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So this story came from one of my drabbles that took on a life of its own. Two of the other amazing CM writers, Evergreen and Jezebel, liked this one too so...here you go ladies. Hope you enjoy!

It was quiet on the plane ride out to Oakland—everyone reviewing their respective files. The case the BAU had just accepted dealt with child abductions and time was of the essence. They knew that statistically their chances for successfully recovering the children alive dropped with each passing hour. Hotch had wasted no time in dealing out assignments so they could hit the ground running. Rossi and Prentiss would work victimology, Reid would work on a geographic profile, Morgan would start profiling registered sex offenders in the area, Hotch and JJ would interview family members, and Garcia would continue doing electronic research to see if the victims overlapped. All they knew so far was that they had two missing boys; one four and the other five years old. Police said their mother’s had gone to sleep and woken to find the boys gone and windows broken in each of the kid’s bedrooms. The plane landed and everyone grabbed their bags. As they cut across the tarmac, Rossi came up alongside Hotch.

“You sure you want to conduct the family interviews?” he asked. Rossi knew the toll it took on Hotch and JJ when a case involved kids. It was hard on all of them but particularly difficult on the parents of the BAU team. Hotch nodded.

“Objectivity is going to be difficult on this one. I’d rather have the least biased eyes on the crime scene and suspect profiling. JJ and I are most likely to connect with victims; I’d rather use that fact to our advantage than resist it.”

The team split up and JJ and Hotch drove to the police station. JJ made a call to let the police know they were on their way and to have the mothers of the victims in interview rooms waiting.

“Police said they’ll have Linda Thompson and Cindy Booth waiting for us when we arrive,” she said.

“Good. We need to establish timelines, people they came in contact with, and the boy’s schedules for the last seventy two hours,” Hotch said. “There has to be a reason these two families were targeted but there’s no way of telling if it’s because of the boys or the parents.” She took a deep breath.

“I understand.”

JJ was assigned to Cindy Booth, Devon’s mother. She came into the interview room and found the woman with her head down on the table.

“Ms. Booth? I’m Jennifer Jureau from the FBI. Can I ask you some questions?” The woman lifted her head and looked at JJ with bleary eyes. The woman was a wreck and JJ couldn’t blame her, thinking about how she would feel if Henry had been taken. She shook her head slightly to banish the thought and took a seat across from Cindy. “Mrs. Booth, I’m so sorry this has happened to you but in order to help your son I need to ask you some questions.” When Cindy nodded, JJ continued. “Can you walk me through the last three days? Where you and your son went?”

“Actually we haven’t done much of anything the last week or so. I’ve been sick and haven’t had much energy. We’ve mostly stayed home and watched movies.”

“Mostly?”

“Yes, I’m a single parent so I had to go to the grocery store on Wednesday then I…” Huhh…HehhEHHGSNSHHEW!

“Bless you,” JJ said and pushed a box of tissues closer to her. Cindy took a couple and blew her nose. She pushed her tangled hair out of her face.

“I went and saw my doctor yesterday.”

“Okay, can you write down his name for me?” JJ asked and handed her a legal pad and pen. Cindy wrote down the doctor’s name. “What time did you go to the doctor?”

HuhhEHH’NGSCHHEW!!

“Ub, aboud eleved. By cold turnded into a sindus infectiod.” EHH”GSCHHEW!! She stopped to blow her nose. “He called in a couple perscriptiods. Devon and I picked them ub. I took theb when I got home. I put Devon down for his nap and laid down on the sofa. Whed I woke up…HUHHNGKCHHEW! he was gone.” Her voice was barely above a whisper by the time she finished. Tears were running down her face. JJ swallowed the lump in her throat.

“Cindy, do you know what woke you up?” JJ asked. The woman looked confused. “The window in your son’s room was broken. Did the breaking glass wake you up?”

“No. No, I woke up because I was hungry. I never even heard the glass break. How could someone have stolen my baby and I never even woke up?” She buried her head in her hands and sobbed. JJ stood up and took the notepad with her out of the interview room. She found Hotch in the precinct’s bullpen.

“I don’t know how much help Cindy’s going to be. She’s been sick for a good portion of the week. With the exception of a trip to the grocery store and the doctor, she didn’t go out much,” JJ said. Hotch’s eyes narrowed.

“Linda Thompson said almost the exact same thing. She went to see her doctor after not being able to get over a cold. She was given prescription medication, laid down to get some rest and when she woke up her son was gone.”

“What’s her doctor’s name?” JJ asked.

“Robin Baker.”

“Cindy’s doctor is William Bates. This can’t be a coincidence though.”

“Did Cindy wake up when the window was broken?”

“No,” JJ said.

“Find out where the women got their prescriptions filled,” Hotch said. As JJ walked away, he pulled out his cell phone and called Garcia.

“Speak my captain.”

“Garcia I need you to run background and see if there’s any connection between Robin Baker and William Bates. Both are M.D.’s in the Oakland area. Each of the boy’s mother’s were sick and saw their physicians the day their sons were taken.”

“You shall have the results in a matter of moments.” He hung up and JJ came walking back.

“Linda got her prescription filled at a CVS on 9th Street. Cindy at a Walgreens on 142nd.” Hotch frowned—he’d been expecting some kind of overlap.

“Okay, give those locations as well as the doctor’s offices to Reid and have him add them to the geographical profile. I’m going to have Rossi and Prentiss bring back both women’s medication.”

“You think they were drugged?” JJ asked.

“I think it’s unusual for an unsub to be confident enough to break a window knowing that the kid’s mother is in the next room.”

JJ didn’t know if that would make Cindy feel better or worse. Hotch was right, no matter how sick she was, JJ knew she would wake up if she heard glass breaking. She watched her boss dial Rossi.

