It was early morning and visibility was poor. It was a terrible day to be out but sitting warm in the passenger seat listening to her boys singing along to Frozen, JJ was content. She was glad that Will was driving not her but would have driven if she had needed to.
The last month had been crazy for the BAU and she has been in five different states in three weeks with scant hours at home between each trip. The details had begun to blur together in a mass of generic hotel rooms, mediocre continental breakfasts and crappy coffee. She had remembered to call her brother and wish him a happy birthday but hadn’t been able to answer his question about where she was. He had assumed she was working a classified case and she’d gone along with that. In fact, she just hadn’t known, she’d just woken up and if you’ve been in one Hilton, you’ve been in them all.
The BAU had been given a mandatory three day leave after all the traveling they had done. With the weekend added on it seemed like a good time for the LaMontagne family to get away. They were on the way to the airport to fly to New Orleans. It was time to take the boys to see where their Daddy had grown up. Henry had been before but didn’t remember it. At two, Michael had yet to get on a plane. JJ glanced back at him as then pulled on to the airport road and smiled when he grinned at her babbling about the planes they could see taking off.
She felt a small pang of sadness at his joy. Henry had never been particularly interested in planes; dinosaurs were where his passion lay. But there had been another boy in her life who had loved planes and would have enjoyed Michael’s enthusiasm. Jack Hotchner loved all things mechanical but planes were the number one for him. Circumstances had dealt him a tough hand but he had always been a good friend to her boys, almost an older brother. Although she rarely talked about them, JJ missed him and his father very much. As she always did when they came to mind JJ took a moment to send up a quick prayer that wherever it was witness protection had moved them too Hotch and Jack were not just safe but happy too.
Suddenly JJ was pulled from her thoughts. There was a loud squealing noise coming from one side of them, like brakes that worked but perhaps not as well as they should. Then there was a loud bang as the brakes failed completely and the truck hit the side of them. The thought “definitely not as good as they should be” occurred to her and then everything went black.
Henry had mostly been excited about the trip to New Orleans because he was being allowed to miss school to do it. Going to meet a bunch of people he was related to but didn’t remember was going to mean being on his best behaviour and answering lots of stupid questions. Missing school, that was good. Friday was English day and he really didn’t like English. Sat in the car after the accident he really wished he were at school. Even the worst lesson ever would be better than this.
Michael was screaming. If his mom was at home she always came when Mikey cried. this time she wasn’t waking up or even looking like she might. And his Dad’s leg was at a funny angle. Henry had always prided himself on being brave. He wasn’t old enough to fight the bad guys like his Mom did but he tried to be brave like she was. He couldn’t be brave now.
“Dad?” He called in a shaky voice. “Daddy?” he got a mumble in reply but no real answer. He didn’t think his Mom was going to wake up but he tried to call her as well “Mommy?”
Michael heard his brother calling their parents and joined in “mama”.
Still nothing. Henry reached out a hand to Mikey and patted his arm trying not to start crying too.
It was the first day off Spencer Reid had in three weeks. He had slept late and was now on the couch working his way through several weeks’ worth of newspapers. After that, he thought he would go to the park to play chess then perhaps end the day with an episode or two of Doctor Who. All in all a very relaxing day.
Finishing the last of the papers, he left his apartment and walked to the nearest deli to get some lunch. Three weeks of almost nonstop travelling meant there was no food in the kitchen apart from now green cheese and very mouldy bread. He had just settled at a table with his lunch when his phone rang.
“Hello this is Anna from the ER at Stafford Hospital; I’m calling to speak to a Spencer Reid?”
He couldn’t help the note of concern that crept into his voice as he said, “This is Dr Reid.”
“Dr Reid we have had two adults and two children admitted following a car accident. Both adults are unconscious but our records show you are an emergency contact for one of them and the older child has told staff that he is Henry LaMontagne, his brother is Michael and identified you as their godfather?”
“Yes. Are they OK?” he had to force himself to stop and let her answer his mind suddenly full of a thousand questions and concerns.
“Henry and Michael both have minor injuries; Henry’s are worse than Michael’s – we are observing both and have no concerns. Should nothing develop over the next few hours they will both be able to go home tonight should a guardian become available. Both of their parents are in surgery as we speak. Are you able to come assume custody or should we ask Children’s Services to make arrangements?”
“No! No!” His Godsons couldn’t go to foster care. “I’m on my way and I’ll be there within the hour.
Abandoning his still untouched lunch he headed rapidly back to his apartment building to get his car. He didn’t like to drive but knew he’d likely have the boys overnight and that was the most practical form of transport with them.
Most of the team had taken advantage of the break to leave town – Garcia had headed to Chicago to see Morgan and family, Tara and Emily having gone to New York to see a play. Luke Alvez had been vague about his plans but made it clear he did have them. The only team member still in the area was Rossi and as he walked Reid sent him a text that just read “911”
His phone rang immediately, just as he arrived at his car. So he unlocked the door and settled in the driver’s seat to speak to Rossi before setting off.
“Reid? What’s the problem?” Rossi sounded on high alert, understandable in their business.
“Rossi, it seems JJ and her family were in a car accident. I don’t have the details but an ER nurse from the hospital called to ask me to take the boys as both she and Will are in surgery.”
“Shit, that sounds serious. But the boys are OK?” Rossi asked.
“Minor injuries the nurse said.”
“Good, that’s good. I’ll come and join you at the hospital, it’s never good to be alone at a time like this and it might be easier to get information and care for Henry and Michael if we’re both there. But I think we should wait for more information before calling the rest of the team.”
“I agree. And I’m glad you’re coming, but I better go, I don’t like the thought of Henry and Michael alone in the ER, they will be scared after the accident.” Ending the call, Spencer took a breath then started to drive. As he did so he tried to prepare himself for what he suspected would be a trying few days. He didn’t expect them to be as trying as they turned out to be.
The drive to the hospital was quick but it then took almost 20 minutes for him to find somewhere to park. He chafed at the delay, desperate to get to his godsons but it couldn’t be helped.
Eventually he made it into the ER and after queuing at the front desk was directed to a chair to wait for a nurse to come speak to him. Ten minutes later one approached and introduced herself as Anna, who he had spoken to on the phone. She immediately told him that Henry and Michael were waiting in an exam room and offered to show him the way. As they walked through the crowded department, she explained what she knew of the accident.
“The car they were travelling was hit by a truck on the airport approach road. We estimate that first responders were on scene within 10 minutes. Both adults – Jennifer and William? – were unconscious at that point but Henry and Michael were described as being conscious yet distressed, particularly Michael. Henry has a bad cut above his eye that needs stitches but he has been refusing and knowing you were on the way we decided it better to wait on those. Michael is favouring his right arm but it just appears badly bruised.” She finished and asked if he had any questions.
“Has Michael had an x-ray?”
“Not at present, I’m not sure if there is a plan to do so. He doesn’t have any symptoms of a break but it can be hard to judge in a child his age. The Dr will come in to discuss both boys care with you shortly” They stopped outside a door and Anna opened it.
Spencer got a brief glimpse of the inside of the room before there was a cry of “Uncle Spence!” and he found his arms full of both LaMontagne boys.
Gathering them close he held them silently for several minutes as Henry shook with sudden sobs and Michael asked repeatedly for his parents as he had since the accident. Spencer savoured the moment glad to see them for himself and know they really did just have minor injuries.
Once Michael seemed to quiet and Henry was calmer he pulled away and looked at them. Blood was slowly staining the dressing above Henry’s eye and it was clearly going to need to be changed soon. Picking up Michael, Spencer moved to the bed on the opposite side of the room, wrapping an arm around Henry’s shoulders as he did so and pulling the older boy with them.
“Anna?” He spoke quietly but got the nurses attention. “Could we sort the cut on Henry’s head out now?”
Before she had a chance to respond Henry angrily shouted “No!” It was out of character for him and Spencer suspected it was due to the stress of the day and concern for his parents. But that didn’t make it acceptable.
“Henry, you have to have stitches. I know you are upset but you need to let the Dr take care of you. We don’t need you getting and infection and I know it has to be sore.”
“I don’t want it done.” Henry sounded suspiciously near tears again and refused to look him in the eye.
“Henry, look at me and tell me why not. If I know what’s wrong I might be able to help.”
Henry looked up at his godfather with tears in his eyes.
“I don’t want it done,” he repeated.
“Why not?” Spencer put a slightly more forceful note in his voice this time.
“They need to keep helping Mommy and Daddy, not me. I’m not important.”
Spencer and Anna exchanged a look
“Henry, we have more than enough doctors here that we can have one do your stitches and not interrupt those helping your mom and dad. And I bet if we asked them they would think you are pretty important.”
“Really?” Henry sounded lost and young.
“OK.” He said.
“Great, I’ll let the Dr know and gather the supplies and be back shortly. You’ll feel better once it’s done Henry.”
Henry had gone silent after agreeing to have the stitches so Spencer simply said “Thank you.”
Anna nodded then left the room.
Feeling reassured by the presence of his godfather along with his brother, Michael was happier so after his cuddle with Uncle Spence squirmed to get down and then set about exploring the room they were in while the others watched in silence. A sharp knock on the door interrupted this process and made Henry jump.
It turned out to be Rossi and Michael ran over to get a hug from his Uncle Dave. Henry stayed where he was but did return Rossi’s greeting.
“Any news?” Rossi asked.
Reid shook his head “No, just waiting for a Dr to come stitch Henry’s cut.”
Before they could continue, they were interrupted by a second knock on the door. This time it was Anna returning with the Dr. Spencer took Henry on his lap for the procedure, he was really too old for it but under the circumstances it was for the best.
The Dr made quick work of the stitches but Michael was fascinated and got in his way as he worked, wanting to watch. Rossi grabbed him and tried to distract from poking at Henry’s injury. He thought privately that chasing after the 2 year old was worse than chasing a fleeing unsub. But he usually left that to the younger members of the team. It wasn’t that he couldn’t do it, just that being a good agent meant playing to your strengths and those of the people you work with. And his lay elsewhere.
Stitches over Spencer put Henry down and then made both of his godsons drink some water. Next, he took a damp cloth and gently wiped the dried blood from Henry’s face. Rossi found the remote for the TV while Reid did that and looked for a suitable show. Finding a film he thought would be OK for both boys, the two agents got them settled.
That done they stepped to one side to discuss the situation. “It concerns me that I’ve been here for nearly two hours now and I have information about JJ and Will beyond them both being in surgery. Nothing about their injuries or the nature of the surgeries.” Reid started.
“No, that would concern me too. Has Henry said anything about what happened?”
