Disclaimer: Not Mine
A/N: Co-written with Mingsmommy. Beta'd by the luscious Losingintrnslatn.
David Rossi was six when his father left. He had knobby knees and a cowlick and a crooked smile that got his cheeks pinched by every old lady in the parish. When he was six and a half, he came home from school with tear stains on those cheeks and a very impressive black eye. His mother took one look at him, the dirty clothes and the scraped knees and his poor, battered face, and, taking the envelope with the note from Sister Agnes, sent him up to his room.
Sitting on the bed, Dave waited for his mother. He'd seen that look in her eyes often enough to know he was in trouble. But right now he didn't care…much. That stupid Johnny Catalano had it coming. Calling him names. Saying bad things about his brother and sisters. He did know who is father was. Just because he wasn't here anymore didn't mean David didn't know him. So, if he was going to get a spanking he'd take it like a man, 'cause he'd punch that big mouth again in a minute.
The door swung open and his mother stood there for a long time just watching him. Then she walked over and sat down on the bed beside him and he could tell she'd been crying too. Pulling him close, she pressed a kiss to his hair. "Oh, Davey. What am I gonna do with you?"
"I'm sorry, Mama," he whispered. "But he…"
"Shhhhhh. I read the letter." Angela Rossi stroked his hair, and rocked back and forth. "I know why you got into a fight, Davey, but that doesn't mean it's okay."
He nodded and felt tears burn hot against his eyelids. In a choked voice, he asked, "Why do people get a divorce?"
He felt her shudder, heard her sniff and he knew she was crying because he'd heard those sounds before when she thought they were all asleep. "Sometimes…sometimes adults just stop loving each other. And then they get a divorce."
"Mama?" Pulling back, he looked up at her and in his heart he couldn't imagine anybody not loving her. "When I get big, I'm gonna marry you and I will never, ever want a divorce."
When Dave was ten, Mrs. Navarro, the neighborhood's requisite crazy cat lady, passed away. It was only a few months later that a new family moved into her house. Since she lived two houses down from Dave and right across the street from Jimmy, and school was out for the summer, the two of them sat out on Jimmy's front steps all day watching the activity. They passed the time talking about baseball and their newly discovered passion – girls. It wasn't until late in the day, almost dinner time, that another car pulled up and a girl got out.
"Wow." Jimmy's voice was an awe filled whisper.
Dave couldn't take his eyes off her. "Yeah."
"Who's that?" Jimmy nudged him, hard.
He nudged his friend back. "Dunno. Think she's gonna be living there?"
Jimmy, always the more outgoing one, stood up. "Let's go find out."
They crossed the street, and walked up the driveway of the faded blue house. The girl was sitting on the front porch swing with a book in her lap and a frown on her face. Up close she was even prettier than he had thought. Suddenly, Dave's palms were sweaty and his heart was pounding.
"Hi. I'm Jimmy," he hitched a thumb in Dave's direction, "and this is Davey. Who're you?"
She looked at them and a slow grin spread across her face. "I'm Grace." And David Rossi was smitten.
Graciella Annette Salvati was the prettiest girl he'd ever seen. She had long dark hair and big brown eyes and could run faster and hit a ball farther than most of the boys in the neighborhood. And when Johnny Catalano pushed her, she didn't wait on Dave or Jimmy to pound him, she just pushed him right back.
It was late August and school was going to start back in just a few weeks. Jimmy was on vacation with his family, and Dave and Grace were hanging out in the tree house her dad built for them. They were talking. It was funny how they spent so much time talking. He'd never met a girl he wanted to talk to before he met Grace. But then she wasn't just any girl. She was his friend.
"Do you ever think about growing up?" She was leaning against the wall beside him, her tanned legs sticking out in front of her, her ponytail a wild mass of curls.
"Yeah." Lately, he'd been thinking about it a lot.
