DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
SERIES: Part two of the ‘5 times Emily and JJ don’t let go’ series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
In retrospect, JJ wondered if there had been some part of them that had wanted to be caught, if only because it would mean an end to the hiding; an end to the uncertainty and terrible waiting for a discovery that could mean disaster.
They should have been more careful, they both knew this. It didn't matter that they were back in the BAU. It made no difference that it was after hours and JJ thought only the team remained, loosely scattered and quiet, doing paperwork, or pretending to do paperwork to avoid - for their own individual reasons - going home. It would not be understood that the case had been brutal and wearing for them all, and that in that moment Emily had come to JJ desperately in need of simple comfort and the presence of understanding; needing to know she wasn't alone. It would have no weight that Hotch and the others guessed; that behind the professional ignorance the team was secretly happy for them, and that in that quiet moment they merely stood close, just out of line of sight of the cameras with JJ's head resting on Emily's shoulder the instant Erin Strauss strode in, JJ felt something in her die.
If her heart hadn't been in her throat, she might have laughed bitterly at the expression on Strauss' face: the sheer, unbelieving shock a sign of how completely the woman was caught off guard. She might have laughed, but JJ knew better than most the way the section chief dealt with surprises.
For a moment nothing happened. Like gunfighters staring each other down in an old western, the three stood, hair triggered. With grief born of exhaustion and knowing the direction of the future held only pain, JJ silently readied herself for the confrontation that was to come. She prepared herself for Emily to pull away and make some explanation; she prepared herself to lose her job, her family and the woman she had come to love in one cruel, tearing blow.
She wasn't prepared for Emily to simply raise her chin, daring Strauss with the brittle fire in her eyes to say something. She wasn't prepared for the hand that held hers to squeeze gently and lace their fingers together, erasing the separation of their bodies and symbolizing the entwining of their souls. She wasn't prepared for Hotch, Morgan and Rossi to move into the hallway behind Strauss, expressions of silent threat clear beneath the outwardly professional masks they wore. She most certainly was not prepared for Erin Strauss to flinch and look away, muttering something to Hotch and stalking out the door.
In shock, JJ looked at the men. She received a slight, grim nod from Hotch acknowledgement and warning in one an amused quirk of Rossi's lips that said he found the whole situation vaguely amusing, and a wicked, welcoming grin on Morgan's handsome face, letting them both know his approval.
A moment later they were gone and Emily and JJ stood alone. JJ felt as if her entire world had changed, some great quantum shift bringing about a new reality in which she no longer knew the rules or the way forward. And then Emily squeezed their still entwined fingers, bringing her focus to that simple connection and the anchor that had held her steady, righting her world and putting it back on its axis.
Raising her eyes to Emily's, she found herself smiling in wonder and returned the gentle flexing of her hand. She felt Emily, solid and real and hers, and JJ knew that though the way before them was suddenly new, it was a better road they traveled together.
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