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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Shades of Jealousy
By Kassandra Luem
Chapter One To see him in your place
She puts her arms around him and you watch them walk away. You can't help but think that a few weeks ago, this would've been your place.
Because you used to be the one with whom she went to grab something to eat after work. You used to be the one she called late at night when she couldn't sleep. Needless to say, you haven't gotten a call from her for one month.
Ever since that fateful day you decided not to stand in her way of happiness anymore. Now, as you watch them walk away, you can only bitterly shake your head at how willing you were to play the selfless martyr. And you have to admit, if you had known before just how much it would hurt to see the two of them together, you're not sure you would've been able to go through with your actions any more.
Maybe you thought things wouldn't change all that much if she was with some detective who lives half across the country. What a fool you've been.
It changes everything.
The long, lingering glances now carry the bitter taste of being a mere game to her, the casual touches now are empoisoned by the knowledge that they're never gonna lead to more. Every moment you cherished before, every gesture that used to brighten your day now only adds to the pain gnawing at your stomach, twisting your insides until you're hardly able to breathe. There are days when you feel ready to shatter if she so much as glances your way.
They disappear into a car and the sound of the door falling closed resounds unnaturally loud in your head. Doors falling closed. You wonder when everyday occurences got so fucking poetic. Doors falling closed. It's just what's happening with your life. Well, rather you pulling the door closed yourself and then smacking right into it.
You run a tired hand through your hair and turn to go home. All you want by now is to hide in your own little sanctuary, to be left alone with your thoughts, with your self-pity, your pain and your missed chances.
So it doesn't really help when Garcia calls you and asks whether you want to join the team on a night out. JJ and her detective will be coming as well. After having a fancy dinner, of course.
You never felt less like going out.
The thought of having to observe the two of them for a whole evening twists your stomach into knots so tight that having dinner is just completely out of the question. As was having breakfast this morning. Or lunch at work. But that's another question.
You're just about to decline politely when it occurs to you that this would be the third time in a row you didn't come along for drinks. The third time in a row in one month. And you just know that this time it's gonna rouse questions. Which is about the last thing you feel like you have any energy left for.
You're already feeling fragile enough as it is, without having Penelope looking at you with this caring, open expression in her eyes, a "come on, you can tell me" on her lips.
And so you decide to take the offer, even though you know that this evening will beat every dinner with your mother on your list of most horrible evenings ever. You close your cell phone and get into your car. You've got two to three hours before you have to get going again. Which means you have two to three hours to figure out how you'll make it through tonight. Without staring at them like some mindless idiot. Without crying every time you see them kiss. Without screaming that this is your place every time he takes her hand.
Because in truth, you know it isn't.
You've been fooling yourself the entire time you told yourself that JJ felt something for you as well. Something beyond friendship. Because JJ's straight. End of matter.
And even if she wasn't, she could surely do better than some Ambassador's twisted, nerdy daughter who has to put her emotions into compartments because she never learned how to properly deal with them.
Except that now, you find you can't put your feelings into compartments. And it scares you. It makes you feel vulnerable and out of control. And you have no idea how to deal with that.
But you find you don't really have a choice. Because everyone expects you to be happy for her. As any good friend should. Everyone, including her. And you can't stand the thought of letting her down.
You remember the disappointed expression on your mother's face all too well, everytime you just couldn't quite meet her expectations. And you know that you couldn't bear to see that expression on JJ's face as well. So you pretend to be all happy and carefree everytime she talks to you. Which almost makes you feel glad that she seems to have cut you out of her life to a large extent. Because it's so damn hard to pretend that you're not sure you'd manage to keep up your act if she actually took the time to talk to you more often. Still, you're not sure what hurts more: Talking to her, pretending not to love her or not talking to her at all.
Somehow, your mind can't seem to wrap itself around the fact that she just doesn't need you anymore. That now, she's got someone else to talk to, someone else to tell her everything will be alright, when she starts doubting. Someone else to try and brighten her day after a hard case. Just someone else for pretty much everything you used to do for her. And you know, the sooner you accept it, the better.
She doesn't need you anymore.
Most probably she's never needed you, specifically you, at all. Most probably she's only ever needed someone to be there for her when things got rough. You just happened to be there.
Tears cloud your vision, making it difficult to manoever in the heavy evening traffic. So much for learning to accept that Sighing, you pull into the parking spot in front of your apartment building, one hand brushing tiredly at the tears running down your cheeks. You can't remember crying so much ever since you were twelve and your grandfather died. And you almost start to hate her for making you feel like this. Like someone had cut you open from the collarbone down to your hip and every waking second you can feel the wound all over your body. Almost. Because inspite of the pain, the tears and the despair you can't quite bring yourself to hate her.
