"I'm nervous Lia, I can't help it," Emily moaned, as they sat with their feet in mini Jacuzzis of blue water that smelled of menthol. They were getting pedicures, or at least attempting, Emily was so figety the woman working on her toe nails kept shooting her warning glares. She couldn't help it, Christmas was in two days, and she was meeting Matt's father, Aunt Trisha, who helped raise him, and two of his cousins, Trisha's kids. She was on the verge of panic, and so was determined to primp as much as it took for her to start feeling good; if it she felt good, she'd be less nervous and give a better impression. If she met them right now, they think was a was completely strung out on speed.
"It will be fine Emily. They'll see how much he loves you, and like you just for making him smile," Lia tried to placate her.
"Did you find that on a greeting card?"
Lia shot her a look, "you know you get kind of bitchy when you're nervous?"
"Sorry, I'm just not good at this." It was probably one of the most honest statements Emily Lehman had ever uttered. She wasn't good with family gatherings, wasn't accustomed to the sheer normalcy of it. Her childhood was lonely, turbulent, and completely devoid of traditional holiday celebrations, barring some choked, strained Christmas mornings. Making small talk, exchanging hugs, eating an elaborate home-cooked feast, watching little children tear wrapping paper off presents, it was all foreign to her.
"You don't have to be good at it, you just have to go and make an effort." Lia squeezed her hand, she'd never seen the negotiator seem so unhinged. Long conversations with heavily armed psychopaths, she barely broke a sweat; meeting her boyfriend's family, she was a wreak. It was actually kind of amusing for Lia.
"I can do that, I can make an effort," she began coaching herself, before her demeanor suddenly changed. "Oh god no, Lia I can't do this."
Lia sighed, she knew this day would provide a challenge to Emily, but she couldn't have fathomed it would be this stressful. "Emily, I know you well enough to know that this is genuinely hard for you, and understand why, and I know it's a big step for you two, and that scares you, but you need to calm down."
"I can't Lia, believe me I've tried. Every time I relax I imagine meeting them, and them seeing all the emotional baggage I drag around, and telling Matt to cut his losses."
Lia pursed her lips, thinking for a while, before finally reaching her decision. "I know you and Matt think you are very discreet, and in the field you are, but any other time, even the kids on the short bus can tell you're in love. His family will see that, and if they love him at all, that's all they'll need to know to welcome you into their lives."
Emily's faced twisted into a look of still pained gratitude, she really wasn't cut out for normal, healthy relationships, but for Matt, she'd do it, she do just about anything. "Are you nervous about meeting Duff's parents?"
Lia's expression became one of her own private horror, "oh god yes."
Emily grinned; she wasn't alone. "Clothes next?"
Lia nodded, "I need something discreet, without a lot of cleavage, I don't was his mother thinking I'm a whore."
Emily rolled her eyes, "You're a computer geek Lia, the two are generally mutually exclusive. Besides, you're very sweet, his mother will fall in love with you."
"Oh, so I'm a very sweet geek? Because that's not lame."
"Hey, at least you have a good family history to relate, try explaining that you have a sister in federal prison."
Lia shot her a sympathetic look. Oh yes, they would need every available beauty treatment, plus brand new outfits that conveyed the image of a smart, responsible, strong women, with a healthy touch of Pollyanna, just to show that their boys were dating good girls.
Emily was standing at the mirror studying her reflection, debating for the umpteenth time if the black slacks were nice enough. She'd tried on a hundred different skirts in the stores, but groaned with each one; skirts and dresses weren't her thing, no matter how much she tried. Formal occasions sure, but family dinners weren't quite formal enough to warrant her wearing one. So she chose black slacks, long sleeved maroon knit top, and her favorite jacket--the black leather one. She bit her lip, chewing off half her lipstick, and deciding to wipe it all off, and reapply in the car, when they got to his Aunt's house.
Family arms snaked around her, and Matt placed soft butterfly kisses along her neck, looking with her into the mirror. "You almost ready to go?"
"Yeah, just about." She turned in his arms, facing him, and looked into his eyes, which held none of the fear or trepidation she felt.
