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this life is controlled confusion

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When Emily codes, her blood is all over JJ.

She thinks it’s her fault, really, when she feels Emily’s hands relax and JJ wants to scream, an unearthly wail begging for her to come back, to make her wake up and smirk at her and tell her, You can’t get rid of me that easily. And then JJ would tell her to shut up and that she was so stupid, and then they would kiss, and then they could come back to Henry, who would shout because they hadn’t seen Auntie Emmy in weeks and he missed her and

Instead, it catches in her throat, and a paramedic gently shoves her to the side. They say something to the other medic before charging the defibrillator pads and then pressing to Emily’s bloodstained chest, and with a buzz that clenches JJ’s heart, Emily’s body spasms, back arching in an almost beautiful curve before falling back down, the heart monitor still flat.

“Again,” someone murmurs, but JJ can barely make it out, can only stare at the blood still pooling around the brunette, at the stillness in her face in the way her eyes are still shut and her mouth isn’t quirking up in her signature smirk, blood roaring in her ears and covered all over her.

“Emily,” JJ tries saying, but her throat is dry and she only manages a whisper as the pads charge again, and Emily spasms once more before falling back down.

 

 

She should’ve stayed. Should’ve dropped the Pentagon instead of letting Strauss push her around, damn it. Should’ve told Emily everything.

 

 

Emily’s blood is sickening. It’s soaked through her blazer and shirt, coating JJ’s hands from where she had covered Emily’s wound, trying somehow to make the blood stop, to somehow bring Emily back, but it just kept running and running, and JJ can’t even wipe her hands because her blood is everywhere and she has to hold her breath because if Emily’s not breathing why should she even bother?

When was the last time she even saw her? Weeks ago, before JJ was sent back to Afghanistan and they lost Nadia and her daughter, when Emily came over and Henry screamed as she picked him up and twirled him around and JJ watched from the doorway with some strange sense of domesticity, like this was always meant to be, with Emily coming home to her and cheering with her son like he was hers and she was hers. They had wine, and as always, whenever Emily came over late at night, they fell asleep together on JJ’s couch, Lilo and Stitch still in her DVD player. Henry woke them up by jumping onto the couch declaring he wanted “Emmy’s pancakes” and Emily laughed as she ruffled his hair and said yes and JJ wanted to grab her face and kiss her

But then Emily got up to make the pancakes and Hotch called her in for a case, and so they said goodbye over orange juice and syrup, and when they stood at the doorway, hands still locked together, JJ was tempted to not let go, to keep her in her hand forever.

She let go in the end.

Emily comes back with a sharp inhale, eyes flying open in a panic before landing on JJ, and her hand lifts itself limply, weakly. JJ takes it and squeezes.

“Stable. Monitor her heart,” one of the EMTs says.

“I love you,” JJ almost says.

There’s too much of Emily’s blood around her, and so JJ cries instead.

 

 

Hotch answers right when JJ dials.

“They’re airlifting her to Bethesda,” she says.

“How is she?”

“They think she’s gonna be okay.”

A pause. JJ can make out a muffled whimper in the background, covered by static, and she stares at the cold tile floor. There’s a murmuring from Hotch’s side, and when he comes back, it’s silent.

“We never caught him.”

With a jolt, JJ realizes why they aren’t saying names. Because Doyle’s still out there, because Doyle tracked down all of Emily’s team and slaughtered them silently, because Doyle

“What do we do?” she whispers.

Another pause, a sigh. JJ thinks she knows what he’s gonna say and prays to whatever God she left behind when she found Roz, but clearly it’s too late.

“Hide her,” Hotch says. “I’ll meet you there.”

 

 

Penelope brings her a new change of clothes when she arrives at the hospital, handing over her go-bag with glossy eyes and a trembling lip, averting her eyes from JJ. When she sees herself in the bathroom mirror, soaking through in someone else’s blood, she’s caught in a flashback of gentle fingers and a lavender scent. She changes clothes before she loses herself.

Hotch had texted her the instructions, minutes before the others arrived, and JJ knows her lines, knows what she’s supposed to do. And so when she exits the empty operating room, she remembers sitting across from Emily at the breakfast table, chortling as she speared her pancake and made Henry shriek with laughter, all three bathed in warm morning sunlight. She lets her bottom lip wobble, lets the tears pool in her eyes, lets her voice shake as she whispers those final words, dragging an awful scream from Penelope and a torrent of tears from Spence.

