There was going to be no sleep for Penelope Garcia tonight, not after the things she'd have to watch over and over and over again simply to isolate background noise that could give them a torturer. She loved her team, loved them dearly, but sometimes she hated the things that they had to cover, the cases they inevitably took.
Her computer screens were blank, an odd phenomenon in the lair of such a well-known and coveted technological genius. Her head was in her hands, fingers absently and periodically massaging her temples, trying to erase the terrifying images from the backs of her eyelids. Usually she welcomed the end of the case, for it inevitably put an end to her temporary insomnia, but this time, she feared it.
Upon returning home from any case, Derek Morgan enjoyed the first two hours of paperwork. It sounded twisted, even to the most seasoned agents, but it reminded him that they'd put another one away, that whatever unsub they'd arrested wasn't going to hurt anyone any more. It gave him a sense of pride in his work and pushed him for the next one.
This time, he had other things haunting his memories.
The case had been a bad one, there was no doubt about that. The death of young women, torturing death of young women, never boded well for the peace of mind. Instead, pictures and ideas and testimonies churned over and over in his head. He could still feel Tiffany Spears against him, sobbing and shaking, bloody and bruised.
But what really haunted his mind was something else, something that invariably hit a little bit closer to home.
Am I okay, let me see, uh… I've got images of a girl being tortured burned inside my brain over the strains of this once carefree choice of music. I've isolated four sources from one track and each one is more distorted than the next, so no. I'm not okay.
Garcia was the light of these cases and he looked forward to talking to her, bantering with her. It was a small reminder that there were good people in the world, people who didn't kill, people who were mostly happy and mostly adjusted. But her voice for those few sentences had been tortured and the one thing he wish above all else at the moment he was on the phone with her was that he wasn't in Florida at all. He wanted to be back in Quantico, watching over her shoulder, reminding her that there was good in the world.
Instead, he'd been in Jacksonville, and while his life revolved around being able to throw himself into each and every situation and come out with minimal scratching and bruising, those he cared for had and would always take priority. And he cared about Penelope Garcia. He had only been allowed the small assurance of telling her how much he appreciated her working on the case. It had felt as inadequate as it sounded.
It really shouldn't have been surprising for Garcia to see Morgan in the office so late. She knew his routine after cases, knew he'd get a couple of hours of the paperwork done before heading home. But she also knew it had been way past his average two and a half hours and he should have been home long ago.
"Hey Gorgeous," she said softly, changing her path so it aimed at his desk instead of the door out of the bullpen. "What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same question," he responded, his eyes betraying just how surprised and yet relieved he was to see her. "How are you holding up?"
She treated him to a one shoulder shrug. "It's over."
He chuckled humourlessly. "Yeah."
The thank God went unsaid by both of them.
"I'm sorry," he said after a few moments of silence.
Garcia raised an eyebrow. "For what?"
"This case, those movies… I wish you didn't have to see the stuff we do."
She sighed, unsure of how to deal with this particular white knight streak. She loved being an integral part of the team, loved that she contributed information that no one else could. However, she too wished she didn't have to see the cruelty one human could inflict on another. But it came as part of the job, and she sometimes felt it was a small price to pay to always know that the whole team was safe.
"Curse of the job," she finally settled on.
Morgan leaned back in his chair, a hand coming up to rub his eyes and pinch the bridge of his nose. Suddenly he stood, checking his watch and then virtually ignoring the time. "Come on."
"We're going to go get something to eat, some coffee maybe even a milkshake."
"We're going out?" Garcia asked in surprise. She wasn't new to Morgan's control-like orders but they were rarely directed at her. And she hated that he knew her weakness to milkshakes.
"We are going to go out and get our minds off of Tiffany Spears and all of those other girls. And I know you can't turn down a milkshake," Morgan said, his charming grin blossoming over his face.
Garcia allowed her face to crumble into that almost whining face, like she was being dragged against her will. On the inside, regardless of the hell that was burned into his brain, she was jumping up and down.
Morgan shook his head affectionately. "I have a favourite diner for cases like this and I'm not taking no for an answer, Baby Girl."
Like I'm going to argue, Garcia thought to herself as she waited for Morgan to gather his things. She was just turning to go when he suddenly grabbed her arm. The next thing she knew she was against his strong chest, her heels making her just tall enough to fit her head into the crook of his neck. Which was a thankful thing, for that's where he held it for a few moments.
She slipped her arms around his waist, holding him like he held her. It was surprising, the way his arms held her so tightly against him, like the contact was the only thing that was currently keeping him standing and breathing. Garcia's heart beat triple time in her chest, her senses saturated with Derek Morgan. Not that she was complaining.
After a while, Morgan pulled away, but not before pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Let's go, Princess." He surprised her yet again when he grasped one of her hands tightly in his own as he pulled her out of the building.
They stumbled into the BAU office the next morning having spent hours up on hours in the diner, talking about everything but work, everything but the case. Garcia had to admit her spirits were much lighter than they'd been in the wee hours of that morning. When they were about to split, to go to their separate desks, they exchanged a glance. It was a glance that told of the strength they'd placed in each other, the bonding that had occurred and the new shift in their friendship.
And it gave Garcia the most delicious shivers.