Okay, I was playing around with this in my head after the FINALE and I don't know if I like the direction it went, but enjoy anyway!
It was a quiet ride back to Quantico. They had thought they had seen some horrible things in their stretch at the BAU but nothing had prepared them for the eighty nine lives that were taken as though they held no importance to the world. It was beyond the evilness they had seen thus far, and it had all ended so tragically. Lucas Turner may have executed the most horrific crime they had seen this far, but tragedy of it was he was merely a victim of his circumstance. With a mental age of possibly four years old, the manipulation of his brother led him the heinus crimes he committed, though he could not be excused for it, his lack of understanding of what he did, and the remorse that clearly existed within him made him a victim too.
No one had said a word to each other, and no eye was met. They left as a team, and it seemed they returned as individuals carrying the burden of what they had just witnessed, unable to connect with each other for they were merely a reminder or the tragedy of the last twenty four hours.
As they disembarked from the plane, the seven of them headed their separate ways. JJ, Hotch, Rossi and Garcia wordlessly walked to their respective offices while, Derek, Reid and Emily sunk into their own cubicles in the bullpen lost in their own thoughts.
For Derek he couldn't help but think of his sisters. He knew that had he been placed in Hightower's situation, he too would have reacted the same way.
Penelope merely dropped her gear and left. The only words that Hotch had uttered since they jumped on the plane was that as soon as they landed they could head off and take the rest of the week off.
Though she was concerned about her team mates, she didn't have enough in her to extend the comfort they all needed. Derek especially. She knew the last few cases were beginning to take their tole on him, but the estrangement from each other's life of late had left very little licence to offer what little she had in her to comfort him. Truth of it was ever since New York, they had been drifting apart. In fact the team that was once like family had begun to feel less so of late. Perhaps their jobs were finally taking its toll, but whatever it was, it was starting to affect them individually and as a whole.
It made her question whether or not she still wanted to do what she was doing. Her main reason for not going with Kevin to his new post was because the BAU was her family, and she wasn't willing to leave them. He understood, and mutually they had agreed it would be better to go their separate ways instead of trying to have a long distance relationship. She knew to a degree she loved Kevin, but it wasn't that mad and passionate love she had always dreamed of and to continue would only be a lie for the both of them it wouldn't be fair to either of them.
Dave looked out of his office window, he could see that Hotch was assessing their whole team just as he was, questioning if they were going to survive the case they just closed. He could see that JJ was on the phone, he guessed to Will to check on their son, while the rest of them sat at their cubicles staring out into their own worlds. There was one person in particular he worried about, and that was Penelope. He knew that she was not trained for half of the horrific things they made her sift through, and they took it for granted that she would do it, in a heartbeat, and as fast her hands could possibly go, he wondered if they had shown her lately how much that meant to them. His gut had him walking out of his office, heading straight to her bunker. Hotch who could see the determination on Rossi's face realised where he was headed and he couldn't help but kick himself for not registering earlier. Hotch emerged from his office following Dave closely.
only just registered." He said softly.
"Me too. She held together well enough on scene and I had made a mental note, and with how it all ended, well you know." Rossi replied. They were not surprised to see that her Bunker was empty, that the only trace of her was the equipment she had dumped in the corner of the office.
Derek, Emily and Reid had looked up as their bosses headed towards Penelope's bunker without a word. Concerned Emily was first to her feet, while Derek and Reid quickly followed to find that both Rossi and Hotch were talking in Pen's empty bunker.
go and check on her on my way home. You should go home, maybe call
Hayley and see if you can see Jack. It'd be good for you Aaron. You
need to recharge."
"We all do." Aaron said in agreement.
"Well we have the next four days off. After I check on Garcia I'll pack and head for the cabin in the morning."
"That sounds good. I might see if Hayley will let me take Jack and borrow Gideon's cabin and do some fishing with him."
Pen? Is she okay?" Emily asked as entered.
"We hope so. She's gone already." Rossi answered
"That's not like her." Reid pointed out. Regardless what kind of day they all had endured, Penelope never left the building without saying goodbye to them. A look of worry crossed through Derek's face.
"Would she just head home or is there any place in particular you guys think she would to?" Hotch inquired.
"Kevin's?" Derek suggested.
"Err, I don't think so. Their photos aren't up any more." Emily said pointing to Garcia's memo board that once held photos of her loved ones. They had noticed that it was now bare, there was only one photo that remained on and that was a team photo taken at a barbecue at Hotch's almost a year ago..
"Could she just be redecorating?" Reid wondered out loud,
"She could be, but I did hear on the grapevine that Lynch went to work for the CIA and was posted overseas." Rossi offered the information.
"So they broke up?"
"I guess so. Hasn't she mentioned it to any of you?" Hotch asked looking at the three of them as they all shook their heads.
"Ah, not me either." JJ said as she came in catching the tail end of their conversation. JJ and Em exchanged a guilty look. They had all been busy with their own thing lately that it had been awhile since the three of them had a girl's pamper day or even a movie night.
"I haven't really spoken to her properly in awhile." He admitted somewhat ashamed. It had been awhile since he had spent any time with her, even their flirting had been reduced to a non existent.
"I know she took it really hard when I got hit with the Anthrax. I felt so bad but I called her to record something for my Mom in case I didn't make it. She came and saw me at the hospital after you left Morgan and we talked for a bit. She stayed with me because she knew I wasn't comfortable being in the hospital, so she promised to stay until I fell asleep, but the next morning when I woke up she was still there, staring out the window." Reid recalled.
At that point they were all worried. None of them had realised just how little they knew about what was going on in their favourite tech analyst's life, how little they knew of each other at that point.
do you say we postpone all our plans for the evening, pick up a
certain blonde and head to the bar?" Rossi suggested.
