AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm sure this is a bet of a shock- two stories from me in one day, especially after I disappeared for so long. Well, just the same, here it is. I hope you enjoy it. Feedback is always appreciated.
TIMELINE: Right after PENELOPE.
On the first day of her weapons training, the instructor, a big man in his late fifties named Horace Dorsey had put his hands on his hips and said, "If there's one thing I want everyone in the room to take out of this room, it's that one should never ever kill lightly."
Do not kill lightly.
Those words had stuck with her.
Bad guys killed with wild abandon. Sure most of them started with fear, but once that first murder was out of the way, then it became easy.
Then it became a drug.
One they took lightly.
Or so it was said.
They also said that good guys had trouble killing.
And the moment they started seeing death as just another day at the office, well then the line got crossed.
Then there became no line.
"Are you all right?" the man in the chair asked her. His legs were crossed and he was holding a notebook on his lap. The ballpoint pen he was using was the kind that had wet ink. He was the kind of man who liked to enjoy the fancy style of his writing.
He was impressed with his writing.
He was impressed with himself.
Either that or he hated having to exert a lot of force on a pen.
She wasn't exactly a profiler.
"I'm…okay," Jennifer Jareau said slowly. She was wearing jeans and a black spaghetti strap shirt. Her hair was up and she too had her legs crossed. Her arms, well she was making a conscious effort to keep them uncrossed. After all, she didn't want him to think she was putting up emotional walls.
Or something like that.
"You don't sound okay," he replied. He was Doctor Benjamin Macy, her FBI assigned shrink.
Apparently seeing the head doctor was standard protocol after a fatal shooting. Even a clean one.
It was especially warranted for a first kill.
Hotch had been on the ball about this one. Sometimes they could go a few days, even weeks before being forced to talk to the shrink, but Hotch hadn't given him more than a weekend.
"In Monday," he'd told her. "First thing Monday. You don't work until you talk to Macy, understood?"
And she had nodded because for once, talking to someone seemed like a good idea.
At least in principle.
But now, sitting across from Macy, a man with a passive, but stern face, she couldn't think of a single word to say.
And so she decided to let him lead the conversation.
Maybe he'd ask the right question. The one that would let everything that was stirring around inside her out.
Whatever question that might be.
"Agent Jareau, this really works better if you open up. Talk to me."
She nodded. "I know."
"Then?" And now he was smiling, because he knew this drill well. FBI agents, well they tended to be a stubborn and strong lot. Too strong. Too used to not showing weakness.
"I don't…I'm not sure what you want me to say."
"I don't want you to say anything. At least not anything specific. And I don't want to tell you what to say. I want you to talk to me."
He chuckled. "Jennifer, may I call you Jennifer?"
She was about to answer that she would prefer JJ, but quickly decided not to. JJ was a name she permitted her friends and family to call her.
Not her shrink.
"Sure, Jennifer is fine."
"Okay, Jennifer, since it's clear that you'd like me to lead the conversation, I will. You've had a rough year, yes?"
"Rough year?" She nodded. "I guess you could say that."
He opened up a file. Her file. "Between what happened in Georgia and what happened last week…"
"Yeah, like you said, rough."
"You don't really want to talk about Georgia?"
"Perfect," Dr. Macy smiled. "So let's."
She laughed. "You'd fit in great with my group. Especially Hotch."
"No, I'd imagine I'd annoy Agent Hotchner. I already do. Everytime he sees me walking down a hall, he goes in the opposite direction. And he's not terribly subtle about it, I must say. "
JJ laughed. She knew that was what he was going for, a way to lighten the mood, an in that he could use to get her talking.
No, she decided, she had been right the first time.
Ben Macy would fit in wonderfully with the BAU.
If all them didn't hate shrinks with something like a blind tearing passion.
"Okay, so Georgia. I understand from your report that you and Dr. Reid split up. I also understand that you harbored – and maybe still do harbor - a lot of guilt for that."
"What makes you say that?"
"Your report. Yours was the only one – including Dr. Reid's – that mentioned splitting up. Yours made it clear that you were the senior agent and you also stated 'I take full responsibility for what occurred'."
"I assume you're aware that Agent Hotchner added a note to your report, refuting your responsibility in Dr. Reid's kidnapping."
"I'm aware. He and I argued…debated…" she chuckled. "Argued. We argued about my report. He refused to sign off on it. I refused to amend it. We finally settled on him adding that note."
"But you still take responsibility?"
"Yes. I was the senior agent. Reid's been in the field longer, but I've been in the FBI longer and…"
"And he's just a kid."
"No, yes. Not exactly. I mean he is a kid."
"And you're not?"
"No," she said immediately.
"He's just four years younger than you and you have six months more service than he does. I wouldn't call you an old-timer, Jennifer."
"Maybe not, but sometimes I feel like I've been doing this job for…"
He nodded. "I understand. I used to be in the field. Many years ago. Almost ten. I even consulted with the BAU on a few cases. Rossi and I had a few arguments." He laughed. "You think he's a pain in the ass now? He's actually tamed down a bit."