You quickly check your face in the rearview mirror before getting out of the car, sighing at the running mascara and obvious dark circles under your eyes. You don't exactly need any evidence of your troubled emotions later. Later. When you'll have to see them together. For the whole evening. Your stomach protests again and you're suddenly glad you haven't eaten anything all day.
You have no idea how you'll survive this evening.
But then again, you don't exactly have a choice. So it'll have to be the trademark Prentiss-mask again. Smile, be fun and entertaining and don't ever let them see you cry.
Chapter Two A night out
The music's pumping, you can feel the beat resonating in your breast bone. You've been here for about fifteen minutes and you're already at your second beer, making sure everyone thinks it's still your first. You still haven't seen neither him nor her and you decide that's a good thing. Because you're gonna need at least two more beers before you can stand that sight without turning to flee the scene. Which wouldn't exactly help your reputation.
Neither will getting drunk, a tiny voice in the back of your head warns you, but you decide to ignore it. Because getting drunk can happen to everyone. Losing it because you see your supposedly best friend happily in love with some guy can't. And so you drown your beer as Garcia turns to wave Morgan and Reid over to where the two of you are already sitting and you quickly gesture to the bartender for another.
This is going to be one hell of a long night.
The boys sit down and you are making small talk, your mind drifting away while you're listening in just enough to figure out when to laugh and when to pull which face. It's easier than you expected to fall back into your role playing and you think that there really seems to be something you have to be grateful to your mother for.
Suddenly Garcia nudges you and you think you must have lost track of the conversation inspite of your efforts not to do so. But it turns out Garcia's nudge had little to do with Morgan's story about the girl he got to know during a Superbowl Game. When you notice what it really was about, however, you would happily have made up some excuse as to why you weren't listening, if only it meant being spared of that sight for just a few minutes more.
It's her and she's coming in with one of his hands on the small of her back, while the other's resting on her shoulder. The gesture sends a pang right through your heart, because this is the way you would normally guide her in an overcrowded room - Minus the hand on her shoulder of course. The gesture's too possessive, to overbearing for you to ever use it on her. But coming from him, she obviously doesn't seem to mind.
Because now that's his place to be and this is the way she wants it. And so you stand there, frozen, and watch as they are making their way over to you. The bartender brings your beer and you raise the bottle to your lips without taking your eyes off them.
Well, so much for behaving unsuspiciously, you berate yourself.
Then, she turns her head to him and suddenly you have no trouble at all with turning your eyes away, because you really don't have to watch them kissing. You take another healthy draft of beer and the cool liquid seems to calm your burning insides.
At least a bit.
When you raise your gaze again, she's standing in front of your table, greeting Garcia and the boys. When she turns to you, it takes everything you have to keep the mask in place the moment those kind, open eyes meet yours. Still, you manage to hold her gaze and the second's over sooner than you would've thought, because he whispers something into her ear and she turns to look at him, yet again.
He leaves your table, making his way to the bar while she slides into the bunk next to Reid. Which is exactly opposite to where you're sitting. Great, you just think, this evening's getting greater by the second. Now you don't have a choice but to watch them for the whole evening.
He returns, handing some colourful, sweet drink over to her and you can't help but wonder what happened to the JJ who would've died for a cold beer after a hard and stressful day.
Almost on cue, you take another big swallow and this time Garcia actually shoots you a strange glance. You suppose you really have to drink more slowly. Every action precisely controlled, you set your bottle down. Garcia's eyes move on to settle on Morgan who's trying to get Reid to shut up by telling him that he's the only one in here who's seen Star Wars more than once, if at all. Everything's so strangely familiar that it makes you wanna cry. Because one glance across the table shoves the reality right into your face.
Nothing's the same anymore.
And pretending it still is is just about killing you. You mumble some kind of excuse and make your way to the bathroom. You've never needed some air more than you do right now. You pass by the bathroom and walk out of the club. It's late and the streets are almost empty. You lean your back against some old wall and your head bumps against the bricks with a dull sound. The air's pleasantly cool and you quickly get goosebumps because you left your jacket inside. You have the insane wish of opening yourself from head to toe so that the chill can seep inside you and freeze all the feelings that are burning you up from the inside. Maybe the cold can freeze the wound you're carrying around. Maybe the cold can lessen your pain. Because right now you wouldn't mind never feeling anything again, if it just meant you didn't have to feel what you're feeling now.
You take a shaky breath and try to get yourself back together again. This is not how you wanted to do this. You wanted to be cool, collected and calm. Which you will be again in five minutes. You just need those few minutes to yourself because you fear that otherwise you'll implode.
Your time's over and you enter the club once more. After the cold silence outside, the club's too loud and there are way too many people around you, blocking your way, closing in on you. You manage to get back to your table where you quickly make up some excuse about meeting someone on your way. You're not entirely sure you would've believed yourself. Still, they seem to buy it, but you know that from now on you'll have to be really careful if you don't want this night to blow up right into your face.
