DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: 2x15 Revelations.

Pity and Fear (Ballad Of A Tragic Hero)
By gilligankane


You turn the corner, moving so fast that you stumble a little, tripping over your feet, but you don't slow down. You go with it, regain your balance as you move even faster, achingly aware of the darkness and the demons that lurk in the shadows. Demons like Tobias Henkel; demons who want to murder you and break your soul with his "holier-than-though" hands.

But something isn't right.

Where is Reid? Where did Henkel go?

Thoughts race through your mind as you feel your heart racing. Reid told you to spilt up and he disappeared.

Reid told you to spilt up.

Reid disappeared.

Edging forward cautiously, your gun aimed at the darkness, you push the barn door open slowly, because maybe Henkel is standing there in the doorway and maybe he has Reid fighting for his life and maybe you can't take that chance.

But the barn is empty and the moonlight behind you slips in just enough for you to see the shapes of the empty stalls, see the wooden floor and the cracks in the building. Your gun is still outstretched, your trigger finger twitching every couple of seconds, ready to fire at Henkel – at anyone who isn't Reid.

Your heart jumps up into your throat, pounding against your voice box at the sudden sound of creaking wood, but you realize it's just your own feet, moving almost silently across the barn, so you take a deep breath and exhale it slowly.

Reid's not here.

But – as you turn to leave the barn – someone was. The flashlight on the end of your service weapon catches the spilt liquid on the floor to your left and you gasp, the air getting caught in your throat, because that's not water or motor oil and it still looks fresh.

You've always hated the smell of blood, the way it sinks into the fabric of your flak jacket, and the way it settles in the back of your mouth like your morning coffee, almost like you can taste it every odd swallow.

And then you hear the low growl, followed by another.

And then your flashlight swings around and the light bounces off the gleaming smirk of the dog, so bright that it almost blinds you and it almost costs you, because the dog is coming at you now, teeth barred, snarling and you have no choice.

The first one goes down silently and it's only the third killer dog that makes a whimper when the searing bullet cuts through his flesh, and your adrenaline is rushing through your veins so fast you don't hear it and just keep firing one after another because you're not sure if they'll get up and lung at you again, sparkling teeth promising to kill you mercilessly.

It's over and your ears are ringing but the dogs are lying in lifeless heaps on the ground.

Lifeless heaps.

You hear crunching gravel and immediately know that a car just pulled up alongside of the house, probably right up next to yours and you hear doors being opened and you should be thinking rationally: you should be thinking that it's Hotch and Gideon and Morgan – your knights in shining armor.

But all you can think about is how you were almost mauled to (an inevitable) death and how you never gave Emily Prentiss a chance to kiss you goodnight.

You should be focused on being rescued, being saved and taken home where you can crawl under your covers and drink hot coffee out of your favorite Beatles mug – the one where Lennon has McCartney in a good-natured headlock – but all you can think about is how you went on just one date with her, and you didn't even let her kiss you goodnight.

The sound of feet – the sound of running feet – are coming closer and closer and you find yourself scampering past the heaving bodies of the dogs and burrowing into the first empty stall in front of you, dropping low behind the partition.

The first thing you see is the flashlights, sweeping across the empty space, coming dangerously close to your hiding space and even though, logically speaking, it's probably one of yours, you're being irrational and naturally terrified and your blood is pumping and your ears are ringing.

You don't even hear them screaming "FBI, FBI!"

You just start shooting, firing wildly into the bright lights and the surrounding darkness; firing wildly until it's a different kind of scream that's coming out of their mouths.

You just start shooting, never realizing that they're coming to save you.

You just start shooting…

You're as rigid as a board, shoulders squared in perfect alignment. Your eyes stare straight ahead into empty space but just to your left, just out of your line of sight, you catch the occasional glimpse of what's going on: the reflection off Gideon's sunglasses as his head dips down; Reid, running a shaky hand through his unruly head of hair; the set frown of indifference and disbelief on that woman's face – the one with the hard eyes. You briefly see the red rose in Garcia's hand before it disappears, but you know where it landed, where it floated down and rested gently, peacefully.

A part of you tries to move closer, but you weren't invited – you're not welcome here. You're not sure if anyone knows you're here, but when a hand comes to rest on your shoulder, you turn to face Hotch, cradling your broken hand in the other and trying your best to ignore the way it throbs at the slightest movement. It's not anything out of the ordinary; he would be the one to approach you and you, you can face him, because his eyes are warm and concerned and they don't blame you.

Everyone else blames you.

And they should.

