Even Fairy Tale Characters Would Be Jealous
"Christopher Morgan get down out of that tree!"
Emily and JJ laughed at the shrill sound of Penelope's voice. The blond shook her head in exasperation, hands perched on her hips as her eagle eyes watched her son climb down from the tree.
"That child is going to be the death of me," she said, sitting back down in the chair between her two best friends.
"Kate was my climber," Emily revealed. "Then she fell and jammed her two front teeth into her gums."
All three of them shivered.
Emily sighed, a wide smile stretching her mouth as she turned to the two women who were as good as sisters. "Did you ever thing we'd be here?"
"Oh no, gumdrop," Penelope protested with a laugh. "I'm not going down that road."
"I'm not reflecting on my life," Emily promised. "Just the past year. With Gabi's miscarriage and Kate's abuse… It's been kind of a rough year."
"We made it through," JJ replied with a shrug. "Like we always do."
Their eyes turned to JJ`s back door as Gabi and Jack came through. Emily and Penelope exchanged a look as the chorus of greetings rose from the gathered family. Now they were just waiting on AJ and Kate.
After Gabi's miscarriage at Christmas, there had been some serious doubt about her relationship with Jack. A miscarriage when you were married was difficult enough, but when you were just starting out after graduation without the stability of a career, a house... they weren't sure Gabi and Jack were going to make it through intact.
"Hey Mama," Gabi greeted, pressing a kiss to her mother's cheek before moving on to her aunts. "Annie's not here yet?"
"She was in New Haven last night," Emily revealed. "She said Vaughan was going to pick her up and drive them down here."
"Gabi!" Calleigh called across the lawn where she was sitting under a tree with her youngest brother. "We need a judge and tie breaker."
Gabi rolled her eyes, turning to JJ. "Trivia contest again?"
JJ shrugged. "Probably."
Gabi sighed before heading off across the lawn.
"You know, I still can't figure out how my daughter has so much trivia stored up in her head," Penelope revealed, relaxing back and closing her eyes against the warm May sun.
"Oh for goodness sakes, you're not going to get shot!"
Every eye turned towards the door at the exasperated yell. AJ stepped through the back door, Vaughan on her heels. She glanced around before pointing at the men. "Look, no one's carrying their guns, not even Jack. You're perfectly safe, you big baby."
"Hey, hey, hey!" Jack piped up. "It's not like Aunt Jen and Uncle Spencer's guns aren't nearby!"
"Can it!" AJ called, her hand linking with Vaughan's as she pulled him over to her mother and aunts. "If I see one gun out of any of you, you're going to be sorry!"
Emily chuckled, standing to wrap her eldest in a tight hug. "Hi sweetheart."
"Hey Mom," AJ said with a sigh. "Our entire conversation on the way here was about whether Vaughan was going to be shot." She stepped back, close enough that their shoulders touched. "I kept trying to explain that we don't bring guns to family functions."
"I can go change the safe code, if you want," JJ offered.
"Jack only pretends to know the safe code," AJ replied with a roll of her eyes. "And the next dangerous person to Jack is you. And Uncle Spencer's afraid of you so he won't open the safe for anyone."
"You sound like you thought this through," Penelope said approvingly.
"Of course I did. I want Vaughan to come out of this in one piece. I have to make sure no one can get at a weapon," AJ agreed, tilting her head to smile up at Vaughan.
"There's still a few hours for someone to change their minds," Vaughan argued, leaning down and pressing a quick kiss to AJ's mouth.
Emily's face softened. She was glad to see AJ looking so content.
AJ grinned, stepping away from Vaughan to wrap her arms around her brother. "Where's your girl?"
Seth shrugged. "Didn't work out."
"Huh. Sorry," AJ replied.
Her brother shrugged, then turned to Vaughan. "You play soccer?"
"I can," Vaughan replied.
"We need a fourth for even teams and Cal won't stop her little game with Eric. You in?"
Vaughan looked down to AJ, then back to her brother with a shrug. "Sure."
AJ stopped him for a moment. "Did you want something to drink?"
He kissed her head. "Whatever you're having is good."
