Chapter 14: For Your Entertainment
Late Saturday Night, 4 days ago
It had taken a long time to work out a plan. In the end Garcia, oddly enough, had won out.
They had entered The Venue through a heavy door off a back alley. Once in the big main room, Garcia looked around excitement shining in her eyes. "Is that Condoleezza Rice?"
"Garcia!" Prentiss spoke in her ear. "Behave!" She was leaning slightly over the other woman while still letting her gaze roam around the room looking for a specific familiar face.
"Oh, I love this song!" Garcia began to sing along to the music as they crossed the floor toward the bar. "Oh, do you know what you got into? Can you handle what I'm 'bout to do? 'Cause it's about to get rough for you …"
Prentiss had spotted someone she hadn't expected. She guided Garcia to the end of the bar. "Hijo de puta! What are you doing here, mija?"
Garcia settled in a seat at the bar. "Detective Carballo, or should I saw Wolverine," she smiled at the woman beside her who was sporting mutton chops and heavily gelled hair.
"You have me at a disadvantage, chica," Carballo said all charm as she shot a look past Garcia to Prentiss.
"Penelope Garcia," she extended a white gloved hand. "Tonight I'm ..."
"Mary Poppins," Carballo finished kissing the knuckles of the offered hand.
"You certainly are a spoonful of sugar," Garcia smiled smitten.
"Garcia? Hablas espanol?"
"No problemo, chica. I can teach you," Carballo's look said another language wasn't all she had in mind.
"Easy, muchacha," Prentiss laid a warning hand on Carballo's shoulder. "I didn't think you were going to make it."
Carballo's cast was hidden under the sleeve of her black shirt and she had covered the worst of the bruising on her forehead with makeup. To Prentiss she still looked tired.
"Too important to miss," Carballo shrugged. "Nice whip, Indy. Yer gonna get a lot of attention with that."
Prentiss dropped her hand to the coiled leather whip at her belt, gave the detective a look that was a combination of indulgence and pure sexuality. She hooked her thumb through the loose belt that held the holstered revolver on one side and the whip on the other. Her eyes roamed the room skipping over the appreciative glances sent her way.
"She's not here yet, jefa."
"I see that," Prentiss caught the eye of the bartender, ordered a scotch for herself and wine for Garcia. The bartender gave Prentiss a long look as she returned with their drinks and second rum for Carballo.
"I hope you're not with her, chica," Carballo whispered to Garcia. "Here, she belongs to everyone."
"I'm beginning to see that," Garcia whispered back.
"Are you packing?" Carballo leaned past Garcia, looked at Prentiss.
Prentiss leaned on the bar her upper body close to, if not protectively around, Garcia. She drew the big revolver from the holster at her belt, "if you mean am I armed… " She let Carballo briefly admire the .45 caliber Colt that had belonged to her grandfather before replacing it. "I have this and a .380 auto on my ankle. You?"
"I've got a nine mil, back of my pants."
Garcia looked from one to the other. "Girls and their guns; I'm not sure if I'm supposed feel protected or turned on."
"So, what's the plan, Indy?"
Prentiss pushed the fedora farther back on her head and leaned even closer to Carballo. "I'm wearing a wire and there are two more friends outside listening. When she gets here," she shot another glance around the room, "I'm going to get close to her see if she's interested in me."
Carballo gave her a look that said that part of the plan was a given. "You can't use anything she says, you know that."
"I know. All I want is to get a little more evidence and let your colleagues," the emphasis on the word was not complimentary, "do the rest."
Less than a half hour had passed when Prentiss noted Garcia's posture stiffen. "Don't stare at her, Garcia," Prentiss warned turning away from the bar.
"Be cool," Carballo caught Garcia's hand. "Make like you're all into me. The boss has got this," she leaned in close to Garcia her eyes keen.
Prentiss let her gaze lazily take in the woman who had just entered. She was dressed in chainmail over a dark shirt with dark leather pants and boots. At her waist was a long knife in a heavy scabbard. Her hair was just beyond shoulder length worn loose and disheveled as if she has just come in out of a stiff wind.
"I think Middle Earth exploded in her closet," Garcia whispered. She raised her hand still holding onto Carballo and spoke into the transmitter in her sleeve. "Unsub is here, guys. It's about to get rough in here for someone …"
Although her back was now to Prentiss she could see the FBI agent in the mirror behind the bar. Prentiss was leaning back one elbow on the bar her other hand had her thumb hooked through her belt again pulling it down so it rested more over her hips than her waist.
