Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds and am making nothing from this beyond the satisfaction of proving you can have UnSubs and romance in the same story and lose nothing. Hint, hint TPTB.
A/N: This story is for sangreal_7 and Kricket Williams who requested I kill off Kevin. Thank you ladies for the inspiration. Kricket, thank you, too for betaing.
"Open up! Police!"
Penelope thought she was having another of her crazy dreams until the pounding, which had roused her from her sleep and came with that command in its midst. Reaching for her glasses and cellphone, which lay side by side on her bedside table, Penelope slipped her glasses into place, then hit speed dial number one as she got out of bed.
Padding on bare feet, she maneuvered her way with ease through her seemingly cluttered apartment. Before she could arrive at the door, the pounding seemed to escalate, scaring her.
Penelope heard Derek answer and wanted to cry in both relief and fear that he was only with her through this over the phone line. "D, I need you. Cops are here."
"Penelope Garcia! We know you're in there. Open this door. It's your final warning."
"Coming," she said, as she tucked the phone against her shoulder, under her chin and whispered, "Hurry, Hot Stuff; I think I'm in real trouble here."
"I'm on my way. Don't disconnect; I want to hear what they want."
"'K," she said, before slipping the phone into the chest pocket of her flannel pajama top. She pulled the door open and came face to face with her superintendent, key at the ready, face set in clear annoyance.
"What took you so long to answer?"
"It's the middle of the night; I was sleeping."
"Penelope Garcia?" One of the two plain-clothes officers at her door asked.
"Yes, that's me."
"Please turn around, ma'am."
He touched her shoulder then, both for contact and, she knew, to keep her from attempting to slam the door with them still in the hall. A lot of good it would do her when her super was right there with a key.
"Penelope Garcia, you are under arrest for the murder of Kevin Lynch."
Penelope felt herself sway, her jaw loosen of its own accord under the impact of the officer's words even as she struggled to understand their true meaning. "Kevin. Kevin? What? He's dead?"
"I'm not going to ask again," the same cop said. "Turn around."
She did, too stunned to do otherwise. For the third time in her life, she felt cuffs being slipped onto her wrists, as the cops read her the Miranda rights. Without protest, she let them lead her away, not even realizing she was in nothing but her pjs-no shoes, coat or purse-with her cellphone's open line revealing everything to her astounded best friend.
Six days earlier
Penelope had known it was time for her and Kevin to part ways. Truth be told, it had been time for their relationship to end about seven months ago, but there had never seemed to be a good time. Once Emily had 'died', their little BAU team had been thrown into an emotional whirlwind too volatile for many to understand, let alone help them through. They'd paired off. It hadn't been intentional, but it had been necessary. Hotch had talked to Rossi, Rossi had gone to JJ, as had Reid, and she and Derek, as always, had each other.
It was natural they'd grow even closer as they'd grieved, and they had. Still, it was once they had begun working the Doyle case in earnest, it became truly apparent that between work, the Doyle case, Derek, the remainder of the BAU family and her extra curricular activities like counseling and the theatre, there was no room left for Kevin.
She'd expected him to bow out graciously, and he had during their initial breakup two weeks ago. Then yesterday, she'd arrived at her office to find four years worth of anniversary, birthday, and just because gifts she'd bought Kevin piled in front of the door with a banner looped through the tiger-stripped mankini that stated, "You meant these all for Agent Morgan."
She'd been mortified. Judging by the number of FBI employees who suddenly had a need to use the hallway that led to her office, it was apparent word of the display had spread like a wild fire.
On his way to his own office, Derek had come upon her, filling a hurriedly emptied banker's box she had taken from storage with Kevin's former belongings.
It had saddened her to realize how many of the items still had the tags attached and/or were still tucked into the gift bag she'd given them in. The only two items not in the pile were the latest version of World of Warcraft™ and a top of the line Android hand-held gamer unit she'd given him for his birthday in May.
"His last stand?"
"On a grand scale for maximum embarrassment, yeah."
Derek had left his bag by his office door then came over to help her finish up. "There's a small fortune in here."
"I know," Pen said, as she had shifted several items in the box in hopes of covering the offending banner.
"He's gotta know these were all purchased exclusively with him in mind. I mean, come on, Baby Girl, we both know I could never rock that mankini."
Despite herself, Penelope had laughed and laughed until the tears had begun to flow. Derek had taken the box from her, while guiding her into her office. He'd shut the door, tucked the box into a spare corner, and then gathered her into his arms. He'd let her cry it out while he'd held her, murmured soothing things that meant nothing and everything, interspersed with kisses to her head.
Once Penelope had cried herself out, she'd hugged Derek tight and said, "Thanks, Hot Stuff," as she had looked up at him through heavily tear stained glasses. She couldn't say what had made this moment for them any different than any other day in the past several months, except maybe the finality of Kevin's gesture, but she'd taken the chance. Rising up on her tiptoes, she'd fastened her lips to Derek's, and kissed him. Penelope didn't have to wait long for his reaction.
