For those of you who read "Northern Star", the first part of this is the same. I got irritated trying to figure out how to file this with the two couples in mind, so I went with the companion pieces instead. This is, obviously because of where it's sorted, the JJ/Rossi side of the tale.
SPOILERS for 503 (Reckoner)
PROMPT: Who Watches the Watchers (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
It's late when JJ steps into the bullpen, rolling her eyes and letting out a sigh as she takes in not only is Aaron Hotchner's office light on – she's used to that, though it disturbs her more these days – but so is David Rossi's. Everything is getting harder these days, everything just that little bit more personal since Hotch was attacked. She knows he doesn't go home much anymore. She doesn't blame him.
Dave's light is a little bit more of a surprise. With the case they had, she fully expected him to just go home, probably drink himself into a passed-out sleep. She sighs. They're the rocks of this team, the ones that make sure they stay a cohesive whole. Working the Meyers case would have been impossible if Hotch and Rossi had been out of commission. The team needs them both.
She pauses in her steps when she notices Emily at her desk, working diligently. It's been a while since JJ's seen the brunette behind as well. She's tried not to think of anything when she notices Emily and Hotch come in together. Emily has told her it's simply a courtesy, that driving him to and from work is really not that big of a deal, just a friend helping a friend, but JJ isn't fooled. She's got her own case of the office love not to be able to notice it in her colleague. The only question she has is how long have Hotch and Emily been together? Admittedly, from the way Emily watches Hotch, she'd be surprised if they were.
To her credit, the brunette doesn't jump at JJ's soft voice. She simply raises her head, giving her a tired smile. "You're here late."
JJ blows out a breath. "Yeah."
She and Will had split amicably months ago, neither of them resenting the other for the massive changes. Will still worked for DCPD and got Henry when JJ was out of town. And if JJ was honest with herself, as much as she absolutely needed to go home and cuddle her son after some of the cases they saw, tonight there were more important things. "Think they're competing?"
That gets a startled laugh out of Emily. "If it's for who can stay the latest, my money's on Hotch. He's got more practice."
JJ snorts out her own amusement, setting her armful of files onto the corner of Emily's desk. She'd simply planned on dropping them all off before heading to her office and packing up. Her eyes wander up to Dave's office as both women are silent for a few moments. When JJ looks back at her friend, she notices that look of longing and complete and utter worry. They're all worried about Hotch, there's no question about that, but they all know Emily's more worried than the rest. For Emily, there's more at stake.
Not that JJ can throw stones. She's not naïve enough or blind enough to her own feelings not to know she'd been looking at Dave's office the same way only seconds before. Dave and Hotch are the leaders of their misfit band, but they're only human. It's a common misconception or an oft forgotten realization. Stones don't break, but neither Dave nor Hotch are stone and JJ knows it. She also knows Emily knows it.
Maybe it's time for someone else to be the pillar of complete strength.
JJ tilts her head to the side, considering the brunette and the conundrum they're currently facing. Finally, determination shining in her eyes, JJ rests her hand on Emily's shoulder. "Come on. Let's get these two home."
Emily blows out a breath. "I don't know if we can, Jayje."
"Coward," JJ says, but there's an amicable and teasing smile on her face and in her tone, so Emily doesn't take offense.
"I've tried," Emily replies and there's a certain amount of dejection in the brunette's voice. "God, JJ, I've tried."
JJ believes it. Emily has that kind of full heart and considering how close Emily has kept to Hotch over the last few weeks, the blond also has no problem believing that Emily has tried time and time again to ensure that Hotch gets some sleep, gets out of the office at night, doesn't focus everything he has left on catching The Reaper.
"Try again," JJ suggests softly. When Emily looks up at her incredulously, JJ just rolls her eyes. "And again, and again, and again. If we're not here to take care of them, who will?"
JJ knows Emily realizes this. Emily knows as well as she does that there is no one but the team to watch each other. None of them have anyone, though JJ has Henry, and they're really on their own. They're responsible to each other, for each other. Hotch and Dave are there for each member of the BAU team, but who is there when they're both hurting.
JJ's eyes meet Emily's and the blond knows that even though Emily may feel a discouraged from the times in the past that she's tried to get Hotch to go home, she'll try again. That's just what they do when their team is breaking. They step in, be strong. The fact that there's more to the reason they do it this time isn't lost on JJ and she knows it's not lost on Emily either. Emily stands, packing her things. When she's done, she shoulders the bag and smiles at JJ.
"I think," she says, "it's time to go home."
JJ's surprised to find David Rossi with his head in his hands. She assumed he'd throw himself into paperwork, into other consults, into the never-ending work of the BAU. There isn't even a drink in front of him, just his elbows on his blotter, his head in his hands. She knows she's nervous. Her crush on David Rossi post-split had really only strengthened. Part of her had hurt when she'd heard about Emma Schuller and Dave's obviously strong feelings for what could never be.
