Dave would never admit that JJ ignoring him for the majority of their case ate at him. Never. But it did.
He hadn't meant to piss her off. He hadn't meant to put doubt in her mind. He'd been worried, very worried, because she was JJ. Field clearance or not he'd always gotten a bit anxious when the media liaison had to do anything dangerous. The minute he saw her strapping on a bulletproof vest his heartrate invariably jumped and his blood pressure spiked.
God, he'd always harboured something for her and though he may have broken his promises to love and cherish for the rest of his life, he would never ask JJ to do the same thing. Except now, he wouldn't be asking her to. Now it would be her decision, and hers alone, not that he hadn't been trying to speed along the process.
But, yeah, he'd gone and screwed up.
He wouldn't change it. Not really. He'd still ask her if a case was what she was ready for, if the field was what she was ready for, but he'd also had enough time to think and realize that nothing would have changed. She would still be here because she needed to be, because they needed her to be. Tragedy aside, there was nothing that could rival the comfort of having the whole team back together again. Nothing.
But he felt… shoved aside. Logically, he knew he had been. JJ was mad at him. She was pissed. In her position, he could understand it. But dammit, he cared! He didn't want her jumping into things she wasn't ready for, didn't want her taking on more than she could chew. She'd been back a week.
Well, it's either dive right in or confront my separation anxiety.
The line, her words, her voice, floated through his head unbidden. She'd said that the day she came back from maternity leave with Henry. Dave dropped his head back on the chair of his hotel room. Hotch had sent them to their separate corners when Reid and JJ had started snapping at each other and Dave had immediately poured himself a scotch from the minibar. Four couples, smothered to death, and they were still in the preliminary stages of their profile. It was a crappy situation.
A crappy situation made crappier by his stupid protective instinct and Jennifer Jareau. He swirled the scotch as his eyes glazed over. It wasn't his fault, really. He wanted her safe and he wanted her happy, was that too much to ask? Agents who came back early hurt themselves and hurt others. It was common knowledge that the BAU could run circles around the Bureau psychologists – in fact he was pretty sure the psychologists on pay roll felt like they'd lost a bet when they got assigned a behavioural analyst – and because it was JJ, he'd just wanted to be completely sure she could handle coming back to work. That was all. It. Period.
Losing one parent was bad enough, but if a stupid decision left to Henry and Adam losing two parents? Well, Dave knew he'd never forgive himself. So, he probably could have been more delicate about it and it probably would have saved him the headache he was currently suffering from. He hated that he'd pissed her off. Seriously pissed her off. It broke his heart because this was big.
And he wanted to fix it.
He knocked on her hotel room door, unsurprised when the only greeting she offered him was a glare.
"Jen, I'm sorry."
It made her pause. And it was enough.
"I know you're good at your job. You're the best at your job. I didn't mean to make you think I was doubting you."
"You questioned me."
"I did. Because I worry about you."
"Oh come, on Dave."
He simply arched an eyebrow.
She stepped back, allowing him entrance, then she paced to the door. She looked up at him from the other side of the room. "You questioned me."
She was stuck on it, and he hated it. "I didn't."
"Yes, you did."
"It's not how I meant it."
"Not how you meant it? Do you have any idea what having you of all people, question me does to my faith in myself?"
"Cara, you can't-" He sighed and closed the door behind him. "Don't hold me in such high regard."
"Says the man who managed to entrench himself in my life years ago."
Years ago made him feel better. Years ago meant before Will's death. "You never cared before."
"You've never questioned me before."
"I've never questioned you."
"Dave, just did! You questioned me. You questioned my abilities in the field. I'm not some princess to keep in a tower! I'm an FBI agent and how many times have we gone over the fact that I want to be well again I don't want to be living in the shadow of Will's death forever and-"
Dave did the only thing he'd been able to think of. He leaned in and sealed his mouth over hers. He cupped her cheek when he pulled away. "I would never question your ability to do your job, sweetheart. That was never my intention."
JJ was utterly floored. Dave had just kissed her. Actually kissed her. "David-"
"I believe in you. I always have."
"Stop," she said quietly.
Dave blinked at the blond in front of him as his hand dropped. She looked utterly shocked, flabbergasted even, and confused. "Cara?"
"You kissed me."
His mind raced quickly, trying to come up with a plausible reason as to why. "I couldn't think of a way to get you to listen to me."
