Fandom: Criminal Minds
Prompt for 30_sweets: #1 Can I have this?
Disclaimer: Neither the show nor the characters belong to me, they belong to CBS. Nonetheless, I love to borrow them from time to time.
Summary: Part 16/? of the ‘No more sweets’-series.
AN: Once again, I’m sorry for the delay. During the last days before the summer break, things tend to get crazy. Besides, I’ve been spending time trying to find new inspiration, and with that also exploring something new. But that’s a different story.
Back on topic. Once again, I have no idea when I’ll be able to post again. I haven’t written anything. I’m kinda stuck with the stories here. But as usual, I’m sure this’ll pass eventually.
Now, I hope you enjoy this chapter. I had to post two chapters of this story in a row because I hadn’t finished anything else. Thanks for hanging in there with me as you always do. I’m sorry for the delays again.
“Here we go, baby cakes,” Derek greeted, as he brought her the lunch they’d picked up on their way to the station. “Time to take a break.”
She hadn’t missed the change in his behavior. He had stopped greeting her with a kiss. As a matter of fact, he barely even touched her anymore.
She wasn’t sure, though, if he had changed his behavior on purpose, or if it had just happened somewhere along the way. She wasn’t even sure he had noticed the change himself.
She was even less sure about why his behavior had changed in the first place. Was it the case tearing them apart? Was it the fact that she obviously was unable to handle this case? Was he disappointed now, or mad at her? Or had he simply lost interest in her?
She had tried to console herself by telling herself he was just too focused on the case. But eventually, she had to admit to herself that this couldn’t be the only reason. He had never been too focused on a case to flirt with her.
“Baby?” His voice interrupted her thoughts, clearly filled with worry.
She turned around to give him a weak smile. “Sorry, sugar, I was just… thinking.”
“Did you find anything?” he asked, frowning in concern. “Another video or something?”
“No,” she replied, sighing. “I’m not sure if I should be glad about that or not. It obviously doesn’t mean that he has stopped killing. If there was another video, maybe I would find something.”
“You’ll find something in this video,” Derek told her, trying to sound as confident as possible.
“I wish you were right,” she said, turning back to her computer. “But I honestly don’t know where to look for something to find.”
“Take a break now and have lunch with me,” Derek told her. “Or do I need to get Hotch to make you eat?”
She turned around again, smiling slightly, and took the fork he offered.
“Unfortunately, the café was still closed,” Derek explained. “They don’t open before five. But we found a Chinese diner, and I thought you might enjoy having some fortune cookies.”
“Thanks,” she whispered, trying to give him a smile. She didn’t feel like eating any more now than she had about an hour ago. But she knew she needed to eat.
Derek frowned at her in concern, but didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to fight with her about eating again. He didn’t want to fight with her at all.
Picking at her food, Penelope sighed. “I start believing that there is nothing to find. I’ve watched this video so often that I can tell you exactly when she cries out in pain, when she cries for help, and when she just whimpers. Not to mention the sounds of her body being torn apart, her bones cracking, and…”
“Have you tried switching off the sound?” Derek suggested.
She looked at him for a second, but didn’t answer. She knew the video well enough by now that even without the sound on, she would hear the crying and cracking in her head.
“You’ll find something,” Derek insisted, hoping that he could encourage her a little. “We’ve been stuck with cases before, but in the end, we always found a lead.”
“Yeah, but I’m not like you,” Penelope whispered. “I can’t look at those videos like you do.”
Carefully reaching over the table, Derek took her hand in his, squeezing it gently. “I know you can do this,” he told her. “You’re much stronger than you think you are.”
“What if I’m not?” she objected, fighting back the tears that wanted to spring to her eyes.
“I know you are,” Derek assured her. “We all know how strong you really are. You’ve proved that often enough.”
“But this time, it’s different,” she replied. “I can’t guarantee that there is anything to find – and I can’t guarantee that if there is anything, I’ll find it. I’ve watched this video way too often, and whenever I hit that stupid play button again, I get closer to a nervous breakdown. And I can’t handle knowing that you all rely on me so much, because I’m so not trained for all this, and I feel like I won’t be able to handle this much longer – or at all…”
“Sweetness, why do you think we rely on you so much?” Derek softly asked.
Penelope thought about his question for a moment, before shrugging.
“Because you proved that you are reliable so often,” he said, giving her what he hoped was an encouraging smile. “You’ve been stuck before, even more than once, but it never held you back. You never let anything stop you from digging deeper, narrowing down the list of suspects or hiding places or finding a connection between the victims.”
“I don’t know,” Penelope mumbled.
“But I do,” he insisted. “Maybe you should take a break from watching the video. Maybe you should try something else, like finding a connection between the victims, or tracing back the virus, and then—”
“Don’t you think I already did all that?” she interrupted him sadly. “But like with the video, I came up empty. There is nothing to find – or I just can’t find it.”