In a lazy, half-interested way, Prentiss watched as the unsub approached the bar and ordered a drink. With a beer bottle in hand, she then walked directly past Prentiss her eyes catching and holding the other woman as she went by. Taking up a position with her back against the wall about twenty feet away, she looked around the room her eyes slightly nervous as if she was fully aware of Prentiss watching her.
Prentiss moved her other hand down, hooked her other thumb in her belt, her hands held provocatively low. She watched the other woman, sometimes looking away, sometimes letting a half smile cross her mouth.
A few long minutes went by as Prentiss waited patiently. If they were right about the profile and the unsub was targeting women in high level government jobs, she certainly could be a target. She had made her intentions clear now she would have to either wait until the unsub approached her or take action herself. Either way something would have to give soon as a woman dressed in black vinyl like Trinity from "The Matrix" was watching her with interest.
Any other night … Prentiss thought taking the bold step of removing her hat and shaking out her hair like a model in a shampoo commercial. That did it; that and the woman in black vinyl taking a half step toward her. Prentiss dropped her hat on the bar next to Garcia as the unsub pressed in between them.
"You like playing at being butch?" Grafton said with an edge to her voice. She looked Prentiss up and down her eyes pausing at the whip.
"It depends on what mood I'm in," Prentiss replied her voice low and seductive. She met the younger woman's eyes trying to analyze her while still staying in character. Up close Grafton, the unsub, was intense, almost aggressive, her blue eyes sharp with a powerful confidence.
Prentiss turned toward her shifting her body so the whip was more prominently positioned on her hip between them. Grafton took the bait, reaching out to caress it lightly.
"I hear you like it rough," Grafton let her hand rest on Prentiss's hip, closed the distance between them.
Although that wasn't exactly true, Prentiss cocked her head slightly letting a smile play across her lips. "Where did you hear that?"
"Around," Grafton let her eyes play across the room briefly. Her hand moved upward, fingers splayed, to rest just below Prentiss' left breast as she moved even closer, their thighs now touching. "I also hear you are FBI; serial killer profiler."
Prentiss breathed very slowly not letting any reaction leach into her face or body. She was not used to playing this role and knew she would have to turn things around soon or lose any chance at getting information from the unsub.
"That's work," Prentiss reached out with her hand and ran her fingers suggestively up and down the knife on Grafton's belt. "This is different. This is play time."
Her face only inches away, Grafton moved her hand lightly across Prentiss' breast to the open neck of her shirt. Slowly she opened another button. Leaning forward she breathed in her ear, "Do they know who you are at the BAU?"
Prentiss pulled back just slightly her nose grazing the other's cheek until their eyes met. This would be a turning point she knew. "It's none of their concern," she held Grafton's eyes locked on hers. "I'm not out to them."
The blue eyes narrowed slightly her pupils seeming to focus even more intently. Her jaw tightened and her mouth flattened in a look that was part annoyance, and for a bare second, part pure hatred. Grafton then smiled to cover her reaction.
Prentiss broke eye contact looking toward the doorway to the back room. "Why don't we get some privacy?" She let Grafton lead the way moving after her without a glance to Garcia or Carballo.
Garcia watched them disappear concerned. "Where are they going?"
"Back room," Carballo shifted off her stool as if to go after them, but changed her mind.
"Back room?" Garcia pressed. "Like, as in, back room at the club on Queer as Folk?"
"Yeah, chica, like that. We gotta let her play it out. Anything we do now is gonna mess it up."
There were several other couples already in the dark room when Prentiss and Grafton entered. Grafton led the two of them to a far corner just to the left of another doorway.
The overt sexuality of the room, and the look in Grafton's eyes when she had heard Prentiss admit to being closeted, was working to provoke something in the tall dark haired agent. When Grafton stopped and turned toward her, Prentiss let it take over.
She threw her body against the other woman pushing her back hard against the wall pressing one hand against her belly just under the chainmail. "What do you care what I am to everyone else?" she lowered her hand down the leather pants at the same time as she ran her mouth along the other woman's jaw letting her feel her bared teeth. "I'm this to you. Isn't that all you want?"
The body under her seemed to lose tension as Prentiss softly kissed the exposed neck and throat one hand between them the other clutching at hip then buttock encased in the tight leather.
Grafton breathed out against her ear, "Don't fear what you are, Agent. Absorb it." She moved against Prentiss' hand letting herself be touched directly. "Let it take you."
Prentiss pressed her lower body harder against the other woman, the heel of her own hand finding an equally sensitive spot on her own body. She pulled back, stared for a moment into the intense blue eyes, and then let her mouth find the other with uncontained hunger.
