DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A very special thank you to atfm for betaing this one at a moment's notice. Um, make that a second's notice.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Black spots danced in front of her eyes and a loud ringing blasted in her ears as JJ reached for the hood of the car to keep from sliding down to the ground. The cool metal kept her in the here and now; however, the simple touch didn't change the reality of the situation. There had still been gunfire inside the unsub's house, and the shouting of Emily's name by Morgan had indeed been very real. But even that left JJ with hope that Morgan had just been warning Emily of impending danger. No, it was that tiny bit of panic in Hotch's voice as he called for medical personnel shortly after he'd shouted the words JJ always feared, "Agent down!"
The swirl of activity in front of the house caught her attention, and JJ watched as paramedics waited just a beat before they raced into the house. With great effort, she pushed away from the car and concentrated on her steps as she approached the average-looking house, a house that, for all intents and purposes, looked just like every other house in the middle-class neighborhood. Its well-kept lawn and inviting porch gave it the appearance of wholesomeness, even normalcy. No one would have suspected the unspeakable evil which dwelled within. JJ reached the porch on her seventy-sixth step, and taking a deep breath, she stepped inside, the same breath catching in her throat at the sight before her.
Morgan was practically pacing in place, his bloodied hands rhythmically clenching and unclenching as he looked down at the paramedics working fast and furiously on the injured agent, their crouched positions hiding the identity of the agent from JJ. In the corner, Hotch stared down at the body of an unknown male, more than likely the unsub, while Reid worried at his lip as he stood next to Hotch; his attention, however, was focused on the paramedics a few feet away. JJ chose not to follow his gaze; instead, she briefly scanned the room, eliminating each and every one of the local agents before she, too, turned her attention on the downed agent, an agent she could now see clearly, an agent she knew well; someone she greatly admired, someone she'd recently admitted to having feelings for. Emily Prentiss lay motionless, a pool of blood staining the dark wooden floor beneath her head.
Choking back a sob, JJ's eyes tracked to the paramedic's gloved hand as it applied pressure to the wound, the once white latex now covered in red. A sense of urgency sounded from the second paramedic, announcing the need to get the agent to the hospital ASAP. Morgan responded to the plea, ordering the other agents to stand back to allow the medical personnel to do their jobs; however, he and Reid stayed close, offering assistance any way they could. Within seconds, Emily was gently loaded onto a gurney and swept from the room. The paramedic never removed his hand as he continued in his quest to staunch the blood flowing freely from the neck wound. JJ ignored her training and rushed through the throngs of agents; her destination the bathroom she'd spied when she'd gazed around the room. Sliding to her knees, she lost the breakfast she'd shared earlier that morning with Emily. The memory of the decision to finally give in to their attraction and Emily's smiling face had been shattered with a single bullet.
The scene at the hospital was eerily familiar, only this time the place where Emily's hand had offered warmth grew colder by the minute. Ironically, it was Garcia's voice in JJ's ear that grounded her.
"Don't you worry, my girl; Emily's going to be just fine. Earth Mother isn't ready to let go of her yet."
JJ closed her eyes, the scene from earlier playing out in front of her. Emily had looked so small and helpless as the blood from her neck wound had continued to seep around the large hand despite the efforts to keep it from escaping. She whispered into the receiver. "There was so much blood, Garcia."
"JJ," Garcia wished she could touch her friend, "you've got to believe. Emily needs you to believe."
A hand landed on her shoulder, and JJ looked up into Morgan's caring eyes. "Hey, you okay?"
JJ nodded and held up her phone. "Here, it's Garcia; she wants to talk to you." Standing, JJ walked down the corridor, a brief smile playing at her lips as she listened to Morgan's greeting, a welcomed familiarity she grasped hold of firmly.
"Hey there, Babygirl, how you holding up?"
Morgan's low tones faded away as JJ approached the closed doors to the operating rooms. She slowly reached out a shaky hand to touch them, never noticing Hotch step beside her until he spoke.
"You couldn't have done anything if you'd been there."
JJ started at the words, more so at what was said rather than the suddenness of the sound. Hotch had somehow climbed into her head.
"I got held up at the sheriff's office." JJ felt the need to explain her tardiness at the scene. "Another gun might've made the difference."
Hotch shook his head. "No, it wouldn't. The unsub would have another hole in him, but Emily would've still been in harm's way. He targeted her for some reason."
"You think it was because she's a woman?"
"Definitely," Hotch glanced at JJ, holding up his hand to ward off her next words, "but all the victims were brunettes. Your presence wouldn't have confused him in the slightest. Emily was his main focus the minute we crossed the threshold."
"I should have been there." JJ turned her focus back to the closed doors. In her mind, she'd have found a way to keep Emily safe.
