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Changed for the Better

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“’The dark place was like a long tunnel with a brick wall on one side and sloping roof on the other,” Andrew narrated, flipping the page of the book he was holding. “In the roof, there were little chunks of light between the slates. There was no floor in this tunnel: you had to step from rafter to rafter, and between them was only plaster.’”

Emily held back a smile at the sight of Andrew trying to balance the book on one hand while the other was placed on her belly. Right after Emily made sure that her team was okay, she asked Andrew to take her home. For someone who remained stateside, she was unbearably exhausted, and that fact alone proved that she made the right decision by deciding to stay stateside for the unforeseeable future.

Her eyes were starting to flutter shut when she felt her daughter move. When she looked up and saw the mixture of shock and utter amazement on her boyfriend’s face, Emily realised she wasn’t the only one who felt it.

“She kicked,” Andrew said. He glanced up at Emily, who felt her eyes tear up at the sight of his glassy eyes. “She kicked,” he repeated.

“And it was a really good kick too,” she nodded. “I was worried.”

“Someone likes to make her own schedule,” Andrew smiled, placing a kiss on her belly when he felt more kicks against his hand. “Hello there. It’s Daddy. I know it’s pretty comfy in there, but Mommy and I are halfway done with your room. I think you’ll love it. Your aunts and uncles helped a lot, but after you’re born, you’re going to be staying with me and Mommy for a little while. You’ll be so sick of us, but I hope not too much. We love you.”

Emily’s hand joined his, and she sniffled, wiping away her tears with her free hand. “She likes your voice. She only moves crazy like that when I eat something she likes.”

The soft smile on Andrew’s face brought on more tears, but this time, Emily didn’t bother wiping them away. Her reason for crying was justified, after all, and if Andrew made fun at her, which she was sure he wouldn’t, so be it. She loved their daughter, and she loved him; those thoughts alone could make a non-pregnant Emily Prentiss cry like a baby.

Unfortunately, the moment ended when she had to get up and pee. She would hold it in until her daughter stopped kicking, but the doctor, and JJ, Spencer and the articles she read while waiting for time to pass, had advised against it. So up she went and dragged herself to the bathroom.

When she got out, Andrew was gone; she assumed he was in the kitchen, and she went down to make a sandwich for herself. Her eye caught a colorful corner of a rectangle when she passed the office, and, with furrowed eyebrows, she detoured and headed for the room, gasping silently when she saw the painting.

It was a painting of a girl with brown hair standing next to the window, her eyes downcast and hands clasped across her lap. The window view showed a boat in the ocean, and seagulls in the sky.

Emily knew that painting; it was her grandfather’s, and he gave it to her on her birthday.

“What made you buy it, grampa?” a five-year-old Emily sitting next to her grandfather asked. She may be young, but she knew her grandfather was a practical man and only bought things that would be of use to him.

Jonathan Prentiss smiled. “I saw it at a flea market. I was looking for a specific car part to fix my old car, when I saw an old friend selling his paintings. I approached him, thinking he would recognize me, but he didn’t. It had been a long time since we last saw each other, so I guess that was okay. But no one was buying his paintings, and I felt bad for him. So I told him to give me his most valuable artwork, and he gave me this one.”

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“Valuable?” Jonathan asked. Emily nodded, leaning her head against the old man’s chest. “It means important, and for my old friend to give me this important painting meant it should be seen by everyone.”

Emily was silent for a moment, her eyes lingering on the painting. “I like it. It’s pretty.”

Jonathan laughed and pulled her closer, placing a kiss on his granddaughter’s head. “It is.”

A month after that, her birth month, he gave it to her as a present, asking her to take care of it. It was a task she took to heart. She brought it with her everywhere they moved to, yelling at her mother when she was told to leave it behind. Sadly, when she went to college and intended on not returning afterwards, she had no choice but to leave it behind. She didn’t know how it was here, unless…


She turned around and stared at Andrew, who was leaning against the doorframe and watching her warily. Somehow, the expression on his face made her angry. “I left this painting at our house in DC when I went to Yale. Why is it here?”

“Your mother brought it over earlier this morning,” he admitted. Lying to her would only fuel the anger bubbling, and it might start a fight between them, and he didn’t want that.

“Did she say why?” she asked.

“She said she was selling the old house and thought you might want to have it,” he replied. He opened his mouth to tell her about her mother’s request, but hesitated. If this was how Emily reacted about the painting, he didn’t know how she would react to that one.

Unfortunately for him, Emily caught his hesitation and narrowed her eyes at him. “Is that everything she said?”

Andrew sighed, running a hand down his face. “Let’s have a seat.”

“Was it something so awful that I needed to be seated for it?”

“Emily – “

“No. No matter what it is she said, I can take it,” she told him, feeling tears well up in her eyes. “Andrew, please, just tell me.”

“She asked if I could let her know when you give birth,” he gave in. “And I said I would think about it.”

