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In Sunshine or In Shadow
A mere hour later, Emily Prentiss was wondering why she had ever considered denying herself this simple pleasure. Watching happily as Jack ran after the errant soccer ball, his little legs moving as fast as he could push them, she couldn't help but grin when he got in front of it and kicked it with all of his power. The exuberant smile on his face as he threw up his hands into the air was all she needed to know that at least some things were still right in the air.
"Did you see me, Aunt Em'ly?" the little boy demanded as he came running up to her chair.
"I did, Jack!" she assured him, reaching out to ruffle his already messed hair. "You are absolutely amazing!"
"I gots around it," Jack explained as he grinned again, bouncing on his toes as he all but vibrated from the energy in the sunlit park.
"You got it, son," Aaron gently correctly as he came up on the other side of Emily's seat. Gently tossing the black and white ball, he encouraged, "Take it out long this time and bring it back in the cross and weave pattern, okay?"
Nodding quickly as he tucked the ball next to his chest, Jack took off at a run before either adult could offer any further encouragement. Emily let out a small sigh just then, and Aaron glanced down with worry in his gaze. "Is this too much? Do we need to go back in?"
"Absolutely not!" Emily denied, shaking her head as she turned toward him. "Are you kidding? This is the most relaxed I've felt in ages."
Offering her a relieved grin, Aaron perched beside her on the worn picnic table, their feet resting side by side on the bench. "Good. Jack was thrilled you agreed to come with us. Between you and me, you're his favorite aunt."
"He's a wonderful little boy, Aaron," Emily said softly as her eyes followed an excited Jack as he dropped the ball in front of him up the field. "So full of life and energy. He makes me wish I could go back and do everything again. Maybe the second time around I wouldn't make so many mistakes."
"Those mistakes have helped make you into the woman you are now, Emily. And that woman is pretty damn amazing."
"Thank you," Emily murmured, blushing at his praise. "Sitting here and watching these children reminds me of all the things I don't want to lose. The sunshine and giggles….feeling the breeze hitting my face…it reminds me of why I have to fight this stupid disease. Thanks for giving me the proverbial kick in the ass it took to remember that," she said with a grateful look at him. "If you hadn't insisted that I start fighting for my life….I'm not sure I would have made it this far. I'm not too proud of the fact that I was ready to throw in the towel, but we both know I was at that point."
"Emily, you were scared. Everybody understands that," Hotch reassured her gently. "But, there was no way in hell I was going to allow you to give up."
"I noticed," Emily chuckled. "Talk about taking drastic measures. You uprooted your entire life just to make sure that I didn't try to quit on life. I still can't believe you moved in with me."
"I wasn't willing to risk your life. We couldn't lose you, Emily. Not now. Not ever," he stated firmly.
"Thank you for caring so much," she whispered, waving at Jack when he looked their direction. "These last few weeks….I feel like, for the first time…I have a real family. I've got a reason to keep going even when my body wants to give out."
"You feel like that because that's what you have, Emily. Dysfunctional as it is, it's ours," he noted with a faint smile. "And I'll do what I need to do to protect it."
Smiling again, Emily inhaled the crisp cool air and blew it out shakily.
"Something else is bothering you though," Hotch noted sagely. "Why don't you tell me what it is," he suggested, scooting closer to her as the wind picked up and gusted over them.
"It's nothing," Emily said dismissively, watching as Jack angled the ball down the field toward the net. "Let's just enjoy the sunshine."
"Emily, don't deflect and expect me not to notice," Aaron chided. "I'm entirely capable of enjoying this day and listening to you. Something is on your mind. Spill it. You'll feel better."
Rolling her eyes at his persistence, she replied, "It nothing, really. I guess I'm just a little anxious about this next doctor's appointment. They're going to pull the blood work to gauge how well the chemotherapy is working."
"You're afraid that it won't have been as effective as you'd hoped," Hotch commented evenly.
"I'm afraid it hasn't worked at all if you want me to be honest," Emily murmured. "We both know that treatments for this type of cancer are limited."
"There are a whole host of other chemotherapy drugs they can try if it comes down to it," Aaron pointed out optimistically.
"Not really in a big hurry to sign up for guinea pig duty, Aaron," Emily demurred.
"No one is, Emily," Hotch returned calmly. "But no length is too great when you're fighting for your life. Let's not borrow trouble. As of this moment, there isn't any reason to believe that this treatment plan hasn't worked. Let's just go with the theory that it is until we're given reason to believe otherwise."
"You know, before I got sick, I never considered you to be an optimist," Emily laughed, shifting against the wooden table as she tried to find another comfortable position. "You've got as many layers as an onion. It would take a lifetime to peel them all away."
"I guess you'd better plan on sticking around then," Hotch deadpanned. "You'd hate missing a chance to see my gooey center."
"There's a gooey center?" Emily giggled as Jack's triumphant shout of success reached them as he kicked his ball into the net.
"Aunt Em'ly! Dad, goal!" the little boy shouted, dancing around the field.
"I guess you're just gonna have to stick around and find out," Hotch said to Emily before rising off the bench to jog toward his beaming son.
Watching as Aaron swung Jack into his arms and lifted him over his head, Emily smiled. She definitely wouldn't mind sticking around and sharing more days like this.