With a sigh, she drew her legs up and began to play with the laces on her shoes. "So, do you ever think about getting married? You know, like who you want to marry and where you want to live?" He can feel his throat getting tighter and all he can do is nod. She was looking at him and he couldn't look away. "Well?"
"Well what?" He gulped, his throat working furiously.
"Who is it silly?" She laughed then, a sound that never failed to make him smile. "Who do you wanna marry?"
With a shrug, he let his eyes slide away from hers. "You."
"Really?" She was smiling and her cheeks were flushed. He nodded and she said, "Good. 'Cause I wanna marry you too." It was his turn to smile and for what felt like a long time they simply looked at each other. Then Grace lowered her eyes. "I think you're supposed to kiss me now. That's what people do when they agree to get married."
His throat was so dry he couldn't swallow. "Oh-kay." The word came out in a series of squeaks that reminded him of the time Jimmy's hamster got stuck in the running wheel. He leaned forward and so did she and her eyes were closed but he kept his open because he was afraid he'd miss if he didn't. Then his lips touched hers and it was…nice. Better than nice. Soft and warm and scary as hell. Something he definitely wanted to do again.
Dave met her during his senior year at DePaul University. A tiny pizza place opened up just a block from campus, and he and a few friends decided to drop in one Friday after classes. Janine Patron was a tiny girl with waist length black hair and huge green eyes. From the second she stopped at their table, pen poised over her order pad and a genuine smile on her face, he was hooked.
Thankfully, at almost twenty-three, he was a little more suave than he had been at ten. Suave or not, he still wasn't a ladies' man. But that didn't stop him from dropping in two or three days a week for a beer or a soda and a slice, just to spend time with her.
After all, it was 1977 and the mini-skirt had been replaced by long flowing dresses that left a little more to the imagination and Dave's very male imagination provided vivid fantasies about what might be under the yards and yards of material. She wasn't just pretty she was smart, too. Dave had only gotten through the math required for a criminal justice degree but Janine was a math major. She talked about numbers the way most girls talked about poetry and when her eyes shone like that, he wanted nothing more than to kiss her until her eyes shone for him. Only for him.
It took until second semester to even ask her out and then he might not have at all if she hadn't seen him going over a first draft of his application to the FBI. "You going somewhere, Davey?"
It was a Monday afternoon and though the smell of garlic and baking dough permeated the air, the place was deserted. He'd learned a long time ago it was the best time to come in if he wanted her to be able to talk to him.
He put down his pen. "I don't know yet. I've applied to a couple of law schools around here, but I'm really hoping to get accepted to the FBI." His feet pushed into the floor and his chair tilted up onto its back legs and balanced there as he smiled at her.
She blinked at him and her lips turned down. "But you could be in the FBI and still live here in Chicago, right?"
He frowned. "Well, I'd have to go to the academy in Virginia for training, but after that, yeah, I guess I could work out of the FBI office here in Chicago. But the headquarters, the place to be if you want to get noticed is in DC."
Shaking her head she tapped a finger on his application."You could get noticed here in Chicago. You don't wanna go to DC."
His eyebrow quirked. "I don't?" Janine shook her head and her long ponytail danced across her back. "Why not?"
She leaned over his table then and the gauzy blouse she was wearing fell away and he had an excellent view of her breasts for the briefest of moments, before her face lined up with his. "Because I'm in Chicago, silly." Then she pressed her mouth against his, and the front legs of his chair hit the tile floor audibly and he pulled her into his lap as her mouth opened under his and his head began to swim. Her mouth was soft and wet and hot and he had never felt anything so wonderful.
Nicky, the grizzled and ancient pizza chef cackled from behind the counter. "It's about time, Davey. I didn't think you had it in you. At this rate it'll take you thirty years to marry the girl."
Dave broke the kiss and shook his head. "No, it won't."
