Despite the lights and sirens, despite Derek driving as quickly as safely possible, it still seemed like it took forever to reach where Erin was located. Their song had diminished to a bare thread, but it was still there, so she knew that her Erin was still alive. When Derek came to a stop on the outer edges of the gathered police cars, Penelope frowned, not seeing any ambulances or EMTs on the scene. "Derek, shouldn't there be at least one ambulance here?" she asked as she struggled to get out of her seatbelt, knowing that she had to get to the scene as quickly as possible to figure out what was going on.
"There should be, but maybe they've already taken her to the hospital, Penelope. We won't know until we get to Hotch and can ask him questions. Now take a deep breath, calm your hands, and then try to unbuckle the seatbelt once more. You're too frantic, which is why you're facing issues with that." Giving her best friend a nod, she closed her eyes and took a few calming breaths, willing her hands to be still before opening her eyes and calmly undoing the buckle with hands that still shook slightly. "All right, let's head over there."
"Thank you," she whispered as she got out of the car, allowing Derek to wrap his arm around her waist and guide her over to the milling crowd of officials. They were stopped for a moment, until Derek showed off his credentials and then they were being shown to Hotch's side. The first thing she noticed is that everyone else was already there, and they all looked incredibly sad, none more than Alex, who was quietly weeping. Shaking her head a little, she stepped out of Derek's hold and scurried over to Alex's side, taking hold of her hands and gripping them tightly. "What's wrong, Alex? Where's Erin?"
"Hotch didn't get ahold of you?"
"Erin, Erin's gone. She died before any of us arrived on scene. Go, talk to him, he was holding her until the end." The sorrow dripped from Alex's voice, and Penelope felt her heart grow ice cold with those words. She knew that that wasn't possible, because the song was still faintly ringing in her mind, but the firm, broken, way that Alex said those words, she found herself doubting the soulmate song. "Oh, Penelope, I am so sorry that I left her alone in her room. I thought we would be safe there, but I was wrong, and I stole your soulmate from you."
To her shock, Alex let go of her hands and tugged her into a tight hug, quiet cries filling her ears as the embrace lingered on. "Everything happens for a reason," she replied woodenly, allowing Alex to nod and press a quick kiss to her cheek before she was pushed away towards Hotch. He wouldn't meet her eyes, instead looking at her forehead, as if he didn't want to break down and cry. Frowning a little, she closed the distance between them and reached up to take hold of his face, gently bringing it down so that he would look into her eyes. "Where is my soulmate?" she hissed.
"She died, Penelope. I held her in my arms when she passed, I told her that you love her and that her children love her, and then she was gone. The ambulance left to take her body to the morgue about ten minutes ago. I'm sorry that you didn't get to say goodbye to her, I wish that we could have gotten you here more quickly, but our best just wasn't good enough in this case."
Penelope narrowed her eyes as she pushed him away from the rest of their team, knowing that what she had to say needed to be for his ears only. She didn't want to call him a liar in front of everyone else, because that wasn't fair to them. They still respected him so much. Glancing back at her team, her family, she frowned even deeper to see that Alex was now on the outer fringes of the circle, as if she was removing herself from the situation. Turning her attention back to Hotch, Penelope stepped closer into his space, craning her head back to stare into his eyes as she took a deep breath. "Why, by the Lords of Kobol, are you fucking lying to me? I can still hear our song ringing in my head, even though it's the faintest it's ever been. That alone tells me that my beloved is still alive, and that you're keeping us apart. Why would you do that to me, to us?"
"Because Erin is as dead as the Blackbird was. When we arrived, we found her, and only her. Curtis is in the wind, and he assumes that Erin is gone, so he's likely to make mistakes now, since his main objective is achieved. If he were to think that Erin was alive, she would be in incredible danger, and I know that you don't want that. You would want her safe, no matter what it took to make certain that happened. Or was I wrong to think that about you and your soulmate."
"No," she whispered, feeling entirely mollified by his words. She had never stopped to think about other reasons for Erin to be apart from her. "Was she in pain? Can you take me to her?"
"I cannot take you there until we know that we have Curtis neutralized. That would be placing you and the Phoenix in danger, and we can't have that. I want to keep you safe, Penelope, because I know that she would skin me alive if I allowed you to do something rash. Am I right?"
"Yes," she said as he pulled her into a tight embrace, allowing her to burst into broken sobs once more. "I miss her already, Hotch."
"I know that you do, Penelope. But we'll be by your side as you walk this road. She's going to be so proud of you." She nodded against his chest as he stroked her back, murmuring in softly in her ear as she struggled to get control of her emotions, knowing that she would eventually make herself sick if she continued to cry so hard. Feeling another hand on her shoulder, she pulled away a little to look up into Derek's face, seeing that he was near tears as well, and she nodded, knowing that she had to keep Erin's secret, at least until they found John Curtis.
"I am so sorry, Baby Girl."
"We didn't get here in time," she said brokenly before leaving Hotch's embrace to enter Derek's, allowing him to snuggle her close to his side. There was something so comforting about being in his arms, smelling his familiar aftershave, being surrounded by the closest thing she had to love in that moment. "She's gone, and I never got to hear her tell me that she loves me one more time. I never got to speak those words to her. Yes, Hotch told her for me, but there's a very large difference between his telling her those words and me telling her that. My heart is so broken."
He nodded and kissed her temple softly as they continued to embrace on the street, and she could only hold on to him, hoping that they could find Curtis soon, so that she could see her beloved and speak words of love into her ear once more.