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Take My Hand and Show Me the Way
Part Two

By mel

 

1

Emily sighed as she dropped heavily into her seat beside JJ on the team's jet. It was late on a Friday afternoon, and she'd been looking forward to a calm, quiet, relaxing weekend with her girlfriend. Instead, they were waiting to take off and leave the East Coast entirely to work a case in Portland, Oregon. For what, none of them were sure because the call had gone directly to Hotch, and he had just told them to get on the plane and they'd brief once they were in the air. But if the call went over JJ, they all knew that it meant that whatever it was, it wasn't going to be good.

"I just wanted to stay home this weekend," Emily muttered under her breath as she scrubbed her hands over her eyes. JJ had moved in with her a couple weeks ago, and she had really been hoping that this would be the weekend that they finally spent the entire weekend in their home together. With no work. And, ideally, little to no clothing.

JJ smiled and reached out to squeeze Emily's leg. "I know. Me too," she said, never once looking away from the file she was reading that contained details of another case in another state that she'd already decided she would have to hand over to Reid for a consult. "I was looking forward to painting the office."

Emily smirked. "Okay, I'm kind of glad I'm missing out on that," she drawled, turning her head to look at JJ.

"Please," JJ scoffed. "We both know I would have been doing all the work anyways."

"I would have helped," Emily argued.

JJ looked up at Emily and rolled her eyes. "Yeah. After I threatened to withhold sex, maybe."

Emily's jaw dropped in horror. "Now that's just mean. Why would you do that?"

"Because it's the easiest way to guarantee that you'd help," JJ said matter-of-factly as she returned her attention to the file she was trying to finish reading.

"Help with what?" Morgan asked as he slid into the window seat across the table from the Communications Liaison.

"Painting the office," JJ said distractedly, sticking a yellow post-it onto a page and scribbling a note on it.

"And what would you do to guarantee she'd help?" he asked.

"It's more like what she wouldn't do," Emily muttered.

Morgan gave his partner a look of pure disbelief. "She would really threaten you with that to make you paint?"

Emily arched a brow and nodded. "Apparently so."

"Guys, I am sitting right here," JJ drawled, smirking as she looked up from her work.

"Yeah. But that's just mean," Morgan told JJ.

"See!" Emily said, waving a hand at Morgan indicatively, obviously pleased that somebody was on her side. "Mean."

"What's mean?" Reid asked as he took the fourth and final seat at their table.

"Withholding sex," Emily answered.

Reid looked at Morgan and Emily. "Who's withholding sex?"

"Nobody is withholding sex, Spence," JJ sighed as she gave up on working for the time being and tossed the file she'd been reading onto the table. "These two are just appalled by the idea that I may threaten to withhold sex to get Emily to help me paint the office."

"Oh." Reid nodded thoughtfully as he worked the strap of his worn leather satchel off over his head. "Well, I imagine that would be a perfectly logical motivator."

JJ smiled. "Thank you. See, it's a perfectly logical motivator."

Emily popped up out of her chair and smacked Reid over the head with a file. "You suck."

JJ picked up the file she had been reading moments before and smacked Emily in the arm with it. "Be nice to Spence."

Morgan reached for a file to defend Emily's honor but both the brunette and JJ looked at him and said, "Don't you dare."

"Damn," he muttered, slumping back in his seat.

"Do I need to start handing out time-outs again?" Hotch asked in a tired voice as he climbed on board the jet. It had been a long week, and while he didn't know exactly what 'the kids' had been up to, he could tell from the way that Morgan was pouting and Reid was rubbing the top of his head, that something had happened.

"No, sir," the group mumbled.

"Good. Because Portland PD's going to need all of us on this one."

"Yes, sir," the group answered.

"What's going on?" Rossi asked as he entered the cabin to find Hotch glaring impressively at Prentiss, Morgan, Reid, and JJ.

"I don't know," Hotch muttered.

Rossi nodded thoughtfully as he scanned the group for the weak link. Not that he needed to look hard; he always ended up in the same place. "Reid?"

"JJ is threatening…" Reid started to answer automatically before Emily kicked him under the table. "Ow," he whined as he gave Emily a pitiful look.

Emily just pursed her lips and shook her head.

"I don't know, sir," Reid finished lamely.

Hotch shook his head, and Rossi had to turn around to hide his smile.

"Well, how about if, for now, we focus on Portland's problem," Hotch said, directing his team's attention back to the actual matter at hand. "Jason Gray was out for a run with his dog this morning when she disappeared off the path in front of him. When he eventually caught up to her, she was nosing around at this," he said, dropping an 8x10 glossy of a partially buried dismembered leg sticking out of a black trash bag.

Any and all thoughts of childish bickering disappeared as the group sat up straighter in their seats to have a look.

"So the dog didn't dig it up?" Morgan asked.

"It doesn't look like it. Looks like scavengers found it and opened it up," Rossi answered as he turned back to the discussion.

"This leg belongs to a female," Emily said as she studied the picture carefully. "Did they find any more of her, or was this it?"

Hotch handed the astute brunette a file first before handing them out to the rest of the team. "The entire body was recovered. As were four others. All female. Ages at this point are undetermined"

"All dismembered?" Reid asked as he took his copy of the file from the Unit Chief.

"Yes." Hotch nodded gravely. "The Medical Examiner has called in a local forensic anthropologist to consult on estimating a post mortem interval for each of the victims."

Emily sighed. "PMI is tough when they're buried in plastic like this. We're going to have a huge window."

"Exactly," Hotch agreed.

"From the condition of this leg," Reid murmured, tilting his head as he studied the gruesome photograph, "it looks like there should be enough left to try and determine a cause of death. Toxicology might be helpful."

"Unless he dismembered them while they were still alive," Morgan muttered.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Hotch interjected. "They're working triple-time to try and have something useful for us by the time we touch down, so I want all of you to be ready to hit the ground running. We'll all be heading out to the crime scene."

"All of us, sir?" Emily spoke up, casting a quick look in JJ's direction.

"Yes. The media have picked up on this story and have swarmed the site. JJ, I'm going to need you to try and get control of what they know and are reporting. I don't want too much information out there until we have a better idea of what is going on."

JJ nodded. "You got it."

"Good. When I spoke to him, the pilot said he should be able to pick up a decent tail wind, so we'll be there in a little less than four hours. Study, sleep, and get ready to scramble. This one is going to be a circus," Hotch said as he moved to the small table at the other end of the plane from the group.

"I think I would have rather painted the office," Emily muttered as she opened the file she'd been given and began reading.


Morgan groaned as he climbed out of the SUV that he'd driven out to the site. "Great. So we get to go hiking in the rain."

"Statistically speaking, it could have been worse," Reid piped up as he, too, climbed out of the vehicle. "July averages the least amount of rain for the region than any other month at point nine-one inches."

"So we're just lucky, then," Emily drawled from her position in the backseat. Her door was open, but she was not going to get out until Hotch and Rossi got there.

Reid frowned. "I'm not sure if lucky… you were being sarcastic."

"Very good, Reid," Emily chuckled.

"Be nice," JJ muttered from her position beside Emily. She was busy pouring through the latest details Garcia had sent over so that she was prepared to address the press, and was only half-paying attention to the bickering going on around her.

"How's it look?" Emily asked Morgan.

"Shouldn't be too bad," Morgan answered as he squinted up the dirt path that disappeared into the woods. "Hope Rossi isn't wearing new boots, though. It'll be muddy."

"We the only ones down here?" Emily asked as she turned around in her seat and pulled a pair of well-worn combat boots from her tactical bag.

"Pretty much," Morgan said, turning to his partner and giving her a wink. "We'll keep a look out for you."

"And that is why I love you," Emily drawled as she dropped her boots onto the floor and reached out to pull her door closed.

"What are you doing?" JJ asked, looking up in surprise when Emily's hand wrapped around her own.

"This," Emily said, leaning in and kissing JJ softly.

JJ smiled into the kiss and moaned softly when their tongues met in a slow, familiar dance between them. "Hmm. What was that for?"

"Just don't know when I'm going to get a chance to do that again," Emily replied as she kissed JJ again tenderly. "I love you."

JJ smiled. This had become their routine whenever they started a new case. Not always the kiss, but the reaffirmation of their love. With the horrors the faced almost daily, it was a nice reminder that not everything in their lives was so full of darkness. "I love you too, Em. So, so much."

Emily smiled and rested her forehead against JJ's as she took a deep breath, holding the blonde's gaze captive as they sat in a comfortable silence until it was shattered by a quick rap against the window. "Showtime," Emily murmured. She pulled away from JJ, and glanced out the window to see Hotch and Rossi's SUV pull up beside them.

JJ reached out and pulled Emily to her for one last quick kiss. "Be safe. I'll see you later."

Emily smiled. "You too. I love you."

"Love you too," JJ said softly, biting her lip thoughtfully as she watched Emily toss her dress boots over her shoulder into the back of the SUV.

"Good luck out there," Emily said as she laced up her shoes. "You sure you don't want one of us to go with you?"

"Thank you, sweetie, but I'll be fine," JJ assured her. She smiled and leaned in to steal one last kiss, before she hopped out of the car and started toward the other end of the parking lot where the local police had quarantined the media.

"You good?" Morgan asked Emily when she eventually climbed out of the car.

Emily nodded. "Yup."

"Then let's go," Hotch announced as he started up the trail.


Emily looked around as they trudged down a slippery hillside that the continuous drizzle made more treacherous with every passing second. Hotch and Rossi were in the lead, followed by Morgan and Reid, with Emily bringing up the rear. The woods around them was a collection of blacks and grays, and at the bottom of the gorge there was a collection of florescent work lights, making the bodies of the techs and other personnel scouring the scene look like specters haunting the site. It was altogether eerie and beautiful, and something that, unfortunately, was entirely too familiar.

"Any word on if they've found more bodies?" Morgan asked, deftly reaching out and catching Reid before the awkward genius fell onto his backside and slid the rest of the way down the hill.

"Not that I've heard," Hotch answered, his eyes trained on the shifting earth beneath his feet as he sidestepped down the slope.

Morgan shot Emily a look over his shoulder and she nodded. She had a feeling they'd find more too.

"You okay, Reid?" Emily asked, shooting him a concerned look.

"Fine. Fine," Reid muttered.

"Looks like they haven't removed the remains yet," Morgan observed as they neared the bottom of the slope.

"Better for us," Rossi said, pushing ahead to get the first look at what their unsub had left for them. He lived for the puzzle, the hunt, and he had a feeling that this case was going to be a good one.

The team assembled themselves in a loose semi-circle around the collection of black trash bags. Some were ripped open, most likely by scavengers, while others showed the clean, crisp lines of being cut by a knife or scissors. No matter how they were opened, each of the twenty bags revealed a similar sight. A bruised and lacerated leg, foot attached, some toenails painted, some not, severed at the head of the femur and again at the knee and stuffed into a bag in two pieces. An arm, also bruised and battered, complete and intact, severed neatly at the bulbous head of the humerus. An obviously female torso covered in cuts and burns. Not one of these women had died a peaceful death. Each and every one of them had been tortured extensively before they'd been killed.

"Agent Hotchner," a gruff voice interrupted their thoughts. The team looked up to see a beast of a man, who looked more like a lumberjack than a detective, approach them. "Bill Hanson. Thanks for coming out here."

"Of course," Hotch said as he shook the burly man's hand.

"Where are the heads?" Reid asked.

"Haven't found them yet," Hanson answered. "Our guys scouring the woods around here with cadaver dogs looking for them, but we haven't found anything yet."

The team shared a look and Emily said what they were all thinking. "Do you think he keeps the heads as trophies?"

Hotch looked down at the collected body-parts and sighed. "Too early to say at this point," he said before he turned his attention to Hanson. "What can you tell us about this area?"

"Well," Hanson drawled with a shrug, "there are a handful of trails around here that all feed into each other that are popular with runners and hikers."

"Multiple possible points of entry," Morgan muttered.

"Is the lot we parked in, down the hill-" Reid pointed, "-the closest to this scene?"

"It is," Hanson confirmed.

"We walked at least a quarter-mile," Emily said. "He would have had to make multiple trips to get each of these bodies down here."

"I was told your medical examiner called in a forensic anthropologist," Hotch said. "Has he arrived?"

"She has. That's her down there," he said, pointing at a woman with a shock of gray hair who was bent over one of the gravesites. "Doctor Helena Wells."

Hotch nodded. "Right. Reid, Prentiss, I want you two to go talk to Doctor Wells and get her opinion of possible PMI so we have some kind of a window to get working with. Detective Hanson, when do you think these remains will be moved to a lab?"

"Hold on and let me find out for ya," Hanson said as he lifted his fingers to his lips and let loose a shrill whistle, causing every head to turn toward him. "Randy! C'mere!"

A bald-headed man who was standing beside the woman Hanson pointed out as Doctor Wells looked up and waved. The team watched him nod a greeting to Prentiss and Reid as they passed, and before long he was standing in front of them and pulling off the latex gloves he was wearing to shake their hands.

"Randy McMullen," he said as he shook first Hotch's hand, and then Rossi's and Morgan's.

"Doctor McMullen," Rossi said. "How much longer do you think you're going to leave these remains out here?"

"We thought you would want to see them as close to in situ as possible, so we left them here. Doctor Wells and I are ready to get working whenever you're finished," the medical examiner said.

"We appreciate the thought. You can call your team and have them start moving these out," Hotch said. "Do you think you'll be able to pull prints on any of them?"

"One for sure, possibly another, but the other two are showing signs of slipping so I don't know if I'm going to be able to get anything from them."

"All right. Let us know what you find," Hotch said. "Morgan, I want you, Reid, and Prentiss to check other possible entrances and exits to this area. Rossi and I will go back and meet up with JJ. We'll meet you three at the precinct when you're finished."

Morgan groaned inwardly at the thought of hiking around the park in the rain, even as he nodded his understanding. "You got it."

"Call us if you find anything," Hotch said as he waived Rossi along after him.

On the other side of the site, Emily looked up from her conversation with the forensic anthropologist to see Hotch and Rossi start back up the muddy slope to the main trail and she frowned thoughtfully even as Doctor Wells continued to rattle on about decomposition rates of buried limbs in the Pacific Northwest. She'd gotten the gist of the anthropologist's meaning after the first few minutes – there was no set table for decomposition and that she'd have to estimate based on past experience.

"I'm sorry, Doctor Wells," Emily said, interrupting the energetic woman's lecture about local scavengers. "When you have a window for PMI on each of these victims, could you just give me a call?" she asked, not really asking at all, as she handed the older woman her card.

"Of course, Agent Prentiss," Doctor Wells nodded as she pocketed the card.

"Thank you, Doctor," Emily said with the politically-distant smile she'd perfected years ago as she waved Reid to follow her.

"Does the anthro have anything for us?" Morgan asked as Emily and Reid ducked under the tarp that was protecting the remains.

"Not yet," Emily said, shaking her head for emphasis. "It's going to be a wide window for all of them, just like we expected."

Morgan ran his hand over his head and groaned. "Great."

"Exactly," Emily agreed.

"Where are Hotch and Rossi?" Reid asked as he curiously looked around the site.

"They went back to meet up with JJ and head over to the precinct. We're supposed to check the other trails that go in and out of here to see if our unsub might have used a different path than the one we took."

"Does Hotch really think he would have hiked farther than necessary with these remains?" Emily asked.

"I think he wants to cover all his bases because this thing is going to start out rough and only get rougher," Morgan replied sagely.

"Should we split up?" Reid asked.

Emily looked at Morgan and they both shook their heads, each of them knowing how awkward the genius was when he was outside and both of them more than appropriately afraid of JJ's reaction should he get hurt under their watch.

"Nah, Reid, we'll stick together," Morgan said, shaking his head as he started down the path to their left. They had a lot of ground to cover, they needed to get moving.

 

2

JJ bit her lip and looked out the tinted window of the SUV, watching the scenery pass by. Hotch was behind the wheel, and they were headed to the local precinct that they would be working out of for the duration of the case. Rossi was riding shotgun, which gave her the back seat to herself, and she was glad to be out of both of the profilers' line of observation for the time being. She did not know what it was about this case, but she was on edge. The idea of women being killed and dismembered was bad enough, but there was something else that had her worried. Call it gut instincts, call it intuition, call it whatever, she had a feeling about this case, and it was not a good one.

The press had been easy enough to manage since they had not been anywhere near the scene, and only had vague reports from officers who were either too shell-shocked or entirely too dim-witted to censor their remarks after they'd discovered the dismembered limbs. It took some smooth-talking and her trademark reassuring smile to make them believe her assurances that as soon as they had something that she'd hold a press conference sharing everything she knew, and that, for the time being, any and all details gleaned from the scene should be left out of their reports until the BAU team had a better idea of the unsub they were looking for.

All in all, it had been one of her more masterful performances, but she wished she could have seen Emily before she, Hotch, and Rossi had left the scene. She knew that Emily was busy, but she just felt like she needed to see her, to have that visual proof that Emily was okay.


Reid groaned as he slipped for the fifth time on the increasingly unstable path. They had been wandering the paths surrounding the dumpsite for well over an hour, but none of them had seen anything to suggest that the unsub had taken a route other than the one they'd originally guessed.

"Derek," Emily called out softly as she waited for Reid to regain his feet, knowing that he would recognize her use of his first name as a signal for them to head back. Yes, Hotch wanted to cover all his bases, but they were not getting anything from this, and the last thing they needed was for Reid to injure himself badly enough that they would have to call in a rescue unit to help them get him out of there.

Morgan nodded at his partner, a silent confirmation that he understood what she was saying, as he directed his attention to Reid. "How you doing, buddy?"

"Fine. Fine," Reid answered distractedly, obviously upset with himself for not being able to keep up.

Emily smiled softly at his feeble attempt to swipe the mud from the seat of his pants as she said, "Guys, I'm getting tired. How about we head back and leave the rest of this to the locals."

"Sounds good to me," Morgan answered breezily.

"Oh, okay. Yeah," Reid said, looking relieved that he hadn't been the first to admit that he wanted to leave.

Emily winked at Morgan and turned to head down the path that would eventually lead them around the north end of the dump site, where it would branch off onto the main path they'd taken to get up to the area from the parking lot. It was a hike, but at least now they had a destination in mind instead of wandering aimlessly around the woods, looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. A task made impossibly more difficult because they were doing it in the dark.

"So, why do you think he dismembers them?" Reid asked, his tone thoughtful, when they finally hit the paved end of the trail near the parking lot.

"Make ID more difficult. Obscure the cause of death," Emily said, offering two of the most popular reasons among serial killers for doing so.

"The bags are what get me," Morgan said as he climbed behind the wheel of their SUV. "The bodies would decompose so much faster without the bags protecting them. Especially with the weather being what it is up here."

"They were probably to help transport the remains. But why go through the hassle to dismember bodies at all, if you're just going to dump them in the middle of a heavily-traveled national park?" Reid said.

Emily nodded. "Exactly. There are acres upon acres of forest around here that don't get used nearly to the extent of this park. It's like he went through all the work of hiding how he killed these women and trying to disguise their identities, and then just dumped them in the middle of town for somebody to find."

"Arrogance?" Morgan offered with a shrug as he pulled onto the highway.

"Maybe," Emily agreed thoughtfully.


"Did you find anything?" Hotch asked without preamble as his three obviously tired, extremely muddy profilers trouped into the conference room JJ had secured for them at the back of the Beaverton Police Department.

Emily looked around the small space and sighed as she realized that JJ wasn't in the room. She had been looking forward to seeing JJ again, for no other reason than to reassure herself that the blonde was okay. "Nothing," she answered as she dropped into one of the old, tattered grey-blue swivel chairs that surrounded the rectangular conference table that anchored the room.

"He most likely used the same path we did to get to the site," Morgan added as he lowered himself into the chair to Emily's left. "The paths from the other parking lots were a lot steeper and he would have had to have walked at least twice as far."

"Thanks for checking on it," Hotch said, offering the trio a rare half-smile.

"How did JJ's press conference go?" Emily asked.

"Good," JJ answered as she swooped into the room, balancing two cardboard trays full of coffee in her hands.

"Oh, Jayje, I love you," Morgan groaned as he reached for one of the coffees. After traipsing around the woods for over an hour in the rain, the coffee smelled absolutely delicious.

"Yeah," Reid said as he reached for the white cup that had his name scribbled on the side.

Emily just smiled at JJ as she took her cup from the tray, telling the blonde with her eyes how thankful she was for the coffee and how much she truly did love her.

JJ returned Emily's smile, and felt the weight that had settled on her chest ever since they had separated at the scene lift when she saw for herself that Emily was okay. "You guys are acting like you've been out hiking in a rain-storm or something," she teased as she pulled her cup from the tray. She sat down in the chair to Emily's right, discreetly turning herself so she could run the top of her foot up the back of Emily's calf.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Morgan muttered. "Did you guys find out anything? Is there any word from the ME?"

"They're still transporting the remains to the morgue," Hotch shared as he took his coffee and handed one to Rossi. "Results probably won't be in until the morning. I thought we could run through what we have now, get a preliminary profile working, and then we can head over to the hotel for the night and everybody can go get some dinner. We'll hit this thing hard in the morning."

The team nodded their agreement and relaxed back in their chairs as Hotch picked up a black Expo marker and moved over to the whiteboard at the end of the table.

"So, what do we know?" Hotch asked, uncapping the pen and preparing to transcribe the team's thoughts onto the board.

"He has to be fit," Emily said. "Those bags were carried all the way down that hill into the gully. They weren't tossed or rolled down, which means he'd have to be able to traverse hilly, rocky terrain with them. Even if he took only one at a time to cut the weight of his load, that's still a lot of trips."

"He's familiar with the terrain," Morgan added. "He most likely runs or hikes in the park. Plus having the remains buried in the middle of it would allow him to visit the site whenever he wanted."

"The fact that he buried them in that particular park versus one that isn't used as heavily signifies either a disregard for police, or an arrogance that even if they were discovered, he wouldn't be caught," Reid piped up, elaborating on Morgan's theory from earlier.

"The missing heads are still bugging me," Emily said, bringing up what, to her, was the most disturbing part of this case so far.

"Maybe he disposed of them somewhere else on the idea that it would make identification more difficult," Rossi said.

"You'd think that, at that point, he'd take their hands as well," Reid said thoughtfully.

"We'll figure it out," Rossi said determinedly. "There's an understanding of human anatomy evident in the dismembered remains. The limbs were all severed neatly around the head of the femora and humeri. That takes knowledge and precision to execute."

"A doctor?" Emily mused.

"Nurse, physical therapist," Morgan added more possible professions that required knowledge of human anatomy.

"We may be on to something with that," Hotch said as he scribbled 'Medical Field?' onto the board.

"We'll know more after we get the autopsy reports in the morning, but for now this is something we can work with," he said as he pulled out his phone and pulled up Garcia's number. As the phone rang, he switched it to speaker and set it down on the middle of the table.

"You've reached Penelope Garcia in the FBI's Office of Supreme Genius."

Emily chuckled and took a drink of her coffee to hide her smile as Hotch rolled his eyes.

"Would it be too much for you to answer your phone normally?" Hotch asked.

"Yes, sir, I believe it would," Garcia answered cheerfully. "So, what can I do you for?"

"I need you to create a preliminary list of local medical professionals, both currently active and those who have had their licenses revoked, paying special attention to those in a surgical field."

"You think the whack-job doing this is a doctor?" Garcia squeaked.

"We don't know yet, baby girl," Morgan said as he leaned over the table. "Just see what you can dig up for us."

"For you, my chocolate Adonis, of course," Garcia replied sweetly. "You want me to send it to your PDA's when I got it?"

"That'll work," Hotch said with a nod. "Right now, we're waiting on autopsy reports to give us a better idea of what we're looking for, so we're going to head to the hotel, check-in, and grab some dinner. After you've compiled the list and sent it over, you can go home as well. We'll be starting bright and early tomorrow."

"Will do, oh captain my captain," Garcia chirped before hanging up.

Emily smiled and nodded. "I always liked that poem," she muttered.

"Whitman, right?" JJ murmured.

"Yes," Reid jumped in with an excited smile. "He actually wrote it after President Lincoln was assassinated. The multiple references to a 'fearful trip' are really about the Civil War and…"

"Thank you, Reid," Rossi interrupted the genius's lecture before he could really gather steam.

"Sorry," Reid apologized.

"Right," Hotch drawled as he turned to carefully set the marker he'd been holding down onto the tray on the whiteboard. "Let's get going."


JJ handed out the room keys with the smooth, effortless ease of a blackjack dealer in Vegas and after each of the guys had been handed a key and had meandered off to find their rooms, she turned to Emily and smiled. "You ready?"

Emily arched her brows questioningly and held out her hand, playfully wiggling her fingers at JJ. "Sure. Do I get a key?"

"Nope," JJ retorted with a toss of her hair as she turned toward the elevators. "You're with me."

Emily smiled and hurried into a half-jog to catch up to JJ so she could whisper in her ear, "I like the sound of that."

"Me too," JJ agreed softly, reaching out to give Emily's hand a quick squeeze as they joined Morgan and Reid at the elevators.

"You guys want to get some dinner after we ditch our gear?" Morgan asked.

"Sure," Reid answered automatically.

Emily looked at JJ and could see that while she would go, she would rather not. She could not tell if it was exhaustion or something else that was making JJ reluctant to go out with the guys, but she knew that if JJ wanted to stay in, she was more than willing to spend what was left of the evening alone with her. "I think we'll just order some room service or something," she said.

"No problem," Morgan drawled, giving Emily a knowing smirk as he sauntered into the elevator that had just arrived. "Reid, whatcha in the mood for?"

"I'm good with anything," Reid answered.

"Wanna just go grab a burger or something?" Morgan offered, glancing at his watch.

"Sounds good to me," Reid agreed as the elevator came to a stop at the third floor.

"You guys sure you want to stay in?" Morgan asked when the elevator stopped at their floor and they all spilled out of the car.

Emily nodded, glancing over at JJ, who still looked like there was something bothering her. It was subtle enough that she was certain she was the only one of the group to pick up on it, but it was there. "Yeah."

"All right. We'll see you bright and early," Morgan said, giving the couple a small wave as he stopped in front of his door. "Reid, I'll meet you back at the elevators in a couple minutes?"

Reid nodded and headed off down the hall in search of his own room, as JJ opened up hers and Emily's door that was directly across the hall from Morgan's.

"Goodnight," Emily said to her partner as she walked into their room. She closed and locked the door, and turned to find JJ sitting on the edge of the bed looking at her with worry-filled blue eyes. "What's wrong?" she asked gently as she dropped her bag beside the armoire and settled onto the bed beside the blonde.

JJ rolled her eyes, both loving and hating the fact that Emily could read her so well. She leaned in and wrapped her arms around Emily's neck, just wanting that tactile reassurance that Emily was safe, needing to feel the warmth of her lover in her arms. "I dunno," she murmured into the curve of Emily's neck. She sighed, a sense of calm sweeping over her as the familiar scent of Emily's shampoo surrounded her. "I just have a bad feeling about this one."

Emily sighed and wrapped her arms around JJ's waist, pulling her onto her lap as she pressed her lips to blonde silk. She could offer JJ general platitudes about how she would be safe and that everything would be fine, but she knew that sometimes there were cases that just felt wrong from their very outset, and she recognized the fact that this was just one of those cases for JJ. "Do you know why?"

"No. There's nothing but this sense of…"

"Wrongness," Emily offered knowingly.

JJ nodded. "Yes. Be careful out there?"

"I always am," Emily said, biting her lip at the feeling of JJ smiling against her neck. "Okay, I sometimes am. But I'll try my best this time so that way you don't have to worry."

"Thank you," JJ said softly.

"No problem, sweetheart," Emily murmured, sighing as she hooked her index finger under JJ's chin and lifted the blonde's lips to her own. "I love you," she whispered.

JJ hummed softly at the feeling of Emily's breath falling across her lips. "I love you," she breathed as she closed that final distance that was separating them to claim Emily's lips in a slow, lingering kiss.

Emily licked her lips when they eventually pulled apart, and reached up to tuck an errant strand of hair behind JJ's ear. "Why don't you go take a shower while I order us some dinner. We can see if there's a movie or something on while we eat," she said gently, wanting to see the blanket of fear that was clouding JJ's normally bright blue eyes disappear. "Then we can just cuddle in bed and go to sleep early."

JJ licked her lips and nodded, automatically getting to her feet and pulling her pajamas and toiletry kit from her bag. "That'll work. I'm not that hungry, so don't get me anything big," she said as she piled a pair of clean underwear onto her clothes.

"A sandwich? Salad?" Emily asked as she scanned through the room service menu.

"Sandwich would be good," JJ said, glancing over her shoulder at Emily as she dumped her stuff onto the bathroom counter. Her heart still felt heavy with dread and she could tell that Emily knew it as well. "You wanna join me?"

"You know I do," Emily said with a smile. "But you also know that I shouldn't."

JJ nodded. She did know that they shouldn't shower together, because a shared shower never ended with them just showering and that they had agreed to restrict themselves to first-base territory while they were out in the field. It was their way of upholding their promise to Hotch to remain professionals while they were representing the FBI and the BAU out in the field. But a larger part of her did not particularly care about professionalism at the moment. In this moment, she wasn't SSA Jareau asking SSA Prentiss, she was simply JJ, asking her girlfriend to make her feel safe. "Please?"

Emily could see that JJ really did need her, so she nodded. "Just let me place this order and I'll be in there."

JJ smiled. "Thank you."

Emily bit her lip as she got to her feet and crossed the small room to where JJ was leaning against the bathroom doorframe. "No thanks necessary," she whispered, noticing the way JJ's shoulders seemed to relax as she reached out to cradle her face in her palm. "Go get the shower started, babe. I'll be right there," she said softly, punctuating her gentle command with a chaste, tender kiss, stepping back after a moment and allowing JJ to disappear into the bathroom.

She picked up the phone to the sound of the shower turning on, and she rubbed her hand over her face as she placed their order, nodding to herself as she listened to it repeated back to her. "If nobody answers the door, could you please just leave the cart in the hall? … Perfect," she sighed, nodding again. "No, that is all. Thank you."

Emily carefully set the handset into its cradle. She quickly stripped off her clothes, taking the time to fold them neatly and set them on the dresser, before she padded into the bathroom. The large plate-glass mirror above the sink was already beginning to fog as she crossed the small space, and when she pulled back the shower curtain, she was hit first with a wall of steam, and then the realization that JJ was standing beneath the beating spray, her arms wrapped around her waist, crying.

"Oh sweetie," she murmured as she hopped into the tub, yanking the curtain closed behind herself. She pulled JJ into her, one hand wrapping around the younger woman's waist and the other tangling itself in the blonde's wet hair. "Baby, baby," she groaned, rocking them both gently from side to side. "What's wrong, Jen?"

