''Mommy! Look at this one!''
JJ smiled as Amelia stood up properly, having been bent over a little to investigate another pebble or seashell in the sand beneath their feet. For the past 30 minutes or so, she had been running around the beach like a maniac, intent on finding 'treasures'. JJ already had a handful of them, under strict orders not to lose them because they were too pretty not to come home with them.
Amelia had always loved the beach. Loved the sand and the water. After picking her up from Archer's, JJ had decided to take her to the beach so that they could do something together. So that she could take Amelia's mind off of whatever had been the catalyst that set her off wanting to come home to her.
Archer had been unhelpful in saying what had happened. All she had received was a series of mumbles and apologies as Amelia had practically flung herself at her and clung onto her tightly.
JJ thought that perhaps it had something to do with yet another random woman that had been milling around the house. She had told Archer that they would be having a very serious talk some time during the week about that.
After JJ had gotten the little girl settled in the car seat and gotten in herself, she had asked if she wanted to go and play on the beach for a while, and immediately Amelia had cheered, delighted at the prospect. No swimming for today, seeing as JJ had no bathing suits and towels with her, but playing on the sand and getting ice cream was still a tempting offer.
It was still early afternoon, and there were quite a few families making the most of the weekend and the weather. People walked their dogs or just ambled along. As Amelia merrily went along, consumed with her little pebbles and seashells, she didn't notice the adoring smiles that she received from passers by.
Crouching down, JJ watched Amelia move back over to her, little energetic blue eyes looking at the delicate seashell with complete fascination. As she stood next to her Mother, she offered it out for her to see. JJ took it gently, turning it around to see the pattern and the intricate detail of the shell.
''It's very pretty baby.''
''Where they come from Mommy?''
''Well, they come from the ocean honey. There used to be a little animal that lived in there, but when they go, their shells wash up. See, our bones are on the inside, but theirs is on the outside. And you know, if you find one big enough, and you put it to your ear, you can hear the ocean waves!''
Amelia's eyes and face went from concentration to wonder in an instant, responding from JJ's mysterious smirk and the sparkle in her eyes as she told her something that in a five year old mind, sounding nothing other than magical. She flopped herself into her Mother, but dropped her eyes back so she could still look up at her.
''Can we find one, please?''
JJ laughed lightly, looking down at the little happy and angelic face staring back up at her. All sign of trouble seemed to be gone, but she knew that somewhere in Amelia's head, she was still thinking, or processing, the situation at her Father's.
She was a smart girl. JJ just hoped that she didn't notice anything else about her Daddy, but also knew that as she started to get older, he would eventually fall off the pedestal that she had placed him on. The thought made her sigh softly, moving forward to put her forehead against Amelia's as she looped a hand around the back of her to support her and ran her other through soft blonde hair.
''Sure, but how about before that, we go get some ice cream?''
''Okay! Still gots the treasure Mommy?''
JJ chuckled, placing a quick series of kisses on Amelia's face making her laugh loudly.
''Yes baby I still have the treasure. C'mere.''
As she moved, JJ pulled Amelia up with her, spinning her around a little as she did, making her laugh again. Until she was stood up properly, and she held her safely in her arm at her side.
They had gotten to the part of the beach that just up ahead on the edge of the sand, the guy with the best ice cream set up, which they always aimed for rather than the one further up. JJ had parked up there though, wanting to stroll down the sand, giving her an opportunity to think about how she was going to talk about Archer's new conquest, and how she was going to tell her about Emily.
It also gave Amelia chance to relax and run around like the hyper care free kid she was supposed to be, let her forget about the morning for a little while as she searched for her little treasures.
After ice cream had been devoured, and after JJ had chased Amelia around the beach in order to catch her to wipe her face free of said ice cream, they sat down for a little while in the sand so that they could have a little talk.
