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this life is controlled confusion

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JJ hates blood.

Which is unusual, she supposes, and unfortunate, considering her line of work. Serial killers tended to be gorey, and despite being a liaison and not an active profiler in the field, she’s stumbled upon a few slaughters of her own. She keeps it together, closing her eyes and tightening her stomach but pressing forward with a brave face. It’s only later she lets herself unravel, behind the locked bathroom door and the water at a steaming temperature, scrubbing away at her fair skin until it’s shiny, shiny red.

Maybe if she hadn’t found Rosaline like that, or maybe if Rosaline had hung herself instead, she’d be more okay with blood. JJ tries not to think about it, but when she’s alone, it all floods back to her.

It’s awful. She’d rather remember the Roz who chopped off all her hair when their parents grounded her in a fit of teenage rebellion before laughing and neatly trimming JJ’s own seven-year-old hair, stubbornly insisting that she wanted short hair like her sister’s— Roz, who showed up at the doorstep of Marie Ann, who had stuck chewing gum in JJ’s hair, and delivered a solid lashing to both Marie Ann and her mother.

But it’s hard to erase the tub of crimson JJ found her sister in, eyes closed and head tilted like she was enjoying a hot bath, except her bath smelled like iron and her arms were splayed out to the sides, wrists slit—

JJ hates blood.

 

 

When JJ steps into that old dusty barn with her gun and flashlight raised and inhales that metallic scent, the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Immediately, some sixth sense activates-- she knows something’s wrong. So, so horribly wrong. They should not have split up, she should’ve stopped Reid and his enthusiasm, she curses.

“Reid!” she hisses out. But of course he can’t hear her, they’re in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and it’s dark and she hates blood—

Just find Tobias Hankel , she reasons. Who may be their brutal murderer, but seemed timid enough that maybe, just maybe, he’s some poor guy with a weird dad who’s

Why did her shoe make that sound?

Oh God.

She freezes, and very, very, slowly, lowers her flashlight down.

That’s blood. That is a lot of blood.

Her heart leaps into her throat as she shines her flashlight around because good God, that is a lot of blood and no one can lose that much blood

Her throat closes up as the light lands on a large patch of scarlet and oh my God, that is a stomach.

Something growls, and JJ jerks her light up, and as the beam falls on the glistening blood-soaked muzzle of a canine, she remembers her Sunday services as a little girl and the story of Jezebel— how could she forget— torn to pieces by dogs, and there is not one bloodthirsty dog but two but three—

It leaps at her.

 

 

She’s on the ground. There’s straw, dust in her mouth, she can barely swallow, the air tastes like blood. Her arm is throbbing, her right hand sore, and she absentmindedly pulls the trigger. It clicks— the gun chamber is empty, did she use up all her bullets?

There’s a ringing in her ears, blood roaring in her head, and she blinks. It’s dark , JJ thinks. This is a safety hazard.

Her blazer is wet. Damn it, it was one of her nicer ones too, and now it’s completely ruined.

Her head hurts.

“Damn,” she hears, and she shoots to her feet, gritting her teeth as she swings up her gun.

“F.B.I!” she hollers. 

JJ swears to God, she’s going to shoot that Tobias Hankel or whoever the hell. There’s shouting, multiple unsubs, she realizes, and she swings her gun to the moving figures. 

“Don’t move!” 

Jesus Christ, can they hold still, she can't see a single—

“JJ, it’s Morgan and Prentiss!”

Morgan and Prentiss.

Those are familiar. Sharing coffee, getting drinks, knowing touches—

“Don’t shoot, it’s okay.”

She lowers the gun. That’s Morgan, with his round dark eyes and strong shoulders.

“It’s okay.”

The case. The unsub— why was she here? The world begins to spin— she closes her eyes. God, why does it smell like iron?  It’s a pervasive smell, she hates it so much.

“Are you hurt?”

Someone approaches her, hand outreached, and she dully notes it’s Emily, pretty, perfect Emily, with her sleek jet hair and beautiful soft eyes.

“Tobias Hankel is the unsub.”

Morgan’s eyes flashes down and then back up, and there’s something in his eyes that JJ can’t read, she’s too tired.

“Yeah, we know.”

