JJ hates when Emily bites her nails. It makes her cringe, when Emily gnaws on her fingers like a dog with a bone. She doesn't even seem to notice she's doing it, until it hurts a little too much. Then, Emily flinches, looks at her hand like she's surprised to find it in her mouth, shakes it and goes back to her work. Moments later, her nails find her way back into her mouth.
It's worse when she's stressed. JJ first noticed it when Spence was with Hankel. Emily, who barely knew any of them, bit her nails down to stubs. Then she kept going, chewing the skin around her fingers. She pulled with her teeth, until she tore too far, and they bled. They got Spence back, eventually. Thank god. But Emily's nails didn't get better for weeks. They fingers bled for days after they found him, so much so that she ended up with plasters covering them. They bled through the plasters, too. Worry over Spence's worsening mental state, which they could all see, but no one could stop, didn't help matters and JJ noticed that every time Spencer snapped at her, in the conference room, on the jet, in the precinct, Emily's nails went straight to her lips, and she quieted.
When JJ got to know her a little better, she turned up one day, dropped the little purple pot on Emily's desk and raised her eyebrows.
"What's this?" The brunette smiled from the pot to JJ, picking it up. Her nails were blunt, JJ noticed, but not bleeding. That was a good sign.
"It's this gross stuff my mom used to put on my finger nails when I was a kid. It's supposed to stop you biting them." She looked at Emily pointedly, but Emily knew better than to be offended. She just rolled her dark eyes, set the pot down on her desk.
"Fine, I'll try it." She said. For the time being, JJ was satisfied.
For a few cases, JJ kept an eye on Emily's nails. She seemed to be doing OK, and the blonde was both satisfied and impressed. And a little relieved, because she couldn't stand to see Emily hurt herself. She might not be a profiler, but it didn't take one to know that if her response to stress was to take it out on herself, there was something deeper going on there. So, seeing her cope, at least, without it? That made JJ feel good.
Then Penelope got shot.
JJ noticed as soon as Emily and Rossi arrived at the hospital. Emily's fingers were still damp where she had been chewing on them and JJ saw her inconspicuously wipe her hand on her jeans. She didn't comment. It wasn't the time and who was she to tell Emily how to cope with her stress, anyway?
They waited for hours. Hotch paced. Rossi made several coffee runs. Emily chewed her nails. JJ...JJ just stared at the floor. They'd been there a few hours when JJ felt the presence beside her.
Emily's firm grip on her wrist was like a lifeline and, turning her hand over, JJ gripped the older woman's hand tightly. That night, she committed everything about Emily's hand to her memory. The veins beneath her skin, the bones, tensons taught with tension beneath the surface. And her nails. Nails that were uneven, shredded. Skin that was broken, raw. Her comfort. And instead of chewing her nails, quelling her own anxieties, she was sitting here holding JJ's hand, because JJ needed her comfort more right now. In her chest, JJ felt something tug. Maybe she didn't mind the bitten nails so much, after all.
JJ squeezed her hand, and Emily looked at her. There was a thank you, in that little gesture, but Emily didn't need it. She just held on.