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Changed for the Better

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“Are we really going to have this discussion again?” Emily grumbled, placing her hands on her hips.

“Come on, Emily. You can’t blame me,” Andrew said.

“I understand your worry, but it’s a girl’s night, with the BAU girls; three FBI agents, including me, and one technical analyst. If I give birth in the middle of it, I assure you that Penelope will let you know and that they would drive me to the hospital.”

“That’s not funny.” Andrew pouted.

Emily sighed. “What I’m trying to tell you is that I will be okay. The girls are more than capable of making sure I don’t stress myself out, I have yours, Sandra’s, and Martin’s number, and, with our line of work, I basically have 911 on speed dial. Besides, we’re not even going to do a lot of things that would eventually end up with me stressed out,” she said. She smiled and looped her arms around his neck, leaning in to capture his lips in a kiss. “Butterball and I are going to be okay.”

“Are you sure?” Andrew asked, placing his hands on her bump. He couldn’t wait to feel their little girl’s kicks and movements, but Emily had promised him that once she started using her kidneys and her intestines as soccer equipment, she would be sleeping with her bump against his back when they sleep so she wouldn’t be alone in being awoken by the kicks. She had no idea that he would voluntarily stay up all night if it meant feeling their kid move inside her. “I just don’t want you both to be in danger.”

What could happen in our condo in a span of one night, Emily wanted to retort, but then she remembered that George Foyet had broken in on Hotch’s apartment when they were out on a case, and Ian Doyle had managed to track down where she lived a few years back, so she decided to just raise an eyebrow at her lover. “I have a gun and a plaque on my office wall telling you that I never miss a shot.”

“Alright, alright,” Andrew relented, sighing. “I’m going to miss you.”

“You’ll be seeing me tomorrow afternoon,” Emily giggled. “But yeah, I’m going to miss you too.” No more words were exchanged when Andrew leaned in and kissed her, one hand cupping her cheek, and the other still resting on her baby bump. “The girls will be here in a couple of minutes,” she mumbled against his lips.

Andrew pulled away and leaned his forehead against hers. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she said. “Now, go before your sister loses her patience and drags your ass out of here.” Andrew gave her one last kiss and placed one on her bump as well before he gathered his jacket and an overnight bag and left their unit.

True to her words, a few minutes later, after she double-checked and made sure she had the ingredients Penelope asked her to get, there was a knock on their door. She took a glance through the peephole and opened the door when she saw her friends on the other side of it. Much to her confusion, she barely managed to greet them before they barged into her unit and called Andrew’s name.

“Guys, what are you doing?” she asked.

“Driving Andrew out of the place,” Penelope said. “Andrew Mendoza, get your delicious juicy ass out of this unit or so help me I will wipe your identity off the planet.”

“And we will help her do it!” JJ added.

“I would say I am terrified for Andrew but he isn’t here,” Emily said. “He left a few minutes before you guys arrived.” Emily was amused at the synchronized turn of heads towards her direction.

“He actually left you alone?” Tara asked in a disbelieving tone.

“Yes he did.” She would’ve rolled her eyes, but she knew the team was aware of the extremely overprotective transformation Andrew had undergone when she entered her second trimester. In fact, it had taken her threatening to withhold sex until their daughter was three years old to get him to reluctantly (reluctantly!) agree to leave her alone. It was slightly annoying, but she knew he only meant well; it wasn’t about not trusting her but somehow he was convinced that the S in Prentiss stood for ‘seeking trouble without meaning to.’

JJ, Penelope, and Tara stared at her for a few seconds before they shrugged and set down their bags on the living room floor.

“So, what are we actually going to do?” Emily asked. Girl’s nights usually involved a lot of alcohol and a lot of coffee the day after for the imminent hangover, but since she was pregnant, they opted to go for an alcohol-free night. She and Penelope had done the same thing for JJ when she was pregnant with Henry, but that consisted of setting up the nursery. With her and Andrew preparing to move out of the condo and into the greystone, it obviously wasn’t an option for them.

“We’re baking cookies!” Penelope exclaimed.


“Sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodle cookies, oatmeal cookies; you name it, we’re making it.”

“We’ll even fortune cookies just for laughs,” Tara remarked dryly.

“When I was pregnant both times I craved matcha-flavoured cookies a lot,” JJ said. Emily stared at her friend in shock, knowing that the blonde mother hated matcha with all her might. JJ caught her gaze and nodded in exaggeration. “Pregnancy cravings are an entire world of their own.”

