Author's Note: Hello fellow readers and authors! A few housekeeping items for the day. First, we are pleased to announce that we are ahead of schedule and the FINAL VOTING BALLOT IS NOW AVAILABLE for the first ever ff. net based 2010 Criminal Minds Profiler's Choice Fanfic Awards at "Chit Chat on Author's Corner" forum. To vote, you can access the forum through either my (ilovetvalot) or tonnie2001969's profile pages. Details, rules and the voting ballot are available at the forum. We had seventy-nine unique nominators choose 130 of their fellow author's works. So, let's all go grab a ballot and choose the authors we feel deserve those votes. You have until November 30, 2010 to get your ballot entered. Don't forget to send it to the Profiler's Choice CM Awards private message box. Ballots will NOT be accepted at either ilovetvalot or tonnie2001969 inboxes.

Anyone that chooses to assist us in publicizing the voting process for the 2010 Criminal Minds Profiler's Choice Fanfic Awards can also visit our profile pages. We have a blurb written to copy and paste to either your profile pages or author's notes if you choose. We truly appreciate all the assistance our fellow authors have given us and hope you will continue to support this venture.

Second, we'd like to encourage you all to take a look at our first ever ff. net based "Criminal Minds Christmas Gift Fic Exchange"! Sign-ups are simple and run through October 31, 2010. Participants can either PM us or join on the forum thread telling us 1) Which pairings you would feel comfortable writing, 2) the central pairing you'd like to be featured in the story you receive as a Christmas gift, and 3) Name a Christmas carol plus three Christmas-y prompts you'd like to see in the story you receive as a Christmas gift (you'll only have to use three of the four items in the actual fic). Assignments will be given on November 1st and you'll have until DECEMBER 25, 2010 to post your gift. Further details are available at the forum. Please, let's make this a Merry Christmas for ALL!

We also have a new discussion thread open for your comments called, "With Which Character Do You Most Identify and Why?" available at the forum as well as a great new interview with our fellow talented author Starofoberon. Please drop by and leave your thoughts.


As Vigilant as a Cat

Chapter One

Penelope Garcia blinked rapidly as she attempted to clear her eyes. Damned contacts, she grumbled to herself, barely resisting the urge to scrub the heels of her hands against her painful eye sockets. It would only make things worse, she knew...but damn, they itched.

Glancing at the clock on her makeshift desk, she quickly calculated the minutes she probably had left until someone else barged in the room with her and demanded yet another nearly impossible feat. Jeez, how the hell had JJ coped with these kinds of minute by minute hassles? How the hell hadn't the diminutive blonde collapsed under the weight of the sheer strain?

Screw Supergirl; Jennifer Jareau had quite obviously been Wonder Woman!

No wonder Rossi and Hotch had been half in love with her...her chica had mad skills and she, herself, hadn't even been aware of a quarter of them. So much for being the all-knowing goddess of the known universe! But, as much as she adored her best friend, she was currently overcome with the urge to wrap her hands around that becoming scrawny neck of hers and squeeze until her lips were as baby blue as those gorgeous eyes of hers.

Why the hell had she taken Jennifer freaking Jareau's advice and stuck her neck out this morning to Hotch? What the hell had ever possessed the svelte beauty to believe that she…tech whiz Penelope Garcia… was even a tenth as qualified for this job as her predecessor?

Heck, she'd never taken JJ for a woman that made rashly foolish decisions before!

And, worse yet, she'd actually fallen for the load of horse manure. Like a lamb to the slaughter, she'd gone to Hotch and made the case JJ had built for her, reciting her lines perfectly in a manner that would have made Shakespeare himself glimmer with pride.

And she'd gotten what she'd asked for. In spades.

Boy, had she ever!

It wasn't that she didn't want to do a good job; she did. Desperately. Her colleagues were her family, and disappointing even one of them was tantamount to catastrophic failure. But, for the love of Bill Gates, who the devil knew in this position WHAT was actually important! They ALL wanted something from her. ALL THE TIME! Hotch and the rest of their merry band of profilers, the local cops, the families of the victims...and each one of them wanted their answers.


