Erin knew that she was doing everything in her power to keep her in the precinct and away from all the windows, as the bemused looks that she kept sending her way grew longer and longer as the day wore on. Even Dave knew that she was coddling Erin, since he was making cracks about it each time she called him with an update on the case. "Penelope, the kid glove treatment is starting to feel a bit like living in a gilded cage," Erin finally said as they finished up their supper. Everyone was back in the meeting room, though she and Erin had managed to find their own little secluded space to eat in, which suited her just fine. They were no closer to tracking down the man who was terrorizing their team, and it was starting to frustrate her beyond measure, knowing that every moment he was still out there was one more moment that he could get at the team, and in turn, Erin.
"I fully recognize that fact, Erin, and yet I can't seem to stop wanting to wrap you in a bubble. The longer we're here, the more I worry. I know it's not productive, I know that you're chafing against the way I'm holding on so tightly, but I can't seem to stop myself. I think of Emily, and how she fought that battle alone, and I know that this is not nearly the same situation, but I don't want to consider the possibility of losing you, too."
Erin sighed as she reached out and caressed Penelope's face before leaning in and kissing her. "I refuse to even entertain the idea of being separated from you for a moment, Penny. We are going to make it out of this whole and hale, and we are going to get married, and I am going to love you until the end of time." Erin kissed her once more before pulling her into a tight hug. Penelope nodded a little as she buried her face in Erin's hair, taking a few deep breaths as she tried to calm her heartbeat.
"I hate to break up this little lovefest, but we need to pick your brain, Penelope." She looked up at JJ, giving her a small frown as she disentangled herself from her fiancée and got to her feet. "You can frown at me all you want, PG, but if you want to keep Erin safe, we need to find this unsub."
She nodded as she allowed her friend to guide her over to the group, seeing Alex take her place and start to talk to Erin. "This hinky feeling in the pit of my stomach is only growing, Jayje. I feel like we're so close to capturing this madman, but he's slippery, like an eel."
"I feel off kilter, too. But I know that we're going to get this bastard. Now, Erin and Alex were both mentioning that they felt like it was someone who knew them, since the focus appears to be on Reid and them."
"I know, but there's not a common denominator between the three of them, since Gideon's had a solid alibi, and I don't think he's capable to hurting a flea, let alone an innocent person. So I've found myself stymied there. I wish that this bastard would make a mistake so that I had something to pounce on and nail him to the wall. Preferably by his balls."
Derek chuckled as he dropped a hand onto her shoulder, squeezing softly. "It's not like you to be this feral, Baby Girl."
"If Emily were in danger, you would feel the exact same way, Der. Don't even try to tell me otherwise." He nodded and she let out a deep breath before turning her focus back onto the laptop. "Now, the only other person that I haven't really been able to trace is this John Curtis. He worked with Erin and Alex during the Amerithrax case, and it looks like he left the BAU around the same time that Alex did, so I'm not too certain what happened there, but he might have gotten caught up in the same fallout that Alex was. Though I can't say for certain."
"He was, Penny. I had to make a very difficult decision with our small group when the wrong person was arrested. I know now that I made the wrong decision. I wish that I hadn't been so prideful back then, that I could have tempered my decision, but the orders were coming from above my head, and I had to be the heavy."
She looked up to see a pained look cross Erin's face, and she reached back to take hold of her hand, squeezing softly as she let out a long breath. "All right, I suppose that I can look a little deeper in that direction, though I haven't found anything on him at all. Are you okay?"
"I've reached the last of my steam, Penny. I'm going to head back to the hotel room. And before you say anything, I won't be going alone, Lexie is going to drop me off to make certain that I reach there safely. We both have our service weapons, so everything will be fine."
"All right, but make certain that she takes you up to our room, just in case. Okay?"
"Yes, dear." Penelope winked at her before getting to her feet and waiting for Erin to make the next move. She tried not to squawk in surprise when her partner gently pulled her into a hug, breathing in deeply before turning her face to press a tender kiss against her cheek. "There's no use in pretending we're not a couple when everyone's seen our rings. I love you, and if I'm still asleep when you get back to the hotel, wake me up so that we can say goodnight properly."
"Yes, Erin." She sighed when she received another kiss on the cheek, wishing that they were alone and she could kiss her properly. Still, these little stolen moments were precious to her, and she knew that their proper kiss would come in a few hours. "Alex, promise me that you'll keep her safe."
"I promise, Penelope." Alex reached out and rubbed her shoulder softly. "I should be back in about forty minutes."
"If you're not, we'll send a squad car out to look for you," Hotch said, a dark look passing between the two of them before Alex nodded in understanding. Penelope gave them a small wave, knowing that if she were to follow Erin and Alex out to the cars, she would never let her go, and she had work to do here, still. Erin waved back before following after Alex, and Penelope couldn't help but feel like her heart was leaving the building with her. "Are you ready to get back to work, Garcia?"
"Yes, sir," she replied quietly, knowing that she had to return her focus back to the task at hand. "So, I'm going to start a deep dive on this John Curtis and see if I can turn up any more information on him. It is very difficult to completely scrub yourself from the internet these days, so the fact that he doesn't have a digital footprint leads me to believe one of two things. He's either dead, and has been for years, or he is much more intelligent than I have given him credit for."
"While you're doing that, I'll lead the team in ways to deal with this unsub once we find him." Hotch smiled quickly at her, and she knew that he commiserated with her. Suddenly, in that moment, she wanted to ask him if his song had changed in the final moments of Haley's life, but with everyone else there, she knew that he would never answer. Still, it was nice to know that he understood, and that helped her fingers to fly, knowing that the sooner she found out more information on their only lead, the quicker they might be able to find the Replicator and put this nightmare behind them.