Author's Note: Thank you, Tonnie, for the prompt and the ideas...It is very much appreciated. Please read and review. As ever, I don't own Criminal Minds. And, please excuse the saccharine sweetness of this piece.
It had only taken three kisses for David Rossi to know he was a goner. Three sweetly intoxicating kisses in a month's time. It had started innocently enough. It always did. He'd found her in Wyoming, sitting on a bench outside their nameless hotel, cell phone clutched tightly in her hand.
Seeing her clenched jaw, he'd wordlessly sat down beside her. "If you don't ease your grip on that thing," he said conversationally, "you're gonna snap it in two."
Glancing down at her hand, JJ had only shaken her head.
"You wanna talk about whatever it is?" Dave had carefully asked.
"They always expect us to choose," JJ had said bitterly. "Every single time…we're forced to choose."
"Who are the "they" and "we" in this scenario? And what exactly were the choices?" Dave had asked, furrowing his brow and settling back against the bench, stretching and crossing his long legs in front of him as he gave her a sidelong glance.
"Men make successful women choose between them or their career! And then they're shocked when the career wins!" JJ had hissed.
Clasping his hands in his lap as he stared across the hotel's parking lot, Dave shook his head. He knew where this was going. The man she'd been seeing had forced her hand….idiot! "I'm going to extrapolate some information here and you tell me if I'm on target. Will wanted you to put him first and you couldn't because of the case. Again," Dave had said flatly.
"In a nutshell," JJ had confirmed. "Actually, I think his exact words were, "Would you rather be a ball-busting bitch or be with me?" After that, the choice was easy," JJ growled. "But my question is, "Why couldn't I be both?" Why should I have to choose between a man and my job? I like my job. I do it well. And how dare he expect me to give it up!" JJ had raged. "And it isn't as though this is the first time it's happened!"
"JJ," Dave had said slowly. "The predicament you're in…it's not specific to being a woman…it's specific to being an agent. Outsiders…they don't understand what we do or why we do it. Look at Hotch. Look at me," Dave shrugged, "Hell, all of us are single and there's a reason for that. It takes a special kind of person that could put up with what we go do. I'm not saying Will's not an ass…obviously, he is. But, trust me, you aren't the only one that's ever felt like this," he'd finished quietly.
Sighing, JJ had looked at him. "I know you're right. I guess I just feel like this rat race is getting old."
"Try being in it for as long as I have," Dave had smiled grimly, not looking at her. "Come on," he'd said, patting her leg, "I'll walk you to your room."
As he'd left her at the door, she'd gently touched his shoulder and lifted on her toes to press a gentle kiss to his whiskered cheek. "Thanks, Dave," she'd said softly, before going into her room.
He'd stood in front of her closed door for a few moments and calmly decided that she was better off. If the fool she'd been with hadn't been aware of the treasure he'd possessed, he hadn't deserved her.
Their second kiss had been witnessed, damn it! In that little godforsaken town in Alabama. They'd been in some hick town in the middle of nowhere almost a week later chasing yet another psycho with a hard-on for adolescent teenage girls. They'd all been exhausted, barely having three days to recover from their last hunt for a killer. And they had been playing a waiting game as Garcia was pouring over video footage from the latest teen's kidnapping, searching for a break in their case. Morgan had fallen asleep against the table, a file stuck to his bald head. Emily had curled up in a chair, asleep, in the corner of the office. Reid had propped himself against the wall, legs thrown out in front of him, dead to the world. And, Hotch had had his head reclined against the desk chair at the head of the table, when he'd risen to retrieve his ninth cup of coffee. That's when he'd seen his Jennifer, draped across the sofa shivering. She'd been fighting a cold for days. Grimacing, he'd known she'd needed a real bed, preferably her own. But when he'd suggested she sit out on the case, she'd balked. Moving quietly to the sofa, he'd shucked his suit jacket and tucked it tightly around her trembling form. He'd smiled as she'd let out a relieved, happy sigh as the warm material had settled around her and he hadn't been able to resist the temptation of brushing a soft kiss against her hair.
As he'd turned around to grab his coffee mug, he'd seen Hotch's darkly penetrating stare.
"I saw that," he'd said evenly.
Shrugging, Dave said, "She's cold. And sick."
"I'm not talking about sharing your coat, Dave," Hotch had said quietly, careful not to disturb the other occupants of the room.
"I know what you're talking about, Hotch. And I don't need a lecture," Dave had said with a shake of his dark head.
"It's gonna get complicated if you go down this road," Hotch warned.
"Good thing I'm an excellent navigator," Dave had smiled, calmly pouring his coffee before casting a fond look at JJ.
"We're all doomed," Hotch had sighed, closing his eyes again.
The entire team had been exhausted by the end of the month. Thirty-one days, and they'd all spent exactly seven of them in their own homes. The rest of the team had scattered as soon as those magic elevator doors had opened, anxious to resume the semblance of a normal life - at least as normal as their chosen profession allowed them to be. All but one. Dave watched as JJ trudged wearily toward her office. He'd known what she was going to do. The dreaded follow-up to their horrendous case.
After watching her disappear into her office, he'd waited until the last of their team had filed out. Exchanging a knowing look with Hotch, he'd seen the younger man's slight smile. And as the elevator door had closed on his smug face, Dave had walked quickly toward JJ's office.
"You know," Dave had said, standing propped in her doorway, "this will all be here on Monday. It's been a hell of a month. Let's get out of here. I'll even treat you to dinner."
JJ had looked up, eyes filled with surprise as she'd found him filling her doorway. Flushing, JJ had asked, "Are you asking me out, Agent Rossi?"
"If I was, what would you say?" he'd asked neutrally.
"That depends," she'd grinned, leaning back in her chair. "Would this be considered a date?"
"That depends on if you define a man taking a woman to a nice restaurant where he pays as a date," Dave had replied evenly.
Snorting, JJ had shaken her head at him as she'd risen slowly and walked around the desk to face him. "That's not what defines a date, Dave," she'd said with a shake of her long blonde hair.
Frowning, Dave had narrowed his eyes at her. "Then what the hell defines it, Jen?"
"A kiss, Rossi. A really, really good kiss," she'd said, coming to stop directly in front of him. "Wanna get that part over with and see if it's worth going on the date?" she'd asked mischievously.
Eyebrow rising, Dave murmured, "We could do that," as his lips had slowly descended to hers. As his mouth had met the softest lips he'd ever touched, he'd known he was done. Done playing. Done searching. Done. She had him. As their tongues had slowly entwined and he'd tasted ambrosia, he'd known he was a goner.
Finally, long seconds later as they'd finally broken apart reluctantly, JJ had nodded. "Very definitely worth the date," she'd breathed unevenly.
"I'll be damned. Third time really is the charm," he murmured, bending his head to hers again.