Rating: PG (minor angst)
Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds, but if you thought that I did... Oops.
Summary: JJ brings a special guest home for Thanksgiving to meet her family. This is kind of a sequel to my Halloween fic: Tootsie Rolls and Old Money. Part of a holiday series, but each one stands alone.
A/N: This story inspired by: stuffing. A belated Thanksgiving fic, but in all fairness I didn't start it until AFTER the holiday. ;-)
Guess Who's Coming Out to Dinner
"I hope you're mom doesn't mind me stealing you for the holiday." JJ smiled at Emily, who was looking out the window from the passenger's seat.
Emily turned her attention to JJ. She smiled and waved if off, "Oh, don't worry about it. I think my mother was actually more relieved than anything. We never got into Thanksgiving much, and I doubt she wants to fly all the way out here from France, just to eat stuffing with me."
JJ frowned, Ambassador Prentiss could be such a user at times. She vaguely wondered if Emily knew what it was like to have a real Thanksgiving surrounded by relatives. "Well I'm glad you're coming home with me this time."
"Are you sure your parents are okay with this? With us?" Emily asked nervously. She needed more reassurance that she wasn't going to ruin the Jareau Thanksgiving dinner.
JJ bit her bottom lip as they passed a sign along the freeway. It wouldn't be much longer before they made it to her parents house. The press liaison mustered up her courage for the conversation she'd been putting off for too long.
"Um, Em, there's something I've been meaning to tell you." JJ kept her eyes glued to the road and tried her best to sound nonchalant.
"Why do I not like the sound of that." Emily instinctively crossed her arms.
"I haven't been entirely honest with you about something..." The press liaison gripped the wheel tightly.
Emily waited patiently for JJ to continue.
"You see I... Well... It's just that-" JJ blushed and started to babble. She wasn't sure how to explain this one.
Emily's eyes lit up with recognition. "Oh my god!" Emily was completely scandalized.
"I'm so sorry, Emily!" JJ tried to apologize.
"Oh-my-god!" Emily covered her face with both of hands.
"Look, when I talked to them on the phone and I told them you were coming they got so excited and I just didn't know how to explain... It would have been so awkward!"
"I can't believe you didn't tell them!" The brunette was trapped somewhere between angry and terrified.
"When were you going to bring it up? When they carved the turkey? Would that be less awkward?" The profiler said angrily, she was not in the mood to pretend she was just 'that friend from work'.
Emily would've been perfectly content to just order a turkey take-out meal, rather than deal with this kind of situation. Emily saw a big green exit sign for East Allegheny; the profiler suspected this was JJ's reason for waiting until they were five miles away. She was certain Reid could come up with some kind of statistic for the probability of success when coming out over Thanksgiving dinner. She doubted it would be in their favor.
"Hey, it's not as bad as it seems." JJ tried to defend her decision, but she knew she was in the doghouse.
"Not as bad? JJ, you're the one that made your family sound like a bunch of raging homophobes!"
"Don't worry, I'm sure they'll like you. And I didn't make them sound like homophobes. I made them sound like hillbillies, which they really aren't."
"Then why didn't you tell them the truth?"
"I panicked." JJ let out a breath she'd been holding in. "Besides, you'll have to meet them at some point. Sooner would be better than later. The more I can expose them to you the easier it will be for them to get over it."
"You make me sound like an infectious disease." Emily grumbled.
Keeping one hand on the wheel, JJ grabbed the profilers left hand and squeezed it. Then she brought it up to her mouth and kissed the top of it. "Just so long as you remember you're my infectious disease." JJ said sweetly.
Emily rolled her eyes and laughed.
JJ was relieved to see Emily laughing again. "My dad, well, I think he already knows or at least suspects. It's my mom and my sister I'm worried about. My brother will probably think it's 'cool'." She glanced at Emily; the profiler could've burned a hole in the windshield with the look she was directing at it. "But let me see how things go, and then I'll come out... when I'm ready."
"Is your mom religious?" Emily wanted to know if she should prepare for a hellfire and damnation spiel.
"No, it's not that. She's just very traditional. She believes in the whole, get married, have kids, stay home thing. A woman isn't complete unless she has those things."
"My sister, Jesse, can be that way too. Of course, she did get knocked up before she was twenty and never went to college. I think she's jealous of my career actually."
