Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds. No profit made, no infringement intended.


A Traumatic Event

JJ is rational, professional, controlled. Only the slightest hint of emotion is present in her voice as she tells Morgan that Elle had been shot. She reasons with him so that they'll stay focused and keep working the case, not because she would break down if she has to wait in a room permeated with disinfectant, frustration and fear. That's what she tells herself at least.

JJ pushes the image of Elle blooded, her flesh torn by metal, out of her mind as they talk to the victim's family. It creeps back in as she thinks of butterflies in the rain, unable to fly. She finds for a moment that she has a burning hatred for butterflies, bullets, and the mask she wears. The moment passes, and she regains control.

When they get back to headquarters, JJ excuses herself to go to the bathroom. She checks under each stall before locking the main door. She finds herself staring at her reflection as the mask starts to crumble. She cries, silently and violently, her hands gripping the cold curves of the sink. After a few minutes she forces herself to stop crying. She splashes her face with cold water, reapplies her makeup, and fishes out the anti red-eye drops she always carries in her purse. Façade reinstated, she rejoins her team.

Avoidance and Emotional Numbing

JJ doesn't visit Elle in the hospital, Elle doesn't call once she gets out. They both know each other too well to behave differently.

Flashbacks

It started with drinks. Drinks after work, drinks in their hotel rooms. Stories to fill the silence, light laughs to drown out the horrors of the day. Drinking with Elle is a duel intoxication for JJ, so really, she's surprised it took her so long.

JJ's laughing, perhaps a bit too hard for the joke. She's standing near Elle, and as she stumbles slightly, she grabs Elle's arm. Instead of steadying herself, JJ ends up teetering into Elle, their bodies are pressed against each other, hands awkwardly placed in the effort to remain standing.

That's the moment that the intoxication mocks JJ's attempts at control, and JJ brings her half-lidded eyes to meet Elle's. Elle stares back, as though she can see right through JJ, amused at her attempts at control and the façade that Elle had long ago mastered. Then JJ's thumb traces a delicate line on Elle's arm, and Elle kisses her.

In bed, the only thing Elle ever reveals is desire. JJ just tries to keep up.

Persistent Re-Experiencing

Now she waits, like a punishment for avoidance the first time. Her heart races, and every time she closes her eyes she sees the same sequence of images. Elle, sprawled in her living room, a construction of crime scene photos, her memory of the room, and the nightmare that plagues her frequently. Garcia, shot by her date, a rainbow of colours crumpling into the night. Emily, a gun at her temple, allowing the unsub to see no trace of fear. It's always the moment he squeezes the trigger that JJ jolts back to the present.

When she looks up this time, she finds Emily has been watching her. Emily takes her hand, and JJ is afraid to ever let go.

Hypervigilance

Elle hasn't spoken to JJ about anything other than work since the shooting. When one of the hotels they stay at has conjoining doors between their rooms, JJ tries the handle. It's unlocked, and JJ thinks the maid must have forgotten to lock it and Elle hasn't done it herself. JJ finds Elle on one of the twin beds, case files surrounding her, and yet clearly not the thing consuming her thoughts.

JJ is so jarred by the lost look in Elle's eyes that she accidentally lets the door slam. Elle jumps, her hands moving for a gun in front of her, when hers is clearly on the side table. Once she notices JJ she stills, allowing aggravation to cover the slip.

"Sorry," JJ mumbles, but makes no move to leave. Instead she sits on the other bed, piling pillows behind her back. She unholsters her gun, placing it beside Elle's.

"You planning to sleep like that?" Elle finally asks.

"Yes," JJ replies simply.

"Okay," Elle says softly, leaving her bed in search of a drink. Elle returns as JJ begins to close her eyes, focusing intensely on the pages of the case files as she sips her gin.

When JJ stirs, Elle is always in the same position, gin in hand, absorbed in the pages. JJ makes a mental note to count the bottles in the morning.

The pattern repeats the next night, and this time JJ is relieved that one of the times she stirs she finds Elle sleeping amid the files.

Significant Impairment

JJ notices that despite being her specialty, rape cases always make Elle tense. There's something dark and angry in her voice as she speaks about the unsubs. JJ shares the same distaste for the crime, but she'd swear for Elle it was actually personal. She never asks Elle. She couldn't bear to know the answer.

Recurring Distressing Dreams

She's had the dream many times, but it's the first that has woken Emily. Emily's eyes are full of questions and worry, but JJ avoids them, the images still vivid. She leaves the warm bed for the kitchen, methodically preparing the gin on ice. Emily follows her, leaning against the door frame to watch her.

JJ grips the cold glass, remembering the way icy droplets made their way down her hand as she had laughed with Elle all those years ago.

"Elle liked her gin," JJ says softly, tears shinning in her eyes.

She takes a sip, wincing.

"It always made me gag," she admits.

Emily walks to her, taking the glass from her hand. She wraps her arms around JJ, holding her as minutes pass in the silent kitchen. Emily's presence finally helps break the hold of the images, and she reaches for Emily's hand. They make their way back to bed, JJ continuing to hold her hand tightly until she falls asleep.