Title: I’m Not Strong Enough For This (Hold Me Until I Am)
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Pairing(s): Jennifer ‘JJ’ Jareau/Emily Prentiss, Jennifer ‘JJ’ Jareau/William LaMontagne
Summary: Emily Prentiss is a lot of things, particularly: everything you’ve wanted in life.
Note(s): JJ’s POV. Starts from the end and works its way back from the beginning. The inner romantic in me strikes again! Also: I’ve tried to make Will into a decent person, because before he became JJ’s canon love interest, he was a pretty good guy.
Word Count: 9,400
Warning(s): Spoilers for Seasons 2 through 4.
Emily Prentiss is the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen.
Even in a simple black turtleneck, jeans, and boots that drip snow onto the carpet of your apartment door, Emily Prentiss still takes your breath away. You don’t understand why.
You understand even less when Emily carefully reaches forward to meet Henry’s questing fingers, pale digits long and elegant against his.
“Hey there,” she whispers, leaning down to reach eye level with your baby boy, “How’re you doing?”
Henry tilts his head as Emily’s velvet smooth voice rumbles through his chest, and he gives her a big, wide toothless smile, one that lights up his bright blue eyes. Hand patting against the soft skin between Emily’s thumb and forefinger, he gurgles when Emily gently grasps it, holding it in place.
“He looks just like you, you know.”
Emily’s eyes on you makes your heart flutter, the same way her husky voice makes you breathless, makes your body tremble in a way that it never really has before. Swallowing, you watch as she straightens until she stands a few inches taller than you, warm and solid in the light of your doorway.
You want to cry as Emily looks at you with a gaze you’d only ever caught brief glimpses of: tender and warm and devoted. Heartbeats jerky in your chest, you let out a choked laugh before whispering, “He is, isn’t he? If only he could look like you, too.”
It’s a beautiful admission. You’d never have imagined being able to tell her this – that sometimes, you lie awake at night and wish Henry had dark brown hair, a more defined nose – but Emily hears you and understands. Hands reaching to smooth your hair back over your shoulders, Emily leans down, soft and slow, letting her fingertips trail delicately along your hairline just beneath your ears. It takes eons, eternities even, before her lips finally meet yours. It feels like your world’s complete.
Henry gurgles between the two of you, pudgy hands patting your faces, and Emily breaks away to laugh and press a kiss against the baby smoothness of his cheek.
“Don’t like your mommy hogging all the attention, do you?” Emily asks, and there’s tears and laughter in her voice all it once. It breaks your heart the way she looks at you and Henry: like there’s nothing more she’ll ever need, like you’re all she’s ever asked for. You’re probably looking at her like that, too, and it embarrasses you but you can’t bring yourself to care.
Emily is just too beautiful.
“Emily Prentiss, I think I love you,” you whisper, words heartfelt and trembling. You watch as awe spreads across her pale features, as something deep within her lights up, and her lips split into a smile so wide, you’re afraid her face might break.
“Well, good,” she chokes, “because I’m planning on being around for a while, and I’d hope that you care enough to let me stay.”
You laugh as she gathers you into her long arms, smothering Henry between the two of you. Tumbling backward into your apartment, you revel in Emily’s warmth, in her laughter chiming with Henry’s right beside your ear.
“Never leave me?” you ask. It’s painfully insecure and you’ve always hated being this weak, but Emily means so much more to you than keeping up a crumbling façade, “Promise me you’ll never leave?”
She looks at you, really looks at you, and your breath hitches when she says, “I promise. How could I ever dream of leaving you, Jennifer Jareau?”
Thinking back on everything that’s happened, on all the things you’ve both said and done, you smile and think this has been a long time coming.
Emily Prentiss is cold and aloof and silly, all at once.
You don’t know if you should laugh or keep your distance from her. She’s absolutely intoxicating, and every time she looks at you, you can see something flickering in the calm chestnut of her eyes that makes you think maybe she’s more than what you’re bargaining for.
You lean back in your chair and ask, “That’s pretty much it for protocol. Do you have any questions?”
She fumbles with the pen you’ve given her and you watch as the small metal stick bounces from her tapered fingers onto the ground. Cursing under her breath, Emily reaches down to retrieve it and places it awkwardly on your desk, shaking her head. “No. You’ve explained everything quite well. Thank you, Agent Jareau.”
“Just Jennifer. Or JJ, rather.” You hesitate at the look on her face, matching yours in puzzlement as you trip over yourself to explain, “Everyone on the team calls me JJ. It’s just the way it is.”
Emily cants her head to the side and smiles slowly, lips quirking in a way that makes your heart thump, “Okay. Anything else I need to know about the team?”
“I’m sure you’ll figure out their quirks when you meet them,” you hedge instead of answering. Emily nods and smiles though you can’t help but think that when she asked about the team, she really meant you. It’s baffling, considering that when she’s not smiling, Emily has a look of slight disdain on her face that makes you think she’s trying not to like you.
“If there’s anything else you need,” you decide to wrap up, closing her personnel file and handing her a couple of information packets, “please feel free to swing by my office and ask. I’m always available, and if I’m not, I’m sure we can figure out a time to make things work.”
“Of course,” Emily says, standing up and brushing her skirt straight. Her legs are long and pale beneath the charcoal of her stockings and you can’t help but wonder if they’re as soft as they look, “Thanks again, Jennifer. I mean, JJ.” She winces, “Sorry.”
The way she says your name makes your heart skip a beat. You wave a hand, slightly flushed, “Don’t worry about it. It was nice meeting you, Emily.”