"You alright?" He smile straightened into a firm-mouth look of concern.
She nodded, "Just nervous."
"Don't worry, they are going to love you, and those snickerdoodles." One of the few things Emily could make really well were snickerdoodles, sort of a cross between sugar cookies and gingerbread, and her offering to the meal. They were Matt's new favorite cookie.
"And what if they don't? What if they hate me?" She searched his eyes for some sort of concrete reassurance that his father and aunt would approve of her.
"Em, I don't think anyone without a significant psychiatric history could hate you, there's just no conceivable reason. And, I know for a fact that my aunt will love you, because she told me years ago, any woman that makes me happy was immediately welcome into the family, and you…it's hard to imagine not being happy with you." He brushed her hair back and kissed her very slowly and softly, breaking it off when he heard a deep moan issue from her throat.
"I love you," she whispered, resting her head on his shoulder for a moment. She hated that she was so insecure about all of it, but couldn't help it, this was the best relationship she'd ever been in, one she couldn't afford to lose.
"Me too." He held her tightly, before pulling back, "are we ready to go now?"
Freshly applied lipstick, left hand gripping Matt's right, Emily breathed in and out as Matt rang the doorbell. A man in his mid-thirties with dark hair almost as thick as Matt's, and eyes a shade lighter, opened up the door, smiling widely when he saw Matt. Matt dropped Emily's hand while he embraced his cousin Jared, who then turned and smiled at Emily.
"And, you must be the famous Emily, who my cousin has being talking about for a year, but keeping hidden from us all." Rather than shake her hand, which Emily expected, he hugged her. "It's wonderful to finally meet you."
"Thank you, same to you, Matt's told me a lot about you."
"Oh god, that can't be good, we used to get into so much trouble." He laughed, ushering them inside the warm home, where a slightly younger woman with the same dark hair, and lighter eyes rushed out at the sound of voices.
"Oh my gosh, you do really exist!" The woman squealed, embracing Emily as her brother had, who was starting to feel slightly over whelmed.
"Of course she does, Megan. Did you expect me to bring a blow-up doll?" Matt teased his younger cousin, hugging her, and letting go to find Emily searching discreetly for his hand.
"Well, you haven't brought a girlfriend to a family dinner since high school," she pointed out, causing Emily to shoot Matt a look. He grimaced. Yes, he'd lied to her, saying he'd brought other girlfriends to meet his family many times before, it wasn't a big deal, but she was nervous enough, he didn't want to add to that. He felt her grip tighten on his hand.
"Oh gosh, this way, mom is desperate to meet you," Megan grinned, ushering them further in the house, Emily's grip growing even tighter on Matt's hand. He used his thumb to rub the top of her hand, trying to sooth her as discretely as possible; he'd never known her to be this nervous.
"Isn't desperate a little much Meg? Hello dear, you must be Emily. It's absolutely fantastic to meet you, I'm Matt's Aunt Trisha." Like her children, she embraced Emily in a hearty hug, and Emily tried her best to return it without seeming too awkward. She let her go, and grabbed Matt tightly, "Oh and my third baby, how are you Mathew?"
"Trisha didn't I tell you, he hates being called Mathew?" An older man with graying hair and dark brown eyes appeared, with an amused smile on his face. Trisha shot him a half-glare at Clive, hands on her apron-clad hips, light gray hair in a tight bun.
"Several times, I just chose to ignore it."
"Course you did. Hey Matt," he greeted his son with a warm hug. "And Emily, it's a pleasure, Matt's hidden you away from us for too long." He had a warm smile, the same one his son inherited, and it calmed Emily considerably.
"Where are Rick and Cindy and the kids?" Matt asked suddenly, wondering where his siblings spouses were.
"Rick is taking part in his family's attempt at a reunion, and Cindy took the kids ice skating to tire them out before dinner." Megan explained, her tone showing considerable distain for her husband's family.
"So, why didn't Rick drag you with him?"
"In his words, there will be blood, and he didn't want me to see it." She shrugged, only too happy to let Rick deal with his insane family.
