Title: A Not So Charlie Brown Christmas
Pairing: JJ/Emily, Criminal Minds
Summary: Just a bit of inexcusable, irredeemable, Holiday fluff inspired by all the wonderful CM writers out there.
Jennifer Jareau stood in the arrivals gate of the metro airport. Shrugging her tan overcoat tighter around her slender frame, she marveled at the sea of humanity that seemed to ebb and flow around her in accordance with the laws and whims particular to crowds: laws that bore closer resemblance to chaos theory than any kind of organized behavior. The blonde agent watched as people grabbed luggage and left: some alone, some with families, some meeting friends and loved ones after a long separation. Handshakes, hugs, kisses, shouts of joy and laughter leapt into the cavernous space around her as people reunited for a time at least, intent on being together for the holidays. Despite her effort at control, those simple actions stirred a longing that JJ had carefully kept banked, and it filled her with an impatience to join those around her who wouldn't be alone this Christmas.
Soon, she repeated silently, and returned to her perusal of the arrivals area, hoping to distract herself just a bit longer.
Despite the many strangers that JJ interacted with every day in her job, simply watching people never ceased to amaze her. The infinite variations of shapes and sizes, colors and personalities that drifted around her never grew tiring. Like the sparkling white flakes that danced in the wind outside, each one was unique: special.
None so special however, as the lone figure easily weaving through the crowds and making her way toward the exit.
To the uninformed observer, the woman – elegantly dressed in a long wool overcoat and toting the ubiquitous black carry-on – would not have stood out from the hundreds of other professional travelers making their way into the December night. To JJ however, everyone else ceased to matter as her focus was overtaken by the sight of the person whose smallest touch could make her go weak at the knees, and derail her thoughts completely.
A stranger also might not see anything untoward about the object of the blonde agent's attention, but to JJ, the evidence of exhaustion and pain carved in the lines of Emily's body was achingly clear.
She looks terrible, JJ realized, and although it hurt to see her lover this way, JJ couldn't say she was surprised.
Five days ago, the quiet dinner JJ and Emily had been sharing was interrupted by the ringing of the brunette's cell. In the space of a few moments, the blonde had felt her heart sink as she watched Emily's expression fade from shocked, to upset, to stoic and distant. Only one person could have that affect on her lover, and when the dark haired agent hung up the phone, JJ had tentatively reached out and touched her hand.
"How long do you have to be gone?" she'd asked, seeing in Emily's mahogany eyes the shattering of their newly laid plans to spend Christmas together.
The guilt and anger had been evident in her voice when the darker woman replied, "I don't know. My father isn't well."
Without thinking, JJ laced her fingers through Emily's, "Do you want me to come with you?" she asked, expecting a polite denial. The response both shocked her, and stole her breath.
"More than anything."
Their relationship was still new and hesitant. Like a newborn foal desperately trying to stand, both women knew exactly what they wanted, but the path to that goal was still uncertain and treacherous. They hadn't told the team. What exactly they were waiting for, neither could say, only agreeing that the time wasn't yet right. Nor had they spoken to their families. Although their reasons for not doing so were different, they shared a common element of caution: of a desire to keep the fragile flame lit between them safe and secret, away from the winds of disapproval and misunderstanding.
It was moments like these however, when Emily's rich voice was rough and full and her emotions played openly on her face, that JJ found herself understanding what romantics meant when they talked about falling into another person's eyes. It took her breath away and filled her with a wild, fierce longing to wrap herself in Emily's arms and never let go. It made her want to say 'to hell with it' and tell the world that she was in love.
But she didn't. And every day, she and Emily made little choices – like not reaching out to touch each other, or looking away from the other's gaze – that kept their relationship guarded and hopefully safe, even if the choices themselves cut tiny wounds within.
This time however, those choices kept them apart. JJ was called in with another case as the team flew to Denver. Emily left for New York by herself.
It had been five grueling days of hunting for a serial killer who targeted children, and it was made worse for JJ by the absence of Emily's quiet support. A solitary person most of her life by choice and circumstance, it still shocked the blonde how much her heart and body craved Emily's presence. When they were apart, it felt at times as if a piece of JJ was missing, and the hole it left behind was filled with a dark, unending ache. It left JJ wondering sometimes if she could survive this: if she was strong enough to accept the storm of emotion that threatened to consume her. It never failed though, that when she truly began to doubt, sky blue eyes would meet warm brown across a table, or in the middle of a crowd of people, or Emily would brush a hand against her back and JJ would know that no matter what, the two of them would weather the tempest together.
The press liaison was reminded of that effect once again as just the simple sight of the brunette making her way through the crowds set her heart to racing and the last of the stress from the case to melting from her shoulders, vanishing like the snow on her coat. Shaking her head at herself, JJ stepped forward, moving to intercept her lover. As if on cue, Emily's gaze snagged on her and the blonde was treated to one of Emily's rare true smiles that lit her entire face.