"Sounds like a plan. Morgan you drive, your SUV is the only one that would fit all of us." Em volunteered with a smile,
"Jayje you up for it, you can go home Henry if you want." Hotch offered her an out,
"Nah, I'm in. Will's taken Henry to see his Aunt in Maine. I'm a free woman till Sunday."
"Well then shall we?" Morgan said ushering them out the door.
The six of them piled into Derek's car and headed for Penelope's apartment. As they stood at her doorstep knocking, they grew worried when she did not answer.
did you want to try and call her?" Hotch suggested as JJ nodded and
hit her speed dial.
"Voicemail. Did you guys notice if Esther was in her parking space?"
"On it," Reid said running down to the lift of her apartment building to check her garage, only to return a few minutes later with a shake of his head.
"Any ideas of where she'd go?"
"Yeah, but it's late. She wouldn't, it's…"
"Derek, think of the last few days we just had. I don't think she'd really care." JJ interjected.
"She'd be at the beach." Em answered looking at Hotch.
"Derek, you lead the way."
The team found her exactly where Derek and the girls thought she would be. Sitting by the rock pool, knees to her chest, chin on knee. From afar they could see it was as though she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders.
you guys mind if I go in first?" Derek asked quietly while rest of
them shook their heads and sat down on the sand where they stood only
a few hundred metres from where Penelope sat.
"Hey, I thought we had a deal. No coming to this place in the middle of the night." Penelope shrugged without looking at him, clearly surprised that he was there.
"Hey P, talk to me,"
"I'm fine Derek, I just needed to think. I love it here. It's peaceful."
"I know it's been awhile but you don't really think I'd believe that you're fine."
"My week wasn't any worse than any of yours. Yeah it sucked, no doubt about it, but I'm okay."
"Why didn't you tell me about Kevin?" Derek asked changing the subject as she shrugged again,
"What's to tell? He's gone. Everyone goes eventually right? Seasons end, and people move on. Cycle of life and what not," her words weren't lost on him. He knew that she counted him in the people that had moved on from her life.
"I'm sorry P."
"For what?" she asked confused.
"For dropping out of your life." He answered.
"It's okay, nothing lasts forever right? What are you doing here anyway?" she wondered genuinely surprised that he was there.
"The team and I thought we should head out to the bar so we went to pick you up and you weren't at your place so the girls and I deduced you would be here." At that Penelope turned to look at him as he pointed behind him and there they all were sitting on the beach.
"We're all worried about you."
"You don't have to worry about me,"
"We do anyway." He promised looking into her doubtful eyes.
"I guess we should join them."
"Sure, but you and I are going to talk later Baby Girl." He watched as her brow furrowed thoughtfully,
"That's the first time you've called me anything else but Garcia in eight months." She said softly and sadly as she got up declining the hand he reached out to her as he followed close behind.
guys didn't have to all come out here. I'm fine." She said with
"We know, but it's been awhile since we've all been out as a team, and after this week, we figured it was as good of time as any to resume old traditions temporarily forgotten." Hotch answered.
guess feigning exhaustion isn't going to work?" she said
"That you would be correct Penelope." Rossi said patting her on the shoulder.
"Let's go, Jayje and I are riding with you." Em said as she and JJ looped an arm through Penelope's.
"We'll meet you boys at Halliwell's." JJ said with a wave as the men headed for Morgan's SUV.
The team gathered at Halliwell's at their usual table. Hotch ordered a round of drinks while Rossi handed out the menus finding that they were all hungry. In the beginning they talked about the case, and from there the topic lightened up to what everyone was up to and what was new in their life thus far. Reid was spouting off statistics when they JJ chuckled,
never realised how much I've missed this till now." She admitted.
"I know what you mean. We haven't really been together like this since you've left." Em agreed with the sentiment.
"Here's to JJ being back and to our reinstating and making these get togethers non negotiable." Rossi said raising his glass as the rest of them followed suit,
hard as the last few months have been with the recent cases, I think
we've taken them a lot worse because we've seemingly lost that
connection between our team and sense of unity we once had." Aaron
"I agree." Derek said catching Penelope's eye, giving her an apologetic smile. Penelope nodded returning his smile knowing what he was trying to apologise for.
"You guys are the only family I have. You all have your own families to go home to and call at the end of each and every bad day, but I go home alone. With the exception of you guys, there's no one I would really call. Even when I was with Kevin, he wasn't family like you guys are, and these last few months I've really struggled with this." Penelope admitted softly dropping her gaze to the table.
"Oh Pen, why didn't you say something sooner. All it would have taken was a phone call." Em said placing a hand over Penelope's.
"It seemed really foolish." She answered,
"But it wasn't Penelope. We were all feeling it. Next time you promise to say something. We are all in this together. We're a family. We only function well if we function as a unit. If you're drowning Penelope, or if any of you are drowning we are all here for each other." Hotch promised. Penelope looked up to meet Hotch's gaze,
"You are a part of this family Penelope and we're here for you, any time of day. You got that."
"Yes sir." She replied blinking back the tears that threatened to fall, swallowing the lump that formed in her throat.
It was well after two in the morning when the seven of them left the bar. The boys were heading back to crash at Hotch's as it was the nearest place to the bar they could walk to, while Penelope and the girls were catching a cab to Emily's. Just as they were saying goodbye Derek gently pulled Penelope towards him capturing her into a hug,
still here Baby Girl. I'm sorry you felt as though I wasn't
anymore. You're my best friend, and you need to call me on things
when I'm being a butthead."
"So you free tomorrow?" he asked.
"You and Me whole day together, be ready at noon."
"Okay. See you then handsome."
The four BAU men waited till the ladies were in a cab before walking towards Hotch's apartment. Just as they were settling in for the night their phone's began to buzz with messages from the ladies letting them know that they were home safely.