DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Underneath the Ashes
By Calliope


Emily slammed into the hard metal of her car door and lost her balance from the jolt of the explosion. Scrambling to her knees, she could see the flames and already smelled the nauseating scent of burning rubber. She knew the rest of the team's cars were parked in the vicinity and with a sickening dread she took off in a wild sprint in the direction of the charred vehicle.

When she rounded the corner, the flames were beginning to abate but the heat knocked her back on her heels. Morgan tore around the other corner from the opposite direction in a frenzy. He was followed close behind by Hotch, Reid, and Garcia. Rossi brought up the rear. They all looked frantically around. Something was missing. Something was terribly wrong.

"Oh god, JJ," the brunette brought her hand up to her mouth, already heading in the direction of the burning SUV. Tears sprang to her eyes, her hands visibly shaking, "No, no, no, no, no." Before Morgan could grab her to restrain her, Emily took off in a run for the SUV.

"Emily!!!" Everyone followed the dark-haired profiler as she disappeared past the dying flames closest to the building.

All they heard as they approached was Emily's tearful mantra, "Not JJ. Not JJ. Not JJ."

When they got closer, choking on the acrid smell of gas, rubber, and the distinct stench of burning human flesh, they saw Emily hunched over, her arms wrapped around a body, and rocking gently.

"Oh god," Garcia was the first to react when she saw the shock of bloody blonde hair.

"Jesus Christ," Rossi muttered. Reid stood silent his fingers wrapped in a death grip in his messy hair.

Morgan squatted down on the other side of Emily and JJ, quickly assessing the injuries.

"Emily," the handsome agent coaxed.

"No!" Emily pulled JJ tighter into her arms. Both women were covered in blood. It was everywhere, but there wasn't one large wound. Instead, JJ's body had been pierced by thousands of shards of glass. The flashing of the fire had lightly singed her skin and the ends of her hair. The lack of a major wound only concerned Morgan more since the damage probably lurked unseen.

"Emily," Morgan spoke more urgently, "let me check her. We need to know the extent of her wounds…please."

Emily's dark eyes caught her friend's, "I can't lose her, Morgan. I can't…," the brunette's tears turned to full-blown sobs, "I never told her."

"Emily, she's going to be fine, you hear me? She's strong. You'll get your chance to tell her, but right now, we need to get her help." Sirens could be heard in the distance. The profiler knew he was right, knew she had to let go, but she couldn't. She could still lose her and that fear ripped her up inside.

Fire trucks and ambulances rounded the corner, "C'mon, Em." Morgan reached out his hand. The EMT's were running toward the scene. Emily closed her eyes and kissed JJ's forehead, feeling the rough glass embedded in the pale skin beneath her lips.

"In case I never get another chance, know I love you, Jennifer. I've always loved you," she gently laid JJ down on the ground and moved away to let the EMT's through. Morgan pulled the profiler to him, protectively placing an arm around her. They watched until JJ was placed in the back of the ambulance.

Hotch stepped up to the pair, after giving a brief rundown of the events to the local police, and calling Quantico to let them know what had happened.

"Take me to the hospital. I've got to be with her," Hotch simply nodded and Morgan walked her to the car. Seeing the dark SUV, she pulled back, shaking her head.

"No! I can't get in there."

"Emily, it's five miles to the hospital. You can't walk it," Hotch reasoned.

"Then get me a cab. I'm not getting in there."


Ten hours later, the sun had come up but the mood in the waiting room was bleak. Emily hadn't moved. She refused to leave until they had news on JJ's condition. Morgan and Hotch stood sentry on each side of the room, while the rest of the team was spread out around the room in various states of sleep or anticipation.

The room suddenly burst to life as the doctor came barreling through the doors making a sleeping Reid fall out of his chair in surprise. Emily was the first in front of the doctor.

"Well?" Her voice was rough from lack of use.

"It's going to be touch and go for the next 24 hours. Apparently, the force of the explosion threw her up against the concrete wall at a side angle so her back didn't take the force of the blow. Her shoulder is pretty much shattered. Our ortho surgeon will be in today to check her x-rays. If she stabilizes, we can get to work on fixing those injuries. She's a helluva lucky woman though. Aside from that, a concussion, a broken ankle and too many small cuts to count, she seems fine. Surprisingly, there was no internal bleeding."

The team looked at each other, thinking of the question they were all afraid to ask, but Emily eventually spoke up, "And the baby?"

The doctor smiled, "That's the biggest miracle of all. The baby's fine and looks like she's on the way to having a perfectly healthy baby girl."

Emily smiled for the first time since this all began, "A girl. When can we see her?"

"When we get her settled into her room, I'll have one of the nurses come and get you."

"Thank you, doctor."

