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[personal profile] calleigh_j
Title: On A Burning Beach
Author: [livejournal.com profile] calleigh_j
Artist: [livejournal.com profile] aoibhe
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: none
Pairing: Emily/JJ
Summary: AU fic; when CIA Agent Emily Prentiss and FBI Agent Jennifer Jareau meet on a case in Boston, a connection is forged which may be more than just professional
Notes: thanks to [livejournal.com profile] racethewind10 for being the best beta in the world even though she's hideously busy with awesome things; idea for the case from [livejournal.com profile] jujuberry136 so thanks to her and everyone else who offered suggestions for exactly how to get Emily and JJ to Boston; title and first quote taken from the Crowded House song 'Nails In My Feet'; second quote from 'Fingers of Love' by the same



Chapter Four:

Emily didn't think she'd ever been so tired. It was three weeks into the CIA training programme and she was ready to drop. Dragging herself out of her narrow, uncomfortable bed was getting harder every morning and it was only sheer determination keeping her and everyone else on the programme going.

It was just after eleven and she was struggling to keep her eyes open. Rather than fall asleep at the desk in her room, she'd come down to the cafeteria with her books and settled down with a cup of coffee. The caffeine wasn't so much to wake her up as just keep her in equilibrium. She'd consumed so much coffee over the past three weeks she thought there might actually be more caffeine than blood in her veins and now she drunk it just to keep the level constant.

"Do you mind if I sit here?"

Emily looked up into the face of a man she vaguely recognised from the training programme.

"Sure," she mumbled, waving vaguely at the empty chair opposite.

"I'm Matt," he said as he sat down, "Matt Hamilton. You're in the training programme, right?"

"Yeah, I'm Emily Prentiss."

They shook hands over the table and Matt put a full pot of coffee down beside Emily's pile of books and paper.

"I made friends with the head chef," he explained when Emily looked curiously at the coffee, "I used to think I drank a lot of coffee, and then I came here."

"I was just thinking the same thing earlier," Emily said with a smile, pouring herself another cup.

Matt had his own books with him and opened up a volume on counter-terrorism.

"I hope you don't mind me sitting with you," he said suddenly, "But my roommates are running the obstacle course again and I'm not used to working in a room so quiet."

"You come from a big family?" Emily asked, interested in her new acquaintance and finding it ever more difficult to concentrate on what she was supposed to be reading.

"Not really - just one brother and one sister - but I have a four year old daughter and I'm used to having her around."

"You have a kid?" Emily couldn't keep the surprise from her voice. Matt looked to be about the same age as her and though she knew plenty of people in their mid to late twenties with children, none of trainees in that age group that she'd spoken to here had children.

Matt pulled out his wallet and showed her picture of him with his wife, Lily, and his daughter, Rachel. Emily spent the next half an hour listening to Matt talk about his family. She enjoyed hearing him talk about them with such affection and devotion.

"How does your wife feel about you doing this?" Emily asked, genuinely curious. The training programme itself meant weeks away from home, and a permanent job with the CIA would likely mean long hours and lots of travel: Emily didn't know how she would feel if her hypothetical partner decided they wanted to do that.

"She's okay with it," Matt replied, "She's always know this was what I wanted to do - my dad was in the CIA - and we agreed when we got married that she would do her teacher training and find a job while I worked, and then I would come here and do this. Admittedly, it took a little longer than we expected with Rachel's unexpected arrival, but it's worked out fairly well."

Emily shook her head, impressed. She couldn't imagine making any kind of relationship, yet alone a marriage with a young child in the picture work under these circumstances and said as much to Matt. He shrugged.

"I've known Lily forever. It's not easy doing this, being away from her and Rachel, but I've always wanted to do this and I'm just happy I have the chance." He finished off his coffee and then looked at his watch and started to get up from the table, "God, I'm sorry, I've just been sitting here talking about myself and now I have to go - I promised my roommates we could get together and go over the lectures from the past couple of days."

"That's okay," Emily said, and it was, "It's been nice hearing someone talk about something that's not related to their scores out on the range or how fast they can run a mile."

Matt laughed, "I hear you there. I understand the competitiveness but it wears a bit after a while."

He was pushing his chair back under the table now and picking up his empty coffee cup to take over to the racks of trays set out for used crockery.

