Author's Note: And now for something completely different.
I was trying to finish up Gingerbread and the two Girl offshoot pieces I've been working on the last few weeks (they're all mammoth) and of course instead my brain becomes completely uncooperative and goes off on this unusual tangent. But if you don't go with these things then you get cobwebs up there and you can't focus on anything, so here we go. I'll say that even as I started jotting this down, it still was a surprise to me as it went along.
Again, please remember that this is NOT the usual, but sometimes you have to go a different way ;)
Consider this late season 4, pre-finale of course.
UPDATED NOTE 6/15: THEY FIRED AJ COOK AND THEY'RE REDUCING PAGET'S ROLE. HERE'S THE PETITION TO KEEP THEM. PLEASE PASS THE WORD!
http:/ www . petitiononline. com/ cmwomen/
Show: Three's Company
Title: A Crowded Romance
Hearing the disappointment in JJ's question, Hotch paused as he pulled the two twenties out of his wallet. Then he looked up at her with a little smile as he said apologetically, "yeah, I'm sorry, but I have to get home. It's getting late."
In actuality it was barely nine o'clock but he really shouldn't have gone out at all. He should have realized how awkward this would be. But it was such a shit case that he'd just hadn't wanted to drag that home with him. He thought that if he went out with the team . . . just spent time with the others . . . that he'd begin to decompress and that he'd start to feel a little better.
And he did . . . well, sort of. It wasn't the case that was bothering him now.
Now . . . Hotch eyed Emily across the bar laughing with her boyfriend . . . it was other things. And as much as he'd like to stay . . . with a sigh he dropped the money on the table and pushed back his chair . . . it was definitely time to go.
He'd been ditched.
JJ's smile was tinged with sadness as she reached out to squeeze Hotch's hand, "well, I'm glad you came," she gave him a pointed look, "everyone's glad you came."
She could KILL Emily right now! Hotch had only come out because SHE was going out! JJ wasn't a profiler and even she knew that. She'd seen him watching Em closely when Morgan asked her if she wanted to get a beer . . . Hotch had been waiting to hear Emily's answer before he committed to going.
Then when they get to the bar Emily's frigging BOYFRIEND shows up!
And really . . . JJ thought with disgust . . . he could ONLY have shown up if Em told him where they were going to be. Like that wasn't going to hurt Hotch to have to see them together? Like the ONE time that Hotch goes out with the group in months, Em couldn't have just caught up with Rick later?
Then to add insult to injury she'd disappeared with him not twenty minutes after the group sat down. Hotch had watched her go without any expression before his eyes flicked back down to her beer sitting on the table.
The beer that Hotch had bought it for her. The beer she'd only taken two sips from before she'd gone off with another man.
Really, JJ was amazed that Hotch had stayed as long as he had.
Feeling his expression softening involuntarily, Hotch nodded at JJ as he squeezed her fingers back.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he said softly. And then he let go of her hand, waved to the rest of the group . . . ignoring the look that Dave was giving him . . . and headed towards the door at a clip.
Christ, this had been an even worse idea than he'd thought two minutes ago. It had just become clear to him that Dave was starting to pick up on his change in feelings. And if he was becoming an open book to him, then it wouldn't be long before the others noticed as well.
He was beginning to make a fool of himself and he didn't know what the hell to do. He was in love with a woman who was in love with another man.
Not that he blamed her . . . Hotch shot another glance across the room as he headed for the door . . . it's not like he'd done anything to tell her how he felt, that he was ready to move on from his ex-wife. Even after the divorce for so long he'd been carrying a torch for his Haley.
He knew that, hell EVERYONE knew that! But now he was ready to move on . . . unfortunately the woman he was ready to move on with had already moved on with somebody else.
As Hotch slammed through the front door of the pub he rolled his eyes in disgust.
JJ watched Hotch go out the front door before she announced flatly to nobody in particular.
"I'll be right back."
She was out of her seat before Will had even turned his head to look at his fiancé.
Dave slowly swirled his glass of scotch as he stared after the blonde stalking across the bar . . . this was going to be ugly.
Emily burst out laughing as Rick lost yet another ten dollar bet to the bartender . . . really, who bet against the Red Sox when they were on a five game winning streak AT Fenway! God knows she loved him, but sometimes her man was such a chump.