Emily couldn't help shaking her head as they separated, AJ heading towards the cooler against the house, Vaughan off with Seth to play soccer.
"God, they're already like a married couple," Penelope said shaking her head in disbelief.
"And Gabs and Jack were any different?" JJ pointed out.
"AJ and Vaughan have been doing this for three years," Emily revealed, reaching over to pull another chair up for her daughter. "I think that's more than enough time to establish some sort of bickering."
"Honey, I'm home!"
All eyes went to the door again as Kate's sing-song voice floated over the lawn, Landon close behind her. Emily couldn't help but smile.
"She's well-adjusted," Penelope commented.
"Yeah," Emily agreed happily. "They passed down the verdict yesterday. Guilty on all counts."
"That's good," JJ said. "I hear murder's still illegal and I wouldn't want Hotch to get into trouble because he forgot all of his training."
The women chuckled. Emily watched happily as Landon followed Kate over to where the husbands had gathered along with Jack, introducing him around before making her way to her mother and aunts. Hugs were passed around before Kate too was off to socialize with the rest of her family.
"They look.... happy," Penelope said, watching as Jack separated from the discussion with the men to make his way towards Gabi. Calleigh had stopped the trivia tournament in favour of soccer and thus, Kate had joined in. AJ and Landon stood talking just off to the side, keeping an eye on the game that was developing into quite the rousing match.
"Who's happy, Mama?"
"Our kids," Penelope answered, allowing her husband to wrap his arms loosely around her waist. "They all look happy."
"They do," JJ agreed, reaching out for Spencer's hand as he followed Derek. Aaron was close behind.
Emily linked her hand with her husband's, looking up quizzically at his slight frown. "Don't tell me you're going to be a party pooper," she said, pushing herself up on her toes to kiss his cheek. "They're happy, Aaron."
"Landon I like because I know he's going to be there for Kate. He's proven that," Aaron explained. "And Gabi, well, she's already as good as a daughter to me."
"You sure this has nothing to do with the fact that AJ's your oldest girl, Hotch?" Derek asked with a slight smirk. It wiped from his face quickly when Penelope jabbed an elbow into his stomach, just hard enough to make him wince.
"He's an unknown entity," Aaron griped.
"But he's not some sort of murderous sociopath," Emily responded with a chuckle at Aaron's characteristic overprotectiveness. "If AJ says he's a good man, then he's a good man. You have to trust her judgment."
"He's a Cliff, you know," Aaron retorted.
Emily's lips pressed together slightly. She hadn't wanted the rich and pampered life for her children, at least not the way Vaughan had been raised. The Hotchners weren't paupers, but they certainly didn't live in a mansion like Emily knew the Cliffs did. She just hoped that his family life was stable enough that he could support her first born. And if it wasn't, well, she certainly hoped if he was going to be around longer than a couple of months he would learn how to lean on AJ's family.
Emily smiled as she thought about it. They really were a family, whether by blood or by friendship and in all cases, it didn't matter how they knew each other, if they were biologically related or not. What mattered was that despite the things they'd been through, despite the trials and tribulations that had brought them to this point, they'd all made it in one piece and with all relationships healthy and intact.
Her smile widened as Aaron wrapped his arm around her. They were all together. They all loved each other. They were all a family. It was her dream come true, her fairy tale and she was living it.
It was perfect.
And... we're done. Which is sad in so many ways.
I have been asked to write more, and I have a couple of things floating around in my head. There's a little oneshot I'll probably be posting soon (half depending on the reviews I get out of this. HALF!) that checks in on the family a bunch of years down the line and I've been asked to write one focusing on AJ and Vaughan and how their relationship progresses.
My point is this... as much as this is over, I'm open to suggestions of things you want to see. The oneshot may turn into a story kind of like Out Living where it's just a collection of little oneshots instead of writing a full story, but that depends on what you guys want to see.
So, after 5 stories, 1681 reviews at current count, and 236 chapters... Technically that's the entirety of the series. At least to date. It has been an absolute pleasure to write for those of you who review, and I most certainly hoped you enjoyed this little epilogue. Thank you. Seriously.