"I was going to work on this..." He gestured to Emily's counter-terrorism textbook, "On Wednesday, if you maybe wanted to get together and look at it together?" He seemed oddly nervous about the question and it immediately put Emily at ease: she knew that anxiety of meeting a new person and trying to work out where you stood with them.

"That would great," Emily said and they agreed on a time and a place to meet before Matt headed out of the cafeteria, waving quickly at her from the doorway.

Emily opened her textbook up again and flipped back through to the page she'd been on before Matt had arrived.

***

"Well, if it isn't Emily Prentiss."

The voice was warm and familiar and even through a haze of pain and painkillers that barely took the edge off, Emily smiled.

"Matthew Hamilton," she said, wincing at the dryness of her throat and the hoarse quality of her voice, "Fancy meeting you here."

"I heard you got yourself blown up," Matt said and his voice was softer now and closer: Emily guessed he was probably sitting or standing beside the bed, but couldn't quite convince her eyes to open and check.

"Just a little," Emily replied. Then her fingers were being fitted around a cool plastic object and a straw was guided to her mouth. She took a few sips of the water and swallowed gratefully.

"They're assigning me as your new partner once you get out of here," Matt said.

"Did they tell you when that might be?" Emily asked. She'd been in and out of sleep over the past few days and knew very little of the details of what was wrong with her and when she could hope to get out.

Matt just looked at her as if she were insane.

"Prentiss, do you realise how close you came to getting blown up?" He sounded irritated with her and that pissed Emily off. Yes, she'd been injured and yes, she should have been on the other side of the barricades set up by the local law enforcement when the bomb had gone off, but she'd also saved a little boy's life.

"Do you realise how close Jamie came to getting blown up?" she retorted, though it was hard to put much weight behind the question when she hurt so much.

"Emily," Matt's voice was softer now, "It wasn't your responsibility..."

Finally, Emily managed to convince her eyelids to work with her and actually open. Matt was, as she'd thought, standing beside her bed and the look on his face was somewhere between angry and concerned.

"He was stuck in there, Matt," Emily said seriously, "I knew he was in there: what was I supposed to do? Just stand outside and watch a little boy die?"

"You could've told someone where you were going instead of disappearing off into a building that was about explode," Matt snapped, "Damn it, Emily: you're going to get yourself killed doing something like this."

"It's my job," Emily replied, "And it's your job too. We protect people."

"You can't protect other people if you won't protect yourself," Matt said, "Emily, what you did was brave and yes, you saved a child's life. But that was nearly at the expense of your own life, and that can't be a price you're willing to pay every time you go into a dangerous situation. There's doing your job, and there's putting yourself at unnecessary risk."

"I get what you're saying Matt, I really do, but I couldn't stand there and do nothing, and I don't think you could have either."

Matt sighed, and Emily knew she'd won the argument. It was just as well really: she was so tired now she didn't think she could stay awake much longer.

"How much longer do I have to stay here?" she asked again, letting her eyes fall closed.

"A few more days," Matt replied, "You're recovering well from the surgery, but they want to make sure you're not at risk for infection before they clear you to leave. And even then, you're going to be off-duty for a while, and you'll probably need physio on your leg before you get cleared for field duty."

"That's fine," Emily mumbled, "I just want to go home. I hate hospitals."

"I know you do," Matt said. His voice was softer now and Emily closed her eyes again.

"I'm so tired," she said, yawning.

"Sleep," Matt said quietly, "We'll sort it out in the morning."

Emily slept.

***

Emily walked through the main doors and showed her badge to the guard at the desk. She boarded the elevator with a group of people she didn't recognise and rode it up to the third floor. When the doors opened, she and one other person got out and Emily breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, she was back at work with full medical clearance and back where she belonged.

After being injured in the explosion, it had taken months for her leg to heal enough for her to be allowed back to work, and another few weeks after that for her to be cleared for field work. She'd been grateful at first just to get out of her apartment, but doing paperwork while her teammates got to go out and do the 'fun' things was dull. She'd filed more reports in the past few weeks than she could remember doing in the months and months before her injury-enforced time off. But now, she had been declared fully fit and returned to active duty and she was happier about it than she had been about anything in a long time.

