Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds. No profit made, no infringement intended.
Emily slides into the empty seat across from the young cadet, taking in her blushing cheeks, hardened facial features and the red rimmed eyes fixed on the plane's window.
"It's not the first time that one of us has been taken by an unsub," Emily says softly.
Soon two blue eyes are gazing into hers.
"I was alone and unarmed. There's no way any of you would do anything that stupid," Ashley replies tightly.
"Oh, trust me, we're going to be bringing the buddy system back with a vengeance at the BAU, and that's not just because of you," Emily jokes, hoping to lighten the mood.
Ashley holds a breath, then finally admits, "I was there to apologize."
"To the Jacobs?" Emily asks.
"I never got to apologize to any of my father's victims' families. All I saw was a girl who'd never have a mother again, and I thought this was my second chance to apologize for all that pain. Pretty stupid, huh?" Ashley says with a small laugh, her eyes shinning with tears.
"Sometimes doing the stupid thing is also a little bit brave," Emily replies thoughtfully, her eyebrow raised and her voice kind.
Ashley bites her lip, trying to figure out how any of her actions could be seen as brave in the eyes of the older agent. Emily sees her struggle and explains further.
"Apologies aren't easy, not if you really mean it. You were trying to apologize for these awful actions that you weren't able to control. Your father made the choice to kill, and you can only say that you're sorry you weren't able to stop him. And you were just a little girl," Emily says, her last sentence gentle, her eyes meeting Ashley's.
Ashley makes herself keep eye contact with Emily until a tear threatens to run, and she looks away.
"You were also trying to apologize because he's your father and nothing he does will change that. He's still the man that tucked you in, the one who watched you ride your first bike without training wheels. You hate the things he did, but you don't hate him, and for that you want to apologize to the victim's families over and over," Emily finishes.
Ashley nods, tears spilling down her cheeks despite her best attempts. Emily takes her hand. Ashley's breathing hitches, and she has to work hard to keep back a sob.
"Stupid, but a little bit brave," Emily tells her with a small smile.
Ashley turns to the window so no one else on the plane will witness her breakdown. She doesn't hide her tears from Emily though, feeling Emily's eyes on her as she silently cries. Her hand is still in Emily's.
Emily's grip isn't too tight. The way she holds Ashley's hand isn't demanding, controlling or invasive. It's almost peaceful. It's the same way Ashley felt in the car with Emily.
In that moment Ashley decides she likes Emily. She likes the way she feels around Emily, she likes talking to Emily, and she even likes being profiled by Emily. She pretty much likes anything that focuses Emily's attention on her. Realizing she feels this way makes her feel a little bit stupid and a little bit brave. Maybe she'll find a way to ask the agent out for coffee once they land, and then she can test out both the stupidity and the bravery.