DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Iím trying to write a Five Senses series (and heaven knows if Iíll ever finish it at the pace Iím going). Pure, posted about two weeks ago, was the first sense, Smell. This oneís Sight. They are in no way connected, so itís not necessary to have read the first part. Special thanks to my Comma Fairy and Other Brain Hemisphere Ann.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Unfolded
By atfm

 

I carry the sun in a golden cup
The moon in a silver bag
(Carla Bruni, Those Dancing Days Are Gone)

It's a common saying that children see the world through different eyes. A kaleidoscope of colours and shapes for them, it changes constantly with a twist of their hands or a tilt of their small heads, each state lasting for but a fleeting moment. Their perspective is as unique and fresh as it will rarely be in their adult lives. Every day, they discover something new in something familiar, the belief that everything deserves a closer look not yet lost. They stare in wonder at the explosion of hues, pale and rich and subdued, and the sheer amount of circles, rectangles, and an infinite number of other shapes they aren't able to name. It's innocence that characterises their perception; a thin, fragile wall that offers protection to their way of seeing things. Dark red is simply the colour of ripe cherries for them, and a swastika is nothing more than an odd combination of angled lines.

JJ often thought that if she could keep only a tiny shred of that innocence in her soul, wrapped gently in silken paper and hidden safely in a quiet corner, working with the B.A.U. wouldn't be able to permeate her entire being, tainting her body and soul. Holding on to that precious barely existing childhood remnant deep inside of her, defending it against horror and numbness, always lingering and lurking, was a silent but desperate battle. Most of the time, what was left of JJ's innocence prevailed, the bond to the little girl full of compassion and ache for those who suffered still there. But sometimes, she felt such a strong temptation to just give in, to let the greedy monster that was indifference crash over her like a roaring wave and swallow her without putting up a struggle, just so she didn't have to care about what she witnessed on a daily basis anymore.

Whenever JJ stepped into a crime scene, she thought she saw a fine haze hanging above it, barely visible and completely motionless, but stilling the scene before her like a terrifying snapshot. And yet, the light mist inexplicably seemed to enhance the colours of the picture to an almost blinding intensity that, as soon as JJ had laid eyes on it, shot through her nerves like hot liquid, searing her brain and heart. Whether the colours were vibrant or dull didn't matter; in their merciless luminosity, they were overpowering all the same.

Most prominent in the scenes before JJ was always the blood. Drying stains on clothes captivated her gaze, red creeping through the fabric like watercolours bleeding across paper, a little darker at the edges where more of it had gathered. The most offensive of the colours, the blood never failed to remind JJ that they came just a little too late in many of the cases. Then, there were the grey hues that settled down uncomfortably in her memory. With their various sources, they were an overwhelming, homogeneous mass that sometimes forced JJ to close her eyes to escape the sensation of slowly blending in with it. Hard and rough concrete beneath soft bodies, ashen faces with eyes drained of all colour, weathered wood of gloomy homes, a fine layer of dust on furniture that was a silent witness to unimaginable violence. The third colour that JJ had come to associate with murder was black. It wasn't as easily discernible as the red or the grey, but she could see it breathtakingly clearly in the souls of the unsubs, in the desperation of the families, and in the saddened faces of her team.

So closely tied were these colours to cases they worked that they were always visible before JJ's inner eye, taunting her with their gripping presence even when she was looking at the smooth surface of a serene lake, which happened rarely enough. It troubled her that the colours she always carried a mental image of and perceived with such painful clarity were the colours of death and despair, cornering her ability to appreciate beauty with her sense of sight and trapping it like a wounded, helpless animal. It was a slow, stealthy process, and while JJ was strong enough to not get lost in gruesome sights that pierced her like a thousand needles, she became just a little bit number every time she stared at yet another dead body.

But then came Emily, and she effortlessly redefined JJ's way of looking at the world. Not immediately and entirely without haste, but just as steadily as the dark images that began to tighten their grip on JJ's soul. Like a painting created with masterful strokes by a careful hand, with colours and details added to reveal a beautiful picture, Emily unfolded before JJ's eyes, first in few, rich tones, and then in a multitude of nuances that JJ had never even dreamt of.