As she rounded the corner to the alcove where she and her four teammates worked, she saw a balloon floating around. She took a couple more steps and saw that her desk was covered in streamers and had two dozen balloons tied to it. There was a huge 'Welcome back' banner high on the wall above the window and her teammates were clustered around her desk with a large cake.

"What's all this for?" she asked, overwhelmed.

"A little birdie told me you passed your physical yesterday," Matt said, leaving the desk to swing his arm around her shoulders, "which puts you back on field duty. We figured this was cause for celebration."

Emily was more than touched by the decorations and the cake. The DC field office of the CIA was the first place she'd ever felt truly at home. After a few months in Chicago and ten months in St Louis, she'd been thrilled to discover that she would be returning to DC, her home city. A few weeks after she arrived, Matt had turned up and although he was in a different department to her, it was still nice to be in the same place.

After that chance first meeting in the cafeteria at Langley, Emily and Matt had become fast friends. They were drastically different from one another, but their opposing styles were complementary and they made a good team. After working together in Chicago, Matt had been posted out to Los Angeles and Emily had barely seen at all. Now they were back in DC together, on the same team, and now as partners.

"Is that chocolate cake?" she asked, blowing out the three little candles in the middle of the cake.

"Of course," Lewis replied.

"You guys know me too well," Emily joked, but secretly she loved it and the feeling she had of being part of a real team. She had colleagues she liked and trusted, a job she adored, and, for one day only, chocolate cake. It was everything she'd ever wanted.

***

Chapter Five:

"We're looking for a man in his mid-fifties," Hotch said clearly, addressing the multitude of CIA agents squashed into the side room given over to this investigation.

JJ stood slightly to the side while the rest of the team delivered the profile. She always felt slightly disconnected from the others during the process of giving the profile. She wasn't a profiler and really didn't have any great desire to become one, but sometimes she felt a little isolated. The feeling always passed though: she was as much a member of the team as anyone else and her role, though different, was just as important.

She took a few minutes to check out the CIA agents to see if anyone seemed like they might pose a problem later on. There were usually one or two who listened to the profile with an expression of disinterest or disbelief on their faces and JJ made it her business to note down who they were and keep an eye on them. Profiles worked and worked well, but the BAU needed the cooperation of whichever local investigative branch or branches they were working with. Emily Prentiss was standing by the doors, apparently listening intently to the profile. JJ watched for her a moment, until Emily turned her head and their eyes met.

There was something about Emily that JJ found fascinating. She didn't know what it was, only that she wanted to know more about Emily and that she wanted Emily to like her. It was so horribly like junior high that JJ wanted to bang her head on the nearest available hard surface. She'd known Emily for less than forty-eight hours; forty-eight long, stressful hours in an unfamiliar city working side by side on a case that seemed to grow more complicated every time JJ turned around. Her job was about going to new places and getting her team settled in, helping them get along with other agencies and branches of local law enforcement who were so often less than thrilled by their presence, being the public face of the BAU, and she was good at it. What she was less good at however was coping with inappropriate crushes on other members of said other agencies, particularly female members of said agencies. JJ was professional to a fault and to have her carefully constructed boundaries threatened by a woman she barely knew was far from professional.

Grimacing inwardly at how unprofessional it was of her to be thinking about how unprofessional she was during a profile, JJ turned her attention back to Hotch, who was wrapping up the profile. It was a little different to the typical profile the team gave. Rather than setting a number of criteria to help identify potential suspects from the general population, they already had a small group of people to work with. It was a case therefore of outlining the basic type of person they were looking for and explaining why each of their suspects fit that profile, as well as noting any aspects of the profile that didn't fit. There were six suspects now. Four had home addresses listed in or around Boston while the other two were out of state. Checks had revealed nothing that might have placed either of the out of state suspects in Boston on the dates when the three women from the city had disappeared, but it was still necessary to interview them as they were trained CIA operatives and could easily have travelled to Boston without it showing up anywhere official. However, Hotch felt the suspect was likely to be local to Boston as that was where the majority of the missing women were from. Given the planning that likely went into carrying out such a string of abductions, it would make sense for the suspect to either be already living in Boston, or have moved there to carry out his plan, and so be able to deal with three of the five victims within his comfort zone.

