Emily recognizes it immediately.
It’s sitting on her desk, face down so that Emily can’t see the cursive scrawl she knows is on the front side, but the wax seal is enough for her to recognize the envelope as one of her mother’s. She doesn’t even bother flipping the envelope to make sure before she tears it open, extracting the item inside like it’s a ticking bomb.
It’s not a bomb, of course, but Emily finds herself wishing that it were one. Instead, it’s a folded piece of cardstock, her name written across the top in gold print. It’s a wedding invitation.
Of course her brother is getting married during her only break.
“You good?” Morgan sidles into the bullpen, a bag of Chinese takeout in his arms.
“No.” Emily’s voice is muffled from where she’s buried her face in her arms.
“Okay.” He sounds confused, but Emily doesn’t bother elaborating any further. “I got your favorite, if that helps.”
A styrofoam box appears in front of her, but Emily still doesn’t budge.
“They’re pork potstickers,” Morgan tries, staring when Emily just grunts in response. Never once in the years that Emily’s been at the BAU has Morgan seen her ignore potstickers.
He shakes his head and yells, “Food’s here!”, and not even a second later, the rest of the team is flying into the bullpen.
“Oh, thank god.” Rossi’s the first one to the food, rifling through the bag for his order. He pauses with his box half out of the bag when he catches sight of Emily. “Is she okay?”
“I don’t know,” Morgan says through a mouthful of noodles. “She was like this when I walked in.”
“Emily?” JJ leans against the edge of Emily’s desk, gently prodding Emily in the shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“No.” Emily blindly gropes for the invitation, slides it in JJ’s general direction when she finally manages to locate it on the table.
“Your brother’s getting married.” Hotch sounds vaguely confused. “If you’re worried about needing to leave, don’t. Winter break starts in a few days, anyway.”
“It’s not that,” Emily mumbles into her arms. “If I go, I have to be with my family.”
“Don’t go, then.” Morgan shrugs, twirling some lo mein on his fork. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“But he’s my brother,” Emily whines, sitting up. She blinks a few times to adjust to the light. “I can’t not go to my brother’s wedding.”
“I’m sure it’ll be okay.” Penelope pats her head consolingly as Emily cracks open a box of potstickers. “What’s the worst that can happen?”
“I’m going to get harassed.” Emily stabs a potsticker with her fork with a little more force than necessary. “My mother’s going to spend the entire trip trying to find me a boyfriend. ‘Emily, you’re already so old! You need a nice, rich man to take care of you!’” Emily gags dramatically.
“It can’t be that bad,” Rossi reasons, handing her a packet of soy sauce.
“Last year, my mother set me up with seven blind dates. One on each day.”
There’s a resounding “oh” around the room as Emily dumps the entire packet of soy sauce, and then another, onto her potstickers.
“That much sodium is not good for you, Emily.” Hotch frowns as she shoves a potsticker into her mouth. His frown deepens when Emily hisses at him.
“Around 2.3 million people die every year because of a high salt intake,” Reid supplies helpfully, even as he pours soy sauce all over his lo mein.
“Good.” Emily steals a piece of edamame off of JJ’s plate, pulling her hand back before JJ can slap it away. “Then I won’t have to go to the wedding.”
“Why don’t you take someone with you?” Penelope suggests.
Emily shifts slightly away from her and the piece of orange chicken she’s just picked up, which is teetering dangerously on her chopsticks. “There’s never been anyone to take with me.”
“I’d go with you, but I’ve got something else to do.” Morgan gives Reid a meaningful look, and Reid chokes on his food.
“Yeah, no way I’m spending my break doing that,” Rossi says, and adds sheepishly at Emily’s glare, “sorry.”
“Hotch?” Emily turns to him with pleading eyes, but Hotch is already shaking his head.
“I’m taking Jack on vacation. I wish I could help.”
“I can’t either, sweetcheeks.” Garcia pats her consolingly on her arm. “I’m sure you’re going to be okay.”
Emily groans, burying her face back into her arms. “You’re all dead to me.”
It’s quiet for a moment, and then, “I’ll go with you.”
Emily’s head jerks up at JJ’s voice. “What?”
“I’ll go with you,” JJ repeats, sets down her edamame so that she can steal one of Emily’s potstickers. For the first time, Emily doesn’t even try to stop her. “I have nowhere to be, anyway. And it might be fun.”
“Really?” Emily leaps from her chair and knocks over an empty carton of rice to launch herself at JJ. “You’re the best!”
And really, what can go wrong?
Well, not everything quite yet, but her goddamn pretzels won’t open, and if that isn’t a bad omen, Emily doesn’t know what is.
“Do you need help with that?” JJ asks from the driver's seat, turning to give Emily an amused look. They’ve only been driving for half an hour, but the sun’s already beginning to set, bathing the car in a soft light that makes JJ’s eyes glow. Emily can’t help but stare, quickly averting her gaze when JJ catches her eyes.
