Author's Note: Many thanks to everyone that followed this story to its inevitable conclusion. Tonnie and I have really appreciated the reviews and pms from all of you. But, like all good things, this had to end eventually. It's been a wonderful ride and we've enjoyed each moment. This baby is over a year old now. And it's time to say goodbye. Please everyone, offer one final review and let us know what you thought. As ever, we owned nothing…just borrowed us for our own nefarious purposes. God bless you all and have an exceptionally wonderful New Year!
In Sickness and In Health
"Do I actually need to answer that question for you, Doctor Reid?" Dave smirked across the table, meeting the eyes of the normally shy younger man.
"I suppose not," Reid mumbled, his hands fiddling with the linen napkin in his lap.
Rolling her aged eyes, Sofia murmured as she reached for a biscuit, her fingers deftly shredding the bread as she handed it to her grandson, "Gino was right…secrets never stay secret forever. But I think he'd be happy it was all out in the open now, don't you, son?"
"Considering he wanted it out in the open since the day I found out, I would imagine so, Mama," Dave murmured, his hand sliding against JJ's leg as she shifted Marina in her arms.
"Freaking Italians," Emily murmured, glancing around the brightly lit kitchen alcove. "Everything's a secret," she grumbled, quieting only when Gideon gave her shoulder a soft squeeze.
"Well, it's all in the open now," Rudy said, a note of finality in his voice as he leaned back in the oak chair. "And this nightmare is behind us all."
"Whatever will we do without the Italian circus to keep us entertained?" Gideon asked with a sly smile.
"Italian circus," Ben grunted, throwing a dark glance in his friendly nemesis' direction. "As I remember it, you did some entertaining of your very own these last couple of months. I wouldn't be throwing stones, Potatohead."
"Touché," Gideon said with an inclination of his head as he raised his coffee mug toward Ben.
"Well, my first order of business is to throw all the extraneous people out of my house right after this business are concluded," Rossi grinned widely, looking around the table. "No offense, my friends, but I'm more than ready to have my wife and children to myself again."
"Can't blame you there," Gideon chuckled, his face widening as he took in the grin on his old friend's face. "I've seen more of both of you than…"
"Have a biscuit, Jason," Emily said quickly, shoving it in his mouth as she noticed JJ's deepening blush.
"Well done," Mama Rossi laughed approvingly, leaning comfortably back in her chair as she handed Henry another piece of fruit.
"We've been studying at the feet of a master," Penelope said obediently with a nod to Mama Rossi.
"Out of curiosity, does this mean that you and JJ will be rejoining the unit any time in the next century?" Hotch asked hopefully, raising an inquiring eyebrow towards the couple at the head of the table.
"God, yes…I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I actually miss the simplicity of the average serial killer," JJ said with a shake of her blonde head, shifting a stirring Marina to her shoulder. "But I think Dave will agree that spending some time just being a family might be the first order of business."
"Dave definitely agrees," Rossi said adamantly, sliding a hand against his daughter's back as he caught the slipping blanket. "Probably about a month," Dave added with a look at the Unit Chief.
"Thank you, God," Hotch groaned with a look heavenward.
"I think we all owe the Big Man a load of thanks for the past few months," Morgan said with a grin, reaching for the orange juice container.
"Somebody's definitely been answering our prayers," Rudy agreed, filling Sofia's coffee mug as he refilled his own.
"We've got a lot to be thankful for," Rossi agreed, sliding his arm around JJ's shoulders, resting his hand on Marina's downy soft head as he glanced over at his son, grinning as he watched the toddler shred a piece of biscuit.
"I've already thanked the good Lord on your behalf, son," Sofia informed him, her hand catching the crumbs from the high chair as Henry sprinkled them over the side of the tray.
"You don't think the Almighty listens to me anymore, Mama?" Rossi asked, biting back a grin as he watched his mother pat his son's cheek.
Casting a dark look toward her son, she replied succinctly, "Who lights the candles around here, son? I not see you at Mass recently. Somebody has to keep this family on the straight and narrow."
"I don't think this is a time to be arguing with your mother, David," JJ said firmly as she watched her husband start to open his mouth, nodding in Sofia's direction.
"Listen to your wife, Davie," Rudy added helpfully from across the table. "And take a page from your father's book. He always knew when to retreat gracefully, especially when it concerned his beloved."
Turning to face JJ, Rossi stared into her brilliant blue eyes as he murmured, "I think I've learned that lesson, and become a far richer man in the process."
Hearing the rest of the team and their family once again start their individual conversations, JJ could only stare up at her husband, wondering for the millionth time how her life had changed so much over the past few years. The morning sun shone brightly through the window, warming her face as she whispered, "For richer or for poorer, David."
"In sickness and health, Bella," Dave replied softly, shifting Marina out of her arms and into his own, settling the slight weight of the baby girl against his shoulder, reveling in the faint whiff of her breath against his neck.
"For better or for worse," JJ declared, leaning her head against his shoulder as she added, softly, "But I think the worse is over. Our future is going to be filled with life and laughter, David. We deserve it, and our children deserve it."
"I promise you that it will be, Bella," he vowed softly, leaning over to press a gentle kiss against her lips, leaning his forehead against hers as his hand tightened against Marina's back. Whispering, he asked, "Would you do it again?"
Raising her head slightly, she asked, her voice conveying her confusion, "Do what, honey?"
Nodding, his chin jutting out toward the loud table, he replied, "Would you take on all of this? Would you marry me again?"
Taking a moment to stare into his dark eyes, she felt herself trying to memorize every detail on his face, from the faint lines settling in around his eyes to the soft set of his lips, almost like she was seeing him anew for the first time. Sliding her hand down his arm, she slid her finger against his hand, sweeping a touch over his wedding ring, the ring that she had put on his finger all those long months ago. Nodding slowly, she answered with a sure voice, "I would, David. I don't ever want to imagine my life without you in it. I've faced that fear over the past months, and I didn't like it at all."
"What did I ever do to deserve you, Bella?" he asked, almost reverently, his words filled with awe as he pulled her closer.
"Oh, I seem to remember those early days, specifically the one when you bullied me into an Emergency Room," JJ replied with a soft laugh, the memories of those early days hazy, dulled by time and the events of the past few months.
"And I seem to remember you fighting me every step of the way," he replied, shaking his head. But while JJ's memory was less than perfect, Rossi remembered every detail from those early days, the fear he had felt at losing her fueling his mind and actions. Shuddering slightly as he recalled her long sickness, he murmured, just loud enough for her to hear, "Mama's wrong, Bella. God does hear my prayers. I remember begging him to save you, promising to do anything if you would only get better. And you did."
Lacing her fingers with his, she whispered, her breath catching in her throat, "I don't know what I would have done without you, David. What Henry and I would have done. If we'd had to face…."
Pressing a quick finger against her lips, he muttered against her hair, "You'll never have to find out, Cara Mia, because you're never going to be alone. Nothing is going to come between us. We're always going to be together, and we're always going to be a family. Always."
Nodding slowly at her husband's solid words, JJ let the sounds and sights of the room sweep over her, the chattering of their team members and La Familia mixing with the high-pitched squeals of her son. Her daughter chose that moment to whimper sharply, her trademark sign that she was soon going to demand to be fed. Watching as the woman who had become her mother grinned at her best friend, JJ felt a tear slip down her cheek, knowing that no matter what others might think, she knew that she was at home. Glancing back up at her husband, she said, her voice filled with amazement and promise, "Always, David. As long as we both shall live."