DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: for parts of season three...but not really.
Three Moments Emily Prentiss Will Never Forget
"What's she trying to prove?" JJ asked, an expression of concern and apprehension causing little creases across her forehead.
"That she can be a good daughter," Emily replied, turning away quickly to follow their witness into the interview room, needing to put some distance between herself and JJ's all too observant gaze.
A good daughter. Such a simple sounding task. Obedient, respectful, loving. Successful. Happy even. Nothing more than any parent should expect. And yet.
It had always been more than she was able to be, at least in her mother's eyes. Emily knew that, despite her mother's couched, carefully phrased words of approval, she wasn't the daughter that Ambassador Prentiss had in mind. Somehow, despite all of her many accomplishments, she had never quite measured up to her mother's standards.
After a while, Emily simply stopped trying. But she never stopped noticing the subtle digs to her career choice, the faint shades of disapproval that swam across her mother's eyes, like the shadowy suggestion of fish along the bottom of a clear pond, the flat tone of resignation when her mother made her monthly inquiry about her non-existent love life.
They had been butting heads for as long as Emily could remember. And now, they were more like casual acquaintances than parent and child. Still, she knew that she was better off than Kari. At least she still had a chance to be a good daughter.
She knew that Hotch and the others didn't know what had possessed her to offer to take the girl to Washington with her. She wasn't certain that she understood it herself. Except that somehow, it seemed a chance at redemption. Or atonement.
"I can see it. You. Kids," JJ said gently, sitting across from her on the plane.
Emily just smiled slightly, warmed by the sweetness in JJ's voice, by the shy, almost tender, knowing look in her blue eyes.
Emily wanted to tell her that she was wrong, that she couldn't be trusted with another soul, that the idea of holding the happiness and future of another being in her hands terrified her more than she could adequately express. She wanted to tell her how much she had disappointed her own mother, how she couldn't hope to be any better parent to her child.
But then she looked up and something in JJ's face stopped her. Faith, that's what it was. Faith in her, in who she was. Not disappointment, not resignation, not doubt. JJ believed in her. It felt like a small light in a vast darkness, but it was enough.
It was enough.
Girls' night out. A few drinks, a few laughs. It was Garcia's turn to pick where they went, and Emily felt a little flutter of uncertainty in the pit of her stomach. Garcia was unpredictable. She was also damn good at reading people and Emily had noticed that their resident tech goddess had been watching her, watching JJ.
She had more than a vague suspicion that Garcia had noticed the looks that lingered just a little too long, the touches that had become more than occasional, an arm here, a hand there, the slight brush of fingers across the small of a back.
"So, you two ready?" Garcia smiled from the doorway, a vibrant red scarf that just matched her lipstick wrapped around her head.
"Yeah. Absolutely," Emily replied, slipping her coat from the back of her chair. "Where are we going again?"
"Nice try, Em. I haven't told you where we're going. It's a surprise," Garcia smirked, clearly enjoying Emily's consternated look.
JJ laughed at the two of them, sliding her arms into the sleeves of a fitted leather jacket.
"What's the matter? Scared of what Garcia's idea of a surprise might be?" JJ chuckled, brushing her shoulder against Emily as they headed out of the building. Emily drew in a deep breath, taking in the fresh citrus scent of JJ's perfume.
"Terrified. Aren't you?" Emily responded, the smile on her lips only marginally forced. "Particularly when she told us not to wear anything we didn't mind getting dirty?"
JJ's laugh tickled along Emily's skin.
"Chicken. Where's your sense of adventure?" Garcia's voice echoed across the half empty parking lot.
Sighing deeply, Emily allowed herself to be lured into the waiting car and whisked away into the fading twilight of the Virginia night. She had a feeling that she was going to regret this.
An hour later and her fears seemed completely unfounded.
Garcia's choice for their night out was the fair two counties over. The smell of sawdust and hay, of manure and livestock, of fried dough, frying onions, and cotton candy, the sound of children screaming as a ride twirled overhead, of barkers yelling out to passers-by to try their luck, of teenagers laughing filled Emily's senses to overflowing.
