Title: The Woods
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters/Pairing: JJ/Hotch; Morgan/Prentiss
Summary: If you go out in the woods today, you'd better not go alone. A series of deaths in the forests of New Hampshire lead JJ to question the origin of her fears. Finding the answers may be far more deadly than any of them expect.
Prentiss blinked her eyes open slowly, vaguely aware of the dull ache in her right arm and lower abdomen. Her brow furrowed. Her memories were a little bit fuzzy, but she had the strangest recollection of having been attacked by monster trees. Though, that could have been the morphine she reasoned, noting the IV that fed into her left wrist.
'You're finally awake,' a voice said. She tried to focus her vision on the source of the noise, fairly confident that the brownish blur was Rossi.
'Am I?' she asked, slurring, 'That's good.' She felt the world slipping away from her again, and when she opened her eyes the next time, it was a little bit darker. Her arm and lower stomach were throbbing, the pain much more noticeable than before. Further investigation revealed a cast, and bandage of some variety wrapped tightly around her middle. Her mind was clear, though, which was something, at least. Nonetheless, she still had the memory of having been attacked by killer trees. And Morgan.
She tried to sit up, letting out a moan at the pain that rippled through her body. It must have been a fairly loud moan, because there was a soothing presence at her side within seconds, easing her back down.
'Emily, can you hear me?' Rossi again. She nodded, and immediately regretted it, the small movement sending daggers through her torso.
''m fine,' she breathed, trying not to choke at the agony of even just talking.
'Your ribs are broken,' he told her, his voice an anchor to reality. 'Try not to move around so much.'
'Morgan?' she asked. Even if it hurt to ask, she wanted – needed – to know.
'He's in better shape than you,' he revealed, with that trademark Rossi look on his face. 'And,' he added. 'You should know – Reid's been checked in as well.'
He laughed bitterly. 'Yeah,' he said. 'Trees.'
Morgan eyed the stitches on his chest warily, as his bandages were changed. The nurse gave him a serious look
'The scars will make you look more dangerous,' she told him, the solemnity betrayed only by the twitching of her lips.
'I'm not worried about scarring,' he said, which wasn't entirely true. It was no secret that Derek Morgan took pride in his appearance. The long jagged wounds would leave a permanent mark open his physique. In truth, he was more worried about the other ramifications of the day's events.
He was fairly sure that he was starting to fall for Emily. He'd first noticed her in that way when she'd joined the BAU, but had dismissed as a pipe dream. The ambassador's daughter didn't usually go for the thuggish juvenile delinquent. But then neither of them was really archetypical of their backgrounds. The hellish experience in the woods had spurred him into action. He was finally going to do something, instead of just letting it be a wasted opportunity.
Garcia slinked back in as the nurse left, tipping him a wink. She had jumped on the first flight out of Quantico, after news of their escape from the woods had made it back to the batcave. 'Hey gorgeous. I see I've got a bit of competition.'
'I think she just digs guys with scars.'
'Just as well. I wouldn't want to have to challenge her to a battle of honor.'
He grinned, but it wasn't the most cheerful of expressions. It had been a tough week so far, for all of the team. Garcia evidently seemed to sense the downturn in his mood.
'Emily's awake,' she said brightly, and Morgan's heart lifted. 'Your doctor says that you can go visit. We might even beat Rossi and Reid in the Wheelchair Olympics if the nurse gets back soon.'
They didn't quite beat Rossi and Reid to Emily's hospital room, which meant that he didn't have the chance to speak to her alone just yet. Rossi evidently picked up on his desire fairly quickly though, as he made a point of suddenly deciding to take Reid for a stroll around the hospital.
'Ooh, we can introduce him to the nurse that likes scars,' said Garcia excitedly. 'Maybe we can get genius-boy some action.' She rushed off after them. Morgan suddenly realized that he probably wasn't being as subtle as he had thought. Restrained had never been his style, anyway.
'We need to organize that pizza sometime,' said Emily, as soon as Garcia had left the room. She was grimacing, as she spoke. 'Maybe when I can move without needing a shot of morphine, though.'