“No,” Emily replies stubbornly when she realizes that JJ’s still waiting for an answer.
“Okay.” JJ shrugs, and it goes quiet again as Emily struggles with the pretzels.
A few minutes later, Emily has given up on trying to open her pretzels and has moved to fiddling with the radio, landing on some soft, indie song that JJ recognizes from Emily’s personal playlist.
“We should probably go over a few points in our story,” JJ suggests when the song fades out. “We want to make this as believable as possible.”
“Our story?” Emily lifts both legs onto the seat so that she’s sitting cross-legged.
“The story of our relationship.” Emily stares blankly at JJ. “Remember? As of the moment we step into your house, we’re girlfriends.”
“Oh. Right.” Emily clears her throat, trying not to think about how good ‘we’re girlfriends’ sounded coming from JJ’s mouth. She goes back to fidgeting with the pretzels in her lap. “Our story.”
They pull up at a red light, and JJ reaches across the console, splitting the bag of pretzels open in a matter of seconds. Emily stares. JJ doesn’t smirk outwardly, but there’s a hint of smugness in her voice that makes Emily’s heart jump.
“So, I was thinking we met at work? That’s pretty obvious, so neither of us can forget.”
“Classic office romance. I like it.” Emily smirks, reaching for a pretzel just as JJ starts the car. She barely manages to keep the pretzels from flying out of the bag.
“And I asked you out first.”
“Why do you get to ask me out first?” Emily complains. “I’m clearly the one who would make the first move.” JJ raises an eyebrow at her, and Emily sighs in defeat. “Okay, fine.”
“Pretzel, please. I can’t use my hands while I’m driving, Em,” JJ reasons patiently, if not a little exasperatedly.
“Right.” Emily blushes, reaching for a pretzel and holding it to JJ's mouth.
JJ accepts it with a smirk, brushing her lips against Emily’s palm for a second too long, and Emily’s cheeks darken even further. “As much as I think it’s adorable, you can’t go blushing like that every time I do something like that.”
Emily can only hum in agreement, her brain a pile a mush because JJ’s just called her adorable, and something in the back of Emily’s mind tells her that it really shouldn’t be affecting her this much.
Then again, JJ’s always had an effect on her.
Emily’s so screwed.
“We’re going to have to go in eventually,” JJ says patiently, her arms folded on top of the steering wheel.
“I know, I know.” Emily bites her lip, carefully avoiding JJ’s eyes. She kicks at the empty box of takeout at her feet. “Just… give me a second.”
“You’ve been saying that for the past ten minutes.” JJ sighs softly, reaches out to grab Emily’s hand. “It’s okay. I’m right here.”
“Okay.” Emily steels herself, ignoring the butterflies that have formed in her stomach at JJ’s touch. She gives JJ’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Okay.”
Emily steps out of the car, tugs her coat tighter around herself as the cold wind hits her. The sun’s gone, now, the sky a mixture of blues and oranges and pinks, and it would be beautiful if Emily weren’t so fixated on the house looming in front of them.
“This is your house?” JJ stares incredulously, her eyes wide.
It’s not a surprise that Emily is wealthy, but this is a whole new level of rich that JJ didn’t even know existed. The house is big enough that what Rossi calls his mansion resembles more of a shed than anything else. JJ makes a mental note to tease Rossi about it next time he mentions it. “It’s gorgeous.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Emily shrugs halfheartedly, blinking up at the house.
It looks exactly the same as when she’d left all those years ago. Even the door knocker is the same, Emily notes with mild surprise, as they approach the front door. She swings the knocker three times, stepping back when the door opens. The man that answers is wearing a pressed suit and a look of utter surprise to see her there.
“Miss. Prentiss,” he says, and even now, with his hair greying out and poise stiff from too many years of work, he hasn’t changed, either.
Emily offers him a weak smile, hands tucked into the pockets of her coat. “Abraham. It’s been too long.”
“We weren’t expecting you,” he says, even as he holds the door open for them and takes their coats. “Ms. Prentiss is in her study.”
Emily nods a thanks, her shoulders stiffening and fingers twining together at the mention of her mother. She still has the same effect she’d had on teenage Emily, and it’s disconcerting the way the familiar need to impress bubbles up in her stomach.
“It’s okay. I’m right here.” JJ gently loosens Emily’s fingers from where she's locked them together and weaves her fingers through Emily’s. “I’m right here.”
JJ doesn’t know what to expect when they walk into the living room. A Coraline, other-mother type, maybe, but there’s only a petite brunette in the room. The infamous Elizabeth Prentiss.
“Mrs. Prentiss? Your daughter’s here.”
Elizabeth rises with a grace that JJ’s only ever seen Emily exude, striding across the room to meet them in sure, strong steps.
“Emily.” Elizabeth greets her with a kiss on each cheek. “I didn’t know you were coming.”
Emily smiles softly, releasing JJ’s hand to hug her mother. “I’m here for Eli’s wedding.”