"So how about we go into the living room and chat before dinner, Matt, Emily, what are you drinking?" Trisha played hostess perfectly, ushering everybody to a large room with a couch, love seat, and two arm chairs.
"What do you have?" Matt maneuvered them toward the loveseat, Emily still with a firm grip on his hand.
"Let's see, we have wine, red or rose, your cousin just had to bring beer, or I can make cocktails." She shot an exasperated look at her son when she mentioned the beer, but he just shrugged.
Matt turned to Emily, "red?" She nodded.
"We'll both have the red wine." He told his aunt, before sitting on the loveseat, and bracing for the inquisition.
"Stop staring sis," Jared scolded his sister, who was staring at Emily, as if studying her.
"I can't help it, you look familiar to me Emily, like I've seen you somewhere before." Megan looked completely puzzled.
"I don't remember ever meeting you," Emily shrugged helplessly, as Trisha came in with two glasses of dark red wine, and took a seat at the unoccupied chair. The two siblings sat together on the couch, and Matt's father sat contentedly in the other arm chair.
"So, Emily, you're also a negotiator right, Matt's partner?" Trisha shifted the conversation without realizing it.
"Yes, we've been partnered for over two years now."
"And she teaches," Matt added absently.
"So, what's it like working with my cousin everyday?" Jared grinned teasingly.
"Actually, he's the best partner I've ever had, you know, barring having to constantly nag him about his paperwork." She shot Matt a look, and he rolled his eyes, trying to look innocent.
Megan suddenly gasped startling all of them, and causing all their attention to fall on her.
"Sorry, I just realized where I recognized you from Emily." She suddenly looked a little hesitant.
"Oh, where's that?" Emily was genuinely curious about where she might have met Matt's cousin.
"On TV this past summer, you gave a press conference. That little boy was kidnapped, something having to do with you, and I'll never forget that sex tape, everyone at work was talking about it for days."
"Oh I remember that," Jared agreed, while Matt and Emily looked very uncomfortable. "Whoa…wait a minute. That was Matt on that tape with you then?"
"Uh, yeah it was." This was not what she needed be talking about when she was trying to make a good impression on Matt's family. Matt wrapped his arm around her shoulders, subconsciously sensing her discomfort, and becoming protective at the topic.
Jared laughed, "my cousin, the amateur porn star."
"When it's you, it's not that funny. Trust me," Matt grumbled, clearly not over what happened that summer.
"Okay, I didn't hear about this, what do you mean sex tape?" Trisha asked, bewildered and upset by the idea.
"Relax Trisha, the kids didn't film it, some whackjob with a grudge against one of them did it to embarrass them." Clive tried to placate her, without needing too much of an explanation.
"But, how? Oh god, was he in your home?" Now she looked alarmed.
"No, he was outside my house, but don't worry, he's dead now." Matt assured her.
"Oh thank goodness, that must have been awful for you." She seemed like she might have wanted to say more, but perceptive as ever, Clive cut in.
"So, are you from the West Coast Emily?"
"No, I actually grew up in Albany, I only got out here after I finished at Quantico."
"Oh wow, were you close enough to visit New York City?" Megan leaned toward her, intrigued, having had a fascination with the city since she was a child.
"Actually I went to NYU for undergrad, so I lived in the city for four years, and visited it a lot when I was going to Princeton. Have you ever been?" This was a much safer topic, that she had no trouble discussing.
"Not yet, Rick and I are planning on visiting this summer though. I can't wait to see it, it must be amazing."
"I'm from New York, so I'm biased, but you won't find a better city. Just the history, the mix of cultures, the museums, galleries, it just takes your breath away. And, Time Square is actually worth stepping into now."
"I'll have to get your number, so you can tell me all the places to visit." Megan grinned excitedly.
"Matt has it, so you can get it from him anytime."
"Why bother, you're at my apartment almost as much as I am. Just call my apartment Meg, she'll probably be there." Matt realized then, by the surprised expressions on their faces, his family wasn't aware of how serious their relationship is. Oops.