“Dave, I need you to check both homes for prescription medication made out for the mothers. I want to have them tested.” He hung up and looked over at JJ. She was running her finger over her necklace—a habit she resorted to when she was troubled. “JJ?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m going to go try and help Morgan narrow down the list of sex offenders in the area. Both women definitely encountered our unsub in the last couple days. We’re looking for someone with a connection to the medical profession.”

“Okay,” she said. “If it’s alright I’m going to stay with Cindy and Linda—see if there’s anything else they can remember.” Hotch nodded. He wasn’t surprised; she was always excellent with victims. He had just turned to go find Morgan when she called him. “Hotch?” He turned and looked at her. “Do you think…what are the chances that we find these boys alive?” she asked.

“I think we keep moving forward with the assumption that they are. We work the profile. We catch the unsub. It’s all we can do,” he said. And with that he was off. JJ glanced towards the rooms where the two women waited for word about their sons. She went into the station’s break room and dug around until she found a couple tea bags and clean coffee mugs. She fixed two cups of tea and knocked on the door where Linda was.

“Ms. Thompson. I brought you some tea,” JJ said. “I also thought you might want to come wait with Cindy and me instead of sitting in here by yourself.” Linda nodded and followed JJ into the other room. Both women were pale, their eyes glassy, and noses red. The sat next to each other and JJ took a seat across the table from them. They didn’t speak; Cindy cried but Linda just stared straight ahead as though she was in another world. Occasionally Cindy would take a sip of tea and she continued to sneeze and blow her nose every few minutes but Linda’s drink sat untouched. They sat that way for nearly two hours. It was getting close to dinner time and JJ was ready for an update from the team—although if they’d learned anything significant she knew Hotch would have come and gotten her. “Can I get either of you something to eat?” JJ asked.

“No thank you,” Cindy sniffled. “I’m not…” HuhhEHHSCHEEW! “Not hungry.”

“Bless you,” JJ said. “Linda? What about you? Maybe some soup or—”

“I yelled at him,” Linda said. Her voice was hoarse and she winced as she swallowed. “We got home and I felt so sick. He wanted to play outside and he just wouldn’t stop and I…I yelled at him to go to his room. I laid down on the couch and I could hear him crying but I just couldn’t make myself get up. The last thing I did was yell at him,” she whispered.

“Linda, you couldn’t have known that—”

“You have to find him,” Linda said. “That can’t be the last words he ever hears me say. You have to find him.”

“Let me see if I can get an update,” JJ said and quickly left the room. She shut the door behind her and slumped against it. She felt the tears prick the corner of her eyes. She took a couple slow deep breaths to try and get control over her emotions again. She only opened her eyes when she heard footsteps coming near.

“JJ are you alright?” Hotch asked. Her tears didn’t fall but he’d obviously noticed the shine in her eyes. His forehead creased as he guided her away from the interview room.

“I’m fine,” she said as they rounded the corner into an empty hallway.

“Take a minute,” he said quietly.

“Please tell me we have some kind of update for those two women,” she said. “I can’t go in there and tell them we have nothing.”

“Garcia couldn’t find any overlap between the doctors or any staff at the doctor’s offices. The lab is rushing an analysis of both women’s medications and Morgan has expanded his search of pedophiles to neighboring counties.”

“So we have nothing?”

“I just had Garcia start looking into pharmacists and staff at the two pharmacies; she’s also checking to see if either of the companies have had their records hacked.”

“We’re running out of time. Every minute those boys are out there the chances of us finding them alive—”

“JJ, stop. I know this is hard but we’re doing everything we can to find these children.” She rolled her head in a slow circle and sighed.

“I know,” she sighed. “I know we are. Thanks Hotch.”

“Of course. How are Linda and Cindy holding up?” She shrugged.

“As well as can be expected for women who are sick, traumatized, and missing their children. I doubt I’m going to be able to get them to go home but I’m going to try and get them to eat something.”

“I can have one of the officers go and pick something up if you’d rather work on something else,” Hotch said.

“Thanks but I don’t feel right just handing them off to another stranger.” He knew that’s exactly what she was going to say.

“Okay, I’m going to go see if the lab results are in yet and check with—”

HIH’NGKTS! Her sudden stifled sneeze cut him off.

“Bless you. JJ?”

“I’m fine. Go. Let me know as soon as you hear anything.” His eyes narrowed and he started to ask her a question but she said, “Seriously, Hotch. Go.”

TBC...

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THANKS! I love that you all are liking this story. Here's the next section. Although I'd love to claim that I was clever enough to have thought of the "WWHD" comment in this part of the story, I just stole it from an actual episode. I laughed so hard when I heard it; I just had to use it in somewhere. Anyway...

“Seriously, Hotch. Go.”

She watched her boss disappear down the hallway before seeking out a restaurant recommendation from one of the local officers. He offered to go to a local deli for her and pick up soup and sandwiches for the women. The relief must have registered on her face because the young officer asked if there was anything else he could do to make her, Cindy, or Linda more comfortable.

“Actually, do you guys keep any cots and blankets around?”

“Yes ma’am. I’ll have one of the other officers come set them up in their interview room.”

“Thank you,” JJ said and handed the officer enough money to cover the cost of the food. She went back to the precinct’s kitchen and looked through the cabinets until she found a bottle of asprin. She shook out two for each of the women and then, as an afterthought, got two for herself as well. Her head was starting to hurt and she figured it would be better to take something now before it got any worse.

When she returned to the interview room two other officers had just brought in portable cots and a few blankets and pillows.

“I know there’s no way I’ll be able to convince either of you to go home tonight, but you’re both sick and need to get some rest. You’ll be right here in case we get any news.

“Thank you,” Cindy sniffled.

“Have you learned anything new?” Linda asked. JJ sighed and sat down at the table again.

“We’re following some leads but nothing concrete yet.” This time is was Linda who sighed, which then turned into a harsh cough. The noise reminded JJ that she had brought medicine back for both of them.

