Strength and Courage

Chapter 1

AN: This is my first Criminal Minds fic. Jemily is my favorite ship ever and I wanted to explore them in this. There will be occasional femslash (never written that before, so let's see how it goes) as well as conversations about a past trauma involving abduction and torture and sexual assault—so trigger warnings. None of the events of season 6 took place and JJ is a profiler as well as Emily. Feel free to let me know your ideas and what you think. I'm open to doing things such as flashbacks from the past. Just let me know what you think. I'll try to update as much as possible since I have another fic right now as well.

Disclaimer: I do not own CM characters. They belong to ABC, CBS, etc, but not me. If I did own them, neither actress playing these women would have been fired and Jemily would be an actual canon thing.

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage."

Lao Tzu

Jennifer Jareau sat at her desk in the bullpen. It had been almost three months since it happened and it was her first day back at work. Her wife, Emily, had been concerned it was too early for her to come back and she was determined to prove her wrong. Three months ago was JJ's last case. The unsub was kidnapping, torturing, and murdering blonde women in positions of power in the DC area. From the beginning, the team had considered JJ a suspected target and had kept a close eye on her, Emily more than the others.

Spencer was on JJ watch at the time and because he was distracted by a book he was reading related to the case, the blonde agent had taken the opportunity to get some fresh air alone. It was a mistake and soon she found herself bound and gagged in the basement of a serial killer. Needless to say, JJ's abduction sped up the progress of the case and within hours, Emily and Derek were ambushing the house before SWAT even arrived.

It was a close one for JJ. She had been through hell in those hours, and she had barely even began to work through the trauma. Emily had been incredibly supportive, but almost smothering at times, and JJ needed to prove to Hotch and Emily and everyone else that she was as tough as the rest of the team.

A hand on her shoulder pulled JJ out of her thoughts with a jump. "Sorry, Jayje. I didn't mean to scare you."

"It's okay, Pen," JJ replied with a smile. "Do we have a case?"

"We do. And it's bad, Jay. Hotch told me to tell you that if you want, you can stay here with me."

"No, I'm fine. I need to get back in the field, Penelope." JJ was adamant that she be fully back at her job. She had been cleared almost a month ago, but Emily had insisted she wait a few more weeks.

"Alright, then, sweet cheeks. Roundtable room in 5." The spirited woman walked from JJ's desk with pep in her step and JJ sighed. She gathered the files she was previously looking through and put them in a neat pile in the corner. They would have to wait. She wondered what this new case would be about. This would be the first time JJ could really see a case from the victims' perspective and the thought truly worried her. What if she couldn't hold it together? She might be able to control her micro-expressions in front of the rest of the team, but Emily would see right through her. Emily had always been able to read JJ like an open book, but sometimes, especially in the beginning, it was like the book was written in a different language. Good thing Emily was fluent in several.

"JJ, I just don't understand why this is so hard for you."

"Emily, we spend way too much time with these people. I don't want the team dynamic to change. If they knew were together, no one would treat us the same."

The two were lounging in Emily's condo having yet another argument about telling the team. "JJ, baby, no one is going to treat us differently. We all know something is going on with Morgan and Garcia, and nobody says anything, and Rossi and Strauss are together, so it's not like she'll kick us out of the unit. We've proven that we can be professional in the field." JJ didn't reply. "Are you embarrassed? Is that it? Oh my god, you don't want the team to know you're gay!"

"Please, Em, I've been out since I was fourteen. You know it has nothing to do with that. It's only because my sexuality has never come up with them before. I'm just nervous. I've never felt like this before. It's just a little overwhelming."

Emily sighed and pulled her girlfriend to her. "Jen, I'm sorry if I'm putting too much pressure on you. It's just you're my best friend and I love you so much. I really want to shout that to the world, you know?"

"Yeah, and a part of me feels that way too. I'll get over the nervousness. I think if we just do it, it'll turn out fine," JJ stated, attempting to convince herself.

"Are you sure? We don't have to if you're really not ready."

"No, I'm sure. We'll tell them on Monday?"

"Sounds like a plan."

JJ made her way into the roundtable room after everyone else had filed in. She sat in the empty chair next to Emily and turned her attention to Garcia and Hotch. "Welcome back, JJ," Hotch started and everyone echoed the comment.

