“Emily,” Barnes barked, walking into the conference room where everyone was working on the case, “get me a coffee.”
Rolling her eyes, Emily pushed her seat back from the table and went to make coffee. JJ watched her go, reading the tension in her shoulders. Barnes was still being a total bitch to the brunette and there was nothing JJ could do about it. Well, there was one thing she could do.
JJ leaned over the arm of her chair and unclipped Henry’s collar. When he looked at her, she whistled softly, nodding toward Emily across the room. The service dog carefully walked under the table before bounding over to Emily. He pawed at her leg to get her attention.
As the coffee brewed, Emily squatted beside him, petting him softly and pressing a kiss to his nose. She glanced across the room at JJ, smiling. JJ just smiled back and turned back to the case file on the table in front of her.
“We’ve got two interviews tomorrow that Anderson and Sharp are going to handle, and the ex-wife in an hour,” Barnes told the room, slowly walking along the table as she read from her folder. She stopped across the table from JJ. “According to this Communique from the prison, our client had a visit from her sister.” JJ tensed and looked up at Barnes. “A Miss… Delta Nu.” Barnes raised her eyebrow. “Anyone you know?”
Eyes sliding past Barnes, JJ watched as Henry’s face turned toward her and he jogged back. “Ah. Yes. I went to visit her.”
“What the hell do you mean you ‘went to visit her?’”
“I went to get her alibi,” JJ continued. Henry’s face appeared between her legs and he rested his chin on her knee. “I thought she might talk to me. We… know each other.”
Emily’s head snapped up to look at JJ, her hands still making coffee. JJ winced. Sighing heavily, Barnes spread her hands.
“And? Did you get it?”
“Yes,” JJ confirmed with a nod. “It’s really good, too.”
“Well, great,” Barnes chuckled derisively. “What is it?”
“I can’t tell you.”
Barnes scoffed loudly. When Emily went to her with the mug of coffee, she snatched it from the other woman’s hand. Emily glared at her for a moment before returning to her seat. When she looked at JJ, the blonde realized that everyone was looking at her.
“Miss Jareau,” Barnes snapped, “why the hell can’t you tell me?”
JJ’s shoulders curled in at the harsh tone, but she forced herself to sit up straight again. “Because I promised Elle that I’d keep it a secret. I can’t break her trust.”
“Screw trust!” Barnes hissed, slamming her folder onto the table and leaning forward. “This is a murder trial, not some scandal at the sorority house. I want the alibi.”
“I can’t give it to you,” JJ said again. She ignored the way everyone was still staring at her and focused on the weight of Henry’s chin on her leg. “I can tell you she’s innocent, though.”
Barnes opened her mouth to scream at JJ, but his assistant stuck her head into the conference room. “Ms. Barnes, Mrs. Strauss is on line two for you.”
Taking a deep breath, Barnes nodded at the team. “Someone reason with her while I take this.” She took a sip of her coffee and left the room.
Grant Anderson, a second-year intern, who had barely spoken to JJ leaned toward her. “Are you crazy? Just tell him the alibi.”
“We’re going to lose this case if you don’t,” he tried again.
JJ rolled her eyes. “Then we’re not very good lawyers.”
“If you tell him,” Hotch said from his seat beside her, “he’ll probably make you a summer associate. I know you care about Elle, but think about your career.”
“I gave her my word, Hotch.” JJ frowned at him, scratching Henry’s ear. “That means something to me.”
Hotch nodded, knowing that JJ wasn’t going to be swayed on this. Her eyes slid to Tara, who just smiled at her, looking thoughtful. Emily rested her chin on her hand and smiled at JJ, too. It was nice to know the other two women in her cohort supported her decision.
Barnes stomped back into the room. “The ex-wife seems unconcerned with the fact that her interview is today,” she sighed. “She’s at a spa in the Berkshires.”
“A spa,” Grant snorted. He smirked at JJ. “Isn’t that like a sorority girl’s mothership?”
JJ opened her mouth to tell him to fuck off, but caught herself. She turned to Barnes instead. “I could go, if you’d like.”