“Here, I brought you both a couple of asprin and one of the officers went to pick up something to eat.” After giving the pills to both women, JJ felt her nose itch. She frowned—that seemed to be happening more frequently as the day drug on. She pulled a tissue from the box on the table to sneezed a petit EhhshOO!

“Bless you,” Linda said.

“You’re not getting sick are you?” Cindy asked. Even though she was afraid that was exactly what was happening, JJ just smiled.

“No. I’m fine—just a sneeze.”

The next few hours passed without much change. The BAU continued to run into dead ends and JJ continued to keep vigil with the boy's mothers, listening to their stories, letting them vent their frustration and worries, despite the toll it took on her. Sometimes empathy just sucked. The headache she'd tried to suppress a few hours ago came back with a vengeance, settling into a persistent dull ache between her eyes. Though she'd rather be out chasing down leads with her team, JJ couldn't seem to convince herself to leave those two women alone. By midnight both Cindy and Linda had finally given in and fallen asleep. JJ watched the two restless women. How would she survive if Henry was every taken from her? What would she have done if she'd woken up to find his bed empty and the window to his room smashed? She shivered and tried to push the thoughts from her head but that was exactly the nightmare Cindy and Linda were living in right now. Her phone buzzed—a text message from Hotch. "We may have a lead." She quietly slipped out of the darkened interview room and made her way down the hallway, squinting at the sudden bright light.

She found her teammates gathered around a conference table with Garcia on speaker phone.

"So I ran background searches on everyone associated with the two pharmacies and came up empty. But then I asked myself WWHD—What Would Hotch Do? So I imagined myself in a really nice suit and got more creative in my search parameters. I pulled state licensing records for all pharmacists in the county and it turns out that there is a guy named David Peterson who is a practicing pharmacist despite the fact that he's been deceased since 2008. I pulled the photo associated with his license, did my magical tech goddess thing, and found that it did not match the actual David Peterson.

"Garcia can you run the photo through the federal database and see if it gets any hits?" Hotch asked.

"Oh, that's so three minutes ago. The photo matches that of recently discharged mental patient, Robert Kimber. Mr. Kimber's pharmaceutical license was revoked in 2010 after he was caught pilfering antipsychotics from two different pharmacies. He was committed to a state-run psych ward for evaluation and was released six months ago." JJ's pulse began to race as she listened to Garcia rattle off the information. This had to be their guy. They were so close—she just prayed the boys were still alive when they finally figured out Kimber's location. Unfortunately, another sensation was competing for her attention. She was going to sneeze. JJ turned away from the group and stifled a nearly silent Hhnkts! by pinching her nose shut.

"But wait, there's more," Garcia said as she paused for a breath. "There is a very much alive person with the photo of Robert Kimber but the name and license number of David Peterson, working as a pharmacist at the store when Linda got her prescriptions filled and he's listed on an online temp agency that pharmacies can use to fill open shifts. This guy has accepted temp job at more than a dozen locations in the last four months, including where Cindy went the day her son was taken."

Despite her best efforts, JJ sneezed again and less quietly than before. HehhNGKTSS! She was grateful none of her teammates noticed again.

"Garcia, we need Kimber's last known address," Hotch said.

"Just sent to your phones. Be careful my dear profilers. This guy's psych records indicate a history of violent outbursts and hallucinations."

"We will. Thank Mama," Morgan said and disconnected the speaker phone.

"Okay, everyone," Hotch said addressing both the BAU and the group of police officers who had gathered. "We're going to raid the suspect's house. Given his erratic behavior, everyone wears vests and goes in armed. Keep in mind, he's holding two children and will probably not go down without a fight. We need to keep the element of surprise on our side because we do not want this turning into a hostage situation." JJ ducked her head and sneezed again. HehhNGXS! "Sheriff," Hotch continued. "We're going to gear up and should be ready to go as soon as you can secure a warrant." With that, everyone began to disperse. Morgan began handing out the FBI bulletproof vests to the team. JJ was the last to get hers and, after lifting it over her head, she found herself eye to eye with her boss.

"Uh, Hotch. What's up?" she asked and started securing the straps running down the right-hand side of the vest.

"JJ, I want you to stay here when we go on the raid." Her head shot up.

"What? Why?"

"Because you're sick," Hotch said.

"I'm fine. I just—"

"You sneezed three times during the conference call with Garcia."

"Hotch—"

"I can't send you out there knowing you're sick. It's dangerous to you and everyone else," he said. She sighed. Although part of her knew he was right, another part of her was angry that he would leave her behind knowing how difficult this case was for her. Maybe that was it, she thought. Maybe he thought she wasn't tough enough to face it if those boys were dead. That she was too soft and would fall apart in the field and so he was using her catching a cold as an excuse. Suddenly she was enraged.

"Listen, Hotch. I'm just as strong as everyone else on this team. I can handle going in there and facing whatever it is that we find," she said. His frown deepened.

"JJ, my decision has nothing to do with your ability. You've spent a tremendous amount of time with those women. It's not surprising that you're coming down with a cold, but I cannot send you into an active raid if you're ill." He chose his words carefully, not quite sure why she would think he had an ulterior motive.

"You are not leaving me behind," she challenged.

"It wasn't a request Agent Jureau."

"Look, the only you're leaving me behind is if you fire me," she said, tightening the last of her vest straps. "So think about whether or not that's really what you want." He tried his characteristic glare, but when she didn't back down, he reached over and pressed his hand to her forehead. His anger instantly melted.

"Oh JJ, you're burning up," he muttered. Although he was worried about her, he was glad that there was something that explained her insubordination. The sheriff called out that he'd secured the warrant and everyone was ready to go. Hotch sighed. "Listen to me. You can come on the following conditions. First, you take something for your fever before we leave. Second, you don't enter the property until the unsub is secured and the property is cleared. Understood?" She nodded.

