DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By racethewind10


The apartment was dark and still, the air inside undisturbed by the storm raging beyond the windows. Rain silently streaked the cold panes of glass, blurring and shredding the soft, glowing points of light that marked the Capitol building and the Washington monument in the distance.

A small, inarticulate sound of frustration and pain accompanied by the muted thud of clothing hitting the carpet disrupted the quiet. A moment later, this was followed by the brash ratting of pills in a plastic bottle and the running of water.

Turning on the lights in the bathroom, Emily Prentiss winced. Whether the involuntary twitch of displeasure was due to the lancing of the harsh light striking her night-adjusted eyes or the sight that greeted her in the polished mirror however, was unknown. Normally tamed hair was a feral mess; normally creamy, alabaster skin was marred; normally vibrant eyes appeared dull and lifeless and across her forearms, her abdomen, her hips and her knees scratches and the first telltale darkening shadows of bruises stood out in stark relief, mocking her from her reflection.

What a shitty day. It was crude and inelegant, but Emily was running on little more than momentum right now, and it was all she had left. It was taking a supreme amount of willpower to even stand up, and the dark agent could feel the exhaustion and pain and adrenaline withdrawal gnawing at her control.

A really, really shitty day.

Tomorrow, Emily knew, she would be fine. Tomorrow she would be stiff and sore, but she would remember that they had saved the young boys who had been kidnapped. She would remember that even though the unsub's partner had surprised them and cracked her across the shoulders with a 2x4 and she had to go hand to hand with him while the unsub tried to drag one of the boys away, the team had been right behind her. She would remember the satisfying crunch the man's nose made under her palm and the flare of pain in his eyes even through the driving rain and freezing wind that stung her skin and burned in her throat. But she would especially remember reading the emotion, written in the elegant, delicate calligraphy of their own private language that had shone clearly from JJ's eyes: emotion that flowed from her tentative touch and created tiny points of blessed heat on Emily's chilled, soaked skin. Even hours later, she imagined she could still feel that warm caress like the day's last gentle ray of sun on her arm.

Like the sun itself however, that heat was now long gone, and satisfaction was as far away as the dawn. Right now all the brunette could see was her own battered reflection. Right now all she could remember was the clouded, silently accusing eyes of the children they hadn't saved. Right now, with her body cold and hurting and the silence pressing in on her, Emily could feel the crash coming.

As if to punctuate her rapidly deteriorating mood, the lights flickered, a warning of possible outages to come with the storm sweeping the region. The change caused her to start. Taking a deep breath that turned into a hiss when the bruises across her ribs pulled, she steeled herself, slipped on the black silk robe that was hanging from the bathroom door, and went to grab the box of matches from the kitchen.

With movements that held none of her usual fluid grace, Emily limped around the apartment, lighting several of the thick white candles that adorned different surfaces. The tiny wicks created small pockets of warmth, though she felt none of it.

Moving to the bedroom, Emily fumbled to light the votive by the bed as her hands started shaking from the cold.

"Fuck." The harsh word fell jarringly in the silence as the match dropped.

For a moment she just stared at the tiny sliver of wood, her mind, now as numb and frozen as the rest of her, seemingly unable to provide her with the next step of action.

As if delivering on its earlier promise, the power chose that moment to go out completely, leaving Emily standing alone in the cooling, impersonal darkness.

Some inner battle finally lost, the injured woman felt her knees give way and she sat stiffly on the bed, wrapping her arms around herself and staring off into nothing.

"Emily? Emily where are you? Emily…what are you doing in here?"

She wasn't sure how long she had been sitting there – long enough for every part of her body to voice its own individual ache – when the knife-bright light of JJ's flashlight swept the room, causing her to flinch once again.

Seeing Emily sitting in the dark, JJ picked up where the injured woman had faltered without another word, lighting the candles around the room with swift efficiency before striding back and kneeling in front of her.

"Emily," she whispered softly. "Emily what's the matter?"

As if waking up, the dark woman blinked, struggling to focus on JJ.

"It was cold," came the fragile whisper.

It was joined by the plaintive cry of JJ's heart at the sight of her lover so affected. The rareness of the sight only made it that much more difficult. Reaching out to grasp icy hands, the blonde kissed bruised knuckles before standing up and moving briskly to the bathroom.

