See Part 1 for details|
JJ sat looking at her desk reading her email. Six months, and Prentiss hadn’t visited or called her. She didn’t feel like she could visit him without an invitation; it was his call to make. She felt… she wasn’t sure. Alone, she guessed. It was assuaged by his regular emails, but she missed him. She clicked into her Prentiss folder again, and reread his messages, snippets catching her eye.
“I told Hotch. He didn’t seem surprised. The advantage, or disadvantage, of working with profilers. He said he’d support me with the FBI administration.”
“I’m seeing a doctor. He’s going to refer me to a gender specialist. I’ve read all about the process, but I’m still not sure what to expect. I wish you could come with me, but I have to do this on my own.”
“I’ve chosen a name. I considered Emil, but it’s just too similar. I liked the way you said Evan. So that’s what I’ve chosen. Evan. Evan Prentiss. Thank you.”
“I’ve been thinking of you. I told Morgan. He said he always thought of me like a brother, and he couldn’t wait for me to get back so he could kick my ass at pool. I told him he had about as much chance of that as he would of beating you at darts. We should have a game soon.”
“The specialist started me on testosterone. I haven’t noticed anything much yet, except that I’ve been really hungry and… well, hungry.”
“I told Garcia. She offered to stop setting me up on dates with guys and starting finding girls for me instead. Then she asked if I was gay. I told her no. I definitely like girls. I think she’s compiling a list of possible matches. I may never recover. I miss you.”
“I told Reid. He didn’t say much. Just started telling me about the Comic Convention he’d just been to. I think he may need some time to process, poor boy. Maybe you could talk to him? It’s okay if you don’t want to. Anyway, I miss you a lot.”
“I’ve been on the testosterone a while. Things are definitely starting to happen. Sideburns are starting to grow in. I’m getting a little bit of acne, which is embarrassing. I feel like a teenager again, and we all know that’s not a good look on me. I really want to see you, but I just don’t feel ready.”
“I’ve noticed I’m getting a lot stronger. I’ve been working out a lot, but it seems so much easier to put on muscle now. I guess testosterone is a steroid. My voice sounds ridiculous. I feel like I should be asking ‘do you want fries with that?’ That’s why I haven’t called. I keep picking up the phone, and then getting scared. I miss you.”
“I told Rossi. He didn’t say much, but then he never does. I also told my Mother. It went about like I expected, which is: not well. At least she’s still talking to me. She doesn’t approve of course, and thinks I can’t make my own decisions. Oh well, nothing new. I think of you a lot.”
“I had surgery. For, uh, my chest. I tried to hire a nurse to look after me afterwards, but Mother wouldn’t hear of it. She dragged me home, lambasted me, told me what a mistake I was making, and fed me chicken soup. She’s always been confusing. I really missed you, especially when things hurt, but I couldn’t have asked you to be there for me, after you already did so much.”
“I think I’m ready to come back soon. I can’t wait to see you.”
JJ sat smiling, hearing Prentiss’ voice in her head as she read.
Just then, Penelope walked in.
“Have you heard? Prentiss is back!” She sounded excited. JJ’s head whipped around. “He’s just clearing something with Hotch. And, oh boy, is he cute. He’s going to give my man Morgan a run for his money.” JJ smiled, her eyes turning to Hotch’s office.
Penelope was saying something, but JJ wasn’t taking it in, her gaze fixed on Hotch’s door.
A moment later, Prentiss - Evan, she corrected herself, walked out.
JJ felt like all the air left the room at once. He was... the same, but not.
The same dark hair, but now cut short, flopping a little into his dark brown eyes.
The same black cargo pants, the same army boots, but accompanied now by a man’s white t-shirt, smooth over a chest newly flat and shoulders subtly broader.
The same elegance, the same power, but a new confidence, unsure perhaps of his reception, but sure for the first time in his skin.
And, God, it was sexy. JJ could feel her face getting hot.
She suddenly remembered to breathe, and realized that Penelope was still talking.
“I’m sorry, what?” she asked awkwardly.
Penelope burst out laughing. “I see you agree with me.”
“Huh?” JJ asked inelegantly.
“About how good Prentiss looks.”
JJ blushed impossibly hotter.
“I -” she started to deny, but Penelope cut her off.
“Don’t worry, I understand. You could do a lot worse. Should I stop trying to find girls to set him up with, then?” Penelope winked and then left, before JJ could formulate a reply.
JJ quickly turned her eyes back to Evan, to find he was looking straight at her. She blushed again. This is getting embarrassing, she thought. He was coming towards her, up the stairs to her office.
JJ stood up to meet him. “Hi,” she managed.
“Hi,” Evan replied, no more eloquent.
I can’t just say ‘hi’ again. I’ve known Prentiss for five years. Why can’t I think of a thing to say?
“I’ve missed you,” she got out.
“Me too. Missed you, I mean.” He seemed as tongue-tied as she was.
“Oh, this is ridiculous,” JJ exclaimed with a laugh. “C’mere.” She pulled Evan into a hug. He wrapped his arms around her tentatively, before relaxing in her hold.
They stood their silently for a while, until the silence became a little awkward, before JJ pulled back, her face red, again.