Where JJ had tried to explain that Daddy had some 'special' friends, and those type of friends stayed in his bed. Of course it had been the entirely wrong thing to say, because then Amelia asked if Joseph was her special friend, because they sometimes shared a bed at sleep over's. It had been a difficult conversation, but eventually JJ had managed to explain it well enough for it to make a little bit of sense in her daughter's head, so at least she wasn't as upset about it.
There had been a lot of questions that she had never wanted to hear, or to explain, but they had been asked and she'd done her best to answer. She'd made a promise to herself when Amelia was born that she would be as honest as she could with her about things, as long as it didn't cause her any damage or anything.
Eventually, as Amelia had lost interest, she had started asking other questions about all sorts of things. She was definitely going to do well at school with that kind of inquisitiveness, she wanted to know everything.
''When can I drive Mommy?''
JJ snickered as she navigated the car through the afternoon traffic, turning off onto a quieter road that led onto even quieter ones as they reached the edge of the suburbs. Ever since the beach, Amelia had been asking a series of random questions like this.
''Oh in around 11 years.''
''Because you need to be big to be able to do it sweetheart.''
''Were you a big girl Mommy?''
JJ laughed lightly, signalling to a few kids and the two adults herding them that they could cross before she went by.
''I wasn't as big as I was supposed to be, no. But I was bigger than you when your Grandpa taught me.''
The truth was, JJ had always loved driving and had always been good at it. Because her Dad had taught her, younger than was strictly allowed, but they had all learnt on the farm under their parents' supervision. In areas that they could do no harm. But they had grown up watching and helping, they had been brought up to be respectful with everything on the farm, so they had never messed around with the machinery or the vehicles.
''How big is you Mommy?''
''To some! How old are you Amelia?''
''Five! I'm big too now!''
JJ laughed, nodding her head lightly.
''Mommy, why'd people calls you JJ? Like Daddy and Auntie Lauren?''
''Wow you're curious today! JJ is my nickname sweetie, because those are my initials. Remember how I told you about that?''
Amelia frowned in thought for a moment, screwing up her face ever so slightly as she made a little noise as she thought. JJ just smirked from the front, rounding into their own neighbourhood now.
''Ya…'cos erm…'cos you called Jennifer?''
''That's right, good girl.''
''Why are you a good girl?''
Amelia giggled, shaking her head a little.
''No silly! Why's you called that?''
''Oh! Because your Grams liked it honey. She picked your Aunt's and Uncle Alex's names too.''
''Did you pick my name Mommy?''
''Yes baby, I did.''
''Because it's very pretty, and it's one of my favourite names. And when you were born, and you were a tiny little baby, I thought it was perfect for you.''
''Were do babies come from?''
JJ groaned, finally pulling into her driveway. She did not want to have this conversation just yet!
''Oh look, we're home!''
Amelia fidgeted as JJ unbuckled her from her child seat and lifted her out, excited to be home and to get out of her seat so she could run around again. JJ honestly didn't know where her daughter's energy came from sometimes. But she was content in the moment to be carried to the back of the house, where JJ pulled open the sliding door that lead into the kitchen, figuring that it was unlocked seeing as Lauren was stood by the cooking island.
''Hey, it's Auntie Lauren. Go pester her with your questions!''
JJ put Amelia down, who wasted absolutely no time in speeding toward her Aunt, flinging herself at her to give her a hug, making Lauren grunt slightly at the sudden contact.
''Hey there munchkin.''
Amelia looked up from her bear hug hold, that inquisitive glint still swirling in her eyes.
''Where do babies come from?''
Lauren looked at her niece for a moment, who looked back at her expectantly. Then, she looked across at JJ, scowling a little as she tilted her head to the side, watching her sister smirk around a bottle of water she had pulled out from the fridge.
''Oh thanks a lot JJ!''
JJ chuckled, giving Lauren a smart-ass grin and a wink as she shrugged nonchalantly.
''What? You're the teacher.''
''And you're her Mother, which means you have to have the birds and the bees talk with her.''