JJ's arms snaked under Emily's, and she clung desperately to her. "I don't know," she answered in a quiet, broken voice.

Emily swallowed thickly, and pulled JJ in closer, blinking back her own tears as she held JJ. She rubbed her hands up and down JJ's back, her fingers gliding effortlessly over smooth, wet skin as she continued to rock lightly from one foot to the other. She pressed her lips against JJ's ear, murmuring nonsensical words of reassurance until the younger woman's crying eventually began to ease. "Better?" she asked hesitantly.

JJ bit her lip and nodded. "Sorry."

"Never be sorry for feeling, Jennifer," Emily murmured, pulling back and gently wiping JJ's tears away.

"I don't know why I just started crying," JJ said, looking off to the side embarrassedly. "I never just lose it like this in the beginning of a case."

"Every case is different," Emily said gently. "Look at me, Jennifer," she urged, smiling softly when watery blue eyes landed on her own. "I promise you, I will be careful. We will catch this guy, and then we'll be back home before you know it, arguing over paint colors and you pointing out all the spots I missed because it was my first time ever painting anything that wasn't a canvas."

JJ laughed softly and nodded. "I know."

Emily smiled and dipped her head to capture JJ's lips in a slow, sweet kiss. "I love you, Jennifer," she breathed, kissing her again softly for emphasis.

JJ nodded and lifted her chin to claim Emily's lips in another kiss. "Show me?"

She was answered with a low groan as strong hands curved around her hips and spun her around so that her back was pressed against the cold tile wall. Her head fell back with a quiet thud as Emily lifted her left leg up over the brunette's hip and then deft, masterful fingers were sliding through her, rubbing light circles against her clit. She moaned softly and rocked her hips into the touch, wanting more, needing to be consumed by Emily.

Emily peppered JJ's neck with soft nips, licks, and kisses as her fingers rubbed, circled, pinched below. She would occasionally dip her fingers down to gather more arousal before returning to JJ's clit and spreading it around, teasing the bundle of nerves from its hood until every touch sent electric shivers through JJ's body.

"Please, Em," JJ begged, rocking her hips into Emily's fingers. "Oh god, baby, yes," she sighed when long fingers pressed inside her, stroking slow and deep, curling, twisting, and scissoring until she could think of nothing but Emily. Could feel nothing but the pleasure Emily was giving her.

It was everything she needed.

"I have you, sweetie," Emily husked against JJ's mouth, punctuating her statement by flicking her tongue over the blonde's lips. "I love you so very much, Jennifer," she murmured, kissing her softly.

JJ groaned as Emily's words pushed her over the edge, sending slow rolling waves of release coursing through her body. It wasn't the most powerful orgasm she'd ever had, but it was everything she needed in that moment. Love. Reassurance. Safety. Warmth. Emily. She buried her face in the crook of Emily's neck and sighed. "I love you," JJ whispered, her words falling in hot waves over Emily's skin.

Emily smiled softly, dropping a lingering kiss to JJ's brow. "I love you too, Jennifer. I love you too."

 

3

Emily smiled as she leaned back against the dresser, which gave her a perfect view into the dressing area of their bathroom, and watched JJ lean closer to the large mirror to put the finishing touches on her makeup for the day. She bit her lip as blue eyes studied a beautiful face for any imperfections, and she had to fight the urge to close the small distance separating them and wrap her arms around her. She wanted to do it, to wrap her arms around that tiny waist she so adored and nuzzle her lips against the side of JJ's neck, but she knew she that this was not the time. But that didn't stop her from wishing she could. Or thinking about it, and many other things. Like the shower they had shared the night before, full of lingering, comforting touches, and soft, reassuring kisses meant to soothe rather than arouse. She loved making love to JJ, but she also cherished the part of their relationship that allowed them to reassure the other with a touch, a kiss. The shower had done wonders for easing JJ's unease and, after dinner, they'd fallen into bed, JJ's head resting comfortably on her chest. It did not take long for JJ to fall asleep, her hand twisted into the material of Emily's sleep shirt as if to make sure that Emily wouldn't leave her.

Unbeknownst to Emily, JJ had noticed that she was being watched not long after she'd started applying her makeup. She purposefully lingered at the vanity, taking more time with her routine than usual as she surreptitiously watched Emily out of the corner of her eye. JJ loved the way the profiler's eyes would grow warm and distant the longer she watched her, and, as this was a fairly regular occurrence for them, she could not help but wonder what, exactly, her girlfriend was thinking about when she got like that.

Emily knew that she was caught the moment she saw JJ lick her lips seductively into the mirror, but she didn't move an inch. She just watched, enjoyed the show, and thought to herself, I'm gonna marry that girl someday.

JJ couldn't put her finger on what had changed about Emily's demeanor, but she could tell that an unmistakably serious thought just floated through her lover's head. "Penny for your thoughts?" she asked softly as she started repacking her makeup bag in case they had to leave quickly later.

"They're worth a lot more than that, Jennifer," Emily murmured, her voice warm and smooth as honey.

The tenor of Emily's voice drew JJ's attention away from her makeup kit, and her breath caught in her throat when her gaze landed on a pair of smoldering mahogany eyes. "Em?"

Emily smiled and shook her head. She was not ready to share her thoughts just yet. "We need to get going soon," she said softly.

Knowing that Emily would tell her when the brunette was ready, JJ nodded. "That's fine. I'm done."

"Then come here," Emily said, pushing herself up onto her feet and holding her arms out invitingly.

JJ bit her lip and walked into Emily's embrace, sighing contentedly as strong arms wrapped around her. Her worries from the night before were still there, lurking in the back corner of her mind, but they were put at ease by the feeling of warm hands flush against her back and soft lips pressed against her forehead. "I love you," she whispered.

Emily smiled and pulled back enough to look into JJ's eyes as she murmured, "I love you too, sweetheart."


The Beaverton Police Department was abuzz with activity due to the shift change that was taking place. JJ shook her head as she was jostled, yet again, by an unseeing patrol officer as she carried two cups of coffee back to the conference room where the team was gathered. She pushed the levered door handle down with her elbow, eased the door open with her shoulder, and sighed with relief when she escaped the hub of activity outside.

The team was gathered around the table, each of them focused on the list of doctors and other medical professionals that Garcia had sent over, trying to see if there was anyone who stood out as a potential unsub. So far, they had found nothing, and they all knew that they needed something more to give them an idea of how to find their unsub.

That something came in the form of a name an hour and a half later, when the Medical Examiner's report came over the fax machine. Two names, actually, that belonged to two of the women recovered.

The reports were predictably detailed. Every cut, bruise, burn, and wound was recorded and catalogued to show the extreme torture and horror the women suffered. In fact, it appeared that the only indignity not forced upon them was rape – not one of the women showed signs of being sexually violated.

"So his enjoyment is the pain itself," Rossi murmured as he closed his file thoughtfully.

Hotch nodded. "Garcia ran the names of the two women identified and got us a rough timeline. Molly Warner was reported missing three weeks ago, Trinity Tucker was reported missing one week ago. As they were the two fresher bodies out there, we can assume that he keeps them for a while before killing them."

"Any PMI from the forensic anthropologist?" Morgan asked.

"Her report is at the back of the file," Reid answered helpfully. "Her best estimation has Molly Warner's PMI at anywhere from one to two weeks. For Trinity Tucker she estimates somewhere from one to four days."

"What about the other women?" Emily asked, as she flipped to the back of her file to see the report Reid was referring to.

"Jane Doe 1 had a window of anywhere from four to six weeks, and Jane Doe 2 had a PMI window of five to nine weeks," Reid reported from memory.

"Makes sense," Emily murmured. She frowned thoughtfully and flipped to the pictures at the front of the file. "This level of torture takes time. It's not something that can be done in a few hours."

"So he pretty much dumps one and picks up another," Morgan added. "Do you think he has another woman right now?"

Rossi nodded. "I would say the odds of that are very high, yeah."

JJ looked at the pre-mortem photographs of their two identified victims that Garcia had sent over, and realized why she had had such a bad feeling about this case. Each of the women had alabaster skin, expressive brown eyes, and shoulder-length dark brown, almost black, hair.

"You know, these girls look an awful lot like Prentiss," Morgan said. He tossed his file onto the table, and glanced around the group to see if anyone else had noticed the resemblance as he picked up the photographs of the two women they now had identities for.

Hotch had seen the realization hit JJ before Morgan had mentioned it, and he pursed his lips thoughtfully as he quickly considered what extra precautionary measures the team would need to take. He caught Rossi's eye across the table and nodded minutely, each man understanding that they would need to keep an eye on Prentiss during this case and, by default, JJ as well.

The Unit Chief cleared his throat as he looked away from his friend to focus the weight of his attention on the two women sitting at the table. "Yes. There is enough of a resemblance between these two victims to assume that our unsub has a definite type that he focuses on."

JJ bit her lip to keep from saying anything. She knew that this happened. That there were times when members of the team would be a match for an unsub's victimology – more often than not she was the type the killer preferred, there was something about blonde-haired, blue-eyed women that seemed to attract a lot of attention – but knowing that it happened didn't mean that she had to be happy about it. This was her Emily they were talking about.

The resemblance had not escaped Emily either, and she sighed as she felt JJ tense up beside her. But, before she could do or say anything to reassure her, Hotch spoke up.

"Emily, just to be safe, you're not to go anywhere on your own for this case."

Emily shrugged and nodded her understanding. They only split-up in extreme circumstances anyways, so she was not terribly offended by the protective gesture. Lord knows she had done more than her share of looking out for JJ over the years when the blonde fit the victimology profile.

"Right, I want to make sure the families of these women know what happened before their names hit the press. Prentiss, JJ, take the Warners," Hotch said, wisely pairing the two women together so JJ could feel as if she were protecting Emily. "Morgan, you and Rossi take the Tuckers. Reid, I want you trying to figure out a geographical profile. I'll work with Garcia to compile a list of missing persons who match the profile of the other victims that were reported around the windows for our Jane Does and also any and all missing persons from the area that have been reported in the last few days that also match."

The team broke apart, JJ and Emily walking out of the room with Morgan and Rossi as the foursome headed toward the teams SUVs that were parked out front. JJ climbed into the passenger seat of the second car, and watched as Emily rounded the front of the vehicle and climbed behind the wheel.

It was obvious to Emily that JJ was on edge, but she also knew that the blonde needed to come to terms with her thoughts before they could really talk about them. It was one thing to walk into a case recognizing the evil inherent in the acts and doing everything in your power to stop the monster responsible for them, but it was quite another to walk willingly into the lion's den knowing that the person you loved could conceivably be the monster's next victim. Emily had been forced to work through this emotional dilemma on their last case in Arizona, where the victims were all blonde-haired, blue-eyed, women, but this was JJ's first time having to deal with the harsh reality that there would be times when Emily might be in more danger than the rest of the team, simply because of her appearance.

They had been driving for perhaps five minutes when JJ finally spoke, shattering the silence that had surrounded them. "You look just like those women."

Emily nodded. There was no point denying it. "I do," she agreed softly.

JJ bit her lip and nodded. Part of her was glad that Emily wasn't trying to downplay the resemblance, but it did nothing to ease the fear that had coiled itself around her heart. "I don't like it."

Emily sighed under her breath and she reached across the console, palm up, waiting for JJ to take her hand. When JJ did, she lifted their joined hands to her lips and pressed a soft kiss to the back of JJ's knuckles. "I know, sweetheart. But I will be careful, just like I promised you last night."

"I know. I just can't… I don't know what I'd do if I lost you."

"You're not going to lose me," Emily soothed. "Jennifer, I'm right here, sweetheart."

JJ closed her eyes and nodded. She knew that Emily had promised to be careful, and that Hotch had all but ordered the brunette not to go anywhere alone, but that didn't make her worry any less. She had learned early on in her tenure at the BAU to trust her gut – and her gut was not liking this case one bit. "I love you."

"I love you too, Jen." Emily smiled sadly and brushed her lips over JJ's knuckles. "It'll be fine. I'll be fine. We'll find this guy and be back in D.C. before you know it."

JJ licked her lips and nodded minutely as she closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the headrest. "I hope you're right."


Emily took a deep breath and held it for a minute before she lifted her hand and delivered three hard, quick knocks to the Warners' front door. This was the part of her job that she hated. She absolutely loathed showing up at a victim's family's home and telling them that their loved-one was, indeed, gone. She offered the gray-haired man who opened the door her best warm-yet-distant smile, her instincts telling her that he was Molly Warner's father. The man was dressed in a pair of jeans that were well-kept and clean but slightly baggy, indicating that he had lost weight recently, and it didn't take her experience as a profiler to guess that the cause of that weight loss was worry over his daughter. At least now he did not have to worry any more. That thought was in no way a consoling one, because the fact remained that Molly Warner was dead, her body currently arranged on an autopsy table like a jigsaw puzzle, but it was all that was left.

"How can I help you?" the man asked, as he eyed the women on his porch with a skeptical eye.

Emily cleared her throat. "Michael Warner?"

"Yes."

"Mr. Warner, I'm Emily Prentiss," she said, flipping her badge open to show him her ID, "and this is Jennifer Jareau. Sir, we're with the FBI."

"Is this about my Molly?"

"Yes sir, it is. Would it be okay if we came inside?" Emily asked gently.

He nodded and backed away from the door. "Of course. Should I get my wife?"

"Yes, sir," JJ answered, her voice warm and soothing as she gave the man a small, sad smile. "It would be best if we could speak to both of you at the same time."

"Right. Well, if you could just wait here, I'll go get her. She's in the kitchen," he said, turning on his heel and leaving the agents standing in the foyer.

JJ and Emily silently looked around, their eyes taking in the dust on the furniture, the collection of pictures of Molly that were spaced around the entry. From the pictures they could tell that Molly was an only child, a very loved, cherished, and slightly spoiled – if the pictures of the girl sitting on the hood of a shiny red convertible were any indication – only child, and that made the news they were about to deliver that much more difficult.

"Molly?" a quiet, hopeful voice asked from behind Emily, and when the brunette turned with a sad smile on her face, she saw Molly Warner mother's face crumble.

"No ma'am," Emily answered respectfully with a small shake of her head. "My name is Emily Prentiss, I'm a profiler with the FBI."

"Jane Warner. You're a profiler," Jane Warner repeated, her eyes growing confused. "Do you know what happened to Molly?"

Emily bit her lip and nodded. "We do. Perhaps we should sit down?" she suggested, waving a hand at the living room that was just to their left.

"Of course," Jane Warner said softly as she shuffled into the room, lowering herself carefully to the very edge of a cushion on an outdated floral print sofa. "Where's Molly?" she asked, looking up at the two women who were looking down at her with pity evident in their eyes.

Emily looked at JJ for support before she answered, drawing strength from her lover's gaze. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but Molly's body was found last night off a hiking trail in Everwood Park."

"Her body…" Michael Warner repeated.

"She's dead?" Jane Warner asked.

"Yes ma'am." Emily nodded, slipping her hands into the pockets of her coat so that she didn't reach for JJ's hand as the Warners reacted as one would expect, with looks of shock and despair, which turned quickly to tears.

JJ noticed the way Emily's hand twitched toward hers and she stepped in closer to her, discreetly placing her hand at the small of Emily's back for support. She had done enough of these over the years to know that this was something that never got any easier, no matter how many times you had the grim job of delivering the unfortunate news.

"Can we… can we see her?" Michael Warner asked, wrapping his arms around his wife, who was crying into his shoulder.

Emily licked her lips and shook her head. "Sir, with all due respect, I don't think that's something you want to do. You should remember Molly as she was, not as she is now."

"What happened to her? What happened to my Molly?" Jane Warner cried.

JJ gave the Warners a small, sad smile. "Mr. and Mrs. Warner, Molly was abducted, tortured, and killed," she said, opting to, for now, leave out the fact that she was dismembered and that they still haven't found her head. What she had said was already too much information, but she knew they would need to know some of what had happened to their daughter so they would believe Emily's assurance that they really didn't want to see her right now. "We found the bodies of four other women in the same area as your daughter's, and we need to ask you a few questions about the last time you saw Molly because there is another woman who is missing that we haven't found yet."

Understanding dawned on Michael Warner's face. "Molly's one of the… she was who they were talking about on the news?"

"Yes, sir," JJ answered.

Jane Warner let out a strangled sob as she jumped to her feet, rushing out of the room without a backwards glance. JJ and Emily watched the woman go, both of them debating and discarding the idea of following her. The woman was hysterical, she was not going to be able to give them any information at this point and they could do very little to make her feel better.

"Do you need to follow her?" Emily asked politely.

Michael Warner nodded and got to his feet. "I should. You said you had some questions about the last time we saw Molly?"

"Yes, sir. But if now's a bad time…" Emily said, letting her voice trail off. There was no real reason to finish that sentence because it was, of course, a bad time, but there wasn't ever going to be a good time for this particular discussion.

He nodded understandingly as he ran a shaking hand through his hair. "What do you need to know?"

"What was she doing the day she went missing?"

"She had school – she was a postdoc student at the University of Portland. Quantum Mechanics. She was at school probably fourteen to eighteen hours a day between her teaching schedule and her research. We only really saw her when she came home to sleep. If she even did that. Some nights she just slept in her office on campus."

"Did she have a cell phone?" Emily asked.

"Yes. One of the new iPhones. We got it for her for her birthday."

Emily nodded and made note to tell Garcia. "Did she have a boyfriend?"

Mr. Warner smiled and shook his head. "No. Boys weren't exactly her type."

"I see," Emily said, smiling slightly at his obvious acceptance of his daughter's orientation. "Then, a girlfriend, perhaps?"

"No. She wasn't dating anybody. Wanted to focus on her schoolwork. I really should go check on my wife now."

"Of course," Emily said as she pulled one of her business cards out of her wallet. "If you happen to think of anything else that you believe might help us understand where she was and what she was doing the day she was abducted, please give me a call. That's my cell phone on the bottom. Day or night, doesn't matter."

Michael Warner took the card and gave it a cursory glance before sliding it into his pocket. "Why do you need to know where she was abducted from?"

"It will help us understand the man who did this, so that we can catch him," Emily answered.

"If I think of anything, I'll give you a call. Thank you for coming out, agents," he said, dismissing the women with a nod, almost as if he forgot that they were in his house, as he went in search of his wife.

Emily chivalrously opened the front door for JJ to exit first. She followed her out onto the porch, closing the door after them, and finally allowed herself to reach out and take JJ's hand into her own. "Well, that sucked."

"Yeah," JJ murmured, squeezing Emily's hand gently. "It always does. You did well, though."

Emily squeezed JJ's hand and let it drop as they neared the car. "Thanks. Come on, let's get back to the precinct and see what the others have found out."

 

4

The mood around the conference table was somber as the profilers studied the board that held what little information they had about their victims and their unsub. So far as they could tell, their unsub had yet to abduct another victim. A fact that they all found incredibly curious because it broke the pattern that he had previously established of dumping one victim and picking up another. If anything, he should be escalating. But he was showing an incredible amount of restraint, which made him all the more dangerous.

To add insult to injury, they had yet to find a point of commonality between Molly Warner and Trinity Tucker besides their appearance. Whereas Molly was a lesbian, Trinity had been engaged to a man. Molly was a student. Trinity managed a second-hand bookstore in downtown Portland. They had no common friends or acquaintances, and led completely different lives.

"We're missing something," Emily muttered, absently twirling her pen beside her head as she flipped through the file in front of her for what seemed like the thousandth time already.

Morgan nodded his agreement as he looked from the board to his notes and back again. "It would help if we knew who the other two women were. I wish Garcia would get back to us with their cell phone and credit card statements."

"Tell me about it," Emily sighed, leaning back in her chair as she looked out the door at JJ, who was deep in conversation with the Detective Hanson. The Communications Liaison was scheduled to hold a press conference in a little more than an hour's time, and she was busy hammering home what they, the BAU team, needed the department to do and say to help them find the unsub. From the looks of things, the detective was once again proving to be more of a hindrance than a help, even though he had been the one to call the BAU in to consult on the case.

Morgan looked up at his partner and frowned as he turned to see what she was looking at. "Is he still giving JJ a hard time?"

"Looks like it," Emily muttered, glaring daggers at the Detective. "Here comes Hotch."

"Looks like he has something," Morgan said as he spotted the sheaf of papers in the Unit Chief's hands.

"Hopefully something we can use." Emily sat up straighter in her chair and looked at their boss expectantly.

"We've narrowed down the possible identities of the first two victims," Hotch announced without preamble, handing Morgan and Prentiss copies of what he and Reid had managed to find.

"I'm impressed," Emily murmured, wasting no time flipping through the papers Hotch had given her.

"It wasn't hard, really," Reid said as he sat down beside Morgan. "Taking into account the estimated PMI and the fact that this unsub appears to have a definite type, we had Garcia pull any missing persons reported during each time frame where the woman matched the physical appearance of the other victims."

"Okay, so that gives us seven possible women," Morgan said.

"Right." Reid nodded.

Emily frowned. "Are we going to try and get DNA from their families to compare to the victims?"

Hotch nodded. "I've already sent detectives to the families of each of the women to try and collect a sample."

"Yeah, but even with a rush, DNA's going to take a few days to come back," Morgan said. "What are we supposed to do in the meantime?"

"We work this case as if each of those seven women are victims of our unsub as well," Rossi said, causing Morgan and Prentiss to jump. He had been so quiet behind them, that they had forgotten he was in the room.

"Did you find something new?" JJ asked as she rejoined the team, closing the door behind her.

"Possible IDs on the two Jane Does," Hotch answered. "We'll know more after we get DNA. Is everything scheduled for the press conference?"

JJ nodded. "Yeah. I'm going to do it on the front steps. Detective Hanson is going to have some of their guys set everything up."

"Good. Prentiss, Morgan, you're going to stand with JJ while she does the press conference."

JJ frowned, not liking the idea of putting Emily in front of the camera. "Sir?"

"I know, JJ," Hotch assured her. "Rossi, Reid, and I will all be standing off camera, watching to make sure she's safe. We need to try and jar this guy a bit, and I think having Emily on stage with you while you talk about the case might do it."

"And make her a target as well," JJ retorted. "Hotch-"

Hotch lifted a hand and tersely cut the blonde off. "JJ, the identities of Trinity Tucker and Molly Warner are going to be out there now that we've notified next of kin. Having Emily on stage will be an unspoken message to the public that the authorities are not backing down, and that we are certain that we will catch the unsub. It's no different than when I have you do the press conference when you match the victimology."

JJ sighed and nodded, knowing that he was right. "Yes, sir."

"We're not going to let anything happen to her," Hotch said in a gentler tone. "But we are here to do a job, and we need to do it."

JJ bit her lip and looked away, obviously chastised. "Right."

"Good. Now, if we approach this case with these new women as potential victims," Hotch addressed his team, turning the discussion off of the impending press conference and back to profiling, "we get a larger pool of possible connections. So, let's get digging."


Five minutes before JJ's scheduled press conference, Emily was wandering the bustling corridors of the precinct searching for her. Hotch had sent her to retrieve the Communications Liaison, and she was grateful for the opportunity to check on the blonde. Detectives and uniformed officers passed by her in a blur, her keen brown eyes searching everywhere for a flash of blonde hair and a hint of pale skin, and she sighed with relief when she eventually found JJ in an abandoned interview room going over her notes. She opened the door silently and slipped inside, mindful of the fact that JJ was focused on her notes, and not wanting to startle the younger woman. "Jennifer?"

"Mmm." JJ nodded and held up a finger as she continued to read her script in a hushed whisper, testing the cadence of the words on her tongue. There were many tricks to holding a successful press conference, keeping a mask on your emotions was one, but there was also the tenor and pitch of the words spoken. They needed to fall quickly and easily, to convey a sense of surety that oftentimes did not exist, and she needed that message to get across more today than ever before. Not necessarily for the public, but for herself. She needed to believe that their team was only seconds away from catching this unsub.

Emily crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back against the door she had just entered through, and silently watched JJ go through her final preparations. The blonde was beautiful. Confident. Her black blazer and crisp white oxford made her look like a consummate agent. And that was all that anybody else who looked at would see. A cool, calm, collected FBI agent.

But she was not everybody else.

She saw the worry in JJ's eyes, the fear and the tension that made JJ's shoulders slump forward ever so slightly, as if the weight of the world were being carried upon them. Fingers tapping erratically against a thigh bespoke of anxiousness. Weight shifting from foot to foot said that she wanted to move. Possibly to run. To do something. To catch someone.

To protect her.

"Hey," JJ said, her voice soft when she turned to look at Emily once she'd finished rereading her notes.

"Hey," Emily said, remaining where she was but holding her arms out invitingly. "Mmm, baby," she sighed as JJ melted into her embrace.

JJ squeezed her eyes shut and wrapped her arms around Emily's neck, pulling herself in closer. No words were spoken as they stayed there, arms wrapped around each other, JJ's head turned so that her forehead rested against the Emily's cheek. No words were needed to convey how much they loved each other. No words could come close to conveying that exact amount anyways, because it was not something that could be measured.

The longer JJ remained in Emily's arms, the more her fear and worry eased. It was still there, lurking in the background, but the warmth of Emily's embrace pushed it back. The feeling of Emily's lips against her forehead calmed her soul, and she cherished that connection, pulling herself in tighter in hopes of never losing it. She needed this. This silent understanding. This unspoken support. This unconditional and unflinching love.

A quiet, shuddering breath fell tremulously over her lips as Emily began pressing soft, lingering kisses down her cheek. She smiled a shy, ghost of a smile as she lifted her chin to meet those lips, and a she sighed as Emily's mouth finally descended upon her own, her lower lip fitting perfectly between Emily's in a chaste, lingering kiss.

"I love you," Emily whispered, nuzzling JJ's cheek as she pulled her in closer so that there wasn't a molecule of air between them.

"Love you," JJ murmured, a genuine smile lighting her face as she leaned in to capture Emily's lips in another kiss.

This one started slow and easy, much like the last, but a flick of a tongue across her lips had her opening her mouth, their heads slanting opposite each other as the kiss deepened. Tongues danced and dueled, tasted, stroked, and massaged, as their bodies pressed tighter together, hips shifting, legs sliding in a dance that was unconscious and instinctual. Emily gasped and grunted in surprise when JJ's hip pressed firmly against her, and she broke away from the kiss to look into smiling dark blue eyes.

"Sorry," JJ whispered, smirking slightly as she remained where she was. She had not intended to pin Emily against the door like she had, but she could not say that she didn't enjoy the feeling of Emily's body molded around her own.

Emily licked her lips and smiled as she took in JJ's flushed cheeks and kiss-swollen lips. "Don't be," she whispered, lifting a gentle hand to carefully wipe off some of JJ's lip-gloss that had smeared.

JJ blushed and reached up to do the same for Emily, the pad of her thumb lingering against the corner of Emily's mouth as she stared into her eyes, seeing nothing but love and support shining back at her. "I love you." She knew that she had been saying those three words a lot lately, but she could not help herself. She needed to say the words, her heart felt like it was going to burst if she didn't, and she selfishly knew that she also said them to hear them back. Emily was her anchor, and she needed the support the brunette's love provided.

Emily smiled and dipped her head to kiss JJ tenderly. "I love you too, sweetheart," she murmured, her words falling in gentle waves upon JJ's lips before they were chased away with another soft, lingering kiss.

They were eventually pulled apart by a quick knock at the door, and JJ blushed as she regretfully stepped away from Emily's embrace. She ran her hands through her hair, smoothing any errant strands into place, and smiled at the brunette. "Do I look okay?"

Emily nodded. "Sweetheart, you always look stunning."

JJ rolled her eyes and smoothed her hands over her thighs, pressing out any wrinkles that might have developed during their impromptu make-out session. "Even in sweats?" she asked, as she turned and gathered her notes off of the table where she'd dropped them.

"Especially then," Emily assured her, as she opened the door. JJ brushed by her and she grinned as she added, in a hushed whisper, "Because you never wear panties with them, so I can just slip my hand inside and..."

JJ blushed and turned to shoot her lover an astonished look. "Emily!"

"Jennifer," Emily retorted. "You're beautiful. You're awesome. You have this, sweetheart – so go out there and knock 'em dead. I'll be right behind you the entire time."

Whatever chastisement was on JJ's lips died as the sincerity of Emily's words washed over her, and she realized that Emily was just making sure she was okay to go do her job. That she was loose and relaxed, so that she would project that calm, confident aura she needed on camera. "You're amazing," she whispered, furtively reaching for Emily's hand.

"Only when I'm with you," Emily said, squeezing JJ's hand quickly before letting it drop. "Let's go, Jareau. People are waiting."


It was not long after JJ's press conference had ended that Garcia got back to the team with the last six months of credit card and cell phone statements for Molly Warner, Trinity Tucker, and the seven missing women who they believed might be their Jane Does. There were no calls made to the same number for any of the women, which led the team to believe that none of the women were in contact with the unsub prior to their disappearances, but Garcia had marked similar transactions on each of their credit card statements.

"So they all got coffee at Stumptown Coffee Roasters," Morgan said.

"And got books from Powell's Bookstore downtown," Reid said.

"Was that the bookstore Trinity managed?" Emily asked.

"No," Morgan answered, already versed on Trinity Tucker's bio because of having to notify her family. "She worked at Lyons Books on the other side of downtown."

"Do we have any information on these possible IDs?" Emily asked, smiling softly at JJ who had just walked into the conference room. "Jobs? Where they lived? Anything?"

"Right here," JJ said, as she dropped a stack of files onto the table in front of the profilers.

Morgan pushed himself up out of his seat to pull the pile closer. "You're awesome, Jayje."

"I know," JJ retorted, smiling at the burly profiler as she sat down in the empty chair to Emily's right. "So, do we have anything?"

"Coffee and books," Reid said.

"His two favorite things," Emily added, winking at the genius.

"And somebody else's too, if I'm not mistaken," JJ quipped, poking Emily playfully in the side. She nodded minutely when Emily looked questioningly at her, the 'are you okay?' question evident in her lover's expressive brown eyes. She was not okay, okay, but she was okay enough for now.

"You're right. Rossi likes that stuff too," Emily drawled.

"Or Emily Prentiss," JJ retorted.

"Or Emily Prentiss," Emily agreed, reaching out and squeezing JJ's knee gently. She glanced around the table at the other profilers and licked her lips. "So, are we going to run these down?"

Hotch nodded. "Yes. Because the two locations are within walking distance of each other, why don't the four of you got check them out. See what information you can find regarding the businesses, and if anyone recognizes any of the victims. Rossi and I will keep going over the information we have here, so one of us will be available if anyone who saw the press conference calls in with some information."

Emily looked at Morgan, who nodded, and the four younger agents got to their feet. They all shrugged on their coats, it was predictably drizzly outside, and headed for the cars. She paused in the doorway and tilted her head questioningly. "Want us to bring back coffee?"

