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Witness to the Decompression
JJ stared at the glass in front of her, noting with some detachment that the edges were hazy. The cut crystal felt heavy and solid under her fingertips, but it looked immaterial, like the amber colored liquid inside might simply melt through the softened barrier. The blonde swirled the scotch a bit, testing the theory and sloshing some single malt on to her fingers and the wood below. A derisive snort was her only response before gulping the rest down, and signaling for another.
Her phone vibrated for the umpteenth time from the barstool next to her, muffled by her purse. She ignored it. The team was flying to Kansas in the morning, she'd already briefed them. For the moment, her time was her own. She'd known when she'd walked into the bar and ordered her first scotch that she'd pay for it later, but that was tomorrow, and for now all she wanted was a way to dampen the anxiety, to push back the monsters waiting for her to sleep.
"You've reached Jennifer Jareau, Press Liaison " Emily Prentiss snapped her cell phone closed on JJ's voicemail. A look of annoyance passed over her features as she leaned back in her chair. Five times she'd tried to reach JJ in the last two hours, and each set of rings had ended with the blonde's prerecorded message. Her house number yielded the same response. Emily had been surreptitiously keeping her eye on the younger woman for months, but since Garcia's shooting and the events following it, her instincts had practically shouted at her that something was wrong behind those wide blue eyes.
JJ normally stayed late after a briefing, unless they were immediately flying out, but tonight she'd simply vanished. Even Morgan had stuck around longer than JJ. This was not good, and although the clinical part of Emily's mind warned her that JJ was a big girl, and not her responsibility to look after, she refused to let it go. Reid, Morgan, even Hotch could happily run off and play in traffic, but JJ was different, and despite her refusal to admit, even to herself, why, Emily wasn't going home until she knew JJ was okay.
Emily glared at her phone again, willing the bit of plastic to ring, when inspiration struck her. She bolted out of her chair, and down the hallway of the B.A.U., heels clicking a quick staccato that matched her heartbeat.
Garcia was typing away at her keyboard when she entered. Emily's mouth opened to voice her idea, when her mind caught up, bringing up concerns of inappropriate behavior, and use of government resources for personal matters. On top of these, it added the ominous - what if Garcia says no? Conflicting emotions left the usually composed agent opening and closing her mouth like a fish out of water.
"Can I help you with something Emily?" Garcia prompted when no words were forthcoming.
"I came to ask " Emily hedged.
Garcia nodded slowly, waiting for the rest of the sentence.
What had seemed like such a good idea thirty seconds ago, now felt wrought with complications. Emily glanced down at the phone still clenched in her hand, and pursed her lips. Complications be damned, she wasn't going to sit in her office wrestling with what ifs for the rest of the night.
"I need you to locate JJ using the GPS in her cell phone." Emily tried for her best professional tone, but even to her own ears it sounded slightly pleading.
Garcia raised an eyebrow over her glasses. She didn't ask why Emily wanted to know where JJ was, but she didn't turn back to her screen to begin the trace either.
Emily felt like Garcia was weighing something. "Please, Penelope." She heard herself say, "I just want to know she's all right." A pause, then even quieter, "I'm worried about her."
"She's at the Moan & Dove." Garcia said. "It's on West, two blocks from her apartment."
Garcia already had a trace open, Emily realized. That was interesting. "Does she go there a lot?"
"Now and then." Garcia's face was solemn. "The bartender's a friend. He'll make sure she gets home."
Emily nodded. Not sure what to say. She'd never pegged JJ as a drinker.
"We all decompress. Sometimes not in the healthiest of ways." Garcia continued. "I can count on one hand the number of times JJ has been drunk in the six years I've known her."
"I didn't ask because I wanted to get her in trouble," Emily felt the need to defend.
"Oh Sweetie, I knew that, or I wouldn't have told you where she was." Garcia pulled up a minimized window on her computer showing a blinking dot on a map of the city. The window disappeared again, and Garcia looked meaningfully at Emily. "Still, you don't need to go all 'white knight' on her. The lovely Ms. Jareau can get herself home before she turns into a pumpkin."