A softly whispered, "Finally," and he'd taken control of their kiss. In so doing, she'd become lost in the feel of his strong arms around her, his soft yet firm lips against her own pliant ones, and the gentle seeking of his warm tongue for entrance into the heat of her mouth that she'd willingly granted.
They had been rudely interrupted by the banging of her office door into a wall, followed by what had felt like material banging against the side of her leg and Derek's, too, judging by his "umph" of surprise, as he had eased out of their kiss.
"And here I'd hoped my little display would shock you into coming back to me. Instead you really did go right to him. I expected more of you, Penny."
"Kevin, we're over," Penelope said, as she had tightened her hold on Derek. They'd stood side by side, as she had addressed Kevin further, "Your gift return method made that clear. I have nothing more to say and neither do you."
By now, she had been holding up her free hand in a gesture of warning not to speak. Kevin remained in the open doorway, his lips parted, but silent. When he made a move, several elongated seconds later, to come into the office Penelope had spoken once again, "Go, Kevin. Please don't make me hate you."
"Lynch, walk away, man," Derek said, as he'd pushed his bag out of the way that Kevin had tossed at their feet.
To Penelope's amazement, he had. It had been the last time she'd seen him alive.
Penelope's knight in black leather arrived with his motorcycle helmet tucked under one arm, just as she was being booked at her local precinct. She didn't need to ask if he'd flashed his credentials because there was no other explanation for why Derek was already reading through the evidence file by the time they'd fingerprinted and photographed her. When they were leading her into an interrogation room, at last someone brought her some socks. She thought she heard the voices of Hotch and Rossi as they closed her in and left her to fret in the standard industrial gray-painted room on a heavy metal chair that was chained to the matching table.
Penelope had to believe this was all a huge mistake. Maybe Kevin was behind this all, somehow manipulating cyber evidence to make the authorities believe she'd killed him or orchestrating an elaborate hoax with one of his mortician gamer buddies. Either way, it was all completely ridiculous. She'd been in the Colorado Mountains with the team the last five days working a decidedly odd case.
The UnSub had been taking his victims on solitary survival tours up into the mountains, tying them up in a shallow cave, breaking one of their limbs and then leaving them with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Three of the victims had froze to death and two had died of starvation, all of whom had been found in the caves where they'd been left. Two others had managed to escape the caves, only for one to become a snack for a mountain lion, while the other had gotten into it with a bear and lost. They'd been able to save the eighth victim: cold, hungry, broken and unlikely to ever be the same, but alive, and had stopped another monster from killing again.
As Penelope relived the case, it brought her back to the question of Kevin. If he really had been murdered, who had killed him while she'd been helping to catch another UnSub?
Just as she was becoming anxious for a computer to start conducting her own investigation, the door to her interrogation room opened to admit the detective who'd arrested her with Hotch in tow. She began to stand, but Hotch shook his head, so she sank with reluctance back into the unforgiving hard chair.
"Ms. Garcia, are you ready to stop wasting everyone's time and sign a confession?"
"I'm not confessing to anything. Tell Kevin enough is enough. I'm scared. In fact, I'm terrified. He can stop playing now."
"You think this is some kind of a game?"
Before Penelope could reply the detective slapped a pile of pictures he'd had tucked under his left arm onto the table. They scattered in a morbid collage of Kevin from various angles and distance, but two things were very obvious: he was very dead and she now understood why she was their prime and, not unlikely, only suspect.
"H...he...he's in...in my car. Kevin-" Penelope began to cry and gasp, as goosebumps covered her skin. "Kevin was left in my car!" She felt the hysteria rising up to overwhelming even as she also registered Hotch speaking.
"Do you really think that was appropriate? Traumatizing Ms. Garcia isn't going to get you the information you seek. You have the wrong person."
"Just because I let you in here to play her lawyer does not mean I'm going to listen to your theory about her innocence without proof. This is not the first time your Ms. Garcia has done this, but I got her dead to rights this time."
Penelope gasped and broke out into a cold sweat. "Get me out of here, Bossman, please."
"You are not getting out of this," the cop repeated. "I've got signed witness statements about the recent break up between Ms. Garcia and the victim; even more detailed ones about her quick switch to a new relationship; not to mention the way the body of Mr. Lynch was gift wrapped in her trunk and left to stink while she tried to come up with someplace to dispose of it. Good thing it's finally been cold lately or most of him would have been maggot food."
"Oh G-" That was as much as she got out before the detective's words did a job he hadn't anticipated and Penelope gagged, leaned to the side away from Hotch and vomited.