"It's good to have you back, kiddo," Rossi added, finishing the chain of warm welcomes.

Hotch decided to shift the team's attention to the task before them. "Garcia and I have gotten word of an unsub in Nashville." Garcia clicked her remote and pointed it towards the screen and pictures appeared.

Penelope took over. "Twenty-one year old Beth Hansen disappeared from Green Hills a week ago, twenty-one year old Jessica Anderson disappeared from Bellevue a day later, and twenty-four year olds Ali Foster and Madison Blaylock disappeared from downtown Nashville four days after that. The four victims were disposed of in two separate garbage dumps. Two days ago, Beth's body was found in one dump, and later in the day, Jessica was found in another." The pictures of the crime scenes appeared as Garcia spoke. "Yesterday morning, Ali was found in the same dump as the one Jessica was found in. And last night, Madison's body was discovered in the first dump."

"Four victims in one week; that's not much of a cooling off period," Emily observed as she eyed JJ, knowing her wife and the rest of the team had noticed the same thing she had: all the victims were blonde and beautiful, almost as beautiful as JJ, Emily added to herself.

Knowing the team was concerned, JJ broke the silence after Emily's statement. "He seems to want two victims at the same time. And he spent more time with the first pair than the second."

Hotch continued. "So we should expect the next pair to be abducted very soon. We have to hit this one running. We'll continue briefing on the jet. Wheels up in 20."

Everyone began to gather their files together and exit the room to gather their go bags and get ready for the trip. JJ hesitated and in turn, so did Emily. Before Hotch left, he turned to JJ. "Agent Jareau, there's nothing wrong with easing yourself back into field work." His voice was kind and concerned, but the use of "Agent Jareau" conveyed the seriousness of his statement.

"I appreciate that, Hotch, but I'm really fine."

"I trust your judgement, JJ, I just want to make sure. The victimology is-"

"I know all about the victimology. I'm ready to be back. I wouldn't be here if I thought I was putting anyone in unnecessary danger, including myself," JJ asserted.

"Alright. See you on the jet."

Hotch exited the room leaving JJ and Emily alone. "Jennifer, are you sure you're up to this?"

"Emily, I'm not an invalid," JJ spat. She realized her tone was cold, so she took a deep breath before continuing. "I know I'm not totally recovered from all that's happened, but if I don't push myself, I'm not going to get anywhere."

"You're right, Jen, but I'm never going to not worry about you."

"I would worry about you if you did." JJ smiled and then followed her wife to the jet. They were the first to arrive and they sat on the couch together. Hotch boarded next, then came Rossi, and then Reid and Morgan. The jet took off and Hotch waited a few minutes before beginning the conversation.

"Let's talk about victimology," he began.

Spencer immediately started talking. "All four victims were slim blondes in their early twenties. There doesn't seem to be anything else connecting them, but I'll keep searching. In a city as big as Nashville is, it wouldn't be improbable that these women weren't connected, but maybe attended the same concert, or shopped at the same grocery store."

"What's bothering me is the two victims at the same time. Why would that be?" Morgan asked.

Emily offered, "Maybe he wants them to watch what he's doing to the other."

"Whatever it is, this is incredibly personal," Rossi answered Prentiss. "The overkill on these women is extreme. Not to mention, the torture beforehand."

JJ hesitated for a moment before asking, "Any evidence of sexual assault?"

Emily replied immediately. "None."

"Are the women stabbed? Maybe he's impotent?" Morgan theorized.

"They seemed to have bled out after being cut repeatedly, but it doesn't look like these cuts were deep. They were just meticulously placed. Maybe someone in the medical profession?" Hotch suggested.

"I don't think that's a connection we should be making," Reid advised. "The medical knowledge needed for these cuts is minimal. Not to mention it looks like these cuts were made with glass."

Hotch closed his file. "We're going to land soon. I think we have enough to start looking for connections."

"Hotch, how long do we have until another pair is taken? And how long would these girls have?" JJ asked. She was concerned for the potential victims. JJ had always had a gift for empathy, but now, she could truly empathize with women who were assault survivors, and the ones who didn't live through the ordeal as well.

Before the BAU's unit chief could reply, the screen on the table lit up with Garcia's face. "I'm sorry to rain on your parade, Barbra Streisand, but a girl has been taken from Germantown," the technical analyst began. "If you take out your handy tablets, you'll see Amanda Huntington, twenty-three years old. She disappeared this morning outside of her job at a local restaurant."