“I’ll go call in an ambulance,” she hears someone mutter, and Morgan voices his agreement, a hand reaching out to touch hers, still gripping her gun. She can’t move her fingers, it’s like they’re attached to the trigger, what was she even shooting at?

“We—we just thought he was a witness,” she hears herself saying, and the coldness of the barn hits her. That’s not iron, that’s blood—

She remembers. The dogs—

“I had to kill them,” she whispers, hands shaking. Oh God, all of the blood

“JJ, where’s Reid?

The blood puddle, the stomach and intestines—

“They just— completely tore her apart, there’s nothing even left—”

“JJ, look at me.”

A strong, crystal-clear voice. It cuts through her fog, and JJ turns hesitantly to meet Emily’s bright brown eyes, her tapered nose and soft lips.

“Look at me,” she echoes, her hand squeezing JJ’s shoulder. JJ nods.

“Where’s Reid?”

Reid? JJ frowns. “We— uh, we split up, he said he was going around back.”

Hope he’s okay, she thinks as Morgan sprints off. She looks back to Emily, who’s stepped closer to her and taken her hand.

“JJ, it’s me, Emily,” she says.

“I know,” JJ murmurs. “How could I forget?”

“You’re hurt,” she says. “Let me help you.”

Hurt?

JJ doesn’t know where she’s hurt, but she welcomes Emily’s warm touch, the feel of her body pressed against JJ as she slides an arm around and under her right arm, supporting her deadened legs. She is so tired.

“Sorry, I’m really tired,” she mumbles, and Emily shushes her as they stagger out of the barn together.

“Don’t be sorry, Jayje, you’re doing fine,” she comforts, and JJ smiles weakly at her. Her lips crack— that’s not sexy at all— but Emily returns the smile, albeit with an underlying sense of concern. Her mind jars— how is she hurt? 

Her arm throbs in response. 

She glances down, and when they pass into the light of the full moon, she sees the glistening scarlet on her shredded blazer and mangled arm, her flesh all torn up, blood everywhere—

Her knees buckle and she crumples to the ground, dragging down an alarmed Emily shouting her name, but it’s like she’s frozen, she can’t feel her face or her arms or anything but suddenly she’s in her old house’s bathroom, the tiles cold beneath her bare feet, staring at her sister, dear Roz, soaking in a bath of her own blood—

“Medic! Medic, I need a medic!” she hears, and then blocking the moonlight is pretty Emily, eyes round and red lips moving. “Stay with me Jayje, stay with me—”

 

 

Emily is easy to focus on. It’s easy to see her, with her high cheekbones and strong chin, and that big nose that she’s a little self-conscious of but JJ has always found endearing. And her eyes— her bright, round, brown eyes— those are hard to forget.

 

 

The next two nights are fractured. She’s thinks she’s blocked out as much as she can, only recalling glimpses of Garcia’s bright eyes and Morgan’s accusing glare and Reid’s beaten figure, and when JJ finally grabs onto her little brother, finally holds him as tight as possible and smells the woodsmoke in his tousled hair, she forces everything back. Her arm throbs in complaint, but she ignores it.

 

 

After finding Spence, everyone wants to leave, get out, escape this place that took so much from all of them and never come back, but Spence has to stay in the hospital overnight (which makes sense, considering he’s been whipped, drugged, and emotionally tortured), and so the team returns to their rooms in the local motel, save for Gideon, who’s decided to stay at the hospital with Reid.

Guilt, JJ supposes. She pushes down the rising anger at the thought of his pressing, his antagonism, that first destroyed Elle and now Reid—

“Hey, are you showering?”

JJ jerks up as Emily pokes her head out from their shared restroom. She masks the quaver in her response when she realizes Emily has begun changing, her shirt unbuttoned and her cleavage exposed.

“Yeah, you go first—”

“No, you should go,” Emily insists, stepping out, and JJ averts her eyes because good God , she is gorgeous. “Clean your arm.”