Morgan and Rossi would be taking the jet to interview the suspects out of state while the rest of the team would focus on the in-state suspects and relatives of the missing women. JJ herself had been assigned to go and interview Amy Anderson's parents, who lived about an hour outside of Boston. But it wasn't until Emily was standing beside her and suggesting that they take the car she'd been allocated that JJ realised Emily was to be the one accompanying her. She resisted the urge to bang her head against the wall she was standing next to, and followed Emily down to the parking garage.

***

Emily glared at the GPS. The computerised voice was just as annoying as the one in her own car back home, which was exactly why she'd turned it off.

"That voice drives me mad," JJ said, out of the blue. Emily's head snapped up and JJ continued, "They have them in every vehicle we ever borrow when we're travelling and they all have that same irritating voice. 'Take the next left'," JJ mimicked a worryingly good impression of the GPS voice.

Emily grinned and signalled to turn left at the next intersection, just as the GPS had instructed. The block they turned onto was clean and well-kept. Cars were parked neatly on driveways and all the yards were evenly mown. It didn't look like somewhere a former CIA agent would live.

"Which number is it again?" Emily asked, scanning the houses on either side of the street.

"377," JJ said, reading from the file on Amy Anderson and her parents James and Belinda.

Emily drove further down the street, counting off the houses on each side, until they reached the home of Amy Anderson's parents. There were already two cars in the driveway, so Emily parked on the street outside. Taking a couple of deep breaths to prepare herself - this, interviewing the families of missing women, wasn't something she was used to doing - she climbed out of the car and pushed the door closed behind her. JJ was standing by the passenger door as Emily walked around the front of the car and together they headed down the driveway towards the front door of the property.

"Do you want to...?" JJ asked, gesturing at the door.

"No, you should probably do the talking," Emily suggested, "This isn't exactly something I'm used to doing."

Nodding, JJ knocked on the door. The door opened quickly and Emily stood back to let JJ take charge.

"Mrs Anderson?" JJ asked of the women who'd opened the door.

"Yes?" She had a look on her face that Emily recognised: the look of someone who had a family member and was stuck in limbo just waiting to find out where they were.

"Mrs Anderson, my name's Jennifer Jareau - I'm with the FBI - and this is Emily Prentiss with the CIA. We're here to talk to you about your daughter, Amy."

Mrs Anderson nodded and stepped back to let them in. She pointed the way through to the lounge and asked if either of them wanted anything to drink.

"No thanks," JJ said as Emily shook her head.

"My husband will be home in a few minutes," Mrs Anderson said, "He just went to the store. Do you mind waiting?"

"Of course not," JJ said, and she sat down on one end of the larger couch in the bright, warm lounge.

Emily hovered by the arm of the couch feeling incredibly awkward. Mrs Anderson went into the kitchen, promising to return with coffee. Emily tried to tell her that she'd already offered them drinks and both she and JJ had declined, but JJ shook her head and Emily finally took a seat on the couch. The two of them sat without speaking, listening to the sounds coming emanating from the kitchen. Belinda Anderson returned a few minutes later with a tray holding cups, a cafetiere of coffee, and a little jug of milk with a matching sugar pot.

"How do you take your coffee?" she asked JJ.

"White with one sugar, please," JJ replied.

"And you?" she asked of Emily.

"The same, please," Emily replied.

Emily was just picking up her cup when there was the sound of the door opening, and Mrs Anderson hurried into the hallway to meet her husband.

"I'm James Anderson," he said when he followed his wife back into the lounge, reaching out to shake Emily's hand, and then JJ's, "I hear you're looking into our daughter's disappearance."

"We have reason to believe," JJ said, "that Amy's disappearance may have something to do with your work in the CIA."

It was lucky, Emily thought, that Belinda Anderson was already sitting down, because she went so pale at JJ's words that Emily was concerned she might faint. The colour drained from her husband's face too and he felt behind him for the armchair beside his wife's.

"From the moment we were told she'd disappeared," James Anderson said, "I feared that might be the case. But when the police said they thought there was a serial kidnapper out there, I figured they'd ruled that out."

"Sir, is there anyone you can think of who might have reason to take your daughter in order to get to you?" JJ asked.

It was another forty-five minutes before JJ and Emily left the Anderson's house. James Anderson had gone through with them all the people he'd worked with with whom he'd had any sort of disagreement, however minor. Two of the people he'd mentioned were on the list of the suspects that had already been compiled which, Emily hoped, might mean they could narrow the list down further, in accordance with their information and whatever anyone else had discovered.