"She matches the victimology perfectly," Emily thought aloud.

"If the pattern holds, another girl will go missing later today or early tomorrow. And they won't have long if it's true he's spending less time with them," Morgan reminded the team of their predicament.

"As my chocolate Adonis has so kindly reminded us," Garcia started with a wink in Morgan's direction, "there will inevitably be another abduction, and I will let you know when it happens."

"Thanks, baby girl," Morgan replied.

"No problem, furry friends. It is my pleasure to be the all-knowing genius I am. Garcia signing off." Garcia was seen pressing a button and then she disappeared.

The team appreciated Garcia's humor as always; it gave them a chance to be light-hearted, if only for a moment. The Behavioral Analysis Unit team was well aware of the egregiousness of the current case they were working. Two more women could be dead within the next twenty-four hours and it didn't seem like the unsub's abduction rate would slow at all.

Hotch, feeling the sense of urgency, began divvying out tasks. "Alright, when we land, Rossi and Morgan, go to the newest abduction site. Prentiss, go talk to the M.E., and Reid and I will work on the geographical profile at the station."

All the agents nodded except JJ who looked confused. She peeked her head over the chair to make sure Hotch saw her. "Uh. Hotch? What about me?"

"I'm sorry, JJ. I guess I'm used to not having you here. We all need to get back into the swing of things the way they were before…" Hotch didn't finish the sentence but instead trailed off.

"Where do you want me to go, Hotch?" JJ asked her boss, unamused by the situation.

Emily gave Hotch a pointed look that spoke volumes. "Go ahead and go with Emily, JJ, if that's okay with you." He added the last part for the blonde agent's benefit, but he knew Emily wasn't leaving the jet without JJ by her side.

JJ saw her wife sigh in relief and she became frustrated. She kept her outward appearance calm because the last thing she needed was to be suspended or fired for arguing with orders. "Of course, Hotch." She smiled at Emily, but the smile didn't reach her eyes and JJ knew her wife would notice. JJ almost enjoyed that fact. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate Emily, but she was overprotective to the point of being more annoying than a child in the candy aisle of a grocery store, and sometimes, she just needed Emily to back off. It didn't take long after JJ's abduction for her to realize her wife of five years was incapable of backing off, and so she settled for nagging her about it without words. JJ needed Emily to know she was fine. She wasn't always fine, but she had been more than okay for several weeks before going back to work and the streak of no flashbacks had not yet been interrupted.

As the agents were unloading from the jet, Emily held JJ back. "Emily…" JJ warned.

"Jennifer, I just need you to hear me out for a second, please," the brunette begged and earned a nod from JJ. "Please come to me if you need a break of if you need to talk or for no reason at all. Honestly, JJ, I want to be here for you, but you don't seem to want to let me."

"Emily. I'm fine." She stressed the word in a way that proved to Emily that she was in fact not fine.

"Jennifer, we haven't even had sex since what happened."

JJ immediately blushed and searched for any of her teammates, relieved when she confirmed she and Emily were the only ones on the jet. "Emily, I really have no idea what that has to do with me being on this case."

Emily reached out and placed her hand on JJ's arm and she visibly tensed before relaxing into the touch. "You do, Jennifer. You do. You know exactly what it has do to with you being on this case. For the last three months, you've avoided doing anything that you thought would trigger you, and I don't blame you for that. I'm not some impatient heartless bitch; you know I'm not telling you this because I'm trying to rush you into anything and I'm not trying to stop you from doing your job, honey. But you jump when I touch your arm before you see it coming. Something could happen in the field and I just want to be there for you if it does. Jen, try to imagine yourself in my position for a second."

JJ nodded vigorously. "You're right. I would be even crazier than you." JJ laughed to lift the tense atmosphere that had settled around them.

"Alright. I'll try harder to give you some space, but I'm not going to stop doing things like this and checking in on you, okay? Please don't ask me to." JJ nodded and Emily pulled her in for a hug. When they released each other, Emily took JJ's hand. "Let's go kick some criminal ass."

AN: What do you think so far? What do you want to see happen in the future?

Thanks for reading and please leave a review for me! They make me want to write more.