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Changed for the Better

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“Louise.”

“Peete, executed in April 1947, and Vermilya, the black widow of the early 1900s.”

“Then I guess Aileen is also out of the question.”

“You hit the nail on the head.”

Andrew sighed. “Kelly?”

“The Kelly family?”

“Seriously?”

“Yes. Do your research.”

“Fine. This isn’t going to be a baby name suggestion, but I just have to know if there’s a serial killer with this name. Elizabeth.”

Emily rolled her eyes at the name. “Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian Countess who some conspiracy theorists like to claim as one of the first vampires in history because she was rarely seen outside her palace, when in fact that was because her incarceration and eventual execution was exchanged for lifetime solitary confinement.”

“You are unbelievable.”

“Forgive me for not wanting butterball to be named after a serial killer.”

Andrew was about to respond when a knock on the door echoed through the living room. Frowning, he glanced at it before looking at Emily. “Are we expecting someone?”

“Not really, but it might be the girls. They did promise to stop by soon to help with the nursery.”

“Alright, you stay put. I’ll go see who it is.” Andrew placed a kiss on her forehead before getting up from the fresh carpet of the nursery and made his way downstairs to the front of the house. He looked through the peephole and was surprised to see who was standing on the other side of the door. Taking a deep breath, he put on a smile on his face and opened the door.

“Ambassador Prentiss,” he greeted.

“Oh. It’s you. Hello,” Elizabeth gave him a timid smile. “I’m sorry. I’ve only realised that I never got to know your name during our past… interaction.”

“Andrew Mendoza,” he said, offering his hand. He was glad, and slightly taken aback, when she actually shook it.

“And how did you and Emily meet, Mr. Mendoza?”

Andrew fought back a wince at the formality. “I work for the Major Crimes Unit of the Virginia office. We asked for the BAU’s assistance during her case.”

“I see,” Elizabeth nodded slowly. “And did you catch the perpetrator?”

“We did, yes.”

“That’s good,” she said. Elizabeth eyed him up and down, noticing how he was shifting from one foot to another, and took a breath. “I have something for Emily.”

“Oh?” he asked.

“It’s the painting from her old room,” Elizabeth replied. She gestured behind her and Andrew saw a man standing behind the car, taking a covered picture frame. He stepped aside and told the man he would later know to be Tony to leave it by the entryway. “It was her grandfather’s, and he gave it to her as a present after he found her staring at it in his study for hours. She was so happy. That painting went with us wherever we moved to, and when she went to Yale for college, I left it in her room up in our DC house. I figured she wanted it back before I sell the house.”

Andrew nodded, silently noting the different emotions on the older Prentiss woman’s face. Her voice was stable and it sounded like she was bored with the conversation, but the pain and longing in her eyes said betrayed the lack of emotions she wanted to portray. He didn’t know Elizabeth Prentiss well enough the way he knew her daughter, but he knew that Elizabeth loved Emily and Emily loved Elizabeth. They just didn’t know how to show it, and after years of not acknowledging each other’s existence unless absolutely necessary, the icy way they treated each other became normal for both parties.

“I won’t keep you any longer, Agent Mendoza,” Elizabeth said. “Thank you.” Andrew smiled, moving to close the door but stopping when Elizabeth called his name again. “Can I ask you a favor? I know have no right to; after how I treated you, you can say no, but can you… can you let me know when your daughter arrives?”

He hesitated to answer, knowing that this decision should involve Emily, but Elizabeth looked so desperate and heartbroken that he found himself answering with an uncertain statement. “I’ll think about it.”

His answer didn’t change the expressions on Elizabeth’s face, and he watched as she took a deep breath and straightened her already straight back, a compartmentalization gesture he had seen Emily do so many times, before nodding at him and leaving.

Taking a deep breath, Andrew closed the door behind him and eyed the frame before moving it to the office and heading back to the nursery. He found Emily still on the floor, leaning back against the wall.

“Oh good, you’re back. Who was it?” Emily asked.

“Uh, just some package delivery,” he said. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the truth either.

“Okay,” she said. “Garcia called. We have a case in Des Plaines.”

“What are doing on the ground then?” he teased.

“I can’t get up,” she complained. “Your child is making things difficult for me.”

Andrew laughed and helped her get up. He followed Emily to their bedroom and sat on the bed, watching her get ready for work. Although Emily could neither see nor feel it, she looked incandescent from head to toe. Already twenty-seven weeks along, he loved seeing the changes in her body. Her stomach was protruded in a soft curve that seemed even more pronounced by the red dress she wore, her breasts were fuller, her cheeks were rosy, and her hair was flowing in soft waves, her curtain bangs framing her face. She looked incredibly stunning and Andrew could never get his eyes off her.

