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Title: Fearless Was My Middle Name
Author: [livejournal.com profile] calleigh_j
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Pairing/characters: Emily Prentiss, gen
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: neither characters nor title belong to me (sadly); Criminal Minds belong to the guys at NBC, title from 'Walk Unafraid' by REM
Prompt: 765. Criminal Minds, Emily Prentiss, It's not that she thinks the team won't accept her -- it's just that sexuality shouldn't be mixed up with work. How does she end up coming out to the team anyway?
Summary: when a case needs a little personal involvement, Emily finds herself unintentionally outed to her team
Author's Notes: sequel to my [livejournal.com profile] lgbtfest fic from last year, These Stilled Constraints but can stand alone; many, many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] mcgarrygirl78 for initial help and prodding, and to [livejournal.com profile] cleo2584 for helping me get my Emily all in order



She doesn't tell them, not that night anyway. Someone comes over to take their empty glasses from the table and that's all the excuse Emily needs to shrug off Garcia's questions and not say what's really on her mind. And she hates it: hates that she wants to say something; hates that, for the first time in her life, she feels really, truly guilty about keeping her mouth shut. But she likes her life how it is, most of it anyway, so she doesn't tell them. She goes home and doesn't think about it for two weeks.

Then they end up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Four teenagers have gone missing, four girls who were on their way home from school or a friend's house or the store and just vanished. The case isn't a particularly difficult one. The kidnapper is disorganised, leaving behind clues that the trained eyes of the BAU pick up on where the local detectives had missed them. Soon enough, they're on the trail of Collin Carhart, whose own daughter had been kidnapped and murdered ten years previously and who, after the sudden death of his wife in a car accident, had experienced a psychotic break.

The families of the missing girls are camped out in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Despite all reassurances that they'll be the first to know anything, none of them are willing to leave. The anxiety in the corridor where parents and siblings have taken up positions is understandably high. The glass-walled conference room where Emily and the rest of the team are working, trying to work out where Carhart might have taken the girls, gives a perfect view of the corridor, and thus a perfect view of the screaming argument that erupts between Patrick and Marion Stone, parents of the missing Alexandra, and their other daughter, Alexandra's twin, Janie.

There have been arguments going on all day: hardly surprising given the difficult circumstances and close quarters. But this one starts with glares and whispered exchanges and then suddenly, it's shouts they can hear through the glass. Emily, sitting closest to the door, pushes back her chair and hurries into the corridor, Morgan just behind her.

"Mr and Mrs Stone," she says, raising her voice above the din, "Janie, please. I know this is a difficult time for all of you but you can't..."

"They think it's my fault," Janie interrupts, tears welling in her eyes, "They think it's my fault Alex is missing."

"Janie, that's not what we're saying," Patrick pleads. He steps forwards, reaching out for his daughter, but Janie backs away, almost bumping into Emily.

"You think it's my fault," Janie says again, an accusation now directed at her parents, "You think that if I hadn't been at Mel's, if I'd been walking home with Alex, then none of this would have happened."

Even if the voices are a little quieter now, the body language is still screaming at Emily. Marion stands, stiff as a board, while Janie bounces on the balls of her feet, half of her wanting to fight and the other half to flee. With one arm still stretched out towards his daughter, Patrick stands between the two women, clearly torn as to whether to support his daughter or his wife.

"You said you were going to walk home with Alex," Marion says, "and if you hadn't been off somewhere with that girl..."

"She has a name, Mom," Janie spits, hands balled into fists by her sides, "Her name is Mel and you knew that perfectly well when she was just my friend."

"Honey, it's not that we don't like Mel," Patrick says, still with the pleading tone from before, "it's just that we think maybe the two of you are spending a little too much time together at the moment."

It's exactly the conversation Emily envisioned having with her own parents a hundred times when she was the same age as Janie and every imagined scenario ended up with someone storming out, usually Emily. She's reluctant to bring her own experiences into an already volatile situation but it seems like Janie desperately needs someone to talk to, someone to listen to her side of the story without judgement.