“I distinctly remember Reid saying that sometimes pregnant women crave food they would normally avoid or food they’re not allowed to have.” Tara informed them.

“In non-shocking news, he’s right,” Emily sighed. “I break down on a weekly basis because I can’t eat sushi and I desperately want sushi. And, oddly enough, I am craving gingerbread cookies.”

“It’s the middle of April,” Tara said with raised eyebrows.

“Oh sugar, you should never question a pregnant woman’s cravings. Their motherly rage is formidable,” Penelope told her, wincing when she remembered the horror of JJ radiating anger as she barged in on the conference room, her hand tightly crumpling an empty packet of the last Cheetos. She thought it would be the last minutes of her life, but to her relief, Hotch and Emily managed to calm JJ. Once the women were out of the room, Hotch had spent fifteen minutes lecturing Morgan about putting the team’s life on risk when he ate the last Cheetos. Suffice to say, the team learned never to get in the way between a pregnant JJ and her cravings, and she hoped the new members of the team would also catch up on it sooner rather than later with a pregnant Emily. She did not want to be in the room when Emily ran out of the KIND granola nut bars she had practically been inhaling.

“I’ll get the ingredients out,” Tara said cheerfully, making Emily laugh at the sudden change of opinion.

“I’ll help you,” JJ offered, not seeing the incredulous and slightly murderous stare her friends threw in her direction.

“Not with that injury you aren’t,” Tara said wide-eyed.

JJ rolled her eyes and scoffed. “I’ve been out of the hospital for five days now.”

“It took me two weeks to be able to stretch my arms over my head after I got shot,” Penelope said in a small voice. Emily saw the pained expression on Penelope’s face as the memories of being shot and lying in her own pool of blood at the steps of her apartment came flashing back in her mind, and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Aren’t we going to need some crushed ginger powder?” Emily asked, eyeing the ingredients laid out on her marble countertop. She looked up when she felt their gazes on her and giggled at the shocked expressions on their faces. “My grandfather and I used to make gingerbread houses whenever we spent our Christmas in France. It was a tradition neither of us wanted to break, so whenever Christmastime was near, I would be at my best behavior to make it easier for me to persuade my mom to go.”

“Did she let you go?” JJ asked.

Emily nodded with a sad smile on her face. “She always did, except for that one time when I was fourteen. There was a heavy rainstorm in Italy, and the travel to France was just too dangerous. My grandfather didn’t let that stop him though. He called our landline and we stayed on the phone as we made our own gingerbread houses separately. That was, by far, the messiest gingerbread house I have ever made, but it made my grandfather so happy to be able to continue making one with me.” She paused for a few seconds when she felt her eyes tear up, and swallowed the sob threatening to escape her throat. “He died a few months after that, and altogether, that year was quite a rollercoaster and I didn’t really have the energy to celebrate Christmas, let alone make a gingerbread house.”

“Well,” JJ said, reaching over to take Emily’s hands in hers, “I’m sure your gramps wouldn’t mind if your tradition was put on hiatus for a few years.”

“A few years? Try four decades.” Emily corrected, not unkindly. “I wanted to make one a few years after he died, but by then I felt that I had no right to do it anymore. I disappointed him, in more ways than one.”

Emily was too occupied by thoughts of her late grandfather that she never noticed the heartbroken expressions on her friends’ faces. The world was terribly cruel to a younger Emily Prentiss, and they would do anything to make sure that the world makes up for it, and that would start now.

“None of us knew your grandfather, but from what you just told us, it was obvious he loved you so much that nothing you do could disappoint him,” Penelope began explaining. She and JJ knew one reason why Emily believed her grandfather would be disappointed in her no matter how many times they told her it was the right thing to do. “You could’ve gotten a tattoo of yourself on your arm and he would’ve laughed at you and told you how the tattoo artist perfectly captured your nose.”

“The point is, Emily, your grandfather would never hold this against you, and he would’ve been joyed to know that from now on, you’ll be continuing your tradition with your daughter.”

Sniffling, Emily leaned against JJ who didn’t hesitate to wrap an arm around her shoulders. “He would’ve adored her,” she whispered, wiping away the tears that escaped her eyes.

“Penelope wouldn’t be the one you would worry about when it came to spoiling your bub,” Tara teased, slightly relieved when Emily laughed softly. It wasn’t the laugh they were all looking for, but it was a laugh nonetheless.

“Ooh! At least I didn’t need to ask Luke to go with me when buying baby stuff because your gramps would’ve went with me,” Penelope exclaimed in astonishment. She went on to talk about all the things she wanted to buy for Emily’s little girl, too hyped up to notice the smirk on her friends’ faces at her enthusiasm to talk about shopping with Luke Alvez.

