A/n I'm so please with all the positive reaction to this story and the honest feedback from you. Here is the last chapter. Thanks again to you all and to my wonderful beta REIDFANATIC
Disclaimer: Lady Scarlet said she would give me Reid for Christmas. I hope that's not a copyright infringement!
"Don't play with me. I know what happened to you three years ago. I did my homework. That beautiful little girl of yours isn't the flesh and blood child of Dr. Reid. He doesn't deserve either of you. I'll find a way to get Hope and all of us will be a family. Stop fighting against that and just give in. I can protect you and your daughter the way your mother wouldn't let me. I love you Jennifer, more than Dr. Reid ever will."
"No!" She shouted. "I won't let you touch my daughter." She swung her hands up and rammed the business end of the pen into one of his eyes.
He screamed and thrashed knocking her to the ground again. The gun went off with a deafening crash, and she shook her head to clear it. Stern was on the ground. Was he dead? Where was the gun? She looked around frantically. She had to get control of the gun and then she'd worry about Stern.
The gun, there it was under a pine tree, the last rays of light shining off the barrel like a beacon. She stumbled to it and knelt to pick it up in her handcuffed hands. The grip of the gun was still warm from the hands of the Sheriff and she almost threw up. There was a moan behind her and she whirled around. Stern was struggling to his feet.
"Give me the gun little girl." He gasped.
The light was getting so faint, she couldn't tell if he was shot, but there was blood running down his face from contact with the pen. She trained the gun on him with shaking hands. The blood oozing out of the corner of his left eye was black in the fading light.
"You won't shoot me darlin,' put it down and all is forgiven, I promise." He sounded so sincere and caring over his hard and labored breathing that she lowered the gun just a bit.
"That's right girl, just give me the gun."
She lifted the barrel again and cocked the revolver. "Stay back… I'm a federal office and you're under arrest for assaulting a federal officer, kidnapping a federal officer and at least seven counts of first degree murder." Her voice was shaking so badly as to be nearly incomprehensible. "Toss me the keys to these cuffs." She demanded and he laughed.
She pulled the trigger and the shot went over his head. He stopped where he was, swaying on the spot. "Give me the keys, now!" She screamed.
He pulled them out of his pocket and tossed them to her. They arced through the air and fell almost at her feet.
"Stay where you are!" She insisted when he tried to step forward. She bent down trying to keep an eye on him and grab the keys.
"Take it easy Jenny. You know I truly love you." He rushed her, when she grabbed the keys. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion after that. She looked up and saw him rushing her; she swung the gun up and pulled the trigger.
He went down and stayed down that time. She could only stand there and look at him. What if he moved again, what if he was still alive and came after her again. It was like a horror movie where the killer kept coming back again and again.
The keys to the cuffs were hanging from one fist, she hadn't dropped them. It was the hardest thing she'd ever done, but she put the gun down and fumbled with the keys in the near dark till the cuffs dropped off. She grabbed the gun again and went to check on Stern.
"Stay away from him Jenny. Run far away."
It was her mother's voice in her head. "I can't mommy. I have to make sure."
She didn't realize that she was talking to herself in a voice quite like Hope. She edged toward the Sheriff on weak legs. Her heart was pounding and her hands were so sweaty she almost dropped the gun.
"You're weak just like all women. Adam Stern and men like me always win whether you kill us or not."
Michael Van Cott spoke up in her head and she began to shake and stopped dead in her tracks just inches from the Sheriff's head. The sky was completely purple and dark blue. It was getting dark fast. She had to get back to the car. She took a few deep breaths and when Michael Van Cott's voice awoke in her head again she kicked Stern's shoulder. She leapt back as thought scalded by hot water at the contact with his body.
He didn't move and she knelt down to feel for a pulse on his neck. One hand still pointed the gun at him and that hand was still shaking like a leaf in a hard spring storm. His neck was still warm, but there was no pulse. He was finally dead!
She reached around his belt and pulled a flashlight from it. It clicked on strong and bright. She flashed the light around and it found frightened bird on the branch of an American elm tree. It flew away chirping loudly. It was time to get back to the car. She left the Sheriff where he lay, holding the gun in front of her with the flash light bobbing in her shaking hands.
"Ok… here's what I found. I added all the information you gave me from the murders twenty-five years ago and the murder yesterday. I was able to put a together a geographical profile. The bodies were all found in a twelve mile radius from the cabin of the hermit that found JJ's mother, to the first victim found three miles north of the cabin where the guys found his journal." Garcia's face looked like she'd just sucked on a lemon and Reid wanted to laugh in spite of the situation. "So what I found was a series of caves right there." She pointed to the map that was up on her screen.
