinked slowly, seeing and hearing Jennifer's song all over again. An idea formed in her mind, and before she could chicken out she acted, striding away from the table with speed and purpose despite her aching leg. JJ, returning to the table, saw Prentiss retreat rapidly and sighed, aborting her approach and turning to the bar. She needed a drink. As she slipped to the bar, another song started, but she didn't pay any attention at first, wanting nothing more than to get a strong drink and forget everything for a while, but when the bartender asked what she wanted, she found herself ordering a soda and aspirin. She couldn't bring herself to run away any more, so instead she turned back to the table, forcing her legs to take her there and into her seat. She could feel Rossi's eyes on her, dark and unreadable, but she couldn't face him, or anyone else. She didn't know what else she could do, and that lack of ideas, of a plan, was tearing her apart. To lose Emily...
Rossi's voice startled her enough that she looked up, but her gaze never quite made it to him. There, on the stage where she had stood a few minutes ago, was Emily, her dark eyes staring straight at her. She sat still as a statue, wondering if what she was about to hear was condemnation, forgiveness, or something in between, and too afraid to hope. The song began to play, and the words that came in Emily's musical but weary voice only made her feel more uncertain and lost.
Lying beside you, here in the dark
Feeling your heart beat with mine
Softly you whisper, you're so sincere
How could our love be so blind
We sailed on together
We drifted apart
And here you are by my side
So now I come to you, with open arms
Nothing to hide, believe what I say
So here I am with open arms
Hoping you'll see what your love means to me
JJ listened, wondering at the mixed messages of the song. It was confusing, but as the profiler's voice lifted in the next verse, Jennifer rose, ignoring the odd looks from her team and worked her way to the edge of the "stage" Emily stood on, staring up at the dark woman singing to her, willing her to share in the epiphany, to know what it was that had brought her here. Emily sang on, but JJ didn't flinch from words that, moments ago, might have shattered her because of some misunderstanding.
Living without you, living alone
This empty house seems so cold
Wanting to hold you, wanting you near
How much I wanted you home
But now that you've come back
Turned night into day
I need you to stay.
So now I come to you, with open arms
Nothing to hide, believe what I say
So here I am with open arms
Hoping you'll see what your love means to me
The brunette sighed and set the mic aside, apparently oblivious to the applause of the crowd as she slipped down the trio of stairs that separated the rest of the room from the stage. JJ followed her closely, catching up to her friend where she waited in the hallway that led to the back exit and the restrooms. The music was quieter here, enough so that they could talk and not be easily overheard by those outside.
"What if I can't forgive you, Jennifer?" Emily asked as she approached, not looking up as she spoke, "What if I can't stop wondering why he has a part of you that I have never touched? How can I believe you love me more than him when he's the one you slept with while I've been in your bed, wanting you so bad it hurt, all this time?"
JJ had expected something like that, but it still stung. She didn't say anything, just planted herself in front of the older agent, waiting for her to have her say.
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to lay there next to you every night and keep my hands to myself? Have you ever sat awake staring at the ceiling because your body was telling you to do something you couldn't?"
JJ nodded, knowing Emily was watching her behind her bangs. She didn't know how she'd resisted the need to touch the woman next to her every night, to find out what it would feel like to kiss her and let go of the iron control that she'd demanded of herself for so long. Then she remembered. Every time she'd started to reach for her beloved companion, she'd remember the day she had been caught with her girlfriend and the terrified teenager she had been was sure that as soon as she crossed that line with Emily, everything would shatter just as it had then.
"Why is it when we both have what we want, we're too frightened to do anything about it?"
Jennifer felt herself starting to smile. Emily looked up, visibly startled by her reaction, and even moreso by the calm understanding in the blonde's gaze.
"Because we never get we want, Emily," JJ replied softly, moving half a step closer to her companion, her fingertips brushing the brunette's face, "So we have to find a way to ruin it when we do. I see it in people we work with all the time. It's easier to run away from something than face losing it. I did it by going to Will... And I understand that maybe you're not ready to completely forgive me yet. But maybe we can find other ways to move on, Em. Maybe it's about time we stop holding back, because the more we do the easier it'll be for one of us to walk away."
Emily stared at her, dark eyes searching her face. The liaison smiled again, this time with gentle affection and just a hint of longing.
"When you spend all your time wanting, how are you supposed to plan what to do when you get it? I'm just figuring it out as we go along."
Brown-black eyes widened at that, and JJ nodded when she saw that Emily understood the point she was making.
"I never planned for this," she explained quietly, her expression becoming intense in her need to communicate her thoughts, "I never even knew I wanted it, but we've been circling each other for months, wanting and hoping, but never expecting it to actually happen. In our line of work, a plan can mean the difference between life and death. In my position, planning is the best and most essential tool I have. But sometimes we have to improvise, Emily. Throw the plans out the window and act. You were the one who told me that months ago. Why can't we do a little of that now?"
