Author's Note: Again, many thanks to my partner in my crimes, Tonnie, Susan and Michelle. Hope you all like this. Please read, review and/or PM and let me know your thoughts! Again, this one was co-authored with my very best internet friend - Tonnie2001969! As ever, we don't own Criminal Minds!
It had been a long hard case, but in the end the team had prevailed. Now, sitting across from Hotch and Prentiss, Dave and JJ breathed a final sigh of relief as Hotch closed the file, saying, "That's it then. Another case put to bed and another unsub behind bars. Not bad for a couple weeks work, huh?"
"I'm just glad this one is over," Morgan declared, tiredly, running a hand down his face as Rossi brushed past him on his quest for a cup of coffee. "Now, maybe, I can actually get some construction work done on that house I bought down on 30th Street."
Smiling faintly, JJ looked at Emily, "So what are your big plans for tonight? Date? I know Agent Perkins is anxiously waiting for an answer to that dinner invitation?"
"Agent Perkins?" Hotch asked.
Shooting JJ a look, Emily shrugged, "He asked me out for coffee right before we caught the case."
"Ah," Hotch said shifting in his seat.
Sensing the undercurrents, JJ flashed an apologetic look at Emily. Receiving a gentle smile in return, she said, "Actually, I'm looking forward to arriving home while the sun was still up. I'm going to sit on my balcony with a nice glass of wine and watch the sun set."
"Sounds nice," JJ smiled.
"I'm just looking forward to the five minute drive home. My new place is so much closer to the airfield," Reid added in a relieved voice.
"Convenient. Especially since you despise driving," Emily nodded.
"Not despise, exactly. Dislike intently….that's more accurate," Reid concluded.
"Well it does look like it will turn out to be a beautiful sun set either way," said Hotch, glancing out the window.
Rejoining the group, Dave looked down at the blonde head of the woman he had fallen in love with in irritation. "It does, doesn't it? Unfortunately for JJ and I, we'll probably miss the sun set. Better yet, we'll watch it at the gas station since someone can't seem to keep gas in her car and we'll need to fill the tank up in order to get to Little Creek."
"Dave, I swear to God, if you start again…"
"Sorry," Dave said shortly. "But I reminded you that the car needed gas. Twice. You just kept saying that you'd get to it…."
"Ah, yes, kinda like you'll get to installing those new shelving units in the closet for me at the cabin….just in your own good time, right?" JJ griped.
"Well, sweetheart, it isn't as if you don't have three closets full. I thought a couple of shelves could wait a few days."
"Not the point," JJ snapped.
"I think we may have stepped into something," Emily mumbled to Hotch.
Looking at Reid, Rossi said, "I'm glad you like your new digs, Reid. But, I'm telling you…there's nothing like living out in the country."
Rolling her eyes, JJ reached for Rossi's cup of coffee and took a long sip.
"I could have fixed you one if you'd spoken up," Rossi said raising his eyebrow at her.
"Yours will do fine, sweetheart," JJ replied with a sugary voice.
"Smartass," Rossi muttered, taking back the cup.
"While we're getting gas…" JJ began.
"JJ, I love you, honey. But don't mention the gas station right now. I find it so hard to believe how an educated, smart woman can't remember to put in gasoline until emergency lights start flashing in her face. Seriously, honey!" Rossi said, exasperated.
Glaring across the seat at him, JJ narrowed her crystal blue eyes at him. "Well, maybe, just maybe, Dave, I might have had the time to get that fill up the morning we left. Except, I seem to recall having to pick up your dirty socks off the floor three inches from the hamper….three inches, Dave!"
"I think I'd kill the man I had to do that for," Emily muttered to Hotch underneath her breath.
Morgan, who was on the phone with Pen as the argument between Dave and JJ began arranging for a ride home, quietly begged in a whisper, "No, Pen, I can't put it on speaker phone. Trust me when I tell you that the look in Jayje's eyes is homicidal! Just make sure you're there to get me…I don't want to witness the murder!"
