1. Antonio's Absolution by writinginct
"So... decided where you're going to go yet?" Dave Rossi asked casually as they waited in line at the coffee shop. They and their whole team had been given two weeks off to recharge physically and emotionally.
Emily Prentiss grimaced playfully. "No. Nothing's really striking my fancy. What about you? Someplace fun?"
They inched forward in line and Rossi answered, "Sort of. I'm heading up to Boston. You know... family stuff"
Emily smiled at his veiled reference to his caste and its U.S. headquarters. "Now see, that sounds like fun. I've never seen..." she dropped her voice to a whisper, "the estate."
"I thought you had?"
She just shook her as they stepped up to the counter and ordered their coffees, they then stepped off to the side and waited for the barista to call their names.
A woman with a stroller was attempting to make her way through the crowed coffee shop and the two of them pressed closer to the wall to allow her to pass. Well, Dave was pressed closer to the wall anyway, Emily was in fact pressed up against him. He was glad she was facing the other direction as he clenched his jaw tightly with a look of abject discomfort on his face. No one would ever know the near crippling want that he was containing as he willed his body not to respond.
Dave always focused on her heartbeat when she was in his immediate vicinity, it grounded him and helped him focus. He sometimes felt a little like a thief, stealing away a part of her, but it was all he allowed himself. She wasn't ready for the truth, not yet. But soon.
The woman with the stroller finally moved on and Emily stepped away. It took all Dave's self-control to not reach out and pull her back.
The barista deposited their coffees on the counter and Emily grabbed them both as she was closer. She turned to hand him his and saw the discomforted look on his face. Concern immediately flashed across her features and he heard her heartbeat accelerate with worry. "Are you okay?"
He thought of a cover story quickly and said with a forced grin, "Yeah, fine, just stroller one, Rossi's toes zero."
Emily made an adorable face and replied simply, "Ow."
They made their way back out to the car and had just opened the doors when Dave offered casually over the top of the car, "You know, if you were interested in seeing the estate you could always come with me. The more the merrier."
Emily grinned, a little disbelieving. "Really? I mean, I wouldn't want to impose."
Dave ticked his head to the side and let himself flirt just a little. "It'll be fun. And you know, I've been told I'm a pretty good tour guide."
She bit her lip a little and studied his face, trying to decipher if he was just being polite or not. Finally she grinned again and replied, "Okay, talked me into it."
Emily sipped her glass of wine and looked over at Dave in the seat across from hers. He had reclined his seat and had his eyes closed, dozing.
He had surprised her with chartering a small private jet and teased, "You didn't really think I was going to fly commercial did you?"
She had seen him sleep on a plane many times in their zigzags across country for the Bureau, but today was different. He was different and she was trying to figure out what it was. He was relaxed in his sleep and as she observed him she thought, not for the first or even the hundredth time, that he was an incredibly handsome man. A man that she often wondered if they had somehow met in another time and place if he might have been someone to fall in love with. She tamped those thoughts down quickly, they had no place in their current working relationship, but she couldn't deny that she was drawn to him, both physically and romantically.
The flight crew were caste familiars like herself, and the cabin attendant was a cheerful young man who, at her request, kept Emily's wine glass full but left her alone otherwise to enjoy the quiet, stress-free flight.
She was flipping through a fashion magazine that the attendant had included in a pile of periodicals thoughtfully left out for them when Dave woke and sat up.
He rubbed his face with his hands to wipe away the sleep and when he looked over at Emily his smile was silly and genuine. "I needed that."
He gestured to the attendant who intermediately came over, and requested warm blood.
Dave looked at the faint flush on Emily's cheeks and the half-empty wine glass in front of her. "How many of those have you had?"
She giggled and picked up the small wine glass and replied in a conspiratorial whisper, "I have no idea, he just keeps refilling my glass."
"You should probably eat something."
She gave a little giggle-snort. "You're probably right. It just feels good to relax a little, you know?"
"Yeah. That I get."
The attendant returned with discrete mug of warm blood that he handed to Dave, and as if on cue, a small platter of cheese, crackers, and grapes that he placed on the table between them.
Dave sipped from his mug as Emily picked at the cheese and crackers. They didn't say a lot, just enjoying the quiet companionship.
The attendant efficiently removed the empty mug when Dave was done, Emily not getting so much as a glimpse of its contents. Dave reached over and snagged a piece of cheese and asked, "I still can't get over the fact that you haven't been up here yet."
Emily shrugged. "How often do you come up?"
"As often as I can with our schedule. I was up here a lot more before I came back to the BAU."
"That's something I don't get. Why did you come back? I mean, with everything that you're a part of being a vampire, why lock yourself into a position at the FBI?"
He smiled gently at her, knowing that question had to have been eating at her for a while and that the alcohol in her system had lowered her inhibitions enough for her to ask. "I have my reason."
The attendant approached before she could say anything and informed them that they would be landing in a couple of minutes. He cleared the table and they prepared for landing.
After putting on her seat belt, Emily leveled a look at Dave and said, "Reason, not reasons?"
"Nice catch. A guy might almost think you do this for a living."
"Ha ha. Nice non-answer, by the way."
He folded his hand and rested them on his stomach. "Who knows, maybe by the end of this trip, you just might find out what my reason is."
They landed without incident and Emily watched with renewed interest as Dave directed their town car driver to get their luggage. As she watched him, Emily finally realized what was different about him. He was himself. Completely himself. He was someone used to being in the upper echelon of his society and being afforded the respect that brings. And he was also used to being someone wealthy, and the authority and responsibility that comes with it. Things he normally hid or at the very least dialed way down on the job.