“Alright.” Barnes nodded and turned to Will. “LaMontagne. Go with her.”
It was a two hour drive from Harvard to the spa in the Berkshires. Will and JJ spent the whole time talking about school, the team, and the case. They kept the back window down for Henry, who happily watched the landscape pass. By the time they were close to the spa, JJ and Will were stuck on one point.
“She just seems completely untrustworthy,” Will sighed, scratching his forehead as he drove.
JJ rolled her eyes. She shifted to lean against the car door, arms crossed, and glared at him. “Why?”
Will tapped his thumbs on the steering wheel. “I mean, this is a person who’s made their living telling women they’re too weak.”
“Elle would never tell a woman she’s too weak,” JJ said defensively before wincing. “Well, maybe she would, but it’s in the name of making them stronger!”
“It seems to me like she’s hiding something.”
“Maybe it’s not what you think.”
“Maybe it’s exactly what I think.”
Rolling her eyes again, JJ smiled at Will. “You just need to have a little more faith in people. You might be surprised.”
“I have faith in you,” he told her, glancing at her before turning back to the road. “If you think she’s innocent, that’s enough for me.”
“Thank you,” she replied sincerely. Hesitating for a moment, she decided that now was as good a time as any for a conversation she knew they had to have. “Hey, I know that it might not be great to bring this up while we’re stuck in a car and have a 2 hour car ride back, but… I think we need to talk about our relationship. Our friendship,” she corrected quickly.
He sighed heavily, but he nodded. “I know, Cherie. I’m not as slow as this accent makes me sound. We’re just friends.” He grinned as he turned into the Spa. “I just like flirting with ya.”
“Okay, good,” she sighed. She punched his shoulder. “You couldn’t stop flirting with me if you tried.”
“No, Ma’am.” He laughed and pulled into a parking spot. “Not when you always look that good.”
It didn’t take them long to make their way through the spa and find the former Mrs. Kane in the mud room. The current Mrs. Strauss was wrapped tightly in gold foil, laying on a bed under a few sun lamps. Her blonde hair was swept up in a bun over her head, her face was covered in a blue face mask, and her eyes were hidden under cucumbers.
When they entered the room, she didn’t even move. JJ signaled for Henry to stay by the door and she and Will made their way to the bed in the center of the room. Will stood there awkwardly, doing his best to seem like he knew what was happening and that he was incredibly uncomfortable. JJ patted his arm before speaking to the woman Elle had replaced.
“Mrs. Strauss?” JJ said quietly, reaching out to take the cucumbers off the older woman’s eyes. She set them on the bed. “We’re from Rossi, Donovan, & Barnes, and we’re here to ask you a few questions.”
Mrs. Strauss wasted no time in talking badly about Elle. “So, I hear that little bitch shot poor Gerald.”
“Well,” Will said in his pleasantly gentle voice, “that’s what we’re trying to prove didn’t happen.”
“Do you have any reason to believe it did?” JJ asked.
Mrs. Strauss raised an eyebrow and sighed heavily, as if they were ruining her day with their presence. “Well, I’ve never actually met the woman,” Mrs. Strauss admitted, “but my daughter says she can be a real bitch.”
Will ignored the insult, and stayed as calm and nice as ever. “Now, did your daughter ever mention anything to you about the relationship between Elle and Gerald?”
“Well, she did say they humped like gorillas,” Mrs. Strauss said almost gleefully. She grinned as both Will and JJ stiffened. She sighed dramatically again. “I guess it wasn’t enough, though, for Elle.”
“Why do you say that?” JJ asked.
“Haven’t you seen the cabana boy?”
“Thanks for driving me home,” JJ said to Will, reaching for the door handle. “You’ll update Barnes?”
He nodded. “I will, Cherie. I know how to handle her.”
“Good.” Rolling her eyes, JJ pushed the door open and climbed out of the car, grabbing her bag and throwing it over her shoulder. “Why can’t successful people also be nice?”
“You’ll be the first,” he joked, watching as she moved to the back and opened the door for Henry. “Have a good night, JJ.”