If JJ was being completely honest with herself, it was intimidating. She wasn't and would never be Emma Schuller. Really, that's why it had hurt. Regardless of her feelings, it was suddenly right there in front of her. She could never be the woman Dave loved more than anything else. Someone already had that place. JJ couldn't compete with that.
That didn't mean she was just going to leave him wallow in his own misery.
His head shoots up at her soft voice. "What are you doing here?"
"Will has Henry," JJ replies, closing the door quietly behind her.
"You should still be at home," he replies. "It's late."
"Pot meet Kettle," she answers with a soft smile. There's silence for a beat. "Go home, Dave."
"No thanks," he says and JJ knows that he doesn't want to look at his empty four walls and think about what could have been than she wants to go home to an empty, childless home.
"Then I guess we're stuck," she says. "Because I'm not leaving until you do." Stubbornness is the only thing that has broken through to him in the past and she's proven herself to be one stubborn woman. She spends a few minutes leaning on his doorway before he lets out an explosive sigh.
"What are you trying to do, Jen?" he asks, looking up at her with tortured eyes.
She's not fully sure herself, but what she does know is that it's important. That look in his eyes, the one that says he has nothing else to live for, that this time, he's been stripped raw, is enough for her to know that no matter what happens in the next few hours, it's a good thing.
Which is the catalyst behind her saying, "Making sure you don't drown."
He snorts inelegantly. "I don't know if you noticed, there's nothing here for me to drown in."
As if she doesn't know about the alcohol in his desk drawer. But apparently tonight, that's not enough. Not that she'll ever agree alcohol actually helps with rough patches. Still, she makes her way to the desk, putting her files on the corner and leaning back against the wood. "You don't need liquid to drown, Dave."
Her voice is soft as she says it, well aware that a lecture will be no help to her cause. On the contrary, yelling at him, lecturing him, probably would only be a detriment to her argument. He's not looking at her, still staring at the blotter and she's contemplating something drastic when he finally speaks.
"Do you ever wonder what might have been?"
She lets out a humourless laugh. "My job is all about 'what might have been's," she points out. And really, it is. She spends so much of her time trying to decide who needs them more. It's only with years of practice and self training that she's learned not to ask if a death could have been prevented if they'd stepped into a conflict earlier.
But Dave shakes his head. "With Will, Jen. Do you ever wonder what might have been?"
JJ takes a deep breath, aware that whatever she says now is going to be a make-or-break as to whether or not she can get him out of the office. "Sometimes," she admits, as much of a white lie as it may be. She knows better than to think that she doesn't sometimes dream of the family she, Will and Henry could have had. But it required too much sacrifice, on either of their parts.
"But you can't live your life on 'what if's, Dave," she continues. "It takes up too much energy. It hurts too much."
And really, if anyone knew, she did. She'd known long before the break up that it was coming. That didn't mean she didn't look at every day wondering what she could have done differently. Usually, she shoves that little voice to the very back corner of her mind, telling it to stay there and never come out. Sometimes it works, sometimes, in the deepest darkest nights, when Henry's fussy and she's lonely, she thinks of what it would mean to have someone there with her. During the first couple of weeks after the break up, she'd always imagined it to be will. Now, she imagines a man with more facial hair and stronger features.
The man in front of her, trying with everything in him to avoid his own empty home.
"I loved her, Jen. Really loved her."
There's anguish in his voice now, so much that JJ can't stop herself from reaching out and resting a hand on his head as it drops back into the palms of his hands. "Love is a powerful and terrifying thing." And she can say that with the utmost confidence. She's loved once before, and it was the strongest and most intimate thing she'd ever felt. It was long before David Rossi walked into her life. But that doesn't matter.
"I never slept with her."
This is the admission that surprises her the most. "Dave, you don't owe me an explanation," she says softly.
"I do," he contradicts. "I told him that to break him, to get us the information we needed."
"You were doing your job," she agrees. "The only way we all know how."
"But you need to understand that it was a lie." The almost raw pleading in his voice stops JJ's heart and thought processes, simultaneously confusing her.
Her fingers brush through his hair before falling to her lap as he lifts his head. His eyes are begging her to understand and she can't even begin to try and figure out what exactly is happening.
"It's okay," she says, reaching out to cup his cheek. "It's okay." To be weak, to lean on someone else, to remember, to care… Ultimately JJ doesn't care what he's sorry about, why she has to reassure him. If that is part of what it takes to get him out of here, to get him back on even footing, she'll do whatever it takes.
She'll always do whatever it takes.
His hand comes up to hold hers to his whiskered cheek and JJ tries not to enjoy the rough feeling against her smooth palm. "I don't think I could bear it if you thought I'd been part of someone else's adultery."
As if she didn't know that there was a planetary shift going on in their relationship right now. The words sent everything scattering before it reassembled quickly, giving her a new avenue, a new way out. "I don't think you slept with her," she tells him, not that it matters to her if he did or not. She brings her other hand up to hold his face between her palms. His eyes are red, bloodshot, and JJ suddenly comes to the terrifying conclusion that he's been crying. David Rossi does not cry.
