Author's Note: Again, thanks to Michaela for the prompt and kdzl for the advice. It was priceless. Here is the conclusion. I hope you all like it. Please read and review. And, as ever, I don't own Criminal Minds.
Pausing outside Dave's the wooden door leading into Dave's office, JJ sighed and tried to draw on her meager reserves of energy. She knew the next several minutes were going to be some of the most grueling of her life. The task ahead of her was going to be daunting and most would say an exercise in futility. But JJ wasn't most people and never had been…especially where Rossi was concerned. And she'd be damned if she'd lose everything now. The man on the other side of the door thought he was a monster. And it was her duty to show him the error of his ways. They'd overcome way to much to allow it to all slip away now. Closing her eyes, she shivered as she remembered the shattered look in his eyes when he'd finally gotten a good look at her after the unsub had confessed. She'd tried to reach out to him then, but he'd simply shaken his head and hoarsely called for a medic despite her protests to the contrary.
"Bella, for my sanity, please just get checked out," he'd begged. And seeing the look on his face, she'd stopped arguing.
And now, two hours later, it was time to make things right between them. Sighing again, she pushed open the door and walked into his office, mindful of Hotch's earlier warning. Careful of the glass, she thought to herself. If Dave saw any more of her blood today, she had no delusions, it would simply send him over the edge.
Her eyes finding him easily, he stood with one shoulder braced against his window pane staring out into the black night.
"Aren't we past this point…me finding you sitting in a darkened office brooding?" JJ asked quietly.
The only indication she had that he'd heard her was the tightening in his spine.
"And I see we had a temper tantrum over the Scotch," she said, looking at the glass on the floor. Waiting for him to acknowledge her, she bit her lip. "Dave….don't do this to us. Let me in," she begged.
Dropping his head against the cold glass, Dave asked, his voice filled with raw pain, "The hospital…what did they say?"
"They said I'm fine…just like I told you they would," JJ said evenly. "It was all superficial."
Swallowing, David turned to look at the woman he loved. "Sweet Christ," he rasped, seeing the purpling side of her face…the butterfly bandage of the cut on her cheek…the blue handprints of his hands on her neck.
"Honey," JJ said calmly, "It's all superficial. It'll be gone in a few days."
"Christ, Bella," Dave choked. "There's nothing superficial about that," raising a faltering hand and gesturing at her face. "Have you seen your face….your neck? Dear God! What have I done to you?"
"At the moment? You're pissing me off. I'm fine. David, you did what you had to do…for me…for you…and for his victims."
"JJ, don't!" Dave said bleakly. "Nothing can excuse…"
"Dave, he would have killed me…and you. This WAS a much better alternative. We got a full confession, honey. He'll never be able to hurt another woman again…because of us. This was a small price to pay."
"Bullshit," Dave said angrily. "The cost was way to high."
"No, it wasn't. It's exactly the price we have to pay to do business in our world. I don't like it, but it's a sad fact."
"How can you say that? Have you even looked in a mirror? LOOK at what I did to you!"
"You kept me alive, damn it! Our unsub would have killed me! But before he did, he would have made death look like a blessing and you know it!" JJ shouted. Forcing herself to calm down, JJ shook her head. "Dave, I'm sorry, honey. Tonight, we were both forced to act out roles in a massively fucked up play. But I KNOW the man I love would NEVER willingly hurt me. YOU didn't do this because you WANTED to…you did it to keep me alive!"
"JJ, please, babe, don't try to justify -" Dave began roughly.
"Saving my life?" she supplied. "Okay, Dave. Tell me….did hitting me give you a sense of power? Control? Did you get off on it?" JJ asked with a controlled voice, vacant of emotion.
"God, no!" he hissed, leaning forward in pain and bracing himself against his desk. "It made me sick! I couldn't look at you. I can't look at you now for the shame!"
"Exactly! Because this isn't something you'd have EVER done to me in anger, you moron! I KNOW THAT! And so do you!"
"It doesn't change the fact that I did it," he said sadly. "I was capable of doing it," he whispered.
"We're ALL capable of doing whatever we have to in order to save the life of someone we love," JJ said softly, taking a step forward. "And that is exactly what you did."
"Dave, if you'd had to do this to any other woman on our team, you wouldn't be sitting in here doing this to yourself. Yes, you'd be upset. I know that. But you wouldn't be in here inflicting this torture on yourself," JJ reasoned.
"But you AREN'T just any other woman to me, Bella," Dave replied, his voice cracking. "You're the woman I wake up with every morning…the woman I hold in my arms every night…the one that agreed to join her life with mine and have my children. You'll never be just any other woman. You're MY woman. And, tonight, I hurt you. I put my hands on you and hurt you. I violated everything I believe in. Everything that my father taught me."
"Not maliciously, David. Never, maliciously. And I KNOW THAT!" JJ said, her voice pleading with him to understand the difference.
Lifting his desolate eyes to hers, he shook his head. "I broke the first promise I ever made you. Remember?" he whispered.
"Honey, what are you talking about? You haven't broken any vows you made to me," JJ replied softly.