"Damn it!" Penelope exclaimed over the phone. "I always miss the good stuff!"
Not hearing a word going on around them, Dave retorted, "Jen, it's not my fault about the damn hamper. Since when did we need a hamper anyway. I used a basket for years….no lid…trust me, babe, it made things a hell of a lot easier!"
"So, I've made a few minor changes! Is that gonna kill you?" she snapped.
"Hell, baby, a few? It's like you're constantly trying to reform me now! You liked me fine before we started living together and now I'm the Antichrist!"
Across the seat, Hotch cringed, saying quietly, "Shit, Dave…shut up while you're ahead!"
Whispering to Morgan into the cell phone so that Pens could hear, Reid said, "You guys realize that fifty percent of people that live together move out within the first year."
"Shut up, Reid. It ain't happening! We waited too long to get them together!" Pen's voice said across the line into Morgan and Reid's ears.
"Reform you? After the past month, Dave, I'm convinced THAT'S a lost cause. You can't even pick up your own bath towel off the floor after a shower. You let Mudgie in the house covered in mud after you've been hunting. You don't even bother trying to wipe him off. Newspapers and mail strewn all over the house…but that study…it's immaculate, you anal retentive freak. If you could just take a tiny bit of that with you into the rest of the house, I'd die a happy woman!"
"Now, wait a minute. Maybe I do have a few faults…"
"A few?" JJ asked smartly.
"But at least I don't have to go to seven different stores looking at the exact same item just searching for it two cents cheaper. I don't leave bras and pantyhose hanging in the shower! You can live out of one bag for weeks at a time, yet you've taken over three closets and are now demanding shelves in the closets! I'm not the only person in this relationship with a few issues!"
"First of all…not all of us are millionaires…we have to look for the best deals!"
"Not if you would just let me put your name on my checks, you wouldn't!" Dave fussed.
"I'm not your responsibility! I pay my own way!" JJ snapped.
"I never said you were, but honey…"
"DON'T honey me, right now!" JJ hissed.
"All I meant is that we are in a committed long-term relationship and my money is your money!"
"It is not!" JJ snapped. "I didn't earn it. And as for my bras and pantyhose…they are delicates! You have to dry them like that…and if I have to put up with tripping over the wet towels in the floor then you can suck it up about the unmentionables hanging on the shower! And if you'd give me the shelving units in the closet, I could consolidate the closets! But, it sounds like I may just be too much in your way to me," JJ said, almost in tears.
"Aww, shit, Bella, that's not anything like what I meant and you know it! I'd build you a dozen closets if that's what you wanted! I was just trying to make a point about…"
"Dave," JJ shakily said, looking around at her pale faced co-workers, "I think we need to forgo this conversation until we get back to the cabin."
Noticing her wording, David said firmly, "You mean until WE get HOME."
"I said what I meant, Dave," JJ said quietly.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as they heard the pilot announce their approach for landing. A few minutes later, the team was deplaning and watching as JJ stomped toward her car, Dave following rapidly behind her, trying to help her with the bags.
"Anybody feel like taking bets on how long it takes him to propose now?" Emily asked watching the scene ahead as JJ and Dave argued over who was driving.
"They love each other. It's just an adjustment period," Hotch murmured.
"Yeah, if they don't kill each other first," Pen put in.
"I got fifty bucks that says that those shelves are firmly in those closets by Monday, though," Morgan said with a grin.
"I say Saturday," Hotch returned.
"You're on," Morgan stated.
An hour later, JJ was struggling to get her go bag, briefcase, purse, various files, and other items out of the car and up the deck into the cabin. She and David had finally made it back to Little Creek after a long tense thirty miles. They had gotten gas…he had insisted that she wait in the car while he pumped it. Throwback barbarian! And, he'd insisted on paying for it. Again!
David, for his part, was watching the woman he loved struggle with her various burdens and was growing more agitated by the second. She was going to hurt herself trying to carry all that stuff up the wooden deck steps.