Of course, they all wanted the same answer...the identity of the unsub, but by the Dell gods, she was working as fast as humanly possible. Couldn't they see that? She was, after all, only one woman…contrary to what she'd led them all to believe for these oh so many years!

She needed to do something...she needed to purge the negative emotions threatening to overwhelm her angelic aura. And snatching up the cream colored receiver on the antiquated phone on her desk, she decided what better victim than the one that had set her on this not-so righteous path. Jabbing the tiny buttons with her purple tipped nails, a last holdout against the powers-that-be's quest to kill her inner color, she waited for her bestest gal pal to pick up the phone.

"Jennifer Jareau," JJ answered tersely, her voice coming through the utilitarian handset with a slightly tinny echo.

"I hate you, I hate you, I hate you," Penelope chanted, her hands tightening on the phone's receiver as she relaxed almost automatically, JJ's voice a soothing balm to her savaged soul. "Well, not really," she amended quickly, her pert nose wrinkling, "but just imagine the havoc I could wreak on you if I really did," she teased, a faint smile tilting her lips.

"Pen? Is that you?" JJ asked, much more enthusiastic once she realized who was waiting on the opposite end of the line.

"You bet your shapely butt, sister, and have I got such a bone to pick with you," Penelope growled under her breath as she threw herself back in the torture device known as an office chair.

"What'd I do?" JJ asked quickly, her eyes widening slightly. A pissed of Penelope was a sight to behold in and of itself...but if you had been the one to tweak off the self-professed goddess, that was a whole different kind of trouble.

"Your former job SUCKS, Jareau," Pen hissed, the words drawn out for good measure. "And you, you encouraged me to do it!"

"Oh, come on," JJ soothed, hoping to hide the smile that was certain to be heard in her words, "It's not that bad, is it?"

"Nooooo," Pen drawled, twirling in her chair and frowning as the phone cord became a noose - damned old fashioned phones...had these backwoods twerps never heard of hands-free? "It's worse," she ground out, batting at the torture device the phone had suddenly morphed into. Listening as JJ attempted to swallow a giggle - and not very well, she might add - Pen huffed, "So not funny, Ladybug...I'm sinking in a quagmire of quicksand over here and we both know how I hate to have my pretty feathers ruffled on my attractive tuckus."

Not even bothering to disguise her laughter this time, JJ giggled, "Now, that sounds a little disturbing."

"You have NO idea, Peaches," Pen sighed. Propping her chin in her hand, she continued, "The vein in my head has sprouted its own mouth, JJ. And you know what it's saying?"

"Mmm, tell me," JJ ordered, her eyes crinkling as she imagined Penelope's face, not having to stray too far in her thoughts to accurately picture her perfectly.

"It's sayin', 'Get out...You are NOT Jennifer Jareau.'."

"You aren't supposed to be me, Pen. You're you...only improved. You're Penelope Garcia 2.0."

"Oh, my little love, I am many things at the moment...but new and improved isn't among them," Pen shook her head at the other woman's cheerful tone. "I wanna come home now."

"No can do, Pen. You've got to show them that you can do this on your terms," JJ denied, shaking her blonde head immediately, not bothering to remember that her best friend couldn't see her response.

Wrinkling her nose, Pen whined, "But I don't wanna. JJ, I'm not me here. For crying out loud, I yelled at freaking Hotch...and Rossi! I might not make it home alive if I talk to Morgan," she worried, tapping her talons against the laminate desk top.

"Yes, you will," JJ argued insistently, emphasizing each word. "What did they say?"

"Well, Hotch just reminded me what I'd willingly signed myself up for," Pen grumbled, finally freeing herself of the pesky phone cord, throwing it away from her with a flick of her wrist.

"And Rossi?" JJ asked, her heart warming as she visualized the older man she and her son had begun spending more and more time with recently. Just the mere thought of the man caused her heart to catch suddenly while her cheeks seemed to warm.

"He said and I'm quoting here, 'The kitten has grown claws...Rawr!'" she mimicked in her best David Rossi impression, her fingers pawing the air.