"I'll do that then." Meg broke the surprised silence.
"So, Emily you mentioned Princeton?" Clive once again steered the conversation to a more suitable topic.
"I earned my doctorate from Princeton, in psychology, well social psychology."
"Damn, an Ivy League doctorate, how did a woman that smart end up with you, Matt?" Jared teased, genuinely impressed by Emily.
"I keep wondering that." Their attention was stolen when the door burst open, and two hyperactive small children ran into the living room, tackling their dad on the couch, and their mother trailed behind looking harassed.
"Cindy, good to see you," Matt greeted her warmly, before introducing Emily.
"Good to meet you, it's so nice to see Matt so smitten." She'd been married to Jared for almost eight years and was wondering when her bachelor cousin-in-law would finally find himself a girl.
"Likewise, your children are beautiful." Emily commented watching the dark haired boy and girl still jumping all over their father.
"Thank you, they're exhausting."
It was during dinner that all the excitement happened, just after the ring of the doorbell. Trisha went to answer it, wondering who it was and what they wanted, and being disgustedly disappointed by the woman at the door. She wasn't welcome, it was as simple as that, but ever the gracious hostess, Trisha showed her in, and then everything went to hell.
"Well, everyone, look whose here." She announced, gritting her teeth. Clive dropped his fork, Matt's cousins and Cindy's mouths fell open, and Matt looked stunned and ill at the same time.
"Jennifer, what can we do for you?" Clive hated the woman with a burning passion, she tore his sons apart, and left them both broken-hearted. Matt never got the chance to bring Jennifer home to meet his family, she'd hooked up with Greg, Matt's brother, and he brought the she-devil home. Then she left Greg, and he's been too ashamed to talk to his brother, and Matt wasn't about to initiate that conversation.
"Just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas, and see if Matt was here. Mind if I have a word?" She smiled sweetly at him, that smile that at one point made his knees week. Now, it only made his whole body feel cold.
"Sure." He turned to Emily, and whispered in her ear, "this will only take a minute, and I'll explain later." She nodded, curious, but not concerned about Matt having romantic feelings for the woman, she assumed Jennifer was just a friend or something.
Matt went off with Jennifer, while his cousins offered Emily a tight-lipped explanation, one that suddenly made her worry more than she had. Matt wasn't still in love with this woman, right? She was a tall, leggy, green-eyed blonde, practically a model, who held herself with obvious confidence, and was clearly lacking Emily's insecurity and relationship issues. Oh God.
"So, why darken my door today?" Matt demanded impatiently.
Instead of speaking, Jennifer pushed her body against his, and crushed her mouth against his, slipping her tongue in his mouth. Fingers digging in his hair, she deepened the kiss until he pulled away.
It was good, Matt wouldn't deny that, Jennifer was always a good kisser, and a great lover, but it wasn't enough to spin his head, not anymore. His feet stayed grounded, and his head screwed on, she couldn't screw with him that way anymore. Her kiss was once the best thing he could imagine, and having sex with her (because it was never really making love) was just phenomenal, to the point where it gets a guy doing stupid things for her. But, no more.
"I'm involved with someone else now Jennifer."
"So, dump her, you know she isn't as good as me." There wasn't a doubt in the blonde's mind that, that was exactly what he was going to do.
"No. She's better." He answered with thinking.
"Really? Who is this woman?"
"The woman sitting beside me at the table when you came in."
"Oh, I didn't notice her?"
"That's because you're a self-absorbed bitch." God that felt good.
"Matt! How can you talk to me like that!" She yelled angrily, loud enough for his family to hear.
"I haven't talked to my brother in six years because of you, that's how!" He yelled just as loudly.
"Well, you shouldn't have let a girl get between you." Nose literally in the air, she crossed her arms in a huff.
"You really are unbelievable Jennifer, rancid bitch is too kind to describe you." He shook his head in disgust.
"Matt, why are you saying such mean things to me!" She wailed pathetically.
"Because I hate you! Because everyone in that room hates you, and the hell you caused!" He was seething, just so angry he was seething.
