Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds.
Author's Note: I think this is the last chapter. I hope you enjoy. Thank you all for flagging the story and sticking with me through the end of it! As usual, please review!
"Hello, Emily. How are you feeling today?" Doctor LeBlanc glanced over his yellow legal pad at the brunette awkwardly perched on the couch.
"I'm fine. And you?"
"Are we going to spend another session staring at each other in silence? Or are we going to get to the real reason you're here?"
"I uh think I'm ready to talk."
"Good. That's definite progress. What brought this about?"
"My fiancée thinks I'm beautiful still. I don't understand how she still thinks that. I need to get to a point where I can look in the mirror and not cringe. Being able to close my eyes and actually sleep wouldn't be too shabby either," Emily joked uncomfortably.
"How is JJ?"
"She's great about it all. I know she wants me to let her in and talk to her, but it's not that easy."
"Because both of us don't need to live with the knowledge of what happened in the basement."
"But she saw it all, heard some of it. She's affected too, in a different way. Maybe it would be good for your relationship."
"Maybe. I wouldn't even know how to bring that up."
"Why don't you try asking her how she feels?"
"I'm not treating JJ like she's a crazy and I'm her shrink."
"You are not a crazy."
"Then let me go back to work," Emily reasoned.
"You will be the first to know when I think you're ready to return to work. That all depends on how you are coping with your experiences."
"I cope just fine. Thanks."
"Well, tell that to the dark circles growing under your eyes."
Emily grunted at his response though she knew he was right. She couldn't handle being out in the field with victims and killers alike if she couldn't clear her mind. At this realization, she sighed, causing Doctor LeBlanc to raise an inquisitive eyebrow.
"You're right." Doctor LeBlanc sputtered.
"I'm sorry. I'm right? Care to elaborate. I feel like this is a once in a lifetime moment that I should have captured on Kodak camera or at least with a tape recorder."
"Very funny," Emily responded drily. "I understand that I need to be able to cope with my past and be able to clear my mind before I can work in the field. In this condition, I'm just a danger to my team, and that's the last thing I want. They're my family."
"Good; so next session, we will delve further into the specific bits that are continuing to, for lack of a better word, terrorize you."
"Great. I just can't wait. See you Thursday."
"Before you go, I have an assignment for you."
"Again, great. I just can't wait."
"Talk to JJ- ask her how she feels about the situation and its aftermath."
"Ugh," Emily grumbled, but nodded in response as she exited the room.
How the hell am I going to start that conversation, Emily thought to herself as she drove herself home. If I ask her what I'm supposed to, then she's going to ask me the same thing. I don't know if I'm strong enough to verbalize all that. Saying it out loud makes it so real. One part of her brain argued that the scars and memories made it real, and saying it out loud to her fiancée and best friend shouldn't be that hard. God damnit. Let's be real. JJ broke through my walls years ago. This shouldn't be any different. Why can't I just talk to her and let her in? Okay, you can do this. The sooner you can talk to her about it, the sooner you will be able to talk to LeBlanc about it, and the sooner you can get back to work. Emily sighed in resignation, hoping this conversation wouldn't be miserable. Glancing down at her watch, she realized JJ would be home in an hour and a half, giving her the perfect amount of time to take a shower and make dinner.
45 minutes later, JJ pulled into the garage and rested her head against the steering wheel, preparing herself to watch painful memories swirl in dark, haunted depths of her lover's gorgeous brown eyes. She understood why Emily didn't talk about it; she did, but it didn't ease the hurt she felt when Emily obviously avoided talking to her. Finally, easing herself out of her car, she walked into the kitchen and smiled as she saw Emily cooking, the brunette swaying her hips slightly as she sipped from an amber liquid in a shallow glass. JJ walked up behind Emily and put her hands on Emily's hips and whispered into her ear, "Well hello there sexy."
Emily leaned back into JJ's warm body and smiled before turning her head to kiss JJ gently. "Hey baby," she mumbled against the blonde's lips.
"Mmm, you taste like whiskey. I'm jealous. Something smells great though. What are you making?"
"Sorry, it's a confidence boost," Emily replied, to which JJ raised an eyebrow slightly; worry settling in the pit of her stomach. "I'm making baked chicken and some steamed vegetables. And, for my amazing, pregnant fiancée, I have a strawberry cake with chocolate chips and vanilla icing. There's even some peanut butter to put on it if the craving hits."