Sighing, David said, trying to reach for some of the bags, "Jen, honey, let me carry some of that."
Swatting at his hands, dropping some of the files and her purse, David stooped to pick them up. "Oh, hell no, get away from me. You make me sound like some incapable little woman to our friends and co-workers and now you wanna play white knight! The hell with that!" she said stumbling up the wooden steps.
Picking up the items she was dropping, David trailed after her, knowing full well he'd screwed up royally, but unsure how to fix it. As she reached the top step of the deck, he watched her stumble. Reaching out a hand to steady her, he growled, "Honey, enough! It was a long trip. Hell, I didn't mean half the shit that flew out of my mouth."
Turning sharply to glare at him over her shoulder, she snapped, "That's half the damn problem. You rarely stop to think about how your words affect others!"
Stomping into the house behind her, David dumped his load on the table. "Now, what the hell do you mean by that!"
"Figure it out, Rossi! I need a hot bath - ALONE! I'm gonna find my latest issue of Cosmo and submerse myself," she said, sailing into the den to begin rifling through the stacks of mail and newspapers.
"Damn it, Jen! We need to talk!" he yelled, watching her rifle through the stacks of meandering piles of crap.
"Oh, look! A Starbucks receipt for coffee from seven months ago! Very vital documentation," JJ said sarcastically, holding up the white ticket.
Snatching it from her hand, David slammed it onto the coffee table, saying, "Okay, you got me…I'm a pack rat…I can change those kind of things…"
"And have you accuse me of trying to "reform" you? No thanks!" JJ said, shuffling through another pile.
"Oh, wow, a Bass Pro catalog from two years ago," she said picking it up and waving it around.
Taking it from her hand and throwing it across the room, David took a deep breath. "I said some really dumb things, babe. I can be a really stupid man. You knew that going in."
"Yeah, but I thought….I thought that the things I wanted and were doing were good things…for us," JJ said, shuffling through another pile of crap. "But it turns out, it sounds like I'm just in the way…I mean, hell, I even take up too much room…too much closet space," JJ said, slamming her latest pile down on the table. "Maybe this was all a big mistake," she said quietly.
"Whoa! Wait!" Rossi said, grabbing her arm, alarmed. "NEVER have I ever thought us being together was a mistake. NEVER!"
"How many of your other wives did you tell that to, David," JJ asked sadly. "Did they have to account for their closet space? I'm sure they didn't argue when you wanted to put their name on your checking account," JJ said in a quiet, broken voice. "This isn't my home, David. You don't want it to be my home. Every change I make, you gripe about. Anything I do, it seems like…"
Taking another deep breath and heart beating fast at the direction her thoughts had taken, David pushed her down into his recliner. "Listen to me, Jennifer Beth Jareau. I'm in this. One hundred percent. The things I said…I was an ass. This," he said, gesturing around, "is your home. As much as it is mine. Tomorrow, I'll make that a legality. I love you. Baby, when we were on the plane…I didn't think we were on our way to a full fledged fighting meltdown. I thought we were bickering…like a married couple…"
"But we're NOT a married couple, David. And while what you said about me was true on the plane…so were the things I said. And it all happened in front of our team. Because you wouldn't stop."
Taking her cold hands in his, he took one hand to tilt her face to look him in the eye. "Jen, tell me what you want. You tell me and I'll make it happen."
"Dave, you are what you are. You're right. I have no right to ask you to change the way you've been doing things for years. Maybe I was thinking with my head instead of my heart. Maybe we really ARE just too different."
Shaking his head blindly, Dave asked clearly, "Do you love me?"
JJ stared into his eyes, shocked that he'd even asked her that question.
"Answer me. Do you love me, Jennifer? Am I worth your effort?" Dave asked in a raw voice.
"You KNOW I do. I love you more than anything in this world," JJ said hoarsely.
"That's good to know. Because, baby, I love you like hell on fire. You're right. I've been married before. Screwed it up three times. I don't want to screw us up."
