DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: 3x17 In Heat, 3x20 Lo-Fi

The Edge
By gilligankane


Emily stands on the outside – a "fringe-dweller" – and tries her best not to care that she's not a real part of the team. Not yet, not fully. It's been almost two years, but she knows that sometimes, Reid looks at her and expects her to be Elle. They all do. She's okay with that.

She stands at the edge, straddling the line between yes and no; straddling the line between "Stranger Danger" and "One Of The Boys." Sometimes, she honestly doesn't mind – sometimes it's nice not to have to be around for them constantly, ready to go out for a drink after a long case or a shoulder to cry on.

Other times, she wishes they would share their inside jokes; never hesitate to ask her to go out and unwind.

But Emily Prentiss has always liked her privacy. At least, she thought she did.

She hates when her mother breaks into her private life, demanding to know almost every detail, but not really caring. She hates when Strauss digs into her personal file just to remind her that she can and she will if and when Emily decides to cross her ever again.

She's never minded standing just on the outside, just before the light turns into shadow. She was happy there, content in her assignment.

That is, until she met JJ. It was at that moment she realized that the edge wasn't all it was cracked up to be. It's not nearly as great as being next to JJ, to sharing JJ's warmth and hope. Standing next to JJ, being on the inside, gives her a sense of belonging she's never felt anywhere else before.

But when JJ pushes her to that edge, keeps her arms length, she can't stand being there. She feels cold and numb and hopeless when she's there. She hates the edge of JJ, the place where the JJ uses her "Agent" voice and where there is no smirk hidden behind glaring eyes.

She's not sure what she did to deserve being on the edge, not really sure why she's the one, out of all of them, who was resigned to this prison of sorts. She sits in her cubicle all day, twisting pens idly in her slender fingers, trying to figure out what she did wrong.

And when she does finally figure it out, she can't help but feel a little grateful that JJ did her the favor.

As it turns out, it's only one sentence that got her banished to the darkness, one tiny cluster of words that had JJ putting the defensive wall back into place and locking Emily out:

"You two would make a cute couple."

One sentence sends her sprawling, sputtering, gasping for breath, clutching the edge of sanity.

The edge gives her the advantage of distance, especially when JJ pushes past her, fingers skimming her wrist, a simple goodbye.

The edge holds her up when she sees Will – that goddamn backwoods, backward boy – pull JJ in by the waist and takes away any hope Emily had left.

The edge lets her banter with Morgan: "Well, finally."

It lets her nod. "Mmm…thought she was never going to admit it." But the phrase isn't as simple as it sounds, with its undertones of hurt and heartbreak, and even Morgan picks it up.

The edge allows her to not feel affected by the situation, even if that's a blatant lie and she cries herself to sleep every night for a week.

It's the edge that gets her up every morning, get her into work and gives her the strength to carry on through the day. JJ doesn't pull her in to close and that helps when she closes her eyes at night.

She'll wait on the edge; continue being the "fringe-dweller" until JJ realizes that Emily should be the eye of the storm, not the orphaned wind on the outside.

She'll wait until JJ realizes exactly what she was doing, pushing the blonde and the Cajun together: giving JJ the chance at a perfect fairy tale life, even if it meant sacrificing her own happiness, because that's how much she cares.

The edge is comforting and bearable, when you have something to look forward to.

The edge gets a little colder, a little harder to maneuver, when she finds out JJ's pregnant.

Suddenly, the edge is looking a little more permanent then before and Emily loses her footing, only to find herself just a little farther behind then before.

The edge just seems too far away, and Emily begins to panic.

Because before, she had always chosen to be on the edge, and she could always chose when she come closer, when to step away from the edge.

But now, she's being forced to the edge, and the sudden drop on the other side gets closer and closer every day that JJ doesn't pull her back.

The End

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