Rossi looked up from the file he was reading and grinned. "Like you even have to ask."

"Right. Well, we'll be back in a bit, then," Emily told him. She turned to find JJ waiting for her, and she smiled at her as they fell into step beside each other, their hands brushing together every so often as they fought against their natural inclination to reach for the other.

They met up with Reid and Morgan at the first of the two black SUVs the Bureau had secured for the team, and Emily smiled at the men who took the front so that she and JJ could sit together in back. Normally she would ride shotgun with Morgan while Reid and JJ rode in back, but this case had her feeling overly protective of the blonde – even though she, herself, was the one who matched the victimology.

The moment the doors were closed around them, JJ snaked her hand into Emily's. She smiled when she felt Emily squeeze her hand gently, and she sighed when the profiler moved to twine their fingers together.

"Reid, punch the address for the book store into the GPS," Morgan said, as he started the car and pulled slowly out of the lot.

"I have a map," Reid argued, even as he punched the appropriate address into the car's built-in GPS.

Morgan just shook his head and glanced at the rearview mirror to check on the women in the back seat. "How are you two holding up with all of this?"

Emily pursed her lips and shrugged. She knew he was concerned about them, but this was something she and JJ needed to deal with on their own. "We're fine."

"Bullshit, Prentiss," Morgan drawled. "Jayje?"

"We're fine, Derek," JJ said in a soft voice. "Do you think our unsub saw the press conference?"

Reid nodded. "Yeah. The way he disposed of the remains tells us that he is arrogant, and believes that he won't be caught. He wouldn't pass up an opportunity to see what the police know, to reaffirm his belief that he is smarter than us."

"Great," JJ murmured.

Emily sighed and lifted her and JJ's joined hands to her lips so she could brush a soft kiss across the back of her knuckles. "We're good, Jen. These leads, the possible IDs on the initial victims… for being not even twenty-four hours into this thing, we're doing well. We'll catch him."

JJ worried her lower lip between her teeth as she turned to look at her lover. "I'm holding you to that."

"We'll get him, Jayje," Morgan spoke up from the front seat.

JJ just nodded as the car descended into silence, and Morgan tuned the radio to a local indie-pop station. He turned the music up louder to fill the conversational void, and pretended not to notice the way Emily was watching JJ, who was staring blankly out the window. He hated cases where one of them fit the victimology. While neither he nor the rest of the male profilers were showing the strain of the case nearly as much as JJ was, they all felt the pressure to hurry up and close this one out. To catch the unsub and get the fuck out of dodge.

It was one thing to hunt monsters. It was quite another to do it knowing that the monster you were hunting could, at any moment, decide to go after a member of your family.

They all took a collective breath as Morgan pulled into a parking space in the small, off-street lot behind Powell's books, each of them saying a silent prayer that they would find something they could use.

The interior of the bookstore was crowded with overflowing racks and smelled faintly of aged paper, no doubt from the thousands upon thousands of paperbacks lining the shelves. Reid knelt down in front of the glass display beneath the register to look at the books contained therein. Emily smiled at the man behind counter, and could not help but think that he certainly did not look the type to be working in a bookstore. He was big, taller than Morgan, with muscles that strained against the sleeves of his blue plaid flannel, and there was something off-putting about the way he was staring at her. She cast that last observation aside, labeling it as being a product of lingering tension. Knowing that you fit the victimology profile tended to make one a little paranoid.

"Hi there," Emily said, pulling her credentials out of her back pocket and flashing them at the clerk. "I'm Agent Prentiss. These are my colleagues Agents Jareau, Morgan, and Reid. Could we speak to the manager?"

The man glanced at the credentials in her hand and nodded. "Jack McCutcheon, at your service. I'm the manager and the owner of the store. What can I do for you, Agents?" he asked, not quite hiding the way he was leering at Emily.

Emily nodded as she felt JJ stiffen beside her. JJ had obviously picked up the same vibe she had about the man. "Do you recognize any of these women?" she asked, taking a small step back as Morgan set three pages that contained pictures of Molly Warner, Trinity Tucker, and the seven missing women who matched the victimology, down onto the counter in front of McCutcheon.

"Yeah. That one-" he pointed at Molly "-liked the sci-fi stuff. Nice girl. Smart. She was in here probably twice a week, selling back books and getting new ones." He ran his finger over the pages, lingering for a moment on each of the women's faces. "The rest of these girls all look familiar, but I can't place them."

Morgan nodded and glanced at Emily, who was eyeballing McCutcheon speculatively, and he turned his attention back to the man in front of them. "Are you the only one who works the counter here?"

"No. We're open from eight to midnight, Monday through Saturday, and ten 'til eight on Sunday. I have over a dozen employees. There is generally one person manning the till, and three working the floor – stocking books, organizing the merchandise, answering questions, what have you."

JJ nodded. "How many employees are working now?"

"Besides me? Four."

Emily looked at Morgan and nodded. "We'll need to speak with them, please." Emily said. "We'll also need the names of your other employees so that we can speak with them as well."

"Of course," McCutcheon replied, turning his attention away from the agents in front of him and onto his computer. "Blake and Ryan are in back sorting through a large collection that I just bought, and Rylie and Will should be stocking shelves somewhere," he said,

Morgan nodded and looked at Reid. "Reid, go have a look in back. Jayje…" his voice trailed off. He hated splitting up the two women, but McCutcheon was captivated by Prentiss for some reason, and he wanted to keep her with him to see what they could get out of the man.

JJ gave Morgan a look that threatened massive amounts of pain should anything happen to Emily, before she nodded and turned on her heel to find the two employees who should be working the floor.

The sound of a printer whirring to life marked the two agents' exit, and McCutcheon reached under the counter and pulled out a sheet of paper. "Here is a list of my employees and their contact information."

Emily watched JJ disappear between the stacks, and sighed as she turned her attention back to McCutcheon. "Is there anything else you can think of ? Did you ever see anyone watching Ms. Warner? Did she always come in alone? Any details you could give us would be great."

McCutcheon shook his head and ran a meaty paw over his head. "Not really. Sorry."

Morgan around, spotting several obvious cameras placed around the perimeter of the store. "Where do you store your surveillance footage?"

"In the back," McCutcheon said, hitching a thumb toward the back of the store. "It's digital, but we clear the files every week. We get a few shoplifters every now and again, but that's it. There's never been a reason for us to keep the data longer."

Emily and Morgan groaned softly. That meant there would be no footage of Molly Warner's last visit, never mind the ones of the other women.

"Well, thank you for your time," Emily said, pulling her card out of her credential case and handing it over to McCutcheon. "If you think of anything else that might help us, please give me a call."

He looked at the card and smiled. "Will do, Agent Prentiss."

Emily had to fight the urge to roll her eyes at the man and glanced quickly at Morgan, who she could tell was also annoyed by McCutcheon's overtures. "Excellent," she said, turning on her heel and walking quickly out of the store.

"What a slimeball," Morgan muttered, once they were back on the sidewalk. "He wasn't even trying to hide the fact that he was staring at you."

Emily licked her lips and nodded. "Yeah. I caught that too. Call Garcia and get her to run a search on the guy and see what she comes up with." She looked around for the coffee shop, finally spotting it two blocks down on the opposite side of the street. "If she finds something quickly, we can swing back by here and ask him a few more questions after we check out Stumptown."

The door to Powell's books opened behind them, spilling JJ and Reid onto the sidewalk, both of them shaking their heads.

"They didn't recognize any of the women," JJ said, sidling closer to Emily so that their arms were touching.

"The guys in back recognized Molly Warner, but that was it," Reid shared.

"We got a list of employees, we can send some detectives out to check on them later," Emily said.

"I'm going to have Garcia run a search on that McCutcheon guy – see if anything pops up on him," Morgan said, slipping his phone out of the holster on his hip and lifting the device to his ear.

Emily smiled at the sound of the Technical Analyst's voice pouring out of Morgan's phone, and bumped her shoulder against JJ's. "Coffee?"

JJ nodded and tucked her hand in the crook of Emily's arm. "Yeah."

They crossed the street quickly, Morgan trailing behind the other three as he spoke with Garcia, and they reached Stumptown Coffee Roasters a few minutes later. They went through the same song-and-dance routine as before, Emily taking the lead and asking questions while Morgan flashed the pictures and JJ and Reid watched the area around them.

The manager, an energetic woman in her early-twenties with flame-red hair and a nose ring, recognized Trinity Tucker, but none of the other women. Judging by the bustling business that the shop was doing even as they spoke, none of the agents found the fact odd. They did learn that it was commonplace for people to bring their new book purchases into the shop after visiting Powell's, but she couldn't remember anything in particular that stood out about Tucker. In fact, the only reason she remembered her at all was because the brunette was one of the first customers seen every day.

Morgan's phone had yet to ring again with news from Garcia by the time the foursome exited the shop, coffee in hand, plus two for Hotch and Rossi in a cardboard tray, so they crossed back to their SUV parked behind the bookstore and headed back to the precinct.

None of them noticed Jack McCutcheon tucked into the shadowed alcove of the bookstore's back entrance watching them leave.

 

5

After their decidedly uninformative outing that afternoon, the team worked tirelessly well into the night, pouring through what information Garcia was able to find on each of their victims. The whiteboard was covered in different colored scribbles: names and locations circled, and lines drawn between the different details that they thought might be connected. So far, besides their universal dislike for McCutcheon at Powell's, they did not have anything. Garcia was still busy working her techno-magic back at Quantico, sifting through the list of employees from both the bookstore and the coffee shop to try and find the team something useful, and they hoped that there might be something in that mass of information that they might be able to use.

Because, right now, they were stuck.

Hotch took a deep breath as he looked around the conference table at his team. They were handling things well, especially with Emily fitting the victimology, but he could tell that the energy boost they had gotten from the pizza they ate for dinner earlier was gone. He that none of his agents would complain about staying at the precinct all night long, continuing to go over the notes that they had already read through a handful of times, but he also knew that being exhausted would not help them any. "Let's go ahead and call it a night. We can look at all of this again with fresh eyes in the morning."

Morgan looked up and frowned. "You sure, Hotch? We can go more."

"I'm sure," Hotch said. He glanced at his watch and sighed when he saw the time, and nodded thoughtfully. "It's already almost ten o'clock, and I doubt we're going to get anywhere on this tonight. Garcia said that we'll have everything on the employees of Powell's and Stumptown first thing in the morning… there's no reason for us to sit here spinning our wheels. If you want to go over any of these files some more, take them with you; but we're not going to catch this guy if we're all too exhausted to think."

Emily bit her lip and nodded in understanding and agreement as she glanced over at JJ. She knew that JJ was feeling desperate to wrap this case up, to the point that she was ready to work herself to exhaustion if it meant finding the unsub faster. From the moment they had gotten back from the coffee and bookshops earlier, if JJ was not dealing with the LEOs or something with the press, she was at the table with the rest of the team, pouring through their notes and files, reading and reading the same information over and over again in the vain hope that something might suddenly make sense.

It was clear to Emily from the tense set of JJ's shoulders and the way her fingers tapped an indistinguishable rhythm against her thighs, that it would be up to her to make JJ leave for the night. JJ was so entrenched in what she was doing that she hadn't heard a word that Hotch had said. Emily reached out and placed a gentle hand on JJ's shoulder to draw her attention away from the notes and the photographs in the file the blonde was reading. "Jennifer," she murmured, leaning in so that she could whisper in JJ's ear. "Let's go, sweetheart. We'll do this more tomorrow."

JJ huffed and held up a finger as she continued to scan the file. "I'm almost done with this. I could have sworn I saw something in here earlier that might have been useful to us."

Emily took a deep breath as she looked up and caught Morgan's eye, silently asking him to help her out; but he just shrugged and gave her a look that quite clearly said, 'She's all yours, Prentiss'. "Wuss," she muttered under her breath as she turned and set her left arm across the back of JJ's chair. "Jayje?" JJ grunted and Emily rolled her eyes. "Could you look at me, please?"

"Em," JJ sighed, looking up from the file she was reading. "What?"

The fire burning in JJ's bright blue eyes was easy enough for Emily to pick up on, and she knew that she would get nowhere with the blonde if she pushed her to give up for the night and leave with them. So, she went with a slightly more circuitous approach, hoping that JJ's desire to keep her in sight at all times would make her see that it was time to call it a night. "I am going back to the hotel with Morgan and the rest of the team. I'm sure the five of us can squeeze into one of the cars, would you like us to leave the other one for you?"

JJ sucked her lower lip between her teeth and bit down on it to keep from snapping at Emily. She knew that Emily was trying to look out for her, just like she knew that it really wasn't going to do her any good to sit there all night and continue to read the same pages over and over again until the words blended together and she passed out from exhaustion. She knew all of that. But she also knew that they needed to catch this unsub so that Emily would be safe. And, right then, in a small, messy conference room in the back of the police precinct in Beaverton, Oregon, there was nothing more important to her than keeping Emily safe.

It was not hard for Emily to see that JJ was fighting with herself, weighing the futileness of their situation with her desire to find the unsub and keep her safe. So she just remained silent, holding JJ's gaze unblinkingly as the younger woman worked through her thoughts. She was vaguely aware of Hotch standing at the end of the conference table as Rossi, Morgan, and Reid inched toward the door, but never once tore her eyes away from JJ's. She hated that hers and JJ's relationship was impacting the investigation, she could not do anything to fix it until she could get JJ to see that she was getting too involved with the case. They worked best from an objective distance. The moment a case became personal, their judgment became clouded and, oftentimes, irrational.

Hotch and the rest of the team watched Emily and JJ stare silently at each other. Though they all knew exactly what was happening between the two women and sympathized with them for the situation they were in, they also knew it was up to the couple to figure it out for themselves. It was not an FBI thing, even though the two women had promised to keep their relationship out of the field, because none of them ever really expected for there to be a clear delineation between work and home in the women's relationship. Strauss did, because the Bureau Chief was a cyborg, but the rest of them knew that there would be times where it would be impossible for JJ and Emily to separate their emotions from their cases.

And this case – where Emily matched the victimology to a T – certainly constituted as being one of those times.

So, deciding to give his agents a chance to fix things themselves, Hotch pulled the keys to one of the SUVs out of his pocket and tossed them onto the table. "We'll take one car. You guys come back in the other when you're done. We'll meet back here at seven thirty tomorrow morning." His words were soft, but they left no room for argument.

Hotch's simple statement and the sound of metal scraping across the laminate tabletop finally pulled Emily's eyes away from JJ, and she reached out to catch the keys as they slid across the tabletop. She palmed the keys and gave Hotch a tight smile, silently thanking him for letting them handle things on their own. "Will do. Thanks."

"See you tomorrow." Hotch gave both women a small nod before he turned on his heel and walked out of the conference room, pulling the door closed behind himself as he easily fell into step beside Rossi as the two older men followed Reid and Morgan out of the precinct.

When Emily turned her attention back to JJ, she found that the blonde hadn't moved. "Talk to me, Jen," she pleaded softly.

JJ scrubbed her hands over her face and shook her head as she trailed her fingers through her hair. "I just… I'm fine, Em. I'm just not ready to call it a night yet."

Emily nodded at the obvious lie and leaned back in her chair as she waved a hand at the table that was littered with empty pizza boxes, notes, and files. "Right. Well… I'll stay with you until you're done. How much longer do you think you want to keep going?"

"I don't know," JJ snapped. The harshness of her tone made her freeze and she groaned. "I'm sorry. I'm just…"

"Scared," Emily supplied. It wasn't a question.

JJ licked her lips and nodded. "Yeah."

"Me too," Emily whispered. She pushed herself up out of her chair so that she could kneel in front of JJ, and she smiled softly at her as she reached out to tenderly cradle JJ's face in the palm of her hand. "Me too," she repeated, brushing the pad of her thumb over JJ's cheek. "But staying here all night, obsessing over details that we have pretty much concluded are irrelevant isn't going to help us catch this guy, sweetheart."

JJ's eyes fluttered shut at the softness in Emily's tone and she reached up and covered Emily's hand upon her face with her own, holding that warm, comforting touch close so that it wouldn't disappear. "I know."

"I love you," Emily whispered, smiling as the ghost of a smile tweaked the corners of JJ's lips.

"I know," JJ answered. "I love you too."

"I know," Emily said, her smile growing wider as she leaned in and kissed JJ softly. "I'll give you half an hour more, but then we're going back to the hotel to sleep."

JJ nodded, relieved that Emily was not going to try and make her leave right then and there. She doubted that she would get anywhere with the extra thirty minutes, but she was glad that Emily understood her enough to know that she truly did just need to spend a little more time on the case that night. "Okay."

"Okay," Emily echoed, kissing JJ quickly one last time before she got back to her feet and returned to her chair. She tucked her hair behind her ears as she cast one last glance at the blonde, and sighed as she reached for one of the files that Morgan had been reading earlier. She had already gone through it twice, but she figured that if she was sitting there anyways, maybe the third time would be the charm.

Forty minutes later, JJ and Emily wandered out of the Beaverton Police Department and into the brightly lit parking lot behind the building. There were a dozen off-duty cruisers scattered around the lot and, though they were the only ones out there, they hurried to their SUV that was parked in the far corner underneath a lamppost. As was usual for the couple when it was just the two of them, Emily held the passenger's door open for JJ to climb into the car before she hurried around to get in behind the wheel.

"Thank you," JJ said, as Emily started the car.

"For what?" Emily asked, looking over her shoulder as she backed out of the parking space.

JJ shrugged. "Everything?"

Emily smiled as she pulled out of the parking lot and onto the otherwise empty street. She pulled to a stop at a stop sign in front of the precinct and reached for JJ's hand. Their fingers twined together automatically and she lifted their joined hands to her lips so she could press a soft kiss to the back of her knuckles as she rolled through the intersection, slowly gaining speed as she eased the accelerator down. "You know that I will always support you, Jennifer. Right?" she murmured, her lips brushing against the back of JJ's hand.

"I do." JJ smiled and turned to look at Emily, whose regal features were highlighted by the streetlights outside her window. Downtown Beaverton was incredibly quiet, given that it was a Saturday night, but JJ attributed it to the fact that the majority of the clubs and other late-night venues were located in Portland. They drove in silence, Emily occasionally dropping more kisses to the back of JJ's knuckles as the blonde enjoyed just watching her lover drive.

It was a nice, normal way to end the day after everything that had happened.

Emily shifted in her seat as they approached an intersection, and the movement drew JJ's attention away from the road to look at her. She smiled softly at the way the profiler's features were thrown into relief by the dim yellow streetlights outside her window, but the happy smile on her face turned into a look of abject horror as a pair of headlights flashed on just outside Emily's window. The high-beams were quite literally blinding, and she threw her arm over her eyes as she opened her mouth to warn Emily. But, before she could even say Emily's name, their SUV was rocked off its wheels as the headlights smashed into them. The screech of abused metal quickly became the sound of shattering glass as the right side of the car bounced off the street and flipped onto its roof, spinning and skidding with the force of the impact. The night around them was a blur of flashing lights and the sound of protesting metal as the SUV slid across the pavement, its wheels spinning uselessly at the stars, and the most JJ could do was hang on. The whole thing was over as quickly as it began, an eternity passing in a matter of seconds, and when the SUV stopped moving, JJ immediately opened her eyes and reached for Emily.

She screamed at the sight of Emily, but didn't realize it because the sound of her own voice overwhelmed by the ringing in her ears from the accident. Emily was dangling from her seatbelt, her hair swinging lightly with residual energy from the crash. The profiler's body was limp, signaling that she was unconscious, but JJ thought she could detect some movement in the brunette's chest that meant she was breathing. Though she could not be sure. Emily's beautiful face was covered in blood that was oozing from the myriad of cuts she had sustained from flying glass, the thin crimson streams from each wound merging together to form larger tributaries until her entire face was painted red.

Tears JJ wasn't even aware of crying poured down her cheeks as she frantically struggled with her seatbelt, trying to get free. The lock didn't want to give and she screamed again, this time in horrified fury. The cry was a dull, distant sound that she barely registered as being hers, as she kept punching at the lock release and tugging violently against the harness. The entire time she wrestled with her seatbelt, her eyes were glued to Emily, drinking in every gut-wrenching detail of the older woman's appearance, desperately trying to discern some definitive clue that Emily was alive. JJ continued to tug at her seatbelt, the sound of her own screams slowly becoming more and more audible as the ringing in her ears faded, and she sobbed with relief when it finally came free and she dropped to the ground. Glass dug into her knees as she crawled over to Emily, but she ignored the pain as she reached for Emily's neck to feel for a pulse.

Another sob escaped her when she found it.

Emily was alive.

She searched blindly for her purse that had her phone inside it, but she couldn't find the bag, so she reached across Emily to unsnap the brunette's from the holster on her belt. She dialed 9-1-1 with shaking fingers, and lifted the phone to her ear. Her hearing, while still affected, was quickly getting better, so she could at least make out what was being said over the line.

"Nine – One – One, what is your emergency?"

"We were just hit by a car," JJ blurted out. "A car accident," she added.

"Yes, ma'am," the operator said. "Could I get your name, please? Can you tell me where you're at? Are there any injuries?"

JJ drew a ragged breath, her fingers painting through the blood on Emily's jaw as she tried to hold her head still. "Yes, I'm sorry. My name is Agent Jareau, I'm with the FBI. We're at the intersection of…" her voice trailed off as she ducked to look out the windshield "Lombard and Broadway. The vehicle we're in has flipped over and-"

"I'm alerting the appropriate agencies now. You said that your partner was with you?"

"Yes," JJ said, running her bloodied hand through her hair, streaking the straw-colored strands red. "We just left the downtown police department. The car came out of nowhere. I don't… just… please help!"

"Units should arrive on the scene in a moment, ma'am," the dispatcher said. "Is your partner all right?"

"I don't know!" JJ sobbed. "She's unconscious and bleeding pretty bad from her head. I just... please help her!"

The dispatcher made some small noise of understanding, and JJ could hear him talking urgently into what she assumed was another line. But, before she could ask him what was happening, she felt a sharp, stinging sensation at the side of her neck, and then the world went black.


"She's coming around!" a frantic, relieved sounding voice yelled.

Around her, there was the sound of running feet and then somebody was pulling at her eyelid, forcing it open so that a bright light could be shined into her eye. It swung back and forth and up and down testing her pupil response, and she groaned as she lifted her arm to weakly swat the offending light away. She sighed with relief when her eyelid was allowed to close and she took a moment to take stock of her situation.

"Looks okay," a disembodied voice said, though to whom she couldn't be sure.

Her head spun with both pain and her memories of what had happened, and she groaned loudly as she struggled to sit up, needing to see what was happening. Strong hands pushed against her shoulders, keeping her down and she finally forced her eyes open to glare at the person holding her in place. She relaxed slightly when she saw that it was Reid who was trying to keep her from sitting up. "Where's Emily?"

Spencer licked his lips and swallowed thickly as he shook his head. "We don't know."

 

6

"You don't understand! I need to get out of here now!" JJ practically screamed as she stared down the unfortunate attending physician who was assigned to her case. She was still groggy from the drugs that she had been injected with, but she could now stand on her own two feet, and she needed to get out of the hospital so she could try and find Emily before whoever took her could hurt her.

"Ma'am," the doctor, an older man who looked absolutely terrified of the little blonde, stuttered. "We still need to…"

But whatever he was going to say was cut off by JJ's hand fisting the collar of his pretty white coat. "I will sign an AMA and whatever else you want me to sign – but I am leaving now, doctor. My partner was kidnapped, probably by the same sick fuck who's been torturing women around here, and I am not doing her any good sitting on my ass in some-"

"AGENT JAREAU!" Hotch's voice rang out, silencing his Communications Liaison before she could berate the doctor any more. He had been just pulling up to the hospital after canvassing the scene of the accident for any clues when he'd gotten a panicked phone call from Reid telling him that JJ was, to put things mildly, upset. Wanting to get to her before things spiraled completely out of control, he ended up leaving the team's SUV parked in the ambulance only zone outside the emergency room, keys dangling from the ignition, as he sprinted inside the hospital. Seeing that he had her attention, he added in a much calmer, quieter voice, "Stand down now, Agent."

JJ's training kicked in, and she immediately released her hold on the doctor's coat as she took a step away from him. Blue eyes flashing with pain and fear and worry turned to focus on the team's Chief as she set her jaw defiantly. "Sir?"

Hotch regarded JJ carefully for a moment before he gave her the briefest of nods and a look that quite clearly said, 'Let me handle this.' He knew that JJ needed to be fully cleared, but he also knew that the she was not going to sit for tests when Emily was missing. So, he turned to give the attending a small smile as he held his hand out in greeting. "Sir. I am Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner, Unit Chief for the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI. I understand that you are concerned about Agent Jareau's potential injuries, but she is needed immediately in the field to assist with the recovery of our missing Agent."

The doctor, who looked to be rather relieved to be addressed in such a calm manner, shook his head. "I sympathize, Agent Hotchner. But Agent Jareau was involved in an incredibly serious motor vehicle accident and, while X-Rays have confirmed that she miraculously does not have any broken bones or other serious injuries besides cuts and bruises, and her CAT scan came back clear – I still feel it would be in her best interest to remain overnight for observation."

Hotch sighed as relief washed over him at hearing that JJ's scans all came back normal. "I understand. However, if Agent Jareau is choosing to refuse medical treatment and is amenable to signing an AMA release form, you do have to release her. Agent Jareau-" he turned to look at JJ, who was already nodding vigorously "-are you willing to sign the released against medical advice form?"

"Yes," JJ huffed. "I already said that!"

"Agent Jareau," Hotch warned.

"Sir," JJ added petulantly.

Hotch nodded and turned to the doctor. "I believe Agent Jareau has made her desires more than clear in this matter. So, if you could please bring in that AMA as quickly as possible, we would really appreciate it."

The doctor just stared, wholly unused to being completely manhandled like this. He was a senior attending at the hospital and it had been years, decades, really, since anyone had bothered to go against what he said like this. He tried to stare down Hotch, to try and make the man understand how much trouble his agent could potentially be in, but he knew it was a lost cause. So, when the man's scowl deepened and he arched an eyebrow expectantly at him, he just nodded. "Fine. Let me go get that form."

"Hotch…" JJ started, as the doctor disappeared into the hallway.

"Don't," Hotch interrupted. "I understand, JJ. I do. And that is the only reason," he said, stressing the word 'only', "I am not making you stay here for observation. Just because your scans were all clear does not mean you are necessarily out of the woods. But, because they were clear, I won't make you stay. However, if you do begin to present with any of the symptoms of a brain injury, and you know we all know the symptoms with how many concussions this team gets, you will be right back here submitting to being under observation and undergoing every single test that doctor wants to do to you. Are we clear?"

JJ straightened her posture and nodded. "Crystal."

"Good," Hotch said seriously. "Now, what do you know about what we found at the scene?"

"Nothing," JJ said, her voice cracking with emotion. "Is it…"

Hotch nodded. "We think so. Emily matches the profile, and he would have seen her on television with you at the press conference." He saw JJ's eyes flash with anger at the reminder that he had chosen to put Emily out there like that, but he chose to ignore it. "None of the other women were abducted in the manner as she was, but they were alone as well. We also found a note…"

JJ's eyes widened. "What did it say? Were there fingerprints? What about-"

"JJ!" Hotch interrupted. "We're running it for trace evidence now, there weren't any prints. I will also have Reid do a handwriting analysis on it when we get back to the precinct."

"What did it say, Hotch?" JJ demanded.

Hotch sighed and licked his lips as he took a moment to brace himself for the fury he knew he was about to unleash. "I'll leave her in my special spot when I'm done with her. You know where it is, you were there the night you arrived."

JJ's jaw snapped shut so hard her teeth clacked loudly together and she shook her head disbelievingly. She had known that this case was a bad idea. She'd known it from the very beginning. And now the unsub had Emily. Her Emily. "NO! Hotch, no! Please…"

"I have that form," a nurse said as she warily entered the room.

Hotch nodded and pulled a pen out of the breast pocket of his suit coat. "Here," he said, handing JJ the pen. "Sign it, and let's go find Emily."

JJ took the pen and the form and turned to the little table beside the bed. She slapped the paper down and immediately began scribbling her name across the 'Patient's signature' line and initialing where it was required. Once she was done, she left the form where it was and turned on her heel for the door, everything about her body language signaling that she was a woman on a mission, and silently handed Hotch his pen as she strode past him into the hall.

Reid was sitting against the wall just down the hall from the examination room JJ had been in and he up from his phone at the sound of JJ's heeled boots clicking a determined staccato on the linoleum floor. He had been watching and re-watching the video surveillance of the intersection at the time of the accident that Garcia had sent him so that he'd have something to do while he waited with JJ. Though he wasn't able to manipulate the image enough to get a license plate off the black truck that had rammed JJ and Emily's SUV – Garcia was frantically doing that back on base at Quantico – he was able to analyze the way the man who took Emily moved around the scene. "JJ!"

"We're leaving, Reid," JJ snapped. "Did anyone ever find my phone? And what happened to my gun?"

"Your gun is right here," Reid said. He picked up the weapon that was sitting on top of JJ's purse beside him and held it out to her. "The paramedics took it off you in the ambulance and gave it to me to hang onto on the drive over, remember?"

JJ frowned. She actually did not remember that, but she quickly came to the conclusion that it did not particularly matter as she took her gun from him and slipped it back into the holster that was still attached to her belt.

"And here's your phone," Reid said, leaning down to pick JJ's purse and handing it over. "Your bag landed in the backseat after the collision, but I already checked for you and your phone is fine."

"Thanks, Spence," JJ muttered, as she took the purse from him and dug around inside it for her phone. She let out a quiet sigh of relief when she found it and pulled it out to see that it really was unharmed, and she wasted no time unlocking it and immediately hitting the number two on her speed dial.

Garcia answered on the first ring. "Thank goodness. I was beginning to think that they were lying to me when they said you were okay."

"I'm fine, Pen," JJ said. "I would have called you sooner but I didn't have my phone. Tell me you have something we can use to get Emily back."

"I'm going over the surveillance footage from the intersection now," the technical analyst said, her tone nearly frantic as her words rushed over each other like they did when she was truly upset. "I can't get a plate number off of the truck before the crash – the numbers were covered with something so that they weren't visible – but I was able to see that it did have Oregon plates, and I can tell that it was a dark-colored Dodge Ram. I am looking through the DMV database now, compiling a list of all registered owners of vehicles that match the description. By my current count, there are approximately two thousand four hundred and twenty eight registered Dodge trucks that would qualify as 'dark' in the greater Portland area."

JJ stopped and turned to rest her head against the wall in the hallway, groaning as she ran a hand through her hair. "Fuck! That's too many!"

"I know!" Penelope said, sounding like she was close to tears.