Some part of Emily wanted to argue, to reject what JJ was saying as out of line and desperate, but she couldn't. That angry, dark corner of her mind might want that, but she, Emily Prentiss, wanted something else entirely. She wanted...
Emily moved, grabbing Jennifer's arm and turning so the blonde was pressed back against the wall, then bent her head, capturing her friend's lips in a scorching, searching kiss. JJ gasped, then moaned, and the taller woman could feel her struggling to stay on her feet. Despite her inner self's ranting against her stupidity and recklessness she grinned, wondering how Jennifer would respond when they finally made love. The thought made her grin turn decidedly feral, and she shoved away the dark voice in her mind. Jennifer was hers, and once they were somewhere private she'd drive Will and anyone else far, far from the blonde's thoughts. She'd touch everywhere Will had dared and more, and she wouldn't allow JJ to run away from her. She wouldn't allow herself to run away either.
The name was part prayer, part desperate request, part warning, and it sent shivers down the taller agent's spine. When she looked, JJ's eyes were tightly closed and she looked terrified and exhilarated all at once, and more than a little hungry.
"Open your eyes," Emily commanded firmly, both for her partner's sake and for her own. She needed to see the emotion in those familiar blue eyes, needed to see that she hadn't made a mistake she couldn't take back. After a moment JJ obeyed, looking surprised for a split second, but that was all it took. Her hands took hold of Emily's tailored silk vest, yanking her closer and down for another kiss.
"You're still here," the blonde whispered breathlessly, not pulling away, "you're still here..."
Emily nodded slightly, wrapping Jennifer in her arms, momentarily forgetting where they were. The helpless relief in JJ's voice had told her just how frightened the other woman had been, even if Jennifer hadn't realized it. She kicked herself for not having seen it before. She was supposed to be a profiler, and she hadn't been able to see how terrified the woman she loved was of the potential consequences of any intimacy between them. It wasn't as if she had never seen that sort of fear before. Irrational as it could be, it was still extremely powerful, and even the most intelligent, strong men and women had fallen prey to it.
JJ nodded, breaking their shared gaze to bury her face in Emily's shoulder, breathing heavily. Emily admired her restraint. All she had wanted to do was keep going, and had Jennifer not looked away she might have lost all control. After all, a month and more of sleeping next to this woman had taken quite a toll on her reserves, especially after what had nearly happened when JJ was drugged.
"Maybe we should..."
"Don't even say what I think you're going to, JJ," Derek's voice warned as the profiler came into view from behind the thick curtain that separated the main floor from this hall, "I think you've waited enough to do whatever it is you're going to do."
"No, JJ. You're about to be all noble and honorable, but maybe Prentiss has had her fill of honorable. You think about that?"
Blue eyes met hers, and Emily could tell that while they were both surprised by Derek's sudden appearance and commentary, Jennifer was more accustomed to Morgan than Emily was. Her eyes softened, and her hands, still loosely twined in Emily's vest, smoothed the garment, resting where they were after a moment.
"It's your call, Em. We can keep taking this slow, or..."
The blonde paused, her expression somewhere between hungry and unsure, then, "or we can see what happens when we let go. Whatever you want to do, I'll do."
The profiler looked between the dark agent and her friend, trying to decide what she wanted and what she was feeling. She was still angry, and she knew it might not be entirely healthy to jump into a physical relationship with Jennifer. On the other hand... They had been on the edge of a physical relationship for how long and they hadn't crossed that last damn line? As she thought about it she became angry for another reason entirely. She hated her mother and Jennifer's family. She hated the girl who had betrayed JJ so long ago and set this whole chain of events in motion, and she hated Will LaMontagne for his role in the whole mess. She hated all the people who had insisted that she, Emily, be more like Elizabeth Prentiss. More refined, dignified, proper, ambitious, focused, realistic... She hated the whole litany.
"No more waiting," she declared firmly, surprised by how like a growl her voice had become, "I'm done."
JJ nodded once, slowly, then again more sharply as she took in Emily's expression, her blue eyes darkening with a mix of hungry desire and something almost like fear. The dark woman understood and tried to smile. The blonde was seeing her anger and resentment, and didn't realize it wasn't directed at her. Or at least it wasn't for the most part.
"If I had done this before," she murmured, leaning into the younger woman, blocking Derek's presence from her mind, "You would have never needed Will."
Before the liaison could react Emily kissed her again, harder this time. She felt Jennifer's knees give out and grinned, proud to have so reduced her friend. She had meant what she said. She was done waiting, done holding back. The profiler leaned them both against the wall, using its solidness to keep her partner on her feet and kept kissing her until her lungs burned and she felt her control starting to slip.
"Home. We need to be home."
Jennifer's voice was barely recognizable as human, and her usually clear gaze had become nearly as dark as Emily's own. Because of that the brunette was confused for a moment, but JJ's voice and expression were determined as she explained.
