*IMPORTANT NOTICE* This story MAY be confusing to you if you haven't read my other story Wrongfully Accused, where JJ and Morgan embark on an adventure to find Reid's killer and set the record straight when people come to the conclusion that he may have killed himself. This is set in the time frame directly after Morgan beats up Michael and Michael's taken away, and the year that happened before JJ got pregnant and she was celebrating Christmas with Diana Reid. If you're not planning on reading Wrongfully Accused, then I hope it won't lose the heart of the story. Thanks for reading! Reviews are my favorite thing- I look forward to them!
"That was one hell of a ride." Morgan comments, walking me out to Hotch's car, then opening the passenger door for me. I give him a quick thankful smile and slide in. The warmth of the car from the heater previously being on makes my whole body come alive again, because the freezing cold made it feel sleepish.
I let out a sharp sigh that kind of sounds annoyed, as Morgan shuts my door and climbs into the driver's side. For a second he just sits there, resting his hands on the steering wheel, lost in a spiel of thoughts I'm not too sure I want to know. After all we'd been through with trying to solve Reid's murder, I'm surprised I find myself feeling awkward on the other side of the car, afraid to ask him what he's thinking. He lowers his forehead to the steering wheel and lets out a breath.
"It was crazy, I know," I mumble softly. That's not even beginning to explain it, but I'm not sure what else to say. And anyway, that seems pretty accurate.
He snorts, rising his head. "Yeah, I'd say," he glances at me, very sadly, like he's expecting me to react. Right now, I feel completely tired out. I can't even imagine how things are going to be when I get home and Will has bandages covering his wrists and Morgan's flying to his old home to visit his mother. I'm so tired thinking of what's going to happen I wish I could crawl into the backseat and sleep right here. If only tomorrow could wait a little big longer to get here. "Are you feeling okay?" he asks me.
I snap up, my head no longer pressed against the cool window. I begin tracing lines on the foggy windows. "Yeah, I'm okay." I respond halfheartedly.
He twists the keys in the ignition until Hotch's engine roars to life and the heat begins pouring from the vents. My fingers feel numb again from drawing on the windows, so I hold them out in front of the vents. I hear him release a soft chuckle, then begins turning the wheel as the car moves.
"What?" I ask. It's nice to see him not looking so angry anymore.
"Nothing," he says, shaking his head.
I stare at him funny. "What?" I press.
"Just our life," he says almost casually. "It's madness."
I nod instantly. Duh, it is. We'd just spent days tracking down the man who murdered our best friend and colleague. The image of Morgan and me crouching beside the Clevelands' house and peeping into their basement window, then sneaking our way in, kind of makes me giggle, in a twisted sort of way.
He hears my giggling and gives me a funny look. "What's up with you?" he asks.
I can't stop laughing for the life of me. It feels so good to laugh, too. A high absorbs me and I'm laughing so hard I can't catch my breath. Eventually my laughing seems to get louder, but I realize it's only the echo of Morgan's harmonizing with mine. He's laughing, too.
"Why are you laughing?" I ask him, wiping the corners of my eyes with my sweater's sleeve.
"Me?" he asks incredulously. I laugh at the tone he uses. "You're the one practically losing it over there."
I nod pleasantly. "Yeah, I am," I decide simply. It feels good not to care. I haven't cared the last few days spent with Morgan, and I'm not caring even now. I unroll the window, stick my head outside and allow the wind to blow through my long hair, and allow the cool air to burn my eyes and lungs.
"Are you kidding me?" he screeches, fighting with the tiny dials on his side of the car. "It's freezing out there!"
I ignore him, because it feels so good to feel something besides hurt and anger. I close my eyes and inhale the cool November air. It smells fresh and a lot like Winter should. "No way," I tell him. "It feels nice."
He finally stops playing with the buttons, and now is just glaring at me like I've lost my mind. Maybe I have. I blame him.
"Try it," I coach, looking at him, smiling. "You'll like it, I promise." It's like I'm trying to get him to try extra hot sauce or mushrooms on his pizza, but I think it's important for him to do so.
He shakes his head. "No thanks." he declines reluctantly. I think he wants to, so I keep pressing it.
"Come on," I coo, sticking my head out further. Thankfully the road we're traveling down is dead; completely lifeless, with the exception of the naked trees and the snow everywhere. "Just try it!"
"No way, I like being warm," he puts his hand in front of the heater vent to make sure hot air is still pooling out.
Without thinking, I grip the wheel and jerk it to the right. He yells something quickly, then slams hard on the brakes once we're on the side of the road. The car stops instantly by the pressure of his boot and when his heart rate goes back to normal, he stares at me, hard.
"What the hell, JJ?" he yells. "Are you nuts?"
I'm still smiling. Again, I blame him for my insanity. Not that I think I'm insane, anyway. These last few days spent solving crime with Morgan taught me something incredibly valuable. It's absolutely important, almost as important as breathing, to not take life for granted. Not the simplest of pleasures, not the slightest chance of a friend. I step out of the car, giving him an innocent smile, and I trample all over the snow. My boots leave foot prints.
