When JJ kisses Emily, they’re on a case.
The club is loud, and her throat is sore from yelling over the music. Emily grins at her, bright and brilliant through it all, reassuring hand on her shoulder, the smell of her perfume putting her at ease.
“I don’t think our guy is feeling as confident tonight,” Emily yells, perfect teeth lit up blue, then pink, then orange as the lights change. She says it with a hint of laughter in her voice, but it’s not funny. They never let their guard down, can’t afford to, and the situation they’re in isn’t really comical at all.
They’re bait, if they’re being honest about it, and JJ keeps feeling herself tense up, unable to focus on the task at hand. The field is new to her. She’s never been asked to be undercover like this before. She sips anxiously at her club soda and her eyes flit over the club, trying to take in the abundance of sensory information all at once.
Emily’s hand grabs her wrist, makes her gasp, but it gets drowned out by the music, the pounding of the bass that overtakes everything else, like a tidal wave of sound. Spence had said once that it was amazing, with the setups of clubs, that more crimes didn’t take place there. With the music blasting like this, JJ wondered if anyone would ever hear her scream. If she could get gutted on the dance floor and no one would ever know. Not until they turned on the lights as the sun rose, not until the music stopped.
“Jennifer,” Emily says, clearly on her fourth or fifth attempt at getting JJ’s attention. She’s resorted to government names. “Bathroom,” she yells. “Come on,” and pulls JJ by the wrist through the crowd, creating her own path. She doesn’t hesitate, seems used to navigating spaces like this, and JJ realizes there is still so much to Emily that she doesn’t know, a chapter she hasn’t gotten to yet.
She needs more time.
In the bathroom, the music sounds far away, though JJ can still feel it vibrate up into her bones through her heels.
“Are you okay?” Emily asks gently. “You seem nervous out there.”
“And you’re not?” she says defensively. “We’re practically setting ourselves up to get killed.” Emily frowns at that, shifting her weight onto her other leg.
“JJ,” she begins. “If you weren’t okay with it, you shouldn’t have told Hotch that you were. You know we can’t force you.” JJ’s eyes are wide, trained on the filthy bathroom floor, wadded up toilet paper, glitter that catches the unflattering grey-yellow light from above.
“How could I say no?” she asks. “When he keeps killing them- the women. It wouldn’t work with just one of us. We needed to be a couple.” Emily nods, knows better than to think she has all the answers.
“We did. The thing is, I don’t think we’re selling it. You taking a sip of your soda every couple minutes and avoiding eye contact with me isn’t exactly what people do when they’re in love,” JJ laughs weakly at that, can’t argue with it.
“Are you okay? Let’s go back out there. Show me- Show the unsub that we’re in love, okay? Were you ever in a play?”
“Wendy in Casper meets Wendy.” JJ admits, embarrassed. Emily laughs, so unashamed. So happy.
“Who played Casper? Spence?” Emily jokes. JJ laughs, the sound lifting up and up, over the tops of the bathroom stall doors.
“Pretend you’re acting in a play,” Emily says again. “The role of a lifetime. It’s not often someone gets the privilege of being my girlfriend, you know.” Emily jokes, and JJ can’t stop smiling. Emily’s girlfriend, huh? She thinks of all the stories Emily’s shared with her. The brunette from the bakery, the starving artist blonde from Los Angeles. Yes, Emily doesn’t have girlfriends. She knows that for a fact.
“Okay,” JJ nods, determined. “I’m your girlfriend, and we’re in love,” She wants to ignore the physiological effect those words have on her once spoken. It was bad enough what they did to her when she was only thinking them.
She can hear Spencer’s voice now. Actually, the brain does a surprisingly poor job of differentiating between fiction and reality. Brain scans show that, due to mirror neurons, the parts of the brain responsible for performing a particular action actually light up when they see that action being demonstrated by someone else. It’s part of why some people think violent video games should be banned. One could argue that by seeing the violent actions performed, one feels-
“We sure are,” Emily smiles back at her, but she’s not laughing anymore. Her gaze is warm, and her lipstick suits her even in this ghastly lighting, and the click of their heels as they walk back to the dance floor is in sync.
