Author's Note: Happy Birthday, Flashpenguin! This one is for you!
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Looking up from her Cobb salad in the bustling bistro they'd decided to lunch at, Emily Prentiss's eyes met those of her dark-haired twenty year old daughter. Never a fool, Emily had been able to tell something was on her daughter's mind from the moment she met her outside her dorm on the Georgetown campus across town. She hadn't needed to draw on her profiling skills at all to know her little girl was having trouble. The distant look shining in those familiar black eyes, the pinched set of that determined face, and a smatter of mother's intuition had been the only tools necessary to know that there was a very definite ulterior motive for her daughter's lunch summons.
But, whatever the case may be, Emily was more than pleased to spend time with her daughter. Thankfully, in the last few years, Marina had finally stopped seeing her as the 'enemy', and the young beautiful woman that her baby had become had began to confide in her as she had in those early years of childhood.
So, instead of pushing as she had when her daughter had been a rebellious teenager, Emily waited, content in the knowledge that, in her own time, her not-so-little girl would divulge the reason for her impromptu invitation. The young lady was so much like her father, sometimes it was downright scary.
Emily didn't have to wait long. After only a few half-hearted nibbles on her French fries, she heard her daughter's voice, so much like her own, ask, tentatively, Mom?"
"Hmmm," Emily hummed noncommittally as she took a sip of her iced tea, shifting her napkin in her lap.
"Can I ask a question," Marina inquired hesitantly, her shoulders hunched slightly. "A personal question?" she clarified.
Cocking her head, Emily nodded. "Of course you can, honey," she said softly, reaching across the table to cover her daughter's cool, restless hand where it nervously shredded a napkin on the table. "Anything."
"Well, it sort of about dad," Marina hedged, looking at her mother through her eyelashes.
"What about him?" Emily asked, perplexed as she tried to read her daughter's half-hidden gaze. This was odd, she thought to herself. Marina and her father had an excellent relationship…much closer than most fathers and daughters had. Perhaps, it was because he'd waited so late in life to actually become a parent, thinking the opportunity had passed him by. But, needless to say, David Rossi had devoted every spare moment he had from the second Marina had made her grand debut into the world to being the most wonderful father on earth. Surely this youngest Rossi had to know that there wasn't anything she couldn't go to her father and say...to either of them and say.
"Well," Marina began, shifting uncomfortably in her straight backed chair. "How did you know Daddy was the one?"
Smiling wistfully, Emily met her daughter's gaze. "At least you asked a question I can answer easily," Emily said with relief, blinking for a moment as she allowed her mind to clear. "I knew your father was my one and only for one simple reason."
"And that is?" Marina asked impatiently, watching her mother's face intently, searching for something, for anything to give her a clue.
"He left me breathless," Emily replied with a modest shrug of her slim shoulders.
"Breathless," Marina repeated skeptically, one dark brow raising in a perfect imitation of her mother and grandmother.
"Absolutely breathless," Emily nodded, her heart quickening for a moment as her thoughts slipped back in time.
"Mooommmm," Marina groaned at the dreamy look on Emily's face. "I'm trying to be serious here."
"I am being serious, Marina Elizabeth," Emily replied evenly, returning her gaze to her daughters. "Your father took my breath away the very second I met him."
"Do you realize how corny that sounds?" Marina queried as she rolled her eyes, embarrassed for her mother.
Lifting her lips in a tiny grin, Emily winked. "Of course. But that doesn't make it untrue."
Seeing her daughter's cheeks redden slightly, Emily asked softly, "Does whoever is putting the crimson stain on those cheeks of yours take your breath, Mari?" Emily asked knowingly, keeping her eyes trained on her only child's face.
Silent a moment, Marina swallowed nervously, reaching for her own glass of tea and gulping madly. Finally meeting her mother's wise eyes, she admitted faintly, "Yes." Biting her lower lip in a gesture so uniquely her mother's, Marina asked shakily, "If that's how you knew Daddy was the one...how did you know it was real, Mom?"
"Because," Emily explained slowly, not allowing herself to give voice to the questions suddenly bursting inside, "when the giddy glow of new love began to fade, I found that, in its place, something so deep had developed that it couldn't be described. I still can't describe it. Even now. When it's real, you'll know. And there won't be any room for doubt."
"Even if there had been any, Dad would have bulldozed past it," Marina remarked, genuinely smiling as she thought of her stubborn father.
"True," Emily agreed, bobbing her head, well aware of her husband's take-charge tendencies. Those same tendencies that had been passed on to their only daughter.
"Mom?" Marina whispered, her eyes shining with happiness.
"It's real. And it's that solid strong love that you and Dad have," Marina confided with a tentative smile, her words growing stronger as she straightened her shoulders.
"Then you, my girl," Emily said with happy tears standing in her eyes as she stared at her suddenly-grown-up daughter, "just became one of the luckiest young ladies on earth."
And she was. She lived happily ever after. Just like her parents.