 

 

JJ wonders if they will ever forgive her.

 

 

When she arrives at the hospital in Bethesda, it’s a quick flash of her badge that gets her to Emily’s room, and it’s when the doctor takes one look at her tearstained face and steps outside that she enters the room. JJ hovers at her bed, staring. 

It is so unlike Emily to be this still and pale, but JJ can take it, can take an unmoving, alien Emily in exchange for the lifeless, bloodied one she sat with on the ride in, if it meant this one was breathing.

There’s movement in Emily, aside from the painfully slow rise and fall of her chest: a twitching right hand, fingers quivering and reaching out, and instinctively, JJ laces their fingers together. She exhales when Emily squeezes in response but still startles when she speaks, a low, raspy murmur, barely audible.

“I thought you left me,” she whispers.

“I would never leave you,” JJ says.

Emily exhales. Her eyes don’t open but her eyebrows relax, peace washing over her face as she slips back under the sedative, and JJ wonders if Emily will hate her when she finds out what JJ did to her.

 

 

At her funeral, Henry asks when Auntie Emmy will come back. No one has the heart to tell him otherwise when JJ ruffles his hair and tells him soon.

 

 

Strauss gives her two weeks of mourning, two weeks to overcome her grief before coming back to the Pentagon, and so JJ only has two weeks left with Emily before they have to pretend there was never anything in the first place. Which is fine, because she just has to make sure her recovery is going smoothly and she’s taking the correct meds, because that’s all she’s there for.

That’s all I’m there for, JJ reminds herself every time she catches herself staring at Emily for too long, too wrapped up in Emily’s perfect accent as Madeleine Badeux orders un express for herself and a café au lait for her ami.  Emily’s voice breaks on the last word as she glances at JJ, and JJ can only smile at the polite waiter as they leave and then stare down at her napkin.

Her friend, she muses.

JJ is not stupid. They are not friends, they are not lovers, and in two weeks, they will pretend that Emily Prentiss is no longer there, that the moment Emily Prentiss stepped off that plane, she no longer existed. And Emily knows that, in the way she no longer brushes her fingers against JJ’s, no longer looks at her with the same softness that made JJ’s heart swell.

 

 

Their days are quiet, spent walking around the city together in silence, hands in their coat pockets as they watch motorcyclists ride by and pedestrians scurry around them before slipping into a random cafe that JJ didn’t even notice but Madeleine treats like a second home, smiling kindly at the old manager before gesturing to JJ, who can only respond with her media liaison smile and a small wave, and they’re seated in the back of the cafe, buried into the dark corner per Madeleine’s strange request.

JJ is not stupid. She knows why.

She also knows that Emily wakes up from night terrors, except she will wake up silently, one eye opening halfway as her breath hitches for a moment before it evens out, and JJ knows that it’s not because she falls back to sleep, but instead because Emily slept with a man who would make sure to rip her to pieces should he ever find out who (what?) she really was, and so she always slept with one eye open. 

JJ wonders if Emily knows that she herself never slept. She could blame it on jet lag, laugh as she would fake a yawn and stretch and smile at Emily like she was still half-asleep, but Emily knew her well enough that she would know JJ sees her drowning in her own blood, stake still buried deep inside her. 

But they never talked. Only brief questions asking where the other wanted to go, what they wanted to do and what they wanted to eat, and then they’d come back and shower and go to sleep in their separate beds.

JJ tries saying it once their fourth night in Paris when Emily’s in the shower. She sits on the edge of her bed, stares at Emily’s rumpled white sheets, inhales her leftover lavender scent.

“I love you,” she tries.

It catches in her throat, and JJ forces back threatening tears when she passes by Emily to the bathroom. She lets them fall in the shower, turning the heat to scalding hot as she scrubs furiously at her skin.

 

 

On one of their walks, a passing motorcyclists spits out something so ugly that the other pedestrians lift their heads to stare accusingly, and Emily’s face twists into something so cold, something so harsh, JJ knows it’s Lauren Reynolds as her hand drops to a holster no longer there because she is Madeleine Badeux and not Emily Prentiss, and JJ grabs her hand.

“It’s okay,” she says, even when everyone is whispering and pointing and staring, because Emily’s hand is just as soft as she remembers, and when Emily startles a bit, looking at JJ with familiar eyes, a look she hadn’t seen since she woke up on the plane to Paris, JJ wonders if Emily is back.