"You sound like you admire him," JJ noted.
"I do. What your team – what you do…"
"My team. I'm not a profiler."
He nodded. "We'll get to that, but I want it said – what your team does is nothing short of amazing. Or psychologically horrifying."
"Tell me about it."
"Actually, I'd prefer you tell me about it."
"Okay." She took a breath. "When we were in Georgia, right after Reid and I - Reid really - realized that Tobias was the killer, he said 'let's split up' and I started to protest, but I didn't. I don't know why I didn't…"
"Hindsight. They say it's twenty-twenty, but it's actually worse than that. It's perfect. It gets everything right. But that's hindsight. Tell me, Jennifer, would Dr. Reid have listened if you had told him 'no'?"
"Probably not. He was in the moment. So was I. It was my -"
"Mistake. Jennifer, they happen," Macy said. Then, when he saw her open her mouth to protest, he held up his hand. "I know, I know, in our job, mistakes are fatal. Trust me, Jennifer, I've heard that one about six billion times."
"I know it is and you know it is, but you have to also know that after awhile, that becomes an excuse. Sometimes, mistakes happen. Until we stop being human, it's a reality we have to accept."
She nodded slowly. Then offered, "You know that was the first time I ever discharged my weapon. I mean outside of the range."
"I do. Pretty amazing shot you are, too. Three shots, three dogs dead."
"First in my class on the range," she said, though he could tell immediately that she wasn't bragging so much as presenting a fact.
"Then I guess my question is, where did a girl like you – and I mean no offense by that – learn how to shoot a gun the way you do?"
She shrugged. "Honestly, I don't know. Until the Academy, the only gun I'd ever fired was my brother's b-b gun. And I shot him in the foot."
"I bet he loved that."
"He'll never let me live it down."
"That's family for you. My brother still reminds me of how I stole his girlfriend in the third grade."
They shared a laugh and then, "As far as how, I guess I just paid attention to my instructor when he was showing me how to shoot. I even went to the range three times a week. I wanted to be the best at what I was doing and so I studied everything about well…everything."
"You did very well. Fifth in your class."
"I wanted higher."
"Fifth is pretty damn good."
"True, but I wanted first."
"Fifth hasn't stopped you from reaching your goals."
She smirked. "I wanted first."
They stared at each other for a long moment. Finally, he nodded.
"Understood. Okay, so you shoot your weapon for the first time…"
"I didn't want to kill them. I've always liked dogs. Derek – Morgan – he has a dog. Clooney."
"Have you seen Clooney since what happened in Georgia."
"Yeah. For about a week he and I carpooled, while his SUV was in the shop. I picked him up at his place. The first time, well Clooney, he's nothing but a big love monkey. He'll lick you to death if you let him."
"But it was hard? The first time?"
"Yeah. He came running at me and I think maybe I cried out. I got out of that house so fast…"
"So what changed?"
"Derek made me come back in. Forced me to let Clooney lick me. "
"And that worked?"
"Sometimes you have to just get back on the horse again."
JJ chuckled. "Got any more clichés, Doc?"
"Oh, plenty. But tell me, do you think Georgia is behind you now? Now that you've dealt with your fear of dogs and now that Dr. Reid has fully recovered from…his PTSD?."
"I think I'm okay with it now. That's the best I've got."
"All right, then let's move on. Shall we talk about what happened last week or would you like to speak about your place in the BAU first?"
"Can we skip the BAU stuff?"
"No," she sighed. "Okay, last week then."
"How are you feeling?"
He laughed. "Didn't we go through this ten minutes ago? I ask you how you are, you say okay, I say you don't look okay. How about we try something else. How about we try you telling me how you actually are."
She didn't say anything for a moment, then finally. "Nothing I say in here leaves in here, right?"
"Specifically, no. I do have to make a report, but I won't mention anything you say in detail."
"Okay." She took a breath. "I felt like I was going to throw up after I shot him and then that night, when I got home…" She stopped and for a moment did nothing, but stare at her hands. Then, much more quietly, "I did. For almost an hour, I think. I was lying on the floor in my bathroom and I couldn't stop. Pretty pathetic, huh?"
"No, Jennifer, that's actually pretty reassuring."
She looked up at him. "I don't –"
"Killing isn't something you should ever take lightly."
"Dorsey," she murmured.
"Old Horace?" Macy laughed. "Yes, he's who I got that from as well. He's been teaching that course for thirty years, I think. Maybe longer. I remember when he said it that I laughed. The idea of pulling out my piece, going flying in gunslinger style, well it sounded pretty cool."
"It's not cool," she whispered.
"No, it's pretty Goddamned horrifying, isn't it?"
She nodded. "That man isn't here anymore because of me." She looked up at him. "And that's a good thing because he was a terrible human being, but…I…I don't regret…"
"You have no idea if you regret it or not," Macy pointed out.