Chapter Three Escape
You're at your fifth beer and starting to feel the effects of too much alcohol on an empty stomach when everybody moves to get to the dancefloor. You'd much rather stay seated than having to watch her getting even closer to him while dancing. As soon as you make it to the dancefloor, he takes her hand and pulls her closer to him and your stomach starts to twist and clench unpleasantly.
But then she surprises you by twisting out of his grip and taking your hand in one of her's and Penelope's in the other. You pull away as if scalded and she gives you a questioning, slightly hurt look.
For the life of you, you have no idea what to say if she asks why you did this.
You can feel her eyes boring into you and you know that you have to get away somehow before she can pose the question.
Suddenly there are two hands on your hips and you whip around to get right in whoever-was-bold-enough-to-try-that-move-on-you's face. Your words get stuck in your throat as you realise who it is. The one person you never thought you'd ever be glad to see. But as it is, any kind of distraction's welcome and so you turn to your teammates again and introduce the stranger who still hasn't taken his hands off your hips.
"Everyone, this is my mother's former secretary. He started working for her when I was 20 and he was about 28."
You conveniently leave out the part about how he tried to seduce you every time you met and the scare you got when one night, he decided to wait for you in your bedroom. You kicked him out straight away and tried to tell him that you were into women, because you've been sure of that ever since you fell in love with your best friend at the age of 15.
You seem to be destined to fall in love with your best friends, you think bitterly, as your eyes meet hers in the dark of the dancefloor, only broken from time to time by brief flashes of colourful light. He finally takes his hands off your hips to shake everybody's hands and you can't help but notice the look she gives you. For the most minute moment you think you see something in her gaze. Something akin to jealousy, to irritation.
But then you decide you're just projecting, because she has moved back into his arms and doesn't make a move to get out of the tight embrace he holds her in. And it's the way her body moulds into his, the perfect fit. It's the way she now holds his hands, tightly, lovingly, as if she never wants to let go, as if this is where she belongs. It's completely undoing you.
So when he asks if he can get you a drink, you just say yes and follow him as he drags you through the crowd towards the bar. You don't care what everybody's going to think of you in the morning, he's your chance at escape.
And that's why you accept the offered drink, even though it is some way too sweet cocktail you normally wouldn't drink even if your life depended on it. You also accept the second drink and the third and by then you already can't see straight any more.
So when he tries to pull you to the dancefloor once again you nearly stumble, but he catches you just in time.
"Easy there," he says and pulls you tighter into himself. For a second you try to resist him but then you remember JJ in his arms, the way she seems so happy now. So content. With him. Without you. And you decide that it doesn't really matter. That he's not exactly your type. That he's not even on the team you play for. That you'll regret this in the morning.
You just let him pull you closer until his lips are touching yours. Immediately you feel dirty and you move to pull away. Because no matter how much all that crap hurts, this is not going to help. He starts to protest as you move his hands away from your body but everything he says is drowned out by the rush of your blood in your ears as soon as you notice her standing just across the room, staring at you.
She looks shocked, frozen in place. You're sure there's a brief flash of hurt across her face before the expression turns to the least thing you would have expected: anger.
You can't look away from her and in this moment you feel something shift. And with an anxious fluttering of your heart you simply know that maybe you just lost whatever was left of your friendship. You just know and the thought is enough to sober you up immediately.
You leave what's-his-name at the bar and almost run out of the club. Tomorrow, you're gonna make up some story for Garcia and the boys, you've always been good at story-telling, but for now you just have to escape.
Once again you find yourself face to face with a brick wall, only this time you have your hands put against it and your head falling forward in a defeated gesture. So much for just getting this evening over and done with without drawing attention to yourself.
What a mess you are.
And what a mess you make of everything coming your way.
You're fighting the first tears as you hear the steady sound of heels clicking on the pavement. Somehow you just know it's her.
Chapter Four Confrontation
Suddenly there's a hand on your back, shoving you to the wall first and then turning you roughly around. She looks at you with accusing eyes and her mouth is a thin line as she spits out the words.
"Emily, what the hell did you think you're doing in there? I mean, you hardly know this guy! One minute the two of you meet for the first time in I don't know how many years and the second he's already got his tongue down your throat! I really wouldn't have pegged you for that kind of girl..."
At this, a distinctly dismissive expression settles on her face and you think that if you weren't already broken this would most probably be the moment everything you are shatters beyond repair. As it is, you just stand there and let her rant, not really offering any kind of reaction or resistance as she forcefully pushes your back against the wall.
"And now you're just giving me that blank face again! Does anything anyone does ever matter to you? Does anything I do ever matter to you? Do you even have feelings? Because I seriously doubt it. You think you're floating so high above us average folks that nothing we do is of any concern to you."