"Honey," she chuckled, leaning up to press a quick kiss to his lips before huffing, "you suck."
"Hey," he scowled, "what game are you watching? The Yankees had two men on . . . "
His indignant retort was cut off by JJ's, "what the FUCK is wrong with you?"
Emily blinked at the completely uncharacteristic . . . TOTALLY uncalled for . . . profanity before she spun around sputtering in astonishment, "whoa JAYJE! What the . . ." she pointed at her chest, "are you talking to ME?"
What the hell was this? She hadn't even SEEN JJ in fifteen minutes so how the hell was she THIS pissed off at her?
JJ's jaw clenched as she stared at Emily. Then her eyes flicked over to her bewildered boyfriend, and then the bartender behind them before she looked back at Emily and bit out a clipped, "yes, you. We need to talk," she jerked her head towards the ladies room off to the left, "now!"
Before she'd walked up, JJ had been fully prepared to tear Emily a new one right in the middle of the bar. But then JJ realized that Rick hadn't had done anything wrong besides exist on the planet.
And that wasn't really a good reason to publicly humiliate the man.
Not only was he basically a nice guy, and a war hero, but also . . . and this was key . . . it wasn't HIS fault that Hotch had just left with a broken heart. Rick wasn't the one that was jerking him around and playing with his feelings.
No . . . JJ shot another nasty glare at a woman she'd once considered her closest friend . . . that was all Emily's doing.
Emily stared at JJ for a moment before she nodded slowly, "okay," she put her beer down on the bar top, "let's go talk."
She didn't have the first clue what was going on right now but it was obvious that JJ was furious about something. About what, Emily couldn't even begin to guess. It wasn't like Jayje to run this hot, so whatever Emily's (alleged) transgression it was definitely best to air this out now before JJ took a swing at her. Because with all due respect to her teammate, in a physical match up, Emily had no doubt at all that she would clean JJ's clock.
And she really didn't want to have to explain a black eyed media liaison to Hotch.
Emily winced just thinking about it . . . oh yeah, Hotch would definitely kill her if she gave even a paper cut to the woman in front of her. So in an effort to keep her boss/best friend from shipping her off to the Great White North, Emily knew that she needed to clear this . . . whatever it was . . . up now before things escalated further.
She turned to Rick with a soft smile, "excuse us for a second," then she shot him a look, "and don't even think about making another bet until I get back," her gaze cooled as her eyes flicked to the bartender, "either of you. Just watch the game and keep your wallets in your pockets."
After she got a sharp nod from each of the men in front of her . . . it was clear from her tone that there would be consequences to ignoring her instructions . . . Emily smacked a quick kiss to Rick's lips before she turned back to JJ and put her arm out.
Seeing the stone cold look she was getting Emily tipped her head, "okay," she started walking as she muttered drily, "after me."
Whatever the hell bug was up JJ's ass Emily was starting to wonder if she was going to need forceps to remove it.
JJ was seething as she followed Emily through the crowd and over to the bathrooms in the far corner. It was really taking everything in her not to haul off and punch her "friend" in the back of the head.
How could she behave this way? How could she TREAT him like this? If nothing else they were supposed to be good friends.
After all Emily spent more time with Hotch than anyone else did.
They took their breaks together, they partnered up together, hell they even took Jack to Busch Gardens together! Hotch even had a picture on his desk of the three of them on one of their weekend trips.
So there was no way in hell that Emily . . . somebody with years of behavioral training . . . was completely oblivious to Hotch's feelings for her! And even if she didn't feel the same way . . . JJ knew that you couldn't help who you fell in love with . . . she couldn't believe that Emily could be so callous . . . JJ's heart started to ache as she pictured the look on Hotch's face when he left . . . cruel . . . to somebody who was so good and kind.
As they stepped into the ladies room only one word came into to JJ's head.
Emily turned around to ask JJ what the hell was going on with her. But before she'd even opened her mouth JJ was screaming at her. Asking her how she could do that to him. Telling her that she'd humiliated him in front of the whole group. And then asking if she was being deliberately cruel or if was she so self involved that she couldn't even see what was two inches in front of her face.
Utterly flabbergasted . . . and mortified, there was a line for the stalls and everyone was looking at them . . . Emily just stared at JJ with her mouth open as she listened to a woman she'd thought was a close friend go on and on about what a horrible person she was and how embarrassed she was to know her.