Spencer shook his head in response as Michael wandered over having grown bored of the TV.
“Right, well I will go see what I can find out. And maybe go find these guys a snack while I’m at it.” Rossi slipped from the room leaving Reid to deal with Michael’s loud demands for his attention.
40 minutes later Rossi returned carrying two McFlurrys and coffee for both of them. He was smiling although Reid could tell it was forced. “Henry, Michael I remember your mom telling me you guys love McFlurrys so I got you these. The next few minutes were taken up with getting boy settled eating the treat. They sat them on the bed and pulled the table over to it then sorted out drinks and napkins. Rossi reflected that there was always more work involved with caring for children than he realised.
Once they were eating Reid picked up the coffee Rossi had brought him after adding sugar then taking a sip “What do we know?” he asked.
“I spoke to the surgeon who operated on Will. It’s over, he’s in recovery and headed to ICU after that. He has a head injury and is critical. JJ is still in surgery but is said to have severe leg and pelvic injuries. She’s also critical but is said to be in a stable condition. MPD are investigating and I put in a call to the Captain. Also, I texted Emily to call me about an urgent matter but I think she and Tara must still be in the air. No one has contact JJ’s mom yet. I don’t know what you think but I suggest we wait until JJ is out of surgery before calling?”
“I agree, she’s a long way away and there’s nothing she can do at the moment. Better to wait until there’s definite news.”
The two men spent the next several hours entertaining the children and taking it in turns to go for updates. The split the childcare almost 50-50 but Rossi insisted that helping Michael with the bathroom was a job for his godfather. The two year old was pretty much potty trained but struggling a little bit that day due to the trauma of the accident.
It was almost dinnertime when Anna, the nurse assigned to the boys, returned accompanied by a tired looking tall woman who wore surgical scrubs.
“Dr Reid, Agent Rossi, this is Dr Elizabeth Weaver, the surgeon who operated on Ms Jareau.” Both men nodded a greeting and Rossi started to distract the boys while Reid spoke to the surgeon as he held a medical proxy for JJ for the times when they travelled and Will wasn’t immediately available.
“Thank you for helping JJ.” He told her.
“You’re welcome; it’s all part of the job. Do you call her JJ?” she asked. At Spencer’s nod she continued, “The nursing staff talk to patients in ICU while caring for them. Is that the name they should use?”
“Yes it is, she always says only her mom calls her Jennifer.”
“I’ll make a note. Now, JJ was removed from the car unconscious and didn’t wake before surgery. We will keep her asleep until probably this time tomorrow. She presented with multiple fractures and dislocations to her pelvis, both legs and feet. Several of which were open fractures. She has associated soft tissue damage and the biggest risk right now is infection. However, I believe as long as we can prevent that she should survive. It is too early to say what level of recovery is possible but some is with a huge amount of rehab and determination on her part. Any questions?” she finished in a rush.
“When will we be able to see her?”
“She’s just arrived in ICU and the nurses need an hour to get her settled but after that short visits are fine for adults – the children are unable to be in ICU I’m afraid.” She said glancing over at Henry who was trying to pretend he wasn’t listening and Michael who was playing.
“I had expected that. Thank you again for your time.” Reid reached out and shook Dr Weaver’s hand as he spoke then she took her leave.
The rest of the evening passed in a similar fashion. Henry and Michael were soon cleared to leave once a further check-up showed no changes to their injuries. Michael was falling asleep and happy to go with Uncle Dave after being told Henry was going too and that he’d see Grandma tomorrow. Grandma was one of his favourite people so he was very excited. He did occasionally ask for Mommy or Daddy but was happy with the excuses they gave.
Being older Henry was aware that what had happened was serious. He was unhappy when they told him it was time to leave and tried to argue. Why could the adults see his parents but he couldn’t? He was worried about them and wanted to see them.
While this argument was ongoing, Prentiss finally called back.
“Rossi, sorry I only just got your message. There was a car accident on the airport approach road and we missed our flight, had to get the next one so we’ve only just landed. Anyway, what can I do for you?”
“Unfortunately, that’s why I’m calling. That accident? A truck hit Will’s car as he was driving the four of them to the airport for their flight.”
There was a sharp intake of breath before she asked “God. What do we know?”
“Both boys had minor injuries, Henry needed stitches but Michael is just bruised. JJ and Will have both had surgery and are in ICU. Not sure what Will’s prognosis is, he has a head injury. JJ should survive but has severe injuries to her lower body. Reid is looking after the boys but none of the rest of the team know. JJ’s mom will be here tomorrow, I just spoke to her.” Rossi tried to treat it like a case report, factual and dispassionate but failed to keep the emotion out of his voice after a long and trying day.
“Right. Are there any details of the accident?” Emily was concerned that this could have happened because of their work with the BAU or Will’s with the police and the family could still be in danger.
“I spoke with Will’s Captain and it’s their case but he understands the need to do something when a case involves one of your own and is happy for us to take a look. Witnesses at the scene suggest the truck’s brakes failed but nothing has been determined at the moment.” Unspoken on both their parts was the thought that things like failing brakes are easily staged.
The conversation ended, Rossi promising to update Emily tomorrow and convincing her to remain in New York for the time being. She agreed unwillingly and said she would let the rest of the team know what had happened.
While Rossi had been on the phone Spencer had been talking to Henry and had made him understand that he had no choice but to leave. The 9 year old was still unhappy but his godfather wasn’t usually so strict and that more than anything had convinced him.
The next day Reid rose early and called the hospital to get the latest news on Will and JJ. The nurse said they were both still critical but had remained stable throughout the night and they were keeping them comfortable. He wanted to be reassured by the fact they were stable but he knew too many statistics for that and knew both could still die.
He texted the nurse’s update to both Emily and JJ’s mom, Sandy (keeping his own fears to himself) before checking on the boys. Henry was restless but Michael was still asleep.
Deciding to start breakfast he headed to the kitchen, detouring to let Rossi in when he knocked on the door. The senior agent came bearing donuts for breakfast.
“Morning.” Reid greeted him as he helped himself to a donut. “The boys are still asleep and I spoke to the hospital. Both are stable but critical still.”
A cry of “Mama!” from Michael interrupted them so rather than reply Rossi went to see to him leaving Reid to finish his donut in the last bit of peace he’d get that day.
A calm of sorts filled the next several hours as they got the boys fed and bathed but later that morning that calm disintegrated when Sandy Jareau arrived and Grandma and Grandsons reunited.
For the next two days the family and team rotated between looking into the accident, caring for the boys and being at the hospital with Will and JJ. Both were still unconscious, the Drs having decided to keep JJ under for an extra day.
As Unit Chief, Prentiss liaised with Will’s Captain and finally 72 hours later it was ruled to be nothing more than an accident. The family had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time. At the same time, they got more news from the hospital. JJ was beginning to wake up but Will was still in a coma.
Sandy had immediately left her grandsons with Penelope when that happened wanting to be with her daughter when she woke but she needed have rushed as it would be another 14 hours before that happened.
As she sat next to her daughter replying to the latest text asking for an update Sandy noticed that JJ’s eyes were half-open and she was looking at her. They were cloudy with a mixture of pain and medication and she doubted she’d be awake long but it was good to see her.
“Hi honey. Don’t try to move or talk. You’ve had an accident and you’re in the hospital.” She said as she locked her phone and set it down before taking JJ’s hand.
JJ looked confused and tried to reach up to touch her face. “You need to leave that be, it’s helping you breathe.” Sandy told her. JJ’s nurse came into the room at that point having been alerted to a change in her vital signs.
“Ah, she’s awake I see?” Rosemary commented. “Hi, JJ. I’m Rosemary I’m your nurse today. It’s nice to meet you.” Moving round the bed she checked one of the IVs and then continued. “Can you squeeze your mom’s hand for me?” There was a small delay and then a slight movement could be seen in her hand. Sandy smiled and nodded when she felt it then squeezed gently back. “Good, that’s good.” The nurse said. It wasn’t a conclusive sign but seeing her responding to simple commands was a good one.
The Dr came into the room before either Rosemary or Sandy could say anything further. The next thirty minutes were filled with tests and when they were over JJ was clearly exhausted but fighting sleep.
“It’s OK, honey, go back to sleep.” Sandy told her.
JJ made a face at that and knowing her daughter Sandy asked, “Are you wondering about Will and the boys? Henry and Michael are both fine, at home with Aunt Emily and probably being spoiled by Aunt Penelope by now. Will was hurt too; he’s in a room down the hall”
JJ had more questions but the ventilator tube prevented her from asking them and the pain meds she’d just been given meant she fell asleep even though she fought it.
Sandy escaped from the room as soon as she was sure JJ was asleep. She was heading for the elevator not really watching where she was going and walked straight into Rossi who was coming to find her. Reaching out he grabbed her as she tried to get her balance again and apologise at the same time.
“Sandy. Everything OK?” he asked her.
Faced with his compassionate care she lost the tenuous hold she had on her emotions and burst into tears. Dave simply wrapped an arm around her and guided her to an out of the way seat in the waiting area. Once she was sat, he reached into a pocket and handed her a handkerchief. It was the first of many times he would do that for a Jareau woman over the coming months.
After taking a few moments to calm herself, Sandy looked at Dave for the first time “Sorry.”
“No, no it’s been a tough few days, please don’t worry about it.”
“It’s ridiculous, I hold it together through seeing them both in ICU, all of the bad news and then get good news and burst into tears.”
Rossi wisely choose to ignore her self-deprecating comments and said “Good news? It was about time we got some of that.”
“She woke up! She wasn’t awake for long but she was awake and the Dr was pleased with how she was.”
“Great news! I’m so relieved. We just need Will to wake up now and things really will be improving.
It was a further four days before JJ was awake for any length of time although the team continued to visit and most of them were able to catch a moment or two with her awake. Not enough for a real conversation but enough to know that despite her injuries, pain and high levels of medication their friend was still in there.
JJ tried to turn in her hospital bed. It wasn't easy due to all the various tubes and monitors attached to her but she was getting frustrated with keep having to ask for help for everything. Five days in hospital had taken their toll and although the Drs had said very little about the future, she knew she was going to be there for a lot longer. Unfortunately, the nurse choose that moment to pop into the room and check on her.
Spotting her patient trying to move she was quickly by her side with a slightly disapproving look. "You need to ask for help hon, there's no shame in it," the nurse chided.
JJ burst into tears at that. Crying again, she thought I really am pathetic. If she'd taken the time to express that thought the nurse would have explained that after an injury like hers being so emotional was common, expected even. The trauma involved made extreme reactions the norm and it would take a few months to heal. But the emotional lability would go away.