"I'm glad he's dead. This world, it's a better place without him."
"And Penelope, I don't know if you've ever met her, but she's one of the most special people…if she wasn't here…well this world would be so much less. She's…she's amazing."
"You sound like you adore her."
"I do. She's like a sister to me."
"Okay, so then what's the problem?"
"The problem is, there's a part of me that wishes it had been Hotch who pulled the trigger instead. Or Rossi. Or Morgan. Anyone but me." She paused and then added. "And that makes me weak."
Macy leaned towards her. "No, it doesn't, Jennifer. You did what you had to do. You fired your gun when you had to. Hating that you caused a man to die does not make you weak and if anyone ever tells you otherwise, they're in the wrong line of work."
"But now that I know what it feels like, now that I know how much I…what if I can't do it next time?"
"A valid concern. Tell me, Jennifer, why did you kill that man?"
"Because he had to be stopped."
"Is that it?"
"Because he hurt my family."
"Because I had no choice."
"You see, that's the thing. You didn't kill arbitrarily. You didn't kill in a situation where you could have just wounded. You did it because you had to. Because you had no choice. That's the important point. You did what had to be done. And what you're doing right here, these concerns you have, that tells me all I need to know. It should tell you all that you need to know as well."
"Well tell me," she practically begged.
"You're a good person, Jennifer. And a good agent and a good friend."
She smiled slightly and made a quick motion with her hand, to wipe tears away from her eyes, he knew.
A first kill, well it always did this to agents. They weren't used to the emotions, they didn't expect the fear.
And they were scared to death of becoming the monster that they'd just put down.
Because they'd all heard it said that the first kill was the hardest.
And good people never wanted killing to become easier.
Well the secret was, for good people, it never did become easier.
"Now, how about we discuss your place in the BAU."
"Good," he said. "I take it you're ready then?"
"You're not a profiler."
"Are you aware that Agent Hotchner has offered to recommend you into the next profiler class?"
"Is there a reason you've declined it? You know that many agents would kill for an opportunity like that."
"No yes or no answer for that one?"
"Funny and no, I mean yes. I mean, I'm aware and I declined it because I serve another purpose on the team."
"Ah, direct hit."
"No, I'm not the den mother, but I do take care of my team."
"Jennifer, who makes the travel arrangements for the team?"
"Who makes sure all paperwork for per diem and other such things is completely taken care of?"
"You're aware there's an actual office in the FBI that can handle and arrange all of those things, right?"
"Yes, I just…I want to make sure…"
"You want to make sure your team is taken care. Understandable. Mothers do that as well."
"I wish you wouldn't call me that."
"Okay, what would you call yourself?"
"The team liaison."
"Is that all?"
"Law enforcement point of contact and media specialist."
"Good titles, but do they really represent all you do for your team."
"I do what they need me to do."
"Do you feel like you're appreciated for it?"
"I don't do it for appreciation."
"That's not what I asked."
JJ sighed. "I think I know…they know…I know…"
"You don't have a clue."
"No," she said. "I do. They're family. They appreciate me like family."
"Okay, I can accept that. Family sometimes takes each other for granted, doesn't realize how much strain they're putting on one member…"
"I don't do it for appreciation," JJ repeated, this time stronger. "I do what I do because they need me to. I do it because my team and I, we're part of something important. Something necessary."
"The good fight."
"But it wouldn't hurt if every now and again, someone said 'well done', right?"
"It happens enough."
"You're quite stubborn, Jennifer."
She smirked. "I've been told that."
"Good, then let me tell you one more thing; you're okay. You know what's important to you. Your team. Your family. They keep you strong. That you know that, it's quite invaluable. As for the things you feel inside you, the fears, even the pain, they're all normal. They're part of the job."
"And the nightmares?"
"I was wondering when you'd bring them up. Yes, them, too. Nightmares, they're part of this job. But what you have to remember is, when you wake up, they're gone. And you're still here."
She let that hang for a moment before finally asking, "So does this mean you're going to sign off on me, that I can go back to work?"
"Yes, on a condition," he replied, picking up a piece of paper. "Tonight, go out for a beer. With friends. Don't talk about work…"
"All of my friends are from work."
"Then make a rule, no shop talk. Enjoys your drinks, remember that you are still just Jennifer Jareau at times. Not Agent Jareau. Trust me, they need that, too."
"Okay, I can do that."
"Then you're free to go." He signed the paper.
"Thanks," she replied, standing up. She reached for her purse and then stopped. "I was right, Doc, you would do great in the BAU."
"I had my chance," he replied. "But this is where I belong. The BAU, well Agent Hotchner made it clear to me in his report that that was where you belong. After talking to you, I have to say, I agree." He offered her the piece of paper, her official clearance to return to work.
"Remember, Jennifer, beer and no shop talk."
"Got it." And with that she exited the room.
He watched her go, watched until the door closed and then with a satisfied smile, he closed the casefile which read: JENNIFER JAREAU.