Hi everyone! I know it took me FOREVER to post this update. Life just got really hectic out of nowhere but I'm back. Thank you so much to everyone who's still reading/ following this story, and for the amazing reviews and private messages! Thank you for checking in with me. I really appreciate all the support. Y'all really inspire me to write more. Without further babbling, here's Chapter 13! Hope you enjoy!
*Special shout out to thetwit and haileys-jay on Tumblr for hearing all my crazy messy plot lines and helping me choose what content to keep and toss as well as all the love and support from my upsteadofficial family :)
**Please disregard any grammar mistakes - I finished writing at 3am and wanted to get this update out ASAP
Jay was still processing the events of the past few hours and days as he sat in the back of an ambulance with Aislyn safely tucked against his chest. The medics had just left their side, giving them some much needed peace and quiet after quickly examening the sleepy and confused toddler to make sure she had no injuries.
Jay had watched the medics' every move, his eyes checking for any injuries, needing to see it for himself; not losing contact for even a second, his arms never wanting to let her go. His heart had skipped a beat each time the medics had shifted her little body and in return she'd pushed against the hands examining her with unhappy grunts, immediately missing the warmth of her dad's body.
Once they were left to one another's company, it was neither peaceful or quiet by any means - cops and first responders barking out orders in the background, bright lights from all sorts of emergency vehicles lighting up the dark winter night - but for Jay, the moment was perfect. Having Aislyn tightly wrapped in his arms as she drifted in and out of slumber was the most internal peace and quiet he'd had in the past 48 hours. With each quiet breath he counted, he felt another wave of relief crash into him, and that was his peace and quiet right there. Nothing else mattered.
"Dad-da, hom." Aislyn mumbled, her voice laced with sleep, as she shuffled deeper into his comfortable and warm embrace.
"You want to go home, huh, Ace?"
"Mhm…" She nodded, barely able to keep her eyes open. "I miws mom-ma."
"I know, baby. I know." Jay whispered reassuringly as he tightened the blanket around Ace and put a soft kiss on her messy blonde hair. "We're gonna go home to mommy soon."
"I sweep sweep wif Mistew Beaw." He chuckled at the innocence of the question. After all the fear, the stress, the worrying that lead to this moment… Hell just mere minutes ago he had been about to spiral down a dark path of a future where he never got to hold Ace in his arms again, never got to hear her voice, never got to… But none of that mattered anymore. His daughter was here in his arms, asking for her Mr. Bear, and he'd take this as a win.
Jay was about to respond when a familiar voice pulled him from his thoughts and he looked up to see his unit rounding the side of the ambulance, all of them with smiles on their faces at the sight of Aislyn resting in her father's arms.
"Did someone say Mr. Bear?" Vanessa asked, holding the fuzzy stuffed animal in her hands as they all surrounded the two in the back of the ambulance.
"Mistew Beaw?" Aislyn's head immediately popped up against its place against the crook of Jay's neck as she motioned to turn around in his arms to greet their company.
"No hello to us, Little Halstead?" Kevin teasingly asked, trying to act as normal as possible given their cicumstances.
"Uncl Kev-Beaw!" Aislyn giggled at seeing her family in front of her, sleep long forgotten and replaced by excitement. "Beaw hug! Beaw hug!" She held her arms up, demanding Kevin's famous bear hugs.
At the little girl's request, Kevin's eyes immediately traveled to Jay's, silently asking for permission to hold Aislyn before making any moves. Having watched Jay go through hell for the past days, he wanted to make sure that he wasn't rushing anything, that he wasn't crossing any boundaries too soon. Hell, they'd all gone through their own version of hell; Aislyn meant so much to every single member of the unit. But Hailey and Jay… Kevin had seen a new side to them in the past 48 hours, and he knew it'd take some time before any of them went back to normal.
With a smile and a soft nod, Jay carefully stood up with a blanket clad Aislyn in her arms and lifted her up towards Kevin who quickly reached out to grab the toddler. "Come here, Little Halstead."