In the short term, it was one of her more annoying symptoms - because being the hospital made her mobility problems almost secondary. She didn't need to chase after her boys, hunt an unsub or even walk to the bathroom. In the long term, the damage to her legs was going to be a much bigger problem but at present, struggling to control her emotions and unable to see her husband she had barely registered what she'd been told about them.
"It's OK. Don't worry" the nurse tried to reassure her but it didn't help. Luckily at that time Rossi knocked on the slightly open door and seeing her crying came over and took her hand
"OH JJ, having a bad day?" he asked. He squeezed her hand and reaching for the box of tissues on the table by the bed pulled one out and started blotting her tears away. She didn't reply but he seemed to know that she couldn't and they just sat in silence for a few moments whilst the nurse bustled round adjusting the tubes and making a note of things on the monitors.
Once she was gone, Rossi looked at his friend. JJ seemed to be calming but her breath still hitched slightly a sign of how upset she'd been. "I popped in to see Will before coming to you" he told her "I wasn't sure if you'd heard how he was today and wanted to be sure you got the latest news."
JJ found her voice at that point "Yeah? What's that?"
"He's still in the coma but they've stopped the meds keeping him unconscious and he's showing signs of waking up according to his nurse. Personally, I thought he had a bit more colour to him. But you might want to take that with a pinch of salt because obviously I'm just an FBI agent."
"Thanks, Dave." JJ said her voice sounding stronger but a little scratchy still.
Reaching over to the table again, he poured a glass of water "you sound like you need some of this" he commented holding it out to her to sip.
The water cooled her throat while the pain meds she'd just been given started to work and she drifted off leaving Rossi alone with his thoughts.
It had been a difficult few days for the BAU. He had taken point at the hospital with supporting Will and JJ and most importantly making sure that Sandy, JJ's mom got a break and didn't get overwhelmed. Will didn't have any family having been an only child and losing his father during Hurricane Katrina and JJ had a small family other than her husband and kids. But the whole LaMontagne family had a larger extended family in the BAU - and less so but still important in Will's MPD unit.
Sometime later JJ woke again with a start. She was alone in the room once again and she wasn't sure how long had passed.
Her room in ICU didn't have any windows so it was hard to judge the passage of time - it could be the middle of the day or even 2am for all she knew. She wasn't sure what day it was either. Everyone had been rather evasive about how long it had been since the accident. In fact the only things anyone had been very definite about were the boys were both OK, minor cuts and bruises but no real injuries to speak of. She was going to be in hospital for some time to come, that Will was in a coma, and they weren't sure what the outcome was going to be.
JJ was scared that none of those things were true. As the days went on and she didn't see her boys or husband, she began to worry that they were lying to her. What if Will and the boys were dead?
Yesterday when her mom came to visit she had tried to ask for more details but she had stuck to the party line. Henry and Michael are fine. Will is getting better. You don't need to worry.
Unfortunately, her mom's attempts to soothe her had the opposite affect and she became so agitated by what she saw as lies that her Drs had decided to sedate her once more. It was for her own good they had told her. Her injuries were severe and their healing was at a precarious stage. She needed to calm down to prevent doing more damage or they would drug her they had threatened. When she had kept asking about her family the well-meaning doctor had carried out his threat not realising it was the last thing she needed.
As she lay in the bed helpless, she tried to remember everything that had happened since the accident. There were many visits from Drs – had she seen three or four different ones? Two were surgeons she knew and she wasn’t sure who the other one was.
And several different nurses. Coming in and out of her room every few minutes. Giving injections, adjusting her IVs. Putting her on oxygen and then deciding to “let her try without it” again a few hours later. Emptying her catheter and doing other things for her that she thought she probably ought to be embarrassed by but in her medicated haze couldn’t manage to be.
Before she could get too far in her attempts to remember she heard a familiar voice, loud and bubbly outside the door. Penelope was in the corridor talking to someone, one of the nurses by the sound of it. “Are you sure she can’t have flowers? I thought that just applied to patients in ICU. They would be the perfect thing to brighten things up and maybe cheer her up a little. Hospital rooms are always so drab, aren’t they?”
"Oh! You're awake" Penelope beamed at her as she came into the room. I wasn't sure if you would became because Rossi said you'd only just fallen asleep when he left an hour ago. An hour? Had she really only been asleep an hour. JJ had been sure it had been longer but she supposed just sleeping for an hour was a good thing. That was almost an acceptable length of time to sleep if you ignored the fact she'd only been awake for a few minutes before she'd fallen asleep.
JJ didn't feel like smiling but she knew if she wanted to be allowed to leave her hospital room and get some rest she needed to show some form of progress so she tried "Hi Pen." she said her voice still sounding raspy and alien to her ears. Her nurse had told her it was because she’d been on a ventilator for two days and would soon heal.
"I just came from lunch with your two gorgeous boys," Penelope told her. "Pizza, I'm afraid but they both made a good meal of it even if Mikey did even up wearing rather a lot of the sauce. Reid has taken them to Rossi's for a swim now but I rather suspect Mikey will be asleep by the time they arrive. He was bouncing around the pizza place."
"Good." JJ said feeling she had to give an answer. "How’s Henry?" his mother asked. "Still a little quiet but he ate a good amount and I did see a smile or two. So better I think."
JJ wasn't sure so. Penelope was a brilliant godmother but she didn't know the boys like JJ did and she couldn't help but feel they were suffering due to being away from both their parents.
This was where the fact she couldn't stay awake for more than a few minutes was beginning to be a real problem although no one had realised it yet. She wasn't getting a chance to talk and her brain was confused due to all the medications she had been given.
Unfortunately, due to the frequent change of visitors in an attempt to give her mother a break it would be another four days before someone realised just what was going on inside JJ's head and by then it would almost be too late.
Henry LaMontagne missed his parents.
It had been six days since he had seen them. They had been in the car on the way to the airport when there had been an accident. He and his brother were both fine but his Mom and Dad were in the hospital and he wasn't allowed to see them.
It had been the scariest experience of his life sitting in the car for the few minutes it took for rescue to reach them, then at the hospital with people asking all sorts of questions, and not knowing what to do. Previously he would have always thought of himself as brave like his parents but now he felt like a failure.
His Uncle Spencer had been the first person he knew to come to the hospital and he had told Henry and Michael how proud he was of them. Something that had been repeated by everyone he had seen since - his Dad's partner, his Mom's team, his grandma. Even random nurses at the hospital. He hadn't done anything to be proud of. He hadn't done anything except try to speak to his parents and then hold his brother's hand. He’d been so frightened! That wasn't what someone who was brave did.
Secretly (or so he thought) he had been having nightmares every night since the accident. He would wake up in a cold sweat crying but bury his face in his pillow to prevent anyone hearing. He couldn't cause a fuss not when things were so bad. Michael seemed to be completely fine, he seemed to think spending all this time with lots of different people was fun and Henry didn't think he was missing their parents at all. Didn't he realise how bad things were?
As he thought of his brother, Michael came wandering into the room with a toy car in each hand. Grinning at his older brother, the toddler held the red one out to him and said, “Play cars?”
“No!” Henry grumbled at his brother who didn’t listen and kept coming closer trying to get him to take the car and then when he wouldn’t starting to run it over his knees “I said no, stupid!” Henry shouted reaching out and knocking the car out of Michael’s hand. That shocked Michael and he burst into tears. Embarrassingly so did Henry.
Alerted that something was wrong by the shouting and then the sound of both boys crying their Grandma came running into the room closely followed by their Aunt Emily. “Boys! What on earth is going on?” she asked. Henry turned away and hid his face. Refusing to answer he crossed his arms and ignored every attempt to make him speak.
Michael did the opposite. He ran over to his Grandma and raised his arms to be picked up. Cuddling close she rocked him and he soon calmed down. Sandy and Emily exchanged looks whilst making lunch in the kitchen they had just been discussing how worried everyone was about Henry and trying to come up with a plan to deal with it until he could see his parents. Neither of them had expected to be putting the plan into action quite this soon.
“Hey Mikey?” Emily asked. “Do you want to come get some lunch? Grandma tells me we’ve got your favourite cookies.” Enthused by the idea of cookies Michael soon went into her arms and they went to eat lunch.
Approaching her eldest grandson Sandy Jareau took a seat at the opposite end of the sofa. Close enough to be private and supportive but far enough away that he shouldn't feel crowded. Henry was like his mother in that regard. He needed space and time to do things, especially when it came to talking about how he felt. Forcing him never did any good. None of her grandchildren had ever met their grandfather but Sandy's husband had been very similar so she had a lifetime of experience in how to deal with that.
"Henry?" she asked. "What's going on?" He didn't reply. Just sniffed loudly as he tried to pretend he wasn't crying.
Moving closer to him, she reached out and turned his chin so he was facing her. "Oh Henry" she said wrapping her arms around him and rocking him as though he were no older than Michael was. "You've been so brave" she told him and was surprised when she felt him stiffen in her arms and then shake his head. "No? You have you know."
"I'm NOT brave" came a muffled shout.
Sandy knew they had reached the crux of the matter. "You're not?" she asked. "You kept your brother safe when the accident happened. You told all the first responders and the people at the hospital enough to help them know who you were and how to get hold of you family and then you helped look after your brother until Uncle Spence arrived. That's brave you know. I was so proud when I heard."
"I wasn't brave" Henry sobbed, "I was so frightened. What if Mommy and Daddy die?" he asked. "Henry, Mommy isn't going to die. She's hurt but she's going to live. She'll be in hospital for a long time and she might have trouble walking but she'll be home with you boys before you know it. No one knows what's going to happen with your Dad. But Uncle Dave told me he's getting stronger and the Drs said they were pleased with him this morning. They can't safe for definite but they think he should survive."
She could see hope beginning to dawn in Henry's eyes but knew that he wanted to believe her but was too scared to.
"And you know something else?" she asked and then continued without waiting for an answer. Just because you were scared doesn’t mean you aren't brave. Sometimes being brave means doing something even though it scares you.”
“Yeah?” Henry asked.
“Yes. Ask your Uncle Spence. I know he and the team get scared when they go after the bad guys sometimes. But they still do it and that’s what makes them brave. That doesn't mean not doing something that you’re frightened of makes you a coward. Sometimes realising something is too scary for you is a good thing” she added before her grandson could get the wrong idea in the opposite direction to the one he'd had before.
“this is confusing.” He looked at his Grandma properly for the first time in the conversation as he said it.
“It is. But you’ll figure it out. And in the meantime you don’t need to worry about what happened. You did what you could and that’s what’s important.”
