Title: Growing
Rating: PG-13
Criminal Minds
Universe: Time Is Running Out (Part 2)
Genre: Drama/Angst
You've got plenty of time to re-evaluate your life when you're cuffed to a chair in an unsub's basement.


Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.

Iris Murdoch


A heavy weight hangs in the air.

Every year, one or two of the team – usually Rossi or Reid – will do the Academy presentation, answering the questions of those who one day hope to become an FBI question. One of the most common questions is "Is it exciting?" and the answer is always – always – "Not as much as you might think."

And that's the job – 95% paperwork, canvassing and profiling, 4% strapping on Kevlar, and 1% sheer, unadulterated terror. No matter how often it happens, you can never, ever get used to that 1%. Every time a team member – a friend – is in peril, or in hospital, or otherwise incapacitated, there's always the thought that maybe, this will be the time that the paramedics don't get there in time, or the bullet just does too much damage.

They've been lucky so far; no-one's died, not since Boston. That's almost seven years.

Maybe this time their luck has run out.

Emily's been in surgery for thirty-seven minutes, during which Jennifer Jareau has made three phone calls. The first to Ambassador Prentiss, the second to Jordan Todd, and the third to Will. Emily will want to see her daughter when she wakes up, and JJ refuses to admit that Emily might not wake up.

Not this time. Not today.

Garcia and Will are both on their way, and JJ's pretty sure that Jordan is as well – there's no denying the fact that something had been going on between Emily and Jordan before today, even if neither of them had been willing to admit it. They're good for each other, in so many ways.

In the waiting room, nobody talks. Morgan paces, and Rossi wrings his hands together, and JJ taps her feet, but otherwise, that deadly silence is overwhelming. Usually Emily's here too, grasping JJ's hand, or giving a comforting smile, but there's none of that now, and JJ can't quite accept the possibility that there might never be any of that ever again,

It's a ridiculously sobering thought.

A little over an hour later, there's still no word. It feels like it's too soon to have any word from the O.R., but they all pause at the sound of hurried footsteps coming down the hallway. Garcia.

Not just Garcia, JJ soon realizes. Jordan's there too, looking more flustered than she's ever seen her. Of course, JJ had been away for most of the time Jordan was active in the BAU, but judging by the expression on Morgan's face, it is something different.

'What's happening?' Jordan demands, in a tone of voice that would have made some men go crying to their mothers. Apparently, though, the men on this team are immune. Morgan stares at the Counter-Terrorism Agent with tired eyes.

'She killed the unsub, but not before he managed to do some damage.'

"Some damage" is an understatement. JJ had seen that kitchen. She'd seen the blood, and the chaotic mess. It looked as though a finely-focused tornado had torn through the place. A tornado, or a brutal fight between an FBI agent and a serial killer.

'…she took a beating, as well as a few knife wounds,' Morgan continues, in that same exhausted voice, but this time it's apologetic as well. 'She's in surgery,' he adds, as though it hadn't been a foregone conclusion.

'Jordan,' Hotch says, in a voice that's simultaneously commanding and comforting. Jordan gives him a look, and for a moment JJ thinks that the tension in the air might snap – Jordan and Hotch had never had the most friendly relationships – but finally, Jordan gives a huff and takes the empty seat next to Reid.

Garcia gives Morgan a hug, and seconds afterwards, JJ finds a pair of arms being wrapped around her tightly. Garcia's mascara is running, her eyes blatantly red. 'I am never letting that girl out of my sight again,' she mumbles into JJ's shoulder, and JJ gives a half laugh. If Garcia had her way, they'd all spend their lives handcuffed to chairs in the Batcave.

It feels like an eternity before the Doctor comes along, blood-stained scrubs making JJ feel sick to her stomach. He looks exasperated, but not upset, and JJ feels a great weight lifting off her shoulders when he smiles.

'Miss Prentiss lost a fair bit of blood, but we managed to repair the damage, and she should heal without complications.' JJ can feel the nervous energy that's radiating from Garcia; the tech is probably about half a second from crash-tackling the surgeon into a bear hug. JJ puts a hand on her best friend's shoulder, in an attempt to calm the nerves, if nothing else.

'Everything's going to be okay, Garcia,' JJ says, but damned if that isn't hard to believe.

I'm kind of groggy.


That's an understatement.

I feel like my mouth is stuffed with cotton wool, and I have marshmallows for eyes, and someone's replaced all of my blood with Morphine so I can't feel a damn thing.

Also, I think I'm craving chocolate cake.

Stranger things.

My eyes blink open experimentally; if I'm lying on an unsubs table, about to be sliced open and disemboweled, then I really don't want to be sitting up too suddenly. The IV that's jammed into the back of my wrist and the white-coated Doctor aren't an immediate giveaway, because it still could be an unsub harboring delusions of medical grandeur, but Morgan's there too, which means that I'm probably not about to die.

I seriously hope I'm not about to die.

That would really suck.

I shift backwards, just stopping short of actually pulling myself up, considering that would probably result in my falling out of bed. Not particularly desirable when your entire body is numb.

'How're you feeling?' Morgan seems to be asking. His voice starts off a little blurry, but by the time he's finished talking, I can hear each word clearly. When I reply with a thumbs up, he gives a short laugh.

'The rest of the team are waiting outside,' he says. 'Doctor McPherson here says they can come in, but if you aren't feeling up to it, then it can wait.'

I shake my head, and then nod, realizing that I am probably confusing the crap out of Morgan. 'I'm fine,' I tell him, in a croaky voice. I clear my throat, but that hurts as much as talking. 'Bring them in.' It's a little less horrendous that time, sounding more like my own voice, rather than freaking Gollum.

Somewhat self-conscious of the fact that I'm in a hospital bed, wearing a gown that doesn't really cover much at all, I watch as they enter one at a time. If I was a little less jacked up on Morphine, I might be able to read Hotch's expression, but as it stands, he just looks frowny. The rest of the team have varying expressions of concern, ranging from JJ's grim smile to Jordan's….


Jordan's here.

Of all the times, all the places to be having this talk, in hospital hooked up to a drip is probably not a good one. "Hey, Jordan, sorry I hung up on you the other day, I got kidnapped by a torturous serial killer. By the way, did you want to grab dinner some time?"

Yeah, right.

'Hey,' is the only greeting I can manage.

'How're you feeling?' Garcia asks, hovering at my side. They feel like three of the most overused words in the history of everything.

'Hell of a birthday present,' I mutter, which doesn't get as many laughs as it would of, had it been any other circumstances. We really need to work on Hotch's sense of humor.

'Please don't do that again,' Jordan says, with tears in her eyes. Crap. I bite my lip, not quite sure what to say. There's a look between Morgan and Hotch.

'How about we give you guys a minute?' Morgan says, and Garcia's almost about to vehemently disagree when JJ grabs her by the arm. Reid follows without argument. I really need to buy them all a drink, when the time comes.

'I'm sorry,' I murmur, letting her take my hand as she sits on the edge of the bed.

'It's okay, Em…I just…Try to be careful, okay?' She leans down, and lays a kiss on my forehead. With the hand that isn't hampered by the IV, I redirect her to my lips. Her own lips are soft, her kisses gentle.

'Thanks for the present,' I tell her. 'Though…I'm not really sure where it is right now, I…'

She kisses me again, and I get the hint.

'You want to grab a drink sometime?' I ask her, while I still have the breath left to talk.

'You're on,' Jordan says with a grin.