DISCLAIMER: The characters of Emily Prentiss and Jennifer Jareau, along with the rest of the B.A.U. of Criminal Minds, belong to CBS and its affiliates and subsidiaries. No profit was made. No disrespect intended. But, I guarantee that they had a lot more fun with me than they ever have with the show's writers.
SPOILERS: None, really. The subtexty interactions between Emily and JJ really began at the end of Season Two and continued full force into Season Three at least so far. Trust a network to screw it up. Still, this story takes place early in Season Three, after the departure of Jason Gideon, but before the arrival of the new tortured older man, David Rossi.
TITLE: See the complete quote at the end of the story. If I give it to you now, it will spoil the whole plot, and we can't have that, now can we? *g*
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My deepest and most sincere gratitude to my esteemed beta reader, Rachel, for all of her help and encouragement. I hope that this is all that you could have wanted in a CM story .well, minus the sex of course *bg*.
CHALLENGE: Written for Passion & Perfection's Big 5000.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Sorrow is an Enemy
The lambent light spread itself out over the softly flowing landscape, casting the world awash in a bluish glow. The curves of mountains and the dips of valleys were undulating waves, their tranquil rise and fall seeming to reach towards the desolate, far-flung lunar oceans that lay along the sunlit surface of the moon.
The gold, red, and orange of the autumn leaves, the fading green of the hillsides and meadows, all lay blanched and blurred, with only the brightest of hues evident, the colors muted and hazy against the insubstantial backdrop.
In the far meadow of the Whittington's farm, the wide pasture pond mirrored the moon's pale image. The limpid reflection was marred occasionally by the ripple of tiny tremors as the wind ghosted along the surface of the water.
One enormous bull frog sat regally in the thick mud of the bank, his deep throated croaking a mournful dirge. Suddenly, with an effortless flexing of powerful legs, he leapt into the depths of the pond, sending crests of displaced water circling out towards the mired edges.
Still, the rippling distortions were a minor consideration when compared to the fair-haired figure that floated incongruously amid the cattails and ferns that lay along the edge of the pond.
Her gown of white gleamed spectral against the murky grey of the water, the light cotton of the fabric buoyed up by the slap of the wind-driven waves against the shallow shore of the swimming hole. Hair the color of winter wheat, entangled in the fiddleheads and cattails, created a twisted seaweed, foreign and obscene.
A large maple rose up against the sky not far from the edge of the pond, its roots no doubt nourished by the underground spring, which kept the pond full, even in the driest of summers. Its leaves had been some of the first to flame to brilliant red, but now, as the days of autumn grew fewer, one by one the leaves had faded to brown and fallen, brittle and spent, to the ground below.
Against the luminescent light of the sky, the branches of the ancient tree stood out, dark and skeletal. With twisted limbs reaching in silent, desperate plea to the heavens, it stood quiet sentinel over the ghastly vision floating tranquilly among the rushes.
The bullfrog emerged at the other end of the pond, pulling himself somewhat lethargically out of the murky water to perch on the carpet of brittle leaves beneath the tree. With a lugubrious croak, he resumed his plaintive song, the sonorous tones mingling with the hypnotic slap of the water on the muddy bank, and the flapping of a sheet of white paper that fluttered against the pitted bark of the maple, tacked there with a small pin the color of blood.
The board in the B.A.U. briefing room was lurid with images; photographs that would never appear in any magazine, or on any living room mantle. Pictures of death, the desecrated remains of human lives, left bloodied and torn, abandoned, to stare beseechingly out of empty eyes.
The members of the B.A.U. filed into the room, seating themselves around the circular table, flipping open the manila folders that Jennifer Jareau placed carefully before each of them. Inside were the details of the latest case, the facts and names and statistics that were once lives.
JJ waited a minute for everyone to get settled, her eyes lingering a moment longer than necessary on the dark head of Emily Prentiss, now bowed over the file before her, blackish brown hair falling foreword to obscure high cheekbones and equally dark eyes.
No one noticed the lingering gaze, the others intent on the information, but JJ knew she should watch herself. After all, despite a promise long ago not to profile each other, the members of the team were trained to study human behavior.
Life was complicated enough without Morgan's inevitable teasing, or worse, the admonishing, censuring looks she knew she would get from Hotch if either of them noticed how often she stared at Emily. Or more damning still, how often Emily stared back, their eyes meeting and holding, uncertain, hesitant.
"Okay. We were contacted this morning by the Portland, Maine police department. They think that they have a series of murders," JJ began, interrupted, as usual, by Spencer Reid's questioning voice.
"Think that they have? They're not certain that they're murders or not certain that they're connected?" Reid asked, thin brows drawn down on his pale forehead.
"Both, originally. It wasn't until the latest body was found that they started to put the pieces together and went back and reinvestigated three earlier deaths," JJ explained patiently, waiting for the next question, already anticipating the query.
"What was it about the latest death that caused them to re-examine the others?" Morgan asked, glancing up from his copy of the pictures tacked to the board.
"The note. Last Tuesday morning, the remains of eighteen year old Erica Shaw were found floating in a pond in a cow pasture about six miles outside the city. As you can see, she was dressed in a flowing white nightgown. The medical examiner found water in her lungs, indicating drowning, but can't be sure until they run further tests on the water if she drowned in the pond or elsewhere.
"A note was found pinned to a tree next to the pond. The note contains a series of numbers," JJ stated clearly, the slight skip in her heartbeat when Emily's gaze met hers unnoticed by anyone.
"Just numbers?" Emily asked.
"Just numbers. However, one of the detectives working the case remembered finding a similar note in the pocket of a suicide a few weeks before," JJ informed them, her voice even.
"A suicide?" Morgan's tone was curious.
"The forty-nine year old wife of a local politician, Karen Saunders, jumped from the roof of a seven story building in downtown Portland on September 2. She died on impact. The note was found in her jacket pocket, but the police assumed at the time that it wasn't related to her death. It, too, held a series of numbers.
"Once the police started looking, they found two more deaths that included a similar note: a husband and wife, Melissa and Kevin Messina. Melissa Messina was strangled in her bed and her husband's body was found lying next to the bed, with what appeared to be a self-inflicted stab wound to the abdomen.
"Neighbors said that they had heard yelling coming from the house quite often recently, and police had been there more than once on a domestic call. Kevin would hit his wife and she'd call the cops. Unfortunately, when it came to testifying in court, she'd never show and the case would be dropped.
"At the time of their deaths, Portland PD assumed that it was a case of domestic murder-suicide," JJ completed her summary, her quick eyes seeing the signs of acute mental activity in all the members of the team, as they began their analysis of the case.
"In going through the catalog of items found at the scene, PPD found that there was a note, left lying on the dresser, with a similar set of numbers. No one really noticed it at the time," JJ finished.
"You said that the three notes contain 'similar' numbers? So, they aren't all the same, just the format and size?" Emily asked, her eyes narrowed as she stared at the board.
"Same paper, same printer, different numbers, although the same number of numbers, same format," JJ answered.
"So, this is the note found with Erica Shaw," Emily stated, laying the photos of the notes on the table in front of her, "And this is the one found in Karen Saunders's pocket, and this one on the dresser in Kevin and Melissa Messinas' bedroom."
"Erica Shaw's has 471600. Karen Saunders's has 551605, and the Messinas' has 521604," Morgan read out, his handsome face a mask of concentration.
He reached over and pressed a button on the phone, and a moment later a chipper female voice announced, "Come all ye who seek knowledge and ye shall be rewarded."
"Hey, Baby girl, we need you to run some numbers for us," Morgan smiled at the phone.
