Disclaimers: Neither Aaron Hotchner, Penelope Garcia, Kevin Lynch, or Jennifer Jareau belong to me. Although I am currently using them with less cruelty than their actual owner. (DAMN YOU ED BERNERO.) I also don't own the Douglas Adams quote that Hitchhiker's Guide fans will be able to spot.

Rating: K+. Lots of angst, and mentions of violence, injury and blood.

Spoilers: Being that it's a post-ep, BIG HUGE AWFUL ONES for the end of 4.25/26, "To Hell and Back".

Genre: Missing Scene/Post-Ep/Angst

Note: This is the final Season 4 entry in my Hotch/Garcia series, that started with "I Watched". But by god, there will be ones for season 5, or I will know the reason why.

Summary: "Get out on your own two feet, before the job does it for you." The BAU's night watch commiserate as usual, after the end of the Sarnia case. But is it for the last time?

******

Kona. Maxwell House. 100% Columbian. Folgers. Starbucks. Pike Place.

Why was she sitting there in the BAU bullpen, reading the various bags of coffee to herself like a litany? Penelope did not rightly know.

Dunkin' Donuts. PROPERTY OF EMILY PRENTISS. DO NOT TOUCH. ON PAIN OF TICKLING.

That at least made her smile.

At times like this, she would normally be sitting at her desk, trawling the usual suspects. ICanHasCheezburger; CuteOverload ; "The Engineer's Guide to Cats" on YouTube. Using her computer to escape.

But she had just spent 18 hours poring over Mason Turner's laptop of horrors. Sitting in his living room, bathed in the sordid glow of his twisted and broken mind. Seeing if each new horror could give one bit of information, one way to match 89 pairs of shoes to 89 mothers, 89 fathers, grandmothers, sisters, brothers, roommates and friends. Right now, she couldn't stare at one more JPEG, one more spreadsheet, one more digital anything.

So she was sitting here, staring at the BAU's old, and venerable Mr. Coffee. She started off with the specs that she knew.

Removable filter basket. 2-Hour Auto shut-off. Special Cleaning Cycle. Water Filtration System. Cord Storage.

Someone had come to stand behind her.

"You all have it easy. I remember the original coffeemaker when I got here. Produced a substance that tasted almost, but not quite, entirely unlike coffee."

"Hi, Hotch."

Penelope swung around in her chair, and faked as much of a smile as she was comfortable with. She motioned to the chair next to her, and he sat down.

"I looked in your office, I thought you had gone home. You should go home."

Garcia raised her eyebrows at him telling her that, but decided not to pursue it.

"Kevin's picking me up. He said give him another 20 minutes. And I just… I couldn't…"

Hotch nodded.

"Hotch, why can't we stop?"

That seemed to unnerve him. "Stop what?"

"Stop this, quit this, leave this, why can't we?"

Hotch looked like he wanted to have any conversation but this one, but he didn't interrupt.

"Two weeks, a month ago, Kevin had a job interview, he asked me if I would leave, come with him, do something else. And I love him, and I want to be with him, and I told him I couldn't. That the BAU, this was my home, this was where I belonged. And now I'm sitting here at 10:00 at night, staring at the stupid coffeemaker, trying to stop 89 pairs of shoes from tromping around in my head!"

Hotch kind of smiled…a half smile. Maybe closer to a joyless smirk, if Aaron Hotchner could be said to have such an expression.

"I'm probably not the best person to consult on this particular subject. The advice I'd want to give you, that I should give you…"

"You, Aaron Hotchner, would tell me to chuck it all and move to Karachi?"

" Yes. If anyone can leave this job, and be happy, and do good doing anything else in the world, I would tell them to do so, yes. Get out on your own two feet, before the job does it for you. "

He didn't name them, but the names of Elle Greenaway and Jason Gideon hovered just on the edge of the conversation, like impolite vultures.

Hotch suddenly gained an intensity that belied his clearly exhausted state, and continued. "Penelope Garcia, you are the best technical analyst this team has ever had. You helped us solve this case. You help us solve every case, and we would be useless without you. And if you asked me to, I would transfer you without a second thought."

Garcia saw that he was telling the truth. "But I would never ask. And that's the whole point. And here we are back on square one. "

Hotch opened his mouth to speak, then thought better of it, and leaned back in his chair.

