"Woo-hoo! A toast to Girls' Night Out!" JJ screeched, lifting her shot glass in the air and clinking it against Garcia's and Emily's before shaking her blonde hair out of her face, tilting her head back, and downing the contents in one swift gulp.
"Why is it that this one eats like a buffalo all day long and yet still manages to look like a Victoria's Secret model with absolutely no tolerance for alcohol while I have one protein shake for lunch, don't drop a pound, and require half a bottle of vodka before I even approach her level of wasted?" Garcia grumbled after swallowing her own shot.
"Well," Emily replied, using her best Dr. Spencer Reid impression voice, "some people lack the enzyme to properly metabolize alcohol, thereby lowering their tolerance dramatically."
"Nice!" JJ laughed, high-fiving her friend. "How about one more round?"
Garcia and Emily exchanged looks behind her back as JJ leaned forward to call the bartender over.
Emily sighed in dismay. It was her turn. It was her turn to bring up Will.
"Um, sweetie?" she offered gently, placing one hand on her friend's blue sweater. "Remember how angry Will gets when you come home drunk? Remember what happened last time?"
Last time. It still made Emily shudder to think about it, about the phone call she'd received the next morning when JJ was sobbing about how Will had forcefully grabbed her arm and pulled her into bed, nearly waking Henry with his bellowing about "needing to fuck his drunk wife to make sure she hadn't fucked anyone else."
Of course, the very idea was absurd: JJ was more faithful than anyone Emily had ever known. No previous transgressions, no non-monogamous relationships, not even a single one-night stand clouded her past. And yet this was just one more layer of violence in what Emily had long characterized as an emotionally abusive, controlling relationship.
"Well, we can't send her home like this," Garcia remarked pointedly, her bright pink lips frowning so uncharacteristically it momentarily threw Emily for a loop.
But Garcia was right. Knowing what might await JJ at home, they couldn't allow their friend to return to Will in this condition, even if JJ's own intoxication had apparently left her indifferent about or oblivious to the potential consequences.
"I'm definitely over the legal limit myself," Emily admitted. "What if we just got a hotel room upstairs and I called Will to let him know she'll be staying with me?"
"Yeah," Garcia snorted, watching the bartender as he moved toward the three women with another round. "I'm sure Will would be overjoyed at the idea of his wife spending the night with a lesbian."
JJ froze and choked on her vodka, nearly spitting it out all over the table in front of them. "A what?" she asked incredulously, her ocean blue eyes flicking back and forth between Garcia and Emily.
"Not everyone knows, Garcia," Emily managed to utter through gritted teeth, shooting her an angry look.
"But - I thought - I mean, it's JJ ..." Garcia sputtered, before placing her glittery-fingernailed hands over her mouth. "Oh, Emily. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to -"
Despite the initial vehement flash of betrayal that had surged through her, Emily knew deep down that it wasn't Garcia's fault. After all, Emily had come out to her almost immediately, followed by Morgan, and then Reid, and then Rossi, who she was fairly certain had told Hotch. In fact, probably the only one who didn't know about her sexual orientation prior to this point was JJ.
But there was a very good reason for that. A reason that no one on the team was aware of, not even Garcia. A reason that Emily herself hadn't become aware of until JJ married Will and she experienced - for the first time in a very long time - a feeling she couldn't fully identify at first, a feeling she didn't even want to identify at first.
Because that feeling was heartbreak.
"How long have you known?" JJ asked quietly, looking down at her shot glass.
Emily wasn't sure how to answer. "Um, my whole life?"
"Not you," JJ said dismissively, raising her head to stare at Garcia. "You. How long have you known?"
Garcia's eyes widened under her sparkly green glasses. "Um ... for a while ... Like, since Emily joined the team ..."
"Why didn't you tell me?" JJ wanted to know, still unable to meet Emily's gaze. "I thought you were my best friend. All those nights we spent eating popcorn and watching movies in hotel rooms, all those nights we stayed up talking until dawn, why didn't you just tell me?"
"I wasn't sure how you'd react," Emily responded gently. "I had a feeling you'd react like this."
"I'm not 'reacting like this' because you're a lesbian," JJ spat out, her voice choking on the word 'lesbian'. "I'm reacting like this because you lied to me!"
"I never lied to you," Emily insisted. "Whenever we talked about my past relationships, I always said 'they' instead of 'him' or 'her'. I didn't lie ... I just didn't tell you the whole truth."
"I need to use the bathroom," JJ mumbled, nearly falling as she stood up unsteadily, holding onto the wall for leverage as she made her way toward the ladies' room.
Garcia and Emily exchanged knowing glances. "Should I go or -" Garcia asked in a small voice, clearly still upset with herself for unexpectedly outing Emily.
"No." Emily shook her head. "Let me."
When she entered the bathroom, JJ had both hands on one of the sinks, propping herself up while she stared into the mirror morosely. This was a bad sign. This was when she started to transform from "carefree and fun" JJ to "melancholy and tearful" JJ. It rarely happened during Girl's Night Out, but when it did, the confessions about her trapped existence with Will, about their unsatisfying sex life, and her about her regretful wishes that she'd never married him at all, would pour out of her like a sudden storm invading a perfect, sunny day.
Emily waited behind her friend silently until JJ met her eyes in the bathroom mirror. "I didn't tell you because I knew you'd tell Will," she confessed. "And I didn't want Will to know because I knew that he'd make sure to end our friendship and possibly even our working relationship."
"So it was to protect me?" JJ mocked derisively.