"Already looking, my heavenly hunk o'man. So far, nada. Doesn't match any codes that I've tried, and I've tried everything. Besides, they really are too short to be more than a word or two if they are codes," Penelope Garcia relayed, the voice of their resident technical guru as cheerful as ever, despite the circumstances.
"Could they be account numbers, or locker numbers?" Reid proposed. "Something that the victims had in common? Did any of them have accounts at the same bank, or post office boxes, maybe? There has to be something linking them together."
Another line rang, and Aaron Hotchner, the head of the team, reached for the phone.
"Hotchner. Yes. We're reviewing the information now. Right," he paused, beginning to take notes. "Fax it over to us, and be sure to include a copy of the note. We'll be there later this evening," Hotch relayed into the phone, scribbling onto the yellow legal pad in front of him.
"Okay, they have another body and another note. A Marie Grant, twenty-five, found hanged in her apartment. The note was on the kitchen table next to her," Hotch briefed them, his own dark brows drawn together in a frown.
The members of the team absorbed this latest development, the only sound in the room the scratching of pens and the shuffling of papers. The time for profiling was drawing closer, and each team member worked to put his or her ideas together to share with the others.
Emily sat staring at the crime scene photos. It had taken her some time to learn to detach herself from the horror of the scenes, the blood, the images of death. Now, looking at the three very different crime scenes, a memory flitted across the recesses of her mind. There was something familiar about them, something she knew that she ought to recognize.
"Different methods of killing. No attempt to dispose of the bodies. In fact, the unsub seems intent on having the victims found," Reid began to hypothesize, "The notes are clearly an attempt to taunt the authorities, to show that he is smarter than they are."
"There's got to be some connection between the victims and the unsub, some relationship that allows him information about them," Morgan stated, twirling a pencil between his fingers. "Plus the methods of killing have to mean something. One staged murder-suicide, one staged suicide, and one staged drowning. They have to be relevant to either the unsub or the victims."
Suddenly, the link between all of the scenes came to her and Emily murmured, half to herself, "Oh, my God, he's doing Shakespeare!"
Her dark chocolate eyes were wide as she stared at the crime scene photo of the Messina bedroom. "Garcia, the numbers from the first note, the Messinas', 521604. Pull up the text for Othello."
"As in Shakespeare's Othello?" Garcia queried, her tone clearly confused.
"Yes. Check the play, Act five, scene 2. Does Othello strangle Desdemona and then stab himself in that scene?" Emily said excitedly, moving forward to perch on the edge of her seat.
"Bingo," Garcia replied seconds later, her own voice beginning to show a touch of the same excitement.
"Karen Saunders. Check Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5. Lady Macbeth throws herself off the castle ramparts. And Erica Shaw, Hamlet, Act 4, scene 7, Ophelia drowns herself?" Emily's eyes were glowing with certainty now.
"Yes and yes," Garcia's satisfied voice came over the phone. "Any more, oh brilliant one?"
"King Lear. Should be Act 5. See when Cordelia is hung," Emily asked, meeting JJ's blue eyes across the table.
"Act five, scene three," Garcia answered.
"Hotch, the latest victim. The first two numbers are five three, aren't they?" Emily asked.
"531605," he replied, clearly impressed. "So if the first two numbers are the act and scene, what are the last four?"
"Garcia, check the last four numbers on each note with the dates the plays were written," JJ chimed in, her eyes still locked for the moment with Emily's, the connection between them sending little shivers along the skin of her arms.
"Othello, 1604. The Scottish play, 1605. Hamlet, 1600, and King Lear, also 1605," Garcia stated, her tone pleased and proud.
"Nice work, Prentiss," Hotch said sincerely, "Very nice catch."
"And here I told you being an English geek would get you nowhere," Morgan ribbed, his smile belying the teasing.
"Very impressive," Reid said warmly, his boyish face creased with a grin.
Emily sat back slightly, relaxing against the hard plastic of the chair. Her eyes again met JJ's, a feeling of warmth seeping through her at the look of pride and approval on JJ's face.
"Not bad, Em, not bad at all," JJ said softly, a shy half-smile on her lips.
"Not bad yourself," Emily responded, dark eyes softer than usual as she met JJ's stare.
"All right, so we know what the numbers mean. Now we need to figure out how he's choosing his victims, how he manages to get in their homes, how he earns their confidence," Hotch reminded them. "We also need to find out what, if any, connection there is among the victims.
"Okay, people, jet takes off in an hour. Let's be ready with some thoughts on our unsub once we get on board. We land in Portland at eight."
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: "There is evil in every human heart, which may remain latent, perhaps, through the whole of life; but circumstances may rouse it to activity."
"So, just how many plays did Shakespeare write?" Morgan asked, throwing himself into one of the seats of the B.A.U. jet.
"Thirty-nine," Reid replied at almost the same time as Emily.
"But so far, our unsub seems to be sticking to the tragedies, and there are only eleven of those," Emily added, quickly sitting down next to Morgan. She had discovered that sitting opposite JJ enabled her to look at the lovely blonde to her heart's content, without creating any suspicion. "And a few of those are fairly obscure."
"Yeah, not many people read Troilus and Cressida or Timon of Athens or Coriolanus," Reid supplied, settling back against the cloth covered seat next to JJ.
"He's already used the four big ones, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and Lear, so that just leaves the three Roman plays and Romeo and Juliet," Emily filled in, the easy flow of information within the team still gratifying to her.
"The three Roman plays?" Morgan asked, his infamous quirky smile lighting his face.
"Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and the lesser known, Titus Andronicus," Reid intoned in a scholarly way.
"Let's sincerely hope that he never makes it to Titus," Emily stated with a grimace.
"What's up with Titus?" Morgan asked, clearly not bothered by his lack of knowledge in this area.
"Isn't that the one where the daughter's husband is murdered and then she's raped and they cut out her tongue and cut off her hands, just for good measure?" JJ interjected, a look of distaste on her beautiful face.
"Yeah. They also behead at least two or three people and then Titus grinds up the bones of two of the evil Empress's sons, mixes it in with dinner and serves it to her," Emily finished, the look on her face a mirror to JJ's. "That's before he kills her."
"Charming," Hotch stated dryly. "We definitely need to find this unsub before he makes it to that one."
"I prefer it if we catch him before he gets to Romeo and Juliet. They were only fourteen," JJ murmured, gratified at the nod of agreement from Emily.
"Agreed. And speaking of unsubs. Theories, anyone?" Hotch rejoined from his perch on the arm of the couch opposite.
By the time the plane reached Portland, they had come up with a solid working profile for their unsub. Throughout the discussion, Emily was able to stare unashamedly at JJ. After all, she was sitting directly opposite her, and it would be impolite not to look at the person you were talking to, right? The miniature overhead lamps threw into sharp relief the strands of hair in every shade of gold and platinum, and deepened the clear sapphire of JJ's eyes, highlighting the perfect planes of her face.
The fact that they were discussing a killer who seemed to be playing out his own version of the Royal Shakespeare Company, complete with actual murders, couldn't quite eclipse the opportunity to stare openly at each other without repercussions, a fact that didn't escape either of them.
Exiting the plane behind her, Emily couldn't stop herself from placing her hand lightly along the small of JJ's back. She had found that lately her ability to stop herself from touching JJ had been severely limited. A brief brush of a hand or an arm, an emphasis of an idea, the ending of a conversation. Perfectly normal. Perfectly innocent. Except it wasn't.
And Emily didn't know what to do about that fact.
A black Expedition from the Portland PD met them at the airport.
