Author: dannica webb PM
Hotch can't remember when he fell in love with Garcia. He only knows it's time to do something about it. Something of a post-ep for Reflection of Desire.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - A. Hotchner/Hotch & P. Garcia - Words: 2,633 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 25 - Follows: 1 - Published: 12-31-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6610760
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author: dannica webb
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Category: Drama, Romance
Spoilers: Minor for 3x09 Penelope, 4x19 House on Fire, 6x04 Compromising Positions, major for 6x08 Reflection of Desire, might be others.
Summary: Hotch can't remember when he fell in love with Garcia. He only knows it's time to do something about it. Something of a post-ep for Reflection of Desire. Holiday gift for bethane713.
Perhaps it begins like this:
A phone call. He's about to call it a day and he's nearly closed the office door when he hears the ring. If he were less of a workaholic he might not have gone back to answer it.
"Is this Aaron Hotchner?" a clipped voice inquires from the other end.
His brain goes on autopilot after the words "Penelope Garcia was admitted thirty minutes ago with a gunshot wound to the chest." His heart is somewhere in the region of his throat and he feels as though someone has punched him in the gut. When Garcia gave him medical power of attorney several years before - he rarely thought about the fact that she was estranged from most of her family - he'd never imagined actually having to use it.
Somehow he makes it to the bullpen, tells J.J. He's grateful when she offers to drive to the hospital, because he's not sure he trusts himself behind the wheel of a car. He paces the hallway like a caged animal, the helplessness overwhelming him.
He doesn't tell her. He barely goes into her room except to question her about the file on her computer, and he leaves after telling her she's suspended because the thought of the BAU without Garcia is one he can't begin to let himself contemplate. He wishes he could be the one keeping watch over her, but he trusts Morgan above anyone with her safety and focusing on finding the man who shot her is the only thing that keeps him sane.
Most of the team is too worried about her to notice, and Hotch has never been particularly expressive anyway. Dave, of course, sees right through him. He doesn't call Hotch on it until much later, after Battle is caught, after Hotch confronts him about the way he pushed Garcia when questioning her.
"Someone had to," Dave says, matching Hotch blow for verbal blow. "The whole team was too close to the situation. Especially you."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"You would never have reacted that way if it were Morgan or Prentiss who got shot. Or even Reid, and all of you are overprotective of Reid." Hotch opens his mouth to deny it but Dave holds up a hand. "No. You have feelings for her."
Hotch turns away, scrubs a hand over his face. "We are the only family she has, Dave. That's all it is." He turns back, meets Dave's eyes, his gaze hard. "That's all it can ever be."
And there is this:
He cannot fight a small stab of jealousy when he finds out she began dating Lynch, the tech who helped them catch the man who shot her. He does not consider himself a petty man, but seeing Lynch squirm in his presence when he catches the two of them in her office gives him a tiny bit of satisfaction.
When he finds out later that Lynch has taken a posting in California it effectively destroys that sense of satisfaction, because Garcia seems a touch less perky for the weeks following. Crossing through the bullpen one day, he hears Garcia angrily tell Morgan that Lynch asked her to go with him. She crosses her arms over her chest. "I told him I can't leave you guys, but he just doesn't get it," she says in frustration. "You're my family. If he's not willing to accept that, I don't need him anyway."
Morgan draws her into a tight hug. He meets Morgan's eyes over the top of her head and he knows he's been caught eavesdropping, but the younger man says nothing. Hotch's own relief is mirrored in Morgan's face.
Or maybe it was earlier. Maybe it began with this:
Three sheets of pink stationery on his desk. A purple sticky note with an explanation in curly handwriting that doesn't really explain much. He barely recognizes the name at the top of the resume, but he asks the analyst to come in anyway.
"You're not directly under my command," he says by way of introduction. "I don't understand." Hotch dislikes not being able to understand things, and the woman with the brightly-colored outfit and the exotic flower tucked her hair standing in front of his desk is indecipherable.
She clears her throat with a hesitant pause. "Normally we - the techs - are rotated between departments. I would like to be permanently assigned to the BAU." She fiddles with the hem of her pink sweater. "I'd still be under Unit Chief Keller's command but he would give me priority on your cases."
He tells her he'll think about it. He calls Keller, the agent who oversees the assignment of technical analysts. What he learns doesn't help him answer the question of Penelope Garcia.
"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," Keller says. "She's the best we have. I'd take her up on it."
He deliberates for three days, pretending he doesn't see her hanging around the bullpen. She throws glances towards his office when she thinks he's not looking and helps Morgan and Reid with information for their latest case even though it's not really her job.
Her file isn't much help, either. Too much of it is redacted; his pay grade is evidently high enough to see that she was forced to work for the FBI as an alternative to prison, but not to be told why. This should probably make him distrustful, but she seems far too bright and shiny to be involved in anything so criminal, and her record since joining the FBI is spotless.
He calls her back in and asks her why she wishes to be assigned to the BAU. He doesn't tell her that he's concerned she won't find a home here, that she sticks out in the middle of all this tension and insanity they deal with on a day to day basis, that she obviously does not belong. But he can see where, three minutes into the conversation, she begins to read between the pauses in his speech and her face falls.
He forgives her for dodging the question out of an inexplicable and uncomfortably foreign sensation of guilt and offers her a trial period instead. He tries to ignore the way his mood lifts when the smile returns to her face.
"I won't disappoint you," she assures him before leaving his office. And in eight years, she never has.
Here is something else:
He comes back to find her pulling pictures off the wall. Faces, names, facts. Information he forced her to collect. She looks up to where he stands in her office doorway and back down.
She isn't smiling. With a sinking feeling, he realizes that he has finally pushed her too hard.