“I—”

Her bra is red, striking against her pale dainty skin, and she feels herself flushing. She nods and mutters a quick, “Thanks,” moving swiftly past her coworker to grab a change of clothes and hoping (false hope, she’s a profiler) Emily didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

In a small town like this, they were bound to double up on rooms, which wasn’t unusual. Whenever JJ came along with the team came to a small town, it would usually be JJ and Emily, Morgan and Reid (who spent the entire night bickering— the walls were usually thin), and if they couldn’t get separate rooms, Hotch and Gideon. And it was never a problem: JJ prided herself on being professional in any setting, with the decency to not gawk at her coworker.

Her incredibly attractive coworker.

JJ takes her time in the shower, watching the hot water steam up the restroom, scrubbing the grime on her skin off and turning the falling water gray and murky. When she steps out, her bandaged arm is soaked, and the moment she goes to unravel it, the sight of her reddened flesh draws out a hiss from her.

A knock from the door startles her.

“Jayje? You okay?”

“Uh, yeah, I’m fine,” she says, and there’s a pause before Emily replies dubiously.

“You left the bandage in your bag.”

JJ curses herself, of course she did.

“Uh, right, sorry, I—”

“It’s okay, I’ve got it. Can I come in?”

Come in? JJ has nothing on except the measly hotel towel, she can’t really change into any clothes with her hurt arm, and now Emily wants to come in?

“Yeah, sure, I’m just— not dressed.”

The door opens slowly, and Emily emerges slowly with a gentle smile on her face and holding the roll of fresh bandages, cleaning wipes, and disinfectant cream given to them from the ambulance. Her dark eyes flicker down to her arm (or her chest?) before back to JJ’s face, and she stalls at the door.

“You good?” she asks. 

JJ blinks, and she clarifies. “You seem really tired.”

“I am,” JJ answers, and she forces a laugh. “Sorry, it’s been a long—”

“Yeah.” 

Emily watches her, eyes soft, and JJ holds her gaze. It’s intimate but simple, only broken by the brunette’s gentle suggestion.

“Let me help you,” she murmurs, moving forward to gently take JJ’s left hand, and her breath catches in her throat.

She exhales after an awkward pause and whispers her thanks, and the smile Emily shoots her is gentle and genuine, and there is a sudden swell in JJ’s chest that she doesn’t quite understand. Her fingers are slender and soft, and the way she unravels the bandages is so tender that it barely stings. By the time the bandage is cleared, JJ’s muscles are tense, almost shaking. She’s not sure why: the stitches are secured and wounds stayed closed, and all seems good besides a few splatters of dried blood and red flesh. Emily notices and smiles.

“You’re so tense,” she says, her fingers ghosting over the wound, and JJ shivers. “You good?”

“Uh, yeah.”

JJ clears her throat and smiles cheekily at her.

“Sorry, I’m just— I’m not too good with blood.”

The humor disappears as Emily purses her lips, gently dabbing at the stitches and wiping away the dried blood with her touch, light as a feather, before she begins rubbing on the ointment. JJ shudders at the sensation, and Emily mistakes it for pain, stopping and apologizing.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean—”

“No, you’re fine,” JJ says, doing her best to put on what she hopes is a reassuring smile. “It’s just sore.”

Emily nods, her eyes doubtful before she begins reapplying the ointment, and JJ feels her shoulders loosening, despite the fact that she’s buck-naked save for the thin towel wrapped around her haphazardly and she’s right next to her very attractive coworker. All good. The brunette catches her by surprise again with a low murmur.

“Must be hard in the field,” she says. “Seeing so much blood all the time.”

JJ hums in agreement as Emily begins bandaging her arm with fresh gauze. 

“Any specific trigger?” Emily asks, then quickly adds, “It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me.”

“Oh.”

She wants to tell her. She really does. Wants to trust her, wants to open up to her. But she stays quiet as Emily finishes bandaging her up, and when Emily clips the bandage in place and brushes her fingertips over it, JJ meets her eyes with a small smile and a flush rising in her cheeks.

“Thanks,” she says quietly, and Emily returns the smile with a squeeze of her hands.

“Of course,” she says. “Anytime.”

Her hands linger on JJ’s before she leaves and closes the door, leaving JJ to stare at her arm in silence, the memory of Emily’s soft touch lingering in her head.

 

 

“JJ! JJ, wake up!”

