Disclaimer: Do not own any of them, especially Hotch or Garcia, which makes me sad.

Rating: PG, even very little swearing, I think

Spoilers: BIG NASTY ones for 4.01, "Mayhem"

Genre: General

Pairings: partly Morgan Hotch, partly Morgan-Garcia, partly Hotch-Garcia, but Friendship Only

Summary: Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? (Who watches the watchers?) -Juvenal

Who's waiting on the other end of that awkward trip down I-95? Post-ep for "Mayhem."


"Ah, Baby Girl, I knew you couldn't wait to hear my voice one more hour… no, wait, Garcia, I was….I know….I know…yes ma'am….you know, one of these days you're gonna have to actually make good with that threat, or it's gonna stop working. The upside of my head remains conspicuously unslapped."

"How was the flight?...good…good…hah, don't worry, I'll win you back some of that money on the next case. I told you not to go up against Reid and JJ at the same time at that game. I swear, they got some weird psychic link when it comes to gin rummy."

"Somewhere off Exit 8 on 95 in Jersey… Because we needed to make a grub stop, that's why, and I'll tell you what, Penelope, the food in Jersey is underrated. No, really, stop laughing. Last time we were here, Rossi found us this great little pizza joint just north of the Trenton Freeway merge, and Hotch wanted to stop anyway….no, no, no, I swear, he's fine, his leg was just getting' a little stiff… yeah, so I figured it was as good a time as any."

"Yes….yes….yes…. I am fully aware of what will befall me if I don't get him home in one piece. I already got this talk from JJ…"

"…I don't know. Really quiet…no, I mean, unusually quiet even for him…yes, I get that…what? I swear, I didn't do anything…yeah, he's still pissed at me for the thing…yes I know, you're still pissed at me too…gotta go, Baby Girl, Hotch is almost done paying for the food…he insisted…we'll see you at the office this afternoon…Penelope, if you want to be the one to tell him to "go home", be my guest…well, all right then. See you later, sunshine…"


That stubborn, stupid, infuriating wonderful man.

Penelope Garcia was not quite sure which of them she meant, as she watched Hotch and Derek walk through the far door of the bullpen. But she meant every word.

She also decided (she was pretty sure, anyway) that as much as she loved traveling on the jet, traveling with the team, she wouldn't do it anymore. At least until she could convince her team to encase themselves in bullet-proof bubble wrap. If that substance even existed, though she was pretty sure it could.

She had suffered through watching Reid and that psycho, Hankel, but at least then she had been with the rest of the team, and they could do something. Being stuck in that tiny video room, with the cell service going in and out, had been worse. Until aiding Derek's act of idiot bravado, all she had been able to do was watch. Watch that horrible footage, over and over and over again. Watch it from every angle. Watch poor Kate Joyner propelled nearly 100 feet along the pavement.

Watch her Boss Man, her John Wayne of the G-Men, be thrown into the air like a child's rag-doll.


Erin Strauss had given everyone the day after they made it back from Dulles, and no one had protested too much. Even for those physically unscathed, New York had taken its toll. But Garcia had made extra sure they went, practically pushing them out the door herself, and threatening to bug their cell phones to make sure they really were taking the day. She took it as a sign of her talent that Reid almost looked like he believed her. But she wasn't quite sure.

Emily….quietly ensconced with her favorite dog-eared Vonnegut and a good glass of wine….check.

Boy Genius…deep in the Renaissance history Plak-tow, reading that Stephen Greenblatt book that Hotch had given him for his birthday a few months back… check.

Rossi….hopefully snuggling with his dog, listening to Clapton on that fantastic stereo of his that she had helped him install, and that she still coveted…check.

Jayj… a long, long, loooooooooong conversation with young William, sitting on her couch, looking through a crib catalogue for the first time…check.

JJ had been the most reluctant to leave. Garcia was pretty sure that she had only been convinced to go after Derek's phone call verified that Hotch had made out of the city limits and into the wilds of Jersey. She might be the team's most junior agent, but god help the LEO or local media maven that crossed Jennifer Jarreau, especially when it came to her boss. It was like a Yorkie defending a Great Dane, that thing the two had, but, wonder of wonders, it was as smooth as clockwork. And she was pretty sure Hotch wouldn't trade it for anything.