She looked up to see Evan’s face was red too. They looked at each other for a second until they couldn’t take it and they both cracked up, the laughter a welcome release from tension.
“Seriously, JJ, it’s great to see you. I am sorry that I didn’t call or visit, but I just needed to… you know.”
“Hey, it’s fine. You emailed a lot. I loved getting those messages from you. It’s great to see you back, Evan,” she replied, tasting the name for the first time. He smiled brilliantly.
“Hey, Hotch told me that we don’t have a case at the moment, so I should just come and get some files from you.”
“Sure. Let me get see what there is.” JJ went through the large stack of folders on her desk. “Here are some that only need to be reviewed, and a profile sent on to the local PD.”
“Thanks.” The way he smiled at her told her he wasn’t talking about the files.
“Well, I’d better get to work,” he said reluctantly. “I’ll catch up with you later,” he added, with a quick touch on her arm.
Throughout the day, JJ found herself unable to concentrate. She kept looking out across the bullpen, watching Evan as he worked. His head was down, his hair flopping into his eyes, all his focus on his work. She kept wishing he were a little less single-minded, so he would look up and smile at her.
Suddenly, she realized what she was doing. Oh, no, JJ, this is not good, she thought with a touch of panic. She tried to look at Evan and see Emily, and found that she couldn’t. It’s Emily. Emily, Emily, Emily, she said to herself, trying to remember the first time they had met. She discovered with alarm that Evan had even invaded that memory.
She took out her phone, flipping through the photo album for pictures of Emily, but when she saw them, they looked strange; the long hair, the make-up and the curves looking out of place and faintly ridiculous.
She looked over at Evan again, this time to find him looking at her. He smiled, and the traitorous fluttering in her stomach terrified her. She tore her eyes away with a frown, missing the hurt look that crossed his face.
She moved her chair so she couldn’t see him without turning right around, and cursed the glass door on her office. She tore into the pile of folders, burying herself in case notes and police reports. Anything to avoid thinking of silky black hair flopping into smiling brown eyes.
She immersed herself so successfully that she was a little startled when Morgan appeared in the doorway and knocked on the glass. She looked up with a jump and realized that it was late afternoon - she’d been working solidly for hours.
“Hey, we’re heading out for a drink, to welcome Prentiss back. You coming?” Morgan asked.
Her thoughts spun, and she contemplated saying no, but convinced herself that she was being silly. It was just the shock of seeing Prentiss looking so different. She would go out, have a few drinks, and this would go away. She was still telling herself that when he appeared behind Morgan with a grin.
This will go away... “Sure,” she said awkwardly. “Let me finish up here.”
By the time she had wrapped up her notes on the file she was reviewing, Morgan had rounded up everyone else. Even Hotch was coming for a drink before heading home to Jack. She felt like she couldn’t hide in her office any longer.
JJ managed to avoid Evan on the way to the bar, but when they got there, she found that with a round table, it was impossible to find a seat that wasn’t either next to him or across from him. She settled for a seat two away from him where she would have to turn sideways to see him properly.
She noticed that she wasn’t the only one looking awkward. Reid was sitting stiffly, and Hotch and Rossi both looked out of place. Prentiss was reacting to everyone else’s unease around him and was looking uncomfortable. Only Morgan and Garcia seemed relaxed.
“Uh, how was your time off?” Hotch made a stilted start at conversation.
Evan looked at him a little oddly. “Well, it was pretty intense, I guess. I had to deal with a lot of things I’ve been avoiding all my life.” It looked like he had decided to acknowledge the giant elephant in the room. “I’ve always known I didn’t really fit in as a woman, though I kept trying to. I’ve always been really uncomfortable with my body, ever since I can remember, but I didn’t really identify the reason until a few years ago, when I realized that I feel like a man inside. I kept trying to deny it, but that case in Ashville brought a lot of things to the surface for me, as I imagine you guessed.”
Nobody looked any more comfortable.
“But you like guys. I’ve seen you on dates,” Reid objected, looking confused.
“I went on dates with guys because that’s what I was ‘supposed’ to do. I actually like women.” JJ thought she saw his head start to turn fractionally in her direction, but told herself it was her imagination.
“So, you’re a lesbian?” Reid looked even more confused.
“No, I’m straight. I’m a man who likes woman,” Evan explained patiently. “But there are trans guys who like guys, and that doesn’t make them any less men.”
“Wait, so there are straight girls that become gay guys?” Morgan asked. “What’s the point? Why would they bother, if they can get guys already?”
“Who you’re attracted to isn’t the same as how you feel inside, Derek. You’d probably feel pretty uncomfortable if the girls you dated treated you like a woman.” Evan smirked.
“But that’s different,” Morgan objected. He thought about it. “No, wait, I guess it’s not.” He downed the rest of his beer. “This is all way too serious,” he declared, turning to Prentiss. “Bro, it’s time for me to give you a lesson in pool.”
“In your dreams, Morgan,” Evan said with a smile, and they left the table, good-naturedly punching each other in the arm.
“Well, it makes sense to me,” Garcia stated when they were out of earshot. “It suits him. He seems happier. And I think he’s delicious,” she added with a wink. She seemed about to say something to JJ, until JJ’s glare warned her off.