This was the part of being a child that she had missed. The simple things, county fairs and amusement parks, baseball games and movies; the life that other people got to lead while she was dragged around the globe and left to grow up alone in cold, sterile embassies.
Garcia insisted that they ride all the rides, even the kiddy ones.
"Wait here, you two. I'm going back to win that gignormous penguin from Surf's Up," Garcia told them, an odd look on her face, disappearing into the crowd before either of them could answer or offer to go with her.
"Ten bucks says that she ends up paying twenty times what it's worth," Emily laughed, leaning back against the red and yellow cart selling candied apples and cotton candy, the smell of the warm sugar slipping out into the cool fall air.
"Here try some. I can't believe you've never had any before," JJ asked, a wide smile on her face. Emily watched her pinch off a chunk of the pink and blue cotton candy she had just bought, raising it to Emily's lips.
Warning bells went off in Emily's head as she cautiously took the proffered treat from JJ's fingers. She couldn't keep her eyes from fluttering shut, not at the sickeningly sweet concoction, but from the feel of JJ's fingers on her lips. She could have sworn that JJ let them linger just a few seconds longer than she had to.
"So?" JJ asked, watching intently as Emily's dark eyes opened to meet hers. "Did you like it?"
"Yes. I did. Very much," Emily murmured, her eyes tracing the full curve of JJ's lips, knowing that they would be soft and taste of warm sugar.
Smiling contentedly, JJ slipped her arm through Emily's.
"Come on, let's ride the Ferris wheel. Maybe if we're lucky, we'll get stuck on the top," JJ laughed, pulling Emily along with her through the crowd.
As the Ferris wheel began to rotate, their car rose into the autumn sky. JJ's hand was wrapped gently in her own, the blonde head resting quite happily on her shoulder. Emily looked out at the crowd and found Garcia standing just beyond the fence, a knowing smirk plastered on her face and a huge penguin under her arm.
"Are you ever afraid?" Emily asked quietly, her voice barely a whisper above the humming engines of the jet.
"During a case, you mean?" JJ questioned back, her face half in shadow as she leaned back against the headrest.
They had just left Arizona and the shattered remnants of a college laid low by senseless killings. To see lives so young and full of promise tragically destroyed had been heart wrenching.
"Not fear of being shot or injured. I mean, are you ever afraid of getting too comfortable with what we do? Do you worry that one day you won't even blink when you see the horror and devastation of a crime scene? That it will become so commonplace that it won't even register anymore?" Emily implored, her eyes straining somewhat in the gloom of the cabin to see the expression on JJ's face.
For a long time JJ didn't respond. Then she slipped suddenly off her seat opposite, pivoting in one graceful movement to sit next to Emily, the warmth of her arm against Emily's own seeping instantly through the thin cotton of her sleeve.
"Of course I do. I worry about a lot of things. I'm afraid that one day we won't be good enough or smart enough to catch the bad guys. I worry that the world is becoming so inured to violence that we will reach a point where we lack the resources to be able to keep up with the growing mayhem.
"Every time I get in front of a camera, or make a statement to the press, I'm terrified that I will say the wrong thing, that my words will cause untold harm to someone we are trying to save," JJ replied, her voice so low that Emily had to lean sideways to hear her. She could smell the subtle scent of JJ's perfume.
"Good," Emily whispered, more to herself than to JJ.
Emily turned her head to meet JJ's eyes as a low chuckle escaped the blonde.
"Good? It's good that I'm afraid?" JJ asked, a slightly quizzical frown drawing her eyebrows down.
"Well, not good, as in it's good that you're afraid. I mean, good, as in you're afraid, too. That I'm not alone," Emily tried to explain, her eyes dropping for the moment to her lap.
They rose quickly at the soft slip of JJ's hand over hers where it lay on the armrest.
"No, Em, you're not alone. Ever," JJ promised.
Silently linking their fingers together, JJ reached up with her free hand and switched off the remaining overhead light, throwing their end of the cabin into shadow.
"Not alone at all."
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