JJ almost choked on her water, coughing lightly as she shook her head defiantly.
''No, no. Not until she's…35!''
The pure terror of having that conversation, or the thought of Amelia getting old enough to need that talk was written all over JJ's face. The image of some smarmy, one track minded boy putting the moves on her daughter gave her a gipping reaction, and the same urge as she got when facing an unsub, which was to grab her gun.
''35? And how old were you again?''
JJ shot a death glare toward her sister that could wither just about anyone she ever aimed it at.
Lauren chuckled, looking down at the awaiting youngster again.
''How about you run up to your room and see what I got you today?''
Amelia's eyes widened at the prospect of presents, and immediately forgot her question and instead bolted for her room happily. Once she was out of earshot, Lauren leant over the counter as JJ moved to sit on one of the stools on the other side.
''What happened with Archer this time?''
She enquired, knowing that Amelia wasn't supposed to be home until tomorrow. She had made herself scarce last night because she knew JJ had asked Emily over for dinner, and she had only come back an hour ago, hoping that the coast was clear. What she had found was a note from JJ saying that she would be back later and that she had gone to pick Amelia up to bring her home.
''What usually happens. He failed to keep it in his pants while she's there, so she has to find another random girl there in the morning, yet again. We had to have a little talk about it again, she was a little upset. So we've been at the beach.''
Lauren nodded, automatically knowing that the beach would have given Amelia some comfort and a chance to just enjoy herself with her Mother. She felt for her sister, having to deal with Archer all of the time. He could be more trouble than anything else, in her eyes.
She knew JJ only wanted to give Amelia the chance to know her Father, and him the same thing, but sometimes she wondered if it was actually worth it. Whether a bit of hurt would be better than a lot. Because all that seemed to happen was that Archer did something wrong, leading Amelia to get upset and JJ have to explain everything on his behalf.
''I know you love him JJ, but…''
''Lauren, please just…don't.''
Lauren caught the soft, tired sigh and the tired look in her big sisters' eyes and decided to drop it. She didn't want to push her.
''Okay JJ. So have you talked to her about Emily yet?''
''I was going to do that today, after Archer called this morning. But should I still? We've already had to talk over that…I don't know whether this will be too much.''
''She's a smart kid; I think it'll be okay. Just talk to her how you usually talk to her, you're good at explaining stuff.''
JJ smiled as she rubbed the back of her neck gently.
Lauren grinned as she nodded, letting out a satisfied grunt before her eyes turned devilish.
''So, how'd dinner go last night? I noticed you changed your sheets!''
She pried with a suggestive tone, wiggling her eyebrows as JJ threw her an off look as she sighed slowly.
''Wow, I changed my bedding. Been known to happen.''
Lauren just snickered and stood up straight.
''You are so busted!''
JJ laughed lightly, almost incredulously as she shrugged, flailing a hand into the air as Lauren kept grinning at her like the cat that just caught the cream.
''For what? Having sex in my own house? It's my house, remember?''
She pointed out, arching an eyebrow in defiance of Lauren's playful embarrassment tactic.
''Yeah, yeah…so…she any good? Cos that glow you got there…''
Lauren didn't get any further due to the piece of fruit she had to dodge that had come hurtling toward her, making her squeal and laugh as she just managed to get away from it.
After sitting down and talking to her sister for a little while, and playing some more with her daughter, JJ made some dinner. Amelia's questions seemed to have relented a little bit, and eventually she took to sitting on her Mother's or Auntie's knee to play with the stuff that Lauren had picked up for her, a couple of game type stuff with educational purposes.
She chattered to both of them about random things, informed Lauren about what JJ had told her about big seashells as she had sown her small ones and pebbles to her before she had eaten her dinner. Apparently all the running around on the beach and the quick fire questions the whole way through had tired her out. After dinner she had found a spot on the carpet after turning on the TV and pressing the number that she knew would turn it onto her favourite cartoon channel.