As he opened the door of the town car for her himself and she climbed inside she realized that it was almost as if she didn't know him at all and it was kicking that hidden attraction to him into high gear. It made him seem a little mysterious and dangerous and their trip together almost illicit. He slid into the seat next to her, and a wholly unexpected bolt of desire coursed through her. It took every ounce of self-control Emily had not to scoot closer to him and curl up under the arm she knew he would willingly put around her.
She blamed the wine on the plane and the all too eager flight attendant who kept her glass full. It had to be the wine playing hell with her inhibitions, because if it wasn't- then what was?
Dave chuckled softly at the sight of Emily with her nose practically against the car window as they approached the estate. Her heartbeat was speeding up with her excitement.
As they pulled on the property and the main house finally came into view, her low, "Wow," elicited another chuckle from him.
"It gets that a lot."
The butler, James, greeted them at the door. He and Dave shook hands warmly and Dave didn't hesitate to introduce Emily.
James gave her a gentle smile and a little bow of his head. "Miss Prentiss, I'm delighted to finally met you. We've all heard a lot of wonderful things about you."
"Thank you, that's very kind of you to say. I hope my coming along hasn't inconvenienced you at all. I sort of jumped at the opportunity to come for a visit."
"It is no trouble at all. You are most welcome. Now I've put you in the guest room across from David's room. Your bags will be waiting for you there. If there is anything at all that you need during your stay, you have but to ask."
James left them to their own devices and Dave gallantly held out his arm. "I believe I promised you a tour, Miss Prentiss."
Emily grinned and looped her arm through his, trying desperately to quell the flash of possessiveness that ran through her as she did. "Yes, you did. What are you going to show me first?"
Room after room they toured and Emily was feeling out of sorts. She couldn't put her finger on what it was exactly though and again blamed it on the wine on the plane.
They reached a small reading room. Two of its four walls were lined with bookshelves brimming with books and oddities. The third wall sported a pair of large windows with a fireplace between them. The last wall was covered in framed paintings and sketches of all shapes and sizes and styles.
Emily approached the wall of artwork, admiring the display. She stopped in front of one painting, a pleasant sunny scene depicting a graceful young woman in medieval dress sitting modestly on a small stool underneath a large green tree, a bouquet of blue flowers in her hands. The woman's resemblance to Emily was uncanny.
Emily stared at the painting, her out of sorts feeling increasing a thousand fold. She felt as if she were being pulled into the very painting itself. She swayed where she stood and a heartbeat later Dave caught her as she dropped into a dead faint.
Dave patted her cheek and called her name trying to get her to wake up. "Emily. Em. Come on, wake up. This is no way to start your vacation. Emily."
Her eyes fluttered open and she sat up quietly. She looked around in confusion, not appearing to recognize where she was. She looked to Dave and dropped her eyes and blushed. "Pray, good sir, where is Antonio?"
It took Dave a second to realize that she was speaking in Italian, and a very old dialect at that. He asked gently, "Antonio?"
"Antonio DiNardo. I am awaiting his return from Rome."
Dave knew he wasn't speaking to Emily, and knowing Tony well, he was pretty sure he knew the answer to his next question.
"Pray, child, what is your name?"
"I am Beatrice, good sir."
Dave closed his eyes for a moment and took a cleansing breath.
She was sitting with a cup of strong tea in a beautiful rose-printed teacup. She had never seen a cup like it before, it was so thin and delicate that she feared breaking it. The lord of this fine house was being very kind to her and allowing her to await Antonio. He told her that Antonio would be along in just a while. Nothing was making sense from the wondrous things she was seeing in the house to her own clothing. It was all some sort dream, she was sure of it.
She put her teacup down and stood and walked over to the mantel. She watched, fascinated, by the visible machinations of a brass clock protected by glass bell jar. She heard men speaking in harsh, hushed tones outside the room. She heard the lord of the house cry out, "Tony, wait," a moment before someone burst into the room behind her. She turned around slowly to see an older version of the handsome young man who had been forced to leave her behind in service to the church.
She smiled and his name came out as a lilting whisper, "Antonio."
Tony and Jethro met Dave outside the reading room. When James had called and told them they were needed at the estate immediately they hadn't hesitated and had rushed to Boston. Immediately was not a word thrown around lightly within the caste.
"Dave. What's going on?" Tony demanded.
"There's no threat, but there is a situation."
Both Tony and Jethro relaxed an iota. Tony asked, "What situation?"
"Before I go into too much detail, have you ever met Emily Prentiss in person before?"
Tony thought for a moment. "That's the familiar that's on your team?"
"No, she was on my list to meet in D.C. given our proximity, but I just kept missing her."
Jethro was standing by and quietly observing the exchange and asked, "Something we need to know about Emily?"
A slow smile spread across Dave's face. "She's my consort."
Tony's smile was instant and blinding, and he clapped Dave on the shoulder and said, "You finally found your consort."
"Yeah, she doesn't know yet. I'm going to tell here while we're here and hopefully turn and bind with her if she's willing."
Tony's expression grew serious for a moment and he offered, "Don't wait. Things can go wrong in a heartbeat. Don't lose her now that you've finally found her.
"I don't intend to."
Gibbs gave Dave a raised eyebrow and asked, "So what is the big emergency?"
Dave sighed. "I was giving her a tour and we stopped in the reading room. She was looking at some the artwork of Beatrice that you commissioned, Tony. That painting of her sitting under a tree to be precise. Anyway, I'm not sure what happened exactly, but she fainted as she was staring at that painting. When she woke up, she wasn't Emily."
Tony ticked his head to the side, a mask of confusion on his face. "What do you mean she wasn't Emily?"
