Fandom: Criminal Minds
Rating: PG as usual.
Disclaimer: Not mine, sadly.
Author's note: Again, sorry for the long gap in updating. Been having quite a weird week.. or two.. or maybe three. And my beta had just finished her exams. Yay!! Now she can beta read again! *so happy and suddenly productive*
I hope you still follow me on this one.. and I hope you will enjoy this.
Previous chapters: Chap 1 , Chap 2 , Chap 3 , Chap 4 , Chap 5 , Chap 6 , Chap 7 , Chap 8
“It's all right to cry. It's all right to hurt. It's all right to be confused. Hope will rebuild landmarks. Hope will outlive the broken hearts. Hope will outlive the disillusioned.”
Emily was sitting on her bed with a book lying on her lap when JJ entered the room. The brunette was staring out the window. She looked pale and tired but her expression was composed and calm. She turned in JJ’s direction and gave the younger woman a weak smile.
JJ smiled back at her, hiding her worry and sadness. It had been about three days since they had found Emily. The doctor had informed them that Emily was healing well physically; the injected drugs had run through her system completely and the doctor had said that it wouldn’t cause any further damage to her body – even though he had also told Emily to avoid taking any pain medications for at least a year, just in case. So it wasn’t Emily’s physical state that worried JJ, but rather the lack of emotional display that raised her concern.
The brunette had been helpful with their investigation; she had answered all the questions about her kidnapping in a professional manner and she had even added some profiling to the case – as if she was talking about someone else. She hid so well behind her professional mask that even Hotch frowned. The unit chief had asked if Emily wanted to talk but the woman had refused the offer firmly, saying that everything was under control.
No, JJ knew that everything was far from ‘under control’. The blonde had hardly left Emily’s side since they had found her and JJ had seen how Emily reacted when the brunette was asleep. JJ could tell that Emily had nightmares every time the older woman closed her eyes. JJ was there every time that Emily woke up in cold sweat, disoriented and scared. JJ was there to see the horrified look in Emily’s eyes. Everything that JJ had seen hurt her.
“Hey,” JJ greeted. She lifted a small brown paper bag she was holding and showed it to Emily. “I brought something for you; thought you might like it,” she said. JJ put the bag on the bedside table and took a seat. The blonde had carefully put the chair not too close to the bed. She had seen how Emily had reacted before when people – even the doctor and nurses – got too close to her. Everyone had learned not to stand too close to Emily now, unless the woman asked them to. She watched as Emily reached for the bag and opened it. She smiled when Emily beamed as the brunette saw what was inside the bag.
“Wow, chocolates! Thank you JJ,” Emily said gratefully. She smiled at the younger woman.
“You’re welcome,” JJ replied, happy that Emily seemed to like her gift. She watched contentedly as Emily started to eat the chocolates – the older woman had eaten so little lately – and smiled back whenever Emily looked at her and smiled.
JJ was thinking about how Emily had said her name the past three days. She noticed that Emily always called her ‘JJ’ whenever the older woman was awake but every time the brunette had nightmares she called JJ ‘Jennifer’. JJ didn’t know if it was her that Emily was calling for in her dreams. If it was, she wanted to know why. The blonde didn’t mind being called ‘Jennifer’ by Emily. She wasn’t used to it, but it was okay by her.
“What are you thinking about?” Emily asked softly, making JJ’s head whip upwards. The profiler was frowning. “Is anything wrong?” she asked again with concern.
The press liaison blinked. “Oh. No, sorry, I was thinking about something silly,” JJ replied.
The frown didn’t leave Emily’s face when she said, “You didn’t seem to think it was something silly, JJ. What is it?”
JJ sighed. Emily could be persistent at times. She moved to sit on the bed when Emily asked her to silently by patting on a space next to her. So far Emily hadn’t let anyone else but JJ sit next to her on Emily’s bed. “I’m just thinking about work; it’s nothing, really,” the blonde said.
Emily leaned back against her pillow in a semi-sitting position. She knew JJ was lying and she guessed that it had something to do with the case – her case. “Yesterday when you thought I was asleep I heard you talk with Hotch about the Mendell woman. I only heard parts of it, but I’m sure I heard you say something about not wanting to do it,” Emily began, watching JJ’s face to see her reaction. When she saw JJ’s expression harden, she continued, “What did Hotch ask you to do, JJ? What did he want? What did she want?”
The younger woman shivered at Emily’s words. Emily’s sentence was full of hatred and sounded bitter. Their eyes met and JJ couldn’t tear hers away from Emily’s deep gaze. “Emily,” JJ pleaded. She didn’t know what to say and even if she had, she didn’t know how to say it.
“Don’t!” Emily shook her head. “Stop hiding things from me, JJ. Stop trying to protect me. You can’t hide everything forever. I’m not a child. I know what happened and I can deal with it. So please, don’t try to filter out whatever information you think I can’t handle; ‘cause I can and I will handle it.”