JJ awoke at the sound of the same hissing noise that had lulled her to sleep an hour earlier, and her eyes tracked to the machine that was the cause. She watched the black rubbery-looking ring as it expanded and then collapsed, its cycle repeating over and over again. The whole process unsettled JJ just as much as it comforted her. She hated the reason for the machine but was thankful for its purpose.
"She wake up yet?" Reid eased into the room and stood next to the wall, his eyes focusing on the back of JJ's head. He'd yet to look at the woman lying motionless in the nearby bed.
JJ turned slightly in her seat, taking a position that afforded her a view of Reid while at the same time allowing her to watch for any sign of movement from Emily.
"No, but her breathing is steady," she motioned to the machine she'd been focused on, "and her heartbeat is strong," another gesture towards a second machine which kept track of Emily's heart rate and blood pressure.
Reid shifted nervously. "Um, okay," he still hadn't looked at Emily, "Hotch and Morgan are at the sheriff's office, tying up some loose ends; Hotch sent me to relieve you. He said you needed to get some sleep."
"I'm not leaving until Emily wakes up." JJ's tone was firm; she clearly wasn't leaving.
"But . . ." Reid began, but a slight movement from the bed brought both agents' attention to the hand that was reaching up towards the stark white bandage. JJ jumped to her feet and gently grabbed hold of the shaky hand. Dark eyes sprung open in a panicked state before they finally settled onto calming blue ones.
"Hey there," JJ smiled, "welcome back."
Emily tried to speak, but the tube only caused her to grunt. Her eyes widened.
"Emily," a hand moved to a pale cheek, "you need to relax. You're in the Cook County hospital. You've been shot, but the doctor says that you're going to be okay."
Emily kept her focus on JJ. The softened tone coupled with the slight smile had Emily squeezing the hand that held her own. If JJ said she was going to be okay, then she was. JJ would never lie to her. A movement near the door pulled Emily's focus to Reid. He stumbled out a greeting.
"Oh, um, you're awake," he started with the obvious, "um, that's really good." Reid glanced out in the corridor.
Noting Emily's slight increase in heart rate, JJ spoke up. "Reid, why don't you go back to the sheriff's office? I'll stay here with Emily."
As if he'd forgotten why he'd been sent, Reid jumped at the chance to escape. "Um, sure; I'll give Hotch and Morgan the good news." Without another word, he fled into the hallway.
JJ drew Emily's attention back to her. "Hey, let me go tell the nurses that you're awake."
Emily gripped JJ's hand tightly, afraid to lose her connection to the one thing she understood. JJ seemed to understand.
"Okay, I'll just stay with you a few minutes then." JJ stood and moved closer to the bed. She moved a dark strand from Emily's forehead, her fingers detecting the warmth of the skin. She glanced towards the monitor, searching for a temperature reading, but the appearance of one of the nurses changed her focus.
"I see the patient is awake." The nurse turned to JJ. "I need to check the wound, so if you'd please step outside; it'll only take a minute."
A hard squeeze had JJ standing her ground. "I'd rather stay if you don't mind."
"Actually, I do; I can work faster without an audience." The nurse placed her tray on the bed table. "Your friend will be just fine."
JJ glanced at Emily; she'd never seen fear in the dark eyes, but there was no mistaking the look that was being projected her way. Emily was terrified.
"I'm sorry, but I can't leave this woman alone." JJ reached for her badge, displaying her credentials with a flip of her wrist. "She's my current assignment."
The nurse shrugged nonchalantly. "Okay, but don't blame me if you pass out." She slid on a pair of gloves and turned towards Emily. "Ma'am, I'm going to take a look at your wound."
Emily never took her eyes off JJ. A single tear escaped and made its way down the deathly pale cheek. JJ moved closer, bending her head near Emily's.
"Hey, it's okay. She just needs to make sure nothing's wrong." JJ caught the tear with the end of her finger before caressing the clammy cheek. "Look at me, Emily." JJ smiled easily, maintaining eye contact with Emily while the nurse lifted the bandage. The entire process took several minutes, but neither woman seemed to notice; they were too focused on each other.
"Okay, I'm done here." The nurse snapped off her latex gloves and glared at the two women. "You can stop touching her now."
JJ slowly moved her gaze to the rude woman. Keeping her hand in place, her eyes bore holes into the other woman. "You can leave at any time." JJ spoke slowly and distinctly, her voice calm, but authoritative. The nurse took a step back and blinked. Grabbing her tray, she fled the room.
"See, that wasn't so bad." JJ gentled her tone, her hand continuing its caressing motion. Emily leaned into the touch and closed her eyes. A few minutes later, she was out like a light, her hand nestled safely in JJ's.
The next time JJ awoke it was to the sound of loud voices in the corridor. She glanced at a sleeping Emily before easing her hand from the loose grip. Standing, she made her way to the door where she spied Ambassador Prentiss just outside, arguing with one of the nurses. JJ blew out a nervous breath and stepped from the room.