Emily squeezes JJ’s wrist when she notices the unsub. JJ can’t miss him. Tall, long blonde hair in a low ponytail, asymmetrical face, just like the composite sketch. After they ran it on the 8 PM news, JJ thought for sure he’d change his look. Hotch had said he’d be an overconfident narcissist. Silly her for ever doubting him.
Catching his eyes, Emily takes JJ’s jaw in her hands, cups her cheeks, and turns her head to the side. Like this, eyes glinting in the light, her lips glossy, Emily kisses JJ on the mouth, all messy and unrestricted. It’s not a PG kiss. JJ can feel the warmth and wetness of her mouth, her tongue, and feels like her skin is sizzling off of her body. She won’t admit it if asked later, if anyone ever asks, but there’s a moment where it’s just her and Emily in that swarm of people, and she forgets all about the unsub.
She feels Emily grin into the kiss, the most dangerous part of it all, and presses on her earring, the alert for Morgan and the others to come in. The unsub is right next to them, leaning in to smell Emily’s hair.
If JJ hadn’t been forced to go in unarmed to keep up appearances, she would shoot him right between his uneven eyes. Love is a dangerous thing in a field like this. She licks her lips and feels Emily’s lip product on them, feeling lightheaded.
Morgan sidles up behind the unsub and rips his arms back to cuff him.
“Louis Van Vleet, FBI. You’re under arrest…” He reads him his Miranda rights, but JJ is only looking at Emily.
They lead the unsub away, and her and Emily are safe. Safe. The hand that was itching for her gun relaxes at her side. Emily grins at her.
“You did great!” she says. “Just like I knew you would,”
“You too,” she says quietly. She isn’t sure if Emily hears her, over the music, but she hopes she does.
JJ knows something is wrong.
Will stares at her, eyes wet, asking questions she doesn’t have answers to.
“Are you ashamed of me?” he asks. JJ bristles.
“No!” she says, because that’s not the right word. It’s not...It’s not shame making her feel like this. Maybe Spence would know the word for this feeling, but he’s not here, and she can’t exactly phone a friend right now.
“Then what is it?” Will asks. JJ flounders. She wants to turn around and run far away, but she can’t. She panics, says the first excuse she can think of.
“I just like keeping my personal life separate from work!” she yells. It couldn’t be more of a lie.
Every single part of her personal life is poured into her work, in her relationships with the team. It’s not fair to Will. She knows it, and feels guilty even as she intentionally uses a tone that she knows will make Will feel like he’s in the wrong. She doesn’t appreciate being cornered like this, not when she doesn’t even know the answer herself.
“Whatever, JJ.” he says, and JJ remembers all those phone calls she’s had with her mom, about how Will is a good guy, how she has to hold onto him, how she’s found the one. She walks away feeling sick.
Later, seeing his dejected posture, she stares at him sadly. Emily makes a joke about flirting with him, not knowing the nature of her and Will’s relationship, and then laughs. She never could have meant it in the first place. Emily doesn’t like men.
“Maybe you should go after him,” she suggests, and JJ swallows hard.
“Maybe I should,” JJ agrees, and runs toward him, kissing him with everything she’s got.
His mouth doesn’t fit against hers the same way Emily’s does, but that’s not his fault. None of this is his fault.
If she looked over, if she opened her eyes, she’d see the way Emily’s face falls, her eyes sad and resigned as Will holds her.
But she doesn’t. She keeps kissing him.
“Finally,” Emily sighs.
“What it’s been? Over a year?” Morgan adds, looking equally tired.
Emily doesn’t answer. She walks away.
She walks away
JJ gets pregnant.
By the time she realizes her period is late, she’s 6 weeks. She sees the positive result on the pregnancy test and actually laughs. She laughs. She’s going to be a mom.
It’s probably not right of her to look forward to Emily’s reaction more than Will’s.
When they break the news, Emily doesn’t miss a beat, smiling and congratulating her, genuinely happy. JJ smiles back, and lets herself have just that one minute to imagine a life with Emily, raising their kids, spoon feeding them together, dressing them up.
Hotch is the one who sobers them up. There’s bombs going off all over New York City, and she let herself forget. She gets herself together, and kisses Will goodbye. She’s needed here.
