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SPOILERS: Episode 309 - Penelope

Target Practice
By LeeT911


Somehow, she thought it'd be harder.

Because even though she deals with death on a daily basis, it's never been this immediate, this intimate. She's never been the one to dole it out before.

But the gun comes up, fast and easy, and her palms are dry. Beyond the glass, there's chaos, but out here, she's alone with the silence and her weapon. He turns then, to look at her, and what she sees, is not Jason Clark Battle, but rather a cardboard silhouetteturning to face her. And it's just like all those times down at the shooting range.

The weapon is familiar, the weight and pull memorized by her hands. Her stance is practiced; her grip, firm. Her aim too, is reflex, finding that spot on the forehead -- between the eyes. The sound though, is louder than she remembers, and the glass shatters in a way her protective lenses shouldn't.

It's only then that she hears the shouting, and she realizes that this is not target practice.

Hours later, after everyone has gone and all the congratulations have been said, she sits in the bar and there's only Emily across from her. Between them, they have a good number of bottles, but she's still tense and not a bit hazy. And she thinks she should feel something else, because someone died tonight, but somehow she can't make it matter even half as much as all the other deaths.

Prentiss sees through her, of course. Prentiss, who's been careful to stay sober all night. Prentiss, who has both sets of car keys in her coat pocket.

"Do you want to go yet?"

JJ doesn't, but she nods anyway, lets Emily wrap a jacket around her, and follows the brunette out the door. There's no argument when Emily slides into the driver's seat, no argument when she drives just a little too fast. They're stopped at a light when the blonde speaks up, trying in vain not to slur her words.

"Am I a bad person?"

Emily looks over at the form curled in the passenger seat. She thinks of all the things she wants to say but shouldn't. She thinks of reaching to brush the hair out of JJ's face but doesn't. Instead her eyes return to the road, and her foot comes off the brake as the light turns green. "No."

"Then why don't I feel bad for shooting someone?"

"Because he wasn't worth feeling bad for."

It sounds so simple when Prentiss says it, so reasonable. It's the same rationalization JJ herself was using, but just hearing someone else say it makes it seem more concrete.


Emily does touch her then, taking one hand off the wheel so she can squeeze JJ's shoulder. Her eyes never stray from the windshield though, and the rest of the drive is in perfect silence.

She leans heavily against Prentiss as she struggles to get the door open, until finally it's the brunette who takes the keys from her and drags her inside. They stumble into the apartment and towards the bedroom, where JJ collapses onto the mattress.

It's a struggle, but Emily manages to get the shoes off the prone woman, somehow manages to work the blankets over the blonde. She pauses in the doorway with her hand on the light switch, trying to think of something innocuous to say.

Nothing comes to mind though, and after a minute of waiting, the room goes dark. "Goodnight."

She's nearly out, car keys in hand, when a murmur from the bed draws her back. JJ's curled up into a ball, the sheets rolled tightly around her, and Emily finds herself crouching by the blonde head.

"Sleep well," she whispers, once again yearning to touch the golden strands.

The eyes don't open, but the mouth does, lips slack with sleep. The words are quiet and slow, simple and scary, and Prentiss isn't even sure they're really for her.

"Don't leave."

And so she doesn't.

She sleeps on the couch that night, with only her coat draped over her, and the gentle sounds of JJ's breaths echoing through the apartment.

Prentiss wakes that morning with the sun in her eyes because no one bothered to close the drapes last night. Her neck is stiff, and her clothes are all rumpled, but there's coffee waiting for her on the kitchen counter. She stretches to the sound of the hair dryer, pulls at her shirt and hopes it doesn't look quite as bad as it feels.

She's sitting cross-legged on the couch with a mug in hand when JJ steps out of the bathroom. The blonde's showered and changed, a t-shirt and loose sweats to go with the towel hanging around her neck. Emily's never seen her dressed like this.

They stare for a moment before there's a smile, a slow one, starting from the corner of JJ's mouth. Prentiss pretends not to notice. She sips her coffee and rakes her hand through her hair self-consciously.

"You look like you just got up."

Prentiss tries to scowl, finds she can't in front of the infectious smile. "I did just get up."

JJ laughs all of a sudden, moving to the couch and sitting next to the other woman. "I have a guest room, you know."

Emily wants to say something witty and appropriately sarcastic, but she hasn't slept well and nothing comes to mind. So instead, she settles on the truth. "It was late, and dark, I didn't want to poke around, and I wasn't even sure you wanted me to stay."

"I wouldn't have minded either way."

"I know, but... I..." She trails off because there's nothing left to say except the things that she can't. Her eyes flick off to the side, and she pulls at her shirt again. And she's realised that it's hard to be herself around JJ. Emily is far too friendly, far too attentive, far too obvious. It's easier to be Special Agent Prentiss, because even though that doesn't let her feel everything she'd like to, it's safer this way. "I should go."

Once the words are out, the mask is back in place, and she allows herself to think that she just might get out of here without giving herself away. She stands, and although her hair's still a mess and her clothes are still crinkled, at least she feels like a federal agent for the first time today. She reaches for her coat, but JJ's hand on her wrist stops her.

"Let me give you the nickel tour, since you're here anyway."

Emily allows herself a smile. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

JJ laughs, gets to her feet. "I'm not worried about you profiling me, we work together everyday. Unless you're no good at your job, you must have me all figured out by now."

Prentiss can feel her control start to slip, can imagine all her compartments falling open, but the walls come back up just as quickly, and she doesn't budge. When she speaks again, her voice is calm and firm, despite the fact that her resolve isn't. "I really should go."

The door closes before JJ gives chase, and Prentiss is halfway down the stairs when the blonde stops her.

JJ stands barefoot at the top, and she puts her hands behind her back because they won't stop fidgeting. She has a jumble of words in her head, words that should make sense because she's rehearsed them so many times in her mind, but although her mouth can form the words, her voice just won't cooperate.

It's supposed to be easy, casual, no different than any other time, just like asking Emily out to dinner after the weekly sessions of target practice. But somehow she knows this is not the same, because she's in the hallway of her own apartment building with only her pyjamas on and a knot building in her stomach.

Prentiss waits, bites her lip and thinks about making some excuse. She doesn't want to lie though, not to JJ. "What is it? I didn't forget my gun or something, did I?" She makes a show of checking her pockets, and for a moment, everything's normal and they're just colleagues again. She's relieved to hear JJ chuckle, looks up to see the blonde take a step closer.

JJ blinks, inhales deeply, and when she opens her eyes it feels just like all those times down at the shooting range. "You want to grab a bite before you go?" This is different though, because it's early morning and Garcia isn't waiting for them outside.

"I look like a wreck."

She doesn't. Not to JJ, not even with her flat hair and overnight clothes. "Let me make you breakfast at least."

And Prentiss knows she really shouldn't go back, but Emily -- Emily desperately wants to. "That'd be nice."

The End

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