She pulled the car away from the curb and headed down to the end of the street. The GPS voice was back in full force with directions for how to get back to the city. In the passenger seat, JJ was on her cell, relaying their newly acquired information to Garcia and asking her to dig deeper into the background of the two people Mr Anderson had mentioned. JJ finished reading off all the details she'd noted down and closed the file. There was a brief pause, and then JJ laughed and hung up.

"How do you do this all the time?" Emily asked.

"Do what?" JJ asked curiously.

"This," Emily said, "Going into the homes of people whose children and parents and partners and best friends are missing or dead and get them to talk to you?"

"You just do it," JJ replied with a sigh, "It's hard and sometimes people don't want to talk and it's always, always an awful thing to have to do, but it's the only way we can do our jobs. They can tell us things we would never find in any file. The research we do tells us what a person did: talking to the people who knew them tells us who they were. At the start of a case, you never know what detail will tell you exactly who you're looking for, so you have to use all possible sources of information, no matter how difficult it is to get that information."

"What happens when people don't want to talk?"

JJ shrugged, "If people really don't want to talk, there's nothing you can do about it. You can't force them to say anything. But usually once people understand that we're only there to help and that we're not trying to make things harder for them, they will talk to us."

"At the next junction, turn right," the GPS voice announced.

Emily glared at the little screen again and JJ grinned.

"So, what about you?" JJ asked, "There must be things about your job which are difficult."

"Sometimes none of it," Emily replied, taking the right turn the GPS had instructed, "And sometimes all of it. Some days I love everything - I love the travel and the undercover work and knowing that I'm making a difference. And some days all I want to do is get on a plane and leave it all behind."

"Where would you go?" JJ asked, leaning her elbow on the arm rest of her seat.

"France," Emily answered with certainty, "My grandfather had a house in the mountains and I used to stay with him there. I was always happy there."

Conversation trailed off as they hit traffic going into the centre of the city. Emily wasn't exactly sure why she'd brought up her grandfather - she could've just said 'France' and left it at that. She wasn't the kind of person who shared more than was absolutely necessary but with JJ, she found she didn't mind. There wasn't anything about JJ which made Emily feel like any quirks or weaknesses she mentioned would be exploited, as she tended to assume they would be when talking to people she knew through her parents, or various people within the CIA. The traffic cleared quickly and soon Emily was turning the car into the underground parking lot, determined to focus her thoughts once again on work and not the woman sitting next to her.

***

Chapter Six:

"Lily, she just got dumped," Matt said softly, "I'm just going to bring her back and let her crash on the couch. I'll see you in a few minutes."

Lily Hamilton hung up the phone on her husband and glared at the receiver. In the eighteen months since Matt had joined the CIA, she'd heard more about Emily Prentiss than any of Matt's other colleagues and she wasn't sure how to feel about that. She'd never met the woman or even seen a picture of her and as much as she trusted Matt, she was decidedly uncomfortable with how much time he spent with this woman. Lily didn't like to think of herself as the jealous type, but sometimes it was hard to remember that.

Still, Matt trusted Emily and felt a lot of responsibility towards her. Lily gathered that Emily was an only child with a difficult relationship with her parents and tended towards recklessness, both personally and professionally. As partners, they watched each other's backs in the field and Matt saw it as his job to keep an eye on her away from the job as well. And it had been any other of Matt's friends, Lily would be making up the couch and putting on a pot of coffee. She'd never met Emily Prentiss and it was only fair to give her a chance.

Lily was just pouring herself a cup of coffee when she heard a car in the driveway.

She looked out of the kitchen window: it was Matt, and he was opening the passenger side door for the woman she presumed to be Emily Prentiss. It was dark outside and she couldn't really see what Emily looked like, and anyway didn't want to seem as though she was checking up on Matt, and so she went back to making her coffee and waited for them to come inside.

Usually, Matt would call from the doorway to announce that he was home, but it was close to midnight and Rachel was asleep so there was no call. Instead, Matt came quietly through into the kitchen.

"I made coffee," Lily said, gesturing to her cup, "Do you want some? Does Emily want some?"

