Spencer shoot her!
No matter the length of a human life, no matter its richness and complexity, fate pivots on a handful of tiny moments spread across our existence. For Penelope the moment in the parking garage with a gun pointed at her temple would be one she would return to over and over for the rest of her days. Should she have done something different? Was she even able to?
Spencer lowered the gun because of course he did. What was the cost of a thousand hypothetical lives compared to the life of one of his dearest friends in that moment. Sometimes when Garcia replayed the moment back she kicked or shoved or did something, anything to make the gun in car go off. A point blank shot to the head must be a quick way to die. Then Spencer shot Meadows. Then he didn’t take her to the Messiah. Then they weren’t bundled into the car and they didn’t have bags thrown over their heads. Spencer didn’t reach out and fumble for her hand, slick with sweat and he didn’t squeeze it reassuringly until Meadows threatened to break every bone in Penelope’s hand if he didn’t stop. Then everything was okay.
Death would be kind compared to how the rest of that night unfolded.
The Believers wanted information, classified information hidden deep within the dark heart of the FBI’s computer systems.
More than just a hostage then, Garcia thought ruefully, I’m actually useful.
She wanted to laugh straight in their faces. Didn’t they know who she was? Literal ray of sunshine Penelope Garcia. Formerly The Black Queen and now the glittering, shining cornerstone of the BAU, purveyor of sweetness and light in the darkest hours and enthusiastic cheerleader of all that was good in the world. Like fuck was she giving these psychos anything.
“I will die before I help you”
Her voice didn’t shake and Penelope was proud of that. She may not do pain and fear and the threat of imminent death but under her fluffy exterior she was no coward and as Meadows and the Messiah smirked down at her Penelope hoped that Emily would know that. When the team came here, saved Spencer and scraped whatever was left of her off the floor, Penelope hoped they would know that she hadn’t given them an inch.
“No” the Messiah said softly “He will”
Her brain couldn’t compute fast enough before the sound of ribs cracking and a howl of pain echoed through the building.
It wasn’t a protest, more a verbalisation of her disbelief. Spencer was doubled over, arms wrapped around himself in an effort to stave off the blows the Believers were raining down on him. Penelope locked eyes with the Messiah’s blank stare.
“No” she cried louder.
One of the Believers aimed their foot at Spencer’s face, resulting in a sickening crunch and a spray of blood.
“Okay, okay stop! Please, stop hurting him!”
“No Garcia” Spencer’s voice sounded thick with his now broken nose and split lip. He looked up at her pleadingly, arms still wrapped around him.
“I’m glad to see you can be reasoned with” said the Messiah “We’ll get a system set up for you”
As soon as they were left alone Penelope dived to the floor to inspect Spencer’s injuries. She had a flashback to prison, a hot, sick feeling crashed over her the way it didn’t when she saw the bruises from his beating then.
“No. I know what you’re going to say and no.”
“You can’t give them what they want” whimpered Spencer “I can hold out I promise”
“No you can’t” said Garcia. She helped him shift into a sitting position with a cry of pain. If they hadn’t been so desperate she would have said ‘I told you so’ but as it was she wanted to scream and cry and hold him tight.
We’re going to die here, she thought.
The system the Believers set up for her was basic at best and when she tried to tell them that they beat Spencer again, dislocating his shoulder with a pop and reiterating in no uncertain terms that they would kill him in the slowest and most painful way possible.
When Penelope’s fingers fumbled over the keys they produced a knife. When she was too slow accessing the FBI’s system Meadows drew it over Spencer’s cheek. When Penelope screamed at her not to she hissed that next time she’d go for his throat.
Shaking and sobbing, Penelope managed to get where she needed to be while feeding the Believers so bullshit about back servers, bypassing data streams and a whole host of other technobabble that meant zilch.
Kevin would find the message. He’d track them down, the team would come. they would bring back up and these sons of bitches would-
“You’re playing us” Meadows said, her voice even but her eyes blazing “It shouldn’t have taken this long”
“Lady you don’t know jack shit about computers otherwise you’d be doing this” Penelope didn’t take her eyes of the screen. Her heart was hammering so hard she thought it might burst out of her chest “Be quiet, I need to focus”
The Messiah placed a hand on Meadows’ shoulder but she shrugged it off.
“I say you’re lying”
“Say whatever you want” said Penelope. Her throat was getting tighter and she knew that vomiting over the keyboard would do nothing for her credibility so Penelope forced herself to remain calm. The only sound that filled the room was the clicking of keys and Spencer’s laboured breathing.
“The system is configuring” said Penelope “If I push it too hard it will overload and I’ll need to start again. If I leave it for a little while it will make it’s way through the FBI’s firewall, then I can access the files”
“This is bullshit” sneered Meadows. She yanked Spencer towards her and held the knife to his throat.