"Hmmm, you can read me like a book. It smells so damn good. Why, pray tell, do you need a confidence boost?"
"What can I say? I know my media liaison well. It should be ready in about 20. Why don't you go take a shower? By the time you're done, the food will be ready."
JJ replied with a simple ok and a kiss before sauntering off to the master bedroom of their brand new house.
"So good, Em," JJ moaned as she devoured an extremely large piece of cake.
Emily laughed, "I think I'm offended that the cake can make you moan like I do in the privacy of our bedroom."
"Now, you know what that sounds like, and you are the only one who can make me make that noise. This cake, however, comes pretty close."
"Well, as long as I'm the only one, I guess I'm okay with that."
"Now and for the rest of forever, Em. Only you; you're it for me. You know that right? And I love you more than I ever thought possible." JJ spoke sincerely, hoping to convey the true intensity of her love for the other woman. Emily smiled, but averted her eyes at the random expression of the blonde's feelings. JJ nudged her with a naked foot from under the table. "You know that right?"
"Yeah, yeah I do. It's just nice to hear sometimes, and also a bit surprising I guess."
"Surprising?" JJ asked.
"You know... I mean... That sounded different than I intended... I just... I don't know what I'm talking about. Never mind. I know you love me. I love you too," Emily sputtered, tripping over her words before taking a healthy sip from another glass of amber liquid. JJ looked at her skeptically over the rim of her Diet Coke.
"What's up with you tonight?" JJ's concerned voice wafted towards Emily like an unpleasant scent. "You seem off."
"I'm not off, per say. I'm just nervous, I guess." Emily's eyes making steady eye contact with the glassy finish on the table.
"Nervous about what?" JJ prodded, cautiously watching as Emily downed the rest of the whiskey in the glass.
"I wanted to talk to you," Emily paused. It was now or never. Taking a deep breath, she plunged into what she knew would be an uncomfortable conversation. "I wanted to talk to you about Anderson and the basement and all that."
"Really?" JJ couldn't keep the utter shock out of her voice.
"Yeah, I mean only if that's okay. I know you've got a lot on your plate too. I just thought... Well I just... I don't know," Emily rambled, quickly losing composure of her previously organized thoughts.
"Hey, Em, stop. I always want to know what is going on in that mind of yours. You are my best friend, my fiancée, my everything. Got it? I want to know. I'm just surprised you wanted to share. That's all."
"Oh, yeah. I guess that's a bit different. I'm sorry for blocking you out. I didn't mean to put you on the outside of my walls. It just sort of happened that way, but please know it wasn't my intention. And I'm trying to take the walls down to let you back in. It's just taking some time."
"It's okay. I understand. I'm just glad you're trying. More whiskey? It seems to help your nerves."
"Yeah, thanks," Emily nodded her consent as JJ poured another generous serving of whiskey into the glass.
"Okay, where to start?" Emily asked more to herself than the blonde waiting patiently to her right. "Umm, well, I guess, I finally realized this is catching up with me. I need to talk to through it and heal because I need to be in the field. Right now, I can't be in the field without jeopardizing all of you. And actually more than that, I need sleep. God, it's gotten so bad I can't even close my eyes without remembering that basement. I can't be this way when our child is born. I don't want those memories to feed into the new ones. I need to learn to separate and move on. This isn't something I can compartmentalize. I just, honestly, don't know where to start to get back to who I was. I know I will be different; that bothers me, but not as much as not having any control over anything really. I'm so broken and everything is spiraling that I don't know where or how to start putting things back together. I need help, Jen."
"No matter how long it takes, I'm here," JJ said, squeezing Emily's hand reassuringly. "How can I help?"
"Tell me how you feel because I can't even begin to verbalize everything. For some reason, I feel like the first step of moving on is getting it out in the open. I know it's going to be awful and awkward, but some part of me is convinced that that's the first step."
"So you want to know how I felt when exactly?"
"I don't know- all of it?"
