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Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

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“I heard two rumors about you. One I really hope is true and the other I hope isn’t.”

“Oh really?” Emily closed her locker and looked at Coop. “Do tell.”

“Well firstly I heard that you're actually good at this geometry thing. Is there a chance in hell you'll tutor me?” He asked.

“There's probably a slight chance in hell.” She smiled. “What's the second thing?”

Emily had never experienced high school before moving to DC and coming to Georgetown Day School with Hotch and Jason. It was a big school with all kinds of different cliques. The place could be insane and there were a few times, very few but still more than once, Emily wished for the security of St. Mary’s Ascot. Coop was a new kid too. He was from New York, which was obvious as soon as he opened his mouth.

He’d only lived in DC since summer, like Emily, and was like a fish out of water in school. They had geometry and English class together, plus lunch and study hall on Tuesday and Thursday. Once in a while he sat at her lunch table with Lindsay, Jonny, Hotch, and other people who floated in and out. Coop was good for the shits and giggles and the blah blah blah. Emily definitely liked him.

“The second thing is what does a guy like me have to do to get an adorable girl like you to be mine?”

“Eric…”

“Oh my God,” Coop covered his ears. “My mom is the only person allowed to call me that. Don’t pull an Eric on me, OK? You can do anything you want to me, especially if it’s hot, but you can't do that.”

“I have a boyfriend.” Emily smirked, walking toward the stairwell so she could go to the cafeteria. Lindsay was probably starting to worry about her.

“I heard that. I passed it off as a vicious rumor.”

“Nope.” Emily held up her hand and showed the moonstone ring Jason bought her three months ago for Christmas. “It’s the truth.”

“And he has a good taste. Damn, I can't compete with a guy with good taste. It’s the Gideon kid, isn’t it?”

“It’s the Gideon kid.” Emily repeated.

“Lucky bastard.” Coop mumbled.

“I hope he thinks so.”

“He better cuz you're a prize, Emily.”

“Thanks Coop.” she smiled.

“I hope the fact that we don’t have a future as Hepburn and Tracy won't stop you from helping me in math class. I'm barely pulling a C and there's only one grading period left. My dad is circling like a buzzard, ready to commit me to a summer of books and learning when I had better plans.”

“I’ll help you…it’s not a problem. But if I'm gonna be your tutor you're going to have to take this seriously and put a lot of work in.”

“Do I look like I'm not gonna take it seriously?” Coop asked. Then he grinned. “OK, I'm thinking you shouldn’t answer that.”

“I won't.”

“So you're really dating Jason Gideon?”

“Why are you so surprised?” Emily asked as they walked into the cafeteria. 5th period lunch was always the most crowded. It was Thursday, open-faced turkey sandwich day as Lindsay called it. Emily would probably just grab a grilled chicken salad. She wasn’t one of those girls who only ate green things, and there were a few of them there, but they were always so yummy.

“He's kind of a serious dude.” Coop replied. “I've seen him around.”

It wasn’t hard to see Jason around. He was student council Vice-President and the captain of the debate team. He was also number four in the senior class. Great things were coming his way according to those who predicted that kind of thing. He would be going to American University in the fall, following his father’s footsteps and studying Philosophy.

He was a shining example to both underclassmen and his classmates. And of course everyone knew the story of him being orphaned. That just made all he’d accomplished even greater to the teachers and administration. He was scheduled to read his favorite poem, Dylan Thomas’ I Have Longed to Move Away at the graduation ceremony.

“He's not always serious.” Emily said. That wasn’t quite true but she knew a side of Jason that few people were privy to. He liked it better that way and it suited Emily.

“Coulda fooled me.”

“I'm thinking that wouldn’t be too difficult.”

“Ouch. You really know how to hit below the waistline, Prentiss. It doesn't matter…I adore you anyway.”

They walked over to the table where friends and acquaintances were already sitting, knee deep in regular lunch rituals.

“Hey, I was starting to wonder what happened to you.” Lindsay moved her messenger bag so Emily could sit down.

“I was waylaid by a boy.”

“Ooh, a boy.” Lindsay grinned. “Is he hot? Is he hot for you?”

Emily pointed to Coop, who was already heading for the line and some chicken nuggets. Her best friend laughed.

“Well, one out of two ain't bad…I guess.”

“He’s a good guy.” Emily said.

“Yeah, he's cool. I guess he’s sitting with us now too.”

“I figured he would; I didn’t tell him couldn’t. I'm gonna tutor him in geometry.”

“Does he know you live with your boyfriend?”

“Don’t say it like that. It’s not illicit or anything.” Emily replied.

“Yeah, God forbid.”

“Stop.” She hit her best friend’s shoulder. “I'm gonna grab lunch. Do you guys want anything?”

“Can you bring me some chocolate milk?” Vickie Holloman asked.