"JJ?" He says your name cautiously, because you both know you shouldn't be here. But the pain is overwhelming and the guilt consumes you and you feel like you need to be here. Maybe you can try and explain; maybe you can try and make everyone listen; maybe…

"Hotch…" and before you can say another word, your mask falls and your eyes lock on his and you can see everything now: the Ambassador and Garcia and Gideon and the coffin. You can see the rose-covered coffin and you break.

"Oh God Emily. I'm so sorry," you sob as your knees buckle, hitting the ground before Hotch can catch you.

You just start shooting and it's like a bad movie because you're eyes are closed and your heart is beating wildly. Then your gun clicks and clicks and clicks and before you realize you've used the whole magazine, Hotch is kicking it out of your hand and you feel the bones snap and you hear the crunching noise of bone against polished dress shoe.

But you don't feel the pain.

Because you can't focus on anything besides the dark haired woman slumped in the arms of Morgan; you can't focus on anything other than the darkening of her shirt – the only thing you can see in the beam of your fallen flashlight, like it's the only thing you're allowed to see.

"Hotch call 911!" Morgan shouts over and over again, his voice growing in desperation each time; growing hoarser and hoarser with each straining word."Someone call 911!" he cries out when no one moves towards their phones, all captivated by the scene.

You just sit there, one hand cradling the other, your eyes wide and your hair wild and you suddenly can't breathe, because she's laying in Morgan's arms and her breath is coming in gasps and pants and she's reaching one arm out towards you and she's trying to speak to you.

"I'm…sor…" but she can't finish her sentence as she coughs, spewing blood out of her mouth that coats Morgan's forearms and drips to the floorboards of the barn.

She's sorry. She's dying and she's sorry. You shot her and she's sorry.

You've always been a good shot, and this was no exception: one to the shoulder, right above where the flak jacket ends, and one to the upper thigh. You've always been a good shot and you know exactly where on the body someone will bleed out before paramedics can even think to save them.

You've always been a good shot.

"What are you doing here?" The tone is everything you anticipated: cold, angry, confused, desperate, resentful.

"I…" but the words catch in your throat; snag on a memory stored away in the back of your mind, of showing up on Emily's doorstep in the rain, offering her your heart.

"You were told that your presence was not welcome here, Miss Jareau, and I would appreciate it if you would remove yourself quietly." The last word is intentional, because you're sobbing uncontrollably and probably creating a scene, disrupting the silence in the graveyard, shattering the stillness in the trees.

She has every right to hate you; to despise your very existence, and it wouldn't surprise you if she took a gun and shot you right now, right between the eyes.

You'd get on your knees and hold steady if it would help her aim.

"JJ, maybe you should…" Garcia's hand comes to rest on your arm, slight pressure, because her heart is breaking for both the women in her life – the one being lowered into the ground and you, the murderer.

Murderer. You can hear the wind whispering the soft word and you know they all blame you.

Your eyes lock with the Ambassador and as Garcia all but drags you away the gravesite, all you can do is watch the older woman, because her eyes aren't hard like her voice – even from a distance you can see how they're swimming with tears and breaking and it's all because of you, because of the gun in your shaking hands, because you've never been able to think rationally when it comes to pressure situations.

As Garcia drives you home, you realize you've labeled this as a pressure situation in your mind, like it's something you'll get over in a couple of days; like it something that affects only you.

"I killed her," you whisper so softly that either your best friend doesn't hear you, or just ignores you. "I killed her." This time it's louder and the sound of your confession bounces off the inside of the car, swirling around the tiny space and grows until it's obnoxiously hanging in the air, until you can't pull your eyes away.

You killed the only woman you think you could have you fallen in love with.

You killed her.

Someone takes you under the arms, hoists you into the air and starts dragging you away from her body and her hand stretches out to you even further. You try to get to her but someone is pulling you away.

"JJ…" but Gideon's words are useless because you're ripping yourself out of his embrace and rushing back to her, where she's lying face-up in the dirt and as you get closer, you see Morgan and the hatred in his eyes; the tangible hatred in his hands, as he clenches them over and over and over again.

"Help her!" you scream at the paramedics who have suddenly arrived, but they ignore your plea and stare at you as if you should know: they can't save her now.

But you're Jennifer Jareau, the girl from East Allegheny, Pennsylvania and you believe in happy endings and the princess getting her fairy tale kiss.

She never kissed you goodnight and that should have been a sign, but it doesn't faze you as you drop to your knees, sending up a cloud of dust. You've only got one good hand, but it presses against her thigh, simultaneously feeling the cool skin and her warm blood seeping through your fingers and you wonder if this is what it would feel like to hold her thigh down as she comes apart, wrapped up in your sheets and nothing else.

But her blood is thinner than you imagine blood should be and it's leaking out from under your hand too fast. Everyone else knows: it's too late to save her.

All you know is that you just started shooting.

And you've always been a good shot.

The End

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