Emily wished she had taken up his offer to sit and leaned against the table, taking deep breaths to stop her tears from spilling down her face. She could feel tiny movements inside her and placed a hand on her belly.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked.

“I was going to, but you got called in for a case ─”

“You said it was just a package delivery.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Did… Did she say anything else?”


Emily nodded. “I don’t know what to say to that.”

“Emily, if you don’t want her to know, I can go over tomorrow and tell her your decision,” he said. “And return the painting if you want me to.”

“No,” she replied quickly. “The painting stays. My mother, however… I have no clue.”

Andrew approached her and gave her a hug from behind, kissing a spot between her shoulder and neck. Emily was still tense, but she leaned back against his chest, basking in the warmth of his arms and body.

She was troubled, as she always was when told to deal with the complicated relationship between her and her mother. Emily can recall a time when her mother doted on her before the responsibilities that came with the title of ‘Ambassador’ took up most of her time. As a child and a teenager, she was bitter that her mother chose the job over her. But as she got older and saw Hotch and JJ being eaten by feelings of guilt when leaving the kids behind to solve cases, she began to realise that maybe it was the same for her mother. Maybe her mother didn’t have a choice either.

“I tried, you know,” she said. “I tried reaching out to her a lot of times, but with our work schedules and the stubborn streak I seemed to inherit from her, we would always end up arguing and it just came to a point where it was normal. It’s not exactly healthy, I know.”

She fell silent again, her thumb stroking Andrew’s bicep, and sighed. “I love my mom. I really do, and there are a lot of times when I just don’t like her,” she confessed. “I didn’t know how to tell her I love her or even just appreciate her and I feel awful about it.”

“Do you want my opinion?” Andrew asked. He smiled when Emily scoffed, as if telling him that asking if she wanted his opinion was a ‘dummy move.’ “It’s perfectly normal to not like your mom sometimes. God forbid I didn’t like my mother when she told me it was bedtime.”

Emily squeezed his bicep. Like her, Andrew didn’t talk much about his mother, and neither does Sandra, but she knew they loved her to the moon and back. It was just too difficult, and she understood.

“I know she loves you too, Emily,” he told her. “I know it doesn’t seem that way, not with the constant criticism and whatever, but she wouldn’t be reaching out like this if she didn’t. She wouldn’t have asked for permission to be included in butterball’s life if she didn’t love you.”

“So you think I should give her a chance?”

“Yes, I do,” he said. “I also think you have the right not to, not after what she said to you, and I would completely understand. The decision is still yours.”

When Andrew got home from a meeting, he expected to be home alone. It was Saturday, and not just any ordinary Saturday. It was the day Emily agreed to meet Elizabeth for lunch at the café she frequented with Andrew. Emily had been dreading it, but she promised him she would be there, and even told him to just order some take out since she wouldn’t be home.

He put his laptop bag down on the dining table and picked up an apple from the fruit bowl and was about to wash it when he heard a bunch of curses from upstairs. Narrowing his eyes, he listened for more noises and sighed when he heard Emily’s voice yell “fucking piece of crap .” He went on to slice the apple and took out a jar of peanut butter and an extra spoon before heading upstairs to see what Emily was cursing about.

He found her on the nursery floor glaring at the instructions pamphlet on her hands and surrounded by colorful toy parts.

“Do I even want to know what’s happening here?” he asked, announcing his presence.

She turned her head around and glared at him. “Why are you here?”

“I-I live here?”

“No, dummy, why are you here ? Aren’t you supposed to be in a meeting or something?”

“Emily, it’s a quarter to eleven,” he said. 

Emily’s eyes widened in shock, but they immediately faded into nonchalance and she shrugged. “I guess I’ll have to reschedule lunch with Mother,” she mumbled.

Andrew let out a sigh and handed her the plate. “What is this?”

“It’s a toy I bought at the mall today,” she said, munching on a piece of apple. Andrew wanted to ask what she was doing at a mall but remembered that Penelope begged her to go baby shopping with her.

“Okay,” he said. “What is it supposed to be?”

“The box said it was supposed to be a mini oven of some sort, but right now it just looks like a piece of crap. And that’s what it is: a piece of crap.”

“Why would you buy a mini oven for an infant?” Andrew asked incredulously.

“Because,” she began, “it’s cute, it’s purple, it’s on sale, and I am pregnant and hormonal. Penelope had to drag me out of the toy store after paying for this because I would’ve bought the entire kitchen set for my baby.”

“Looks like money well-spent,” he teased, regretting it immediately when Emily glared at him.

“Are you calling me stupid?” she asked.

“No! I’m just saying—“

“I have a degree in Criminology, Psychology, and Behavioral Science. I graduated magna cum laude from Yale. The Interpol London Gateway Office nearly declared war on the FBI after I returned. I am not going to let a mini oven for toddlers beat me!”