Hotch and Reid walked up to JJ and stopped on either side of her, flanking her so that she was protected from the prying eyes of the night nurses who were huddled together at their station at the far end of the hall and watching them with rabid fascination. "Put Garcia on speaker," Hotch said in a low tone.

JJ nodded and pulled her phone away from her ear to flip it to speaker. "You're on speaker, Pen. Hotch and Reid are with me."

"Garcia, anything?" Hotch asked.

"Sir. Like I was telling JJ, there are just too many registered owners of Dodge trucks in the greater Portland area. I can tell from the surveillance footage that it has one of those steel bar grill protector thingies on it – which I'm pretty sure is why he was even able to drive away from the scene – but that sort of aftermarket accessory wouldn't be included in the DMV database."

"Yeah, but we'll be able to use it to quickly dismiss possible suspects, so that's a good find, Garcia."

"Yes, sir. Anyway, I was able to follow his path up Lombard until he turned westbound onto 26 and I lost him."

"Was he driving erratically?" Reid asked. He knew from the footage he watched that the man who'd abducted Emily was calm and methodical at the scene, as if he had zero concerns about being caught. If he drove the same way, odds were good that he would have headed straight home from the scene and not taken any circuitous detours to try and throw off any trackers. And that level of cockiness would fit perfectly with what little of a profile they had been able to compile thus far.

"No."

Hotch nodded thoughtfully. "If I remember the geography correctly, once you start heading that way, things get more rural."

"Yes, sir."

"Garcia," Reid spoke up. He was already picturing the way a geographical profile would fit with the data they had and he thought he might have a way to narrow their search parameters. "If you restricted the search to areas that are accessible if one were to head west on highway 26 from the Portland/Beaverton area, how many vehicles would you have?"

There was the sound of frantic typing and then Garcia answered, "One thousand seven hundred and eighty three."

"Get me those names and bullet bios for each owner in the greater Portland area. We'll do a geographical profile when we get to the station," Hotch said. "Flag anybody who has some kind of a medical background. Send them to our PDAs. We're heading back to the precinct for now."

"Yes, sir," Garcia said, and then the line went dead in a very un-Garcia fashion with zero fanfare.

"Let's go," Hotch said, placing a soft hand at the small of JJ's back. "We should have that information by the time we get back to the precinct and I want to be able to breakdown what Garcia found for us on one of the large maps of the area."

JJ nodded and took a deep, steadying breath before she pushed off the wall. She refused to meet Hotch and Reid's concerned gazes as she turned and marched down the hall. She did not want their pity. She did not want to see them looking at her like she was seconds from falling apart. She knew she was seconds from falling apart, but she also knew that she didn't have that luxury at the moment.


Emily awoke slowly, pulled from unconsciousness by the throbbing of her head. Her first sensation, besides the pounding in her head, was that her entire body felt like it was one giant, pulsing bruise. The more she became aware of the pain radiating out of what felt like every cell in her body, the faster she came aware of her surroundings, and she immediately began cataloguing everything she could quantifiably measure.

Wherever she was, it was quiet. There were no sounds of traffic, birds, or even a television to help her try and figure out where she was. It was also cold, and the more she came back to herself, she realized that she was feeling that cold more than she might have otherwise because she was naked, her arms stretched up above her head so that she was completely exposed. She shifted slightly and her fingers dipped over the edge of whatever it was she was laid upon, and she quickly deduced that it was a table of some kind. The movement of her hands was marked by the quiet chink of metal and it was then that she realized she was handcuffed to the table. She immediately tried to move her legs to see how much movement she had, but they were also cuffed to whatever table she was laying on.

All of these things were disconcerting, but her first truly conscious thought was of JJ. She remembered the accident, remembered the way the SUV's airbag had exploded in her face, the gas from the launching canister burning her skin before the inflatable cushion smacked into her. She remembered the sound of screeching metal, shattering glass, and JJ's screams, and then it all went black and she remembered nothing.

Was JJ okay?

Was JJ with her, wherever she was?

It was that fear for JJ's safety that had her forcing her eyes open despite the nearly crippling pain in her skull to try and find the blonde. Years of training had her committing every available detail to memory, though there wasn't much to remember. The room around her was dimly lit, bathed in variegated shades of charcoal, and while she was unable to see into the darkest corners of the space, she was able to at least conclude that JJ wasn't in her immediate vicinity.

The thought that she was separated from JJ was simultaneously upsetting and a relief, because she was pretty sure that wherever she was, she did not want JJ within a hundred miles of the place.

"I see we're awake," a voice spoke from somewhere beside her.

Her body tensed, her fight or flight response kicking in even though she knew she that would not be able to actually run away. She turned her head to try and find the owner of the voice, but she could not see anything within the shadows. "Where am I? Who are you?"

She squinted as she stared into the darkness where she was certain the voice had come from, and she took a deep breath to try and steady her heart rate that had spiked the moment her unseen captor had spoken. And then she saw it. Just the barest shifting of gray within the gray until the silhouette of a man became visible.

"Tut, tut, tut, Agent Prentiss," the voice chastised, and Emily could hear the amusement in her captor's tone. She was about to ask where she was again, when a fist materialized out of the darkness and smashed into her already bleeding cheek. "We'll get around to formal introductions later."

Emily blinked rapidly as she tried to clear the tears that had sprung into her eyes from the blow. "What do you want?"

This time the voice laughed, and the sound was low and full of the promise of pain. "I think you already know the answer to that one, Agent."

Emily strained to see anything of her captor, but all she could make out was an indistinct profile. He was tall and seemed to be well built, but she couldn't say if she knew him from their investigation or not. Instead of opening her mouth and risking another punishing blow, she just licked her lips and nodded.

"Mmm," the voice growled approvingly, sounding like a contented jungle cat. "You are going to be a fun one to play with, I can tell." But, before he could continue, the sound of a cell phone ringing echoed through the room and her captor let out a loud sigh of disappointment. Apparently, whoever was calling could not be ignored. "Well, damn. I guess this is just going to have to wait until later," he said, delivering a hard slap to Emily's stomach. "Wait for me here, will you?" he said, laughing as he walked away.

Emily bit the inside of her cheek to keep from making a sound at the stinging blow and watched and listened as her attacker disappeared into the shadows at the perimeter of the room, his heavy footfalls growing quieter with each step. There was the sound of a door opening and closing, and then a heavy lock being turned over, and then nothing. Emily held her breath to try and hear more, but all she could hear was the suffocating silence of the room around her. Nothing that would help her figure out where she was. Nothing that would give her any clue as to who her attacker might be.

 

7

JJ, Hotch, and Reid had just gotten back to the precinct and met up with Morgan and Rossi, who had stayed behind at the scene until the last scrap of evidence had been collected, when all five of their phones beeped, chimed, or rang, alerting them that Garcia had collected the information Hotch had asked her to look up about dark trucks in the greater Portland area. The team shared a look of quiet determination, one that bespoke of their closeness and their desire to bring Emily home, and then they took off as one into the building. Morgan played the role of a fullback, clearing a path through the crowd of officers as the rest of the BAU agents followed in his wake.

Even though it was now nearly two in the morning, the precinct was buzzing with more activity than the hour just after a shift change would normally merit, but none of the agents gave it much thought as they bulldozed their way through the throng of uniformed and plainclothes officers that littered the hallway. Hotch looked up as he caught sight of the Chief of Police striding purposefully toward him and his team, waving a hand in the air to hail their attention.

"Chief Johnson, I'm sure you'll understand that we're in a bit of a hurry here," Hotch greeted the man, never breaking stride as he followed Morgan and the rest of his agents down the narrow hallway that would take them to the conference room they had 'borrowed' for the length of their stay.

"I understand completely, Agent Hotchner," Chief Johnson replied, as he easily fell into step beside the stoic Agent. "I just wanted to let you know that I have gone ahead and called in all available officers to help with your search."

"I appreciate that," Hotch said as the conference room came into view. "How many officers does that give us? Because I can assure you, we are going to use each and every one of them."

"Fifty," Johnson answered.

Hotch nodded and turned to look at Chief Johnson."I appreciate the help. How about the Sheriff's department? Can they spare any men?"

The Police Chief nodded. "That's Tom Newman's group, and he said that he'd do anything he could to assist. I'll get you his number. I also have calls in to other precincts in the area. Everybody is sending at least a dozen guys down here to help. Where do you want me to assemble everybody as they come in?"

Hotch stopped walking and watched the BAU team disappear into the conference room. "Is your regular briefing room large enough to handle the number of officers that will be coming in?"

Johnson shrugged. "Maybe. If everybody's standing."

"Right," Hotch murmured. "Well then, since it's not raining, why don't we assemble everybody out in the parking lot and we can just do it there. Our technical analyst just sent us a list of registered vehicle owners whose trucks match the description of the one that hit Agents Prentiss and Jareau, so we need to sift through the data and we'll hand out assignments once we've finished that. How many patrol cars do you have?"

"Fifteen that aren't on rotation now," Johnson answered. "So that'll put thirty officers on the street from our department. From the other departments who are sending guys over… I don't know. Anyways, we have five unmarked cars for detectives, that'll add another ten, and I'll put the other ten of my guys to work here doing whatever you think would help."

Hotch gave Johnson a tight-lipped smile. "Thank you for your help. When do you expect they'll all be here?"

The Police Chief glanced at his watch. "Call went out about thirty minutes ago, so I'd expect them all to be here in the next hour, guys from further away… maybe two, three hours, tops."

"Excellent, if we're still working when the last of them arrive, could you please let me know?"

"Of course," Johnson nodded. "Anything else?"

"Not right now," Hotch said. "I need to get to work." He left the Police Chief standing in the middle of the hall at that and made his way into the conference room. He spotted Reid and Morgan hunched over a laptop, and looked over to where Rossi was standing next to the printer, pulling sheets off one by one as they poured from the machine. "How we doing?"

"Still printing out the matches out now," Morgan said, glancing up at Hotch.

"How many more?"

"Um… eight hundred, give or take a few," Reid reported.

Hotch pursed his lips and nodded tightly. Approximately four hours had already passed from the time of Emily's abduction and he knew that even with this unsub's penchant for drawn-out torture, that they were running on borrowed time. The unsub knew who Emily was and he knew exactly what he was doing when he took her, and Hotch didn't doubt for a minute that he was looking forward to the challenge of breaking Emily and killing her before the BAU and the police could find her. The unsub was cocky, arrogant, and incredibly, incredibly adept at what he did, and at this point the only silver lining to the entire situation was that, so far, he had never raped any of his victims so Emily might be spared that particular torture.

Everything else, though…

He shook his head to try and shake those negative thoughts away and sighed quietly as he looked over at JJ, who was standing against the back wall of the conference room and staring at the table that was littered with their notes and files. From what he could tell, the space looked pretty much the same as it had when they'd left a few hours earlier. He was fairly certain that his Communications Liaison was having trouble reconciling the fact that the last time she had been in this room she was with her partner, and now she was alone, grasping at straws for how to find her.

"Let's get started with what we have. Reid, give the printouts to Rossi to sort through. We're going to have to do a rough geographical profile on what we have as everything is going up and I want you at the map looking at the data as its plotted."

Reid obediently handed the paperwork over to Rossi and headed over to the laminated map that was tacked to the wall beside the whiteboard that the team had been using earlier.

Rossi had also been watching the quiet blonde lurking at the back of the room and, while he understood exactly what she was feeling, he also knew that, if she was going to be a productive member of the team, she had to struggle through the melancholy of hopelessness that was threatening to overwhelm her. "JJ, help me with these," he said, waving the stack of papers he was sifting through.

JJ looked up at the profiler and nodded. "What do you need?"

"Help me sort these by occupation," Rossi said, handing JJ half of the papers that were in his hand when she finally got close enough. "Medical field here." He tapped the left side of the table "and non-medical here." He tapped the right.

Hotch nodded his agreement with his friend's approach. The best way to keep JJ functioning was to keep her mind occupied and her body busy. "Morgan, Reid, I want you to use different colored pens and start plotting these addresses," he said, as he watched Rossi and JJ quickly sift through the information about the vehicle owners, sorting the pages into the appropriate pile.

Morgan and Reid jumped to the white board, each grabbing a pen – red for Reid and blue for Morgan – and stood at attention waiting for Hotch to call off the first address.

"Right," Hotch said, as he picked up the pile from the left side of the table. "We'll start with the registered owners who have a medical background. Reid, ready? I want all of these in the same color."

The genius nodded. "Yeah."

Hotch nodded and took a deep breath, holding it in for a moment before he let it go and read off the first address from the list. "2-6-8-9 Dove Court, Beaverton." He pursed his lips as the two younger male agents searched for the address and shuffled the page he'd just read off of to the back of the stack as Morgan tapped at the map and Reid drew a small dot over the address.

JJ helped Rossi sort the remaining pages, a job that was made easier because Garcia had highlighted the names of the owners with medical backgrounds, and Hotch split the pile between Morgan and Reid so that the men could plot the points more quickly. JJ leaned against the table and watched the guys work, both busy plotting addresses on the map as quickly as they possibly could, and occasionally Reid would draw a line between two points and mutter something about statistics and probability. Even though she knew they were doing the only thing they could at this point, she couldn't help feeling more and more upset as each dot was drawn, knowing that each one that was added took away from the probability of them finding Emily in time.

Minutes bled together as the team worked, Morgan and Reid plotting the addresses while Rossi and Hotch popped in and out, checking on the incoming volunteers and calming any dissent that happened to crop up. Not that there were a lot, per se, everybody knew and understood that one of their own had been taken and they were all dedicated to bringing her back, but there were the occasional whispers about how it took one of the FBI Agents going missing to really light a fire under the BAU's ass.

Through it all, JJ stood silently by, leaning against the table with her eyes trained on Morgan and Reid who were dancing around each other, drawing dots on the map and muttering under their breath while they worked. However, while her eyes were watching the scene happening in front of her, but her mind was a million miles away, stuck on an infinite loop, constantly replaying her memories of Emily.

The way Emily's confabulation had brought them together.

Their first real kiss after Emily's false memories had eased, and Emily had admitted to being attracted to her.

Their first date at the vineyard, and how they had danced under the stars.

The way Emily would look at her when they made love, the profiler's rich brown eyes so soft and overflowing with affection.

The moment she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with Emily.

She bit her lip and turned away from the board, lifting her hand to her face as her eyes filled with tears. The waiting was becoming unbearable and she wanted to do something. She needed to move. To run. To hunt. Yes, definitely to hunt. But, she knew that it wasn't time yet. Knew that they had to approach the situation with a calm head and a well thought-out plan in order to save Emily. She knew all of that, but it didn't make her heart stop hurting.

It certainly didn't keep her head from spinning.

She needed space, and she knew she wouldn't get that either. It was frustrating and annoying and she wanted to lash out at someone. Anyone. But she knew that she was lucky to even be at the precinct instead of back at the hospital undergoing more tests, so she bit back her ire and directed it inward, using it as fuel to keep her awake and functioning and ignoring the pain that radiated through her body from the accident so that she could do her part to save Emily.

Emily. God, Emily. Her breath hitched in her throat and she swallowed a sob, defiantly willing her tears back. There was so much blood, and she wasn't conscious…

"That's it," Morgan said wearily, running a hand over his head as he took a step back from the map to get a broader look at what he and Reid had done.

JJ looked up and forced herself to actually study the map the guys had been working on. The dots were scattered across the area and it was obvious that it would take them at least the rest of the day to go to every single house. Even with the extra volunteers who had come in to help with the search, the locations were too spread apart to be covered quickly. She felt her heart rate spike with fear and she rubbed her palms over the front of her pants nervously. "Where do we start?"

"The red dots," Rossi explained. "Our profile says that the unsub has an intricate knowledge of human anatomy so we're going to start with them. Even with the grill guard like Garcia said she saw, the unsub's vehicle would have sustained heavy damage from that collision so we're going to go door to door until we find him."

JJ scrubbed her hands over her face and tried to force her tears back. She knew it was the most logical approach, but heart wanted a faster solution. "What if the owners don't let us look at their truck?" she asked, her voice rough with unshed tears.

"Then we do what we have to do to get a warrant," Hotch said. He knew it was going to be more difficult than just calling up the District Attorney, but he wasn't going to tell her that. "We will find her, Jayje," he added, his voice ringing with conviction.

JJ pulled her hands away from her face so she could look Hotch in the eye. She sniffled and nodded as the tears she'd been trying to hold back broke free. "I know," she said, though the sentiment was more wishful than resolute. She glanced at her watch and sighed. It was almost five in the morning. "When do we start?"

"Ten minutes ago," Morgan said, clapping a gentle hand on JJ's shoulder. He pulled her into his side in a one armed hug, and closed his eyes to hold back his own tears when she turned into him, her thin arms snaking around his waist as she held onto him as if her life depended on it. His heart clenched as he tried to comfort her, knowing that this wasn't his job. Protecting JJ wasn't his job.

It was Emily's.

But Emily was missing and he would be damned if he let JJ suffer in her absence. So, as the blonde's arms tightened around him further, holding him almost painfully close, he dropped his head so that he was able to whisper in her ear, "We will find her Jennifer. I promise you, we will find her."

Unable to remain strong any longer, JJ choked out a sob and nodded as she melted into his embrace. "I know," she husked. "I just…"

"Me too," he said, squeezing her gently. "Me too." He looked up and caught sight of Hotch and Rossi discussing how to split the search between the available units and the team. He held JJ tighter as a plan was sketched out, rubbing her back and rocking her softly from side to side. He'd seen Emily calm JJ this way before, and he hoped that the familiarity of the touch would be enough to help settle her.

A sharp rap at the door broke them apart and they all looked up at Chief Johnson who stuck his head into the room. Morgan protectively turned so that he was between JJ and the intruder so that she could wipe away the signs of her breakdown. A surge of adrenaline rushed through him when the Police Chief said, "Everybody's here. Are you ready for us?"

Hotch nodded. "Yeah. Have them all assemble in the parking lot and we'll start the briefing there."

"Gotcha," Johnson said. He gave the BAU team one last sympathetic look and hurried off to get everybody to the parking lot. He felt partially responsible for the missing Agent's abduction, because it had been his phone call that had brought them out, and he was going to do everything he could to try and get her back.

As soon as the Police Chief was gone, Hotch turned to his team. "Reid, do you need more time for a geographical profile?"

Reid took a deep breath and shrugged. "I can always use more time to narrow it down, but I can give broad areas where I believe our unsub would reside."

"Then that's what we'll work with for now," Hotch said. "Morgan, you and JJ help Reid sort the addresses into groups so that we visit those that fall into Reid's areas of higher probability. Rossi, come with me. We'll start briefing the LEOs on the unsub. You three bring out the addresses when you've got them sorted and we'll divvy them up."

Half an hour later, JJ followed Morgan and Reid out to the parking lot and watched silently as the Unit Chief sifted through the stack and nodded thoughtfully before he pulled the top five pages and tucked them under his arm. The rest of the print-outs, he split between the commanding officers and they immediately began handing them to the volunteers.

As the volunteers ran off to their vehicles to begin their search, Hotch turned to address his team that was standing behind him. "Okay. That's it. Reid and I will stay here and keep track of the search results and he can work some more on the geographical profile. Morgan, you and JJ will go with Rossi in our remaining SUV and head out to these five addresses. They're not only the furthest out, they're also the ones that Reid believes to have the greatest probability of being our unsub."

Morgan nodded and looked over at JJ who was standing next to him, her blue eyes flashing fire as she watched the officers drive away. "You ready, Jareau?"

JJ pursed her lips and nodded, everything about her in that moment a picture of pure determination. She was still terrified, but the time had come to finally do something and she wasn't going to waste a minute of it. "Oh yeah."

"Keep in touch after each address," Hotch instructed, giving Morgan a look that quite clearly said, 'Keep an eye on her'. "I'll call you if any of the other search teams find anything."

"Will do," Morgan said, nodding at Hotch's silent warning to keep an eye on JJ. He placed a hand at the small of JJ's back and gave a gentle push. "Come on, Jayje. Let's go."


Emily had tried her hardest to not fall back asleep, but the dark room combined with the severity of her injuries pretty much made that impossible. It wasn't even sleep that she had fallen into, so much as it was yet another bout of unconsciousness. Her body had just shut down in order to try and heal from the injuries sustained in the accident, which meant that she was completely helpless to even brace for the haymaker of a blow that landed on her ribs, jolting her awake. She groaned and reflexively tried to curl her body around the injury to protect it but was once again thwarted in her attempt to do so by the ties at her wrists. She groaned silently as she realized that, while she'd been out, the unsub had somehow managed to move her from the table or whatever it was she had been restrained on to a chair – metal again – with her hands once again suspended above her head. Gravity had her arms pulling at the cuffs, cutting off circulation in her wrists and making her arms tingle with painful numbness that she tried to relieve by sitting up straighter. She could feel the heavy weight of steel cuffs hanging around her ankles as well, and she was willing to bet that her legs were secured either to the legs of the chair or to bolts in the floor.

"Are we awake now, Agent Prentiss?" the mocking voice asked.

She took a shallow breath and held it as she stared at the figure of a man who was once again standing just outside her line of vision. The same small circle of dirty light fell around her, as if she were the prime attraction at a gallery, so she knew that he'd seen her move and knew damn well that she was awake, and she wasn't going to give him the benefit of hearing her speak. Her right side pulsed with waves of agony from his last punch, and she was pretty sure that it had broken at least one rib. Sitting up straight hurt, breathing made her sides burn with pain, but she wasn't going to give him the pleasure of knowing he had hurt her. He enjoyed the torture. He enjoyed inflicting pain and watching his victims suffer.

And, even injured as she already was, she refused to play into his game.

She concentrated hard on his unfamiliar features as he finally stepped into the light, committing to memory so that she might never forget his face. He was handsome, she noted absently, with patrician features and thick, dark hair that was cut above the ears and a left little shaggy on top. He was big, his biceps strained at the fabric of his flannel shirt, and the smile on his face was enough to chill her to the bone.

It was cold. Calculating. It was the smile of a person completely devoid of a moral conscience. It was a smile that promised pain. Great amounts of pain. And, with the way his hands were flexing at his sides, she knew he had only just begun.

She bit her lip and did her best to roll with his next punch that landed on the other side of her torso. She tried to do a small crunch to absorb some of the impact but the way her arms were stretched above her head kept her from doing so. The punch hurt, but not nearly as bad as the shot he'd delivered earlier, and she was able to almost completely swallow the grunt that wanted to escape her at the hit.

JJ. Think of JJ, she told herself as the blows continued to rain down on her sides, each one causing her breath to catch painfully in her chest as near-blinding agony washed over her. It was all she could do to stumble behind the safety of her mental compartments, picturing the way JJ looked as she slept, the way JJ felt in her arms as they made love.

Another blow landed and she winced as she felt and heard yet another rib crack, and she bit her tongue as she redirected her thoughts to the ring she was having made for JJ and the different plans she'd been considering for when she was going to propose.

She took another shot to the side and yet another rib cracked under the force of the blow, but she barely felt it as she pictured JJ accepting her proposal. The way JJ would jump into her arms. The way she would kiss her…

A low, threatening laugh, completely devoid of mirth, broke through her mental barrier and Emily came back to herself to notice the sound of the unsub's heavy footfalls walking away from her. She lifted her head and tried to see where he went, but couldn't see anything outside her small circle of light as the rest of the space was once again full of shadows.

"This will be fun," the voice called out.

Emily tensed, the motion causing bolts of pain to course through her, as she waited for what was going to happen next. She stared into the darkness, helpless to move, trying to see what fate was awaiting her. Her eyes had adjusted somewhat to the light and she was able to see the outline of the unsub standing maybe ten feet away. She could tell he was holding something small in front of himself and, as she strained her eyes to try and figure out what it was, she was shot in the face with a biting spray of ice-cold water.

"How about now?" the voice taunted. Emily gasped in surprise, unable to contain the unconscious response, but managed to bite down on her tongue before any other sound could escape her. She held her breath as the water continued to rain upon her face, each drop landing upon her skin with the sting of a thousand needles, and when she didn't make another sound, he turned the hose on the rest of her body, hitting every inch of her naked skin with the freezing spray.

Emily took the punishment silently, trying to think not of the cold or the biting pain, but rather of JJ and her warmth, the breathy sound she made whenever they kissed, the taste of her lips, the smell of her hair. JJ surrounded her with warmth and protection as she sat there under the icy spray, her body trembling with cold, each racking shiver sending a burst of painful fire through her as her broken ribs protested the spasmatic movement.

It wasn't until the unsub spoke again, in fact, his voice ringing with both hatred and amusement, that she was pulled back to the present. "How about now?" A solid jab landed on her right cheek, snapping her head to the left where it was met with an equally punishing jab that sent her head careening back the other direction. "Tell me, Agent Prentiss, are we awake now?"

Emily just closed her eyes and bit hard into her lower lip, preparing herself for his next attack, whatever it might be.

"I see," the voice drawled, sounding pleased. "Yes, you are going to be so much fun to play with. Your stubbornness will be a refreshing challenge."

 

8

"How long until the next one?" JJ asked, her voice a dull monotone as she stared out the window. It was now a little past seven thirty in the morning and the BAU team had already cleared the first three properties on their list. Phone calls to Hotch and Reid back at headquarters continued to bring nothing but bad news as truck after truck was cleared. The other search teams who had stayed closer to town had already cleared their so-called 'red list' and were now working through those on the 'blue list', but because their first property was half an hour from the precinct, and they then had to traverse back and forth across the rural farmland to get to each subsequent property on their list, they still had two more owners to check out.

JJ knew that the elimination of potential suspects was a good thing; that it meant they were closer to finding Emily – but she couldn't suppress her fear that they were going to be too late.

That they wouldn't get to Emily in time.

"Ten minutes or so," Rossi answered, turning around in the passenger's seat to look at her. JJ had grown quieter and quieter after each house they visited, and he knew that she was barely hanging on by a thread. "Are you going to be okay to do this?" he asked gently. There was no hint of accusation or disappointment in his tone, just measured understanding and concern.

JJ nodded and looked up Rossi. His gaze was warm and unflinching, and she was glad that the day was uncharacteristically bright so that she was able to shield her eyes with her sunglasses. "Of course," she lied. She would be, once they pulled up to the address and another jolt of adrenaline pulsed through her veins, but for now… now, she wasn't. But that didn't matter.

Nothing mattered, except finding Emily.

She looked out the window as they flew up a winding mountain pass and silently willed Morgan to go even faster, despite the fact that he was already pushing the limits of what was safe as they raced up the deserted road. "What do we know about this next guy?"

Rossi sighed and turned toward the papers on his lap. "Ben Wyatt. Age 38. Works as an attending DVM at an emergency veterinarian clinic in Banks. Lives on five acres toward the top of this mountain."

JJ nodded as she processed the information. "And you think a vet has enough knowledge of human anatomy to sever limbs like our unsub?"

Rossi pursed his lips and shrugged. "He flunked out of med school in his third year but he did go back and managed to become a vet. He has spent more than his share of time in an anatomy lab doing dissections, and he's as good of a bet as anybody else with a full-blown medical degree."

JJ licked her lips and nodded. "Great. Does this guy have a record of any kind?"

"Just a speeding ticket that he got two years ago," Rossi said, as he reread what little information they had on Benjamin Wyatt.

"Ya know," Morgan said thoughtfully, "his house is a hell of a long way from his office."

JJ went back to staring blankly out the window and only perked up when she felt the car begin to slow as Morgan got ready to turn onto an even narrower, even less traveled dirt road. All three of their head whipped around as a black truck passed them going the other direction. "Was that…"

"A Ford," Morgan said, his voice flat. "And the front end was perfectly fine. It's not what we're looking for."

JJ sighed and shook her head, silently berating herself for being silly enough to hope that they would just magically stumble upon their unsub. "Right."

JJ's quiet desperation was evident in her tone and Rossi turned back around to regard her carefully. "We will find her, JJ."

JJ nodded and sucked her lower lip between her teeth as she turned her face back to her window, unable and unwilling to put voice to her fears that they might not find Emily in time, in case they might somehow jinx their operation to try and save her.

It felt like it took them forever to wind their way up the narrow gravel driveway that led to Benjamin Wyatt's house, and all three of the FBI agents tensed as they pulled to a stop in front of a well-kept, split-log cabin. Towering pines surrounded the small clearing where the house was situated and it reminded JJ of the little hunting cabin her grandfather had kept in the rural mountains of Pennsylvania back home.

"I don't see a garage, do you?" Morgan asked as he studied the area.

"No," Rossi said, frowning. "Let's do this. JJ, call Garcia and see if she can pull up any details about this property, back roads into it, outlying buildings, you know the drill. Morgan and I will go see if Mr. Wyatt is home."

JJ nodded and pulled out her phone as the two men climbed out of the SUV. Her call to Garcia rang through as the two men made their way to the wide stairs that led to the oversized front porch that stretched across the front of the cabin.

"Tell me something good," Garcia answered.

"I wish I could, Pen." JJ sighed. "Look, we're at Ben Wyatt's house in Timber and Rossi wanted me to ask you to check and see if there are any outlying buildings on the property."

"I can do that," Garcia murmured, and JJ could hear the telltale clicking of keyboard keys in the background. "Right… hold on, just have to borrow a satellite from the DOD… and, yes. Come to mama. Okay, I'm inputting the coordinates, zooming in and… I have a visual on your car and the cabin… lemme pan out a bit and… yes. There's a truck parked behind the main house and there is what looks to be a large barn about five hundred yards south southwest of your current position."

"Is there anything else you can tell me?" JJ asked, as she watched Morgan and Rossi peer through the windows of the cabin after their knocks went unanswered.

"It looks like it's in good condition," Garcia murmured. "Functional, not abandoned. And, wait, yeah… there's what looks to be like a logging road from there up higher onto the mountain."

"What's up there?" JJ asked, frowning as she watched Morgan and Rossi start heading back her way. She opened her door and climbed out of the SUV, her boots crunching softly on the gravel.

"A building of some kind," Garcia said after a moment. "I don't know how big because the tree coverage is incredibly dense in the area, but it's definitely something."

"Right, thanks, Pen. I'll let you know if we find anything," JJ said as she hung up the phone. JJ arched a brow at Morgan and Rossi and asked, "Nothing?"

Morgan shook his head. "What did Garcia say?"

"There's a car parked behind the house, a barn about five hundred yards south southwest of here, and that from there there's a logging road or something leading from it up into the hills. She thinks she saw another outbuilding there too."

Rossi nodded thoughtfully and looked at Morgan. "Run around and check the back of the house."

"On it." Morgan took off at a jog around the perimeter of the small cabin. JJ lost sight of him for a moment as he disappeared around the corner and when he came running back out nodding emphatically, she felt her stomach clench.

"Was it there?" Rossi asked as Morgan approached.

Morgan nodded. "Sure was. Black Dodge Ram, complete with a heavy-duty grill guard, that is busted up on the right side."