“And you, JJ.”
The effort she puts into using your nickname only makes you wonder why using your given name comes so easily to her. As she leaves, you try not to think about what it might sound like if she whispered it to you in the dark.
Emily Prentiss is asleep, and her hand is warm against yours as the two of you sit together on the jet.
She hadn’t meant to put it there – her arm rests against yours only because her muscles have slackened in her sleep– but it’s there now and it’s distracting. You’ve read the same line four times and Hotch is beginning to glance at you in the absence of your page-turning. He’d ask if you’ve spotted anything interesting if Emily wasn’t sleeping right next to you.
Sitting with your eyes straining not to glance at the brunette, you think that Emily is a conundrum you’ve no hope to solve. She vacillates between wanting to know you, and not wanting to care. She keeps her distance from you in so far as someone who is desperate to be near you can, and each time she draws herself in and pushes herself away, you catch a glimpse of a wondrous woman who could be everything you’ve asked for, and one that’s too scared to try.
You want her so badly. It terrifies you.
It terrifies you even more when, in the haze of losing Reid and – murdering in cold blood – defending yourself against three dogs, Emily becomes the only thing you can centre yourself on. The world slips in and out of your grasp when she’s not there, and at night, you’re too desperate to sleep. You sit at the kitchen table in the dark and try not to shake out of your skin.
When Emily walks in, you’re so far gone you don’t even recognize it’s her.
“JJ?” Emily’s voice is low and careful, like she’s approaching a skittish animal instead of a seasoned FBI agent. You hate having to be treated like a victim, “JJ, it’s late. What are you doing sitting here?”
You flinch as the lights come on, face hurting with the motion, “Nothing. Did I wake you?”
Emily slowly pulls out the chair across from you and sits down, easing in as quietly as she can before moving her indecipherable gaze onto you. Her eyes are silent but warm, and you find yourself calming in the seconds she takes before answering, “No. I was actually just coming for a glass of water.”
The silence between you is heavy, like she knows that the longer she waits, the more you’ll want to break it and maybe tell her what’s wrong. It’s a tactic no-one else has ever understood to use, and it makes you want to hold her and hit her all at once for figuring you out well enough to use it. She looks at you with her hands playing on the tabletop. You look back, shaking.
“I’m too scared to sleep,” you finally whisper, words cracked and broken, “Every time I close my eyes, I see those dogs. And that body.” The admission hurts you like a physical blow and your eyes tear up when you add, “I’m so worried about Reid.”
Emily sits and digests this, brown eyes dark. Eventually, in a slow, considerate motion, she moves to press the tips of her fingers to the back of one of your hands. You think she can probably feel your frenzied heartbeat under the pads of her pale digits, and you imagine that you can feel the ghost of hers too, trying to calm yours down. You breathe in and out, in and out, gazing down at the contrast of her skin against yours. Finally, Emily moves to speak.
“It’s going to be okay, JJ. We’ll find him.”
She doesn’t tell you that it’s not your fault, nor does she try to make you stop thinking about it. Neither are things that you want to hear, and somehow, Emily has only said the things that you absolutely need to keep going. You look at her sitting stoically across the table from you and a tear slips down your cheek, “Thank you.”
She sits motionless for moments before finally whispering, “It’s going to be okay,” again, taking her hand away and slowly standing up. Hesitating, she reaches over and gently wipes the tear from your cheek with a sweep of her thumb. Her eyes bright and indecipherable. “Get some sleep, Jennifer.”
The silhouette of her back retreating down the hall as she flicks off the lights is stark yet comforting. With the lingering heat of her touch on your hand, you manage an hour or two of hazy sleep. When night falls again, you’ve found Reid.
It’s not until you get home that you realize Emily is starting to avoid you.
Emily Prentiss is sitting across the bar with the team, drinking. William LaMontagne is trying to get your attention.
Will is a decent man, despite being slightly on the short side and sometimes ignorant of when you want to be left alone. He tries his best to keep you entertained and his bright blue eyes and stubble-roughened face aren’t hard to look at. When he sits down beside you on a bar stool and orders a whiskey, you give him a polite smile before returning your gaze to the back of Emily’s head.
“Hey there, JJ,” he twangs. His accent emphasizes the first syllable of your nickname and you find yourself mentally comparing it to the smooth velvet Emily weaves your name with. You find him severely lacking.
It’s the end of the case and everyone is tired, you more so than anyone else. When Morgan suggests drinks at the bar you staked out the night before, you agree so quickly that Hotch looks at you, doubtful, but he seems to understand when you look at him and nods anyway. The team makes their way to the bar, and you settle on a bar stool halfway across the room from them.
Emily is purposefully sitting with her back to you. You’re too exhausted to care that Will is the lead detective on this case and you’re the FBI agent leaving soon. Brushing your hair back, you half-heartedly say, “Congratulations on closing the case.”
Will inclines his head, a gesture particularly boyish when he glances up and has to look through his long eyelashes at you. You think it makes him look vaguely feminine, “I didn’t really do much. Most of it was your team’s work.”
He’s humble but elated, you can tell. His eyes shine bright and a faint smile tugs at his lips. You wish his downplayed cheer could grow and become contagious, maybe spread a smile to your lips, but your body is just too fatigued and your mind too clouded. Will studies you carefully as he sips at his whiskey. When he sets the glass down in front of him, he looks as though he’s figured some part of you out.
“So,” he starts, nice and slow, “What’s going on between you and Agent Prentiss?”