JJ felt as if Emily had slapped her on her face. All she had wanted to do was to protect the older woman from more harm and heartache, but apparently Emily didn’t appreciate it. On the one hand, JJ understood completely how frustrated Emily must be – being kept in the dark about something that concerned her, but on the other hand JJ wanted Emily to close that chapter of her life – the fearful couple of days that had torn Emily’s soul. JJ opened her mouth to say something, but she couldn’t find words.
“I will ask Hotch if you don’t tell me,” Emily added coldly. She didn’t sound like Emily at all. She sounded different – distant. “I will ask Hotch and I will make him tell me.”
“It’s not fair,” JJ said, half whispering. “You’re not being fair with me, Emily.”
The brunette raised her eyebrows. “Fair? Tell me what you mean by ‘fair’, Jennifer. I was the one who was kidnapped and tortured; I was the one who was cut and beaten; I was the one who almost died! Tell me if it’s fair to keep me in the dark about my own kidnapping!” Emily spat sarcastically. She didn’t want to do it to JJ; she didn’t want to put JJ in this position, but Emily was angry – angry at not knowing; angry at not being able to do anything; angry at having to be protected; and the worst was Emily that was angry at herself for treating JJ like crap.
Before JJ could say a word, someone opened the door. Hotch and Garcia entered the room and they stopped on their tracks, sensing the tension in the room. Garcia opened her mouth to say an awkward ‘hi’ when JJ suddenly bolted from the room, looking as if she was about to burst in tears. Garcia looked at Emily, who was now staring at the wall on the other side of the room. Then the computer analyst turned to Hotch.
The unit chief nodded at the door, asking Garcia to follow JJ. The woman nodded back and left the room without saying anything. Hotch closed the door behind him after Garcia left. He sighed. Being caught up in the middle of an ‘argument’ between two women was the last thing he wanted. Slowly, he walked towards the bed, stopping just a couple of steps away from Emily – keeping his distance.
“Prentiss?” he called. The woman didn’t turn to look at him. “Emily, look at me please,” Hotch repeated. This time, Emily turned her head. The brunette looked beat; her eyes were bloodshot and she looked like she was going to cry. “Do you want to talk about it?” Hotch offered. The older man wanted to help, but he couldn’t do it unless Emily let him.
“There’s nothing to talk about, Hotch,” Emily replied tiredly, “Please... just leave me alone.”
Hotch turned around and Emily thought that the man would leave her alone. Instead, he sat on a chair, facing Emily. “I can’t do that. You’re hurting yourself by not saying anything,” he said. “Emily, I’m not here as your boss; I’m here as a friend and I want to help you. You know I can’t do so if you don’t let me help you.” When the woman didn’t say anything, Hotch continued, “You know you can trust me.”
Emily stared into the space. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Hotch was beginning to think that the brunette didn’t want to talk when Emily broke the silence. “How?” she asked with a raspy voice; her eyes still fixed on the wall in front of her.
“I beg your pardon?” Hotch asked back, confused by the sudden question.
The brunette glanced at Hotch. “How can you ask me to trust you when you don’t trust me?” Emily retorted. “How can I trust you when you hide things from me? You didn’t tell me a thing about the investigation. Hotch, for God’s sake, I’m not only some victim – I’m also a part of the team! I’m tired of being victimized. If you can’t stop treating me like a victim instead of an agent, how can you expect me to see you as my boss? And how can you expect me to see you as a friend? You haven’t treated me like one!” Emily didn’t give Hotch a chance to reply. She kept on talking. And Hotch let her – he knew she needed the outburst.
“What do you want me to do then?” Hotch finally got a chance to ask when Emily stopped talking. “Emily, we didn’t mean to keep things from you. We just thought that you weren’t ready yet. I’m sorry if that hurt you. I’m sorry that we made you feel left out. It wasn’t our intention. It wasn’t my intention.”
Emily didn’t say anything. She didn’t mean to blow up like that – she hated herself for not being able to control her tongue. The tirade had sapped her energy and now she was so tired. She rested her chin on her knees and closed her eyes, biting back the tears that threatened to fall. Emily had never hated herself more than she did now.
“JJ, wait!” Garcia called out to her friend, trying to keep up with JJ’s long steps. “JJ!”
The press liaison kept on going. They reached the parking lot and Garcia was now shouting at her, asking her to stop. JJ stopped walking and turned back, not wanting to make a scene. “What?” she snapped at Garcia with a low voice. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she wiped them away angrily with the back of her hand. She didn’t want to talk to anyone; all she wanted to do was crawl in to the back of her car and cry her heart out. She was surprised when Garcia pulled her into a hug. The warmth of her friend’s body seeped into her and JJ couldn’t stop herself from crying. JJ let Garcia lead her into JJ’s car.