Rossi nodded and pulled out his phone as he held up a 'wait a minute' finger to JJ and Morgan. "Let me call Hotch," he said, as he turned and walked a few feet away from the younger agents.

JJ sighed and looked around where they stood. The woods were unnaturally quiet and she found the lack of sound to be almost suffocating. There should have been birds chirping at the very least, never mind the occasional snapping branch from passing deer or the rustle of bushes from rabbits or other small forest dwelling creatures. She turned and lifted a hand to block the sun from her eyes as she stared into the woods in the direction where Garcia had said she'd seen a barn, but she couldn't see anything and, having grown up in farm country where everyone had barns, that fact struck her as being incredibly odd. Wyatt had so much land, right here where he could have easily built the outbuilding, and yet he tucked it away in the woods. Why?

"Damn, this place is just out in the middle of fucking nowhere," Morgan muttered as he looked around the clearing.

JJ nodded and took a deep breath as she tried to find any clue that might suggest Emily was here. The truck was a definite cause for concern, but even though she wanted it to mean that they had found their man, she knew that it didn't. "Yeah."

"Hotch is calling the DA and getting us a warrant," Rossi said as he returned to where the two younger agents were standing. "He wants us to wait here until we have a verbal approval, and then we're to search the property from top to bottom."

JJ tensed, her hand slipping to lightly grasp the butt of her gun as she flashed an appraising look at the woods around them. "You think he's our guy."

"I think," Rossi hedged, "that for the leads we have and the options left available to us, that this guy is our best bet. I just want to be safe. A little caution never hurt anybody," he added as his phone rang.

JJ looked at Morgan, asking him with her eyes if he agreed with Rossi's assessment. The burly profiler nodded and turned to look around the area a bit more as Rossi spoke to Hotch on the phone. Rossi's half of the conversation consisted of a lot of 'uh huh's and 'yeah's so it was hard for JJ to follow what was being said, but the predatory smile that tweaked the older profiler's lips as he flipped his phone closed was unmistakable.

"We got the warrant. An electronic copy is being sent to my phone now and we have permission from the DA to go ahead and search the property, including any outbuildings. Chief Johnson is sending his SWAT team up to assist and they will have a paper copy of the warrant on them."

"Do you want to wait for backup?" Morgan asked Rossi, deferring to the older man's decision.

"No," JJ said, unsnapping her holster. "If she's here, I don't want to wait an hour for SWAT to get up here."

Rossi and Morgan shared a look and nodded their agreement with JJ. Neither of them particularly liked the idea of leaving Emily being in the unsub's hands any longer than necessary either. And, as they all were already kitted out with the Kevlar vests, there was no reason to wait. With SWAT or without, they would be going in first and all of their intel told them that their unsub worked alone; so it was an acceptable risk, especially considering the alternative. "Morgan, take point," Rossi said.

"Yes, sir," Morgan said, as he pulled his sidearm from its holster and flicked off the safety. "Start with the house?" he asked, and when Rossi nodded his agreement, he led the way back up to the front door.

He looked over his shoulder at JJ and Rossi, who were both standing behind him with their guns pulled and pointed at the ground, and took a deep breath as he turned back to the thick oak door and pounded three bruising knocks into the wood. "WYATT! THIS IS THE FBI! WE HAVE A WARRANT TO SEARCH THE PREMISIS! OPEN UP!"

Of course, nobody answered, just as nobody had answered moments before, and JJ held her breath to try and steady her nerves as she watched Morgan take a big step back and prepare to kick the door in. The burly agent's boot connected with the door just below the doorknob with a loud thud and it immediately gave under the force of the blow.

They filed into the house with a pinpoint precision that was honed during their years spent together doing this exact same thing, and they broke off to sweep through the small, impeccably kept cabin, opening doors and looking everywhere, each of them yelling 'CLEAR' as yet another room was found to be empty. They reassembled in the small kitchen at the back of the house and JJ pursed her lips as she looked at her teammates.

"Nothing," she said.

"Not yet," Morgan countered, looking expectantly at Rossi. "Barn next?"

Rossi nodded. "Yeah.

Morgan looked out the window above the sink thoughtfully. "South-southwest from where we left the car?"

"That's what Garcia said," JJ said, as she adjusted her grip on the butt of her gun.

"So he can get to it from his back door, but the house is between it and the driveway," Morgan murmured. "That's got to restrict access."

JJ nodded and spoke up, "But it also keeps it easily accessible and out of view from anyone who approaches the front door."

"Yeah," Rossi agreed. "So let's go have a look at it and see why he wants it so far out of sight."

Morgan made a small sound of agreement as he made his way across the kitchen to the back door. He unlocked it and threw it open, and made his way down the steps at a light jog as he immediately spotted a worn path, just wide enough for a car or a truck, that cut through the trees. His boots crunched quietly on the gravel path until they reached the edge of the forest where the rocks gave way to pine needles that absorbed the sound of their approach.

The woods were thick, making it difficult to see around each curve of the path they were following, and because of that they didn't even catch sight of the barn Garcia had spotted from the satellite she'd hijacked until they were practically standing on its doorstep. The building was well tended – the dark gray paint on the exterior was clean and there looked to be no holes in the siding – and it was literally surrounded by trees. JJ could put her hand on the trunk of a towering cedar and reached out with her other to touch the side of the building. It was a complete antithesis for how one normally built in the woods, trees near building meant damage during storms, and the only explanation she could think of for constructing anything this close to the forest would be to hide it from view.

But what was he hiding?

Morgan put a finger to his lips as he pressed his ear to the door and shrugged when he heard nothing. Rossi tapped him on the shoulder and, once he had the younger man's attention, pointed at himself and then gestured that he was going to go around the side backside of the building to check for other exits.

"No," JJ said, her voice a hushed whisper as she understood what it was Rossi was going to do, and she shook her head emphatically when he looked at her in surprise. "No, Rossi. We're not splitting up."

"JJ," Rossi said quietly, "I'll be fine. If this is our guy, evidence and our profile says he works alone – so I'll be fine. I'm not Reid, I know how to take care of myself."

"And I don't?" JJ argued, setting her jaw defiantly as she willed herself to not remember what it had been like to be cornered by those dogs.

"I'm not going in by myself," Rossi said. "I'm just looking around. I'll be back here in five minutes."

"Jayje has a point, Rossi," Morgan muttered. "Let's all go."

Rossi shook his head. "Not necessary. If, by some chance, he has security cameras posted around the building, I don't want him to make a run out the front while we're at the back and unable to see him. I got this. I'll meet you back here and let you know what I found." Not waiting to listen to the younger agents' admittedly well-founded arguments, he tapped his watch and wiggled five fingers at JJ and Morgan before he turned on his heel and walked carefully into the woods, his years of hunting experience coming in useful as each of his steps fell silently on the bed of needles that carpeted the forest floor.

JJ bounced on the balls of her feet, nervous energy making it all but impossible for her to stand still, and she huffed a quiet breath as she felt Morgan's eyes land on her. She met his questioning gaze and shook her head at him, telling him without words that nothing was wrong even though they both knew it was a bold-faced lie, as she lifted her watch to check the time.

One minute down.

Four more to go.


Tears poured from Emily's eyes as she suffered yet another beating in silence. She had lost track of how many punches she'd taken, the staggering blows blended together until they just seemed like a never-ending stream of punishment. Instead of focusing on the pain, she tried her best to keep her thoughts focused on JJ. It was the best plan she had, but as her pain increased with each jarring punch to the ribs and every bell-ringing shot to the head that she took, it became an increasingly difficult task to manage and she was grateful when she heard the telltale sound of her captor's footsteps walking away from her, his breath falling in heavy pants as he recovered from the effort he was putting into beating her.

She looked down at her lap, her thighs already bright red and bruised from where she had been repeatedly kicked with his steel-toed boots, and let out a quiet sob. She had yet to make a sound more than a gasp while he hit, kicked, and punched her, but she was well aware of the fact that she was fast approaching the end of her ability to remain silent.

She had no idea how long she had been in the dark room, being verbally taunted and physically assaulted by her captor, but it felt like it had been an eternity. She was tired, so tired, and every time he took a break from punching and kicking her, she had to fight to remain conscious. Her body saw the reprieve as a chance to rest, but she knew better than to give in to unconsciousness because her captor would undoubtedly punish her more severely for not playing into his game as little as she was, so she did everything she could to stay awake.

She screwed her eyes shut and drew a deep, ragged breath, welcoming the stab of pain that flared through her as her lungs filled with air. The pain kept her awake. The pain kept her aware. And she encouraged it, taking another deep breath, as deep as she could manage, the throbbing of her protesting ribs a blessing in disguise as she used it to keep her tenuous hold on consciousness.

The sound of approaching footsteps drew her eyes up from her lap and she resolutely stared into the dim light that surrounded her, her eyes boring into the inky shadows as she waited for her captor's return. Her heart skipped a beat in her chest and her breath hitched in her throat as she caught sight of the flash of a blade, the light over her head reflecting brilliantly off the cool, curved steel.

"Ready for more?" her captor asked, as the toes of his shoes broke the perimeter of the circle where light became shadow.

Emily licked her lips and sat up straighter, doing her best to mentally prepare for what she knew was coming next.


Outside the barn, the muffled sound of a strangled scream shattered the tense silence that had befallen JJ and Morgan as they waited for Rossi's return, and JJ's head snapped up to stare at the metal door in front of them. Rossi still had a minute left on his window, but she ignored it completely as she reached for the handle and gave it a twist, somehow not at all surprised to find that it was unlocked, and pushed it open.

She didn't even look at Morgan as she slid into the space, her gun pointed into the darkness that filled the cavernous outbuilding. She could hear Morgan following right behind her and she squinted into the shadows as she moved out of the weak beam of sunlight that streamed through the open door behind them. Her head was on a swivel, trying to figure out where the sound had come from, but she couldn't see anything. She hated to pull out her Maglite and make herself a target more than she already was, but she wasn't going to accomplish anything stumbling around in the dark so she reached back with her left hand and retrieved the thin black flashlight from its case on her belt.

Behind her, Morgan had the same idea and the twin beams of their lights sliced through the murky shadows that filled the barn to reveal a plethora of woodworking tools – a belt sander, a scroll saw, a drill press, and a table saw amongst other power tools, and a multitude of awls, chisels, and hammers. A door at the far end of the building flew open and both JJ and Morgan turned to level their sights on the person who stormed inside, their fingers riding the line on their triggers until they recognized the intruder as being Rossi.

JJ sighed and turned her light back onto the space around them and her heart skipped a beat in her chest as her light landed on a dark mass about midway down the northern wall of the building. It looked like a room of some kind and just as she took a step toward it, another scream tore through the air, the pained pitch of the wounded cry making her heart seize in her chest.

She hesitated for only the briefest of moments before she broke into a run, covering the distance to the small room in mere seconds. She flashed her light back and forth over the outcropped room as she approached, gauging its dimensions to be about twenty feet square, as she easily picked out the door that was set in the middle of the wall that faced into the barn. She reached for the doorknob, ready to rush inside, and she jumped in surprise when Morgan's hand slapped her own out of the way.

JJ turned to glare at the profiler but never got the chance as he swept his left arm across the front of her body and moved her out of his way. She seethed at the impetuous move, but knew better than to fight as she slid into position behind him. One, it would give away their position. Two, she knew that he was just as desperate to find Emily as she was, and she also knew that he had promised Emily that he would take care of her should something happen. This, she figured, was his way of protecting her and doing right by his promise to Emily. She just hated the idea of not being the first one through the door in case it was Emily on the other side.

Morgan could feel JJ glaring daggers into his back but he ignored her as he wrapped his hand around the oblong doorknob and gave it a gentle turn, hoping that it wouldn't make a sound. So far, they had actually be remarkably quiet, and if the unsub – or whomever was behind this door – hadn't heard them yet, he wanted to have as much surprise on his side as he possibly could.

Go. Go. Go. Go. Go! JJ chanted silently as Morgan seemed to take too long to open the door. She licked her lips and tightened her grip on her gun as she watched the door begin to move and as soon as Morgan dove through the space, she was right on his tail, her gun aimed into the heart of the room.

"FBI! FREEZE!"

 

9

JJ's heart stopped beating as her eyes landed on a small halo of dirty yellow light and the bruised, bloodied, naked woman who was sitting on an industrial looking metal chair in the middle of it. The woman's arms were extended above her head, held in place by a pair of handcuffs that were wrapped around her wrists and attached to a chain that was dangling from the ceiling, and there were thin tendrils of blood trickling down her arms from the way her restraints had cut into her skin. She stared into wide, pleading brown eyes as the woman strained against the hand that was tangled in her hair and the knife that was pressed against her throat. Even beaten as badly as the poor woman was, JJ would have recognized her anywhere.

It was Emily.

They had found Emily.

Her finger twitched on the trigger of her gun as she leveled her sights on the man hiding behind Emily. She couldn't look at Emily without feeling her heart break at the sight of the profiler's injuries – there were so many bruises, dark and purple and angry, crisscrossed with bright red slashes that were oozing blood from where he had begun to work her over with his knife, that she felt bile rise in her throat at the sight of them – so she instead focused the entirety of her attention on the man responsible for hurting her. She re-gripped her gun as he smiled at her, and she was surprised more than anyone when her voice rang through the silence, cold and deadly, and a thousand times calmer than she actually felt. "Drop your weapon and step away from Agent Prentiss."

"Agent Jareau," Wyatt drawled in a sickly-sweet voice. "And Agents Morgan and Rossi. I must say, I am surprised to see you here already. Where are Agents Hotchner and Reid?"

"Drop the knife, Wyatt," Morgan snarled.

Benjamin Wyatt smirked and gave Emily's hair a tug, pulling Emily's head back to give the blade of his knife a firmer purchase against her neck. "I don't think so." He held Morgan's gaze as he slowly drew his knife across Emily's neck, the tip of the blade dipping to press hard enough to draw a sliver of blood from the hollow of Emily's throat. "How did you find me so quickly?"

"There was a surveillance camera at the intersection where you rammed their car with your truck," Morgan said as he slid further into the room, making sure her was out of JJ and Rossi's lines of fire.

Emily gasped as the knife against her throat twitched and the point dug further into her skin, and she swallowed carefully as she caught JJ's eye, begging her to just shoot already.

"I don't recall seeing that particular crossing on the list of monitored intersections when I checked it last. When was it installed?" Wyatt asked, his tone conversational as he slid the tip of his knife around until it was resting under the sweet hollow of Emily's jaw above her pulse point. He rocked his hand forward ever so slightly and chuckled as he watched JJ's eyes harden when he dug the tip of his blade in just enough to make Emily hiss softly.

Remembering something that Reid had said while the genius was pouring over the different angles from the intersection, Rossi answered, "Last week." He stepped off to the side, trying to get a better angle on Wyatt, understandably wary of firing a shot that might hit Emily.

JJ's jaw clenched hard at the sight of Wyatt's knife pressing into Emily's jugular. She knew that he could kill her with just a bit more pressure. Even if they shot him after the fact, if he pushed that knife in far enough they wouldn't be able to stop the bleeding in time to save her.

JJ licked her lips and took a small step forward as she gave Emily a look that said, quite clearly, 'stay still'. She saw Emily's eyes fill with love, and she felt her heart skip a beat as she watched her blink to convey her understanding before she went as rigid in her captor's grasp as she possibly could. JJ's hand flexed around the butt of her gun, checking that her grip was just right. This was the most important shot she would ever take in her life and she needed everything to be perfect. She took a deep breath and held it, the sound of Rossi and Morgan's tense chatter fading to a distant hum as she focused her attention on the shot she was about to take.

Wyatt was ducked behind Emily, only about half of his face visible as he hid behind her. It was an easy enough shot for JJ to make, she was the best shot on the team, after all, and among the top ten in the entire Bureau, there were members on the sniper team that didn't score as highly as she did on the small arms qualifications, but if she missed… God, if she missed…

Do it, Emily silently encouraged JJ as the knife at her throat twisted and cut further into her skin. Do it. Do it! Do it, NOW!

"No matter," Wyatt said, directing his comment at Rossi, completely unaware of the silent conversation that was taking place in front of him. "You're still not taking her out of here alive. I'll kill her before I let you rescue her. It'll be so easy, just a little more pressure and-"

Please, Jennifer! DO IT NOW!!! Emily thought, tears streaking down her face as the knife at her throat dug in a little deeper.

The crack of JJ's shot was cacophonous in the small space. Morgan and Rossi, who had been so focused on Wyatt and Emily that neither of them had seen JJ preparing to fire, jerked to a halt in surprise. Time slowed down as JJ remained frozen where she stood, staring down the barrel of her gun that was aimed mere millimeters away from Emily's head. Her heart, which had stopped beating as she finally edged her trigger past the release line and fired, now raced wildly in her chest.

Blood trickled out of a newly punched circular wound in Wyatt's forehead as he dropped to the ground with a hollow thump, and the knife that he'd been holding at Emily's throat finally fell away.

It was over.

JJ slipped her gun back into its holster as her feet started moving toward Emily, carrying her forward to her love before she even realized it was happening.

Emily swallowed thickly and tears coursed down her cheeks as she held JJ's gaze. Her body trembled with relief and adrenaline as she watched the blonde move closer, JJ's expression shifting from intense concentration to relief, and she felt her heart break at the love that filled JJ's eyes as she kneeled in front of her.

"Em," JJ murmured, her voice breaking over the single syllable. She drew a shuddering breath to steady herself as she reached out to run a soft, trembling finger over Emily's lips, and her eyes filled with tears as they flitted over the older woman's face.

"I'm okay," Emily whispered brokenly.

JJ licked her lips and nodded as her tears that had been building broke free, coursing down her cheeks as she murmured, "I know." Unable to restrain herself any longer, she leaned in and captured Emily's lips in a slow, sweet, tender kiss that said better than words ever could exactly how relieved she was to have gotten to her in time.

Unseen by the two women who were enjoying a quiet reunion, Morgan and Rossi were a flurry of motion. Morgan was busy roughly searching Wyatt's body for the key to Emily's handcuffs, huffing and cursing under his breath as he worked; and Rossi was looking around for Emily's clothes as he dialed 9-1-1, his normally calm demeanor lost as he yelled at the dispatcher to get EMTs to their location 'GODDAMN YESTERDAY'!

"Yes!" Morgan hissed with relief when he finally found the key stuffed in the breast pocket of the man's flannel. He looked up to tell Emily and JJ that he found the key and couldn't help but smile at the intimate kiss the two women were sharing in spite of Emily's injuries and the unfortunate position Emily was in. While he hated to interrupt them, he also knew they needed to get Emily free. He cleared his throat loudly and said, in a soft, gentle voice, "Hold her steady, Jayje."

JJ nodded and shifted so that her weight was balanced and moved her arms to support Emily as best she could by carefully placing her hands high on the brunette's sides, away from the angriest of the older woman's bruises, so that her thumbs were brushing against her armpits. "Okay?" she asked softly.

"Perfect," Emily whispered. In truth, even JJ's gentle touch was painful, but she wasn't going to tell her that. She needed the warmth of JJ's touch. She needed the love that was shining in JJ's watery blue eyes.

Morgan made quick work of the locks holding Emily's arms above her head and he did his best to gently lower them to her sides, muttering, "Sorry. Sorry," every time she winced.

Emily drew a loud breath through her nose as pain shot through her torso and her hands began to burn with re-circulating blood once they were lowered to her lap and blood rushed to flood oxygen deprived cells. "It's okay," she whispered after each of Morgan's apologies. "I'm okay," she repeated, her voice low and rough as she saw JJ's eyes fill with fresh tears. "I'm okay."

"Here, Jayje," Morgan said, handing JJ the key. "You do her feet."

JJ nodded and quickly undid the cuffs that had been holding Emily's legs to the chair. She licked her lips as the steel clattered quietly against the concrete floor, and she tenderly traced the angry red marks on Emily's ankles. "Oh, Em."

"They're sending a Helivac, should be here in ten minutes," Rossi announced as he approached the trio. "Hey, kid."

Emily chuckled softly and met the older man's kind gaze. "Hey."

Rossi took a deep breath and smiled. "I think there's a blanket in the back of the SUV – I'll run and get it. Morgan, call Hotch and let him know we got her."

Morgan nodded at Rossi and, as the older man took off for the car, he quickly unbuttoned his shirt. It would be big on Emily, but it would be better than nothing. And he knew that once the shock of everything wore off, that the brunette would be feeling self-conscious about her nakedness. "Here," he said, as he handed the shirt to JJ. "Help her put this on," he said, as he turned away to give the women some privacy. "I'll call Hotch while you're doing that."

He kept his eyes focused on the wall across the room and as soon as Hotch picked up said, "We got her."

JJ looked at the shirt in her hand and then at Morgan's back as he stood sentry over them, his phone held tight to his ear as he said, "She's… She'll be okay. Call Garcia and let her know? … Yeah. He's dead. … No, JJ. … Yeah…"

JJ sighed and looked up at Emily as she held the shirt open in front of her. "Can I help you into this?"

Relieved that the shirt was a button-down and that it wouldn't hurt too much to put on, Emily nodded. "Of course, Jennifer," she murmured, and her heart clenched as she watched a fresh wave of tears spill from JJ's eyes as they fluttered shut. "Sweetie…"

JJ licked her lips and shook her head as her heart broke at the way her name sounded falling from Emily's lips. She had always hated her full name, had always preferred the shortened moniker of JJ, but the way it sounded when Emily said it... God, she didn't realize until that moment how much she'd been afraid that she would never hear it again. "I'm sorry," she muttered as she lifted a hand to wipe at her tears. "I'm just… it's just…"

"I know, sweetheart. I love you," Emily whispered, scooting forward in her chair and moving her legs to try and see if they would hold her; but she stopped moving and smiled softly as watery blue eyes finally opened to look at her. "I love you so, so much, Jennifer."

"I love you too, Em," JJ whispered, her voice breaking with emotion as she stopped trying to hold back her tears and just let herself cry as she carefully worked the sleeve of Morgan's shirt over Emily's left arm. She held her breath as she worked it around Emily's back, muttering, "Sorry. Sorry," as the profiler winced at the movement, and she let out a quiet sigh of relief once Emily's right arm was tucked safely in its sleeve. "Ribs?" she asked knowingly. Emily's sides were especially bruised, which was saying something considering the condition of the rest of her body.

"Yeah," Emily murmured, licking her lips as she watched JJ begin buttoning the shirt closed, the backs of JJ's fingers ghosting lightly over her tender skin.

"Broken?" JJ asked as she closed the buttons below and above her lover's breasts, her eyes beginning to tear again at the sight of the beautiful mounds so bruised and bloody from the shallow cuts Wyatt had sliced into and around them.

"Yeah," Emily confirmed and she watched as JJ's eyes flashed with anger as the blonde looked behind her, at what she assumed was Wyatt's body. She could easily see what JJ was thinking, that JJ dearly wished she could shoot him again for hurting her, and she pulled her lover's attention back to her by softly clearing her throat. "Help me up?"

Surprised blue eyes looked down at Emily's legs, which were a messy conglomeration of bruises, especially on her upper thighs and hips. "Can you walk?"

Emily's shrugged and winced as pain ricocheted through her body. "I just want to get out of here. If I can't… just carry me. I don't care. I don't care how much it hurts. I just want out of here, Jen. Please get me out of here."

Morgan, who had been standing by, turned to look at Emily and JJ and nodded resolutely. "If you can't do it on your own, I will carry you out of here myself," he promised.

Emily gave her partner a weary smile and tipped her head in thanks. "Good. Help me up," she said.

JJ nodded and pushed herself to her feet. She glanced at Morgan who sidled in beside her, and they both reached for Emily, their hands hooking under her arms as they helped lift the brunette from the chair.

"Okay?" Morgan murmured, as he steadied Emily on her feet.

"Yeah," Emily gasped. She nodded, letting him know with a look that he could let go. The bruises on her legs throbbed, and she was pretty sure she felt a few of the cuts that had clotted over break open again, but she welcomed the pain. Pain was good. Pain meant she was alive. "I'm good."

"Here's that blanket," Rossi called out as he jogged back into the room, out of breath because he had run as fast as he could to the car and back. He took in the sight of Emily in Morgan's shirt, and nodded approvingly. "Guess you don't need it." Though Emily was on her feet, he could tell that she still needed a moment, and he turned his back to her and JJ to address Morgan. "Did you get ahold of Hotch?"

Emily's legs were feeling steadier with each passing second, and she took a slow, halting step toward JJ, who was still too far away from her for her liking. She smiled, the expression one of complete relief, and lifted her hand to cradle the younger woman's face gently in her palm. A low sigh spilled from her lips as she leaned in and kissed her softly. "Thank you," she whispered against JJ's lips as she kissed her again. "Thank you for saving me."

JJ whimpered and wrapped her arms lightly around Emily's waist as she kissed her gently. Tenderly. "I love you," she whispered between kisses. "I love you. I love you."

The low, steady, thrumming beat of helicopter blades drew the profilers' attention skyward and Emily sighed as she forced herself to pull away from JJ. She blushed as she realized that Morgan and Rossi were standing not six feet away, both keeping half an eye on them in case she needed help. She licked her lips and smiled as she reached for JJ's hand and gave it a squeeze. "Let's get out of here."

JJ nodded and looked up to catch Morgan's eye. "Follow behind us, just in case?"

Morgan took a step back to give JJ and Emily enough room to pass and nodded. "You know it."

Rossi led the way slowly out of the abattoir as JJ released her hold on Emily's hand to wrap a protective arm around Emily's waist, supporting her as best she could, and Morgan took up the rear, watching each of Emily's steps carefully in case he needed to jump in and catch her. His caution was unneeded however, because JJ never let her fall.

So long as it was within her power to do so, JJ would never let her fall.

They met up with the flight crew of the Helivac about halfway up the trail to the clearing in front of the cabin and both Emily and JJ waved the paramedics off as they tried to swoop in and take over for JJ. The EMTs looked slightly off-put by the women's behavior but one hard, glaring look from Morgan had them acquiescing to JJ and Emily's wishes and they instead stepped back to flank the women in much the same manner as Morgan had been.

Even though there were now two EMTs flanking JJ and Emily, Morgan refused to drop his focus as he continued to watch each of the women's slow, careful steps with a vigilant eye. He had to bite his lip to contain his anger as he watched Emily hobble along the path, refusing to allow the EMTs to carry her even though the pine needles on the ground were undoubtedly uncomfortable under her bare feet. She clearly, and understandably, only wanted JJ's help, and he couldn't fault her for that in the least.

He watched JJ just as carefully as he did Emily, noting the way that she supported the majority of Emily's weight, holding her upright as they picked their way slowly up the path. Everybody on the team knew exactly how strong of a person JJ was, but her strength had never been more on display that it was in that moment, with her hand flexing against Emily's hip and her lips brushing lightly over Emily's cheek as she whispered quiet words of encouragement in her ear.

JJ's pace faltered as they neared the edge of the tree line and she sighed as she looked regretfully into her lover's eyes. "You're going to have to let them help you now," she murmured, frowning as she brushed the softest of kisses across Emily's lips. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. If I could carry you, I would, but you can't walk barefoot across the gravel."

Emily swallowed thickly, causing a fresh bubble of blood to pour from the cut under her jaw and drip down her throat, and nodded. "Okay. Stay with me?"

"Oh, sweetie," JJ purred, a soft huff of a laugh spilling from her lips in spite of herself and their situation. "There's no way anyone is going to keep me from you right now. Don't you worry about that."

"I do worry, though," Emily whispered. The reality of everything that had happened rushed over her and she turned into JJ so that her tears weren't visible. "God, Jennifer. I was so afraid that I'd never see you again."

JJ licked her lips as Emily's arms snaked around her neck. Her breath hitched in her throat at the quiet desperation in Emily's touch, and she caught Morgan's eye, flicking a glance at the EMTs in such a way that her desire was clearly translated without a word. 'Get them the fuck out of here for a minute.'

"Guys, let's give them some space, huh?" Morgan stepped around the women and beckoned the EMTs to follow. He groaned silently at the confused glance the two men shared. The look quite clearly said that they were uncomfortable with the idea of leaving their patient. He sighed as he glanced at Emily and JJ, his heart breaking at the way Emily appeared to be so much smaller than usual, and shook his head as he stepped up to wrap a hand around the nearest paramedic's arm. "Come on, man. Just… they need a minute, okay?"

JJ sighed and brushed a soft kiss over Emily's temple as she watched Morgan and Rossi guide the EMTs away from them. "Shh, sweetheart. I know. I was afraid of the same thing." Emily's hand slipped up her back to wrap around her neck and she smiled at the achingly familiar touch, even as it drew a fresh wave of tears from her eyes. She had been so terribly, terribly afraid that she would never get a chance to hold Emily like this again. A sob bubbled in her throat and she screwed her eyes shut as she tried to hold it in, but she couldn't. "Emily…"

Emily nodded and hummed softly as she pulled JJ in closer, completely ignoring the flashes of pain that ricocheted through her body. "Jen…" she whimpered.

"I'm right here, Em," JJ whispered brokenly, her voice thick with tears. "I got ya. You're okay, baby."

Emily cried and held JJ tighter, burying her face in the crook of the blonde's neck as she clung to her. "I love you so much," she breathed.

JJ lifted her face to the sky and swallowed thickly as she carefully threaded her fingers through Emily's hair to hold the brunette's head to her shoulder. She wrapped her arm a little tighter around Emily's back, trying to be as careful of her injuries as she possibly could, and held her close. Her heart broke at the way Emily was clinging to her as the brunette's body shook with her sobs. She wanted to fix it, wanted to make Emily feel better, but she knew that the only thing she could do was to just be there and hold her while she cried.

"We really need to get going," the younger EMT said in a hushed whisper. "We still haven't even examined her."

Morgan and Rossi shared a look and nodded. Neither of them particularly liked the idea of forcing JJ and Emily apart, no matter how necessary it was, but they also knew that Emily needed medical attention.

"I'll do it," Morgan said. He sighed and ran a hand over his head as he broke away from the group and started toward JJ and Emily.

The crunching of a boot on gravel pulled JJ's eyes to Morgan's approach and she nodded at the apologetic look he gave her. It was time to go. She brushed a kiss across Emily's forehead and sighed. "Come on, baby. We need to get you to the hospital."

Emily grunted and shook her head. "I hate hospitals."

"I know, darling," JJ murmured, her eyes softening as she felt Emily's body relax slightly. "But you need to go."

"You too?" Emily asked in a small, childlike voice.

"Always, my love," JJ assured her, and she smiled softly at Emily as they broke apart. "I love you."

Emily smiled shyly as JJ's thumbs brushed gently across her cheeks, smoothing away her tears. "I love you too, Jennifer."

