“Aaron, call me back the moment you get this! DSS just called with a placement.” Emily paced around the living room as she left her boyfriend a voicemail.
Pacing with the phone in her hand didn’t make Aaron return her call any faster. Her time would be better spent getting ready to meet Jennifer, a young girl who was 15. Based on her records, she was a good student. The social worker, Julianna, would be coming by tomorrow morning at ten o’clock to drop off her foster daughter.
She pulled her long dark hair to the top of her head and tied it into a messy bun, glancing around the house. It was tidy, but it could use a good dusting, and she needed to prepare the guest room for Jennifer. Perhaps she preferred to be called Jenny or Jen. Was she a sophomore or a junior in high school? Is she already attending a school nearby or will she be starting a new school. And food, she didn’t have much in the fridge. The pantry held a few boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for Jack, apparently Velveeta Shells and Cheese was too high brow for the four year old.
Teens like unhealthy snacks like Doritos and soda. Do they still like Dr Pepper, or is it Mountain Dew now? Oh God, it’s Red Bull, isn’t it, the choice of teens?
The ringing and vibrations of her mobile phone startled her. She had been standing frozen in place trying to determine where to start.
“Aaron! Did you get my voicemail?”
Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner’s deep voice came through the phone, “Yes, a placement. Do you know anything about the child?”
Speaking faster than normal, Emily filled in her boyfriend (and boss), “Jennifer is her name, she is 15, and lost her mother to a car accident. Julianna said that her older sister had killed herself a few years ago. There are risk factors for situational depression, and they are recommending therapy. She’s been a group home for the last three months. She is a good student. There is no history of criminal behavior. Basically, she’s a good kid in bad situation. Oh, and they are going to be here in the morning, and I need to get her room ready, and go shopping, and figure out school. I think I need to take the week off, oh Aaron, there is so much to do. Then I will need to be on desk duty, no traveling for awhile.”
“Oh and grocery shopping, what kinds of food should I get? I know we can always order in pizza, all teens like…”
Aaron interrupted her mid sentence, “Emily, I am on my way over. We will get everything ready, and if there anything we miss, I can run to the store tomorrow as well. I also know your boss, I’m sure he can be convinced to give you time off and restrict your field time.”
“Hmmm, how ever will I convince him? He’s such a hard ass.”
“Very amusing, Prentiss!” Aaron replied dryly, “Now, what is your next concern?”.
“And Jack, how are we going to explain this to Jack. He won’t understand what foster child means; will he?”
A rich laugh came through the phone, “We can explain it plainly enough for a four year old to understand. Do you want Jack and I to do the grocery shopping on our way or should we come straight there and make a list?”
After agreeing that Aaron and Jack would handle the groceries, Emily put fresh linens in the guest room and en suite bathroom. She ran the vacuum and dusted the plain room. She would take Jennifer to buy some items to dress up her room.
She dragged the vacuum down the stairs of her townhouse, yelping as she bumped her knee.
The main level was pretty simple, a living room, kitchen with eat in area, her home office, and a bathroom / laundry room combination. There were two bedrooms with en suites upstairs. It was perfect size home for a couple or small family.
Rubbing her knee and sighing, Emily thought of her foster child. Wait, a teenager. A foster teenager. She finished vacuuming the main level as Jack burst through the front door carrying a package of paper towels almost his size.
“Emily, Daddy and I gots ice cream and juice boxes!”
The little boy dropped the paper towels as he hugged Emily’s legs. Crouching down, she gave him a big hug as his father came through the open door.
Tall, dark, and handsome in his black suit, Aaron Hotchner entered the townhouse carrying a large brown bag in the crook of his arm, and three or four plastic grocery bags in each hand.
Emily rushed forward to help, taking the brown bag from his arms and kissing his cheek. “Did you buy the whole store?”
Following her into the kitchen, he dropped the bags on the counter. He returned to the front entry way to secure his gun in the hall table, inside the faux drawer that hid a gun safe.
“Can I have a juice box, Daddy? Please, please, please?”
They put away groceries, stopping to hand the four year old a juice, and a cheese stick.
“Your terror on the phone was quite infectious, so I bought everything a teenage might ever want.”
Laughing, Emily held up the Hot Pockets and Pop Tarts.
Emily chopped up the leftover grilled chicken and dropped it into the mixed green salad Aaron had put together. Jack was shaking the dressing enthusiastically. They ate at round table in the kitchen. Emily kept gazing over to the fourth and empty seat trying to imagine this Jennifer sitting there.
“Do you want us to come over tomorrow or shall we give you time to get settled?”
“How about we play it by ear? I want her to meet you but I don’t want to overwhelm her with a new place and new people. Should we talk about this now?” Emily tilted her head towards Jack.
Aaron smiled, “Might as well! Jack, Emily has some news.”
She was flustered for a moment, “Yes, Jack. Tomorrow, a girl named Jennifer is going to come live here.”
“Is she your friend? Will she be my friend?”
Oh, those little dimples, she thought, “I will meet her tomorrow. I am sure we will all be friends.”
“Does she like Spiderman? Or Hot Wheels?”
“I can ask her tomorrow. Do you have any other questions?” Emily asked him.
Jack looked perplexed, his eyebrows knitting together. The boy was a smaller version of his father, mirroring the expression Aaron has when looking at new case.
“Nope, can I go play?”
Aaron helped Jack out of the his chair, “Well, that was easy!”
Emily cleaned up after dinner as the Hotchner’s played in the living room. She finished loading the dishwasher and stepped into the doorway to watch her boys.
Smiling, she saw an accomplished driven man sitting in his expensive suit pants on the floor. His sleeves were rolled up and his tie was throw over his shoulder as he built Legos with his son.
This was the man she had been in love with for years. He was intense, serious, and devoted to everything in his life. He was single minded and focused. His son, his job, and now her.
She still couldn’t believe they were here together. After everything that happened in the last few years. After the tragedy, lies, and deception. Aaron had survived a horrific attack by a serial killer, only to lose his wife to the same man. He had kept the team together after she had “died”, and welcomed her back ensuring Doyle would never see the light of day.
They were three months into a serious relationship. Jack had known Miss Emily his whole life, and they grown closer after Aaron and Emily’s dates turned into family outings. She transitioned from Miss Emily to Emily in the last few weeks. Jack loved it when Emily visited them at his house; she told the best bedtime stories.
And now, they were adding a new dynamic to their life, a foster child.
Anxious, Emily wasn’t able to eat breakfast. Coffee and a shower led to getting dressed. A little makeup, hair down, jeans and tshirt. She thought to herself nothing intimidating, yes, this was simple and unassuming. Didn’t want to overwhelm Jennifer.
Her phone beeped, she ran to the living room to find a text from Aaron.
‘Relax and stop biting your nails’
Laughing, she replied, ‘stalker’
Checking her watch, there were 30 minutes left, she asked out loud, “Now, what do I do with myself?”
Emily went into the study and jumped online. Checked email, deleted spam, checked Facebook for twenty seconds before closing it, and laughed at an online comic. She glanced at the clock, well, that took up seven whole minutes.
She opened a new browser window and looked for support groups for teens affected by tragedy, which led to ordering a few books and two ebooks. Emily headed upstairs to get her tablet so she could download the ebooks; the doorbell rang on her trip back down the stairs.
Taking a deep breath, Emily opened the door to find Julianna and a young blonde girl. She was holding on to a small suitcase. Shaking hands with the social worker, she stepped back, inviting them in.
Jennifer followed behind her social worker and then sat next to her on the couch.
“Emily, this is Jennifer Jareau.”
“Hello Jennifer, I’m Emily Prentiss. It’s nice to meet you!”
This garnered a small smile from the tan blue eyed blonde. This girl could be the poster child for All American Girl.
Julianna jumped into the business at hand, effectively ending Emily’s attempt at small talk.
Instead, they reviewed the process and expectations of being a foster parent and child.
Jennifer was nodding along but not really paying attention. Emily caught her gaze and rolled her eyes. The girl stifled a giggle.
“Of course, home visits are expected. Can we review academics?” Emily asked. “Will Jennifer be attending the same school?”
Pulling files folders from her bag, Julianna spread them on the coffee table. “No, dear, her old school is on the other side of the county. She will attend North High School as a sophomore.”
As Julianna thumbed through the files, Emily stood up. “May I get you something to drink? Coffee, Juice, Soda?”
“No, thank you” Jennifer said in a quiet voice.
“Coffee would be lovely, Emily. Thank you.”
Emily poured two cups of coffee and set the coffee pot back down. She took a deep breath. Jennifer seemed bright and polite. Emily could tell she was nervous, hell, who wouldn’t be nervous in this situation . Perhaps when the paperwork was done, they could actually talk a bit.
Grabbing the mugs, she returned to the living room.
Since Julianna was still rifling through her papers, Emily tried to break the ice.
“Jennifer, what classes are you interested in taking when we complete your transfer?”
Smoothing her already smooth hair, Jennifer smiled shyly, “Um, phys. ed, literature and composition.”
“You like working out? Any sports?”
“I like soccer.”
Emily smiled but before she could speak, Julianna interrupted to hand her paperwork.
“There are her transcripts and immunization records needed for enrolling her at North. And this one is the Medicaid card so you can find her a doctor. You will need to check with the doctor’s office as many don’t accept Medicaid.”
Jennifer ducked her head a bit, her cheeks flushing.
“That shouldn’t be a problem. We will get her all set up. What else?”
Over the next hour, they went through several more documents. Both Julianna and Emily had to sign a few forms and it was official. Jennifer was her foster child.
“May I give Jennifer a tour of the house and show her room now?” Emily asked the social worker eagerly.
Julianna stood up and shook Emily’s hand. She turned to Jennifer and pulled her in close for a quick hug.
“Jennifer, you will be happy here. You have my number, please don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything. I’ll be checking in within a week or so. Emily, I’ll let myself out.”
This surprised Emily, she had expected an inspection of the house. She found herself in the entry way locking up after Julianna.
“Well, then, okay. Jennifer, would you like a tour? Then we can sit down and chat?”
Emily showed her around the first floor, explaining the tricky dryer door and the security system.
