Emily Prentiss practically gave herself whiplash from snapping her head around to look at her boyfriend of the past year, her eyes wide and all of the color draining from her face. She and Andrew had been fighting again before the rather abrupt change of subject. There had been a lot of that happening ever since he transferred to Denver to be closer to his daughter Keely, who had been having trouble in school lately and whose mother was at her wits end. The logical side of Emily’s brain understood why Andrew had done it, and would have only thought less of him if he hadn’t made the move and put his daughter first. Emily liked to think that in his shoes, she would do the same thing. But another part of her, the part of her that had never healed from Rome, or Doyle, had her convinced that she already knew how this would end.
That part of her had been why Emily had been alone for so many years, why she had broken things off with Mark just when she’d finally felt herself becoming a stable person in a stable relationship, why she had never tried her luck with Derek Morgan when it had been obvious to everyone around them that there was a spark between them that could have developed into more than just a crush. It was why, whenever she was faced with something good, she sought to destroy it.
You can’t get hurt if you don’t let anyone in.
“Excuse me?” She asked, making sure that she had heard him correctly.
“Marry me.” Andrew said again. “Look, I know it’s been hard, all this stuff with Keely, but I want you in my life and I am too grown to play games with you, Emily.”
“Andrew.” Emily sighed. “We don’t even live in the same state anymore, neither one of us is willing to give up our careers right now. Are we really going to go back and forth for years until one of us finally decides to retire? That’s nuts.”
“Baby, I told you this was only temporary.” He said. “I’m transferring back once Keely is done with school for the year. Her mom thinks a change of atmosphere will do her good, and believe it or not, I think you would be really good for her.”
“She has a mother.” Emily muttered. “I don’t think she’d appreciate daddy’s new girlfriend coming in trying to be June Cleaver or something.”
“Emily, you couldn’t be June Cleaver if you tried.” Andrew said with a laugh. “A white Denise Huxtable, maybe, or a Sharon Osborne. Not June Cleaver.”
“At least you didn’t say Kris Jenner, I guess.”
“Look.” Andrew said. “I would never disrespect the mother of my child, but you’re a different kind of woman, a different kind of strong, and I want you to be a part of my daughter’s life.”
“I want that too.” Emily said. “But marriage? That is a huge step, Andrew!”
“Babe, no offense.” Andrew said. “But we’re old. And like I said, I’m not interested in playing games. I want you for as long as you’ll let me have you, and I’m a traditionalist. I was raised to believe that if you love a woman, you put a ring on her finger. Let me put one on yours. Let me make you my wife.”
Emily’s cheeks heated at the word wife and the fact that someone was using it to refer to her. The last time someone had expressed a similar sentiment…
No. Best not to go there.
“Can I think about it?” She asked. “Just for a day or two and I’ll give you an answer before I leave.”
“If you have to think about it.” Andrew said. “Then I can already guess what the answer is gonna be.”
“What are you so afraid of, Emily?” He asked. “Who the hell hurt you so bad that you can’t let anyone in?”
“I wish it was just one person.” Emily said. “Look, can we not do this right now? We’re on a case.”
“Fine.” Andrew sighed, touching his forehead to hers and grabbing her hand. “I do love you, you know. And I think I could make you happy if you let me.”
“So do I.” Emily whispered. “I just need more time, Andrew. I need to wrap my head around this.”
“Okay.” He said, watching her with a mixture of sadness and longing as she left the room.
Emily had tried to focus on the case after that, she really had. But Andrew Mendoza and his strange proposal kept creeping into her thoughts at the most inconvenient of times, damn that man. The rest of the team had noticed but were either kind enough or smart enough not to mention it. Still, when Emily accidentally poured hot coffee on her hand, swearing loudly in the process, David Rossi could no longer ignore it.
“Prentiss, what’s eating you?” He asked. “Since the other day, you’ve been off.”
“It’s nothing, Dave.” Emily said, an edge to her voice she didn’t normally use with him. “Just been a little distracted, but I’ll be fine.”
“Ahh.” Dave said. “Does your distraction happen to be a six foot tall motorcycle enthusiast with a teenage daughter and an affinity for powerful women?”
Emily sighed. “Is it that obvious?”
“Maybe.” He said. “But I’ve also known you for a while. What’s the problem? Distance got you down?”
“It’s not that.” She said. “I get why he did it, I do. But he has some unrealistic expectations for a long-distance relationship right now that I don’t know if I can handle.”
“He asked you to marry him.” Rossi said. “Didn’t he?”
“He did.” Emily replied. “Yesterday.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“That I would think about it.” She said. “But honestly, Rossi? I just don’t see it working.”
“Why not?” He asked. “I mean, from where I’m standing you two have a healthy, loving relationship.”
“I’m just not that kind of person.” She said. “I never have been, Dave, you know that.”
“You’re a free spirit, sure.” Rossi conceded. “But I’ve known you for thirteen years, Emily Prentiss. You’ve got one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen-“
“Yeah.” Emily scoffed. “And one of the most damaged.”
“That’s not your fault.” He said. “What will be your fault is letting what other people have done to you in the past force you to walk away from a guy who seems to truly love you for who you are.”
“I can’t just forget .” She hissed, tears in her eyes. “I can’t do that, Dave.”
“I’m not asking you to.” He said. “I’m asking you to remember that Andrew Mendoza is not John Cooley and he’s not Ian Doyle. He’s someone who loves you.”
