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Changed for the Better

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Emily could tell Andrew wanted to be in the room with them, but she knew he understood that if she wanted Elizabeth to be part of their daughter's life, she had to find out how genuine her mother really is. She also knew he was one yelling match away from sending Elizabeth out.

The first thing Elizabeth said when Emily opened the door to the nursery was, "Sage. A terribly chosen name, but a wonderful color."

"Yeah, well, we didn't want to go with the gender stereotyped colors, and pastel yellow just wasn't working with what we wanted, so sage it is," Emily said. "Plus, if she decides that mommy and daddy were insane for painting her room some weirdly named pastel green color, it would be easy to paint over."

Elizabeth nodded, looking around the unfinished nursery and running her hands over the crib Emily and Andrew finished setting up four days ago. "It's certainly pretty."

Emily gave her a small smile and slowly sat down on the floor, trying not to groan at the difficulty. Elizabeth sat next to her, frowning curiously at the mess of colorful toy parts on the floor. "What is this?"

"Penelope–you know her, she's our technical analyst–she asked me to go with her to the mall earlier today, and I saw this at the toy store," Emily began to explain. "It's supposed to be a mini oven for toddlers but right now, it's just… spare toy parts."

Elizabeth smiled. "Did it come with an instructions booklet?"

"It did," Emily said, handing it over without complaint. "Feel free to look at it."

When Elizabeth saw the instructions booklet, she understood Emily's tone. The booklet was in Mandarin, and the translations seemed like they were taken from Google Translate. Emily, despite her strength in languages, was still only learning the basics of the language; thus, the booklet with its awful translation would've been annoying to her.

"So," Emily said. "Have you figured out which part is Happy and which is Spare Part A?"

"This translation is ghastly, indeed," Elizabeth nodded. "But it won't be so difficult to read the Mandarin instructions."

Raising an eyebrow, Emily asked, "You know Mandarin?"

"I'm not fluent in speaking the language, but I can read it."

"Since when?"

"Since I got posted in China three years ago," Elizabeth explained. "Now hand over that part on your right, and the blue one by your foot."

Emily obliged, grunting as she leaned over to grab and hand her mother the parts she was asked for. Elizabeth put the pieces together and started grabbing the other pieces as instructed by the booklet.

"Do I want to know why you decided to buy a mini oven for an infant when it's target audience are toddlers?" Elizabeth asked, not unkindly, although she was smirking at Emily. "I assume it was on sale at the mall you went to with your friend earlier today."

"You assumed correctly," Emily said, rolling her eyes. "Besides, it's an investment."

"Oh really? How so?"

"Because if you think about it, when she turns four, she has this mini oven to encourage her to learn how to cook. It can be a bonding thing for her and Andrew. And… You know… It was cute."

"That's always a valid reason," Elizabeth chuckled. "I remember back when I was pregnant with you, and your father and I were at the baby store to get a bassinet for you. It was supposed to be a fifteen-minute trip, but it ended up being three hours because I bought every cute stuffed animal I saw."

"Even the Uncle Scrooge plushie?" Emily asked.

"Oh that one was my favorite. Your father had to physically stop me from spending more hours in the store to look for the entire Duck family," Elizabeth replied, shaking her head. "Do you still have that with you?"

The soft smile on Emily's face slowly dissolved into a frown as she remembered what happened to her once favorite toy. "No. I, uh, I gave it to Dad when he went to Pakistan."

"Oh." Neither women needed more details about it after that. Benjamin Prentiss was an Air Force lieutenant, who was killed on a mission in Pakistan. Emily was only seven at the time, and was yet to grasp the concept of death. She remembers seeing her mother fall on her knees when she got the phone call and then was confused when her mother clutched her tightly while sobbing. Emily remembers the funeral, remembers asking where her Uncle Scrooge doll was, and remembers how her mother sat her down that night and explained to her that Daddy wasn't coming home. Ever.

It had been decades ago, but the pain was still fresh.

Blinking away the tears brought on by the memory of her late husband, Elizabeth cleared her throat and asked, "Do you and Andrew have a name chosen?"

"No, not yet. I think he has a list, but I don't have one yet," Emily shrugged. In her defense, all names reminded her of serial killers, and she didn't want her daughter to be named after a psychopath. "Did you have a hard time naming me?"

"Well, I don't remember if I ever told you this, but in my family, the women have a tradition with names where our daughters get our first names as their middle names. I'm Elizabeth Sydney, your grandmother was Sydney Margaret, and your great-grandmother was Margaret Eunice. That's why I named you after me," Elizabeth said. The mini oven was halfway finished now, with Emily handing parts her mother pointed to, and Elizabeth piecing them together.

"You never told me that," Emily said, amazed by the knowledge of a family tradition. Her grandmother had died before she was born, and Elizabeth was an only child, so Emily never put the names together and realised.