"Thank you, Hotch."

"Stay close to me when we're in there," he said. She would have answered except the sneezes she'd been trying to hold back while insisting she was fine, were refusing to be ignored any longer. The first two came out nearly on top of one another. HehhNGKTS!KTCHH! "Bless you," Hotch said and handed her his handkerchief. Hehh EhhNGKTSS!! She managed to take it before stifling another sneeze into the fabric.

"Thank you," she sniffed. "Let me grab some asprin and I'll meet you out front." He watched her walk away and silently hoped he wasn't making a huge mistake.

TBC...

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AHHH! so so so so good. lmao WWHD. i'm so happy he lets her go because it WILL be a mistake. love this!

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Not familiar with the characters or series I'm afraid, but good sneezing speaks for itself :D I like where this one is headed... ;)

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Honestly, you should probably be writing for the show, this is a GREAT story!

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Honestly, you should probably be writing for the show, this is a GREAT story!

I was just about to post to say the exact same thing, actually...! :omg:

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blush.png Awww...you all are so sweet!

He watched her walk away and silently hoped he wasn't making a huge mistake.

Two minutes later and she was riding in an SUV with Hotch, Reid, and Prentiss, part of a convoy of law enforcement the making drive to the suspect's house. JJ rode in the back with Prentiss, Reid was in the front, and Hotch was driving.

"According to the records Garcia emailed, Kimber may have late onset schizophrenia. That would explain why he was able to build a career. Most schizophrenics show symptoms in their late teens and early twenties but it doesn't look like Kimber started having problems until he was over thirty."

HehhNKTSS! JJ turned towards the window and stifled a sneeze.

"Bless you," Prentiss said. JJ nodded but could feel another sneeze building. She took two short, airy breaths before sneezing. EhhKNTCHH! "Oh no. Jayje are you sick?" Prentiss asked. JJ sniffled.

"Just fighting a little cold, but I'm fine," she said. Prentiss gave her a sympathetic smile.

"You shouldn't have spent so much time with our victims. They both sounded awful," Emily said. Reid turned around in his seat.

"Did you know that the average incubation period for a typical rhinovirus is 48 to 72 hours? Scientists have noted that with particularly aggressive strains, that time table can be cut to 12 to 24 hours and people who already have an underlying physiological vulnerability—sleep deprivation, high levels of stress, malnourishment—can actually begin showing symptoms as early as 6 to 8 hours after exposure," Reid said. Both women just stared at him for a few seconds.

"Are you saying I'm weak?" JJ asked. Reid blushed.

"No. No I didn't mean to imply...I just...I just meant that—"

"I was teasing Spence," JJ said.

"Oh."

Hotch had remained silent the whole time but he frequently stole glimpses of JJ in the rearview mirror. In the predawn darkness it was impossible to assess how she was looking, but he wasn't pleased with what he'd seen at the station earlier. He did notice that her voice was beginning to sound slightly hoarse—not too noticeable but he picked up on it. Her fever had to be over 100 when they left and he was seriously doubting his decision to take her out in that condition. The very fact that she argued with him—threatened him to get what she wanted—was a pretty clear indicator that she wasn't thinking clearly. His train of thought was cut short though as they came within a couple blocks of the unsub's property. The cars all slowed down, shut off their lights, and traveled the final quarter mile as quietly as possible. They parked in different locations up and down the street. Hotch and Rossi pulled up in front of the house, blocking the driveway so Kimber couldn't escape in his vehicle. Everyone assembled and Hotch gave the silent go ahead, casting one final glance over his shoulder to make sure JJ was still by the car.

True to her word, she stayed where he asked her to and her stomach clenched with nerves as she watched them fan out around the house. She held her breath as she saw Morgan position himself to kick down the front door. "Please be alive. Please be alive," she whispered over and over again. JJ felt her head spin as she listened to the crash of windows and doors, the shouting police officers—the rush of sudden noise after all that quiet. She leaned against the front end of the car. What was taking so long? She hadn't heard a gunshot. Were they involved in a standoff? Where were they?

Just when she wasn't sure she could wait a minute longer, Hotch appeared in the doorway and waved her in. She could feel her heart pounding in her ears. She climbed the steps of the front porch, the question on the tip of her tongue.

"Alive and unharmed," Hotch said. She let go of a breath she didn't even realize she'd been holding. "Cindy and Linda are on their way," he said. As he was talking, paramedics arrived and Rossi and Prentiss came out of the house, each carrying a crying little boy.

"We're going to have them checked out as a precaution but they look okay," Rossi said as he walked past Hotch and JJ.

"Where was he keeping them?" JJ asked, walking into the house. Police were already beginning to file out, letting the crime scene technicians come in to photograph the scene.

"In the basement," Hotch said nodding towards his left. JJ was about to go down to take a look when a man began yelling. She turned and saw their unsub in handcuffs, Morgan still keeping a firm hold on Kimber's upper arm.

"You don't understand. I had to save them! They were going to get infected!" he shouted. "The women were diseased. Don't you see? I was saving them! That's how they control us—with their viruses. It gets in the blood. I had to save them before it was too late!"

"Come on. Get him out of here," Morgan said to one of the local officers. The cop took the suspect and started pushing him towards the door. As they came closer to Hotch and JJ, she was caught off guard by a sudden sneeze, barely managing to catch the Ehhngshhew! in her hands. Kimber wrenched free from the officer.

"She's one of the diseased!" he shouted as he lunged at her. JJ never had a chance to react. Before she could blink, Hotch was in front of her and slammed the heel of his hand into Kimber's face, breaking his nose. Kimber staggered and fell to the ground, blood pouring from his nose.

"I'm so sorry," the police officer stammered as he hauled the unsub to his feet. "I don't know how he got away from me so quickly. He just—"

"Just get him out of here," Hotch growled. As soon as Kimber was safely out of the house, Aaron turned to JJ. He frowned; her whole body was shaking and her eyes were unfocussed. "Are you alright?" he asked quietly. She nodded but didn't answer. "Let's go," he said and put a hand on her back.