At this she's got you and she knows it. You just look at her, incredulous. She just used your worst insecurities against you, the one thing you've always been afraid of hearing from a friend's lips. You never thought she'd be capable of throwing something like this at you. You always thought that if there was anyone who understood you and your need to hide behind that mask of yours it'd be her.
Turns out you're wrong yet again.
There's nothing left to say. Her words leave you without any ground to stand on, trembling on the brink of an abyss so deep you're scared it'll swallow you whole.
It takes a moment for her to realize what she just said and when she does the reaction is immediate. Her eyes get large and she clamps her hands over her mouth, as if trying to trap the words back inside. But from the sagging of her shoulders you know that she knows it's too late for that.
When she looks at you again, her eyes are glistening with unshed tears, full of guilt, regret and a desperate plea for forgiveness.
And what hurts you most right now is that you've already forgiven her. She just ripped you apart and you've already forgiven her. It's not her fault she's no different from everybody else. Maybe it's been your fault all along for thinking she was.
The silence around you only lasts mere seconds but it seems an eternity before either of you speaks again. Her voice isn't above a whisper, it's unnaturally high, with an edge to it you've never heard so far.
"God Emily, I'm so sorry. I have no idea where that came from. Please, I didn't mean it like that. I could never mean such a thing. Oh God, please believe me, Em, I'm sorry!"
At the use of your nickname you flinch and you think she notices because her eyes darken another notch. You can tell that she waits for you to speak, but there really is nothing left to tell her. At your silence, she continues speaking, the desperation in her voice getting more pronounced with every word.
"I didn't mean to say this stuff, I just got so angry when I saw you with him that I lost control. I have no idea where all this fury came from, I just know that when I saw you kissing him something inside of me snapped "
She's silent for a moment, like she's trying to listen to something going on inside of herself. And as she starts to speak again, her voice is calmer, a thread of wonder woven into it.
"I felt as if you were somehow betraying me by kissing him. I felt as though you had taken something away from me that was mine. I I believe I was jealous."
She's looking at you with wide eyes, question over question in their blue depths. Your heart starts to flutter in your chest, even though seconds ago you would've sworn there was nothing in there anymore except for some piece of black, burnt flesh. You don't know if you made some almost imperceptible movement she caught up on or whether the expression on your face changes, but she seems to see something in you that encourages her.
"Em, I know I hurt you. And I know I hurt you bad."
At this you turn your eyes down again, because you don't want her to see how right she is. But then there are two clicks on the pavement and you can feel the heat of her body in front of you and her hand on your chin, gently forcing you to look into her eyes.
"I know I got no right to demand this of you, but please, look at me. Because I believe I have to tell you something. I think I I think I am in love with you, Emily Prentiss. I never felt anything as intense as what I felt when I saw you kissing him. I know it sounds stupid, but I think I just realized that I'd never get this jealous if Will was kissing some other girl. I have no idea why it took me so long to notice this, but I trust you with my heart and I feel safe, cared for and loved everytime we are together. I really think I love you, Em."
Her words are accompanied by a soft, incredulous chuckle and you just wanna melt into her arms and kiss her until everything else fades away and it's just the two of you left. But you're too much of a realist, too afraid of what will happen to the remains of your heart to give in to that desire.
"And him?" you ask and your voice is raw with emotion, heavy with a million different possible answers in your mind. Her grip on your chin tightens as she leans in closer to you.
"He's a nice guy. But he never made me feel like you do. I don't know why I couldn't see it earlier, but it's you I want. It's you. During these last two weeks something's been missing. I didn't know what it was, but something important hasn't been right. I felt like there was some part of me whithering away. That's because you weren't there, Emily. You're the only one who makes me feel whole."
She's crying now and you can tell that the magnitude of what she just discovered is overwhelming her. She looks at you, tears still falling from her eyes and you can only think how beautiful she is. And then her words finally find their way into your brain. She wants to be yours.
Still smiling at you she raises a hand and brushes a hand over your cheek. It's only when her fingers move to take away the wetness covering it that you realize you're crying. Her lips move against yours and she kisses you and it's everything you ever dreamed of. Everything and more.
"Please, God, don't let this be a dream."
You murmur softly, almost convinced that she can't hear you. She does so anyway and tightens her hold on you. As you feel her soft, strong arms closing around you, you can't help but let it go. You're crying freely into her shoulder and she just stands there, holding you.
You have no idea how long you stand there, her hands rubbing comforting circles on your shoulder, her soft voice in your hair, whispering "I'm sorry" and "Shh, it's alright". Finally you have no tears left and as you move to look at her again you can see that she's cried some more as well. For a moment you're embarassed because of your emotional outburst but then she kisses you once more and everything else just melts away.
Because this is where you've always wanted to be. In front of some old, shabby club, a brick wall behind you and her in your arms with the moon shining down on you.
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