That wasn't what he wanted to say. That had been part of it, sure, but she was gorgeous when she was yelling. There was a spark of passion in her eyes that he missed dearly as she recovered. But the last thing he wanted to do was push her into something, put something else on her shoulders. She'd handled herself beautifully in the field for their case, but that didn't mean that she was ready for a relationship, that she was ready to think of forever. But as he watched JJ's face, he could tell she didn't believe him.
"Don't try that with me, Dave. You told me two things: one, you would never lie to me and two, that it's been years since you kissed a woman without a reason for it. And we both know shutting me up is not a good enough reason." Her words were soft, confused, looking for answers.
"Don't." Her hand came up, cupping his cheek in a gesture that surprised him. "You're going to say something you don't mean. You're going to lie to me."
He leaned his forehead against hers. "Okay," he whispered. What was he supposed to say? What did she want him to say? She didn't want him to lie, but he was almost one hundred percent sure she didn't want the truth either. "I don't know what you want me to say."
Her eyes darted between his, as best they could with their faces so close together. "How long?"
"How long what?" He couldn't stop himself from reaching out, from finding the curve of her waist.
"How long have you wanted to kiss me?" she asked after a moment.
Shit. He'd shoved himself well and truly into a corner, hadn't he? He couldn't lie to her because he wouldn't break a promise to her, but he wasn't sure the truth wouldn't just skip past that and break her. "A long time."
"How long, Dave?"
Her breath was audible when she sucked it in, maybe because they were so close. "Before Will? Before we got married?"
This time, he laughed bitterly to himself. "Long before your wedding, Cara."
She pulled back, but not away. "Before Will. And you didn't say anything." She loved Will, she had and she knew a part of her still did, but she'd always had a soft spot for David Rossi too. If he'd said something… was it bad that she was picturing Henry and Adam as his?
"I'm old, Jen. And I'm not a prime catch, even if I was once."
"You don't get to make that decision."
JJ couldn't stop the small smile from twitching at her mouth. "You don't get to decide whether or not you're a prime catch. That's in the eye of the beholder."
"Thank you, Hallmark," he teased.
"Don't mock me," she scolded, but the smile was doing more than twitching now. "You don't get to make the decisions in terms of what I need in a man." She shook her head when he opened his mouth. "I'm the one that knows what I want. What you think I want is irrelevant because it doesn't fit."
"You don't know it doesn't fit."
"Of course I know," she argued back quietly, leaning her forehead in to rest against his again. "I know what I want. I'm not emotionally crippled. You're not an anchor or a Binkie and this isn't some twisted Stockholm Syndrome."
He blinked. "You want…"
She swallowed as she took a chance, stepping in and sliding her arms around him. "You."
"You don't." But he didn't pull away. He stroked a thumb over the cheek he still held and slid his hand down to her hip. "You don't want me."
"I do," she replied, feeling supremely confident despite his resistance. "I'm not helpless or stupid. I'm not blind."
"God, Jen." He kissed her, because he could and because she was letting him, pouring himself and years of pent up emotion into what was becoming a not-so-simple meeting of mouths. She didn't stand passive though. She responded, pushed him just as hard as he pushed her.
"We have to take this at a snail's pace," she said, partially in apology when they finally broke. Her chest was heaving, every breath brushing against his chest. He felt so good this close, warm and strong and solid. "I can't risk upsetting Henry and Adam." Not again.
Dave couldn't say he cared how slow they went. This felt like the opportunity of a lifetime, years of work finally bearing fruit. And what beautiful fruit it was. Dave was a romantic at heart, had wanted a family for more than quite some time and if he was careful, if he was cautious, he could have that. He knew it. He would never take Will's place, but that didn't mean he couldn't take his own. "I don't want to be their dad, Jen."
And that, right there, was why she wanted him. He understood where she was coming from, the predicament she was in, and there was no one else she truly wanted to finish her recovery with than him. "You can't question me."
"I wasn't." He didn't mean to.
"Dave." But the rebuke in her voice was gentle. "You have to let me do my job. This will not work if you don't let me do my job."
"I trust you," he said, brushing the words against her lips. I love you.
"Good. Then we can make this work."
He tucked hair behind her ear. "You want to make this work?"
"I do," she replied. So badly. In fact, sometimes it was scary how much she wanted them to work.
Holy shit. His heart leapt. "Then I can take you to dinner when we're back in DC?"
JJ smiled, leaned in and kissed him again. "I'd really like that."