Discreetly, JJ sent a text message to Dave, letting him know that she, Emily, and Tara, would like to change their wager in the betting pool by advancing it two months. She put her phone away when Emily lightly nudged her foot and smiled at Penelope.

“I plan to buy all the cutest things for little Prentiss-Mendoza and nothing you guys say can stop me,” Penelope finished.

Emily wasn’t surprised to hear about Penelope’s willingness to buy out the baby aisle, but slightly balked at the mention of the possible surname of her baby, but decided not to let her thoughts linger on it. She’d bring it up with Andrew one day, but right now, she wanted gingerbread cookies. “So, when are we going to start making the batter? Butterball is hungry and frankly, so am I.”

“We’ll start as soon as you tell us where your mixer is,” Tara said.

“We-uh, we don’t have one?” Emily winced. “In my defense, if we had a mixer this place would burn down the minute we turn it on.”

Tara couldn’t help but agree. “So I guess we’re doing this by hand.”

“We don’t have crushed ginger powder yet,” JJ pointed out.

“And cinnamon,” Penelope said, scrolling down her phone as she read a recipe on making gingerbread cookies.

“There’s a convenience store two blocks from here,” Emily offered. “JJ and I can start on the dough while you guys get what we need.”

“Alright, everyone knows their tasks, so the only thing left to say is,” Penelope broke off, gesturing towards Emily with both hands.

Rolling her eyes, Emily conceded and said, “Wheel’s up.”

She and JJ immediately began measuring and mixing the ingredients, occasionally stopping to catch up on some water-cooler office gossip. Emily asked for updates on Henry and Michael, updates JJ gladly gave with a bright smile on her face, and she told the story of the first time they baked chocolate chip cookies with a barely one-year old Michael. Apparently, Henry begged his mother to let Michael decide how many cups of chocolate chips should be added to the cookie dough, and she reluctantly agreed. Michael’s decision turned out to be pouring the entire bag of chocolate chips into the bowl of cookie dough.

Tears of joy were slipping down Emily’s face by the time JJ finished the story. “Did you eat the cookies?”

“Henry definitely looked like he wanted to, but thankfully, Will got it out of his reach before he could put his hands on the bowl,” JJ replied with an amused shake of her head.

“Oh you spoilsport. Trying to get sugar-high Henry to take a shower would’ve been a sight,” Emily giggled.

“I can’t wait until you accidentally feed your kid too much sugar,” JJ deadpanned, sending Emily into another fit of laughter. “In fact, I demand to be here whenever that happens. Someone needs to document the entire thing.”

“Jennifer Jareau, you should know by now that between Andrew and me, he’s the one most likely to feed my butterball so much sugar because he would never be able to resist those puppy dog eyes she’s sure to have,” Emily said.

“With those dark eyes you both have and Bambi lashes? Oh, honey, Andrew isn’t the only one you need to worry about because you have David Rossi, Penelope Garcia, Tara Lewis, Luke Alvez, and Spencer Reid willing to bend to your girl’s every whim,” JJ chuckled. “And you have me, too. I’ve always wanted a little girl, and I have my eyes on this cute little dress that you would absolutely love.”

Emily smiled softly at the thought of a little girl with JJ’s blonde hair and sparkling ocean eyes and Will’s rarely seen but bright smile that lights up his face. Emily had no doubt that if JJ had a daughter of her own, her two older brothers would be the most protective older brothers in the entire world.

“But take it from me, Emily,” JJ said, snapping Emily away from her thoughts. “The cute outfits can definitely wait until she’s a little bigger. When she’s a newborn, you’re going to want to stick to clothes that have buttons on its entire side. You do not want to deal with the hassle of getting a squirmy baby out of a baby dress when she wants a diaper change.”

“Duly noted,” Emily nodded. “But you do realise that with the amount of dresses Garcia gets her every week, she’s going to wear everything only once in her entire life.”

“Unfortunately, I can’t help you with that one because I have been trying to since the day I told you guys that I was pregnant with Henry.”

“How did that one go, anyway? I’m pretty sure you still had some of Henry’s clothes in storage when you found out you were pregnant with Michael?”

JJ sent a mock glare in her direction. “You do not want to know, Emily Prentiss.”