Prentiss felt the other woman's hand insinuate between them and grab at her belt. There was a moment of awkward fumbling until she felt the belt give way and the holstered revolver and whip drop to the floor.
Right in that moment she realized her mistake.
Grafton broke the kiss her hand between them now holding the cold steel of her knife. She pressed it hard to Prentiss' chest cutting away another button of her shirt as she pushed the tip against the base of her throat. Her other hand was under Prentiss' shirt at the back reaching until she found the concealed wire. She yanked it off; dropped it to the side.
"Do they know what you are? How close you are to being what you study?"
In a car on the street outside, JJ jerked off her headphones. "Something's wrong." It wasn't just the squeal as the audio feed cut off that alerted her, but the sound of a sharp intake of breath from Prentiss just before.
JJ was out of the car and running down the alley Reid following behind her as Garcia's excited voice began shouting in her earphone.
"We're in the back room. We got worried. They're not here."
JJ heard the Latina detective curse loudly in the background just as she skidded to a stop in the empty alley.
"Garcia, where are they?" JJ could not help the edge of panic that had crept into her voice.
"We don't know. We don't know," the analyst stuttered. "Wait, there's a door. Alley, they're in the alley!"
JJ looked around at the bare brick walls and heavy gate that blocked any further passage. Holding her Glock in a two handed grip she swiveled around feeling Reid doing the same at her back as they covered every available hiding spot in the empty alley.
They came to a stop back to back turning to look at each other. "The other side!" Reid said comprehension coming into his eyes.
Carballo was fumbling to pull her weapon from her waist band with her good hand as she ran down the alley. Rounding a corner, she was met with a stiff kick that sent her head first into a dumpster. Her weapon flew from her grasp as she collapsed stunned.
Prentiss attempted to use the distraction to her advantage. She twisted away from the knife at her throat ducking down and grappling at the other woman's midsection. Grafton jammed a knee under her jaw snapping her teeth sharply together.
Trying to stand up and pull away, Prentiss was then hit by a roundhouse kick under her right arm that sent a shocking wave of pain through her torso. She stumbled backward as Grafton advanced on her flicking the knife as her feet danced in the moves of a practiced fencer.
"C'mon, agent, get up," she taunted. "Make a fight of it!"
"Like those other women?" Prentiss hissed through clenched teeth.
"No, not like them; you're not like them at all," with her left hand she grabbed the front of Prentiss' shirt and almost idly flung her against a parked car. Her shoulder on her already injured side hit the front corner of the car causing her entire right arm to go numb.
Grafton pulled her up and pressed her bodily onto the hood of the car. "A few pills forced down an unwilling throat," she flicked the knife tip across Prentiss' cheek and jaw. "A little extra push in the back to an inebriated girl …"
Prentiss tried to block the knife, but her left hand was caught in a strong grip and pinned above her head. "How do you feel now …" the other woman pressed her body hard against her crushing her to the car, "now that you're not on top?"
"Did you get tired of trying to cover up your kills? Want more recognition?"
The knife went still under her chin and the sharp blue eyes looked down at her with interest. "Maybe I just got tired of playing this stupid game."
Prentiss breathed out holding tight to her self control reaching inward trying to find some extra strength to hold out long enough for JJ and Reid to find her. She hoped that Garcia had run to meet them, lead them to her.
The knife moved across her chest and the tip began to dig into her skin just to the left of her breastbone. Gasping, Prentiss jerked her body freeing her left hand. She caught at the wrist of the hand pressing the knife into her, but the pressure was doubled as the woman above pushed with two hands.
"I put myself out there being who I am and people like you just skate along getting the best of both worlds," Grafton said calmly pushing down on the knife seemingly with little effort as it sank deeper. "You're straight to the world but gay in bed. If you would just be who you are, all of you women who live just like them, they wouldn't think we were so bad."
"Damn you!" was all the response Prentiss could muster. Just as she thought the hateful blue eyes of the woman above her, a woman who was not so far removed from her in life save for the choices she had made, would be the last thing she would see, Grafton's body went rigid. Her grasp on the knife was released and she fell backward bucking as electricity coursed through her.
"What do you mean not so bad?" Garcia said holding her open carpetbag in one hand and a stun gun in the other. Prentiss slid slowly down the car to the ground. "Not so bad! You were killing her!"
Abruptly Garcia dropped the bag and stun gun. She stepped over the still body and knelt by Prentiss. She was pulling a handkerchief from her coat pocket when JJ and Reid appeared in the alley.
Reid stopped to help up the groggy Carballo as JJ went to Prentiss. "Emily, God …" was all she could say her eyes on the blood covering Prentiss' chest. She took the handkerchief from Garcia, pressed it to the bleeding wound.