Dave hesitated, "There's no easy way to say this, but I think Emily is the reincarnated soul of someone you know, someone who speaks fifteenth century Italian and was left waiting for her Antonio to come back from Rome."
Understanding dawned quickly on Tony's face and he pushed past Dave to enter the reading room.
"Tony, wait!" Dave cried out, but Tony didn't listen and he stepped further into the room.
A tall, thin brunette was facing the fireplace and turned slowly upon hearing him behind her. She smiled warmly at him. He couldn't believe what he was seeing, who he was seeing. She looked exactly the same as she did centuries ago. A true and complete doppelganger.
Her voice was soft and his name rolled from her tongue, "Antonio."
Tony's eyes welled and he swallowed hard as he took another step closer to her. "Beatrice."
Their eyes never left each other's, and she reached out to stroke his cheek with her hand. The instant her hand made contact with him, Tony saw her eyes roll back and he caught her as she again fell into a dead faint.
Emily woke in an unfamiliar bed as dawn was breaking. She sat up slowly, her head was pounding. She looked over to see Dave sitting sound asleep in a comfortable wing back chair. In its twin was a man she was sure she did not know, yet somehow she had flashes of memories of being with him.
He was awake and watching her, his eyes sad and full of an old pain as he did. He stepped over to the bed and asked softly, "Hey, how you feeling?"
"I'm never drinking wine on a plane again. I'd kill for some aspirin."
"I don't think it was the wine. I'm Tony by the way, we weren't actually introduced earlier."
She shook her head to clear out the remaining fog, then grimaced at the pain it caused. "I have these bit of memories of you. Of a younger you. I don't understand. It's the weirdest thing."
Tony handed her a glass of water from the bedside table and sat down on the edge of the bed. "What do you know about reincarnation?"
Emily sipped the water before answering. "Not very much, but from what little I do know it seems highly unlikely."
"Not at unlikely as you might think," Tony said softly and set about explaining to her about souls and their ability to return should they feel like they'd left something undone in life.
In the middle of his telling, Dave woke up and joined them, sitting on the opposite side of the bed as Tony.
"So you're saying that I've somehow got the soul of this Beatrice?" Emily asked.
"Yeah," Tony replied, the look of pain and sadness back in his eyes in a flash.
"Who was she?"
Tony looked away, and swallowed hard. He stood and said softly, "Dave, knows that story, I'll let him tell it."
Without waiting for a response, Tony quickly left the room, not seeing Emily's outstretched hand that had reached out to him of its own accord.
In the hallway Jethro was waiting and simply pulled Tony into a tight embrace and tried to project all the love and support he could, anything to alleviate the pain and loss and overwhelming guilt that Tony was exuding.
Dave stood and went to the bathroom coming back a moment later with a bottle of aspirin.
Emily gratefully took the pills he held out for her and quickly washed them down with some water. Dave sat back down next to her and futzed with smoothing out the folded over edge of the blanket. He didn't know quite where to begin.
Emily took the initiative. "Who was she to him?"
Dave took a deep breath and let it out. "His biggest regret."
He hesitated again and Emily reached over and squeezed his hand. "Please tell me."
"Tony's family was very wealthy and prominent in Florence during the fifteenth century. Unfortunately for Tony he fell in love with the blacksmith's daughter, Beatrice. Tony's father didn't approve and sent him to Rome to live out his days in the service of the church."
"What happened to Beatrice?"
"After Tony was sent away, she found out she was pregnant. Her family sent her to a nunnery, which was pretty standard in those days. She had a son, but died during child-birth."
"Did he... know?"
"Not for several years. His father had written him in Rome but said nothing about the child or that she had died."
"What happened when he found out?"
Dave sighed. "Let's just say he lived to excess for a while."
"How do you know all this?"
"I was the Cardinal young Antonio was in service to."
Understanding dawned across Emily's face and she whispered, "He's your childe."
"Yes. A few years after he found out about Beatrice I got tired of his self-destructive and indulgent ways and told him what I truly was, hoping to scare him straight. It backfired on me though because he begged me to turn him."
"Apparently at some point you gave in."
"Yeah, I kept him on a short leash for a couple of years. It made him clean himself up and become respectable again, only then did I turn him."
"What happened to their son?"
"He was adopted by a barren couple and lived a long and full life. He had seven children of his own."
"Did Tony get a chance to know any of them?"
"Yes. He's kept track of his descendants through the years."
"So he's lived with that all this time?" she asked sadly.
Dave nodded and looked down. He was surprised to see that he had turned his hand and entwined their fingers as he told the story, he didn't recall doing it.
In a low voice, almost as if she were afraid of the answer, Emily asked, "Who am I to you?"
His fingers squeezed hers and he looked up to meet her eyes. His smile was there, but bittersweet as he replied, "My consort."
"Glenlivet for breakfast is never a good sign," Gibbs offered as he plunked down in a chair next to Dave with a cup of coffee.
"You ever have something planned out perfectly in your head only to have it totally turn to shit in the real world?"
"Look at who you're talking to, nothing ever goes right. You just have to roll with it. How is Prentiss?"
"She's confused and angry for me not telling her sooner that she's my consort."
"She probably just needs some time to sort things out in her head."
"Yeah. This is just not how I wanted this to go down."
Gibbs stood, and clapped Dave on the shoulder as he left Dave to his thoughts.
A short while later, James silently deposited a plate of toast and eggs and sausage and a mug of coffee in front of Dave and deftly removed the untouched glass of liquor.
Emily had taken a hot shower and gotten dressed. Between that and the breakfast that James had thoughtfully brought to her room she felt much more like herself.