Emily understood what Garcia was saying. It echoed her own sentiments. JJ was a grown woman; a grown woman drinking alone in some bar, blocks from her apartment in the middle of DC. Who knew what kind of person JJ would run into on the long walk home in the dark? "Yeah, I' sure she'll be fine. Uh thanks Garcia. I think I'm going to head out."
Garcia watched the tall agent walk back down the hall, with a smirk. Ten minutes later, the blonde couldn't help but giggle when the blinking dot labeled Prentice moved quickly up West Avenue. "Sometimes it really is too easy."
Emily was surprised when she entered the Moan & Dove. She'd been expecting a seedy bar; dark, dingy, with rough edges. She should have known better. While those elements fit with Emily's own avenues of escape, they suited JJ not at all. The interior was lit with a soft glow, immaculately clean, and sparsely populated. The blonde was easy to pick out. She was one of two people sitting at the bar proper, and while Emily's first reaction was to stride over to JJ, she instead settled into a comfortable both with good sight lines to her colleague and the door.
A young woman came over almost immediately to take her order.
"Club soda with a lime," Emily responded, sitting back to wait. Confronting JJ would be less than productive. She wasn't here to mother the younger woman, or lecture her on the slippery slope of drinking your problems away. No, Emily was content to play silent and unseen protector for tonight.
JJ was drunk. She knew it, and Ted, the friendly bartender definitely knew it, as he'd greeted her most recent request for a refill with a raised eyebrow and half the usual amount of scotch in her glass. It was probably time to call it a night, and walk the few blocks home. Sleep would come without delay, her heavy lidded eyes told her. JJ reached into her purse and placed a fifty on the bar. "Thanks Ted," she said, easing off the leather stool.
"Ah, are you all right getting home?" Ted started to come around the bar towards JJ, but stopped, eyes drawn to something across the room. He gave a curt nod. "You, ah, have a good night then."
Even in her inebriated state, JJ noted Ted's odd behavior. Her neck prickled. Turning, she saw why Ted had backed up.
Emily Prentiss stood stoically next to a booth near the door. Her hands were in the pockets of her black leather coat, and the look on her face was neither sheepish, nor judgmental.
JJ closed her eyes for a moment, embarrassment, suspicion, and irritation dangerously wearing away at her buzz. Closing her eyes turned out to be a mistake. The blonde felt the floor tilt suddenly, and had to reach out to steady herself on the bar. A warm hand took her other arm a moment later.
Emily didn't offer any explanations as to her presence, and JJ, to her own amazement didn't resist when the brunette took possession of her purse and gently lead her from the warm interior of the Moan & Dove, out into the dark night.
The walk to her apartment seemed longer than usual to JJ's foggy consciousness. No words were exchanged, and Emily's arm, draped casually around her shoulders kept her steady.
Emily counted herself lucky that JJ hadn't put up a fuss at the bar. Things could have gone decidedly worse. She was incredibly conscious of the warmth radiating off the smaller woman. JJ fit perfectly into the curve of her body. Their steps were well matched, and Emily felt a set of tingles rush up her back when the other woman wrapped an arm around her waist.
They arrived at JJ's apartment sooner than Emily expected. She reluctantly released her hold on the smaller woman, held open the outer door, and followed JJ into the building's small foyer. Emily paused, looking at the cozy space. Dark stained wood trim met a lighter oak floor. Antique light fixtures revealed a soft floral wall paper. Renovation had obviously taken place, yet the soul of the space remained, unlike many of the 'rehabbed' buildings in the area that had been refitted into sleek modern spaces. A door was situated directly to Emily's left, but JJ was already half way toward the staircase on the right. Emily hurried to catch up, fishing JJ's keys from the purse she carried.
The blonde stumbled on the next to last step, and Emily rushed to steady her. Unfortunately, the brunette overcompensated and sent both of them careening forward to the floor of the landing in front of JJ's door.