JJ’s stomach gets big and round and suddenly it’s all a little too real. Spencer provides her with an abundance of information about pregnancy and what to expect and how the baby is developing and doesn’t get annoyed when she calls him a million times a day just to make sure everything is okay.
“JJ, I would never give you false information, and this is all straight out of medical journals and peer reviewed articles, but I still hope you will visit your actual doctor.”
“You are my doctor,” she jokes, but Spencer doesn’t laugh. He’s worried for her.
“JJ,” he says.
“Don’t worry, Spence. I do see my doctor. Often,” He sighs in relief.
The other million phone calls she makes a day are to Emily. Emily says things like “You’ll be a great mother, JJ,” and quickly compliments her when she starts getting down on her appearance. Her swollen ankles make her feel like an elephant but Emily just laughs and says “Never, never. You look amazing,” and her laughter through the phone makes her heart soar.
JJ knows, when she walks up to Spence’s desk after hours, that the odds are against her, and the numbers are not on her side. She is also acutely aware, with the almost painful certainty that comes with knowing someone so well, that he will have zero issues telling her this.
The trick is to not arouse too much suspicion or curiosity. It’s a delicate process, because Spence can find pretty much anything fascinating, and he’s suspicious by nature. A survival tactic, a profiler skill, call it whatever you want. A quality, maybe. JJ just knows she has to stick to her plan.
“Hey, Spence,” JJ says, getting his attention. He looks up from some obscure French novel, and blinks hard, brain recalibrating, shifting gears from reading to speaking.
“Yeah?” he says. “What’s up?”
“I was reading this thing on the internet the other day,” she begins, trying to sound casually interested.
“There was this woman, and she was married, with kids, to a man. I mean they’d been married for like going on 20 years, and then she just said ‘You know what? Screw this! I’m a lesbian’. Can that...happen?” Spencer blinks owlishly. His dark circles are especially bad today. Two black eyes that stare at her, world weary.
“If you read about it happening, don’t you kind of...already have your answer?” Spencer asks, not unkindly.
“I mean, does it happen often? I mean, how is that possible?”
“Well, there’s not really available statistics on this sort of thing, and if there were they’d be highly inaccurate,” he says, sitting up. “I mean, this isn’t the kind of thing that can be quantified by an experiment in a lab or by examining measurements. It’d be more of a- a sociological poll, or a survey, and even then there’d be no way to ensure people were being entirely truthful. And that’s without even considering the possibility that some women just wouldn’t know yet. I mean, one’s sexuality is comprised of a very complex set of factors. It’s not fully understood, and it can be fluid.” As he speaks, JJ feels that this might be the one Spencer Rant that she won’t be cutting off prematurely. She wants to hear everything he has to say on the matter.
“It’s theoretically possible that the woman believed she was heterosexual at the time of the marriage, possibly due to societal pressure and perceived universal truths about all women, and later realized she also likes women. It’s also possible that she’s repressed her feelings of attraction towards women her entire life or that they were even expressed at one point and then she was discouraged from further exploration of these feelings by either herself or a third party, and they’ve reemerged in adulthood. Or maybe she is bisexual. That’s another possibility that can’t be ruled out,” JJ nods.
“So it’s possible?”
“Absolutely,” Spencer agrees.
“Is it highly likely?” Spencer shifts uncomfortably at that, mouth slightly open in thought.
“I can’t really say. I don’t have sufficient evidence to support that claim, but...I would think it’s more likely than any of us would ever think.” JJ smiles.
“Thanks, Spence.” He nods, ready to go back to his French literature, but then he looks up as JJ begins to walk away,
“She feels the same way,” he says, with that one grin. The one with all his teeth. If JJ recalls, it had taken her a particularly long time to get that out of him. He looks like a wolf, and JJ’s stomach drops.
“Go back to reading Le Chat Noire or whatever that is, Spence.” she says, hoping to throw him off.
“Actually, it’s this little known science fiction work from the 1930s called-”
JJ is long gone by the time he begins to summarize the plot.
Emily Prentiss dies.
She coughs up blood and her ribs crack and she dies. Morgan watches it happen.
The BAU is overwhelmed by grief, and to honor her memory they have a funeral fit for a diplomat’s daughter. A distinguished one. Morgan’s arms shake at the service when they hold up her casket, assisted by several others. This has nothing to do with the weight of it.
