“Closure is such a beautiful thing. Not because it helps to fully end one chapter but because it marks the real beginning of a new one.” – Qiya Solihin
It had been a week, a fucking week’s worth of endless nights, sleepless ones that lead to pacing the floors. It should’ve been easier than this. She had never understood Rosalyn’s reasons, not before now at least. This case should have brought closure. This should’ve been the end. She knew why her sister did what she did and she knew why she found her sister in a pool of her own blood now. But that didn’t mean the images had disappeared, they still played behind the darkness of her closed eyelids when she took a breath or when she laid down to sleep at night.
Jennifer Jareau can’t remember a slower week at the BAU than this one currently was. Sure, they had plenty of consults but she nearly fiend to be able to escape her own thoughts and into the mind of a new unsub. That was uncharacteristic of her and most definitely unhealthy, she knows this. But thinking of her sister in Ethan Howard’s web was too much for her, that Rosalyn had been a pawn in his twisted game made her stomach turn. And with the cases coming in as slow as ever, she felt the cold and she felt herself freezing all over again.
That’s why she paced, to keep the blood moving and to keep anyone from getting too close. She’s not sure she can handle that right now. She isn’t sure that a warm hand extending to her would help anything. It had been nice enough, Will and the boys’ gesture but the locket fell heavy around her neck. It was a constant reminder of just what it was there to erase and on the fifth day of wearing it, she had to take it off. She would rather have the absence of anything than to feel like she was replacing the memories she had of her sister. Time is what she needed and it wasn’t right just yet.
She used to be better at this. JJ used to not know how to hide her feelings, never knew how to not break but right now, her emotions were stunted. Closed off from the world and no one saw her pain. Will was oblivious, they hadn’t talked over the specifics of the case and he gave her the space he knew she was demanding with little thought. Yet she felt the waters rising and she couldn’t build the dam fast enough. Anger had leaked through her pours as the case unfolded but now there was none of that. She was empty and full more than she could handle all at the same time.
Any cases come up? JJ texted her Unit Chief at 11pm, she was begging for any reprieve from the thoughts that raced through her mind. She got in the car, this was a new routine when she couldn’t sleep. She would drive around hoping that it would calm her being that was rattling and shaking inside her. There’s no way that all of this hadn’t brought back aspects of her PTSD because she hasn’t felt this alert in years. She conjures excuses that she would be closer to work if a new case did break although it hadn’t.
No. I gave you the day off and this is the third time that you’ve asked, JJ. What’s going on? Emily Prentiss inquired ineptly of her agent through her message. JJ knew it was unlike her. When it came to off days, she was usually the quietest one. She would always relish her free time; catching up on laundry and cleaning, spending time with the boys when they got out of school and cuddling up for movie night. She usually loved days like today, when no bad guys were intruding on her personal time. Yet she now felt inherently aware of how her thoughts were constantly being intruded upon by images of her sister, both alive and dead. By the man that claimed to love Rosalyn but who had violated her to the point of no longer being able to sustain life. JJ has to shake her head to rid herself of the image.
The blonde is suddenly aware that she has disassociated as she drives the winding streets, completely rendering her surroundings to background noise and images as she went. She had lost sight of where she was going somewhere along the way, she was simply driving to try and run towards anything that kept her from freezing. But she hadn’t realized that she had ended up in the city, in D.C. of all places. This was out of the ordinary even for her current state. Somewhere, deep down, she knew what brought her here and her restless, tired mind couldn’t deny her that guilty pleasure.
Somehow she feels the right to be selfish for once, it had been a while after all. Been a while since she let herself sink into her own incessant need, her own desire. And goddammit if she wasn’t allowed to let herself feel again, anything at all. The feeling she had right now was certainty and she feels the rising heat of the anxiety that awaken her senses. The flush in her cheeks and the clench of her jaw and the sharp swallow as it slides down her throat. She revs the engine to hear the audible revitalization that she felt with the life coming back into her bones. Hoping the feeling will rise to stoke out the freeze in her heart.
