jj’s hair is splayed around her head in a halo. she’s sleeping on her back, the white downy comforter tangled in her legs. her head lolls to the side facing emily, like she’d fallen asleep mid-pillowtalk. emily trails a finger down the bridge of her nose with a feather-like touch. her fingers dance along jj’s collarbone, lingering there. jj’s soft skin is littered with deep red-purple bruises. hickeys, emily’s groggy brain registers. they’re almost grotesque, like a crime scene in a safe suburban neighborhood, and emily feels a little guilty looking at them even though she’s definitely the culprit. the room is comfortable and golden; a sort of divinity settling over the two of them as if they were two gods who’d created a universe the night before. emily looks at jj once again. no, they weren’t both gods. jj is far more celestial in this moment than emily could ever dream of being.
jj stirs with a twitch of her nose, letting her eyes flutter open. she rubs them until emily, who’s staring at her with intent adoration, comes into focus. “hi, em,” she murmurs, voice croaky.
“hi,” emily responds quietly, absolutely unable to hide the fondness in her voice. yeah, she’s fucked. she desperately wants to press a kiss to jj’s swollen lips, but she doesn’t know where they stand while sober. emily debates for a second, and after getting no hints from jj’s sleepy face, she takes a chance. slowly, emily kisses jj.
jj jerks away with a disapproving hum, and the bubble of bliss emily had created and made a home in pops. emily deflates, her shoulders curling in on themselves. there’s no words exchanged, but jj closes her eyes as if trying to shut out emily, shut out the night before, shut out that one incredibly uncomfortable kiss. emily gets the hint.
“alright, jj, shit,” emily says through a sigh, swinging her legs over the bed. her feet land in a sticky puddle that smells strongly of coconut rum. it’s disgusting, but she peels her feet up and pads out of jj’s room and to her own, leaving tropical footprints in her wake.
how stupid do you have to be to sleep with your best friend?, emily thinks, staring at herself in the tiny round mirror on her wall. her face looks sunken in, her eyes ringed with dark shadows. how stupid do you have to be to sleep with your roommate? she lets out a mirthless laugh. no big deal! no big deal. (but it is. emily just has a poor habit of pretending she has no emotions.) she rubs her face harshly, trying to get herself to wake up. once it burns, she stops, revelling in the redness of her face.
emily and jj have been roommates since they were freshmen. jj walked into their dorm room timidly, anxious to meet the girl she’d be sleeping across from for the year. emily greeted her with a toothy grin, and all of jj’s nerves were eased before they even spoke. from that moment on, they’ve been inseparable.
jj cheered emily up with a loving hand rubbing her back in circles when emily accidentally cut her own bangs too short freshman year. when jj cried after failing her first college exam, emily was there to hug her tightly and tell her that it would be okay. (they made flashcards for the next one.) after emily had her first hookup, jj was the one to discover her hickeys, and they gushed about the lucky girl through giggles. and jj called emily literally immediately after the cute guy in her organic chemistry class finally asked her out.
needless to say, the pair is close. there are hardly any moments in the past few years that emily remembers being without jj. emily could say she was surprised that they had accidentally hooked up last night, but she wasn’t. they had definitely shared some memories that screamed, “hey emily, you’re in love with your best friend,” but emily never paid them any mind until now.
maybe it’s the soft kiss that they share every single time they get drunk. or maybe it’s the pit that settled in emily’s stomach when she sent jj off on that organic chemistry date. or maybe, just maybe, it was the way jj would crawl into emily’s tiny twin bed and hold her after a bad day. maybe.
it’s about a month after the awkward hook-up that jj brings jason home. the tension in their apartment has been incredible, thick enough that emily feels like she’s swimming through it. it gets worse when the stupid frat guy walks in, arm slung around jj’s waist, looking like he’s been carved from marble. emily feels sick seeing him.
of course he’s beautiful, and blonde, and a man. he’s perfect for jj. jason sticks around for a while, and each time emily sees him she feels bile rise in her throat. for as much as he hangs around jj, he might as well be emily’s second roommate. she makes this comparison bitterly to herself, and immediately regrets it as soon as he decides to walk around the living room in only his underwear. she feels she manifested that, and makes a solemn promise to the universe to not put any more energy into jason.
she can’t keep that promise.
