Author's Note: It's taken me quite some time, but this is for everyone who requested a follow-up to Playing Along. Just a one-shot that focuses on what happens when JJ finds Emily's letter. I do have a longer piece in the works that is based a few months down the line, but I felt this would work better on it's own. If you haven't read PA, then I'd say it probably is necessary that you do. Anyway, I hope I don't disappoint. :)
Disclaimer: Nopes, not mine.
It's been four days; four days since I woke up in Emily's arms; four days since I placed my hand gently against her chest and felt her breathing; four days since I untangled myself from her, and crept silently out of her apartment at 4:13am, adding the final nail to my coffin as I did; four days since I let her down, again; four days since I broke her heart, again.
Four days since I broke my own heart.
It's been less than four days since I lay awake staring at the ceiling, listening to rough, heavy breaths fall from the sleeping body beside me; less than four days since he opened his eyes, and I obliged him in the way a good fiancé should; less than four days since I stood beneath the shower spray, numb, scrubbing the memory of his touch from my skin once more.
My eyes immediately search for her as I enter the bullpen, just as they always do. Though, I somehow know that this time, they won't find her. And just as I'd thought; they don't.
My smile doesn't falter; of course it doesn't. You learn to carry a good fake smile when you practically live with profilers.
My heart though, wrenches. My stomach twists in knots. And my brain races as I reach my office door and see it sitting there upon my desk - the confirmation, the shitty end, to this shitty mess that I've created.
Each day I've expected it, been prepared for it. The goodbye, that is - because the actual pain of realising what you've lost, you never can really prepare for. And everything that washes through me as I close my office door, drawer the blinds, and slowly approach my desk, definitely isn't something that I came equipped to handle today.
I know this will be more than her telling me that it's over. I always knew that when this goodbye came, it would be both figuratively and literally. I feel the burn of tears at the back of my eyes before I even reach for the damn envelope, and as usual, I bite them back. Who are you pretending for now, Jareau? No one can see you. And the one person that could see you. Really, see you. Is gone. That's what you wanted, right?
"No.." I whisper the words into the silence of the room, as if verbalising my answer will somehow ensure that I'm wrong; somehow make this anything but a goodbye. But what the hell else would it be? And it's definitely her handwriting.
I run my finger over my name that's written so damn perfectly on the front of this pristine envelope, before tearing it open. Like ripping off a band aid, I figure; best to get it over and done with.
I'm prepared for every bitter word that she could throw at me, God knows I deserve it. But as I read over her words, I'm somehow not surprised to realise that not one of them are filled with venom. That instead, they're filled with reason, and logic, and truth. Emily; ever the level-headed professional.
Somehow that's worse.
It's in that moment that I humanise this object that I hold in my hands. This isn't just paper and words; this is the woman I love walking away from me because she deserves better, and she knows it.
My entire heart pulls towards the door. I'm certain at this point, that if it had a voice, it would be screaming at me for not already being in my car and on my way to find her, to stop her, to tell her I need her. But my brain never misses a beat; ever the over-thinker. She already knows I need her - she knows it; but I realise then that she doesn't need me, she doesn't need this. She needs to be as far away from this as possible - as far away from me as possible.
I force myself to continue reading, each word twisting the knot in my stomach tighter, until I feel like I'm going to throw up. What the fuck have you done, Jareau?
Her words swim mercilessly around in my head, and those tears aren't shut behind that barricade that I fix up so firmly anymore. They're running freely down my cheeks. I feel suddenly numb, and I only notice them when they make their presence known in protruding swirls of ink on the paper.
I blink away the tears, and swipe the strays from my cheeks with my sleeve. I have no right to be upset. I have no right to be hurt at all right now. I did this; me.
The deathly silence of the room is filled as my thoughts seem to take on a voice, swirling around me, each fighting to be heard, suffocating me. It's then that it dawns on me that she'll never really know that I love her, that she was more than just a cheap fuck to me, more than an easy escape.
Without a second's hesitation, I reach for my phone, and before I can even question my motives, I hear a robotic voice telling me that it has not been possible to connect my call. I try twice more, and each time I get the same response.
"Fuck, Emily!" My phone meets the desk with such force that I'm certain I've broken it. Apparently not though, because suddenly it buzzes, and it barely makes it past the first ring before I've hit the answer button, "Emily?"
"Um, no sweetie. Sorry to disappoint. You okay?"
My heart sinks. Garcia. Great. I'm gonna regret that slip up later. I clear my throat, as if that will somehow make the fact that I've been crying any less obvious, erase the desperation that was so clearly evident in my voice from her memory. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine Garcia. What's up?"
"Okay... Well I just wondered if you wanted to grab some lunch?"
"Lunch?" How long have I been here? I look up at the clock, 12:16. 3 hours. 3 hours?
"Yes, dear. It's what people tend to eat around noonish. Ya know, food. It helps to keep us living creatures, well.. living."
