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When Truth Kills Truth
"What?" JJ asked blankly, her eyes widening in confusion as she attempted to understand the words and the tone. "No! I was just touching base with Hotch. We're...oh my God," she muttered, her eyes widening as she shook her head. "Dave was right."
"Right about what?" Emily snapped, regretting the bite in her voice as soon as the words left her lips.
"You," JJ laughed with a shake of her head, wondering once again how she had missed what was obviously right in front of her.
"What about me, JJ?" Emily asked stiffly, not finding any humor in the situation.
Sighing heavily, JJ rolled her head. "Em," she said softly, reaching across the table to cover Emily's hand, "I don't know what you think, but there's nothing between me and Hotch except a long standing friendship. That's all there's ever been. That's all there's ever going to be."
Choking on her glass of iced tea, Emily sputtered as she reached for her napkin, "I never implied...never said..."
"You were jealous. You've been cold since you saw me go up to Hotch's office this morning," JJ admonished, warmth filling her voice. "And I get it...I had the same reaction last night when Dave mentioned you."
"I...what?" Emily gaped.
Inhaling deeply, JJ pushed her half eaten salad aside. "In the interest of our friendship, you and I need to clear the air, Em."
Nodding slightly, Emily watched her dining companion's animated face. "I guess so," Emily sighed, closing her eyes for a bare second as she regained her control.
"Complete honesty, okay?" JJ requested, arching an eyebrow.
"Agreed," Emily nodded readily, once again meeting her friend's gaze.
"Okay, I'll start. Em, I do NOT have a thing for Hotch. I never did. Nor, does he carry a torch for me," she continued, holding up a hand when Emily would have interrupted. "My turn...then you can say whatever you want, Em."
"Okay," Emily whispered, slowly growing embarrassed with her own behavior as JJ continued.
"Look, Dave pointed out last night that you might be harboring the delusion that Hotch cared about me as more than a friend. Honestly, I was surprised. Mostly because I hadn't seen it until he pointed it out to me...and after I'd gotten a tiny bit jealous when he told me that he'd been watching YOU. But there's nothing there, Em. For either of us. I think of Hotch as an older brother. And I know he used to think of me as his little sister...mainly because I never quit nagging him."
"Really?" Emily whispered, still uncertain, but much more relaxed. At least on JJ's end, she could tell the other woman was sincere.
"Yes," JJ said soundly, slapping her hands against the table as she reached for one of Emily's discarded French fries. "Jeez, Em, if I'd known you were worried about this or even felt this way, I'd have cleared up any doubts you had a hell of a lot earlier."
"How do you tell your best friend you're scared the man she's in love with loves her?" Emily muttered, dropping her gaze to the table, the sheer effort of speaking the words taking more energy than she had first expected.
"I don't love Hotch. Not like that. And he doesn't love me either, Em," JJ said softly. "But if you love him, you need to be honest...and careful."
"What do you mean?" Emily asked suspiciously, raising her eyes back to her friend's.
"I mean, that there are rumblings from above, Em," JJ warned softly, her eyes narrowing as she focused tightly on Emily's face. "Someone is putting bugs...intentionally or unintentionally in Erin Strauss' ear."
"And Dave thinks that person is me?" Emily gasped, unsure whether she was more angry or worried at the moment.
"Dave doesn't know who it is, Em. But, evidently it got back to him that you were rather lackluster in your responses lately to some of Strauss' questions regarding Hotch's performance," JJ explained, her words plain and simple.
"I would never give Aaron less than my full and undivided support. And you and Dave should know that! I was working under the less is more theory with Erin. As in, the less I said, the better."
"Well, something you said might have been perceived or heard to be...less than complimentary," JJ murmured. "Look, Em...we know you'd never hurt Hotch deliberately. We both just thought that you should know that Strauss is looking to use someone."
"Isn't she always?" Emily asked bitterly, her earlier experiences with the Section Chief still fresh wounds in her own mind.
"Since I was the last person she used up and spit out, I'm pretty familiar with the facts, Emily," JJ reminded the angry dark haired woman with an edge in her voice. "I'm trying to help you here."
Breathing deeply, Emily struggled to get her emotions under control. Damn it, where was her cool, poised mask when she needed it? "I apologize, JJ. For the assumptions I made...for the way I spoke to you...for all of it," Emily said, dropping her head in defeat. "And honest to God, I don't know what I could have said that Erin Strauss misconstrued. But, if anyone could do it, it's her."
"Just be careful, Em. Hotch hates people that play games. And if he thought that you were the source...even if it was innocently..."
"It might wreck my chance before it even arrives," Emily nodded, the truth of the situation barreling upon her with the force of a bulldozer.
"Something like that," JJ whispered. "I've known Aaron Hotchner a long time, Emily. PLATONICALLY. But he hates betrayal...of any kind."
"I haven't and I won't betray him, JJ. You and Dave don't have to worry. Please convey that to him," Emily requested solemnly.
Smiling widely at the woman that she had shared years of her life with, JJ winked. "I already have."
And as both women exchanged a smile of understanding, each reached for a French fry. Perhaps there was common ground between them after all.