Soon enough, Penelope and Tara had returned with the needed ingredients as well as a bunch of cookie cutters in varieties of shapes: the normal man, a snowman, a paw-print, a teapot, and, Emily’s personal favorite, a Kermit the Frog. They continued working on the cookies, and Emily called dibs on the bowl of cookie dough before anyone could argue; little did she know that no one would. When the cookies were finally placed in the oven, they moved their party to the living room and watched Game of Thrones , because apparently, Emily had yet to finish the seventh season.

They were halfway five minutes away from finishing the episode when the timer rang. Some time in between Tara mixing and Emily sneaking a spoonful of the dough, they had all agreed that frosting would require additional work that none of them had the patience or energy for. With the exception of Emily, they all sat on the Bohemian-themed rug draped over the living room carpet with their backs to the couch, eating the cookies and talking about anything under the sun. The show was delegated to be background music to the giggles and laughter being shared in the unit.

“That wasn’t the first time Rossi saw Spencer being the boy-genius he is, but I think that was the first time I saw Rossi be so confused about what he was saying,” JJ giggled.

“Oh! And what was it that Emily said to Spencer when he finished?” Penelope asked.

JJ closed her eyes and tried to remember but shook her head when she only came up with fragments. “Something about robots, I guess? Hey, Em, what was it that you- oh my god.”

Tara and Penelope turned their heads to the direction of the couch, where they had convinced Emily to sit while eating the cookies. But instead of munching on the cookies, Emily’s eyes were closed and she was snoring softly. On one hand, there was a half-eaten paw-print-shaped cookie close to slipping between her fingers; her other hand rested on top of her baby bump.

“Oh that is the cutest thing I have ever seen,” Penelope whisper-cooed. She picked up her phone from the coffee table and took a photo of the sleeping mom-to-be, and made sure to take several pictures in different angles.

“Should we let her sleep here?” Tara asked. “She looks so peaceful.”

“I agree, but I think Emily wouldn’t be so peaceful when she wakes up with a sore back in the morning,” JJ said. She ran a hand down Emily’s hand and gently shook her. “Em, it’s time to wake up.”

“No,” Emily whined. Tara bit her bottom lip to stop herself from laughing out loud. Now this was a sight people would kill to see.

“You’d be more comfortable sleeping in a bed rather than a couch, Emily,” JJ offered, grinning when Emily let out another whine.

“But I’m tired,” Emily said.

“I know you are,” JJ softly, “but you’d sleep better in a bed.”

Emily groaned but slowly sat up on the couch. Her eyes landed on the half-eaten cookie and she put it up to her mouth.

“Come on,” Tara stood up and offered her hand to Emily. “Let’s get you to bed, mama bear.”

“I can stand by myself,” Emily mumbled groggily but accepted the offer anyway. They all walked Emily to bed and helped her get comfortable. JJ tucked the comforter up to Emily’s chin and whispered good night before they made to leave the bedroom.

Andrew was helping Julia with her homework when he felt his phone buzz in his pocket. He checked it immediately, worried that it might be about Emily and their little girl. He couldn’t help but smile at the attached photo to Penelope’s text message ’All tucked in.’

In the photo was Emily, fast asleep under the covers with her bangs messed up on top of her forehead. She was cuddling with a plush dolphin he remembered Tara gave her, one she named Kilgore Trout in honor of the fictional character created by Kurt Vonnegut.

“What’s that Uncle Andrew?” Julia asked.

Andrew smiled at her and showed her the photo. “It’s your Aunt Emily. She’s asleep now.”

“Does that mean the baby is too?”

“Yes, I hope it does.”

“When is the baby coming? I want to show her all my cool stuff.”

“She’ll be here in a couple of months, sweetie,” Andrew laughed, placing a kiss on top of Julia’s forehead. “Then you can play with her anytime you want.”

“Mommy said you have to be careful with babies because they’re tinier than I am and they’re, uh, soft,” Julia said.

“Mommy’s right,” Andrew nodded. “Babies are fragile because they’re still growing their bones. You were tiny once, too.”

“No,” Julia gasped. “I’m a big girl.”

“Yes you are, as much as that hurts me and your mom and dad, but you were little before you became a big girl.”

Julia fell silent for a moment before asking, “Can I help the baby become big, like me?”

Andrew considered the question. “You can, but in a different way. You can talk to her the way you do now, because that helps them learn how to talk quicker, and when she’s a little older, you can read to her like Aunt Emily does.”

Julia clapped her hands in excitement. “I’m going to be the best helper for the baby!” she declared.

Laughing once more, Andrew nodded. “I’m sure you will be.” He glanced at the photo one last time and whispered, “Good night, you two. Sleep tight.”