Emily looks beside her and catches Morgan's eye.

"Janie, why don't you come with me for a few minutes?" she suggests, putting a hand on Janie's shoulder and steering her towards the empty interrogation room at the end of the corridor.

The sense of privacy it gives is just an illusion - Emily knows full well that everyone in the corridor can see them - but the door separating Janie and her parents seems to have a calming effect on the girl. Emily pulls out one of the hard plastic chairs tucked under the table and sits down. It's hard not to try and offer Janie advice but Emily knows she has to wait for her to start speaking first. She remembers far too well herself at that age, convinced that no-one understood her and everyone was against her: hell, there are still days when she feels like that. But she waits a few more moments and Janie, still pacing back and forth on the other side of the table, starts to talk.

"I asked Alex," she says, voice soft and not entirely steady, "I asked her if she minded if I went to Mel's and she said she didn't mind. It's been really hard for us ever since I told my parents and Alex knew how important it was to me that I got to spend some time with Mel. They keep saying they're okay with everything but every time I mention Mel's name or suggest inviting her over or anything like that, Mom freezes up and Dad starts talking about college, about how he wants me to focus on my schoolwork this year, how they don't want me to have any distractions. That's what they think she is," Janie says, looking directly Emily for the first time, "She's a distraction. God, it's not like I woke up one day and decided I was going to be gay. And I didn't have to tell them about it, or tell them about Mel. I was trying to be honest with them - they go on and on about how they'd much rather know what's going on, even if it might be difficult to talk about, and they'll always love us, no matter what, blah blah blah. And it was really difficult, you know, to talk about it. I mean, how do you tell someone that you're gay? But I finally talk to them and it's the end of the world. They just don't get it."

"I get it," Emily offers and gets a snort and a muttered, "Yeah, sure," in response.

Emily just about holds back a smirk: listening to Janie really is like listening to herself twenty-something years ago. There's a twinge of irritation as well at being written off so quickly, as if the fact that she's an adult who works for the government means she can't possibly have any relevant experience. But if it were Emily in Janie's place, she certainly wouldn't have been easily won over by someone who resembled nothing so much as the security detail that had been following her around for her entire life.

"No, I really do get it," Emily insists, "I mean, not the stuff about your parents thinking it's the end of the world - hell, I still haven't told mine - but I get the rest of it."

Janie's eyes are wide now and there are a few moments where Emily can see her weighing up her options. Finally, she pulls out the other seat and sits down opposite Emily.

"Does it get easier?" she asks.

"A little," Emily replies, "High school is the worst really - kids at school always want to know everything, your parents probably want to know everything, and when you don't really know yourself, it's hard to know what to say. Once you get out of school, you have a bit more control. But it's always hard. There are always new people in your life and you have to think about whether you want to tell them, or just wait for it to come up, or if you kind of hope they never have to find out."

"Your parents really don't know you're gay?" Janie asks after a pause.

"Nope," Emily replies, shaking her head for emphasis.

"Don't you...you know...feel bad that you haven't told them?" Janie asks and that question tells Emily everything she needs to know about the relationship Janie has with her parents and how much better it is, whatever problems they might be having now, than the one Emily shares with her own parents.

"Not really," Emily answers, "My parents and I aren't very close and it seems kind of late now. Sometimes I wish I wanted to tell them but I really don't see why they need to know."

Janie doesn't have anything to say in response to that, her anger from before seemingly gone, so Emily continues.

"Your parents should be happy you told them," she says, "However unhappy and confused they might be about it right now, you're right: you didn't have to tell them. But look at it from their perspective. You've just told them about something which, in all likelihood, is going to make your life harder at times. They're worried about you and of course it would be better if they were completely fine with it, but give them a little time. It's hard, I know, but you've had times to sort out how you feel about this: they need the same time. And it sounds like Alex is on your side."