"I want to see where he was keeping them," she whispered.

"You don't need to see it, JJ."

"Yes I do." He didn't agree with her decision, but he understood the impulse that drove it. He led her down the stairs. There were two officers sketching the scene.

"Can you give us a minute?" Hotch asked them. After they were alone, Aaron stood back and let her wander through the small space. There were dirty blankets piled on the floor, a bucket that the boys were expected to use for the bathroom, and little else. A single light bulb dangling from the ceiling was the only source of light and it cast the room in eerie shadows. She knelt down in front of the area where the boys had obviously been sleeping and closed her eyes, taking a few deep breaths. Finally she opened her eyes and moved to stand up but she stumbled. If it hadn't been for Hotch's quick reflexes she probably would have fallen. Instead, he managed to get one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulders. She leaned against him until the room stopped spinning. "Take your time," he said as she tried to stand on her own.

"Thank you," she said. "I needed to see it."

"I know." JJ took a couple steps towards the stairs when she paused. She pinched the bridge of her nose and then jerked forward with a strained sneeze. EhhnSNSHHEW! Hehh'NKXTSS!

"Bless you," Hotch said. He reached into his pocket to get her his handkerchief but frowned when he couldn't find it.

"I still...ehh...HehhSKTCHEEW! still have it," she managed to say, taking the folded handkerchief from her own pants pocket and shaking it out before giving her nose a congested blow. Hehhd’gnschheew! She caught another nasal sneeze in the fabric.

“Bless you JJ,” he sighed.

“Thank you.” She looked around the room one last time. “God, what a nightmare,” she mumbled. She sounded awful. This cold was quickly getting worse and he really just wanted to get her back to DC. At the very least, he wanted to get her out of that damp, depressing basement.

“Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah. Thanks for staying with me,” she said. He nodded and stayed a step or two behind her as they made their way back to the ground floor of the house and then walked outside. The local police would handle everything else at the crime scene. The BAU just needed to go back to the station, get a statement from the unsub, and then they could head home. As they walked towards the cars, JJ heard someone calling her name. She turned and saw Linda sitting on the back of the ambulance, rocking her son as the paramedics checked him over. “I’ll just be a minute,” she said to Hotch.

“How’s he doing?” JJ asked as she walked up to her.

“He’s going to be fine,” Linda said. “We both are. Listen, I just wanted to thank you for everything.”

“That’s not necessary. It’s our job to—”

“You went above and beyond. I know you did,” Linda said. “And I know I was difficult to deal with. I just…I don’t know how to thank you for…” she had to stop as her emotions threatened to overwhelm her. She placed a kiss on top of her son’s head. “Just thank you,” Linda whispered. “Cindy said to tell you the same thing. An officer just left to take them home.”

“Take care of yourself,” JJ said. As she walked towards her team, she could feel the tears rising in her eyes. She struggled to undo the straps of her bulletproof vest, suddenly very aware of heavy it was, but her hands were shaking too hard to be of much use. She was so distracted she nearly walked right into Rossi. She gasped when he caught her by the arms.

“I’ve got it,” he said. Her bottom lip quivered as she held still as he undid the straps and helped lift the vest over her head.

“Thaahh…Ehh HehhNGTSCHEEW!" She sneezed into her hands.

“Salud,” Rossi said.

“Thank you Dave,” she whispered, a couple tears spilling down her face. He brushed them away and then tapped her under the chin until she looked up at him.

“This was a bad one, kiddo but you did a hell of a job and, at the end of the day, those boys are going home with their mothers. Don’t forget that, okay?”

“I won’t,” she sniffled. He smiled and gave her shoulder a squeeze.

“Good girl. Now get in the car. The sooner we get you on the jet and pumped full of NyQuil the better."

TBC...

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Thanks all!! Glad you're liking it biggrin.png I've probably got one final section after this one.

“Good girl. Now get in the car. The sooner we get you on the jet and pumped full of NyQuil the better.”

She nodded and walked over to the SUV where Hotch was waiting. JJ was surprised to see she was the only other person riding back with him.

"Where's everybody else?" she asked as she got into the passenger's seat.

"Riding back with Rossi," Aaron said and started the car and pulled away from the crime scene. "We're not going to go back to the station. Dave's going to handle getting Kimber's statement, Derek can wrap things up with the sheriff, and Reid and Prentiss will gather all of our stuff."

HehhNGKTSHH!

"Bless you." He messed with the heat for a second, tilting one of the vents towards her. "Are you warm enough?"

"I'm okay," she said. "So where are we headed?"

"First we're stopping at a pharmacy and then we're just going to go to the airstrip. The others won't be far behind but I thought you could maybe use a few minutes of quiet before we head home."

She was touched at his thoughtfulness. Truthfully, she was barely holding on to her composure. She could feel herself on the verge of a breakdown, desperately fighting back the tears as Rossi took care of her earlier. It's not that she expected to fool her team but it would be nice if they didn't have to actually witness her falling apart.

"Thank you," she said.

"How are you feeling?" Hotch asked.

"I'm okay."

"No you're not," he said. As soon as they pulled up to a red light he reached over and pressed a hand to her forehead. "At least your fever's down."

"I'm okay Hotch."