With a screech of tires, and a blare of lights, a car rocketed into the alley. Two DC detectives, the two who had met Prentiss at her door, jumped out, weapons drawn.
"FBI! We're FBI," Reid held up his credentials.
"It's OK," Carballo took a step away from Reid toward the detectives. "We got yer killer," she pointed not at Grafton moving slowly as she regained consciousness, but Prentiss who sat wounded with the long bladed knife between her knees.
"No!" JJ moved to block Prentiss from the detectives as they moved forward slowly, weapons pointed at the FBI agent.
No one except Garcia saw Grafton roll slowly to her right, grab something from the ground. Garcia gasped as she pushed herself up on one knee, Carballo's nine millimeter pistol in her hand.
"Gun!" the shout from Reid caused every weapon to swivel to the woman on the ground.
"It wasn't her! It was me!" Grafton reached under her shirt and slowly withdrew a cell phone. "There's pictures," she tossed the cell several feet towards the detectives. Carballo moved forward, scooped it up.
"Least you can do is get it right," she put the handgun under her chin, pulled the trigger.
"I don't know whether to be pissed at you or impressed mija." Prentiss was being loaded into the ambulance, JJ at her side.
"Either, it's all good, jefa." Carballo smiled slyly. "I had to get her to talk somehow. Wish I'd known about the phone though." She looked to the yellow tarp covering the body. "It might not have come to that."
"I don't think it was going to end any other way," JJ stepped back as the stretcher was pushed into the ambulance and the doors shut.
Chapter 15: Coming Out
Early Afternoon Monday, 2 days ago
JJ met them as Garcia and Prentiss go off the elevator and walked into the bullpen at the BAU. "Are you ready for this?" she touched Prentiss' elbow lightly where it rested in the sling.
"I don't know," Prentiss let out a deep breath, began walking up the steps to the conference room. The four men on the team were waiting their faces expectant and concerned. On the table were her credentials, service weapon and ID passes.
Reid hopped up to help her into a chair but Prentiss stopped him with a hand on his arm. "I'll stand for now, thanks." She looked around the room at her colleagues, her friends. For a moment she thought of detailing to them her injuries – three cracked ribs, a dislocated shoulder, the stab wound in her chest – but stopped herself sure they already knew.
She looked at Hotchner, Rossi and Morgan, began slowly. "There's something you need to know about me; something I never told you, something important." Her eyes wandered around the room settled again on the faces in front of her.
"I believe everyone has the right to live their lives as they want to and to keep private what they want to keep private. Sometimes though, it's not that simple. Others look to us for an example and if we can't admit to being who we are, we make it harder for those who come after us to be who they are."
"I've never been ashamed to be a lesbian, but I've never been out. I kept that part of me hidden away from the most important people in my life and I regret that now. This is who I am and I hope you can find it in yourselves to accept me."
Hotchner was the first to approach her. His usually reticent face looked pained and Prentiss thought for a moment he was going to grab her in an uncharacteristic hug. Instead he touched her lightly with a hand on either shoulder.
"You earned your place here, Emily. Nothing about you could ever change that. You will always be part of this team no matter your private life."
Prentiss ducked her head mumbled a thank you and looked up as Rossi stood in front of her. The older man took her good hand and squeezed it tight. "I think you are the bravest girl," he paused, corrected himself, "Woman, I've ever known. You have to be stronger, stand taller, than any man here, and you do. It doesn't matter who you choose to love."
Rossi stepped aside and Morgan was there. He did hug her, gently, carefully. Pulling back to look at her, he grinned. "You go girl!" he touched her cheek. "I ditto what Rossi said. I've always got your back, always, you know that?" She nodded, smiled weakly.
Reid regarded her nervously, hands in his pockets. "You amaze me," he finally said meeting her eye. "And I don't think I've ever said that about anyone."
The men filed out of the conference room leaving Prentiss, Garcia and JJ alone. Garcia was wiping her eye with her knuckle. "That was sweet," she kissed Prentiss on the cheek grinned at her again. "Don't forget about Wednesday night, our girls' night in, my Sapphic sweetie," she turned and left.
JJ took Prentiss's hand, entwined their fingers. "C'mon, I'll help you write a quick report then drive you home."
Chapter 16: A Million Miles Away
Present Day, Later in the Evening
"Did you find a blanket and pillow for Garcia?" Prentiss sat on the edge of her bed, arranged a couple of pill bottles and a glass of water on the nightstand.
"Yeah," JJ smiled. "She's already snoring on the couch."