"Kev-Beaw!" The group laughed at Aislyn's laughter while her tiny frame disappeared against Kevin's embrace.
"Hey, hey, what about us?" Vanessa asked, mock pouting. "Mr. Bear was really hoping for a hug too."
"Awtie Nessa, Mistew Beaw!" Aislyn shrieked in joy as Vanessa reached over and placed the bear in the toddler's arms.
"Here you go, sweet girl!"
"Tenk yu, Awtie Nessa!"
"You are very welcome, sweet girl." The youngest member of the unit got on her tiptoes and leaned forward to put a kiss on Aislyn's chubby cheeks.
"All hewe! Happy happy!" Aislyn hugged her beloved toy as her eyes moved from her Aunt Vanessa to Aunt Kim to Uncle Adam to Pop Pop Hank, the gears in her head turning as she tried making sense of what was happening. "Thewe a paw-tee?"
"Is there a party?" Adam repeated Aislyn's question with an amused sigh and blinking away the tears of relief in his eyes. "There is if you want there to be one, darlin'."
"Yayy! Paw-tee!" Aislyn cheered again, this time her joyous laughter followed by a big yawn.
"Well, how about we make this a roadtrip slumber party?" Kim quickly came up with an idea. They were all tired and ready to get home to Chicago, and the quicker they got going, the quicker they would get all the Halsteads reunited, and the quicker their unconventional family would truly feel complete.
"Sweep sweep paw-tee!" With Aislyn's demanding cheer, all eyes turned to Hank and Jay for permission for their next move.
"Alright, you heard our girl," Hank shared a knowing look with his detective before addressing the rest of his unit with a rare smile on his lips. "Time to head back to Chicago."
"Yayyy! Lew go!" And with Aislyn's happy and sleepy giggles, they headed towards their cars. There were still so many questions to be answered and consequences to be dealt with, but for now, they would set all those aside and focus on the good.
They had decided to split into two cars for their return: Kevin, and Adam taking Kevin's car back to the city while Hank drove the remainder in Kim's since she already had a car seat in hers. The car ride back was so much different than the one driving over, so much more relaxed. As promised, Kim and Vanessa had delivered on their roadtrip slumber party: playing some of Aislyn's favorite tunes from her favorite cartoons and singing along. While neither adult cared for the high pitched happy music filling the small space of Kim's car, especially the repetitive tune of Baby Shark, Aislyn's contagious laughter was a different type of euphoric music to their ears. Even Hank had joined in on some of the sing along, which had lasted maybe twenty minutes before the soft rocking of the car ride had lulled the already exhausted toddler to sleep.
Some quiet chatter and a short while later, Vanessa and Kim had joined Aislyn in dreamland as well, leaving Hank and Jay to take on the rest of the drive. Jay not taking his eyes off of the sleeping toddler's reflection on the rearview mirror. "Doesn't seem real yet, huh?" Hank's deep voice cut through the silence of their ride, receiving a heavy sigh from Jay in response.
"I…" Whatever words Jay wanted to speak, they all died in his throat before he could speak them. "I just…" A moment of silence fell as Jay tried to gather his thoughts into something cohesive.
There were so many things going through his head, just so much happening.
"Remember that case we caught five years ag?" He finally managed a full sentence. "Sean Wade? His father Latrell?"
"Mhmm, yea." Hank grunted an affirmative response. "The one who walked on a mistrial ruling from lack of evidence." Jay nodded at his boss's elaborating words, not that he needed to be reminded of the outcome he had been so relieved to receive back then.
"On our drive here," He continued slowly, Hank listening attentively, giving his detective all the time he needed to get his words together. "I thought about that night I came to your office about the Camero from Latrell's shop." He took a deep breath and shook his head at the unforgettable memory that he had replayed in his head over and over again. "About what Latrell did. The lines. The limits. What I would have done." That last part made Hank momentarily move his eyes from the road to the rearview mirror to meet his detective's eyes still fixed on the reflection of the sleeping toddler on the backseat.