“I know.” Emily said. “That’s what scares me.”
“Listen.” Dave said. “Take it from someone who has done this not once, not twice, but four times, when you’ve got something real like you and Andrew have, you hold on to it. Because at the end of the day, love is all we have.”
“You’re right.” Emily said, standing up. “I think I have my answer. Excuse me.”
Dave watched as Emily hurried up to where Mendoza had been standing talking with the local police force, and pull him into a utility closet. His eyes twinkled and he felt a mixture of affection and pride.
“Go get ‘em, Tiger.” He whispered as Prentiss disappeared. “I’m rooting for you.”
“Can I talk to you?”
Emily’s heart pounded in her chest as she pulled him into the utility closet, fumbling for the light switch as she pulled the door closed. Any other time, she would have found this comical. It was a total horny teenager move, pulling your boyfriend into a closet, and Emily couldn’t imagine what the people who saw must think, but she needed someplace private to talk to Andrew, and she needed it now, appearances be damned.
“I thought we were talking after the case?” Andrew asked, folding his arms. “A closet, babe? Really?”
“I needed privacy.” Emily said. “What I’m about to tell you I- I don’t want other people listening in.”
“Okay.” He said. “Well, let’s have it.”
“You asked who hurt me, the other day.” Emily said, taking a deep breath. “Asking the right questions are important and in my case, it’s not just who, it’s how badly and in what ways. Keely is fifteen, right?”
Andrew nodded. “Right.”
“Imagine her being so lonely,” Emily said. “And so starved for anything resembling love and acceptance that she was willing to do anything to get it.”
“What do you mean?” He said. “What did you do?”
“I made a lot of mistakes.” She said. “And one of them got me pregnant. I was- I was scared, I wasn’t ready to be somebody’s mom, so…”
“So you got rid of it.”
Emily couldn’t bear to look at him. “Yeah.” She said. “I got an abortion. I didn’t know what to do, I-“
“Emily, you were fifteen years old.” Andrew said. “You were practically still a baby yourself, of course you weren’t ready to be a mom. Is that it? You were worried that I would judge you for something like that?”
“No, I know you wouldn’t.” Emily said. “But I was made to feel dirty and broken and like I had done something wrong, and if it hadn’t been for a really good friend, I think I would have spiraled. It was bad. And that feeling never really left me.”
“You are not dirty.” He said. “You are beautiful. ”
“That’s not all.” She said. “Did you ever hear of a man called Ian Doyle?”
“Are you kidding me?” Andrew said. “Of course.”
“I was part of the team that brought him down.” Emily said. “And I had to do some things that I’m not proud of to make that happen. He escaped, came after me, and it nearly cost me my life. As it was, it cost me my life as I knew it and it ruined…”
Emily stopped, her eyes blinking rapidly. She didn’t know if it was in poor taste to mention the man she considered “the one that got away” when talking to the man who would be her fiancé if she could get her head together, but Emily had decided on full honesty. She cleared her throat and took a shaky breath.
“There was someone.” Emily said. “I think I could have loved him, in another life. But after Doyle...and instead I ran, from everyone who cared about me and I kept running. I think I’ve been running for a long time.”
“So, it sounds like what you’re saying is you got used to disappointment.” Andrew said. “Then you got used to being alone, and now someone’s asking to never leave you alone again, and that scares you. Am I getting close?”
“Pretty much.” Emily said. “Look, I never thought that that kind of life was for me. Where you come home every night to the same person and you buy groceries, and fight over whose turn it is to do the dishes. Okay, and my first instinct was always to run, because if you don’t give people your heart, then it can’t get broken. But I realized that I don’t want to run anymore. Not again, not from you.”
“Then don’t.” Andrew said, pulling her close. “Run to me instead. Say yes.”
Emily leaned into him, her brown eyes seeming darker and more intense as she stared up at him, seemed to stare into his very soul.
Andrew startled, as if he had been shocked with a bolt of electricity. “Yes?” He repeated. “Yes, you’ll marry me? For real?”
“Yes, Andrew.” Emily said. “I will marry you. If you still want me to, that is.”
“Of course I do!” He laughed. “But for the record, Prentiss? Nobody touches the dishes but me, I have a system!”
“Duly noted.” She said, laughing as well. “So did we just get engaged?”
“In a closet?” Andrew said. “Woman, do you not know me at all? Nah, when we close this case, we’re going to dinner, you’re going to officially meet my daughter, and then I’m gonna do this Pinterest style.”
“I don’t know what that means.” Emily deadpanned. “I only have a Facebook because Declan insisted before he went off to college.”
“Declan?” Andrew asked. “Isn’t that Doyle’s kid?”
“It’s a long story.” Emily said. “Apparently risking your life for a kid gets you a lot of “cool aunt” points.”
Andrew chuckled. “Tell me at dinner.” He said. “And thank you, Emily. You have made me a very happy man.”
“Good.” Emily said. “Now, uh, can you come over here and make me a happy woman?”
“I think I can arrange that.” He said.
Andrew pulled her in for a kiss, and from the way he felt like home, Emily knew she had made the right choice. It was time for her to stop running and let love into her life. She couldn’t change the past, what did or didn’t happen, but she could change her future. She could choose Andrew, she had chosen Andrew, and from where Emily Prentiss stood, her future looked pretty damn bright.