She waved at him before squatting beside Henry and pulling his leash out of his vest. Clipping one end to him, she stood again and clipped the other side to her belt. JJ headed toward her dorm, wanting to fall asleep, but knowing that she had reading to do. It was hard to keep up, but she was doing ok so far. She planned to keep her head above water.
The campus was quiet around her and JJ took a deep breath. She really liked Harvard. As stressful as it was, she liked the long brick paths that crisscrossed grassy areas. It was beautiful during the day under the bright sun, and peaceful at night, half-lit by orange lamps and light spilling from windows.
As she got closer to the dorm, she heard Spencer’s voice and turned to see him talking to a couple of women a few feet away. He looked nervous and awkward, books clutched to his chest. Wandering closer, JJ smiled, happy that he was feeling more confident.
“So, I called your room last night,” Spencer said.
One of the women sighed. “I heard.”
JJ could see him swallow hard. “I was thinking maybe we could go out sometime.”
“No, you’re a dork.”
The women laughed, and JJ’s hackles rose. She tensed, glaring at the back of their heads. Spencer was a bit of a dweeb, but he was cute and sweet and smart. They’d be lucky to date him.
“I’m in law school,” he tried, brow furrowing as he blushed. “At Harvard.”
“Look,” the woman snorted, “I’m not going to go out with you. Girls like me don’t go out with losers like you.”
The young man deflated, turning a dark red. JJ was moving before she realized it, stalking over to them and shoving her way between the two women. Smiling sweetly, she batted her eyelashes at Spencer.
“You go to Harvard?” she asked flirtatiously, twirling her hair. “That’s really cool.”
“What?” he asked. He took a deep breath and shook his head. “You know-”
JJ cut him off before he exposed her ruse. “I heard you telling them. I’d love to get dinner with you sometime.” He opened his mouth again and she almost rolled her eyes. “Actually, why don’t you come back to my place? I’ve heard your reputation, stud.” She grabbed his hand and dragged him away, glaring at the two women. They looked absolutely shocked. “Let’s go.”
Pulling Spencer with one hand and Henry’s leash in the other, JJ headed for her dorm. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the women walk away and slowed to a stop. She dropped Spencer’s hand, smiling at him.
“Sorry,” she sighed, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I saw them being assholes and just couldn’t take it.”
“Thanks! I’m trying to be more social, but it doesn’t always work.” Shrugging, Spencer just grinned at her. “I’ll get a girlfriend eventually. Or a boyfriend. Who knows!”
Laughing, JJ nodded and started drifting away. “You’ll meet someone,” she assured him. “Goodnight, Spencer.”
JJ flipped through the thick, bound deposition on her lap, eyes glazed as she tried to take in the information. She’d already read it before, several times actually, and she was just exhausted now. She really wanted to help Elle, but she felt like she was at an impasse. How much could she really do without giving up the alibi? Still, she had promised Elle that she would keep it, and she would.
A knock on the door startled her out of her daze, and JJ looked over at Henry, who lay on the bed beside her. His ears perked up, but otherwise he didn’t move. Deciding that it probably wasn’t a masked robber, especially because her dorm room was on the third floor and grad students weren’t known for having anything worth stealing, JJ relaxed.
The door opened, and Emily stuck her head in, looking around before stepping inside. “Hey, I was wondering if you’d finished that deposition yet.”
Closing the thick text, JJ held it out with a smile. “Here, take it. I’ve read it about 20 times.”
Emily walked over to her and took it. For a moment, she looked like she might say something, but then she thought better of it. She made it halfway across the room before turning around again.
“You know, JJ…” She clutched the deposition to her chest. “I still can’t believe you didn’t tell Barnes the alibi. She was really grilling you for it.”
Sighing, JJ pulled her knees to her chest and rested her arms on them. “It’s not my alibi to tell, Emily.”
Emily’s eyes widened. “I know. I’m not criticizing you. I think you’re very noble. You’re a good friend.” Now, her eyes narrowed. “To Elle. And Will.”