"And?" His gruff voice encouraged Jay to continue.
"I get it now. Why he did it. Why you did what you had to do back when… " He didn't have to speak the fallen Voight's name or what happened to him to make his point. "For years, what I would have done had always been a hypothetical in my head, you know. Trying to understand what a father should do. What a father would do." Speaking his thoughts outloud, he wondered why he ever judged Hank or Latrell for making the decisions they had made for their kids back then. "And in theory I thought I unedrstood back then too. I didn't agree, but I thought I got it." He paused for a moment as the night's events flashed back in his head once again. "Then tonight happned…" He shook off the flashbacks. "Tonight it got so clear to me that I would have done the same, crossed every single line if I had to." He admitted with a sigh. "Had things gone different tonight, had anything happened to-" He closed his eyes and rubbed his face, the still raw fear of the thought clouding his thoughts. "I would have done everything in my power to get justice, Serge." As Jay's words hung in the air between them, both men knew that the kind of justice he was talking about wouldn't have been the by the book kind and he wouldn't have had any regrets.
"Let me ask you this, Jay: Everything that happened tonight, will you be able to live with it for the rest of your life?"
"I didn't care what happened as long as Aislyn came back home."
"Then that's all you need." He offered some peace of mind. "It's over, Jay. We got her back." Silence fell once again as Hank let his words sink.
"God, Serge," Jay took a deep breath. "I just can't stop thinking about what she might have witnessed, what this is gonna do to her. What-" The frustration and fear were thick in his voice before Hank cut him off.
"I know, son, and we will deal with things if and when we have to, but that's not what right now's about."
"What ifs will eat you alive, Jay." Hank interrupted him once again before he could continue. "Just for tonight, let them all go. Take our girl home, be with your family, and get some rest. This unit has survived so much together. We will do it again."
Both men knew that there was still a lot of work to be done before their lives resembled what it used to be 48 hours ago. Every single person in the unit had gone through their version of hell at the possibility of losing their youngest member, and they all needed to heal their hurt and fear. But no matter what, they'd do it together, and for now, that would be enough to make it through one more day.
It was around 4:00am when Jay carried a sleeping Aislyn into their house to be met with Will's happy, relieved, and tear stained face. "Oh, thank God!"
"Shhh…" Jay whispered as he quietly kicked off his boots and moved into the house.
"Sorry." Will immediately whispered an apology and closed the short distance between himself and his brother. "Is she okay?"
"So far so good." Jay softly answered with a deep silent sigh while his brother gently took off Aislyn's shoes and set them aside. "Medics cleared her on the scene and she seems to be her bubbly self but…" The older Halstead didn't need the words.
"Don't worry. I'll talk to Dr. Charles and get the names of some pediatric psychiatrists." Will quickly locked the door behind his brother and followed behind him into the house.
"That'd be good. You know. In case..." Jay's words trailed, his voice slow and shaky still, not taking his eyes off of the sleeping toddler in his arms, almost as if scared that if he took his eyes off of her for a second she'd disappear.
His body was physically there, standing by the foot of their staircase, holding onto his daughter who was safely wrapped in a thick wool blanket with Mr. Bear in her arms and tucked against his chest, but his mind…
"We'll deal with it." Will's voice momentarily pulled him back to reality. "Whatever we have to do, we'll deal with it together."
"Yea…" He took a deep breath, trying to shake off the worst case scenarios of the consequences of the night's events running in the back of his head. "How's Hailey? Is she okay? The babies?" He changed the topic even though it was no less stressful a topic with everything that had happened in the past 24 hours.
"They're all okay." Will quickly answered reassuringly. "Hailey's asleep. The sedatives Dawn prescribed kicked in around midnight so I didn't want to wake her up until you got here." It took Jay a minute to process the words. "The twins seem to be doing well as well. Healthy steady heartbeats on everyone."
"That's good." Another deep sigh. "That's good."
"It is, Jay." The older Halstead put a reassuring hand on his brother's shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze. "Aislyn's back home. Hailey and the twins are doing fine. All of this is really good, Jay."