A couple of hours later the team was huddled around JJ's bed. As if by mutual understanding, Emily was seated in the chair next to her bed, her hand resting gently in the blonde's.

The doctor came into the room, checked her vitals and reviewed her chart.

"She's holding steady and that's a good sign, but we have no idea how long she'll stay unconscious. You all really should go home and try to get some rest."

"We can't rest," Hotch spoke for his team matter-of-factly, "Whoever did this is still out there and still a threat to JJ and to this team. She'd want us to get back to work."

Morgan clenched his jaw but nodded determinedly, "Hotch is right. We can't lose our focus."

"Let's get to it then," Garcia finally spoke in an uncharacteristically serious tone before heading to JJ's bedside and giving her a soft kiss to her forehead, "We'll get these bastards. I swear to you, we will."

As the team headed out the door, Hotch came to stand at Emily's side. She didn't want to leave, and she really didn't need to get a dressing down by her boss right now.

"Hotch…," he put a hand on her shoulder before she could finish.

"Stay with her. She'll need you here when she wakes up," she looked up at him with relief and in return he gave her a rare smile.

"Thanks Hotch."

"Just take care of her, Emily. Be good to her," Emily simply nodded in response.

The soft, rhythmic rubbing of a thumb against the back of her hand woke her from the sound sleep she had fallen into. Lifting her head from the side of the bed with a groan, Emily gazed into the most beautiful blue eyes she'd ever seen.

"Hi," JJ's voice was rough from having the breathing apparatus removed earlier.

"Hey, yourself. Glad you're back," Emily sat up on the edge of the bed.

"How do you feel?"

"Like someone tried to rip my teeth out through my ass," Emily grimaced at the description.

"Um, that's what morphine's for," the brunette picked up the button for calling the nurse, "pressing this will get you more."

The blonde smiled, "Later. So, how long was I out?" The brunette had to think because she had lost track of time while waiting beside JJ's bed.

"Actually, I think it's only been a day and a half. Seems longer," she pushed her hair behind her ear, feeling the grime of two days unshowered in her hair.

JJ had yet to let go of Emily's hand, "What happened?"

"What do you remember?" Emily was bracing herself for the questions she knew was coming. She had thought about how to explain Will but never really let the conversation in her head get past the point they were at now.

JJ looked down at their entwined hands, thinking, her brows knitting together, "A flash of light. That's all."

Emily looked down as well, taking a deep breath, "Well, apparently, the unsubs targeted the team and rigged one of our vehicles with explosives…yours was the unfortunate one chosen."

The profiler paused to let the blonde process the information, her blue eyes focused in concentration.

"Will," she stated the name not as a question but as fact.

"I'm sorry, JJ. I'm so sorry," Emily expected the blonde to cry, but the tears never came.

"And the baby?" JJ hadn't made eye contact yet, but Emily squeezed her hand to get her to focus, a beaming smile coming to her face.

"The baby's fine. The doctor said it was basically a miracle," JJ finally let out the breath she had been holding.

"I'm really sorry about Will," JJ shook her head and closed her eyes.

"I'm not."

"JayJ, don't say that! You're just in shock. It's okay to be upset," JJ actually started to laugh.

"I'm not upset, Em," clear, blue eyes zeroed in on her own brown ones, locking them both in the moment, "I didn't love Will. I never loved him."

"But I thought?" Shaking her head, she tried to make sense of the last few weeks and months, "I don't get it. You were going to marry him."

"But he's not the one I wanted to marry."

The brunette was looking at her truly confused, "So, there's someone else?"

"Yeah, and if I have only learned one thing from all this is that time can't be wasted. Even in the ashes of a tragedy, a treasure can be found. Emily, if my life had taken a different kind of path or the last few months had gone a different way, you would have been the one killed in that explosion. But you weren't. And you're here…now…with me and with this baby," JJ was becoming as animated as one could with wires and tubes hooked up to her. Emily watched her in awe as the tears she had been waiting for at the news of Will, finally started to come to the surface.

"Jennifer, what are you saying?" Emily nearly whispered.

The blonde quirked an eyebrow at the agent, a smile gracing her lips, "You're the profiler. Guess."

Emily felt her heart beat faster at the teasing and flirting that had been sorely missing from their friendship in the last few months, "Hmmm, well, it seems to me that you're insinuating that I'm your treasure beneath the ashes."

"Close, but if you were to come closer, I could kiss you and clear up everything," the brunette smiled and happily leaned down, gently kissing JJ.

"I love you too, Emily Prentiss," the profiler creased her brows, wondering if JJ had heard her confession as she had cradled her after the explosion.

JJ giggled at the look on Emily's face, "You talk in your sleep."

"Oh, good to know!" Resuming the kiss where they had left off.

The End

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