"Yes, I did. When we began, you were afraid to take a chance on us. And I promised you that there would never be a time when I deliberately hurt you….when I wouldn't do everything I could to protect you. I swore to you that you'd never have to be scared of me…of us," he said hoarsely, a tear slipping down the side of his face as his fist clenched against his side.
"I'm not scared now, David," JJ quietly assured him. "I could never be frightened of you. You played a part, Dave. The person that you were forced into being tonight is NOT who you are! I am fully aware that no power on earth could induce you to do what you did tonight as a normal event. There were extreme extenuating circumstances, David! My God, do ever think I'd tolerate you treating me like that in our relationship? Do you think I'm that weak?"
"God, no, JJ, but -"
"There aren't any buts here, Dave," JJ said determinedly.
"I don't even know how to ask your forgiveness for this. God knows, I don't deserve it," he muttered, dragging a hand down his ravaged face.
Groaning impatiently, JJ walked around the side of his desk. Grabbing his hand to pull it away from his face, she felt him flinch away from her. "Don't do that! Don't you dare!"
"No! We've worked too hard to get where we are, Rossi. I'll be damned if I let you hide from me now! By God, you fought hard enough to get me to fall in love with you, I will NOT let you back away now out of some misguided nobility! Listen to me," she said, cupping his face in tiny hands and forcing his eyes up to meet her own. "There is absolutely nothing to forgive you FOR! NOTHING! You didn't break your promise to me. You did not hurt me!"
"How can you say that?" he asked, grimacing as he looked into her beaten face.
"Because these bruises are on the skin, Rossi. Not my soul! Not my heart! These will heal," she said pointing to her face. "But if you hide from me…walk away from me….that would be breaking your promise," she whispered. "That's a hurt you won't be able to undo. Do you want to do that to me?" she asked shakily.
"God, no!" Dave denied, finally sighing as she eased down to sit in his lap. "I love you, Bella. I'm so goddamn sorry, sweetheart," he whispered as she leaned against him, her unique scent surrounding him.
"I love you, too, Dave and I don't need you to be sorry. I just need you," JJ murmured, resting her head against his neck, his arms still not moving around her. "Do you think you could hold me now?"
"I'm afraid to touch you," Dave admitted with a quiet puff of air against her temple.
"I'm going to have to demand that you get over it," JJ ordered with a small smile.
Slowly his arms lifted to loosely enfold her in his strong arms. Sighing, JJ murmured, "At least it's a start."
Lifting a shaking hand toward her injured cheek, he whispered, "If that scars…"
"It won't," JJ said, cutting him off as his eyes drifted over her bruised face. "It's a scratch, honey. A tiny little scratch. That's all. It's going to be okay."
"Oh, babe," Rossi murmured, his fingers finally ghosting down the side of her bruised face to her marked neck, "there's nothing even remotely okay about any of this."
"I know you're in pain, Dave. But I don't regret anything either of us had to do. That man is off the streets now. He won't ever be able to hurt another woman again and that makes it worth it."
Closing his eyes, Dave knew that intellectually, she was right….irrevocably right. But his heart…that told him something different. "I'd have killed any other man that did this to you, Jen. Knowing that I'm the one that put those bruises there is killing me, honey."
"The one that was in the room with us WOULD have killed me if you hadn't," JJ reminded him.
"You keep saying that, but I can't help feeling that there should have been another way. One that didn't involve me hurting the woman I love."
"There wasn't. We both know that there wasn't. I TOLD you to do this, David. If you want to blame anyone, blame me!" JJ begged.
"Hell will freeze first," Dave growled, finally tightening his arms around her small body.
"So protective," JJ murmured, burying her face in the crook of his neck. "How can you sit there and think that I could ever hold you responsible for anything other than loving me when this is how you are?"
"Go look in the mirror. That's why," Dave said tersely though his arms didn't release her this time. "One day our son will ask the same question that I asked my father. 'Did you ever hit mommy?' and unlike my father, I'll have to say yes. That horrifies me, JJ."
"There were mitigating circumstances, Dave. And as far as our mythical son goes, you can tell him that you'd never willingly hit his mommy or any other woman for that matter. Because you wouldn't! The man you are doesn't hurt people intentionally," JJ whispered, reaching up a hand to cup his cheek. "I didn't doubt that before this happened. I didn't doubt that while tonight's incident was happening and I don't doubt that now. I will never doubt YOU, David. I saw your eyes tonight, Dave. They were staring into mine. I could see the love there…the abhorrence for what you had to do. And, for me, you did it anyway. I learned tonight that there wasn't anything you wouldn't do for me, no matter what it cost you. THAT'S love. If I hadn't been sure of it before, I would be now!" JJ told him vehemently.
"I don't know what I did to deserve you, Bella…to earn your love," Dave whispered.
"You were you," JJ said simply. "And I wouldn't trade a single moment that we've shared together."
"God, I love you, Jennifer," Dave breathed, finally lowering his mouth to capture her lips in a breathtakingly tender kiss. And with that bare touch of their lips, they both began to heal.