'So that was real, huh?' Morgan mused. It had felt real, but that hadn't stopped him from fearing that maybe she hadn't experienced any of the bonding that he had.
'Something to do with the powers of the creature, I guess.' She made a slight movement as if to shrug, but then apparently thought better of it. 'Its powers of illusion seeping into our subconscious or whatever.'
'Good,' he sighed. 'Because I wanted to…' He stopped, realizing he had no idea what he was going to say. "Because I wanted to seduce you"? "Because I was wondering if you were interested in a session of passionate love-making"? No way, Morgan. 'I wanted to get that pizza,' he finished lamely, and she gave a short laugh.
'Morgan,' she said, with what he was fairly sure was exasperation. 'I am 80% sure that this is the Morphine talking, but if you want to ask me on a date, then just fucking ask.'
He grinned. And then he asked.
Hotch watched the rise and fall of JJ's chest. He had made the slightest detour on the way back from the woods, only to ensure that JJ got something to eat. Though it hadn't seemed that long to them, they'd been stuck in the woods for two days, and he wasn't going to be responsible for a fourth agent ending up in hospital. Three was bad enough.
They'd eaten in silence, JJ refusing to look up from her plate. She was more focused on poking her food with the fork, rather than actually eating it. She took a shower after that, washing the dirt from her body. No matter how hard she scrubbed, though, he knew that she would never be able to wash free the rest of what had happened. It was a part of her now. Engrained into her very being. In a way, it always had been. And that's why Hotch was there. Rossi was at the hospital making sure that the rest of the team was okay physically. Hotch was at the motel room making sure that JJ was okay mentally. Plus, he admitted, he did have some ulterior motives.
After she'd drifted off, he'd lain down in the room's second bed, hoping that recent events would be enough to send him to sleep as well. He'd managed a couple of hours worth of fitful sleep, before Rossi called, giving an update on the condition of Morgan, Prentiss and Reid. He'd been lying awake since then, staring at the ceiling. He wasn't going to leave; the possibility of JJ having a nightmare was fairly high, and he didn't want her to be alone. He didn't want to be alone either.
He heard the soft whimpers from the other bed, and was on his feet in an instant.
'No….please, no.' She was whispering softly, her voice desperate, and to Hotch, that was more heartbreaking than if she had been screaming. He sat on the bed beside her, taking her hand in his.
'JJ…JJ, it's Aaron. I need you to wake up.'
'Hotch?' she asked, her voice small. She cleared her throat, and said, a little bit louder, 'What are you doing?'
'You were having a nightmare.'
She scoffed slightly. 'This whole situation is a nightmare.' She sat up, but didn't let go of his hand. He gave it a squeeze, which JJ reciprocated. 'I'm sorry,' she said. 'It's just…I don't know how I'm going to face any of the team again. I almost got them killed.'
Hotch gave an exasperated sound. 'JJ, please listen to me. This was not a normal case. There is no way you could have known that there was a monster in those woods. There was nothing you could have done. Nothing any of us could have done.'
She nodded, eyes not meeting his. 'I know…it's just… Is it wrong that part of me feels relieved? Now that I know what really happened to my father, I feel some sense of…closure.'
'It's not wrong,' he affirmed, relishing the contact as she leaned into him. He hesitated before pressing a kiss into her hair.
He faltered, attempting to extricate his hands from hers. He didn't want her to feel uncomfortable. JJ, however, had different ideas, as she squeezed his hand even more tightly.
She turned to face him, their lips just inches from each other. He did let go then, but only to cup her jaw in his hand.
'Rossi called,' he told her. 'Everyone's going to be fine.'
Then he leaned in for the kiss, and it was just about everything he had been waiting for.
Jennifer Jareau is thirty-one years old when she discovers the reason why she has feared the woods for so long.
Finding out does not do much to alleviate those fears.
She does know one thing, though.
She isn't running anymore.
A/N: Fun times. For those of you who are reading my other stuff, tell me which fic you have preferences towards being updated, so I know where to be directing the muse. No promises, of course, but it would be interesting to know.