JJ dropped one last kiss to Emily's lips before she took a small, regretful step back and glanced at the EMTs who were watching them. "Okay," she said, nodding at the men as she slipped her hand into Emily's and gave it a quick squeeze before she moved out of the paramedics' way.

The paramedics wasted no time carefully sweeping Emily into a basket-carry and they made their way slowly around the cabin to the clearing in front of the house where their helicopter waited for them, its rotors spinning slowly as it idled and waited to take off again.

JJ chewed her lip fitfully as she watched the men set Emily onto a stretcher. Once she was secured, they lifted her up into the helicopter bay, and JJ winced as she watched Emily's face contort in pain as she was moved around. The EMTs were being as careful as they could, but every bump sent bolts of pain shooting through Emily's body.

"We only have room for one of you," the pilot told the profilers, as if it there was even a question about who would accompany Emily on the flight.

"Go, JJ," Rossi said, tipping his head knowingly at the petite blonde. He knew she would have to be interrogated about the shooting, but he also knew it that there was no way in hell that JJ was going to let Emily out of her sight any time soon. "Take care of her, and we'll meet you two at the hospital after we hand the scene over to the locals."

JJ smiled and nodded, giving him a murmured, "Thanks," before she hopped into the helicopter to take her rightful spot at Emily's side.

"Hey," Emily murmured as she reached for JJ's hand.

"Hey yourself," JJ murmured, smiling at Emily as she leaned in and kissed her softly as the EMTs pulled the twin doors to the helicopter bay shut.

Morgan and Rossi stepped back as the Helivac's rotors whined loudly and started spinning faster and faster. They shielded their eyes against the buffeting wind that grew as the blades picked up speed, and they both let out a sigh of relief when the helicopter lifted into the air.

 

10

By the time Hotch and the rest of the team arrived at the hospital after clearing the scene at Wyatt's property, it was already after one o'clock in the afternoon. Trailing a respectful distance behind the BAU Agents was a Portland FBI Investigator, who looked to be slightly in awe of the elite profiling team. He had already taken Morgan and Rossi's statements about what had happened, and he was with them now because he needed to get a similar statement from JJ. Not because he was interested in punishing her for the shot, but because if Wyatt's family decided to press charges against the female agent, they needed to dot all their Is and cross all their Ts when it came to their report.

The BAU Unit Chief peeked through the glass window into Emily's room and his gaze softened at what he saw. After the harrowing search for and rescue of Agent Prentiss, it was nice to see that both she and JJ had found enough peace within themselves to actually sleep. The Communications Liaison was sitting in a chair beside Emily's bed and was bent over at the waist so that her head was pillowed on the blankets by Emily's hip. Emily's left hand was curved around JJ's jaw, the tips of her fingers threaded into the blonde's hair, and her other was covering JJ's that was resting atop her heart – no doubt as a reassurance to JJ that it was still beating.

He sighed and turned to the men behind him. "They're sleeping. Wait here, I'll bring JJ out." He paused thoughtfully and added, "Morgan, come sit with Prentiss in case she wakes up."

The two men slipped soundlessly into the room and Hotch sighed softly as he reached out to place a gentle hand on JJ's small shoulder. He crouched down in front of her as she began to stir and gave her an apologetic smile as her eyes fluttered open. "We need to get your statement," he whispered.

JJ hummed sleepily and murmured, "I know."

"We can do it in the hall here, so you don't have to leave her," Hotch added quietly.

A small, embarrassed smile tweaked JJ's lips, and she nodded her understanding. Earlier, when the doctors had been taking Emily into X-Ray, they had tried to separate the two of them and she had all but thrown a tantrum to make sure that she was allowed to follow Emily into the room. "Now?"

He nodded.

Of course it would be now.

She carefully worked her way out from under Emily's touch, pausing in her movement every time Emily made a sound, until she was able to push herself to her feet beside the bed. She swayed slightly as her body recovered from being woken from an exhausted sleep at such an awkward position, and looked across the bed to Morgan who was watching her carefully. "Come get me the minute she wakes up?"

"The second I think she's coming around, I'll be out there," he promised.

JJ took a deep breath and smiled her thanks before she padded out the door in her socks. It was unprofessional, but her boots were under the chair in Emily's room and she just didn't have the energy to pull them back on. The physical exertion of staying awake as long as she had was hard enough to recover from, but when the emotional strain she'd suffered was added into the mix – well, Hotch was lucky that he was actually able to wake her up. The human body was only meant to handle so much.

The harsh lights of the hall reflected brightly off the gleaming white linoleum floor and the industrial off-white walls, and she winced as she waited for her eyes to adjust. Once her eyes had grown used to the light, she sucked her lower lip between her teeth as she met Reid's concerned gaze. "She'll be okay, Spence," she whispered.

Reid swallowed thickly, his Adam's apple bobbing prominently in his throat as he nodded. "And you?"

"I'm good," she assured him. She looked past the lanky genius and tipped her head at an unfamiliar face in a cheap navy blue suit. "You need my statement?"

The FBI Investigator nodded and pulled a recorder out of his pocket. "Yes, ma'am. My name is Special Agent Jeffrey Voss."

"Right," JJ murmured, not particularly caring what the man's name was. She just wanted to get this whole thing over with so that she could get back to Emily in case she woke up. She closed her eyes as she pictured the scene as it had unfolded and swallowed thickly as she opened them to look at Voss. "We arrived at Mr. Wyatt's property as part of a routine search following Agent Prentiss' abduction as traffic cameras showed that it was a dark-colored Dodge pickup that rammed our vehicle, and he was the registered owner of a black Dodge Ram. The vehicle in question was discovered behind the main house on his property with significant body damage to the front of it, and we called it in to Agent Hotchner who secured a warrant for us to search the property. The main house was clear, so we started with the next closest outbuilding that our technical analyst had spotted via satellite imaging.

"The barn was about five hundred yards from the back of the house and, as we were standing outside of it, we heard a scream that sounded like it came from inside the building. Not wanting to waste any time in case he was our unsub, we entered the structure. A scan of the main room found that it was empty except for a bunch of woodworking tools. We were maybe twenty feet into the building when we heard another scream… a woman's scream. It was then that I noticed another, smaller room built out into the space. Agent Morgan opened the door and we entered in a standard Y-formation. Agent Morgan filed right, Agent Rossi moved left, and I held the point.

"She was there, in the center of the room… sitting on a chair with her arms restrained over her head so that she was essentially hanging from them…"

The haunting pain in JJ's voice as she recounted what she'd seen sent shivers down all the men's spines, even Rossi's – and he had been there to see it all first-hand, himself.

"He had already beaten her pretty severely, and he'd started to use the knife on her as well. The suspect crouched behind Agent Prentiss as we entered, using her as a shield. He had what looked to be a hunting knife held against her throat. He taunted us as we all leveled our weapons on him, and he pressed the blade of his knife into Em-… Agent Prentiss's throat, hard enough to draw blood as we stood there and watched. Agents Morgan and Rossi tried to talk him down, tried to talk him into dropping his knife and surrendering, but he refused. He said something along the lines of, 'I'll kill her before I'll let you save her'…

"I was standing point," JJ spoke again, her voice soft. Thoughtful. "I had the best angle. Agent Prentiss was begging me with her eyes to take the shot, but I hesitated because he was so close to her that there was zero room for error. If I missed, I'd either miss completely… or I'd kill her…"

Hotch licked his lips and took a deep breath as he imagined what JJ must have been feeling in that moment.

"But he forced my hand when he dug the point of his knife further into her throat, just above her jugular. He was serious about killing her. It would have taken just a little more pressure for him to slice through her artery and we wouldn't have been able to stop the bleeding in time. I shifted my position slightly to try and minimize the chance I'd have of accidentally shooting her, and… I fired."

"Jayje," Reid murmured, shaking his head.

JJ licked her lips again and met the Investigator's gaze unflinchingly. "My shot hit Wyatt in the forehead. It was a kill shot. The knife he had been holding to Agent Prentiss' throat fell, and he dropped to the ground behind her."

Voss cleared his throat and nodded. Her story matched the other agents' – not that he'd expected it to be different – and he couldn't help but be impressed with the mettle she showed by taking that shot.

If only he knew what she had to lose should she have missed.

"I think that'll do it then. Thank you for doing this now, Agent Jareau. I don't have any other questions," the Investigator said. "Agent Hotchner, would you like a copy of my report?"

Hotch nodded and reached out to shake Voss' hand. "That would be great, thanks. You can just send it to me back at Quantico."

"Can I go back to her now?" JJ asked.

The Investigator nodded, and was surprised when JJ turned on her heel without another word and disappeared into Emily's room. "They're close, her and Agent Prentiss?"

Hotch arched a brow and nodded. You have no idea, he thought, even as he answered, "We all are. You can't do what we do and not be."

"Well, that just makes what she did up there all the more impressive," Voss said.

"You have no idea," Rossi murmured under his breath.

JJ could hear Hotch and the Investigator talking behind her as she quietly slipped back inside Emily's room. She sighed as her gaze landed on her slumbering lover, her eyes cataloguing each of the brunette's bruises, and she wasted no time silently making her way back to Emily's side.

"She hasn't made a peep," Morgan whispered.

"Good." JJ licked her lips and nodded as she looked down at her lover. "She needs the rest."

Morgan nodded his agreement as he, too, turned his attention back onto Emily. "How are you doing?"

"Fine," JJ answered automatically and smiled as she caught the disbelieving look Morgan gave her. "Okay… I'm okay. We got to her in time… she's still here… she'll heal. That's all I can ask for at this point."

"Yeah," Morgan murmured. "I was afraid for a minute there that he really was going to kill her. It was in his eyes, he would have done it."

JJ sighed and nodded as she reached out to run a light finger over Emily's jaw. She licked her lips as she carefully set her fingers over the bandage covering the brunette's pulse point to feel the reassuring beat of Emily's blood pumping under her fingertips. After recounting what had happened, she needed that tactile reminder that Emily was still alive. "I was absolutely terrified I was going to lose her."

"But you took the shot."

"I took the shot," JJ said.

"It was a damn good shot."

JJ huffed a quiet laugh and ducked her head. "Thanks."

"So what did the doctors say?" Morgan asked, changing the subject.

"She has a concussion… again." JJ shook her head. "Broken ribs on both sides, bone bruises but no breaks in her hips and thighs, and a plastic surgeon ended up needing about two hundred and twenty stitches and something like sixty butterfly sutures to close up all her cuts. She fell asleep not long after he'd started on her, so at least she didn't have to sit and watch it all, though."

Morgan hissed softly. "Damn."

JJ nodded. "It certainly wasn't a good time," she agreed quietly. She bit her lip as a shiver rolled down her spine at the memory of the way the surgeon had worked methodically down Emily's body, sewing where needed, placing butterfly bandages where it wasn't. He'd been meticulous in his care, and before he'd left he'd promised her that Emily would have little to no scars that were visible. On the outside anyways. "She's been out since then though… so that's good for her, at least."

"Not so much for you, though," Morgan wisely noted. He smiled reassuringly at JJ as she nodded her agreement. "Did they happen to say when can we get her out of here?"

"Yeah. They want to keep her until tomorrow just to keep an eye on her ribs, they seem concerned about them possibly puncturing a lung, but then we should be able to get her home. The trick will be keeping her here until they think she's okay to be released."

"Eh, I'm sure she'll do it for her wife. She did last time," Morgan quipped, trying to lighten the mood. His smile faltered as he saw JJ's eyes fill with tears. "Shit. I'm sorry, Jayje. I was just playin'."

"No, I know," JJ muttered. She waved a hand at him as she took a deep breath and tore her eyes away from Emily so that she could look at him. "I know you were kidding. I just… god, Derek… we keep talking about getting married someday and I almost lost her… I…"

"Jayje," Morgan murmured, his own eyes stinging with tears at the pain in JJ's voice.

JJ shook her head and waved her hand at him again, not wanting to talk about it anymore. "Have you talked to Pen?"

Morgan took a deep breath and nodded. "Yup. I called her while we were waiting for the SWAT team to get to the property. She sends her love to both of you."

"Thank you," JJ whispered. She turned her head and wiped at her eyes. "And what about the Ambassador?"

Hotch shot Morgan a glance as he slipped into the room in time to hear JJ's question. "I called her right after I talked to Morgan when you guys were still at Wyatt's property. She said that she is scheduled to be in a European relations summit beginning the day after tomorrow at that it will run through next week, but that if you or Emily decide that you want her to come back, she will cancel and return home as soon as possible."

JJ turned and looked over her shoulder at Hotch. "Thank you. I'll leave that decision to Emily, though."

Hotch just tipped his head in understanding as he eased into the space beside JJ. "I'm proud of you, for what you did up there," he said softly. "I know that wasn't an easy shot for you to take."

"It wasn't," JJ confirmed, her gaze automatically turning to focus on Emily. "But getting her out of there was worth it."

Hotch nodded and gave JJ one of his rare smiles. "It was. Also, I talked to Strauss earlier and she's put our team on a mandatory two-week stand-down beginning the moment we land back at Quantico. And she's given approval for you to be out for as long as Emily requires assistance, if you want it."

"That was nice of her," JJ murmured, frowning as she watched Emily begin to toss in her sleep. She reached out and took Emily's hand in hers as she leaned in to brush a soft kiss across her forehead. "Shh, it's okay, sweetie. I'm right here," she whispered.

JJ's comforting words did little to ease Emily's disquiet and she began thrashing in her sleep, grunting with pain as she cried out, "Jennifer! No, not her!"

Hotch licked his lips and tipped his head at the door. "Morgan and I will wait outside with Rossi and Reid," he said. "Come and get us when you two are ready for company."

Morgan looked for a moment like he was about to argue with Hotch's order, but one glance at JJ's heartbroken expression had him swallowing his objections. He loved Emily and wanted to do everything he could to help her, but JJ was in love with Emily, and she needed to help her through this so much more than he did. So he just nodded and walked around the bed, pausing to place a reassuring hand on JJ's shoulder before he followed Hotch out the door.

JJ sighed as she heard the door click shut and she carefully climbed onto the bed beside Emily. Being mindful of Emily's injuries, she braced her right hand above her shoulder as she leaned in to press a soft kiss to her lips. "Wake up, sweetie," she murmured, kissing her again softly. "Come on, Em. I'm right here. Come back to me, baby."

"Jen…"

"Right here, Em," JJ purred. "I'm right here." She smiled softly at Emily as her eyes finally fluttered open. "Hey you."

"You're okay," Emily whispered.

JJ nodded and dipped her head to brush a light, reassuring kiss across Emily's lips. "I am. It was just a dream, baby. We're both okay now."

Emily sighed and relaxed back into her bed. "We're safe."

"We are. You want to talk about it?" JJ asked gently.

Emily closed her eyes and shook her head as snippets of what had happened to her in Wyatt's barn, and the threats he'd made to kidnap 'that blonde communications bitch even though she's not really my type' next, flashed across her mind. "Not really," she answered honestly.

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Yes," Emily murmured, reaching up and weakly tugging at JJ's shoulder. "Come lay down with me."

JJ licked her lips and frowned. "I don't think that's a good idea with your ribs, baby."

"It's an excellent idea," Emily argued weakly. "I need you with me, Jen."

JJ smiled as she watched Emily yawn and shake her head, as she tried to fight off the sedative side effects of her pain medication. "I'm right here."

"Not close enough," Emily muttered. "I need you, Jennifer. Right here, next to me. Please."

JJ sighed and rolled her eyes as she relented and shifted carefully atop the bed until she was able to lie down beside Emily. "Better?"

Emily grunted and pulled JJ into her side. She winced as pain flared through her, but it was worth it when she felt JJ's head settle atop her shoulder. "Much," she whispered. "I love you."

A soft smile tweaked JJ's lips as she felt Emily's arm loop around her waist. It was a feeling that she hadn't been sure she'd ever feel again. "I love you more."

"Not possible," Emily argued. She gazed blearily at JJ and sighed. This was the first time since she'd been rescued that she'd been completely alone with the blonde, and there was just so much she needed to tell her. She licked her lips as she tried to focus her mind, and she rubbed at her eyes with her free hand as she felt the opiate-induced fog inside her mind slip back by a fraction. "You kept me sane in there," she whispered. "I thought about you every time he'd start to hit or kick or use his knife on me…" her voice trailed off shakily and she licked her lips to try and keep her train of thought. When she spoke again, her voice was even quieter than before. "Every time he'd start to hurt me, I'd think about the way you feel in my arms, your scent, the taste of your kiss…"

JJ was helpless to contain her tears as she listened to Emily finally begin to share some of what had happened to her.

"I'd surround myself with thoughts of you as he beat me. And the thought of you made it hurt less. I honestly didn't even feel some of his kicks because I was so wrapped up in my memories of you. The way we danced under the stars at Charlie's vineyard… the night you moved in with me…"

"I thought about that too," JJ whispered, carefully pushing herself up so that she could look Emily in the eye. "In order to not lose my mind while we were trying to figure out who took you. I thought about our first kiss…"

"The first time we made love," Emily whispered, her lips quirking up in a small smile.

JJ blushed and nodded. "Everything. Your confabulation… the afternoon we finally admitted our feelings… all of it."

"I thought about 'someday' a lot," Emily confessed softly, wanting JJ to know that, even more than her memories, it was her desire to have a real future with her that kept her going when it would have been so easy to give in.

JJ swallowed thickly as her eyes filled with tears. "Me too," she whispered, her voice breaking with emotion. She shook her head as her tears spilled over and coursed slowly down her cheeks. God, to think that she might have lost this beautiful woman forever. She leaned in and captured Emily's lips in a sweet, gentle kiss and, before her mind could censor her heart, she asked for the one thing she wanted more than anything else in the world. "Marry me?"

The question fell quietly upon Emily's lips, which quirked up in a shy smile as brown eyes opened to focus on blue. "Jennifer?"

JJ smiled hesitantly and kissed Emily again. She hadn't been intending to propose while Emily was in the hospital, but the words had just spilled out before she could stop them and now she was left with the crippling, yet entirely unrealistic, fear that Emily would say no. "I know that this isn't the most romantic setting, Em." She sighed and leaned her forehead to rest lightly atop Emily's. "But if all of this taught us anything, it's that 'someday' isn't guaranteed. I have loved you for so long that I honestly can't remember what it feels like to not love you, and I cannot imagine my life without you in it. I want to wake up next to you every morning and fall asleep next to you every night, knowing that you are mine forever." She smiled as Emily brushed a soft kiss over her lips. "Please, say that you'll marry me?"

Emily lifted a hand to cradle JJ's face tenderly in her palm and lifted her chin to capture JJ's lips with her own. "Yes, Jennifer," she whispered. She smiled as she watched JJ's obvious unease shift to relief and elation, and she couldn't resist adding, "There is nothing I want more than to marry you and make you my wife."

A wide, beaming smile creased JJ's face as she tipped her head down to capture Emily's lips in a sweet celebratory kiss that sent her heart racing. "Yes?" she couldn't resist asking.

"A million times over, yes," Emily assured her. "I love you so very much, Jennifer."

A bubble of laughter spilled from JJ's lips as she ran her fingers across Emily's brow and down, behind her ear until she was lightly holding her head in place as she kissed her again and again, and tears once again rolled freely down her face. "I love you too, sweetheart," she whispered. "God, I wish I could really hold you right now," she breathed.

Emily yawned and smiled. "I want that too, baby. We'll get there soon, I promise."

"We will," JJ murmured. She brushed a soft kiss across Emily's lips. "We most certainly will."

Emily hummed and screwed her eyes shut as she tried to stifle another yawn. "Damn, that hurts," she whined, as pain flashed through her broken ribs. "When can I go home?"

JJ chuckled and rolled her eyes. "When the doctors say you can," she said in a firm tone.

"You'll stay with me until then?" Emily murmured, her eyes fluttering closed as she finally began to lose her battle against the drugs in her system.

"Oh, sweetheart," JJ whispered affectionately. "You better believe it. You just agreed to marry me. You're stuck with me for the rest of your life."

Emily smiled dopily. "Lucky me."

"Lucky me," JJ whispered. It was obvious that Emily was perhaps only ten seconds away from falling asleep again, and she smiled as she leaned in and kissed her softly. "Sweet dreams, my love. I'll be here when you wake up."

When it became clear that Emily was down for the count, JJ dropped one last kiss to Emily's lips before she slipped out of the bed and padded across the room to the door. She wiped at her eyes as she opened it and she smiled at the sight of Morgan, Rossi, Reid, and Hotch sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall opposite Emily's door.

"You okay?" Morgan asked as he took-in JJ's red-rimmed eyes.

JJ nodded. "Amazing."

"You look like you were crying," Reid observed.

Again, JJ nodded. "I was, Spence. But happy tears this time."

"She's okay?" Rossi asked.

"Yeah." JJ sucked her lower lip between her teeth and glanced over her shoulder at Emily who was fast asleep in her bed. "I…" She turned her attention back to their BAU family. "I asked her to marry me."

Morgan grinned. "And?"

"She said yes," JJ shared. She sucked her lower lip between her teeth and grinned. "She said yes."

The four men let out quiet whoops of happiness as they all clambered to their feet and, before JJ could brace herself for the onslaught, she was wrapped in a giant group hug. Quiet words of congratulations rained down on her as they all held her, and she laughed as they finally let her go.

"You better call Garcia," Morgan said.

JJ nodded. "Yeah, I think you're right." Her eyes widened as something she hadn't considered crossed her mind. Proposing to Emily had been such a spontaneous thing that she hadn't asked her mother for permission. "The Ambassador…"

Hotch smiled. "Will be fine," he assured her. "After what you did this morning, I don't think there's anything you could do that would lower your standing in that woman's book. I know she's a tough nut, JJ, but you more than earned her respect today. But, if I dare say, you've had it for a while now anyways."

The Communications Liaison took a deep breath and glanced back into the dimly lit room behind her. Her mind was spinning and she needed Emily's presence to help ground her. "Do you guys want to come in for a bit? She's sleeping…"

The men all shared a look before they nodded.

"Yeah," Morgan said, smiling as he leaned in and pressed a chaste kiss to JJ's forehead before he slipped past JJ and walked into Emily's room.

"Coffee, anyone?" Rossi asked. He shook his head and grinned when everybody nodded eagerly. "Right, then. Hotch, you wanna help me?"

"Sure," Hotch agreed, giving JJ's shoulder a gentle squeeze before he started down the hall for the elevator.

"I'll go get some playing cards from the gift shop," Reid offered, and quickly turned on his heel to scamper off for the lobby.

JJ smiled as she watched the team separate and she felt her heart swell with love. It had been an incredibly tense few days, these last eighteen hours especially, and she knew she wouldn't have made it through it all without their support. She sighed as she carefully closed the door behind her, thinking that she certainly was a very lucky girl to have so many wonderful, caring people in her life.

She chewed her lip as she pulled her phone from her purse, and she glanced nervously at Morgan who had already grabbed the second chair that was in the room and pulled it over by Emily's bed. "So… any bets on Penelope's reaction?"

Morgan chuckled and shook his head. "It'll be loud, I'm sure."

"Well, let's see. Shall we?" JJ murmured, smiling as she dialed Garcia's direct line.

"It's about time you finally called me!" Garcia answered on the first ring. "I've been stuck getting updates from my Chocolate Adonis all afternoon – which haven't really been all that informative, by the way, Miss I Can't Take Two Seconds to Give Anyone an Update."

JJ smiled and rolled her eyes. "Sorry, Pen."

"Because I know how much you love her, I forgive your tunnel vision. So… how is she?"

"She'll be fine," JJ said. "She's sleeping now."

"Good… that's good. When are you coming home?"

JJ shook her head. "That is the million-dollar question. Hopefully she'll be released tomorrow, but the doctors are pretty concerned about her broken ribs."

"My poor princess," Garcia cooed.

"My princess," JJ corrected.

"Well, duh, but you don't have a monopoly on Ms. Sexy McBadass," Garcia drawled.

"Actually, I do," JJ informed her, a wide smile tweaking her lips as she anticipated her friend's reaction. "I asked her to marry me. And she said yes."

"YES! YES! YES! I KNEW IT!" Garcia screamed, her excited voice easily carrying out of the phone so that Morgan could hear her as well. Hell, people in the next room over might have been able to hear her.

JJ winced and laughed as she pulled her phone away from her ear so that she didn't rupture an eardrum. Across the bed from her, Morgan was chuckling and shaking his head at their friend's antics.

When Garcia stopped screaming, she asked, "I'm maid of honor, right?"

"I'll let you fight Spence for that honor," JJ teased, enjoying the lightness of the moment after what had been an incredibly long and stress-filled few days.

"I can take his skinny ass," Garcia muttered.

JJ laughed. "No hurting Spence. I was kidding. Of course I want you to be my maid of honor. We'll talk about it all later, okay?"

"You betcha," Garcia quipped. "Go give your fiancée a kiss from me and tell her that I am so incredibly, incredibly relieved that she is okay. Keep me posted on everything that is happening there and I'll see you guys when you get back."

"You got it, Pen," JJ murmured. "Thanks."

"Oh, Jayje," Garcia hummed. "You know I love you both, right?"

"And we love you too, Pen," JJ said. "I'll give you a call when we find out when Em's getting released, okay?"

"Sounds good, my little blonde bombshell. Garcia, out!"

 

11

The feeling of somebody tugging at her I.V. woke Emily, and she blinked groggily as she opened her eyes. The room around her was dark except for the light in the bathroom that spilled from the cracked door, and she licked her lips as she turned her head to look at the nurse who was fiddling with her I.V.

"Just changing out your fluids," the nurse whispered.

"Time is it?" Emily murmured.

"A little after three in the morning," the nurse answered. "How are you feeling? Do you need more pain medication?"

Emily shook her head. She hurt, but it wasn't intolerable and she hated the way pain medication made her feel. "I'm okay."

"Well, make sure you let us know before it gets too out of control because then we'll have a much harder time getting the pain levels manageable again."

This was something Emily knew, unfortunately, a little too well and she nodded her understanding. "I know. I'm okay for now though. Thanks."

"Thank you," the nurse whispered. She noticed the way Emily's eyes dropped to look at the blonde cradled against her side, and she smiled. Even if she hadn't been instructed to let the pretty blonde share her bed (which was against hospital policy), she would have let it slide simply because the connection between the two women was so painfully obvious that she didn't dare try and separate them after everything they had been through. "You two get some more rest," she said. "I'll pop back by in a couple hours right before my shift ends to check on you."

Emily yawned and nodded, and once the nurse was gone and the door to her room was closed, she tightened her hold on JJ's waist and pressed a soft kiss to the blonde's brow. Her eyes fluttered closed as she took a deep breath, inhaling the subtle scent of JJ's perfume and shampoo, and she smiled. She hadn't been sure she would ever be able to hold JJ like this again, and she cherished the fact that she was able to.

Always a light sleeper anyways, JJ woke up at the feeling of Emily's lips against her skin and she smiled as she felt Emily kiss her again softly. "You need to sleep," she whispered.

"Mmm, don't wanna," Emily murmured, smiling. "I just want to lay here and hold my fiancée."

"God, will you two knock it off already," Morgan's sleepy voice rang out from the far corner of the room where he was trying to sleep on an entirely too small foldout bed. "I just want to sleep."

Emily shot JJ a confused look. She distinctly remembered cajoling JJ to get into bed with her for the night, but for the life of her, she couldn't remember anything about Morgan staying with them as well. "What's he doing here?"

"He's trying to sleep," Morgan grumbled petulantly as he made a show of readjusting his pillow and changing positions on the almost toddler-sized foldout bed.

"He didn't want to leave us unprotected. I tried to tell him that we'd be fine, but he wanted to be here just in case," JJ whispered. Really, she'd been tempted to try and get Hotch to order him back to the team's hotel, but she knew that Emily's kidnapping had affected him nearly as much as it had her because of their close, bromance-type bond and she didn't have the heart to try and make him leave. If it made him feel better to stay with Emily for a while to make sure that the brunette was safe, then she was more than fine with it. Besides, she owed him for how he'd taken care of her when Emily had been missing.

Emily hummed softly and nodded her understanding as she began rubbing small circles on the small of JJ's back. "Okay," she breathed. Truth be told, while she wanted nothing more than to be alone with JJ, she did find a large measure of comfort in the knowledge that Morgan was nearby and ready to step between them and any danger that might appear.

"Okay," JJ murmured. She smirked and added more loudly, "He's being a pain in the ass, that's what."

"Shut-up, Jareau," Morgan chuckled. He smiled at the two women who remained wrapped around each other even as JJ joked with him and said, "Now, be a good girl, kiss your fiancée goodnight, and go the fuck to sleep. I'm tired."

Emily laughed. "You know," she told JJ in a mock-whisper, wanting Morgan to hear her, "if I could actually move without it hurting so much, I'd flip you over and just have my way with you right now so that he'd be forced to leave the room."

"I'd just record it," Morgan retorted, knowing that Emily was just teasing him. "Sell it online or something. Hot FBI Girls Gone Wild or…" His voice trailed off. "Damn, I would totally buy that." If it wasn't like watching my sister get it on. That's just all kinds of wrong, he added silently to himself.

JJ rolled her eyes and shook her head. There was no way she was going to let them go there until Emily had the all-clear from her doctors, but that didn't mean they couldn't have a little fun with their friend in the meantime. "Kiss me," she whispered, arching a brow suggestively.

Even though Emily didn't know what, exactly, JJ had planned, she wasn't going to refuse her request, and she smiled as she lifted her chin to capture JJ's lips in a slow, sweet kiss. It wasn't anything spectacularly passionate, just a simple clasping of lips, a tender reaffirmation of love and affection, but JJ moan loudly into it as if she were only moments away from orgasm.

"Oh god!" Morgan yelled, bolting upright to glare disbelievingly at the two women. "You. Are. Not!"

Emily chuckled, doing her best to ignore the quick flash of pain the laugh sent firing through her system, and flicked her tongue over JJ's lips playfully as the blonde pulled away. "No, we're not," she said, her voice strained. She knew that JJ noticed it too, because the blonde was giving her a wholly concerned look and she sighed as she shook her head, silently telling her that she was fine.

"Good," Morgan retorted. He'd heard the pain in Emily's voice as well and if it weren't for the fact that he knew she'd outright lie to him about how much pain she was in, he would have asked her about it.

Relieved that he was giving her something to focus on besides her pain, Emily added, "But if you don't knock off your whining, I'll find a way to make it happen. Go to sleep, Morgan."

"You go to sleep."

"Both of you go to sleep," JJ said, slipping into the role of the grown-up as she so often had to do when Morgan and Emily were together.

Emily smiled sweetly at JJ. "Goodnight kiss?"

"Please no moaning," Morgan whined as he flopped back onto his bed.

"No moaning," JJ agreed as she leaned in and pressed a gentle, lingering kiss to Emily's lips. "Sweet dreams, Em."