The question takes you by surprise and you blink at him as he stares back at you, blue eyes calm but curious. The words you try to think of get stuck in your throat, and all you can do is choke out, “Nothing. We’re just colleagues.” After a moment’s consideration, you carefully add, “Why?”
Will looks at you as though it’s obvious before smiling faintly to himself, shrugging, “Nothing. Just wondering. After all, if you weren’t affected by my manly charms, I thought maybe you preferred a whole different kind of charm instead.”
The last part is said with a roguish grin and a playful glint in his eyes that says he’s not entirely serious. If anyone else had said it, you would have taken great offence. The fact that Will looks soft and inviting and slightly puppy dog-like as he leans closer to you makes you more accepting than you’d normally be. “Don’t think you’re all that special, Detective LaMontagne. Maybe I’m not susceptible to your charm because you’re just not my kind of man, not because you are a man.”
He laughs, warm and happy. You find yourself smiling slightly at the sound of it. “Fair enough,” he concedes, nudging at you to take a sip of your drink as lifts up his own, “I guess all the other ladies here are just flatterers. I’m glad to have met an honest woman like you.”
You’re inclined to tell him that he’s the flatterer, but the way he smiles at you and tries to make you smile sticks in your mind, so you let it slide. Obliging him and taking a sip of the scotch you’ve let sit in front of you untouched, you shiver at the warmth of it sliding down your throat. Will chuckles at you good-naturedly.
“You drink a pretty hard drink for an uptight girl,” he starts, words warm and teasing, “You’d fit in well with the people around here.”
“What?” you question, “Girls from Pennsylvania can’t drink hard liqueur?”
“No,” Will shakes his head, “I’m saying girls from Pennsylvania shouldn’t be able to drink hard liqueur. You sure you’re actually from up there and not secretly a New Orleans girl, ma chère?”
“I’m sure,” you laugh, elbowing Will as he wiggles his eyebrows at you, “I’ve got manners and culture, in case you haven’t noticed.”
“Oh, ouch!” Will cries, slapping a hand to his chest like you’ve just shot him, “That was like a knife to the heart, chére! Oh, it hurts. You’re killing me, JJ. You’re killing me.”
“Good riddance,” you snort. Will starts to lean over you, pretending he’s dying, and you can’t help but giggle at his antics even as you catch Reid turning to look at you, attracted by the laughter. Will’s warm words in your ear are cheerful, a harsh contrast to the drawn, tired looks of your team. You turn away and try to forget about them.
An hour later, you feel a hand tap you gently on the shoulder as you laugh at one of Will’s jokes. When you look up, Emily is staring down at you.
“Coming back to the hotel?” the brunette asks, face meticulously bland and expressionless. She gives Will a polite nod before turning to concentrate on you again, and you find it hard to swallow.
“No, I don’t think so.”
Emily blinks at you, allowing a sliver of question to slip across her face before closing her features again. You lean over to rest an arm on Will’s shoulder, “I’m staying here with Detective LaMontagne for a bit longer. You can head back without me.”
Emily stands in silence for a bit longer before nodding, buttoning up her jacket and wishing you and Will goodnight. As she walks out the door, closely followed by Reid and Hotch and Morgan, you turn back to Will to find him with a curious look on his face.
“Why’d you do that?” he asks, placing a warm hand on yours and gently pulling your arm from his shoulder. When he puts your hand back in your lap, you feel like you’ve been rebuffed. He lets go of your hand.
“No reason. I thought you’d be better company. I can leave if you want me to.”
Will’s quick to refuse and he takes your hand in his again, eyes imploring, “No, stay. I just needed my ego stroked.” He looks down at your touching fingers before looking back up at you again and smiling, “It’s a rare occasion for a beautiful woman like you to stay behind with a man like me.”
“Maybe you’re more special than you think,” you reply, words suddenly lacking the playful quality you’d wanted them to have. You clear your throat and squeeze his fingers in yours, “Do you have someplace quieter we can sit down in, maybe talk a bit more?”
He understands your drift, smiling warmly and taking your remaining hand in his, “Yeah. Of course. Just let me take care of the bill.”
As he gives your hands a last squeeze and stands up to pay the bartender, you look down at where your skin was touching and wonder what you’re doing.
Later, as Will carefully kisses you and runs his fingertips along your collarbone, you wonder if Emily is sleeping, and whether she’s even thought of you at all.
Emily Prentiss is hiding in her apartment with a two inch gash on her forehead, and you’re standing outside, wondering if it’s even appropriate for you to be here.
Shifting from foot to foot, you stare at the golden numbering beside her door and ponder whether leaving will make you the smarter person, or if you’ll regret not checking up on her in the end. Breathing in deeply, you summon whatever courage it is that lets you do your job and rap your knuckles against the white wood.
Emily answers the door in a faded Yale sweater and jeans, the gauze bandage on her head blending into the abnormal pallor of her skin, “JJ?”
“Hi,” you answer, fidgeting, “Mind if I come in?”
Emily steps back and lets you slip into the front hallway of her apartment, closing the door behind you and taking your coat. Hanging it up, she slowly turns to watch you take off your shoes. When you’re done, her face is expectant.
“What are you doing here?”
You roll up the sleeves of your shirt and glance at her forehead, deciding to put that question off when she stiffens under your gaze. Instead, you clear your throat and hedge, “We all kind of left in a hurry when we got back. I never got a chance to talk to you.”
There are only two things that you’re dying to talk to Emily about, not counting the odd tension between the two of you and her decidedly purposeful avoidance. One is how she’s faring after her encounter with the two by four. The other is a more delicate matter, one that Emily already anticipates.
“You want to talk about my resignation.”