Janie smiles as she says, "Yeah, Allie's always on my side. She was the first person I told, you know, and she was amazing. I was still so confused and she went and looked up all this stuff for me on the internet and stayed all night talking to me about it."

"So there you go, you've got one guaranteed person to talk to," Emily says, trying not to think about how different things might have been for her if she'd had someone like that in her life.

"If we ever find her," Janie mumbles, thundercloud back over her head, "If my parents ever stop blaming me for her being gone."

"It's not your fault," Emily says with all the conviction she can muster, "and your parents don't really think so either. They're angry and confused and incredibly worried about your sister, just like you are, and when people feel like that, they lash out at the people closest to them. It doesn't excuse it but it's how people work. They're already worried about you and in this situation, that worry turns into anger."

They sit for a few more minutes in silence before Emily pushes back her chair.

"Okay, should we go back out?"

Janie gives a reluctant nod and pushes back her own chair. When Emily opens the door, Janie's parents are standing right outside along with Morgan, JJ, and Rossi.

"Sweetheart, I'm so sorry," Marion Stone says through tears as she pulls her daughter into her arms.

"We know it's not your fault," Patrick says, "Agent Prentiss is completely right: we're worried about Alex and..."

He keeps talking but Emily doesn't register another word because her brain has just finished processing the previous sentence. 'Agent Prentiss is completely right' he'd said, which must mean...

"They wanted to hear what you were talking about," JJ says with an embarrassed shrug, as if she doesn't really know what else to say, "We put the speakers on so they could hear..."

"...and so you all heard everything," Emily finishes. She gets three nods in answer and closes her eyes against the sudden threat of tears. They're a mixture of irritation - at herself and everyone else around her - and a little frustration about the difficulties of the case, and a surprising amount of relief. She's saved though from having to answer any more questions when Reid pushes open the door and announces that they know where the girls are.

***

Carhart has the girls in an abandoned office building, the one where he'd been working when his daughter had first gone missing. Once he realises he's surrounded, he surrenders and lets himself be taken into custody. The four girls are physically fine apart from a few cuts and bruises. The emotional wounds will take longer to heal but they're all being collected by families who are beyond grateful to have them back and Emily's hopeful they'll all be okay.

Back at the police station, Emily has a few more minutes to talk to Janie.

"Thank you for getting her back," Janie says as she hugs Emily. It's unexpected, but nice.

"And thanks for talking to me before," she adds.

Emily fishes a card from the pocket of her jacket and hands it to Janie.

"If you ever need someone to talk to, you can call me," Emily says sincerely. The irony of the situation doesn't escape her: offering advice on how to talk about being gay when she can barely do it herself.

Janie studies the card for a few moment, a serious expression on her face, and then slides it into her bag. With another 'Thank you', she hurries back to her parents and sister, turning once to wave at Emily as they head down the hallway towards the exit. Emily watches the doors swing shut behind them and hopes that Janie never feels she needs to use Emily's card. When she turns around, even the speed of their movement can't hide the fact that Morgan and JJ were just looking at her. Emily grits her teeth and goes back into the main bullpen, determined not to let her emotions get the best of her, at least not right here, right now.

***

They're back on the jet by early evening, heading straight back to DC and to a weekend off. Emily finds herself sitting at the table with Reid beside her and JJ and Morgan across. Rossi and Hotch are discussing something in hushed tones in the little kitchenette but other than that, there's no conversation.

Conflicted is the only way to describe how Emily is and she hates it. She's relieved that her 'big secret' is out in the open, but she's not really that comfortable with everyone knowing. She hates the way they found out but isn't certain she would ever have told them herself. She feels like she should say something but really, why should she? Why should this be something that she's expected to talk about? Even if no-one's come out and said it directly, she can tell they're all waiting for her to bring it up.

