Emily's water breaks in the middle of dinner.
She's been having contractions the whole day, but somehow she is still surprised by the sudden gush of warm fluid between her legs, signalling This is it, this is the end.
She thinks she might have ruined the rug, which was a gift from somebody important from a country whose name Emily probably couldn't pronounce correctly, but she doesn't think her mother would notice, so she doesn't mention it in her note. All she writes is, "In labor. Went to the hospital. Don't worry. Yours sincerely, Emily Prentiss."
At the hospital, the nurse asks where her parents are.
"At the White House," Emily says bluntly, because it is really starting to hurt now, and the contractions make her feel like a moth in a giant's fist. "Christmas party with the President."
The nurse doesn't blink. "Well then," she says, "would you like us to contact them?"
"No," Emily says.
"Very well then," says the nurse. "Could you fill out these forms, sweetheart?"
The next few hours are a foggy haze of unfamiliar faces, figures in white armed with charts and needles. The pain becomes excruciating, fire in her back that sears through her belly. The Demerol helps a little, but leaves her dizzy and disjointed, almost like somebody else is feeling the pain, but it's still there, looming around the edges. The only thing that makes her feel better is when the nurse (not the first nurse, another one, kinder, with softer hands) comes in and checks the fetal monitor and says, "Things are looking good, Emily."
They are about to wheel her into Delivery when her mother bursts through the door, and even through the contractions and the painkillers, Emily can see her mother's anger, feel it close the distance between them. Emily wonders if her mother found out about the rug.
"Emily Prentiss," her mother hisses, "what were you thinking? Do you know what you put your father and I through when we came home and you weren't there?"
"I left a note," Emily says.
"Yes, you did. You couldn't even have somebody tell us? I had to find out from the housekeeper that my own daughter is in labor?"
"I left a note," Emily says again. She holds her tongue and doesn't add that she even signed it with Yours sincerely. She's not a good daughter, she realizes, and if she has no idea how to be a good daughter, how is she going to be a good mother?
A contraction hits her then, one so strong that even the Demerol doesn't take the edge off, and Emily groans out loud.
"We have to get her to the delivery room," the nurse says.
The Ambassador steps back and Emily sees her father reach out to hold her steady, and her father is saying, "Elizabeth, let's deal with this later." Emily wonders if anybody had ever called her mother anything but her full name. She wonders if her mother had ever been a Lizzie or a Beth, the way Emily was always Em to Matthew and John. Nicknames are important, she decides. Her child should have a nickname, whatever his or her name is going to be.
She doesn't even have a name for her baby yet, what kind of mother is she going to be?
"Fine," her mother is saying, arms thrown up in despair. "Don't think you're off the hook, young lady. We're going to have a serious discussion about this afterwards."
"I'm having a baby, Mother," Emily hears herself saying. "I don't think I'll be off the hook for at least another 18 years."
The delivery room is bright lights and the smell of latex and people telling her to push. "Just a few more, Emily," the doctor coaxes, after what seems like hours, maybe days.
"You're lying," she mutters, but pushes anyway, because her body's not really her own anymore, it hasn't been for the last nine months, and she's starting to think that the baby doesn't want to come out because the baby knows that Emily doesn't know how to be a mother, that Emily never had a real mother to show her.
Something begins ripping through her, she can feel it, a pain so blinding that it almost feels good, because if she can survive this then she can survive anything else in the world.
Then it stops hurting, everything stops hurting, and the baby's cries fill the room.
"There you go," the nurse says moments later, putting a warm bundle of blankets in Emily's arms. "Meet your daughter."
My daughter, Emily thinks. I have a daughter.
Her daughter's eyes are a funny dark color, bluish but not quite, and she smells strange and new and Emily can see her little tongue flickering in her open mouth as she howls, furious at everything in the world. It's a scream that seems familiar, that Emily knows well, and at once Emily knows that everything is going to turn out all right, that it has to be because she is going to make sure of it. It's her job now.
"Hi Miranda," she says, leaning down to kiss her daughter's small, sticky head. "I'm your mommy and I'm really glad to meet you."
Emily has never been to a parent-teacher conference before. She would ask her mother, but she is fairly certain that her mother has never been to one either.
"You don't really have to go," Carrie said when Emily found the slip of paper wedged between the pages of her biology textbook.
"I want to go," Emily told her. "I want to meet your teachers."
Carrie rolled her eyes and laughed, a sound so rare that it still feels like a prize, even now, after a year. "You're in for some real disappointment."
Emily ends up running late because of a pedophile in Arizona who decided kiddie porn wasn't doing it for him anymore and he was going to live out his violent fantasies on real children. She would have to spare Carrie's English teacher the details and hopes Mrs. McMahon would be more lenient with tardiness than she is with her students' incorrect grammar.
"I'm sorry," Emily says, by way of greeting. "Work got in the way. I'm Emily Prentiss, Carrie's guardian."
Mrs. McMahon shakes her hand and gestures for her to sit.
Her job is not all that different from before, only now she travels by car instead of private jet, and the monsters she hunts are slightly more varied.
"Saving people, hunting things," Lorelai says solemnly around a mouthful of sundae, and Emily instinctively reaches across the table to catch the drip of hot fudge before it could make its way onto the front of her dress. "The family business."
"She's not family," Alex corrects, staring at Emily with the kind of intensity one wouldn't expect from a seven-year-old. But they aren't your usual seven-year-olds, and Alex has her point: Emily isn't family.