The kitchen pantry made Jennifer giggle. It was a welcome sound to Emily’s ears.
“I’ve never seen so much junk food,” declared the teen.
“Well, I had no idea what you might like so….” Emily trailed off with a laugh.
Once in the study, Emily explained the laptop was for her work use only and Jennifer could use the desktop instead.
The teen looked up sharply, “Wait, you are really with the FBI? I thought Julianna was trying to scare me.”
Emily pointed out the gun case on the bookshelf, “Oh no, I really am with the FBI. I am in the Behavioural Analysis Unit. There are gun safes on the lower level. There is another one upstairs in my bedroom. Don’t worry, they are secured.”
Jennifer looked decidedly uncomfortable. “Um.”
Laughing, Emily said, “I’m sorry I should have told when you first arrived. Sit down and talk for a bit. Let’s get a drink and snacks then you can ask as many questions as you like.”
“Cheetos? I haven’t had those in forever.”
They sat at the kitchen table with a snack bowl in between them. Jennifer had opted for a water and Emily sipped at her coffee.
“What do you do?”
“My official title is Supervisory Special Agent. Basically, my unit investigates crimes a little differently. We consult all over the United States on complicated cases. We build profiles of criminals based on their behavior and victims. It helps us identify who they may be.”
“So you travel around the country solving crimes? How many bad guys have you caught? I guess you have shot your gun, huh? Are you a good shot? Do you go to the shooting range? Profiling? What is that? Are you like Sherlock Holmes, making deductions?
The older woman threw her head back and laughed, “Whoa! Jennifer”
“Um, you can call me JJ.”
“JJ, that’s nice. Let’s see, yes, I do travel all over the country. I’m going to be working from the office for the next month or so. In the future, my friend, Pam, will keep an eye on you when I am gone. She lives three doors down.”
JJ arched her left eyebrow, “A babysitter? I am 15.”
“I was 15 once, JJ. I’m sure you are a good kid but you can’t stay home alone for days on end. We’ll figure it out, okay?”
The teen began to ramble, “Yeah, but are you like Sherlock Holmes? Have you seen that show? The BBC one with Benedict Cumberbatch? I like it better than Elementary but Johnny Lee Miller is way hotter.”
“I think Benedict is cuter! Now, we won’t have to fight over our Sherlocks. One for you and one for me. The concept is similar in that we take in all the details when building a profile. We take into consideration the scene, the weapon, location, and victimology.”
They chatted for awhile and Emily finished the tour, showing JJ her bedroom and bathroom.
“Why don’t you unpack? When you are done, we can make a list of all the essentials you need. Lunch and shopping in the afternoon?”
Emily returned downstairs to give JJ sometime to adjust to her new space. Pulling out her phone, she texted Aaron.
‘She’s awesome. Taking her to lunch then shopping. DSS only let her pack a small suitcase.’
‘Glad things are going well. Shopping is a good idea.’
Emily and JJ hit several stores for clothes and shoes. They stopped in the phone store and re-activated JJ’s account so she could use her mobile phone.
Keeping the conversation light hearted, Emily learned more about JJ.
Her mother had recently moved them here from a small town in Pennsylvania for a fresh start. JJ wasn’t really attached to any of the other kids from her old school. She had a few acquaintances but her closest friends were back in Pennsylvania.
Her musical taste was all over the place; Emily stopped mid stride and ask, “Really? Truly? You actually like Justin Bieber? How do you feel about One Direction?”
They stopped in a small cafe for lunch and the conversation continued. JJ hadn’t been on a soccer team in years and said she wouldn’t mind getting back into that.
“My boyfriend is coaching his son’s soccer team. Their league has teams in all age groups. We watch the older kids sometimes. Jack loves it. I will look into it for you.”
“How old is Jack?”
Emily’s face broke into a goofy smile, “He’s four and adorable. His soccer team is hysterical. It’s like herding cats. And the most important part of the experience is snacks.”
JJ laughed, “I agree, snacks are vital.”
The ladies ended their shopping excursion after picking out school supplies. JJ was now comfortable enough to stand up to Emily, “I don’t need the entirety of the office supply section. I just need some paper and pens.”
“Would you like to meet my boyfriend and his son? I was thinking of inviting them for dinner.”
JJ seemed uncomfortable so Emily backtracked, “You can meet them another time. Let’s finish getting you settled.
“No, I would like to meet this little soccer player.” Then she added cheekily, “As long as there are snacks.”
Stuffing the shopping bags into the trunk, they headed home.
This chapter is unBeta'd so all mistakes are mine.
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JJ watched from the living room as Emily greeted the Hotchner’s.
The little guy hugged Emily’s legs and the tall man gave her a quick peck on the lips.
Smiling at JJ, imposing man in a suit called out, “Hello.”
Jack jumped up and down as he told Emily about his day before noticing JJ.
“Hi, my name is Jack!” He held out his tiny hand to her.
She crouched down and shook his hand, “Nice to meet you, Jack. My name is Jennifer but you can call me JJ.”
As he continued to jabber on, JJ noticed his father opening the hallway table and pulling a gun from under his coat. He secured the gun in the hidden safe.
“You have a gun, too? Are you guys big NRA members or something?” She asked uneasily.
Jack was happy to fill her in, “My daddy catched bad guys. Miss Emily too n Uncle Derek n Uncle Dave.”
Aaron joined the group in the family room, and Emily introduced him to JJ.
“This is Aaron Hotchner. He is in the FBI too.”
Jack kept the conversation going throughout the afternoon and dinner.
Working with Emily, clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, Aaron kept an eye on JJ with his son. He was impressed with the teenager. She was very comfortable chatting with Jack about dinosaurs and Spiderman. She was open with Emily, and guarded with him. She was bright and mature for her age.
“Are you done profiling her?” Emily asked him.
He held his hands up in mock surrender, “The rules is we don’t profile the team, there isn’t a rule about family.”
After Jack and Aaron had gone home, the girls sat on the couch in front of the tv. A sitcom was on but neither was really watching.
“When would you like to start school? I was thinking Wednesday or Thursday so you won’t have to take on a full week at a new school.”
JJ was surprised by the thoughtfulness, “I didn’t realize I had a choice. That would be great. This is my second high school in one year. It is so overwhelming. And they are so huge here.”
Emily shuddered, recalling her experiences starting a new school every year or so. “Trust me, I know all about starting new schools. I have to tell you, I found the big schools are better when you are new. You won’t be put under a microscope.”
“That’s true! I can fly under the radar a bit.”
Emily pulled up her calendar on her phone, “Let’s get you registered on Tuesday and maybe start on Wednesday. Aaron is getting the registration for the soccer team squared away on Monday. Now, we have to find you a doctor, a therapist, a dentist, and a gynecologist.”
“What?” JJ leaped from her seat.
Laughing at the shocked teen, Emily patted the couch. “I know, I know, dentists are traumatizing. I wonder if they are sadists. Don’t worry, I will profile your dentist before I let them near you.”
“Not funny, why do I need a gynecologist? I am not pregnant. And why do I have to see a therapist? This is ridiculous. I am fine.”
Emily knew she had to tread lightly here, but she was not going to give in on something so important, “I know it seems ridiculous. You have been through so much in the last few years. You may not be depressed right now, and you may never be depressed in the future.”
JJ looked away, Emily reached out and took her hand, “JJ, you’ve lost your mother and your sister. You have been moved several times and spent the past three months in a group home. These are things you should talk about. Let’s find someone you are comfortable talking to, someone you can be honest with.”
JJ pulled her hand away from Emily. She squared her shoulders and looked Emily directly in the eyes. “I don’t need to talk to anyone. I am fine and I get good grades.”
“This is important, JJ. Didn’t you go to therapy after your sister?”
“No, she’s gone so what’s the point in talking about it?” JJ clutched her necklace as the tears welled up in her eyes but didn’t fall.
Emily smiled softly, “Yes, she’s gone but she was your sister. She’s important. And I for one, want to know everything about her. I want to know about the necklace she gave you.”
Startled, JJ dropped her hand.
“I also want to know about your mother. You are such an amazing person and your mom helped shape and guide you into who you are today. Forgetting them is dishonoring them. Your family is still your family even after they pass away. You can’t avoid things because they hurt. Therapy is going to help with that. It’s not awful. I promise.”
They sat quiet for a while as JJ gathered her thoughts. Emily wondered if she pushed too hard but she spent too many years avoiding. She didn’t want that life for JJ.
“Okay, but if the therapist is a creeper I am not going back.”
Emily laughed, “Yes, no creepers allowed.” Then under her breath, she stated, “Note to self, look up creeper in Urban Dictionary.”
That lightened the mood a bit, and JJ took over the remote to find another show. “You win the therapist but I am NOT going to a gynecologist.”
JJ and Emily spent Sunday hanging around the house; organizing JJ’s room, watching tv, and cooking. Emily texted with Aaron a few times and made dinner plans for Monday night.
She surfed the internet looking for doctors, dentists and therapists. Apparently, very few took Medicaid and accepted new patients. It was one or the other. Frustrated, she called her friend to vent. After a half hour of listening to Emily whine, Pam hung up on her.
Pam came over within ten minutes, banging on the front door with her foot. JJ was startled, leaping from the couch.
“That’s just Pam. She doesn’t have any manners.” Emily informed the girl as she opened the door.
Their visitor was trying to balance a large overstuffed bag, a plate of pastries, and a stack of books. “I have manners; my hands were full. And now you don’t get any popovers for your cheek.”
Emily divested her of the plate and bag but this threw Pam off balance and the books tumbled out of her arms and onto their feet.
“Ow, mmmpf.” Emily bounced around trying not to curse.
JJ and Pam picked up the books from the floor and followed Emily into the kitchen. She unwrapped the food and poured a cup of coffee for Pam.
“Want anything to drink, JJ?”
Pam sorted the books into three stacks, “Nice to meet you, JJ. I hope Emily isn’t being an ogre to you.”
“No, no, she’s been great.”
Passing out the popovers, Emily sat down at the counter. “What's all this?”
“I brought over some books for JJ since your bookcases are lacking.”
“My bookcases are not lacking. Oh for God’s sake, you brought over Twilight.”