It really hurt.
And the worst thing was . . . Emily still didn't have the first clue what in GOD'S name she was talking about! Who was "him"? Who was this person that she'd been so horrible to? Because, not only was that NOT Emily's style . . . and she would have thought that JJ knew that as well . . . she couldn't imagine where the hell this vitriol was coming from now.
It was clear that in her current mood JJ would happily scratch her eyes out and then feed them to her, but that alone was just bizarre. Because Emily had left her laughing and joking with Hotch not fifteen minutes ago.
Oh wait . . . her eyes suddenly widened in understanding . . . HOTCH!
Hotch was "HIM!" He had to be. He was the one that JJ had been talking to when Emily left. So wait . . . her brain started processing all of the things JJ had been saying (screaming) to her . . . did JJ think that she and Hotch were having an affair? And what? That she was seeing Rick on the side!
Was she NUTS?
Yes, Hotch was her best friend and her closest confidante . . . but her lover, uh . . . Emily huffed to herself . . . no.
Seeing Emily's expression, JJ's raging temper shot complete through the roof.
"You think this is FUNNY?" She asked in astonishment, "I'm standing here telling you that you're breaking Hotch's heart and you look like you're about to start laughing!"
Now her brain was going so far past "bitch" that it wasn't even funny!
"No, JJ," Emily put her hand up as she shook her head, "it's not that, it's just that," she rolled her eyes as she snorted, "me and Hotch, come on, that's ridiculous!"
The sentence had barely left her mouth before JJ's fist was flying up and connecting with her face.
Oh shit . . . JJ froze as the other women immediately scattered out the door . . . what the hell had she just done? Suddenly she'd just been so angry, furious that Emily was being so flippant about Hotch's feelings for her . . . and she'd lost control.
Emily brought her hand up to her mouth and wiped her thumb across her lower lip. When she looked down she saw blood on the pad of her finger.
Her eyes were blazing as they shot back to JJ's.
Though she looked just as shocked as Emily felt, Emily still was so furious that she ended up hissing out the one thing that she was forbidden to say.
"Do you want to know WHY it's ridiculous to think that Hotch and I would be together? Because he's not in love with ME! He's in LOVE with YOU!"
The last word hung in the air between them. Both women were staring at one another wide eyed and horrified. Emily for having lost her temper and disclosing Hotch's secret without his permission. And JJ for one, having hit Emily, and two, suddenly realizing that she didn't have the first clue as to what was going on around her.
Slowly though, Emily's words began to sink into her brain.
"Me," she asked softly as she pointed at her chest, "he's in love with ME?"
As Emily's gaze fell away from hers, JJ had her answer. And in a flash she ran through the whole night again, this time looking at it with new eyes.
Hotch had been welcoming to Rick when he'd shown up . . . he'd shaken his hand and tried to offer him his chair . . . the one next to Emily. But then when Will had arrived he'd only given him a tight smile and a nod.
At the time JJ had assumed that Hotch was putting on a false front with Rick and his tension with Will was his stress over the other man's presence. But now . . . JJ's eyes lost their focus as she thought back, remembering Will putting his arm around her shoulder. And then immediately after Emily turning to Hotch and laughingly wiping something off his cheek with her thumb.
JJ had thought that she was flirting, but now she realized it may have been her attempt to distract him from Will's expression of affection.
Then she started to think about all of her other interactions with Hotch. How he'd always slip a Hershey bar into her pocket when they had a bad case, the tone of voice he used with her, it was soft and low . . . and how he never called her by her by last name like he did all the others.
To him she'd always been JJ, never Jareau.
And suddenly she remembered something that had happened a few months ago. She'd woken up on the plane to find him staring at her. The others were all asleep, Emily slumped against his side covered with his jacket, but his eyes were still on her. And even after she awoke he continued to look at her for almost a minute. She'd been transfixed.
The intensity of his gaze . . . when it was focused solely on her . . . she'd found it to be hypnotic.
Finally though, she had found her voice, and when she opened her mouth to ask him what he was thinking, he'd just shaken his head, given her a sad smile . . . and turned to look out the window.