I'm twirling and giggling like I'm a little girl again. I'm spinning so fast the world makes my head spin and I lift my arms, widening them, letting the cool air embrace my entire body. Morgan is watching me from the car. I don't expect him to join me, but I appreciate him not yelling at me.
The sound of a car door open convinces me to stop spinning, but when I do, my legs feel shaky and it's hard to get everything steady again. I stumble around like I'm drunk, but I've never seen things clearer. I'm laughing again. Morgan walks over to me and just stares at me.
"Okay, what are you on?" he asks, but he's kind of smiling, so I think he's not mad.
I can't stop smiling. "I'm on nothing," I respond, kicking a pile of snow onto his leg. "I'm just living life."
He narrows his eyes at me, like I'm a difficult painting he's trying to figure out. It's not that hard, Morgan. I scoop up a handful of snow, though my fingers and hands burn angrily at the touch, and mold it into a ball.
"You're not seriously..." he says, lifting his hands tentatively. "Are you?"
I nod right before I chuck the snowball directly at his face.
"Hey!" he yells. For a second, I think he might be angry. He brushes the snow off of his cheek with his hands, then looks down at himself, inspecting for any more snow. I bite hard on my bottom lip, waiting.
He leans down, makes his own snowball then throws it at me. I laugh and scream automatically, and then attempt to duck, even though I've already been hit. He's laughing too.
"You've lost it, you know that?" he says to me.
I don't dare correct him. Why bother discussing reasons when we're just having fun? "Have you ever noticed how beautiful snow really is?" I ask.
Momentarily, he's giving me a strange look.
"Just think about it." I say, flicking a piece of snow off of my fingertip.
He looks up, faces the tiny snowflakes that are barely visible, until one land perfectly on the tip of his nose. "It's beautiful," he says. I think he means it. "It is."
I smile proudly, like I created it. I spin around again, then grip his arm. "Scream with me."
"What?" he laughs.
"Scream with me," I repeat, squeezing his wrist harder in my hand. I'm not holding his hand, because I'm afraid to nick the scraps and bruises he has on his knuckles from punching Michael. He's still staring at me funny.
"Ready?" I ask. He doesn't respond. "One,"
The corners of his lips twitch. "Two," he chimes in.
I suck in a breath and face the sky. "Three!" and we scream. So hard, it echoes throughout the night sky, and it feels like my throat is vibrating, but it feels so good.
"Thanks for the ride home," I say to him, as soon as he reels Hotch's car into my driveway. He turns off the car so I don't get lost in a sea of fumes on my way in. It's appreciated.
"Thanks for the numb body," he responds with a hearty smirk. I glare at him, but I know we're only playing, so it's all in good fun.
I step out of the car. I think it's gone down in degrees since we left the side of the road. I look at my dark, empty house. I really have no idea where Will is now that I think about it. I'm sure he's been discharged from the hospital since I visited, but I'm not too sure on how severe his injuries were. I'm not even sure who was staying with Henry when he was admitted.
"You want me to walk you inside?" Morgan asks, considering it. After the trouble we've had with losing Reid, I think his paranoia has kicked in overdrive.
"Morgan, it's right there, I'll be fine." I shut the car door and wave at him. I turn and walk up my driveway, being super-careful not to slip on a patch of ice on my way inside. Unfortunately, I do. I manage to catch myself, sort of, but I still wind up falling down. It only takes him seconds to rush to my side, but when I see him, he's trying very hard not to laugh.
"I'm okay," I say, slapping his helpful hands away.
"No, really, are you alright?" now he's actually laughing. Hard. "You went down!"
I get steady on my feet and roll my eyes at him. "Thanks, Morgan, you're so helpful." I mumble, walking hunched over to my porch.
When I look behind me, he's still standing there, smirking wildly. "Don't you have a stolen car to return?" I say to him.
He's still grinning. "Thanks, JJ," he says to me. His cocky attitude seems to wither a little, and he seems sincere about it. "I mean it."
I'm not sure what he's thanking me for, but I decide not to ask. "You're welcome." I say, smiling. And I'm still smiling, until I unlock my door and step inside the comfort of my warm home.
I heave a heavy, exasperated sigh that seems to get all of my emotions out at once, and I shut the door before the cold can seep into my house any more than it already has. When I turn around, I see a sink stacked high of dirty dishes and a clutter of bills and magazines on the counter. I sigh at the mess. Nothing I can worry about tonight. I walk down the dark hallway, fumble around to find the light switch, curse at myself for not knowing where the damn light switch is even after all of this time, and then turn it on.
I feel my way to Henry's room, and creep the door open. I peek in long enough to see his shape hidden underneath the covers, looking tired and happy. I smile at the sight of my son. I'm reminding myself to give him plenty of hugs and kisses come morning time, because in the spirit of me not taking things for granted, he's first on the list.