She was their friend Jonny McHale’s girlfriend. Vickie was their friend too but Emily probably wouldn’t know her if it wasn’t for Jonny. They seemed like an odd couple, he was the comic book geek who was always drawing and she was the blonde ray of sunshine. They had been together since freshman year, before Emily even went to school there.

“No problem.”

Lunch time was the 45 minutes of the day that Emily actually got to relax. She had an insane schedule and her classes were tough. She loved them but always appreciated this time where she could breathe in the middle of it all. Now all she had to do was get her salad, sit down, and catch up on the day with pals.

***

“Hey, are you OK?”

“I'm fine.” Emily replied, looking up at Jason as he came out of the apartment and joined her on the stoop.

It was just after nine; JJ, Penelope, and Spencer were all in bed. Hotch and Morgan would go by ten. The apartment was quiet but Emily wanted some ‘me’ time so she headed outside. The Palisades was still alive, not hopping like other areas of the city but not pulling in the sidewalks either. She people watched as she smoked one of the Ziganovs from the pack Lindsay gave her.

When there was no one walking down the street, Emily looked up in the lit windows of apartments and houses. She wondered what the lovers, children, and families were in there doing on this chilly March night. The temperatures were hovering somewhere in the mid 40s but winter was on its way out. She sat on a cushion so the cold concrete wouldn’t chill her to the bone. Dressed in track pants, an oversized Harvard University sweatshirt that belonged to her father, and the fuzzy pink slipper socks that Penelope bought her for Christmas, Emily was nice and warm. She felt even better when Jason sat down beside her.

“You were quiet tonight at dinner.” He said.

“Was I? No, really, I'm fine. I'm looking forward to the weekend though I'm sure I’ll be studying on Sunday. We have a European history test next Wednesday. Hotch and I will probably study together. And I need to read more of Wuthering Heights, aka the most boring book ever written.”

“Its not the most boring book but it does come close.”

“Still, the good parts of Heathcliff kinda remind me of you.” she took a long drag from her clove.

Emily didn’t look at him when she said it. Yes, Jason was her boyfriend and yes they both told each other how they felt, but that didn’t always make it easy. She didn’t want to have her heart broken so Emily did her best to stay focused on the reality. The reality was growing up with no parents, raising the little ones as best she could, and doing well in school. Someday, maybe, hopefully, Jason would be all hers. Right now he just wasn’t; that was the reality.

“Oh God,” he groaned but still smiled. “I've been reduced to a Bronte sisters’ creation.”

“Hey it could be worse. Mmm, well not much worse but...you know what I mean. What literary hero or anti-hero would you rather be?”

“I don't know.” Jason shrugged.

“Oh c'mon,” she leaned her shoulder on his. “You started it, Jason, now fess up. Are you a Willoughby or Mr. Darcy? Are you Pip, Lestat, or Puck?”

“I don’t think I'm any of them. Hamlet has always been my favorite.”

“I'm sorry, I can't be Ophelia. She bites it before the last act.”

“His love for her was deep though.” Jason replied.

“I always thought his love for her was convenient.” Emily said.

“Truly?” he looked at her.

“Mmm hmm. She was there and she was in love with him. Hamlet had a classic Oedipus complex and was most likely in love with his best friend.”

“Horatio?” Jason asked.

“Yes.” Emily nodded.

“An Oedipus complex and homosexual tendencies…we should cover him in psych class.”

“It’s just an opinion. You surely have qualities of Hamlet in you; though I don’t think you are more Hamlet than Heathcliff.”

“They both go mad in the end. That’s not making me feel too good right now. I want to be a man who doesn’t go mad in the end.”

“Edward Ferrars.” Emily replied.

“You're really going to make me read Jane Austen, aren’t you?”

“Didn’t you read it in school?”

“We read Pride and Prejudice…I didn’t like it.”

“Me neither.” She crinkled her nose. “Read Sense and Sensibility and tell me if you see what I see in Edward.”

“I’ll add it to my summer reading list. I have twelve books so far; four are rereads.”

“May I submit a challenge?” Emily asked.

“You're good at it so how can I possibly say no.”

“No rereads this summer. I want you to read all new books. They don’t have to be classics or literature or anything like that. Pick up a Robert B. Parker or a Stuart Woods. You might even find Anne Rice enjoyable.”

“That’s two challenges…no rereads and new authors.”

“OK, so I'm submitting two challenges.”

“Well you bring me four books, to replace my rereads, and I’ll read them. Pick any four you want; no matter the genre or the author.”

“What if you think they suck?” Emily asked.

“Even a bad book can still be a good experience. Don’t quote me on that though because I haven’t really gotten to that point yet. I’ll read them anyway; I'm sure you and I have similar tastes when it at least comes to characters that we love.”

“Except Ophelia.” She couldn’t help but smile.