"Mmm, sweet dreams, Jennifer," Emily whispered huskily. For as fun as teasing Morgan had been, she was already exhausted from it and she couldn't hold back the yawn that escaped her. She whimpered as her broken ribs flared with pain from the expansion of her lungs and she swallowed thickly as she screwed her eyes shut to try and block out the pain. It wasn't working however, and she knew that no matter how much she hated the way the pain medication made her feel, she needed it if she was going to get any more rest. She reached out with a trembling hand for the remote that would get a nurse to come to the room.

Not even a full minute passed before the door to the room was opened, spilling the bright light from the hall into the dimly lit space for a moment before the door was closed behind the nurse who had been checking her I.V. when Emily had woken up. "Is there something you need?"

"Pain medication, I think," JJ answered for Emily, whose eyes were screwed shut tight as she breathed fast and shallow in an attempt to get her pain under control. She bit her lip as she fought the urge to take the brunette into her arms, knowing that even though she wanted nothing more than to hold Emily and help chase away her pain, that her touch would only make it worse.

"I figured as much," the nurse said knowingly as she pulled a syringe out of the pocket of her scrubs. She quickly inserted the needle into the injection port and slowly depressed the plunger on the syringe. "You should start feeling that real soon," she told Emily as she flipped the safety cover back over the needle. "Is there anything else?"

JJ studied Emily carefully for a moment and then shook her head. "I don't think so, no. Thank you."

"No problem. You all get some rest."

"I hate this," Emily whined softly as the door closed behind the retreating nurse.

"I know, sweetie," JJ murmured, giving in to her need to touch Emily by leaning in to brush a soft kiss across her lips. "But you need it." She sighed and ghosted her fingers over the slope of Emily's jaw, hovering just above the bruised skin. "I need you to get better, Em," she whispered. "I need you to come home with me. And that means you need to rest and take the pain medication on schedule and do everything the doctors ask of you – especially when you don't want to."

Emily groaned and nodded. "I know. I just…"

"I know," JJ assured her. She kissed her again softly, trying not to move for fear of making Emily hurt worse. "Would you be more comfortable if I moved to the chair?"

"Never," Emily muttered, tightening her hold on JJ's waist. "I want you here. Where I can feel you." A few seconds passed and she added in a soft voice, barely louder than a breath, "You make me feel safe."

JJ smiled. "Okay. Then close your eyes and try to fall asleep, baby. I'll be right here the whole time, I promise."

"Good," Emily mumbled. "Kiss me?"

"Like I could ever say no to that," JJ murmured, chuckling softly as she leaned in and placed a careful kiss to Emily's lips. "Just sleep, love."

Emily's eyes fluttered shut and a small smile lifted the corner of her lips as she relaxed back into the bed. "Love you."

"Love you more," JJ whispered. When she was sure Emily was out, she looked over at Morgan, who she could see was staring purposefully at the ceiling, and said, "Thank you."

Morgan turned to look at JJ and smiled. "You're welcome. Now, go to sleep. You're going to need your rest too, Jareau. We both know that Prentiss isn't going to be a happy camper so long as she's in here."


Dawn had barely broken when Morgan's phone began to ring, and both he and JJ groaned at the sound. Between Emily's nurses coming in and out of the room all night neither of them had gotten a very good sleep and both were more than a little annoyed that what sleep they had managed to find was being interrupted.

Not wanting to wake Emily, Morgan fumbled with his phone and quickly turned off the ringer as he lifted it to his ear. "Morgan."

JJ listened with half an ear as she pushed herself up to get a better look at Emily, who was grimacing in her sleep. She sighed and ran a soft hand over Emily's brow, trying to soothe her with a touch as she whispered, "Shh, sweetie. It's okay."

"Uh huh," Morgan whispered. "No, I understand. Right… Spence will be here when? … Okay. Yeah. Have him bring me a coffee." He sighed as he sat up and slid his feet into his boots. He pinned his phone between his ear and his shoulder as he quickly laced them up and when he was done he stood up and stretched. "She's doing okay," he said, glancing at Emily who was still sleeping. "Had a few rough moments during the night, but overall she's doing okay. … Yeah, I'll let JJ know."

Needing to know what was going on, JJ pushed herself up onto her elbow so that she could look at Morgan. She wanted to sit up, but Emily's arm around her waist prevented it and she didn't want to risk waking her. "What's going on?"

"We're heading back up to the scene," Morgan said softly, casting a concerned look at Emily. "LEOs have found the heads in a small bunker under that third structure on the property that we never searched. From what Hotch said, it's his trophy room and he and Rossi want us to go have a look around to see what else we can learn about this guy."

JJ nodded. While they usually tried to get out of town as quickly as possible after a case, it wasn't unusual for the team to occasionally spend a little extra time going through a scene and trying to figure out how, exactly, their unsub worked so that they might be able to make faster conclusions in the future. "Do I need to go?"

"No," Morgan said, shaking his head. "You are to stay here and make sure that your fiancée behaves herself." He grinned. "Hotch is handling the press and Rossi, Reid, and I are going to do some poking around."

"Okay." JJ let out a small sigh of relief. When she'd heard Morgan talking about heading out somewhere with Reid she'd been afraid that Hotch was going to call her into action as well.

"Okay," Morgan echoed. He smiled as he leaned in and dropped a quick kiss to JJ's forehead. "Take care of your girl, Jareau. We'll handle the rest. I'll call you later to check in, okay?"

JJ nodded and smiled. "Okay. Thanks, Morgan."

"My pleasure, beautiful," he replied softly.

Emily whimpered in her sleep, her legs thrashing beneath the sheets and JJ felt her heart break as she watched her suffer. "Shh, baby," she murmured, running a soft finger over Emily's lips, trying to soothe her with a familiar touch.

Morgan swallowed thickly as he watched JJ try and quiet Emily and he bit his lip as a flash of anger toward the man who had done this to her ripped through him. "Will you two be okay?"

"We'll be fine," JJ answered, though she wasn't at all sure if it was the truth or not. "Just go, Morgan. If you're needed up there, just go. We'll be fine," she repeated.

Though he wasn't sure if JJ was trying to convince herself or him, Morgan nodded. "Right. Call me later."

"I will," JJ promised as she tenderly pinned Emily's flailing arm to the mattress. She didn't doubt that Emily was trapped in a nightmare about what she'd been through and she sighed as she watched a lone tear roll down Emily's cheek.

Morgan saw the tear too and he shook his head as he backed away from the bed. He wanted to help, but he knew that there was nothing he could do so, though it pained him to walk away from Emily when she was obviously hurting, he mumbled a quick goodbye and slipped out of the room.

The door closed with a quiet click behind Morgan and a small sigh of relief escaped JJ as she set about waking Emily up. Not that she was necessarily relieved that Morgan was gone, she just knew that whatever ghosts were tormenting Emily would be better dealt with if she were alone with the brunette. "Wake up, sweetie," she murmured, pressing a soft kiss to her fiancée's lips. She hated to wake her after the night they'd had, but she knew that it would be better than letting her continue to suffer in her nightmare. "Wake up, Emily. Come on, baby – open those beautiful brown eyes of yours and look at me."

"NO! NOT JJ!" Emily yelled, thrashing harder against JJ's careful hold. "YOU WILL NOT FUCKING TOUCH HER!"

"Oh, Em," JJ murmured, her heart clenching as she understood what Emily was dreaming about. "I'm okay, Em," she said, more loudly. "I'm right here. Wake up, baby. Please, wake up."

"NO!"

Tears poured down JJ's cheeks as she sat up on the edge of the bed and fought to keep from being hit and kicked by Emily's flailing limbs even as she tried to gently ease her from her nightmare.

"JENNIFER!"

"I'm right here, Emily." JJ risked letting go of Emily's wrist so that she could smooth her hand through the brunette's hair. "I'm right here, baby," she said, kissing her softly. "Wake up, Emily. Wake up, baby. I'm right here." She groaned as Emily's wildly swinging fist connected with her cheek. "Fuck, Em," she grumbled, shaking her head. She was about to pin Emily's arm down again when she saw her eyes begin to flutter open. The punch must have woken her up. "Hey you."

"Jennifer?" Emily's expression relaxed as she saw JJ staring back at her and she realized that she wasn't in the barn anymore and that Wyatt wasn't going to torture JJ like he had her. She licked her lips as she took in their surroundings, finding a strange measure of comfort in the sterile white walls and the harsh glow of fluorescent lights seeping in through the window in the door. Her heartbeat slowed as she turned her attention back to her fiancée and her eyes widened as she noticed the tears and the pink mark on JJ's cheek. "What happened?"

"Nothing," JJ said. She gave Emily a soft smile. "You were having a nightmare."

Emily licked her lips and nodded. "Yeah. Did I do that?" She pointed at JJ's cheek.

"It's fine," JJ said, brushing Emily's concern aside. "I'm just glad you're awake now."

"Jennifer…"

JJ rolled her eyes. "Yes, you hit me when you were dreaming, Em, but it isn't a big deal."

"God, baby," Emily whispered, shaking her head as she lifted a hand to gently cradle JJ's face in her palm. She lightly smoothed her thumb over JJ's reddened cheek. "I'm so sorry."

"Emily, it's fine," JJ murmured, one side of her mouth quirking up in a small smile as she leaned in and kissed her softly. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not really," Emily muttered, her attention focused on the small mark on JJ's cheek.

The fact that Emily had become entirely focused on her injury didn't surprise JJ at all and she sighed as she hooked a finger under her chin and lifted Emily's eyes up to her own. "I promise you I'm fine," JJ assured her. "I've had worse sparring with Morgan in the gym."

"Jen…" Emily began to apologize again but, before she could really begin, there was a quiet knock on the door.

"Good morning," the doctor said as he strode briskly into the room. "Hello again, Agent Jareau."

"Good morning," JJ greeted him. He'd been the doctor who had taken care of Emily the day before.

Joshua Sachs smiled and turned his attention to his patient. "Agent Prentiss, I'm not sure if you remember me or not, but my name is Doctor Sachs – I was the attending on call yesterday when you came in."

Emily nodded. She didn't exactly remember him because everything after she got on the Helivac with JJ was a little blurry, but he looked vaguely familiar. "Doctor."

He reached for her chart and flipped it open. "I see you had your last round of pain medication at a little after 3:15 this morning, how are you feeling now?"

"Fine," Emily answered.

"Pain level – on a scale from one to ten?"

"Two," Emily lied.

"Emily…" JJ warned.

Emily rolled her eyes. "Fine. It's like a six. But I'm good."

Doctor Sachs chuckled. "I'll make a note of that. How did you sleep?"

"Well enough, considering," Emily answered honestly. "When can I go home?"

"You weren't kidding when you told me she hates hospitals," Sachs said, smirking at JJ as he flipped Emily's chart closed.

"You have no idea," JJ muttered.

Emily just rolled her eyes again and remained silent. Getting pissy with the doctor wasn't a good way to get released and she knew it. "So…"

"Let me have a look at you and I'll let you know," Doctor Sachs said.

JJ nodded her understanding and slipped off the bed to give him room to properly examine Emily. "I'm just getting out of the way," she assured her as she caught the almost panicked look the brunette gave her. "I'm right here," she whispered.

"You can hold her hand, if you'd like," Doctor Sachs told Emily as he inspected the stitches on her throat. "I can see what I need from this side."

Needing no further encouragement, and feeling only the tiniest sense of embarrassment that her need for JJ was so obvious, Emily immediately reached for her, and she felt a wave of relief wash over her as the blonde's fingers closed around her own.

JJ bit her lip and schooled her expression as she watched Doctor Sachs carefully work Emily's right arm out of the gown so he could examine her torso. It seemed like every inch of Emily's beautiful body was covered in bruises and even though she'd seen all the damage the day before, the hours that had passed from then until now had caused the marks to grow darker and angrier and she felt her stomach twist with nausea as she was, once again, reminded of exactly how lucky they were that Emily was still with them.

"I'm okay," Emily whispered, turning her head to look at JJ as she squeezed her hand gently. She knew JJ well enough to know that while she looked calm, that she was anything but.

"Mmm," JJ hummed, nodding, not trusting herself to speak as she watched Emily flinch as the doctor pressed gently on her broken ribs.

"How's that?" Doctor Sachs asked.

"Just great," Emily snapped.

"I'll bet," Sachs replied as he slipped the eartips of his stethoscope in and placed the diaphragm just under Emily's breast so he could listen to her lung. "Any trouble breathing?"

Emily shook her head. "No."

"Good. As deep of a breath as you could, please."

Emily gritted her teeth and did as requested.

"Again, please," Doctor Sachs instructed as he moved the diaphragm to a different location. They repeated the process another four times, and he smiled as he looped the stethoscope back around his neck. "Your lungs sound good. You're moving air well and there's no fluid in the lungs."

"'Kay," Emily muttered as she squeezed JJ's hand to try and help her control the fiery pain that was licking its way up and down her injured ribs.

Doctor Sachs nodded and moved on to check the sutures on Emily's legs. They all looked to be holding well, and he nodded again as he inspected the plastic surgeon's handiwork. The stitches were tight and small, and he doubted there would be much of a scar if any when they were healed. He nodded again to himself as he helped Emily back into her gown, and once she was appropriately covered, he picked up her chart again to make a note about everything he'd observed.

"So… can I go home?" Emily pressed.

"I want to get one last set of films to make sure that everything still looks good – which I fully expect they will – and once I see those, I could release you as early as this afternoon."

"Excellent," Emily sighed.

"You will need to stay out of the field for at least six weeks until those ribs are healed; rushing back any sooner than that and you'll risk reinjuring yourself."

"Desk duty?" Emily asked.

Doctor Sachs sighed and tilted his head from side to side. "Your stitches will need to be removed in 5-7 days, so you'll be good there pretty quick. I'd probably clear you for desk duty after a couple weeks, provided you're continuing to show improvement. You really will need to take it easy for the next couple weeks to give everything time to heal. But, you'll need to check with your physician at home to get cleared for anything. At this point, the most I'm comfortable doing is releasing you to the care of your personal physician."

"I'll take it," Emily said.

JJ laughed and shook her head. "I'll make sure she gets seen by her physician as soon as we get back to D.C.," she assured him.

"Good. Well, then, I will go put in the order those X-Rays and we'll see if we can't get you ladies out of here."

"Thank you, doctor," JJ said sincerely.

"Yes. Thank you," Emily echoed.

"My pleasure," he assured them. "Just sit tight, I'll send the nurse in with your next round of pain meds. You'll need to remain on top of the pain for the next few days and not skip a dose just because you're feeling okay. I want you to take the meds until they're gone, got it?"

"I got it," JJ answered for Emily, which earned her a mock glare and a smile.

"I got it," Emily said.

"Good. Then I'll see you two again after I have a look at your films," Doctor Sachs said, giving them one last smile before he turned and walked out of the room.

"Damn," Emily muttered as the door closed after him. "I meant to ask when I can take a shower."

"We'll ask the nurse when she comes in," JJ said. She licked her lips as she squeezed Emily's hand gently. "How are you doing?"

"You're here with me, Jennifer," Emily murmured, turning her head to look JJ in the eye. "So I'm perfect."

"Your dream?"

"Just a nightmare," Emily deflected, not ready to discuss what had happened in the barn just yet. She knew that she would eventually be forced to debrief and then it would all come out; but, for now, she wanted to try and spare JJ some of the horror she had suffered. "I'll be fine."

Not at all surprised that Emily was blowing it off, JJ sighed. "You're sure?"

"I'm sure," Emily said. She took as deep of a breath as she dared and looked around the room, just now realizing that she and JJ were alone. "So… where's Morgan?"

JJ licked her lips and replied, "He's up at the scene with the rest of the team."

"Why?"

"The LEOs…" Her voice trailed off and she cleared her throat. "They found Wyatt's trophy room. The guys are going through it to try and get a better understanding of him so that we can use the information in the future."

Emily's heart sped and she squeezed JJ's hand as she understood what it was that the communications liaison hadn't said. "The heads?"

"Yeah."

Tears sprung to Emily's eyes as she was once again reminded of how close she'd been to being one of those 'trophies'. "Okay…"

JJ saw the shift in Emily's expression and she sighed as she reached out to run a gentle hand through Emily's hair. "Talk to me, Em."

Talking was the last thing Emily wanted to do and she shook her head as she tried to force her memories of what she'd lived through into one of her famous 'compartments'. Problem was, they were so fresh from her nightmare that when she met JJ's concerned gaze she found herself unable to hide from them. "I'm just feeling very, very lucky that I'm not one of his mementos."

"Me too, sweetie," JJ murmured. She took a deep breath and leaned in to press a soft kiss to Emily's lips. "Me too."

 

12

"You look like hell, peaches," Garcia greeted JJ as the blonde stumbled into her office.

"Thanks, Pen," JJ muttered as she flopped heavily into the empty chair beside the technical analyst's desk. Four weeks had passed since the team had rescued Emily from the unsub's barn. Four long, sleepless weeks as Emily continued to refuse to talk about what happened, demanding that she was "fine" whenever anyone dared ask her about it.

The giddiness that JJ had felt over their engagement faded with each and every dismissive shake of Emily's head and with every strangled scream that woke her up in the middle of the night, multiple times each night, as the demons that haunted the profiler's memory flexed their muscles. She had tried to get Emily to open up to her, but the brunette wouldn't. And, once the profiler had faked her way through her psychological evaluation and the counseling sessions that were required for her to return to work, any argument she tried to make was shut down with a quick, "I was cleared, Jennifer. I'm fine."

"Nightmares again last night?" Penelope asked knowingly.

JJ nodded. "Yeah. Four. She only woke up for the last one though. I really just need to sleep, Pen," she whimpered, rubbing her hands over her face. "Just one night."

Garcia sighed and nodded understandingly. "Do you want to come over to my place tonight? I can fake an emotional emergency that requires your undivided attention."

JJ smiled and shook her head. "As much as I appreciate the gesture, I can't leave her alone like that. Not when she wakes up screaming, her eyes wild as she searches for me in the darkness. If I wasn't there…" Her voice trailed off and she shuddered. "It would be bad. Really bad."

A soft, empathetic smile lifted Garcia's lips and she nodded slowly. "I get it, Jayje." She glanced at her monitors that showed the bullpen and saw that Emily was in the kitchen making herself yet another cup of coffee – her fifth for the morning, so far. "Look, why don't you go lie down on the couch in Rossi's office for a bit? He's at that conference in Boca this week and his door's always closed so nobody will think anything of it, and you can at least catch a few winks."

It was a wholly unprofessional suggestion, but JJ was too exhausted to look at it like that and she smiled thankfully at Garcia as she nodded and pushed herself to her feet. She placed a hand on the quirky hacker's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I think I will. Thanks, Pen."

Garcia smiled and patted JJ's hand with her own. "No problem. I'll keep my eyes and ears open and if anything comes up that desperately needs your attention, I'll come and get you. Otherwise, just turn off your phone and rest for a few."

JJ yawned and nodded. "Thanks," she said, giving Garcia's shoulder one last squeeze before she turned and made her out of the analyst's lair.

Garcia watched JJ's progress on the monitors and once she saw her go into Rossi's office and close the door, she reached for her phone and rang down to the bullpen floor. "Derek, come up here," she said without embellishment or preamble, hanging up the moment she was done speaking.

She rocked back in her chair as she watched Emily sit down at her desk and run a tired hand through her hair before picking up a pen and diving into yet another report, and she pursed her lips thoughtfully as she stared at her. "What are we going to do with you, princess?"

"Pen?" Morgan asked as he slipped into Garcia's office and closed the door behind him. "What's up?"

"Emily," Garcia replied succinctly.

Morgan nodded. "I know, Pen. I know. How's JJ?"

"Freaking exhausted. Scared." She looked up at him and shrugged. "She hasn't said that, exactly, but I can see it in her eyes. She is terrified for Emily and I think a part of her is wondering what's going to happen to them if Em doesn't work through this. She doesn't know how to help her and Emily isn't letting her in. It's eating her up, Derek."

"And what do you think I can do?" he asked, throwing his hands up in frustration. "She isn't talking to anybody."

"Yeah, well, it's high time somebody tried to make her," Penelope said, waving a hand at her monitors. "I had to send JJ down to Rossi's office to take a nap because the poor girl is dead on her feet. She can't keep doing this, Derek."

Morgan nodded thoughtfully, biting his lower lip as he stared at the monitor that showed JJ curled in a ball on Rossi's couch, fast asleep. The dark circles under JJ's eyes hadn't escaped his notice, nor had the absence of her usual smile. He knew that she was suffering just as much as Emily was, but he had hoped that his friend would see what she was doing to her fiancée and pull her head out of her ass.

But that obviously hadn't happened yet.

"Call Prentiss up here," he said finally. "And then… could you maybe make yourself scarce for a while?"

"Your wish, my command," Garcia murmured, smiling thankfully at him as she reached for her phone. "Prentiss. I need you in my office for a minute," she said. She shook her head at the tired, "I'll be right up," that Emily answered her with, and she smiled sadly at Morgan as she pushed herself away from her desk. "I'll wait until she's in here, and then I'll leave you guys alone," she said.

"Sounds good, baby girl," Morgan said softly, shoving his hands into his pockets as he leaned back against the edge of Garcia's desk.

The door to the technical analyst's office opened and Emily frowned when she saw Derek was in the room as well. "You called?"

"I had her call you," Morgan said, giving Garcia a small nod to tell her it was okay to go. He waited until she had left and closed the door behind herself before he said, "Talk to me, Prentiss."

Emily shook her head. "About what, Morgan?"

"You sleeping okay?"

"Yeah, sure," she deflected.

"You're positive about that?" he pressed, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Look, what's this about, Derek?" Emily demanded. "I passed my psych eval, I'm fine."

"Bullshit," Morgan replied, shaking his head. "We all know how to lie our way through those. If we didn't, they'd never let us back on the floor to work. Now… since you're apparently not talking to JJ, talk to me. What's going on inside that brilliant mind of yours?"

"It's nothing," Emily murmured, looking down at her feet.

"Bullshit."

"You already said that," Emily retorted, setting her hands on her hips as she stared him down.

"Yeah, well, when you stop saying stuff that is complete and utter bullshit, I'll stop calling it as I see it," he replied. He had read the report of the incident even though Prentiss had requested that only Hotch be in the room when she was debriefed. He knew what Wyatt had done to Emily, and he knew that it wasn't something that she would be able to keep in her infamous compartments.

He also knew that it was time to play dirty, since Emily seemed so hell-bent on declaring that nothing was wrong. So he pushed himself off the desk and waved a hand at Garcia's monitors. If it were just about herself, he knew that Emily would go to her grave saying that she was fine and he would let her, chalking the whole thing up to the demons they all carried around because of the job; but it wasn't just about her anymore. He watched her eyes land on the monitor that showed JJ asleep in Rossi's office and he ran a hand over his head as he said, "She's not sleeping, you know."

Emily did know, and she sighed as she looked at the image of JJ fast asleep on the monitor. She hated herself for keeping JJ at a distance, but she had honestly thought that she would have gotten over everything by now.

"Pen says she's completely exhausted, which we both know is true, and that she's scared about what this will do to you and your relationship," he said softly.

That got Emily's attention and she tore her attention away from the monitor to look him in the eye. Her stomach twisted painfully at the very idea of JJ second-guessing their relationship and she swallowed thickly as she tried to find her voice. "She said that?" she asked in a rough whisper.

The utter devastation in her voice was enough to break his heart, and Morgan shook his head. "Not in so many words, I guess, but it's there. Hell, even I've seen the way she looks at you when you're not paying attention. It's not very hard to see, Prentiss. What in the world is keeping you from talking to her about it?"

"She doesn't need to know…"

"She's already suffering, Em – there's nothing you're going to tell her that will make it worse. Hate to break it to you, but we have all seen the report. We know what happened and we understand that it will take you time to really work through it. And we've been trying to give you that time. But I can't stand by and watch any longer when JJ comes into work every day looking like a goddamn zombie."

Emily's gaze grew hard and defiant. "You do not know everything that happened in that barn."

"Really?" He taunted, knowing that he had her close to snapping. Exhaustion and anger always combined to be a most effective fuse when it came to Emily's temper. "Enlighten me then."

"Fuck you," Emily muttered, shaking her head. "Fuck you all."

"Yeah, because that attitude is working so well for you and JJ now, isn't it?"

And that was the comment that lit the fuse on her temper and sent everything she'd been holding in flying. "FUCK YOU MORGAN! You! Don't! Know! You read the report. Good for you. But I didn't tell Hotch how every time he cut me he would whisper in my ear that he was going to do even worse to that 'pretty blonde from the press conference'. I didn't tell Hotch that he would punctuate every kick and every punch with a comment about how he was going to beat JJ until every bone in her body was broken. I didn't tell Hotch how he would caress my cheek and tell me that he was going to keep me alive long enough to watch him do it all to her before he killed me. So don't you fucking dare tell me that you know what happened in that goddamn hellhole! You don't have a fucking clue what I went through in there."

Morgan nodded. He hadn't known any of that and just hearing it made him want to go back there an pump a couple clips into the unsub's body. But the fact remained that both she and JJ were hurting because of her refusal to tell JJ any of this. "Tell her…"

"I can't," Emily said, rolling her eyes as she looked back at JJ's sleeping form on the monitor. "She doesn't need to know any of that."

"She does."

Emily threw her hands in the air. "And why the fuck does she need to know? Huh? Why? She doesn't need to have the same nightmares I do, Morgan."

He licked his lips and took a careful step forward. "Do you really think that she isn't trying to imagine what it is that makes you wake up screaming every night? Do you think that what sleep she does manage to get is restful? She's living a goddamn nightmare every fucking day because you won't let her in and tell her what you're thinking. How much longer do you honestly expect her to be able to continue like this? Knowing that you don't trust her enough to tell her everything? Getting next to no sleep? Walking on eggshells around you so that she doesn't set you off? Never knowing if it is ever going to get better? She's a good girl, Em. We all know it. But even she can't do this forever."

"I'll get over it," Emily said. "I just need a little more time," she murmured.

Morgan nodded because, though Emily's words were resolute, the look on her face as she stared at JJ on the monitor was broken and hurting and he had a feeling that he had said just enough to make her really think about how her actions were hurting JJ. JJ was her weak spot. He knew it and everybody else knew it, and if there was anything that would make Emily pull her head out of her ass, it was the idea that she was hurting JJ. Because he knew that Emily would rather die than do anything to hurt her.

But that didn't mean he couldn't give her one last shove in the right direction. "If you say so, Prentiss. Just don't come crying to me when she leaves you and your stubborn ass because she can't take it anymore."

Emily's heart dropped heavily at the suggestion that JJ would ever leave her, and she only distantly noticed that Morgan had walked out of the room without another word. She bit her lip as she walked over to Garcia's desk, her right hand lifting to trace the line of JJ's body on the monitor as she watched her sleep. Tears stung at the backs of her eyes as she dropped heavily into the technical analyst's chair and she buried her face in her hands as she finally let herself cry for what had happened to her in Wyatt's barn and what her suffering in silence was doing to JJ.

It was nearly an hour later that she emerged from Garcia's office, shoulders slumped, her posture defeated, and made her way down the hall to Rossi's office where JJ was still sleeping. Morgan, Reid, and Garcia watched her go from the bullpen floor, and they shared a worried, hopeful look as Emily disappeared inside.

"You think it'll work?" Reid asked.

Morgan shrugged. "I dunno, buddy." He looked at his watch and sighed. It was barely noon and the day was already shit. "You guys wanna go get some lunch?"

"Do you think we should leave them alone?" Garcia asked worriedly. "What if they need us?"

"They need each other," Morgan said knowingly. He smiled and held his arm out to her. "Come on, beautiful. Let me buy you some lunch."

As they made their way out of the BAU, Emily stood warily beside the sofa in Rossi's office, her heart breaking as she watched JJ thrash in her sleep. The small whimpers that fell from JJ's lips made her stomach twist painfully, and she sighed as she sat down on the edge of the sofa beside JJ's hips. She bit her lip as she smoothed her hand over the younger woman's brow and she swallowed thickly as she leaned in to press a tender kiss to her temple.

From the moment Morgan had left her alone in Garcia's office she'd been thinking about everything he'd said and how he was right, and she knew that she needed to really talk to JJ about what had happened to her. She didn't know if it would make her nightmares go away, but she needed to do whatever she could to try and make JJ's disappear.

"Wake up, sweetie," she murmured softly against JJ's ear, hating that she was once again disturbing her sleep but unable to sit and watch her suffer for a moment longer.

JJ came awake slowly, blinking as she tried to brush the images of her dream from her eyes as she stared up into Emily's beautiful face. "Are you okay?"

"No," Emily whispered, shaking her head. She swallowed thickly as she reached out to gently cradle JJ's jaw in her palm. "I… need to talk to you."

Those six words made JJ's heart stop beating and she felt like she might be sick as she forced herself into a sitting position so that she was eye-to-eye with Emily. Though her head was spinning with the possible implications of what Emily had said – was this it? Was Emily leaving her? – she forced herself to swallow those questions and simply nod as she awaited whatever it was that Emily wanted to say. "Okay."

"I…" Emily's voice trailed off as she looked out of Rossi's window that overlooked the bullpen. She didn't want to have this conversation at the office. "Can we go home? Please? I… I don't want to do this here, Jennifer."

While the fact that Emily asked to 'go home' somewhat calmed JJ's nerves – the phrasing told her that Emily still thought of the condo as both of their homes so the gut-twisting fear that she was going to leave her lessened – she was still concerned and she licked her lips as she nodded slowly. "Whatever you want, Emily. Just let me tell Hotch that we're leaving, okay?" she added, trying and failing to keep a faint tremor of fear from her voice.

Emily heard the waver in JJ's voice and she closed her eyes as it smacked her in the face, telling her that she was still hurting the one person who meant more to her than anyone else in the world. "I want you, Jennifer," she whispered, leaning in to rest her forehead against JJ's. "Please know that I want you. I need you," she added. "I just…"

Relief and understanding flashed across JJ's face and she smiled softly at Emily as she lifted her chin to press a quick kiss to the brunette's lips. "I'll go tell Hotch that we're going home early. Meet you by your desk?"

Emily nodded. "Thank you."

"You don't need to thank me," JJ murmured.

"I do," Emily said, sitting up straighter and staring resolutely into the baby blue eyes she loved so dearly. Thanking JJ for being there for her was the least of the things she needed to do. "I do."

Hotch gave JJ permission for them to leave for the day with a tight nod and a concerned look, and the drive from Quantico to D.C. was made in silence – neither of them daring to speak and risk shattering the fragile bubble of comfort that had surrounded them the moment Emily whispered in JJ's ear that she needed her.

Once they were home, keys deposited in the glass bowl on the island and their guns un-holstered and set beside their keys, Emily took JJ by the hand and led her over to the sofa in the living room. Though they were both mentally and physically exhausted, this wasn't a conversation she wanted to have in bed, and she sighed softly as she watched JJ sit down on the couch and look almost warily up at her.