Sandy had planned to continue but was interrupted by a crash from the kitchen. Henry took advantage of her distraction to jump up and go see what Michael was getting up to in the kitchen.
Emily Prentiss had never wanted children. She loved kids and spending time with them. But she also enjoyed giving them back to their parents. When JJ had Henry he had almost changed her mind. Then the stories JJ shared on her return from maternity leave about sleepless nights and all manner of bodily fluids exploding all over the place had changed it back.
She had spent a lot of time with Henry before moving to London but didn’t know Michael as well. That had changed since the accident. Michael was suddenly her responsibility. It was a steep learning curve but she was loving it. Sandy had even asked if she had any suggestions for how to help Henry, describing Emily as one of his favourite people. And so she had brainstormed ideas with his grandmother and then ended up taking Michael out to give grandmother and grandson some time together.
Feeding Michael his lunch that day was taking a long time. JJ and Will made it seem easy but Michael was fighting her every step of the way. He wanted cookies and she was trying to make him wait and eat a sandwich first.
Distracted by her thoughts she didn’t see Michael flail until it was too late and his plate fell to the floor with a loud crash sending the food everywhere.
“Oh Michael!” she said realising too late that she shouldn’t have mentioned the cookies until after he’d had the rest of his lunch. He grinned at her and she felt her annoyance dissipate – with everything that had happened over the last few days some wasted food hardly mattered.
Bending down she picked up the plate, grateful that it was child friendly plastic so it was still in one piece.
Giggling caught her attention and she looked up to see Henry had come in the room and was laughing at the scene in front of her. She felt a stab of annoyance at that but tried to push it to one side. He was just a child and a traumatised one at that, if he found amusement at her expense she could cope with it. She’d have to.
Sandy pulled the lunch she’d made for her and Henry out of the fridge and Emily gave Michael some fruit. The four sat together eating before finally breaking open the cookies and setting themselves up for a fun afternoon.
Ten days after the accident JJ was moved to a regular hospital room.
Will however remained in a coma in the ICU. None of the Drs had really discussed his situation with JJ. Her family had answered her questions but none of them had known exactly what she wanted. Add in the uncertainty about her own situation and the fact she hadn’t been able to see her kids and JJ was struggling. She was desperately trying to mask that fact for feat they would start telling her even less. Or worse, keep Henry and Michael away for even longer.
She hadn’t seen her mom since last summer so in a way it was nice to spend time together. JJ did feel a bit guilty putting her through this. As a parent, one of JJ’s biggest fears was losing a child. Knowing her parents had survived experiencing that should have made it easier for her but somehow didn’t. She was beginning to worry that Henry and Michael had been killed in the accident and everyone was colluding not to tell her.
It was beginning to look like today was going to be a better day. JJ hadn't needed any extra pain medications when she woke up and she felt much clearer too. She'd even overheard the nurses talking about the fact her sons were going to come visit if things went well. From what they'd said she realised this was supposed to be a surprise so she didn't say anything. She was excited to see them though she tried not to let on.
Reaching up she pushed her hair out of her eyes and wondered if anyone had brought her some hair bands. She didn't think she could manage to do her own hair but assuming either Penelope or her mom brought the boys, they could probably do it. That was assuming that they weren't with Spence. She couldn’t remember seeing him since the accident although she was told her had stopped by. Still Spence probably knew all about tying hair up, could quote a thousand statistics.
Her arms seemed to be less shaky too she thought as she moved them into a more comfortable position.
A knock at the door took her out of her thoughts and she looked up to see a nurse she didn't recognise look in to see if she was awake.
"Hey! I'm Abby and I'm an ICU nurse. I've been caring for your husband and I thought I'd stop by and see how you were doing."
"Hi" JJ replied softly.
"Will is doing a little better. He's still asleep most of the time but he asks about you and your kids every time he wakes up." Seeing the unasked question in JJ's eyes, the nurse added, "I've been caring for him almost every day since the accident."
"Thank you." JJ said. She liked the look of this nurse and the fact she had taken the time to visit a patient's wife seemed to be a great thing.
“Abby?” JJ asked the kindly woman in front of her. “Is he OK?”
“He’s getting there hon.” Seeing the doubt in JJ’s eyes she added “Really” with a smile. “I’ll be honest with you. The first day I cared for him I expected him to die, didn’t think that I’d go back the next morning for my shift and be caring for him again. But he’s proved us all wrong and keeps doing so.” She paused for a moment to let that sink in “I heard from your friend Agent Rossi that he has a history of beating the odds and surviving when it looked like he wouldn’t. Something about a robbery and your wedding?”
JJ nodded but didn’t answer so Abby waited a few seconds and then continued. “The doctors are astounded at his progress too, even our most famously pessimistic colleague expects him to make a full recovery now.”
That was the best news JJ had heard since the accident and she wanted to smile she really did. It made her happy to hear her husband was doing so well. Instead, she burst into hysterical tears.
“Hey. Don’t worry.” Abby said gently and she reached out and took her hand. Giving it a squeeze she sat with JJ until she had cried herself out. The nurse was quiet but projected a real air of support and a part of JJ wished she were her nurse.
“Sorry.” JJ sniffed her voice still thick with tears. “I just can’t seem to stop crying since the accident. Even when it’s good news I cry and cry. I hate it and it just gets worse when people try to calm me down. I wish I could stop it.” She really did, it made her feel even more pathetic than her injuries did and she thought the nurses must have been judging her for it.
“It’s ok, JJ, it really is completely normal with everything you’ve been through. There’s even a complicated medical name for that but I won’t bore you with it.” There was something in Abby’s voice that made JJ believe her and as a look of real relief crossed her face, Abby realised that her patient’s wife needed more support than she was getting. Supporting her patient’s families was part of her role as an ICU nurse, but with her stuck in her own hospital bed and unable to visit JJ’s relationship to Will had been forgotten by the medical staff.
“Thanks. I’ve been so scared.” Abby was going to reply but JJ continued before she had a chance, speaking so fast it was almost as if the injured woman was forcing the words out before she lost her nerve. “I know we just met but you’ll tell me the truth won’t you? I’m not a widow am I? He’s OK? I’ve been so scared…” she repeated then trailed off at that point both wanting the answers but also not at the same time.
“He’s still pretty sick but he’s recovering.” Abby confirmed.
“I’ve been so worried. None of the doctors said anything much about him and all my family just kept saying he was ICU and stable and not saying too much more. When I asked they would change the subject to me and how I am. I thought that meant he was dead but they were trying to avoid telling me.” JJ took several deep breaths after saying that as though her fears were more concrete now she’d shared them.
“Oh that’s really well-meaning but it doesn’t help does it?” Abby asked rhetorically
Surveying the medical equipment the woman in front of her was attached to the ICU nurse also mentally reviewed what was in use in Will’s ICU room and privately began to work out what would be needed to get JJ up there to visit. If things continued the way they were it would be JJ not Will who had the long-term effects from their injuries. In the meantime, she was the easiest to move and the most in need of a visit.
Catching sight of the time Abby sighed to herself as she realised she was going to be late picking her kids up from school if she didn’t leave soon. “I’m sorry JJ but I need to go. I’ll come back and see you again soon and let you know more about Will. I’m on shift again tomorrow; do you want me to take a message to him?”
“If you could that would be great, thank you. Just, just tell him I love him?”
“I will. I didn’t get the chance to speak to him before I came down and get a message for you because it was a bit of a spur of the moment decision. But I know he loves you too. That’s obvious from the way he talks about you and how you and your kids are the first thing he asks about each time he wakes.
Reaching out Abby patted JJ’s shoulder and then nodded her goodbyes leaving JJ to fall asleep feeling somewhat reassured about her husband for the first time.
The next two days were filled with tests for JJ and she began to feel a bit depressed. She had a couple of scans then worked with a PT to try and get her arms moving better. And simply the act of sitting up more was tiring her out. Everyone she saw was trying to be encouraging but she couldn’t see anything to be encouraged by and their positivity frustrated her.
Lunchtime on the third day found her feeling nervous. Abby, Will’s nurse, had visited again that morning and suggested she could go visit him in ICU. JJ had agreed so Abby had made various arrangements with her nurse to make it happen and she was due to go in a few minutes.
When it was suggested she was thankful, desperate to see him for herself. Now she was waiting and suddenly those old anxieties had returned. The thought that perhaps everyone had been lying to her and he was dead had wormed its way back in and refused to be moved.
Before she could get too upset the door opened and Wendy, one of her nurses came in followed by two orderlies. “Right then” Wendy spoke in a no nonsense voice. “Shall we do this?”
“Please” JJ said meekly, slightly in awe of the nurse.
Efficiently and silently, the three staff members worked to get her ready to move. Then with one more reminder that should there be a medical emergency in ICU at any time during the visit it would be ended they set off.
After a trip down two floors and then through an endless maze of corridors they were buzzed into the ICU and JJ’s bed was pushed into Will’s room.
They couldn’t get her close enough to touch him but didn’t care just glad to see her husband.
“Will,” she whispered.
He appeared to be asleep but at the sound of her voice his eyes drifted open and he gave her a lazy half grin.
Once again, JJ burst into tears. Abby was standing next to Will and she reached across and handed her a tissue. Later when she looked back, JJ would remember Abby giving Wendy a dirty look at that point and wonder about it but at the time, she only had eyes for her husband.
“Don’t cry.” Will’s voice was weaker than she’d ever heard it and he looked pale lying in the bed. Hearing his accent that had made her go weak at the knees when they first met made her smile despite her tears.
This was better than she had expected, having thought he would be asleep for most of the visit and being warned that was very likely by everyone who had seen him.
“I love you Will.” She told him thrilled to be able to tell him herself again.
“I love you too Cher.” His eyes shut again at that point as though those few words had exhausted him.
JJ assumed that they would take her back to her room at that point but they let her stay and a few minutes later one of the doctors came in the room.
“You’re Mrs LaMontagne?” he asked shaking her hand. JJ usually corrected people that she was his wife but her name was Agent Jareau. Today she didn’t relieved to still be married.
“I’m Dr Simmons, I’m in charge of ICU today and I’ve been taking care of Will whilst he’s been here. I know you’ve been getting updates from your friends and family and that Abby here has been up to see you a few times but I wanted to take the time to speak to you myself.”
“Thank you; I appreciate your care of Will.”
“You’re welcome. He’s still a sick man but he’s progress is promising and I feel confident now that he will survive. Did you have any questions?” he asked.
“He’s going to live?”
“Yes. Barring any unforeseen complications he will.” JJ knew that was the closest any doctor ever came to definite and was pleased.
“A full recovery?” she asked, hardly daring to hope that was possible.