"I am not having-" the blonde liaison stopped, shaking her head as she corrected herself, "I am not making love to you for the first time in a hotel room, Emily. Our first time is going to be in our bed, in our house."
Emily groaned internally at the thought of waiting longer. She didn't wait for any more time than it took for JJ to get her balance back before leading her back toward the table, ignoring Morgan and his smug expression behind them as she pushed through the crowd, her companion's hand held tightly in her own.
"Hotch, when can we fly back?" she asked, trying not to sound as desperate as she felt. From the hint of a smile tugging at Rossi's mouth and the way Reid squirmed and tried not to look her in the eye, she doubted she was succeeding but she didn't really care. If necessary she would pay for a charter flight back to Virginia herself.
"I was just discussing that with Dave and Detective Lopez. We're going to leave tomorrow morning, so we should get back to Virginia in the early afternoon. I'm going to need you two to fill out an incident report in case LaMontagne decides to cause any trouble over the fight, so you should be home some time in the evening tomorrow."
"That sounds like a good plan," Jennifer interjected smoothly when Emily's voice felt as if it were about to come out a little too raw, making the dark woman's heart sink into her chest until she added in a quiet aside to the profiler, "we might as well take advantage of what we've got. Come dance with me?"
The dark agent nodded, torn between wanting to dance with Jennifer and the almost painful need to have the other woman in bed with her, naked and wanting her as badly as she wanted the blonde. Realism and training, both FBI and other, won out, and she followed her partner's lead out onto the club's dance floor. There was a good mix in the club and on the floor, she noted absently. There were mixed couples and same-sex couples, groups and individuals. She and Jennifer weren't out of place at all, and she let herself relax into the pulsing flow and rhythm unique to clubs, feeling the music change around her to something she didn't recognize, a song with a beat that vibrated through her lean frame. Her body knew what to do with it even if her mind didn't, however. She stepped into and around Jennifer, wrapping her arms around the younger woman's waist. JJ leaned back, her fingertips brushing the arms holding her until they met at Emily's hands, where they clasped over the long fingers splayed low across her stomach, trapping those fingers in place.
"Emily..." Jennifer breathed appreciatively, leaning into the tall body and resting her head against a slim shoulder. The brunette felt as if she could trace the path of every electrical current in her body, particularly where she and the other agent touched. Every nerve was alive and intensely sensitive to touch, and a part of her wondered if that was how Jennifer had felt after being drugged. A moment later, however, she stopped thinking about anything except the moment as soft lips pressed against her neck and calloused fingers pressed against hers. Unable to resist, she slowly slid her hands under golden silk, finding skin that was even softer than the fine cloth. A low groan in her ear told her JJ approved. They lost all track of time as they melted into one another, the blonde taking advantage of her position to kiss and nibble at Emily's exposed throat and jaw. The taller woman groaned, her hands sliding from under the golden shirt to grasp white-clad hips, drawing the other agent hard against her as the music changed again. The press liaison moaned into her neck, reaching up to twine her fingers behind Emily's head and pull her down for a slow, burning kiss. When they separated the profiler found herself gasping, looking into blue eyes that scorched her.
"Jennifer," she half-growled, half-panted, "If we don't cool off now I'm not going to be held responsible for what might I do."
There was no mistaking the mischievous sensuality in the liaison's voice, or the rawness of her desire. It was a match for Emily's own, but that knowledge did nothing to ease the fire burning low in her abdomen, a fire that threatened to overwhelm any attempt at control.
"Oh?" the brunette repeated, wondering just what Jennifer was finding so funny.
"And what might you do, my Emily?" JJ asked teasingly, fingers tangling in her dark hair as the shorter agent leaned up to kiss a path up her neck.
"God, Jennifer... Please don't tease me," she pleaded desperately, feeling her control slipping even further, "It's going to be hard enough to get through the next 24 hours as it is. Please don't make it any harder."
"Hmmm..." her partner hummed, blue eyes locking on brown-black again, "And what if I want to tease? What if I want to barely make it through the door tomorrow before-"
"Don't," the brunette begged, knowing exactly where her companion was about to go, "I can't... I've been wanting you for so long, Jennifer... Please, if you're going to make me wait until tomorrow when we get home, don't torture me. I can't take it. I'm not strong enough."
The blonde took a long look at the tall profiler, gazing into the wild storm the usually calm, controlled dark eyes had become, feeling the heat of the body behind her and the hard grip trembling hands had on her hips, as if the long fingers held their place only by the strength of their hold on her. Emily had taken as much as she could bear, and Jennifer had to admit that she had too. She closed her eyes, mastering her own desire to continue and see where this would lead before turning against the slim, pale body.
"I love you, Emily Prentiss, and when we get home I promise we'll be done with waiting."
Emily nodded, embracing her tightly as if hoping to convey her obviously chaotic emotions through the simplicity of a strong grip. It worked.
Date and Time: May 2, 2008, 19:51 (Eastern Time)
Location: Jennifer Jareau's Home Outside Quantico, Virginia
"Garcia, are you sure about this?" Morgan asked, sounding far more amused than unsure. The tech goddess glared at him, waving a finger in his face.