Emily frowned, "Why jealous?"
JJ shrugged, "She's always been that way, even when we were kids. I can tell because every time I see her she likes to rub in my lack of a social life or boyfriend. She always tries to point out reasons why I should be unhappy. But to be perfectly honest, and I feel a little mean saying this, she's really just a bit of a redneck."
"Yea. My definition of cool is completely different from her definition of cool. For her it's always been about clothes and boys. For me it's about-"
"Grizzly murders? Intra-office relationships?"
"Exactly! Well not quite exactly." JJ shot Emily a mock glare. "Quiet you. She just envies my freedom."
Emily chuckled as she thought about all the long hours they worked, "If you can call it that."
JJ laughed, "I know, right?" Then she said somberly, "But seriously, she does have five kids."
"Wow." Emily reiterated.
JJ nodded, "But that presents it's own problem. Since Jesse was so prolific, now mom is always nagging me about grandchildren. Like five wasn't enough or something!"
Emily let out a loud guffaw at JJ's comical tirade. "So she's older than you, I take it?" With five kids, Emily hoped she was older.
"Yea, but not by much. I've always been the responsible one. My brother is a year younger."
"I didn't know you were a middle child." The gears in the profiler's mind went to work on that bit of information.
JJ rolled her eyes, "Oh please, don't start giving me that sympathetic look. It's not like they locked me in a closet or anything."
Emily was surprised at JJ's defensiveness. "I didn't mean anything by it."
"You're giving me that look." JJ accused.
"What look?" Emily sounded bewildered.
"That sympathetic, 'you were a middle child,' look!"
Emily laughed, "What?"
"Don't you 'what' me. Derek and Reid did the same thing!"
"You profilers get this look in your eyes when you feel like you've learned something extremely relevant to understanding someone's overall behavior. And you totally had that look. Well I'll have you know that I do not suffer from Middle Child Syndrome!" She exclaimed, recalling Reid's lengthy analysis.
Emily put her hands up and snickered at JJ's passionate insistence, "Okay, Jayj. Whatever." Then Emily said sympathetically, "I'm sorry."
JJ was confused, "Wait, about what?"
"Maybe it's not fair for me to demand this from you."
JJ shrugged, "I've already met your mother."
"Yea, but you didn't really have a choice since she... Well you know." Emily smiled when she recalled of the look on the Ambassador's face. It had been a Halloween she'd certainly be remembering. "I understand if you think your parents might disown you or something. You don't have too. I don't want to put you in that position."
"Em, they won't disown me." JJ said the word as though it had a bitter taste. She wasn't like Emily, it's not like she had an estate to lose. "Worst case scenario, there might be some crying and silent treatment."
Emily feigned glee, "Gee, that makes me feel so much better!"
"To be honest, I can't remember the last time there wasn't crying at Thanksgiving. I'm just usually the person that sit's there and quietly plays with my stuffing. But maybe I'll be the source of it this year." JJ sounded calm about the whole thing. "So I'd like to pre-apologize for any dysfunctional horrors that you might witness."
Emily's eyes widened, "And this is normal for you?"
She sighed resignedly, "You have no idea."
Emily stood just outside the door and watched in amusement as JJ's dad pulled her into a crushing embrace.
JJ blushed and glanced at Emily. She didn't need any fuel for the office. "Dad, don't call me that anymore." JJ whined.
Her father smiled at Emily and said conspiratorially, "She thinks she's too big to hug her old man."
JJ stepped back to introduce the profiler, "Dad, this-"
"Ms. Emily Prentiss, yes, I remembered her name." He directed the last bit to JJ before refocusing his attention on Emily, "JJ's told us so much about you!"
Emily smiled warmly and shook his hand. "Only good things I hope."
"This is Jacob Jareau." JJ explained formally, praying that he wouldn't embarrass her any further.
He waved JJ off, "This isn't a press conference, Carebear." Then he said to Emily, "You can just call me Jake."
JJ winced as her childhood nickname made another appearance. "Dad..." She grumbled under her breath.
"Every time I talk to JJ, it's just Emily this and Emily that. It's nice to finally meet you in the flesh." He sounded sincere as he sized Emily up. He glanced between the two of them. Emily realized that JJ was probably right; he did know.
