Death was supposed to be tragic. Maybe even humbling. Never a cause for celebration. But as JJ hung up the phone in her office with nerveless fingertips, she couldn't help being swamped with an overwhelming sense of relief. He was gone. The bastard was well and truly gone. And she was happy. What did that say about her belief in humanity? Another of the gifts that kept on giving from her childhood.
Shaking her head, she slid shaking hands down her face. She was almost afraid to believe that the miserable bastard that spawned her was dead. But that nurse had seemed pretty confident. Compressing her lips, she thought it was fitting; he'd been killed by the very thing that had destroyed their family. His whiskey. He'd wrapped his truck around the telephone pole on Dead Man's Curve. At least, he'd managed not to hurt anybody else for a change.
God, how she'd hated that man. He'd never been satisfied to just torture himself with his excesses. No, he'd taken everyone along with him. Thanks to him, her mother was dead at forty. A victim of his rage, though nobody in their tightly knit little town would admit to it. No, that fall down the stairs had been caused by her own clumsy feet, not her husband's drunken rage. The town couldn't have its bright shining football hero cast in a less than savory light. She hadn't seen her brother in fifteen years. As soon as he'd been old enough to run, he'd been smart enough to get the hell out. Leaning back in her chair, she told herself that the world was a much better place now that Thomas Alan Jareau was dead. God knew, it was a safer place.
And that's how David Rossi found her, an hour later, her hand still clamped around the telephone receiver and her eyes staring sightlessly into space. Clearing his throat to alert her of his entrance, she never flinched. "JJ?" he asked quietly, moving inside the small office. "JJ!" he repeated more loudly.
Finally noticing that there was someone looming in front of her desk, JJ forced herself to focus her eyes. "What?"
"You're pale as a ghost," Dave murmured. "What the hell is the matter with you?" he asked, frowning.
"He's dead," JJ said simply…emotionlessly.
"Who's dead?" Dave questioned, concerned.
"My father," she replied evenly.
Stunned, Dave stumbled for words. "JJ…I don't know what to…I'm so sorry."
"Don't be. I'm not," she said coldly with a shrug.
"Jen," Dave said slowly, noticing her trembling fingers, "you're in shock. Let go of the phone," he urged, peeling her fingers back from the receiver.
"The only thing that shocks me about this is that the bastard managed to leave this life without dragging anybody else with him for the ride," JJ hissed.
"You don't mean that," Dave soothed, shaking his head as he crouched beside her, chafing her chilled arms.
"The hell I don't," JJ bit out. "Have you ever been glad anybody was dead, Rossi? I mean over the moon, bounce up and down overjoyed that they were gone? No? Well, that's how I feel right now."
"Jennifer," Dave murmured.
"You think this is reaction, don't you?" JJ asked curiously. "It's not. I plan on going to that funeral just to dance across the bastard's grave," she said conversationally.
Shaking his head at the normally soft-spoken woman in front of him, he heard the bitter edge to her words. "Come on, Jen. We're getting out of here for awhile," Dave replied calmly, urging her from her chair.
"I don't want to go anywhere," JJ said defiantly.
"Humor me," he muttered, draping her sweater over her shoulders as he pulled her from the office.
Walking silently beside him thirty minutes later through Potomac Park, JJ finally whispered, "I hated him."
Remaining quiet, Dave glanced to his left and saw her clenched face, the rigid set of her spine. Sighing, he gently tugged her to a waiting park bench and pulled her down beside him. "Why?" he asked gently.
"He was evil," JJ shrugged.
"Evil has a lot of variations, JJ," Rossi said conversationally.
"He was the variation that destroyed everyone he touched. Viciously. Maliciously. He enjoyed it," JJ bit out. "He reveled in it."
"Honey," Dave murmured, dropping an arm around her, "get it out."
"He was a drunk. He was a drunk that enjoyed drinking. He also enjoyed the pain he inflicted when he was drunk. On my mother. On my brother. On me. And that whole damn town knew it. They KNEW it and they didn't do anything!"
"A small town guards its dirty little secrets. My father was the quarterback football hero, a war veteran, a retired police officer. And if he needed to go home, kick back a few, knock around his wife and kids…well, that was just stress induced. Mother should have been more understanding. His children should have tried a little harder. It couldn't just be that the man they worshiped was an evil bastard."
"It wasn't your fault," Dave said softly, smoothing a hand down her tense back.
"No. It was his. And he got away with it. All his life, he got away with it," JJ said bitterly, viciously wiping at the tears on her cheeks. "I spent so many years wishing him dead! I really thought when it happened, it would be more satisfying! But…all I feel is relieved. And empty."
"He hurt you. Relieved is natural," Dave whispered.
"He never paid, David," JJ whispered, her voice cracking. "He should have had to pay."
Gathering her to him as her muffled sobs fell against his chest, he closed his eyes. Sometimes, life wasn't fair. Because as much as he'd like to deliver a killing blow against the man that had spawned such a beautiful woman, the battle was already over. He was gone. "Trust me, JJ, wherever he is, he's paying a price a hell of a lot steeper than anything anyone here could have made him pay."
Sniffling as she rested her head against his chest, she whispered, "Do you really believe that, David?"
And for the first time in a very long time, David Rossi was grateful for his faith. "With every breath in my body, Jennifer."