“your boyfriend didn’t put the toilet seat down again,” emily remarks, stirring creamer into her coffee. they haven’t spoken in weeks.
“i’ll talk to him,” jj replies flatly. her back is turned to emily as she rummages through their crowded refrigerator.
emily keeps her eyes trained on the curve of jj’s spine. “and there was piss in the toilet,” she says.
“okay,” jj repeats, “i’ll talk to him.”
“and—” emily starts, but is startled into silence by a bark of jj’s voice. the blonde woman whips around, ponytail swinging, and steels her gaze on emily’s seated figure.
“enough, emily,” she says harshly. she speaks slowly, as if emily was a toddler. “i will talk to him.” emily can’t control her face contorting at the tone jj has taken with her. her lip snarls up, her eyes narrow, her eyebrows furrow. but before she can come up with a sufficiently disgusted rebuttal, jj is gone, leaving nothing but a faint scent of vanilla in her wake.
as much as emily wants to stalk the other way, dragging her feet dramatically, there’s nowhere to go except to trail behind jj. their rooms are next to each other, something that they’d always valued. now, it makes emily’s stomach twist. she slams the door to her room and queues a playlist filled with angsty guitars. when her bluetooth speaker is loud enough to sufficiently shake the walls, she nods to no one in particular and flops back onto her bed.
she stares at her ceiling fan whirring; blades going ‘round, ‘round, ‘round. the tears in her eyes come from the cool air, she tells herself. they sit on her lower lashline, perched like tiny uncut gems situated in a wedding band. don’t let them fall, she thinks. then, at the recognition of her repressed emotions, she breaks, and the gemstone tears spill over and roll down her cheeks rapidly, their jagged edges leaving tiny cuts against her smooth skin.
“fuck,” emily mutters, but through her clenched teeth the word is just an exhale that bounces around the room. fuck. fuck. fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck fuck fuckfuckfuck, and then emily’s crying harder. caught up in emotion, she tugs a photo of her and jj off of the wall.
it’s the one from their first nights out together. in the picture, emily’s arm is swung around jj’s neck, an alcoholic drink she was definitelytoo young to have in her hand. she’s smiling so wide at the camera, her eyes squint. jj is looking up at her like she hung the stars.
emily feels sick. everything seems to be mocking her. the picture, the blank wall where it used to hang, the left over sticky-tac there, even the sound of the ceiling fan. i have got to get out of here.
she flings herself at her desk, trying very hard to maintain balance as the desk chair nearly rolls out from beneath her. she opens her laptop, wiping away her tears with the heel of her hand.
there’s banging on the wall her and jj share, and a male voice shouts. “can you turn down your music?”
emily tosses the nearest textbook to her—one about the italian renaissance— at the wall and turns the volume up two notches.
a week later, emily has an appointment with a real estate agent to go look at a new apartment. it’s a one bedroom, and hopefully not too scrappy considering her price range. she puts on her most professional looking skirt for the tour— she’s an adult now for god’s sake.
as she grabs her keys off of the hook next to the front door, emily sees jj for the second time since their tiff. (the first was when emily had answered the door for a pizza delivery man. she locked eyes with jj, who was tangled up with her boyfriend on the couch, on her way back to her room.) jj clears her throat, more so to garner confidence than to get emily’s attention. “i like your skirt,” she says, leaning against the hallway entrance.
“thank you,” emily says, hand on the front doorknob. she pauses and looks down. “now that you say that, i think it’s your skirt.”
and for the first time in what feels like forever, they laugh together. jj fills with warmth seeing emily’s eyes light up. she missed their glint. but as soon as the moment is there, it’s gone, emily closing the door behind her.
