A/N not much to say here folks, just enjoy the chapter!
"Your mother?!" Pen and JJ echoed as soon as I had told them, both faces displaying mixed portions of shock and fear. I on the other hand, was frozen; as I mentally scrambled to find some magical elixir that would make this all disappear. I nodded in affirmation, my head solemnly bobbing up and down without me really realizing. The other two took this as a natural end to our outing, and began to pack up. Garcia insisted on paying for lunch, insisting that she absolutely had to go and casually flirt with the hot guy at the counter, but at one look in her eyes, I could tell she had her ulterior motive. She was hoping that if given a little space, JJ might be able to calm me down sufficiently so I was no longer walking around like a zombie, with my eyes dully winking like cold, black marbles. The blonde managed to coax me out of the small coffee shop, the enclosed walls of which had suddenly become uncomfortably claustrophobic, and onto the sidewalk. I could feel my breath coming in short snatches and gasps, my lungs weakly contracting, forcing air from them prematurely as I started to hyperventilate. JJ's hands were rubbing my shoulders and back, trying to calm me down. I simply stared ahead, watching the people rushing past, too busy in their daily lives to take notice of a woman having a panic attack on the edge of the street.
"What are you doing?" Jen asked, after taking in my vacant stare for almost a minute.
"Scanning the passers-by to see if any of them could pass as me for a weekend." I lamely joked, hoping to break the terse air about her. JJ simply shrugged at this, not bothering to comment on my use of humour as yet another defense mechanism. She simply just tightened her hold on my waist and herded me over to the waiting car where Penelope sat. The drive back home was impossibly quiet; the only audible sound was the whirring of my mind as I furiously tried to get myself out of this.
"Hey." JJ interjected softly, placing her hand in mine.
""What?" I asked, pulling myself back into reality, trying to focus my mental energy on Jennifer's voice and face.
"You need to calm down. You knew this was coming eventually. You knew you'd have to tell your mother eventually. You knew that you'd have to face the truth. I know you Emily, and I know that a part of you already knew that, and a small part of your mind is already prepared for that. You just need to find that little part and stop letting the rest of you overrule it." she commanded in a firm and soft voice, like satin over steel, that soft whisper that carried the force of every bit of tenacity she had.
"All this time with you and Tegan though, it's been like a dream. One completely painful, heart-rending, self-revealing, healing, transforming dream that I never planned on waking up from. I don't want to wake up and lose it all." I mumbled, avoiding her gaze like a chastised little child. JJ's lips parted as if to say something more, but she shot a brief glance at Pen in the front seat and closed them. A conversation for another time. The tech goddess, bless her soul, was thankfully not trying to get involved in the problem, and kept her mouth shut respectfully. Now, there was no telling how long this discretionary period would last. Probably just as long as this car trip would, because I was certain that we'd either be hounded with phone calls later, or most definitely accosted as soon as we went to work the next day. We were let off at the base of our apartment building. Our apartment building. When did all this become ours? When did the lines between the confusing, topsy-turvy relationship we kept up become so blurred that suddenly you can't tell the difference between the two lives? When did I stop bothering to sort the laundry, because half the time I forget whether a blouse or a pair of socks is mine or hers? When did all this happen, did I suddenly wake up and find myself with a daughter and a love of my life? And if all this happened so suddenly, what's to say that it couldn't be taken away just as promptly?
"Emily?" JJ asked, and I was snapped out of my thoughts to find myself sitting on the couch in our living room. How did we even get in here? Oh right, JJ's got a key now as well. A key to my house and a key to my heart.
"Sorry, lost in thought there for a second." I blushed, hiding my gaze from hers once again. Two slender fingers lit beneath my chin, gently obliging me to face her head on.
"You are not losing anything here. Not me, not Tegan. Have you forgotten that you're no longer a child Em? You no longer have to work to please your parents all the time. You don't have to be the perfect daughter anymore. You don't have to do any of that anymore. You do have to be yourself though. You do have to stand up for what you believe in and what you live for. And you do have to be able to take it on faith that your mother will still accept you. But that's all you have to do, and nothing more." She cast a fleeting glance about the apartment, noticing that it was still empty.
"Just relax, I'm going to call Tegan and let her know that she should cut her girls day with Poppy short." JJ got up, the slight bit of comfort I was able to derive from her presence following her as well, leaving me unprotected and scared as well. But the impact of her words still throbbed a bit, a poignant bit of information to mull over. All I've ever been is Emily Prentiss, daughter of Elizabeth Prentiss the universally-respected ambassador. Would she even recognize me as just Emily Prentiss? The mother, the lesbian, the person? How much could your own child change without you even recognizing? How does someone so intrinsically close to you become so different that you no longer recognize them? The questions continued to circulate in my mind, causing my eyes to water as I searched for answers that couldn't be found.