This was it.

She swallowed thickly as she sat down beside JJ, turning to face the blonde so that the younger woman could see in her eyes that she wasn't hiding from her. If nothing else, she needed JJ to know that she was no longer hiding from her.

But where to start?

That was the single question that played on an infinite loop inside her mind on the drive home and she still didn't know the answer to it. But she needed to say something, so she licked her lips and whispered, "I'm so sorry I've shut you out." The flash of recognition and pain in JJ's eyes was enough to spur her onward and she shifted in her seat. "I just… I thought I could get through this on my own. I always have before, and I really didn't think this would be any different. But…"

Emily's silence stretched for a few moments as she tried to find the right words to explain what she was thinking, and JJ smiled reassuringly at her as she scooted closer to her on the couch and took both of the brunette's hands into her own.

"It's different," Emily finally whispered, looking down at her hands that were cradled in JJ's. The warmth from the touch spread through her entire body, soothing her soul. She bit her lip as she looked back up into JJ's caring gaze and she felt her eyes sting with unshed tears. For once, she didn't fight the sensation. She knew there was no way she was going to get through this without crying. Not with JJ looking at her like that. "It's different because it wasn't just me that Wyatt was threatening when I was in his barn. It was you."

She then told JJ everything that had happened to her when she'd been held captive. How Wyatt had mentioned that he saw them hugging outside the precinct. How he would share his twisted fantasies of what he wanted to do to JJ as he beat her. Cut her. How he had cooed in her ear that he would keep her alive long enough to watch JJ's complete and utter destruction. She re-lived every tortuous, painful moment, and by the time she was finished they were both crying.

There was no way either of them could do anything else.

Somewhere along the line, JJ had pulled Emily into her, holding the brunette close as she shared the nightmare she had miraculously survived, and JJ swallowed thickly as she finally understood exactly what it was Emily had been dealing with.

"Oh, Emily," JJ murmured, closing her eyes as she pressed her lips to Emily's forehead. It broke her heart that Emily had tried to work past all of that on her own. And, while it killed her to know in excruciating detail what Emily had suffered through, she wouldn't have preferred it any other way. She needed to know so that she could better help Emily past it. She needed to know so that they could finally begin to reclaim their lives and their love. "Sweetie…"

More tears coursed down Emily's cheeks, hot and full of stinging regret, and she selfishly burrowed closer to JJ, needing the younger woman's strength and support even though she didn't feel like her behavior deserved it. "I'm so sorry I didn't tell you."

"Shh," JJ breathes, shaking her head as she once again pressed a soft, lingering kiss to Emily's brow. "No apologies, baby."

"But…"

"No," JJ said, pulling Emily even closer. "Just, no."

Emily nodded obediently and remained silent as she sank into JJ's embrace, feeling surprisingly better after having shared everything she'd been hiding from JJ. "I love you."

A soft smile lifted JJ's lips as she whispered, "I love you too, Em. So very, very much."

"Even though I'm a stubborn bastard?" Emily murmured.

"Especially because of that," JJ replied with a quiet laugh. She took a deep breath and added, "I think you should really sit down and talk to somebody about all of this, Em."

Emily nodded. Though she didn't particularly like the idea of therapy, she wanted to get better so that she would be a better partner for JJ. "Will you go with me?"

"Of course," JJ whispered, her heart swelling with love for the woman in her arms. "I will always do whatever you need me to do, sweetheart."

"Thank you," Emily breathed. A long, jaw-popping yawn escaped her and she smiled sheepishly up at JJ as the blonde did the same. Weeks of sleeping poorly combined with the emotional toll of reliving what had happened in Oregon had caught up to them both. "Can we go cuddle in bed?"

JJ smiled and nodded. "I think that sounds like an absolutely heavenly idea."

They made their way hand-in-hand up the stairs and stripped quickly down to their panties before climbing beneath the sheets, each of them craving the soft comfort that came from feeling the other's skin against their own. Silence descended upon them like a warm, comforting blanket and it wasn't long before they both drifted off to sleep. And, for the first time in four weeks, they were both able to get more than a few hours rest without Emily's nightmares waking either of them up.

 

13

When Emily awoke, it was just before eight o'clock. The Mall outside her bedroom windows was swaddled in the warm shades of charcoal and gray, the Washington Monument a tall black stripe against the sky as twilight fell over the capitol. The familiar weight of JJ's head against her shoulder and the feeling of the blonde's breath tickling her collarbone drew her back to the present, and she sighed as she combed her fingers through JJ's hair. For the first time in what felt like forever, she actually felt rested. There had been no nightmares to spoil her slumber. No haunting voices. No flashes of memories of things that were truly best forgotten.

For the first time since she had left Wyatt's barn, she felt like she was finally beginning to heal. Physical wounds were easy to recover from. Her body showed nary a mark from her ordeal – the plastic surgeon had not been boasting when he told JJ that her wounds would not scar – and her ribs had knitted themselves back together. Flesh and bone were resilient. It was the mind that required a more delicate approach. A more complete course of treatment.

JJ's arm around her waist tightened, and Emily smiled as she turned her head to press a lingering kiss to JJ's forehead. It would be easy for her to wallow in the fact that she had unintentionally caused the blonde so much pain, so easy to continue and kick her own ass for being so stubborn and keeping JJ at a distance, but she knew that it wouldn't help. It would not help either of them for her to do that.

A childhood spent bouncing from one fully-staffed manor to another with little-to-no attention from either of her parents had taught her to be self-reliant. There had never been anyone to hold her close after a nightmare, or patch up a skinned knee, or simply be there with a warm smile and a kind word when she returned home from a long day of school in a new country where she knew exactly nobody. She had always just done it herself. And that had worked fine for her.

And then she walked into the BAU and met the most perfect creature she had ever been blessed to lay eyes on. At the time, she had been most concerned with the fact that Hotch clearly did not want her in his unit and that she would be shuffled to another department, but even with that threat hovering menacingly over her head, she was enamored by JJ. Her sharp wit. Her smile. The way her hair would swing around her when she spun around quickly. The way her eyes would change color depending on her mood, from soft and warm when she was joking around to cool and dark when she was angry. Falling in love with her had been inevitable. And, in a way, it had seemed fitting that she should long so desperately for someone she would never have because she was used to being alone. Being alone, after all, was what she knew best.

And then, one day, she wasn't alone any more. It was still strange, even after being with JJ for six months, to not be alone. She still had to remind herself every now and again to let her walls down and truly let JJ in. It was habit to retreat into herself and to try and handle everything on her own. That was, after all, how she was raised. Letting JJ in was something she consciously worked on every day, and she hated that she had failed so miserably at it over the last few weeks. Though her intentions had been pure, she could now see exactly how much her solitary ways hurt JJ and she made a promise to herself to try and never do it again. She had no doubt that she would once again fail at it, but she was filled with a renewed desire to try.

The soft press of lips to her throat pulled her from her thoughts, and she sighed as she looked down into JJ's eyes. They were a warm blue, the color of the Caribbean Sea on a cloudless summer day, and she made a mental note to take JJ there someday. Maybe for their honeymoon. Just rent a catamaran with a small two-man crew and disappear for a while, or perhaps rent a house on a secluded stretch of beach where it would be just the two of them and nobody else around for miles. Either scenario sounded heavenly to her, and she idly wondered which JJ would prefer.

"How'd you sleep?" JJ whispered, reaching up to run a gentle hand down Emily's jaw. Her arm felt heavy, her body unwilling to let go of the respite a restful sleep provided, and it took much more effort than it should have to deliver such a simple touch.

The feeling of JJ's fingers gliding over her jaw lit a flickering ember of desire inside Emily, the gentle touch a reminder that it had been well over a month since they had made love. Her injuries, of course, prevented it, but the doctor had told her the day before that her ribs were healed. He was still keeping her from the field for another two weeks, just to be safe, but she was physically healed.

And now that she was done holding JJ at a distance, she wanted her as close as she could possibly get her.

Emily smiled, silently reassuring JJ that everything was fine, and murmured, "Great."

"No nightmares?"

"No nightmares," Emily whispered, turning her head to press a lingering kiss to the middle of JJ's palm. The sound of the blonde's breath catching ever so slightly spurred her onward, and she hummed softly as she twisted her hips and rolled them over so that she was now staring adoringly down into JJ's eyes. "I love you."

The feeling of Emily atop her and the smoldering warmth in the profiler's eyes made JJ's heart skip a beat. For the first time since they'd returned to D.C., she felt like she had her lover back. "I love you." The words were quiet, and were met almost immediately by the press of Emily's lips against her own. JJ moaned softly, her eyes fluttering shut at the feeling of Emily sucking lightly on her lower lip. They had kissed in the time since they had been home, of course, but never like this. Their kisses had been perfunctory. Chaste. Brief little moments that faked a normalcy each of them knew was lacking.

But this…this was so much more, and JJ whimpered as she felt Emily's hand begin to wander over her skin. She lifted her hips when she felt Emily tug on the waistband of her panties and hummed softly as they were tossed away. Their kisses never stopped as she quickly rid Emily of her underwear as well, and she sighed when they came together, skin to skin, for the first time in over a month. The feeling of soft fingers skating slowly around her right breast made her whimper, and JJ reflexively arched into Emily's hand when it covered her completely, squeezing with a gentle possessiveness that made her stomach clench in the most amazing way.

They had always been able to communicate better with looks and touches than words, and now was no different. There were so many things they could say: I love you, I've missed you, I'm sorry, I forgive you – but each thought was easily conveyed with a touch. A kiss. A sigh.

Emily hummed softly as she slid her hand higher, over the plane of JJ's chest and around the sculpted curve of her shoulder. Up, over the line of her bicep, along the curve of her elbow, tap-dancing ever so lightly over the sensitive skin of her inner forearm, until she was able to twine their fingers together. She moved their joined hands higher to rest on the pillow beside JJ's head, and she smiled as she felt the blonde relax beneath her. She hadn't a clue what she'd done to deserve the love of this amazing woman, but by god she would do everything in her power to keep it.

Their kisses grew deeper, mouths opening and tongues sliding slowly together, and Emily gave JJ's hand a gentle squeeze when the blonde's hips rolled up into her. The meaning behind the touch was clear: I know. And the promise was equally plain: soon.

Tears stung at the backs of JJ's eyes as Emily's mouth dropped to her neck, soft lips brushing with a gentle tenderness against the spot beneath her jaw that never failed to make chills run down her spine. She had never said it aloud, but she had been afraid that they might never find this level of intimacy again. She had been terrified that even though they had saved Emily in Oregon, that she wouldn't be able to really save her. That, no matter how deeply she loved her, that she might not be enough to bring Emily back from the darkness that had all but consumed her.

She swallowed thickly at the feeling of Emily's tongue flicking lightly over her skin. Every touch was soft. Reverent. Silently shouting promises of love and adoration. She knew from the way Emily was slowly making her way down her neck that the profiler wanted nothing more than to worship her, but that wasn't what she wanted. She didn't need to be worshipped right now. She needed to feel that connection to her lover that she had been missing. She needed them to be there in the moment together.

"Come here," JJ husked, her voice soft and needy, and she smiled at the way she could feel Emily's breath hitch against her throat. "Kiss me."

"Oh Jennifer," Emily whimpered, her heart fluttering into her throat as she instantly abided the blonde's request and moved higher to claim her lips in a deep, searing kiss. Understanding exactly what it was JJ needed, she took JJ's free hand in her own and twined their fingers together, sliding their hands up beside the blonde's head so that they were stretched out against each other from tip to toe, breasts pressing softly together as they kissed, hips beginning to cant slowly forward as passion overwhelmed them.

She had intended to make love to JJ slowly. Thoroughly. To bathe every inch of her beautiful body in kisses and whispered words of affection. But the unabashed simplicity of their coming together in that moment stole the breath from her lungs. It was basic. Primal. Hands grabbing, holding, hips rocking with a quiet desperation as they kissed. And yet, despite the growing need that burned between them, each needing the physical reminder that they were not alone, that the other was still there, that the future they dreamt of was still theirs for the taking, there was an unmistakable feeling of tenderness that filled the air around them.

The moment wasn't about the sex. Or even the release they would eventually find. It was about the way their breaths fell together in the space between their lips. The soft press of their foreheads resting together as they stared into each other's eyes. The quickening of breaths, and eyes growing dark, burning with emotions too powerful to put into words. It was about soft sighs, whispered words of affection, and quiet promises of forever. It was sex, but it wasn't physical. It was spiritual. The rejoining of hearts and souls after too long a time kept at a distance. They moved together as one, bodies rocking slowly to a rhythm that was uniquely theirs. By the time orgasm washed over them in warm, soothing waves, they were one. Their hearts beat in perfect synchronicity, their breaths equally matched. They tumbled over the edge together, eyes wide open, staring into the fathomless abyss of the other's soul, each knowing in her heart that they would be okay.

Emily smiled and dropped a slow, sweet kiss to JJ's lips. "Marry me?"

Mind still somewhat foggy from the emotional depth of their lovemaking, JJ let out a quiet laugh and arched a brow questioningly, curious as to what Emily was up to. "Of course."

"Good." Emily sighed and leaned over to open the top drawer of the nightstand on her side of the bed. Inside, nestled beside a well-worn paperback edition of Breakfast of Champions and a couple editions of her favorite French magazines, she easily found the small velvet box she'd hidden there. She had picked the ring up from the jewelers the week before when JJ and the team had been in Delaware working a two-day case, and now seemed as good of a time as any to give it to her.

She smiled at the look of surprise that flashed across JJ's face as she pulled the box from its hiding place, and cleared her throat softly as she sat up and handed it to her. "I…had actually commissioned this ring before we left for Oregon," she explained, biting her lip nervously as she watched JJ scoot up so that she was leaning back against the headboard, the pad of the blonde's index finger tracing the crease where the box hinged.

Understanding dawned on JJ's face, her mouth forming a perfect O of surprise, and she rolled her eyes. "And I ruined it by impulsively proposing in the hospital."

"Hardly," Emily scoffed, shaking her head. "It was perfect. Nothing was ruined," she added, nodding for emphasis. She searched JJ's eyes, begging the blonde to believe her, and she sighed softly as she leaned forward to press a gentle kiss to JJ's lips. "I love you and I can't wait to marry you. How and where it happens doesn't matter – I just want to make you mine."

JJ smiled. "I already am."

"Open the box, Jennifer," Emily murmured, smiling as she sat back, completely nonplussed about the fact that she had not a stitch of clothing on.

Heart suddenly beating wildly in her chest, JJ licked her lips and nodded. She caught the lip of the lid with the pad of her thumb and pushed it open, and her breath caught in her throat when she saw the ring that lay nestled inside. "Oh, Em…"

Emily bit her lip nervously as she watched JJ pull the ring from the box, the diamond managing to sparkle despite the lack of light in the room. The stone had the most fire she had ever seen in a diamond, and she had known the minute she'd seen the stone sitting in Emile's display case that it was the one that needed to anchor JJ's ring. It was big, but not gaudy, weighing in at just over a carat, but the cut was amazing. Set in platinum and surrounded by two smaller, half-carat blue sapphires, it wasn't a traditional engagement ring – but they weren't exactly a traditional couple. "Do you like it?"

"It's stunning," JJ murmured, her voice thick with emotion as she handed the ring to Emily. "Put it on me?"

"Of course," Emily whispered, taking the ring and sliding it onto the appropriate finger. Once it was in place, she pressed a lingering kiss to JJ's hand, and she sighed as pulled back to look at it. "Perfect."

JJ nodded her agreement and pushed herself up to claim Emily's lips in a slow, sweet kiss. She knew that they still had a ways to go until things truly were perfect and Emily had appropriately dealt with everything that had happened – but she also knew that this was a good first step in the right direction. That hope and love, and the commitment the ring on her finger symbolized would be enough to truly get them past it all. "I love you."

"I love you," Emily whispered, reaching up and gently cradling JJ's face in her hands. She smoothed her thumbs over the blonde's cheeks and smiled, awed as she always was that JJ really was hers. "Let me show you how much?"

"You mean more than the engagement ring I'm now wearing?" JJ teased.

Emily nodded, licking her lips and flashing the blonde a smile that could only be described as wolfish. "Yes."

JJ swallowed thickly, heat suffusing her body in an instant under Emily's lustful stare. "Okay." The low hum of approval that escaped Emily at her consent made her nipple grow instantly tight, and she giggled as Emily's hands dropped to her hips and tugged her down so that she was once again laying flat on the bed. A hungry mouth covered her own for only a moment before it moved onward, and JJ sighed contentedly as she turned her head to the side and gave herself over to Emily's touch.

 

14

"Tell me about the case you were just out on," Dr. Vanessa Calder prompted. She was an older woman, in her early sixties, with shoulder-length sandy blonde hair and warm brown eyes. Her suit was tailored, expensive, a leftover from her days practicing in downtown Washington, counseling politicians and other high-profile individuals who could afford her astronomical hourly rates, and the degrees on her walls held the names of Georgetown, Harvard, and Yale. She was accomplished, yet surprisingly down to earth, much like Emily, and had recently settled into a life of semi-retirement in the suburbs.

Emily sighed. She had been seeing the psychiatrist for two months. Her first appointment had been the week after she had finally opened up to JJ about everything that had happened to her in Wyatt's barn. Dr. Calder had the security clearance to hear anything Emily wanted to tell her, which was part of the reason why she had been chosen in the first place. "We were in Georgia. It…it was the first case since I'd been released to join the team in the field where I matched the victim profile."

Dr. Calder nodded. "And…"

"It actually didn't bother me," Emily admitted. Her voice was soft, introspective, like she still couldn't understand why she wasn't affected by it. "My nightmares didn't come back and I was able to work the case like I would any other. I was able to look at the pictures of those girls and not see myself in them. I mean, I'm sure it helped that he wasn't dismembering them, but I still didn't feel that weight on my chest like I was in his crosshairs or anything." And that, she knew, was progress, because she hadn't been able to do it on her first case back in the field, where the victims had been young boys who she bore no resemblance to in the slightest.

"And afterwards?"

"One nightmare, but it wasn't anything too bad. It was really no worse than any that I've had about the incident before, and I told JJ about it."

Dr. Calder smiled. "And now?"

Emily shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know what to think."

"Do you want to know what I think?" Dr. Calder asked, steepling her fingers in front of her mouth as she openly appraised the Agent. She did not miss the way Emily swallowed thickly at her words or sat up straighter, and she smiled reassuringly at her.

"Okay."

"I think you don't need to come see me anymore," Dr. Calder said, nodding for emphasis.

Emily shot the doctor a look of surprise. "Really?"

Dr. Calder nodded and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her desk. She normally conducted her sessions in the small sitting area that sat between her desk and the door because most patients were more receptive to the idea of talking about themselves if they were comfortable; but she had known from the minute Emily walked into her office that the brunette would never be comfortable in such an informal setting and had always conducted their sessions at her desk, where the delineation of power and position was clear. "Really. Your nightmares are under control, and when they do occur, you talk to your fiancée about them instead of pretending they didn't happen. You are more comfortable in the field. You say your relationship with JJ is back to how it was before the incident. So, I really don't see a reason for us to continue – unless you wanted to."

"No, that's…" Emily's voice trailed off and she smiled. "I mean, I just expected this to take longer."

"It could have," Dr. Calder said, nodding. "But, I think if you continue to keep the lines of communication with JJ open and talk to her when something bothers her, that you don't need me any longer. We've developed what I think are some really good strategies for you to use when you have a nightmare or when you're in the field and feeling anxious. And, let's face it – with the job you do, you will have nightmares, and you should be anxious when you're in the field. You and your team hunt down the absolute worst of humanity and if you didn't have nightmares or get anxious or need time to unwind after cases, I would think there was something terribly wrong with you."

While it was a relief to hear that the doctor thought she had appropriately moved past what had happened to her, Emily still felt the need to ask, "You're sure?"

"I am." Dr. Calder nodded. "But, if you feel yourself slipping back into your old ways – hiding in your compartments, as you call them – call me. We'll figure out what it is that's bothering you and we'll figure out a way to fix it. But, barring another horrific incident like what happened in Portland, I don't think you'll need to. From the couple sessions JJ joined us for, and the way you talk about her, I have a feeling you two will be just fine."

A light blush tinted Emily's cheeks and she bit her lip as she nodded. "Okay."

"Okay," Dr. Calder repeated. "So, it's already late on a Friday – why don't you go home and see JJ. Tell her the good news. Start planning your wedding. Just…" Her voice trailed off and she smiled. "Live. Live your life the way you want, Emily, and be happy. You are allowed to be happy," she added softly.

That had been one theme that had cropped up over and over again in their sessions. After having spent the majority of her life alone, content but not necessarily happy, a part Emily still felt that she didn't deserve happiness. That her role in the world was to contribute to society, her own happiness be damned. That she was destined to screw things up with JJ because she wasn't good with people. That maybe, just maybe, she was being selfish in wanting to blonde so badly because JJ deserved so much better than her. The first session JJ had joined-in on addressed a lot of those lingering insecurities, and the second had been especially emotionally draining, but, for now, at least, Emily seemed to accept the fact that she did deserve JJ and the happiness the blonde wrought. She did not doubt that Emily would again begin to question herself, it was to be expected, considering her childhood and adolescence, but so long as the brunette remained committed to talking things out with JJ whenever the need arose, she knew that they would be fine.

Emily licked her lips and nodded as she pushed herself to her feet. Her eyes scanned the now familiar room one last time as she held her hand out to Dr. Calder, and she smiled. "Thank you for your help, Dr. Calder."

"The pleasure was mine," Dr. Calder assured her, shaking her hand firmly. She tipped her head at the door and added, "Best of luck, Emily."

"Thanks," Emily murmured.

The walk from Dr. Calder's office to her car seemed to take no time at all. Her footsteps, for the first time since she had first set foot inside the psychiatrist's office, were not weighed down with worry that she might never bounce back from what had happened in Wyatt's barn. She had recovered. By the grace of God, and the sheer undeniable force of Jennifer Jareau, she was healed.

 

15

Classical music with a decidedly modern edge greeted Emily as she stepped through her front door. She smiled at the sight of JJ standing at the stove in a pair of jeans and her favorite Yale hoodie that the blonde had commandeered not long after she had moved in. Her hair was pulled up in a messy bun, there was a glass of wine sitting on the counter beside her, and she was waving a hand in the air as if she were conducting the orchestra. Garcia had introduced JJ to Bear McCreary's music a few weeks prior, and Emily found it utterly adorable that JJ was so obsessed with his music. The pounding of timpani drums covered Emily's footsteps as she slunk quietly into the kitchen, and a devilish smile lifted her lips as she leaned into drop a soft kiss to the side of JJ's neck.

JJ jumped at the soft press of lips against her skin, her heart leaping into her throat as her right hand automatically dropped to her hip for the weapon that was tucked safely away in the gun safe upstairs.

"It's just me, sweetie," Emily murmured, wrapping her arms around JJ's waist and pulling her in close. She closed her eyes and smiled, breathing in the familiar scent of JJ's shampoo and conditioner as she pressed another lingering kiss to the sensitive hollow beneath the blonde's ear. "I'm sorry I scared you."

"No you're not," JJ muttered, rolling her eyes at herself because, really, she should have known it was Emily. She always made sure to leave the office early on the days the brunette had therapy so that she would be waiting when Emily got home in case she needed to talk about what had been covered in the session. But, she had been so wrapped up in the music, her thoughts bouncing from one case she was monitoring to the next in time with the shifting elements of the arrangement, that her first reaction to Emily's surprising touch had been instinctual, rather than rational. She sighed as she relaxed back into Emily, enjoying the feeling of being held. "I take it your session went well?"

Emily bit her lip and nodded, her arms tightening around JJ's waist. "Dr. Calder said she thinks I don't need to see her anymore."

"Really?" JJ turned in Emily's arms so she could look her in the eye. "She said that?"

"She did," Emily said, smiling as she leaned forward to claim JJ's lips in a slow, sweet kiss. The echo of Dr. Calder's parting statement echoed quietly inside her mind as JJ's arms slipped around her neck, lips parting beneath her own as the kiss deepened.

Live. Be happy.

Emily hummed softly and dropped her hands to JJ's ass, palming the firm globes and giving them a light squeeze. She smiled at the low moan the touch elicited, and did it again, squeezing harder this time and pulling JJ's hips firmly against her own. "I love you."

Live. Be happy.

"I love you," JJ breathed, smiling as she trailed a gentle hand over Emily's jaw. For so long after the kidnapping, Emily's eyes had been dull and flat, even when the brunette insisted that everything was fine. Now, however, they sparkled with warmth, love, and affection, and JJ knew that she really did have her Emily back. The ghosts of what had happened to her in Oregon would always haunt her, and the scars–while not visible–would always remain, but Emily really was healed.

Live. Be happy.

"I love you," Emily swore, her voice soft and strong and saturated with emotion. Her hands drifted back up to the small of JJ's back and she sighed. "I love you so very, very much Jennifer, and I can't thank you enough for being so patient with me. For staying with me through all of this."

Live. Be happy.

Emily cleared her throat softly, the left side of her mouth quirking up into a small, shy smile, and added, "I can't wait to marry you."

"Oh, Em," JJ sighed, her stomach fluttering pleasantly. "I can't wait either."

"Do you think our mothers would be okay with us just eloping?" Emily asked, only half-jokingly. She was ready to live her life the way she wanted. She was ready to be happy. And all she needed and wanted to make both those things happen was to make JJ her wife. Nothing else mattered.

"I wish," JJ hummed, shaking her head and smiling as she pressed a gentle kiss to Emily's lips. "They would probably kill us if we tried, though."

Emily nodded and rolled her eyes. The Ambassador had been surprisingly excited about the news of their engagement and had immediately offered to finance the entire event, and not once was anything said about making it some kind of political party. She seemed perfectly amenable to Emily and JJ's wish to keep the wedding and receptions small, simple, and intimate, and though there would undoubtedly be a handful of political figureheads at the event, Elizabeth Prentiss seemed genuinely willing to not use the wedding as political currency. JJ's parents had been equally thrilled at the news, and Emily knew that JJ's mother sent the blonde weekly emails asking about the planning that had yet to take place because they had been too focused on her recovery.

"It was worth a shot," Emily murmured, grinning.

Live. Be happy.

JJ laughed and nodded, her eyes cutting to the dining room table that she'd set for the evening. Though she had been wearing Emily's ring for the last eight weeks, she had only picked up the brunette's engagement ring earlier that evening. She knew that it was bad of her to have waited three months to "put a ring on it" as Morgan said, wiggling his hand in front of his face in his best Beyoncé impersonation, especially considering the fact that Emily had given her a ring two months ago. But she had been too focused on trying to help Emily in the beginning to worry about getting her a ring, and then it had taken her time to find the perfect one. "I have something for you," she said, not wanting to wait until after dinner to give Emily her ring.

"Mmm," Emily hummed, smirking as she once again let her hands drop to grab JJ's ass. "Is it you?"

"In a manner of speaking," JJ allowed with an amused chuckle. She glanced over her shoulder at the timer on the microwave, and saw that they still had a little less than an hour before the lasagna she made was ready. "Come with me," she said, pulling away from Emily and taking the brunette's hand into her own.

Emily allowed JJ to lead her out of the kitchen, and smiled when she saw the dining room table set to the nines with flowers and tapered crimson candles set in crystal candelabras. "It's beautiful, Jen."

"I'm glad you think so," JJ murmured, leaving Emily standing beside the sofa as she wandered over to the mantel. She licked her lip as she reached behind a photo of her and Emily at Charlie's vineyard on the fourth of July, two days before they had headed out to Oregon and their entire world fell apart, and swallowed thickly as her fingers closed around a small, velvet box. She knew that it was ridiculous for her to be nervous, but she was.

Emily watched JJ reach behind her favorite picture of the two of them, and her breath caught when she spied a small, unmistakable box in the blonde's hand when she turned around. In all honesty, she had not expected this. Had not, truthfully, ever even considered it. She was content to see JJ wear the ring she had given her, but never had she expected to be given one as well. Not until their wedding, anyways. She had never been a girly-girl. Had never dreamed of the perfect engagement ring. Hell, she had never thought she would ever even get married until she met JJ, and then her imagination had run wild even as she tried to resist imagining any kind of a happily ever after type future for herself and the Media Liaison. "Jennifer…"

"I…" JJ cleared her throat softly, a small smile lifting her lips as she walked back to Emily, the ring box in her hand feeling like it weighed a thousand pounds. Really, she knew that it was ridiculous, but she could not help but be nervous. "I know that this is unforgivably late and that I should have done this much, much sooner," she began, palming the box in her left hand as she reached up with her right to run a gentle finger over Emily's lips that were quirked up in the most adorable shy smile she had ever seen. "But I was more concerned about you, than making sure I got you a ring. A ring seemed unimportant with everything else that was going on, and I…I suck," she said, rolling her eyes and flashing a wry smile.

"Hardly," Emily murmured, shaking her head.

"I'm glad you don't think so," JJ said. "Anyways, even though we've done this twice already, and ignoring our conversation from earlier, I'm going to do it again. I'm going do it right." She took a deep breath and ran her thumb over the crease where the box lid hinged, wishing she could remember at least some of what she had said to Emily back in the hospital. It would be a nice bit of symmetry to phrase each proposal similarly, but she had been too exhausted when she had done this the first time to remember a word she had said. "I thought I knew what love was before I met you, but I hadn't a clue. Because what we share is something so strong and so deep, that I can feel it in my bones. You are my soul mate, Emily Elizabeth Prentiss, and I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you by my side. Please say that you'll marry me?"

"Of course, sweetheart," Emily said, smiling, touched that JJ would even think to make such a production of proposing for the second time.

"I got you a ring," JJ said, flipping the box lid open and pulling out a thin band. It was inset with diamonds and sapphires, the stones alternating in a platinum band that matched the ring on her left hand, and the minute she saw it, she knew it was the one. It was simple, understated in its elegance, and perfect for Emily, who she knew did not want a more traditional engagement solitaire like the one she was wearing.

"It's beautiful," Emily whispered, licking her lips as she looked down at the ring in JJ's hand.

Live. Be happy.

JJ smiled and took Emily's left hand into her own. "I love you," she whispered as she slid the ring onto Emily's finger, where she knew it would stay for the rest of their lives.

"I love you, Jennifer," Emily breathed. She wrapped her right hand around the back of JJ's neck and drew the blonde in for a slow, sweet kiss. A low hum rumbled in the back of her throat at the feeling of JJ's body melting into her own, and she licked her lips when they pulled apart, noses nuzzling together as they lingered in the moment.

Live. Be happy.

Emily smiled and brushed a soft kiss across JJ's lips. "I guess this means we have a wedding to plan."

The End

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