"Should take Aislyn to Hailey and get some rest. You all had a long few days."
"Yea, yea I should do that." Jay nodded, turning towards the stairs as Will moved to turn off the lights downstairs before he followed behind them up the stairs as quietly as possible.
When they reached the top of the stairs, Will paused to look at his brother before he took a right toward the guest room. "Hey, get some rest, okay Jay? I'll be down the hall if you need anything, okay?"
"Thanks, Will, for-"
"No need. You know what mom used to say. Thank yous are for strangers. We are family." He offered his younger brother a warm smile. "I love you, man, now go be with your girls."
"Good night, WIll."
"Good night, Jay." And with their good night wishes spoken in the dark, they headed towards their rooms for some much needed sleep.
Jay was finally about to walk into their bedroom when Aislyn softly stirred in his arms with the movement of his arm pushing down at the door handle. "Dad-da hom?"
"Yes, baby, we are home." He answered as he paused before pushing the door open.
"Mom-ma?" Aislyn sleepily mumbled and rubbed her eyes.
"Mommy's sleeping inside."
"I waw mom-ma."
"I know, baby girl. We'll go wake her up to say hi, but we have to be quiet until we get to her side, okay?"
"I miwss mom-ma." Aislyn nodded before dropping her head back onto the crook of her father's neck where she was snoozing merely seconds ago.
"And mommy missed you, baby." Jay put a soft kiss on Aislyn's chubby cheek. "We all did." He whispered the last part for only himself to hear and finally pushed the door open.
Jay held his breath as he quickly closed the short distance between the door and their bed in the dimly lit room, the soft warm light of the single night light plugged on the wall by their door illuminating his path to the empty spot next to his wife. He moved very slowly and gently as he took a seat on his side and placed Aislyn on the tight yet cozy spot between his body and Hailey's sleeping form curled under the covers.
"Caw I wakey mom-ma?" Aislyn asked as soon as she got comfortable in her spot, her Mr. Bear tucked into her side with her one hand tightly holding Jay's hand and the other reaching out to touch her mom's cheek, waiting for her dad's permission
"Go ahead, baby, but softly, okay?"
"Deaw!" She gave him a firm nod and a strong hand squeeze before turning her attention back to Hailey.
Jay watched the scene before him with the biggest smile on his face and unshed tears in his eyes. His heart was warm and beating fast in anticipation for Hailey to wake up to their daughter's sleepy and smiley face. He wanted to memorize every second of this moment. The way Aislyn held onto his hand with one hand and placed her other on Hailey's cheek… The way she leaned in and put a wet kiss on her mom's forehead… The way she giggled in excitement when Hailey mumbled and stirred…
"Mom-ma wakey!" She giggled in excitement, no hint of sleepiness in her now extremely giddy mood.
"Mhmm…" Hailey mumbled a sigh, shifting closer towards Jay and Aislyn but continuing her light slumber. Jay chuckled through glassy eyes at how normal things felt that second, for the first time in what seemed like forever, as Hailey instinctually pulled Aislyn into her chest and her hand reached out seeking the familiar presence of his body, almost as if this was just another lazy Sunday morning in bed.
"Dad-da hewp wakey mom-ma!" Aislyn strongly tugged on his arm, pulling him even closer, closing the very small space that had opened up by Aislyn snuggling into Hailey's embrace, before turning to her mom to continue her attempts at waking her up. "Mom-ma! Com on! Wakey!" She leaned to place more butterfly kisses on Hailey's face, her cheeks, her nose.
"Hails," Jay carefully shifted his body so he could wrap his free arm around his girls and leaned over to join Aislyn in trying to wake Hailey up with soft kisses. "Look who's home."
"Mom-ma! Mom-ma up!" She called again, louder, more cheerful, and at Aislyn's loud and happy laughter, Hailey finally opened her eyes to meet the smiling greens and freckled cheeks of her daughter and she needed a minute to proess that this was not just a dream.