“Yes, I don’t see why not. The surgery to pin his broken bones went well and those are healing. His blood loss is resolving and he had no major internal injuries so it’s all looking very positive after the many scares we had when he first joined us.”
“Thank you.” JJ had been going to continue but the sound of Dr Simmons’ pager interrupted them.
Checking it, he said, “Did you have any further questions? Otherwise I’m sorry but I’m going to have to go see another patient.”
“No, that’s everything for now.”
Dr Jones shook her hand again and left the room at a fast walk.
The simple act of shaking hands twice in a few minutes had made JJ’s arm ache and reminded her of how weak she was. But she was so pleased so have seen Will and spoken to his Dr herself she didn’t mind.
Seeing that JJ was beginning to flag Jessica called the two orderlies back into the room and they began the process of taking her back to her room. As she left Abby promised to stop by and update her on Will in a day or two. And as grateful as she was that Will had such a caring nurse she couldn’t help but wish Abby was her nurse rather than Wendy.
The days that followed passed in a haze of naps, pain meds, medical procedures and intrusive thoughts – almost a typical few days in the hospital if such a thing could be said to exist.
JJ did a lot of physical healing in that time. Her friends could see her getting stronger as time went on but missed the way her mental state was deteriorating.
She still hadn’t learned to be open about her deepest thoughts despite her ability to be so open with victims and their families when working cases. Her mom had never really understood that because she thought they were the same. JJ found it easy to share on cases because there wasn’t a personal element to them – she wanted to do her best but the outcome didn’t have the potential for lifelong consequences to her. There were exceptions of course because you couldn’t do this job without caring – everyone on the team had cases that got to them like that but luckily it varied for each person so they were able to pull together and support their teammates through it. As long as most of them had been on the team, they were now able to predict who might be affected by what cases. However, there was one sort of case that got to all of them – one that involved a member of the team or a family member. And that was where they were with the LaMontagne members having been in an accident and JJ and Will being hospitalised.
“Hi JJ.” Tom, the PT came back into her room carrying a tablet in one hand and a drinks carrier from Starbucks in the other. “I’ve just had a look at your x-rays.” He held out one of the drinks to her but wasn’t quite close enough for her to reach easily making it harder to take than it needed to be. “I wanted to touch base to discuss the plan going forward,”
“Right, OK.” JJ nodded as she finally managed to get a good grip on her drink and took a sip.
“I won’t go into detail now.” He added. His tone was almost teasing.
“Why not?” JJ was confused. She was in the hospital, her time wasn’t exactly precious and she was hardly likely to be unavailable.
“I just thought you might like to have a friend or family member with you so thought I’d give you a heads up. I’ll come back after lunch?”
“No, I want to talk about it now.” JJ was definite, showing some of the authority that had made her an effective media liaison.
The change in her surprised Tom and he began to wonder if he had underestimated her. He backtracked as he continued. “I know some people prefer to have these conversations alone so we can talk about it now if you prefer?”
“It is thank you.” Although she didn’t feel it, JJ sounded more confident than she had since waking from the accident. “If there’s something discuss, tell me now.”
“As you know you suffered three breaks to your left leg, two to your right and crush injuries to that foot. In addition, both your hips sustained significant trauma. You have soft tissue damage because of that. Individually these injuries frequently lead to muscle weakness. However, when they occur all together as in your case the cumulative effect is much more. I believe you can recover to a degree but you’ll be in a wheelchair at least the majority of the time.
There was silence for a full minute before JJ answered in a shaky voice “I, I see.” She wished she had waited for this conversation as he’d suggested.
“I’m not saying you’re never going to walk, it’s very possible that you could eventually come to manage to walk a few steps such as from your bed to the toilet but it’s likely to be both difficult and painful so a wheelchair is definitely in your future.” Tom clarified.
JJ was nodding along giving the impression she was listening but her brain had shut down as soon as the word wheelchair had been mentioned.
Her poor boys. Their dad was in a coma and may not survive. And now they had a cripple for a mother. They were no better than orphans. And the BAU. How could she do her job if she was in a wheelchair?
Tom kept talking seemingly unaware of JJ’s distress or of the tears that ran unchecked down her cheeks.
The conversation (if that’s what it was) was interrupted by the arrival of a nurse to do the two hourly checks. Observing the room, she immediately noticed JJ’s distress and was concerned that Tom seemed to be adding to it. Jess hadn’t been working the day before so hadn’t realised Tom was the PT working with JJ. She would have objected had she known; he was very good with people who needed a no nonsense approach but he struggled to show any compassion to his patients and with everything that had happened to JJ that was what Jess thought she needed.
“Right, Tom, that’s enough.” She said forcefully.
Tom was not happy that she thought she could interfere in his conversation with his patient; she was just a nurse so a lesser part the medical team in his view. He opened his mouth to put her firmly in her place. But she gave him a look and glanced pointedly at JJ. Following her lead, he made a show of noticing JJ’s distress for the first time. His attempt was clearly fake and Jess quickly shut him down and sent him on his way.
“JJ?” she asked her patient once they were alone, reaching out and taking the drink she had spilled over the bed in her distress. “Can I do anything?” JJ didn’t respond and Jessica wasn’t sure she’d heard her or even noticed the icy drink she was covered in.
Reaching out she pressed the buzzer to get further help in the room. When Rebecca came in she quickly explained what she knew of what happened and asked her to do three things. Find out where Tom had got to and what exactly he’d said to JJ, call her next of kin and ask them to come in to comfort her and lastly, get Dr Jones on standby in case their patient remained in this state and needed further assistance.
Jessica hoped Tom hadn’t been as stupid as she feared and this was just a more extreme attack of the emotional lability that plagued JJ but they needed to be sure.
While Rebecca went to complete those tasks, Jessica remained with JJ holding her hand and occasionally offering her fresh tissues. Ten minutes later JJ was tearful but showing signs of falling asleep. Jessica hated it when her patients got upset; she hated it more when they cried themselves to sleep. It was something she saw very often working on the rehab unit but the sleep that followed never seemed as healing or restful.
JJ however was fighting sleep; her eyes kept drifting closed then snapping open again. This process continued for a few minutes until there was knock on the door and JJ was instantly on full alert. Jess was put in mind of PTSD what that happened and made a mental note to check if JJ had been offered the chance to speak with a therapist.
She crossed the room and opened the door. A tall man wearing converse and with a messenger bag slung over one shoulder stood slightly awkwardly on the other side. She recognised him as the friend of JJ’s who had apparently been called to look after her sons right after the accident according to the rumour mill.
“Hi, I’m not sure, we’ve met.” Jess greeted him “I’m Jessica Reilly; I’m JJ’s named nurse.”
“Spencer Reid, I’m a friend of JJ’s and one of her emergency contacts. Her mom asked me to stop after she got a call about JJ’s distress as I could get here quicker than she could. What happened?”
Glancing into the room Spencer could see that JJ looked very anxious and moved around the nurse to go to her side. Bending to give her a rare hug he felt her relax slightly in his arms. They stayed in the hug for a minute and then pulling away Spencer reached and poured a glass of water then held it for her drink.
Jessica watched as her patient smile slightly as her friend whispered something to her. It wasn’t the true smile that she had seen in photos but it was a hint of one. Slipping from the room, she left the two friends to try to make sense of the new world JJ now found herself in.
JJ had soon fallen asleep once Spencer had arrived and made her feel safe. He had texted Sandy and the rest of the team that she was OK and sleeping now before pulling out a book on rehabilitation from leg injuries to read while she rested. He stayed for the rest of the day knowing that even though she couldn’t say it she felt safer with someone there. He had been the same when he was hospitalised after having Anthrax.
Spencer was disturbed by what she told him had been said about her recovery and was more concerned when he finished his latest book on the subject. Everything he had researched seemed to indicate a different prognosis was highly likely in her case – a more positive one. The odds of that then improved further due to JJ’s usual determination and high level of support.
When Jessica returned to see if JJ wanted lunch and found her asleep, Spencer took the opportunity mention that.
“Yes, I don’t know what Tom said to her exactly but there have been concerns recently with other patients about how he breaks such news and the impression he gives. It works for some people but not for most people. I’ve alerted Dr Jones to what’s happened – he’s asked me to let him know when JJ is up to a chat with him and plans to stop by regardless. It is a bit sooner than we like to have these conversations but Tom has forced our hand it seems.”
“Good, thank you.” Spencer was worried still that a member of the medical team had so grossly overstepped the mark but JJ was his priority and any decisions on complaints needed to wait.
Jessica left him with JJ, returning briefly a few minutes later to bring him a coffee. He wasn’t alone with her for long before Sandy arrived accompanied by Rossi who had insisted on driving her when he heard JJ was upset and the hospital was asking for someone to come in.
The three watchers sat in silence as JJ grew restless but remained asleep then began to have what was obviously a nightmare. Sandy stood after a few minutes of that and slipped onto the edge of the bed. It was difficult to manoeuvre around the various tubes and monitors but moving slowly and carefully she was able to get close to her daughter and provide some comfort.
It reminded Sandy of when JJ would have a nightmare as a child and would tried to hide it. She had always wanted to comfort her and it hurt when JJ had withdrawn, particularly after Roz’s death. Today Sandy was particularly grateful for the nurse who had noticed how upset her daughter was and called for someone to comfort her. She was grateful to have witnessed the nightmare. JJ couldn’t lie and pretend the hell that was the accident and the aftermath wasn’t causing her distress and nightmares with so many witnesses. It wasn’t something she would wish on anyone but Sandy had a strange feeling the events of the day would help in future.
Having been trying to ensure Sandy had someone to lean on during this crisis meant Rossi really had to know her. He could see where JJ got her compassionate yet tenacious streak and was intrigued by the elder Jareau. He had to keep reminding himself that with her family in crisis now was not the time to develop romantic feelings for her, let alone act on them.
JJ napped on and off throughout the day but was tearful when she was awake. Later as the day gave way to twilight, Dr Jones came in. He seemed to be trying to give off a positive air but as profilers Dave and Spencer could see that it was somewhat forced.
JJ was awake when he came in picking at the dinner she had just been given. Sandy tried to encourage her to eat more and Rossi argued that it was best avoided as it was inedible even for hospital food but if she told him what she’d like instead he’d get her some takeout because she really did need to eat something. She said little in response to this but smiled a little at the fussing.
That smile vanished when Dr Jones came in and she looked apprehensive. She pushed her barely touched dinner tray away with a hand that was suddenly shaking.