At first, when there were still only lingering glances and bashful smiles, JJ saw Emily merely in terms of contrast. Dark eyes in a pale face, white teeth framed by dark pink lips. A pleasant sight, but nothing that could have altered JJ's perception. So subtle was the image of Emily that slipped quietly into her mind that she was barely even aware of what she was seeing. She was immersed in her work, and only in brief, fleeting moments did looking at Emily provide comfort.

It was Emily's calm demeanour, her capability of anchoring JJ with a firm gaze and a kind smile, that made JJ take a closer look. Hesitantly, knowing that the canvas of this part of her soul had been touched by neither light nor colours for a long time, she allowed her eyes to wander, back and forth, exploring and pausing where they wished. And what she saw, what she found just as they were taking their first tentative steps into a shared life, scared JJ deeply.

It was red, grey, and black.

Emily's favourite wine was of a warm burgundy colour, so rich and dense that it faintly reflected light instead of letting it travel through the liquid. Sometimes, after Emily had poured herself a glass and set the bottle on the kitchen table, a single red drop trailed down the outside of the dark glass and ended its journey on the polished wood where it remained for a short time before drying up, the edges of the spot where most of the liquid had gathered a little darker than the rest of it.

The view from Emily's bedroom over the Capital city was magnificent at night, high above most other buildings that were tiny sparkling dots against the backdrop of the Capitol dome rising majestically behind them. Just standing by the window, concealed by the darkness of the room, and looking out gave JJ a sense of elation, of watching the world from a distance. But on mornings of days with no sun, with curtains forgotten to draw close, nothing of the city was visible from the bed when JJ woke up and stared outside. There was only a dismal sky, sometimes a vast sheet of the same drab shade of grey draped over the city, sometimes with angry dark clouds chasing across it. On those days, JJ had to roll over and squeeze her eyes shut to keep hopelessness from enveloping her. In spite of Emily's warm body next to her, this lack of colour weighed down on JJ in a most uncomfortable way.

In the dimness of the living room, on nights spent in quiet conversation, when Emily spoke of her fear that one day her carefully constructed compartments would simply fall apart, her voice had a black tinge. It was still soft and calm, but JJ was certain that had she been able to reach inside Emily and touch her soul in that very moment, her fingers would have come away smeared with something akin to black ink.

JJ was resentful of the fact that even when she seemed to have found happiness with Emily, death should haunt her in this cruel manner, inadvertently dirtying what she treasured so much by evoking images of crime scenes with these same colours. They were so powerful and intense that she couldn't help but associate them with a life extinguished, no matter the environment, and finding that they invaded even her precious moments with Emily, laughing coldly at the agony they inflicted on her, was almost too much for JJ to bear. She wanted to bolt and run, leaving behind these colours that seemed to be everywhere, and with them, Emily.

But once again, JJ held on to that bit of innocence she had preserved so carefully over the years, hellbent on not allowing life to sever that last tie with its sharp claws, this tie that was as thin as cobwebs, but just as strong. She knew without a doubt that Emily was worth it, that with her, there was a chance to defeat those demons. And eventually, Emily drew her in so deeply that the veil that had hampered JJ's sight seemed to be lifted from her eyes, and she was granted a clear and impossibly close view of Emily, untainted by red and grey and black, for the very first time.

In awe, JJ began to discover and memorise the subtle shades of Emily, her heart thumping wildly in her chest at all the beauty she found. When Emily sat on the bed and read, JJ stared at her lips, a dark raspberry colour, sometimes tugged on by a light, absentminded smile, other times pressed together in concentration. When JJ leaned in to taste them, she was surprised to find not the tangy, fruity flavour of berries, but instead the rich, slightly bitter warmth of black coffee.

Coffee, but with a hint of milk, was also the colour of Emily's eyes, at least on some days. A dark brown sparkle, full of energy that promised the same rush as caffeine did. On other days, JJ saw polished walnut wood, smooth and shining faintly, its appearance changing, depending on the light, but always radiating calmness and grounding her. And then, of course, there was liquid chocolate, and even though JJ shuddered a little at the cliché, she was more than ready to apply it to Emily's eyes because it seemed so right. Looking into them caressed her senses in the same velvet way that chocolate did when it melted on her tongue, and she felt like she could dip into them without ever wanting to reemerge.

