DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. Criminal Minds belongs to CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
DEDICATED: To Grumpybear.
The droning announcement of another delayed flight was a mere smear against the cacophony of crying babies and arguing couples that bombarded Emily's ears as she sat drowsing in the airport lounge. A youth spent attending one stultifying Embassy function after another had immunised her against the worst affects of mind-numbing boredom, but even she was beginning to become frustrated at the inefficiency that had left her stranded in Newark airport for the last five hours. She should have been at home, hiding out from the sappy hysteria of romance that had invaded the country, instead of cooling her heels in a hard plastic chair, with the stench of baby puke fresh in the air.
"God, will someone hurry up and put that kid out of my misery?" said a richly pleasant voice that had obviously been dipped in agitation and allowed to marinate.
Emily spared the woman a quick glance, her intent unclear, but one look at the stunning blonde was enough to capture her attention. "Not a baby person?" The question was inane but it served its purpose in gaining the other woman's attention.
She smiled archly, "What's that old saying about liking children, but not being able to eat a whole one?" Her smile widened and with it Emily's interest grew. "Jill Bernhardt," she said, holding her hand out to the charmed brunette.
"Emily Prentiss." The handshake lasted longer than was polite, and it didn't take a profiler to recognise the attraction inherent in the touch. "Do you come here often?" She smiled, the cliché slipping past her lips without conscious thought. "My God, that's lame," she groaned, her inner nerd choosing just the wrong moment to make itself known.
"Yes, it is, and no, I don't." A smile lit Jill's face as she took in the other woman's embarrassment; in a strange way, despite the lack of similarity in their appearance, the blush on Emily's cheeks put her in mind of Cindy, and for once, since leaving San Francisco the week before, she was glad of the reminder. "I was in New York on business."
Emily studied the other woman's profile and the few items she could see peeking out the top of her briefcase. "Lawyer?" she guessed.
"Deputy District Attorney, working out of San Francisco." It was said to impress and the slight arch of Emily's brow let Jill know she'd succeeded. "And you?"
"FBI." There was an embarrassed edge to Emily's voice; she wasn't ashamed of her profession, far from it, but there was a TV of the week feel to exposing herself as an FBI agent that she found distasteful. "I was in the city visiting my father," she added, hoping to derail any further talk of her profession.
"And you chose today, of all days, to fly home?" Valentine's Day might not have carried with it the stigma of public holidays, when it came to commercial travel, but it did mean you were forced to share space with saccharine sweet couples, spouting peevish pet names, and making goo-goo eyes at one another for extended periods of time. Given the choice, Jill would have rather stayed locked in her room at the Econo-lodge than face the heart strewn airport, but Denise had been insistent that she get back to the office as soon as possible. "God, I hate Valentine's."
Emily didn't have to be a profiler to know that her new acquaintance was both single and pining for someone she couldn't have. "What's her... his name?"
A muscle twitched at the side of Jill's jaw. "Cindy." She really didn't want to talk about it. "She's got a date tonight with 'Cute Jamie Galvin'." Talking about it never solved anything. "He's taking her to some 'cute' little Italian place that serves 'the best' linguini this side of Naples."
A second baby started to wail and Emily could literally see the tension crawl up Jill's spine to take up residence in her throbbing temples. "Did you ever tell her how you feel?" She'd made that mistake with JJ, always assuming the blonde knew what was in her heart, but never actually telling her how she felt, and leaving the way open for Will and his clearly spoken need.
"She knows." There had been a kiss, hungry and desperate, after Tom's killer was caught, but somehow, after that, things just hadn't gone the way they were supposed to. "It's complicated."
"The woman I love took up with some slow talking detective from New Orleans because she was convinced I wasn't interested." Compartmentalising be damned. "Then, when she finally catches a clue, it's too late, and she's expecting his baby." The chronology wasn't quite right but Emily wasn't about to bore the other woman with a full account of how she'd managed to screw up what could have been the love of her life.