"Dave, I love you. I just don't know what you want from me. Am I a roommate, a live-in, a lover? What the hell am I, here? What rights do I have? " JJ asked, confused.
"God," David breathed, hanging his head, "I've made a mess of things." Looking back up at her, he said, "I have to say something…and they are the hardest words ever for me…so be patient here for a second, babe."
Biting her lower lip as she looked at him with tear-filled eyes, "It doesn't appear you're going to let me out of this seat, so I guess I'm here."
Shaking his head, David whispered, "No, I'm not letting you leave. Not until I say everything you need to hear and do everything I need to do. Then, if you want to go, if you want to walk away, I won't stop you, okay?"
Jennifer nodded, as she looked away.
Breathing deeply, Dave began, "The three hardest words I have to say are "I was wrong". I was wrong, baby. About so many things. What I said on the plane, while some of it was true…it had no business being said there. I've been alone for ten years, JJ. Ten long years. No wife and not nearly the number of women that you've presumed and never here. Never at the cabin. This has only ever been mine…and yours. I'm still adjusting to life with you on a daily basis. But I want it! Every single second, babe!" he said, squeezing her hand. "I want you on the deed, and on the insurance and on the bank accounts because it want to seal you to me any way I can. Not because I want to usurp your independence, but because I need to know we're a we!"
"Dave, we ARE a we. We've been a we for a long time now," JJ said, staring down at him.
"I was an ass. An ass, Jennifer. But the thought of you saying you don't want this," he said, looking around the cabin, "that you don't want me, it kills me inside."
"I NEVER meant it like that. It's just…you asked me to move in…just move in…like it was a trial run…and it seems like I fail at every trial run. Like every thing I do, every little change I try and make…it's wrong."
"It has NOT been wrong. I'm a loud mouthed Italian moron, Bella. You know a lot of the time there isn't a filter from my brain to my mouth. You live with me and you're the one that sees it every day. Don't let that take you away from me. Please, Bella," he whispered.
"I don't want to leave you. God, I love you! You've had experience living with people. I haven't. I want it, I do, but, I just don't want to feel like an outsider in a place that you want me to feel like home! You can't tell me that this is my place too and then expect me not to get emotional when I criticize things or try to change things."
"You're absolutely right," Dave said softly, running his warm hands up and down her thighs on the outside of her skirt. "I think things need to change, too. Jennifer, open the end table drawer. Beside you, honey. Just open it."
He watched kneeling before her as she did as he asked.
Pulling out a black box, she gasped. "David-,"
"Open it, Jen. Please. Just open it," David said quietly, unwittingly clutching her thighs in his hands.
Nodding through her tears, JJ opened the box. Inside was a stunning square cut diamond surrounded alternately by emeralds and rubies. Obviously antique, obscenely expensive, and unique in an indescribable way. A ring she'd admired before.
"This isn't how I planned to do things," he told her hoarsely. "But I can't…I won't have you doubt my intent or my commitment. I bought that ring eight months ago while we were in Savannah, Georgia on a case."
"The afternoon you disappeared," JJ recalled quietly.
"I remember the day before we were walking down that street after lunch and you stopped in that jeweler's window and stared at that ring. I asked what you were looking at and you shrugged. But, I watched you look at that very ring and saw the shiver run up your spine. I knew in that second that I wanted the rest of my forever to be spent with you. I wanted to see you wear that ring for the rest of our lives. So the next afternoon, I played hooky. I got the ring. Then I let my fear take hold. Fear that you'd tell me no. So, I waited. Waited and waited for that perfect moment. Well, babe, this is it. I knew all those months ago what I wanted. I thought moving you here…having you here with me every day would convince you that I could do it. That I could be a risk worth taking a last chance on. And, it looks like I've convinced you of just the opposite. But, I want you. Every day. Here. In this house…in our bed…loving each other. I close my eyes and I see a pair of blond haired blue eyed kids playing outside with Mudgie. I see us sitting together in that swing out front watching them grow up. Jennifer, I'll give you anything you want…anything. Don't leave me. Don't leave this. Marry me, Bella. Marry me, please, and put a very terrified man out of his misery."