She leans forward, pressing her lips to his forehead, holding them there longer than necessary so she could convey everything she wasn't about to say. "Just let go, Dave," she whispers, pulling back only enough to be able to form the words. "Let someone else be the strength. Let someone else support you."
Even though she knows it's coming, part of her is surprised when he buries his head in her lap and weeps. JJ simply strokes his head, allowing him the chance to just let go, to release emotion that's obviously been there since Emma Schuller's untimely death. She doesn't try to shush him, doesn't try to make it better, just lets him get it all out. Then, when he's done, snatching Kleenex from the top drawer of his desk, she continues to sit there, waiting. When nothing happens, she knows that she needs to break the silence and she does it in the only way she can think of.
"Why do you feel like you owe me an explanation for what you said to Judge Schuller?" She tries not to shiver as she says his name, vividly remembering being splattered with blood. She hopes Will doesn't see it, for she knows that he's overprotective of her simply because she's his son's mother. They may have split, aware that anything more than friends would work between them, but they are still that.
Dave reaches out, resting one of his hands on hers, resting in her lap. "Because as much as I may not want to admit it, as much as I may not want to consider it, you matter to me."
The confession takes her completely off guard. She tries to think of an adequate response. All she can come up with is, "You matter to me too." It's just too much to hope that he means more than just friends. After all, Emma Schuller was the love of his life.
But Dave is shaking his head. He takes a deep breath. "I was talking to Hotch tonight, on the plane back."
She nods. She knew that. She'd been sitting with Emily trying not to be disgusted by the blood she swore she could still feel on her skin. Still, she'd been aware of their low tones at the other end of the plane.
"I passed on some advice that I should be taking myself."
He ignores her. "I told him that he had something, he had a family. I asked him what he would do, once we caught Foyet, to make sure the purest thing in his life didn't get away."
JJ shakes her head with a smile. She had absolutely no idea where Dave was going with this. Her hand slipped out to rest on top of his, trying for reassurance. "He won't," she says. "Emily's probably in there talking to him now."
"I'm not talking about Emily and Hotch, I'm talking about you and me."
JJ's breath catches tightly in her lungs making it terribly difficult to breathe.
"This made me realize that I let things go once and I wasn't going to do it again."
He seems so desperate that JJ's brow knits together. She'd known before setting foot in Dave's office that things were not going to be good. This is more than she'd bargained for. Dave is never desperate, even when the rest of them are.
"You are the purest thing in my life, Jen."
And that definitely makes her heart stop.
"You make this job worth it, you and that little boy of yours. I let Emma go, and I shouldn't have, I know that now, but I've learned my lesson. There's no time for fear. And I don't want to end up like Judge Schuller, alone and so angry at someone else for taking the greatest thing in my life." He's standing now, right in front of her, and she tries to make her eyes focus, her mouth work, something.
"I made a mistake letting Emma go, I'm not going to make that mistake twice. Definitely not with you."
"Hey, hey, hey," she says, her hand automatically coming up to cup his cheek. "I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."
"But you could," he answers. "And that would break my heart."
She smiles as best she can through the heart-wrenching words. "Come on, Dave. It's been a rough couple of days. Let's go home."
He lets out a frustrated noise and JJ finds herself confused once again. She'd known this would be exasperating, but this is just getting ridiculous.
"I don't think you understand, Jen." His voice is so soft, so quiet, his hand holding hers against his cheek.
She tilts her head to the side.
"I want you in my life every day," he elaborates, his voice not raising in volume. "I want to go home with you, I want to wake up with you. I want to hold you and realize that I didn't make the same mistake twice, that I didn't let the greatest thing in my life go."
Then he's leaning in and she's tilting her head and his mouth meets hers tenderly. Half of her, the logical rational half, isn't sure this is a good idea for the sole reason that he's emotional. He's not in complete control of his emotions right now and she knows that can mean that things turn out terrible in the morning. But the bigger part of her also knows that this is what she's dreamed of. When he pulls away she follows and he chuckles slightly, placing a sweet kiss on her lips. JJ's eyes flutter open.
"I think I get it now."
His forehead comes to rest against hers. "Are you sure?" When she nods his eyes fall closed. "It's been a bad couple of days."
She knows that, almost better than anyone else. So she smiles. "Come on, Dave. Let's go home," she repeats. "Let someone else take care of you tonight."
He actually smiles back. "I'll let you take care of me forever."
JJ feels her heart lift as they walk out of the office. She doesn't even pause to look if Hotch's light is still on, to wonder if Emily's been successful. She only has eyes for the man beside her, the strong he-man willing to transfer the power to her. It's a responsibility she takes seriously, now, and for as long as he'll let her.
She doesn't delude herself into hoping anything less than forever.
Have I mentioned how totally weird it is to write a weak and desperate David Rossi? GAH! It like goes against everything we know about his personality! I hope you can overlook the OOC-ness that it felt like writing it.