Jill looked towards the crying infant two rows over; she shuddered to think of Cindy saddled with a little Galvin. "I should probably call her." There had been a look in Cindy's eye, when she'd told them about her upcoming date, that screamed 'save me', but she'd been too jealous at the time to recognise it. "I should definitely call her."
Emily could only nod and watch as Jill made her way to the nearest pay phone. "Great work, Prentiss," she chided herself. There were no guarantees in this world, but Emily was almost certain that if she'd kept her mouth shut she'd have been spending the rest of her wait wrestling in a supply closet with a hot little blonde. "I'm an idiot."
Ten minutes later, Jill returned, an indecently large smile on her lips. "Cindy's meeting me at the airport." Her smile didn't even waver when two four-year-olds rushed passed spilling juice and snot in their wake. "Then we're heading back to her place for Chinese take-out."
If possible, Jill's smile increased in volume. "No." Cindy had more than intimated that Chinese take-out would be followed with much making-out and, if Jill was a good girl, a guided tour of her bedroom. "Jamie Galvin is history."
Emily was very tempted to ask if Jill's hatred of Valentine's Day had been the slightest bit dented by Jamie Galvin's eviction from her girl's heart, but she didn't want to put a crinkle in the other woman's happiness. "Congratulations." If only her own problems could be so easily solved.
"Okay," said Jill. "It's your turn."
Emily arched an impressive brow. "My turn?"
"To tell your girl that you're crazy about her," Jill clarified, her normally cynical nature having been momentarily swept aside by a hurricane of romantic sappiness. "What have you got to lose?"
JJ, her friends, her job, her sanity... the list was endless. "I think I'll leave the 'happy ever afters' to you." A child's wail cut through the air and once again threatened to turn Emily into one of the very serial killers she chased. "Some people's lives aren't meant to work out."
"That's crap!" Okay, so it was crap that Jill had believed up until a few minutes ago, but that didn't mean she couldn't change her mind, and Emily's as well. "You're just scared." She knew she had been - terrified, in fact - and had probably wasted a lot of time because of it. "As I see it, you have two choices; you can say nothing, and be miserable, or say something and either spend tonight crying into your beer or kissing your sweetheart." She shrugged, a smile edging her lips as she thought of sharing the second of those two activities with Cindy in a few hours. "At least with the second option you've got the slimmest chance of being happy."
It was ludicrous. Women like JJ didn't just leave their... their... Okay, their actually rather decent, boyfriends, and father to their unborn baby, to run off with an emotionally guarded colleague. "She'll hate me."
"No, she won't." Brutal honesty, a habit Jill had been trying to break for years, forced her to add, "She might be embarrassed, for a while, and that's bound to be a little awkward, for both of you, but she won't hate you."
Despite the truth in Jill's words, it was still ludicrous. "Okay, I'll talk to her when I get home."
"No, talk to her now."
Emily opened her mouth to protest, but before she could utter a sound, another pre-adult started to screech and she found herself storming off in the direction of the pay phone.
Jill's smile was verging on the saccharine sweet as she watched her new-found friend on the telephone, and at the same time, fantasised about her evening with Cindy. Just as the fantasies became 'X' rated, the brunette reappeared, a puzzled look on her face.
"So, what did she say?"
Emily sank into one of the hard, plastic seats, a smile slowly forming on her luscious lips. "She said that I'd better learn how to change a diaper, because there is no way she's handling all that shit on her own." She chuckled wryly. "Then she told me I was an idiot, burst into tears, and said she loved me, and that I'd better hurry up and get home, before she was forced to come out here and get me."
Jill's smile matched Emily's. "I take it the slow talking detective is...?"
An hour later, as the two women separated to board their flights, they exchanged a fierce hug, and business cards, promising that in a year's time they would meet again, hopefully without the accompaniment of screaming infants, and introduce each other to their girlfriends.
And with that, a Valentine's tradition was born.
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