“Yes, you can,” Derek objected, squeezing her hand once more. “I know you can. We can solve this case, and you will help us.”
“I’m tired, Derek,” she whispered. “Not only because I have trouble sleeping. I’m… tired of all this.”
“I know,” he said quietly, “and believe me, I understand. Whenever we work such horrible cases, I’m asking myself whether I really want to do that for the rest of my life.”
She raised her head to look at him.
“It’s true,” he assured her. “And I really think it’s natural. We’re surrounded by the worst of mankind everyday. But do you know what keeps me doing this job?”
She shook her head no.
“You,” he told her with a smile. “You always manage to make me smile and make this job a little easier. You help all of us doing this; you lighten up everyone’s day with your wit and your cheerful nature.”
“I’m really not feeling cheerful at the moment,” she responded sadly.
“I know,” Derek replied. “But there’s something else helping me in cases like this. It’s the knowledge that when this case is over, we will have put another monster out of action and made this world a little safer.”
“What if we don’t?” Penelope objected weakly. “Whenever a case is over, there’s another one, and another one, and yet another one. This is never going to end. We can’t make the world safer, because whenever we put one UNSUB out of action, there is another one stepping into his shoes.”
“Imagine what this world would be like if we didn’t at least try and fight them,” he responded. “Imagine all the people we have put behind bars still out there. And think about how many lives we saved. Not only those victims we found alive, but also all the potential victims of UNSUBs we caught.”
This time, she didn’t say anything in return.
“You know, the Canadian author Lloyd S. Lefteruk wrote that evil only strengthens the good in the world,” he told her.
She raised her head again and smirked ever so slightly. “Did you ask Reid for that?”
He chuckled, relieved about a little bit of playfulness in her voice. “Yeah, you got me.”
“Why hasn’t he uploaded another video anywhere?” Penelope asked after a moment of silence. “I mean, Amanda Connor was his third victim. Maybe he didn’t record the first two killings. But in the meantime, there have been two more victims we know of. Where are their videos? He wouldn’t go through all this to get our attention, and then stop sending us that… stuff, right?”
“I don’t know,” Derek replied honestly. “We’ve been asking ourselves the same question. I agree, he wouldn’t just stop. It doesn’t fit the profile. He uploaded this video along with the virus to show that he can mess with us and that we’re still unable to find him. He seems so sure of himself that it doesn’t make sense that he’s so quiet about the recent murders.”
A knock on the door interrupted them. Only a second later, a young man dressed in a postman’s uniform stuck his head in. “Excuse me, I have a delivery for Ms. Penelope Garcia.”
Both Derek and Penelope frowned first at each other, and then at the delivery man.
“That’s me,” Penelope said, taking the small package from the man and signing the chart.
Derek examined the box, and his eyes widened when a dark stain in the bottom-left corner caught his attention. Slowly, he stood up. “Baby Girl, put that thing down!”
“What? What’s wrong?” she asked, her voice filled with fear. What had Derek noticed? Was it a bomb or something?
“Nothing,” he assured her, moving his eyes from the delivery to hers. “Just put that thing down, okay?”
Doing as she was told, she carefully put the package on the table and whispered, “What do you think’s inside? A bomb or something?”
“No,” he told her, moving around the table so that he was standing next to her. “I don’t think it’s a bomb – and I don’t think you want to know what’s inside. Go and get Hotch, will ya?”
“But…” she tried to argue.
“Please, Baby Girl, go get Hotch,” he told her. “And then stay outside. You don’t wanna be here when we open this.”
Shaking, she walked out of her temporary office. She found Hotch and the others in the briefing room.
They all jumped up when they saw the expression on her face.
“I just received a delivery without a return address, and Derek told me to get you,” she explained. “He refused to let me open it, saying I wouldn’t want to know what was inside.”
Hotch just nodded and rushed out of the room. When he arrived in Garcia’s office, Derek had already ripped open the package and was now examining its contents.
“We need some gloves,” Derek said, “and the CSU.”
Hotch stepped closer, glancing into the open box, and drew in a breath. “I’ll call them.”
“Now we know why there hasn’t been another video,” Derek commented more to himself, as Hotch stepped outside, calling for the CSU. “He came up with something more shocking.”
“We need to figure out how he found out Garcia’s name,” Hotch replied, after having stepped back inside.
“Well, we met the Sheriff in front of the police station, and you introduced all of us. Besides, when we checked in at the hotel, we told the receptionist our names, too. This is a small town. If the UNSUB’s local – and I’m damn sure he is – it was easy for him to find out all our names.”
“True.” Frowning, Hotch stepped out of the room and watched the CSU rush inside.
“What is it?” Penelope asked, her voice still shaking. “What was inside that package?”
Sighing, Derek told her, “It was a part of one of his victims – probably the latest.”
Penelope’s eyes widened. “What does that mean, ‘a part’?”
“What does that mean?” she insisted.Sighing again, Derek looked at Hotch, and then back at Penelope, before he replied, “It was her heart.”