Sam glances over from where he is using Dairy Queen's free wireless to research methods of killing night marchers. "Be nice, Alex," he warns.
Alex mumbles one of the most insincere apologies Emily has ever heard --- and Emily grew up around politicians --- and it makes Emily feel embarrassed, somehow. She wants to explain that she isn't here to take Alex's family away just because she has lost her own.
"How long were you in hell?" Lorelai wants to know. She's smeared chocolate all over her right cheek but doesn't know it yet.
"Ten years," Emily tells her.
Alex is unimpressed. "My daddy was in hell for forty years."
"Alex!" Sam says again, and even Dean chides, "Peanut, it's not a competition."
Lorelai takes everything in stride, blissfully ignoring her sister in favor of pumping Emily for more details. "Did you see Tessa when you died?"
"She's a grim reaper," Lorelai explains casually, the same way another seven-year-old might talk about Barbies or ballet class or whatever it is that seven-year-old girls talk about. It's been a long time since Emily was a seven-year-old girl. "She's really pretty."
Dean intervenes with a Wet Nap and a stern, "Girls, that's enough. Emily needs to rest. Go play in the ball pit."
At night they stay in a motel that looks like something Emily's team might have busted once, a fairground for prostitution and budding serial killers. There is a pool in the back that looks safe enough, and the girls beg and beg until Emily agrees to go in for a dip with them. Lorelai cannonballs into the water, but Alex clings to the sleeve of Emily's T-shirt, having suddenly deemed that even though Emily might not be family, she is acceptable as a swimming coach.
Emily flinches when Alex's fingers grab ahold of the scars on Emily's arms.
"Sorry," Alex says, letting go, and Emily wraps her arms around the girl instead, holding her like a protective marsupial, head above water. "What happened? Can I see?"
It's as close as the two of them has ever gotten. Emily knows that Alex's affection is hard-earned, and it reminds her, suddenly, brutally, of when she first started at the BAU, after Elle, how she had to prove herself.
So she proves herself to Alex by rolling up her sleeves and showing her the raised hand-shaped scars, one on each arm, the only scars she has now.
"Ooooh," Alex says reverently, brushing her fingertips over where the angel had grabbed Emily when he pulled her out of hell. "Does it hurt?"
"It's getting better," Emily tells her.
She thinks about Lilith, and what Emily is going to do to her when she finally finds her.
She can't get ahold of Doyle; international arms dealers don't tend to answer their cellphones. It's only one in a long list of annoying quirks that they have.
The doctor said to keep the boy hydrated; if the fever doesn't go down by daybreak, take him to the hospital.
His nanny is in her room, praying to a God that doesn't answer, leaving Emily alone to wipe the sweat off Declan's brow and hold him through his seizures. He jerks once, twice, crying out, grasping at her like he's drowning.
"Shhhhhh," Emily croons, stroking his blonde curls. He looks nothing like his father, and nothing like her. For the first time, she wonders where his mother is, whether she would want to know that her son is burning up, whether she would care.
"Lauren," Declan murmurs into the crook of her neck. His breath is hot and sour and Emily has never been afraid for anyone else as much as she is afraid for him at that moment. "Lauren? Lauren?"
"I'm right here, honey," she says, reaching out for a fresh, wet towel to cool his head with.
Two hours later, his fever breaks, and when Doyle finally comes home and takes Declan out of her arms, she knows that when this is all over, it won't be Doyle who is going to break her.
Will insists on stopping to get flowers for JJ, which chagrins Henry to no end, because he wants to see his new baby sister, and he wants to see her now.
"I have present for her," he tells Emily soberly, holding out his favorite stuffed elephant, the one that is missing a ear and both eyes and probably slathered with the germs of his nursery school classmates.
"That's really generous of you," Emily tells him.
"I see baby now," he insists, stomping his yellow Spongebob crocs.
"Just a few minutes, okay? We'll be there soon. Daddy wants to get some pretty flowers for Mommy."
Henry considers this. "Pink flowers," he says stubbornly.
Yep, he's JJ's son all right.
Will ends up opting for some calla lilies, which Henry begrudgingly approves, but not without asking, glancing greedily at the balloons, "We have balloon too? For baby?"
"Congratulations!" crows the store owner, a plump elderly woman who looks like somebody's grandmother in a Disney cartoon. "You must be a very proud big brother."
Henry beams. "Me big brother. Big."
"That's right, buddy," Will says agreeably, patting Henry on the head.
"Congratulations to you and your wife, sir," the woman adds as she hands Will the bouquet.
Will lets out a small laugh --- it's not a comfortable laugh, but one that's almost there. Henry takes it upon himself to set the record straight. "Not Daddy's baby," he tells the woman. He reaches for Emily's hand and squeezes it. "Mommy's baby. And Mama's baby. My baby."
The woman is immediately flustered and fumbles through an apology, which Emily brushes off, because she's used to this kind of miscommunication by now, and frankly because she doesn't care. She still needs to get diapers and she's been awake for the last forty-two hours, not that she could complain because JJ has been a champ for thirty-eight of those, and what's left of her energy is quickly being expended by smiling so much and keeping herself from telling complete strangers what an amazing wife she has and how beautiful her new daughter is.
"Congratulations, ma'am," the woman says as they make their way out of her store.
"Can we see baby now?" Henry asks as soon as the door behind them closes. The balloon is tied to his wrist, and he watches it warily as it bobs in the spring breeze.
"Sure we can," Emily tells him, and Will says, "Race you to the car?"
She gives them both a ten-second head start before she takes off, running after her son.