After about twenty minutes of JJ restlessly tossing and turning in her arms, Emily kissed her shoulder and observed, "Can't sleep?"
"I just keep thinking about those women," JJ responded, her voice breaking. "About how we should be doing more for them than ... than this."
This. Spending hours making love in the private - or not-so-private, depending on the presence of those surveillance cameras -safely-contained bubble of their bedroom. Clearly, JJ was finally starting to actively accept her role as a profiler in their undercover assignment.
"What else can we do, baby?" Emily inquired in a neutral tone, testing her. "We're not cops. We don't even have gun permits. What can we possibly do for these women we don't even know?"
"We can get to know them," JJ said, turning her body toward Emily's. "We can let them know that they're not alone, that we're all in this together. We can refuse to give into the fear we felt at the bookstore earlier and live the kind of life we said we wanted when we left New York. That's what we can do."
Emily smiled proudly. "Remember our first night here, when you asked me to teach you how to be brave?"
"I knew you didn't need me to teach you that. You're one of the bravest people I've ever known," Emily said in a serious voice, her brown eyes fixed, unblinking, on JJ's blue ones. "I knew you just needed some time to understand that the right decision is almost never the most convenient one."
JJ sat up abruptly, not saying a word, and began to search for her clothing, strewn around the room. Watching her, Emily felt her heart sink and had to actively fight the tears brimming in her eyes. When she'd added the part about making the 'right' decision versus the 'most convenient' one, she hadn't been talking about this case at all - and it didn't take a profiler to know that.
Still, even though Emily didn't - couldn't - expect JJ to simply leave Will, to leave her established life as a wife and a mother once this case was over and they'd returned to DC, she also couldn't prevent herself from wondering if JJ had ever seriously considered it. Had she ever bothered to take just one second to realize that when she promised to let Emily hold her every night for the rest of her life, believing that Emily was asleep and couldn't hear her, JJ had already proven that she knew, that deep down in her heart she knew, the 'right' thing to do?
Emily immediately banished those thoughts from her mind. This wasn't couples' therapy; this was a case. And it was long past time for Alexandra Brewster and Vivian Cook to start working it.
While in town, they made a point of holding hands, snuggling against one another as they browsed in store windows, and kissing affectionately as they held mundane conversations about television shows, books, and pop culture scandals.
They'd come to expect the disgusted looks, the muttering of "fucking dykes" by passersby, and the mothers furiously marching past them while shielding their children's eyes - but they were both truly stunned by the sheer number of people who approached them, introducing themselves and welcoming them into the community, asking questions about how they'd decided to move from "the city" to their local town.
By the time JJ and Emily had reached the end of the main street, the sun had already set and they were both exhausted. So many phone numbers to save in their cell phones, so many invites to tomorrow night's Kitty Corner, so many disclosures about their invented personal lives while listening to each couple excitedly share their own stories about how they'd arrived in this small town in Michigan and could never reconsider moving back to a big city, not even with the recent murders. So many women blurring together, none of whom stood out as clear targets - although, of course, the team had never been able to precisely identify anything but the most obvious aspects of victimology: sexual orientation, relationship status, and relative newness to the area. And yet none of these women were new to the area; in fact, most of them had lived here long before the murders had started.
Back in the car, Emily found herself reconsidering the profile: according to the locals, 'Vivian' and 'Alexandra' were the first lesbian couple to have moved there in weeks, which would logically make them the next targets. But how, exactly, did the local police department and FBI know about the supposed boxes containing the harnesses if there were no witnesses and if those boxes were removed immediately after the killings? How was it possible that the background checks on all of the straight women in the area hadn't managed to reveal anything except for one woman who apparently enjoyed using sex toys? Why hadn't the locals - who were more well-informed about this case than the cops and certainly more open about it - never once mentioned the use of sex toys as crucial to the profile of the unsub?
Finally, after considering the many possibilities, Emily spoke. Using one hand to pull her black hair into a loose ponytail while keeping her eyes fixed on the road before them, she disclosed in a low voice, "I don't think it's a straight woman."
JJ paused for a moment, and - to Emily's surprise - responded, "I don't think so, either. And I don't think we're going to know more than that until tomorrow night."