Hailey had thought it was just a dream the first time she'd heard the familiar giggly voice calling her name from a distance. She'd thought it was her mind playing a cruel game, a sleep deprivation and medicine induced fever dream, but then she'd heard her again. This time louder, closer. It had sounded so real but she still hadn't been convinced that she was awake. Ever since Aislyn's abduction, every moment Hailey had closed her eyes she'd seen Aislyn face, heard her cheerful laughter, replayed their last morning goodbye over and over again that she just couldn't have been able to bring herself to believe that it wasn't just a dream. She just couldn't, because she knew if she had opened her eyes to an empty bedroom, the pain would have been unbearable. So she'd kept her eyes closed and waited for the sleep to pull her back into the foggy haze of nothingness.
But instead of being lulled back to sleep, she had felt a strong arm around her waist pulling her close, and Jay's voice joining Aislyn's calls. "Hails, look who's home."
Could it really be?
"Mom-ma! Mom-ma up!" And with that last cheerful call, Hailey opened her eyes to meet the set of greens she had spent the past few days terrified she'd never get to see. "Yay, mom-ma up!" Aislyn announced with a proud smile on her face and if she wasn't awake before, she was awake now.
"Oh my god!" Hailey whispered as tears filled her eyes and she attempted to sit up as quickly as her belly let her with Aislyn tightly wrapped in her arms.
"Hey, slowly." Jay immediately moved with his wife, moving his arm to support her belly and pull her up against the headboard.
"Why mom-ma cwy?" Aislyn asked with a concerned look, placing her tiny hand against Hailey's tear strained cheek. "Mom-ma goowd?"
"Mommy,'s good, baby." Hailey sniffled back her tears with a big smile and tightened her hold around Aislyn. "Mommy's really good now that you're home. I just missed you so much."
"I miws you too, mom-ma!" Aislyn moved her arms back around Hailey's neck and gave her a wet kiss on the cheek before turning to her dad and motioning for him to lean closer for his. "And dad-da!" She added before giving Jay an equally wet kiss which received the biggest set of smiles from her parents.
"And let's not forget Mr. Bear, right?" Jay held up his daughter's beloved teddy bear that had fallen between them when they'd moved on the bed and placed it back into her expecting arms.
"Mistew Beaw!" Aislyn cheered. "Tenk wu, dad-da." She gave her dad a polite smile which quickly turned into a big yawn.
"Anything for you, princess." Jay pulled both his girls close against his chest, Hailey snuggled deep into his side, and Aislyn curled in her arms; his one hand protectively resting on top of Hailey's on Aislyn's back, the other over her belly, over their twins. "Anything for my favorite people."
"I so happi..." Aislyn sleepily mumbled as she burried her face into the crook of her mother's neck and closed her eyes. Blissfully content to finally be in her parents' comfortable and safe arms with Mr. Bear tucked by her side, she was ready to embrace the sleep taking over her once again as her parents watched her every move.
As Aislyn's soft breathing turned into quiet snores, Jay and Hailey finally looked away from their daughter's sleeping form and their eyes locked for a silent conversation. Neither needed words to feel what the other was feeling, what the other was thinking and they knew they were both on the same page. There was so much they'd have to talk about, so much they'd have to do, but for now, they'd all give into their physical, mental and emotional exhaustion from the past 48 hours, and cherish the peace and comfort of each other's arms. Whatever life still had in store for them, all that mattered was that their family was finally complete again, and when the time came, they'd face it all together, as one big family.
Finally the long anticipated chapter's here! Aislyn's home and in her mother's embrace. I'm planning on continuing this story a few more chapters to address the aftermath of Aislyn's abduction and how the Halsteads and their Intelligence family adjust to their new normal as they prepare for the arrival of the twins. That being said, the next chapters are a work in progress so if there's anything specific you'd like to read, let me know in the reviews or shoot me a message! Each review and message means the world to me so send them my way. Until the next chapter, as always, stay happy, healthy, safe and kind!