Hotch moved fast enough to get her hair out of the way and keep her from falling in after the mess she'd made. Penelope was too shaken by this last shock to do more than fall back against the punishing hardness of the metal chair when it was over and her stomach ended its rebellion. "Don't just stand there. Get her some water and find me someplace clean to speak to my client in private."
Penelope couldn't say if it was the authority of Hotch's voice or if the detective realized he'd gone too far, but he left the room for less than a minute before he returned with a bottle of water and beckoned them to follow him. It was only then Penelope realized, her new socks had been heavily soiled, by the mess she'd made.
Hotch shot the detective such a withering look that under normal circumstances she'd have pitied the man. "I trust you can afford Ms. Garcia a clean pair of socks and some time to clean up?"
"Yeah, I'll see about getting one of our officers to escort her."
"That won't be necessary," Derek said, as he came up behind the detective.
"Listen, here, I allowed the whole lot of you to over run my precinct because you waved around your FBI status and claimed professional courtesy, but you're out of line."
"Out of line for solving your case for you," Rossi asked, coming to stand beside Derek.
"You found the murder weapon?"
"Not exactly, but we know two things you would have had you not jumped to conclusions when you found Lynch," Derek replied.
"Really?" the detective said, as he pulled himself up to his full height between a scowling Hotch, an intimidating Rossi, and a murderous looking Derek, before he continued, "You just happened to do in a little over four hours what my guys haven't managed to in four days of investigating?"
"Highly motivated," Rossi said. "Plus, we knew you have the wrong suspect and now we can prove it, too."
"Not until Ms. Garcia is made more comfortable," Hotch added.
"Fine. Follow me," the detective said.
Derek moved passed Hotch and gathered Penelope up into his arms.
"D, I'm a mess..."
"Hush, Baby Girl. I got you."
"Interesting group interactions you all got going at the FBI."
"Yes. It works for us," Hotch said, before he indicated with little more than a nod for the detective to lead the way.
Penelope sighed in contentment as she felt the hot water hit her skin from several directions. She savoured this shower as if she'd been incarcerated for five and a half years instead of that many hours. In the end, her team had saved her and wrapped up the bizarre case of Kevin's untimely death by going analog. While Rossi and Derek had poured through the evidence at the precinct, they'd learned of her long held secret about her college boyfriend, Damien Bryant, who had accidentally hung himself in her closet while experimenting with sexual bondage. In the mean time, Reid had made a personal trip to the medical examiner's to inspect Kevin's body and obtain a copy of the postmortem report. With true legwork, Emily and JJ had tracked down Kevin's 2000 Chevy Malibu to the public parking lot where he'd parked it on the morning of the same day she'd left with the team for Colorado. After two days unclaimed, the car had been towed, but there was footage of a very alive Kevin as he parked and exited the parking lot right about the time they'd been boarding the BAU plane. It would have been impossible for Penelope to have killed him and been with the team as well.
Once the detective read the ME's report that indicated blunt force trauma as the cause of death, but gave the time of death as the afternoon of the following day, Penelope had been cleared. By the time Emily, JJ and Reid had joined forces to compare notes and pictures, Penelope herself had already pieced together Kevin's unfortunate final hours.
Unaware the team, along with Penelope, had been called away on a case, he'd returned to his standard method of getting her attention. While Derek had picked Penelope up and driven her to the office for their briefing and flight over an hour before, Kevin arrived at her neighbourhood, parked in a public lot, and walked to her building, where he proceeded to break into Esther.
Where things went wrong for Kevin had to be when the natural weight of the old Caddy's truck lid caused it to drop and hit him in the head while he'd been climbing in. Injured and in shock, he'd wrapped up in her emergency blanket and figured she would find him when she left for work. Sadly, it had been one of her neighbours and the superintendent who found his body instead, when the cold snap had ended as abruptly as it began. In the end, Kevin's death was ruled death by misadventure, just like Damien's so many years before. Kevin succeeded in one goal though; he'd scared her, terribly.
As Penelope began to cry she felt a brief draft on her back when the door to the shower was opened, and then strong arms wrapped around her.
"Cry it out, P."
"Is it wrong to be more angry than sad, Hot Stuff," Penelope asked. She turned toward Derek, her face more wet from tears than the shower they now shared.
"No. Feel whatever you need to. I'll be here."
"I know you will. Thank you for that."
"You're welcome, Baby Girl."
"I love you, D. So sorry to drag you into all this."
Derek raised an eyebrow and Penelope buried her face in his wet bare chest. Having none of that, he kept one arm around her waist while he used his other hand and lifted her chin so she had to face him as he spoke, "Seriously? Need I remind you of Gordinski's personal campaign?"
Penelope remained looking into Derek's eyes, as she placed one of her hands behind his neck then said, "Guess I have my own Gordinski now, too."
"What a pair we are."
"Sounds like we're perfect for one another."
"Agreed. I love you, too, Baby Girl," Derek said, as he kissed her into distraction, all thoughts of arrests forgotten.