She was out on the grounds, wandering as she tried to make some sort of sense of it all. She found that she had a pair of tag-a-longs in the form of two imposing dobermans. The dogs were curious and oddly protective and she was glad for the company.
Emily found herself at the gate to the estate cemetery but didn't enter, she felt that would be invasive and somehow disrespectful not only of the dead, but of the vampires still walking around that had loved and buried them.
She turned to go and startled, finding herself facing a silver-haired man with intense blue eyes.
"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you. Jethro Gibbs."
"That's okay, I just didn't hear you. I'm Emily, Emily Prentiss."
"I know. I'm Tony's consort."
"Ahh. You work for NCIS, too, don't you?"
He nodded and they started walking further down the path, the two dogs leading the way.
Emily was thinking hard and stealing glimpses of Gibbs as they walked. She finally had a flash of inspiration. "Oh, my god, you're that Gibbs aren't you? The one that caught Kyle Boone?"
"Yeah. That was a long time ago."
Emily caught that he didn't want to talk about it and let the matter drop. Their journey brought them to a small, secluded garden, lush with plants and an abundance of a particular blue flower. There was a stone bench in its center and tucked in one of the flower beds was a stone statue in the likeness of the girl in the painting sitting on a stool.
Emily was hit with a flurry of memories and her knees buckled.
She was hiding from Antonio behind a tree, making him chase and find her to win the kisses he wanted to steal. She thought she had lost him this time for sure, even though he always found her. She felt a tap on her shoulder and she turned to see a smirking Antonio standing there with a handpicked bunch of blue flowers in his hand.
In his eyes she never saw that she was just a blacksmith's daughter, he made her feel like a high-borne lady. His lady.
She accepted the flowers from him and sniffed them delicately. She gave him a little curtsey and said, "They are lovely, thank you."
He reached over and brushed her cheek with his fingertips. "No, my sweet Beatrice, the flowers are pretty enough, but it is you that is truly lovely."
As she stood there with his gracious words leaving her speechless, he stole yet another kiss.
Emily came back to the garden slowly to hear Jethro's calm, deep voice telling her, "Breath, Emily, just breath. Don't fight it, it makes it worse if you fight it."
She looked over at Jethro and his honest concern broke her. Her voice was low and hoarse as she started to cry. "They loved each other so much. She would have waited for him to come home forever."
Jethro nodded gently. "I know."
"Why me? And why did she need to come back? Tony said that people come back because they feel that they left something undone or left someone behind. I can't figure this out."
"I don't have an answer for you. And honestly, I don't know if you'll ever get an answer. Just give it some time."
Emily made her way back to the house and to the room she had woken up in earlier deciding she wanted to lie down for a while.
She found the room okay and looked around curiously once she was there, noticing things she hadn't before. The room didn't have the feel of a guest room. There were framed photos on the walls and dresser, and small oddities also gracing the furniture. In the corner was an expensive stereo system along with a shelf full of vinyl records. She perused some of the records, smiling seeing original Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra recordings. There was an antique roll-top desk in the corner and she saw some random notes left there in familiar handwriting. She opened the closest to see pristine suits hanging next to well-worn jeans.
This wasn't a guest room. It was Dave's room, and she wondered why she was in it instead of a guest room.
Dave rapped on the door with a knuckle. At her acknowledgment he opened the door and stepped inside.
Emily was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed with one of his thick photo albums open in front of her.
"Hi," he said, not knowing exactly what to say.
"Hi," she replied lightly, resisting the overwhelming urge she had to throw herself into his arms.
He sat down on the edge of the bed next to her and looked at the album. She had reached a section of pictures from the 1940's, the end of World War II to be exact.
He met her eyes and she teased, "You should know better than to put a profiler in a room full of personal stuff."
He grinned at her levity. "I don't have any more secrets from you, Em."
She bit her bottom lip, and he could see the questions stirring in her mind and he prodded, "Ask."
"How long have you known, about... us?"
He grinned, "Since the moment I met you."
"So this whole time we've been working together, since you came back to the BAU, you knew?"
"Actually we met before I came back to the BAU."
"When? I would have remembered."
He reached over and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Maybe, but you were only four so maybe not."
"Do you remember going to a wedding in Italy when you were little?"
Emily dropped her eyes and thought hard for a moment. "Yeah, I think so. A friend of my mother's got married. I was one of their flower girls."
"I was there. I was friends with the father of the groom. The wedding was held at my villa outside of Florence."
Dave pulled the album towards him and flipped a bunch of pages until he found what he was looking for. He turned it back towards her. "Here. It's just a little place."
Emily looked at the pictures of the beautiful villa, which was anything but little, and her mind was flooded again with memories, although these were most definitely her own.
Her dress was itchy and her mother kept telling her not to get her tights dirty and to be a lady. She didn't want to be a lady she wanted to go play. As the reception got well underway, she and several of the other children began running around and making mischief.
The other children were older than she was however, and she soon found herself abandoned. She wandered over to a corner of the garden and discovered a beautiful marble fountain with bright orange koi swimming in it. She was mesmerized by the fish and happily stood there for long time just watching them. She looked up when a pleasant voice asked her, "Would you like to feed them?"
The man was smiling at her and holding out a cup of little pellets. She took the cup and he lifted her up so she could sit on the edge of the fountain. Side-by-side they sat and fed the koi. Even though he was a stranger, there was something about the man that made her feel safe, and though she was normally shy and quiet, he made her smile and giggle with ease.
Eventually her mother came and collected her as they were preparing to serve the meal. Her mother chided her for not saying thank you to the man and she quickly turned around and instead of merely saying thank you, she uncharacteristically threw herself at him and gave him a big hug that he returned without hesitation.