It was like watching a tennis match, JJ’s head swiveled back and forth between the arguing women. The Twilight argument led to Vonnegut shouting match. JJ ate her popover, moaning at the light airy piece of heaven. She grabbed a second one and smiled at the scene before her.
She was going to like it here. The group home wasn’t awful like you see in the movies and tv shows. It was boring, strict, and mechanical. You had to follow the schedule exactly and the kids weren’t overly friendly.
Emily was nice, thoughtful, and funny. She loved her FBI boyfriend and his son; she had a good friend in Pam. Her home was comfortable; if not overly clean (not a speck of dust anywhere). She had welcomed JJ in without any judgement. She didn’t treat her like a poor little orphan.
“JJ, have you read the Matched series? I really enjoyed them.” Pam asked.
Grabbing the first book, JJ flipped it over and read the back. “No, I haven’t read this one. And for the record, I liked Twilight.”
Emily gasped, “Justin Bieber and Twilight. You have terrible taste.”
Clutching at her heart, JJ laughed, “I love the characters and the plot. The writing could be better. Not everything has to be a classic. What else did you bring, Pam?”
Discussing books, the three women filled the afternoon. JJ excused herself to curl up on the couch with the first book of Pam’s favorite series, Homecoming.
Emily and Pam headed into the study to yell at the computer screen. JJ could hear them muttering, “there has to be an easier way,” and “oh my god, this website is so ugly.”
“I love her, Em. She’s smart and fun.” Pam said quietly.
Emily nodded, “I know. She’s great! I was so nervous but she fits in with me. And you should have seen her with Jack yesterday.”
“How did she get along with Hotch?”
“She was not that comfortable. I don’t think she has had any men in her life. Her father was never in the picture from the beginning. Anyway, Aaron is signing her up for soccer this week. I think that will help.”
“So I have an idea on the doctor / insurance thing. I know you can’t add her to yours but could you add supplemental insurance? Like purchase an additional policy for her?”
Emily pondered, “I’ll call DSS and ask in the morning. I think I want to get her into a therapist sooner than later though. I think I will pay cash for that and submit for reimbursement later.”
“That’s a good idea. Will you send her to yours?”
Emily gave Pam a death glare.
“You are lucky I am such a good therapist, cause I can see through your lies. You can’t snow me like you did the FBI shrink.”
“Pammy, you are wonderful but I don’t think it’s professional to refer to your colleagues as shrinks.”
Pam laughed, “There is nothing that says I can’t make fun of others!” She pulled out her phone and searched her contacts, “Paper and pen, please. I’ll give you a list of people that are good with teens.“
“What do you think so far?” Pam asked JJ about the novel the teen was reading as she dumped the contents of the shopping bag on couch.
JJ sorted throw the decorative pillows and throws, “It’s weird reading something set in olden times.”
“I like this one,” Emily pulled the argyle patterned blanket from the pile, “What time period?”
“The 1970’s, I think.”
Pam and Emily picked up pillows and chucked them at JJ.
Picking up the damask patterned pillow she had been hit with, JJ announced, “This is it. I love teal.”
“Good choice, this stuff will liven up your bedroom.”
“Why do you have entirety of the Bed Bath and Beyond store anyway?” JJ asked.
Pam dropped heavily on the couch, “Ooomph! I downsized from a four bedroom house last year after my nieces left for college. My sister has a shopping addiction and she re-did my nieces’ rooms every year or so. Now that they are in dorms, there isn’t room for all this stuff.“
Heading out, Pam said, “Stop by anytime, I live three doors down to the left or to the right. Wait, if you are coming from inside your house, I am....”
Emily interrupted, “For the love of, Pam, just give her your house number! Never mind, I will give her your contact info. And you could have just said, my house is the only one on the block with a purple door.”
Indignant, Pam let herself out, calling over her shoulder, “It’s Eggplant!”
Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt was my favorite book as a teen. There are a ton of other books with the characters from Homecoming.
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Monday morning, 6:00 am, Emily’s eyes popped open. Her body didn’t understand that she had taken the week off. She laid there for a few minutes willing herself back to sleep. Failing miserably, she got up and hit the shower.
Make coffee, drink coffee. She was finally able to form coherent thoughts. She started a load of laundry, and emptied the dishwasher. It was 7:00 am.
She texted Aaron, confirming dinner, and returned upstairs to get ready.
Emily made several lists, checked email, drank two more cups of coffee and moved the wash to the dryer. It was 8:00 am and she was bored.
Grabbing her fourth cup of coffee, she settled on the couch. She thought about JJ. The sweet girl sleeping upstairs, the girl who, in two days, changed her life.
She sunk deeper into the couch and closed her eyes. This week was going to be nice. They would get to know each other better in a relaxed atmosphere without school or work taking up most of their attentions.
It was well after 10:00 am when JJ found her, asleep on the couch with a goofy smile on her face.
“I was asleep? During the day, like a nap? I am Emily Prentiss, I am a workaholic and I do not nap or take it easy!”
JJ laughed, “You were napping. You have creases on your face.”
“I don’t nap, not even on vacation.”
JJ left her on the couch talking to herself and headed into the kitchen, calling over her shoulder.“In that case, I won’t mention the drool on the corner of your mouth.”
Emily spent the rest of the morning on the phone with DSS, more specifically, on hold with DSS. After hours of talking to supervisors and managers, it was determined that Emily could not purchase supplemental health insurance for JJ as she was a ward of the state. One person was able to recommend a clinic that was accepting patients and took Mediaid so Emily called them right away for their first available appointment.
“I guess you better clear your schedule for EIGHT weeks from now.” A snarky Emily told JJ.
Finally, all the appointments were made, leaving them open for the rest of the afternoon. Emily volunteered to pick up Jack after school, giving Jessica, Aaron’s sister in law, a call.
“Emily, thank you! It’s been a Monday for sure. My computer crashed and I am trying to organize a conference call on my smart phone. I think I am going cross eyed.”
“Jess, want to come over here and work from my computer? We can even close the door so Jack doesn’t bug you. Plus, you can stay for dinner.”
Hanging up the phone, Emily told JJ that Jessica was coming over to work and staying for dinner.
“So is Jessica Jack’s nanny?”
Emily picked up her purse and pulled out her keys, “Grab your jacket, JJ, and I’ll explain on the way to Jack’s school.”
JJ followed Emily on the street to her small luxury sedan, hopping into the passenger seat.
“I haven’t filled you in on the backstory with the Hotchner’s. Aaron’s ex-wife, Haley, was murdered by a serial killer. As you can imagine, no one likes to talk about it but we do talk to Jack about his mother and how much she loved him. Jessica is her sister. So, she’s Aaron’s sister in law. She watches Jack most afternoons and anytime we go out of town. She works from home so she has a flexible schedule.”
Stunned into silence, JJ tore her eyes off of Emily and looked out the windshield. Her thoughts were a jumbled mess and she was unable to unravel them in order to ask questions. She blinked a few times to clear the tears from her eyes.
“A serial killer?”
“Yes, and don’t worry. He is dead.”
Sighing, JJ asked, “I know you are with the FBI and you catch bad guys but a serial killer? That’s like really dangerous.”
“I know. My job is dangerous and we do handle serial killers. More than most other law enforcement agencies, it’s our specialty in the BAU. But I am careful and our team watches out for one another.” Emily assured the teen.
Emily maneuvered the car into the parking lot around several double parked cars and into a space. As JJ climbed out of the car, Emily gave her a quick hug before they headed towards the school. JJ laughed as Emily threatened to arrest the other parents for motor vehicle violations.
Muttering to herself, “You cannot park in a freaking crosswalk,” Emily swiped the magnetic card by the door, and let them into the building.
They walked down the long hallway to the very last classroom. The sign on the door cheerfully informed them that this was the Junior Kindergarten.
“JJ! JJ! JJ!” Jack ran in circles around JJ’s legs and before grabbing her hand and pulling her along to show her his classroom.
Mrs. James approached Emily. “So that’s JJ! He hasn’t stopped talking about her all day, Emily. She’s your daughter?” Her voice was hesitant, rising at the end of the question, noting JJ’s and Emily’s coloring was completely opposite.
“Yes, my foster daughter.” Emily smiled at the teacher.
Mrs. James shook her head at Jack. “He is not usually one to speak up in circle time but he couldn’t wait to tell everyone about her.”
Across the room, JJ was sitting on the floor with Jack in her lap. They were building a tower out of blocks as they chatted with the other kids.
They were interrupted as another parent arrived. JJ helped Jack with his backpack and coat and they met Emily at the door.
“Emily! JJ and I are going to cook dinner tonight. She said kids are in charge now.”
“I said we should take charge of dinner tonight,” JJ reminded him.
Despite Aaron picking up groceries a few days ago, Emily found herself sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store. Emily texted with Jessica and Aaron as she waited. She had given JJ some cash and thick as thieves, Jack and JJ disappeared into the store.
The kids returned with two bags, “Emily, we are going to make a restaurant.”
“Yup!” Jack popped the letter P.
JJ helped Jack into his booster seat and then got in the front. She turned in her seat so she could see both Jack and Emily.
“Do you have crayons or markers at Emily’s house?” JJ asked Jack.
“Yup, yup, yup!”
They arrived at the same time as Jessica, with Jack introducing his aunt to JJ. Jessica was soon sequestered in Emily’s study. Emily was ordered upstairs and sternly told not to peek. The kids were kind enough to allow her to take her work laptop upstairs.
Music and laughter filled the downstairs as Emily dove into her emails. Two case files for review and one follow up report needed editing. She worked steadily for about two hours before Aaron texted he was on his way.
She stood at the top of the stairs, “Jack, JJ, may I come down?”
Jack ran through the house and crashed into the stairs. “No, no! Not yet!”
“Your Daddy will be here soon. Will you be ready then?”
He clambered up the stairs in a half run half crawl. “Emily, Imma setting the table now. You hafta wait.”
“Okay, Jack Jack. You let me know when I can come down.”
He disappeared down the stairs and she heard him skid across the floor in his socks crashing into something.
“He must have bounced off,” She said out loud when she didn’t hear a cry.