She shoots out of her bed, chest heaving, forehead and neck sticky with sweat. JJ gasps for air, and her gaze darts around, trying her best to ground herself.

Jesus Christ

“JJ, it’s me. It’s Emily.”

Emily. Pretty, perfect Emily, with round eyes and soft lips and gentle fingers.

“It’s me.”

JJ’s vision refocuses and she pulls together Emily, a dark hazy figure standing by her bed, hands outstretched as though wanting to hold her, eyes wide with worry, lips pursed.

JJ swallows and wipes her forehead. Her heart is pounding— Jesus Christ .

“Nightmare?” Emily asks softly.

JJ doesn’t answer. It’s the only answer, and she can’t even remember it specifically. Just her arm hurts so badly, and now it’s Reid in the red-filled bathtub and it’s Roz torn to shreds in the barn and now her blood is all over her—

“Can you,” JJ says and chokes, stumbling on her words, and she holds her hands out. “Please.”

Emily, pretty, perfect Emily understands, and she climbs into JJ’s bed without any hesitance, taking JJ into a warm embrace. Her head settles comfortably on Emily’s chest, and the brunette holds her until the panting subsides and JJ’s head isn’t spinning anymore. And even then, JJ clings to Emily, taking in her lavender scent and soft skin, holding onto her because she is real and good and here, and that’s all she needs right now.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbles, and Emily squeezes her, her hands running through JJ’s matted, sweaty hair.

“Don’t be,” she answers. “We all have our demons.”

What are yours, Emily Prentiss? JJ wants to ask. She curls tighter into her embrace instead.

Emily doesn’t leave her, slowly settling underneath the covers and still stroking her hair, legs tangled together and bodies pressed against each other, and JJ finally speaks.

“I had an older sister,” she says, and Emily’s hands slow. “Her name was Rosaline. Six years older than me, and, um—”

She pauses, and Emily’s chin rests on top of her head. Her fingers knead her back gently, and JJ takes in a breath before continuing.

“She— she gave me that heart necklace I wear sometimes, and then the next day, she—” JJ swallows, and the fingers in her hair and on her back still. 

“She killed herself. She, uh, slit her wrists in the bathtub, and I found her. In the bath.”

She involuntarily shudders, and Emily pulls her tighter into her hold. There’s silence, until Emily speaks.

“I’m sorry,” she says, and very delicately, presses a warm kiss to JJ’s forehead.

“It’s okay,” she says. “It was a long time ago.”

 

 

It is the best night JJ has ever had, nightmare-less and warm. 

 

 

JJ wakes up first, still curled up into Emily’s body, and she opens her eyes with her face just inches away from Emily’s, her mouth slightly opened in a small ‘o’, and JJ feels herself smile. The blinds let in streams of sunlight, illuminating little streaks across their bodies, and she revels in the simple domesticity of it all. It feels like a burden has been lifted off of her shoulders; her arm doesn’t even hurt anymore.

This is good, she thinks.

This is good.

Chapter Text

Henry has her blue eyes and golden locks, with only Will’s lankiness as the only similarity between the love of her life and the coward who left her.

Which isn’t a bad thing, she realizes, tucking her phone away after getting off a call with her son and Garcia, who is taking care of him during the overnight case. The New Orleans cop isn’t in his (or her) life anymore, and for the best. Will, who had run away the moment she told him of the pregnancy; Will, who begrudgingly agreed to pay child support only when JJ threatened to take him to court with Hotch as her lawyer; Will, who she hasn’t seen since Henry’s birth he doesn’t deserve any bit of Henry.

JJ doesn’t know how to thank Garcia and Spence; they have been a blessing, taking their roles of godparents as seriously as possible. When out on overnight cases, Henry would stay over at Auntie Pen’s, who spoiled him rotten and made sure he had everything he could ever want, and on girls’ nights, Uncle Spence would take over and engross him in the world of whatever Middle Age books he had on hand. And sometimes, on the really long nights, JJ would call Emily, who’d be on her doorstep within minutes and stayed until the sun rose.

“Auntie Emmy,” Henry called her. 

It always drew a broad grin from her, face glowing with happiness, and JJ would watch, standing beside her and smiling.