"You listen to me, hot stuff, because I'm only gonna explain this one more time" she shot back, caught somewhere between laughter and deadly focus, "Jayj slept with that New Orleans crawfish detective, and she and Emily have been walking on eggshells ever since then... And since Texas."
"Just how many broken eggs are we talking here?" he asked, all innocence. Penelope threw him another glare, then apparently decided the comment didn't deserve any reply.
"From what little Hotch and Rossi said when we talked to them," she continued, pointedly ignoring his humoring smile, "Those two lovely ladies had some sort of moment back in Montana, and JJ finally made a move in Miami. They don't need to get stuck in that stupid thing they've had going again. So, we're going to finish setting this up, and make ourselves scarce."
"I don't know, Garcia," Derek replied thoughtfully even as he took a candleholder from the shorter woman and put it into position, "They have stuff they have to talk about. Emily's been worried sick about JJ, and JJ's been too scared. Maybe we shouldn't push them. What if they aren't ready?"
"This coming from Derek Morgan, king of the dance and romance? I can't believe my ears."
The dark agent laughed, hugging Garcia as he passed her to put yet another candle into its place.
"That's me, baby girl. Em and JJ are a totally different story."
"Yeah," Penelope agreed irritably, "They're both so ridiculously in control all the time. There's such a thing as too much impulse control. Those two are never gonna do anything more without a little help, and JJ did ask me for that."
Derek looked around, sweeping the living room and hallway with his eyes, then shaking his head.
"I think this is more than a little. I saw the outfits you put out for them."
Garcia tried to look innocent, but the broad grin that broke out ruined the effect. She went back to her self-appointed task of spreading rose petals down the hallway, hesitating only when she reached the door of Emily's bedroom. She looked between it and the door to JJ's room, unsure which to choose.
"What do you think, Derek?" she called, and he joined her, looking between the two doors as well.
"Might as well do both," he decided, grinning at the instigator of this whole idea, "If they do what you want them to, they might just need 'em. I'll make sure the living room is ready for some action."
The tech giggled, doing as he had suggested.
"Garcia, I thought you liked LaMontagne," he remarked after a few minutes had passed and they had finished their respective tasks, meeting the woman's gaze when she turned to look at him, "so why are you so dead set against him now?"
Penelope looked at him like he had lost his mind, then sighed, apparently realizing he really was wondering, and not just joking with her.
"I liked him back during the 'Jones' case, yeah," she affirmed, then shook her head, her expression becoming fierce and her eyes glittering with tears, "but that was before I knew just how big this thing with those two lovely ladies was. Now Emily's been tortured and nearly killed, and Jayj almost lost her mind. They belong together, and they're so stupid about it!"
The hacker realized she was crying when Derek pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly. She buried her face in his chest, more upset than she'd realized by the thought of something going wrong with Emily and JJ's already fragile relationship and ruining the women's chance at happiness.
"I don't like him anymore," she finished almost petulantly, "He can keep his mini-lobster claws off of Emily's woman."*
Morgan chuckled, holding the large agent a little longer before getting back to work, much more confident in what he was helping to set up. Garcia had a good point, he decided. Emily and JJ had worked to hard and suffered too much for someone like William LaMontagne Jr. to mess it all up for them. The man had already lost to Emily anyway. He couldn't help a small smile as he remembered the punch that had knocked LaMontagne cold in Miami the previous night. They finished the last phase of Garcia's plan just in time. Hotch, as he had promised he would, called them to let them know Prentiss and JJ were nearly home. That, if nothing else, confirmed for him the rightness of what he and the tech oracle had done. If Aaron Hotchner was stepping in to push his team's personal lives along, clearly there was some pushing that needed to be done. They gathered up any evidence that they had been there, other than what needed to be there for the plan, and left, leaving the night to the other two agents. When JJ opened the door and went in, unknowingly missing her colleagues by mere minutes, she had to stop for a moment and absorb the scene in front of her. The living room had been completely rearranged, and a large circle of flower petals filled the center. The light for her stereo proclaimed that it was ready to play the selected CD, the only light in the other room other than flickering candles and a cheery fire in the fireplace. There were two places set at the dining room table, that room also bathed in candle light. Emily, coming in behind her, gasped, and she turned, only then finding the note left on the front table. She picked it up, holding it up to a candle. She could have turned on a regular light, she knew, but she was reluctant to shatter the beautiful scene.
"Em and JJ,
There are outfits for you both on your beds. You should get cleaned up and changed, then eat. You'll need your strength. After that there's a special CD ready just for your dancing pleasure. I heard about how much you two love to dance.
Let yourselves relax a little and see where it goes. Enjoy yourselves tonight.
Your Fairy Godmother"
Emily, who had been reading over her shoulder, chuckled lowly, her voice sending a faint shiver down the liaison's spine.