“i really, really want this apartment,” emily says with much more enthusiasm than she expected to have. the studio is tiny, yes, but maximizes its space well. as soon as she walked in, the wheels in emily’s head began turning. she would put a rug here, hang the tv there. the ceilings are low, and suspiciously discolored in some places, but emily looks past that to see the apartment’s potential.
the tour was quick, considering the space, and emily is convinced by the end of the 20 minutes that this is the place for her. “i love the windows,” she says, running her fingertips across the windowpane. “i love this apartment.”
“i’m so glad, emily,” the real estate agent, rachel, says sincerely. her head is tilted in amusement as she watches emily drink in the space. there’s a pause, where emily is looking out of the window, unaware of rachel’s eyes trained on her. emily turns and gives her a small, shy smile.
rachel shakes her head as if to clear her mind. “i can draw up the papers,” she says.
at her words, emily is snapped back into reality. her only thought is jj. emily can’t sign these papers right now. she has to make things right with jj first, then she’ll sign for the apartment. she can’t explain why it’s so important to her to have this talk with jj all of a sudden, but the tiny voice in the back of her head says it starts with an l and ends with an o-v-e.
emily relays this information to rachel, albeit more casually (“let me let my roommate know i’m planning on moving, first.”), then promises to call her later with an answer and a plan for when they can meet again to finalize the sale.
rachel sends emily off with a business card and a hug. when emily gets in her car, she feels icky and wishes they had opted for a handshake instead. she tells herself that a handshake would have just been more professional, but emily doesn’t care too much about professionalism. simply, she just felt weird hugging someone other than jj. this realization doesn’t surprise her, but it weighs heavily on her shoulders. how stupid do you have to be to fall in love with your best friend?
emily trudges through the front door of the apartment, footsteps slow with the anxiety of having to talk things out with jj. she pushes the door to jj’s room open, but is met with a perfectly made bed. jj’s not home. emily is relieved to an extent, but the anxiety creeps up over her when she realizes she’ll have to sit and wait for jj to get home to talk to her. how humiliating. emily tosses her shoes next to the front door with a bit more force than necessary, taking pride in the two thuds that follow. her phone feels heavy in her skirt pocket, like a mocking symbol of having to call a real estate agent later. a mocking symbol of having to leave this apartment. leave this life. leave jj.
emily can’t have the stupid phone on her anymore. she places it on the kitchen counter and promptly leaves the room, the laughing taunts of the “call” button becoming quieter as she slams her bedroom door and promptly falls asleep.
an hour later, jj trudges through the front door of the apartment, the emotional toll of the day catching up with her. tears stain her cheeks, but she has no more energy to continue to cry. her piece-of-shit boyfriend had been such a dick when she broke up with him earlier in the morning. his homophobic comments about her and emily ring through her ears, taking up immense space in her brain. jj is drainedfrom arguing with him, her throat raw from screaming. any man she has to defend her (oddly homoerotic) friendship with emily from is no man for her. she wishes she’d realized that sooner, because now she feels she might have lost emily forever.
jj is fixing herself a glass of ice water cold enough to hurt her sensitive teeth when emily’s phone starts buzzing on the counter next to her. jj hadn’t even noticed it was there. “rachel,” the phone screen reads, and jj is struck with a lightning bolt of envy. who is rachel? her eyes train intently on the phone until it stops ringing and a voicemail notification pops up. in a rash, out-of-character motion, she clicks the green “listen” button and lets the voice mail play aloud.
“hey emily,” rachel’s crackly voice starts through the speaker. jj is biting her nails. “i know you said you’d call me after you sorted things out, but demand for the apartment has gone up and it’s probably going to be gone within the next few hours.” there’s a pause.
an apartment?, jj thinks. a new apartment?