You smile sadly as she frowns and crosses her arms across her chest, sighing, “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
Emily sighs again and gives a kind of hopeless shrug before moving to the couch. Sinking into one of its plush cushions, she gestures sharply with a hand as you sit down beside her, “How could I have told any of you? I was new. I still am. With my connections, it wouldn’t be hard to think that I’d side with Strauss.”
You look at Emily as she runs a hand through her hair, careful not to touch the tender wound on her forehead. You have the sudden urge to reach over and press your fingertips against it, to worry over her a little. You bite your lip and reply, “That’s not true, Emily. How could you think that of us? You’re part of the team: we trust you enough to know you would never side with Strauss.”
Maybe it’s the vehement way you say it. Maybe it’s the way you lean forward, eyes wide and imploring as you try to make her believe you. Somehow, Emily finds it in her to accept your words as the truth and sort of sags when you finish, relief in her eyes. “Thank you, JJ.”
Her words remind you of Georgia, when she said the right thing and you thanked her. You wonder how between then and now, so much has changed to leave the underlying current of whatever it is between the two of you muddied and confused. Deciding that now is the time to be honest, you clasp your hands in your lap and gently murmur, “Why couldn’t you tell me?”
Emily seems to hold her breath when you ask this, like she sort of expected the question but didn’t expect you to ask it. Looking at her, she looks like a deer caught in the headlights, eyes wide and skittering, “JJ…”
“I know,” you shrug, watching as she tries to come up with the words, “You think you’re new and you can’t talk to any of us. I thought we, at least, were over that. You helped me in Georgia. Why wouldn’t you come to me, now?”
“Jennifer…” Emily tries again, voice cracking at your name the same way yours cracked when you said ‘Georgia’. Your heart gives a funny beat when Emily seems to curl into herself. “It’s not that simple.”
“Then explain it to me,” you say, giving in and reaching for her hand. Resting your warm fingers against her cool ones, you press and try to convey your need for her to let you in, your need to understand, “I’m not going to judge you. Try me.”
Emily seems to ponder the truth in your words as she sits there, letting you touch her but not reciprocating. It seems like an eternity is passing as you wait and you wonder what she’s thinking, what she’s weighing in her mind as her brown eyes flash with hesitance. Her answer, when it comes, takes you by surprise.
“I couldn’t have told anyone, Jennifer. Least of all you.”
The way she says it is apologetic. The sadness in Emily’s eyes stops the hurt in you before it can well up and you’re only confused when you ask, “Why?”
“Why?” Emily repeats, gesturing helplessly as she shakes her head. “JJ, you have no idea what you do to people, do you.”
A warm flush washes through you at Emily’s words and your cheeks are pink as you blink at her, baffled. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Jennifer, you –” Emily stops, choking on her words. Pausing to look down at your hand clasping hers on the sofa between you two, the brunette finally looks up to say, “You would have tried to stop me, JJ. You would have tried to convince me to stay. And as stupid a thing as that is, I would have, because it’s you.” Chuckling sadly and pulling her hand away, Emily whispers, “That’s what you do to me, Jennifer. I couldn’t have told you.”
It feels like your world has turned upside down and you’re falling away from everything you thought was real, universal truths and basics you took for granted slipping between your fingers. Emily looks at you, watches as a wash of emotion floods across your face. The sad smile she has on her lips stays as you finally settle on awestruck bewilderment and blindly grope for her hand, squeezing tightly, “Emily, I wouldn’t have – ”
“You would have,” she interrupts, running the tips of her free fingers across the back of your hand and revelling in the warmth of your skin, “I would have said yes, too, knowing that it would have made my life hell. I don’t blame you. I blame myself for being weak.”
“You’re not weak,” you protest, thinking on how fragile you are in comparison to this stalwart woman sitting in front of you, fighting a battle you hadn’t been aware was raging until now, “Emily, you’re the strongest person I know.”
“Jennifer, you truly are amusing,” Emily replies, her chuckles wry. Sighing, the older woman seems to shy away from you as she quietly admits, “That’s why I’ve been staying away from you, you know. I couldn’t stand to face you, knowing that I was the tool being used to possibly end your career.”
You glance at her, heart in your throat, “I… I thought it was because of something else,” you answer honestly. Emily quirks an eyebrow at you and you continue, “I don’t know… you seemed to pull away right after Georgia. I thought maybe you… maybe your opinion of me changed after you saw me like that.”
“No,” Emily says loudly, shaking her head, “That’s not it at all, JJ. God. I think the world of you.” She looks at you meaningfully, “I really do.”
“I think quite highly of you, too,” you shyly reply, blushing at Emily’s vehemence.
Smiling, the older woman leans back on the couch and watches you out of the corner of her eye, waiting. After a few moments, you finally give in and ask, “How’s your head?”
The smile Emily lets out lights up her face, “A lot better now, with you here.”
“Stop trying to flatter me, Emily Prentiss,” you reply, shooting her a mock disapproving look. She laughs, before grimacing as the motion makes her head hurt.
“Okay, maybe I’m not doing as stellar as I would hope in your presence.”
You’re instantly worried and leaning over her, running your fingers gently over the gauze and marvelling at how soft her skin and hair are when you accidentally run your touch past the bandage. Sitting back and pressing your thighs together, you motion for her to lie down.
“I don’t think so,” Emily starts, looking doubtful, “JJ…”
“Come on,” you wheedle. You’re wearing jeans that are soft and comfortable and Emily looks damned tired as she sits there, eyeing your lap with a crumbling resolve. Eventually, when she looks up to find you looking pleadingly at her with an expression that resembles that of a kicked puppy, she sighs and gives in.