Oh God . . . her stomach started to hurt . . . for how long had she been completely misinterpreting their relationship? Emily said that he was in love with her.
That was just . . . JJ swallowed over the lump forming in her throat . . . not expected.
Though she was now starting to see that perhaps . . . based on her inexcusable behavior of the past ten minutes . . . she might possibly have some feelings for him too.
And that . . . JJ's eyes started to burn as she stared down at the diamond on her left hand . . . that was more than unexpected.
That was a real problem.
Oh god . . . the tears started to pool . . . SHE was the reason that he looked so sad when he left tonight. And she'd blamed Emily for that.
Her gaze snapped up to the other woman's, seeing the swollen lip and the blood trickling down to her friend's chin.
She felt a stab of guilt as she realized that she'd hit Emily for absolutely no good reason at all.
Not only had she hit her . . . JJ watched in shame as Emily shook her head before turning to the sinks . . . she'd sliced her face open with her ring.
Her engagement ring.
As she saw Emily's reflection in the mirror cleaning the blood off of her face, JJ's tears started sliding down her cheeks in thick black rivers.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
After all of the horrible things she had just said . . . and done . . . JJ wasn't sure if Emily would accept her apology.
Emily slowly brought her gaze up, catching JJ's false one in front of her. Seeing the tears and the remorse on her friend's face, Emily's swirl of emotions over what had happened . . . the hurt, the anger, the panic . . . they all faded away.
In their place she found herself being filled by simple despair.
"Yeah," her eyes dropped down to see the water swirling down the drain, "me too."
This hadn't been her secret to tell. Hotch was going to be furious with her . . . Emily's chest started to ache . . . and so embarrassed. A cold pit of fear appeared in her stomach.
He might not forgive her.
Her eyes started to sting right before a paper towel suddenly appeared in front of them. Emily stared at it for a moment before accepting it from JJ's shaking hand. Now filled with fear and regret over what she had done, when Emily turned to look at the woman at her side, only one question was in her head.
'What the hell were they going to do now?'
A/N 2: I know, pulled the old switcheroo there! Originally the scene was coming (or I thought it was coming) as JJ saw it. Emily finally had a good boyfriend and Hotch had realized much too late that he was in love with her. But I've written that story before (generally with her getting married) so I started getting annoyed that it was coming to me again. I don't like to repeat myself, and I certainly couldn't think of anything fresh to bring to the H/P relationship in this very abbreviated world that would make it feel special and unique from anything else I've put out there. But then I was staring at my prompts (they're good for inspiration when you can't figure out your story direction) and I saw this one, and it worked perfectly. Beyond just the title though which worked for Em, Rick and Hotch, but the show name gave me the whole idea to do it with JJ, Will, Hotch AND Emily instead. And as I looked over what I'd already written in the opening I felt it would be a very Three's Company'esque approach :) Well, if Three's Company was filled with scenes of heartache and unexpected bloody assaults between Janet and Terry. And of course JJ can only be Terry, the other two blondes were way too dumb.
And the H/P shipper in me just couldn't NOT write a close relationship between those two as well. But here they are just platonic close friends. Or they were, we'll have to see how Hotch handles the news of what Emily's done.
The whole story is pretty clear in my head and I think this will be a three shot which I'd like to get up over the next week so I can shake it off and move back to regularly scheduled programming :)
I know my core readers are H/P shippers so I'm not sure if I'm losing any of you here by going a different way for one little bitty short story. I totally understand if I do, I am very 'dear God my eyes' over Emily with Reid or Derek because (in my mind) their relationships are very fraternal. But for some reason I've always been okay with Hotch/JJ, I don't know why. Though they always had an obvious bond, I just don't get that brother/sister vibe with them that I do with Em and the boys. Regardless, this little story was insistent on its telling. And the next chapter will better flesh out the dynamics of what was really going on in the bar that night. Ordinarily I do like to follow along thoughts with actions as we go, but in this instance, being too descriptive up front would have ruined the little twist at the end. The only one I could really run with was JJ and her over the top righteous anger on Hotch's behalf. She just couldn't know WHY she was flipping out on his behalf.
And lastly, random thanks to Arwen Lailaith for posting prompts from that show Life Unexpected. I could not think of a title for this thing and then I saw that thread and this show title matched perfectly. Decent stories never come from just one place ;)