Tomorrow night. Kitty Corner. Of course: the perfect spot for an unsub to hunt victims and use her non-threatening community status to manipulate a sense of trust that would (especially given the early closing time) render any innocent couple eager to continue a conversation or forge a newfound friendship over drinks back at their home. But what established couple would invite a single lesbian back to their home, unless ... unless ...
"It's a couple!" Emily blurted out. "It has to be a couple. Think about it: if you were on a date with your boyfriend or girlfriend, would you ever ask a single man or woman back to your place? Even if you or your ... your partner ... had practically become best friends with that person? Even if you both had?"
"No." JJ shook her head vehemently. "No way."
"But if you and your partner made friends with a couple and the bar closed and you didn't want the night to end ..." Emily's voice trailed off.
"It's happened. It's happened before. I met some of my best friends that way," JJ realized. "Friendships that lasted long after the relationship was over."
"Me, too," Emily agreed. "So if we're approached by a couple tomorrow and they want to continue the party at our place ... ?"
"No," JJ insisted firmly. "Absolutely not."
"But what if we're wrong about them and they really do just want to become our friends?" Emily wondered aloud. "And then suddenly an innocent couple finds themselves being interrogated and searched, while the real killers either lay low for a while or skip town, only to start yet another spree somewhere else?"
JJ didn't answer, remaining still for a long time. Even when the car pulled into the driveway and Emily pulled the keys out of the ignition, JJ made no effort to open the door and head into the house. It was like she was frozen. Frozen with indecision.
"JJ," Emily murmured, watching as the blonde's head immediately snapped up and panic flooded her eyes. "Shhhh, baby. It's OK to use our real names. It's OK in the car, remember?"
Still, JJ's eyes rapidly surveyed their surroundings, her hand on the seatbelt buckle like she was about to start running. Like her 'fight-or-flight' response had suddenly kicked in, even though there was no one to fight and nowhere to flee.
Emily placed her hand over JJ's and squeezed it, hoping to bring her back to this moment, to this reality. "I need to ask you something," Emily said gravely, "and I need you to respond on impulse, without thinking about it. Can you do that?"
JJ nodded, staring down at Emily's hand and turning hers over to interlock their fingers.
It was then that Emily asked the question, speaking slowly and carefully and suppressing the multitude of emotions practically gnawing at her throat. "If it wasn't me - if it was, say, Jordan Todd or Ashley Seaver with you on this operation - would you invite a potential unsub back to the house, after considering the risks and benefits?"
"Yes," JJ answered instantly, reaching up to cover her mouth with both hands. "Oh, god ... Oh my god ... the reason I don't want to do this is because of you. And not because I don't trust you as an agent," she added quickly, "because I do, but ... but because I love you. Oh my god ... I really do. I really do love you."
But instead of the elated smile that JJ assumed she'd see on Emily's glossy pink lips, there was only a frown.
"Wait a minute." The words rushed out of JJ's mouth before she could stop them. "Don't you - I mean, haven't you - I mean, you weren't lying about ... Emily, please tell me you weren't lying about -"
"No, no, no." Emily shook her head insistently. "I love you more than anything in this world. That's not the problem."
"Then what's the problem?" JJ inquired, confused.
"The problem is that we can't pretend anymore, JJ," Emily sighed. "And not only does that make us the worst profilers to work this case ... but it also makes us the ideal victims."
"So what, exactly, are we supposed to tell Hotch and the rest of the team? 'Sorry, guys, even though we've managed to create a viable undercover story, we're not going to be able to follow through because - oops! - we ruined the whole case by falling in love'?" JJ mocked harshly. "And hey, why don't I just call Will, too, and tell him just how I've damaged our relationship beyond all repair by falling in love with a fellow agent?"
Emily gripped the steering wheel, stunned. "Damaged your relationship beyond all repair," she repeated, her voice monotone and devoid of emotion.
"Let's not fight," JJ pleaded, leaning over to embrace Emily's stiff, unresponsive body. "We can't change what's already happened. We can't back out of our assignment. Tonight might be the last night we have together until we go back to DC and make some serious decisions about our ... our arrangement. Can we please just erase all of that, just for one night, and be us again?"
"Us?" Emily repeated, still refusing to respond to JJ's arms encircling her waist. "What do you mean, 'us'?"
