DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My first fearful foray into the fandom. Set after 3x11. Thanks to darandkerry for the beta, the suggestions, and the much needed encouragement.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Heart Knows
A profiler's job is to recognise patterns in people's behaviour. Psychology, socialisation, and genetics are taken into account, piecing together a jigsaw puzzle to reveal a more or less complete picture of a human psyche. With such a skilful intrusion into a stranger's mind, many deviations can be anticipated. Sometimes, when a serial killer's actions are of a particularly compulsive nature and he follows no plan in committing murders, profilers know before him when another life will be taken and why. Perceiving subtle details and seeing where a person doesn't fit into the grid of normal behaviour is the key to getting a step ahead of an unsub.
With enough emotional distance from the person in question, Emily found it easy to profile people. She had a natural talent for getting into their heads, coupled with excellent skills of analysis. As long as she barely knew someone and didn't get attached to them, she could effortlessly create a detailed profile. She was brilliant in her job if she didn't allow feelings to cloud her judgement, and she wondered if that wasn't the most difficult task she had to solve every day.
A slight movement pulled Emily from her thoughts. She peered down at JJ, who'd stirred almost imperceptibly in her sleep, her body nestled closely into Emily's side and her head resting in the crook of her neck. For the longest time, Emily had evaluated her, too. It hadn't been a conscious process; she knew better than to analyse a colleague. But involuntarily, she'd watched JJ and gathered information.
From the day she'd met her, Emily had been amazed at how, despite her fragile and sometimes almost childlike appearance, JJ nearly always remained calm and collected, even when facing the most gruesome cases. And yet, she never appeared jaded, offering the victims' families all her compassion. In her line of work, it was essential to present a smooth, professional exterior to the public while also being capable of reaching out to the bereaved. But even in the office in Quantico, away from all strangers and surrounded only by her team, JJ rarely slipped. Emily knew that it took a highly balanced person to strike such a delicate equilibrium, but she also saw that JJ denied herself weakness of any kind, more for the sake of others than for herself, and felt that JJ wasn't always as stable as she seemed to be.
But these things weren't the only facts in Emily's mental file of JJ. She also registered things that seemed fairly irrelevant to a profiler. The way JJ's lips twitched just before she started laughing. How her eyes went a darker shade of blue when she was tired. The irritated tapping of her pen on the desk top when she was on the phone with Strauss. And eventually, Emily added a tab labelled 'Prentiss' to JJ's file. The way a smile stole across her face every time JJ started laughing. How she set a mug of coffee in front of JJ when she looked tired. The synchronisation of her heartbeat with the tapping of JJ's pen.
The distance which Emily required to profile someone vanished. She ceased to know JJ with her mind and, as they got closer, began to know her with her heart. The facts no longer organised and categorised in her brain, Emily wouldn't have been able to describe JJ to someone who'd never met her. Instead, everything was a jumbled mess somewhere deep inside Emily's chest, but the knowledge of JJ she kept locked up in her heart was as complete as it could never have been in her head.
JJ whimpered softly in her sleep and dug her fingernails into Emily's stomach, leaving red crescents on the pale skin. Emily winced and carefully lifted JJ's hand from her middle to intertwine their fingers. The light touch woke JJ, and she croaked, "Are you watching me again?"
A deep chuckle gently rippled through Emily's body. "No, I was just thinking."
"Liar." JJ nudged Emily's shoulder with her chin.
"It looked like you had a bad dream. You okay?"
During the Wilkinson case, the troubled expression on JJ's face and her head lowered in defeat when she'd thought no one was looking hadn't been lost on Emily. For the first time, she'd seen JJ truly and obviously shaken throughout an entire case. Each of them had their moments when emotions threatened to overwhelm them, but after a deep breath and a pat on the shoulder from a teammate, they managed to clear their minds and continue doing their jobs. In Fredericksburg, Emily had sensed JJ's lack of confidence in her capability of doing her job.
JJ turned her face upwards and smiled. "I'm fine, don't worry."
It was the same brief smile Emily had seen JJ use on different occasions, meant to reassure the other person that everything was in perfect working order, a well-intentioned attempt, but hardly convincing.
Emily threaded her fingers through golden strands of hair. "It's okay to be weak sometimes, you know. It doesn't make you any less of a good agent. You think you have to keep it together at all times and don't want to bother anyone with how you feel about a case because you think it's unprofessional and that the victims' families are so much worse off, but that's not necessary, JJ."
This time, JJ's smile was genuine as she gently prodded Emily in the ribs. "Hasn't anyone taught you not to profile your friends?"
"I'm serious, JJ." Emily looked down, her dark eyes shining with held-back emotions and her heart twisting at the fading of JJ's smile.
JJ tucked her head back to where it had rested before she'd woken up and closed her eyes, inhaling the soothing warm scent that was uniquely Emily. "How do you find the balance between caring too much and not caring enough?" she asked quietly.
"I don't know." Emily momentarily shifted her gaze to the picture frames barely discernible on the opposite wall. "I think you learn over the years."
"Do you have doubts sometimes?"
"Of course, everyone does. First and foremost, we're human, and we can't expect our state of mind to be an even line. Allow yourself to let others know you're affected by cases, too."
JJ sighed. "I think they know already. Hotch saw it, and so did you. It can make a person really paranoid to be around you profilers. You run everyone through your brains' analysing tools."
"I don't do that with you, not anymore." Emily raised their still entwined hands and placed JJ's palm on her chest. "My profile of you, from how you act on the job to your odd liking of pea soup, is in here now."
In the silence of the dark room, Emily found herself surprised by the realisation that in spite of years on a job that demanded a permanent alertness of the mind and constant comparing, categorising, and deconstructing, she was still able to simply connect with someone solely with her heart, without any need to get a step ahead of them. Her eyes drifting closed, she shut down her mind as she covered JJ's hand with her own and listened to the story deep inside her.
JJ marvelled at the steady drum of Emily's heart pounding against her palm, every beat carrying a piece of her Emily knew so well. Exhaling deeply, she relaxed into the curve of Emily's body. It gave her a sense of peace that Emily knew her so intimately, that she could be who she was without holding back. JJ watched her fingers rest safely between Emily's heart and her hand, a stark realisation providing a surprising comfort to her.
Who she was could no longer be characterised in terms of herself only.
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