“Except Ophelia.” Jason repeated. He turned her cheek with his finger and gave Emily a kiss. It made him feel so good that he did it again. Jason knew he had to limit how much his lips were on hers if he wanted to keep his sanity. At the same time, a boy would be out of his mind not to want to kiss Emily Prentiss as much as he possibly could. It was a double-edged sword. “I heard you're going to be tutoring Eric Cooper in geometry.”

“Who told you that?” Emily snuck in one more kiss. And then she snuck in another.

“Hotch. He said Coop mentioned it to him in gym class.”

“Yeah, he’s passing but just barely. He needs an extra boost before final report. I think he’s a good kid so I don’t mind helping him out. Expect to see him around here sometimes.”

“Do you think he’ll be able to keep our special arrangement to himself?” Jason asked.

“What special arrangement?”

“We’re a group of minors living in an apartment together. I can't say I’ve kept it secret all these years but…”

“You kept it secret all these years.” Emily finished his thought.

Jason nodded. Emily smiled as she took his hand. She loved how warm it was and how full she felt when she held it.

“I honestly don’t see Coop caring. I think he knows I'm an emancipated teenager; if he doesn’t I’ll tell him. And you guys are my family. I don’t see him running to the Feds with the information or anything. If it makes you feel better though, I’ll just tutor him at his house.”

“No. It’s just weird; I guess I couldn’t expect that we’d all live in secret shadows the rest of our lives. We’re going to make friends and have them over. That’s what I want; that’s why I did this. At the same time, exposing the situation to too many people could be troublesome.”

“I understand.” Emily nodded. “I don’t tell people anything really. If they have questions, they can ask and I’ll answer them. It might be easier when we get the house though. People see a house and they think about a family. It doesn’t matter if ours is a bit unconventional; I still say it’s the best family ever.”

The family had been house hunting and wanted to stay in the Palisades. There were some cute Townhomes and single family dwellings in the area but so far nothing called out to them yet. Emily hoped to have a new place before the start of the next school year. It was hard for seven people, especially kids, to settle while worrying about books, classes, and tests.

Summer was going to be the best time so Emily, Jason, and Dave were working hard to find something that suited them. Even the little ones were helping. Nothing was more adorable than Spencer combing through the real estate section of the Post or Times looking for their dream house.

“Coop coming over will be fine.” Jason said nodding. “I hope you're able to help him with his schoolwork.”

He didn’t want to say he didn’t really like the idea of her spending time with a boy who wasn’t him. She spent time with Hotch and Morgan and Jason never complained. But Hotch thought Coop might like Emily and he also thought that Emily liked Coop. Not like she liked Jason of course but sometimes for boys it was difficult to make the distinction. They'd just made it through the Sarah Bickle debacle…Jason didn’t want anything else standing in their way.

He loved Emily, would always love Emily, and he hoped that she felt the same way. He worried about her age; she wasn’t even sixteen yet. She might wake up one morning and realize there was a whole lot of life to be lived somewhere else. She was fully emancipated, which meant she could come and go as she pleased. She was also a multi-millionaire. He just wanted to love her, protect her, and didn’t want anyone thinking they could take advantage of her.

Not that Emily Prentiss was anything close to a shrinking violet. She could take care of herself. It was her strength and tenacity that got her this far. Jason knew she was there because she wanted to be part of their family. But there was still this nagging in the pit of his stomach worried that their young love wasn’t always going to be part of the equation.

Sighing, he held their joined hands to his lips. He kissed hers and liked the way it made her smile. Then he placed her hand back in her lap. He needed to get inside and do some reading before bed. Time was getting away from him. It would be morning before Jason knew it. Morning was all about getting everyone else ready for the day.

“Come in soon?” he asked, standing up.

“Yeah, I just need a little more fresh air. Its cold but it’s a lovely night.”

“Pop your head in when you come in. I'm just going to be doing some reading.”

“Will do.”

Jason bent to kiss the top of her head and went back into the apartment building. Emily lit another clove from her box. It was just her second; two was OK. It had been a long week and she was glad tomorrow was Friday. In just nine months her life had changed in ways she could hardly describe.

She had a new family, a boyfriend, went to a new school, and was making friends. She wasn’t the same person she’d been before coming to DC on her own and meeting Derek Morgan in that awful alley. Sometimes Emily had to stop, take a breath, look at herself, and remember life before this. Was it smart to keep doing that? She was different, life was different, and she liked it better now.

She still missed her parents. She was still dealing with losing them because she never got a real chance to mourn. She kept busy raising Penelope, JJ, and Spencer. Hers was definitely not the party life, but there was room for that as well.

It was a juggling act and Emily was getting good at passing the things she didn’t care for and making time for the things she did. Now she’d make time for Coop and geometry. Something told her that she was about to embark on another adventure. She smiled just thinking about it.

***