"Captain Jenkins asked if you'd mind coming down to the station first, before I take you to your hotel?" Their young driver asked.
"Of course. We were planning on getting started tonight," Hotch informed him.
"Given that the unsub waited three weeks between the first and second killing, two between the second and third and only a week until the fourth, that means that we probably have less than three days for the next one," Reid elucidated.
"He's definitely gotten a taste for it and his control isn't allowing him to wait. He needs to fulfill whatever agenda he's got in his head," Morgan added.
"When we get to the station, I want you to divide up the crime scenes. Prentiss and JJ, take the first two, Reid and Morgan, take the last two. Go over everything again. See if you can find some common ground between the victims. Areas they lived in, work, hobbies, anything and everything that might be a possible link.
"Tomorrow, go back over all four crime scenes and see them with fresh eyes. Maybe something will strike you," Hotch instructed, his face stern and impassive. "In the meantime, let's brief Captain Jenkins and his people on our profile and get them up to speed on what we think."
"We believe that our unsub is a white male, whose level of maturity suggests a man in his mid to late 50's, well-educated, probably a family man. He may hold a prominent or respected position in the community. He may have had these urges all of his life, but we suspect that something happened recently to push his urges out into the open.
"He is highly intelligent, unconcerned with being caught. He makes no effort to hide the bodies, and seems to want them found, as the signature in each case initially leads the authorities to assume the crimes are unrelated. As there was no evidence of forced entry at any of the scenes or signs of a struggle, we can assume that he is socially adept and able to put his victims at ease or that he represents some sort of authority with whom they would be less likely to argue.
"He has used a different method of killing with all of the victims. We have analyzed the notes left with each of the victims and we have determined that he is utilizing the methods of death found in Shakespeare's tragedies. So far, he has used Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear. He will continue in this pattern. His time scale has escalated, from weeks between killings to what we believe will now be merely days."
Standing in the back of the squad room of the Portland PD, JJ watched proudly as her team laid out the basics of their profile of the unsub. Losing Gideon had been a blow to the team, but they had more than proven that they could function without him. In fact, there seemed to be more cohesion, more give and take now that they no longer had the older profiler to rely upon.
Hotch, Morgan, Reid, and Prentiss took turns explaining what kind of person the unsub was, the briefing flowing with an easy grace that pleased JJ immensely. She seldom got involved in the briefing part of the case, letting the others deal with that aspect. She handled the press, the public, deflecting questions with a natural elegance and style that disarmed potential problem makers.
Emily was talking and JJ found her mind wandering, less focused on what the other woman was saying, than on the fullness of lips and the strong, sharp angle of jaw line. JJ wondered, not for the first time, what it would feel like to taste those lips, to brush her own lips along the line of that patrician jaw. Shaking her head abruptly, JJ pulled her thoughts from their less than professional meanderings just in time to hear Hotch call the briefing to an end.
"Special Agent Hotchner, I can't tell you how much my people and I appreciate you and your team coming up here. Once we realized what we had, we were at a loss as to how to proceed. We are grateful for the help," Captain Jenkins stated sincerely, shaking Hotch's hand. "I'll have Officer LaChance drive you all over to the hotel."
"Thank you, Captain. We're glad that we are able to help. My agents will be splitting up and re-visiting the crime scenes tomorrow, so if you could either provide vehicles or drivers, that would be great," Hotch responded, little lines of fatigue evident around his eyes.
"Not a problem. I will have a couple cars pick them up first thing," Jenkins replied, the relief at having help clearly written on his face.
Sitting in the seat at the far back of the SUV, Emily could feel the warmth of JJ's thigh against her own, and she allowed her body to relax, increasing the pressure of leg and arm. Closing her eyes, she could smell the faint trace of JJ's perfume, citrus and flowers.
"Tired?" JJ's voice came quietly, close enough to her ear to feel the gentle caress of her breath.
"A little. You?"
"Some. Briefings always leave me a little hyped, but once I take a long, hot shower, I'll be asleep in minutes," JJ chuckled softly, neither of their voices loud enough to carry to the others.
Emily almost groaned to herself as she thought that the images invoked by JJ's words would have the opposite affect on her, leaving her sleepless and lonely and decidedly frustrated.
The morning found the two teams examining the crime scenes. The second scene, the purported suicide of Karen Saunders, was only a few blocks from their hotel, so Emily and JJ began there. The building was only seven stories, packed with offices, from accountants to lawyers to podiatrists.
Karen Saunders' chiropractor had an office on the third floor and Portland PD had assumed that it was what had brought her to that particular building. They still had little understanding of what had brought her to the roof, however. Her husband was a prominent local politician and by all accounts, their marriage and life had been happy. Mr. Saunders denied vehemently that his wife was depressed or suicidal, but given the circumstances of her death, there was little else for the police to do.
The view from the roof was simply beautiful. The air was silvery in the early morning light and you could see out across the rooftops of the city to the sea, cold and vast, glossy with the golden sheen in the sun's slanting rays. The early November air was crisp and damp, and JJ shivered against the stiff wind that gusted in off the harbor.
"You okay?" Emily asked, a frown of concern on her face as she saw JJ shiver and rub her bare hands. "Here, take my gloves."
Quickly removing the lined black leather gloves, she reached for JJ's hands, clearly intent on putting them on her. At the first touch, they both paused, their combined breath a cloud hanging between them.
"I'm fine. Really. I walked out of the room without mine this morning, but that doesn't mean your hands should freeze," JJ protested, but she made no move to withdraw her hands from Emily's grasp, her blue eyes uncertain as she met Emily's gaze.
"JJ, wear them. It takes a lot more than thirty-five degrees for me to get cold," Emily said softly, slipping one of the gloves on JJ's right hand.
With a shy smile JJ slipped on the other glove, still warm from Emily's skin.
"Thanks," she murmured, attempting to keep her professional composure as she turned away to walk over to the parapet that edged the rooftop.
"The parapet is relatively low. It wouldn't be difficult to lure someone up here to talk or even to see the view and then come up behind them and give them a good, hard push," Emily stated, her own voice once again practiced and calm.
"But who could get a wealthy, middle-aged woman to come up here?" JJ pondered out loud.
"Someone she knew, a friend. Someone she would have trusted. Maybe someone in a uniform, police, fire maybe," Emily supplied, both of them attempting to put some emotional distance between them.
"Whoever it was, there has to be a link between them and at least a couple of our victims," JJ replied calmly as they made their way back to the stairs that lead off the roof. "So, let's go and see what we can find at the Messina house."
The Messinas had lived in a two story house near the Portland airport. The neighborhood was working class, the yards narrow and covered with the brown remnants of the summer's grasses. The yellow paint was peeling around the front door, as JJ and Emily slipped under the garish swath of crime scene tape that still hung limply across the opening and entered the house, stale air coming out to meet them as they walked into the dim entrance hall.
The Messinas had been from Boston originally, and the remaining family had not yet made the drive up to clean out the contents of the house and put it on the market. The layer of fine powder left by fingerprint dust and nearly a month of disuse clung to all the surfaces.
Without speaking, Emily and JJ split up, one taking the ground floor, the other the upstairs as they began their search for clues to link the victims to their killer.
In the kitchen, Emily could hear JJ's light tread across the upstairs floorboards as she moved quietly from room to room. The moment on the roof was still fresh in her mind, and she could still feel the coolness of JJ's fingers against her own and see the doubt and uncertain longing in those blue eyes that Emily knew had been mirrored in her own.
Everything was spiraling out of control and she wasn't sure if she knew how to stop it.