And so, twenty minutes out of DC, she finally does. She still doesn't want to but she knows if she doesn't talk about it now, she'll never have the chance to again, and as reluctant as she is, she'd rather be able to put her own point of view across rather than have people assuming things about her, no matter how well-meaning they might be. Then it'll always be one of those things everyone knows but never talks about and somehow, that seems even worse than talking about it now.

"I'm sorry," she says, looking around at each member of the team in turn, "I'm sorry you all had to find out that way."

"You could have told us," JJ says, "Did you think any of us would have a problem with it?" Morgan and Reid are nodding their heads in agreement and Emily knows they mean well but it's the last straw.

"Because I shouldn't have had to tell you," she says, finally letting out some of the exasperation she's been feeling all afternoon, "It shouldn't be something I have to talk about. Why should it matter who I sleep with?"

The rest of the team look a little stunned at her outburst. She's never been one for unbridled expression of emotion - it's not a part of who she is - but this has been taken out of her hands in a way that she hates and so it's all coming out.

"I'm sorry," she says again, tone controlled once more, "It's not that I didn't want you to know, it's that I don't see why I should have to tell people about it. No matter how okay people are about it - and I hate that somehow I'm supposed to be grateful that people aren't repulsed by who I am - there always has to be conversation about it and I don't want that. If there was someone in my life, I would have talked about her, but unless you're dating someone, unless you can just slip it into conversation, there's no easy way to tell people that you're gay, not really. It's not about lying," she adds after a momentary pause, "it's about wanting private things to be private. And you can't tell me none of you have ever held back things you didn't want to talk about."

She stops, all run out of steam, and watches everyone else think.

"We're approaching Dulles," says the pilot over the intercom, "Please take your seats and fasten your belts."

It's fifteen minutes of awkward, tense silence before they land and the pilot says they're free to go. Emily feels a little bad for having gone off at everyone, but only a little. She feels more relief than anything else: relief that no-one's rejected her outright, that she's managed to explain the reasoning behind her silence on the issue. There's a little relief as well that everyone knows now because as much as she's never wanted to talk about it, there's always been that spark of fear in the back of her mind about what might happen when they did find out. They're close, closer than many teams, closer than many families, and Emily figures it would have come out eventually. So now she doesn't have to deal with that fear any more. But she does have to deal with right now.

Rossi and Hotch are the first ones off the plane, Hotch offering her what she thinks is supposed to be an understanding smile and Rossi choosing to squeeze her shoulder briefly as he passes.

"I'll see you guys Monday," Reid says, stuffing books and papers into his satchel and throwing an awkward smile in Emily's direction as he heads towards the front of the plane to disembark.

It's just the three of them left: Emily, Morgan, and JJ.

"I'm sorry," JJ says, resting her neatly packed bag on the table, "I didn't mean to imply that you're required to talk about anything you don't want to talk about."

"I know," Emily says, "and I'm sorry for blowing up at you. Me not saying anything was never about any of you: it's about me. Me being gay doesn't have any effect on anything or anyone except me, so I don't feel like I should have to talk about it unless I want to and honestly, I very rarely want to."

"Hey, we get it," Morgan says, "We all do. We all have things we prefer not to talk about it, and it just blows that they have a habit of making themselves known when we least expect it. So now your deep, dark secret is out there in the open, how do you feel?"

"I feel like I could use a drink," Emily deadpans.

"I'll call Garcia," JJ says, "There's this new bar in Georgetown she's been wanting to try out."

"Sounds good to me," Morgan says as JJ pulls her cellphone from her bag.