“anyways, i enjoyed hanging out with you today and showing you around the place…” rachel trails off, then her voice returns. “so i just wanted to let you know that you’ll most likely need to sign within the next hour if you want it. alright, emily. goodbye.”
without regard for emily’s naptime or for the consequences of literally snooping through emily’s phone, jj barges into emily’s room. though she thought she could no longer cry, tears well up in her eyes. “emily,” she says loudly.
“what the fuck, jj,” emily says, jolting awake and sitting up.
“you’re moving? with rachel?” logically, jj had pieced together the fact that rachel is just the real estate agent, but she’s searching for things to be mad about, desperate to get a reaction out of emily.
emily lets out a short laugh at the ridiculousness of the confrontation. “can you calm down? we can talk about it, but not if you’re literally shaking with anger.”
jj looks down at her hands. sure enough, they’re shaking. that’s enough of a reality check as she needs. she sits on the edge of emily’s bed, and her fury morphs into sadness.
after a long pause, jj speaks. “we’ve never not lived together,” she says softly, looking down at the floor. her socked feet swing.
“i signed a lease to live with you,” emily says. “but you freaked out on me and brought a shitty ass boyfriend home, and i don’t want to live with him.”
jj is quiet. the cats on her socks appear to be dancing when she wiggles her toes. “we broke up this morning.”
“yeah?” emily says softly, keeping her eyes locked on jj, who still won’t look up. “i’m sorry.”
jj shrugs. “i broke up with him. it’s…it’s okay.”
emily puts her hand on jj’s arm. “look at me, jj.”
jj shakes her head in response.
“why not?” emily asks, tilting her head.
after a deep breath, jj looks up at emily, finally, eyes ringed in red. “i’m scared,” she whispers, voice cracking.
one good thing about being so close with jj is that emily never has to ask for clarification on anything. emily can read jj like a children’s book, from the way she takes her breaths to the way she forms her words. she knows that jj’s lip quirks up when she’s trying to be coy, and her eyebrows furrow when she’s annoyed. she knows that her shoulders hunch over when she’s relaxed, and her posture is straight and rigid when she’s anxious. with all of that, there’s no need to ask why jj is scared. emily knows.
emily places her hand against jj’s cheek, rubbing softly with her thumb. for a second, emily is transported back to the morning so long ago, when it was just her and jj and spilt coconut rum; the morning where jj was a divine being and emily was a mere mortal. in this moment, they’re equals. emily likes this better.
jj’s the one to initiate this kiss this time, a small detail that makes flowers bloom in emily’s chest. their lips lock slowly, hesitantly. jj peeks one eye open at emily, just to see her, and smiles into the kiss. jj deepens the kiss, and emily snakes her hands into her hair. she tugs gently, and jj lets out a tiny whimper.
emily pulls away with a wide smile, letting her hands rest at the base of jj’s skull. “move in with me.”
jj shakes her head, chuckling. “you know how much money it will cost for both of us to break our lease? no, thank you.”
emily pouts, and presses another soft kiss to jj’s lips. “this apartment is so cute though, jj.” she pauses, letting her eyes scan jj’s features. there’s no way she’s leaving her. “i’ll pay to break the lease and i’ll pay your half of the rent for a month if you come.”
“you can’t afford that!” jj says, correctly, and turns to press kisses against emily’s jawbone.
“i would rather be broke and with you than rich and without you,” emily replies. she’s running her fingers through jj’s hair, a motion she’s practiced many times before. this time is different. more tender.
jennifer jareau is in love. that’s her first thought when she wakes up in a bed that’s still slightly unfamiliar. jennifer jareau is so, astronomically in love. that’s her second thought. that one comes when she turns to the source of the tiny snores beside her and is met with the very gentle and very naked frame of her best friend. jj kisses emily’s shoulder softly and sinks deeper into their new bed. the low ceilings of their new studio apartment envelop her like a warm hug.