“Good evening.” Dr Jones greeted them “I understand Tom came to see you earlier. I’m sorry about that; it wasn’t his place to speak with you. Now he has I’ll tell you that the reason for the delay in my speaking with you is because I thought it best to give you a few more days and see how you heal. That’s standard protocol but it’s one Tom disagrees with. However that doesn’t make what he did acceptable so I can only apologise and assure you he won’t be involved in your treatment any further.”
Sandy seemed to be struggling for words following that apology and JJ didn’t answer either just looked more anxious so when Dr Jones seemed to expect a response Rossi appointed himself spokesman.
“Thank you, I think we’re all concerned this doesn’t happen again. But tell us, what’s your view on JJ’s prognosis? Now the topic has been raised I think it needs to be addressed immediately regardless of existing plans or protocols.”
“Of course, of course.” Turning to his patient the Dr grabbed the only empty chair in the room and sat. “Did you want everyone to stay JJ? It might be good to have someone with you but who that is or even if you do is completely up to you.”
JJ shrugged. She couldn’t have Will with her so what did it matter who was there instead? “I don’t mind.” She was past caring at that point and just wanted to know what he had to say.
“Long story short, JJ. We think you may well be able to walk at some point in the future. You’ll probably need a cane or crutches for stability but we don’t see anything that will stop that. The next few months will see you in a wheelchair and going forward you might still need one sometimes. But it’s potentially much more positive than Tom would have you believe.”
Sandy asked a couple of questions but JJ didn’t hear them or Dr Jones answers, simply focussing on the little bit of unexpected hope she’d been given.
JJ didn’t want to see a therapist. She had spent many hours talking with the bureau therapist over the last few years. At first reluctant she had come to find it very helpful. Will had been able to learn skills from them to help her in her dark moments too. But she wasn’t sure how a therapist could help with the way she felt about the accident. Therapy was about taking control and giving skills to cope. There was no way of taking control of your body when it was betraying you and it wasn’t something she could cope with.
If she had been feeling rational she would have recognised that a big part of her concern was meeting a new therapist. She had spoken with two different therapists who worked for the bureau before finding one that was a good fit for her and able to help. Starting from scratch added to her anxiety, particularly as so few people understood her job and why she did it.
The arrival of Victor Evans took her by surprised. For one thing he was in a wheelchair. She had been expecting an able-bodied person who knew just what she was going through so Victor with his spiky hair, leather jacket and sleek wheelchair through her slightly.
He rolled through the door quickly with a skill she envied “Hi, JJ? I’m Victor.”
“Hi.” she was still nervous but managed a smile.
“So, I hear that you don’t really want to see me.” he commented off hand. “And that’s cool, you don’t know me. I might be rubbish at this. Can I just hang out for a few minutes and tell you a bit about me? If you want me to go away and never bother you again after that I will.”
“I’m Victor. I’ve been a therapist for about ten years, to start with in a corporate setting. I used to love to ride my motorbike and I guess you could say I took risks. My mother was always telling me I’d kill myself with it. She was half right, I didn’t kill myself but about five years ago I wrecked and ended up with a spinal cord injury.”
“Yeah. It sucked. I had all these plans for my future, things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go. I had plane tickets to fly to Europe with my fiancee and go on the trip of a lifetime but four days before I was due to fly I had my accident. I was devastated.”
“But you’re going to tell me that it all worked out in the end and your life is fantastic now you’re in the wheelchair” she asked him, sounding bitter.
“No?” JJ was taken aback by that, everyone around her was so determined that everything would be fine. His honesty was refreshing.
“No, it’s not perfect and it’s not amazing. But life is never perfect and it’s not always amazing. I’ve adjusted and adapted. And yes I like the life I have now.”
“So you think I should just get over what’s happened to me and get over it?”
“You’re putting words in my mouth. Is that what everyone’s been saying to you?”
She shrugged and pushed her hair out of her face.
Victor sat in silence watching her for several minutes until she started talking again.
“They just keep saying it’s going to be OK. But it’s not going to be. How can it? I might never walk again. If I do I’m going to need crutches and still a wheelchair some of the time probably.”
“Yeah. How does that make you feel?”
“Angry, what do you think? Some truck driver doesn’t check his brakes are working properly and my life is changed forever. My kids lives are changed forever. If I use a wheelchair who I am changes. I can’t do my job like that. I can’t live my life like that. I can’t be a mom like that.” JJ ranted bursting into sobs.
Victor let her cry.
“I wish…” she trailed off and took several deep breaths.
“You wish what?” he prompted when she didn’t continue.
“I wish, sometimes, I wish I’d died in the accident. It would be better that way. This isn’t fair and it’s too hard.”
Hearing her say that didn’t surprise Victor, it was a common feeling after an accident, but it did concern him.
“it’s early days JJ. I could sit here and tell you it’ll get easier and you won’t always feel like that.”
She looked at him “You could? Seems like you just did.” she mocked.
“It’s true that a lot of people where you are find that. I did. But almost everyone feels like you do now to start with. It’s not good feeling like this. But it’s good to talk about it. I want to keep talking and in the meantime if you start feeling like its getting too much, talk to someone. A friend or family member perhaps? Or ask the nurses to call me.”
“Can’t what, talk to your family? I heard you’re close with them and with friends too. From what I saw when I came in they want to support you.”
“So they say but I can’t. Can’t burden them.”
“So promise you’ll talk to me then. I’m a therapist, it’s not a burden to me. It’s what I do.”
“I think that maybe is the best I’m going to get from you right now isn’t it? Will you at least think about talking to your loved ones about how you feel. Talking to them might be useful for them as well as you, you know.”
That was an interesting idea. And she knew her bureau therapist would insist she needed to talk things out “I guess I could think about it.”
“OK, that’s great. Thank you JJ. I’ll come see you again tomorrow.” Victor wheeled from the room leaving her to think.
Five days after moving to a regular hospital room JJ was sat in a wheelchair flipping channels on the TV with the door propped open so she could see what was happening on the unit outside. A large bouquet of flowers entered the room. It was so large she couldn’t see the face of the person carrying them but knew from the clothes and the walk that it had to be Rossi.
“For you Bella.” He said presenting her them with a flourish. JJ breathed in their wonderful fragrance and reached over shakily to place them on the windowsill next to her. Rossi subtly reached and pushed them further on when she ran out of strength.
“Oh they’re beautiful, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Are you feeling any better?”
If JJ had learned anything after her meltdown yesterday, it was that she needed to be honest. “I feel terrible but better then when I first woke up in ICU.”
“I’m not sure if this is the right thing to say but I’m glad to hear that. Part of it at least.”
JJ gave a weak grin in response. She knew just what he meant. Life in the hospital was all about appreciating the small good things mixed in amongst the massively bad.
Rossi continued before she could say anything in response. “Are you feeling up to a trip? It’s a lovely day and your nurse said I could take you out for some fresh air. They have a nice garden on the roof.” He added.
“I guess.” She said.
Rossi reached out, took the handles of the wheelchair, and steered her out the door.
A few minutes later JJ sat at a table in the garden looking out over the city. Rossi had left her there to head to the coffee cart and get them drinks. Returning with coffee for him and a hot chocolate for her as he’d been warned she couldn’t have caffeine he sat sideways straddling the bench and looking at her.
It was the first time JJ could remember being outside since the accident two weeks before. They sat and sipped their drinks in silent companionship.
Rossi had had the misfortune to see a lot of people recovering from injuries. First whilst in the marines and then later once he joined the FBI. There seemed to always come a point when recovering for a serious injury that the person became institutionalised. They would feel as though they would never get home.
It varied from person to person but from what Sandy had said when he called her that morning to find out how JJ and Will were and if any of the family needed anything, he had the impression that it was beginning to happen to JJ. So he had hatched the plan with her nurse to get her out of her room and a hint of everyday life again.
Hot chocolate on the roof of the hospital garden was nice and he knew it was doing JJ good. It wasn’t as healing as a good scotch in welcoming bar could be but it was a place to start and he’d get her and Will to the bar once they were home.
JJ sipped at her hot chocolate and felt the breeze ruffle her hair. It was a simple feeling, something she probably experienced several time a day and usually ignored but it was something she had come so close to never having again.
She couldn’t say much for fear of bursting into tears yet again. It didn’t matter though; she thought Rossi probably knew how grateful she was for everything he was doing for her and her family. That was the wonder of her BAU family. With most of them being profilers and how closely they worked together in high risk situations they had gotten good at guessing what the others were thinking without them saying it.
After an hour of hot chocolate, a glimpse of life beyond the hospital walls and idle chit chat with her friend JJ was exhausted but in much better spirits. She reluctantly allowed Rossi to wheel her back to her room for a much needed nap before her PT session that afternoon.
After more than two weeks in hospital, JJ knew that running feet coming down the corridor outside her room was usually a bad sign suggesting some medical emergency elsewhere. It was something she didn’t like to hear but the cheerful note in her nurse’s voice as she greeted someone and the childish laughter in return suggested this was something good.
A quiet, hesitant knock sounded at her door but it opened with a bang before she could call out. Her sons spilled into the room. Michael came in at the run he did everything at and Henry entered in a slower manner, seeming more reserved than usual.
“Hey guys!” JJ greeted them with a smile she didn’t have to force reaching for the bed controls and using them to sit up more so she could see them better. Her injuries were still preventing her from being as upright as she would like but there was an improvement on the week before.
Henry said a quiet “Hi” brushing his hair out of his face.
“Mommy!” Michael all but yelled and his Grandma who had followed him into the room tried to calm him
“Inside voice, Michael, remember? There are sick people here who need rest so we need to be quiet.”
He nodded wildly in reply then whisper shouted “I ‘member, grandma.”
“Good boy” told him “Can you come over here and give me a kiss?”
He ran to the bed and lifting him up Sandy held him so he could kiss his mother. JJ wasn’t yet strong enough to have him on the bed with her, particularly when he was in such a wriggly mood. Sandy then settled in a chair pulling it closer as she did so and sitting Michael on her lap.
Henry watched this without a word, which worried both women.
“Henry? How are you doing bud?” JJ asked her son.
“Fine. I guess.” Henry shrugged and JJ wasn’t convinced.
There was a moment of silence then JJ continued thinking it better not to push him for a better answer. “I missed you guys! Did I hear you went swimming at Uncle Dave’s house?”
Mikey bounced as he answered “Yeah! Mikey swim!”
Henry continued for his brother “We did. Uncle Dave and Uncle Spence both came with us. Then we watched a movie afterwards. Uncle Dave has a massive TV.” A look from Sandy had gotten Henry talking a bit more. He got more animated as he spoke but was still far from his usual self.