She let off a few forced whimpers, and began to cry.
"Don't you fucking dare cry, not after what you did. You do me a favor Jen, get the hell out of the life, and don't you dare ever think of coming back." His voice was loud, but even now, sounding almost deadly. She didn't stay to argue, just shed a few more crocodile tears, and hurried out the door.
Matt turned back toward the dining room, hostility radiating off him, to find his family silent, watching him nervously. Emily, especially looked concerned, the whole Jennifer saga completely foreign to her. Matt found himself standing rather than returning to his seat behind Emily, he was so worked up, so angry, he couldn't just sit still and pretend nothing happened.
"We're running low on wine, I'm going to find an open liquor store, I'll be back shortly." He turned to leave, but Megan stopped him with her hand.
"You aren't going anywhere alone, I'll go with you." He nodded without speaking, and the two left together, leaving Emily fidgeting nervously with her napkin. She had already admitted to herself that she wasn't good at meeting families, how exactly was she supposed to do this without him?
Dinner was finished quietly, and they retired back to the living room for drinks. God knew at that point, they all needed another. Emily sipped slowly, and had casual, though slightly strained conversation for an hour and a half. They were just beginning to get worried when her phone rang, and she excused herself politely to take the call. Ten minutes later, she found herself, hands shaking, re-entering the room, silently preparing herself to deliver bad news.
"Emily, dear you look a little pale, is something wrong?" Trisha studied her with concern.
"My boss just called, there's a situation at Penmore Liquors. It seems they were one of the few stores open today, and about thirty minutes ago, a man entered the store with a semi-automatic handgun. He had the three store employees: a man, his wife and her sister, and the only two customers at the time, a man and a woman, lay on the ground. He has yet to release any demands, so far as we know," she breathed, almost unable to continue. "His hostages were identified ten minutes ago, Matt and Megan."
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god," Trish repeated it over and over again, unable to comprehend anything but Emily's last few words. A very shaken looking Clive, wrapped an arm around her, and rubbed her shoulder, while Cindy took hold of Jared's hand. The children were completely oblivious.
"I have to go down there now, I'm negotiating…I'll keep you posted." Normally she wouldn't be allowed to do that, but everyone else was in another state visiting family and it would take too long to get there. She waited only a few seconds for any response, before turning her heal, and heading out to meet the car Cheryl sent for her.
Emily coached herself on deep breathing in the car, inhaling deeply, then exhaling slowly. Over and over again, she struggled to maintain her calm, and ignore the disaster that meeting Matt's family had turned into. She had to stay calm and focused on the objective; get the HT to surrender and the five hostages out safely. Treat this as you would any other negotiation, do not think about the hostages, they are nameless, faceless victims. Do not personalize this.
Flashing red and blue lights signaled they were at the scene, and yanked her from her motivational seminar. She hopped out, and met with Cheryl, got her debriefing, and a warning to keep her head on, and not make Cheryl regret her decision. Then she secured her earpiece, adjusted it's little microphone, and nodded to Lia, who was in the command bus, to make the call. All her closest friends were there supporting her, she could do this, she kept telling her.
"Yeah what?" An angry voice answered; it deep, but had a certain scratchy quality to it, like it was prematurely aged; the man hadn't had an easy life.
"Hi, I'm Emily, I'm with the FBI. Can you just tell me how the hostages are doing?" Calm level voice, do NOT visualize the hostages.
"They're fine." Great, a quiet one, getting him to talk wasn't going to be easy.
"So I've got a bunch of my friends out here with me, and they're telling me your name is Carlos?"
"Yeah, your point?"
"I just wanted to make sure, Carlos."
"So, can you tell me, what brings you here today?"
"I wanted some booze," he said sarcastically. Great, this might take some time.
Though an two and a half hours later, he had hung up on Emily, angry that she'd gotten him to admit his problem. Carlos was alone on Christmas, for the fourth year in a row, and hopelessly lonely, he'd turned to suicide, but decided to take a few people with him, and not die alone.
"You're doing very well Emily, better than I had any right to expect." Cheryl squeezed her hand, impressed with how well she was handling herself, considering who was inside.
