Title: Elements of Emotion: Fear
Pairing: Emily/JJ Criminal Minds
Spoilers: Not intentionally.
Summary: The first part of a series. JJ ponders on the elemental nature of her emotions for Emily
Warning: My muse, aka "Her Royal Highness the Queen of Exposition," ran rather amok with this, so as usual, it began as one thing, and ended as another entirely.
Thank You: To Fewthistle, who inspired and cajoled the muse. This series exists largely because of her.
Apologies: Unbeta'd. Thus any errors or abuses of the English language are mine alone.
A young Jennifer Jareau had learned - long ago in one of those lessons that doesn't appear particularly noteworthy at first glace but comes back unbidden at the oddest of times in one's life - that the philosophers of old believed everything in the world was made from four elements: earth, air, fire and water, with a fifth element, idea, composing those things not physical. It was the combinations of these elements that gave each thing, living or not, its form. According to the teacher, these elements were believed to be what made the whole of the natural world; people, animals "and everything."
JJ could remember little more than that single fact. She remembered that the class had spent some time discussing the combinations of certain elements and what they created, but mostly she remembered a sense of frustration at the concept of 'idea.' Even to her young mind, it had seemed such an inadequate label for the myriad of complex, shifting and often turbulent emotions that created the landscape of the human psyche. The small blonde sitting in the classroom with a tiny frown marring her porcelain features however, had no such words to describe why she thought the ancient philosophers were wrong, she just knew there was more to 'emotions and stuff' than 'ideas.'
In the way of young children with mildly troubling ideas however, JJ eventually pushed it to the back of her mind, where it lingered forgotten and buried, but not eradicated. Like a message bottle, it bobbed calmly on the outer seas of her memory, washing onto her awareness at odd times, swept by the currents of her unconscious to which the dictates and directions of logic are unknown.
It was not as if the blonde woman intended to put effort into creating her own answer to those ancient philosophers, but somewhere along the way - between college and her current case load, between late nights studying case files and later nights staring at the ceiling as her brain refused to let her sleep - JJ formed her own ideas about the elements that made up emotion and action: the foundation of human hearts and souls.
They had been simple at first: love, hate, anger and happiness. As time wore on, and JJ grew up however, she found flaw with these conceptualizations. College, the Academy, her work at the Bureau and finally, her work with the BAU all acted as catalysts, transforming the way she viewed the world. Each experience, each person and eventually, each case became pieces in the mosaic of her understanding, leading her ultimately to the classification of four of her own "elements."
Jennifer Jareau firmly believed that Roosevelt had been full of crap. There was a lot more out there to fear, than Fear itself. People spent their entire lives afraid of one thing or another, and committed terrible acts because of it. So much of the grief and pain the blonde agent saw every day could be attributed - at least in part - to fear. The fear of failure, the fear of being alone, the fear of loss and pain and humiliation, the fear of others, the fear of one's self; these were the things that dug at people. Sometimes stealthy, sometimes screaming, they pushed and whispered and undermined, until sometimes, inside some people, something gave way. The person may have destroyed themselves or others by the time the team got there, but the fear itself remained; its cruel hand displayed for all to see; its language written in crimson splatters and reflected in the eternal clouds of lifeless eyes.
And yet, fear's power was not limited to destruction. Fear was one of the oldest of all instincts; it told humanity's ancestors to run away and survive for one more day. It honed senses and kept reaction times quick. Fear could be a powerful ally if a person was strong enough to use it and not be overcome by it.
Despite her job, JJ didn't fear injury or death. At least, she didn't fear them any more than what was dictated by the natural desire of a rational being to avoid such things. She accepted them as the price she might one day have to pay and considered it small in comparison to the reward of saving lives. No, the form of JJ's fear was more subtle. It wasn't the jangling, adrenaline laced shock of panic, or the anger colored vice of terror. It didn't haunt her nightmares or shadow her smile. It was amorphous. Like the briefest touch of a cold breeze it was present but always just beyond her grasp. The blonde had known this fear almost all her life - even as a young woman - though she hadn't understood it at the time. Like a malicious rumor whispered in spite, it had lingered at the back of her mind, pushed away and forgotten at times, but never disappearing completely. Because what JJ feared most was being silenced. She feared being nothing – simply content to watch the world go by outside her window as the rut of her life grew ever deeper. She feared being taken for granted and dismissed, servant to other's conceptions and visions of her until who she was – that fragile, tentative sense of self and place that she had built - vanished beneath the perceptions and desires of those around her.