Lowering herself onto her side as slowly as she can, Emily manoeuvres herself on the couch until she’s lying down with her head pillowed on your lap. You think maybe this is a little too non-platonic for your start back from the rocky beginnings of a friendship, but you pay it no mind as you gently brush Emily’s hair away from her face.
“Sleep. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.”
You expect her to protest, maybe give you a sleepy grumble or something, but there’s no reply. Looking down, you realize she’d been so tired, she’d fallen asleep only moments after lying down. You smile. She looks so beautiful, lying on your lap.
Looking up, you admire the Capitol, bright against the night sky.
Emily Prentiss is holding your hair back from your face as you dry heave into the toilet.
It feels like your stomach is going to come out of your mouth as you retch again, clear liquid dripping out instead of chunks of partially digested food. That came out when you first started throwing up, half an hour ago.
Emily has been standing behind you with one hand holding your hair and the other rubbing soothing circles along your back since the beginning. You’d been fine when you’d been with the team, heading back to the hotel in the cramped Suburban that smelt like despair and burnt meat. You thought you saw Reid gagging a bit and it had triggered something in you, too, but you’d held it until you’d gotten back to the hotel. You thought you’d been okay until you stepped foot into the lobby, and all of a sudden, every internal organ in you rebelled. You ran for your room, not caring that your team could still see you.
You hadn’t noticed that Emily had followed you until you fell into your bathroom and she’d gathered your hair up and out of the way, grimacing as you clutched at the toilet and retched. You would have been embarrassed at having to be taken care of by her, at having her see you like this, but you felt so horrible as you vomited everything in you and more that you couldn’t bring yourself to care.
When it’s finally over, you’re unnaturally pale and your breath smells like stomach acid.
“Feeling a bit better?” Emily asks, flushing the toilet and sitting down beside you on the cold tile floor.
You shake your head, feeling like it’s going to fall off as you try to move it atop your already trembling body. Emily brushes your hair back from your eyes with a clean hand and looks at you worriedly when you rasp, “I don’t know. I feel like I’m empty but I need to throw up again.”
“You’ve nothing else in you,” Emily quietly replies, frowning. Watching you carefully, she hedges a cautious, “Do you really need to throw up again?”
“No, I don’t think so. I just… No.”
Emily nods, like she understands what you mean. Leaning back, she stares off at the far corner of the bathroom. You watch her, picturing her mind filing away each and every urge she has to throw up in a filing cabinet and slamming the door shut so she can remain here, calm and composed.
“How do you do it?” you ask, resisting the urge to try and spit the taste of bile out of your mouth, “How are you still okay, after all this?”
Emily cants her head to the side and glances at you. Eyes brown and dark, she answers, “I’m not. I just hide it better than most.” Pausing to think, she grimaces before adding, “All that compartmentalization crap, remember? Sometimes, I wish I could just throw up like the rest of you.”
You’re taken aback by this and your face shows it. It’s so contradictory to what you’re thinking, wishing you could be more like her: composed, poised and in control. But then, maybe all that comes with a price, the price of being unable to express what needs to be let out. You wonder if maybe you’d be willing to pay that price just to not have to suffer through the worse bout of retching you’ve ever had in your entire life.
Emily seems to know what you’re thinking when she says, “It’s not always fun being the one in control. Everyone expects you to be okay, even when you’re not. In the end, no-one can tell if you’ve cracked yet.”
You ponder her words as your stomach starts to settle, uncomfortably empty, and you realize she has a point. Would Hotch still watch over her as carefully as he did if you were always okay with everything, no matter how traumatizing? Your job requires a bit of empathizing: understanding the local police detectives and sheriffs, the victims and their families. Emily compartmentalizes well, but you can’t help but wonder if maybe, one day, she’ll be unable to be as understanding as she is now because of it.
“It’s scary, isn’t it?” Emily asks, reading your thoughts off your face as easily as you would words off a page. You nod, too drained to lie. “I envy you and your ability to be compassionate.”
“You’re compassionate too,” you whisper, shaking your head, “Especially with children.”
You remember Carrie, alone and lost and looking to Emily for guidance. You remember the soft look in Emily’s eyes as she talked to the girl, the hurt look when Hotch questioned her reasoning for offering to take her in.
“I guess I am,” Emily replies, shrugging, “But you’re compassionate with everyone.”
It’s idle conversation as you sit in the bathroom, waiting for the last of the nausea to subside. You try not to think about the fact that you’ve eaten a part of your victim tonight, that you’ve digested the woman you’d been looking for. The thought brings a dry heave to your mouth and you gag. Emily immediately moves toward you, arms soothing and warm.
“Don’t think about it,” she murmurs, rubbing her hand up and down your curved spine, “Think about something else. Think about Will.”
That takes you by surprise. Head whipping up, you narrowly avoid hitting your head against hers and the motion makes you nauseous from its speed. Waiting for a moment to let it settle, you finally squeak, “Will? Why would I be thinking about him?”
Emily gives you a wry look, “Don’t try to deny it. You’re good at lying, but you can’t hide that kind of thing from us for too long.”
“Us?” You stare at Emily, horrified, “The whole team knows?”
Emily rolls her eyes before replying, “We’re profilers, JJ. We’re trained to notice the details. And it’s not that big of a deal, anyway.”