Chapter 5 was posted twice so I have corrected this: Behold CHAPTER 6!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Aaron arrived and had enough time to put his gun in the drawer safe, before he was tackle hugged by Jack. His son chattered away, filling him in as he led his father to the table.
The table was set for five with water glasses filled to the brim. A menu sat in the middle of the table, it was drawn with crayons with all the words slanted down and to the right. “JJ and I made a restaurant. You sit here. I gonna get Aunt Jessie and Emily.”
Laughing at his son, he watched him burst through the study door. He led Jessica to the table, and then retrieve Emily from her upstairs prison.
Jack went into the kitchen and asked JJ, “They are sitting, now what?”
She whispered in his ear and he ran back to the table and grabbed the menu handing it to Jessica. “You have to order a snack now. It’s called appy-ties-er. ”
“Oh my, Jack’s Diner! This is fancy.” She opened the menu, “Yes, I see here that you have appetizers.” Jessica looked around the table at Aaron and Emily, “Would you mind if I ordered for the table?”
“Please do,” nodded Aaron.
She turned to Jack, “Yes, sir. Can we get an order of pigs in a blanket?”
“Yes! I made them.”
JJ handed him the plate brimming with tiny hot dogs wrapped in pastry. Carefully, he took the plate and walked slowly to table.
“Will you and JJ join us for appetizers, Jack?” Aaron took the plate from Jack and passed it around.
JJ and Jack sat with the adults at the table. Jack gave them a running commentary on his afternoon, “I made the menu and JJ helped me spell the words. She made the big words and I colored dem in. And I cooked and she let me use a butter knife but I hafta be careful. And I can’t touch the oven or the the pots. And I put four ice cubes in each cup. I spilled but JJ said chefs’ always make a mess.”
JJ added with smile, “And chefs’ always clean up their messes.”
Aaron watched the group eating, laughing, chatting away. JJ had slid in and fit perfectly.
He watched Emily wipe Jack’s face, and smile indulgently at him. She was slowly moving from a friend to a mother in Jack’s eyes, and his own eyes.
He glanced across at Jessica and watched her interactions with Emily, Jack, and JJ.
She was becoming closer to Emily. Aaron had known Jessica since high school, they were friends despite the ugliness of the divorce then the horror with Haley’s death. He knew her as well as she knew him. She loved Jack and anyone who cared for him. Emily was already on the list and now JJ was included.
“This is family, this is my family!” He thought.
Jack pulled on his sleeve trying to get his attention. “Dad!”
He was handed the menu, “You get to pick dinner from the menu.”
Aaron looked at the menu. It had one item listed under the neatly written titles, Appetizers, Dinner, Dessert. Under Dinner, Jack had written Octopus and Seaweed in green crayon.
“Hmm, I am not so sure about this, Jack. Do you know if the chef recommends the octopus?”
Emily and Jessica broke into giggles as Jack promised his father that dinner was yummy.
JJ and Jack excused themselves from the table. She sent Jack in with one plate at a time until everyone had a dinner plate.
Jack explained the meal, “The octopuses are really hot dogs. When you put them into hot water they turn into octopuses. And this is seaweed spaghetti.”
Jessica poked at her plate, prodding the pasta with her fork. “Seaweed, ewww! Gross!”
“It’s yummy, Aunt Jessie. Try it!” Jack ordered.
His aunt made a big show of pinching her nose closed before taking a bite.
“Oh yum! You are right, Jack.”
Aaron tried not to laugh as he watched his son gobble up the spinach and pasta in a butter sauce. “Thank you Jack and JJ for this amazing meal. I like Jack’s Diner, I hope we can eat here again.”
JJ avoided eye contact with him but Jack nodded with his mouth full and cheeks bulging out.
Emily ushered them away from the table, “We can eat dessert in a little bit.” She stayed behind to clean up as the rest of the family spread out through the house.
After JJ and Jack settled on the couch watching superhero cartoons, Aaron followed Jessica into the study.
“That JJ is something else, isn’t she?” His sister in law asked as she cleaned up Emily’s desk.
Aaron sat in the armchair across from the desk, “That she is. I hope she will get more comfortable around me.”
A bark of laughter escaped Jessica, “Oh Aaron, that will take time. You are so intimidating. Okay, so you can’t intimidate me but for people who haven’t known you for twenty years...”
She was lost in thought for a bit, he sat and waited. He knew the talk was coming after dinner, and sure enough, she was gathering her thoughts and planning what to say.
“Just spit it out, Jess. Don’t mince words or worry about my feelings.”
“Aaron, you and Haley. I mean, well yeah. You and Haley were perfect on paper. But you grew apart, even when you were a prosecutor. I am not discounting that you loved each other, I am really not but you loved each other and lived separate lives. It wasn’t obvious at first but once Jack was here, it really showed.”
His five o’clock shadow was prominent as he scrubbed his face with his hands. “Jess, I loved Haley with all my heart. Even when things went bad, I still loved her.”
Smiling sadly at her brother in law, Jess continued, “You loved her and she loved you but you both needed different things from each other. You and Emily have something special. Something different, maybe even deeper. You are partners more than a couple. I can’t explain it but it’s not something you should take lightly.”
“Lightly? We’ve been in a relationship for three months, Jess. Should I propose?”
She shrugged her shoulders, “Maybe because you are in sync from knowing each other for years, it seems like you were together for longer. You and Emily are building a family here. And I can’t tell you how much it means to me that I am included.”
He stood up and walked around the desk to pull her into a hug. “You are and always will be my family.”
Emily found them in that position a few minutes later, Jess was red eyed and Aaron’s shirt was wet with her tears. “Everything okay in here?”
The adults joined the kids in the living room, Jess thanking Emily for allowing her to use the computer, and Emily welcoming her any time.
Aaron watched his four year old lean across JJ to talk to Emily; JJ’s hand resting on his back softly, ensuring he wouldn’t fall sideways off the couch.
“JJ, I checked on the soccer league today.” Aaron got her attention.
She glanced at Emily before her eyes darted to his. She nodded hesitantly.
“You would be in the teen league, 14 to 18 year olds. They have two types of teams, Club and Competition.”
Jack popped up, almost clocking JJ in the face with his head, “What’s that, Daddy?”
“Club is where you practice and play games for fun. Competition, you have to try out for and then you have a lot more practices. They take the games more seriously.”
JJ looked at Emily again but Emily shook her head, “You have to make this decision for yourself, JJ.”
She reflected on this for a minute, “Um, I think the Club team would be good for now. I can get back into shape and figure out this whole new school thing.”
“Sounds good, I will send the proper forms to Emily. I’ll bet you can join the team by this weekend.” Aaron smiled at her, making an effort to soften his face.
“Yay!” Jack jumped up, “You get to play soccer like me. Can we have ice cream now?”
“Yes, let’s get set up Jack Attack!” JJ stood and followed the boy into the kitchen.
Jessica excused herself for the evening, “Thanks again Em! And nice job, Aaron. The girl was only half as scared of you than before.”
Locking up after her, Emily and Aaron joined the kids in the kitchen for ice cream sundaes.
I use to make Octopus or Spider hot dogs for my kids. You cut narrow strips into the bottom half of a hotdog and when you boil them - the legs curl up. Google Octopus Hot Dog for images…
This chapter is unbeta'd, all mistakes are mine.
Come chat with me on Tumblr: http://goodgodhenry.tumblr.com/
On Tuesday, they finished personalizing JJ’s room. JJ negotiated the purchase of wireless speakers so she could move around the house with her music. Emily was allowed to connect her phone to the speakers if they agreed on some basic rules:
- JJ’s Rule: No crappy 70s music
- Emily’s Rule: No boy bands or Bieber
- Universal Household Rule: No country music
Both of them thought they had won because the rules had many loopholes. Emily’s choice of Metallica did not work as JJ informed her that Metallica was a boy band because they based the rule on gender and not type of music. JJ tried to play Taylor Swift but Emily noted her origins in country music.
Their arguments led to one and only one rule: they both had veto power over any song.
That afternoon, JJ had her first therapy appointment. It was just a short meet and greet with Dr. Tate. They talked for about 30 minutes before setting up after school appointments every two weeks.
“Well?” Emily asked her as they drove away from the plain non-descript building.
JJ huffed and puffed, “Nothing, I found nothing wrong. I could talk to her. She was nice and not pushy.”
Emily hid her smile, “I know you wanted to hate her and hate the process. This isn’t the dentist. No pulling teeth but it will be hard sometimes.”
“Well, her office was decorated by a someone from the future. It was all modern and steel. I hated that at least.”
Pushing it one more day, they registered JJ for 10th grade at North High School on Wednesday. She was now enrolled in British Literature, Algebra II, Chemistry, Modern World Studies, Computer Fundamentals and Physical Education. They picked up her books, packets of homework and syllabi from the various teachers.
That afternoon, JJ reviewed her upcoming assignments and reading materials. Wanting to end the day on a high note, Emily signed up JJ for the soccer team and they picked up her uniforms (one for home and one for away games). JJ was invited to attend practice on Thursday night and the home game on Saturday.
JJ was dreading starting school. They had walked around a bit the day before and she had a map but she was still a ball of nerves. She packed her bag, organized her supplies, and reviewed her schedule. Despite being tired, she had a hard time falling asleep.
Emily knew JJ had set her alarm for 6:00 am so she was surprised when she hadn’t heard anything from the teenager at 6:15.
Emily knocked but there was no answer from JJ. Emily entered the room to find a lump of a person under a bundle of blankets.
“JJ, wake up!”
Emily peeled back the blankets and found JJ with her head under a pillow. She shook the girl awake. “Come on, JJ. It won’t be that bad.”
The grumbling was muted under the pillow. Emily pulled it off and smacked her lightly with it.
At 7:45 am, Emily pulled her silver sedan in the drop off lane in front of the school, “Check in the with office first and call me anytime. If it gets really difficult, text me and I’ll come pick you up early.”
JJ hugged her backpack to her chest, her damp hair pulled into a high ponytail. She looked like a scared little girl. “I’ll be fine. I’ll see you at 3:00 pm,” her voice shaky.