Throughout the party she saw him talking with other people, and she found herself frowning when she saw him dancing too close to the pretty women at the party.
Her parents were off socializing again and she was miserably sitting alone off to the side when his voice came from behind her and asked, "Would you like to dance?"
She nodded her head wildly and soon found herself picked up in his arms as he danced with her to not one, but three songs.
She had never felt so loved in her entire life.
Emily smiled at the memory. "I remember. Feeding the fish, dancing. Everything. It was you."
Dave turned the page in the album and Emily gasped at seeing her four-year-old self dancing with Dave, the wedding photographer capturing the moment.
Dave reached over and stroked her cheek. His own eyes welling all on their own. "I've known since the moment I saw you walking down the aisle with your little basket of flowers."
Emily's voice was thick with emotion. "Why did you wait so long to tell me?"
"Because I wanted you to become the person you wanted to be without being influenced by the idea that you're destined to be my consort."
"Am I the reason you came back to the BAU?"
"Of course. You didn't really think I was going to let you go hunting serial killers without me did you?"
She chuckled. "Yeah, I guess not." She thought for a moment. "Wait a second. When I first transferred to the BAU Hotch was sure that I had used my mother's influence to get the assignment, but I hadn't. Did you have something to do with it?"
"I had followed your career closely and I knew that you had earned it and I also knew how badly you wanted it, so I made a couple calls and brought your resume to the attention of those that needed to see it. But you got the assignment because you're good, Emily, not because of me."
Emily nodded. She gently closed the album and put it off to the side. Dave could see she was trying to put words together and patiently waited.
She met his eyes and said, "Since we started working together I've been struggling with trying to hide and deny this... connection I have to you. When I'm happy, you're the one I want to share it with. When I'm sad, you're the one to comfort me. It's always you that I want. What is this bond between us?"
"We're two halves of a whole, Em. Consorts, soul mates if you prefer."
"And what about this Beatrice thing? How does that fit into all this?"
"That I don't know. I do know that Tony and Jethro are consorts, just like you and I. I don't know what part the connection between Beatrice and Tony is supposed to play."
"Is it normal for Beatrice to sort of take over completely?"
"Normally it's more memories and emotional connections, though I have seen cases like yours a couple of times before. Both times the returning soul felt they had to complete some task they had left undone. Once they did whatever they came back to do, they retreated and became just like any other reincarnated soul."
"But I have no way of knowing what this task is."
"No, I suspect it probably has something to do with Tony and what happened to Beatrice after he left for Rome though, but I could be wrong."
"I met Jethro earlier. We talked for a while. He suggested that I just give it some time."
"That's probably the best advice."
"So where do we go from here?"
Dave grinned. "I say we go raid the kitchen for some lunch and then finish our tour."
Emily shook her head in exasperation. "That's not what I meant and you know it."
"I know. I've waited this long, Em, I can wait a little longer, 'til you're ready."
He stood and extended his hand. She took it and climbed off the bed. She slipped on her shoes, noticing that he never let go of her hand. With a determined look in her eye she moved closer to him and without waiting for an invitation, kissed him soundly.
When they pulled back, Dave looked poleaxed while Emily had a very pleased with herself grin.
Jethro entered their rooms with two mugs in hand- coffee for himself and warm blood for Tony. He knew Tony hadn't eaten or fed since finding out about Beatrice's reincarnation and had sequestered himself in their rooms, not wanting to see or speak with anyone.
Tony was standing at the window staring out when Jethro pressed a warm mug into his hand. He really wasn't in the mood to eat or feed but he knew that his consort would not take no for an answer. He forced himself to drink.
The dining room was boisterous at dinner time. Emily was getting to meet more members of the caste and their familiars. One nine-year old little girl named Megan in particular monopolizing Emily's attention. Her mother had died of cancer when Megan was four and her father was a local district attorney. It was obvious from the way all the caste members and familiars alike doted on her that Megan was much-loved by all.
The mood in the room was upbeat as stories and tall tales were shared. Or at least it was until Tony and Jethro arrived. Tony entered the room hesitantly. He froze upon seeing Emily and turned and stormed off, the slamming of the door leading outside to the garden heard a moment later.
Emily swallowed hard and quickly stood and followed Tony, Jethro and Dave not far behind her.
It was dark outside but the full moon illuminated the garden in ethereal sort of way. She didn't know how she knew where he would be, but she did. And she found him in that little hidden garden standing in the moonlight and staring down at the statue of the young woman.
Emily didn't say anything, she knew he knew that she was there. She went and sat on the stone bench and waited.
Tony's hands were shoved deep in his pockets as he turned to face Emily. He fell back into his native Italian, his voice low and sorrowful. "I would have thought that after all these years that I would know what to say to you."
"Wait," Dave whispered.
They saw Tony turn towards Emily and heard him start speaking in Italian. Dave whispered a quick translation for Jethro.
Beatrice replied to Tony, "It fills my heart with much joy to see you again, Antonio."
Every fiber of Jethro's body was telling him to go to his consort, but Dave whispered, "Let them go a minute. What happened to Beatrice is Antonio's biggest regret and she is the only one that can give him the absolution that he needs to let go of the pain from that part of his past."
Tony took his hands out of his pockets and went to his knees in front of Emily. He bowed his head and said, "How can you bear to look upon me. I brought you naught but pain and misery and death."
Emily reached out and gently laid a hand on Tony's head. "You gave me naught but love, Antonio. Naught but love."
He turned and allowed his head to lay in her lap as his tears started, all the pain and guilt he had been carrying for centuries coming out. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Shhh... there is naught to be sorry for."
Tony dropped the Italian, "It's all my fault. I left you alone. I should never have left you alone."