"Bet I can guess who our 'fairy godmother' is," she murmured, apparently oblivious to the younger woman's reaction to the breath on her ear and the warmth of her body, "I suppose we could just ignore it and get some rest."
Something in Jennifer's chest twisted painfully, and she had to fight the instinct to retreat from the nearness of the other woman.
"If that's what you want to do," she replied, hating how her voice shook as she said it. It was strange how much she wanted this to play out the way Garcia had obviously intended when up until now she had always been the one fighting the progress of any physical relationship they might have had. She knew she had asked Penelope for help, but she hadn't expected her friend to go this far. Then again, it was Garcia. She probably should have known.
"On the other hand," Emily started slowly after a long moment, her voice taking on a rich, husky tone as she spoke, "we could take her advice and see where the night goes."
The blonde fought a silent war with herself, torn between a longing so intense it hurt and the ever-present fear that had always made her turn away before now. After that moment in Keira's room and their last night in Miami, however, she realized she'd had more than enough of her fear.
"God, Emily," she whispered, the words wrenched from some deep well of emotion she'd tried to bury as long as she'd known this woman, unconsciously echoing Emily's plea from the night before, "Please don't tease me. Not tonight. I can't take it. I... I want to try this, and what better time are we going to get?"
The profiler let out a long, shaky breath that JJ felt more than heard, and Jennifer was reminded that they were both out of their element here. Of the two of them she was the more familiar with lesbianism and lesbian sex, but that didn't say that much. .
"Let's do it Garcia's way, then," the taller woman agreed, "You shower in your room, and I'll go to mine. Knowing her, we should probably be prepared for something extreme."
JJ nodded, and Emily started to step past her, heading for the candlelit and flower-strewn hall, but she caught the other agent's arm before she had gotten more than a few steps. The dark form turned, and Jennifer felt her heart tearing at the beauty before her. Emily's dark eyes seemed to glow as they reflected the flames, and her raven hair shimmered.
"I love you," the liaison blurted, taking the necessary step to reach the older agent's lips. The profiler trembled against her, Emily's vulnerability somehow pulling at JJ more than usual. It took a massive effort to pull away from the kiss, but she did, determined to experience the whole night and not just skip to the ending.
"Shower, Emily. Then we can eat and... Talk."
Her eyes must have betrayed her, because Emily gave her a knowing smirk, raising a dark eyebrow at her before turning away again. This time Jennifer let her go, waiting until she had closed her bedroom door before going down the hall herself, impressed by the incredibly romantic scene Garcia and probably Derek had left for them to find. In her room, Emily looked at the dress laid out on her bed, smiling slowly. It was a slinky, sleeveless, black silk number, the neck cut low and one side slit to partway up the thigh. As she slipped out of her work suit and into the shower, she grinned to herself at the thought of just how long, or rather how short a time, she planned to be wearing that beautiful and probably very expensive dress.
"You're a genius, Garcia," she muttered to herself as she dried off after her shower and set about dressing and fixing her hair. She blushed a little as she put on the outfit, which fit like a second skin, accentuating and complimenting every curve on her body. Penelope had thought of every detail, including the likelihood of the need for rapid escape from the confines of clothing.
"I can't decide if I'm going to kill her or kiss her."
Shaking her head with a laugh, the brunette slipped out of her room. She could hear Jennifer's shower still running, and decided her partner must have decided to take her time. That was fine with her, at least for the most part. It gave her a chance to get her bearings and brace herself for whatever Garcia had put out for Jennifer to wear. She sighed, choosing a spot in the darkened kitchen entrance to lean her long form, thinking about the drive home with a sensual smile. All Emily remembered was the desire vibrating through her nerves during the seemingly endless drive. They had gotten home safely, true enough, but only barely. Between the speeds they'd traveled at and the way Jennifer's hand had strayed to her thigh... Well. It hadn't been the safest trip she'd ever made. Taking advantage the time she found on her hands, she turned off both her own and Jennifer's cell phones and pagers, and unplugged the phone from the wall, ignoring her body and her intense curiosity for the moment to ensure their privacy. There would be no interruptions tonight. She was done waiting, done being rational and thoughtful and patient. She was going to follow through this time, fear or no fear. Emily was over it, pure and simple. A soft gasp behind her alerted her to Jennifer's presence, and she turned, a gasp of her own escaping. Garcia had picked out a dress in a striking shade of deep red for Jennifer, the color setting off both her tanned skin and crystal blue eyes.
"Oh, Emily..." JJ murmured reverently, crossing the room between them. She started to reach up to touch the brunette's face, but her hand stopped, falling back to her side.
"If I touch you," she explained in response to the oblique question, "I'm not going to be able to stop. Dinner first, then..."
