Author's Note: I want to thank our loyal readers that are sticking with us. I know my postings are sporadic these days and I apologize for it. I've received a couple of negative anonymous reviews over that very issue. Real life, especially mine, is complicated. Going from a loving two parent household to a single parent with a husband fighting in a dangerous war is difficult. I'm not asking for sympathy, just please be patient. I promise, I'm writing as fast as I can, but I want to bring you guys something of quality instead of garbage I wrote on the fly.
Also, we have two new open discussion threads. One is called, "Cyclones, Snowmageddon, and Egyptian Uprisings, OH MY!" Feel free to leave your best wishes for our friends in Australia and throughout the US suffering from the ravaging affects of Mother Nature.
And finally, as some of you may or may not know, there are some changes coming for our favorite show and we have opened a "Show Spoilers" thread for readers and authors to discuss their take on episodes and upcoming plotlines.
As ever, I don't own Criminal Minds.
Quid Pro Quo
"You want something? From me?" Pen asked incredulously, eyebrows flying to her hairline as she stared at the taller woman.
"I do," Erin admitted as she nodded. "Something very important and not exactly...Bureau sanctioned."
Eyes widening as she absorbed that simple statement, Pen cocked her head. "You want me to break rules?" Narrowing one eye, she asked bluntly, "Am I being set up? Tested? Is this a sting?"
"No, Ms. Garcia, it is not. I need you to work whatever that computer magic it is that you do and find out if my daughter's boyfriend, excuse me...her fiancé, is...acceptable."
"Acceptable, like how?" Pen snorted, rolling her eyes as she pursed her painted lips. "Are we talking acceptable like as in bloodlines...or acceptable like is he a deranged killer in disguise?"
"Neither. I'm not sure he's an appropriate fit for my little girl," Erin declared uncomfortably, shifting on her Jimmy Choos.
Blinking quickly as she felt the universe suddenly shift out of known alignment, Penelope breathed, "Oh my God! You almost sounded..."
"Maternal?" Erin supplied dryly, her lips quirking.
"No, human," Penelope replied bluntly, slightly awestruck.
"Erhmm, I assure you that I have warm blood running through my veins, Ms. Garcia." She knew she'd developed a reputation for being somewhat cold, but she had never imagined it to be nothing quite so...icy.
"Well, there goes the bet that it was either ice or snake venom in there," Garcia declared as she shrugged, privately thinking that perhaps she needed to ask the woman to open a vein and prove her claim. Cocking an eyebrow, she eyed Strauss warily, considering the options that had been laid before her. "So, in short, you're telling me that you want a spy."
"I want to make sure my daughter is safe. Her affianced has quite a former reputation, Ms. Garcia. I'm loathe to see my Catherine made a fool of."
Moving toward her computer table, Penelope tapped a green tipped nail against it idly. "Quid pro quo, Clarice."
"Pardon?" Erin sputtered, her eyes widening as she stared at the brightly colored blonde.
"I help you, but what do I get for this "favor"?" Penelope asked archly. "Benevolent actions are reserved for the deserving of which you are..."
"Not?" Erin rolled her eyes.
"Very Astute, Chief," Penelope smiled, all teeth.
"What would you consider an equitable trade, Penelope?" Erin asked tiredly, leaning against the nearby desk.
"JJ," Pen replied automatically, taking a step forward as she laid her proverbial cards on the even more proverbial table. "I want her back."
"Impossible," Erin said softly, her blue eyes meeting Garcia's glittering orbs squarely. "In addition to JJ's own possible objections regarding the matter, the Secretary of Defense would never go for it. I'm sorry."
"No, you're not," Garcia grumbled, hands on hips as she prepared to wage battle with the forces of darkness. "But fine, I'll make a counter-offer. I want our team to have ten free passes. Whatever means they choose to use...no matter what press they garner...you back them up with a smile and a song in your heart."
"Technical Analyst Garcia!" Erin gasped, already shaking her head in the negative direction.
"You know, fifteen looks like an even better number to me," Pen murmured tapping her chin as she looked up at the ceiling. "Twenty, if I find actual dirt on your kid's boy toy."
"Has anyone ever told you that you are a master negotiator, Ms. Garcia?" Erin ground out, knowing her options were severely limited in spite of her earlier denial.
"I work with a bunch of profilers. I mighta picked up a trick or two," Pen said happily as she grinned. "Do we have a deal, Chief Strauss?"
"We do," Erin Strauss sighed, then nodded at Garcia's laptop. "Please work your...I believe the word is...mojo?"
Pulling out a chair, Penelope plopped down, pulling her keyboard toward her. "Name?" she asked, her fingers poised.
"Hamilton Denton Saunders III," Erin replied, forcing herself to keep her voice even as she spoke the name of the man who was attempting to steal her child from her.
"Pretentious, much?" Pen smirked.
"Very," Erin agreed, her thoughts of her daughters current amore sending a shiver of distaste down her spine.
Clicking and tapping, Garcia murmured, scanning her screen "He's clean on the surface."
"I know," Erin replied, taking a step closer to the genius. "I was capable of looking at the surface, Ms. Garcia. That's why I came to you."
"Don't they all," Penelope agreed, furiously tapping, stopping abruptly. "I...uhmm...your future son-in-law hasn't happened to mention his family, has he?"
"He says they died years ago," Erin said as she shrugged. "He's very evasive about the subject.
"He would be. He's from one of the leading families in Serbia. One that committed a whole host of atrocities during the war, Chief Strauss."
"Maybe he's disowned them and prefers to think them dead," Strauss offered, leaning forward to peer over Garcia's shoulder.
"Maybe," Garcia muttered, narrowing her eyes as she quickly scanned the rapidly populating data. "But that doesn't explain the twice daily encrypted cell phone calls he makes to his father every day, lasting anywhere from half an hour to three. The father is in hiding. He's wanted for war crimes."
"So, it's much more likely he's looking for a way out of Serbia for his father and using my daughter to do it," Erin seethed, crossing her arms over her chest as she imagined the horrors about to befall her family.
Nodding, Penelope glanced up at Erin Strauss as she printed the incriminating documents. "Look, Chief, on a personal level, I think you're the definition of evil, but you can't let your kid marry this guy. HIS dad IS the devil...and I've gotta feeling the grandbabies would be little minions."
Lifting her chin defiantly, Erin shook her head. "Don't worry about that, Ms. Garcia. Having my family connected to anything this sick will happen over my dead body. Mr. Staunton and I will be having a very private conversation where I explain that either he vacates my daughter's life or these files find their way into the war tribunal's hands."
"You're gonna threaten a Serbian kingpin?" Pen gawked.
Smiling coldly, Erin tilted her head. "Perhaps there is a tinge of ice in my veins after all. Those free passes are at your discretion, Ms. Garcia. And for this," Erin smiled, lifting the papers, "You get twenty. Thank you."
"Yes, ma'am," Penelope whispered, honestly frightened by the look in the elder woman's eyes. Erin Strauss might be one of the vilest women on earth, that was true. But Garcia had to give credit where credit was due.
That woman had stones.
Dedicated to My Husband.