Amazed, Emily watched as JJ got out of the car, straightened her back and walked determinedly around the groups of teens milling around. This was a walk Emily had perfected in her teen years. It was like putting on invisible armour.
Emily didn’t want to go home and pace. Pulling out into traffic, her thoughts were consumed by the idea that JJ was swallowed up into the pits of Dante’s Inferno, specifically the 9th circle: Treachery. She turned on the radio; NPR was covering bullying in school.
Sighing, Emily turned off the radio and took the next turn. She would go to the office and review consults until it was time to pick up JJ.
“Hey Mama!” Derek Morgan greeted Emily in the bullpen. He had been her partner for the past five years. “What are you doing here?”
Emily settled down at her desk, and waved to Dr. Spencer Reid, the new agent in training, standing at the coffee machine.
Spencer poured a second mug and brought it over to her, “I thought you had the week off.”
“I do but I have nothing to do. The house is spotless and if I go home now, I’ll spend the entire day thinking about JJ’s first day of school. I figured I would tackle a few consults before picking her up at 3:00.”
“How is she doing? Hotch says she’s adjusting well.” Derek asked.
Dave Rossi, an original member of the BAU, joined them in the bullpen as Emily filled them in on JJ and her own transition into a parental figure.
“There are 379,122 children in foster care in the United States as of....” Spencer filled them in on the statistics until Aaron entered with a file in his hand.
“Sorry, Spencer,” Aaron tilted his head to the conference room. “We have a case in Florida. Emily, you may join in but just for the preliminary review.”
“Florida!” complained Derek, and Spencer asked why.
Derek was more than happy to fill in the newbie, “The Florida cases are extra special. You’ll learn, Kid, you’ll learn.”
The case review ended with Derek, Dave, and Aaron flying to Tallahassee. Spencer would stay behind to build the geographic profile and work on his firearms’ qualification. Emily was not supposed to work but she could help Spencer at the firing range.
Emily walked Aaron down to the parking garage and offered to take Jack to the soccer game on Saturday if he wasn’t back in time.
They kissed lightly before Aaron pulled her in closer and walked her backwards until she was against the black SUV. Their kisses grew heated until he pulled away.
“Dave and Morgan will be here in minute.”
Emily reached out and caressed his cheek, “I’m going to miss going out with you on this case.”
“I’ll call you when I can. And you are not supposed to work this case. Just help Reid with his qualification.”
“Yes, Sir,” she replied saucily.
He smacked her butt as she walked away, “Sassy.”
Emily and Spencer spent the rest of the morning pulling up maps of Tallahassee and the surrounding areas on the FBI computers.
“This is so slow. It might be easier to drive down there and chart the maps ourshelves.”
Processing what Emily had said to him, Spencer looked up in surprise. “But...”
“I was being facetious, Spence.” Emily teased him as she checked her phone.
Blushing, the new agent grabbed more maps off the printer and taped them to the wall.
Emily called out locations and he flagged them on the map. They had completed the geographic profile by the time the team had landed in Florida.
“I emailed the geo-profile to Hotch. Let’s get some lunch and then hit the firing range.”
Spencer grabbed his messenger bag and followed Emily to the elevators.
He watched as she checked her phone in the elevator, in the parking garage, and every stoplight between the academy and the restaurant.
“Um, Emily. Are you okay?” He asked as he held the door open for her.
She walked into the restaurant and smiled at the server, “Two, please.”
Once they were seated, Emily shared her concerns over JJ’s first day of school. “I expected a panicked call or ‘I’m ok’ text by now. Not knowing how she is doing is making me crazy.”
Spencer nodded sympathetically, “I’m sure she would have contacted you if things were bad.”
They chatted about work over their lunch and Emily was surprised to learn this was his third department as a new agent.
“I have the autonomy to choose my unit once I pass the firearm qualification. I spent four months domestic threat and two months in white collar. I feel that my skills fit well in BAU and I have enjoyed this assignment the most. I will be asking to join the unit formally once I qualify.”
Emily recalled her path to the BAU; it was nothing like this. “How did you manage that, Spencer?”
Spencer grinned, “I was recruited when I was 16 by Jason Gideon. There was a fierce competition between the NSA, CIA, and FBI. Once I was done with my second PHD, I started the academy. The physical qualification was hard but I managed to pass it after the third try. It’s the firearm one that is holding me back.”
She couldn’t help but smile at the young man in front of her. He looked so much younger than his twenty two years. “I’ll get you through it.”
When Emily left the firing range, she wondered if she was over her head. Spencer’s marksmanship had decreased under her supervision.
She drove to JJ’s school to find the line of cars around the block, despite arriving 15 minutes prior to the dismissal bell. Frustrated, Emily debated flashing her badge to clear the parents out of her way.
She texted JJ, ‘Waiting for you in long line of cars in front of school. Hope today went well’
Twenty minutes later, Emily had pulled forward four car lengths. Hers nails were bitten down and she had clicked through every single radio station three different times.
‘Day seriously sucked. C U in 5. Have to check in office.’
Another 15 minutes went by before Emily was near the front of the line. She spotted JJ as she walked out of the front doors. The teen made her way to the car and Emily maneuvered out of the school parking lot a quickly as possible.
JJ leaned back in her seat and pulled her legs up, wrapping her arms around them, “I HATE the math teacher, lunch is disgusting, chemistry was a nightmare, and I think half the students are on drugs and the other half are brain dead.”
“Oh boy,” muttered Emily.
JJ continued, “And is the classes do NOT prepare you for the homework. The computer lab was a joke. Did you know Computer Fundamentals is just another way to say “typing class?”
The rants and complaints continued the entire drive home. Emily pushed open the front door and headed straight for the kitchen. She began making sandwiches as JJ paced around, talking with her hands.
Emily handed her a turkey sandwich and physically guided JJ to the table. “Sit down.”
The seasoned FBI agent slowly backed away, and headed to the fridge. She poured a glass of milk and handed it to JJ.
“They made me stand in front of the class and introduce myself. FOR. EACH. CLASS!”
When the doorbell rang, Emily was pleased to have a reason to flee. JJ’s social worker, Julianna, was at the door. Emily wasn’t sure if she was happy or terrified to see her.
“Come in, but be warned, JJ just finished her first day of school.”
Julianna followed Emily to the kitchen to find JJ still talking.
“Do you even know what gym class they put me in? Dance! Contemporary Dance. I DON’T dance, Emily!”
Emily poured two glasses of water and handed one to Julianna inviting her to sit.
“JJ, look, Julianna is here.”
The teenager was not phased by the appearance of her social worker. She huffed and continued complaining about her chemistry class in between sips of milk.
When JJ finished her tirade, Julianna reviewed her checklist with them followed by inspecting the house and JJ’s bedroom.
“You two are all set,” said Julianna.
Emily walked her out, asking, “Is that it?”
“Yes, the home environment is fine. JJ is adjusting well. She enrolled in school and quite comfortable with you. You don’t usually seen teens talking openly so soon.”
Exhaling, Emily felt a rush as the nervous tension left her body.
Coming back inside, Emily found JJ at the table with piles of books, folders and papers.
“Can I help you get organized?”
“Nah, I have to look through everything and put in my planner.” JJ replied.
“Did anything good happen today?”
JJ pulled up her legs again and sat cross legged in the kitchen chair. “I met this crazy girl who is pretty nice. And the Brit Lit teacher is cool.”
“Fill me in on crazy girl.”
The teen scribbled in her planner as she told Emily all about Penelope Garcia, “She’s a junior and she’s so out there. Her clothes are straight from the 80s; bold and bright. She’s in five of my classes and a super computer nerd. While I typed, she updated three different Tumblr blogs, ordered boots from London, a necklace from Etsy, and read a fanfiction story.”
“Um, yeah and she talked the entire time she was doing that. I know her whole life story.”
They continued chatting as JJ finished laying out her homework and decided on a light dinner after soccer practice. Emily pulled together a pasta salad as JJ tackled her hardest assignment.
“I’ll read after practice. I can’t do math when I am tired.”
Around 10:30, Emily’s phone buzzed from her nightstand.
‘Are you up?’
She called Aaron and they chatted about case, Spencer’s marksmanship, and JJ’s school.
“She’ll adjust. Maybe they can change her gym class. Did she like the soccer team?”
Smiling, Emily snuggled deeper under her blankets, “Yes, she is going to request a different gym class tomorrow. The soccer team is very serious. I thought that being a club team it would be more fun but they have an hour and a half practices twice a week plus games. She seemed to enjoy it, though. The girls on the team were wonderful, very serious about the game.”
“At this age, the girls wouldn’t be on the team unless they were dedicated. I’ll bet every one of them is trying to get on the competitive team for next season.”
They talked a little longer before Emily yawned, “This parenting thing is hard work.”
“Good night, Em!” Aaron said, laughing.
I love the idea of younger Spencer, and teenager JJ and Penelope. It’s been fun trying to write them with their younger personalities.
This chapter is unbeta'd, all mistakes are mine.
Come chat with me on Tumblr: http://goodgodhenry.tumblr.com/
JJ was easier to wake on Friday. Emily didn’t even need to hit her with a pillow. They had breakfast and agreed to stop by the school a little early to request a different gym class.
Afterwards, Emily went into the office and helped Spencer with the Florida case. The team had identified the UNSUB but he was hiding out. Using the profile, Emily and Dave (through speakerphone) helped guide Spencer until they were able to identify three possible hiding places.
Derek called them back in the early afternoon to let them know local police had arrested the UNSUB and they were heading back.
“Come on, Spence, let’s try again.”
Spencer kept fidgeting with the files in his hands, “But we haven’t had lunch.”
Taking the files from him, she deposited them on the desk. “I have less than an hour before I pick up JJ. We can get a quick session in and then you can have lunch.”
Grabbing his messenger bag, she handed it to him and walked away.
“I don’t want to waste your time,” he pleaded.
Emily turned around and gave him a glare worthy of Hotch. Spencer scurried forward and followed her into the elevator.
Drumming her hands on the steering wheel, Emily thought about ramming the car in front of her. She considered trading in her sleek sedan for a Humvee so she could roll over every single car in the “Drop Off / Pick Up Lane.”