Hotch and Rossi just looked uncomfortable, and Reid started stuttering, a blush rising on his face.
“And yes, you’re delicious too, sweetie,” she told Reid jokingly, which only made him blush more. Everyone laughed at his discomfiture, and the awkwardness eased.
Hotch and Rossi left after one drink, and Reid followed soon after, muttering something about a Star-Trek marathon. JJ made a motion to leave, but Penelope looked up at her with her best puppy-dog eyes: “Jayj… Don’t leave me by myself,” and JJ relented with a grin.
“All right. I think it’s your round, then,” she added.
“Certainly, ma cherie. You wait right there, and I will return with something fabulous,” Garcia left with a sunny smile.
JJ was left alone at the table. She leant back comfortably in her seat and looked around. Morgan was at the bar getting a round of drinks as Garcia joined him. Evan was racking up the pool balls. He was chatting to a group of young women who were sat on stools at a ledge around the pool tables. He gestured towards the table, as if suggesting they join him in a game. They laughed and shook their heads.
Morgan made his way back to the table holding two beers. Evan took one with a grin, clinked it against Morgan’s, and then leant back against the wall near the young women, gesturing that Morgan should break and looking insufferably cocky.
Morgan took his shot and when nothing was sunk, turned away from the table with a dramatic sigh. Evan picked up the cue and took his place. He leaned over with exaggerated care and took his aim, and JJ could swear that some of the women were checking out the view.
“What are you frowning at, honey?” Garcia asked as she returned to the table with their drinks.
“Hmm?” JJ murmured distractedly, and Penelope turned to follow her gaze.
“Oh, I see,” she said, favoring JJ with a long look, which JJ completely failed to notice.
“He’s totally flirting with them!” she exclaimed. “They must be, what, half his age? And now that girl’s giving him her number! She’s only just met him!”
“I know, go Prentiss!” Garcia cheered, deliberately ignoring the touch of outrage in JJ’s tirade. “I told you, he’s cute. I never thought I’d say this, but he’s getting more attention than my baby boy.”
JJ finally looked at Penelope. “Doesn’t it bother you?” she asked.
“Not a bit, sweetie. The real question is: why does it bother you?” Penelope queried pointedly.
“What if he calls her? She doesn’t know anything about him. She doesn’t know he’s…” JJ broke off, lost for words.
“Doesn’t know he’s transgender? So what? They’re both adults, and if he calls her then it’s his business what to tell her. I repeat: why does it bother you?”
JJ said nothing, her face going bright red. Penelope smirked at her.
“What? No!” JJ denied. “No, I don’t… I’m not…” She was getting more and more flustered. Penelope’s smirk grew wider.
“I’m not a lesbian.” JJ said softly, her confusion evident.
“Oh sweetie,” Garcia stopped smirking. “Sweetie, neither is he,” she said softly. “He’s a man. And I’ve seen the way he looks at you. He has for years. I never said anything, because, you know, he was a she, and I knew you didn’t swing that way. But he’s a man, and he looks at you the way a man looks at a woman.”
“Oh,” JJ said in a small voice, overwhelmed. “I’ve got to go. Say goodbye to Morgan and, and – Evan.” Her voice cracked a little on the last word.
“Hey, come here,” Penelope pulled her into a hug. “I know it’s confusing, but you don’t have to work anything out overnight. Take care of yourself, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
JJ left quickly, avoiding looking around, so she didn’t see Prentiss following her with his eyes, and she didn’t see him leave the bar soon after, discreetly throwing the woman’s phone number in the bin on his way out.
The next day JJ arrived at work after a restless night, having convinced herself that nothing was going on, that it was just the novelty of seeing a close friend so radically changed. She started work and managed an hour without a single thought of Prentiss entering her mind. She didn’t even feel anything when he came in, late, until she noticed the look of cold anger on his face as he went to his desk in the bullpen.
JJ fought with herself about whether to go to him, and when she got up to walk over, she couldn’t decide whether she had won the fight or lost. She caught what he was saying to Morgan:
“I’ve had to see a psychiatrist as part of my transition. Strauss has decided that that’s grounds to ‘reevaluate my psychological fitness,” he was saying bitterly. “I’m off active duty until I see a bureau shrink and pass a review board.”
“That’s bullshit!” Morgan exploded. “That’s blatant homophobia! No, wait…” he stumbled, looking for the word.
“Transphobia,” Evan supplied.
“Transphobia,” Morgan repeated. “Plenty of people have seen psychiatrists and not had their fitness for duty questioned. This is bullshit,” he said again.
“Thanks,” Evan smiled at him, looking a little better.
JJ felt a little helpless. “Is there anything you can do?” she questioned.
“I’m just going to jump through their hoops.” Evan responded. “I know I’m fit for duty, and if they decide otherwise, I’m going to demand an independent review and make a case under anti-discrimination legislation. I’m just not looking forward to desk duty for the next who-knows-how-long,” he added with a wry smile.
A minute or so later, Hotch came in looking even more serious than usual. “We’ve got a case. Strauss has assigned us directly. Meeting room now.”
Everyone looked up at that, instantly sobering to match Hotch’s mood, and filed into the meeting room.