Every light in the house was on, the back door was unlocked and there was blood all over his kitchen floor. The plan had been for Prentiss to meet him here at his house, but he'd gotten held up. He hadn't worried, though; they'd done this often enough she had her own key and she knew she was welcome to make herself at home.
But her car wasn't in the driveway and there was blood on the kitchen floor and a blood soaked towel in the kitchen sink. He dialed her cell only to hear it ring in the next room, finding it on the coffee table. He didn't know if he should call 911 or Hotch first, he just knew with startling clarity if something had happened to Emily his life was over. Only fifty-three years old and his life was finished.
His finger is on the second 1 in 911 when he hears a car door slam. He meets her at the door and sees she isn't alone. Mudgie, with a bandage running up the majority of his leg is limping in beside her. "Oh, god, Dave, I am so sorry."
Her white blouse is streaked with the distinctive brown-maroon of dried blood and there is a smear of the same on her right cheek but she doesn't look hurt. But that doesn't stop him from grabbing her shoulders and carefully searching her face. "Jesus, Prentiss, are you all right?"
She closes her eyes wearily. "Yeah, I'm fine, just stupid." When she opens them again, there are tears there. "I dropped a glass of wine out on the deck and Mudgie stepped on a piece and then he kind of freaked out and fell and a big piece went in his leg." She shakes her head. "It was bleeding a lot and I was afraid of tendon damage so I took him to the vet ER." Letting out a trembling sigh, she sniffed. "Fifteen stitches, but he should be fine. They said to watch him and if he tried to chew the bandage he'd need to get one of those cone things."
Dave just gapes at her.
"I'm…I'm sorry about the mess, I just…" she is stopped short by the press of his mouth against hers, strong and urgent, hot and demanding.
He pulls her as close as he can and his heart is thudding in his chest and he's tempted to yell at her for scaring him so damn bad, but he's too busy kissing her to yell. He feels her shudder in his arms and knows she's relieved too from her own set of worries.
There are probably a thousand things he could say and a thousand better ways to say what he does say as he pushes her hair back from her face and presses a kiss to her forehead. But it's real and it's right and it's true. "I love you, Emily." Her eyes are wide and she looks like she wants to say something, but he just shakes his head. "Never before like this. Never again for me." He presses another kiss to her mouth. "I love you."
Dave was fifty-four years old when he gave his heart to the last woman he would ever love. Isabella was born for him to love. In Dave's totally biased opinion, she was perfect from the top of her dark head to the tips of her very sweet toes. She had his mother's hair and Emily's eyes. And when she smiled at him, he was lost. When she smiled at him no other woman in the world even existed.
"Daddy," four year old Isabella clambered onto his lap. "Read me a story?"
"A story?" He pressed a kiss against her hair, inhaling the scent of baby shampoo and warm little girl. "What story do you want tonight?"
With a big grin, Isabella held up her book. "Cinderella."
"Again?" Dave gave an exaggerated eye roll. "Can't we read something about football?"
Her giggle was pure and sweet. "Noooooooo, Daddy. I don't like football. I'm a girl."
"Really? A girl?"
"Daddy!" She laughed, bouncing up and down. "Please?"
When she said please and batted her eyelashes, a trick she had learned from her mother, he was a goner. "Okay. But only this one last time. Tomorrow we get you some books about football."
Twenty minutes later, she was snuggled in his lap with her head on his shoulder. "…And they lived happily ever after. The End."
"What does happily ever after mean?" She looked up at him with sleep heavy eyes, her tiny brow furrowed in confusion.
Dave thought for a moment, his fingers toying with the ends of her hair. "Well, when two adults really, really love each other, they get married and then they live together forever."
She wiggled around until she could wrap her arms around his neck. Then she placed a kiss on his cheek. "When I grow up I want to marry you, Daddy. Cause I love you bunches."
"Oh, sweetheart, I love you bunches too." Over her head, he watched as Emily rubbed one hand over her very pregnant belly and swiped at the tears on her cheeks with the other. And his heart, his life was full.