"So you keep saying." They rode in silence for a few minutes. JJ leaned her head back and let the steady motion of the car calm her. She felt her muscles begin to relax—her shoulders softened and she settled against the seat. She might have even drifted off had her nose not started to itch. She rubbed it with the back of her hand but soon realized she was fighting a losing battle. She took out Hotch's crumpled handkerchief and held it in her lap, waiting as the tickle blossomed into an actual sneeze. Her breath hitched once. Then again. She held the fabric up to cover her nose and mouth and froze. Hehh—ehh! She sniffed a couple times and sighed in frustration. HuhEHH! Ahh—ehh... again nothing. Hotch looked over at her, not bothering to try and hide his worry—deep creases lining his forehead as he watched the sneeze continue to tease her. She held the handkerchief a few inches from her face. Her eyes were shut tight but he could still see tears in the corners. As he pulled into the parking lot of the pharmacy, she once again seemed close to sneezing. Her nostrils were flaring, her breath caught, and finally a nasal AhhDGNHSHHOO! exploded from the petit woman. A tear slid down her face and she brushed it away before blowing her nose.

"Bless you, JJ," he said quietly.

"Sorry," she sighed and pushed her blonde hair out of her face.

"Don't apologize," Hotch said. He waited until she glanced over at him. Those eyes that could be so sharp and piercing were soft and warm, although JJ still got the sense that he could look right inside her if he wanted to. JJ could feel her resolve slipping. The last 24 hours were catching up with her and fast. "Other than cold medicine, what can I get you?" he asked. She shrugged and looked away; looking into his worried eyes for another minute was not an option.

"Just some water so I can take the pills," she said. There was a lump in her throat that she knew had nothing to do with being sick. She heard the quiver in her voice and she knew he did too. She just wanted Hotch out of the car so she could take a minute to get her emotions under control—just a minute to pull herself together.

"Okay. I'm going to leave the car running so you don't get cold," he said and got out. The second she lost sight of him, JJ couldn't hold the tears back anymore. She gasped and curled up in the chair, turning towards the window. Tears splashed down her face. As soon as she brushed them away, more rose to take their place. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop sobbing. It was like the moment the first tears made their escape, the dam broke and now all she could do was wait for the flood to pass. She drew her knees up to her chest and let her hair fall around her face, crying into her hands. She knew Hotch would be back any minute but she simply could not get herself to calm down. The sensation was both frightening and liberating—all she could do was cry.

After several minutes she heard his door open. "Oh, JJ," he sighed and slid back into his seat. She didn't know why she felt like she needed to explain herself to him but she did. Crying in front of Hotch wasn't something she ever wanted to do and part of her wanted him to know that if it were under her control at all, she would still be sitting upright pretending she was fine.

"I'm...I'm sorry. I can't—I can't stop," she managed to say from behind her hands.

"Then don't." The logic behind that statement was so perfectly Hotch it almost made her laugh. "Here," he said and tucked a box of tissues into her lap. She unfolded herself and pulled several tissues from the box. She wiped at her eyes and gave her nose a watery blow. Between her cold and the crying, her sinuses were completely congested but her nose was running nonstop. She sniffled and tried to calm down but it was a lost cause. Aaron watch her unsuccessfully try and stop sobbing twice before he reached over and put a hand on her shoulder. "You're not ready to stop," he said. She shook her head. "I can wait outside if you'd rather be alone," he said. She shook her head 'no' again and curled up on her side as the tears started flowing again. This time though, she was turned towards the center of the car instead of away from him. Hotch reached over and smoothed her hair back but stayed quiet. Although it was painful for him to watch her, a part of Hotch felt honored that she trusted him enough to let him stay. For as emotionally taxing as their work was and for as close as they all were, there were still some unspoken rules. Breaking down in front of one another was one of them. Sure, the occasional tear or two, a hug or a pep talk, but nothing like what he was witnessing right now.

It took JJ another ten minutes before she finally started to calm down. She mopped up the tears and blew her nose several times before finally lifting her head to look at him. He tilted his head and looked at her, the corners of his mouth turned down into a worried frown. She was flushed, her eyes and nose both red and irritated looking.

"Hotch...I don't even know what..." she couldn't finish.

"It's okay," he said.

"But...but I just..."

"JJ, listen to me. Your reaction is totally normal. Our unsub targeted the mothers of little boys. I would have been more worried if you hadn't reacted this strongly."

"But I...ehh...hold Ehh...hold on," she said, turning away from him and pulled a tissue from the box, bringing it to her nose and sneezing. Hehhngshhew!

"Bless you."

HehEHH...Hehh Ehhngkschhew!

"And again."

"Thank you," she said. "I was out of line at the station tonight, Hotch and I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking threatening you like that." She stared at her hands and nervously pulled at the tissue.

"You weren't thinking," he said. "You were upset, hadn't slept for almost 24 hours, and had a high fever."

"That's not an excuse for insubordination," she mumbled.

"You were just calling my bluff," he said. She glanced up and saw a rare thing—just the hint of a smile on Hotch's face. "I wouldn't want to play poker with you," he added. She gave him a shaky smile.

"I'm still sorry," she said.

"It's forgotten," he said. With that, JJ finally took a deep breath. "Will you take some cold medicine now?" Hotch asked.

"Definitely." He opened the box he bought and gave her two pills and a bottle of water. After she swallowed the pills, he dug out a bag of cough drops and handed her one. She thanked him and slipped it in her mouth. "My throat hurts just listening to you," he said.

"I do sound pretty horrible," she admitted. Her voice had become deeper and rough over the last few hours. What had started as occasional hoarseness was threatening to develop into laryngitis if it got much worse.

"Let's go home," he said and started the car. He pulled out onto the highway and began driving towards the airport. After a few minutes JJ turned her head towards him.

"Hotch, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"How do you do it? I mean, you never blinked on this case. You never seem to blink. How do you keep it from getting to you?" she asked. He sighed and took a minute to consider his answer. She mistook his silence for an unwillingness to answer and quickly backpedaled. "I'm sorry. You don't have to answer that. It's none of my business," she said. She was almost relieved when she felt the urge to sneeze flare up because it would provide an easy exit from the conversation. HuhhEHH HehhGNKSHOO! she sneezed into a tissue.

"Bless you."

"Thank you."