At day and at night, JJ watched the colour of Emily's skin change. In the hard, bright shine of the fluorescent lighting at the B.A.U., it was the pale tone that everyone saw, the one that was simply a lovely contrast to her dark hair. But at dusk, in rare moments spent outside the roar of the city, watching the world come to rest, the evening sunlight bathed Emily's face and her arms in a soft golden glow, reflected in the fine hairs on her forearms and lending her the sublime air of a beautiful statue. On clear nights, when the moonlight snuck in quietly through the bedroom window, it cast a silvery shimmer on Emily's skin and seemed to caress it with silken fingers. JJ often lay awake to just look at Emily, to take in her features, relaxed in sleep, touched by this celestial light, incredibly thankful that she was able to appreciate the sight and that it, unlike the crime scene images scorching her heart before, simply soothed her.

And finally, when JJ knew every outer nuance by heart, she began to see all of Emily and experienced a kind of vision that she hadn't known before. Without considerable effort, she saw Emily's moods, her thoughts, and her qualities as if they were written down on paper, each word printed in clean, bold letters. And yet, it wasn't words that JJ's mind supplied when she looked at Emily. It was emotions and, unsurprisingly, colours she associated with the dark-haired woman.

She found that she was capable of reading her easily and of knowing Emily's state of mind at a mere glance. So attuned was JJ's sense of sight to the other woman that Emily couldn't have kept anything from her if she had wanted to. Not that she ever tried. Her honesty was one of the traits JJ appreciated most about Emily, and the one that was most clearly visible. It was a pale blue hue, almost transparent but mesmerising nonetheless. Floating above everything else, it watched and ushered stray values back into place if they attempted to smudge the expanse of blue.

Emily's passion and love were a fierce shade of crimson, darker in some places and lighter in others, a speckled and unpredictable pattern, but robust and impenetrable all the same. Its unique brilliance never ceased to make JJ's heart flutter, and the longer she looked at it, the more details she found.

A deep, saturated green was the colour of Emily's trust. JJ had seen it from afar at first, a blotch of something that might have been blue or green or yellow from a distance, that she could barely make out and had to squint at to see at all. Then it had approached, slowly, but with a certainty that had amazed JJ. Even though it had been a process that had stretched over a long period of time, Emily had never hesitated to completely give her trust to JJ. Now, JJ could see it up close in its full, reassuring richness as a constant companion that provided safety and comfort, shielding her from the foul reds and greys and blacks of the world.

"What are you looking at?" Emily had asked her once with an amused, knowing smile when she'd caught JJ staring at her with an expression of wonder on her face.

"You," JJ had simply stated.

Intrigued, Emily had put her book down and focused on JJ with eyes that had been walnut wood that evening. "And what do you see?"

Smiling, JJ had shaken her head. "That, my dear Emily, is quite impossible to put into words."

Emily had tugged JJ closer and lightly teased, "Well, I sure hope you like what you're seeing."

"You've no idea," JJ had whispered.

Sometimes, JJ chuckled a little at her "Colours of Emily", thinking that no one would ever understand her way of seeing the other woman because no one shared it with her. Steering away from colours and sights that had affected her so in the field, threatening to drain all purity from her soul, JJ had, by and by, created a vision of Emily that solely belonged to her. She'd painted her image all across her mind in glorious colours, effectively covering all that was nipping at it with pointy teeth, though not quite erasing it. But while, months ago, every case had made JJ a little number inside, each glimpse she was now granted behind the façade of Emily Prentiss made her feel a little more alive.

Aside from the love, trust, and warmth Emily had given JJ, she'd also rekindled her inner child, giving her back her ability to see the world with innocent eyes, and that was a gift that JJ guarded with such gentle care that it was unlikely to ever get lost again as long as Emily was with her.

The End

Return to Criminal Minds Fiction

Return to Main Page