“Are you jealous?” JJ asked with a cheeky smile. She’d seen Emily glaring at Will before, but this was the first time she’d vocalized any sort of annoyance at the fact that JJ talked to other people.
“No!” Emily denied quickly and unconvincingly. “I’m just… You’re very pretty, and kind, and you get a lot of attention.”
“From people other than you, you mean.” Crossing her legs, JJ rested her elbows on her knees and leaned forward. She was only wearing comfy pajamas, but Emily’s cheeks still reddened. “You want me all for yourself?”
Stiffening, Emily’s eyes darted away and she took a small step backward. “I can’t ask for that,” she mumbled. “It wouldn’t be fair.”
The reality of their situation filled the room, making JJ’s shoulders slump. Emily wasn’t hers to tease, and JJ shouldn’t be so mean. The other woman was in a tough situation, one that JJ understood. With a sad half-smile, JJ leaned back against the wall.
Emily nodded stiffly and turned to leave, but she hesitated by the door. JJ could practically see her inner struggle, and she felt bad. It must be so frustrating to be closeted.
“Did you ever notice,” Emily started, glancing over her shoulder with an unreadable expression, “how Barnes never asks Hotch to bring her her coffee? She’s asked me at least ten times.”
“She thinks other women are helpless,” JJ replied. She reached out absently to pet Henry. “Somehow, she got to the top of the food chain and decided to punch down. She’s practically one of the men now, and men are helpless.”
Grinning, Emily turned around, happy that JJ was still willing to talk. “I know.” She dropped the deposition on JJ’s desk and sat on the edge of the bed. “Hotch doesn’t even do his own laundry.”
“I know! He has to have it sent out!”
The two women laughed together, leaning close. It felt nice to talk about something other than law or their feelings. Even though they were discussing Hotch, it didn’t feel like the conversation was about him. JJ tucked her hair behind her ear.
“It annoyed me so much at UPitt. Why does he wear so many suits?”
“Insecurity,” Emily answered immediately, rolling her eyes. “I wear suits because I look good in suits. He wears suits because he’s trying too hard.”
JJ just laughed at that, nodding in agreement. Henry shifted to his feet and wandered over to lay on JJ’s pillow. Taking advantage of the extra space, Emily took her shoes off and fully sat on the bed, leaning her shoulder against the wall to look at JJ. She knew she should tell Emily to leave, but JJ was enjoying the company. It was nice to gossip with a friend and relax.
“Did you know…” Biting her lip, Emily leaned in conspiratorially, smiling when JJ leaned forward, too. “When he first applied, he got wait-listed.”
Gasping, JJ’s hand shot out to grab Emily’s knee in surprise. “What? He did?”
“Yes!” Emily giggled, moving even closer. “His father had to make a call.”
“I bet he bombed his finals without me,” JJ laughed. Her eyes met Emily’s and she realized how close they were. “I always helped him too much.”
Emily swallowed hard, eyes dropping to JJ’s lips. “You’re too good. You’re going to be a great lawyer, without anyone’s help.”
Closing the distance between them, JJ kissed Emily, eyes fluttering shut. Just as she felt herself begin to melt into the kiss, she started to pull away, sure she’d made a mistake. Then, Emily’s hands gently cradled her face, keeping her in place. It was such an innocent kiss, but JJ found herself warm and soft.
Emily was safe. Despite all the reasons why they should be apart, JJ couldn’t stop the kiss. Emily had seen her at her worst, sobbing and shaking with anxiety, but she still believed in JJ. She was the only person who didn’t think JJ’s anxiety would stop her. With a happy sigh, JJ cupped Emily’s face, deepening the kiss.
After a moment, Emily pulled away, pressing their foreheads together. “I don’t want to be stressful,” she breathed, eyes searching JJ’s. “I want to take care of you. I want to be something positive in your life. We can’t do this right now.”
“I know,” JJ replied sadly. She brushed her thumb over Emily’s cheek. “Thank you. I want to take care of you, too. You promised me a talk when the case is over. I’m going to hold you to that.”