"It does get to me," he said slowly; she was genuinely surprised he'd chosen to answer her. "This one got to me more than the others. I just..." he stopped and tried again. "I called Jessica before we went on the raid," he admitted. “Even though I knew she was asleep, I called and asked her to take a picture of Jack and send it to my phone. I honestly didn't think we'd find those boys alive and I just needed to see him. Needed to know he was okay before we went into that house."

"Oh, Hotch," she whispered.

"It's not that it doesn't get to me, JJ. It does. More now than it ever did before Hailey died." Although she regretted bringing up an unpleasant topic, JJ found it reassuring that even their stoic, unshakable leader still had moments where he needed reassurance.

"Well, thanks for looking out for me and for letting me come unraveled there a few minutes ago," she said. He took his eyes off the road just long enough to catch her eye and nod. She sniffled and rubbed her nose in a clean tissue to try and keep from sneezing again. Deciding they were ready for a change in subject, she said, "Ugh. I really hope you don't catch this cold from being cooped up in the car with me. It's vicious." Her voice rose at the end of the sentence and she managed to half stifle two sneezes. HehhNGK'SHOO! EHHGKX'TSHH!

"Bless you. I'll be fine—you spent the whole day with Cindy and Linda.”

“It was the right thing to do,” she said.

“I know. I’m sorry it's hit you so hard though.”

Hehh'NKXTSS! EhhnSNSHHEW!

“Bless you.”

“You’re starting to sound like a broken record,” she said from behind a handful of tissues. Hehh’NGXTSHH!

“Bless you.”

TBC...

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:-) i hope JJ has someone to take care of her when they get back... and Hotch has been spending a lot of time with her

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all. Sorry for the delay with this story. I think I've finished it...I don't think there's more that I want to do with it but I'm reserving the right to change my mind. It ends with a rewrite of the drabble that started the whole crazy story. In any case, it feels finished right now. Enjoy! wink.png

“You’re starting to sound like a broken record,” she said from behind a handful of tissues. Hehh’NGXTSHH!

“Bless you.”

She resisted the urge to roll her eyes at his stubborn politeness. Instead she began gathering up the tissues scattered around her and began putting them in one of the empty plastic bag from the drugstore. She knotted up the bag so she could throw it away when they arrived at the airport.

“Thank you for stopping at the drug store,” she said.

“Of course, JJ.” She smiled and leaned her head against the cool window. They rode in silence the rest of the way, with the exception of a couple sneezes from JJ. When they pulled up to the airport he carried both their bags onto the plane. “The rest of the team will be here soon,” he said. “If you want to go splash some water on your face I’ll make you some tea.” It seemed like an odd suggestion until she stepped into the jet’s small bathroom and got a look at herself in the mirror. Her face was tear streaked and flushed, her eyes red and hot. She turned on the water and let it warm up before cupping her hands under the faucet and splashing the water across her face. It felt wonderful—restorative and soothing. JJ realized she’d been on the go for nearly 36 hours. She scrubbed hard at her face, splashing the water against her skin over and over again. She finally turned off the water and grabbed a few paper towels and blotted her face with them. When she looked in the mirror again her eyes were better but now that the remnants of her makeup were gone, she realized how pale she looked. There were dark circles under her eyes, making them look almost bruised. Her complexion was nearly ashen and the skin around her nostrils was pink. It didn’t take long before her body reminded her why. She grabbed a fresh paper towel and sneezed. HehhNGKTSHHOO! HuhhEHHGNGSHHOO! Since she was alone she didn’t try and restrain the sneezes and she blew her nose forcefully into the paper towel. The action made her lightheaded and she sat down on the closed lid of the toilet and closed her eyes, waiting for the room to stop spinning.

Hotch frowned as he heard her sneezing in the bathroom. He’d filled a mug with water and put it in the microwave to heat up so he could fix her tea. As soon as she’d disappeared into the bathroom he pulled out his cell phone and called Rossi.

“Yeah Hotch?”

“How far out are you guys?” Hotch asked.

“We’re about to leave the station. Should be to the airport in about twenty minutes.”

“Good.” Hotch glanced towards the bathroom to make sure the door was still closed. “Listen Dave, tell the others not to ask JJ a lot of questions when they get on the plane.”

“Is she alright?” Rossi asked. Hotch sighed; he wasn’t exactly sure how to answer the question.

“She’s…fragile. I know they mean well but questions are just going to upset her. She’s sick and needs to rest.”

“I’ll talk to them,” Rossi said.

“Especially Reid.” Although that hardly needed saying, Hotch still felt it was important to make sure Rossi knew that their youngest agent needed clear instruction not to let his concern for JJ inadvertently make her feel worse.

“See you in twenty,” Rossi said. Hotch hung up and slipped the cell phone back into his pocket. He pulled the teabag from the mug, having let it steep long enough. He sweetened it the way she liked it and then went and settled into one of the chairs and waited for her to come out. It took a few minutes before JJ emerged and he frowned when he saw her. She noticed and gave him a rueful smile.

“Pretty rough huh?” she said as she slips into the seat across from him. He handed her the tea.

“It’s not that bad,” he said but even he heard how unconvincing he sounded.

“Thank you,” she said and he wasn’t sure if she was referring to his comment, the tea, or both. He nodded. “Is the team almost done?” JJ asked. Wow. Her voice really was rough and scratchy.

“They should be here any minute,” Hotch said. He noticed a look of apprehension briefly cross her face. He wanted to tell her that she didn’t need to worry about her teammates making a fuss, but that would involve telling her that he’s intervened—the very kind of special attention that she was hoping to avoid. Just as predicted, twenty minutes later the other BAU team members began climbing the stairs and filing into the jet. Hotch stood and addressed the team. “Did the unsub say anything useful?”

“He decompensated pretty quickly after we got him to the station. We questioned him for about ten minutes before it became clear he wasn’t going to give us anything,” Rossi said.