Emily and JJ both blushed, and the press liaison tried to change the subject. "So where is everybody?"
"Waiting for you. Food's almost ready. You two got here just in time."
"Smells great." Emily said as she took off her coat. It wasn't often she got to enjoy a home cooked meal.
A young man with blonde hair, not much older than JJ, greeted them. "Hey, sis."
"Hey!" JJ greeted him with a hug. She pulled back, "Jason this is Emily. Emily, my brother, Jason."
He shook her hand firmly and eyed her approvingly. "JJ, you didn't tell me how attractive your friend was."
Emily blushed at his attention.
"I'm sure I did," JJ said, trying to keep an edge out her voice. She instinctively hovered closer to Emily as she felt herself become a tad jealous at the look he was directing at the profiler.
"JJ!" An older woman exclaimed as she encased JJ in a hug and showered her face with kisses. Emily felt a tinge of jealousy. She couldn't remember her mother ever greeting her like that.
"Hi Mom." As JJ stepped back she motioned to the profiler, "This is Emily Prentiss."
They shook hands. "I'm Janice."
"She's in the kitchen." Her mother explained.
"I'll go say 'hi' before we sit down."
About thirty minutes into the meal, JJ felt herself relax for the first time since they'd arrived. JJ sat next to Emily, while JJ's brother and sister sat across from them. Her parents sat at the head of the table.
So far dinner had mostly been quiet as everyone focused on devouring their food. JJ could tell that Jason was chatting with Emily about something, but she wasn't really paying attention. She'd been distracted most of the time, while she tried to think of ways to come out.
"So you work with JJ, do you?" Her mother asked Emily.
"She's a profiler." JJ explained.
JJ's mother nodded and smiled at her son. "Did Jason tell you he's studying law at Penn State?" Her mother pressed.
Emily glanced at Jason, "No, he didn't actually."
"Where did you go to school?" She asked the profiler.
"Oh, I went to Yale."
"Oh, did you hear that Jason? Emily went to Yale."
"Yes, Mother, I'm sitting across from her." Jason was getting annoyed.
JJ secretly observed this exchange very carefully. Jason was blushing. Was he checking out her girlfriend?
He was so dead.
She could tell by the semi-terrified smile Emily shot her, that she had also noticed her mother's not-so-subtle scheme to set them up.
"So what do your parents do for a living?"
"My mother is an Ambassador. My father... is not in the picture."
"Your mother is an ambassador, did you hear-"
"I have ears..." Jason rolled his eyes irritably.
"Don't get smart, Jason." She chastised him. "Are you married, Emily?"
"Are you seeing anyone?"
JJ shoveled more stuffing into her mouth as she mentally chanted, 'Don't look at me. Don't look at me. Don't look at me! Damn it.'
Emily glanced at JJ for reassurance. "Actually, I am."
JJ could sense her mother's disappointment, and it tickled her to no end. She chuckled a little.
"Can I ask you a question, Emily?"
"JJ always tells me that she can't have a boyfriend because of her job, but you're in a relationship. How do you make it work?"
Emily's mouth would have dropped open if it wasn't full of cranberry sauce. She blinked, unsure of how to respond to that.
"You don't have to answer that, Emily." JJ frowned. This was the part of family gatherings that always sucked. "Mom, if you have something to say to me, don't drag my friend into it."
"I'm not dragging your friend into anything, I just thought she might be able to offer some advice. I'm sorry you took it so personally." JJ's mother defended.
JJ glanced across the table at her sister. She had a grin on her face. "See Jayj, even your friends have lives."
"Just because I didn't drop out of school to become a baby-breeding machine doesn't mean I don't have a life." JJ smiled pleasantly as she traded punches with her sister.
Emily shifted the stuffing around on her plate uncomfortably. Now she understood what JJ was talking about earlier.
Janice turned her attention to JJ. "Jennifer Jean, that is not how we speak at the dinner table. What would your friend think of that?"
JJ had a shocked look on her face as she fell into what had always been a familiar childhood pattern, "Well she started it." She indicated her sister.
Emily thought JJ very cute in that moment, she resisted the urge to touch her.
Jake tried to break up the hostility by inquiring about pies and such.
Emily chuckled and looked at the press liaison, "It just occurred to me that your names all start with 'J'."
