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The Music of the Spheres

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Penelope had just finished sending Derek all of Blake's contact details when she heard someone knocking on her door. Frowning a little, she rose to her feet and crossed the small space, taking a deep breath as she opened the door. An easy smile spread across her face when she saw Erin standing there, looking rather nervous. "Chief Strauss! It's a pleasure to see you here. Come in." Reaching out, she laid her hand on Erin's shoulder, gently pulling her inside before closing the door behind them.

Once she knew that no one outside the office could see them, Penelope pulled Erin into a tight hug, breathing in deeply as a deep feeling of peace swept over her heart. There was something so right about the way that they fit together, which made sense, since she knew the woman was her soulmate. "I am so glad that you're back, Penelope," Erin murmured as she pulled away from her and took a seat on the sofa, smoothing her skirt down her thighs before turning her face upwards, an open look on her features. "Did you enjoy London?"

"Yes, so much. But I think that you know that from our frequent phone calls. Which I should thank you for, by the way. You didn't have to indulge me, since I know that you're a very busy woman. It was nice to have some part of home, though, especially since Jayje felt like she was being pulled in twelve different directions, given how busy she was. Now, gift time!" Penelope grabbed her bag and plopped down in her chair, rolling it over to Erin's side before starting to dig through it for the signed picture and scarf. "This, obviously, is for Tabitha, but I also bought you this."

She felt shy when she handed over the scarf, not knowing how Erin would react to the gift, since it seemed so small in comparison with what the woman could afford. Still, she made certain to keep looking at Erin, wanting to see how she reacted to the gift. A softness spread across her features, something that filled her senses with a happiness that swept away some of the shyness. "You didn't have to get me anything, Penny. But this is lovely. Thank you."

The quiet words pleased Penelope to no end, and she shrugged a little as her cheeks turned red. "It was the least I could do when you had been so kind as to arrange the work trip for us, and for keeping my spirits up. I was really homesick there for a while, but you never seemed to notice that, instead keeping my focus on what I should be doing. How, how are things between you and Alex? I didn't do any digging into her background with the FBI, I just looked at her other accomplishments. And man, am I intimidated. It doesn't help that we totally got off on the wrong foot this morning, so I'm certain that she's going to think that I am the largest idiot to ever darken the doors of the BAU."

"No, she'll be too busy trying to avoid me to think that. It's almost lunchtime, would you like to come back to my office, so that we can discuss the Alex situation over food? Somehow, I think that might be the only way that I can do that, and I need to get it out before I lose my nerve." Penelope nodded as she pulled out her wallet, following Erin out of her office. Anderson gave them an odd look, but she just smiled and shook her head as they went out into the hall and down to Erin's office. Helen was back, and the older woman gave her a bright smile as they disappeared behind the door. "Chinese food all right?"

Penelope nodded as she looked around the office, trying to get a feel on who Erin presented herself to be. Everything was so neat and orderly, which spoke to the fact that she craved control in the one aspect of her life where she was certain to get it. There were pictures of her children behind her desk, with more frames, that Penelope couldn't see, on her desk. The bonsai tree didn't really surprise her, because that was another thing that Erin could nurture and control, but she still smiled to see it. "Something with chicken, please. I'm still a quasi-vegetarian, after all."

"Okay."

Penelope gave her a quick smile before moving over to the degrees displayed on the wall, her eyes widening a little to see just how educated Erin was. She had known that she was smart, but this level of education told Penelope that there were times when she really had just been humoring Penelope. "I'm not smart enough for her," she whispered, feeling doubt about being Erin's soulmate.

"I think that you are more than smart enough, Penny," Erin said as she came over to her, resting her hand on Penelope's shoulder. "Accolades from universities measure only one form of intelligence. What I've seen from you over the years has taught me that over and over." There was a brief pause, and the air between them crackled with energy. The urge to start singing their song fluttered on her lips and as she turned to look at Erin, she wondered if she was feeling the same way. "The food will be here in about fifteen minutes," she said, breaking that tension as she took hold of Penelope's hand and led her over to the sofa, pulling her down to sit.

"All right, now, I think that you were going to tell me about why Blake is harboring such a grudge towards you. She does seem like a rather proud person."

"We were worse back then. We thought that the world should be handed to us on a silver platter, because we had all the answers. It was naïve and foolish, but what else would you expect from youth? Agent Jareau, Doctor Reid, and you had some of that same brilliance when you started with us. It's become tempered with time, but it's still there. But Lexie? She always shone so brightly, nothing ever tempered that. And we were so certain that we were coming up with the correct solution to the Amerithrax case. Her linguistic reading of the letters that were being sent pointed to the wrong person, we made an arrest, and ended up with egg on our faces. I was the one tasked with firing her, since I was the one in charge of the case. I could have fallen on my sword, but I thought of myself first and foremost, ruining our friendship in a moment. Ethan died two weeks later. I saw the obituary in the papers, and anonymously sent a flower arrangement and made a handsome donation to the charity that she and James chose, but it wasn't enough. Nothing will ever be enough to absolve my sins."

Erin wouldn't look at her as she quietly cried, but Penelope reached out to take hold of her hand anyway, threading their fingers together as they sat in quiet togetherness. Finally, though, she knew that it was safe to speak, and she took a deep breath before opening her mouth. "That was the bare bones of the situation, and you painted yourself in the worst light possible, wanting to spare Alex's reputation in my sight, but I know that that's all you can trust me with right now. I hope that one day, we can get to the point where you can tell me more, but until then, I'm still your friend, if you'll have me." Erin looked up at her when she said those words, giving her a tremulous smile as the sound of their song began to reverberate in Penelope's mind, letting her know that things were going to be all right with time.