This story takes place in season three somewhere between the episode "Penelope" (3x09) and episode "Damaged" (3x14).
Chapter 1. – Earlier in the evening
The waiting was the worst. Especially on a case like this it was nothing but unbearable. JJ and Garcia had been sitting in Garcia’s small office waiting for a call from the team for more than three hours. They sat in silence; both of them were on edge and unable to make small talk while standing by and hoping the phone would ring. Every time there was a case where a child’s life was at stake everyone in the BAU team was extra tense, extra vigilant, working extra hard, trying to make the most out of their skills and experience.
A six year old girl had been abducted and gone for a week outside San Francisco. Since two other children had been abducted and murdered in the same area seven years ago the local police suspected there might be a connection and called in the BAU five days after the girl’s disappearance. Since then everyone had been desperately working nonstop to find little Emma Hampton, which was the girl’s name. They had gotten a solid lead on a possible suspect or unsub as the BAU called their suspects, the same day they arrived to the crime scene and the rest of the investigation was about figuring out where the unsub was and where he might hide Emma. Finally with a little bit of luck Reid - their genius colleague with eidetic memory, brilliantly found a link between some old evidence and an address that was connected to the suspect.
That had been three hours ago and the waiting was starting to feel worse than torture. Both JJ and Garcia wished they could help in some way but all they could do was sit and wait for their colleagues to call them and tell them if they had found little Emma. The fact that the suspect was an armed man on heavy medication added a lot of worry for their team mates as well.
JJ sighed and looked over at Garcia who had managed to bite down all her fake turquoise fingernails. She gave her friend an encouraging smile. The air inside the room was stale and both of them had been working in the same clothes for the last 48 hours. JJ had been required to stay back at Quantico this time because a hysterical politician had felt threatened and raised a shit storm when she initiated the first contact with the local authorities. The situation had gotten so bad that she had been ordered by Section Chief Strauss to stay back and help Garcia instead of going with the rest of the team. JJ couldn’t help but to feel a little insulted over the way Hotch had so quickly accepted Strauss’ ruling but she knew that there hadn’t been much time for discussing politics with the Section Chief before the BAU team’s departure. Besides, she liked working with Garcia and the two of them had managed to find some very useful clues that had been crucial in the investigation.
Both of them jumped when the phone rang.
“Oh finally! Give me some good news Sugar, have you found her?” Garcia’s voice was desperately trying to sound hopeful and JJ instinctively reached for the computer tech’s hand. By the way Garcia addressed the caller JJ knew it was Derek Morgan – he and Garcia always flirted over the phone when they worked. It was their way of keeping away the darkness they constantly had to face in their line of work.
There was a pause and Garcia and JJ held their breaths for what felt like an eternity for them. Finally Morgan spoke; “I wish I could Sweetie Pie but... yeah, we found her... she wasn’t alive.”
”Oh” Garcia couldn’t think of anything else to say. It was just so devastating. Both she and JJ were floored by the futility of it all. They had all pushed themselves beyond fatigue, irritation and despair for two days on the small hope that they could save little Emma but to no avail. It was heartbreaking.
”She had been dead for at least five days so there was nothing we could have done.” Morgan sounded so defeated when he said this that Garcia wanted to cry. Since BAU had been called in on the case two days ago they had been too late from the start.
“Did we at least get the unsub?” JJ tried to look for some good news in all of the darkness.
“Yeah, I guess that’s something, right? Well, this case is over. We’re staying the night and will fly home tomorrow. See you on Monday.” Morgan was so disappointed and sad that he had no extra sweet words to say to his favorite computer nerd. He was at loss for words and Garcia felt the same way.
”Yeah, see you on Monday.” There was a click in the other end of the line and silence filled the room except for the discreet humming of Garcia’s computers.
The two female agents couldn’t say a word for several minutes afterwards. They just sat looking bleary-eyed at the computer screens before them. They couldn’t win all the time, even though they were supposed to be the best. Sometimes the circumstances made it impossible for them to prevent the crime; to be too late even before they had even started. It was depressing beyond words.
Finally JJ spoke up; “Let’s get out of here.”
Garcia took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes with one hand and for a while JJ was afraid that the other woman would start to cry. She really couldn’t handle that. It was hard enough to handle the strange computer tech when she was ‘normal’, but an emotional Garcia was more than JJ could take right now when she could barely handle her own feelings herself.
Garcia put her glasses back on and gave her blonde colleague a tired smile: “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”
When they got out of the building on wobbly, tired legs it was already dark. The evening was crisp and smelled like autumn. Since JJ and Garcia had been called in for the case late in the evening two days ago and worked nonstop without sleep for 48 hours in a room without windows they felt the night had been going on forever.
JJ suddenly stopped. “Damn!”
“I just remembered that my car is at the garage for repairs.”
