Title: Ash

Warning: Death of a minor character

Author's note: written for the cmprmptmeme community at LJ for the AU prompt Reid/JJ, JJ as an unsub. Not shippy, because I don't ship them and couldn't make it work.


You find her in the cemetery, sitting on a bench. She doesn't respond to your presence until you're only a few feet away; even then she doesn't look at you.

"I'm glad it's you."

Her voice is pitched so low you can barely hear it. She sounds tired, and looks it too. It's more than the shadows under her eyes, the slightly stooped posture, the words that come a little more slowly than they should. You diagnose clinical depression, but the more fanciful side of yourself, the side that's scared of the dark and believes in monsters thinks that life has taken more than she can afford to give, and she's not completely here anymore.

"Would it be alright it I sat down?" You don't make any sudden movements. She's fragile like blown glass, and just as likely to shatter.

"There's room on the bench." It's not an answer, exactly, and far from an invitation but you sit down anyway, careful not to touch her but just as careful not to sit all the way at the edge so there's too much space between you. It's a fine line between crowding and abandoning.

"You weren't easy to find. You turned your cell phone off." You and the team were able to narrow down the search before the signal went down, but it had taken more than an hour to figure it out from there.

"There didn't seem to be a point to it anymore. I threw it away." There's a necklace around her neck, a delicate gold chain. You don't remember noticing it the last time you saw her, but now her fingers play nervously with the charm that hangs from it.

"I'm sure there's people worrying about you." You remember the pictures on the wall of her living room, three days ago when you'd gone to interview her. So many people, so many smiles. You've never seen her smile. Maybe she's forgotten how.

"You study human behavior for a reason, don't you Doctor Reid? Do you really think anyone is going to want to be near me after this?" She looks at you, her long blond hair falling back over her shoulders as she lifts her head. You've forgotten just how blue her eyes are. Blue is associated with cold and calm, but there's neither in her eyes when you look at her. Instead you're reminded of the Proto-Indo-European root bhel, meaning "to shine, flash or burn.' You don't believe in spontaneous human combustion, but you know that emotionally she's been been burning for days now.

"There are people who will understand what's happened to you." You, for one. You can't condone what she's done, not when your whole adult life has been about catching and stopping people who kill. You can't condemn her, either. The hardest cases you work are the ones when the unsub is a victim; harder still when you like the person you need to stop.

"I don't care." She moves suddenly, looking as if she's going to run but changing her mind before she's even stood up. You can hear movement behind you, and almost feel the concern of the team watching your back. You hold up your hand to stop them from coming closer.

"I think maybe you care too much. It would be easier not to care, but that's not who you are." You think that if she really didn't care she would have been harder to find. She would have continued killing, or just walked away. She wouldn't have come here.

"You don't know me." You wish she'd sound more defiant, but she just sounds resigned.

You've been to all the crime scenes, seen all the evidence. There is no torture or overkill. At first when you figured out the why and the who you were a little surprised that none of the men were made to suffer before their deaths, but now it's beginning to make sense. It's almost Old Testament justice, an eye for an eye. They killed, she killed, and now she's sitting next to you waiting because she knew you'd find her here. She wants to be caught. Maybe she wants to be killed, too. Your hand moves to the butt of your gun, suddenly very aware of how easily she could take it and use it on herself, or you; either way would accomplish the same thing.

"I know you're in pain. I know you feel like everything that matters has been taken from you, and that's why you don't care what happens to you right now." You remember the picture you'd seen a few hours ago, the body that came before all the others. You remember, too, those pictures in her apartment. She seemed so full of life in them, someone you would have liked to have known. That woman in the pictures doesn't exist anymore.

"I didn't think it would get better, but I didn't know it could get worse." Her fingers as she touches the necklace this time are trembling. You don't know what it is about her that has you breaking all your own rules, but you, who rarely touch anyone, reach out and touch her shoulder. She's killed five people in the last two weeks but you don't see a killer. You look down at the tiny plot of dirt, a wooden marker the temporary memoriam to a life ended too soon, and all you see when you look at Jennifer Jareau is a grieving mother.

"We'll find someone who can help you." You slip the handcuffs on your belt out of their case, wishing there was a way you could just walk her in but there's procedural and more importantly the safety of your team. You stand, moving slowly so she can see everything you do. "I need you to trust me, Jennifer."

"JJ. My friends call me JJ. Maybe if we'd meet at a different time..."

"Maybe it's not too late." You slip the cuffs around her wrists and lead her to the car. The case is over but somehow you know it's not ended yet. Not for you. It will never be over for JJ Jareau.