Her skin shivers with adrenaline as she hears her phone sound off in the dead silence of the vehicle, awakening her senses all the more. A mere glance at the screen tells her who so suddenly demanded her attention. She breathes, deeply and evenly now, resolute as she answers, “Will?”
“JJ, it’s past midnight, where the hell did you go?” JJ hears the sleepy gravel surrounding the southern lilt in his tone. She thinks of how the novelty had long worn off. “Did the team get a case? Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“No, no, I’m just driving, Will,” JJ says evenly as the car’s brakes lowly screech as she approaches the red light, sighing as she leans on her car door and worries her mouth with her hand. Suddenly she feels the disconnect from her body again, the cold suddenly seeping in again as she stares out the window and out at a cab across the road. The driver growing impatient with its patron enraptured in conversation on the sidewalk as he honks his horn at the man.
“You’re in the city?” Will inquires, more as a statement than a question really. JJ simply watches as the patron of the cab, a young man with a wide, goofy smile quickly tosses money towards the driver and sends him on his way before turning back to the woman that had so engrossed him. She faintly remembers what that felt like, being entranced by a soft silky voice that you could listen to all night and never want to leave again. She still felt it palpable, loving the resonance of the warm voice as it hummed against her ear.
“Yeah, yeah, I am,” she offers with little emotion in her own voice. She simply gases the car steadily as the light turns green again. Both parties in this conversation understand the implication of her indifferent admission to this.
“Oh, well, say hi to her then for me,” she hears all the weight of the man's guilt, his complicity and ever slight irritation, perhaps even jealousy. Her mouth parts to let words escape but she knows anything that leaves her body now will be truth and nothing but. She couldn’t garner a half-witted apology that she didn’t mean. “She’s what you need right now, I suppose; I’ve never been great at these parts.”
“You’re fine, Will, it’s just that-” she starts to offer something.
“She’s better and that’s alright,” Will concedes with a breath. “She’s always known how to heal your hurts better than anyone else on the planet.”
“Yeah, the only person other than Ros,” JJ nearly whispers and nods to herself. She feels the icy hot sting of tears rise in her irises, flaring her nostrils and darting her eyes is about all she can manage at the confession.
“Well, I’ll see you when- whenever you get home,” and she can sense the firm and resolute nod of his head as he clears his throat. “Goodnight, JJ.”
The silence greets her short of the ground of the engine, tires meeting asphalt. This sound steadily transporting her to what she had always been headed towards.
So when she finds parking outside of the luxury apartments, the chill in her veins start to race with the adrenaline. She hadn’t been to the apartment for almost a year since she was acting unit chief, since she was fired. Somewhere in her mind, she’d like to believe that that was the last time she had needed the woman. But that’s not true, not true in the slightest bit. JJ is aware that she probably should’ve called, should’ve texted, should’ve done anything to indicate that she was showing up on the woman’s doorstep like this but they both know it’s not the first time.
JJ waits for the door to the apartment building to open before she enters. She winds her way up the stairs, hating the cold disconnect of elevators. She needed to keep moving, keep the blood flowing if she was really about to interrupt her boss’ night. As she finds the door to the apartment, her knuckles quickly meeting the heavy wood of the door, she wonders if she’s intruding on the woman’s life, on the intimacy of her home. The only place she knew the woman could escape from the madness of the job and here the blonde was bringing all her pain and baggage with her. She wondered if she was even home, she knew the woman spent more time at work than here.
Before she can escape down the train of thought, the door is opening and revealing Emily Prentiss. Her unit chief was still in her attire that she had adorn for the day, dark jeans and black blouse. The bangs on her forehead look bedraggled and windswept, JJ knew the look well as she had seen it after many of their long days on cases and in their more intimate moments. She found it endearing even now, over a decade later.