It was Emily that replied, "But then you wouldn't be were you are now, and that's right where you're supposed to be, Tony."
Tony sat up and looked at Emily's face. "I would have married her, honored her."
"She knew that, Tony, and she loved you and she loved your child."
"But why did you come back?" he asked, again slipping into his native tongue.
"Because you bear the weight of a burden that you need not bear."
"I do not understand."
Tony ticked his head to the side in confusion.
Emily clarified, "She wants you to let go of the guilt you feel about what happened to her."
"I don't know how."
"If you had known she was pregnant what would you have done differently?"
"I would have stayed and married her, raised a family with her. No matter what my father wanted."
"Every intention you had towards her was borne out of love, Tony, what happened was not your fault."
"I should have been there."
"You had no way of knowing."
"You had no way of knowing."
"I feel like I failed her."
"You didn't. She loved you with her whole heart and she gave her last breath so that your son would have life and your legacy would live on even if you did not return."
Tony's eyes welled with fresh tears. "I watched over him, our son. He grew into a fine man. He was a faithful husband and a loving father."
"Then he grew up to be just like his pappa."
Tony shook his head. "You should hate me."
Emily leaned in and kissed Tony's forehead. "I could never hate you, my Anontio, and I would rather see you happy that I have returned than burdened with such sorrow."
"I just want you to be happy. That's all I ever wanted for you."
Emily smiled. "And that's all she ever wanted for you."
Emily stood and pulled Tony to his feet. She wiped away the wetness from his cheeks and embraced him tightly.
Tony squeezed Emily back and whispered near her ear, "I'm sorry you got so pulled into my pain, Emily."
"I'm not. The more of Beatrice I remember, the more I'm glad. It makes me feel like a part of all this somehow, and not just an outsider."
Tony's guilt and pain lessened and an immense, warm familial affection washed over him.
Tony pulled back and took Emily's face in his hands. "You will always be my family. Always." He pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead, lingering with his lips on her skin.
Tony shifted so his forehead was resting on hers so he could see her eyes and teased, "Think we should tell our nosy consorts that it's okay to come into the garden?"
Emily giggled and Tony snorted back a laugh. Dave and Jethro took that as their cue and stepped into the garden and went to their consort's sides.
Tony looked to Dave with a serious expression and said plainly, "You take care of her."
Dave nodded and replied, "You know I will."
The door clicked shut and Dave flipped the lock before leaning back against the now closed-door.
The lights in the room were off and the room illuminated only by the bright moonlight streaming in through the open curtains.
He could see that Emily was a little nervous as she paced around the room and she swallowed hard enough for him to hear before asking, "So how does this work?
Dave chuckled. "Which part?"
"The consort thing I guess. I honestly don't know if I'm ready to be turned yet, today was a lot to take in."
"Yes, it was." He shoved off from the door and went over to the stereo. A moment later the gentle crooning of Dean Martin filled the room.
He turned back towards Emily. "I can start binding you as my consort without turning you, although that's not without its drawbacks. In a nutshell, I would take you and feed from you, and that would start the process."
Emily stopped her pacing and asked with an amused raised eyebrow, "Take me?"
"You can call it making love or having sex, but it tends to be a little more primal than that."
Emily chuckled. "O-kay. And what do you mean by drawbacks?"
"If we start the consort binding process and something happens to you before we turn you and complete it, it would probably be the end of me. It wouldn't kill me directly, but the pain it would drive me insane and I would most likely end up killing myself or my caste would have to if I were a danger to others."
"Oh, my god." Emily was horrified at the thought.
He stepped closer to her and held out his hand. "It's all right. I don't intend to let anything happen to you so I'm not worried."
She took his hand, amazed at how her body was responding to him, they just fit together like missing puzzle pieces.
He pulled her in close and they danced slowly. He smiled at the memory of that long ago wedding and teased her. "You were so cute at that wedding, every time I danced with another woman you pouted. A little green-eyed monster perched on your shoulder."
Emily chuckled. "Hate to break it to you, but it's still perched there. Especially when random women flirt with you on the job. It made me crazy because I'm not really a jealous person by nature, but when it comes to you and other women I have a hard time reigning it in sometimes. I get almost homicidal."
"Um, hello, consorts."
Emily giggled and laid her head on his shoulder as they danced in the moonlight. Dave just tucked her in closer and closed his eyes, savoring the feel of her against him.
Her voice was quiet as she said, "You're different here."
"I guess I am. I don't have to hide anything here, I can just be myself. Is that a good or bad thing in your opinion?"
Emily lifted her head and met his eyes. "It's a good thing," she whispered before pressing her mouth to his. She pulled back and whispered, "A very good thing," before wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him possessively.
She thought she was ready, thought she was prepared. After all, she was no blushing virgin. But there was something about his touch that made her feel new and inexperienced- and her body liked it.
Their clothes had been ungracefully shed and tossed aside as they made their way to the bed. Emily felt ready to explode, everywhere on her skin that Dave touched with his hands or his mouth felt like it had been kissed by fire. She was riding the razor's edge of orgasm, her whole being taut and looking for release.
That release hit her like a freight train when he stretched himself out on top of her and entered her with one sure stroke. It was all too much and her nails dug deep into his back and her teeth ground into his shoulder as she cried out in pleasure bordering on pain.
He never relented, never stopped moving, just hooked his arm under her leg so he could get inside of her a little deeper. Against her skin his mouth kept proclaiming, "Mine, mine, mine," in his native tongue.
His fingers were bruising, and her nails and teeth had done their own marking. Neither cared. She turned her head to the side, baring her neck and whispered huskily, "Do it. Please. Please."