As Amelia got glued to the cartoons, randomly answering the TV back and giggling, JJ did a couple of things around the house before making a coffee and sitting down on the couch to read.
Lauren had gotten changed and headed out for the night, saying she would be back for the football game and dinner on Sunday, and also not wanting to pass up the opportunity of finally meeting her sisters new girlfriend. JJ had somehow managed to work it so that they had missed one another. She was rather artful like that. JJ smirked at getting dissed by her sister about that.
''Mommy can I have some milk?''
JJ looked up from her book, which she had been rather engrossed in. She had curled into the corner, leaning slightly onto the arm as she twiddled her hair with an absent mind. She blinked slightly, closing her book as she nodded.
JJ got up and stretched a little as she walked through to the kitchen. Taking a deep breath in, she checked her watch for the time before pulling open the fridge and grabbing the carton of milk. On autopilot, as she realised it would be time to get Amelia in the bath pretty soon, she grabbed one of her daughter's plastic, cartoon covered glasses and poured in some milk.
She began to think of how she was going to start up this conversation about Emily. Now that she had been left to her own devices by Lauren, the spurt of confidence she had felt had evaporated, leaving her wondering how in the hell she was going to do this. After pouring the milk, as words filtered through her head, she picked up a couple of bananas, peeled one and split in half before putting it on a little plate with matching cartoon patterns, and picked up the second one as well as the glass and walked back through.
''Here you go, another half hour and bath time, okay?''
Amelia nodded, gripping the glass with both hands and taking a rather huge gulp as JJ put the little plate on her daughter's knee before giving her a kiss on top of her head and retiring back to the couch with her own banana.
''Kay…thank you Mommy.''
''You're welcome honey.''
When that half an hour had rolled around, Amelia had gone along with JJ compliantly, helping to pick which bubbles went into the water and chose a couple of toys to go in there too.
She asked about tomorrow, knowing that it was Sunday. And Amelia Jareau knew what Sunday was, game day! JJ had laughed as Amelia asked a half dozen questions about tomorrows football game, excited because it was always a fun day. And she laughed harder when Amelia decided to do the little game day dance that she did in her little naked glory, before she had swooped her up and put her into the bath.
''Amelia, Mommy needs to talk to you about something important, okay?''
Taking in a slow breath as she repositioned herself slightly on the floor next to the bath, JJ hesitated for a second, struggling a little on how to break into the conversation. She looked at Amelia, who was looking back at her with great big blue eyes, patiently awaiting this important conversation. She looked so sweet, blinking every now and then with wet hair and bubbles everywhere.
''Honey, do you remember my friend? She came to the door a few weeks ago, her name is Emily.''
Amelia seemed to think for a moment, and then she nodded rapidly as she remembered.
''Okay, good. Do you remember when I explained about the difference between friends and romantic friends?''
Once again Amelia thought before she nodded, this time flailing a little in the water.
''Like how umm…how you is friends with Gracie's Daddy but Auntie Lauren's friend is her umm…boyfriend?''
JJ smiled, nodding encouragingly taking in a moment to revel in totally selfish proud moment of 'my daughter is totally wicked smart' that parents were allowed to do.
''That's great Amelia. We talked about how different people are attracted to each other, didn't we? And I explained that some girls and boys like each other, but some girls like other girls and some boys like other boys. Do you remember that?''
Amelia nodded slowly, completely focused on JJ and what she was saying.
''Well, you're Daddy and I are only friends because I don't really like boys as anything other than friends, honey. I know it's a little hard to understand right now, but I promise you it'll start making sense as you get older. And you know you can ask me anything you want to so that it's not as confusing, okay?''
JJ paused, taking in a breath and wondering if she was saying too much too fast. But Amelia kept looking at her, nodding lightly as the cogs inside her head turned, clearly to be seen through her eyes.
''So, what I wanted to talk to you about baby, is that Emily isn't just my friend. She's my girlfriend, and I like her very much.''