You sit back, gaping at Emily before realizing that she's right. It really isn’t that big of a deal. So what if you’ve been seeing William LaMontagne? It’s only been two weekends, and you’re still so fresh, so awkward since that first night months ago in New Orleans. You mostly sit around drinking beer and talking, maybe squeezing in an occasional kiss. Nothing’s happened that means much to you, even with the effort Will’s putting in.
Watching Emily, you can’t help but wonder why the way she says it, it seems like she’s trying to make it not mean so much to her, too.
After a few moments of silence, Emily starts to look uncomfortable under your gaze. You blink when she shifts back and says, “It’s okay, JJ. None of us are judging you.”
What she says unsettles you. Despite wanting to trust your team and knowing that they’re above such petty things, you can’t help but worry about what they think. Would Hotch stop trusting you as implicitly as he does because you’re no longer as focused, no longer as objective as you could be? Would your judgement toward cases and treatment of victims change, now that you’ve a new view on the intricacies of a relationship? All these doubts weigh heavily on your mind, except you know that this has been an issue since long before Will.
Sensing your disquiet and deciding to change the subject, Emily clears her throat and asks, “Are you feeling better now? Do you need me to stay the night?”
You want to say yes, to keep Emily close to you, but there’s no legitimate reason for that as your stomach has settled and you think you can close your eyes without picturing yourself eating human body parts, “No, I’m okay. You should go and get some sleep.”
Emily nods and starts to stand up, dusting the bathroom grime from her backside and tugging her pants straight. “Okay. Well, I’m just down the hall if you need me.” Hesitating, she glances at you before gently touching your arm. You shiver at her warmth.
“Thank you, Emily,” you whisper.
The older woman nods again before letting you walk her to your hotel door, turning to face you when you open it and lean against the frayed wood to wait for her to step out. Blushing at the intense look on her face, you quietly ask, “What?” Emily continues to stare at you, unmoving.
You think she’s going to kiss you, on your lips, on your forehead, but then she murmurs, “Nothing,” before shaking her head and giving you a crooked smile. “Goodnight, Jennifer.”
Emily waves at you as she walks down the hall to her room, stepping in and closing the door behind her without looking back. You watch her go before slipping your own door shut, sagging against it, cold and weakened.
You hate yourself for being so dependent on Emily, for needing her just to feel well enough to walk. The bed is only a few feet away but it’s too far and your knees are too shaky. You ponder if you can just sink to the ground and sleep there.
A few weeks later, you thank God for Emily when Penelope gets shot and you need to sit in the hospital and wait for her to pull through. Emily’s hand around yours is everything, the one thing holding you together, and when she looks at you, you feel like there may be someone out there who loves you, someone who will take care of you for the rest of your life.
In the end, Penelope comes out okay. When Emily smiles at you in relief and pushes you toward Garcia’s hospital room door, you can’t help but think that the thing between you and Emily is evolving, hesitant and undefined as it is.
Emily Prentiss has just congratulated you with a strange look in her eye, and William LaMontagne is sitting on your bed, head in his hands.
“You should have told me you were coming,” you say softly as you close the door behind you and look at Will, the perfect picture of a defeated man, “I would have gotten a bigger room.”
That’s the least of your concerns, but you feel like you can’t quite face the bigger things yet. It’s too overwhelming and you feel trapped, cornered by the ticking time bomb in your womb that you never really asked for but can’t help but begin to anticipate. Will sighs and rubs the heel of his palms over his eyes, sweeping his fingers back over his head to make his hair stand on end.
“I thought it’d be better if I got here sooner. I’m worried about you, JJ.” The admission is accompanied by an imploring look on Will’s face, and you bite your lip and fidget, afraid of what he’s going to say next.
“You don’t need to worry about me, Will.”
“Really?” Will sounds incredulous, gesturing around him even though you’re only in a New York hotel room, “The city is getting shootings and bomb threats and you’re four months pregnant, JJ!” He sags and his voice cracks when he whispers, “How could I not be worried about you? I love you, Jennifer Jareau.”
You don’t know why he had to say that, nor why he used your full name. It unsettles you how desperately he’s trying to convince you of how he feels. You try to sound soothing when you answer, “I know, Will.”
Will sighs and puts his head back in his hands again, shaking ever so slightly. You don’t understand what’s going on – you have an inkling of where it’s going – but everything makes so little sense. You’re careful when you approach the bed to sit down next to him. “Will. What’s wrong?”
Will only sighs again before lifting his head to look at you. You shrink back slightly at the baleful look on his face and it feels like a physical blow to the gut when he asks, “What’s going on between you and Agent Prentiss?”
You remember him asking the exact same question when you first started seeing him, back when he was a good man, not a safe alternative, and you were trying to understand why Emily didn’t care. It’s as valid a question now as it was back then, and you feel you owe him a better explanation than the one you gave before, but you can’t bring yourself to do it. “I don’t know what you mean, Will,” you say instead, “There’s nothing going on between me and Emily.”
Will looks at you, really looks at you. You feel like he’s trying to read your thoughts with his unblinking blue eyes and you unconsciously close yourself, hiding away what you’re afraid he might see. Finally, after a few tense seconds, he scoffs. “Am I supposed to believe that?” His face falls when he adds, “You even say her name different, now.”
You hadn’t known that there was a specific way that you said Emily’s name. Deep down, you suspect you’ve always said it sort of wistfully, like she’d been a bundle of wonderful possibilities and not simply a woman you work with, but you hadn’t known that that was the way you really sounded. Now, as Will stares down at his hands and you’re afraid he’s never going to look at you, you wish maybe you could have had better control over your whirlwind emotions. “I’m sorry, Will.”