"Emily," JJ's voice called down the carpeted staircase.
Quickly climbing the stairs, Emily found JJ standing just inside the doorway to the Messinas' bedroom. On the once tan carpet, a large, uneven oval of dark brown showed where Kevin Messina's body had lain. The bed had been stripped, the sheets and blankets removed and sent to the lab as evidence.
Still, it took little effort on either of their parts to call to mind the crime scene photos, the naked body of Melissa Messina sprawled unceremoniously against the dark green sheets, her face twisted and contorted, her skin an unnatural shade of mottled blue. And on the floor beside her, her husband, white tee-shirt stained red, a large butcher knife from the kitchen protruding out a few inches from his abdomen.
Both women were silent, each wrapped in her own thoughts, until Emily spoke softly, her voice rich and mournful.
"I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but, being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the base Judean, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe;"
JJ turned to her, an expression of such intense longing on her face that it took Emily's breath away. Emily wasn't sure which of them moved, but suddenly they were standing within inches of each other. Emily could feel the warmth of JJ's body, smell her perfume, her shampoo. JJ's breathing seemed erratic, her eyes a deep sapphire, swimming in a flood of emotions.
Neither of them moved for what seemed a brief eternity, until, with a deep sigh, Emily's head dipped forward slowly, her lips ghosting across JJ's soft, full lips, the merest whisper of a touch. JJ's hand slipped up and into the hair at the nape of Emily's neck, pulling those tantalizing lips firmly against her own, tasting the sweetness. Finally, Emily raised her head, her dark eyes heavy-lidded.
"JJ," Emily began, only to be stopped by the feel of a still gloved finger against her lips.
"I know. I know," JJ whispered.
"Maybe we should talk about this," Emily began again, halted this time by the quick shake of JJ's head.
"No. No, we shouldn't talk about it. Because if we talk about it, then we have to acknowledge that it's real, and if it's real then we have to make some rational, reasonable decision about it.
"And we both know that the only rational, reasonable decision that we can make is to not do anything about it at all, to simply pretend it doesn't exist, and I don't think that I am ready for that.
"I don't think that I'm ready to live without that fragile hope of something, of some possibility. Not yet," JJ explained, her voice more agitated than Emily had ever heard it, the words tumbling from her lips like water from a broken dam. "So, no, we shouldn't talk about it. We should just do what we came here to do, finish the job, and pretend this moment never happened. Okay?"
"Jennifer," Emily began again, one hand reaching out to cup JJ's warm, soft cheek.
For just an instant, JJ turned her face into Emily's hand, the blue of her eyes clouded, and then she shrugged it off and took three steps back.
"Please, Emily. Please," she begged, her eyes dark and pleading.
"All right, we won't talk about it. But I'm not going to pretend that this never happened. I can't, Jennifer. I've tried for the past three or four months to stop feeling this way, and I can't. But I won't mention it again," Emily promised resignedly, turning to walk slowly down the stairs. "I'll finish up in the kitchen.
JJ watched Emily disappear down the stairway, a feeling of despondency washing over her, like a wave crashing onto shore. For just an instant, for that fleeting, ephemeral moment when Emily's lips had melted into hers, all of the chaos, all the hate and anger and violence that they saw daily evaporated like fog in the light of the sun, and the world was as whole and new as the day it was born.
JJ wasn't certain that she could live without knowing that feeling again.
At the bottom of the stairs, her chest tight, as if a heavy weight had settled on it, Emily Prentiss was wondering the very same thing.
JJ could hear Emily moving around in the kitchen, and taking a deep breath, she forced down the feeling of depression that had settled on her, descending the stairs to join the brunette in her search for evidence.
They said nothing to each other during the rest of the search. It was only when Emily straightened up from her perusal of an old stack of bills and papers that the other woman spoke.
"Do you remember something in the file on Karen Saunders about her being stopped for a DUI over the summer?" Emily asked, her voice professional and devoid of emotion.
"Um, yeah, she was pulled over leaving a downtown restaurant. Her husband tried to have it buried or thrown out, but she was forced to go to court and she received a fine, loss of license for six months, and community service. The Portland PD speculated that it might have been a factor in her possible depression," JJ recited, not meeting Emily's eyes.
"Well, we know that the Messinas were in and out of court over the past few years. Here's a notice of appearance for Kevin Messina, dated June 28th. I wonder if either Erica Shaw or Marie Grant ever had any problems with the law," Emily conjectured, reaching into her coat pocket to pull out her cell phone.
Flipping it open, she pressed a speed dial. She had turned on the speaker phone and a moment later, JJ could hear Garcia's voice echoing in the quiet of the kitchen.
"Garcia's Garden of Earthly Knowledge. Get your apples free," Garcia trilled.
"Hey, it's Em and JJ," Emily started to say, interrupted by Garcia's response.
"I've been over all of the victims and so far, there is nothing to link them. They lived in different parts of the city, banked at different banks, worked at different places, if they worked. I can't find any civic organizations, PTA's, gyms, or even dry cleaners that they had in common," Garcia pronounced succinctly. "I just got off the phone with Reid and Morgan told them the same thing."
"I'm not surprised. We've got one more thing for you to check, though. Did Erica Shaw and Marie Grant ever have to appear in court here in Portland?" Emily asked, turning her back on JJ to stare out through the lace panels that covered the kitchen window above the sink.
"Hang on," Garcia announced, the only sound the clicking of computer keys. "Yes. Erica Shaw was picked up for shoplifting. She appeared in court three weeks ago; she got probation and court costs. Marie Grant just appeared last week on a charge of larceny. Apparently, she was suspected of stealing from her employer. The case was continued."
"Did all of the victims appear in the same court?" Emily asked, turning to face JJ.
"They all went through district court. I'll check and see if the same judge was sitting for each case," Garcia answered, the clicking of her nails on the keyboard providing a strange, off-beat rhythm to accompany her words.
"Damn. Different trial judges," Garcia muttered, the steady rhythm continuing unabated. "Wait. They had different judges at trial, but they all came before the same judge for arraignment. Judge Raymond Tremblay. He apparently handles all district court arraignments."
"Thanks, Garcia. You're a goddess," Emily stated warmly, although the slight smile that touched her lips was sad.
"I know. It's a good thing that I don't use my powers for evil," Garcia chuckled.
"Find out all that you can about Raymond Tremblay, will you? We'll be back at the station in about ten minutes," Emily asked, her eyes focused on the scuffed linoleum of the floor.
"Not a problem. I'll call as soon as I get anything solid," Garcia answered, her tone making it clear that she was already on the quest for information. "See ya."
"A judge?" JJ asked, eyebrows raised.
"Well, we said well-educated, older, respected in the community. It may turn out to be nothing, but it's a place to start," Emily replied as they moved toward the front door.
"I'll call Hotch," JJ told her, pausing in the doorway and watching Emily make her way to their borrowed Bronco. The late autumn sun glinted off Emily's hair as off a blackbird's wing, and JJ felt the hollow sensation in the pit of her stomach grow deeper. "Hotch? We think we may have a lead. We'll see you back at the station."
JJ slid into the SUV, automatically buckling her seatbelt.
For the first ten minutes of the drive, the only sounds were the whirring of the tires on the asphalt and the wind sailing past the windows. Finally, JJ couldn't stand the silence any longer.
"Em." No response.
"What, JJ?" Emily asked tiredly, her eyes firmly on the road in front of them.
"I'm sorry. So, so sorry. I just don't think that it will do either of us any good to talk about it. It isn't going to change anything. It isn't going to make it any better for the effectiveness of the team. It isn't going to make it any different in the eyes of the Agency. We'd only be hurting each other more," JJ intoned mournfully.