''Because she's a very nice person, and she makes me happy.''
''Don't I make you happy anymore Mommy?''
As those little eyes turned sad, JJ felt her heart crack, causing her to reach out and cup Amelia's face softly.
''Oh, honey…of course you do. You make me so happy, and I love you so much. Never doubt that. Emily makes me happy in a different way, okay? It doesn't mean that you make me less happy or anything, and she's not going to take me away from you. I'm your Mommy, and nothing is ever going to change that.''
''What 'bout Daddy?''
''Nothing is going to change that either sweetheart. Your Daddy is your Daddy, and you can still see him like you do.''
''If Emily is your special friend does that mean she sleeps in your bed like Daddy's special friends?''
JJ cleared her throat, stalling for a moment as to think up of an answer.
''Yes baby, but she won't be staying here until you've gotten to know her, okay? And it's a little different than Daddy's friends. This is more special, and there's only her. She's not a special friend, she's my girlfriend. Do you get it a little?''
''I think so Mommy. Can I get out now?''
JJ grabbed a towel and stood up, wrapping Amelia up before lifting her out. She carried her through to her bedroom, and dried her off before helping her get into her pyjamas.
As she did, JJ watched her carefully, noticing that she seemed to be processing the information. Whether it had been too much, she wasn't sure. But Amelia thought about it still as JJ dried and brushed her hair. Then, she got her daughter a light snack and a drink, letting her snuggle up next to her in her bed.
Amelia moved from where she was sprawled on her, having been watching the cartoons again which JJ had switched on. She sat up, cross-legged so that she could face her Mother.
''Is Emily your girlfriend like Renee?''
JJ blinked, her breath catching in her chest as the words reached her ears. Amelia looked at her so innocently, and obviously wanting to make sense of what they had talked about. But this had been the last thing she'd expected her to ask. To help her make it make sense. It was two years ago, and Amelia had been barely three when Renee had left. She hadn't really mentioned her after a while when it happened, so she hadn't had any idea that her daughter still remembered her.
''You…you remember Renee?''
Amelia nodded lightly.
''Ah ha. But she went away and you cried a lot Mommy.''
''Amelia, I had no idea that you remembered her, I'm sorry. Things don't always work out with people the way you want them to. And Renee did make me sad for a little while.''
''Will Emily make you sad too?''
JJ smiled and shook her head gently.
''I don't think so honey, no.''
''I want you to be happy Mommy.''
JJ's smile widened at the sincerity in her daughter's voice, saw how genuine and innocent her eyes were. Sometimes it stalled her at just how amazing her daughter was. So smart and perceptive, so genuine. She just had a beautiful, flourishing personality and she couldn't be more happy and proud of that.
She felt a little lump stick in her throat as a few tears sprang into her eyes, touched that her five year old could sit across from her and say something like that and really mean it. Especially when all of this must have still been rather confusing to her. Despite her worries that Emily might steal her away. But Amelia did trust her, and if she had said that that wouldn't happen, she probably believed it to be true, she'd never lied to her before.
''Thank you Amelia, that means so much to me. C'mere..''
Amelia bounced back over to her, happily being pulled in for a bear hug and giggling as JJ squeezed and kissed her quickly. After a moment, she stopped to let the little girl catch her breath as she snuggled her up close.
''So, do you think it would be okay if Emily came over for brunch tomorrow, and had dinner with us after the game? Would you mind that?''
She asked, wanting to give Amelia both the feeling of, and the actual control over what happened tomorrow. If she wasn't ready, JJ could understand that. She had to give her daughter the choice, this was too important to rush.
''That'd be 'kay Mommy! Can I go to sleep here?''
''Okay sweetheart, get settled in.''
After Amelia got herself comfortable, nuzzled into her side with her head in her shoulder, JJ switched off the TV and put some music on before switching out the lights. It had been a long night for her last night, and she was pretty tired from the day too. So in no time at all, she drifted asleep with her daughter.