“You look so beautiful when pregnant,” he said.

Emily felt her cheeks heat up and raised an eyebrow at her boyfriend. “You think I’m beautiful when not pregnant, too, which was how you ended up getting me pregnant in the first place.”

“It’s true. I wasn’t lying then, and I’m not lying now,” Andrew said, moving to stand behind Emily and wrapping his arms around her waist. “You look so beautiful all the damn time.”

Emily shivered as he began kissing down her neck, his hands trailing from her waist to her sides and to her hips. She giggled and pulled his hands away from her when they reached her breasts. “Down, boy! I have to go to work.”

“Do you really have to?” he asked, pouting. Emily turned in his arms and placed both hands on his face, pulling his head down to kiss him on the lips.

“I do,” she said, her lips still grazing his. “But, after this case, you can tell me more about me being pretty. I need an ego boost because I look like a cargo ship.”

“A very beautiful cargo ship,” Andrew sighed. The list of things he won’t her call herself had long been forgotten after the tenth time Emily refused to acknowledge it.

“A cargo ship, nonetheless,” Emily said. She kissed him one more time before pulling away from him, picking up her go-bag on the bed and placing it over her shoulder. “I’ll text you the details before we get on the jet, and I will call tonight.”

“I’ll be waiting to hear your voice,” Andrew said in a mock seductive tone.

Emily rolled her eyes at him. “Don’t wait up too long. JJ and Matt tell me that we need all the sleep we can get until butterball arrives.”

“Alright then. And you take care of yourself and butterball,” he told her. He leaned down to place a kiss on her stomach. “Behave yourself in there, too. Don’t be afraid to kick mommy when she’s stressing herself out.”

“Oh, please,” Emily scoffed. “There are plenty of people in the BAU who will tie me to a chair the moment I pick up a Kevlar.”

“That is exactly why those people are my friends.”

“It’s also the reason why the BAU is going to lack a lot of agents after I fire all of them.”

“Have fun being yelled at by Cruz,” he called out to her as she left their bedroom.


“Hey Prentiss!”

Emily turned and smiled at Luke. “Hey Luke. Did you get Garcia’s text?”

“Of course. She sent it on the group chat, so I couldn’t miss it even if she didn’t want to text me personally.”

“How could she? She doesn’t even have your number. I’m kidding,” she added after she saw Luke’s confused face. “She totally does. She had my number after my first case here, and I didn’t give it to her.”

“Right,” he nodded. “Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I read about the case from the news, and you know how dangerous snipers are, and uh, I just… the case is too dangerous for you and your kid even if you’re staying out of the field. I think it would be safer if you stayed here with Garcia for this one and please don’t fire me.”

Emily stared at him for a few minutes, enjoying how he squirmed under her gaze before saying, “Tell the team that briefing is in five minutes,” and walking away.

Five minutes later, they were in the conference room, discussing the case. Normally, Emily would be standing while presenting the case, but her feet were killing her. She swallowed her pride for the meantime and took a seat on a chair, making sure she was still in front even though she was sitting.

“There was a double homicide this morning in Des Plaines, Illinois. It appears our victims Marko Salazar and Benjamin Blake were shot by a sniper while playing basketball on a neighborhood court,” Emily began.

“Des Plaines, Illinois?” Spencer asked.

“I know what’s your noggin, and what is your noggin is correct to be in your noggin because two days ago, a gentleman named Brian Nikolay was shot in a parking lot by a sniper.”

“Just like the Phillip Dowd case we worked in Des Plaines fifteen years ago,” JJ observed, sharing a glance with Spencer.

“It is. All single shots to the victim’s torsos, all in public places, and no one’s seen the shooter. He’s a ghost,” he added.

JJ flipped through her file and shook her head. “There’s no way it’s the same long-distance serial killer because-“

“-because I killed Phillip Dowd,” he finished for her.

Emily didn’t miss how Luke looked up from his files to stare at the young genius in shock. Tara, Matt, and even Dave also looked surprise, but Dave partially looked nonplussed. “So you think it’s a copycat LDSK?” she asked. Spencer shrugged.

 

“And they pretty much revel in taking people’s lives from above and afar,” Luke added.

“Copycats, however, are out to prove their superiority by making a bigger bang.”

“Or to ride the wave of infamy created by the original killer.”

“But in this case, the original killer Phillip Dowd is a distant memory, so there’s not much of a wave to ride,” Tara concluded. Emily felt the adrenaline that usually came to her when they were solving cases, and hoped that the rest of her team did too before the copycat decided to strike again.

“Dowd’s original M.O. was to shoot his victims, then race back to the emergency room where he worked because he thrived on trying to save them,” Spencer recited facts from memory.

“Yeah, typical hero homicides,” Dave agreed. “But we’re not seeing that here.”

