Penelope let out a deep sigh of frustration as she tried to find out more information about this team that was currently holed up in the bank. The fact that her nerves were still on edge from her encounter with Kevin earlier didn't help things either. She knew, deep in her heart, that he wasn't her soulmate, but given that she was now in her late thirties and her soulmate hadn't appeared, she had been lowkey thinking of Kevin as her backup lover. He was always just there, but when he asked her to marry him, to live with him on a remote farm in the middle of nowhere, she had known just how wrong that thought was. Though she had reacted poorly to the way he had proposed, and things had ended messily between them, she still had feelings for the man, since they had been together for three years before that little dustup.
Shaking her head a little to lose the cobwebs of distraction, Penelope refocused her attention on what was happening inside the bank, seeing how cagey and nervous the men looked, even though the woman was cool and in control. That was going to be a problem, she could just feel it in her bones. She shifted in her seat a little to try and relieve some of the tenseness in her back, but that didn't do anything, so she cracked her back as best she could before pulling out her phone to check on her messages. Every one of her friends seemed to be checking in with her, and she worried her lip between her teeth, torn between answering them and letting her know that everyone was all right at the moment and keeping her focus where it needed to be.
"Screw it, I'll just send out a mass text to all my friends, it shouldn't take that long," she muttered as she opened up her messenger app and tapped out a quick message to her friends before turning the device off and shoving it back into her pocket. With that out of the way, she seemed better able to concentrate at the task at hand, though she wasn't upset when her song started to run through her mind. The sweet melody was a welcome relief in that moment, and she allowed that sound to fill her mind as she hurriedly wrote down the results of one search before using that information to help guide her next search.
The song started to get a little louder, something that hadn't happened in years, not since Haley had been murdered, and she frowned a little as she looked away from her monitors to see if anything about her surroundings had changed, but there didn't appear to be a new person in her little mobile tech cave. Frowning, she tried to think about when she had heard the song at that volume last, and she realized that it hadn't been when she was on the phone with Hotch and the rest, listening to Foyet shoot Haley. It had been when she was being interrogated by Strauss and her compatriots. There had been true compassion and sorrow on her face, and when Penelope had teared up, she saw the woman's eyes become wet with unshed tears. And then, her song had started to hum loudly in her chest, and she had been comforted by that, even as Strauss's voice imperceptibly broke on her next question.
"It can't be," she muttered, shaking her head firmly. "Complete and utter tosh." Pushing her thought to the back of her head, she glanced back up at the bank footage, watching how there was no change. Even through the glass she could feel the tension in the hostages, as the panicked, frightened, looks they shared told her everything that she needed to know. The door to the mobile command unit opened, and she jumped a little before turning her head to see who was coming in. Rossi was the first one in the room and then came Strauss. She wore a grim look on her face, but the thing that drew Penelope's attention the most was the fact that she was wearing a pair of skintight jeans. She had never seen their boss in anything other than smart business attire, so this change was odd, but strangely alluring. Rossi cleared his throat a little, which clued her in to the fact that she was staring perhaps a smidge longer than necessary, and she looked over at him, taking in the dirty little grin on his lips. "I really hope that you two have brought me something that I can work with in order to figure out just what is going on here. I hate being this much at a loss."
"I wish that I had better news for you, Kitten, but we're stymied as well. The most we can tell you is that this is not the first time they've done this. The operation, up to the point where Will and his partner exchanged gunfire with the unsubs, was quite smooth. They did not plan on the police force showing up so soon, and that should work in our favor. We just need to come up with something concrete to give to the Director, because Erin is the one who is trying to keep him at bay while we work on a viable solution to this mess. We need to be free from interference for this to work out well, and I do not trust the Director to not futz something up."
Strauss tutted beneath her breath, and Penelope watched as Rossi rolled his eyes a little before reaching out and rubbing her shoulder softly. "David. Not here."
Penelope's eyes widened as she read into that all the implications that those three words might have. She was not prepared to have two revelations of such magnitude in one harrowing day, especially not when she had a very important job to focus on. "Fine, Erin. I'll head back out to Aaron and see where he is with SWAT." He brushed past them, and Penelope took a few calming breaths before looking up at the woman. She had moved closer to Penelope's side, leaning in close to look at the monitors.
"I know it's a longshot, but have you been able to identify any of the unsubs?"
She shook her head a little before letting out a forlorn sigh. "I just know that they're good, and that the woman terrifies me for some reason I can't put my finger on. The men, they're easier to read. She is like a closed book. And I know, I haven't taken the profiling courses, my observations are just based on all the work I've done with the BAU for the last nine years, but my gut is screaming that this will not end well. I wish that I had the tools to understand how to make sense of this, but I don't, I can just try and find the data and the others can interpret it for me."
Strauss's hand closed around her shoulder as she straightened her spine. "They rely on your skills just as much as you rely on them to get results. You are, perhaps, the most well matched team that the FBI has, and if you tell anyone I said that, they won't believe you."
"You're probably right about that, ma'am, though I think that you've changed a little while you were on leave. You're handling this much more calmly than you might have before."
She knew that it was chancy to call attention to the woman's absence, but she also couldn't stop her mouth from saying those words, knowing that the Strauss of just a few months ago would have burst into the mobile command unit giving angry commands. But this woman here, she was softer, for a reason Penelope didn't quite understand yet. "I have learned in the last three months that I needed a new approach to life. I wish that I could say more, but…"
"I get it, we're not exactly friends. But we could be! If you wanted a friend in the BAU, that is. I know, mixing work and pleasure isn't the smartest idea, but JJ and I make our friendship work. And it's not like I would expect us to go out drinking and dancing. No, a friendship with you would be all classy events, like art gallery openings, and nights at the opera. I need a little culture in my life."
And then, for the first time ever in her career, Penelope saw Strauss genuinely smile, a radiant look that stole Penelope's breath from her lungs. "I suppose that I could take you along to an opera or two. We could even start with Wagner." Penelope furrowed her brow a little, trying to figure out why that might be funny. "No, I wouldn't do that to you, we'd start off on something accessible. But would you really want to be on friendly terms with me?"
"Yes," she replied quickly and simply, giving Erin a brilliant smile in return. That response seemed to please Erin to no end, and she began to hum softly as she turned her attention to the screens once more, thereby missing the fact that Penelope's smile faded from her face as she heard the song of her soulmate slip from between the lips of the person she least expected.