"Okay... Let's see. First and foremost, fear. Without a doubt, I saw you on that screen, and my heart stopped beating. Morgan dragged me from the conference room, and I felt numb. I couldn't differentiate from reality and a nightmare, and I was useless. Then, I felt guilty. We should have gone home together. I shouldn't have insisted on 'alone time' or whatever nonsense I spewed after that case. I should have been with you. We couldn't find you and we had nothing; I felt hopeless. You said your goodbyes and I was angry; angry because we couldn't find you, because you were gone, because you were giving hope, because I had given up hope. I heard him rape you and I have never felt so much venom and hatred course through my blood than I did at that moment. Hotch told Garcia to check your next of kin. I was so scared we had to pull over on the way to the hospital so I could vomit. Your mother showed up and I was defensive. I saw you and wanted to cry. You looked so fragile, but you were alive. You woke up and I wanted to cry. You started to recover, and I was scared. I could see the pain in your eyes, in each of your movements. You acted as though nothing bothered you, and I was terrified. I startle you and I feel guilty and hurt. I feel you toss and turn or get up in the middle of the night, and I want to hold you because maybe that can chase away your demons. I feel helpless because I don't know how to help, what to say, or how to act. Right now though, I'm proud you let me in." JJ looked at Emily, tears silently rolling down her cheeks, her blue eyes glistening with tears to be shed. Emily's heart clenched as JJ described her feelings. "Your turn."
"My turn. Oh shit," Emily cursed, swigging from her drink. "Okay, I was confused, guilty, relieved, alone, scared, hopeless, angry, faithless, and uhhh suicidal." She mumbled the last, but it echoed loudly in JJ's ears.
JJ took a deep breath, willing her tears to stay at bay. "Okay," she started, her voice wavering as she spoke. "What about each one?"
"I was confused for the obvious reasons. I didn't know where I was or why I had been targeted, I guess. I was guilty because I couldn't protect myself, and I felt weak because of it. I was relieved that you weren't there because he would have killed you. Then, I would have had nothing to live for. I was alone- even when he was there. I wished and prayed that I was anywhere else, surrounded by the people who loved me. Something about the dark, dampness of that basement made me feel so lonely. I was hopeless because as good as our team is, I was still in the basement. As much as I tried to ignore his words, I couldn't. I was angry with myself for giving up on our team, but I was in so much pain. I just wanted it to end, whichever way was fastest. I've never been one to be religious, but in that basement, I had never felt more abandoned by what god was supposed to be up there watching over me." Emily stopped, taking another sip. JJ waited for her to continue, and when it seemed like Emily wasn't planning on resuming, she prodded, "And suicidal?"
"I... Ummm... Yeah."
"Please, Em. Don't shut me out now."
"I welcomed the darkness of unconsciousness. I didn't feel pain; I didn't feel alone. I dreamed of you and everything was okay."
"Passing out isn't dying, Em."
"But dying would have meant not waking up in that basement to more torture. Not feeling him inside of me. Not aching at a level of pain I didn't know existed. Dying would have been an exit strategy, and God knows I needed one of those."
"Em...do you," JJ started, but her question died on her lips. Emily waited. "Do you still feel that way?" JJ's finished question was almost an inaudible whisper. The fear laced in her words didn't come close to expressing her feelings.
Emily stood and pulled JJ to her feet, wrapping the blonde in a tight hug. JJ gripped the back of Emily's shirt in clenched fists and cried into Emily's neck. Emily held her, comfortingly stroking JJ's hair. Emily kissed JJ's forehead before whispering in her ear, "No. As much as those memories haunt me, I want to be right here with you everyday. I want to be your wife. I want to wake up beside you every morning and fall asleep next to you every night. I want to spend every moment in between showing you how much I love you and the family we are making together."
"Promise?" JJ's defeated whisper was muffled by Emily's neck.
"Yes, I promise." JJ seemed satisfied with that response, though Emily knew JJ would continue to think about it. "Let's go to bed, Jen," Emily continued softly, easing the blonde out of her hug and towards the stairs. JJ agreed, emotionally exhausted, and made her way to the bedroom, grasping Emily's hand tightly.
Once in bed, JJ curled into Emily's side. Hearing Emily exhale a deep sigh, she turned her head and whispered, "Please, Em. You can't leave me. I need you more than you will ever know. I love you."
"I love you too, Jayje. I love you too." Closing her eyes, she smiled when she was greeted by the comforting darkness of her eyelids instead of the gloomy, dimness of the darkened basement. Maybe she would get some sleep after all- either way she was a step closer to moving on. She could feel it, and that thought and the warm body of her lover gave her the comfort of safe night and a better tomorrow.