"I think that's his hideaway. There used to be an old mine shaft up there as well and a very old trail. It's marked on the topographical map I have. It's exactly three miles on Route 66 from Stern's cabin. I have no idea if it's even visible from the highway. "Garcia finished.
"Well… there's no need for me obviously." Reid said with a sad smile.
"You came to the same conclusion," Garcia asked her eyes twinkling in anticipation of calling the team.
"Yeah… I mean it was all there, the routes the women took with there hiking groups and where all the girls were found. I knew there had to be a place in the center of it all where he was taking them. It's so remote that if he used the mine shaft they could scream their lungs out and no one would hear them."
"I don't care how you thought of it, we need to call in the team and let them know." She said punching a familiar speed dial button on her phone.
"Hey sugar… Reid and I have some news for you."
Reid looked down at Hope. He wanted to leave her with Garcia and go find JJ himself, but he knew that by the time he got to where they were it would be all over. He wanted to stay with Hope and take care of his little girl. It was like the dream, a conflict so strong it was pulling his heart apart. He had to trust the team. They'd find her, but he wanted to be the one to find her. He wanted to pull her into his arms and tell her that everything was alright.
"Where mama," Hope asked rubbing at her eyes. "Me want mama!"
"Mama will be home very soon princess I promise." God… he hoped he wasn't promising her something that he couldn't produce. What if JJ wasn't in that area? How many caves were there, how many would the team have to search before they found her? What if she angered Stern, or he got impatient, or scared and killed her. He felt tears starting in his eyes and he blinked them back hard. He couldn't cry in front of Hope, he didn't want to scare her.
"Mama," She cried. She kept rubbing at her eyes. He left the office as Garcia was still talking excitedly to Morgan.
They went back to his wife's office and he sat back down in JJ's chair. It took a long time but Hope finally went to sleep. She was exhausted from the day and he didn't blame her. He got up and put her carefully in the stroller. He'd sit and he'd wait just as she'd had to wait to find him when Tobias Henkel had taken him in Georgia. She'd be home soon. Why was waiting so much harder than just being out there working. It was a question his genius couldn't answer, not even for Hope.
"Garcia just called. She gave me the location of a series of caves and a mine shaft exactly three miles from here on Route 66." He told them. He explained what she and Reid had come up with and they agreed it was a place to start. It was nearly dark when they left the cabin, and got back to the SUVs at the road side.
Hotch took the lead vehicle and watching his trip meter stopped exactly three miles down the road from where they started. His headlights didn't show anything but trees. Where was this old road Garcia had told him about? The other vehicles pulled up behind him and they all got out and looked around, flashlights shining in the darkness of the night.
"Look over there." Rossi said pointing in front of them.
"What do you see Dave," Hotch asked?
"Right there, the road is blocked by tree branches, right there and there." He pointed with his flashlight. "My dad had a cabin, and the road was blocked this way when we weren't there instead of a locked gate." He told them as he and Morgan and Hotch moved the branches.
Several Marienville cops pulled up as they were clearing out the road. One shined his light in and saw Sterns car sitting in the clearing. "Son of a bitch," He exclaimed! "I'm sorry I didn't think you guys were right, that it had to be some kind of joke but here we are." He said to Rossi and Hotch.
"Don't worry son. He fooled a lot of people for a very long time." Rossi said generously.
They proceeded into the interior of the clearing, and began to look around to see which way Stern and JJ might have gone.
"Look over here," Morgan said. "I found a couple sets of footprints." He said shining his light excitedly at the marks on the ground.
"Ok, let's get going. We can -"
There was crackling noise from up the trail and a bobbing flashlight. "Who's there," Hotch shouted. This is the FBI, identify yourself now!" He shouted.
The flashlight stopped moving then a voice shouted back. "It's me… It's JJ."
"JJ… Are you okay?" Morgan called back as Emily ran up the trail to meet her friend.
"Yes… I'm fine. The Sheriff is dead. I had no choice, I had to kill him!"
Emily threw her arms around their friend and hugged her. "Are you ok," she asked pointedly and quietly?
"Yeah… I'm ok Emily I promise." She started to cry and Emily helped her down the hillside. The whole team hugged her in turn, even Rossi.
"I want to go home. I want to see my daughter, can we please go home." She pleaded with Hotch. "I'll tell you everything you want to know tomorrow, but I want to go home and forget this place.
Hotch nodded, "We'll wrap this up as fast as we can JJ." He hugged her again and then let Emily lead her down to the SUV.