"You're a brilliant woman," Matt said sincerely, wrapping his arms briefly around Lily's waist. Then he poured himself a cup of coffee - black - and another cup, to which he added milk.

"Is she okay?" Lily asked. She blew on her coffee, trying to cool it down quickly.

"She's a little drunk," Matt said, picking up both his and Emily's cups, "And a little sad."

He was heading through to the lounge and Lily had no choice but to follow him. Sat on the couch was a woman with rich, dark hair and strikingly pale skin. She was, Lily thought, quite stunning. Maybe not traditionally beautiful, but certainly very attractive and she felt jealousy flare up once more.

"Hey, Lily made coffee," Matt said as he knelt in front of Emily and handed her the cup of coffee. Emily looked down at the drink and then up at Lily.

"Thanks." Her voice was quiet and hoarse and it sounded like she'd been crying, which matched the red eyes and faded mascara tracks marking her cheeks.

Matt was sitting on the couch now and Lily felt uncomfortable. From what she knew of Emily, she didn't imagine her husband's partner was given to crying easily and it was odd to have this be their first meeting.

"What happened?" Matt asked, and Lily recognised the same tone in his voice that was present when Rachel was ill or upset over something.

"Apparently I work too much," Emily replied and the bitterness was clear in her voice, "I care too much about my job and not enough about my friends and my other relationships. I don't see how she can say that though: she knows how important..."

Lily stopped listening: all she could hear was the word 'she'.

"What did you say?" Matt was asking when Lily tuned back into the conversation.

"What could I say?" Emily answered, "I can't always make definite plans, I can't always say when I'm going to get home, I just can't do that. I'm not going to give up my job just because she thinks I should always be around and never have to miss a dinner or work at the weekend."

"And you shouldn't have to do that," Matt said in a conciliatory tone, "And hey, if she can't see past that to the amazing person you are, then she's not worth it."

Emily smiled weakly and took a sip of her coffee.

"Thanks," she said, "You didn't have to pick me and you really didn't have to bring me back here: I'm a grown-up, I honestly can take care of myself."

"I know you can, but you're also my friend," Matt said, "And what kind of person would I be if I just let my friend wallow over some girl?"

Another smile, and then Emily yawned.

"The couch is made up," Matt said, "Get some rest, Em."

She nodded wearily and bid Lily and Matt goodnight.

"So..." Lily began once they were in the quiet of their bedroom.

"I'm sorry," Matt apologised, "But I couldn't just..."

"You could've told me it was her girlfriend who dumped her," Lily interrupted. Matt looked confused.

"But I told you she got dumped."

"But not by a woman," Lily clarified and Matt's expression changed.

"Emily's gay," he said as if it was the most obvious thing.

"I get that now," Lily said, shaking her head, "But it might've been nice to know that the woman my husband spends every working day with is pretty much guaranteed not to be interested in him."

"You thought there was something going?" Matt questioned, a hurt tone in his voice.

"No, not really, but can't you see how it might make me feel?" Lily asked, "You spend all your time with this mysterious Emily whom I've never met? I trust you, you know that, but it isn't necessarily very comforting to think of you working with some gorgeous woman late into the night."

"Oh," Matt blinked a few times and then burst out laughing. Lily glared at him and he controlled his laughter a little but couldn't keep the amused expression from his face as he continued, "Lil, I'm so sorry. It honestly never even occurred to me that you might be jealous of Emily. Honey, she's Emily. She's like a sister to me."

He was still chuckling to himself even after Lily had been into the en-suite bathroom, cleaned her teeth, and come back out again.

"You can be an ass sometimes," she snapped, irritated by how lightly he seemed to be treating her feelings.

"I'm sorry," Matt said again, instantly contrite and considerably more sincere than he had been before, "Honestly, I've never thought of Emily as anything but a friend and I should have realised how it might have seemed to you."

Lily looked hard at Matt for a moment, searching for any insincerity, but there was nothing but apology in his eyes. She knew he hadn't meant anything by his actions other than to help his friend: that was always how he'd been, more concerned with other people's welfare than his own, even when it made things difficult.

"I really am sorry," he said again, stepping closer to her and wrapping his arms around her waist, "You know I love you and I love Rach and I would never do anything to jeopardise what we have."

"I know," Lily said, "Emily's lucky to have someone like you in her life."