JJ reached for her water glass and took a sip. Her mom refilled it for her from the jug when she was done. Listening to Henry talk, she sighed to herself. It was beginning to look as though describing Henry as unhurt in the accident was far from accurate. Uninjured perhaps but not unhurt. “What was the film?” she asked hoping to keep him talking.
“Shrek. I liked it.”
Michael grinned and determined to have his say added, “Shrek is funny.”
JJ was beginning to tire, still exhausted due to her injuries and all the medications she was taking. She tried to hide it but Sandy noticed even if the boys didn’t. Seeing that Sandy broke in knowing they would have to leave soon and not wanting the boys to be disappointed.
“We did some art for Mommy this morning didn’t we? Do you want to show her your pictures?” Reaching in to her overflowing purse Sandy pulled out a large nonfiction book. It was one of Will’s and JJ was surprised to see her mother had it. It didn’t seem a topic she would be interested in. Opening the book, she took out two drawings that were in there keeping flat.
Henry reached over and took them, passing one to his brother. He then came closer to the bed and showed the other to JJ. “I drew this for you.” He said and JJ took it. It was a scene at a park and there was a brown dog one side. Henry had been asking for a puppy ever since his friend James had got one. She was glad to see he hadn’t lost sight of that desire and wondered whether they should actually get one now. It might be a good way of helping him. “It’s great! I love the dog.” She told him.
Michael then handed his over clumsily. It was a mess of scribbles in several different colours. She wasn’t sure what it was meant to be but there were the beginnings of several shapes in there. Triangles appeared a particular favourite... JJ made a show of admiring it before thanking him.
Taking both pictures back, Sandy said “Let’s find a spot to put these up and then I think we better go find some lunch and let Mommy take a nap.” After looking around the room and some discussion, they decided to prop the pictures up on the windowsill next to the flowers Rossi had brought her the day before.
Then the three of them kissed JJ and said their goodbyes leaving her to admire the artwork. And have yet another nap. She was getting fed up of doing nothing and then having to sleep for several hours to recover from it.
PT the next day went better than it had for a few days. Her new PT, Alicia and her had clicked straight away and JJ had a feeling they could have been friends had they met under other circumstances.
She was able to balance sat on the edge of the bed with no support. And she managed more reps with the weights than before. It felt good to see her strength returning even if it was slow. Alicia made it seem like she meant it when she was encouraging too.
When the afternoon came and she returned for another session they started working on her legs.
After the usual stretches done by Alicia and her assistant they had her roll onto her side then helped her into a sitting position on the side of the bed. She could have used the bed controls to sit up but they were trying to help her learn the techniques she’d need at home. And unless she get a hospital bed there wouldn’t be bed controls to help.
Once she was sitting she took a few moments to catch her breath and get her equilibrium. Next came her big moment. With a walker in front of her and a PT stood on either side JJ very shakily and very slower placed her feet on the floor and pushed herself into a standing position.
It hurt. More than she’d expected despite the warnings that it’d be uncomfortable. And it felt strange in a way she couldn’t explain.
She managed perhaps 30 seconds standing heavily supported before they eased her back into sitting. But it was an achievement.
There were many more PT sessions, therapy sessions and other procedures and tests in the weeks that followed. And many more milestones and even setbacks on her road back home following the accident. But when she looked back that was the moment when it all changed and she began to make real progress.
Finally after seven weeks in hospital JJ was going home. Originally the plan had been that she would go home two days before but at the last minute her Dr had decided she wasn’t ready. He had promised that she was definitely going home today but she had a feeling she might not be. She wasn’t sure she was ready. But at the same time she didn't think she would be more ready anytime soon. And she was looking forward to seeing more of her boys. They needed their mom back.
As she lay in bed slowly waking up JJ looked back on everything that had happened since she woke up. It felt like it had been much longer than seven weeks. It had been very hard and at times she had entertained thoughts of suicide, something she had always sworn she never would after her sister’s suicide had devastated their family when she was 11. The idea of life in a wheelchair had been more than she could face. But, as time went on she had begun to learn that it would be possible to live a life on wheels. And although she was sure it wasn’t going to be easy it as something she could do. She was just grateful that her mom had realised what she was thinking on the day she had planned to take action and stopped her.
A knock on her door heralded the arrival of Will and she grinned at him “I’m coming home today!” She greeted.
He grinned back as he leaned down to kiss her hello.
“Yes you are! I left two very excited boys at home with Grandma, i hope you’re prepared.”
The three weeks he had been at home had seen Will recover quickly. If not for the small shaved patch above one of his ears it was hard to tell that he’d been injured let alone had major brain surgery and come so close to dying. The marks were there but they were more mental and only obvious to those who knew him well.
“Yes, I’m looking forward to us being home together again. We’ve got a way to go but I think I’m ready.” She used the bed controls to help her sit up as she spoke and then pulling the blankets off, slowly shifted to get out of bed. It was an awkward process but it was much smoother the more she did it and so much less painful than the first few times. She had been worried then that she would end up spending her life in a haze of painkillers at that point. There were still times when the pain overwhelmed her but they were controlled by increasingly smaller doses of painkillers and getting further apart too.
Will had to restrain himself from stepping in to help her into the wheelchair. It was difficult to watch her do it herself when he knew he could make it easier for her. But something the therapists had impressed on them both was how she had to learn to do as much for herself as possible. It had meant him learning to wait to be asked for help and more than a few painful moments of watching her fall or otherwise struggle before she would ask for help. He had tried to keep reminding himself that her self sufficient streak was one of the things that had originally attracted him to her. It hadn’t made it any easier.
“How was Henry this morning?” JJ asked as she swung the footplates into place and pulled her feet on to them.
“Still a little quiet when he first woke up but then once hurricane Mikey was up and tearing round the house shouting about mommy coming home today, he started to get excited too. I think he’ll get better once he sees you home.”
“That’s what I was thinking. But we might have to think about getting him some help if not.”
“They’ve both got check ups next week, That would probably be a good time to make a decision.”
“Yup. Let me just...”
“Ok, I’ll start packing you up.”
With the familiarity of a couple who had long been together they spoke in half finished sentences. As JJ ducked into the small en suite bathroom and did what needed doing. Will looked at the room. There wasn’t much room so they had tried to keep bringing things back and forward between hospital and home as JJ had needed them. But it had been her room for over five of the seven weeks she had been in hospital and so had ended up with a lot of stuff in it despite their best efforts.
Knowing she would want to do as much as she could herself Will started by reaching down the drawings that decorated the walls. Mikey had insisted on doing a drawing for her each time he visited and his Dad could see an improvement over the weeks, he had even begun to wonder if his youngest son would go on to grow up and do something using his art. as he obviously enjoyed it so much. But that was a long time in the future and Will had more important things to worry about right now. Like getting his wife home from the hospital.
The morning passed in a mixture of frantic activity interspersed with several periods of hurry up and wait. But soon he was leaving her in the room while he made a couple of trips down to the car with her bags. Rossi was coming to pick them up as Will had been advised not to drive for a few more weeks due to his head injury. The first trip down he met Rossi who had just arrived. The second he made solo as Rossi insisted on keeping JJ company.
Will had known from the minute he met JJ in the middle of a crime scene that the BAU team was tight. It was something that had been demonstrated time and time again in the years since. But he had never anticipated the role Rossi had come to play in their lives since the accident. He had become something of a father figure to JJ and psuedograndfather to their sons. They still called him Uncle Dave but it was definitely more than an uncle role now.
Will wasn’t sure his family would have made it through the last weeks intact if not for Rossi. And although he hadn’t said anything to JJ he was even beginning to wonder if romance was blossoming between Sandy and Dave. There were moments when it seemed very likely and others when it didn’t.
Soon they were on their way out of the hospital for what should be the final time. JJ looked nervous as he walked on one side of her and Rossi on the other. She was being pushed by a nurse as was hospital policy but was in her own wheelchair. To start with she had been devastated by the idea that she needed her own wheelchair but now he thought the word resigned was more appropriate. Neither of them were quite sure what life would be like now but Will was just beyond grateful they had both survived. He still wasn’t sure if JJ knew just how close she had come to dying in the accident.
Rossi surveyed the married couple next to him as they walked out of the hospital. Having hosted their wedding he liked to think that he was important to them. He didn’t like to admit that they were important to him,. When Spencer had called him to say that they’d been in an accident he had been more worried than he would have expected. One of the first things he had done was call his friend Father Jimmy and ask for prayers. He had never been convinced they worked but it was one of those situations where they needed all the help they could get.
Soon they were in the car making the journey home. It passed in a flash and in the future JJ could never remember anything about it, just glad to be going home
But soon they were home and she transferred from the car to the wheelchair to go into the house. They were able to park close enough that she could have walked it but Dr Jones had advised that she use the wheelchair that day just to help make the transition from home to hospital as safe as possible. He had told her of another patient who had ended up in the ER the day they were discharged and she didn’t want to risk that. She needed to see her boys too much and didn’t have the time.
Opening the front door Will set her bag down and came back to help her up the ramp. Morgan had helped build that she’d been told. Once inside there was a shout and she looked over to see Mikey wriggling in Emily’s arms. “Hey Mikey!” She nodded at her friend and as soon as Michael was set down he came tearing over to see her then tried to climb into her lap. It wasn’t as easy with her in the wheelchair as when she was sat in a normal chair so Will grabbed him and helped. Kissing his forehead he snuggled him close and this was one of the best things about being home at last.
Henry wandered into the room at that point and said “Mom, you’re home!” Before coming over for a hug. Shifting her grip on Michael she wrapped an arm around him. Leaving Will stood next to her and the boys Emily and Dave left the room. This was family time.
Going into the kitchen Dave started to make drinks for them all. He had come to feel very at home in the LaMontagne house since the accident and it showed in the way he found everything he needed with no hesitation. Reaching into the cupboard above the sink Emily found the plate of cookies Penelope had brought over earlier that morning. They were a welcome home present for JJ and had been hidden up there to prevent cookie fiend Henry sneaking one or five before she had a chance.
Looking at the brightly decorated cookies that looked like flowers Dave commented “I see Penelope has been here today?”
Sarcastically Emily replied “What gave that away? They’re supposed to be a welcome home present for JJ but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt if we each had one while we wait.”
Picking up his coffee, Dave snagged one from the plate and sat next to her at the table. “I doubt JJ will even notice, she’s so pleased to be home.”
The two friends enjoyed their drink and snack in silence for a few minutes before Will wandered in to see where they’d got to. Reaching into the fridge he pulled out cold drinks for his family before spotting the cookies and asking “Penelope?”
Before either of them had a chance to reply JJ and the boys came in and the welcome home reunion continued in the kitchen. The cookies were delicious but as always the boys ended up a little bit messy.