Hotch started: “Indiana has got a serial killer who is targeting female law enforcement officers. Over the past month, there have been three state police murdered and two FBI agents from the Indianapolis branch, including one woman who was working on the previous cases.” He put up a display as he spoke.
Everyone was silent at the gravity of the situation, taking in the photos of crime scenes and victims.
Hotch went on: “They’ve also been linked to victims in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.” More pictures went up.
“So far twenty cases, all law enforcement officers, have been linked, but the first identified case shows a level of maturity that means that there are probably more, and he’s probably progressed from civilians which will not have been picked up during initial searches which only matched victims from law enforcement.”
More and more photos came up on the screen and one thing was becoming sickeningly apparent to JJ. Hotch continued: “All the victims have been female law-enforcement officers, in their late twenties or early thirties, blonde haired, blue eyed, slim and attractive.” He paused, and for a long, uncomfortable moment, JJ could feel everyone staring at her wordlessly.
“JJ, you can’t come with us,” Morgan broke the silence and then a hubbub erupted.
“That’s ridiculous!” JJ protested, her voice slightly shrill. “I’m trained to protect myself.”
“So were all of the women he’s taken!” Reid countered, almost shouting. “One of them was even on his case, so she knew what to look out for!”
“Look at those crime scene photos, JJ: look at what he does to them!” Morgan tried.
“I’m armed! I’ll be surrounded by police and FBI agents!”
“So was that last woman!” Reid argued.
“Prentiss, help us out here. Tell her she can’t go,” Morgan turned for help to Evan, who had been silent until then. Everyone stared at him.
“Don’t look at me, guys,” he said, to Morgan’s evident shock. “You think I want her to be in danger? You think I don’t want to protect her?” he asked wretchedly. “But I’m not about to pull some macho bullshit and tell her she can’t do her job.” He couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. JJ could tell how much it cost him to put his respect for her ahead of his protective side, and she loved him for it.
“JJ, I’m afraid it’s not up to you,” Hotch said gently. “Strauss has already told me to keep you here.”
She couldn’t help the guilty shiver of relief that went through her. Reid and Morgan were saying something about this being the first sensible thing Strauss had ever done, but she ignored them, turning instead to look at Evan, who had a similar look of guilty relief in his own eyes.
“Okay, wheels up in thirty,” Hotch instructed. Everyone filed out to begin their preparations, and JJ and Evan sat around in angry helplessness, watching everybody else get ready.
Garcia seemed to sense their frustration, as she herded them into her office saying “Come along, my cherubs. The search they did for linked cases was hopelessly restrictive. Come and tell me what to search for.” JJ and Prentiss followed her gratefully, glad to be useful, and doubly glad to be spared watching the others get ready without them.
By the time the rest of the team had departed, Garcia had found a long list of possible matches, and Prentiss went to his desk to review them to see if he could tie any to the current case.
JJ stayed with Garcia a little while longer. In a quick break while her computer was processing a search, Penelope asked quietly; “Did you figure anything out last night?”
JJ was grateful that Garcia wasn’t looking at her. “He’s just a friend,” she said firmly.
“As long as you’re sure, sweetie. He’s gorgeous, he’s sweet, he’s funny. He speaks at least five languages, including freaking Latin. He’s nearly as smart as Reid and nearly as strong as Morgan. Transgender or not, some lucky lady is going to snap him up soon. So it’s a good thing that you only like him as a friend,” Penelope said cheekily.
“Pen?” JJ said dryly. “Really not helping.”
“Anything for you, sweet pea.”
“And with that,” JJ said, “I’m going to leave you to it, and go swear at you privately in my office.” Garcia waved her out with a laugh.
Over the next few days, both JJ and Prentiss tried to do as much as they could to work on the case, but there was a limit to how much they could do away from the scenes and without interaction with the rest of the team. So they spent a lot of time working on other case reports, JJ liaising with different police departments, Prentiss writing up profiles from the reports for the police departments to follow up.
JJ was determined to think of Evan strictly as a friend and was largely managing, ignoring Penelope’s gentle teasing and the occasional vivid image that flashed into her head when she looked at him.
Evan was obliging her by being unfailingly nice. Once Penelope had pointed it out, JJ couldn’t help but notice the way he looked at her, and she cursed her friend for making her see it. Still, he didn’t do anything about it, and his behaviour towards her was the same as it had always been: friendly, pleasant and nice. It was driving her crazy.
Prentiss was attending his mandated visits to the bureau psychiatrist, from which he always returned fuming. JJ took him out for lunch after one such visit.
“God, the guy is such a, a, transphobic, closed-minded, pig-headed, pea-brained, donkey-loving asshole!” Having run out of insults in English, he switched to French, which he soon exhausted, then ran through Spanish, Italian and Arabic, finishing up in Latin for good measure. By the time he’d wound down, JJ was hysterical with laughter.
“Irrumator, stercorem pro cerebro habes, caput stercoris,” Evan finally finished and took a deep breath. He stared at JJ, who had her head down on the table, howling with mirth.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped, trying to get herself under control. “Do you feel better now?”
“Yes, actually,” he replied with a touch of surprise. By then JJ was merely giggling, and had managed to sit up properly.