Maybe it was the late hour, or the fluorescent lights, or the 48 hours of bad coffee. But Garcia saw an opening, and though it might get her that transfer, she decided to dive through it.

"Was there a time, when you…"

"A time when I what?"

" Could have walked out. On your own two feet." Ha. Why are you lying to yourself, girl? You know there was. And you stopped him. You and Derek and Emily and Spencer and JJ, all together, and here we are today.

Perhaps her guilt was a little more obvious on her face then she'd intended. Because, professor emeritus of human nature that he was, his mind had clearly jumped with hers.

"Penelope…if I had wanted to leave then, I would have. And no amount of your digital skullduggery would have stopped me. It wasn't you, or Derek, or anybody else but me. I made a choice. And Haley made hers."

"Could you have left then?"

Hotch looked down, and was silent for a long time. "I don't think so, no."

This is my home. This is what I am. For better, or more often, worse.

Garcia's phone started buzzing audibly in her skirt pocket.

"That'll be Kevin. Go. Get out of here. That's an order."

Penelope smiled at the sight of the good sheperd attempting the mannerisms of the drill sergeant.

"Only if I see you leave with me, Sir."

"I can't promise that, Garcia. Too many states and countries involved on this one."

"At least 5 hours of sleep. That's my order, to you."

"Yes, ma'am."

Garcia picked up her go bag, and walked towards the elevator. As she entered it, she turned and looked back once more. Hotch was still sitting there. Now staring at the coffee maker, as she had been. She recalled his address change of 6 months ago. A newish apartment complex, mostly Bureau residents. When has he had time to even furnish it? What did you just tell him to go back to, Penelope?

The elevator doors closed.

***

3 hours later

Kevin Lynch was normally a pretty heavy sleeper, and had managed to save up for a pretty nice queen size bed. But even the heaviest sleeper would have awoken at the tremblor that had just gone through his side of the mattress.

Penelope had leaped out of her side of the bed. In fact, she was no longer even in the bedroom with him. Uh-oh. Work?

He pulled on his bathrobe, and went out into the hall. No sign of her there. He searched the kitchen, and then turned his attention to the living room.

And there was Penelope, sitting on the couch, rocking back and forth like a little girl.

"Penelope? Are you all right?" He walked around, and crouched in front of her.
"Penelope, please tell me what's wrong."

"I don't know. I don't know I don't know I don't know. I just, I woke up, and…"

"Is it something with the case? The…" Kevin gulped. Penelope had not wanted to talk in detail, but what she had said was freaky enough. "The experiments."

She looked up, and her eyes were filled with terror.

"No. Something's wrong. With Hotch. I feel it, something is wrong, something is bad. I told him to go home, I shouldn't have told him that, I just should have duct-taped him to the coffee table."

"Penelope, please, talk to me, did someone call, was there a message?"

"No, Kevin, I just, woke up, and I knew. "

"Okay, then we'll call Hotch, and wake him up and check on him. He'll be grumpy, but he'll be fine, I promise."

Suddenly, Kelly Clarkson's "Miss Independent" blared through the room, and Penelope's cell phone lit up like a Christmas tree.

"That's JJ, that's my JJ ring tone." Penelope grabbed the phone from off the table. "JJ? What's going on?"

Kevin watched, as the color drained from his girlfriend's already pale face. "Oh god. Oh god. Okay. Okay. Okay. I'll be there." And Penelope dropped the phone, and raced to the bedroom, and her go-bag.

Kevin noticed the phone was still on, and picked it up. It was JJ, but more panicked the he had ever heard her. "Garcia, are you still there?"

"It's Kevin. She's going to get dressed. JJ, what's going on?"

There was a pause on the other end of the line, and a strangled noise that sounded like JJ trying to compose herself.

"It's Hotch. There was a 911 call from one of his neighbors. Heard a gunshot, went in and banged on the door, managed to get it open, found Hotch conscious, on the floor, bleeding from two gunshot wounds to the stomach."

"Oh God."

"He's at St. Mary's, Rossi is there with him. Kevin, can you please do something for me?"

"Yes. Anything."

"Drive Garcia back to the office, and make sure she gets there in one piece."

"Okay. But why, what can she do there?"

Penelope reentered from the bedroom. Pale, but colder than he'd ever seen her. She answered his question.

"Because we know exactly who did this. And we are going to find the evil son of bitch."

fin