“JJ, hey, I’m sorry I wasn’t expecting you,” she’s not blind to the confused expression that lines the dark-haired woman’s face when Emily finally finds her voice. “Did you text? I’m sorry, I was just finishing up some paperwork due tomorrow.”
“That’s one thing I don’t miss about being acting unit chief, the paperwork,” the blonde offers lightly hoping to ease the tension in her bones. “And no, no, I didn’t but I was just driving through the city and-”
“Hey, you don’t have to explain and don’t need a reason to drop in,” Emily says with a shake of her head, warding off the anxiety that JJ felt a little. “Come in.”
“Look, I know it’s late and we both have work tomorrow,” JJ offers as she enters the apartment, trying giving her unit chief ample opportunity to opt out of this moment.
“And somehow you knew I’d still be awake,” Emily says with a smile and a shrug as she closes the door. “I’m infamous for my ability to function on little to no sleep.”
“The whole unit is at this point,” JJ says with a nod of her head. “And I haven’t exactly been sleeping much this week sadly.”
“Come sit down, tell me what’s going on,” the unit chief offers as she leads JJ into her living room and taking a seat on the couch. The blonde hesitates for a moment, a brief memory playing through her head, thinking all the secrets that this couch holds for the two women. But she sits and she feels the older woman’s eyes burning into her now. “We haven’t exactly had any major cases this week, what’s keeping you up?”
Before she even realizes her hand instinctively falls to her chest and the area at the base of her neck that lay bare. Her eyes casting upward at the ceiling, feeling the ghost that haunted her now more prevalently then ever. Not knowing how to start this conversation, not knowing where it would lead. JJ had bottled this up for decades and now it has come crashing back into the forefront of her mind so suddenly that she didn’t know how to express just how much she was feeling all at once.
“This is about Rosalyn, isn’t it?” Emily asks in a near whisper, she knew this was sensitive because she had seen the frazzled state that the blonde had been in throughout the case. “You’re not wearing the locket that Will and the boys gave you.”
“You noticed that?” JJ asks with confusion of her own. She hadn’t told anyone about the locket or mentioned who it was from. She hadn’t said much of anything in the week since the case.
“Well, Will and I might have been in communication over the course of the investigation,” the unit chief says with a tilt of her head. “I didn’t tell him any specifics, just told him that you might be in need of some new jewelry after it was all over.”
JJ gasps a little in surprise, shaking her head. She should’ve known. “That was you, of course it was.”
“Why aren’t you wearing it?” Emily probes slightly, not too invasively. “It was a nice gesture from the boys.”
“I can’t- not yet,” JJ chokes through the emotions rising in her throat and the tears in her eyes. Her hand still rubbing back and forth over her chest. “Every time I put it on, I just feel- suffocated, like someone’s pushing on my chest and lungs and I can’t breathe anymore.”
“JJ, I’m gonna ask a question and I don’t want you to take it wrong but,” the brunette says hesitantly. Her mouth opening and closing, hoping she could get the words out without offending this woman. One of the few people she cared about without limitations, there were no boundaries with what she felt for the blonde after all. “But is this really about Rosalyn?”
“What? I mean, of course, it is,” JJ says with a vehement shake of her head. “All I have been able to see is Rosalyn in that bath tub, that it was my old teacher and one of my dad’s friends that did that to her, that left her vulnerable and hurting.”
“And in turn left you hurting too,” Emily says with a nod of her head. “Ethan Howard did more than hurt your sister, he left your entire family wounded and unable to heal themselves, and you wore his souvenir around your neck for decades. That man was someone honorable in your eyes for a long time and someone that seemed like he was there to support you and it’s okay if you feel like you’ve been violated too.”
“This is about Rosalyn,” the younger woman offers in denial. “This was never about me, Em.”