There’s crosses all over the place, but Emily was never particularly religious.
Three days before the funeral, Hotch calls JJ to his office in a hushed voice, and tells her Emily isn’t gone at all, but she can’t stay here long.
“Europe?” she asks, exasperated. “But the others-”
“Can’t know,” he finishes. “There can be no debate on this. You have to treat it like you would any other case with sensitive information. The public cannot know things that will cause an uproar, widespread panic, or lead to dangerous circumstances. That’s the first thing you learn as a liaison.” JJ opens her mouth over and over but can’t get herself to say a thing.
“But the team, our team...They are not the public, Hotch.” She looks disgusted, feels disgusted, but also so, so relieved. Things could have been so much worse. The funeral could be real. She could really be losing-
“JJ,” Hotch says, voice cutting right through her thoughts. “I don’t like this anymore than you do, but if this news gets out, and Doyle gets his hands on it, Emily will die. For real, this time. We don’t get second chances like this. We need to do this, and we can’t afford to make a single mistake.”
“No one on our team would tell,” she pleads, but knows she’s playing a losing game.
“Not on purpose,” Hotch says sadly, and JJ slumps.
“Not even Spence?” she tries.
“Especially not him. He won’t be able to hide his joy. It’ll tip everyone else off.”
“Why did you pick me?” she asks, exasperated. “Why me, instead of anyone else?” Hotch gives her a look, like she’s supposed to already know.
“You have the most experience hiding your feelings regarding Emily.”
JJ doesn’t ask anymore questions.
At night, a woman walks all over Europe. She wears wigs and sunglasses and switches notable clothing items out of her wardrobe and into the trash before anyone can pick up on a pattern. JJ has a feeling she wears too many closed-toe shoes, and has a bit of a shopping addiction.
But she wouldn’t know. She’s never met the woman.
“That crafty bitch,” JJ whispers to herself, staring at her phone screen. She hadn’t even known that was a word. Of course Emily- No, these days she was too scared to even think her name. She was scared someone might be listening. Of course she’d know that was a word. Of course.
“Who’re you cursing at, Jennifer?” Will says slyly, looking over her shoulder. “Scrabble? Really?” JJ laughs.
“Don’t knock it. It’s a good game.”
“Wow,” Will says, his accent just as heavy as it was the day she met him though he’s been living in Virginia for a while now. “This guy is kicking your ass. Maybe you should call Reid for some help.” She can’t let the smile slide off her face entirely, but it does falter. Reid.
“I’m sorry he’s over here so much,” she says quietly. “He’s just having a really hard time.” Will makes a face. It seems to say Yeah, and you’re not . What’s up with that? and How could I ever get mad at him for that? At the same time, but maybe JJ is just projecting.
“The kid lost one of his best friends. And I bet he didn’t really have one of those until he came to the Bureau, either. I can’t exactly resent him for being torn up about it.” he says.
“And the way he cries . It’s like he’s been storing up those tears for a hundred years.” He shakes his head at the thought.
“I worry about him,” he says. “I’m not trying to say he’d do anything, but-” He cuts himself off. Will doesn’t say it, but Spencer has, in little ways. Little bits and pieces he lays out for her to profile. She has dreams of Spencer tying a belt around his arm and filling up a syringe.
In the dream Spencer locks eyes with her right before the needle presses through his skin. He says “Jennifer, why didn’t you say anything?” and empties it all into his veins.
JJ tries another word in Scrabble, but she doesn’t have the F she needs. She gives up and locks her phone.
“I worry about him, too.” she admits. “I don’t think what I can do for him is enough anymore.” They sit in silence for a moment, the mood destroyed, and Will sighs.
“I get it, though. Emily was an amazing woman.”
She was, JJ thinks. She is . Jennifer Jareau, though. She isn’t.
Eventually, she’ll have to pay for this. She just doesn’t know how.
Hotch brings in Emily and she can’t even bring herself to feign surprise. She hopes somehow it will get lost in the sea of gasps and widened eyes but she knows Spencer stares right at her, just like in her dream. The only solace is that the needle isn’t with him. She can’t guarantee that’s the case when he goes home at night.
Spencer calls her Jennifer and talks right over her. She doesn’t like that the dream just becomes closer and closer to reality, and maybe this is how she has to pay. She knew it would come sooner or later, she just didn’t know when.
