A Time to Talk
Turning sharply, Dave narrowed his eyes at the beautiful woman across the room. "Excuse me?" he asked, his voice low in the still room. "What did you just say?"
Lips tightening, JJ took a step closer to him, returning his stare. "Let me be real clear here, Dave. I won't share this home with you if you're going to lie to me. You aren't fine and we don't talk anymore. I love you, but I'm not going to be just a pretty ornament in your home."
"Our home," Dave corrected her softly, his jaw clenching as he felt the panic start to walk up his spine once again.
"Sorry," JJ shrugged, her tone informing him that she was not quite, indeed, as regretful as the word might convey. "I don't feel like there's much of a "we" here lately. I love you, but I can't sit around wondering what you're thinking anymore. Either we get whatever's bothering you out in the open and handle it together or Henry and I leave. I'm happy with you, Dave. You're a wonderful father to Henry, but it'll just be a matter of time before it all falls apart if we can't talk to each other anymore."
"JJ-," Dave whispered, taking a step in her direction, "Honey, please…"
"That's the deal, Dave," JJ said, crossing her arms over her chest and taking a step backward when he reached for her.
"Shit," Dave muttered, dropping his hands back to his sides. Meeting her clear gaze across the small distance separating them, he shook his head again. "JJ, the way I'm reacting…I'm not trying to hurt you. I'm trying to..to…hell, I don't know how to say it," Dave growled, his frustration growing by the second.
"Just talk to me, Dave. That's all I'm asking for here," JJ begged, eyes widening as she watched his face contort ever so slightly.
"I'm trying, Bella," Dave murmured, running restless hands through his salt and pepper hair. "When you've kept things locked inside for years, changing the way you do things takes more than a few seconds."
Biting her lip, JJ nodded, watching his face clench again as he took a deep breath, his chest expanding with the increased air.
"It never seemed fair to burden my past wives with the horrors of my job," he confessed quietly, tucking his hands in his pockets as he stared down at his loafers.
"First," JJ began, one finger popping into the air, "I'm not your wife…"
"Not because I don't want that very thing, JJ. That's your choice, not mine," Dave replied quickly, looking up to fix her with a meaningful look.
"I know that, Dave," JJ said quietly, her eyes calmly meeting his. "And that's not what this conversation is about. And second, I see those horrors every day, too. You don't have to be afraid to burden me."
"You want the truth, Jen?" Dave asked wearily, each word heavily weighted. "Ever since Haley died, I've asked myself every day why the hell I came back to all this. I'd been gone ten years, Bella. Ten long years…and nothing's changed. Oh, the toys got brighter and shinier…but there's still as much evil out there as there ever was."
"Have you come up with any answers…on why you came back?" JJ asked calmly, willing to give him time to reach the main topic, gratified that he was talking at all.
"Nope, not any that makes sense to me. I do know why I stay though," he replied, cocking his dark head to the side. "I figured out why I can't walk away again."
"O-kay," JJ drawled, leaning her hip against his oak desk. "Fill me in."
"You. And Henry. As long as the kind of monsters lurk out there that took Haley, I can't stop hunting them. Not when I know that you and my boy could just as easily become their intended victims," Dave explained, his voice husky as he remembered Haley's poor still body lying against that cold wooden floor. "I pace because of the nightmares, JJ. In my dreams, it isn't Haley's body in that house. It's yours."
"Dave-," JJ whispered, pushing away from the desk to move closer, suddenly needing to close the distance between them.
"It's Henry hiding in that chest," Rossi continued, his voice rough as he clenched his eyes closed, his fists pressing against the edge of the desk. "And it's me pulling him out of it!"
Reaching up to cup his cheek, JJ winced as the man she loved jerked at her touch, his eyes still closed. "Open your eyes, David," she commanded him softly, her words calm but demanding. "Come on, open them."
Slowly lifting his lids as he let her voice sooth the demons fighting for control inside him, Dave saw her standing there, waiting patiently. "Do you know how many enemies I have? How many unsubs that would love to take a shot at me? It could have been ME, Jennifer."
"But it wasn't," JJ stressed, her voice soft but firm. "You didn't make any deals with anybody. It wasn't US," she continued, willing him to comprehend that simple truth.
"No buts, Dave," JJ said, shaking her head back and forth resolutely, refusing to allow him to live in the land his mind had created for him.
"There is a "but", Cara. It could have been me…and I'm not as strong as Hotch. If I lost you…"
"I'm not going anywhere. Neither is Henry," JJ told him, her voice confident and sure in the otherwise silent room.
"JJ, you can't promise me that…anymore than I can make you the same promise in return. Look what just happened to Emily. That could've been you, too."
"So what, David? Do we hide ourselves away and pray the bogeyman doesn't find us? Or do we do what we always do and pursue him first?" JJ asked, her question rhetorical. They both already knew the answer.
"You said you wanted me to talk," Dave snapped, his tone belligerent, needing to lash out at someone, something.
"And I do. I need to know what you're feeling. You need to know what I'm feeling. But, we can't change the things that have happened. Haley's gone. So is her murderer. Emily is okay. And the man that tried to harm her is dead. All we can do now is learn everything we can from what happened and move on. Dwelling on what we didn't do right isn't going to bring anybody back from the dead. I'm here. Standing right here in front of you with no intention of going anywhere but to our bed."
Staring down at her, Dave finally nodded, her words slowly sinking through the shield he had surrounded himself with. "I'm used to holding things in, Bella. It's not a punishment…it's just me."
"Well, you are a "we" now. And I have to know what you're thinking," JJ said simply, sweeping a soft hand against his cheek. "I realize that you did things differently in the past. But I need a partner, Dave. In the good times AND the bad ones."
Reaching out to pull her against him, Dave nodded, drawing in a deep breath, inhaling the fragrance that was uniquely her. "You've got one, Bella. But if you ever threaten to leave me again, I'm gonna be forced into taking drastic measures."
"Like?" JJ drawled, draping her arms around his solid shoulders as she grinned mischievously up at him.
"How 'bout tying you to our bed until you agree to marry me?" Dave suggested, dropping a gentle kiss against her soft lips, lingering against her pliant skin.
Smiling gently up at his slowly relaxing face, JJ laughed, the soft tinkle music to his ears. "You just don't quit, do you?"
"Not when there's something I really want. And I really want you and Henry to be mine in a very permanent sense," Dave replied seriously, his hands tightening.
"What if I promise to give the notion my devoted consideration," JJ bargained, pressing slightly tighter against him.
"Then I'd suggest we adjourn deliberations to our bedroom. I do my best convincing when I've got you flat on your back," Dave replied, wriggling his eyebrows at her.
Lifting up to press a kiss to his warm lips, JJ nodded. "I'd say you've got yourself a deal, Agent Rossi."