Author's Note: This short piece was written in response to Kavi Leighanna and Sienna27's Bonus #14 -Smackdown TV Prompt Challenge. Many thanks to both ladies for these creative prompts.
Prompt: Little Ms. Perfect: "Emily vs. Jordan"
Treading in a Forbidden Land
Emily Prentiss had always been territorial when it came to David Rossi. Well, perhaps the word "always" was stretching the concept. But it felt that way. The man had been her savior during that long-ago case that involved her sordid past, absolving her in ways that she had been unable to do herself. She owed him. She owed him big. And to her way of thinking, that involved saving him from green ingénues with a hero complex.
She could conveniently forget that that was a characteristic she had in common with Jordan Todd. Compartmentalization was her middle name.
Frowning as she walked into the ladies locker room of the Federal Building, Emily found the other woman exactly where she expected her. Todd was nothing if not entirely predictable. Every evening, like clockwork, if they were in town and not out God knew where on a case, at exactly five o'clock, the diminutive beauty would excuse herself for the day and make her way down to the locker room to prepare for her nightly workout.
And tonight, Emily decided the other woman needed a workout buddy. And she'd fit that ticket nicely.
"Jordan," Emily nodded politely to the petite lady as she crossed the concrete floor to her own metal locker. "Fancy seeing you here," she said, hoping those words didn't come across as sarcastically as she'd heard them in her head.
"Emily," Jordan returned, not bothering to look at the elder agent as she slipped her tank top over her sports bra, adjusting the fabric with an expert twist. "You're here late."
Shrugging as she quickly changed, Emily replied nonchalantly, "I decided that I might need to work off a little frustration after today."
Slamming the door shut to her assigned locker with a loud clang, Jordan turned to face Emily, staring at her levelly. "Why do I get the feeling that my presence on the team as JJ's replacement might be the source of that frustration?" she asked impassively, waiting calmly for the response that was certain to come.
Shoving her feet into her running shoes, Emily smiled coldly as she savagely yanked at the shoestrings. "Maybe because you're a very perceptive woman."
"You can save the compliments, Agent Prentiss," Jordan replied tiredly, her dark eyes trained on the other woman. "Why don't you just tell me what I've done to offend you? Because for the life of me, it's been hard enough to fit in on this team...I really don't want any further problems."
"Then maybe you should stop flirting and playing little girl lost with your colleagues," Emily said baldly, finally turning to face Jordan with her hands planted firmly on her running-shorts-clad hips.
Eyes widening slightly at the onslaught of Emily's unvarnished attack, Jordan stuttered, "E-excuse me?"
"Please don't be coy," Emily sighed, leaning one shoulder against the cool metal as her intelligent eyes weighed the woman standing in front of her. "Innocent just isn't your color, Agent Todd."
"Then perhaps you need to clarify your accusation," Jordan retorted, color climbing in her tinted cheeks as she digested Emily's measured words. And then, as if a florescent light bulb flashed over her head, Emily's meaning became well and truly clear. "Wait a second," Jordan said slowly, her eyes narrowing, "Are you talking about Agent Rossi?" she asked, tilting her head to the side as she rotely slipped her ponytail holder into place.
"You know exactly who I'm referring to, Jordan," Emily declared shortly, her lips turning down toward the floor.
"So, you've just been standing back watching me interact with Dave and judging me? Am I getting this correct?" Jordan asked tightly, her hands fisting at her sides as she stared into the other woman's judgmental eyes.
"What I've been watching is you attempt to do a pro's job with amateur hands," Emily snapped, her cheeks heating suddenly as she prepared for the crux of the battle.
"And you're pissed because I've been leaning on Agent Rossi for support," Jordan surmised, ripping away the fluff surrounding the other woman's words and delving straight to the core of the matter.
"Let me give you a bit of advice from a seasoned agent. Leaning on Dave makes you appear weak. Crying at crime scenes makes you appear incompetent. Is that the image that you want to project, Agent Todd? Because it's certainly not the image that the face of the BAU needs to wear and I feel entirely confident that Agent Jareau would agree with me on that one," Emily retorted harshly, her shoulders stiff as she stared across the small locker room at the interloper.
"You know, when I joined this unit, I honestly never expected you to be such a critical bitch," Jordan replied softly, shaking her head. "And a hypocrite to boot."
"Pardon me?" Emily asked icily, wondering if she had just heard the woman correctly.
"You think I haven't heard about the trouble you had fitting into this team when you became part of the unit? You think I don't know how hard you had to work to fit in?"
"So what? I certainly didn't play the part of poor pitiful press liaison and ingratiate myself with a man on the team to score points," Emily hissed, refusing to allow this conversation to become about her.
"And you think that's what I'm doing?" Jordan questioned angrily, her tone rising slightly.
"Not intentionally. But, you can stand down, Emily. There's nothing going on between myself and Agent Rossi."
"That isn't what this is about," Emily shook her head in denial even as relief pervaded her at the sincerity of Agent Todd's words.
"Please don't disrespect me by lying," Jordan bit out, her chocolate eyes flashing under the florescent lights of the locker room as her words echoed off the walls. "It's really beneath you, isn't it?"
"Fine," Emily assented, canting her head slightly in silent admission. "Perhaps, I have more than a professional interest at stake here, but my assessment of your behavior still stands. Your actions reflect on every female agent within the Bureau and right now, you're being perceived as being a woman that can't hold up under the pressure."
"That's your interpretation. Do you want to know mine?" Jordan asked caustically, her hands dropping to her hips.
"By all means," Emily replied in mock politeness, slicing a graceful hand through the air.
"My interpretation is that you're correct. I AM unqualified for this job. But I was thrust into it, not asked. Erin Strauss is the one that ordered my transfer, so, if you have a problem with it, I suggest you file a grievance with her, not me. As for my conduct, maybe I have been unsure of myself. And perhaps, I have leaned heavily on Agent Rossi." Pausing for a breath, Jordan took a step forward as she declared, "But there's been NOTHING illicit in my behavior. NOTHING! So, whatever personal feelings you have, my advice is to talk to him. And from the look on your face, I'd wager that my advice is about as appreciated as yours was to me."
Pausing to stare at her verbal sparring opponent, Emily felt an unexpected wave of kinship with the other woman. "Want to know the strange thing?" Emily asked quietly, her posture relaxing slightly as she met the smaller woman's eyes.
Nodding stiffly, Jordan murmured, "Do tell."
"Under other circumstances, you and I could have probably been friends," she offered, her voice pitched low as she contemplated that thought.
"Personally, I think friends would be reaching, but I don't think we'd have been enemies," Jordan replied with caution, slowly raising her foot to rest it on the nearest bench, cinching her shoestring tighter before moving toward the door.
"You're probably right," Emily agreed, privately thinking she might have misread her temporary colleague. And seconds later, as Jordan paused at the exit to the locker room, she knew she had.
Turning, she looked back at Emily one last time, confiding in a soft voice, "You know, he watches you, too."
"What?" Emily asked blankly, dropping her gym bag back to the wooden bench in front of her with a soft thud.
"Rossi," Jordan elaborated, "When you aren't looking, he watches you in exactly the same way you look at him."
"And how is that?" Emily carefully queried.
"With that desperate longing in his eyes," Jordan replied in a hushed voice, a faint longing tingeing her words. "If you ask me, you really should talk to him."
And with those parting words, she was gone. And staring at the now closed wooden door she'd left through, Emily was positive. In another life, she and the younger woman definitely could have been friends.