"A lot of people thought I did it for self-preservation. I didn't have to follow the tradition, but I loved both my mother and my grandmother. I thought it would be a nice way to give respect to them," Elizabeth said. She glanced up and smiled sadly at Emily. "You don't have to follow it if you don't want to. I think that because I named you after me, I expected you to become a carbon copy of me. And I'm sorry for that."

Emily felt her eyes sting and cast her gaze to the floor, wrapping her arms loosely around her stomach. Her mother was right. When she was in college, Emily briefly considered changing her name to something else (her choice back then was Agnes, after her grandmother from her father's side), but decided to keep it as a big middle finger to her mother. It wasn't that she hated it, but rather she hated the pressure her mother placed on her because of the name.

Elizabeth noticed how her daughter fell silent and abandoned the toy she was assembling, opting to sit next to her daughter because Emily needed to hear it. She would beg if she had to, but Elizabeth needed Emily to listen.

"Emily, I know I'm not the mother you deserved. I tried, but I didn't know how to be one. I did what my mother did with me, and I guess it was the wrong thing to do because you and I are so different and I just wanted you to become like me and that made me forget how to be the mother you needed. And I'm so sorry for that, Emily. I truly am. I love you, I do, and I should've said it and made you feel it instead of being what I am to you," Elizabeth said. She wanted to reach out and grasp her daughter's hands in hers, but Emily's hands were clasped around her bump. Her eyes were still glued to the floor, but there was no mistaking the tears spilling down her cheeks.

Emily hated how she was crying over this, hated how her mother could still make her cry with just a few words, and hated how she had no control over her emotions. Emily just wanted to get up and go to Andrew, but she couldn't even get up from the floor on her own, and she'd rather bury her head in the sand before asking her mother for help.

She understood Elizabeth of course. There were no doubts about that. Her mother did her best, but she just didn't know how to balance motherhood and her career. Elizabeth tried, but the career-oriented woman in her won, and Emily was… pushed to the sidelines. It wasn't right. But Emily tried to understand.

What she couldn't understand was the one fact lingering in her mind. It was a question she wanted her ask after she got back from Witness Protection, a question she wanted to yell at her mother, but back then she was still trying to get control over her old life and didn't have the energy to ask.

"If you really love me the way you say you do, then why… why weren't you there at my funeral eight years ago?" Emily asked in a low voice, but Elizabeth heard her clearly.

"Emily–"

"Don't lie to me," Emily hissed. "Don't say you were there and I just didn't know because I saw the list, and I asked JJ and Hotch, and all they could do was give me a pitying look and I knew. I knew you weren't there."

"I couldn't," Elizabeth whispered in response.

Emily's bottom lip quivered, and she let out a humorless laugh that was part sobs. "I get it. You were probably too busy to take the time to attend to your daughter's funeral. Yeah. You don't have to explain anything. I understand."

Tears poured down Elizabeth's face before she could stop them, and she placed a hand on Emily's foot, wincing when Emily shifted away from the touch. What Emily said was partly true. Elizabeth was at a different state, holding a conference and pretending not to notice the pitying stares her assistant, Marley, kept giving her.

"Parents are not supposed to outlive their child," Elizabeth began. "When Agent Hotchner called me to inform me that you died, I didn't know what to do. I wanted to scream and cry and… I just froze. All my life, I knew what to do in every adversity I faced. But what… how do you function, knowing that a child you carried for ten months and brought to life was just… gone? How do you deal with it? How do you live? And breathe? And just continue to go on as if nothing happened?"

Emily sniffled, reaching up to wipe the tears from her face. This time she didn't move away from her mother's touch when Elizabeth placed a hand on her arm.

"I didn't go to your funeral because I couldn't watch them lower you to the ground. I thought that if I didn't go, at least I can pretend that you were just out in the world, living and breathing and wreaking havoc wherever you went. If I went, it would be real, and I would have to face it. And I didn't know how to without crying, and if I started crying, I don't think I would've stopped," Elizabeth cried. "So I didn't go and did what I could to cope. I drowned myself in my work and pretended as if I wasn't dying inside."

"Parents aren't supposed to outlive their child," Emily echoed, her voice breaking towards the end of her sentence.

"No, they aren't," Elizabeth said, reaching to wipe Emily's tears away.

"I'm sorry I let you go through that," Emily whispered.

Elizabeth smiled sadly and shook her head. "All those months don't matter because you're still here. And that's all I could ever ask for."

Emily leaned towards her mother and let Elizabeth wrap her arms around her. "I'm still sorry."

"I'm sorry, too," Elizabeth said, rubbing circles in Emily's back. "I'm so so sorry, Emily. I love you so much, and I don't ever want you to doubt that."

Emily tried to hug her mother back as best as she could with her belly between them. "I love you, too."


They finished the mini oven in a half hour after that. Elizabeth stayed for a few more hours before leaving, declining Andrew's offers to stay for dinner, but not after Emily told her she was welcome anytime, as long as she gave them a heads-up first.