Andrew stared at her, his mouth slightly hanging open. Emily was still mumbling incoherently while chewing on her apple, and he had to stop himself from laughing at how cartoon-ish she sounded because he knew what she was doing. She was stalling, and she knew it.

“I told you, you don’t have to do it, Emily,” he said, deciding not to beat around the bush. The flush in her cheeks confirmed that she just didn’t want to have lunch with her mother. “Do you want me to call your mother?”

Emily shook her head and put the plate on her lap. “I don’t… I just have a feeling that this conversation is going to end up badly as I expect it to, and I don’t think I can handle that in public.”

“And there’s no way you’re setting foot in your old house either,” Andrew finished for her. Emily nodded. “Do you want to have lunch here?”

“I do,” Emily admitted. “I set this up because I thought it would help me clear my mind and muster the energy to call her to have lunch here instead of somewhere else, but it just made me mad.”

Andrew smiled. “How about you have lunch first, and if, only if, your mother surprises you and lunch ends well without yelling or arguing, you can bring her up here so she can help you set up this oven.”

“You don’t want to do it with me?” she asked, pouting.

“Of course I do, you big baby,” he teased. “But this can be a bonding moment between you and your mom.”

“What are you going to do while we eat?” she asked.

“I was planning to eat with you, if that was okay with you,” he said.

“Of course it is. You can act as mediator if we decide to fight,” Emily said. She took out her phone and called her mother, who, to her surprise, picked up after two rings.

Hello, Emily, ” Elizabeth replied in a crisp, yet soft tone.

“Hi, Mother. I, uh, I know we have a reservation, but I’m not really in the mood to go out today,” she said, wincing at her choice of words. “I mean… Is it okay if I call the restaurant nearby and have some delivered for us here at home instead of going out?”

Of course, Emily. Frankly I’m surprised you even said yes to lunch outside with how far along you are ,” Elizabeth replied.

Emily wanted to ask what the hell was that supposed to mean but held her tongue. Today was supposed to be a stepping stone for her relationship with her mother. “Alright. I assume you already know the address?”

I do. I’ll be there in a half hour.

“Okay,” Emily said. The silence that stretched was awkward, and it was taking everything in Emily to not scream in frustration. “I’ll see you soon.” She hung up immediately, not waiting to hear her mother’s reply, and groaned, burying her head in her hands.

Andrew chuckled from where he sat across her and she moved her fingers just enough to have one eye glare at him. “Don’t be mean. I’m pregnant,” she whined.

“I’m sorry, but would you rather have me crying from second-hand embarrassment?”

“Actually, I don’t know which one is worse.”

“Exactly my point,” he said. He scooted closer until he was sitting next to her and placed an arm over her shoulder, taking in the few moments of silence before Elizabeth arrived. Andrew could feel the tension seeping from Emily’s shoulders, and placed a kiss on top of her head. “I’ll be right here all the time, and if you want her to leave, just squeeze my hand under the table, okay?”

“Okay,” Emily nodded, cuddling into his side. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Elizabeth arrived fifteen minutes right after the food did, much to Emily’s relief. She had no idea how her mother would react to the food arriving late, so she welcomed the reprieve. She was setting plates and spoons while Andrew opened the door, mentally preparing herself for whatever her mother had to say to both of them in the short period of time they would be spending.

“Emily,” Elizabeth’s soft voice echoed throughout the room, and Emily turned around to give her a soft smile.

“Hi, Mother,” she said, returning the soft smile. She approached Elizabeth and tensed unexpectedly when the older woman ran her eyes up and down Emily. She was surprised when Elizabeth smiled and hesitantly opened her arms for a hug.

“You look wonderful,” Elizabeth said, wrapping her arms loosely around Emily. “The pregnancy glow looks wonderful on you.”

“I think you’re mistaking sweat for glow,” Emily replied, mentally wincing at her response. “But thank you.”

“I try to tell her she looks beautiful all the time, but she doesn’t believe me,” Andrew said, pulling out a chair which Elizabeth gladly sat on. He headed over to do the same for Emily.

“Well, I certainly didn’t feel amazing when I was pregnant with Emily, so I can’t say I blame her,” Elizabeth teased.

“See? She gets it,” Emily added, smiling. She was glad that even with only a few minutes in, she and her mother were getting along. Maybe having Andrew join them was the main reason why Elizabeth was behaving, but no matter who was playing mediator, she would thank them for this moment.

Lunch was peaceful, probably the most peaceful lunch Emily has ever had with her mother. Elizabeth asked questions about the baby, and about how Emily and Andrew met (Emily kicked Andrew under the table when he was about to reach the part where he was stabbed by the unsub). Elizabeth didn’t even ask if this lunch meant that she was now part of their daughter’s life, which made Emily slightly glad.

When Emily mentioned the nursery, Andrew didn’t miss how Elizabeth’s face lit up, and he was hoping that neither did Emily. Luckily enough, Emily caught it, and nervously asked Elizabeth to help her assemble a toy she bought. It was an offer Elizabeth gladly accepted.