"Yeah, sorry, I've just been busy with paperwork. Lost track of the time. Do you mind if I pass? I have a lot to do." Please drop it. Please drop it.
"That's fine gumdrop." My entire body lets out a silent sigh of relief at those words. Aside from not wanting to face twenty questions from Garcia, I'm not sure I could keep anything down right now anyway. "Um.. Jayje?"
Oh god. "Yeah.."
"You do know she's gone... Don't you?" I can hear the cautious warmth in her voice, the soothing nature that fills each word when you're breaking bad news to someone, the calm before the storm, so to speak.
Except this isn't a revelation. This is a reiteration. A reminder. And those seven words are like one final stab to my chest. Everything sinks in then, and I am no longer numb. I hurt, everywhere. Each part of me aches, and it takes everything I have to keep myself somewhat composed. All I want is to shut out the world. I want out of this conversation, and the question that I know is coming. "Yes. I know. Was there anything else, Garcia?"
"Sweetie... Are you okay?" And there it is; the question that I have no right to answer.
No. "Garcia, I really need to get on with this paperwork." A complete non-answer; short and bitter, and I know it. Why does she have to be so damn caring?
"Okay.. Okay. But I'm here for you Jayje. Just remember that."
"I know. Bye, Garcia." I hang up before she has the chance to respond, and the phone falls from my shaking hands, making a loud clattering sound against the hard surface of my desk.
I'm no profiler, but even I know that conversation could have gone a lot better. I need to get a hold of myself before I make this situation a whole lot worse – if that's even possible.
The beginning of a headache forms as a dull throbbing behind my eyes, and I close them tight shut to ebb the pain, rest my elbows on the table in front of me, and press my fingers gently against my eyelids. But it's no use. There's only one thing that could relieve the pain right now; only one person that could stop my world from spinning. Only she ever could. Where are you, Emily?
Time disappears on me again as I lose myself in my thoughts. But I could care less, because at least in my thoughts, she's right here; her arms wrapped around me, telling me that it's okay, without even having to say a word.
But only for a short time. Reality doesn't escape me that easily unfortunately, and soon enough, she's gone again. So, I do the only thing I know how.
Grabbing a case file from the top of an ever growing pile, I drop it to my desk, purposely blocking her letter from my view. Out of sight; out of mind.
It seems ridiculous that I could favour images of death and destruction over my own personal chaos right now, but for the first time in my life, I find myself craving my work.
The knock on my door a short while later startles me. I must have been more subdued in the files in front of me than I thought, and I suddenly feel slightly resentful towards whoever has chosen to break me from that escape. I lean back on my chair, that winning smile firmly in place - I guess dealing with blood thirsty reporters each and every day has it's benefits. "Come in."
"Hey you.. Now I know you said you were busy, but a girl has to eat. And drink. So I brought you some coffee and.. This," Some form of sincerity graces my smile as I watch Garcia look bemused towards the sandwich in her hand. "I honestly wouldn't trust whatever's in here, but it's all they had left."
I feel immediately guilty for being so short with her earlier. And more than that, I feel a lump form in my throat as once again, she showers me with kindness that I know I don't deserve. Unwilling to break the habit of a lifetime though, I shake my head slightly to shrug away the tears, and avert my gaze back to the open file in front of me. "Thanks, Garcia."
There's a silence for a second, and I know then that I'm failing once again at keeping this together. But luckily, she doesn't push. "So I'm just gonna leave this here and let you get back to work.."
I can tell she's burning to say more, to comfort me in some way, make it okay. And I know she would, if only I'd look up at her for a second, let her see that my world is crumbling. But I can't risk that, so I keep my eyes down until I hear the door click behind her.
Once I know it's safe, I cautiously lift my eyes to the closed door, and then to the objects that Garcia had placed on my desk. I opt out of the sandwich, and I reach for the coffee - a beer would be wonderful right about now, but a coffee will do.
As I lift the mug, a small, colourful folded piece of paper falls to my desk:
Some things are just worth fighting for. And when you realise that, you're going to need this.
I stare blankly at the words; that woman's perceptive skills never cease to amaze me. I all but drop my mug to the table, and flip open the folded paper, my heart racing. And there it is. Emily.
I don't know just how I expect to get to the other side of the country, and in that second I care even less. I reach for my keys and am almost out of my seat before my brain takes over again.
What more can I give her than I could four days ago? How can I expect her to settle for anything less than everything?
Defeat washes through me, and I know then what I have to do. I trace my finger over her final words one last time. You're the girl I'm in love with. Wherever I am. I don't want to forget them, though I know that I never could; they're burned onto my brain. Each and every one.
Eventually folding her letter, I place it back inside the envelope, and follow suit with the address from Garcia, before locking it inside my top desk drawer.
She'll never know just how in love with her I am, and right now, I realise, that is probably the best that I can give her.