Things between Emily and Elizabeth were far from the perfect mother and daughter relationship, but this was a start, and this time, both women were willing to try to make things better.

Andrew found Emily in the nursery, sitting on the rocking chair, and holding a hand-crocheted bunny, a gift from JJ, to her chest. Her eyes were still a little red from the emotional conversation she and her mother had, but she was no longer sniffling, which Andrew took as a good sign.

Emily was staring at the painting from her grandfather, studying the strokes and color choices, and reminiscing all the memories with her grandfather. She missed him, more than anything else in the world, and despite the conversation she had with the girls when they baked cookies, she hoped that wherever he was, he was proud of her.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Andrew asked, sitting on the floor next to the rocking chair and leaning her head across her thigh.

"Just a penny? I'm not that cheap," Emily said. Andrew rolled his eyes and chuckled.

"For a second there you had me worried," he teased, smiling when Emily grinned. "You okay?"

"I'm exhausted," Emily sighed. "And she's moving around too much for my comfort."

Andrew reached for the ottoman behind him and sat on it, leaning towards Emily to place a hand on her belly and whisper soft, cooing words to it. They sat there for a few minutes, Andrew's voice and Emily's heavy breathing being the only sounds echoing in the unfinished nursery. It was halfway done, with the crib already placed on one side of the room and the dresser, already filled with more baby clothes than Emily had ever seen, on another. All that was missing was a shelf Andrew was planning to put up with the boys, so they had somewhere to place the ladybug nightlight from Sandra, picture frames, and a few books, a few decorations Emily wanted, and the little girl herself.

"Do you think that painting would blend in with this room?" Emily asked.

"Your grandfather's painting? Yeah, I think it would be nice. Where were you thinking of putting it?"

"On that wall next to the crib," Emily said. When Andrew stood up and grabbed the painting, she furrowed her eyebrows. "You don't have to do it now."

"I already put a nail on that wall, so the only thing left to do is to hang the painting," Andrew said. He moved the crib a little, and hung the painting, stepping back towards Emily to look at it from a distance. "What do you think?"

There was a soft smile on Emily's face, and she reached out to take Andrew's hand in hers. "I think it's great." And it was. The colors on the painting was emphasized further by the pastel green color of the room, but it wasn't too emphasized enough to take all the attention from the rest of the room.

Andrew placed a kiss on her head. "I have a proposition."

Emily craned her neck and raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah?"

"Mmhmm," he said and took a seat on the ottoman once more, grasping her hand in his. "I heard you and your mother talk about names and the name tradition from her family."

"Oh," Emily said. "Do you think I should go through with it?"

"Only if you want to," Andrew assured her.

Emily sighed, squeezing his hand. "My mother was right when she said she expected me to be a carbon copy of her just because I had her name. The pressure she put on me was unbelievable, and I don't want to give my daughter the same thing. But at the same time, it would be honoring where I came from, you know? As much as I hated my childhood, it's still a part of me. I'm just… torn."

"I knew you would be, so here's my proposition. You have full veto power, by the way," Andrew said. "I looked up 'Emily,' and I found that there are a lot of variations of your name in different languages. There's Amelia; it's the Italian variation of Emily, but I found that there was a serial killer named Amelia."

Emily pouted at him. "I thought you were getting annoyed with me vetoing every name that reminds me of a serial killer."

"You annoy me every single day, but I still love you," Andrew winked, kissing her briefly and laughing when Emily hit his chest lightly. "Come on, you can't deny that I annoy you a lot too, but you still love me."

Rolling her eyes, Emily took his hand and placed it on top of her bump, letting him feel their daughter's kicks, which were getting stronger and more frequent each day. It led to more trips to the bathroom and inability to sleep easily, but Emily wasn't complaining because the kicks were reminding her that her daughter was alive and well.

"I try not to be all over you, because I still have a reputation to maintain," Emily teased.

"I'll let you believe that," Andrew giggled, and changed the subject when Emily glared at him. "Anyway… Amelia is obviously out of the list, so I looked for another name, and I found Amelie."

"Like the film?"

"Yes, but without the French accent, although we could put the accent just for shits and giggles."

"I'm not putting an accent on my kid's name just for shit and giggles. It has to mean something."

"You named a cat Sergio…"

"Hey! It's a cool name!"

"For an old man, yeah. But for a cat? Really, Em?"

"Oh my god, shut up."

Andrew laughed. "Okay, okay, I'm stopping. But what do you think?"

"Amelie? It's nice. I haven't heard anyone named Amelie without the accent yet."

"So it's a yes?"

"It sure is." He pulled her closer and she sighed, relaxing immediately in his arms. "Now all we need is a first name."

"What about Sergio?" he asked with an evil grin.

"That's it. You're sleeping on the couch."