"I'm not going to argue with you, Jennifer. There's no point. I don't want you to do anything that you don't want to do," Emily replied after a long silence.
"I want you," JJ almost whispered, so that Emily had to lean sideways a bit to hear her. "But we both know that this isn't about what I want or what you want. It's about real life and the world we have to live and work in. And we both know that this, that we, wouldn't survive it intact."
"No, Jennifer, you know that. I don't. But until you believe in that hope, that possibility you were talking about earlier, then you're right, there really is no point in our talking about it," Emily stated quietly, the SUV's turning into the parking lot of the police station effectively ending the conversation.
JJ flinched at the closing of Emily's car door, feeling it as a physical blow. Opening her own door, she started across the parking lot to join the rest of the team.
"So, we hear that you two might have a lead?" Morgan asked as the two women entered the conference room in the station that Capt. Jenkins had set aside for them.
"It's a possibility anyway," Emily answered seating herself at the far side of the table between Reid and Hotchner. "We noticed that both Karen Saunders and the Messinas had been to court recently and when we checked with Garcia, it turns out that Erica Shaw and Marie Grant both appeared in court in the past month.
"All of the victims were arraigned by the same judge, a Raymond Tremblay. Garcia is seeing what she can find on him. She said she'd call as soon as she had anything."
"A judge would work with our profile. And he would have the social abilities and demeanor to persuade his victims to talk to him, or even let him in their homes," Hotch hypothesized.
The ringing of the phone stopped the conversation, as Hotch reached over and hit the speaker phone button. The next moment, Garcia's voice echoed loudly in the small room.
"Have I got some juicy info for you," she conveyed matter-of-factly, "Judge Raymond Tremblay, aged fifty-seven. He's been a district court judge for about twenty-two years. He used to be the main trial judge, but in April he was asked to take over arraignments and removed from presiding over any trials. Rumor is that he had suffered some sort of breakdown, but nothing concrete in any of the records.
"I did find out what might have made him stumble over the threshold of insanity. In January, his only daughter was brutally raped and beaten and his son-in-law was killed, in a home invasion gone bad. The doctors didn't think that she would make it, but she pulled through. However, she has spent the last ten months in a private psychiatric facility.
"Then in April he was basically demoted on the bench, after two decades of being on the top of the judicial heap in Portland. And to put the cherry on the sundae, in July he was notified that his son, a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. It's no wonder this guy snapped like a breadstick."
"How did you get all this information?" Reid asked, his tone admiring.
"Almost all of it is in the local paper. Since the judge is one of the more prominent members of the Portland community, he has gotten quite of bit of interest in what passes for the society page there," Garcia replied.
"Well, I don't think that we need to worry about him making it to Titus. He doesn't need to reenact it. It sounds like he's lived it," Emily stated solemnly.
"Now that we have some concrete information about him, I want the four of you to split up again. Prentiss, you and JJ go to the courthouse, talk to his clerk, to his bailiff, to the other people who work in the courthouse and see what you can find out. Morgan, you and Reid go to the judge's house, talk to the neighbors, go to his club, see if you can locate any friends. Find out all that you can about his recent behavior, his schedule, his activities. Anything," Hotch ordered, his expression grim.
"By the way, JJ, Prentiss. Good work," Hotch called to them, as they made their way out of the conference room.
The walk to the car and the ride to the courthouse were silent, both women lost in her own thoughts and intent on maintaining some equilibrium.
When they arrived at the courthouse, JJ murmured softly, "I'll take the clerks' office if you'll handle the bailiffs."
"No problem. I'll meet you back here in about an hour," Emily replied, already moving off down the long central hallway.
JJ watched her go, wishing that there was some way that she could take them back to before that fateful moment, back to when all of it was merely a swirl of emotions and fantasies, of might-bes. Back to when they could talk and laugh and subtly flirt, before this immense stone wall sprang up between them, a wall that JJ knew she had built almost entirely with her own hands, each stone a fear or a doubt.
But they couldn't go back, and right now, she was damned if she could see a way forward.
Walking the corridor to the bailiffs' office, Emily had a difficult time keeping her mind focused on the case. JJ's words kept repeating in her head, the finality of the other woman's tone, the reality of her fears.
She couldn't force JJ to believe that they could survive the need for secrecy at work, couldn't force her to realize that in actuality, not allowing themselves to explore their feelings might have a much more detrimental effect on the team than their potential happiness. Emily knew that nothing that she said was going to change JJ's mind. And that hurt like hell.
In the meantime, they had an unsub to locate.
The information that they gathered from the clerks and the bailiffs confirmed what Garcia had told them. Judge Tremblay had been a well respected jurist, considered fair and even handed in his justice. He had been on the bench for over twenty years when, in January, a home invasion had left his son-in-law dead and his only daughter, Genevieve, attacked and brutally beaten and raped.
She was only twenty-six, and she and her husband had been married less than a year. The judge had taken it very hard, leaving the court for a month to travel to New Jersey, where the young couple had lived, to care for his daughter.
The physical injuries healed far quicker than the psychological ones, and eventually, the judge had brought Genevieve back to Maine and placed her in a private psychiatric hospital. According to the judge's clerk, who had been with him for sixteen years, the young woman had not spoken since the night of the attack.
Michael Garvis, the judge's clerk, told JJ that the judge had become increasingly erratic, forgetting cases and even attorney's names. During one trial, the judge had simply gotten up in the middle of the cross examination of the key witness and left, dropping his robes on the floor as he walked out.
After that, the powers that be reassigned the judge to hearing arraignments, a much less stressful and time consuming task, but the judge had taken it very badly, railing against the state judiciary panel, claiming that they were out to get him.
That had been in April. In July, the judge was informed that his younger son had been killed by friendly fire during a raid in Afghanistan. The young Marine had been on his second tour of duty in the war ravaged country. With the news of his son's death, the judge had completely withdrawn, his appearance often disheveled, his manner distracted and more than slightly paranoid.
Last week he hadn't come to work, and all attempts to contact him had failed. One of his clerks had gone around to his house, but there had been no response. They were on the verge of calling in the Portland PD when the judge called and told his clerk that he had a family emergency and would not be back for at least a few weeks.
When JJ rejoined Emily in the entrance hall of the courthouse, she found that Emily had gotten the same information.
"It's crazy, but I almost feel sorry for this unsub," JJ murmured.
"I know. I can understand what pushed him to act out. Things like that can make even the most rational person snap," Emily replied quietly. "Still, there must have been some seed for all of this that he kept concealed and under wraps until the events of this past year sent him spiraling out of control."
"We should call Hotch, and see what Morgan and Reid found out," JJ suggested as they made their way back to the car. Being able to focus on the case seemed to be helping the feeling of tension between them, easing it a little. Still, JJ could feel the hard knot that had taken up permanent residence in her stomach.
In a few terse sentences, Hotch ordered them back to the station. Morgan and Reid had come up empty handed in their attempts to locate the judge and Hotch wanted them all back to consider their next move.
On the short drive back to the station, JJ kept glancing over at Emily's profile, at the way the dark hair fell against the perfect skin of her cheek. She knew that Emily was aware of her frequent sidelong looks, but she didn't respond, her eyes on the cars in front of them on the congested street.
JJ had an almost overwhelming urge to reach over and cover Emily's hand, as it rested on the steering wheel, with her own, but she knew that it would only make matters worse. The last thing that Emily deserved was mixed signals from her.