"No. It was also to protect myself. To protect myself from losing you." Emily paused and inhaled deeply. "Because - look, I know you're straight and I know you're married, but sometimes we can't help falling in love with the wrong people. And sometimes we're willing to accept whatever we can justifiably have with those people because the alternative, the possibility of losing them completely, is so much worse."
Fuck. Emily was definitely drunk. And careless. And stupid. And she had definitely just ruined their friendship as if she'd crumpled it up into a tiny ball and flushed it down the toilet. Chagrined, she stepped away so JJ couldn't see the flush of pink coloring her face and so she couldn't see the horror she imagined on JJ's.
"You said you knew you were a lesbian your whole life. Is that true?" JJ asked quietly, staring down at the sink.
Emily thought for a moment. "Well ... I guess ... No, not really. I mean, I had crushes on guys when I was growing up, dated plenty of them, but it always felt like something was ... missing. And then when I went to college, I met Stephanie. Despite how hard I tried to fight it, it really was love at first sight. But you know the basic story already. I told you I'd never felt so attracted to someone before, had never experienced pleasure from sex before, had never felt so alive in a relationship before. I just left out the fact that she was a woman when I was telling you about her."
"What if I told you that I've been fighting my feelings for you ever since we met?" JJ whispered to herself.
Emily laughed, struck by the absurdity of the question. "I'd say you were drunk and pissed off and lying to me because I lied to you."
Before her intoxicated mind could process what was happening, JJ stumbled toward her and pressed her lips against Emily's. Hard. Opened her lips and pushed her tongue in Emily's mouth. Whimpered. Continued kissing her. Twisted her tongue around Emily's. Moaned. Pulled back. "Do you still think I'm lying?" she hissed, brushing the dark strands of hair away from Emily's forehead. Those eyes ... those innocent blue eyes ... didn't seem so innocent anymore.
"So if I did this, what would you do?" Emily wondered curiously, tracing one hand gently up and down JJ's inner thigh, leaning forward to kiss JJ's hungry, desperate mouth, before she had her answer, when JJ's legs parted underneath her skirt.
"... I'd want you to do this," JJ groaned boldly, taking Emily's hand by the wrist, unfolding her fingers, and grazing Emily's palm against the damp cotton of her panties, rubbing it back and forth.
Emily was still intoxicated, all right, but it was an intoxication of a very different kind: not the blurry, hazy intoxication of alcohol, but the confident, powerful intoxication of lust.
How long had it been since she'd last felt this? Those first perfect caresses of her deft hands against a woman who had never experienced the all-consuming, exquisite pleasure that only another woman can provide? A woman who - as in JJ's case - had never experienced pleasure with another person at all?
JJ's breathing increased dramatically and her grasp against Emily's wrist tightened as she thrust herself rapidly against the open palm with utter abandon. She could come like this, Emily suddenly realized, flicking her eyes toward the bathroom door, which could fly open at any moment, leaving them both in a humiliating predicament. But I don't want her to come like this.
She withdrew her hand, despite JJ's protests, and (more to herself than anyone else) uttered a stark reminder: "You're drunk and you're confused - and most of all? You're married with a child. You can't do this. We can't do this."
"I can't go home with my panties soaked!" JJ cried out, her eyes widening in fear. "Do you know what he'll do to me? Do you have any idea?"
"Then we'll get a hotel room for the night. No different than all the other nights we've shared hotel rooms across the state working various cases," Emily reassured her, petting her arm. "He'll trust you with me. And we won't give him any reason not to."
Her voice might have sounded confident and strong, but her willpower was weak. Still, she knew from experience that it would be better for everyone involved if they just went upstairs, fell to sleep, and wrote off this entire incident in the bathroom. Laughingly joked about it later as yet another example of JJ's uncharacteristic drunken behavior.
When they emerged from the bathroom, Garcia handed them each a key card. "I took care of it," she said guiltily, still obviously tormenting herself for telling JJ about Emily's sexual orientation. "I called Will and told him you'd both fallen asleep upstairs already and that it would be a hassle for him to drive out here with Henry, anyway. Kevin's going to pick me up out front and I hope ... I hope you two can talk this out tonight so it doesn't ruin your friendship. 'Cause you're my favorite girls, you know?"
"I know," Emily replied gratefully, kissing her briefly on the cheek. "And I hope so, too."
JJ had already grabbed the key card and headed for the elevator, leaving Emily to endure the long, anxious ride upstairs alone. Fear and desire hammered simultaneously through her heart, half-wishing that JJ would be passed out on the bed when she arrived upstairs, and half-wishing ...
No. She wouldn't allow those fantasies to come alive again. Not after all the hard work she'd put into suppressing them.
And yet when she slipped her key into the slot and saw the green light flash, she couldn't help herself from remembering her first love, Stephanie: the one who'd taught her how to drive in the States, who'd murmured to her, initially in the car and then later, much later, wearing those emerald and gold pajamas, "green means go."
Stephanie, who nearly always wore red toward the end, like the perfect embodiment of a walking stoplight, with the passenger seat occupied by a picturesque boyfriend hanging from her arm. Stephanie, who first introduced her to the concept of love and then to the concept of loss.
Trembling imperceptibly, Emily opened the door and called out in a hushed voice, "JJ? You there?"
JJ was waiting in the bedroom, her tanned arm propped up on one plush white pillow with her blue sweater rolled up at the sleeves and her black skirt pushed up (unintentionally?), barely covering her muscular thighs.
The first words out of her mouth were, "What's it like with a woman, Emily?"