"She'll be over in fifteen minutes, so we'll need to get ourselves under control before then, because she sounded pretty freaked out as well-Emily you're crying." She stated, immediately kneeling in front of me and wrapping her arms around my shoulders, forming a little bubble of safety in which I could speak my mind.
"How much of Tegan's life did I end up missing out on? How many phases or changes was I not there to experience along with her? I swore to myself, a long time ago, that if I ever managed to settle down and have a family, that I'd never be the same as my mother was to me, but nothing changed. She was distant with me, now I'm distant with my daughter." I ranted tearfully, getting the leaden words off of my chest so I could breathe once more. JJ stared deeply into me, a small sparkle in her empathetic azure eyes as she took in all the darkness I was glad to get rid of.
"But you're trying, and you haven't missed everything. You were there with her through her withdrawal symptoms, you were there with her as she ran away out of fear, you were there when she had nightmares, and you were there for her as she recovered from her sui-incident. You've helped her leave behind a poisonous, destructive lifestyle, and you've surrounded her with family." She let that hang in the emotionally charged air for a second before interjecting.
"Jack's been asking if she can take him to the park with Poppy, the new one off of Rushgrove Street, with the twirly slide and the extra-fast swings." I looked up at her with confusion as she threw in this random tidbit of information. Jennifer just gave me a knowing look before continuing.
"Dave mentioned she was interested in learning how to cook, and he offered to teach her some of the basics one weekend. Penelope cleared off a spot on her desk, and she even bought another chair, and it now sits right next to hers in her lair, except it has a little bedazzled sign on the back designating it as "Tegan's Seat". I overheard Derek planning to get a table for eight for our next big Super Bowl party, eight people, not seven. And I intend on converting her into a Redskins fan before said party. Even Reid was talking about how he's no longer the youngest one in our BAU family. Family Em. She's got a family now. She never had a family before. You gave that to her. Sure, you may have missed some things, but you've definitely been making up for lost time." Despite all that she'd told me, my tears were still managing to sneak out from under my lids, and I caught a glimpse of that hallmark twinkle in the blonde's eyes.
"Why do you keep giving me that look?" I sniffled briefly, wiping my damp cheeks off as I watched the unmistakable shimmer of happiness settle upon Jen's face. Okay, I may be a stranger to this whole sharing emotions thing, but as far as I know, happiness doesn't normally fit into tearstained confessions. JJ took my hands in her slender, warm ones, causing a calm shudder to run through my body as she wreathed me in her happy, heart-swelling gaze.
"Because a few weeks ago, you never would have told me all this. You would have compartmentalized this all away, and walked around like you had a time bomb where your heart was supposed to be, and you would have driven me insane. But now you're here telling me all this, and trusting me, and letting me into your heart. As worried and scared as you are now, I can't be anything but happy, because you're letting me in." the look on her face was one of pure jubilation, like a kid able to finally open that hallowed Christmas present, but a feeling less ephemeral. Like an adventurer discovering the greatest treasure history had to offer. I couldn't stop the smile that parted my tears and lit up my eyes at her statement, all my previous worries temporarily forgotten. Taking advantage of our already close position, I tugged her forward into a sweet kiss, one void of demands and hunger, instead focusing on healing, on sharing a love too indescribable for words. Jennifer's lips curved upwards into a smile against mine, when suddenly the door to the apartment was tossed open. Tegan stormed in, looking a lot like I'd imagine I looked like a few minutes ago. She fixed us with a wounded look, stopping in her tracks. I stood up first, walking over to where she stood, trembling. As I opened my mouth to talk she put up her hand, palm flat and fingers splayed as a sign to stop. As if that one gesture would somehow hold back the tsunami-worth of feelings she was up against.
"I don't want to see her." She gritted out, staring across the room, looking through me almost.
"Tegan, it's not like I can hide you from her. Trust me, if there was a way to avoid all this, I'd have found it, but we both have to face this."
"I don't want to though. I don't want to see her now. I never want to see her at all." She obstinately retaliated, bouncing on her one foot nervously, like a cornered wild animal. JJ had seemingly disappeared, which wasn't very comforting, but I suppose she figured we would work our mutual avoidance issues out together.
"I have to though, we have to." I doubted that she even heard me speak, her eyes were shut at this point, and she was shaking her head violently.