"Oh God! JJ, are you okay?" Emily said, trying to lift herself off the smaller woman with out crushing her further. JJ gave a muffled groan, and got to her knees slowly. Emily helped her to her feet, then bent to collect the purse and keys she'd dropped. The blonde was very pale and had a death grip on the banister.
"I'm sorry," Emily spluttered. "I thought you were going to fall, and I just " she trailed off as JJ began to sway. "We should get you inside." Emily sorted through the key ring, and managed to get the door open on the second try. A small belch echoed in the hall behind her.
"I think I'm going to be sick," JJ murmured urgently, before shooting past Emily into the apartment.
"So much for being her white knight," Emily said to the empty staircase before stepping into the dark apartment and closing the door behind her.
JJ was dying. Why else would she be resting her face against the toilet seat, hoping that the cool porcelain would calm her body and stop what was left in her stomach from trying to make a return trip? The sound of running water penetrated her consciousness a moment before she felt Emily's hands on her shoulder. A cool washcloth was slipped under her hair and laid on the back of her neck.
Those same hands smoothed over her forehead and temple, easing the pounding in her head, but doing nothing to alleviate the light headedness. They stayed that way for a while, JJ half-lying on the toilet, and Emily crouched beside her trying to offer comfort.
When JJ felt that she could risk opening her eyes without needing to vomit, she did so. Emily's hand stilled. "I think I'm okay," she whispered, lifting her head. Emily rose to her feet and walked over to the sink.
JJ used the wall to assist her own assent. Emily walked back over and helped her to the sink, where a glass of water waited. JJ rinsed her mouth, while Emily kept a hand on the small of the blonde's back. When JJ was finished with the glass, she set it back on the sink and turned to the other woman.
God this was embarrassing. Not only had Emily now seen her drunk, but she'd also seen her clumsy, and vomiting. How was she ever going to look the other woman in the eye?
"Why don't we get you into bed?" Emily said, taking JJ's hand and leading her from the bathroom. "Before I have another chance to knock you down." The self-depreciating tone eased the blonde's mortification just slightly.
JJ let Emily lead her into the bedroom and sit her on the bed. The brunette made quick work of shoes and socks, before standing JJ up again and unbuttoning her trousers. If JJ hadn't still been so woozy, she would have protested. This was not the most ideal of situations for Emily to see her in her skivvies for the first time. The shirt followed the pants, and JJ was settled between cool sheets in under a minute.
Her eyes refused to stay open for more than a second at a time. JJ felt the bed dip, and the gentle caresses along her hairline resume. Whether it was sleep or unconsciousness that claimed JJ soon after, she would never know.
Emily sat on the bed and watched JJ sleep for a long time, content to touch her softly and drink in the blonde's beauty without fear of exposure. That JJ was clad only in her lacy bra and panties under the covers was never far from her mind. That Emily had herself been the one to facilitate that state of dress, even more so. Right now, in the dark of JJ's apartment, Emily wasn't fooling herself. She was attracted to JJ. Just the memory of JJ's soft curves and creamy skin was enough to get her heart beating faster.
Emily pulled her hand back, guilt making her question why she was still here. She could have easily left once JJ was inside. She should have left. But leaving would have just lead to yet another unending set of what ifs. What if JJ had passed out? What if she had lost her balance and fallen? Despite what Emily's mind told her should have been the right course of action, the professional, distant, and appropriate one, she was glad that she'd stayed. Unfortunately she couldn't come up with any plausible reasons not to leave, now that JJ was safely in bed and asleep.
Emily stood slowly, etching the memory of the peacefully sleeping JJ into her memory. She walked out of the bedroom and to the kitchen, where she'd left her purse and gun on the counter. She was just turning off the light in the bathroom before leaving when a soft cry from JJ's room sounded. Emily stilled. Another cry, this time louder. By the time Emily had reentered the bedroom, JJ had curled herself into a ball, and fear was blatant on the features that had so recently been serene.
