Author's Note: Okay, readers, I think (and that's a big word for me these days) that I'm back. I'm sorry if I've disappointed anyone with my lack of updates. Real life (deployments, children, my health, etc.) have taken a huge toll on me these days. But I'm going to make every effort to become more dependable.
Please don't forget about our forum, "Chit Chat on Author's Corner". Currently, we're taking signups for our great Valentine's Gift Fic Exchange and we'd love to have everyone sign up. The more the merrier. Details are at the forum and you can PM us with any questions!
Again, thanks for bearing with me, my fanfic friends!
More Than Mere Food For Thought
"It's not my intention to assign blame, Haley," Emily offered hollowly, her eyes darting away from the serene blue gaze in front of her, unable to risk seeing more than she wanted to know. "Nor is it my place."
"That's not true though, is it, Emily?" Haley challenged softly, shaking her head as she lowered her voice. "You already have."
Shifting uncomfortably as those simple words found their intended target, Emily's cheeks reddened guiltily. She couldn't exactly deny the accusation. If someone had decided to burn this woman in effigy, Emily would have happily lit the match. Now, as Haley's soft stare seemed to penetrate her soul, she could barely suppress a shiver. "I have only heard one side of things."
"And that's the only side that mattered to you. I can understand that. Aaron deserves to be with someone loyal to him," Haley conceded, canting her head to the side as she kept her gaze on the brunette. "But, I'm not evil, and I think even Aaron, if he's feeling truthful, will tell you that."
"Aaron is always truthful," Emily countered automatically, her jaw tightening, the always-present compulsion to defend her lover rising to the surface with little provocation.
"I suppose. Everyone's perception is skewed by their own personal feelings, however. He'll tell you the truth as he saw it. Occasionally, I have a different version of the truth. But, that doesn't make mine wrong, does it?"
Unsettled once again at the possibility of the paradigm shifting rapidly around her, Emily murmured, "I...I guess not."
"The bottom line is that I'm happy for you both. Maybe Aaron can find the understanding in you that he didn't in me. I could never settle for being a distant third in his life. Taking a back seat to our son was easy. He came first for both of us. But, let's be honest. Rating behind his relentless pursuit of the slugs of the earth day after day wasn't something I was prepared for. When I met Aaron...when I married him, I was an attorney's wife. Then, the Bureau caught his eye and he changed. I changed. We wanted completely different lives. It doesn't make either of us wrong. You know what his job entails. You live it. I never wanted to be a part of that, though. I'm just asking you to think about that before you cast judgment on me," she requested quietly, her eyes never wavering from Emily as she willed the woman to at least try and see her perspective.
And in those few seconds, Emily realized that the universe was not all that it seemed to be. Swallowing hard, she met Haley's eyes as she allowed herself to truly imagine how the world might have been from the other woman's point of view. And while Emily realized that she would never doubt Aaron's feelings, knowing that his emotions had been trampled with a violence that still left him scarred to this day, she also knew that injuries had occurred to both camps. And she was not one to continue inflicting damage after the battle was said and done, no matter how much she might dislike the opponent.
"I'm sorry," Emily said softly, her apology genuine as she nodded her head. While there was no love lost for this woman, she wouldn't deny, even to herself, that she had never bothered to examine things from Haley's side of the fence.
Smiling again, this time with less rancor than before, Haley nodded. "Listen, I don't want to make you uncomfortable," she said, hitching her purse over her shoulder as she attempted to regain control of the situation. "I can come back. I've got some other errands to run. But, for the record, Aaron likes whites and the very darks," she informed Emily, nodding toward the chocolate case behind her. "The two extremes," she chuckled as she shook her head. "Imagine that, right?" she commented, raising an eyebrow as she stared at Emily.
The meaning wasn't lost on Emily. "Yes, I suppose that does make a kind of weird sense," she admitted as she nodded. "But you don't need to leave. I'm sure..."
"Emily," Haley interrupted, her smile fading slowly as she swallowed. "It was never my intention to make you uncomfortable. Just tell Aaron I said hello, okay? I'd like...I hope..." she stammered, finally at a loss for words in spite of her earlier bravdo. "I want things to be different for all of us," she finally said, her eyes hopeful as she looked at Emily. "Better, you know?"
Shocked to her core, Emily nodded. "I understand. I'll pass along the message," she offered weakly, wondering how it was possible to have had a life-altering experience in the midst of a confectionary in the suburbs.
"Thank you. Happy Valentine's Day, Emily," Haley said as she smiled before walking away.
And staring after the thin, blonde woman who was rapidly blending into the crowd on the concourse outside the door, Emily shook her head dumbly.
Maybe she'd misjudged the other woman unfairly. Rationally, she knew that one individual did not destroy a marriage alone, the mere definition of marriage requiring two people to give and take in every circumstance. And after so many months of less than pleasant feelings regarding Hotch's ex-wife, realizing that she was simply...human; it was a surreal experience that defied simple explanation.
"Ma'am, that'll be 29.50," the teenage clerk suddenly said from behind her.
Turning, Emily forced herself to focus her gaze on the boy behind the counter. Sliding him her credit card with numb fingers, she waited as he rang her up, her mind spinning from the conversation of the last few minutes.
The young man passed her card back to her. Emily she shook her head when he asked her if there was anything else, knowing that what he offered would not supply the answers she desperately needed. Collecting her gift wrapped box, she turned toward the door. Her visit to the gourmet store had yielded more than mere food for thought.
She just hoped she could digest it all before she saw Aaron tonight.
Dedicated to My Husband - even through it all, I still love you.