"Ambassador Prentiss," JJ smiled and extended her hand, "Special Agent Jennifer Jareau, we've met in the B.A.U. offices."
"Yes, I remember you." The Ambassador returned the friendly smile before continuing. "I want to take my daughter out of this hospital and get her the medical attention she deserves."
"Ambassador, I can assure you that Emily has received quality medical attention. She's resting comfortably and is in no danger." JJ gestured towards the door. "If you'd like, I'll take you to her now."
The Ambassador nodded her head and started for the door. A hand on her arm stopped her short of her goal. "I need to warn you. Emily still has an endotracheal tube. Combined with the location of the . . . um, wound, it's just too painful for her to talk."
"I understand." The Ambassador swallowed hard. Her steps faltered slightly, but she quickly recovered, walking into the room with her head held high. JJ was amazed that she was able to move directly to the bed without flinching. Now, she knew where Emily got her ability to compartmentalize so well.
A soft groan sounded from around the tube, and dark eyes slowly opened, widening at the sight of her mother standing next to her.
"Emily," the Ambassador gestured towards JJ, who'd followed her into the room, "Agent Jareau assures me that you're receiving adequate medical attention, but the minute you're released, I'm arranging for a private jet to bring you home. You'll need round the clock care."
"Ugh-ugh." Emily struggled to have her voice heard. She didn't want to go home with her mother; she wanted to go home to her apartment. JJ moved closer to the bed.
"Now, Emily, you know I'm right."
Despite the pain, Emily shook her head back and forth. "Hooomme." Tears streamed down her face from the pain caused from her efforts to speak.
"Yes, dear, you'll be home soon." The Ambassador smiled at her daughter. She either had no clue what Emily was trying to communicate or she chose to ignore it. JJ knew exactly what Emily had meant.
"Ambassador, I believe Emily wants to recuperate in her own home."
"Of course, she does, but there's no way she can be left alone." The Ambassador practically tsked her reply.
"I'll stay with her."
"Agent Jareau," a diplomatic smile was directed towards JJ, "I appreciate your offer, but you have a job. Who'll stay with Emily while you're at work?"
"I have two weeks vacation coming to me. I'll take it whenever Emily is released."
The Ambassador looked at JJ for a moment and then shifted her gaze back to the bed. "Emily, I know you don't want to inconvenience Agent Jareau in any way, so just agree to my terms."
Emily's reply was to hold out her hand. JJ never hesitated for a second; she reached out and grabbed onto the offering. Both women then turned their focus to the Ambassador. Their united front would not be denied.
From the comfort of her sofa, Emily lounged against the cushions and rested the Vonnegut book on her stomach. She'd wanted to catch up on her reading, but she'd found herself more interested in watching JJ. Every time the other woman had moved from room to room, Emily had slid the book closer to her face, using it as a shield to hide her roving eyes. Now that JJ had gone to the store, Emily had nothing to do but actually read the written words on the page. The sound of a key in the lock had her turning towards the door expectantly.
"Hey, did you get a nap?" JJ stepped further into the room, both hands laden with plastic bags. Emily just nodded her reply.
"Okay then, let me put these groceries away and then we can watch some television." JJ smiled and started for the kitchen. She was very aware that Emily's eyes were glued to her backside.
The denim-covered ass disappeared around the corner, and Emily leaned back against the cushions. JJ had been gone from the apartment for less than an hour, but it had seemed like an eternity to Emily. Moments later, the object of her thoughts lifted her stocking feet and sat down on the end cushion. JJ began to massage the feet she held.
"What do you want to watch?"
Emily swallowed before she answered. It was still a little painful to speak, but she managed. "You."
JJ chuckled. "Me? Whatever for? You see me all day long."
Emily just scooted back and patted the cushion. JJ smiled and looked at the small space.
"You want me to lie down in that tiny area?"
Emily nodded her head.
"Okay, but prepare to be smushed." JJ stood and gently eased herself in front of Emily until they were face to face and hip to hip. "Comfy?"
"Yes," was the raspy reply. Emily swallowed again. "Thank you, JJ."
JJ slid her arm over Emily's waist. "What for?"
"For never leaving my side." Emily pushed a blonde strand from JJ's face. She smiled. "We never had that date."
"I never got my goodnight kiss."
"It's not nighttime." JJ grinned.
"JJ, humor me, please."
Slowly easing forward, JJ moved closer and closer, her focus on Emily's dark eyes. She never once looked at the white bandage as she made gentle contact with a pair of the softest lips she'd ever kissed. Steadying Emily with her hand, JJ deepened the kiss.
They'd come out of the horrible ordeal whole, but more importantly, they'd come out of it together.
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