Note: This is it! The last chapter! I am a little sad, but I am hoping to continue this. Thank you to everyone who read along the way and doubly so for those that commented.
Chapter Summary: Garcia’s fate is determined. One of the members of the BAU is struggling with the outcome. Tony ends up being the voice of reason.
Chapter Thirty: The Black Queen’s Fate
About a month later, Tony was sitting at his desk staring at case reports slightly in disbelief. Not only had they all been processed on time, they were all thorough, and needed only a few minor corrections. Nothing in Hebrew. No technical reports in jargon so complex that it needed to be translated into English. No missing sections. He hadn’t had to do his own reports as well as someone else’s because they were too much of a dinosaur to keep up with the necessary forms to keep the team running efficiently. It was a little hard to believe, and he’d been trying not to compare the two teams for like the nine millionth time.
Hearing a knock on his door, he looked up and saw Derek standing there with a carefully blank expression on his face. It had been six months since the fiasco went down with Penelope Garcia, and Jason Gideon had been uncovered to be a psychopath. Unfortunately, he was a smart psychopath and they were still chasing him. Tony was willing to be patient though. Someone like Gideon wasn’t going to be caught easily, and he certainly wasn’t going to give up. They’d tried their best, but the bodies just kept on piling up.
Sitting back in his chair, Tony closed the file he’d been working on and waved the man in. He wasn’t really surprised to see him. Garcia’s sentencing had been finalized the day before thanks to the plea agreement the DA had proposed, and she had accepted. He’d spent many sleepless nights debating his own feelings, but by the time the evidence was turned over to the DA as a whole he’d felt confident in his recommendation.
He watched Derek come in and get settled in one of the chairs in front of his desk. The other man’s body was rigid, and it seemed to Tony that he was fighting with himself about something. Again, he wasn’t terribly surprised. He and Derek had become friends quickly once they realized how much the two of them had in common. They regularly met to play basketball, and Derek could be found quite regularly at the house he’d moved into with Aaron watching some college sports game. While Tony’s hot anger at the former technical analyst had cooled considerably, Derek’s had only built.
It probably helped that Will had also asked to speak on Penelope’s behalf and asked that they not send her to prison. Having been a victim of Jason’s, he was able to relay to the District Attorney just how unhinged the man had been. He also was able to advise how manipulative the man had been before he’d lost his marbles. Even for someone as skilled and trained to resist manipulation as he was. He’d deliberately pointed out to the judge that if a trained veteran CIA operative had problems resisting the man’s manipulations, then how could someone like Garcia.
There was something there that Tony knew he was missing. Some incident in Will’s past that involved Jason Gideon, but he hadn’t asked. If his friend and agent wanted him to know, then he’d tell him. So, while he wasn’t absolving her from any fault, he did believe that she’d in some way been a victim of Jason herself.
In the end, both Will and Tony had felt that Penelope would not be best served in jail. She still did too much good for the world. She was already trying to organize a program to teach former hackers like herself how to exist in a technological world without access to technology. While it sounded easy, Raven told Tony that for people like herself and Penelope it wasn’t quite the piece of cake that it should be. Garcia had also already begun her required therapy sessions, having been convinced by Emily and Reid that she needed to do it. Her taking responsibility and recognizing that she needed help had been another reason why Tony was willing to agree jail time wasn’t necessary.
“You made a recommendation regarding Ms. Garcia’s sentencing?”
Tony nodded without speaking. He wasn’t sure where this was going and wanted to know where his friend’s head was at before he commented.
“Why would you request leniency after what she’s done?” Derek snapped letting loose a little of that hidden emotion that he’d been trying to keep from them.
“Because it was the right thing to do,” Tony offered carefully.
“She’s responsible for people dying!” Derek snapped again, and Tony could see his hands clenching into fists.
“No, Derek,” Tony corrected calmly. He felt bad for his friend. He’d tried to get him to talk to one of the in-house shrinks and was beginning to think he’d have to suggest to Aaron that it be made mandatory. His anger was only building, and it wasn’t helping the situation or anyone involved.