‘Spence,” she tries. He looks her right in the eyes, just to let her know he’s heard her, and then walks away. She wants to be angry. She is, but it’s with herself and nobody else.
“He’s pissed, isn’t he?” Emily says, not needing an answer. She smiles at JJ and pulls her in for a hug, and JJ, guilty, so guilty, but not guilty enough, relaxes into it.
“It’s so nice to have you back,” she says.
“I’ve missed you,” Emily says, just as beautiful as JJ remembers her.
She tries again in the office and Spencer isn’t interested.
“What if I had started taking dilaudid again?” he asks, like he sees right through her into her very mind, her unconscious thoughts, like she shot him up herself.
“But you didn’t,” she says. She wants to call his bluff. She’s really hoping it’s a bluff.
“But I thought about it,” he says, and JJ thinks not for the first time that she might have been having visions all along.
JJ thinks it’s more a miracle of kindness from Spencer than anything else that he ever speaks to them again. She doesn’t thank him. He’s not doing this for her. He’s doing it for himself.
She links arms with him, and maybe it’s a testament to his soft spot for her, or the sudden reappearance of a momento from how things used to be, when things were easy and they were young, that distracts him, that he doesn’t shrug her off.
“We’re going out for drinks. You, me, and Emily. Dazzling Tiger bar. Boneless wings. Margaritas.”
“I don’t like margaritas,” he tries weakly.
“That’s because you haven’t had these margaritas.” she smiles, and she doesn’t miss the amused twitch of his lips.
Spence is tipsy after one, drunk after three. He has a growing collection of the fake little umbrellas they put in the drinks next to him.
“Margaritas aren’t tropical,” he grumbles. “Why the umbrellas?”
“‘Cause they’re cute,” Emily laughs. “They’re festive! And if a little storm comes on…” She lifts up the mini umbrella, and Spencer laughs. It’s a light laugh, youthful, and Spencer is not old but he’s not 24 anymore either.
And yet something about his face like this, relaxed, happy. It takes 10 years off of him, and JJ wishes he had had the chance to be like this when he was young enough to appreciate it. That life could have been this easy for him. She knows she certainly didn’t make it any less hard, not when she hid Emily the way she did, but he had to understand that she did it for all of them. The three of them. She did it so Spencer could be back with Emily again one day.
Emily puts an umbrella in Spencer’s hair and smooths down the pieces that get messed up from it. He can’t even find it in himself to pretend he’s annoyed, just lets it happen, enjoys it even.
“You look adorable, Spence,” she says, and he grins.
“You look beautiful, Emily.” His voice is shaky. Something changes in his face, so fast it’s startling.
“I missed you. So, so much.” Emily’s eyes change, and she tucks some hair behind his ear, careful not to disturb the fuschia umbrella she placed in it.
“I missed you even more, if you can imagine that,” she says gently. “I had to use Google when I had a question, Spence. Google. That’s like- That’s like drinking Rossi-quality red wine from 1312 and then having to drink Walmart moscato. I mean, it’s just disgraceful ,” He laughs, and then all too soon he starts to cry, and JJ thinks to herself that everything catches up to you eventually. Emily wipes his tears away with loving hands, dark purple nail polish on her fingers. She shushes him.
Hand on his jaw, cautious, the same way she had been with JJ back in that undercover mission so many years ago, she placed a careful kiss on Spencer’s lips. It couldn’t mean anything beyond platonic love. Emily didn’t like men, certainly not like that, but the love she had for Spencer was beyond a fist bump or a high five, and she didn’t know how else to demonstrate to him the bone deep love she had for him, how to give him the proof he needed.
Spencer’s eyes are wet when she pulls away, her dark lipstick on his lower lip, and he understands.
He’d always been a quick learner.
Their case has just finished. One of the good ones, and everyone gets to go home with a light heart and a sense of accomplishment.
JJ is aching to see her kids. She knows she’s not in love with Will, not the way a wife should be, but he’s a good man, an amazing father and she’s always wanted to have children. It’s not a bad way to live, even if she’ll never have what she wants. It’s not fair to Will, after all.