Prentiss swung her legs into bed and pushed her bare feet under the sheet. "What about you?" she asked looking up at JJ. "Are you going to pass out on me?"
"No, I'm OK," JJ turned away. "I guess I should go… call a cab…"
"Jennifer, wait," Prentiss reached out but the other woman was beyond her grasp. "Please stay. We need to talk about this. We need to talk about us."
JJ turned and for a moment the look in her eyes said that was the last thing she wanted.
Prentiss pulled her knees up and JJ sat at her feet. JJ looked away, several things going through her mind. Finally she settled on one. "I keep thinking about you in that bar," her hand touched Prentiss' knee. "One part of me wanted to be there; see you doing your thing and all those women wanting to be with you. The other part of me just doesn't want to know 'cause I'm jealous, I guess."
Prentiss couldn't think of anything to say and after a moment, JJ continued. "Tell me what it feels like to you when you…" she broke off unable to put the words together.
"I feel very powerful, very intensely aroused. It's dark, scary. I know that sometimes I can't totally control it. That's why I don't think we should …"
"Emily, the only one that's afraid of you, is you," JJ caught Prentiss' eyes with her own; didn't let her look away. "You think that I can't make a choice; to accept you or not; to accept myself or not; to want you – all of you – or not."
JJ looked away for a long moment trying to compose her jumbled thoughts. "I can admit to myself that your power, your strength, makes me want to melt into you, become part of you. That it arouses me more than I ever imagined I could feel with someone." She shook her head slightly, said softly, "I've never felt that way with anyone but you."
"I know you…"
"What you don't know about yourself," JJ let her words drown out the other woman, "is that you can be warm and loving. You embrace the powerful, dark part of yourself but not the tender, giving part. You're more afraid that you can feel love, want love, be loved, than anything else."
Prentiss felt her jaw go limp, felt her mouth drop open in surprise. She gulped, made as if to get out of bed, get away. Pain shot into her shoulder when she tried to push herself up with her right arm. Then JJ was there beside her, arms going around her and she felt herself enveloped in warmth, surrounded by compassion, kindness.
"With all the things we see every day, all the cruelty, how can you exist without this?" JJ whispered. "You put all those horrible things away in your compartments and forget to be human. You put away the love as a consequence, you shouldn't."
Prentiss felt the tears starting in her eyes and was oddly pleased that JJ could not see because she never wanted anyone so see her cry. Her face was pressed to JJ's chest, the top of her head tucked under the other woman's chin. For a long time she let JJ hold her feeling her strength pour in, calming her, soothing her.
Finally JJ pulled back from the embrace her hand gently smoothing back Prentiss' hair, wiping the tears from her cheeks.
"I wish I could be someone else or I could go back and do it all again," when Prentiss said the words, JJ looked up startled. "There's so much against us; everything is so complicated. I wish it could be simple; that I could love you and everything would be perfect." She felt pain come into her chest felt the weight of what she couldn't have. "You're right here, but you're a million miles away. Separated by our job, by my inability to think that I can love, by…"
"By my choices," JJ was crying now, tears running down her cheeks. "God, Emily, there's so much I regret. I wish I had never…"
Prentiss caught her hand, held it fiercely. "I know. I wish we had never come this far; not like this. It's not your fault," she added sharply when JJ looked away. "I wish that three years ago I had been able to imagine I could love you -- not just desire you. Now here we are."
JJ wiped her face, drew in a deep breath. She looked at the woman in front of her let all the emotions tumble through her. When everything sifted through she was left with one thing and it almost surprised her, almost.
JJ caught Prentiss' hand, drew it to her lips and kissed her fingers delicately. She let her eyes roam the other woman's face seeing the recognition of her desire there.
"Right in this moment, I want nothing more than to make love with you like we did that night in Buffalo."
"I know," Prentiss felt her own need surface. She could see the sensuality she felt reflected in JJ's eyes. "It would just be kind of difficult right now what with me being half dead and all," she grinned playfully.
JJ smiled, kissed her hand again, and got up.
"Don't go Jennifer, stay here with me."
"I'm not going anywhere," JJ unbuttoned her jeans; let them drop to the floor. Next she pulled off her shirt and bra, walked around the other side of the bed and slipped in under the sheet. She moved close to Prentiss just touching her shoulder.
"Tomorrow is tomorrow; right now I'm here."
Oh I can feel you, I can hear you,
I can see you in your room
Oh I can kiss you, I can taste your mouth - I can nearly touch your face
Oh how I miss you, How I miss you
How I long for your embrace, From a million miles away
- A Million Miles Away – Jann Arden