Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who has been patiently waiting for our stories to be posted. We appreciate your support and apologize for any delays. Real life, however, has taken precedence! We always want to be able to provide you with quality stories and chapters, so our postings may be a bit sporadic over the next month.
Please...check out our new forum topic: A Fanfic Glossary! We want to know if you guys find it helpful and our topic thread "Our Stance on the 2010 Criminal Minds Fanfic Awards". We have also opened a Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior thread where you may discuss the show (respectfully, of course). We also have a forum announcing our fellow author's (Kathi1C) new IheartCriminalMinds blog. You can ask her questions and get directions on going to her site.
As always, we do not own Criminal Minds or any of the characters that we so enjoy writing. If we did own them, we would have never had JJ leave!
"Some days," JJ faltered, her cheeks flushing as she felt herself falling into the abyss again, "I can barely breathe, Dave. All the responsibility...the burdens...there are times I just want to run away screaming. I don't think any man is up to taking that on right now. Even someone as strong as you."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" Dave asked reasonably, squeezing her hand. "Besides, if you had someone dependable to share those burdens with, maybe they wouldn't be so heavy."
"I wouldn't know," JJ murmured as she shrugged. "I've never really had anybody willing to actually put their money where their mouth is and do the work. It's all been empty promises and pretty words."
"And you're terrified that's all this is," Dave said knowledgably. "A line?"
Chewing her lower lip, JJ shook her head. "Not exactly, but I've taken so many risks, Dave. And failed. Each and every time. The only wonderful thing I have to show for those risks is Henry. I'm not sure I like my odds anymore."
"Then play a new game, JJ," Dave ordered gently. "Stop looking for the young knight that's gonna sweep you off your feet, honey. Trust me, he doesn't exist. I'm older, but I ain't over the hill yet. I'm dependable. Any of the three exes will tell you that. And I'm willing to try."
"And what about our careers, Dave?" JJ asked seriously, letting the thoughts of his ex-wives slip to the side. "Have you given any thought to those implications?"
Shrugging as he settled them both deeper against the stuffed sofa, Dave said evenly, "I can walk any time I want, babe. And the powers that be know that. I've accomplished what I wanted to do. But your career is important to you, and I know that."
"I can't risk my livelihood, Dave," JJ asserted, her shoulders stiffening as those very thoughts and fears began to grow in her mind. "My son is depending on me to care for him, and I can't do that if I don't have an income."
"You don't have to worry about that in any way," Dave assured her, threading his fingers through her damp blonde hair. "If we decide this is something we want to try, I'll make sure nothing happens that will ever harm your career." Meeting her eyes again, he murmured, "The BAU would be lost without you, babe. Me, on the other hand, they've lived without once before."
She felt her eyes widening as she whispered, "You'd be willing to leave the Bureau for me?"
"I'm fairly certain it wouldn't come to that, JJ. You don't work for me. We might both be agents, but we serve entirely separate functions. And I've got one or two favors from the men in dark suits coming to me..."
"What about the woman?" JJ snorted, Erin Strauss looming heavily in her mind.
"Strauss is screwing her assistant, Cara. Has been for years. I wouldn't worry about her," Dave smirked as he imparted that piece of infomration. "But, if the choice came down to a healthy, lasting relationship with a wonderful woman and her beautiful son or the Bureau, the relationship would win, hands down. I've tried it the other way. All it produced was a lot of pain and a whole bunch of bitterness. And frankly, life's too short not to enjoy it. Especially when you get to be the age I am."
"I want to believe you," JJ murmured, her eyes fluttering as his warm fingers surrounded the nape of her neck, massaging gently.
"But you've been burned. I can understand that. My ass has met the flame more than a few times, Jen. It wasn't a sensation that somebody ever forgets. But there's an old song line...you've gotta trust somebody sometime. Why not let the somebody be me?"
"Hmmm," JJ chided with a half-smile, shaking her head. "Have you ever even listened to half the things that have been said about you publicly?"
"I tend to ignore bullshit. And you should know me well enough to sort out the crap from the facts. I've made mistakes. Who hasn't?" he asked as he shrugged. "But I've never deliberately hurt a woman I've ever been involved with before and I don't have any intention of starting now. I can be an asshole, but I'm upfront about it. I had a wild ass heyday. I was also single during that time. When I chose to be with someone, I was with only her. And yeah, I've made the mistake of putting the job first before, and I learned a valuable lesson from it. And since I'm not a big believer in making the same mistakes over and over again, I'd like to think I got the lesson."