Changing direction, the two women closed the last distance between them, but stopped just shy of touching. Out of habit, JJ forced herself to hold back. They were in a public, and she could read the same hesitation in Emily. When the brunette spoke however, it was a nearly physical effort on JJ's part not to touch her.
"Hey," Emily started, "JJ you didn't have to pick me up."
"Yes. I did."
And just like that, the shadow of uncertainty in dark eyes was pushed aside by the conviction in the blonde's voice. With a look of understanding and gratitude, Emily stepped forward and wrapped her arms tightly around JJ. "I missed you," she whispered as they held each other, a tiny island of peace in the middle of the bustling streams of people.
JJ's eyes stung suspiciously, but she was smiling as they pulled apart. "I'm glad you could make it back for Christmas," she said as the moved toward the exit.
Without thinking, Emily slipped her hand into JJ's and smiled wearily. "Me too."
"Is everything…Is your father alright?"
The brunette sighed, "He should be. The doctor's are confident."
"I'm glad," JJ replied, at a loss for words as they stepped away from the shelter of the terminal and into the softly falling snow.
"Honestly? The worst part of the whole thing was telling my mother I wasn't going to be spending Christmas with them." Her voice was dark, but the look she gave JJ left the blonde absolutely certain she had no regrets about her decision.
The car ride was quiet, and both women used the time to recover lost energy and simply enjoy the nearness of the other. Noticing Emily's eyelids drooping, JJ reached up to stroke a soft cheek.
"Sleep, I'll get us home."
"Hmm, I know, but if I sleep now, you'll never get me up. Tell me about Colorado."
So JJ did, and when her throat closed and the words became thick at describing the parent's reaction to having their little girl returned safely, a gentle squeeze of her hand made her look over to see the understanding and pride that – even in the dim light of the car – shone from Emily's eyes. After that neither spoke, content to let the comforting silence blanket the car as their eyes followed the flurries of snow tossed about by the wind.
"It's good to be home," Emily whispered, almost as if in prayer, when they turned onto her street.
JJ could sense the taint of the last few days lingering behind the words and tried to steer the mood into lighter waters, sensing her lover still needed time. "It is. I'm just sorry I didn't have time to do any decorating."
"Nope, we just got in today ourselves."
Emily made a wry face. "Well, I'm sure we can Charlie Brown something together. After all, we have what, three whole hours until Christmas?"
Parking the car, JJ rolled her eyes. "That's pathetic even for a couple of workaholics like us."
Emily chuckled. "Well it certainly won't be the first Christmas I haven't decorated. But you know," she paused and caught JJ's eyes. "This is the first time I won't miss the decorations," she finished softly, then reached over and placed a slow, gentle kiss on JJ's lips.
As they got out of the car and climbed the stairs to Emily's loft however, JJ couldn't help the tiny pang of regret over not being able to spend this – their first Christmas – with all the trimmings.
Watching Emily open the door to what had really become their apartment though, she knew the brunette was right.
We're together and that's all that matters. Lost in her musings, she nearly ran into Emily's back where the older agent had stopped suddenly just inside her living room.
Looking up, JJ could only gape.
The normally elegant, sparsely decorated living room looked like it had been the sight of a Christmas themed hurricane. Garlands and ribbons adorned the stairs and almost every other available surface, woven throughout with holly and lights that twinkled like bashful fairies among the greenery. Poinsettias graced the coffee tables and there, standing in the corner, was a beautiful, perfectly decorated Christmas tree. It wasn't large, only about four feet, but it was covered in colored lights, delicate glass bobbles and candy canes, and topped with a small star.
The stunned agent turned around. "You mean you didn't?"
Still staring, JJ shook her head. "No, we got back and I just had time to drop my laundry by my apartment and go to the airport to wait for you."
Looking around the room, their eyes landed on the large white card sitting on the kitchen counter.
With fingers that only shook a little, Emily opened it.
It stated simply;
To our family with love, Merry Christmas: Derek, Spencer, Garcia, Hotch.
Garcia had signed in sparkly red ink.
The surprises, however, weren't quite finished. Moving over to inspect the tree, JJ's attention was snagged by decorations over the fireplace.
The blonde stood staring as her lover joined her.
"I guess they know."
"I guess so," came the awed reply.
"So does this mean…" JJ trailed off, still trying to fully grasp what was in front of her.
Emily apparently had no such difficulties. Turning to JJ, her smile was radiant. All the exhaustion and pain of dealing with her parents banished by the overwhelming evidence of her real family's acceptance and blessing.
"No more hiding," she whispered, before tilting her head, and kissing JJ…thoroughly.
Behind the now blissfully unaware couple, two delightfully tacky stockings that could only have come from Garcia had been hung, ever so carefully, over the fireplace. In bold letters, one proclaimed "Emily" and the other "JJ."