"Noooo," JJ cried out, putting her arms over her head.
Emily dropped her bag on the floor and crossed to the bed. She crawled in beside JJ and wrapped her arms around the crying woman. "Shh, JJ. I've got you. You're safe." She continued to whisper soothing words, and place small kisses on the soft blonde hair. It took a few minutes, but eventually JJ stopped crying out, and seemed to settle back into sleep.
Emily released her hold to pull the covers up around JJ, only to have the woman turn and snuggle back into her arms. Emily knew she was fighting a loosing battle then. JJ's arm was firmly around her waist, and the brunette couldn't imagine a more perfect feeling. She put her own arms around JJ once again and tucked a blonde head under her chin. Just a few minutes, she told herself. I'll just hold her for a few more minutes. Sleep claimed Emily before those few minutes expired.
JJ heard the alarm, and buried her head further into the pillow. Her mouth felt like sandpaper, and she was sure that a rouge marching band had taken up residence inside her skull. The alarm's droning abruptly shut off, and it was only then that JJ realized her pillow seemed to have a heartbeat and arms. JJ cracked open an eye. The predawn light revealed that her pillow was indeed not a pillow at all, but a cashmere covered chest. Her eye traveled up higher, taking in the smooth skin above the v-neck sweater and dark chestnut strands. She had to tip her head back to meet the brown eyes of Emily Prentiss.
Events of the previous evening came rushing back to JJ, and with a groan she dropped back into her former position, hiding her blushing face in Emily's cleavage. That wasn't perhaps the wisest of moves, as it just drew attention to the fact that JJ was now resting her face between Emily's breasts. It also caused her to take stock of the other ways their bodies were entwined, like the hand JJ had slipped under the other woman's sweater that told her how very soft the skin of her back was; and the thigh that was currently flanked by Emily's own.
"Good morning," came Emily's voice, husky with sleep.
JJ had contemplated waking up in Emily's arms before. She found that she was unprepared for the reality. Her heart beat a strong tattoo that she was certain the other woman could feel. JJ knew she should be extricating herself from her bed and the warm embrace of the woman in it. Instead, JJ's sharp mind fought valiantly to come up with a reason not to.
The reasons why they had to get up grew longer in JJ's mind. There was a plane to catch, an UNSUB to track down, a team waiting for them but Jennifer Jareau was bound and determined that if this was the only time she would ever wake up in Emily's arm for the rest of her life, she sure as hell wasn't going to waste it.
Her lips were already pressed against the delicate skin of Emily's chest; it was a small thing to bestow a light kiss. A second kiss followed, then a third. Emily smelled like honeysuckle. JJ risked a tentative taste with her tongue, before moving up to trail more butterfly kisses along Emily's collarbone.
Emily's whimper turned JJ's next kiss into something less gentle. She made her way up Emily's neck, teasing an earlobe with the tip of her tongue before whispering her own "Good morning."
JJ was pulled tight against the other woman, in a hug that seemed both an embrace and a fight for control. She rested her ear against a pounding pulse.
"You and I need to have a conversation," Emily stated, pulling back and lifting JJ's chin to meet her eyes. JJ could see the passion in her brown depths. "A long, rational conversation. Followed by an even longer, less rational, period of time in which we don't leave this bed, and are wearing far fewer clothes."
Emily leaned in and kissed JJ with all of the passion her eyes had promised. JJ knew that if she hadn't been lying down her legs would have most certainly given out.
"But now, now we have to catch a plane." Emily gave JJ one more soft kiss, before finally letting her arms fall away.
JJ smiled despite the pounding of her head. "And somehow I have to act like I didn't wake up this morning with you in my bed." JJ leaned in and kissed Emily again. "Cold shower," she muttered to herself as she got out of the bed.
Emily watched the blonde walk out of the room and down the hall. She shook herself as the bathroom door closed. "This is going to be a very long day," Emily groaned.
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