JJ couldn't remember exactly when this fear had first whispered to her. It had just always been there and it had always been different than the simple fears of the forest, or of Uncle Bobby's drunken temper. She had been raised in a place where excellence was frowned on, seen as 'showing off,' and the desire to fit in was almost a physical constraint. As a young woman growing up, JJ had looked around - at her parents, at her friends, at the cracked and faded dreams and colorless lives - and she had known fear.
Her one hope had been sports. It was ok to be good at them, and when the blonde had used her scholarship to go to university and get the hell out of her home town, it was too late for anyone to say anything about it. Her parents had supported her in the sort of vague, tentative way of people who can't think of a reason to actively oppose something, but have no context for understanding it. To this day, when JJ visited the place she had been raised, she felt out of place: wrong, like she was trying to wear clothes that didn't fit, and it made her very skin feel tight and confining. It was as if the people the agent had known as a child had no ability to understand who she had become as an adult, and so they tried to force her into a box with a label on it – something they could relate to, neat and tidy – except that the box was too small, and something in her screamed in outrage at the imprisonment. All the tiny pointed questions and the knowing glances, the voices oh so cleverly snide, the hints and innuendoes, they lashed at her like silent, hidden knives, cutting her, until the very thought of spending too much time at home left her flinching like a headshy horse; unable after years of harsh treatment to react any other way.
A different person might have let this fear take hold; might have lent it power with their doubts and failures and the words of others. JJ did no such thing. Instead it provided a sharp goad that she took, threw into the fire of her will and tempered, hardening it until that fear became a tool; a weapon. Razor sharp, it lay quiescent until she acknowledged it, and then with lessons learned from long and painful practice, she used it. She used that fear to get stellar grades in college; to apply to the FBI; to work late into the night when other, more senior agents had gone home; to accept Aaron Hotchner's request for help on a case and his eventual job offer. And although JJ was incredibly satisfied with her work and the role she played; even though she loved her team and considered them her family and her position within the Bureau was envied by many, and even though that old fear had subsided over the years, it was not banished completely. There were still times it snuck up and whispered darkly in her ear like a spurned lover.
Because as much as her friends, her real family loved her and appreciated her, there were still times when JJ felt that no one truly saw her, and that everyone – the detectives who came to her for help, the press who hounded her for questions, the team who relied on her to be their face and voice to the world - saw only what they wanted or needed to see, and no more.
Everyone that is, except Emily. Dark, elegant, confident Emily Prentiss, whose addition to the BAU should have been uncomfortable, but was instead, like so much the woman seemed to do, effortless. That first day, when Hotch had asked JJ to bring the new agent up to speed, a tiny spark of resentment had flared inside her before she could snuff it out with practiced professionalism. Still, JJ had been wary when she walked into that room with her old fear snapping at her heels. She had been prepared to have to fight for her position, to not be dismissed by this new person.
Her preparations had come to nothing. There had been eagerness and an almost painful earnestness in Emily's manner when they shook hands. JJ had looked at Emily - at eyes the color of polished black walnut - and felt her fear retreat, unfounded. There was neither judgment nor assumption in Emily's gaze and that simple acceptance had startled the blonde agent. Throughout that first briefing she kept looking for some indication that it was a lie, a tactic. It wasn't. And as time passed, JJ found herself seeking out that dark gaze more and more. When she was unsure, when a case was becoming too frustrating or painful, when she was tired, when she had no excuse whatsoever but just wanted to see Emily, and know that Emily saw her, she would look across a table, or a room, or over someone's shoulder and find the recognition and support she needed.
And then one day, not an extraordinary day, but merely a day as any other, JJ realized she was no longer looking at Emily because she needed to see herself. Without fanfare or event and apparently without a fight, her fear had been vanquished, leaving only a tattered memory to mark its existence. Somewhere along the way, JJ realized, she had started looking at Emily because she was looking for other things in those dark eyes: things that made her breath catch and her heart speed up; things that had nothing to do with fear, and everything to do with another, more powerful emotion.