JJ walked out of the school with two girls, a tiny brunette and a tall girl with jet black hair. The tiny girl looked like she was 12. She wore jeans and a well worn gray t-shirt. She waved at them at took off towards the bus lane. The tall girl must be the crazy one that JJ mentioned. She wore pink striped leggings under a tiny jean skirt and cut up t-shirt featuring The Cure. Yup, the 80s definitely. She hugged JJ before bouncing away.
“Yup!” JJ dropped her bag on the floor of the car. It made a distinct thunking sound.
“Did you take up bowling? What’s in the bag?” Emily asked.
“So funny, you should be a comedian!”
Emily glanced over at JJ before pulling out of the lane; she was relaxed with a slight smirk on her face. “Whew, not as bad as yesterday,” she thought.
“Well, I had to bring all the textbooks home so I can get some big things out of the way over the weekend. And yes, I think I have made some friends. Kinda I guess.”
JJ and Emily returned home and the high schooler filled her in on the trials and tribulations of being a student amongst ignorant facists.
“Fascists? Do you even know what that means?”
“If you look it up in the dictionary, there is a picture of my math teacher,” JJ informed her, “Anyway, I was able to transfer to a strength building gym class. It’s mostly weight training and running.”
“Good! Who were those girls?” Emily handed her a bagel and sat down.
“So the tall girl is Penelope. She is making a game for phone. Did you know anyone can just start programming? She just sat through class working on different characters and making them move. Can you even imagine? And the tiny girl is a senior, she’s in my new gym class and Brit Lit. She seems nice but she’s quiet.”
“What’s her name?”
“Maya. Actually, I am not sure if she’s that quiet but it’s hard to talk over Penelope.”
They talked as JJ tackled a few assignments and made dinner together. Emily started laundry and reminded JJ to get her soccer gear ready for the morning.
The teenager rolled her eyes, and huffed, “Yeah, yeah. Already done. I get to pick the tv show tonight.”
After two hours of reality TV, Emily escaped to her bedroom and called Aaron for emotional support.
If getting JJ up for school was bad, getting her up on a Saturday morning was worse than Emily could have ever imagined.
“But you have a soccer game,” she reminded the teenager.
“It’s too early, why do we have to get there early?” JJ mumbled from under the blanket.
Emily kept yanking on the blanket but JJ was holding firm, “You have to have breakfast and take a shower.”
“I’ll have some milk and I can shower after the game. 30 more minutes please.”
They managed to arrive on the field with six minutes to spare. JJ joined her teammates and Emily set up several camping chairs along the sidelines. The coach had the girls stretch and run the field a few times before the game started. JJ stood on the sideline for the first part of the game, cheering for her team. When she was put in the game, Emily sat up straight in her chair.
“Emily, Emily, Where’s JJ?” Jack had arrived with no sign of Aaron.
She hugged the boy and pointed out JJ in the game, “Where’s your Dad?”
“He’s with Uncle Dave getting out all the balls for my game. He said I could come over to you. Go, JJ, Go!”
Emily and Jack cheered and clapped throughout the game. JJ waved to them a few times.
“Didja see, Emily, she waved. Look we have the same uniform. My number is 22 and JJ is 34.”
“I see that Jack.”
By halftime, Aaron and Dave had joined JJ’s fanclub. She ran over and gave Jack a sweaty hug and compared uniforms with him.
“JJ, I would like you to meet Dave Rossi. He’s one of the agents we work with at the BAU.” Emily introduced the teen.
Dave reached out and shook JJ’s hand, “Nice to meet you! Good game out there.”
Flushed red from either shyness or exertion, she nodded to him. “Thanks, I have to get back.”
“Hi Aaron!” JJ called and she patted Jack on the head as she ran back to her team.
The FBI family reunited an hour later on field number four to watch Jack’s game. They cheered and hollered for the silliest soccer game ever played. JJ was in hysterics as Dave and Aaron tried to coach the kids. They would call them in for pep talks and they changed out the players on a regular basis. Two of the kids were looking for bugs, one kid was spinning in circles as another was scoring in the wrong goal.
“If you think this is funny, you should watch their practices. Dave and Aaron waddle around like penguins trying to teach the kids control of the ball.” Emily told her.
After the game, Dave headed out and the Hotchner’s followed the girls home for lunch.
The blended family spent most of the weekend hanging out between Emily’s townhouse and Aaron’s apartment. Jack was thrilled to show JJ his room and his soccer trophy.
The adults had little alone time with Jack but now they had almost no time alone since JJ come into their lives. They stole kisses in Emily’s laundry room, Aaron’s closet, and now they were on the stoop of the townhouse, kissing against the front door.
“I’ve missed you at work.” He told her as he trailed kisses down the column of her neck.
Her hands carded through his thick dark hair, “But we don’t make out at work.”
He pulled back from her, his hair standing on end, “Yes, but at least I can see you.”
Aaron pointed at the steps and they sat down. He pulled her hand into his and kissed her lightly. “How would you feel about moving in together?”
Emily couldn’t keep the shock off her face, knowing her stoic boyfriend would read into her emotions incorrectly; she smiled. “I am surprised Aaron, not that I don’t want to and we have to figure out logistics and kids and all of that but I am surprised.”
“It makes sense for us to get a house together.”
Emily laughed, “Oh Aaron, I love you. I do think it’s too soon. We have been dating for three months.”
He leaned over and nipped at her shoulder, “We’ve been dating for years and years. We just finally acted on it a few months ago. I am not saying next week but it takes time to sell or rent our places and to find a house that will fit all of us.”
“We’ve been dating for years? Funny, I don’t recall this. All that time, I thought we were just friends.” She kissed the tip of his nose, “Well, since we’ve been together for so long, I have to say yes.”
“Emily, you got a text alert,” JJ called from the study. She was trying to get the last of her homework done. Jack was laying on the floor, coloring beside the desk.
Aaron and Emily were cooking dinner together. Emily set the knife down on the cutting board and asked Aaron to finish dicing the onions.
“Not going to happen!”
She returned to the kitchen a few minutes later, “I guess Dave called Morgan. He is demanding to meet JJ. And stop being a baby about onions.”
“Dave texted?” he asked.
Emily resumed her post at the cutting board, “No, Morgan did. Want to have everyone over for dinner tomorrow night if we aren’t out on a case? JJ doesn’t have practice.”
“Sounds good; will you have time to pull something together? You are back in the office tomorrow. Maybe we should do pizza.”
Groaning, Emily leaned into Aaron, “If we have pizza, Morgan will make me work out with him on Tuesday morning.”
“I love pizza!” Jack announced.
“You can’t go wrong with pizza.” JJ followed along behind four year old.
Emily texted Morgan and Reid an invite and while Aaron called Dave.
Jack was put in charge of setting the table while dinner finished cooking so JJ could concentrate on her “stupidly lame math assignment.”
During dinner, Emily was amused by JJ. The teen was comfortable talking to her or Jack but she wouldn’t engage directly with Aaron. She wondered how tomorrow night would go with the addition of three more men.
“But JJ said she would play Spiderman with me.” Jack whined to his father.
“We’ll come back tomorrow night and you can play then. I promise. But JJ has school tomorrow just like you and it’s almost bedtime.”
Pouting, Jack hugged JJ and Emily. Aaron waved to JJ and pecked Emily on the cheek on their way out of the door.
JJ took her shower and packed up all her assignments so she wouldn’t have to be up as early for school. Emily shook her head at her logic and offered her a cocoa before bed.
They sat on the couch together, sipping their drinks.
“You and Aaron are pretty serious?”
“Yes,” Emily’s smile told JJ everything she needed to know. “We are very serious.”
“Wow, like marriage and stuff?”
Emily wondered how much information she should share with the teen, “Well, we are considering buying a house that would fit all of us but we just started talking about this today. We have to take quite a few things into consideration including how you would feel about this.”
“Of course, JJ. You are family.” Emily put her mug down on the coffee table. She turned and took JJ’s mug out of her hands and put it down. “You are family. This is not a temporary situation. You will stay with me for as long as you wish.”
JJ threw her arms around Emily and hugged her tight.
“Three large salads. Italian and Ranch. Yes, one large pepperoni, one large veggie and two of the comboy. Hmm? Yes, large. Sure. Thanks!”
JJ watched as Emily talked on the phone while putting away her gun, taking off her tall boots, and wrestling herself out of her suit jacket. Feeling sorry for her, JJ reached out and steadied Emily before she fell over.
“Whew, okay dinner is ordered. We have soda and beer, though Dave will bring wine. Oh God, we are out of juice boxes. How on earth are we going to fit six adults and two kids in here?”
JJ rolled her eyes at her foster mother, “Jack can drink milk or Sprite or something. And we will spread out.”
“How was your day? Did the evil overlord of algebra give you a hard time?”
They chatted about JJ’s “rockin” day, algebra teacher has sub and she connected with Penelope and Maya on Snapchat. Then the “rockin” day sucked cause her chemistry lab partner was deranged and tried to bring her IQ down by sheer proximity. Emily bit her tongue trying to resist commenting as JJ talked.
“Catch any bad guys today, Emily?”
“I’m on desk duty for the next month so basically I read case files, wrote basic profiles, and typed up internal reports. I have been out on the firing range with Spencer lately so that’s fun.”
“Is the firing range like tv with plastic goggles and headphone ear cover things and cut-outs of people? Oooh is there a pop up targets that jump out at you? And you have to shoot the bad guys only and you lose points for killing good guys.”
JJ was animated as she talked with her hands. She pretended to pull out a gun and then turned around and shot at imaginary bad guys.
“Oh dear, I think we may need to limit your tv watching time.” Emily shook her head at the teenager.
Still laughing at JJ’s antics, Emily headed upstairs to change out of her suit as the JJ set up a few snacks around the house.
“Who is on your team again?”
Despite Emily’s tall stature, she still needed to stand on a chair to grab all the glassware for their guests. One at a time, she handed the beer and wine glasses to JJ.
“So Aaron is the unit chief. He looks over the cases and determines which are the most pressing. You’ve met Dave, he recently came back from retirement. Derek is my partner, he use to be on the bomb squad. Oh god, why did I say that? Now you will reenact disarming bombs.”