His fangs were down almost before she finished saying the words.
Dave was lying on his back watching the dawn break through the window. Emily was sprawled out half on top of him, her fingers teasing his chest hair.
"Is it going to be like that every time?" she asked playfully.
He chuckled. "I have no idea. I won't complain if it is."
She giggled then abruptly stopped and pushed herself up to she could see his face, a look of wonder on her own.
"I felt that. Your humor. That you're happy. I felt it."
He nodded gently and reached over to stroke her cheek with the backs of his fingers. "We're on our way to being bound consorts. I do know that our connection will get a lot stronger in the future, especially after you're turned."
She closed her eyes and leaned into his gentle touch, reaching out through the fragile empathic thread for more. The love she found there surprised her and she whispered without hesitation, "I love you, too. I think I've always loved you."
Tony was sitting at the kitchen table across from Gibbs, attacking an enormous piece of pie. "It's been almost three days, I think we need to send in search and rescue."
Gibbs chuckled in to his coffee mug. "James keeps sending in food and water. I think they're fine."
Tony's' expression grew serious. "He hasn't turned her yet." They had all taken their turns walking by the door to Dave's room, listening for Emily's heartbeat.
Gibbs frowned a little. "I know. She wasn't ready."
From behind Tony, Emily replied as she entered the room holding Megan's hand, "I will be soon."
Tony turned in his seat to face Emily. She was rested and relaxed and practically glowing.
Megan practically skipped over to Jethro. "I'm ready."
"Got a sweatshirt? Sunblock? Bug spray?" Jethro teased.
Megan nodded. "All in my backpack by the door."
Emily met Jethro's eyes and asked, "Mind if I tag along? I don't know much about carpentry, but I'm a quick learner."
"Sure. Got a sweatshirt? Sunblock? Bug spray?" Jethro teased and it made everyone laugh.
The three of them piled into the SUV and headed for a local animal shelter. Jethro had volunteered to help with needed repairs; Megan was his eager apprentice.
Emily found herself enjoying Jethro's company. He was kind and gentle with both Megan and the animals and he was quick to smile at both. As she filtered through Beatrice's memories of Tony, she could see how he would be attracted to Jethro.
The shelter director kidnapped Megan for a while so the little girl could go play with a new litter of kittens and it left Jethro and Emily alone together.
She was holding the end of a sheet of plywood while Jethro measured and marked it for cutting. As the tape measure slid shut he asked with a grin, "So do I pass muster, Beatrice?"
Emily giggled. "Damn, and here I thought I was hiding that so well."
"I just... I don't know. I just felt I needed to get to know you a little better. I'm sorry."
"Yeah, it's weird having memories that aren't really mine, but that are. Does that make any sense?
He grinned. "Yeah. So how are handling everything?"
"It's better. I think it was just too much all at once. I just needed time to process it all."
He grinned and teased, "Told ya."
Emily laughed and replied, "Yes, you did. Um, there is something else I wanted to talk to you about."
"The Tony and Beatrice thing."
Gibbs stepped closer to her and rested his hip against the sawhorse. "That was in the past."
"I know. But I just wanted you know that there... there isn't... I mean I... I don't have any feelings for Tony. When I see him or think about him, it's like... well like when you meet up with someone you dated in high school, you're glad to see them and you remember the good times but that's it. Nothing more. Do you know what I mean?"
"I get it."
"Okay, good. Because I didn't want there to be any misconceptions between you and me, I'd like us to be friends."
Gibbs nudged her with an elbow and said simply. "I thought we already were."
They got back to work and cut the plywood to the right size. She held it in place as he screwed it down to the studs.
"So Dave told me that now that we've started the binding process that if something happens to me it... it won't be good for him."
"Yeah, he's right."
"And from what I understand, none of you will turn someone without consent."
"We try not to."
"Can you do me a favor and put out the word that if something does happen to me, that I'm giving blanket consent to be turned?"
"Okay. You got it, Em."
Megan rejoined them and they reached a good place to stop for the day. They packed up the tools and headed home.
"Can we stop and get a slushy?" Megan asked from the back seat.
"Mmm that sounds good. I haven't had one of those in years," Emily said.
"Just what the house needs, you two high on sugar," Jethro teased even as he put on his blinker to turn into the convenience store.
He parked in the only open spot on the far side of the store and Emily and Megan went inside. His gut was twitching and he didn't know why.
Inside the store, Emily knew why. Two men with sawed-off shotguns and ski masks were holding the store hostage. She cursed in her head for not having her weapon with her. She pushed Megan behind her and tried to shield her from the violence as best she could, the little girl absolutely terrified.
One of the robbers was arguing with the clerk, and Emily silently prayed that he would just give them the money before there was bloodshed. It wasn't to be however as the clerk grabbed the robber's gun and they struggled.
The first blast hit the candy rack and Emily quickly pushed Megan behind a sturdy magazine rack and out of the line of fire. She herself wasn't so lucky and took the next blast directly to the chest.
At the first shotgun blast, Gibbs had grabbed the Sig from under his seat and crept to the door to get a handle on the situation, his non-beating heart in his throat at the thought of Emily and Megan both inside.
He heard a second blast, and Megan scream and he didn't hesitate, he threw open the door and in quick succession took out both armed robbers. He quickly ascertained that there were only two before he went to Megan and Emily. Megan was in shock, hiding in the corner, but otherwise uninjured. Emily was lying in a pool of her own blood gasping for air and not able to get any. She was dying.
Dave was sitting with Tony in the library and suddenly doubled over and fell out of his chair. Tony crouched next to him and Dave managed to croak out through his pain, "Emily..."
