DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to atfm for the beta and the pep talk.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Morning After
Light stole through the shades, bathing the room in a soft glow. Slowly becoming aware of her surroundings, Emily stirred, and as was her habit, she began her stretching ritual but was brought up short by a solid mass which prevented her from reaching across the queen-sized bed. In fact, she wasn't able to move her arm an inch; something heavy was keeping it pinned to her side. Opening her eyes, she spied a golden head nestled against her, and for a brief moment, panic set in until the memories of the night before filled her thoughts and flooded her senses. She smiled and pulled her lover closer, her mind replaying the events of the day before.
She'd enjoyed a nice quiet Christmas Day, making the most of her time alone. Sleeping in, she'd awakened just before noon and had indulged in a sinfully delicious coffeecake, her guilt of using work as an excuse to forego the family Christmas assuaged somewhat by the rich taste the pastry had to offer. Although, as it'd turned out, the coffeecake wasn't the sweetest thing she'd taste that day.
Throughout the afternoon, Emily's thoughts had turned to JJ, wondering if she was enjoying the day with her family. She'd briefly entertained the idea of giving JJ a call under the premise of wishing her a merry Christmas, but she hadn't been certain how her colleague would have felt about the interruption. JJ deserved a true holiday with no reminders of work, just time spent with family, but by the time the evening hours had rolled around, the uncertainty had passed, and Emily had punched in the familiar number. She'd regained her senses after the second ring and promptly ended the call. Placing her cell on its charger, she'd moved back to the sofa to finish her book, although, thoughts of JJ had never strayed very far away.
Around eight o'clock, a knock had startled Emily from the words on the page, and she'd glanced over, wondering who the visitor could possibly be. She'd cringed at the thought of her mother standing on the other side of the door, but the notion had quickly passed, knowing Ambassador Prentiss would still be knee deep in guests. Her mother would never shirk her hostess duties, not even to take the opportunity to dress down her daughter for staying away during the holidays. Pushing to her feet, Emily had headed for the door, relieved that she knew who wasn't currently tapping out the rhythmic beat. Seconds later, she'd been astonished to find who was.
JJ stood in the corridor, her arms filled with two shopping bags, and Emily hesitated only a moment before she unlocked the door.
"Hey, I saw that I'd missed your call, but when I tried to call back, it went to voicemail."
Still slightly stunned by JJ's sudden appearance, Emily explained, "Oh, I put it on the charger. I must've switched it off."
JJ took in Emily's apparel and grinned. "Santa boxers?"
"Huh?" The sudden change in conversation had confused Emily, but realization quickly sunk in. "Oh! Um . . ."
JJ laughed. "You look cute," she shifted the bags in her arms, "mind if I come in?"
Emily stepped behind the door and swung it inwards. She continued to stand behind the impromptu shield even after JJ had made her way inside.
"Emily, you can close the door now."
"Huh? Oh." Emily's vocabulary had reached a new low. She closed the door and nervously crossed her arms in an attempt to hide the image of a smiling Rudolph on the front of her shirt.
JJ had spied the bright red nose but chose not to call attention to it. "I brought a little something for dinner. Hope you haven't eaten yet." JJ spotted the kitchen over the top of the bar and made her way towards it. She placed the bags on the counter and turned to find Emily still standing near the door. This time, she couldn't resist poking fun at the other woman. "I'm surprised you aren't wearing elf slippers."
Emily looked down at her feet and unconsciously shuffled them back and forth, grateful there was too much light in the room for the decorative green Christmas trees on her socks to glow in the dark. She glanced over the bar to find JJ chuckling to herself.
"Um, JJ? How did you know I was still in the city?"
"I drove by earlier and saw your car. You'd said you were leaving your car at the airport." JJ opted for the partial truth. She'd wanted to find a way to be near Emily on this special day, and after discarding the problem of showing up at the office and having to explain why she was sitting at Emily's desk, she'd chosen to drive by her apartment instead. She hadn't expected to see the familiar car.
"I could've taken a cab." Emily moved closer to the opening that separated the two of them.
JJ suddenly found her own feet quite fascinating. "Well, I also happen to know that your call was made from inside the apartment."
Emily slid onto the bar stool and placed her arms across the surface of the bar, the reindeer head safely hidden below the marble countertop. "How do you know that?"
"Garcia," JJ dared to look up, "she traced the signal to a tower nearby."
Chuckling aloud, Emily gestured towards the counter. "What's in the bags?"
JJ raised an eyebrow and smiled. "The ingredients for my world famous Jareau spaghetti." She began to remove the contents from the bag.
Emily tilted her head and watched as item after item was placed on the countertop. She smiled at the sight of a familiar jar.
"You're related to the Ragus? I hadn't realized you were Italian, Jennifer."