She trailed off with a shrug and a smile that was almost sad, gesturing to the candlelit table. They took their respective places, absorbing the intricacy of the candle placement and the fine setting. Garcia had left them a platter of selected foods, long forks, and a simmering pot of some sort of broth fondue. They took turns sampling everything in silence, neither woman feeling any need to talk and break the spell of quiet longing and anticipation that was building. After what felt like an eternity and mere seconds to the blonde, Emily rose, turning off the burner for the pot before holding out a hand, the shimmering black fabric of her dress clinging to her body as she moved. Jennifer experienced a brief surge of fear, almost losing herself in the sudden terror, but Emily's eyes caught and held hers. As suddenly as the dark wave of emotion had risen, it faded. In its place was the warm knowledge that the stunning woman in front of her was offering her a gift without price. Her hand slid into her partner's, and she rose, feeling as much as seeing the way glittering brown-black eyes watched her move.
"Dance with me, Jennifer."
It wasn't a question, or even a command. It was a prayer and an offering of everything the dark woman had to give, and the fair agent was not stupid enough to refuse. They crossed the room together, blue eyes seeing details in the shadows that had escaped her in the light. She had blinded herself, or had come to take for granted, the elegance and grace of Emily Prentiss, but tonight she saw every angle and curve, all the muscles and softness, the darkness and the light. The brunette pressed play on the CD player, then turned back to her, drawing her into a warm embrace that was a combination of the unique scent of Emily and something subtly spicy. Her thoughts tapered off as soft music filled the room, and she instinctively moved into and with her companion as the profiler took the lead.
I've never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight
I've never seen you shine so bright
I've never seen so many men ask you if you wanted to dance
They're looking for a little romance, given half a chance
I have never seen that dress you're wearing
Or the highlights in your hair that catch your eyes
I have been blind
[The lady in red is dancing with me
Cheek to cheek
There's nobody here,
It's just you and me,
It's where I wanna be
But I hardly know
This beauty by my side
I'll never forget,
The way you look tonight]
I've never seen you looking so gorgeous as you did tonight
I've never seen you shine so bright
You were amazing
I've never seen so many people want to be there by your side
And when you turned to me and smiled,
It took my breath away
I have never had such a feeling
Such a feeling of complete and utter love,
As I do tonight
The way you look tonight
I never will forget, the way you look tonight
The lady in red
The lady in red
The lady in red
My lady in red (I love you.)
As the first song trailed off, JJ sighed, lifting her head from where it had come to rest on Emily's shoulder at some point to listen to her partner's soft voice whispering the words in her ear. As the next song began, she smiled slowly, meeting the dark, glowing eyes. This was a song she knew, and one that said so much of what she wanted Emily to know that she had trouble saying. This time it was her turn to sing along, watching tears form in her beloved's eyes as she did.
I could stay awake just to hear you breathin'
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you're far away and dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Cause every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure
* [Don't wanna close my eyes
I don't wanna fall asleep
Cause I'd miss you babe
And I don't wanna miss a thing
Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
I'd still miss you babe
And I don't wanna miss a thing]
Lying close to you feeling your heart beating
And I'm wondering what you're dreaming
Wonderin' if it's me you're seeing
Then I kiss your eyes
And thank God we're together
I just want to stay with you in this moment forever
Forever and ever
I don't wanna miss one smile
I don't wanna miss one kiss
I just wanna be with you
Right here with you, just like this
I just want to hold you close
Feel your heart so close to mine
And just stay here in this moment
For the rest of time Yeah yeah yeah
* [Chorus x 2]
Don't wanna close my eyes
I don't wanna fall asleep
And I don't wanna miss a thing
The dark agent bent down, kissing her sweetly as the song faded out. Emily sighed inwardly as their lips touched, the soft strains of the next song penetrating her awareness and making her smile. This time they ended up singing together, blue and brown-black eyes reflecting the candlelight and each other.
It's undeniableThat we should be togetherIt's unbelievable How I used to say That I'd fall neverThe basis is need to know If you don't know Just how I feelThen let me show you now That I'm for realIf all things in timeTime will reveal*[OneYou're like a dream come trueTwoJust wanna be with youThreeGirl it's plain to seeThat you're the only one for meFourRepeat steps one through threeFiveMake you fall in love with meIf ever I believe my work is doneThen I start back at one]So incredibleThe way things work themselves outAnd all emotionalonce you know what its all about, heyAnd undesirableFor us to be apartNever would have made it very farCause you know that you got the keys to my heart* [Chorus]Say farewell to the dark of nightI see the coming of the sunI feel like a little childWhose life has just begunYou came and breathed new lifeInto this lonely heart of mineYou threw out the life linejust in the nick of time
When the next song started playing, JJ's eyes widened a little, then a slow, sensual smile replaced the startled look. She leaned into the lean body she held, her hand sliding down Emily's side until it rested just inside the slit in her dress. She could feel the soft surface prickle under her touch and heard the soft gasp near her ear that told her the dark woman had been at least as effected by her touch as she could have wished.