He shrugs, resigned and small without his stubble covering his jaw, “There’s nothing to be sorry about. I’d sort of always known. I guess that’s just the way things are.”
You stare at him, willing him to just look up, to see how sorry you are, but he stays put with his head downcast and you finally have to reach forward, tilting his head up with a hand under his chin. “Will…”
He tries to give you a smile though the lopsided lift of his lips breaks your heart more than it should have, “It’s okay.” Swallowing, he tries to widen his smile as he says, “At least you’re finally admitting that there is something. And anyway, you can’t really control the way you feel.”
You don’t know if that’s really true as you reach to grasp Will’s hands in yours. You agree with his last statement, that you can’t really control what you feel, but you don’t know if there’s anything between you and Emily. There’s always been a flickering, kind of dancing, intangible thing that ties the two of you together, but it’s never been acknowledged and you’re afraid it might never be. Something as insubstantial as that couldn’t possibly outweigh the solid future you have here, right?
Yet, as you stare at Will and run your eyes over his solid but bland nose, his bright blue eyes and his girlish lips and long brown eyelashes, you can’t help but feel that none of him compares to Emily.
“I’m so sorry, Will.”
He shrugs, sagging because he understands that he’s lost the battle he’d taken up when he tried to make you love him. It hadn’t been like you’d lied, but even long ago, your heart just hadn’t been in it. Several drinks and Emily’s cold demeanour convinced you that maybe it could have been something more, but Will, with his warm hands and gentlemanly airs, simply hadn’t been enough.
You wish, when you see his heartbroken face, that you’d at least have had the heart to treat him as more than just safe, to maybe have loved him, however little that could have been. It doesn’t make a difference now.
Will gently slips his hands out of yours and moves to gather his bags. As he shuffles around and looks like he’s aged ten years in as many minutes, you bite your lip and try, “Don’t go, Will.”
He looks at you with such hope that your heart, already cracked from his sorrow, breaks a little more. The words seem to tumble over themselves as you explain, “You’ve travelled for so long. Just stay the night.”
As though he doesn’t want to believe it but already knows it’s the truth, Will quietly asks, “Only the night, or maybe a bit more?”
You look down, locking and unlocking your fingers in guilt. It hurts you to say it. “Just the night, Will. I’m sorry.”
He nods. Placing his bags back down again, he moves to sit beside you on the bed and you let him take one of your hands in his. Neither of you say anything for a long time, simply sitting and breathing and getting to know each other’s touch even as you know this is the last time. Eventually, Will clears his throat to speak.
“I know it might be a bit much to ask, but I have a request.”
You turn your head to look at him, sad and quiet as he is, “What is it?’
“Can I name the baby?”
Your heart jumps into your throat when Will’s voice cracks and he squeezes your hand and looks down, sad and small. Your own tears well up when he finally looks up and his blue eyes glisten. “Of course,” you say, trying to smile, “As long as it’s not something stupid.”
Will laughs, and a tear slides down your cheek when you hear the sad, sad tinge to it. Trying not to let your heart crack any further, you ask, “What do you want to name him? I’ll agree to anything so long as you’re not naming him after you.” Whispering, you add, “He’s your son too.”
Will nods and quickly runs a hand across his face, wiping away the tears that have leaked onto his cheeks despite his manly attempt not to let them. It takes him a few moments, but finally he’s composed and his voice is steady when he suggests, “How about Henry?”
You sit still and mull it over, testing the way ‘Henry LaMontagne’ rolls off your tongue. It’s a sensible, solid name, and though it’s a little plain, you can’t help but warm to it, especially since it’s Will who’s suggesting it, Will who’s letting you go even though he has every right not to.
“Henry it is,” you decide, and Will’s face breaks into a smile that would have been beautiful if it hadn’t been so heartbroken. He squeezes your hand gratefully.
“Thank you, JJ.”
“No,” you cry, shoulders shaking as the tears finally overwhelm you, “Don’t thank me. God, Will. I’m so sorry.”
Will pulls you in and gently kisses your forehead, wipes away your tears and kisses your cheeks clean. You hiccough as the tears continue to leak from your closed eyes, and Will holds you, warm and close.
The next morning, you’re shaking from the close calls and the thought of losing Hotch, and Emily’s eyes are haunted from seeing Cooper get shot. Will is back in New Orleans, and your life is beginning to start anew.
Reaching over, you gently give Emily’s hand a squeeze and she smiles at you, quiet in the silence of the jet. You smile back and return your hand to your lap, hoping that you’re moving in the right direction.
When Emily touches your shoulder as she says goodbye on the tarmac in Quantico, you think you might well be.
Emily Prentiss is broken, and you’re afraid you won’t be able to fix her.
The empty look in her eyes hurts you more than when her face had been covered in bruises, the corner of her lip cut and cheekbone split. At least then, it had only been surface-deep and a few days of gentle care had made it go away. This wound, emotional and deep, runs ragged through her and you’re scared because you can’t reach out and rub it off.
“Sit,” she says, sounding like a hollow shadow of herself. You stand in front of her as she motions for you to settle down on the step with her, and you can barely keep the alarm off your face when she simply sags and stares at her hands, refusing to look up at you.
Emily Prentiss is a strong woman, but this case has pushed her well past her limits and it terrifies you to see her breaking. The snow settling into her hair gives her a cold, distant look and she seems so pale, so much paler than usual.
There’s a streak of blood just under her nose.
“Emily, you’re bleeding!”
Emily slowly moves her head to look at you before shrugging, swiping a finger underneath and staring down at the spot of red on her fingertip like it’s nothing new. “I had a nosebleed. It’s stopped now.”