"Can I ask you one thing?" Emily's voice was quiet and dull, with none of the quickness and life it normally held.
"Sure," JJ answered, part of her terrified of the question, the other simply happy that Emily was speaking to her like this again.
"If you never had any intention of following through on your feelings, why did you kiss me back? And why all the looks, the smiles, the flirting? I mean, didn't you think that eventually something would happen?
"After all, it was pretty clear that I was feeling the same things. So, if you felt that we couldn't even talk about our feelings much less act on them, why let it go on?" The words fell in a torrent of hurt from Emily's lips.
Before JJ had a chance to respond, Emily had taken a sharp right into the police station parking lot, slammed the car into park and slipped out of the driver's door, flinging it shut behind her.
JJ felt tears prick at the corners of her eyes, closing them tightly to try to stem the inevitable flood. She knew that she deserved everything that Emily had said, but it didn't make it hurt any less. Nor did she have an answer to any of Emily's questions, except the one answer that would probably do the most damage to an already fragile situation: she couldn't help herself.
JJ had never considered the possibility of falling in love with a woman, but somehow, somewhere along the line, she had fallen in love with Emily and there was nothing she could do to stop it. The only thing that she could do was to not act on it, and even in that she had failed.
JJ remembered how quickly her arms had come up to circle Emily's neck, how she had pulled her closer, pulled those soft, sweet lips against her own. Even as her body had acted of its own accord, her brain had been shouting words of warning. Too late.
Wiping away the tears, JJ forced herself to regain her composure, taking a deep breath as she exited the car and, for the second time today, followed Emily into the police station.
"Prentiss was just telling us what the two of you found out about the judge. Morgan and Reid got into the house and looked around," Hotch filled JJ in as she entered the room. Emily's face was void of expression, and she didn't meet JJ's eyes.
"Yeah, Reid and I found a library full of books and an extensive collection of Shakespeare, most of it tossed haphazardly on tables, on chairs, on the floor. Apparently, the judge had been doing quite a bit of reading lately.
"We also found a stack of books on the judge's desk with all the pages torn out and scattered on the carpet. He had Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet, and Julius Caesar," Morgan explained succinctly, eyes narrowing as he noticed the faint trace of redness around JJ's eyes and the stony expression on Emily's face. Something was definitely up, but it would have to wait until they found this unsub.
"Julius Caesar? He hasn't done Caesar yet, so that must be next on his list," Emily responded.
"So, we need to figure out where the judge is, and find him before he finds his next victim," Hotch pronounced.
"What if we simply get to his next victim first?" Reid asked suddenly, looking up from the local paper he had been studying.
"What do you mean, get to the vic first? How are we supposed to know who his next victim will be?" JJ asked, noticing the intent looks that Morgan was giving her and Emily.
"I mean, we figure out who is his next choice and get there first. Then when the judge arrives, we're there waiting for him," Reid explained patiently.
"I get that part. What I don't get is how we figure that out," JJ replied, just a touch of exasperation in her voice.
"This," Reid stated, laying the paper on the table and pointing to the lead story on the front page.
The headline read, "State Senator to Face Corruption Charges". It went on to detail the story of a state senator who had been charged with accepting bribes and influencing legislation to benefit wealthy contributors. He was scheduled to face trial in the Cumberland County courthouse at nine the following morning.
"As good as he's going to get for Caesar in this day and age," Emily stated dryly. "Well, outside of Washington, anyway."
"All right. We need to locate Sen. Evans. I'm assuming that he is out on bail, so we need to find out where he lives," Hotch agreed, reaching over to hit the speed dial.
"Welcome to the Emporium of All Things Known and Unknown. I am Garcia, your guide for the day," Penelope Garcia announced in a cheery tone.
"Hey Baby Girl, we need an address and phone number on a state senator, a Marshall Evans. Also the make of car and plate number for Judge Tremblay," Morgan smiled at the phone, as if Garcia could see him.
"For you handsome, anything. Okay, Evans lives at 3002 Augusta Lane, Portland. Number 555-9943. As for the Judge, he drives a 2004 Lincoln Town Car, black. Personalized tags, J-u-s-t-i-s," Garcia informed them efficiently.
"Well, that's subtle," Emily remarked wryly.
"Okay people, let's find His Honor before the Ides of March arrive," Hotch announced, leading the way out to the squad room. With several of Captain Jenkins men in tow, the team raced to Marshall Evans' home.
They found Raymond Tremblay in the marble-tiled entryway to Evans' mansion, standing over the prone, unconscious senator, dagger in hand, ready to strike.
"Freeze! FBI!" Morgan yelled, gun pointed expertly at Tremblay.
The others were in similar poses in a semi-circle around the judge.
"Your Honor," Emily said, her voice eerily polite, "please, put down the knife."
"I'm afraid that I can't do that," Judge Tremblay stated sadly.
"Please, sir, this isn't going to solve anything. It won't bring your son back, and it won't heal your daughter's wounds. She needs you. You're all that she has left," Emily pleaded, moving slightly closer.
"No. No. She's gone now, gone to a place where those monsters can't harm her anymore. She's safe. So you see, this is all that I have left," the judge answered. His voice took on a deeper tone as he began to quote:
'Why, I have not another tear to shed:
Besides, this sorrow is an enemy,
And would usurp upon my watery eyes
And make them blind with tributary tears:
Then which way shall I find Revenge's cave?
For these two heads do seem to speak to me,
And threat me I shall never come to bliss
Till all these mischiefs be return'd again
Even in their throats that have committed them.
Come, let me see what task I have to do.
You heavy people, circle me about,
That I may turn me to each one of you,
And swear unto my soul to right your wrongs.
The vow is made."
With the final words of the speech, his hand came back and he started to swing downwards, the knife slicing through the air toward Evans' chest. Five shots echoed harshly against the high ceilings and marble floors of the foyer. The judge crumpled slowly to the ground, an oddly peaceful look on his face.
The flight back to Quantico from Portland was quiet. JJ laid down on one of the couches and turning toward the bulkhead, closed her eyes and tried to sleep. Hotch and Reid sat across from each other at the back table, Hotch intent on paperwork, Reid leaning back, eyes closed, listening to John Coltrane's mellow, sonorous tones on his iPod.
Morgan lounged in the seat opposite Emily, the light from Hotch's overhead lamp throwing shadows across their faces.
"So, Em. You did some nice work on this one," Morgan began, his expression inscrutable in the dim light.
"Thanks, Derek. I appreciate that," Emily replied sincerely. Even after all these months, it was nice to know that her teammates found her an asset to the unit.
"You okay?" He asked, the sudden change in subject leaving Emily momentarily off balance.
"Um. Yeah. I'm fine," she managed finally, "why?
"No reason. You've just seemed a little distracted, that's all," Morgan answered easily.
"I'm fine. Really. Just a little tired," Emily responded evasively, "I think I'll grab the other couch and see if I can get some sleep."
"Right. You do that. Sweet dreams, Emily." Derek smiled, the expression not making it to his dark eyes.
Something was definitely not right with Emily and JJ, not by a long shot, and as any of his team mates could confirm, when it came to the people he cared about, Derek Morgan was relentless.
Emily stepped as quietly as possible past the couch where JJ was lying. The gold of her hair was muted in the dim light of the cabin, and Emily had to stop herself from reaching out and smoothing it back from JJ's forehead. They hadn't spoken privately since that moment in the car when Emily had reproached her.
She had tried to apologize to JJ, but the other woman had simply sighed and stopped her before she could begin, saying, "Please, Emily. I don't think that I can take anymore, not right now."
And she was right. There really wasn't anything left to say.