I need to have you next to me in more ways than one
And I refuse to leave till I see the mornin' sun
The time is right, you hold me tight
And love's got me high
Please tell me, "Yes" and don't say, "No"
Honey, not tonight
Move a little close to me, you owe it to yourself
And I will selfishly take a little for myself
And it's because of you
That love won't let me wait
Moving slowly and deliberately as the song continued, Jennifer took a half-step back, drawing her partner toward the fireplace. In front of it, she had noticed earlier, was a pile of blankets and pillows surrounded by rose petals. She could take a hint.
The time is right, turn down the lights
And take my hand, ooh, ooh, yeah
We'll take a flight and spend the night
And I need to have you next to me in more ways than one
And I refuse to leave till I see the mornin' sun
Creep through your window pane
Because love won't let me wait
Not another minute
And I need your love so desperately and only you can set me free
When I make love to you, we'll explode in ecstasy
And I won't take the blame
That love won't let me wait
Love won't, no, no, no
Love won't, no, no, no
No, no, no, no
(Love won't let me wait)
The blonde had managed to keep Emily's back to her goal, and now she gently pushed the older woman, who was obviously startled to have her "fall" caught and supported by the soft surface, but what really touched Jennifer was the trust implicit in her allowing the liaison to maneuver and push her to begin with.
(Love won't let me wait)
My temperature's risin', ooh
(Love won't let me wait) Won't let me
Not another minute
(Love won't let me wait) Won't let me
Again moving slowly, Jennifer kneeled over her almost-lover, reaching back to unzip the soft red dress.
"Jennifer... Let me."
Her hands fell away, replaced by searching gun and pen-calloused fingers. With an expression that could only be described as beatific, Emily slid the zipper down, slowly peeling the cloth down her partner's body. The blonde might have hesitated then, might have given in to a moment of fear, but between the music, the warmth of the nearby fire, and the much more immediate heat of Emily's gaze and touch burned that impulse away before it could even reach her conscious mind.
(I can't wait) I can't wait (I can't wait) I can't wait, I can't wait (I can't wait)
I can't wait, no, no, no, can't wait
(Wait) No way, no way, no, no, no, no
No way, no way, no, no
(Wait) I cant wait not another minute
Not another minute (I can't wait, I can't wait) I'll be there (I can't wait) yes, I will
I'll be there
(Wait) Comin', I'm comin', I'm comin'
Hold on, I'm comin', I'm comin', I'm comin'
(Ooh...ooh...) I can't wait, can't wait
I can't wait, can't wait
No way, no way, no way, no, no
No, no, no, no
(I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait)
Neither woman was really aware as the song ended, nor did they have any attention for what came on next. As far as either of them knew or cared, the rest of the world had ceased to exist. This wasn't the first time they'd experienced that feeling, but it was the first time their was no chance of an interruption, and both women went into it with no intention or desire to turn back. As Emily drew Jennifer's dress fully off and the attention of her hands, eyes, and mouth focused entirely on exploring and learning the tanned body above hers, the blonde could only surrender and give herself over entirely to her partner's hesitant but tender, loving touch. Her last coherent thought was: 'Oh God... And she thought inexperience was going to be a problem?'
"It's going to hang over us, isn't it?" JJ asked almost inaudibly hours later, sounding as if she wasn't entirely aware she had spoken. Emily knew what she meant immediately. She wanted to deny it, to comfort her partner and tell her that all was forgiven and forgotten, but she knew that would be a lie. She couldn't forget that Will LaMontagne had made love to this woman before she even got to kiss her, and she couldn't forgive the man for that... Or herself. If she were honest, a dark little voice in the back of her mind wanted to lash out at JJ even now, but with an internal sigh she silenced it. She couldn't deal with anger and recrimination in this moment or in this room. There had been enough fear and doubt here to last several lifetimes.
"It might," she agreed aloud, not lifting her head from where it rested on her companion's shoulder, "but I don't want to deal with that right now. Not here. I... I just want to enjoy this. I want to celebrate the fact that you love me, and that we finally... finally... made this step. All right?"
JJ agreed, but Emily smiled wryly to herself, knowing it wasn't that simple. Jennifer Jareau was nothing if not complex, and the liaison would carry the guilt of what happened for a long time. Nothing Emily could say or do could make her feel worse than she would on her own. It certainly didn't placate that little nagging voice, but again she ignored it. If she had learned anything in her lifetime it was that things like this festered if left alone, and as much as she didn't want to, if they didn't talk about it the incident would haunt them both, possibly for the rest of their relationship, and she really did just want to get on with their lives. She didn't know if that was entirely possible just yet, but she still hoped.
"Jennifer," she murmured, finally looking up and meeting the patient but guilt-laden blue gaze, "I don't want to think about it. I don't want to face the fact that you ran to Will instead of me when you were confused, but I have to. And honestly, it's more important to me that you came back to me and let... made this happen. I don't want to think about him touching you in places I've only dreamed of until now. I hated him for it, but now I know he doesn't have more of you than I do. You made this happen, Jennifer, and regardless of what happens tomorrow or any day after that, I have this moment with you."