"No." she muttered under her breath, her leg still bouncing at a fever pitch as she stumbled back one step, as if she had been physically slapped. I was just about to take one step forward to meet her, but she had already taken two more away. Before I was even aware of it, she bolted out the door. Of course, when she felt cornered, whereas I retreated within my mind, she ran. I was immediately running after her, thanking the FBI for all those gruelling physical challenges I had to complete to be deemed fit for duty, because I wouldn't be able to keep pace with Tegan without it. I had to admit, for a former addict, she sure could sprint. She darted out of the building and onto the sidewalk, weaving in and out of shoppers, dog-walkers, and politicians and businesspeople, wearing polished suits and talking into earpieces. And just like that I thought I had lost her. I was running in the direction I'd thought she'd taken, my heart pounding in my chest and throbbing in the back of my skull, searching vainly for the slightest glimpse of ebony hair with silver tips, as I kept pushing my way through the crowds, sifting through all the visual noise in the hope of finding her. A Labrador's leash caught my ankle, sending me flying to the ground, causing an angry flare of pain in my hands as I caught my fall and a familiar sting at my old surgical scar. But as I fell, I caught a hint of movement in the darkened alley between two buildings, and before a crowd could even gather to catch a glimpse of the running madwoman, I zipped into the shadows. I finally slowed up, feeling an unfamiliar burning in my lungs, legs, and side, as I took in what used to be a sanctuary for my daughter. Something about my shoes echoing against the crumbling pavement, or the earthy, damp scent of this place sent shivers up my spine. I was just about to fall to my knees and let the panic of losing my child take over, when I heard a whimper coming from underneath a derelict awning.
"Tegan!" I sighed in relief, immediately making my way over to where she sat, curled up, her face pinched in pain and exertion. Her silvery eyes were filled with tears, as her breathing uncomfortably hitched from all the running. I had barely knelt down in front of her before she blurted out,
"I don't want to face the woman who nearly killed me before I could even live! I don't want to face the woman who put me in those awful homes! I don't want to face the woman who ruined my life Mom!" she cried plaintively, and I hugged her to my chest, letting her tears stain my shirt, just happy I hadn't lost her.
"I know sweetie, I know. She made a mistake back then, which is something that she's going to have a hard time facing. I know that it's too much to ask of you to forgive her at this point, but she made a mistake, a big mistake. We've all made them, we're all human." I rubbed her back, the fact that she called me Mom earlier not at all lost on me.
"I wasn't yours was I? I mean, I wasn't your big mistake right?" we'd broached this topic before, but now it was different. Tegan wasn't using it as a challenge or an accusation, but because she needed the affirmation.
"Tegan. You're the one thing I've done in my whole life that I somehow haven't managed to completely mess up. You're the one thing I've ever made that is absolutely perfect. Out of all the things I've done in my life, all the lives I've saved, all the bad people I've stopped, all the families I've comforted, all the awards and accolades I'll ever receive, you are the thing I'm most proud of." I couldn't help feeling an overwhelming feeling of rightness in that moment, despite the fact that I was out of breath, in pain, and my knees were damp from kneeling on the wet alley pavement. This was something I'd been missing my whole life, the moment where I finally got to tell my daughter how important she was to me.
"Why would you be proud of me?" she asked, driving a stake through my heart as soon as I heard the self-hatred in her voice. I did to her just as JJ did to me, and tilted her chin up so she had to look me in the eyes.
"Because you're beautiful, because you're kind, because you're a fighter, because you're resilient and tenacious and funny and smart and quirky and because you somehow manage to be sullen and gloomy yet still charm everyone around you. Because you're hard-headed and witty and vibrant and tough and because you're mine." She engulfed me in a hug before I could even finish, taking me by surprise with her openness. Just at that moment, JJ came running around the corner into the alley, slightly out of breath.
"You've been letting yourself go a bit there Jareau." I commented with a lopsided smile, watching as the blonde's expression of horror immediately morphed into happiness and ease.
"Hey, not everyone's a marathon runner. Talk to me after we've had a shooting competition." She shot back teasingly, and I immediately backed down. After all, no one in the FBI building ever messed with Jennifer "Bull's-eye" Jareau when it came to target practice.
"Excuse me Miss-" a young beat cop rounded the corner as well, probably having heard about our little sprint down the main street, and my delicate face-plant onto the sidewalk.
"FBI!" JJ and I flashed our badges in unison, watching as the young cop stared at us in confusion, but backed down like a kicked dog, muttering something under his breath about stupid federal agents. We were left in the alley alone again, just JJ, Tegan and I.
"C'mon you two, enough excitement for one day." Jennifer beckoned, and I got up, hugging Tegan to my side. I had a renewed feeling of family, and something told me that even if this meeting with The Ambassador was a complete failure, we'd get past it.
"Alright, let's go home. And Tegan, no more running, okay?" I asked, an unspoken pact between us forged as she nodded into my side. No more running and no more hiding, two things that we were excellent at, but two things that separated us. Without that, maybe we could actually begin to heal; maybe I wouldn't turn into my mother after all.
A/N Wow that chap's a lot longer than I expected! I may not be able to update too much sooner, I still have a boatload of exams to study for, but there will be a new update as soon as possible! Review please?