JJ said, "Yes, we're quite clever that way."
"I don't know how you became so cynical." Janice fussed.
"Well she has a job staring at dead bodies all day." Her sister added.
Emily laughed, "Jennifer doesn't stare at dead bodies all day, that's my job. And it's not really dead bodies, so much as crime scenes. Not all crime scenes have bodies, you know. At least, not complete ones." Emily ate her food greedily and smiled inwardly as she succeeded in grossing Jesse out. Jesse seemed speechless.
"She lets you call her Jennifer." JJ's brother laughed, trying to change the subject.
"She hates it when people call her that." He prodded.
Emily shrugged again. She continued to eat her food, and she could tell that he expected an explanation, but she wasn't going to give him one. She really wished that JJ hadn't put her in this position.
"So Jesse, are you married?" Emily asked the older, slightly chubby version of JJ.
"Divorced. The kids are with their Dad this time. They're at his family's place up in Jersey."
Janice interrupted their attempts at smalltalk. "What about Spencer? He seemed like a nice young man." Janice had been pondering her daughter's personal life for quite some time.
Emily coughed as she almost choked. 'He's gayer than we are,' came to Emily's mind.
"You went out on a date with him didn't you?"
"Uh, we went to a football game."
Emily couldn't contain herself and she burst out laughing. "You went on a date with Reid? Reid went to a football game?" She had a hard time picturing that one. Did he even understand what was going on?
"It was hardly a date though..." Jennifer blushed. "It was his birthday and..." JJ rolled her eyes at Emily's teasing look.
Janice asked Emily honestly, "Is there something wrong with that?"
"Oh no, he's just, well he's just Reid." Emily smiled. She continued smiling as she felt JJ's agitated foot connect with her shin.
Emily was tempted to kick her back. This entire line of questioning would end if JJ would just tell them the truth already.
"Yea, he's a good friend." JJ reiterated.
"He's some guy you work with. Tell me you have friends outside of work at least?" Her sister snarked.
"Just because my friends have better things to do than sit around the bar all day, doesn't mean they aren't real friends."
"Oh, you just think you're better than us because you live in DC and travel all over the place with your smartypants coworkers."
JJ laughed, "Oh please. You think anyone who wants to leave this town is a snob. It's not my fault you're a narrow minded hick."
"Did you bring the Ambassador's daughter just to impress us. You would bring your smarty Yale friend." Emily frowned, she wasn't sure if she should involve herself or let them duke it out.
"Don't talk about her like that!" JJ stood up and pushed the chair back. Emily sat frozen with a spoonful of pie on route to her mouth.
Her sister rolled her eyes and laughed. "God, Jenn, what is she your girlfriend?"
"Yes, she is." Jennifer said calmly.
Of all the timing.
Emily wasn't sure if this was the part where she was supposed to jump in supportively or if that was her cue to hurry up and finish eating. Why couldn't Jennifer have waited until after she'd finished dessert? She'd waited this long already.
Emily was nervous, damn it. And when she was nervous she said dumb things. "This pie is really good."
"I just outed us and you're talking about pie?"
Emily gulped audibly. "Uh... Yea..."
JJ's sister's mouth dropped open. "Oh my god! My god! All this time I thought you were so perfect, but turns out you're a homo. Well I guess that explains a lot."
Jesse threw her hands up apologetically, "Whoa, hold your horses. I meant... well if that's what you're into, then that's okay with me. I just meant that it might explain some of our... clashing."
JJ huffed, what she wanted to say was, 'we don't clash because I'm gay, we clash because you're a hick', but rather than make the situation worse she settled for, "Whatever, Jesse."
Jason chuckled and turned bright red as he looked back and forth between Emily and JJ, "Way to go, JJ." He'd have trouble sleeping with that image.
JJ's dad smiled supportively. "So how long have you two...?"
"Are you encouraging her?" Janice stared at him with a shocked look on her face. At some point she managed to find her way out of her shocked stupor.
"I've known since she was in third grade."
"She's more manly than her brother."
"I'm not... manly!" JJ protested. Emily suppressed the urge to snicker.
"But what about grandchildren?" Janice wailed.