JJ turned to Garcia but before she could ask her friend for a ride, Garcia interrupted her:
“I’ll give you a ride”, Garcia offered. “Please jump in and take a seat in Esther!”
Esther was Garcia’s beautiful vintage car and JJ was surprised how comfortable the old car was. They drove into town in silence, the sadness of their latest case slowly sinking in.
JJ looked out of the car window, watching the city lights passing by. “You don’t have to drive me all the way home. You can drop me off anywhere in the city.”
“Absolutely not! It’s no trouble at all for me to drive you to your place. So please let me a ‘gentlewoman’ and drive you to the door.”
“Thank you, but I don’t think I want to go home right away, I think I will go for a drink first.”
Garcia looked at JJ like she thought she was nuts. “You want to go out after a case like this?”
“Yeah, what else is there to do? You want to join me?”
“I am not really in the mood to party to be honest, and neither should you be.”
“I’m not talking about partying, I’m talking about drinking.”
Garcia took a long look at her and then continued to drive in silence for a couple of minutes.
“I won’t be able to sleep tonight anyway so why not drink myself into oblivion?”
JJ couldn’t help but smile. It was good to have company on a night like this.
Garcia parked Esther outside her house. She lived in an area with a lot of good bars so the girls decided to go from there. After a three minute walk they found a humble but agreeable looking bar with old soul music playing in the background and decided it was a good place to start.
As soon as they settled at a table in a cozy corner of the place with their beers, they felt the exhaustion from the last two days hit them like a ton of bricks. They both sighed while smiling wearily at each other and sank slowly into their chairs. The first sip of beer felt heavenly and went straight to their heads in a nice, fuzzy way, making their limbs feel heavy. Since neither of them were able to shake off the devastation and sadness of the case, they sat in silence for a long while, staring at the small bubbles in the beer swimming up to the surface.
“Oh, the humanity!” Garcia said it to no one in particular but she felt it kind of fitted how she felt at the moment.
JJ raised her glass: “I’ll drink to that.”
The two female agents raised their glasses to humanity and then took a big gulp. This time around the beer poured some new life into both of them and they realized that they needed to unburden all the grief and stress from the last two days.
“That poor girl! I really thought that we would have been able to save her. I really thought that if we worked hard enough, if I worked hard enough… we would have found her alive.” JJ looked like she was about to cry but then she took another big gulp from the beer glass. “Damn it!”
Garcia put her hand on her friend’s shoulder, giving it a friendly squeeze to show that she felt the same way. “I can’t help thinking about her family and what they must be going through right now.”
“Same here… it’s all so heartbreaking. The moment Derek told us that she was dead I just wanted to scream and cry.”
“Yeah, I just wish we would have got this case sooner.”
“It’s all my fault you know.” JJ looked down deep in her beer glass.
“What? No, of course it isn’t! Why would you think that?”
”I shouldn’t have chosen this case for BAU to investigate. I should have known that it would be a dead run when the police contacted us five days after the girl was abducted. I should have taken those five days into consideration and realized that the girl probably would have been murdered by the unsub by then. Instead I made everyone go across the country on a desperate chase after a dead little girl.”
“But you couldn’t have known that she was dead! When we started to work on this case we knew that it was a very small chance that she would be alive when we found her, but we all jumped on that small chance.”
“But I could have chosen another case where we might have saved someone else. It would have prevented us from all the heartbreak. God, knows we see it all too much in our jobs. Not to mention that Strauss will think that we wasted government money on a dead case that gives the FBI bad PR.”
“Never mind what Section Chief Strauss thinks, hon. If we only did what she wants us to do, we would never be able to get the work done.” Garcia couldn’t believe how much JJ was beating herself up over something that wasn’t her fault and couldn’t have prevented.
“I know but… ” JJ was almost at the verge of tears.
“Ok, listen to me my sweet cupcake of sunshine! That girl, dead or alive, deserved to have the best people in the country looking for her when she was abducted. And she had the best team to come looking for her, you gave her that. I don’t see it as a wasted effort on our part even though we were called in too late.”
“I… I guess so… ” JJ gave up a deep, trembling sigh. “Sometimes this job is so... so damn hard to live with.”
“Amen to that.” Garcia took another big gulp from the beer. “When you dig up information about the victims and see all the photos of them it feels like you know them a little bit. They become someone you care about, almost like a friend. And losing them like that little girl today, Emma… it’s like losing a little part of yourself, even though I haven’t met her in real life.”
“I know exactly what you mean… We aren’t supposed to make it personal or take the job home with us but we all do it. It would be inhumane not to. If I wasn’t sitting here taking a beer with you, I probably would be at home curled up in a little ball, crying my heart out right now”
“Oh JJ!” Garcia patted her friend’s back when she heard this.