Emily falls a little behind as they walk back to their cars, hearing just enough of the phone conversation to know that Garcia's more than up for a few drinks. They make plans to meet in a couple of hours and get into their respective vehicles, Morgan throwing out a crack about replacing Reid as his wingman with Emily, and Emily laughs. She'd still prefer it if no-one ever had to know but if there are people who are going to find out, she can't think of anyone better than her team.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-05 09:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-afterlight.livejournal.com
So, um, yes. I'm pretty much stuck on: EEEEEEEEEEEEEE. \o/

Take that as a good sign? :D

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 05:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] calleigh-j.livejournal.com
EEEEEEEEEEEEEE seems like a very good sign indeed, so thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-05 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shadowings.livejournal.com
I'm pretty sure you wrote a story like this last year for lgbtfest? Haha. Either way, I love it! I love gen coming out stories that don't result immediately in hooking up with other people.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 05:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] calleigh-j.livejournal.com
This is actually a sequel to the fic from last year - link is at the top of the page under 'Author's notes'. Anyone, glad you enjoyed and happy to bring some more gen fic into the world.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-05 10:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loneraven.livejournal.com
This is very nice.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 05:25 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 12:21 am (UTC)
twtd: (Default)
From: [personal profile] twtd
I really liked this. Emily's reasoning seemed really in character and the conversation with Janie was really touching. Of course, if I had Emily's card, I'd be calling her all of the time for all sorts of inappropriate reasons...

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 05:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] calleigh-j.livejournal.com
Thank you - making the reasoning work was my main problem with this because it turns out writing about someone who's conflicted about something? Kind of tricky. And hell yes on the inappropriate calling front.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 02:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cadenzamuse.livejournal.com
I don't know anything about this canon, but this was made of win.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 05:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] calleigh-j.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for reading, and I'm glad you enjoyed it despite not knowing the canon!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 01:49 pm (UTC)
ext_1345: (BSG - kara with leoben reflected)
From: [identity profile] dubhartach.livejournal.com
I like this, especially the conflicting impulses - offering the card but hoping she never calls and glad the team know but annoyed at the telling.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 02:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bethynyc.livejournal.com
Really enjoyed it. The plot made sense, and I liked how Emily felt more comfortable talking to a teenager than her team. There was an affinity there that you got across very well.

Thank you so much for writing this!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-06 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kendiefox.livejournal.com
I really love gen Criminal Minds fic, Prentiss, and coming out stories. Thanks for combining all three so well! :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-07 06:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arsenicjade.livejournal.com
I LOVE this. I was so jealous of you getting this prompt, but I'm kind of glad, because I got to READ it. That paragraph about having to be grateful that people aren't repulsed? SO MUCH YES. (Also the part about parents being all "concentrate on college...")

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-07 07:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] grey-bard.livejournal.com
I read this and I'm... just so *angry* for her. What was JJ thinking, making that private conversation public? Even if it was just the girl's privacy at stake, that's not cool. I don't mean I don't believe it of her, or that she didn't think she had good reason, but I still feel it's a bit inappropriate, given that they already had an agent in the room with her able to get any useful information.

And I'm also angry for her because yes. Because yes, where do straight people get *off* asking, accusingly, "Why didn't you tell us? Do you think we're bad/mean/prejudiced people?". Because I've been there. And because sometimes it's not the closet, it's not shame, it's why the hell should I tell you?

Very well done fic.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-07 05:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] semisweetsoul.livejournal.com
I don't know anything about canon either, but I completely relate to the why should I tell you part. There are certain things we prefer to keep to ourselves. It sounded real to me.

Thanks for sharing!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-15 07:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] engel82.livejournal.com
I rarely read fanfic outside my fandom, mostly because I don't know who to read, but I wanted something different today and I was scrolling down the [livejournal.com profile] lgbtfest when I saw your fic, and since I love Criminal Mind and that Prentiss always struck me as gay, I just couldn't pass :)

I'm really glad I read this, I really enjoyed it (as well as its prequel) and I especially loved how she doesn't feel like she should have to tell them. It's something I can relate to, I mean... people don't come out as straight, why should I come out as pansexual?

On a more "technical" note; the characters completly felt right, it was something that I could see happen in an episode (it would be awesome actually!) and I really enjoyed how it came together.

Thank you for sharing this ♥
I can't believe this is the only CM icon I have...

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