Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds, but I wish I did. Then we might finally get more of Hotch's back story.
Note: So I started writing this during my marathon of episodes. I watched 221 episodes (through "The Forever People") in a little less than 4 months. It is intended to be set sometime before "100" for obvious reasons, but not too much earlier. I was inspired by Mark Wills' song "Wish You Were Here," though only very vaguely. The rest just sort of unfolded on its own (as stories are wont to do). Enjoy, and please don't forget to leave any feedback. Since this is completely written, updates will be regular once a week. Cheers.
"Hey you," the ever-chipper voice of Penelope Garcia greeted him after just the second ring. He smiled and adjusted the shoulder strap of his duffel as the crowd bustled around him. O'Hare was always busy, but it seemed like there were more people than usual today. Perhaps it was just his eagerness to return home. He loved his family more than anything, but after a few days of downtime he was itching to get back to work.
"Hey yourself," he returned. "Just callin' to let you know I'm getting ready to board. How is everything?"
"Terrible," she said, though her teasing tone made him shake his head. "Reid has lapsed into a catatonic state, Rossi hasn't spoken since you left, and Hotch has had a complete mental breakdown. It's like no one can function without you." She let her joke sit for a moment before continuing. "Everything's fine, sugar. They're on their way back from Tennessee now. Did you enjoy your mini-vacation?"
"I did," he confirmed. "Ma says hello, by the way." He refrained from mentioning the rest of Momma Morgan's message, refusing to repeat her request for grandbabies. His family knew about his unique relationship with Penelope Garcia, and ever since they'd met her on a past visit to Virginia they took every opportunity to tease him about her.
"Well, hurry back. Clooney misses you." He could hear the smile in her voice, and he imagined her sitting on her couch at night with the dog's head resting in her lap. She always spoiled him when he stayed with her, and it took Morgan a few days of gentle scolding to keep the overgrown pup off of his own couch.
"Well, if it's just Clooney that misses me, maybe I'll extend my vacation a few days." He laughed loudly when she began to protest, tossing the older couple next to him an apologetic look when they looked at him in surprise. The airport intercom chimed, and a woman's voice announced that his flight was beginning to board. "Listen, I gotta go, baby girl. I'll see you soon."
He shut his phone and clipped it back to his belt as the attendant called for first class passengers. He allowed the older couple next to him to board first before following. As they made their way down the narrow corridor, the man turned to him with a knowing smile.
"Yes sir," Morgan answered. "My mom and sisters are here, but I live and work in Virginia."
"Marge and I are headed to DC for our fortieth anniversary. She loves history, and I've got us passes to the Smithsonian." The man nodded toward his wife in front of him, and Morgan smiled.
"Well congratulations," he said. "I'm sure you'll love it." They slowed upon reaching the airplane door, and Marge gripped the side of the passageway as she stepped on board. "She nervous?"
"Doesn't like flying," the man told him. "Last time she was on one of these things, there was so much turbulence it made her sick. That was, oh, fifteen years ago I guess." He followed his wife on and turned his body slightly to fit through the narrow space between the cockpit and the rest of the airplane. "Reports are saying we're gonna hit a storm over West Virginia. She's none too thrilled about it."
"I fly all the time," Morgan reassured him, raising his voice to be heard by Marge. "I have never had a problem, even in a storm."
Marge and her husband ended up in the seats just across the aisle from him, and he offered to lift their suitcases up into the overhead compartments. Marge thanked him profusely, but he just waved her off. They spoke quietly as the other passengers boarded, and Morgan learned that Geoffrey had been a Vietnam vet, that they'd married when he was seventeen and she just fifteen. They'd wanted to do it before he shipped out, and she'd spent every night praying he'd come home safe.
"I don't think I'll ever forget the moment I saw him come off that boat," she said. "I just ran to him and cried for hours."
"That's sweet," Morgan said.
"Just wait," Geoffrey said with a teasing smile. "That girl of yours is gonna cry when you get home, and you've only just been gone a few days."
"Oh, I don't have a girlfriend," he corrected politely.
"Then who were you talking to just before?" he asked.
"Geoffrey!" Marge slapped him on the arm, and Morgan chuckled.
"Garcia? She's just a good friend." It wasn't the first time someone had mistaken them for something more than best friends, and it probably wasn't the last. He'd gotten used to correcting others' misconceptions.
"Well, she knows how to make you laugh," Geoffrey continued. "Trust me, son, that's probably the most important part of a good relationship." Marge shushed him again and he didn't say anything more. Morgan just smiled in response and pulled his headphones from his bag. As much as he loved talking with people, he knew the best way to pass the two hour flight from Chicago to DC was to turn his music on and close his eyes.
He only half-listened as the flight attendants went through their safety briefing, his headphones slung behind his neck. He'd heard it a million times before, and the likelihood of him needing the information was very slim. Reid had spouted enough statistics on planes to last him a lifetime, so he knew the odds. Marge, on the other hand, seemed about ready to jump from her seat, and they had barely made to the runway. Geoffrey had taken the window seat, so Morgan leaned over and placed a warm hand over her arm.
"It's gonna be just fine, ma'am." He gave her his best smile - the one Garcia had coined his "reel 'em in grin" - and allowed her to shift her grip to his hand. He felt the telltale rumble of the engines as they gathered power, and when the aircraft shot forward Marge tightened her hold. He held her hand as they lifted from the ground, and Morgan gave it a reassuring squeeze as he felt his stomach flip from the change in inertia. Her eyes closed tightly as she regained her composure, and by the time the plane had leveled out a bit she opened them again.
"Thank you," she smiled. "That wasn't nearly as bad as I had imagined." Geoffrey patted her other hand gripped in his own, and he shot Derek a grateful look.
"Don't mention it," Morgan pulled his hand back and gripped the headphones hanging around his neck. "Let me know if you need anything else." He quickly adjusted his seat and switched the music on, content to sleep through the rest of the flight. As the attendants began serving drinks, he dozed off to the soft strains of India Arie in his ear.