As she did, the low hum of the heater and the return of the bathroom lights alerted the blonde agent to the power coming back on. A quick look back at Emily however, had her changing her idea. With a flick of her hand, JJ darkened the room and instead lit the candles around the bathtub, then poured some of Emily's favorite salts in and turned the water on. Making sure it was near painfully hot, the blonde agent returned to Emily's side, tugging her gently up from the bed. She was growing increasingly worried at the distant, blank look in the darker woman's eyes. She had seen Emily after the arrest of course, but as usual the brunette had shaken off her concern, smiling gently and insisting she was fine.

I should have know better, damnit. JJ's suspicions were confirmed when she guided Emily to the tub and gently undid her robe, pulling it away to reveal now livid evidence of the profiler's earlier fight.

"Damnit Emily," she whispered, more to herself than the unresponsive woman as she catalogued the bruises and scratches. Thankfully, there was nothing that required real medical attention. But she's got to be hurting.

With the bath now full, JJ helped Emily in, almost glad when the brunette hissed at the heat of the water. At this point, JJ was just happy for a reaction. Satisfied that Emily was alright for at least a moment, the blonde left to check that nothing had been disturbed by the power outage and throw another blanket on the bed in case they had another one later.

Changing into her own robe, the press liaison rolled her neck, tempted to join Emily but unsure how much space her lover still needed. They were good at reading each other – had been it sometimes seemed almost from the moment they met – but vulnerability on Emily's part was rare, and JJ knew how much it must have cost the darker woman for her to be in the state JJ found her.

Her need to reassure herself that Emily was alright however, quickly overrode her desire to give the injured woman time.

With soft steps, JJ moved to the doorway, intending only to glance in. Those intentions however, died very quickly at the sight that greeted her.

Bathed in the warm, dancing glow of the candles, Emily's skin took on a golden sheen where it peeked out from above the soft white foam of the bubbles. Tendrils of dark hair clung to her cheeks and framed her face, tracing paths to the shadows that danced in the hollow of her throat and jaw. Full lips were barely parted and JJ could just make out the slow rise and fall of Emily's chest above the water.

For a moment, JJ just stared, until the tiniest of smiles tugging at one corner of Emily's mouth let her know she was caught. With no need to hold back, JJ knelt by the edge of the tub, slipping her fingers across damp satin skin to stoke along the elegant line of Emily's jaw. Her touch drew a soft sigh and Emily's eyes opened. Rich and liquid, they held the flicking candlelight in their depths…and nothing more. The emptiness of earlier was gone, and a part of JJ that had feared what she might find felt a swell of relief at the sight.

"Welcome back," she smiled gently.

Emily's response was to move close, tracing one fingertip across JJ's lips before kissing her sweetly. It started simply, but as the steam from the water curled around them, scenting and warming the air and dewing their skin, it melted into something languid and deep. JJ slid her fingers into Emily's hair and pulled her closer, her mouth opening as Emily's tongue slipped along hers, teasing and tasting.

"Thank you," the darker woman murmured, pulling back slightly.

JJ simply nodded; content to stroke Emily's cheek. "You know I love you, right?"

This time it was Emily's turn to nod, her eyes taking on a sparkle that had nothing to do with the candlelight.

Moving in for another kiss however, the brunette was unable to help the wince as her body protested.

"And that's enough of that for tonight. You're going to take some aspirin if you haven't already, and then we're going to bed and you're going to take it easy tomorrow. I know Hotch gave you the day off so you…" JJ was effectively silenced by a finger to her lips.

"Not just yet. Please?" Emily asked softly, reaching down to take JJ's hand and tug her closer. The blonde hesitated for only a moment before standing and slipping her robe off; unable to help the warmth that kindled in her body at the swirl of desire and love she saw on Emily's face. Keeping a short leash on her own want however, JJ merely shook her head.

"You are in no condition to do anything about that look Agent, so don't start," she chided gently, slipping slowly into the water behind Emily.

Emily's only response was a contented sigh as the brunette leaned back, resting her head on JJ's shoulder. Surrounded by the soft heat of the water and the solid heat of JJ's body, she felt whole; safe and content in a way that before JJ entered her life, she never would have thought possible. Emily had always been wary of trusting others with her heart, but tonight, her decision was proven right yet again. Where once the cold and pain would have threatened to overwhelm her, she now had JJ to anchor her; to pull her back from the darkness and the self-recrimination and ease the ache of not just her body – which was simple – but of her soul. Tonight, Emily knew there would be no nightmares.

Outside, the temperature dropped, turning the rain into snow and softening the edges of the city with a cold white blanket.

Inside, two women rested, warmth and candlelight and the comfort that could only be found in each other's arms softening the aches and uncertainties and leaving in their place only warmth and peace.

The End

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