“So, why is he a … caput ster-whatsit?”
“Caput stercoris. Shithead,” Evan supplied. “Oh, he keeps calling me ‘Emily’ and ‘she’, and asking why I ‘think I’m a man’. He regularly points out that ‘Gender Identity Disorder is in the Manual of Mental Disorders’,” he said with derisive scare quotes.
“What!?” JJ was outraged. She was hardly an expert on transgender issues, but general decency dictated that you referred to someone with the name and pronouns they preferred. “That sounds completely unprofessional. If you want to make a complaint, I’ll support you.”
“Hey thanks,” Evan said, with a brief wide grin. “I’ve filed a formal complaint, but that won’t do much. I’m going to wait and see what happens at this review coming up next week. If they don’t return me to active duty, then I’ll make some real noise.”
“If they don’t return you to active duty, I’m going to tender my resignation,” JJ said, surprising even herself.
“JJ, I can’t let you do that,” Evan protested.
“Try and stop me,” JJ responded with a determined grin, realizing that she would risk her job to do the right thing for her friend.
Evan couldn’t manage a response more intelligent than: “Wow,” but his goofy grin gave JJ a warm feeling, which lasted for the rest of lunch.
“Hey, we’d better get back. Hotch said they was going to call at around two to review the case,” Prentiss said as he put his knife and fork on the plate tidily.
“Yeah,” JJ agreed, though she found that she’d much rather remain talking with Evan.
They walked back to the BAU building and went to Garcia’s office where she had a computer set up to talk to Hotch and the rest of the team.
“Hey guys, right on time. Did you go out for lunch?” Penelope asked. Her smirk was tiny, but JJ still noticed it, and glared back, hoping that Evan had missed it.
“Yeah. JJ was just talking me down from my rage at the psychiatrist,” Evan replied with a grin. “I’m much calmer now, and not likely to commit any acts for which you guys might have to profile me.”
“Well, I’m very glad to hear that. Make yourselves at home, mes amis.” Penelope moved her chair over so they could sit down.
A minute later the computer screen blinked and Morgan’s face appeared. “Hey, baby girl,” he said cheerily.
“Why hello, Angel Face,” Penelope replied flirtatiously. “I have with me Miz JJ Jareau and Mister Evan Prentiss. How are things going out there?”
“Well frankly, we’re not getting anywhere much. Those cases you matched, Prentiss, have provided us with some new leads, but this guy is experienced and mature and hasn’t left any physical evidence for the forensic units to examine, and there hasn’t been another victim.”
“You’ve been there ten days,” Prentiss said with concern, “Prior to that the murders were less than a week apart. It doesn’t make sense for him to be slowing down.”
“We know,” Hotch spoke up. “He could have moved on, but there have been no reports from other states, or he could be leading up to something.” His face was grave.
For the rest of the call they outlined their findings, and Evan shared the work he’d been doing with previous case files. Still, little progress was made, and when the call ended everyone was subdued, unease even breaking through Evan’s normally perfect control. JJ caught him looking worriedly between her and Garcia.
The remainder of the day saw the three of them reviewing the case files with renewed vigor, trying to find something that the rest of the team had missed, but only a few small insights were forthcoming.
They worked late, but eventually JJ decided to call it a night. It was already dark as she drove home, and she found herself humming nervously as she put some leftovers in the microwave to heat up.
When her phone rang, she jumped. Her display read “Prentiss.” That brought a smile to her face as she answered.
“Oh hi, JJ, I hope I didn’t disturb you.”
“No, not at all. What’s up?”
“I just noticed that that TV show you were talking about was on tonight, and I wondered if you’d noticed?” Evan asked. “Are you at home? It starts in five minutes.”
JJ walked to her coffee table and flicked through her TV guide. “Oh, thanks, it is too. I’m just cooking some dinner.”
“Great. Well, I’ll let you watch it, then.” He hung up, leaving JJ looking at the phone with a bemused smile on her face.
She took her dinner to the living room and switched on the television – she honestly had been wanting to watch it – and smiled, thinking how sweet it was of Evan to have remembered her saying that. She was still smiling when she went to bed.
The next day brought more of the same. The unsub still had not stuck again, and the team were making slow progress. She could see that Evan’s uneasiness was growing, and the required psychiatrist visit seemed to chafe even worse than usual. He was throwing himself into his work with a dedication that seemed to warn off conversation, so JJ left him alone.
That night she was throwing together some bolognaise when the phone rang again. She didn’t jump, as she’d been half expecting it.
“Hey,” Prentiss said when she answered. “I was just picking up some shopping and I noticed that those big cans of olive oil are really cheap at the moment. I remembered you said you love to cook Italian food, so I was wondering if you wanted me to pick you up a can.” JJ suppressed a laugh at his transparentness, having realized that his calls weren’t about TV shows or olive oil; he was worried about her, with a serial killer targeting young blonde law-enforcement officers, and was calling to make sure she had made it home safe. She thought it was sweet.
“Thanks, that would be great. I’m actually cooking some bolognaise right now,” she replied, letting him know that she was safe at home without him having to come up with an excuse to ask.
