A/N I'm baa-ck! And returning with the final chapter of What a Difference a Day Makes! It's been an amazing experience to write this, and all your encouraging comments made it all the better. Thank you for following my story this long and I hope that this last chapter does it justice, after all I've never been good at endings. A quick shout-out to Crazy Heart 101, whose review initially gave me the idea for this ending, I hope you all enjoy it.
I don't own Criminal Minds!
What a Difference a Day Makes
The tension in the room was palpable for the seconds we sat in silence. The envelope seemed like Pandora's Box, and opening it had released all the demons that Emily had been struggling so hard to fight and conquer. The words had finally stopped dancing in front of my vision dizzily so I could vaguely read what was written there.
"Emily?" I probed softly, testing the waters of her emotional climate. From a profiler's standpoint, all you could notice was a subtle tension in her back, and her eyes scanning the pages at a feverish pace. She still hadn't met my gaze, but spoke up softly.
"She essentially willed me her entire estate, my father was long out of the picture, so she gave it all to me." Her voice was pondering, searching, as if she was somewhat confused. She pulled a pale yellow sticky note from the last page, its warm color and flowing handwritten script contrasted the clinical feel of the clean white paper and computerized print. "It's a note about some box…" she trailed off, fingering the paper as her detached eyes scanned the room. Following her line of sight, I glanced at the small carved wooden box that had been tossed from its resting place in the box. I leaned over to reach it, holding the firm reddish wood in two hands and admiring the smooth finish in passing before I gave it to Emily. She held it with trepidation, as if it would explode should she hold it improperly.
"I can't open it Jennifer, what if it's her final chance to tell me what a disappointment of a daughter I was? What if it's-" I cut her nervous ramble off right there, placing my hand over hers to silence her.
"We'll open it together, it'll be fine." I reassured her, staying at a close distance as she pried open the delicate clasp. Pictures nearly spilled out the sides as we lifted the lid, exposing the contents to the dim lighting. Inside was a collection of photos, an array of colors and shapes and exotic scenery, and in each one, a child with soft ebony hair and warm brown eyes that melted me at first glance.
"She kept all these photos." Em was in awe, flipping through the stacks that had been lovingly organized, reading the captions on the back written with a caring hand. Pictures of her from babyhood to her teen years, in and around landmarks all around the world. A six year old Emily beneath the Eiffel Tower, a baby at the foot of the Leaning Tower Of Pisa, a toddler in Macchu Picchu, a teen in front of the Pyramids of Giza. She looked at all of them, nostalgic tears glistening in her eyes.
Beneath them all was a letter, the edges of the lined paper were gently faded with age, and it had been folded neatly in the bottom. With curious hands, she unfolded it, holding it up so we could read it.
I realize that if you're reading this, then something's happened to me. But I'm not writing this to dwell on that. As I'm writing this, I'm on a plane over the ocean, flying off on assignment, away from you, which is possibly the worst feeling in the world. Every time I go away, I'm worried I'll miss another milestone of yours, your first time sitting up, your first steps, your first bike ride with no training wheels, all these things I'm supposed to be there for, I keep missing out on. I can't help feeling like a poor mother, because I keep missing out on all these opportunities to tell you how proud I am of you. You have truly become the centre of my universe, and denying that to do what I do is unbearable. I know I seem cold and detached, but it's the only way I can cope with leaving you behind or bringing you along despite the fact that I knew, even as a five year old, you hated politics, and all the schmoozing and parties that came along with it. So for all the times I wasn't there, for all the firsts I missed, for all the events I was late for, I am terribly sorry, and you deserve to know that. I am extremely proud of you, no matter whom or what you turn out to be, because you are my daughter and your every step is a miracle to me. Although, call it mother's intuition, with one look into your intelligent brown eyes I can tell that you're destined for greatness, and to help a lot of people. You're strong, you're my strong little girl and I love you, no matter how hard it is for me to show it. I need you to stay strong, and great, and keep moving forward, and know that even though you can't see me, I'm still shining down on you, as proud as I ever was.
I found myself choked up by her letter, and I didn't even need to look over at Emily to know that she felt the same. She curled into my side, shedding a few wistful tears over the emotions the letter dredged up. We sat in the comfortable silence, taking turns wiping each other's tears and murmuring soothing nothings.
"She's proud of me." She sighed out of something akin to relief, fingering the edges of a photo of her and her mother, both with matching smiles, posing in front of a forest. Her eyes caught mine, the chocolate orbs filled with a bittersweet mix of elation and sadness. We sat together studying the photo; I made it my personal mission to memorize every gentle crease and curve to the youthful smiling face of a preteen Emily. We both just snuggled together, enjoying the moment of shared intimacy, with tears of happiness running down our cheeks. A knock on the door disturbed us, before a hyperactive blonde torpedo wrapped his arms around me and greeted me with kisses and hugs. Pen bustled through the door, calling out to me while still out of earshot.
"I apologize if I'm interrupting you two, but Henry forgot this stuffed lion, and he refused to go to sleep without it. So I hope that JJ was right when she said she isn't sleeping with you on your first date, because I don't need to be responsible for the trauma inflicted on your son if he walks in on you two getting your freak on- my goodness are you two okay?" she gasped, while taking in the scene. I tried to imagine what we must look like, curled up on the couch crying, with me holding an icepack to my head and the floor in front of us littered with the contents of the box I knocked over. Emily gave me a lighthearted glance before ruffling Henry's hair affectionately, earning an extra round of bear hugs from the toddler. I pressed kisses to both of their foreheads, admiring my little family with a heart overflowing with love and pride. Looking over at Penelope so she didn't feel forgotten, I paused for a moment before taking Emily's hand, twining her fingers with mine as a show of unity, the simple gesture evoking a smile.
"Yeah, we're all fine."
A/N so that's it! I may consider a oneshot sequel or something, but for now I'm happy to leave it as is, with JJ, Emily, and Henry as one cute yet dysfunctional family. Thanks again to everyone who reviewed, favorited or followed this story, and I hope that you enjoyed it. I'll miss this story, but I've got plenty more ideas waiting to be put into practice. Thanks for all your support once again, and I hope you'll stay tuned for new stories!