”Still, I wouldn’t want to have any other job in the world. Isn’t that strange?”
“I think it’s the same with me. But I don’t know if I can work with this for the rest of my life. It scares me how much it affects me. I don’t want to be hard and jaded or unemotional like Hotch.”
“You will never be jaded.” JJ took Garcia’s hand they smiled at each other, while thinking of how much their boss had changed since they had started working together.
“But, seriously aren’t you a little bit worried about him? I don’t think I have seen Hotch smile in over a year or you know… since his wife left him.”
JJ took another swig of the beer. “Yes, I am worried about him. But I don’t think Haley left him because of the job, I suspect Hotch left Haley for the job. If he continues the way he’s doing right now he will eventually burn himself out. Just like Gideon.”
The two women became silent thinking of the senior profiler who had left them so abruptly. They drank up their beer and JJ went for another round. When she came back and looked at Garcia’s red eyes and wrinkly clothes she realized how disheveled and awful the two of them must look. They probably smelled bad as well and it made JJ shake her head. She never thought in a million years that she would go out on a Friday night looking like this and not caring.
JJ and Garcia made a toast to Gideon wherever he was and wished him the best of luck. Otis Redding sang Try A Little Tenderness in the background and the two female agents stopped talking for awhile and listened to the song. It was a beautiful song that had a soothing effect on them.
Garcia turned to JJ. “Do you really think Hotch is in danger of burning out?”
“I wish I could say no but you know how Hotch is, he takes the whole world on his shoulders. Ever since Haley left he seems to be at work all the time. No one could run the BAU as good as he does but he is pushing himself too far. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
“I guess you’re right. I wish he and Haley could work it out because she and Jack made Hotch more human. It’s so obvious that he still loves her.”
“I hoped when Rossi came onto the team that he would be able to take the pressure off Hotch a bit. They seem to be old friends and on the same level so maybe Hotch could open up a little. It would do him good… maybe get some advice on how to work it out with Haley.”
“Ha, I wouldn’t know about that... Rossi has been married three times so maybe he’s not the right guy to talk to about marital problems.” Garcia smirked.
“Three times?!” JJ couldn’t believe her ears. Even though she had read most of Rossi’s books and admired him immensely, this was news to her.
”You didn’t know that? Well, the divorce rate is ten times higher among FBI agents and profilers compared to other government workers… ”
“Now you sound like Reid, rattling out facts like a human computer.”
“Oooh that’s not good! I love and admire our boy genius to bits and he is fantastic and indispensable to our team, but sometimes I get the feeling that he thinks the only social contribution he can make is to be a walking encyclopedia.”
“Yeah I know. Don’t you hate it when he starts giving you a lecture on something that you already know? And when you tell him that you already know what he is talking about he gets kind of snotty and irritated about it”
“God, tell me about it. It’s super mega irritating. I wonder what big idiots he thinks the rest of us are sometimes.”
“Ugh yeah! It must be lonely to be a genius... ” JJ trailed off and looked at her beer that was “mysteriously” empty. She realized they needed another refill but before she could ask Garcia if she was up for beer number three, a loud gang of men in business suits flooded into the small bar and JJ and Garcia took it as a sign to move on. Garcia knew a nice place close by that made cheap drinks in bright colors with lots of umbrellas in them so they went there. The place was called Riff Raff and looked like an insane mix between a café, a second hand shop and a karaoke bar. The interior of the bar was filled with insane memorabilia and vintage furniture and all the people in the bar looked like they just came from Rocky Horror Picture Show. JJ looked around at the place in amazement. It didn’t fit her mood this particular night but it was a place that was very much Garcia.
“Eh, do you go here often?”
“Not so much since my brother Mario joined the cast of Cats in Denver.”
It made sense to JJ. They found a table and a sofa by the window and Garcia went to order some drinks. She came back with two huge frilly drinks in a bright blue color and a dozen umbrellas in them.
When JJ looked a little hesitant at the drink Garcia blinked at her:
“Give it a try. This one is called Joan Crawford and it’s to die for, trust me!”
Garcia was right. Joan Crawford was to die for and had a healthy dose of gin in it.
“So what do you think of Rossi?” wondered Garcia.
“He is the reason why I am here, working for the FBI. I went to a book signing with him once in when I was at Georgetown and that actually made me sign up for the academy.”
“Really? Wow!” JJ’s statement made Garcia pause and think a little. “I don’t know what to make of the guy. Derek told me Rossi has been pestering him about all these weird religious, philosophical questions and pressuring him into going to a church. Derek doesn’t like it at all.”
“What kind of weird questions?”
“Like what if there’s some evil force behind all the awful things criminals do?”
“That’s strange because Rossi gives such a calm, pragmatic impression. He doesn’t strike me as the religious type or anyone who dwells too much upon existential questions about human nature. But then again, in our profession… how can we not do that?”