“Great. I’ll bring it in tomorrow. See you later,” he hung up, leaving JJ still laughing quietly at him.
The next day JJ was in Garcia’s office.
“Has Prentiss been ringing to check on you?” Penelope asked.
“You too, huh?” JJ responded with a laugh. “What excuses did he give you?”
“He wanted to know how to do something on his computer. As if he couldn’t have figured it out by himself.” Penelope joined in the laughter.
“He’s worried. I’m worried myself. I doubt it means anything good that this unsub has gone quiet. Indiana’s not that far away. I think it’s sweet that Evan rings to check on us,” JJ said.
“Yeah, he’s a good friend.”
“Friend, huh?” Penelope queried.
“Yes, a friend,” JJ declared in the face of Penelope’s pointed look. “Shut up. I’m ignoring you. I’m leaving now. I’m not listening.” JJ walked out of the office.
“I wasn’t saying anything,” Penelope informed the closed door with a grin.
That night, JJ decided it was her turn to come up with a transparent excuse to call Evan and reassure him that she’d gotten home all right and was safe for the night.
“Hi, Evan, I hope I’m not bothering you,” she started, keeping up the pretence that she didn’t know what was going on.
“No, of course not.” She was impressed that he managed to hide his relief at her call.
“I’ve just gotten home, and I was thinking of reading that book series you lent me, only I couldn’t remember which one to start with. Which is the first one?” she asked, grinning to herself, knowing that Evan would ignore the fact that she could just look inside the covers.
“Well, ‘Burning Water’ was written first, but ‘Children of the Night’ is set first. So you could read either of those and it probably wouldn’t matter.” Evan played his part in the charade.
“Great, thanks. I’ll let you know what I think. See you tomorrow,” JJ hung up with a grin. She decided she might as well read the books she had used as a ploy, so she settled in happily, smiling to herself at Evan’s thoughtfulness.
By the next day, the killer still had not struck again, and had not shown up in any other states, and everyone on the team was getting extremely worried, dreading what he was building up to.
Prentiss had been gone a while, on his daily psychiatrist visit, and JJ realized she had been staring at one case file for so long that the words were blurring, and decided to drop in on Garcia.
“What was his excuse last night?” she asked.
“Apparently my instructions for fixing his computer worked. And he just had to call right then and there to thank me,” Penelope replied deadpan, before bursting out laughing. “Could he be any more obvious? What was his excuse for you?”
“I decided that his excuses were so pathetic I would save him the bother of coming up with one, and I called him,” JJ replied with a smile.
“Oh, really?” Penelope drawled.
“Oh, shut up. He’s just a friend.” By this time, JJ had practically managed to convince herself of this, and she ignored Penelope’s raised eyebrow. “Do you know where he is, by the way? He should be finished at the psych, and I need some quick input on a report before I send it off.”
“He said he was going to go to the gym, pretend the punching bag is the psychiatrist or some other macho thing.” Garcia grinned.
“Great. I’ll just pop down and see him so I can get this report finished.” JJ picked up the report in question and headed to the bureau gym.
There were a few people working out in the gym, and she spotted Evan in a corner at the pull-up bar. JJ watched for a second. He had just reached up to grab the bars and was hanging by his arms. His muscles bunched with effort and he slowly raised his chin above the bar and lowered himself back down. He was wearing a loose singlet, showing the definition in his arms and shoulders. His singlet was dark with sweat, and she could see a hint of underarm hair.
He was hot and sweaty, utterly masculine, and very, very sexy. JJ could feel her stomach drop out from under her as her body flushed with warmth and her face went bright red. She backed out of the room clutching her file.
Her face was still red when she got back to the BAU office. Penelope took one look at her and asked innocently; “So you found him, then?”
“I hate you,” JJ mumbled, walking to her office trying to hide her face. Penelope just laughed.
JJ’s face had finally returned to its normal color by the time Evan returned from the gym. He had showered and was looking very respectable in slacks and a jacket, but as the fabric stretched over his shoulders as he moved, JJ kept imagining those muscular shoulders knotting with effort and glistening with sweat.
Prentiss settled in to work, and it seemed that Garcia had taken pity on JJ because their conversations for the rest of the day were absent any innuendo. Despite their efforts and those of the team in the field, they seemed no closer to catching the unsub, and the tension in the air was palpable.
It was late, and everyone had just about reached the point where tiredness had overrun the usefulness of continuing to work, when Evan walked in to the computer tech office where JJ was chatting with Garcia.
“Hey, guys, it’s Friday night. I don’t know about you two, but I’m sure not getting anywhere, and I could use a break. This case is really getting to me. There’s that comedy on that you wanted to watch, Penelope. Would you guys like to hit the movies?”
“Sure,” replied JJ, thinking that it sounded safe enough – Penelope had said earlier that she was free and wanted to see it, and it was a comedy, not a ‘date’ movie.
“I’m afraid I can’t, Evan. I’m got plans with Kevin tonight,” Penelope replied, earning an outraged glare from JJ, who knew she had no such plans. Don’t do this to me, Penelope, JJ pleaded with her eyes.
Penelope blithely ignored her. “You two go. It sounds fun; you’ll have to tell me all about it.”