“Haha!” JJ rolled her eyes.
“And then there is Spencer. Well, Dr. Spencer Reid. He’s our newest member. He’s pretty new so he’s not in the field much.”
JJ grabbed Emily’s hand as she climbed down, “Do you guys get hurt so much that you need a doctor on your team or does he work on the victims? Wouldn’t you want a doctor in the field?”
“Oh no, he’s not a medical doctor. He’s got like three or four phds in math and engineering and gosh, I can’t remember.”
Their conversation was interrupted as Jack raced in, “JJ, I got ice cream sandwiches for me and you. Can we play Spiderman? I wanna be the Green Goblin. Hi Emily! JJ, you have to pretend I’m green and I can fly, okay? And you have to pretend to shoot webs.”
Aaron entered the kitchen with a grocery bag, “Jack, take a breath. Hello, Emily and JJ.”
Emily kissed him, “I didn’t expect you so soon.”
“Dave kicked me out of the office.”
Bored with the adults’ conversation, Jack tugged on JJ’s hand. “Come on, let’s play.”
“You better run, Green Goblin.”
Squeals and laughter rang through the house as JJ chased the little boy through the house.
Aaron put the grocery bag down and pulled Emily into his arms, “Mmm, we have at least an hour before our guests arrive.”
After several minutes of kisses and hands sneaking under shirts, Emily placed her hands on his chest and firmly pushed him away, “We need a night to ourselves.”
“That we do,” he sighed heavily.
The townhouse was filled to capacity. Dave, Aaron, and Spencer were in the living room, while Derek was flying Jack around the first floor. JJ hid in the kitchen with Emily under the guise of filling drink orders.
“You didn’t tell me he was capital H, capital O, capital t, HOT!” JJ hissed at Emily, “I would have put on something cute.”
Emily patted JJ’s cheek, “You are 15 years old and you are not, I repeat, NOT attracted to an adult.”
JJ stuck out her tongue at Emily, “Attracted! Lame word, Emily, I’m not like 30. I just think he’s hot. He’s way too old for me anyway.”
“There are so many things wrong with what you just said.” Emily handed her a glass of red wine, “Give this to Dave, please.”
“Here you are,” The teen delivered the wine but not without smoothing down her already smooth hair. She turned to Aaron, “Um, can I get you anything?”
Aaron requested a beer and she scampered away, “Wow, she is more skittish than normal around me.”
“I don’t think it’s you that’s making her nervous.” Dave told him, cutting his eyes to Derek.
Emily joined them, handing Spencer a beer, as JJ followed behind handing Aaron and Derek their beers.
“Jack and JJ, go get drinks. I would like to make a toast.” Dave announced.
By the time they were back with their water bottles, Dave had a brightly wrapped package in his hands.
He raised his glass, “Welcome to the BAU family, JJ. We are pleased to have you. Cin Cin!”
The group raised their glasses, “Cin Cin!”
Jack tried to clink his bottle to each person, spilling water over his hands.
Dave handed JJ the present, and sat down on the couch. She joined him and delicately ripped the wrapping paper off.
“You hafta rip it off fast, JJ.” Jack told her helpfully.
JJ gasped as the name on the small box was revealed, “A tablet! Oh my gosh, it’s a tablet!”
Dave smiled, “And I already pre-loaded some books on there for you.”
A collective groan came from the entire BAU team.
Indignant, Dave chortled, “Why shouldn’t I? They are critically acclaimed.”
The teenager looked around the room and back to the e-reader in her hands, “What am I missing here?”
Emily sat down beside JJ, “He has written several books about serial killers. Those are the ones he preloaded for you.”
“Cool!” exclaimed JJ, “Is there blood and gore?”
The adults laughed and Emily took a long sip of her wine, muttering, “Way to go, Dave!”
Despite desk duty, Emily was enjoying working a part time schedule and leaving by 3:00 pm to pick up JJ from school. She often took case files home and worked alongside JJ as she completed her homework.
They did everything together from grocery shopping, soccer practices and games, coffee with Jessica, movies with Pam, and even hanging out at fast food restaurant play area with Jack when it was too wet to play at the park.
JJ tackled her homework and classwork with fierce determination, faltering in her math courses. JJ went to her therapist appointments without complaint. Emily learned to give the usually bubbly teen some space after she met with Dr. Brenda Tate.
Emily was pleased that JJ was texting with her old friends from Pennsylvania as well as her new ones, Maya and Penelope. JJ hadn’t invited her friends over or asked to visit them. She never wanted to hang out with the soccer team after game, opting to head to Jack’s games instead.
“Aaron, I hate to say it but she’s clingy.”
His voice came through the phone, deep and gentle, “Em, it’s just been a month and she is still adjusting.”
She snuggled deeper under her blankets, rolling over onto her side. “I know, but I can’t help worrying.”
“You offer her stability, something she hasn’t had in awhile. Even before her mom’s accident. She is still getting use to having a real home. Why don’t you ask her to invite her friends over?”
“They’ll probably sit next to each other and text.” Emily sighed, “I’m coming back to the field soon. I want to be sure she’s going to be okay if I travel.“
Aaron murmured reassurances and they chatted a bit longer before he heard her yawn, “Good night, sweetheart.”
“Hey JJ, why don’t you invite Penelope or Maya over after school tomorrow. I can give them a ride home after dinner.” Emily offered.
Scrunching up her nose, JJ contemplated this before pulling out her phone. “I’ll ask. Pen has her own car so maybe she can drive us over and you won’t have to pick me up after school.”
Emily worked hard to keep a neutral expression on her face, “Just let me know by 2:30.”
They struggled through a profile and algebra before calling it quits.
“You make a salad and I’ll throw some rolls in the oven. The chicken and veggies are about done.”
JJ watched Emily close up her brown FBI file; the colored photographs were obscured but JJ had a feeling this was a bad one. “What do you do now with the case?”
The profiler sighed, “I will give this one to Aaron tonight. I have a feeling the team will be flying out in the morning.”
“Do you want to go with them?”
Emily rummaged through the fridge, handing JJ ingredients for the salad. “Yeah, I do better when I can visit the crime scenes but I know they have it covered. I’ll be back traveling soon enough.”
JJ busied herself with slicing up the tomatoes, before turning to Emily. “I know I gave you a hard time about Pam staying with me when you travel but I don’t mind. Really!”
“Thanks JJ, that helps. I have been worried a little bit.”
Giggling, JJ told her foster mother, “Plus, she has much better taste in television than you.”
Last night Penelope had confirmed that she could drive JJ home and stay for dinner. The girls were waiting to hear from Maya.
Emily was pleased when the first text came in over lunch, the three teens would be coming over and making dinner. Her gasp startled the agents in the bullpen.
“What’s up, Princess?”
She reached across Spencer’s desk to hand her phone to Derek. He laughed loudly, handing the phone to Spencer.
“It just says ‘we are making sushi.’ What is wrong with that? Do you not like sushi?”
Emily took her phone back and dropped into her chair. “I like sushi. I expected them to want pizza. I am just imagining sharp knives and food poisoning.”
The team hung around the bullpen, doing busy work while waiting for Aaron to finish up with the bureaucracy. The case Emily had reviewed merited a visit but the local police were refusing to invite them in, despite the head detective’s request.
Spencer was reading slower than normal while tapping out a pattern on his thigh. Now that he was finally field rated, he was itching to go out on a case.
Derek was shuffling papers to cover up that he was texting.
“Hmm, probably sexting,” Emily thought as she pulled another stack of cases and started reading.
They ate lunch at their desks, go bags ready, waiting for their unit chief to announce, “Wheels up in 30,” but it hadn’t happened yet. The afternoon dragged on and Emily finally packed up her desk at 4:30.
“I’m off. Going to check on the girls and see if my first aid skills are up to par.” She told Derek and Spencer.
She stopped by Dave’s office for idle chit chat before heading into Aaron’s office. He was on the phone so she gave him a quick wave but he held up his hand, indicating she should wait.
“There was another abduction. The Kansas Attorney General has overruled the local police. We are heading out. Can you run the web searches tonight? You will be faster than Reid anyway.”
Emily smiled, “He’s such a technophobe for someone so young. Call me with developments.”
“We need our own tech analyst instead of sharing with other teams,” he grumbled as he grabbed his go bag.
He knocked on Dave’s door and walked her back to the bullpen, “Wheels up in 20.”
The team gathered their case files and bags, joining Emily and Aaron in the elevator.
“You’ll do great Spencer,” Emily bumped shoulders with the young doctor.
Derek laughed, “The kid will be fine. You on the other hand will have a nice case of food poisoning.”
Aaron and Dave looked at Emily expectantly.
“JJ and her girlfriends are making sushi for dinner.”
Dave chuckled and Aaron’s frown broke for a moment, his eyes crinkling.
There was an old orange convertible parked in front of the townhouse. Emily had a feeling it belonged to Penelope based JJ’s descriptions of her personality. She walked in and put away her gun as sounds of laughter drifted through the house.
“Hello Ladies,” called Emily as she took in the scene before her.
The teens were standing in height order, from Maya being the shortest to Penelope being the tallest. Emily held back a giggle as she noticed each of the girls had rice stuck to their faces, hair and clothes.
“Emily, come meet my friends. This Maya and Penelope. Guys, this is Emily.” JJ introduced her to her friends but they all opted for waves instead of handshakes.
Emily sat at the counter and watched as each girl completed a task: cutting veggies, slicing fish then rolling everything together inside of the rice and seaweed wrapper.
“Wow, I am so impressed. I expected a disaster.”
The girls burst into laughter as they stepped apart to showcase the kitchen behind them. Every single pot and pan was filthy and the kitchen counters were covered with wrappers, cans, containers, and an a wide assortment of ingredients.
JJ handed Emily a beer from the fridge, “We messed up the rice the first four or five times.”
Penelope jumped in, “Turns out that rice is an exact science. Not to worry, Snow White! We will clean up,” with Maya nodding along.
Emily mouthed “Snow White” to JJ and smiled at Penelope, “Um, Snow White?”