She didn’t know what they were, to be honest. What all the touches, the dancing, the looks meant. What it meant that Emily was always there for JJ and that JJ was always there for Emily. They’ve said “I love you,” definitely, but they also say that to the others.

After that night in Atlanta, JJ had found herself drawn to Emily. Something in the way her brows furrowed together in the BAU conference room, in the way the corners of her mouth tilted upwards when she caught JJ looking at her, in the way she held children with both the gentleness of a mother and the ferocity of a lion, and sometimes, JJ has wondered what it would be like if Emily were Henry’s mother as well.

But her little blond angel was all of theirs, with what Auntie Pen called his “gorgeous sapphires” and what Uncle Spence called “recessively inherited blond genes,” and in the really dark nights, he’s JJ’s light, illuminating her world.

Which may also be her weakness, she supposes. Because after coming back from maternity leave, it is so hard to not open the case files and see her Henry in the papers, so tiny and gray, and maybe it clouds her judgement when choosing cases for the team and in the field.



This case is no different. JJ is biased, obviously; Judge Schuller opting to hunt down those who had done wrong, especially to children? She understands. She really does, so maybe that’s why she stays so close to him, shielding him from the onslaught of reporters, vision distorted from the harsh sunlight and only following Morgan’s shouting so as to find the path to the waiting police vehicle. A swarm of reporters slithers in through the cracks, and JJ actually feels someone grab her arm. She turns on them, pulling together all of her liaison training to not slap the yelling frenzy confronting her.

There’s a harsh bang! and something wet splattering onto her, and JJ jerks back instinctively, hands flying to her face to wipe, but her fingers come away hot and heavy. There’s something in her mouth, a distinct metallic taste, and as she stares at the dark maroon dripping from her fingers and watches Judge Schuller crumple to the ground, she knows

“Get down!” she hollers, hands flying down to her holster to draw her gun, but it’s like she’s screaming into nothing, there’s this empty plane of silence all around her and a sharp ringing in her ears. JJ can see mouths moving, can see Rossi’s horror as he clutches the fallen judge and Morgan’s twisted fury as he scans the perimeter, and maybe JJ should be thinking about what this means but it feels like acid, melting away at her face, and is this what Roz felt?

Morgan’s in front of her now, holding out a hand, mouth moving, and she stares at him, head pounding, chest heavy, the ringing only growing louder, and he stops moving, only looks at her.

“Morgan,” she tries to say, but she can’t hear herself, and when her mouth opens she can feel the blood all over her skin and where her muscles flex and she’s covered in someone else’s blood.

She doubles over, Morgan catching and holding her steady as she retches, and when she’s done, the ringing has died down but she still feels inexplicably dirty.

“It’s okay, JJ,” she hears someone say, rubbing her shoulders, “it’s okay. Rossi, I think she’s in shock.”

“No,” JJ tries to protest, but her lips are heavy, coated in her bile and his blood, and she retches again, shaking. It’s all over her, soaking into her shirt and dripping down her chest and she’s sinking into it, settled in a tub of nothing but his hot blood, and JJ reaches out to grab her

It’s Morgan, Morgan’s firm hands who hold her as she comes back, gasping for air, and he’s saying something but JJ can’t hear because

“Emily,” she says, “Emily, I need Emily.”



JJ’s completely topless when someone knocks on the door of the hospital’s bathroom, and she only barely stifles her yelp when through the door, “JJ, it’s Em.”

“I’m not wearing anything,” she says. 

A pause, and then, “This isn’t the first time.”

JJ can hear the smile in her voice, and she goes to unlock it, her other arm going up to cover her chest. Emily slips in, quietly and stealthily, and she breaks into a smile, although JJ doesn’t miss the concern in her eyes.

“Hey,” she says quietly.

“Hey,” is JJ’s response. She reaches out, and Emily meets her halfway, taking her hand into hers and intertwining their fingers. Her soft touch stills JJ immediately, and somehow, for the first time in the past thirty minutes, she exhales easily.

They stay like that, hands locked and studying each other, and from how close they are, JJ can make out each individual eyelash and the little flecks of gold nestled in Emily’s eyes.

“I look awful,” JJ says.