Gibbs grabbed a handy souvenir t-shirt and pressed it to Emily's chest. "Hang on, I've got you. The ambulance is on its way."
She was fading fast and only one word escaped her lips, "Dave."
"Emily!" he cried out but she didn't respond. When she didn't, Gibbs didn't hesitate, not for a second. He turned her head gently to the side and bared his fangs. The second he sank them in, he could tell she was on the edge of death. He quickly opened up his wrist and pressed it to her mouth.
She woke up with a start back at the estate. The horror of the convenience store washing over her. She looked down at her chest, it was healing. She ached all over and was cold, so very very cold.
Dave was beside her holding her hand and looking haggard.
"Megan?" she whispered, afraid of the answer.
"She's fine. Scared, shaken up, but she's okay."
Emily closed her eyes, tears of relief filling them. She was shivering and Dave stood and quickly put another blanket on top of her.
He slipped underneath the covers next to her and gently pulled her close.
When she felt his arms around her, she broke and started crying. In between her sobs and shivers he managed to decipher, "I'm sorry, so sorry... it was supposed to be you. I wanted it to be you."
"Shhh... it doesn't matter. You're here and that's all that counts. I love you and it almost killed me because I thought I lost you."
"I'm so cold."
"Shhh... I know. It'll get better."
Dave had gotten her into a hot shower and cleaned the blood and grime from her body. James had quickly changed the bedding and left warm blood for them both.
Jethro and Tony were pacing in the hallway outside Dave's room. Jethro particularly distraught.
Tony pulled his consort into a tight embrace. "You did the right thing."
"I know. And she consented. I just..."
"What if I didn't do it right?"
Tony gave Jethro a squeeze and said, "You did it perfectly. She's here and going through the same change we all went through."
"It shouldn't have been me."
"But it was. And she couldn't have had a better sire."
Dave stuck his head out the door and gestured, "You two want to say hi?"
The hot shower and feeding had helped Emily. She was back in bed under a mound of blankets and wearing three pairs of socks and Dave's bulkiest sweatshirt and pants.
Tony sat next to her without hesitation. "How you feeling?"
She gave him a tired smile. "Did I ever mention how much I hate being cold?"
Tony chuckled. "That'll pass, I promise."
Emily turned her attention to Jethro who was standing silently by the door. "Thank you. I... just... thank you."
Jethro nodded and swallowed hard to hide his emotions.
Dave said from the foot of the bed, "That goes double for me, Jethro. If you hadn't turned her..."
Dave nodded. "We're all family."
Dave was looking out the window, watching Megan and Emily play with the two dobermans in the grass, comical to see the two fierce-looking watchdogs acting like puppies with Megan. He was glad that Megan was such a resilient kid, and spending time with Emily and seeing that she was okay was going a long way to helping her put the incident behind her.
He felt Tony step up behind him and heard the other man chuckle. "Those two are double trouble, and I'm not talking about the dogs."
Dave looked at Emily a little sadly. "She wanted to wait to be turned until after she had harvested some eggs so we could have had children in the future."
Tony's hand came to rest on Dave's shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"What's done is done. She's here and we're together and that's all that matters."
Their bags were packed and in the car that would take them to the airport. Their goodbyes for the most part had been said, except for Tony.
They found him outside near the car, his expression a little sad. He pulled Emily into a tight hug and said, "I wish you didn't have to leave so soon."
"Me too, but duty calls. You know how that goes."
"Yeah, we'll be back in a couple of days, too." He lowered his voice to a whisper and added, "Do me a favor and keep in touch with your sire, it's important to him."
"I will, I promise."
Emily and Tony separated and Tony stuck out his hand to Dave. "Take care of each other."
"Of course. We'll see you soon, Tony."
The same small charter jet was waiting to take them home. Dave laughed out loud when the ever eager flight attendant asked Emily if she would like a glass of wine and she replied adamantly, "No. No, thank you. You wouldn't believe the trouble I got into the last time."
They had been in the air a little over an hour. Dave was in the seat next to her, dozing with his long legs stretched out in front of him. Emily was casually flipping through a bridal magazine that she found in the plane's stack of periodicals. They had already discussed getting married in vague, non-time-specific terms. And though Emily had never been one to plan out her dream wedding, she already knew exactly what she wanted. And really, how hard could re-creating that wedding from her childhood be? Dave had pictures after all.
The flight attendant approached with a brown paper wrapped parcel in hand. "Miss Prentiss? Mr. DiNozzo asked that I give you this once you were halfway home."
She took the parcel and said, "Thank you."
The attendant nodded and left her to open it. She untied the string holding the paper and opened it to see the painting of Beatrice sitting under the tree with her blue flowers in hand.
There was a note tucked inside and she opened it to see Tony's handwriting:
I thought you should have this.
Dave shifted and opened his eyes, sensing her emotions running amok.
Gently he said, "I wondered if he was going to do something like that."
"He's saying goodbye to her."
Dave reached over and took Emily's hand. "No, to the past."
Emily turned and met his eyes for a moment then turned her attention back to the painting. She nodded with a little smile.
They still had about forty minutes left in the air. Emily had stowed the painting safely away and had flipped up the armrest between them and was cuddling against Dave, his arm around her.
They were relaxed and mellow and Emily was being a bit silly. She teased, "I know where I want to go for our next vacation."
He chuckled. "That can be arranged."
"Good, I want to feed the fish."
Dave snorted, "Guess I better call and have them put some water back in that fountain then. And you know, maybe some fish."
Soon enough they would have to put on the masks of Prentiss and Rossi, but for now they still had a little time to be just Emily and Dave. Consorts, together now and forever.
--------------- the end.