From the look on Evan’s face, he hadn’t expected Penelope to beg off either, but he hid his surprise quickly. “Great,” he said, turning to JJ. “Is it worth taking two cars?”
JJ rallied. “No, probably not. Your place is practically on my way home. Why don’t I drop you home and pick you up in the morning?” she suggested, knowing that, as worried as he was about this case, Prentiss would be working through the weekend.
“Sounds good. Let me just get my things.” He walked out of the office and down to his desk in the bullpen.
“Garcia!” JJ turned on her friend.
Penelope was serious. “JJ, just give it a shot. I know it’s fun to tease you, but I think you really like him. Are you worried because he’s transgender, because he’s a co-worker, because you think he doesn’t like you, what?”
JJ slumped in a chair with a loud sigh. “How about ‘D, all of the above’?” she said ruefully. She thought about it. “Actually, I think what frightens me the most is how much I like him. I feel completely out of control.”
Penelope pulled her into a hug. “Sweetie, I can understand that. But you know he wouldn’t do anything to hurt you, right?”
“I know,” JJ replied, and she did know – she trusted Prentiss as much as anyone she’d ever met. “But what if I hurt him? He’s got to have issues with his body and other things; what if I hurt him?” she asked.
“Sweetie, he’s a big boy. He can tell you where his boundaries are. He’s old enough and ugly enough to take care of himself,” Penelope replied with a grin.
“Shut up. He’s not ugly,” JJ said with the beginnings of a smile.
“See, you do think he’s cute,” Penelope teased gently. “Go give it a shot.”
“Thanks Pen.” JJ stood up. “I love you, you know?”
“Yes, I know,” Garcia replied airily. “Just remember, I want all the juicy details.”
JJ laughed and headed out to the bullpen. “Hey Evan, are you ready to go?”
“All set,” he said with a smile.
“Let’s go to the cinema near your place,” JJ suggested as they walked together to the car park.
“Sounds good. They have the best ice-cream shop near there; we could pick up some movie snacks.” JJ laughed; Evan was as excited as a little kid.
They got into JJ’s car, Evan relaxing into the passenger seat and closing his eyes with a sigh.
JJ smiled across at him: “Most men aren’t so comfortable giving up the driver’s seat,” she commented.
He opened his eyes. “I’m not most men,” he commented, giving her a conspiratorial wink.
She laughed, then turned more serious. “No, you’re not, but not because of that. It takes a special kind of man to put down his protectiveness and let a woman do her job. Thank you for that. Most men would be too arrogant.”
“Oh, I’m arrogant,” he replied. “I’m just so arrogant I don’t need to act arrogant.”
She laughed and put her hand on his leg. “Well anyway, thank you.”
JJ put her hand back on the wheel, feeling a little warm. This felt like a date. Was this a date? She wasn’t going to ask, partly worried that Evan would say no, but mostly afraid of what it would mean if he said yes.
They fell into a silence not exactly uncomfortable, but thrumming with tension.
“JJ...” Evan started uncertainly.
Suddenly the car slowed, the engine noise whining down. They rolled to a stop.
“Shit,” JJ cursed, trying the ignition and checking the gauges. “The tank’s empty.” She looked across with a touch of alarm. “Evan, I filled it up this morning.”
“JJ, lock the doors,” Evan said immediately, reaching into his bag where he’d put his gun and scanning the surroundings, which were dark and deserted.
JJ reached into the back seat to get her own gun out of her bag and then pulled out her phone.
She dialed Garcia.
“What’s up, my sweet?”
“Garcia, Prentiss and I have just broken down on a deserted stretch of road. I don’t think it’s an accident.”
“Location?” Garcia was instantly serious.
JJ was just relaying their location when Evan interrupted: “A car has just pulled up with its lights out.” JJ’s apprehension turned to fear.
Evan directed his gun’s torch at the car behind them. “The license plate’s been covered with mud. I think I can read “two, something, something, something, M, F.” The car’s a silver sedan, a Toyota, a Camry I think,” he reported.
“Got that,” Garcia acknowledged over the speaker phone.
“I can’t see anyone,” JJ said nervously.
Suddenly they heard a shot and the rear windscreen shattered.
Then came some odd ‘whumping’ noises and something landing in the car.
“Sleep gas!” Evan shouted. They couldn’t stay in the car, but if they got out, they’d be shot.
JJ fumbled around the car, trying to find the canisters, but she couldn’t see them, so she flipped the circulation on full and wound the windows down.
Evan got his own phone out: “Garcia,” he said into JJ’s speakerphone, starting to mumble, “I’ve got GPS tracking on my phone. I don’t know how long I can hold on to it, though,” he said, tucking his phone down his pants, the place least likely to be searched. “Shit, someone’s coming.” He grasped his gun woozily, and fired a wild shot.
JJ’s vision was graying. “Garcia, you’re on speaker phone; don’t say anything, just listen,” she slurred, just managing to hide the phone under a floor mat before everything went black and she passed out.
JJ came to in a panic, gasping for air, to find herself tied hands and feet to a chair in what looked like a basement, a man withdrawing a syringe from her arm, the shot bringing her to instant consciousness. Her panic intensified and she thrashed in the chair, finding her bonds were loose enough to leave good circulation; he did not seem to want to hurt her, yet, but admitted no hope of escape, and the chair was fixed to the floor.