"Oh be quiet Janice, what are you really upset about? Jesse had so many kids I can't even remember all their names." Jesse stiffened and looked quite offended. "Besides, it's not like they can't have kids. Hell, they could double up if they wanted, two at a time!" Joke or no joke, Emily felt her mouth go dry at his description.
Yes, it was time to go now.
Emily popped out of her chair and moved over to JJ. She said politely, "Well I had a lovely meal and I appreciate the invitation."
"Oh go wait in the car." JJ snapped, thoroughly disappointed in Emily's performance, even if she knew she was being quite irrational about the whole thing.
"Why couldn't you have good manners like that?" Janice fussed at JJ. "I'll bet she doesn't talk to her mother the way that you do."
Emily put her hand on JJ's forearm. "Stop talking to me like I'm a child!" JJ was nearly yelling. She stood up and stormed out of the room with her mother following on her heels.
Emily was ready to head after her. This was exactly what she didn't want to happen.
Jake got up and stopped Emily, "Word of advice, Emily. When a Jareau woman is that angry, the best thing to do is let it work it'self out. And don't worry about Janice, she'll get over it."
"But those people don't lead natural lives, JJ!"
JJ paced around what had been her childhood bedroom. "My life has hardly been normal anyway."
"But... did something happen to you? Something that I don't know about?"
JJ was baffled. "What?" Then her eyes widened with recognition. "Wait, you think I was sexually abused or something?"
"No! Why would you think that?"
"Well, I don't know. I just thought that maybe something like that motivated you to go into law enforcement or maybe that's why you hate men."
"Of course not. I applied to the Bureau because I wanted to make a difference and I don't hate men!"
"I just don't understand why you think you need to do this... Are you angry with me?"
"What? You think I'm with a woman to spite you?" JJ laughed, "Are you really that... You know what? Never mind. It's time for me to leave. It's obvious that you'll never understand, and anything more is just a waste of my breath."
JJ headed to the door to leave, when her mom grabbed her and pulled her into a hug. She was crying.
JJ sighed, "Mom, I'm not dying."
"I just wonder what I did wrong?" Janice sobbed.
JJ rolled her eyes and tried not to tear up herself, "You didn't do anything wrong. This is who I am and there's nothing wrong with me"
It had taken JJ approximately twenty minutes of constant reassurance to calm her mother down enough so that she could slowly extricate herself from the older woman's grasp. There was certainly one thing JJ was thankful for:
As JJ walked into the living room, she shot Emily a look. It was a look the profiler knew well. JJ usually reserved it for the job, specifically before a raid. It was her 'lets get the fuck out of here' look, and Emily was more than happy to oblige.
They left as soon as they said their goodbyes.
It had been silent for the first few minutes of the drive.
"Jennifer? Are you alright?" Emily asked.
The blond shook her head ruefully. "You were right. I should have told them before. I'm sorry I put you in that position."
Emily shrugged, "It's okay, I understand. How did your mom... take it?"
JJ sighed and ran her fingers through her hair, "The way I thought she would. I think she'll get over it eventually."
"Well that's good, I guess."
Emily was quiet for a moment, "Your dad called you manly." Emily teased her like a child.
JJ laughed. "Shut up, Em."
"I think I have to share that one with Garcia."
JJ shot her a mock glare.
"Oh, and I'm sure Derek would love to hear about 'Carebear.'"
"I hate you."
The profiler persisted, "You'd be the one with a little rainbow on your tum tum."
JJ laughed out loud at the visual. "Yea? Well you'd be the one with... cuffs."
"There's no bear with cuffs..." She caught the seductive twinkle in JJ's eyes, "Hey!" She playfully punched her on the arm.
"Hey! No punching the driver." JJ chastised her playfully. JJ became serious again, "I hope you didn't have too horrible a time."
"On the contrary, I enjoyed our visit. It was the most fun I've had at Thanksgiving."
JJ stared at her. She reached her right arm up and touched Emily's forehead. "You don't feel feverish."
Emily moved her hand away. "No, really. I had fun. It was kind of nice having family around and the food was really good. I didn't have that the way you did."
"Aw. Well since you enjoy watching me argue with my sister so much then maybe I should bring you to all of our major family functions!"
"You'd better." Emily laughed.
There was another silence, but this time it was a comfortable one.
Emily bit her lip, "Can we just eat out next year?"
JJ chuckled, "I thought you'd never ask."