AN/ It's finished. Thanks to SignedSealedWritten and brynnifer for reading this over for me. And to femvamp for giving me the challenge though it took forever to finish.
Penelope Garcia was torn.
She sat in her car, trying to raise the courage to face her greatest fears.
Could her best friend seriously be a bad bad girl?
After the information she had seen, it was a possibility.
But maybe, maybe this was like Fringe and her JJ had been swapped by an alternate reality's "badass JJ".
Even she wasn't sure that was possible.
Though if it was, it would certainly explain a lot—
Finally, she couldn't take it anymore. Jumping out of the car lest her reservations hold her back, she snuck into the warehouse that she had seen JJ and some other man enter a few minutes earlier.
After all, what could transpire in only ten minutes?
JJ grinned as the police officer in front of her fought against the bindings that held him down into the chair.
"You know," she mused, "I've only taken care of a couple of officers, but it's always rewarding."
The man humphed behind the duct tape that sealed his mouth shut.
"But you'd be surprised at the research I can pull up in just a couple of hours." JJ gracefully traced the line of his jaw with the .38 she had managed to steal from the precinct's evidence locker. "Because you, officer, are not a good man."
"JJ!" a horrified voice gasped, causing the blonde to spin around in surprise. "What—"
JJ blinked, like a child caught with her hand in the candy jar, uncertain of how to explain.
The two women stood there, oblivious to the man who pulled at the restraints that had him bound.
"Hotch and the team are on their way." Garcia admitted softly, "They'll be here in twenty minutes."
"You don't understand—" JJ tried to explain, "this man—if you knew what he'd done."
"I know." Garcia stepped toward JJ, glancing at the man in the chair with disgust. "I saw you both come inside and I ran a search on Detective Rogers. I know."
JJ's face fell. "And you called Hotch?"
"I told him you had a lead, that I followed you to a warehouse. Like I said, they're twenty minutes out." Looking down at her watch, she amended quickly, "nineteen now."
JJ hesitated, somehow surprised that the thought of eliminating Garcia as a witness hadn't yet crossed her mind. Normally, protecting her identity was the most important thing in the world.
But silencing Garcia was out of the question.
And for once, it felt so good to just be honest.
To be real.
The mask melted away as JJ fought to explain. "I couldn't let him get away with it. Some things—"
"Need to be done." Penelope nodded with understanding, stepping closer to JJ. "But JJ, taking the law into your own hands—"
"Penelope," JJ whispered, stunned as a foreign feeling overcame her. Wetness sprang to her eyes and she fought uncharacteristically to keep herself in control. "You don't understand—"
"Jennifer Jareau, 34." Penelope recited, not from memory but from heart. "The kindest, best woman I've ever known."
"Garcia—" JJ tried to stop her, her voice catching with emotion at the thought of betraying a woman who seemed to see the best in the world.
"Your father was abusive." Penelope continued empathy radiating from her as she slowly closed the gap between them. "He hurt you." Penelope could see the doubt in her friend's eyes and forced herself to vaguely disclose the details she was certain JJ tried to bury. "Physically, Emotionally, Sexually." JJ winced as the last word was spoken and Garcia couldn't help the tears that streamed down her face.
JJ too was unusually overcome with emotions. She wiped at her eyes, embarrassed at a sudden display of emotion.
She had more control than this.
She wasn't weak.
"Your sister killed herself because she wanted to get away from it." Penelope hypothesized, biting her lip as her suggestion seemed to strike JJ with physical force. "But she left you—"
"And Brady." JJ nodded, her head hung in defeat as a rare expression of true vulnerability broke through her carefully constructed facade.
"You tried to protect him, Brady, your little brother. And for a while, you were the only one your father hit. For a while it was just you and you could handle it. But then your father beat your brother and that was the last straw. You killed your father to stop it." Garcia continued without a trace of judgment or reproach in her voice.
For the first time since JJ could remember, emotions swelled within her, bubbling over as she tried to force them back down into the hole where she had locked away her emotions for years.
"But your mother wasn't much better." Penelope continued. "She hurt you, not with bruises, but she hurt your soul."
She was broken. That was the only way JJ could explain what she was feeling. Her entire life, the grotesque secrets she had fought to hide from the world for so long had just been laid out for all to see.
And it didn't hurt as much as she thought it would.
"You started finding people—bad, awful people—and made them suffer for hurting people that couldn't fight back." Garcia surmised, frowning as the soft sounds of sirens began to call out in the distance.
"Some things are necessary," JJ shrugged, holding out the gun for Penelope to remove it from her hands.
There was a time where an unsuspecting witness would have been collateral damage.
But she couldn't do that to Garcia.
"Let him go JJ." Penelope pled.
"Do you know what he did?" JJ asked lividly, "His daughter, she—"
"JJ, you need to let him go. Hotch is going to be here any second."