“Jennifer Jareau,” he drawled. He was a little above average height, with sandy brown hair cut in a business-like style. “Didn’t you want to come and play with me? When I heard the BAU were invited to my party, I did some research. Your picture was very flattering. I noticed you straight away. I thought about what I could do with you,” he mused and started describing his fantasies, which JJ, her already vivid imagination primed by photos of his past victims, could picture far too well.
She could feel nausea rising, from fear, disgust or a reaction to the drugs, she didn’t know. His face, ordinary, perhaps even good-looking under other circumstances, seemed grotesque, twisted in a vicious leer.
“I was very disappointed to find that you’d decided to stay at home.” He was whispering, his mouth close to her face, and her stomach heaved in protest.
“So, as they say, if Mohamed won’t come to the mountain, Mohamed must be brought to the mountain.”
He stepped back. “And how nice of you to bring me a friend!” he said with sick delight, his movement revealing what JJ had yet to see: Prentiss lying motionless on the floor, his hands bound wickedly tight behind him, his usually pale skin bloodless, making his dark hair stand out in stark relief. JJ lunged towards him in horror.
“Evan!” she choked out. The man laughed at her, stepping back to give Evan’s prone form a well-aimed kick.
Evan’s limp body didn’t twitch, only rolling bonelessly with the weight of the kick.
“Now, maybe you can clear up some confusion for me, Jennifer. Is this sack of meat” - kick - “Emily Prentiss, or” - kick - “Evan Prentiss?” the man asked, enjoying seeing JJ flinch with each kick to Evan’s body.
He picked up a long knife from a table near the wall. “Maybe I should find out for myself?” he mused. “Or maybe I should just kill him?” He approached Evan’s still form.
“No!” JJ gasped. “Please, I’ll do anything,” she started begging.
He paused, interested. “Really?” He approached her.
“Yes,” she said, and started repeating his obscene suggestions, embellishing with pornographic detail, tears pouring down her face, choking the words in her throat. He stepped closer and she could see he was interested.
This was no calculated ploy to buy time in hope of rescue, no deliberate decision. This was just a pure mindless bid to say anything, do anything, to keep Evan safe for one more minute, one more second, over-riding her horror at the filth spewing from her own lips.
The unsub had moved close to JJ, prompting her, fascinated by her desperate acquiescence. He listened for a long moment, letting JJ’s words wash over him.
“Why Jennifer, that sounds delightful, but you know,” he said, stepping away and kneeling next to Evan on the floor, “I think I’m just going to kill him, because you’re going to do those things anyway.”
Then everything happened at once: JJ screamed, the man moved in with his knife, and Evan’s leg whipped around, landing a solid kick on the man’s head. It seemed JJ had talked just long enough for Evan to regain consciousness.
The unsub fell on to Evan’s body and they rolled over the floor. It seemed a bitterly unfair fight: the unsub was bigger, he held a knife, and he had the use of his arms. But Evan had the element of surprise and, with his survival, and JJ’s, at stake, he seemed possessed of a berserk strength, augmenting his long years of martial-arts training.
It was ugly: the unsub was dazed from the kick to the head, and Evan was still groggy from sleep gas, and their movements were clumsy and uncoordinated as the man wielded the knife and Evan fought back with teeth, head-butts, knees; anything he could use. It seemed to last an eternity, each man struggling to get the upper hand. JJ screamed at every blow, every cut to Evan’s body.
Evan seemed oblivious to pain – he took a stab in the shoulder and wrenched his body away, ripping the knife out of the man’s hands.
He brought a knee round into the unsub’s face, smashing his nose, and managed to get the other leg around the man’s neck. Locking his knee under the man’s jaw, he heaved, as the man struggled and flailed, and then there was a hideous crack and the man lay still, slumped on top of Evan, who lay back limp and gulping for breath.
“Evan!?” JJ croaked, through a throat raw from wordless screaming.
Evan bucked and struggled, pushing the man off him, and then managed to get to his knees, shuffling awkwardly over to where JJ sat tied to the chair, blood oozing from gashes on his legs and seeping out from around the knife in his shoulder. “JJ, I didn’t realize you knew that kind of language,” he joked weakly.
JJ laughed, a hysterical laugh mixed with tears, as Evan knelt to her bonds, pulling at them with his teeth, slowly unpicking the knots. She realized she had strained so hard against them that her wrists were rubbed bloody.
Evan’s movements were becoming slower, less coordinated, and then he sagged to one side, passing out in an ungainly heap.
JJ panicked and struggled against the bonds. The ropes around one wrist gave way a little and she forced herself to calm down, not wanting to pull the knot tight again. Painstakingly she freed her hand and then awkwardly untied her other arm and then her feet.
“Evan?” she cried, falling to his side. He was still breathing, and she sobbed with relief. “Evan?” She tore off her shirt and used it to bandage his wounds, all the while repeating his name like a litany. She pushed herself through dizzying exhaustion to finish staunching most of the bleeding, before she collapsed, utterly spent, to lie against his good side, and consciousness slipped away from her.