The big clock over the mantle piece read two seventeen when JJ entered the house. She stopped to wave at Emily, who'd driven her home. The entryway was silent and the light was dimmed to near dark. She looked to her left and saw that it was dark. The chocolate leather couch in front of her faced the big screen television that faced her. She could see Spencer's head on one armrest of the couch.
He was asleep when she tip-toed over to the other side of the couch. He lay on the couch with Hope sprawled out on top of him. They both looked so peaceful. She breathed in the scent of home and family like a dying man takes his last breath.
"You're home," Reid said startling her into looking down at him. He was blinking in the low light, but he had a big grin on his face.
"Yeah I just got here." She said.
Hope twitched and then turned toward JJ, her eyes opening slowly. "Mama home," She clamored off of Reid and jumped into JJ's arms.
The lump that had been forming in JJ's throat burst and she began to cry. Reid got to his feet and hugged them both fiercely. This wasn't going to happen again. He would make sure it didn't, he couldn't bear to lose either of them.
He soothed her as best as he could, but the truth was that his emotions were all jumbled up and he didn't trust himself to speak much.
"I'm so glad your ok. I love you so much JJ." He said into her neck.
"Dada queeze me," Hope wriggled between them and they both laughed.
"Sorry baby." He moved away from JJ who'd got her tears under control.
"Come on little girl, it's time to go to bed." She walked away from the couch with a protesting Hope.
"No go night-night. I not tired." Hope complained.
She rubbed at her eyes and JJ laughed through her tears. "I think you are baby."
She entered the nursery and got Hope into her pajamas with butterflies all over them. She sat with the girl in her arms in the glider rocker and after several minutes Hope was asleep. She put her daughter in her crib, but she didn't want to leave. She missed her little girl so much, how could she go to her room and leave her baby.
After half an hour of watching she felt her eyes beginning to close. It had been such a long day and her head hurt so much. And there was Spencer, he was waiting for her, she needed to see him and feel the touch of his hands.
She shut out the lights and made sure the Mickey Mouse night light was on and the baby monitor. She left the door open a bit for Spencer's sake and went down the hallway to her bedroom. She found Spencer where she knew he would be, curled up in the big arm chair in one corner of the room.
"Hey…" He said, holding out his arms.
She bolted into his lap and cried as he held onto her. He didn't say anything at all; he just held her in his arms and stroked her hair till she quieted.
"I was so afraid you weren't coming back," He said in a tear-filled voice.
"I'm sorry," She said, her heart beginning to stop its frantic beating in her ribcage.
"Why… none of this is your fault. I talked to Morgan he told me everything. I'm just sorry this is how you had to find out the truth."
"I'm glad I know. It makes it better. I thought I'd never understand why I hated the woods and now I know it's because of Stern. I don't remember what happened those hours I was alone in the woods as a little girl, and I don't want to remember, some things are better left buried." She said cutting off what he started to say.
"I don't want to remember or talk to a shrink about it. I want to forget and be happy with you and Hope. Please Spence, just hold me till tomorrow, we'll talk in the morning… please baby."
She got up and took of the dirty blouse and slacks she wore while he disrobed and got into bed. He held her, he made love to her and when she slept and woke screaming from new nightmares he told her it would be okay, and he hoped with all his heart that it would be alright, this time.
They didn't go to Pennsylvania for Memorial Day weekend. It was Hope's birthday and although JJ understood the reason her aunt had lied to her, she wasn't ready to forgive her just yet.
Instead, they had a birthday party for Hope at the Reids. Emily, Morgan and Garcia were there; Hotch and Rossi had other plans, but had sent gifts. Garcia confided in Reid that she and Morgan were trying to get pregnant; apparently JJ's kidnapping had changed his mind about having a baby.
Reid and Garcia were in the kitchen cutting the cake and getting drinks for everyone. There would be another party for Hope and her friends the next weekend.
"So… you finally got Morgan to agree to kids." Reid asked.
"Yeah… he said that if you can do it, then so can he." She grinned at him.
"I think it's more than him just competing with me." Reid said, digging ice cream out of its container and dropping it on a plate for Emily.
"Yeah… he doesn't say it, but I think the possibility of JJ not coming back freaked him out. He realizes how important family is."
"He always knew that, he just needed a prod." Reid told her, cutting another piece of cake for Morgan.
"What are you two talking about in here?" Morgan asked as he leaned against the wall.
"Yeah… get the lead out!" JJ said walking over to give Reid a hug. She never stayed far away from him anymore, unless work forced it.
He pinched her backside and she yelped. "Good one Reid." Morgan said approvingly.
They took the dessert back to the table and JJ thought as they ate that she didn't fear the woods any longer. There were other things more important to fear, like the loss of her family, which included her BAU family. God willing she'd never have to know what that was like!