"The 'us' we were that night I first told you I had feelings for you and you told me you'd been in love with me for years. The 'us' we were in that hotel room together. The complicated, messy, uncertainty of 'us' before we took this case."
"And how, exactly, are we supposed to do that?" Emily wanted to know. "We're under surveillance, remember?"
"The backyard," JJ whispered, grasping Emily's chin in her own and forcing their eyes to meet. "We can talk just like we used to talk, before any of this happened, and we can ..." She blushed, allowing the sentence trail off into the air.
"We do need to talk," Emily agreed. "But as far as the rest of it? JJ, I really don't think I can be your 'other woman'. A part of me wants to say that I'll agree to take whatever you feel comfortable giving me, but I know in my heart I can't live like that. I know I need you to be with me completely or not with me at all. If you want to fuck" - anticipating and relishing the way JJ winced upon hearing the vulgar word describing their sexual encounters - "then Alexandra and Vivian can go upstairs and fuck. But I won't make love to you, to the real you, until I know where we stand."
"So ... it was all just 'fucking' to you?" JJ asked in an incredulous whisper.
"Yeah," Emily replied dispassionately, turning her face toward the window so JJ couldn't witness the tears shining in her eyes at the lie. "Fucking you was an unspoken part of the job. I was just doing my job. Weren't you?"
"Yeah. Yeah, of course," JJ stammered, unable to mask the hurt creeping into her voice, the way her fingers cramped tightly against Emily's waist. "But ... I think it's a good idea to spend some time in the backyard. So we can be together and talk without worrying about surveillance. Do you still want to?"
"I always want to be with you, JJ," Emily replied, turning her body to run her fingers through JJ's blonde hair as she whispered in her ear, "Fuck, I can't even lie to you to protect myself. I certainly can't make myself stop wanting you - and I've tried so hard for so long that I'm just ... I'm just so fucking exhausted by the whole thing. The whole charade."
"What charade?" JJ repeated quizzically, furrowing her brow. "You just said ..."
"I only said that to hurt you," Emily admitted, her dark eyes cast downward. "Every time we were ... every time we were together, I wasn't acting. If anything, I had to bite my lip and stifle the desire to scream out your name - your real name - when I came. Didn't you notice? Didn't you notice how I never once called you 'Alexandra'? It's because I couldn't. Because I wanted to believe ... I wanted to pretend ... that it was real."
"It was real!" JJ insisted, pressing her hands hard against Emily's thigh. "It was real for me, too. You had to know that. I mean, Emily, how could you not have known that?"
Emily swallowed hard, reaching down to remove JJ's hands from her thigh. "Because of Will. Because you've spent years in an emotionally-abusive marriage, pretending to love someone you can't stand. How many times, in how many hotel rooms, in how many different cities, have I stayed up all night with you, listening to your stories about him and trying to convince you to leave him - if not for yourself, then for Henry? And how many times have you agreed with me, only to have everything go right back to the way it was the second you returned home?"
JJ began to speak before Emily cut her off. "Listen, JJ, knowing how I feel about you changes absolutely nothing. Even if you feel the same way. You won't leave him and I don't know if can settle for some kind of arrangement with you. I want you ... but I want all of you. And I'm not asking you to decide tonight, but I needed to tell you this now, before we return to Quantico, I'm either going to be yours completely or not at all. Do you understand, JJ?"
"I understand," JJ repeated quietly.
Emily leaned forward and kissed her with intensity, with desperation. "Get the blanket from the back of the car and put it near the trees while I run upstairs to the bathroom," she murmured, stroking JJ's cheek with her thumb. "If this is going to be the last night we ever spend together, I want to remember it as ours. Not as Vivian's and Alexandra's, not as 'I need to go home and wash my clothes before Will and Henry wake up,' but ours and ours alone."
In the bathroom, Emily's guilty eyes stared back at her in the mirror. Because she knew that the ultimatum she'd just given JJ was bullshit. She was so head-over-heels in love with this woman that she'd settle for anything, even helping to contribute to the elaborate lies JJ would have to construct for Will's benefit, even accepting the meager crumbs of affection and time-constrained trysts in hotel rooms that their affair would require.
She never could have imagined that as JJ spread the blanket down among the trees in the backyard, she was thinking, I don't want just 'anything' with Emily. I want it all.