“Police put him on a 72 hour psych hold. They might get something from him once he’s medicated but I doubt it,” Morgan said as he stored his bag and sat down with his headphones.

“Good work everyone,” Hotch said. He went to tell the pilot they were ready to take off.

“Hey Jayje,” Prentiss said, looking at her friend. “You need anything?”

“No. I’m alright. Thanks though.” Emily winced slightly when she heard her friend’s voice, then gave her a sympathetic smile.

“Okay. I’m going to get some sleep.” As Prentiss turned, JJ caught Reid standing a few feet away, watching her.

“I’m okay, Spence.” His face relaxed and he turned to go sit near the front of the plane. Huh. That was easier than she was expecting. Her relief was short-lived though when she felt her nose begin to tickle. JJ scrambled to get the tissues Hotch had bought out of the bag. The sneezes were upon her too quickly though and she tried to stifle them by pinching her nose. HehhNKTSS!NKTSS! HuhEHHGXTSHH!

“Bless you,” she heard his soft voice before she even opened her eyes. JJ heard the rustling of the plastic bag and then felt the brush of the tissues against her hands, which were still cupped around her face. Her face burned with humiliation but he didn’t react. Instead, Hotch slipped into the seat across from her and settled in as the plane began taxiing to the runway.

It didn’t take long for everyone to fall asleep once the plane was in the air. It had been almost two days since they’d slept and the victory of recovering the two boys alive made it easier to sleep…for most of them. Even Hotch had nodded off for about a half hour but he stirred when he heard JJ coughing lightly. His eyes fluttered open and he watched her stifle three sneezes into a tissue.

“Bless you,” he said.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.” He wasn’t sure if she was whispering to keep from waking the others or if that was the loudest she was able to manage. He glanced at his watch and then stood up. He got her a glass of water and brought it to her.

“You need to take more medicine,” he said quietly. She nodded and dug out a couple of the pills, swallowing them with the water. He took the glass from her and returned it to the tiny kitchen. When he came back, Hotch got a blanket down from the overhead compartment and unfolded it. JJ was surprised when he slipped into the chair next to her instead of resuming his seat across from her. He draped the blanket over her legs.

“You need to rest,” he said quietly.

“We both know that’s not going to happen,” she said. His worried look deepened as she turned further towards the window and stifled a nearly silent Ihh’ngt! Ihh’NKT! NGKT!! into a crumpled tissue.

“Bless you, JJ. Here,” he said and handed her fresh tissues.

“Thank you.” Even though she whispered it, he could still hear the tears in her voice. Hotch considered giving her “the talk” about how empathy made her a better profiler, that what she had in common with the victims gave her unique insight, that she needed to find a way to let it go now that the case was over. But when he watched her small frame bent forward with another three sneezes he realized how useless “the talk” was. Hihh’KNGT! IhhGNXT! HIH’NGKT! A shiver wracked her body.

“Bless you.” He leaned forward and slipped out of his jacket, then flipped up the armrest between them before settling back into his chair. He wrapped an arm around the woman’s shoulders and pulled her towards him.

“Hotch?” she questioned. He understood her confusion—what he was doing was incredibly out of character.

“It’s okay,” he said as he spread his jacket out to cover her upper body. “I understand if you can’t sleep but just rest for a while.”

“I don’t…umm…I…”

“It’s okay,” he repeated before saying the words he knew she really needed to hear. “Henry is safe at home in his bed. He’s sound asleep, warm and happy.” He heard her take a shaky breath, but he continued. “He’s safe, JJ and so are you. Just let yourself relax.” He felt her shiver once again but wasn’t sure what caused it. He slowly ran a hand up and down her arm. “The rest of the team is already asleep. You can talk, or cry, or just sit here quietly, okay?”

“I haahh…have to…snee—ihhEHHSHOO!” Although still quiet, the sneeze was too strong to be stifled and she jerked forward only to feel his strong arm pull her back upright. She was too tired to argue. Too tired to question. She leaned her head against his chest and pulled his coat up around her.

“Bless you,” he said and shifted so she could settle in better. Her body was stiff and, even though he couldn’t see her face, he suspected she was fighting tears again. He heard her sniffle a couple of times but just continued to slowly rub her arm through the fabric of his suit coat. Very slowly he felt her start to relax. Twice she pulled fresh tissues from the box that she now held in her lap. JJ desperately needed to blow her nose and reluctantly tried to twist out of his hold. “What’s wrong?” he asked. He thought she had finally settled in.

“I deed to blow my dose,” she mumbled.

“It’s okay. You don’t need to turn away.” In fact, unless he let go of her arm, there was no way she could. After a moment’s hesitation, she complied. Blowing her nose ignited the tickling sensation in her sinuses again and she almost immediately sneezed into the tissues, causing her to jerk forward in his arms. HehNXTshhhh! “Bless you.”

“Thank you,” she whispered. She sighed and after a moment she spoke again.

“You told them not to try and talk to me about it didn’t you?”

“I did.” When she didn’t say anything he momentarily doubted his decision. “Was that alright?” he asked. He quickly realized though that the reason she hadn’t answered wasn’t because she was angry, but because she was going to sneeze again. HuhEHHGXTSHH! “Bless you,” he whispered.

“Thag you. I appreciade you talkig to theb.” She blew her nose and then let her eyes start to drift shut. They immediate flew back open though as scenes from the basement flashed through her mind. “Hotch? Would you…could you say what said about Henry again? It helps.” The fear in her voice was like a punch to his gut but as he started talking he could feel her start to relax. He tilted his head so that his lips were close to her ear.

“Henry is safe, JJ. He’s at home in his bed, asleep under the covers…” He carried on for a few minutes until he heard the faint noise of her congested breathing even out. “Feel better,” he whispered.

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Awww, poor JJ.. :wub:

Great story! I can't believe how convincingly you write these characters..! :omg:

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