A/N: I am SO SORRY this took so long.
My life has been so incredibly chaotic. This was the absolute soonest I could get anything written.
I hope you like it!
I should be able to start updating more often once my play is over (it opens next Thursday, and we'll have six performances to do, so... eep.).
So much love for you guys!
So much love!
"Oh, tie me up tightly by your side
So I may go with you where ever you reside"
Rosie Thomas -- Kite Song
"Like what's this morning's paper got to say But your lips when we speak
And which brand of coffee to make
This is no umbrella to take into the wind
And before we begin is there nothing to kill this anxiety.
Are the valleys and peaks of a mountain range on fire.
So let me walk these coals till you believe."
The Shins -- Girl, Inform Me
"Like what's this morning's paper got to say
But your lips when we speak
JJ wished she could say this was the first time she'd woken up in a bed that wasn't hers and thought to herself what the hell have I done?
It had been a night of fitful, dreamless slumber huddled under a thin quilt in that strange four-poster bed. Now, rolling her weary body over onto the other side of the mattress, she stretched her arms out and skimmed her palms over the cool, empty space before her, letting her lashes slowly guide her lids upwards until her cloudy vision finally managed to distinguish her own hair fanned across her face and the tousle of blankets around her head. One by one, things that had grown distant in the night dropped back into her barely conscious mind: Hotch's jaw held steady as her had given them their assignment, her hand twitching on her thigh as she had restrained it from settling over Reid's on the gearshift, his voice ringing through the silence long after he had told her good night the previous evening.
It had been he who had woken her up this morning, she gradually worked out. The sound of metal against metal and the smell of maple syrup had somehow penetrated her walls, her door, her bedspread, the crooks of her elbows covering her ears, coaxing her back into awareness, however reluctantly. The bedding thrown up in a twist over her was sufficient enough to muffle the noises, but now that her eyes were open, she could feel the early morning sun burning the pattern of the flimsy patchwork into her retinas.
It couldn't have been later than seven o'clock. Damn you, Spencer Reid.
With a throaty groan crushing against the back of her tongue like it used to before she quit smoking and a scream of protest from the muscles in her back, she disentangled her legs from the sheets and unfolded her body from the bed. A new pair of panties and the loose, worn fabric of an old T-shirt were all that interrupted the equilibrium between the air and her skin, and even standing like that in the privacy of the bedroom she felt suddenly indecent listening to Reid moving around the kitchen.
Clothes. Clothes good. Need clothes.
The aged floorboards squeaked beneath her haphazard footsteps as she tried to maneuver her half-awake self blindly to the closet and fish her bathrobe out with something remotely akin to haste. When she had finally pulled it on and fastened it around her waist, she padded gingerly out of the room, across the den, and into the kitchen.
Squinting through still-adjusting pupils, she could see that the shades were mercifully drawn over the set of large windows spanning the wall, batter was bubbling in a pan on the stove, and he was leaning against the adjoining counter. His back was to her, his plain white undershirt stretched taut between sharp, svelte shoulder blades, a spatula in one hand and his chin in the other, his elbows resting thoughtfully on the countertop as he perused the manila folder thick with documents on the granite beneath. If she had been more awake, or perhaps less, she might have registered how very much like a real husband he was, with his plaid pajama pants loosely draping his long, thin legs like lengths of blankets framing a child's homemade living room tent or dangling over the edges of a laundry basket cradled in the work-strong arms of a mother. But she was only awake enough to wish that she wasn't, so she voiced to only thing on her mind.
"What the hell are you doing?" she asked him blearily, the words tumbling around apathetic lips that mustered up just enough energy to refuse to define the consonants.
"Aren't we a little ray of sunshine," he said dryly, turning to take in her mussed hair and arms folded over her chest as if bracing herself against a cold wind. "I'm going over the case files again."
"…And how many times have you gone over them?"
"Not enough, apparently."
Her response was a sort of non-committal grunt, and she wobbled over to the barstool drawn up to the counter and sat down, closing her eyes and letting her head teeter at the end of her neck.
"It's strange…" he said slowly, deftly spinning the spatula around with his fingers. "These MO's… they just don't add up. He goes through the trouble of stripping the woman, but then just shoots her. He exerts the energy and time to beat the man, but kills him second."
"Nmph," was the noise that dislodged itself from JJ's tonsils.