"But what about everyone else who might not have learned about your changes?" JJ asked worriedly even as she allowed herself to lean closer to him. "I don't share well with others, Dave."
"Neither do I." Shaking his head, Dave swept a finger underneath her chin as he said, evenly, "No one else matters, babe. And anyone who thinks I'm still on the market is someone I'm definitely not interested in." Pausing for a moment as he stared into her questioning baby blues, he murmured, "I'm looking at the only woman that I care about getting closer to. If you'll let me."
And in that small moment in time, JJ felt the air stand still around her, her entire focus centered on the man who was truly and honestly interested in her…who wanted her as much as she realized that she wanted him. Her earlier rampant thoughts suddenly coalesced into one coherent theme as she whispered, "I want this, Dave. I want you."
Her true meaning was obvious in those simple words. Silent a long moment, Dave settled more deeply into the cushions of the sofa, studying JJ's face in the shadowed room. "As much as I want to hear that, I don't want you making premature decisions in the heat of the moment, Jen. This means something to me. You and Henry mean something to me. I'm not going anywhere."
"I'm confused." JJ's voice faltered as she squinted at him. "I thought you wanted..."
"I want you to be in a good place...I hope eventually that place is right beside me. But I want you to take all the time you need to make that determination. I've been here, Jen. Waiting and watching...I don't mind continuing to do that while you make sure that this...that I'm what you want in your life. I didn't bring you out here in order to seduce you."
"I never thought that," JJ averred as she shook her head quickly.
"But if something happened between us this weekend, you'd always wonder. Those aren't doubts that I want you to have if I can prevent it."
"Dave, that's sweet, but..."
"No, that's smart," Dave said, tapping his temple as he winked at her. "I can bide my time. Look how well I've done this far."
Tilting her head as she stared up into his deep ebony eyes, JJ whispered, "Why did you wait all this time, Dave? Why didn't you say something?"
Smoothing his thumb against her wrist, Dave smiled slightly as he felt her pulse rapidly beating beneath his touch. "It wasn't my place then, Jen. And I wasn't about to introduce what I perceived to be a kink into the happiness you seemed to have found. But if I had known…"
"You know now," JJ interrupted, her own smile gentle as she leaned her shoulder into his, letting herself relax completely into his warm embrace, her earlier worries fading quickly into nothingness. "We both know now." Falling quiet for a moment as she simply let herself enjoy the peaceful moment, she then asked, "I have a feeling that I'm going to have to swear Garcia to secrecy, though. She's not exactly going to be a silent partner in all of this, you know."
"Garcia will hold her peace," Dave murmured wisely, wrapping his arm around her too-thin shoulders. "Her only goal is to see you and Henry happy, Jen. That's been obvious from the beginning."
"Yeah, but Garcie loves to share her happiness and everybody else's loudly and proudly...from the rafters," JJ sighed, pinching his side. "Don't pretend otherwise."
"I feel certain she'll make an exception for us. A few donations to charities of her choice and her silence will be golden."
"You're going to bribe the self-proclaimed Goddess of the Bureau building?" JJ snorted.
"I'm damn sure gonna give it my best try," Dave chuckled as he pulled her closer, tucking her into his side. "At least until you feel comfortable with the idea."
"The idea of an 'us'?" JJ said softly, taking a deep breath, his unique masculine scent filling her sense. "It's definitely not ever something that I thought we'd be discussing," she said with a soft laugh.
"Why is that? Well, besides the obvious reason of LaMontagne and the small obstacle of my colorful past, that is."
Raising an eyebrow, JJ smirked. "A girl from a farm in the middle of a no-name town in Pennsylvania and the world renowned star author and profiler? In a relationship?"
"The stuff great love stories are made of, if you ask me. And you should, you know. I'm a writer," Dave stated with mock arrogance, wriggling his eyebrows.
And the funny thing was…she sort of did believe it. The old axiom that opposites attract was proving truer with every passing moment.
And if New Year's Eve was any indication, she, for one, couldn't wait to see where the New Year led them!
Dedicated to the brave men and women serving in our military!