"Thanks…I'm scared to death, Cheryl." Emily let her guard down so infrequently, that her admittance was more proof of her fear than her confession.
"I get it, but do me a favor, and don't say that too loud. Just remember you're doing well." Cheryl nodded at her to make another call, and Emily turned to Lia, who was poised over her controls.
"Emily?" The same damaged voice answered.
"Yes, it's me Carlos. How are you holding up in there?" Be patient, be kind, be his buddy.
"I'm okay. I…I don't really want to do this anymore Emily." He didn't sound angry like he had before, but tired and scared.
"That's good to hear Carlos. What do you say we get you out of this mess?" She released the breath she'd been holding deep in her chest, the one choking her heart.
"I'd like that."
Clive, Trisha, Jared, Cindy, and their kids, Drew and Carrie were all staring intently at the news broadcast on TV, that no doubt dragged many journalists away from their families. Lia had been giving them regular updates, since Emily was busy with the negotiation, but they needed something constant to cling to. Most of it was just some pretty, heavily make-uped reporter speculating, with the scene behind her. There must have been some sort of delay, because they got the call first.
"Lia, what's happening?" Trisha demanded wearily, answering the phone.
"It's okay, they're out."
"Oh thank god, oh, thank you Lia," she breathed hanging up the phone, just as they saw a young man walk out of the store on TV. It was at a distance and not terribly clear, but clear enough. He was apprehended by several HRT agents, and dragged off, and then two women and a man walked out, very nervously. HRT retrieved them, and gently guided them away from the scene. Finally, as they all held their breath, Matt and Megan walked out. Matt, who looked much calmer of the two, held his arm around her, and his younger cousin looked terrified. HRT agents came to get Megan, and took her off to get examined by paramedics. This left Matt, walking toward where Emily suddenly appeared at the other edge of the screen. They'd completely tuned out the reporter by now, as they watch the couple meet and embrace.
"Mommy! Aunt Meg and Uncle Matt are on TV!" Drew shrieked excitedly, wait until he told his friends at school that!
"Yeah! Look, his kissing his girlfriend!" Carrie squealed making faces, as the couple shared a rather passionate kiss, ignorant to the TV cameras capturing it.
"I think you can start calling her Aunt Emily," Cindy said what everyone was thinking, amused smile on her face.
"Ew, that's gross." Her son apparently shared his sister's sentiments on kissing.
They watched the TV for another twenty minutes, until there was a knock on the door, and Jared hurried to get it, and immediately embraced his sister.
"Oh thank god you're alright, Meg." She held him back just as tightly, still badly shaken from the events.
Everybody rushed to the door to embrace Megan and Matt, both of whom seem slightly overwhelmed, but grateful the ordeal was over. Trisha was on the verge of tears, as she grabbed them and held them tightly, before stepping back with a confused look on her face.
"Where's Emily?" The young woman wasn't with her daughter and nephew.
"She had to stay on the scene a little longer for a debriefing, but sent us back here. She should be here soon. And sure enough, thirty minutes later, a very tired red-headed negotiator showed up on their doorstop once again. It was Trisha who rushed to the door, and grabbed the young woman in a choking embrace, so that everyone could see the wide-eyed look of surprise on her face.
Clive, Jared and Cindy all hugged her afterward, finally allowing her to sit down beside Matt, a much more comfortable place for her.
Clive raised his glass, waiting for everyone to follow suit, before speaking. "Well, we liked you before Emily, but can I just say you earned your place in our family today, and we welcome you with open arms."
They raised their glasses in agreement, as Emily shyly thanked him, but really finding the only reward she needed sitting beside her. He was alive, she got him out alive, and that was all that really mattered to her right then.
Okay, so this isn't as good as I wanted it to be, but I started it, and then had to rush through it to get it up, while I still have internet access. So, this is the last of my updates for the season, thank you all very much for continuing to read Standoff fic, though our show was canceled. And thank you for reading, and thank you to all the people who have reviewed this crop of stories and will review this one. Happy Holidays!