"There are two distinct signatures. Two implied motives," Reid continued, carefully removing the pancake from the pan and sliding it onto a plate. "It almost seems like two entirely separate killers."
"Mmrg," she replied.
"But each motive seems personal," he expounded, pushing the plate across the smooth surface so that it rested in front of her, "so what are the odds that the same two killers would have a personal problem with two individuals who happen to married to each other… four times?"
This time there was no response, and he continued flipping through the papers in silence.
"You know, evidence shows that the killer may have stalked and spied on his victims as early as the moment they moved in," he said offhandedly. Her eyes snapped open at that, flickering warily from him to the shaded windows and back to him again. He quickly backpedaled. "Not to freak you out or anything."
"Oh, yeah," she muttered. "Sadistic homicidal freak watching me shower. Nothing to worry about."
And with that, she let her head drop to the counter.
"You're going to get syrup in your hair," he told her, unable to wrestle his small smile of fondness into submission. She mumbled something nondescript and monosyllabic in answer, making absolutely no effort to avert this potential crisis. He rounded the counter and gently swept her hair away from its position dangerously near the pool of maple syrup on her plate and back behind her neck. And then something curious happened.
Perhaps it was just because she was still only half-coherent and he was just so close and so much like home, but for a moment she found herself instinctively turning and inclining her face into his hand, pressing her cheek against his palm. He stilled, her hair still laced around his fingertips, her lips breathing their strange warmth beneath his wrist, before withdrawing his hand abruptly as if it had been burned.
"So," Morgan said, leaning nonchalantly against the doorframe of Garcia's little computer room, one corner of his mouth tucked slyly between his back teeth. "What do you think?"
"What do I think about what, sweetcheeks?" she asked (even though she already had an idea as to what the question was), swiveling around in her chair to smirk at him.
"About JJ and Reid shackin' up together," he clarified. "Kinda weird, huh?"
"Oh, it's definitely gonna be interesting. Reid's got it bad for her," Garcia replied without hesitation. Morgan raised his eyebrows.
"Are you kidding?" she laughed. "Have you seen the way he looks at her?"
"Like she's the only thing in the room, like he's never seen a pretty girl before in his life," she explained emphatically. "Come on, I thought you were smarter than that, Mr. Fancypants Behavioral Analyst! Reid looks at JJ like she farts fuckin' butterflies."
"I guess I just never noticed," he shrugged with a chuckle. "I can't imagine them together."
"Oh, I wouldn't be so sure," she said, her voice thick and slow with indulgence, reclining in her chair and taking a swig from her water bottle. "I've seen her eyeing him too."
"JJ? No way."
"Hey, lots of attractive girls like to live vicariously through nerd-crushes," Garcia said. "And it's very possible that she could act on it, given the right… circumstances."
Morgan just laughed, shaking his head.
"No?" she said with the air of someone either trying to explain basic math to a very adamantly ignorant first-grader or about to execute a con. "Well then, what do you think will happen?"
"My best bet?" he said. "All Reid's in store for is a few cold showers."
A wide, conniving smile dawned on Garcia's face.
"I do believe you said bet, sir."
"I grew up here, you know," JJ said leisurely, following Reid out the front door and onto the porch, a camera tethered to her wrist. Things hadn't really been that awkward after the little incident that morning, mostly because both of them preferred to pretend it had never happened, that perhaps they had just imagined it. After all, it had been very early, right?
He made his way over to the swing, looking at her with interest and holding a thick book between his elbow and his side.
"In Pennsylvania," she continued. "It's even more gorgeous than I remembered."
He smiled and gave a hum of assent, watching her sit down on the opposite side of the swing, the old chains creaking and the denim stretching across her thighs as she pulled her knees up to her chest, watching her nimble fingers fiddle with the focus. He saw in her happiness, a footloose and windswept life, a life perpetually tousled by the jaunty affection of ever-changing tempo, all brazen laughter and rolled-up hems and hands thrown up to the sun. These were things he had never known.
She returned his smile, drinking in the whole scene: the hills and valleys rolling off into the great green and blue distance, the sky opening infinitely above them, and Reid, Reid with his quirked up chin and curious, blamelessly wondering eyes. Closing her eyes, she let it all soak through every stitch of clothing, every inch of skin, and drew in a long stream of breath.
"I love this."
One more tiny step forward. Things were slowly falling into place.