JJ smiled at the way her name rolled off Emily's tongue so easily. "Actually, my grandmother on my mother's side is half Italian," she lifted a jar of parmesan cheese from the bag, turning the label towards Emily and pointing to the brand name, "I'm related to the Romanos, very distantly related, but related nonetheless."
Emily nodded her head towards the foil-covered item. "Do you bake your own bread, too?"
"But, of course," JJ flipped the bread over so that the bakery name was facing the counter, "what kind of Italian would I be?"
"A blonde-haired, blue-eyed one."
"I have you know that many northern Italians are blonde and blue-eyed." JJ used a very bad Italian accent to try to make her point. Her weak gesture of an upward thrust with her fingers pinched together only served to make her imitation more comical to Emily.
"So, are you going to make me an offer I can't refuse?" Emily grinned saucily.
"As a matter of fact, I am. I'm going to slave over your stove, creating our dinner, and you're going to go change out of those adorable pajamas and come back to mix up the brownies." JJ looked directly at Emily. "You can cook, right?"
Emily's face had turned crimson at the mention of her Christmas 'outfit,' but she recovered quickly, focusing on JJ's query instead. "Of course, I can cook." Glancing back to the counter, she added with much less bravado, "They're a boxed mix, right?"
JJ hadn't lied, her spaghetti were delicious. The added seasonings had enriched the flavor, and if Emily hadn't been witness to the sauce being poured from the jar, she'd have sworn it was homemade. Leaning back in her chair, Emily sipped from her glass of wine.
"You really are part Italian."
"You mean to tell me you doubted my story?" JJ nibbled on a brownie. She was way beyond stuffed, but she'd always had a sweet tooth. Nothing would stop her from giving in to her craving, at least for chocolate anyway.
"It was a bit suspicious." Emily smiled. She bent her knee and placed a stocking foot on her chair. "JJ, this is the best Christmas meal I've ever had. If you hadn't stopped by, I would've opened a can of soup for dinner."
JJ blushed and busied herself with removing invisible brownie crumbs from her shirt. She didn't know why she suddenly felt so shy around Emily. Well, that wasn't exactly true either. It'd taken her hours to talk herself into following through with her 'dinner plan' once she'd discovered Emily was still in town. She'd taken a huge chance assuming that her colleague wasn't entertaining company.
JJ was so lost in her thoughts; she almost missed Emily's next words.
"I thought you were visiting family."
JJ's head snapped up. She countered with an assumption of her own. "I thought you were, too."
"This year, I didn't want to have to put on a false smile and entertain guests, all the while pretending that I didn't mind sharing my parents on Christmas Day." Emily hugged her knee closer. "I'd rather be alone."
"Me, too," JJ agreed, amending, "although, my problem is different. I get to paste on a smile and calmly defend my career choice to every single family member, and then to any neighbors that happen to drop by."
"Oh God, I know what you mean," Emily nodded, "and don't forget the settling down speech." She easily slid into a very proper tone. "Emily, you're wasting the best years of your life chasing after those horrible killers and such, don't you think it's time you found a nice man and settled down? You're certainly not getting any younger."
JJ grinned and pushed to her feet, her stance widening as she placed one hand on her hip while shaking her finger at Emily. "Jennifer, you've simply got to quit that job. How in the world are you going to find a husband amongst those sickos? And, you can't marry someone you work with; you'd never find time to have children."
"The children! How could I forget the children? I thought telling Mother I was a lesbian would put an end to all the prodding about children and marriage, but it didn't seem to faze her in the least. She proceeded to introduce me to a friend of a friend's son." Emily was so caught up in the mutual commiseration that she hadn't realized what she'd said, but JJ grabbed hold of the l-word and held her breath, the big question being whether Emily was truly a lesbian or if she'd just used the excuse to get her mother off her back.
JJ cautiously broached the subject. "What did she say?"
"Who? Mother?" Emily waited until JJ nodded her head. "About what? Me having kids or finding a husband?"
"Neither, about you being a lesbian."
"A what?" Emily paled. JJ had never seen a living, breathing person turn so white so fast.
JJ kept her tone light. "You said you told your mother you were a lesbian. I just wondered how she reacted to the news."
Ambassador Prentiss' reaction couldn't hold a candle to Emily's. The dark-haired agent opened and closed her mouth a few times, and then promptly began to hyperventilate, right before her eyes rolled back in her head. JJ managed to cross the short distance and steady Emily in the chair. She held the unconscious woman against her to keep her from sliding to the floor.
"Shit," JJ cursed as she shifted her arms around Emily. "When surrounded by mutilated bodies, she never flinches. Mention being a lesbian, and she faints dead away." JJ ran a hand through Emily's dark tresses. "I guess that's not something that's easily compartmentalized."
Glancing towards the nearby couch, JJ looked back at Emily, wondering how in the hell she could maneuver the other woman to somewhere more comfortable. The decision was taken out of her hands when Emily began to stir.