Maya and JJ kept working as their bold friend filled Emily in on her new nickname, “You’ve got like this gorgeous alabaster skin and the dark black hair. Pair that with your red red lips. You are totally Snow White.”
Bewildered, Emily nodded, “Okay then, I’m going to the study to work for a bit. Let me know if you need anything.”
Shaking her head, she took her beer and headed into the other room to start the web searches for the case.
Emily worked and eavesdropped on the girls. They talked about teachers, other students, and an upcoming movie release. They dropped text speak into their sentences and Emily missed a few phrases. “SMH,” she thought, “what the hell is that?”
After hearing Penelope’s last statement, “Mixel, you take out trash and Sporty Spice, you get the wasabi and ginger out. I’ll start plating the rolls.” Emily decided to finish up, emailing the social media background checks on the victims to Aaron and requested a deeper dive into records to the section’s tech analyst.
“Mixel and Sporty Spice?” Emily asked Maya as she headed out with a full trash bag.
The teen ducked her head and sighed, “It’s a mixture of Maya and Pixie. PG gives out new nicknames daily and sometimes hourly.”
“Are you guys enough old enough to remember the Spice Girls?” Emily asked.
JJ shrugged her shoulders, and Penelope filled her in, “Oh my gosh, my mom looooooved them. They are a British Girl Power group. My mom use to call me Baby Spice or Scary Spice depending on my mood.”
Shaking her head at JJ, Emily smirked, “Sorry hon, the music rules have to be amended. Veto Power on any song and Absolutely no Spice Girls. Also, I don’t think you should hang out with Penelope any more. She is obviously a bad influence.”
Emily snapped photos of the food and the messy girls on her phone. They posed making faces, holding up the butcher knives and pretending to eat the sushi rolls.
She thought she was clever when under the guise of sending them the photos, Emily was able to get their contact information.
Penelope leaned over and smugly said, “Real smooth, Parental Unit, real smooth.”
Dinner was surprisingly good and the conversations never stopped, even Maya was able to get a few words in. Emily was quite impressed with JJ’s friends.
“How about I clean up and you guys tackle homework?”
Maya sighed, “I have to get home. PG, can you drive me?”
JJ walked her friends to the door and Emily tackled the burnt rice in stuck at bottom of the pots.
“I enjoyed your friends. They seem fun.”
“Yeah, and they liked you.” JJ told her as she wiped down the counters and started the dishwasher. “You didn’t go all judgmental on them.”
Emily smiled and tucked a strand of JJ’s hair behind her ear, “I hope you are happy here, Jayje. I want to be sure that you have a good life.”
Blinking away tears, JJ gave Emily a quick hug before darting off, “K, off to do some algebra.”
Derek called Emily at 9:30 pm, “Princess, any stomach cramps?”
“Very witty, Morgan. The girls did great. What’s up with the case?”
He filled her in on the latest crime scenes and Reid’s very first meeting with the LEOs.
“So Hotch says, ‘This is DOCTOR Reid’ and they laughed so he gave them the Hotch Glare. They all stammered and stood up straight like he was a military general.”
“I’m sorry I missed that. I love watching people squirm under his gaze.”
Snickering, Derek asked, “Does he ever make you squirm?”
“Anyway…. “ She sighed at his innuendo, “I put in the request to the tech analyst. I peeked into the system and there is only one high priority request ahead of ours. I’ll check again in the morning.”
He gave her a few more case notes before hanging up. She didn’t have a chance to put the phone down before it vibrated in her hands.
“Aaron, can you fire Morgan? Please?”
“Is he sexually harassing you again? How did tonight go?”
Emily filled him in the girls and JJ’s hug. “I think we are getting somewhere. And they made plans to study together and go to the movies.”
“Em, that’s great.” His voice lowered, “I miss you in the hotel room next to mine. You know, the ones with adjoining doors.”
As they talked, Emily wandered the house, locking up and turning off lights. She blushed at the huskiness in his voice, realizing that JJ was living room watching TV and playing on her phone.
“Um, yes, that sounds good.” She stammered into the phone, “I’ll give you a call back, babe.”
“I’m off to bed, JJ. Don’t stay up too late.”
JJ barely glanced up from her phone, “Night.”
Emily returned to her bedroom and firmly shut the door before returning his call.
A/N: I love teenage Penelope!
LEOs = Law Enforcement Officers
Come say Hi on Tumblr: http://goodgodhenry.tumblr.com/.
It had been nine weeks since JJ had come to live with Emily. Between therapy and her friends, JJ had blossomed. She talked about her mother and sister with greater ease; crying in Emily’s arms or sharing a silly memory.
Emily was impressed by JJ’s resilience and determination. She kept up with her schoolwork, trained hard with her soccer team, and played even harder during the games.
Emily’s concerns over JJ’s social life were eased as the friendship with Penelope and Maya had grown stronger. They were inseparable now doing everything together from JJ’s soccer games to Maya’s dance classes. JJ had even gone out for pizza with her soccer teammates a few times.
It didn’t phase JJ when Emily had to travel on a case. She loved time spent with Pam and they had a tendency to have too much fun.
Returning home after a case, Emily found the pharmacy delivery receipt for Tums, Pepto Bismol and Alka Seltzer. Apparently, Pam had allowed JJ, Penelope, and Maya to have a sleepover. The girls had decided to make videos of various taste tests. It involved blindfolds, laughter, and a variety of junk foods. They compared the cheese flavoring on chips before taste testing name brand and generic brand colas. It was the “How hot can you go?” with spicy chicken wings that set them over the edge into to gastrointestinal distress. Needless to say, they were grateful that pharmacy could deliver at 11:30 pm.
“If she experiments now, she won’t try the more dangerous stuff when she’s in college,” Pam informed Emily.
Emily raised her eyebrow her friend, “Are you sure you are a licensed therapist?”
When not traveling, their schedule was pretty much the same from week to week; rushing to from appointments to soccer practices, squeezing in time to make dinner then diving into homework for JJ and paperwork for Emily. Aaron and Jack joined them one or two nights during the week and all day on Saturdays.
The only thing missing from Emily’s life was a bit of adult time with Aaron. Rather than lean on Jess who already did so much for then, Emily offered to pay JJ to babysit Jack.
“No, Emily. I am happy to do it.”
Smiling at the teen’s earnest face, Emily pushed JJ’s hair back over her ear, “JJ, you need pocket money.”
“But you already pay for everything I need.”
“Sorry, non-negotiable!” Emily stated, “If you babysit Jack, you get paid for it.”
Emily couldn’t wait to plan a date night with Aaron; she almost snickered out loud as her plan was simply alone time at Aaron’s apartment.
At the ten week mark, Emily took the day off from work. She met with the social worker and the dean of students regarding JJ’s progress, pleased that they both felt she was doing well. The dean did recommend a math tutor as it was the one class where JJ was continually struggling.
“I’ll find a tutor for her. Thank you for your time.” Emily shook hands with the dean and walked out of the school with Julianna.
“I understand you have been back in the field for a few weeks now. How is that going?”
Nodding, Emily followed Julianna to the visitor parking lot. “JJ catches a ride with a friend or rides the bus after school. Most of the time, I can still drop her off in the mornings. I have my neighbor, well, my friend, stay overnight when I have to travel. It’s only been two trips so far.”
Julianna unlocked her car and dropped her bag in the passenger seat, “Yes, Pam, JJ had mentioned her.”
She closed the door and turned around, leaning back against the car, “You don’t need to worry, Emily. Things are going well. The home visits have been satisfactory. JJ is doing well in school. She is social and involved in sports. She is seeing a therapist and is in good health. You are doing great.”
“I just worry.” Emily confessed, picking at her fingernails.
“I’d be concerned if you didn’t.” Julianna held out her hand, “Have a good day, Emily.”
Emily headed to her neighborhood coffee shop, waiting for Jess and Jack. She had ordered their drinks, and double checked that Jack’s hot cocoa wasn’t actually hot. They entered a few minutes later, Jack zooming over to her.
Two hugs and a loud “Thanks!” later, Jack had a chocolate mustache and the women were relaxing into their squashy arm chairs.
“I couldn’t bring my laptop and work from here. I’d fall into a coma.”
Smiling, Emily leaned back further into the chair, “Mmm, this is nice. I wouldn’t mind one of these chairs at home.”
“Emily, do I get to come to your house tonight?” Jack asked her as she ruffled his hair.
“Yes, Sir!” She replied.
Jack giggled at being called sir.
“Well, how are things going with JJ? Aaron says she will talk to him now.” Jess asked.
Emily sipped her drink, wiping her mouth before answering, “It’s pretty cute. She still stammers but she will talk to him. She is growing more comfortable with Dave too but I think it’s because she sees him each week at soccer. She won’t say much around Derek or Spencer.”
Jack popped up from train table in the corner of the coffee shop, “Spencer can do magic. Did you know that, Aunt Jessie?”
“Wow, Magic!” Jess answered but Jack had already gone back to playing with the trains, making sound effects as they crashed into each other, “Em, how are things going with Aaron? Any more talk about moving in together?”
Shaking her head at the situation, Emily replied, “It’s bizarre having this conversation with you being Haley’s sister.”
Jess reached over and patted Emily’s arm. “There is no betrayal here, you aren’t cheating her or her memory. They were divorced. They always loved each other but it was truly over. Haley would want Jack to have a mother; she would also want Aaron to love again.”
Emily expelled a long drawn out breath, “I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear that,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “I love Jack and I hope someday, I could be like a mother to him.”
“I’m sure you know that Aaron is an all or nothing intense type of guy. You guys are in for the long haul. So, fill me in on the house hunt.“
“Such a mess! The realtor doesn’t expect the condos to sell at the same time, so one of us will need to move into the other’s place. Both our homes are only two bedrooms so it will be cramped until we find a house and close on it. Plus, Aaron has to be approved as a foster parent before we can make any kind of move.”
The women chatted for awhile before it was time to leave. Jess and Emily hugged goodbye and Emily took Jack to pick up JJ from school.
Emily sent Aaron a photo of JJ giving a Jack a piggyback ride, ‘Look at our kids!’
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