“No, we’re not, but this unsub’s victimology is remaining consistent enough to suggest that his next victims will most likely be three visitors to one of the local parks,” JJ said. The original case might have happened fifteen years ago, but she still remembers some of the important details from it.

“I’ll let Chief Weigart has his officers stake out the parks,” Emily told her and turned to the technical analyst. “Penelope, will you let Matt know that this is all hands on deck?” When she nodded, Emily began gathering her files. “We are wheels up in twenty.”

Emily was busy fixing her files that she didn’t notice the glances exchanged between her team. When she looked up, it was only her and JJ left. She smiled and nodded at JJ.

JJ, however, had a smirk on her face. “Aren’t you gonna go get ready?”

Emily blinked. “I will. In a few minutes. I’m just… you know… I enjoy sitting in the conference room when it’s empty. And this is a really good spot to sit. If you look at the window, you can see the entire bullpen and —“

“You can’t get up, can you?” JJ asked, a huge grin taking over her face.

“No, I can’t,” Emily complained dramatically. JJ laughed before helping her up. “Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me for that one. I remember being on Will and I’s bedroom floor one day because I dropped my sock and then I couldn’t get up. I had to wait for him for three hours,” JJ told her.

“Ugh I would stand but my feet are like knives poking my calves,” Emily complained. “I can’t even see my feet anymore!”

“Do you need to see them?” JJ chuckled.

“Yes, because I have cute socks!” Emily whined, making JJ purse her lips together to keep herself from having a full out belly laugh. Emily loved her, but JJ knew she would kill her if she laughed.

“Tell Andrew to take a photo of it the next time you wear them,” she suggested. They walked out of the conference room together, going their separate ways when they reached Emily’s office door. When Emily walked down the short flight of stairs, she wasn’t surprised to see the team all looking at her warily.

“What?” she asked. She found it comedic when all their heads turned to JJ’s direction, making the blonde in question roll her eyes.

“Em, we know you’re staying behind at the FBI office for instead of going in the field, but this is a sniper case and we think it’s too dangerous for you to be out there in Illinois with us,” JJ explained kindly.

Emily nodded. “I know. Luke already explained it to me earlier. I’m staying here in Quantico with Pen.”

Luke’s face had shock painted all over it. “Wait—you were actually listening?”

Emily ignored him. “Have a safe flight and stay safe, you guys,” she said and waved goodbye. As she walked to Penelope’s office, she sent Andrew a text informing him of the case and that she was staying in Quantico for this one.

Penelope was setting up notification alerts and doing some digging on the victim’s records when the door to her office opened. She looked up and smiled at Emily. “Hello momma-bear-to-be boss queen. Oh, and hello to your butterball I cannot wait to get my hands on, too.”

Emily smiled warmly at the nickname and the acknowledgement of her baby. “She says hi as well.”

“She’s the sweetest thing ever.”

“She is, except for the fact that when she moves, she sometimes hits my bladders and I have to pee at four o’clock in the morning,” Emily grumbled teasingly, rubbing her bump when she felt the aforementioned baby moving around as if protesting to her mother’s statements. “Estoy bromeando, mi cielito. Mamá te quiere mucho.”

“You talk to her in French and in Spanish?” Penelope asked her.

Emily nodded. “Reid says babies respond to voices when they reach twenty-five weeks, but I’ve been talking to her in French, Spanish, Italian and English way before that. She prefers French over English sometimes.”

“That little princess of yours is going to be a multilingual queen at age two,” Penelope said.

“Tell me about it,” Emily laughed. “Andrew says he has to learn French before she gets here because if he doesn’t we were going to gang up on him. He’s using Duolingo, and so far, he’s pretty awful at it."

“Does he talk to your tummy all the time like dads do in the movies?”

“He does. He tells her the craziest things and sometimes he reads books to her,” Emily said with a huge smile on her face. Penelope was shocked to see that the unit chief’s eyes were glistening. “I always tell him he never has to worry about learning French to get butterball to love him because she goes crazy when he talks to her.”

“Oh that’s the cutest thing I have ever heard,” Penelope smiled. “Why are you here? Not that I don’t appreciate you gracing my office with your presence.”

“Well we’re dealing with a sniper here, and while Dowd didn’t really shoot pregnant women, I don’t want to make it easy for this copycat to shoot me because I was right there.”

“That’s good. I mean, if you went, I wasn’t going to stop you, but I was definitely planning to yell at you for going out to Des Plaines while there’s a sniper out in the open the moment the jet lands.”

“Thank you?”

“You’re welcome. Now, while we wait for Chief Weigart to give us access to their database, tell me about the nursery and what you lack and free whatever is on your schedule on Saturday morning because we are going toy store hopping.”

“Penelope…”