You want to reach over and wipe the blood away, clean her up, but she shrinks away from you before you can even lift your hand and you let her be, afraid of making everything too much. Instead, you sit still with your hands in your lap and stare off across the street, watching the people pass and the snow fall.
“What are you doing here?” Emily eventually asks after a long time, voice quiet and uneven. You turn to look at her but she refuses to meet your gaze, and it breaks your heart to see her like this.
“Rossi told me you’d be here. I came to see if you were okay.”
“You didn’t need to,” Emily says. She reaches up to brush the snow that’s beginning to drip down her face from her bangs and carefully asks, “Did Rossi tell you anything else?”
Rossi did tell you something else, in fact. After you insisted, vehement and convincing in a way that only you can be, he gave in and told you enough for you to understand. You clear your throat and quietly reply, “Only what I needed to know.”
It takes you by surprise when Emily frowns, eyes dark. Her body is tensed into a painful coil when she says, “You didn’t need to know anything. It wasn’t for him to tell.”
This hurts you more than it has any right to, and you blink and lean away from Emily as you try to process the ache that blossoms inside your chest. Emily, sensing your unease, glances at you and buries her head in her hands. “Oh God. JJ, I’m sorry.”
“No,” you try, shaking your head and sweeping your hair behind your ears as you fight to keep your face and voice neutral, “It’s fine. You’re right. I shouldn’t have pried.”
You want to add, ‘you would have told me if you’d wanted me to know’, but you think it’s too much when Emily trembles and sniffs, head down. Still, it hurts you. After all you’ve been through and all you and her have done, you’d hoped that you would have meant enough for her to confide in you, for you take away some of her burden. Evidently, Emily needs you less than you need her.
Minutes later, when it seems like Emily’s not going to move any time soon, you stand up to go.
“Wait,” Emily chokes out, face dazed and desperate, “Wait.”
You turn slowly on the step to look down at her, taking in her pained gaze and the subtle tremors that run through her frame. You stand still and watch as Emily tries to raise a hand to touch her fingertips to yours but fails, fingers falling away before even reaching halfway. You wonder if it’s because she’s changed her mind, or if these few days’ events have hurt her so much, she can’t bear to touch you.
Frowning, you reach down to cup her face in your palm, only to have her shrink away from you.
“I can’t,” she says. Her eyes beg you to understand, but it hurts and that’s all you can think about, “I can’t right now, JJ. I just can’t.”
You nod again and take one step down, then another. As you retreat onto the snow-covered sidewalk, Emily watches you, shaking. “Jennifer.”
“Yes?” You’re on the sidewalk and your hands are in your coat pockets, hiding from the cold.
“I’m sorry," she rasps, “For being like this. For you and Will.”
You think on Will, on how he’s been thinking of transferring to Washington to be closer to you and Henry. You think on how he’s spending time with you and taking care of your son, how he’s become a close but platonic friend, one you can confide in when Emily becomes too confusing, when she still refuses to get closer to you.
You shake your head and say, “Don’t be. On either count. Will and I were never really anything.” You don’t know why you’re explaining this to her, but you’re doing it anyway and Emily nods slowly at you, biting her lip.
“I’m sorry anyway, Jennifer.”
“Yeah, well.” Falling silent, you think for a bit before saying, “If you need someone to talk to, I’m always here. Just… try me, Emily. Please.”
Emily nods again, eyes tired but understanding. As you turn to walk back to where you parked the Suburban, you catch a glimpse of her wiping away a tear and curling into herself. The snow falls on her, covering her dark hair and coat and blurring her into the background.
Emily is beautiful, even in her heartbreak, and as you drive away, you wish you could have just had the courage to reach down and kiss her and make all the pain disappear.
Emily Prentiss is the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen, and she’s holding you and your son as you all fall onto your couch.
The tired piece of furniture gives a groan under your combined weight and you can’t help but laugh when Emily raises an eyebrow and rearranges the tangle of bodies. At the end, she’s lying on her back with you on one side and Henry sprawled across the both of you.
“I’m sorry about yesterday, at the church,” Emily says, brushing your hair back and out of your eyes as she gazes down lovingly at you, “I would have told you about Matthew. I should have. I will.”
The vehement look in her eyes is endearing and it makes you want to kiss her, but you’re still a bit dazed at her promise of never leaving you and can’t quite make yourself move. Mentally shaking yourself to get back to the topic at hand, you shake your head and say, “You don’t have to, Emily. Really. I don’t mind.”
“But I want to tell you,” Emily mumbles, bending her head to bury her face in your hair. Running a hand up and down your side, she watches as Henry curls one of his fists around her free index finger, “I want to tell you everything.”
This makes your heart swell until it feels like it’s going to burst, and it must show on your face when Emily looks down at you and laughs. It’s a sound that’s warm and bright and you find yourself wanting to wake up to it every morning, just as you want to go to sleep hearing it every night. Henry gurgles with his own laughter and you can’t think of a more beautiful harmony.
“You’re never leaving me, right?” you whisper, running a hand through Henry’s toddler fuzz of hair before looking up at Emily, “We’ve tons of time to tell each other everything.”
“Yeah,” Emily says. She sounds as reverent at the idea of being able to have a future with you as you are. When she bends her head down to give you a long, lingering kiss, you thank whatever deity or star or whatever it is up there that has given you this chance to be with this wondrous woman, to finally have everything you’ve ever asked for. Because no matter which what you look at it, Emily Prentiss is a lot of things, particularly: everything you’ve wanted in life.
And everything is what you’ll give to keep her.