He opens his mouth not to apologize. As much as he would like to, without her help, they would never have unraveled the case. But when she cuts him off and he sees how deeply he's broken her trust, he wishes there was something he could say.
"You guys choose this. Turning people over like rocks and looking at all their creepy crawly things underneath, and I get it, I do, it's the only way to catch them, but...I want to see the good in people." She looks lost. "I choose to see the good in people. And getting into someone's mind and trying to find the godawful thing that happened to them that made them do the godawful thing to somebody else has seriously impaired my ability to giggle and it makes my brain all wonky and I don't like it - "
She stops abruptly and when she finally meets his eyes again she looks a little scared that her tirade might have gone too far.
"Garcia," he responds, walking further into her office.
"Yes, sir," she says immediately. No matter how many times he's explained that she does not have to call him sir, it comes automatically.
"I just wanted to thank you for your excellent work on this case. And I understand that what you did was, for you, very difficult." He chooses his words carefully. "But your contributions are essential to the success of this team."
The look in her eyes when she thanks him only drives home his guilt. He swallows hard. "I know you see the good in people, Penelope," he continues, savoring the feeling of her name in his mouth. It is something like a liberty taken, but it is the only way he knows to show her what her sacrifice means to him. "Always. And I would never want you to change that."
He leaves quickly, not trusting himself to stay, not trusting himself to maintain his distance. Hotch is a man who gives out praise sparingly.
It could have started here:
When Haley dies, it takes Hotch a long time to crawl out from under his grief. Once he does, he sees her everywhere.
Jessica and Garcia have tag-teamed to handle Jack's care. They've made sure Hotch ate and slept. Between the two of them and J.J., they've cleaned the house, got Jack to and from school, and kept the refrigerator stocked.
When he finally comes to, he stops her one night as she's on the way out after tucking Jack in. He lays a hand on her arm. He cannot remember the last time he touched her. He's not sure he ever has.
She meets his eyes with a soft smile. "Can I get you anything, sir?"
He shakes his head. He would tell her to stop, tell her he and Jessica can handle things from now on, except he's not actually sure that is true, and besides, she's far too stubborn. She's already made it clear that she considers it part of her duties as Jack's adopted aunt, and he knows Jack has taken to her. So instead, unable to think of anything adequate to say, he whispers, "Thank you."
She puts her other hand on top of his. "I've been told that's what family is for," she says in return, holding his gaze for a few moments before she turns to grab her purse and leave. The sensation of her touch remains for a long time.
And then there is this:
"Garcia, what about the Tollgate Theatre?"
He realized as soon as the words left his mouth that he'd made a terrible mistake. He could bear her anger, though, long enough to catch the unsub before another woman died.
Later, outside the theatre, Dave stops him. The rest of the team files inside to save their seats for the play. "For whatever reason, that woman has an enormous amount of faith in you," Dave says quietly. "You don't get to throw something like that away. You need to fix this."
Hotch sighs. "I know."
Thankfully Dave doesn't push the matter any further. Hotch mulls over what he's going to say as he watches her onstage. She's breathtaking; it's clear she has a gift for acting.
Once it's over and everyone has left, he asks one of the other actors where to find her dressing room. The door is open; he knocks on the doorframe lightly to get her attention.
"Sir." She turns from where she is gathering her things and meets his eyes.
He enters the room with some hesitation. "Penelope," he begins, "I am sorry."
Her eyes dart away from his for a moment as she says, "It's alright."
He moves closer. He puts a finger under her chin, tilting her head up until she meets his eyes. "No," he says. "It's not. I don't know what I did to earn your trust in me, but I would never want to break it. I made a mistake."
She reaches up, grabs his hand. "You're forgiven," she says, a smile tugging the corner of her mouth. "Did you like it? The play."
She hasn't let go of his hand yet and he finds he very much likes the warmth of her fingers against his. "Much better than Broadway," he says, and although she laughs off the compliment, it is the truth.
There is a short pause. She lets go of his hand but he doesn't move away. They are close enough to one another that he can't stop thinking about touching her again. "May I take you to dinner?" he asks suddenly.
Her eyes snap back to his. "Right now?"
"Yes." He doesn't have to think about it.
She frowns and he worries for a moment that he's overstepped a boundary. There are not any work restrictions against the two of them dating, but she has always treated him with the utmost respect, giving him the authority and title of a boss even though he is not, on paper, her boss. "I'm tired. It's a bit late to go out," she responds, and she seems to realize his apprehension because the frown turns into a reassuring smile. "I wouldn't say no to dinner at home with Jack, though."
He lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding. "Done."
She gathers her purse and links arms with him as they leave the theatre. The car ride is quiet, and she plays with Jack in the living room while he cooks.
The first time he made her dinner was when he came home from work late one night while she was babysitting for Jack. "You should really reconsider your choice in career," she'd said, and he can still recall the expression of utter bliss on her face at the first bite of pasta. He's endlessly grateful for finding time to learn how to cook in between law school and work, because he senses the way to this particular woman's heart is definitely through her stomach.
He figures he needs all the help he can get.
Later, after they're done eating, she tucks Jack in. He's sitting on the couch when she comes down the stairs. He holds out a cup of tea, which she gratefully accepts before sitting down next to him, curling her stockinged feet underneath her.
She watches the fire he started in the fireplace while she was upstairs, and he watches the way the shadows from the flames dance over her skin. After awhile, she says, "If you had taken me out to dinner, would that have constituted a date?"
He's not sure how to respond. He sets the cup in his hands down on the coffee table. "I would have liked it to be," he says finally.
"Me, too," she murmurs, laying her head on his shoulder and reaching to twine the fingers of one hand with his. "I'd like to take a rain check."
He suppresses a smile, pressing his lips to her forehead and pulling her closer. Maybe, he thinks, maybe this is where it begins.