They tried to wash her face in the ambulance ride to the hospital, some poor paramedic dabbing at her face with a wipe, but she was shaking and flinching too much, recoiling behind the shock blanket they gave her, and when they suggested a sedative, JJ almost said yes. Almost lost herself in that cloud of nothing, before she got the text from Emily that she would meet her at the hospital. 

“I can do it,” she told them. 

The paramedic raised their eyebrow at her and said nothing, only giving her the wipe.

At the hospital, they screened and gave her more wipes and a water bottle before sending her off to a bathroom, and the moment she locked herself in, she ripped off her blood-stained shirt. JJ was going to throw it away, burn it, whatever, there was no chance of the blood washing out, and when she saw her bra, bloodstained as well, she tore it off and threw it onto the ground with her shirt. Except the blood was still on her, and she took the wipes and started scrubbing and for a few horrible moments it was like the blood would not wash off of her and it was just spreading and she was covered in blood and she was dirty and disgusting and she was

A hand cupping her cheek shocks JJ out of her memories, and she flinches at the touch before melting into it, closing her eyes and nestling into the softness of Emily’s hand, inhaling that lavender scent.

“I brought you your clothes,” Emily murmurs, hoisting up JJ’s go bag, and she hums as an answer, taking the arm at her chest to cover the hand on her cheek.

They’re standing close enough to each other that JJ can feel the gentle puffs of Emily’s breath on her and the warmth that only she has. Like in this bustling hospital, it is only the two of them. When she opens her eyes, it’s to meet the smokey brown ones of Emily, staring at her with a tenderness JJ has seen only when they’re together.

“Thank you,” JJ says finally, taking the bag and stepping back reluctantly, unwilling to leave the warmth of Emily.

The brunette smiles, still watching her,  and JJ laughs as she turns around, reaching into the bag. 

“What are you waiting for?” JJ asks, finding a soft piece of fabric and pulling it out before stopping herself. “Em

It’s a gray t-shirt. It’s Emily’s gray t-shirt, made from some incredibly soft cotton and ridiculously oversized, and JJ turns to Emily, gripping it in her hand.

“This isn’t mine,” JJ says.

Emily moves closer to her, reaching out to gently push the shirt towards JJ, a cheeky grin on her face.

“I know,” she says. “But I also know this is your favorite shirt of mine,” she adds, and JJ stares at her blankly until Emily sighs. 

“Jayj, it’s for you.”

“What?”

“I thought you would want it.”

The way Emily looks, with her soft eyes and gentle smile and with so much love radiating from her, JJ wants her. She steps forward before wrapping her arms around Emily, pressing their bodies together and burying her face in her hair. Emily melts into the embrace, one arm going to JJ’s back, the other tangling in her hair, and JJ feels clean. Calm. Good.

Thank you , she tries to say.

JJ knows Emily understands.



And when they’re on the jet back home, when Emily slides into her seat and sets a mug of coffee (one cream, two sugars, just how JJ likes it) down in front of her before patting her knee, JJ thanks her with her eyes, watching Emily as she shifts in her seat for a moment before settling in and taking her novel to read. The initial adrenaline pumping through her body has thoroughly washed out of her, and she’s tired, with only enough energy to trace Emily’s body the perfect arch of her neck, the slope of her nose, the curtains of her hair with her eyes.

And she’s cold, despite the soft blanket wrapped around her shoulders, and JJ is tired enough that when she leans onto Emily, tucking her head underneath Emily’s jaw and resting on her collarbone, she doesn’t care that she’s in full view of her boss and that maybe this is breaking protocol. But when their eyes meet, Emily’s warmth gives JJ the energy to hold Hotch’s gaze, to not be afraid, and maybe she’s imagining things, but Hotch’s eyes soften almost minutely before he turns back to his papers.



Emily drops by JJ’s apartment after she puts Henry to sleep, a text notification from JJ’s phone alerting her of the brunette’s arrival, and when she goes to open the door, the sight of Emily, out of her work clothes and in casual jeans and a sweatshirt, causes a smile.

“Hey,” JJ says, stepping back to let her in. “What’s up?”

“I just wanted to drop by,” Emily says, stepping into the apartment and out of her boots, and JJ raises her eyebrow.