"You can!" Penelope promised, taking the gun from JJ's hands and wrapping her arms securely around the blonde, realizing just how deeply JJ needed someone to care.
She just needed someone to care about her.
"You are the strongest person I know." Penelope assured. She sighed, knowing what she was about to do was the wrong thing.
But this was JJ.
She pulled away, mystified as to how she could have been so oblivious to the aching need JJ had to feel loved. "You let him go, you don't do this anymore, and I—"
"This is who I am." JJ muttered, unable to comprehend a life without her greater mission.
"It's not!" The sirens were getting louder and louder, and now it was only minutes before Hotch would burst into this warehouse and see the truth in front of his eyes.
But truth was misleading.
Because while JJ might have hurt people, they were bad people.
Truth seemed to have a lot more grey than black and white.
But Hotch, Derek, Emily...none of them would be able to see past the man tied to a chair with a gun pointed at him.
At some point, Penelope wouldn't have been able to either.
But this was JJ.
"Let him go JJ." Garcia ordered, "Leave this behind, start over."
"I'll help you to start over. But you have to let him go. You can't do this anymore. But I'll help you JJ. I'll help you be normal."
Seconds, that felt like hours, past while JJ looked into Garcia's eyes. Envisioning this moment, she had always expected Penelope's eyes to be filled with harsh judgment and disgust at who JJ really was.
Instead, all she saw was acceptance.
"But JJ, if you do this ever again. I will tell Hotch. I will—" Garcia let her threat trail off as JJ nodded slowly, aware that Penelope would hesitatingly follow through on her promise. "But let him go."
Slowly, JJ nodded and turned toward her captive. Undoing the padded restraints, designed to leave no mark on live—or dead—bodies, she ripped the tape off the Detective's mouth. "You can go" She ordered softly.
"You think I'm just going to let you walk out of here?" The Detective rubbed his mouth. "Its you! You're going to prison for a long time." He threatened as he stumbled out of the chair.
"Just go home." Penelope warned, not bothering to look in his direction as she kept her eyes focused on JJ.
The detective grumbled, walking past JJ who turned away as she tried to juggle her emotions. "I'll find a way to pin this on you Agent Jareau."
"Go to hell." Garcia ground out angrily. While killing people was wrong, even Penelope Garcia could make an exception for this man.
Neither woman anticipated the Detective lunging toward Garcia, quickly wrestling the gun out of the tech's hand. "You first." He muttered into Penelope's ear.
"Drop it." JJ commanded, whipping her service weapon out from behind her back.
"I've got you now, Agent Jareau." Detective Rodgers sneered, "And I'll be lauded for throwing you in prison."
"Please, don't do this. You can go." Penelope begged, flashbacks of the shooting that happened years ago flooding to her mind.
"Or," The Detective pointed the gun at Garcia's temple, "When the FBI gets here, they find the bodies of two of their own. Agent Jareau, here, overcome by guilt and realizing a genius detective was on her trail, lured the detective here and killed her unsuspecting friend who got in the way." Detective Rogers mused. "I rather like the sound of that."
"Please—" Garcia cried. "Don't do this."
The Detective's fingers twitched, signalling his intent.
JJ didn't hesitate before pulling the trigger, her bullet finding its expert mark directly between the eyes of the man that she had just let go.
Because now he was threatening Garcia.
And Penelope, Penelope Garcia was good.
Only as Detective Rodger's body hit the floor was JJ aware that Hotch and the others had burst into the warehouse.
"It's over." She promised Garcia, dropping her weapon as she walked out of the warehouse, leaving the rest of the team stunned in her wake.
"It was a good shoot." Hotch comforted JJ, sliding into the back seat of the car. "It looks like Detective Rogers has been committing these murders for years. Had we not caught him preparing for his next victim, we might never have caught him."
JJ's eyebrows shot up and she looked to see Garcia biting her fingernail nervously.
Garcia had just lied.
"It was a good shoot." Hotch affirmed once more. "You did good work."
JJ sighed. It would be all too easy to continue her life of crime, all she would need to do is be careful and make sure Penelope didn't catch on.
But she had promised.
"I quit." The words were out of her mouth before she had a chance to stop them.
"I can't do this anymore." Though Hotch didn't know the truth, for the first time in JJ's life, someone had seen her for what she truly was and understood. "I made a promise. I'll have my letter of Resignation on your desk in the morning."
"Hotch." JJ shook her head, certain this was what needed to happen. "It's time I try my hand at this whole motherhood thing. I'm not so good at it now. But maybe if I practice—" JJ's words trailed off as she contemplated the life of a model citizen that awaited her.
She really wasn't good at being a model citizen.
Or a suburban housewife.
But maybe, just maybe, she could get better if she practiced.
Because while some things were needful...
others were more promising.