“Ah.” Elizabeth smiles, stepping back. “I’m sure he’ll be glad you’re here. Speaking of which, I have multiple suitors that are perfectly fit for you and are willing to accompany you to the wedding, Emily. I’m sure one of them will be to your liking.”
Even with Emily’s back to her, JJ can see the way Emily immediately stiffens. Emily hadn’t been lying when she’d mentioned her mother’s quest to find her a man.
“Actually, mother,” JJ doesn’t know if she’s ever heard Emily sound quite so nervous, “this is my girlfriend, JJ.”
As far as first meetings go, it’s not entirely the worst that JJ’s ever had.
“Nice to meet you.” JJ smiles warmly, holds out a hand. Elizabeth looks at her as if she’s just offered her a dead rat, and JJ immediately pulls her hand back, wiping her sweaty palms against the material of her jeans. “Emily’s told me so much about you.”
“And she’s told me nothing about you.” Elizabeth directs her gaze towards Emily, her head tilted to the side. “I was not aware that you liked women.” Emily flinches at the venom in Elizabeth’s voice, and JJ reaches forward, lacing their fingers together in a way that’s quickly becoming familiar.
Emily squeezes her hand, swallows and lifts her head up to meet Elizabeth’s eyes. “I do.”
“Hm.” Elizabeth tilts her head to the side, her eyes darting down to their interlocked hands, and JJ reflexively tightens her grip, tugs Emily a little closer. “How did you two meet?” The question itself is innocuous enough, but JJ’s familiar with the tone of her voice, the way she's trying to catch them in a lie. It’s the same voice Emily uses on unsubs in interrogations.
“We work together,” JJ says when Emily doesn’t answer. She thinks it’s a miracle that she manages to get the words out without stuttering. “We clicked immediately.”
She reaches for Emily, uses their linked hands to tug her closer and wrap an arm around her waist. Emily immediately melts against her.
Elizabeth stares for a moment longer, her eyes narrowed. Then, “I’ll have Abraham set up a room for you. Most of the rooms are not available, so you’ll have to share your old room. But if you’re together,” Elizabeth’s lip curls in distaste, “I’m sure that won’t be a problem.”
And JJ thinks, oh, shit.
“I’m so sorry,” Emily blurts out the moment they’re alone in her room. “I thought we were going to be staying in one of the guest rooms with a pull-out, and I didn’t even think about… this.”
“This” being the one, queen-sized bed in the room.
It’s the first time they have had to share a bed. It’s a wonder, really, that out of all the seedy motels and five-star resorts that they’ve shared on cases, not a single one has had only one bed for the two of them.
JJ wants to laugh at how clichéd this entire thing is. The pretend dating, the evil mother, the one bed. She’s seen this movie enough times to know that she really should be ending this trip with a new girlfriend.
If she didn’t know any better, of course.
“I can take the floor,” Emily offers, setting down her duffel bag. “I’m sure there are extra blankets somewhere.”
This is the part in the movie where JJ protests, argues that the floor is too uncomfortable and the bed is big enough for both of them. “We can share the bed.”
“Are you sure?” Emily bites her lip, shifting her feet. “I’ve already put you through so much trouble just bringing you here. Giving you a comfortable place to sleep is the least I can do.”
“Emily, I’m here because I want to be.” JJ smiles softly and finds that she completely means it. “We’re going to share the bed, like two, able adults. Okay?”
“Okay,” Emily agrees reluctantly. “I’m going to take a shower while you settle in.”
It’s almost like they’re just on another case. It’s routine the way JJ always lets Emily shower first, even if JJ has to actively ignore the sweet scent of Emily's shampoo that lingers in the bathroom, and Emily always lets JJ use her blow dryer because JJ can never remember to bring hers.
When JJ comes out of the shower, Emily’s already in bed, a book open in her lap. It’s a familiar sight -- after years of sharing rooms, JJ knows that reading, preferably reading a classic in some foreign language, is Emily’s go-to way to unwind after a hard case.
“Orgail et Prejuges?" JJ asks, climbing into the bed. She’s reading off the cover, and she knows that her middle school French teacher would’ve found her accent absolutely repulsive. Maybe that’s why she failed out of French.
“Orgueil et Préjugés,” Emily corrects with a soft smile, and it should be illegal how quickly the butterflies surge in JJ’s stomach at Emily’s French. “Pride and Prejudice.”
JJ hums softly, watching as Emily stretches, her back arching and the hem of her tank top riding up just enough to reveal a strip of pale skin. JJ swallows, carefully shoving that thought out of her head.
Emily tosses her book onto the nightstand, reaching across to turn the lights off. JJ lets her eyes adjust to the dark as Emily slips under the covers.
“Thank you for doing this.” Emily turns onto her side so that they’re facing each other.
“Of course,” JJ murmurs. “I wouldn’t want to spend my break any other way.”
JJ can barely make out Emily’s silhouette in the dark, but she knows that Emily is smiling from the way she lets out a happy little hum. “Goodnight, Jayje.”