Three Weeks Later
"You're sure we should do this?" Garcia demurred, her tone less than enthusiastic about the plan Morgan had just laid out for her.
"I'm sure, Baby girl. Positive. We can't let this go on any longer. They barely speak and I feel like there's a damn artic chill sliding through the room half the time. It's obvious that they are not willing or able to fix this on their own, so that leaves us," Morgan reassured, fixing Garcia with his patented killer smile.
"I know. I just hate interfering in my friends' private lives. It feels creepy and invasive," Garcia murmured, less forcefully this time as the effects of Derek's smile worked their magic.
"I know, but do you enjoy seeing them miserable? No, I know you don't, and neither do I. So, all I am saying is that it is time to practice a little tough love and sit them down and find out what the hell happened in Portland," Morgan stated plainly.
"You're right. They seemed so happy before. I'll talk to JJ," Garcia nodded, trying to convince herself as much as Morgan.
"If that doesn't work, I'll tackle Prentiss. Maybe literally if I have to," Morgan grinned.
Garcia made her way to JJ's office. Unlike Morgan and Prentiss and Reid, JJ had an office of her own. Since she was the liaison to local and state law enforcement, she needed the space and the privacy to sort through the hundreds of cases submitted to the B.A.U. for review.
Knocking lightly, Garcia heard a faint, "Come in."
"Hey," she said, turning the knob and sticking her head in the doorway. "What's up?"
"Hey, Garcia. Not much. Just trying to get through all these requests for assistance. Either we aren't preparing local police the way we should or the world is becoming a much more frightening place," JJ muttered, her desk covered with manila folders containing cases that local or state police agencies couldn't handle.
"It's definitely the scarier part," Garcia agreed, shutting the door behind her and settling somewhat uncomfortably on the edge of the chair opposite JJ's desk. "So, nothing else going on?"
While JJ wasn't one of the profilers on the team, she had learned a considerable amount about human nature, and besides, she knew Garcia well enough to know that their resident tech goddess was nervous. Narrowing her eyes a little, JJ leaned back in her chair and regarded Garcia speculatively.
"No. Just working. Why?" JJ asked, trying to keep her tone conversational.
"I don't know," Garcia fumbled with the fringe hanging from her vintage shawl. "You've just seemed a little distracted. A little distant, maybe and I was just wondering if there was anything bothering you?"
This wasn't quite what JJ had expected and she dropped her eyes to the desk, before recovering and forcing a smile.
"I'm fine," she reassured, trying to keep her voice light. "I've just had something on my mind."
"Something or someone?" Garcia asked, her uncertainty deserting her at JJ's obvious discomfort.
JJ made a sound of surprise and denial that told Garcia that she had hit pay dirt.
"I don't know what you're talking about," JJ disavowed, a strained smile on her lips. "I've been swamped with work and trying to help Hotch cover most of Gideon's stuff, and so I've had a lot on my mind. That's all."
"JJ. We've known each other for a while now, and I've seen you overworked before. This isn't overworked. It's upset and distracted and a little depressed, and I just thought that you might want to talk about it," Garcia told her gently.
"Garcia, it's nothing. Really. I'm fine. It's nothing to worry about," JJ attempted to reassure, her assertion sounding weak even to her own ears.
"Jayj, we both know that isn't true, so come on, talk to me," Garcia responded, the look of sympathy and concern on her face clearly intended to crumble JJ's reserve.
"There's no point," JJ replied flatly. "There is nothing to talk about, so there's no point going into it. Okay? So, just let it go, all right?"
"Something happened between you and Emily in Maine, didn't it?" Garcia continued in her line of questioning, hating to cause her friend any more pain, but knowing instinctively that JJ really did want to talk about it, whether she knew it herself or not.
"Garcia. Just drop it," JJ ordered, rising to walk over to stare at the row of books on the shelf opposite the door, her back to her inquisitioner.
"Before you guys left for Portland, you were getting along so well. You talked all the time, laughed, flirted. And no offense, but we could have run a couple of small appliances off the electricity between you," Garcia went on relentlessly.
At her friend's words, JJ twisted around, blonde hair swinging in a graceful arch as she turned. Her face was white and her expression shocked and embarrassed.
"You knew? Did everyone know?" She croaked softly.
"JJ. We're family. We know each other. We spend eighty percent of our lives together. It would have been hard not to notice," Garcia said tenderly, walking over to grip JJ's forearms, which she had wrapped tightly across her chest. "I don't know about Hotch, because he doesn't talk about things like that, but Morgan and Reid and I could tell that something was happening.
"And we were so happy for you, JJ. Honest. I know Emily hasn't been here all that long, but we think she's pretty fantastic, and you deserve someone fantastic. You both do."
JJ took a deep breath, her blue eyes fluttering shut. She should have known that the team would have been aware, but she had foolishly thought that they could hide it, or at least that she could.
"JJ? What happened? You two have barely spoken since you got back, and Derek said that you both seemed really upset while you were there. Not that it affected your job performance. He was really impressed with both of you during that case," Garcia rushed to reassure, seeing the look of resignation in JJ's eyes.
"I really don't want to talk about it," JJ answered, dropping her head and staring at the tan carpeted floor.
This time, Garcia didn't push, just took a few steps back and settled on the corner of JJ's desk, her expression patient. She knew that the silence would provide more pressure to speak than any more pleas on her part.
After just a few minutes, JJ heaved a shuddering sigh. When she raised her head, Garcia could see the tears shimmering in her sapphire eyes.
"I never intended for any of this to happen. I never imagined myself falling in love with another woman. I just didn't seem to be able to stop it," JJ began, her words clearly as much for her own benefit as Garcia's. "Ever since she joined the team, there's been something about her, something I couldn't figure out and I needed to, you know?
"She walked in off a desk job, only to be surrounded by serial killers and mutilated corpses and yet, it didn't seem to faze her, and I wanted to know how she did it. It took a while, but I began to see that it did bother her, she had just learned not to show it. I realized that underneath, there was this really vulnerable side to her, this damaged part that she doesn't let anyone see," JJ's words tumbled out of her, as if the floodgates had been released on a dam.
"I know that we're all a little damaged on this team, and maybe we need to be to do what we do, day in, but I felt this overwhelming urge to wrap her up, to protect her, even though she needs less protection than any woman I know. And then, I started wondering what it would be like, to be able to touch her, to kiss her, and by then there was no hope of stopping the way I felt.
"The way I feel," JJ finished softly, the tears by now streaming soundlessly down her cheeks.
Garcia didn't speak, merely crossing to JJ's side and wrapping her arms around her friend. JJ turned her face into Garcia's shoulder and for just a moment, just let the tears flow. Soon, though, she pushed back a bit and wiped the moisture from her face.
"I'm sorry. I hate to cry in front of people," JJ muttered, pulling a Kleenex from a box on her bookcase.
"Yeah, well then, it's a good thing that I'm not people. I'm your friend," Garcia answered, her own eyes a little misty at having forced JJ to talk about this. And they weren't done.
"So, what happened in Portland? I mean, it was pretty obvious that Emily felt the same way," Garcia probed, hating herself at the expression on JJ's face.
"We kissed," JJ said so softly that Garcia moved closer to hear her. When she didn't continue, Garcia prompted her again.
"To anyone on the planet, kissing Emily Prentiss would not be considered a bad thing, JJ. Did something else happen?"
"Emily said that maybe we should talk about it and I told her that was the last thing we should do," JJ told her, a tone Garcia didn't recognize in her voice.
"Why?" Garcia asked, a frown creasing the skin on her forehead.