Grabbing a damp cloth JJ wiped Michael’s hands and face to get rid of the frosting he was covered in. As she did so she choked up thinking of how close she’d come to not being able to do something so simple. It was one of many tasks that made up being a Mom that previously she hadn’t paid much attention to, just done on autopilot. It wasn’t easy because Michael hated having his face washed and tried to get away from her but she got the job done. There were going to be tasks that were harder now because of her injuries but really that was no different to before.
Once they had finished their snack Emily and Rossi took their leave with hugs all round. The family remained in the kitchen a few minutes longer, there was almost an air of “what now”. For so many weeks they had been fighting to get home and now they were JJ was almost unsure what she should do next. But eventually the boys went off to play, Will went into the hall to move her bags from where they’d been dumped and she took the time to look round her house properly.
Morgan had done a good job on the changes it seemed. They were function and practical yet discreet. And somehow, most of the managed to fit with the decor. She had been really worried that it would have a very medical feel, she didn’t want to live in a hospital environment and had been desperate to avoid that for her home too. The extra rail by the back door to help her up and down the step was obvious but it was wood and stained to match the trim in the rest of the kitchen. One of the lower cupboards had been removed to make it easier to roll her wheelchair under the work surface on the days she needed it. But it wasn’t the gapping hole she had expected, the wall underneath had been painted in such a way that it looked like it had been built that way when they did the kitchen.
Moving into the lounge she saw how the furniture had been rearranged to give her room to get round and several of the chairs had been raised to make it easier for her to get up and down if she was walking,. The bathroom was where the most changes had been made and with the multiple grab bars and shower seat it did have a slightly medical feel. But at the same time the brightly coloured shower curtain and box of bath toys made it hers in a way that made it easy to ignore the medical.
Making it into the bedroom she saw Will opening her bags and pulling out the dirty laundry. She wheeled over to the bed “Could you put the bags here?” She asked gesturing to the bed. “Then I can unpack.” Will did as she asked then perched on the edge watching her silently. She moved around the room placing things in drawers and putting her book on the bedside table in the hope she’d have enough energy to read a few pages in bed that night.
That done she had to lie down and sleep for an hour. Will brought the boys in to see her first and Michael decided to lie down with mommy. She enjoyed feeling him in her arms as she drifted off to sleep, glad to be home at last.
After a week at home JJ was getting ready to visit the BAU. She had seen all of her teammates at some point during her hospital stay but this would be the first time they’d all been together since the last case she worked.
Putting the finishing touches to her makeup she then reached for her hairbrush and started putting it up. She had spent a long time choosing her outfit and had been torn between wearing the sort of clothes she had been since being injured – soft fabrics with a loose cut that were easy to get on and off - and her usual business attire she wore for work. In the end she had settled for one of the new pairs of pants her mom had bought her with her favourite blazer and shirt combo. It made her feel a bit more like her.
Will had offered to go with her but this felt like something she needed to do by herself. However she was still unable to drive so Rossi was on his way to pick her up.
Leaving the bedroom she walked slowly into the lounge and took a seat. Thankful that the boys were already at school and daycare and Will wasn’t back from dropping them off. It was the first time she had been properly alone since coming home and it was nice to get the chance to breathe.
A knock at the door heralded Rossi’s arrival and he made quick work of getting her wheelchair into the trunk while she got into the front seat. Neither of them said much on the journey once the standard pleasantries had been exchanged.
She had hoped to make her return to the BAU a low key affair but of course Penelope was there waiting with a celebration planned. As she and Rossi made their way through the glass doors into the unit they were immediately surrounded by several of the team and Penelope wrapped her arms around her in a massive hug. That hug was followed by ones that were just as heartfelt if not as exuberant from Emily and Spencer and then from Tara and Luke when they joined them a few minutes later. A few others who worked on their floor wandered over to say hello and welcome her back too.
“What, none of you are excited to see me?!” Rossi joked from where he stood watching as he saw JJ beginning to get uncomfortable with the attention.
“Of course, but you were here yesterday!” Penelope said as she wrapped him in a hug too.
Squeezing her back he pulled away then said “I think I’ll get some coffee. You want some JJ? What about the rest of you?”
That was the cue for the reunion to break up and very much in unit chief mode Prentiss said “Right, BAU team. Round table room in an hour to see where we’ve got to with this case.” Heading back to her office she added over her shoulder “JJ, I’m just going to grab that paperwork you needed and then we can go through it.”
Moving over to her desk to wait she had to move her chair out of the way so she could get there in her wheelchair. Looking at it she wasn’t sure where to put the now redundant chair.
Rossi returned at that point with her coffee and passing it over said “Let me…” before moving it to an out of the way corner.
She sat cradling her coffee cup in her hands looking at all the items on her desk. Photos of her boys, her nameplate and favourite pens and all the little things that made it her home from home when she was working
She had changed and she didn’t know if she’d ever be able to work there again. . And for once there wasn’t a large pile of files waiting for her attention. She wondered what had happened to that pile. It was a constant in her job and perhaps one of the biggest yet unexpected signs of the changes she’d faced.
Prentiss returned, put the pile of paperwork on the desk between them then looked around for a chair. JJ had to stifle the urge to laugh when she went immediately to the corner and retrieved the chair Dave had moved there not five minutes before.
“I’m sorry, we can’t meet somewhere more private JJ. I tried to reserve one of the conference rooms on this floor but they are all booked. I’m told there’s been a long standing request for the mezzanine level in here to be made accessible and this is being considered more urgently now.”
“I’m not sure we really need privacy.” JJ didn’t comment on the access question. One of the first things she’d learned about being in a wheelchair was how your private medical details suddenly become public property with complete strangers feeling they can ask. She hated it but she was too tired to argue. The second was how much harder it was to find wheelchair access than she’d realised before she needed it.
This made Emily uncomfortable but she hid that. “Right well, you have several options of places you can transfer, you can take retirement or remain on leave a while longer and then return to the BAU in a slightly different role, one with less travel.”
“One with less travel?” that surprised JJ. “I thought HR were trying to claim I couldn’t travel with the team at all now because this” gesturing to the wheelchair “makes me a liability.”
“They were. But then the deputy director got involved and he said they were to find a way to let you do as much of your job as you were able because he didn’t want to lose someone of your skill”
JJ blushed to hear that and had to take a moment to swallow sudden tears. She hadn’t realised her recent work had attracted such attention.
“All the details of the various offers are listed here. HR have asked me to have you make your decision by Friday. But you know what? If you need it, take the weekend. I don’t want you to rush this.”
Emily was frustrated by the way HR had handled JJ’s situation and hadn’t told her of the arguments she’d had with them to prevent them foring her friend to retire. She wanted to be sure that JJ got what she needed and was able to do what she wanted. If more time meant the right decision she would ensure she got it.
“Will and I have been talking about what we thought the options were going to be.” JJ told her friend/boss. “I need to read all of this but I can let you know by Friday.”
Emily’s phone buzzed at that point and she had to take a call. Waving at JJ she returned to her office.
JJ took a sip of her coffee and started going through the paperwork.
There were offers from White Collar and also Crimes Against Children. She read them and although she knew she could do good work there put them to one side.
The offer to return to her liaison roots and teach classes on dealing with the media was unexpected. It was something she might like to do occasionally but she’d never seen herself as a full time educator.
Ignoring the details of her potential new BAU role, JJ opened the packet containing her retirement offer. It was fair, very generous in fact. But as she’d recovered she’d begun to realise that a return to the bureau may well be possible. And she didn’t want to walk away without at least trying to return to the job she loved.
Reading through the details of the proposed changes to her BAU role she was pleased to note that it was basically the role she’d done since rejoining the team as a profiler but mostly based out of Quantico. She would also take over drafting press releases and other statements for her team again rather than having the local office or the media department do so.
There were clauses in there to allow her to travel if needed but it was expressly stated that due to concerns about her safety she was never to go on raids or visit crime scenes.
At that point she was pulled from contemplating her options by her phone. A text from Will letting her know he was five minutes away. Packing the papers up to take home she wasn’t sure how she could carry them and wheel her chair. If she asked someone would help her but she didn’t want to ask. There had to be a way of carrying them and leaving her hand free. She really needed a bigger purse that could fit them in but had had to leave her briefcase at home as it hadn’t been practical.
Glancing around the room as she thought she caught sight of the messenger bag on the floor underneath Reid’s desk. That’s what she needed. Something with a long strap that she could carry hands free if she was walking or hang off the back of the wheelchair when using that.
Opening the file once more she pulled the papers back out. Separating those she definitely wasn’t interested in she placed those back in the file and put in a drawer. That left the retirement package and the BAU offer – the only two she had ever been going to consider.
They still wouldn’t quite fit in her purse but she was able to fold them and then force them in. She couldn’t quite zip it so she’d need to keep her fingers crossed that her new found clumsiness stayed away until she was home. But it was a much more sensible (and comfortable) solution than sticking them behind her back in the wheelchair.
Heading out of the BAU she thought she could escape attention but as she approached the glass doors and started trying to open them Anderson jumped up and ran over saying “JJ! No need to struggle, I can help.”
“Thanks.” She smiled at him.
“You’re welcome, are you heading out? Did you want me to help you?”
“No, I’m fine thanks.”
“Sure? I don’t mind, no need to make things difficult for yourself.”
“No really it’s fine.” JJ was glad when he seemed to accept that answer and she could escape into the elevator.
Will was waiting for her in the foyer and bent to kiss her with the grin that she had fallen in love with. “Had a productive morning?” he asked.
“Yes”. They arrived at their car at that point, her new handicapped placard meaning it was right outside the door.
Once they well leaving the Quantico campus Will said “Well?”
JJ spent the rest of the ride home talking about the options she had been given. She mentioned all those them but it was the pros and cons and going back to the BAU or retiring she gave most time to.
As they pulled into their drive she asked “So, what do you think I should do?” Her job had been a source of conflict for the first few years of their relationship and she wanted to avoid that happening again.
“I think you should do what you want.”
JJ huffed at him “that’s really helpful.”
“You know what you want to do. One of those is right for you, the other isn’t.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying the FBI – and the BAU – are in your blood Jennifer Jareau. Disabled or not, you’re a profiler and you’re damned good at it.”
“I am, aren’t I?”
Putting the car in park Will reached over and took the papers from her. Finding the retirement papers he ripped them up. Then kissed his wife and said “Call Emily. Tell her that the BAU will be back up to full strength when the doctors clear you.”
Grabbing his hand she squeezed it and then pulled out her cell phone to do just that.