“JJ, you’ve grieved the loss of Rosalyn all your life and I know that you’ve accepted what happened to her,” the older woman offers softly. She tries for JJ’s hand that was still around her neck, placing hers easily over the blonde’s. “What you haven’t accepted is the mark that Ethan Howard left on you, he invaded something that was meant to be just between you and your sister.”
“No, no, I can’t,” JJ says as she shakes her head and pulling her and Emily’s hands away. Her hands go to her eyes, trying her best to rid herself of the tears there.
“It’s okay,” Emily says as she laces her hand through JJ’s blonde tresses. “Hey, I am here and I’m not gonna let you go through this alone.”
“I just can’t- he was right there the entire time,” JJ says in disbelief. “He was there the entire time, hurting who knows how many girls and I was there, blind to it all. I should’ve known, how did I not know?”
“It’s not your fault, JJ,” the brunette shakes her head. “You never could’ve known what he was doing, Rosalyn didn’t tell you but she protected you and your lucky you had someone like her. You trusted this man but you couldn’t have known what you know now.”
JJ finally allows herself the freedom and let’s the tears fall. She collapses into Emily’s open arms and sobs. She can’t even count how many times they had ended up like this. It was always this. Ending up enwrapped in each other’s arms, comforting and loving and healing each other’s pain. This is what it felt like, unconditional love. Someone that could be there, endlessly and offer to walk through pain with you, even when it never belonged to them.
“How do you do this?” JJ finally asks after her sobs had subsided, her face still nuzzled into her unit chief’s shoulder. Feeling alive in the realization that her pain was valid, not to be ignored, not to be placed in a box to never see the light of day again. It deserved to be felt and it deserved to be dealt with.
“What?” the older woman asks in confusion, looking down at the blonde as she arose from her place against her. Facing each other, they saw and felt it all. They always did and it was not to be ignored. They allowed in space and time for it to happen slowly. Neither of them putting words to it, just feeling it and accepting it for what it is, being content in that.
“How do you always make me feel whole?” the younger woman asks in wonder, her eyes wide and staring into the deep brown of the other woman. “You always pull it out of me, everything that is ugly and boiling beneath the surface and you’re still here, willing to stare it in the face every time.”
“What kind of person would watch someone they love hurting and let them walk through that alone?” Emily asks seriously, she was meeting JJ’s eyes but they darted away every so often in avoidance. Emily Prentiss rarely allowed vulnerability to anyone but the blonde was always the exception. “You have to know that what you feel is valid and I’m always here with you. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I love you too,” JJ says, her voice dropping lower. There were no other words for what they knew they were together. Love and comfort were synonymous between them. Most of the time they couldn’t string the sentences together, like there was a title or a phrase that encapsulated what they were for each other, endlessly.
JJ stares, her eyes running the length of the woman’s face. The mere inches felt like miles but the breath she felt falling from the brunette drew her in. The walls could be closing in but when they shared something like this, it could never matter. The younger woman inches closer, her lips acting on instinct. Her instinct always knew best, rather they ended up getting her in trouble didn’t matter. They were always right.
So she meets her unit chief’s lips in a fiery kiss, soft but passionate. Their lips offering each other the silent terms that they could not voice. Their eyes close in the comfort, no matter the circumstances this could never feel wrong. When they finally pull back for air, still breathing each other in. Their eyes instantly locking.
“You’re exhausted, you shouldn’t drive anymore tonight,” Emily says in barely above a whisper, her hand absentmindedly lacing the blonde’s hair. “You should stay.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” JJ nods. Suddenly surfacing from all she had felt for the last week, at least for the moment. She wasn’t sure if the empty feeling, her heightened sense would return to her in the morning that left her running from anyone and everyone or if this really meant closure. Closure for what happened to Rosalyn and closure for what had happened that was beyond her control. All she knew is she felt it, that word was on the tip of her tongue; closure. Yet she never felt more open than she did right now.
Isn’t that what they say? One door closes and another opens.
“I’m gonna stay.”