Garcia let the younger woman cry. She didn’t know what had happened between Emily and JJ back in the room, but she knew that JJ needed the release. After about half an hour, JJ’s crying subsided. The press liaison leaned against the car seat behind her, feeling very tired. Her face was a mess and her eyes were puffy.
“You okay?” Garcia finally asked. She stroked JJ’s shoulder, trying to comfort JJ. “What happened?”
JJ nodded. “Yeah,” she replied, “Thanks.” She took a deep breath and felt a stab of pain in her heart. New tears began to form in her eyes as she remembered Emily. She bit back a sob. “Emily was angry with me,” she said. “She was angry because I kept things from her – things about the investigation. She wanted to know. I just... I didn’t want her to know. It will hurt her.”
“Oh, Jayj,” Garcia said emphatically. “I understand that. I understand that you don’t want to hurt her. I know you only want to protect her. But you know you can’t do it forever – sooner or later Emily has to know about everything; and she has the right to know.”
“But she doesn’t have to know everything now!” JJ argued. “She’s not fit enough for it. You weren’t there when she was having nightmares; you didn’t see her. I was! I saw her; I heard her; I felt her fear.”
“What exactly did she want to know?” Garcia asked straight to the point.
JJ told her. She told her friend about her conversation with Hotch the previous day and she saw Garcia’s eyes widened in disbelief. Apparently the computer tech didn’t know about it, either.
JJ suspected something was wrong when Hotch came alone to the hospital. It was early in the morning and Emily was still asleep. Hotch looked rather uncomfortable and the unit chief kept on glancing at the bed.
“Is something wrong, Hotch?” JJ asked.
Hotch didn’t reply at first. He was trying to find the right words. What he was about to tell JJ wasn’t something easy. “JJ,” he began. “I really don’t know how to tell you this. I wish I have another choice.”
The blonde frowned. She locked her gaze with Hotch’s deep brown eyes and what she was able to read there worried her. “What now?” she sounded defeated.
“Sara Mendell – the kidnapper – she... she requested to talk to you,” There, he had finally said it. Hotch watched as JJ’s eyes widened; first with surprised, then with anger. “The woman refused to talk with anyone else. She had even refused to speak with her lawyer. She wanted you.”
JJ was at a loss for words. She was taken aback. She was baffled. But her confusion was quickly replaced with rage. The blonde gritted her teeth. “Why?” she asked. “What does she expect to get from me?”
Hotch shook his head. “I don’t know. I truly don’t know,” he said. “JJ, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. I’m just telling you this because I don’t want to hide things from you. If you want to do this, okay – we’ll do it. And we’ll do it on our terms, not hers. But if you don’t do this, I will not force you to. I don’t care if we don’t know what her motives were; she will still rot in Federal prison any ways.”
JJ waved her hand in front of Hotch, silently asking the man for some time to think. The blonde glanced at the sleeping figure on the bed. Emily, she thought, Emily, what should I do? Emily what should I do? Her hand started to shake and JJ had to bite her bottom lip to stop herself from shaking. No, she couldn’t do it. She told Hotch that seeing the Mendell woman was the last thing she wanted and that if JJ ever saw the woman again JJ would rip her into pieces with her own bare hands.
Hotch understood. He didn’t blame JJ for feeling that way. He would feel the same if it had been his son or even Haley. He patted JJ on the shoulder and left, leaving JJ with her own thoughts.
“How could she possibly think that you’re willing to talk to her?” Garcia asked. “That Mendell woman is a nut job!”
JJ sighed. “She has the ace card, Garcia,” JJ said. “She knows we want to know ‘why’ and ‘how’. She knows she can use that card against us to torture Emily more.” JJ didn’t say it, but she also knew that Hotch wanted her to find out why. Only the unit chief was too compassionate to force JJ to do something she didn’t want to do.
The two women sat in silence, each with their own thoughts. A few minutes later JJ’s phone rang. It was Morgan. JJ wanted to reject the call, but she had worked with the Bureau long enough to know better. She answered it.
Morgan sounded annoyed when JJ asked him what was wrong. The dark agent told her everything then hung up after asking about Emily. JJ frowned. Everything was just getting better, not. The blonde let out an audible sigh that almost sounded like a frustrated groan.
“Great!” she snapped. “This is just getting better and better.”
“What is it?” Garcia enquired. From the look on JJ’s face, everything was far from getting better and the computer analyst prepared herself to hear the worst. Thoughts ran into her head – Mendell managed to run away; they have to let Mendell go for lack of evidence; something was wrong with the process.
“Ambassador Prentiss just called Section Chief Strauss,” JJ retorted. “She is waiting for the public apology – nationwide – or she will sue.”
“Pride is insolence; and belief in human power is impiety.”
- Bertrand Russell -