Again, he spoke carefully making sure to choose his words with care. “Jason Gideon is responsible for people dying. Did she enable him? Yes, in some way she did. She provided him unauthorized access to the FBI’s systems that gave him the names to work off of. However, everyone involved, other than it seems you, agree that had he not had that access the only change would be the names. He still would be out there killing people. He’d just have a different target pool. Eventually, he’s going to go away from the team’s consults anyway.
“We’ve done our best to protect the people we believe that he’ll target. While we weren’t able to cover everyone, his ongoing killings making that obvious, he’s going to run out of people he can get his hands on. Do you really think that he’ll what… just stop? You’re the profiler here, Derek. You tell me what the chances are that Jason Gideon is going to just stop when he can’t get his hands on any more people the BAU have saved by determining them innocent.
“When we got done processing all of the evidence, we couldn’t find a single thing to even suggest that Penelope Garcia was even slightly aware what Jason Gideon was really doing. In fact, every single bit of evidence we found suggests that she had no idea, and genuinely believed that he was keeping an eye on Spencer’s prior cases to protect people. He even told her that he’d accepted a consulting position, but that he didn’t want the team to know. Now, should she have verified that? Yes, she certainly should have, but that goes to her deliberate naïveté, that is really the root of all her problems right now.”
“Is she guilty of really bad judgment? Yes, she absolutely is. Did she knowingly cause people to be killed? No. That is why she’s being charged with involuntary manslaughter. Was she eligible for jail time? Yes, she was, and the recommendations were that she not be sent to jail.”
“So, you’re just letting her off scot free?”
This time Tony waited to answer so that he could study Derek. Sometimes his friend’s stubbornness was a little exasperating. “She isn’t getting off scot-free as you say. Did you just deliberately ignore the things I said that don’t fit your narrative? Let’s recap. Shall we? She lost her job with the FBI. She’s been banned from holding a job in law enforcement in any shape, form, or manner for life. Most likely she is going to be banned from even owning any kind of device that can access the internet or simply accessing the internet herself in any way. That is just the start of her punishment.”
He paused to let that sink in before he continued. “She currently has nothing on her resume to assist with gaining employment should she need it. She can’t afford her apartment anymore, or even the basics she needs to survive. So, she’s currently depending on the generosity of her… significant other to survive.”
Derek snorted ugly. “Yeah, some hardship there. Shacking up with Rossi. Boy is she learning a lesson.”
“Even a gilded cage is still a cage, Derek. How long do you think it will take for someone who it seems was so thoroughly independent as her to chafe at knowing she has to depend on him for everything in her life? Is she homeless? No, thank God. Because I would hope that you’re not wishing that on someone who was your best friend.”
When Derek just stared at him, Tony decided to shift tactics. “Let’s be honest here, huh? You aren’t upset about what she did that helped Gideon. You’re upset about how her actions affected you. She betrayed the team, and she betrayed the trust that you personally had in her. I understand, Derek. I swear on Aaron’s life that I do. Jesus, trust and believe that I understand. Neither the FBI nor the Federal Judicial System can punish her for that though. Letting down your friends is thankfully not a crime, or there would be a shitload of people in jail including you and I. Unless, you’re suddenly Mr. Perfect over there?
“You need to come to terms with this though, and in my opinion, that won’t happen until you talk to her. You need to tell her how you feel, and then honestly you need to get over yourself. This isn’t about you in any way, shape, or form. If you don’t wanna be her friend, none of us would blame you. I sure as shit am not friends with all of the people who have betrayed me and hell, I forgive way too many. This vendetta thing you have developed though for someone who was such a vital part of your existence is a little much.”
Tony lifted an eyebrow and then sighed when Derek just turned his head toward the window. “Talk to her, then find a professional to talk to yourself before someone mandates it. I’m saying this as someone who has been betrayed by their team, their partner, their friends, and their parent. Do this for yourself, because if you wait till they make you, and that time is a lot closer than I think you realize, you won’t get as much out of it, in my opinion. And, the last thing any of them deserve is to derail your humanity or your career.”
Tony was prepared for a fiery reply from the man. So, when he just stood and left, Tony was a little surprised. He just hoped that it had done some good.
Most of his team had gone home when Tony heard another knock on his door. Looking up, he was relieved to see Aaron there.