But then the walls come crashing back down, eyes turning frosty cold, and she yanks her hand out of JJ’s grasp.

“Yeah,” Emily says, stuffing her hand back in her pocket and beginning to walk again. “Yeah, it’s okay.”

 

 

The first thing JJ recognizes before coming to fully is lavender, and when her eyes snap open, it’s to Emily hovering over her, a hand on her shoulder, eyes dark with something unreadable.

“Em?” JJ forces out, mouth dry and licking her lips.

Emily’s eyes flicker down before back up to meet her eyes.

“You were having a nightmare,” is her answer.

The silence is enough for JJ to know that Emily knows what kind of nightmare it was, and JJ reaches out. “Em

But she’s drawing away already, padding back to her own bed and curling up underneath layers of blankets meant to protect her, and JJ wonders if Emily hears the sob that escapes her.

 

 

JJ doesn’t go back to sleep. She can stand not seeing Emily’s bloodied body again.

 

 

“Do you remember,” JJ says, “when we were in Vegas, and you were so hungover you snapped at me for playing one of the pin machines?”

Emily freezes, halfway through a bite of toast with raspberry jam, and when she swallows, it’s with a thick, “Yeah.”

A silence as they chew their breakfast, sitting at another cafe outside and watching the traffic pass by. JJ wonders what they look like to anyone happening to glance under the flower-laced patio. Emily takes a sip of her coffee before asking, “Why?”

It’s the first time she’s bothered following up on anything JJ has said in the past week, and maybe JJ doesn’t hide her smile that well.

“I was thinking,” she says, “I remember the sunlight in the casino. It’s the same here.”

Emily hums. JJ hurries on.

“It’s fine if you don’t remember, you were so hungover,” she says, and Emily chokes on her sip of coffee, rolling her eyes at JJ as she takes a napkin to wipe up the coffee that spilled while JJ laughs, and when she sees the corners of Emily’s mouth curving up, it’s like everything is right again, like they’re in Paris because they wanted to see the sights, like they’re on a vacation, like Emily loves her back

JJ’s laughter cuts short as she stills, the last thought frozen in her head, and when Emily looks back at her, mouth open in a broad smile, she freezes, and the grin disappears, sliding right off her face.

“Emily ” JJ tries, but the brunette looks away and calls for the cheque , and JJ is quiet as she places a wad of cash on their table, too numb to realize she’s paid in dollar bills and not euros.

 

 

That evening, they get back to the hotel earlier than usual, and immediately Emily takes the shower, brushing past JJ into the bathroom before shutting the door. JJ stands outside a bit, listening for the sound of the water starting, and when it does, she goes to her bed and takes out her flip phone, a model she probably had when she was in college, its ID saying it belonged to a Rachel Jolibois, and a text from an unknown number saying, Call me.

She hits Dial , and a second later, the call connects.

“How is she?” Hotch asks.

JJ wonders if he ever slept nowadays. Assigned all the way to Pakistan, leaving Jack alone with Jessica for weeks at a time, too many demons piled up in his head to find rest anywhere. It had to be near midnight there.

“I can’t get to her, Hotch,” she whispers, and her voice threatens to break.

A pause. He probably knows, JJ thinks dully, probably has known since the beginning, that JJ is a useless disaster and has been ogling Emily enough times in the field that how could he not know?

“You have one more week,” he says at last, and JJ nods before remembering he can’t see her.

“I know,” she says, “I just

She frowns. Something’s not right. The apartment is too silent, and when she looks up, she realizes the shower’s not running.

“I have to go,” she says into her phone, and she turns it off before throwing it onto the bed, almost sprinting to the bathroom door. She knocks once, then

“Emily?” JJ calls, heart stuttering as she knocks again, and when there’s no response, she starts pounding on the door.

“Emily!” she begins shouting, and as the seconds tick by as she pounds on the door, JJ remembers the coldness in the brunette’s eyes in the past few days and wonders again if she should’ve done something more, if she lost her again right in front of her

“Emily!” she shouts one more time, and suddenly the door flies open to a very wet, hostile, towel-wrapped Emily.

“What?” she snaps. “Can’t a girl take a bath without anyone bothering?”

And suddenly it’s hard for JJ to breathe, not because Emily isn’t wearing anything and is gripping the towel that’s clearly been hastily wrapped around her, but because Emily is standing in front of her and she’s clean and not

“I thought,” JJ says, and suddenly she feels very stupid and small and her voice is too thick, “I thought you I didn’t hear any water.”