***

Emily opened her eyes and blinked hard a few times. She turned her head and winced as the muscles in her neck protested. Matt's couch: that was where she had slept. There was a noise from the side of the room and Emily realised that was what had woken her up. Sitting up awkwardly, she turned to see the source of the noise. A little girl was standing in the door clutching a faded pink elephant to her chest.

"Can I put cartoons on?" she asked quietly.

"Of course," Emily replied, dazed.

The girl shuffled across the floor and picked up a remote control from the coffee table in the middle of the room. Wrinkling her nose in concentration, she pointed it at the television and the screen flashed to life. Emily pulled the blanket she'd been sleeping under closer around her to make room on the couch.

"You must be Rachel," she said as the girl put the remote back on the coffee table.

"How did you know?" Rachel asked, wide-eyed.

"Your daddy talks about you all the time," Emily said as Rachel climbed up onto the couch next to her.

"You work with my daddy?"

"I do," Emily confirmed, "I'm Emily."

"Why are you at my house?" Rachel asked with a frown.

Emily froze momentarily, unsure of what to say to the little girl, eventually settling on, "I was sad. Someone I like said some nasty things to me and your daddy was worried about me."

"When I'm sad," Rachel announced, "Daddy gives me a hug and makes pancakes."

"He makes pancakes?" Emily asked: she'd had no idea Matt could cook.

"He makes the best pancakes," Rachel said with the sincerity only a child could muster, "Mummy makes everything else better, but Daddy's pancakes are the best. Do you like X-Men?"

Emily blinked at the rapid subject change, and then realised Rachel was talking about the cartoon on the TV.

"Sure," she said.

"X-Men are my favourite," Rachel said with a nod, apparently pleased with Emily's response, "I'm going to be an X-Man just like Storm when I grow up."

Through three episodes of X-Men, Rachel explained to Emily who all the different characters were and what was going on. She was so serious Emily couldn't help but smile, and it wasn't until Lily and Matt came into the room and asked how she was that she thought once again about the night before.

"Yeah, I'm okay," Emily said, rubbing her eyes.

"Daddy," Rachel announced, "You have to make pancakes for Emily 'cause she's sad."

"Well, we can't have that, can we?" Matt said, "Come on munchkin - come give me a hand."

With energy Emily could barely conceive of right now, Rachel jumped off the couch and bounced across the room to meet her dad in the doorway. They disappeared off down the hallway and Lily came into the room.

"Sorry if she woke you," Lily said apologetically, sitting awkwardly next to Emily on the couch, "We should've warned you last night."

"It's fine," Emily said, "She's great, and I couldn't ask you to go any more out of your way for me."

"Hey, you're a friend of Matt's and that makes you a friend of the family," Lily said with a shrug.

Emily looked at Lily and could see only sincerity in her green eyes.

"Really though," Emily started again, "I'm so sorry about intruding on you and your family like this..."

"Emily," Lily interrupted, resting her hand on Emily's arm, "it's fine, honestly. I'll admit I was a little...put out when Matt announced he was bringing home the great Emily Prentiss unannounced, but that's the kind of guy he is. He's never been one to let people go through things on their own."

"The great Emily Prentiss?" Emily repeated, not sure whether it was a compliment or an insult.

Lily blushed as she replied, "Matt talks about you a lot."

"He does?" Emily echoed, absurdly touched by the idea that Matt actually mentioned her to his family.

"All the time," Lily confirmed, "It was kind of irritating really."

"I'm sorry," Emily said again, "But he's been so great to me - like a big brother or something. I don't..." Emily paused, unsure of what exactly she was supposed to say to Lily when they'd just met the night before, but she figured she owed Lily something so she continued, "I don't have many people like that in my life. My parents and I aren't close, I don't have any siblings, and after moving around so much when I was younger, I've always found it hard to trust people."

"He's a good guy," Lily agreed, squeezing Emily's arm, and Emily felt somehow accepted.

A comfortable silence fell over the two woman, but it was soon interrupted by Rachel bounding back into the lounge and announcing that pancakes were ready. She grabbed Emily's hand and pulled her towards the kitchen and Emily couldn't help but smile. With friends around her, things didn't seem so bad.

Part Three
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calleigh_j: (Default)
calleigh_j

December 2010

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