JJ rested her head atop of Emily's and continued to hold her tightly. "I'm sorry, Emily. I was just curious; I didn't mean to upset you."
Emily stiffened as the fog began to clear. Her reaction to JJ's question could only be interpreted one way; she'd just outed herself to her friend. She tried to pull out of the embrace, but JJ refused to let go. Touch was more important than eye contact, especially for this particular conversation.
"Emily, it's okay, really." JJ lightly kissed the dark crown, hoping that the gesture would calm the now shaking woman, but Emily never felt JJ's lips pressed to her head; she was too busy trying to keep from freaking out.
"No, it's not." Emily's voice was wrought with emotion. "I never intended for anyone to find out."
"I totally understand, Emily. It's not anyone else's business who you choose to love." Blue eyes closed, JJ knew firsthand the truth of her words. She couldn't help loving the woman in her arms; she didn't consciously choose to love Emily, it'd just happened.
Emily had no idea of the turmoil eating away at JJ; she had her own problem to focus on, a problem which had everything to do with the woman who was holding her so intimately. She couldn't allow JJ to know how deeply she felt for her.
"I'm still relatively new to the team, JJ. It's imperative that we work together closely, that we get along. I can't afford to give anyone reason to resent me."
"Emily, you've fit in wonderfully. No one would resent you."
"I can't take that chance, JJ. I've been so careful." Emily's voice softened, and she dared to grasp the arm that was wrapped around her, pleased when JJ didn't shy away from her touch. "I've totally immersed myself in my work; I haven't been in a relationship since I've joined the FBI. I'd truly appreciate it if you kept this little secret just between us."
JJ bit down on her lower lip to keep from blurting out her own little secret. She needed to choose her words carefully. Emily needed to know that she wasn't alone in her fear of the others treating her differently if they found out about her sexual preference. JJ slowly pulled back; now was the time for eye contact. Sliding her hands into Emily's, she squeezed.
"Emily, I'd never betray your confidence, and I hope that you'd do the same for me."
Blue eyes held dark ones, and Emily knew that JJ had meant every word. Someone knew about her and had accepted it, no questions asked, just pure acceptance. She reciprocated with an offer of her own.
"I would, Jennifer. You can count on me."
"That's good to hear because I've got something to tell you." JJ paused. This was it; the perfect time to tell Emily how she felt. Christmas Day, a day her grandmother had always referred to as a day of prayer, reconciliation, and a little hope. "Emily, I hope you know I value your friendship like no other I've ever known, and I'd never do anything to jeopardize the closeness we've come to share. But, I think it's only fair that I confess a secret of my own."
Emily never blinked, true to her word. She'd guard JJ's confession with her life.
Time seemed to stand still as the two women gazed into each other's eyes, Emily patiently waiting and JJ in awe of the beauty before her. Words seemed inadequate to express the intensity of her feelings, so JJ responded in a way that would leave no doubt in Emily's mind. She leaned forward and kissed her, praying that Emily would feel the same way, reconciling that this might be the first and last time she tasted the sweet lips, and hoping, with more than a little hope, that her dreams would finally come true.
JJ awoke with a start, her eyes wide as she stared across the room at the large white plantation shades which covered the bedroom window. She'd been having the most wonderful dream when something had poked her in the . . .
"Good afternoon, sleepyhead, I wondered if you were ever going to wake up. I've been lying here, recalling the best Christmas I've ever had."
JJ sat up abruptly and looked down at the smiling brunette, the smile broadening as the fallen sheet revealed JJ's nakedness.
"Emily?" JJ noted the bare shoulders and the equally bare leg poking out from under the covers. She focused on the black Christmas sock with the little green trees. Her dream hadn't been a dream after all; it'd been real. The pleasant memories came rushing forward.
"Those socks really do glow in the dark." JJ laughed aloud. She'd discovered the socks' hidden talent at a very intimate moment, and Emily had promised to leave the damned things on as long as JJ continued with what she was currently doing. JJ had been quite impressed that Emily had been able to keep them from sliding off.
A slender arm reached up and pulled JJ down onto the bed. JJ's chuckle quieted as she stared into the eyes of her lover. She reached over and cupped Emily's cheek.
"You are so beautiful." JJ slid her hand down the long, elegant neck. "What do we do now, Emily?"
Emily placed her hand on top of JJ's. "We make love again, we go heat up some of those world famous Jareau spaghetti, and we explore this relationship together."
"What about work?"
"We go about our jobs as we always have."
JJ nodded in agreement, but before she could verbally reply, Emily added, "Although, you'll need to make sure that you book our room on a different floor from the others."
"How about a different hotel?" JJ smiled and leaned impossibly close.
"Now that might cause suspicion." Lips met in a gentle kiss. "On second thought, a different hotel sounds wonderful." Emily rolled over and sealed her lips against JJ's.
Neither woman paid any attention to the glowing green Christmas trees nestled under the covers.
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