“Do you believe in evil?”
It was such a heavy question that it prompted JJ to go the bar and buy them a new drink. She came back with a pink drink called Tom of Finland in strange glasses shaped like muscular, naked men. Garcia thought it was hilarious that JJ had gone for that drink. Tom of Finland tasted of mostly of Red Bull and rum and had a pretty strong zing to it. After downing half of the drink, both of them were ready for a more philosophical discussion.
“Do you believe in evil Garcia?”
“Do I believe if there’s darker power behind all the terrible crimes we are trying to solve? No. It would be taking away all the responsibility from the unsubs and what they do.”
“But don’t you wonder where all this brutality and cruelty comes from? Every time I think I have seen it all there will be a new unsub with even sicker ways of killing his victims than the one before him. Like the unsubs who make their own torture tools for example… where do they even come up with ideas like that?”
“Yeah, it is mind boggling to say the least. But I don’t know if evil is the right word for an unsub. When you scrape a little on the surface of the unsubs we have taken, most of them come off as incredibly pathetic and lonely.”
“So you mean when a man tortures, rapes and murders several women it’s because of loneliness?”
“No of course not! But I think loneliness is more a part of the equation than them being possessed by the devil. It’s a part of the explanation for what they did but it doesn’t mean it will ever be an excuse for their crimes.”
JJ nodded while her eyes were transfixed by the drink glass she held in her hand. “Yeah, I wonder if there any explanations or excuses that makes killing someone justifiable... ” The two women fell quiet, thinking of the police man who had tried to kill Garcia a while ago, a man who JJ eventually had to shoot to death. The memory was still a little too raw for them to talk about.
“Sometimes we do what we have to do JJ. You know that.” Garcia’s voice was low and soothing. She really wanted to make JJ feel better about what she had done. She still felt guilty her friend had to kill a man because of her.
“Elle probably thought she did what she had to do when she shot that serial rapist…”
At the mention of their former colleague Garcia looked at JJ intensively: “You really think she shot that guy in cold blood?”
JJ struggled a little bit with what she was about to say. “Yes, I do. I mean, why else would she have left the team the way she did?”
“I guess you are right. Do you have any idea what she is up to now?”
“I have no idea. I can’t say I ever got to know her. I don’t think she liked me very much to be honest.”
“I don’t think she liked me very much either. She seemed so cold, like she had a chip on her shoulder.”
“Exactly! But I have seen her when she was talking with victims and she was always amazing with them - empathic, warm and considerate, especially towards female victims.”
“Really? Because I got the impression she hated women or something… but what do I know, I only worked with her…“ Garcia shrugged.
“Well, people can surprise you, you know.”
“Oh, yes they can. Like Emily - in the beginning I thought she had like zero sense of humor. Talking with her on the phone when she started working at BAU was downright painful but now I have come to realize that she actually is pretty funny in a awkward, dorky kind of way.”
Suddenly the bartender showed up with two dangerous looking black drinks with red streaks in them, decorated with red umbrellas and little plastic Draculas on the top.
“Two Vampirellas for you lovely ladies! Compliments from the lady in the pink wig standing by the bar.”
They looked up and saw a fantastic looking black transvestite in a pink beehive together with her friends who looked just as fabulous, raising her glass to them.
“I LOVE you girl! Call me next week so we can have some fun!”
Garcia raised her glass to the transvestite and shouted back; “I love you too Shawniqua! Thank you for the drink, I’ll call you!”
Shawniqua gave her thumbs up and turned back to her friends.
“She’s a friend of my brother and we go to the same macramé class.” Garcia explained when she saw JJ’s confused look. “Don’t give me that look; macramé has a calming effect on my delicate nerves my dear. But as I was trying to say before we got this delicious looking drink… I like Emily!”
“Me too! At first I thought she was one of those ruthless climbers who use their connections to just glide through their career without having to do anything, but she’s not like that at all. Even though I have heard that her family is pretty well connected.... ” JJ dared a first sip on the Vampirella drink. It tasted… interesting with a lot of vodka. It might not have been her favorite drink but JJ was working up a pretty good buzz and she wasn’t about to stop drinking any time soon.
“You could say that. I think you can track Emily’s roots all the way back the Mayflower. Once she showed me an invite to a Tee Ball at the White House with the President.”
JJ made a whistling sound. “Wow, a ball at the White House!”
“We were working on the Katie case – the little girl that was abducted in the mall, at the time. I got the impression Emily was pretty thankful to have an excuse to not go to the ball.”
Suddenly the bar announced it was time for karaoke and since JJ and Garcia weren’t in the mood for singing or other cheery activities plus the sad fact that their Vampirella drinks were long gone, they decided to continue their journey into oblivion at a quieter place.
To be continued in Chapter 2. - Later in the evening...
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