The blonde head ducked away, but not before she saw the fear and pain that marred Jennifer's face. She sighed inwardly, shaking her head. There was no way to have this conversation without hurting them both, she knew, is why she'd wanted to avoid it. Avoidance was what had caused the whole mess, though, and she was tired of it. Still, they had better things to do tonight. Sex, she knew, wasn't going to magically get rid of the problems, doubts, and fears between them, but she had wanted Jennifer for so long and now she finally had the chance to be with the blonde woman. She wasn't about to lose the progress they'd made or let the mood of the night shift to one of sadness or recrimination. Instead she very deliberately sought out an area of Jennifer's neck she'd discovered was extremely sensitive and first kissed, then nipped at it. The blonde's body shivered, and she grinned. Standing, Emily held out her hand, which the blonde took with a slightly glazed expression. She guided her lover to her own bedroom, closing the door behind them, closing the door against the outside world. In the rest of the house the fire and candles sputtered and went out, and a brilliant sunrise began to lighten the velvety sky, but for the residents of the house nothing existed except the moment and each other.
Date and Time: December 25, 2007, 00:02
Location: Penelope Garcia's Apartment
Garcia cheered as the camera flashed, immortalizing the moment. She grinned as she checked the image, finding the smiling faces of her family looking back at her, drinks raised in a toast. The group of profilers laughed at her enthusiasm, but the general mood of cheerful celebration persisted. Even Hotch and Rossi were smiling as they watched the antics of their younger colleagues, and Penelope was rather proud of that. Once the picture was taken Reid had already dragged a bemused but tolerant JJ and slightly drunk Derek aside to quiz them about some parody christmas carol currently blaring from her stereo, and Emily was looking on with an affectionate smile, sipping a glass of champagne. Normally the tech goddess would have been upset to see anyone alone at one of her parties, but the sweet calm of the dark agent's face was too precious to disturb. Instead she covertly snapped another picture, promising herself she'd give a copy to JJ, who collected pictures of the team in general and of Emily in particular with a passion bordering on obsession.
"But why would anyone-"
"Kid," Morgan broke in, shaking his head to forestall some outburst of Spencer's, "You're thinking about it too much. It's funny 'cause you're not supposed to think about it."
Reid gave the taller man a doubtful look, but Morgan just grinned, patting his shoulder before strolling over toward Emily. Penelope intercepted him before he could reach her, gently pulling him aside.
"Is it just my imagination, hot stuff, or has Emily been watching our Miss Jareau all night?"
He turned and examined the quiet woman, using the same intense stare he focused on UnSubs, victims and witnesses.
"She has been," he agreed after a long moment, "but then, she always is. I'd feel sorry for anyone who tried to stop her. And I'm not sure JJ knows how much it matters to Emily that she invited her."
Garcia chuckled, nudging him gently.
"And they don't even know, do they?"
Derek hugged her with his free arm, grinning and trying to hide it from the blonde and brunette they were watching.
"What, that you put JJ up to it and I talked Em into it before she could chicken out?"
The tech goddess laughed, leaning into his affectionate embrace. They watched JJ approach the watching brunette and say a few words, flash a smile, and that was all it took to draw Emily out and get her laughing along with her friend. Somehow JJ had her glass in hand and set aside a few minutes later, and the two were laughing themselves almost to tears as the liaison showed her dark companion some silly dance moves Garcia had taught the blonde years ago. Watching the two made her smile, and she looked up to find Derek grinning as he looked between them and her.
"I'll tell you what, baby girl," he observed in a soft voice, "The work it took to get those two to get here and loosen up some was totally worth it. They only smile like that when they're together. Sure, they have fun separately, but they're as a pair there's something special there."
"That's all I'm saying," Penelope agreed, then winked hugely at him and jumped in to join her friends. Derek laughed as the three women teamed up on Reid, dragging him through the motions of Garcia's goofy "reindeer dance". When he was released the genius retreated to the relative safety of Hotch and Rossi's corner, where the older men were barely restraining their amusement at the somewhat shell-shocked look on his face. Derek took his cue from his "partner in crime" and sidled over to the dancing women, joining their happy circle. It was one of the best Christmas's he could remember, and he thanked the God he was slowly learning to have faith in again for this second family and keeping them all safe enough for them to be there that night. So much could and did go wrong in their line of work, but there they all were.
(Songs used in this chapter are, in order of appearance: Almost Lover by A Fine Frenzy, Jump then Fall by Taylor Swift, Open Arms by Journey, Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh, Don't Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith, Back at One by Brian McKnight, and Love Won't Let Me Wait by Luther Vandross. This is a very music oriented chapter, I know, but I love music and have always believed that music is great for expressing emotion, especially for those people and situations where saying what one feels is too difficult. Happy holidays everyone, and if you have loved ones who may not know how you feel for them, think of this as a friendly reminder that there's more than one way to let them know!)
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