“Spence,” JJ says, hitting him on the thigh to wake him up. “Come over after this,”
“JJ,” he whines. “I’m so tired.”
“Come on,” she pleads. “I told Will when I got back he could go visit his sister in Louisiana. He’s had to deal with two very energetic boys for four days with no help.” Spencer makes a groaning sound. A whine, more accurately.
“And besides,” JJ says, a glint in her eye. “Henry really wants to see his godfather.”
“Wow,” Spencer says, drawing out the word. “The godson excuse? Really? Seriously? That’s low,” he says. “You better make me a strong cup of coffee.” JJ does a little silent dance of joy.
“You got it, boss,” She lets Spencer sleep the rest of the flight, and smacks him with his messenger bag to wake him up when they land.
“Ow!” he cries. “That bag has a 7th edition Merriam-Webster Dictionary with over 500 pages in it! I’ve survived anthrax and gunshots just for you to end up killing me with a traumatic brain injury. I think I’m concussed.”
“Don’t be a baby,” she laughs. “You’re just sleep deprived.”
In JJ’s house, her home, Will heads to the airport while her and Spencer wrangle the kids and get them to bed.
“Spence?” she asks hesitantly, unsure if he’s even still awake. He’s been silent for longer than six minutes, and nothing life threatening is happening, so she’s assuming the worst, but then he hums in response.
“That day I asked you about the woman who was married with kids and then realized she liked women...How’d you know that I liked Emily?”
“Like,” he corrects her. “You still do,” JJ ignores that.
“How’d you know?”
“Because she kissed you when you guys were undercover,” he says easily. “And you loved it,” JJ pales.
“Was there a c-”
“There were no cameras. We weren’t watching you. It was your...body language after, and the way you guys kept looking at each other.” He smirks.
“And her lipstick all over your mouth,” he adds. JJ punches him in the arm.
“Ow! You asked me!”
“Doesn’t mean I have to like the answer,” she laughs. Spencer, still holding his wounded arm, shrugs.
“I suppose that’s true.” There’s a pensive silence for a few more minutes, and then JJ speaks.
“I could never do that to Will,” she says.
“I know,” Spencer says.
“But I wish I could,” she admits.
“I know,” Spencer says.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Emily,”
“That’s in the past,” he says. “What matters is she’s here now.”
“You don’t have to pretend you’re not mad about it if you are. It was fucked up, and I’m sorry.” JJ says. Spencer sits up, more awake.
“I used to always live in the past. I’d always stay upset about things that happened to me before. When I was little, when I was in high school-”
“So still when you were little,” JJ smiles. Spencer smiles back.
“Yes, but I was just always so angry and felt so...like I had been wronged. Like I had suffered a great injustice of some sort. And then one day I was venting to Morgan and he was all like ‘Woah, woah, woah! Slow down!’ and I was mad at him, because like, I felt like I had a right to be upset. And he was like ‘I’m not saying you don’t have a right to be mad, Reid. It’s just that if you let those things eat at you forever, and you never even try to move on, they win. Your whole thing is logic, right? It’s not very logical to waste energy you could be using to live in the present to get pissed off about things in the past, is it?’ and he was right!”
“I mean,” he continues. “Those things undoubtedly shape us as people and we shouldn’t try to forget about them entirely, even if they hurt, but they shouldn’t be...all we think about either. So what I’m saying is that I forgive you and Emily and Hotch, even though it hurt, because it doesn’t do me any good to be mad about it anymore. I just love you guys and I’m glad that you’re here.”
“That’s really nice, Spence,” JJ says softly, honestly. She reaches out to put her hand on top of his.
“Thank you,” she says earnestly, and then thinking of something, takes out her phone.
“Hey,” she says. “I wanna show you something.” He looks up, curious, and JJ shows him her Scrabble app.
“Em and I have been playing since the funeral.”
“Digital Scrabble…?” he says out loud, sounding doubtful.
“Hey,” JJ laughs. “You and Gideon had chess. Emily and I have...the Scrabble app. Anyways, you need to play with us.”
“I don’t have that app.” he says.
“That’s exactly why you’re going to hand me that phone, grandpa. I’m going to make you an account.”
Three weeks later, when Spence has kicked her and Emily’s asses all over the Scrabble board, she almost regrets putting the app on his phone.