Hotch. The name jolted her back to reality, as she turned to see him tunnel through the bullpen. Eyes floorward, he…walked? No, limped, directly to his office, and sat down at his desk.

"Is he…doing paperwork?! What the hell?"

Oh dear. She was pretty sure she had said that out loud.

"Yeah, I think so."

Thank god, as with many times before, there was only Derek there to hear her outburst.

"You men."

"We men what?"

"He. Was. BLOWN. UP. He collapsed at the hospital, he has a broken ear drum, he had freakin' SHRAPNEL removed from his leg. Not to mention, he watched…"

She trailed off, but thankfully, Derek seemed to finish the too-painful thought.

"I know."

"He should be resting, not doing paperwork."

"I know, baby, I know, but past physically wrestling him back into the SUV, which I'm pretty sure would be insubordination, which I've done enough of today, there isn't much I can do. And, the thing is?"


"Do you really want him rattling around in that big ole' empty house by himself? I'm not sure I do."

"…point taken."

"This is Hotch. This is what he is. This is, for better or worse, how he rolls. And considering the alternative, I'm thanking my lucky stars."

Garcia sighed. "Yeah."

"Everybody else get back all right?"

"Yup. Strauss told them to take the day, which, whaddya know, is what you should be doing."

"But, I…"

"Go! Now. I'll keep an eye on our knight errant."

"Errant..wha…and what about you, Garcia, you look like you could use some sleep too."

"Do as I say, not as I do, Derek."

"All right. And baby girl?"


He drew her close, and wrapped her in his arms.

"I meant every word."



Garcia had managed to restrain herself for a few hours, until 5 o'clock, puttering around and putting her lair back in order, until she figured Hotch had finished all the paperwork he could possibly come up with, and was now just sitting there in the dark all alone and…okay, her imagination had run away with her a bit, there.

"Come in."

She opened the door, gingerly, and saw him sitting on his couch, papers messy around him.

"Garcia? What are you still doing here? Strauss told me everyone had gone home."

Her heart broke, as she watched what was obviously Hotch's attempt to muster up a smile for her sake.

"Oh, just in to finish up a couple things…Officer Bartleby promised to send me some files from the Surveillance mainframe to archive."

My god, I really am a fabulous liar, she thought to herself. Probably not something I should practice, though.

"Good, good."

"What about you?"

"What about me?"

"You should really be home, sir. "

"Garcia, I appreciate the concern, but I really feel okay."

Aw, screw it. This facade was too hard to keep up.

" Hotch, I saw it happen."

OH HELL. Have whipped out the H-word. No going back now.


His voice shook, just slightly, and he slowly stood up. She flashed back to his voice in the background of Derek's cell phone, and the relief she had felt.

"When it happened…after it happened…when I saw the bomber…I watched…I saw everything. I saw you and Kate. I saw you yelling for help. I saw you holding her."

Now that she had said it, she wasn't sure where she had meant to go with that. Hotch didn't look like he knew, either.

"I'm…sorry you had to watch that, Penelope."

She was suddenly angry again.

"Why? I'm fine. I'm not the one with shrapnel in his leg and a busted ear drum." Jeez, that had sounded significantly less caustic in her head.

"Garcia, I don't really know what you want me to say."

Suddenly, the strain showed in his tone, and just for a moment, the boss mask dropped, and she saw how tired he was.

"I'm sorry, sir, but…I, we, on the plane…we were very worried about you. And when you came back into the office…"

"Garcia, I really do feel fine…"


"But…thank you."

"Will you promise me that you will GO HOME and sleep within the next half hour?"

Was that an actual smile on his face? It was small, it bore marks of extreme exhaustion, but it was there.

"Yes, ma'am."

"I will give you a ride myself."

" No thanks, I've seen you drive."

Ah, the elusive jokius Hotchius. Rare, but magnificent.

"Good night."

Garcia turned to go, but then impulsively, turned back, strode towards her boss, and engulfed him in a humongous bear hug. Her brief fears of being immediately cashiered out of the FBI were quickly put aside when Hotch returned the hug, with the little strength he had left.

"I'm very very glad you're alive, Hotch."

And, just for a moment, she thought she felt him relax, a little bit.

"Me too, Penelope, me too."