"Because if we didn't talk about it, then we didn't have to decide that it wouldn't work. If we just pretended it didn't happen, then we could just go on the way things were, and then there was always this hope that maybe one day it would be all right," JJ explained, knowing as the words left her lips how ridiculous and fearful they were.
"JJ, what are you talking about?" Garcia queried, her expression confused.
"I'm talking about the fact that the Agency doesn't look kindly on inter-unit relationships and it definitely doesn't look kindly on inter-unit, same sex dating. Plus there's the effect it would have on the team, having two of its members involved," JJ responded, trying to sound responsible and failing.
"JJ, having two members very unhappily uninvolved is having a hell of a lot more effect on the team right now than it ever would with two members of the team happily involved. I promise," Garcia informed her. "Besides, like I said, we are family and family watch out for each other, have each others' backs. We would never let anything hurt either of you if we could help it."
"Well, it doesn't make any difference now," JJ stated sadly.
"JJ. Are you in love with Emily?" Garcia asked quite matter-of-factly.
For a long moment, JJ didn't answer. Finally she spoke, her voice nearly a whisper.
"Yes, I'm in love with Emily."
"And I feel fairly confident in stating that Emily is in love with you," Garcia continued.
"It doesn't matter," JJ began, only to be harshly interrupted by Garcia. She stepped close to JJ, her face incredulous and a little angry.
"Doesn't matter? JJ, it's the only thing that does matter," Garcia's glasses glinted in the light from the desk lamp. "There are people who wait their entire lives to find someone to love, and never find that person.
"Are you really that arrogant and self-contained that you would throw away something so valuable? Are you really that ungrateful that you would refuse such an amazingly precious gift?"
JJ met Penelope's stern gaze, humbled by the accusations of her friend.
"If you are, then I guess I don't really know you at all," Garcia stated with finality, turning to cross to the door. "If you aren't, then I suggest that you get your ass up to DC and talk to Emily before it's too late."
The sound of the door clicking shut released another torrent of tears down the perfect curve of JJ's cheeks.
As usual, Garcia the All Knowing was right, and JJ couldn't help but chuckle through her tears at the realization.
The lights of the city were a constantly moving stream of red and white, of yellow and pale orange, that gleamed against the murky grayish sky and the flat blackness of asphalt. From her living room, Emily Prentiss could see the white dome of the Capitol Building and the tall obelisk that stood as monument to a fabled hero.
At this distance, the capital city looked pristine, graceful and powerful, its marble edifices speaking of the nobility of its people and their love of beauty. From here, there was no corruption, no greed, no evil, only a decent, God-fearing people struggling to do their best.
That was why she had chosen this apartment. Everyday she witnessed the dirt, the filth, the apathy, ignorance, corruption and greed of the human soul. She needed to be able to stand here at night and see only the promise, only the goodness, even it she knew it was merely a mirage, a trick of the lights.
It was almost eight. She had ordered Japanese takeout, despite the fact that she wasn't particularly interested in eating these days. She knew she needed to, so she did.
The story of her life really. Doing what she was supposed to do, even when it stuck like a stale crust of bread in her throat, because that was what people expected of her, and Emily hated to disappoint. She was supposed to respect JJ's wishes and walk away and so she had. It was all she could do. That knowledge didn't make it hurt any less.
The knock on the door brought her back to the present. She grabbed her wallet off the hall table, expecting the delivery guy. It wasn't him.
JJ stood awkwardly in the doorway, her coat unbuttoned, her cheeks flushed from the cold wind that had been whipping through the city all day. Her eyes were clouded and for a moment, Emily had the sensation of watching a frightened deer, ready to bolt at the slightest movement.
"Hi," JJ murmured, every line of her body uncertain. "Can I come in?"
Drawing in a deep breath, Emily simply stepped aside, not trusting her voice to speak.
"I know it's getting late and I know I should have probably called, but I was hoping that we could talk for a minute," JJ explained, standing diffidently in the middle of the living room.
"It's fine," Emily managed, her eyes greedily taking in the beauty of JJ's face, cheeks pink, eyes a dark blue. "I'm sorry about that," she said, gesturing to the door, "but I was expecting you to be the Japanese delivery man."
"No, it's okay. Like I said, I should have called," JJ said nervously, a part of her regretting following Garcia's advice. But another, much larger part of her knew that this was the only right decision she had made in three weeks.
They both spoke at once, embarrassed laughter following.
"Please, Emily, just let me say what I need to say and then I'll leave you alone, all right?" JJ asked earnestly.
"You don't have to go," Emily said a little too quickly. "Just tell me what you want to say."
"I was wrong," JJ admitted, an expression of deep sorrow on her face. "I was so scared of what I was feeling and so terrified of what it meant in terms of the team and our careers, that I let those fears overwhelm me and I stupidly pushed you away.
"I don't usually allow my fears to control my decisions, but this time I did, and I am so sorry, Emily. The last thing I ever, ever want to do is hurt you, and I know I did. I'm just hoping that you can forgive me and give me another chance, because the truth is, I'm in love with you and that isn't going to change any time soon."
Emily didn't respond immediately, her eyes on the fine grain of the hardwood floor beneath her feet. She could sense JJ's trepidation, but she needed a minute to slow her heart, which had begun racing at the blonde's words and quiet the butterflies that began a whirl wind in her stomach.
Raising her head, Emily met JJ's worried gaze, a slow smile spreading across her lips.
"You're in love with me?" Emily asked, a tone of wonder and amusement in her voice. She stepped toward JJ, coming to a stop a few inches from the lovely blonde.
"Yeah," JJ assented, clearly distracted by the lanky brunette's proximity. "Is that okay with you?"
"That's okay with me. Actually, it's more than okay. It's pretty damn wonderful, to tell the truth," Emily murmured, slipping her arms around JJ and pulling her close.
"I don't suppose that you're in love with me, too, are you?" JJ asked, all the muscles in her body relaxing for what seemed like the first time in nearly a month as she returned Emily's embrace.
"You would suppose correctly, Agent Jareau," confirmed Agent Prentiss, carefully lowering her head to JJ's.
This time there was no hesitation, no fear. Their lips met sweetly, tenderly, a warm, slow caress that went on for several minutes. Only the sharp rap of knuckles on the door caused Emily to raise her head.
"Japanese?" JJ asked, smiling broadly. "Did you get any cucumber and avocado rolls?"
"I might have," Emily laughed, pulling back a little from JJ, but capturing the blonde's hand in hers. "But you know, I love my cucumber/avocado rolls. What kind of payment were you thinking of offering in return for my sharing them with you?"
"I just gave you my heart," JJ chuckled, her eyes an amazing shade of blue. "What else do I have to offer?"
The less than subtle, rather wicked gleam in Emily's dark eyes and the smile that graced her full lips were more than answer enough.
"Ah. Well, then, if that's what you have in mind, Agent Prentiss, I'm sure we can work out some sort of mutually beneficial deal," JJ assured her, turning without another word to make her way over to the staircase that lead to Emily's bedroom. She paused halfway up, a very sexy smile directed at Emily.
When the delivery man returned to the small takeout restaurant a few blocks from Emily's apartment, he made the owner promise him that any future deliveries to that apartment would be his. Turning away with a smile, he pocketed the twenty dollar tip the beautiful brunette had thrust in his hand as she grabbed the bags of food and slammed the door shut. As he left, he had distinctly heard the sound of bare feet running across hardwood floors and women laughing.
A/N: The quote made by Judge Tremblay is from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, Act III, Scene 1. The title of the story comes from this quote.
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