There’s something else under there, she knows, that Emily won’t say out loud. It’s routine at this point, her coming over after any particularly hard case, and while JJ protested at first, she won’t deny that she enjoys waking up next to her. Or that Emily does keep her grounded.

And it goes both ways, she knows. Not that Emily would ever tell her, but if she ever sought JJ out, it was because she found peace in JJ.

“Wine?” she offers instead.

They end up on the couch in front of her TV, JJ curled up into Emily’s side, the brunette gently combing through JJ’s hair while rewatching Lilo and Stitch . It’s one of the many Disney movies JJ has for movie nights with Henry, and eventually Emily, when she realized how much Emily enjoyed animated films (not that she would ever tell Morgan or Penelope). Emily takes a sip from her wine glass, eyes never leaving the screen as Jumba and Pleakley dissolve into another mindless argument, and then asks her a question so quiet JJ has to ask her to repeat it.

“Do you ever wonder how Disney managed to sneak in a queer couple into a movie made in 2002?”

“What?”

Emily nods, the edges of her mouth curling up as she sneaks a teasing smile towards JJ. Over the course of the movie, they’ve shifted around to the point that JJ’s almost on top of Emily, her head nestled underneath her chin and her knee resting on Emily’s leg, JJ’s fingers tracing patterns over her jeans.

“Think about it,” Emily says. “Pleakley and Jumba are stuck together for the duration of the film, and they go undercover as a female-male couple, with Pleakley dressing and enjoying his female dress wear.”

JJ’s fingers still, resorting to only gently rubbing, and she listens to Emily’s heartbeat underneath Stitch’s shrieking. Truthfully, she hasn’t been listening for the past half hour, but she’s watching this enough times with Emily that she could recite it by heart.

“I hadn’t thought about it like that,” JJ says. “But nothing about this movie is conventional, so it’s not surprising.”

“Do you ever wish Will was a better man?”

JJ startles, lifting her head to stare at Emily, who flinches and shakes her head immediately.

“Sorry, that was so wow, I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s fine, just

JJ has never seen Emily so panicked, which is saying something, considering she’s also seen Emily get smacked over the head with a wooden plank and, and instinctively, she reaches out to take Emily’s hand in her own.

“Where did that come from?” JJ asks.

Emily shakes her head, fingers fidgeting and eyes downcast, and JJ’s heart swells.

“Hey,” she whispers, raising her other hand to Emily’s head. 

When she doesn’t flinch away, JJ gently cups her cheek and slowly brings her up to eye-level. There’s a rawness in her eyes that makes JJ want to hug her, take her, kiss her, anything to ease the pain.

“It’s just me,” she whispers instead. “You can tell me.”

Emily almost melts into her hand, eyes fluttering closed before opening, and she exhales.

“I just wondered if you’re happy,” she says quietly. “I’ve always wanted but I can’t

Their fingers intertwine, but JJ doesn’t prompt Emily on. Lets her speak for herself.

“I don’t know if I could ever find someone to raise a family with,” Emily says at last, and there’s a raw desperation in her voice that sneaks past her usual compartmentalization. 

JJ squeezes her hand. 

“I don’t need Will to be happy,” she says. “I have Henry, and I have you.”

She wonders if Emily will understand in the silence that follows, her thumb rubbing JJ’s hand, in the way that Emily looks at her, gazes at her, cheek still cradled in her hand, like JJ is the night sky. Emily shifts her weight, and JJ pulls her hand away, but then she’s pulled into an embrace, her body pressed flushed against her co-worker’s. Emily’s arms are wrapped tightly around JJ, burying the blonde’s face into her shoulder, but their weight is uneven, and Emily falls back onto the armrest, JJ on top of her.

This is not how co-workers should be acting, she knows. Morgan did not call out Spence’s name when struggling with his own trauma, they did not spend so many nights in the same bed and wake up curled in each other’s arms, they did not wonder if they could raise a family together.

And yet here they are, JJ nestled on top of Emily and between her legs, arms holding them close, Emily clutching JJ in some desperate hold as though she is afraid of losing her, and JJ wants to hold her even tighter and revel in her lavender scent and tell her, I’m here, I’m not going anywhere, I love

Chapter Text

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.”