I shut his door as quietly as possible, then tiptoe my way to my bedroom, which is hard to do in my boots. I try not to make too much noise, but I finally make it to my room, and I sigh thankfully. Will shifts at the mere sound of me walking on the carpet.
He moves and makes groaning noises until he sits up and squints at me. I can see his eyes trying to make sense of my shape through the hallway light. "JJ?" he asks, with that raspy morning voice.
"Yeah, it's me," I whisper. "How are you feeling?"
He combs back his hair with his fingers and then rubs the white bandage concealing his wrists with his thumb. "Like I've just been cut like a turkey on Thanksgiving," he snarls. "How about you?"
I slide off my boots quickly, then strip down to my underwear, rummaging through my closet so I can slide on comfortable clothing. Just the feel of my cotton choices when my fingers touch them in my closet makes my body feel more relaxed. "Like I was tied to a bumper, dragged seventy miles on a dirt road." I say, equally as haughty. I'm really, really exhausted.
I pick out a satin camisole from my closet, slide the thin straps off of the hanger with ease and position it so I can slide it on. Once I have it on, I catch Will's face in the vanity mirror. I give him a strange look through it. He catches it, but just raises his eyebrows expectantly.
"Are you feeling okay?" I ask him.
"Uh-huh," he replies dully, like his mind is elsewhere, and steps out of his bed. I'm still searching for cotton pajama bottoms. Where the hell did those things run off to? I feel arms wrap around my waist and pull me into him without consent. I lay my head back on his shoulder.
"I missed you," he mumbles breathlessly into my hair, kissing my shoulder. "You've been so distracted lately."
I try not to take offense. I know he doesn't mean it that way. But I did just lost one of my closest friends. A little compassion would be immensely appreciated; but like I said, I don't take offense.
"I know," I say instead. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," he whispers seductively, his lips traveling to my collarbone, then the spot on my neck that he knows drives me crazy every time. But tonight, my knees don't tremble at the feeling of his lips; in fact, I don't feel much of anything. Maybe I'm more tired than I thought.
I wrap my arms around his that are wrapped around me, wanting to feel him closer to me, because it feels nice to have someone holding me compassionately. He's mumbling inaudible things to me in my ear, trying to set the mood, but when I look down and see the bandages on his wrists, I shudder.
He takes this as a good sign apparently, because he chuckles in my ear and flicks my lobe with the tip of his tongue. Meanwhile, I'm kind of freaked. I'm trying not to be. I'm desperately trying to think of sexy thoughts that'll get me turned on, but all I see are wrists shielded with a cover-up that is hiding scars that resemble Reid's all too closely.
I touch the bandage; the material feels rough on my skin. I imagine how his scars will feel on my skin. Now I feel kind of sick. It's hard to get his arms off of me, because he's squeezing me so tight, but I manage to break free.
He groans disapprovingly. But not one to give up, he follows me to the side of the bed and holds me again. "Playing hard to get?" he guesses.
I try to smile. "I'm really tired," I say. At least it's not a lie. Not entirely, anyway.
He frowns and lets go of me. "Babe," his eyes are pleading with me. "We haven't in so long. I mean, you don't miss me?"
I hold his hands, but when I feel his bandages again, I instinctively let go. "Of course I do," I hope he can see the desperation in my eyes. How much I can't do this right now. "I just really need one good night of sleep, without any interruptions."
He looks down. "It's been so hard being patient with you," he mumbles. I wish I hadn't heard that. I can't seem to bring the frown on my face up at all, no matter how hard I try. Even a fake-smile still feels like a huge frown. "I couldn't be with you while you were grieving over Reid, and I couldn't be with you while you were solving the case," he takes my hands in his. I try hard not to pull away. "I need to be with you now."
"Does it have to be right now?" I plead. I'm pleading with my eyes. I'm trying not to feel guilty. I'm trying to feel whole, happy and sane like I had earlier in the snow with Morgan.
He cocks his head to the side and smirks. "Kind of, yeah." he's laughing, but I don't find this funny at all.
I feel dirty, but I give in. I lay down on the bed, in my silk camisole and underwear, like I'm a plaything. He seems to be okay with my unenthusiasm, because he lays on top of me and begins tousling with my hair, kissing my chest, rubbing my arm.
I lay there, emotionless and still, like I'm being taken advantage of. I feel disgusting, for a reason I can't make sense of.
When Will is done playing with me, he rolls over to his side of the bed, and lets out a pleased sigh. He turns over and faces the wall. "I feel better now." he comments with a short laugh, before I hear his breathing settle to a steady pace. I know he's sleeping.
I lay there, in the dark, the trees outside of our window making funny shapes on the ceiling. I think about how content I felt earlier, and how distant and far away I feel now. It scares me. I turn and face the wall, holding the covers close to my chin, and force myself to rid my thoughts of anything that resembles knives, scars or bandages. I think of the snow falling, and my feet being buried in it, and Morgan and I screaming at the top of our lungs. I fall asleep to that thought, and that thought only.