“I am doing exactly what you asked!” yelled Penelope “I can’t make it go any faster I swear”
The Messiah tilted his head to one side, regarding the scene with interest.
“It is a very bad idea to lie to us Agent Garcia” he said softly.
“I’m not. I’m not lying. Please don’t hurt him. I’ll do whatever you want”
“She is lying!” said Meadows. The Messiah shot her a pointed look. Penelope’s eyes flicked between them and then to Spencer, with a small, lopsided smile on his bloodied face.
“Stand down” said the Messiah. Meadows didn’t move an inch, she just gripped Spencer’s shoulder tighter, the knife catching the light.
“You have a problem maintaining authority here” wheezed Spencer. Penelope’s throat burned as she willed him with every fibre of her being not to antagonise the Messiah. “You let this slide and everyone will doubt you. The cornerstone of any group like this is a charismatic leader and if you can’t keep your people in line then-” Spencer was cut off by a wet thud. His eyes widened in shock and Penelope felt like she was screaming though no sound was coming out. Even Meadows appeared confused by her actions with her hand still gripping the knife sunk into the base of Spencer’s neck.
Bubbles of red foam appeared the corner of Spencer’s mouth and he was blinking rapidly, hands fumbling to steady himself as Meadows stepped away. She took the knife with her.
“No no no” The stone floor bit into Penelope’s knees as she crashed forwards to stem the flow of blood. Spencer’s shirt was scarlet within seconds and Penelope’s hands disappeared into the mass.
“S’okay” Spencer whispered as her moved onto his back. No matter how hard Penelope pressed down the bleeding wouldn’t stop. “Penelope”. A gunshot tore through the room. Looking back Penelope saw Meadows’ brains painting the wall and the agent sprawled beneath. The Messiah fixed them all with a cold stare and turned on his heel without a word.
“I sent them a message” whispered Penelope when they were alone “The team are coming so I just need you to hold on okay?”
“My mom” spluttered Spencer “Tell my mom that…”
“Tell her yourself okay” Penelope sobbed. Spencer was struggling to keep his eyes open, his face slackened and pale.
“S’quiet” he mumbled, blood coating his lips “S’quiet…and cold”
“There was a light before” he coughed “But Emily said…”
Penelope never found out what Emily said. When the Believers returned she was still holding her friend, stroking his hair though it was matted with blood. This wasn’t supposed to happen she told herself over and over.
“Don’t touch him” she screeched as the Messiah reached forward “Don’t lay a hand on him”. The Messiah crouched in front of them but Penelope couldn’t hear what he was saying in that quiet soothing voice. She couldn’t see the Believers dragging Meadows corpse away or the cultist who went to check on the computer system. The only two things Penelope was aware of in that moment was the weight of Spencer’s body in her arms and gun hanging off of the Messiah’s belt.
It was still warm from the shot that killed Meadows. Perhaps there was something ironic or poetic in that but Penelope couldn’t process it. Not that she cared. With one fluid movement the gun was in her hand, her hand was raised and the look of fear in the Messiah’s eyes as she pointed it straight at his face was one of the most satisfying things Penelope had ever seen.
The spray of blood on Penelope’s face was hot and the screams of the Believers were muffled. Somewhere in the distance was banging and shouting but it was a world away.
“Hey boy wonder. It’s all going to be fine. Everything is going to be fine”
Emily’s voice was the next one she heard, either hours or minutes later. Time had frozen and stretched and caved back in on itself.
“Penelope” she said softly “Penelope we need to take Spencer and we need to get you checked out okay?”
The crying that sounded like the howl of a wounded animal was probably JJ and was that Luke whispering words of comfort? Rossi was shouting, at the agents, at the believers or God, Penelope couldn’t tell which. His voice sounded like rumbling thunder rather than words.
“Matt can you help me get her up?” asked Emily “Penelope can you hear me?”
“He was so brave” Penelope whispered “So brave. I should have done something in the car. It should be me-”
“No. None of that” said Emily firmly “Don’t go there. Spencer wouldn’t want you to think that”
Who cares, thought Penelope, he isn’t here anymore to say anything about it. The weight of him had gone and for a moment she was filled with panic.
“He shouldn’t be alone Em”
“Rossi is going with him” said Emily “He won’t be alone I promise. I just need you to come and get checked out okay?”
Somehow Penelope stood and allowed herself to be led outside, past the scores of agents gawping at them, past Meadows thrown in a corner like trash, past the huddled Believers no longer believing in anything.
Outside, to her shock, Penelope saw the sun was rising and the street was bathed in a rusty glow. It didn’t seem appropriate.
It didn’t seem fair.