“I heard that you had a visitor,” Aaron began as he came in and settled into the chair Derek had inhabited earlier. Tony just lifted an eyebrow prompting Aaron to continue.
“Derek complained to Reid because he was mad that you thought that it wasn’t about him. Spencer talked to Emily because he was confused about why Derek would still be mad. Emily bitched to Dave that Derek was a thickheaded idiot, and would I authorize a throat punching in her sparring session with Morgan tomorrow. Dave came to me to see when you were going to provide therapy to the rest of the team. He has a few more messages that he thinks you could deliver. Like starting with getting Reid to switch to decaf.”
Tony snorted as he watched Aaron grin. “I just call it like I see it, and there is no way I am tackling Reid’s coffee intake. I like my life the way it is. Thank you very much. In all seriousness though, being upset with her is understandable. Morgan’s wanting to scorch the earth of her very existence is a little extreme. I know I keep coming back to the fact that she was his best friend but… I mean, come on.”
Aaron nodded, and he hoped that his partner understood what he meant. “Derek is a very passionate man. He also has a rigid sense of justice that I sometimes think is too rigid. Sometimes he forgets that the world is full of gray. I think that Reid was going with Emily tonight to see Penelope. I believe that once he is back on her side, it will help. Surprisingly, Reid does a better job than the rest of us in talking Derek off his ledges. Rossi can be effective on occasion, but usually, it’s Reid that does the best.”
Tony sighed relieved. “I’m glad to hear that because if he’s mad now I am sure he’s going to be unhappier once he finds out the terms of her plea deal. I have a feeling that he’s hoping the judge doesn’t go for my recommendations.”
Aaron sat up straight. “It came through.”
Tony nodded as he unconsciously played with a pen on his desk in front of him. He and Aaron had their one and only fight over Penelope Garcia, and what he should do. The ironic thing was that once they both calmed down and started listening to each other, they realized they were saying almost the exact same thing. They’d just each let their own insecurities build to the point where that was all they could focus on.
“They pretty much took the recommendation that Will and I wrote up. She’s got a lifetime ban from the use of anything that can connect to the internet. She’ll also be forced to wear an electronic monitor that will track where she goes. Mandated weekly therapy sessions for the next year minimum, because she obviously has some issues that she needs to get resolved.
“The therapist though will have the authority to increase the required session totals, and it cannot be the therapist she’s using now. Although the court mandated therapist will be required to work with her current one. No one wants to derail her current therapy, especially with it being voluntary. Probation for at least the next 5 years. Lifetime ban from any type of government employment or any type of law enforcement position. Mandated community service for the next two years, and if she chooses to start her rehabilitation program for former hackers, then it will have required oversight by a court appointed representative to make sure she is teaching and learning the correct things. If she keeps living with Rossi, he will have to make sure that she has no access to any of his electronic devices, and the home will be subject to unannounced random inspection to ensure that they’re complying.”
Aaron nodded letting loose a deep sigh. “I know that you didn’t do it for me, but I thank you anyway.”
Tony smiled softly as he shut down his computer. “Like I told Derek this afternoon. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Her path from here on out isn’t going to be easy. If she messes up again her future sentence will include prison time for this mess tacked on. I just hope that she makes the most of her last chance. I made goddamned sure that she will never get another one. What do you say we go home and snuggle Unit Chief Hotchner? I feel the need for some superheroes.”
“Batman, or Tony Stark?” Aaron asked grinning as he stood. His briefcase was sitting by the door. He’d pick it up on the way out.
“I am… Batman,” Tony replied dramatically, striking a pose before heading out. Aaron’s laughter followed him all the way to the elevator. Second chances were awesome. Penelope Garcia might be on her fourth or fifth chance, and she might not get anymore beyond this. He couldn’t help but believe that she wouldn’t need it though. He had faith that like him, she’d finally find her path.
Now, they just had to track down Jason Gideon. It would happen. He knew it because he and his team were not willing to stop until he was dead or behind bars. When the elevator doors opened, he stepped in and turned toward the front, with Aaron standing next to him. When the older man took his hand, Tony looked at him and smiled putting both Penelope and Gideon out of his mind. He had friends. He had a wonderful team. He had love. He was making the most of his second chances.
The End! (Until the next one.)