Emily backs down, eyes softening a bit.

“I wanted to take a bath,” she says.

JJ nods. They stare at each other, locked in a standstill, and JJ reaches out to try and find something familiar, but Emily recoils like she’s poison.

“Is that all?” she asks. “Can I go back to my bath?”

And JJ remembers Emily standing in another motel bathroom, wrapping new bandages around her torn arm, and she remembers how warm Emily’s body was pressed tightly against hers, wrapped up together on the couch in front of JJ’s TV, and she remembers how loud Henry laughed as they sat eating breakfast together, Emily glowing radiantly in the morning sunlight, and it all boils over.

“Don’t do that,” she snaps, and Emily’s eyes narrow.

“Do what?” she spits.

“You know what,” JJ says, gesturing with her hand. “Why are you so cold all of a sudden? Why do you just keep pushing me away?”

I’m pushing you away?” Emily demands. “I have no one left because of you!”

And it stings. Because she’s right. Because JJ did take her away from everyone she could’ve known and loved, and this is what it all comes down to. That JJ failed her. That JJ let her down. But she deflates immediately; she knows this cold, angry beast isn’t her Emily, not the same Emily who held her during her nightmares and laced their fingers together under the BAU conference table, not the same Emily she

“What was I supposed to do?” JJ asks, voice cracking.

“Anything, literally anything,” Emily says. “You could’ve found him, you could’ve hunted him down, you could’ve let me die

“This was the only way, Morgan’s already hunting Doyle back home. As long as everyone thinks you’re dead, you’ll be safe.”

“And what if you never catch him?” Emily asks. “What if I’ll never be safe?”

“You think I’d let that happen to you?”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“Because I love you, you

It comes out much louder than JJ expects, hands flying up to cover her mouth as she stares at Emily, pale and wide-eyed. That wasn’t supposed to happen, she knows, she wasn’t supposed to say that, wasn’t supposed to

Now that she’s said it out loud, it’s like the world is collapsing. Like everything is falling apart. And from the way Emily is looking at her, like she’s a ghost, there’s no coming back from this.

“Because I love you, you idiot,” JJ whispers. “I would never let him get to you. Ever.”

And Emily keeps staring at her, mouth still open in a little “o,” not unlike the one she would have when JJ woke up first and Emily was still asleep, JJ's head tucked under her chin, and JJ forces out a choked laugh, tears threatening to spill.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “Go finish your bath.”

Emily unfreezes and reaches out, but JJ’s already turned away and stalking back to her bed, to pick up her phone and pack up her clothes because did any of it matter?

“JJ,” she hears, but she closes her eyes before picking up her phone from her bed, and then directly behind her is

“JJ, I’m sorry.”

JJ doesn’t move, only facing the wall, determined to not let Emily see the tears forming. There’s a sharp inhale, and then a bare whisper.

“I love you too.”

JJ stiffens, heart racing and light-headed. Emily continues, stumbling over her words.

“I just I thought I didn’t think it could happen.”

JJ turns around, and Emily stills, all of her hostility gone and in its place a kind of vulnerability, a nakedness akin to the one JJ saw in her eyes over a year ago, on the couch watching Lilo and Stitch .

“You love me?” JJ whispers.

Emily nods without hesitation.

“I love you,” she says, and her mouth opens to say something else that JJ doesn’t hear because she surges forward and pulls Emily into a kiss.

Emily tastes just how JJ thought she would: sweet, lovely, and so incredibly familiar. She tilts her head, angles Emily’s with her hands cupped on her cheeks so that their lips are slotted against each other perfectly, and Emily’s hands tangle in her hair to try and bring them even closer together, as if she’s making up for the lost four years they could’ve had, and all JJ can think about is how soft her lips are and how perfectly they fit against each other, and forget oxygen, JJ could live off of this alone, the taste of Emily in her mouth and the feeling of her every curve and the way they melt into each other, and when they break apart, Emily’s pupils are blown, a rosy flush on her cheeks and creeping down her body, and for some reason, it just feels so right. 

“Stay with me,” Emily says.

JJ presses her forehead against hers, closing her eyes and letting the tears fall as she breaks into a smile, giddy on the taste of Emily, and when she opens them, she’s met with the familiar smokey brown eyes of Emily, the same tender smile she’s known like second nature for the past few years, and JJ breathes out her answer.

“Always.”