"Oh my God," JJ said, tears falling, looking from the ring to his earnest face. Feeling his warm hands tightly holding her thighs. Finally swallowing, JJ whispered, "Put it on me?"
Feeling his heart loosen just a bit at her words, Dave reached shakily for the ring perched in the velvet box. Drawing it out, Dave stared in her eyes. "If I put it on you, you should know that I'll fight like hell if you ever try and take it off, Bella."
"I know," she whispered. "That's why I want you to put it on me."
Sliding the perfect fitting circle onto the ring finger of her left hand, David smiled shakily. "I love you. Always."
Staring as the light from the lamp caught the stones, JJ whispered, "I never imagined tonight would turn out like this."
"Me either," David whispered. "But I've never been more appreciative of anything in my life. I'll change, Jen. I'll learn to hit the hamper and pick up the towels and throw away the receipts. But I can promise you one thing that won't ever change. I'm never going to stop loving you and fighting for you. Not ever."
Staring into her dark lover's eyes, Jennifer said quietly, "I was worth it all along to you, wasn't I?"
"From the word go, babe," Dave assured her.
Pulling his head to hers, Jennifer sealed her lips to his, sighing as she felt his tongue penetrate the seam of her mouth and sink into the warm cavern of her mouth.
And there, amid the piles of newspapers and junk mail, David Rossi laid the woman he loved down on the floor and claimed her with a passion that neither of them had ever felt before. Clothes melted away, the only sounds were the softly whispered words of love, the moans and groans of two lover's pleasure. Holding her hands at the side of her head as he joined his body to hers, he watched as she arched her body up to his.
"God, you're beautiful," he said hoarsely.
"I love you, David," she whispered, moaning as she arched her hips to him.
"God, I love you, too, Bella," he said on his downward thrust into her sweet body. "Ti adoro, Bella."
After those words, the only sounds were of the keening sweet release of the woman below him and his own powerful shout of fulfillment.
In the aftermath, laying on the floor, covered by the throw David had dragged down from the loveseat behind them, JJ traced lazy patterns against the hairy chest of the man she loved. "David?"
"Hmm," David replied, pulling her tighter against his chest, enjoying the feeling of her fingers on his skin. More so, now for several reasons…almost losing her…finding her….and then, being able to say that he would have her forever.
"At the end, you said something in Italian. What was it?" JJ asked, idly threading her fingers through the thick mat of dark hair on his chest.
"I said "Ti adoro, Bella." It means, I worship you, Beautiful," he told her softly. "And, for the record, I meant every word."
Heart melting at his words, JJ pressed a kiss to his chest as her hands tightened on his chest. Finally secure in his love and commitment for her, she looked up into his dark honest eyes. "I worship you, too. I never wanted to leave you…I just wanted to know what I meant…where I stood."
Picking up the hand where her engagement ring rested, Dave murmured smiling at her, "I hope you know by now, Bella."
"Oh, I have a pretty good idea."
"We need to get some rest tonight," Dave said, curving his arms around her.
"And, why is that? We're off tomorrow. It's Saturday," JJ said snuggling comfortably against his side.
"Because I have some work to do," David told her plainly.
"What work? We finished the case…everything can wait until Monday."
"Not BAU work. Little Creek work. I've got closet shelves to build and it's time to go through the clutter. There are some changes coming to Little Creek. And, I, for one, knowing that you're mine…can't wait."
Laughing against his chest, JJ shook her head.
"What's so funny, honey?" Dave asked, looking down at her.
"You think the team has a bet about our closet shelves?" JJ asked.
"Bella, our team has a bet for everything…and personally, I don't give a damn. I got you!" Dave said, bending his head to kiss her.
"And, I got you," JJ breathed against his mouth as the second round of loving began again. Perhaps it would be Sunday before those shelves got built, after all.