Title: Crown of Thorns

Summary: When Penelope Garcia meets Nathan Matthers, she thinks he could really be the one. But what if Nathan isn't who she thinks he is? Will Morgan be there to save her or will he be caught up in Nathan's crown of thorns too?

A/N: My first Criminal Minds fanfiction so please be kind in your reviews. It'd mean a lot to me to get feedback on this. Anyways, I do not own Criminal Minds but if someone were to offer me Reid or Morgan, I wouldn't decline. Especially Morgan. I love the way he is with Garcia. If I had a guy call me things like "Baby girl" and "Sweet heart" I'm sure I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven!

Chapter One – Woman in Red

"Alright, well I'm off," Penelope Garcia announced as she took her bright red feathery boa like jacket off of the hook.

"Where are you going in such a rush?" Morgan asked her.

"Just so you know, I happen to have a date," Garcia answered giddily. The smile painted upon her face was enough to cause Morgan's heart to swell. She was happy and was going on a date. A date with someone he knew nothing of. A date with someone whom she had never mentioned to him. Suddenly the swelling turned into an unpleasant and starch tightening.

"Really?" Morgan placed his hand on the nape of his neck uncomfortably, "With who?"

"Morgan, honey, you don't have to know every aspect of my life. I might be on a date with a serial killer again or I might be off with some man guilty of espionage, or I might be going out for dinner with a charming young man I met at the coffee shop."

"Coffee shop?" Emily Prentiss looked up from a file she was previous enthralled with, "Garcia, are you sure you are up for another date with a man you met in a coffee shop?"

"Don't you all be worrying about me!" Garcia laughed casually, "I'll be fine. It's just dinner."

"Remember what happened last time?" Morgan raised an eyebrow, "You almost died!"

"Morgan!" Garcia was starting to anger, "I'll be fine. If I never go out with a guy again, I might never find The One."

"The One?" Reid approached the conversation, "The One what?"

"The One I am supposed to be with. God makes people in pairs, you know. Everyone has someone out there for them and I have to find mine. If I stay locked up with my codes and configures, I might never meet him. I have to get out there again. I can't let fear or uncertainty bound me from him."

"And you believe this guy…"

"Nathan."

"Nathan," Morgan finished, "Is The One?"

"He could be. I'll never know unless I try, now will I?" Garcia shrugged, the smile growing on her face, "Besides, he just might be. Well I have to get going. He's picking me up at seven."

"Garcia, if you need anything at all, you have my number," Morgan directed, his voice much like a father's before sending his baby girl off on a date with a boy he knew nothing of.

"If I run into any trouble, Morgan, if the food arrives cold, if the waiter gets snippy, and if I say anything mortifying, I will call you."

"Just…be safe."

"Will do, love," Garcia stood up on her tiptoes and gave Morgan a quick kiss on the cheek, "And you relax."

She shrugged on the fluffy, obnoxiously red coat and waved goodbye to her coworkers. She was going on a date and nothing could stop her. When she got home, she spent the evening applying a touch more red lip stick and slinking her way into a red sequined dress. After putting on her purple and red flowered pumps, she glanced at herself in the mirror. Her clothes were mix-matched, her hair was a poof of blonde curls, and she looked as if she had gotten completely dressed in the dark. Smiling, Garcia christened herself perfect.

Her style wasn't what some would consider conventional but that didn't bother her. She liked unconventional, weird, wacky, what have you. After applying another coat of red lipstick, Garcia waited on the purple couch for Nathan to arrive. Her mind drifted back to the week before when they had met at the coffee shop. She had ordered a vente soy vanilla late with a shot of chocolate and extra whip cream. He had ordered a cup of decaf. She had made fun of him not being man enough to drink the real stuff. He had laughed it off. She asked him his name. He answered Nathan Matthers. She asked if he had a relative named Jerry. He said no but they did call his younger brother The Beav. for short. She had laughed. He had laughed. He asked her out to dinner that night. She had declined because of a case. He said he understood and asked her about Friday night. She had agreed and gave him her address. He thanked her. She thanked him and excused herself goodbye. Now here she sat, awaiting his arrival.

Maybe Morgan was right…her mind began to wander, maybe I am making a mistake my going with Nathan. I mean, what do I know about this man other than he drinks decaf coffee? He could end up like the last guy who asked me out. The one who shot me and almost killed me. The one with the heroic god-complex. Nathan could kill me. But that's just silly. Why'd he kill me of all people? But then again, why did my last date almost kill me? Because I was an easy mark. Because I fell for his stupid charm and dashing good looks. The same stupid charm and dashing good looks that Nathan has. Why'd he ever even ask a girl like me out anyways? I mean, just look at me! I'm fat, I'm weird, I'm not exactly Carmen Electra here. Why'd any good looking man ever like me?

Just then, the door bell rang. Garcia shook herself from her thoughts, grabbed her purse, and silently prayed that tonight would go well. It just had to.

"Hello, Penelope," Nathan said the instant she opened the door.

"Hello, Nathan," Garcia nodded.

"These are for you," he thrust a bouquet of flowers at her, "I'd have gotten roses but I was afraid that would have been too forward."

"The flowers are lovely, Nathan," Garcia's face was alit with joy, "And for the record, in case you ever decide to be forward, yellow roses are my favorite."

"Yellow? Most girls would like red or pink or even white. I've never heard of a girl liking yellow roses."

"Well I'm not most girls, Nathan."

"So I can see," Nathan nodded, looking Garcia up and down, "So shall we be on our way?"

"We shall," Garcia took his arm and they walked out to his car together.

Alright, Garcia, be more careful this time. Look at things and notice things. Details matter. Be like Hotch, Reid, Emily, JJ, and Morgan. Notice things.

Nathan opened the car door of his pale blue, '65 Mustang for Garcia and she slid inside. Casually and discreetly looked around. He had a pair of sunglasses in the cup holders and several Barry Manilow CDs tossed here and there. For the most part, he seemed like a neat freak. Nathan's door shutting distracted her from her investigation and she decided to make small talk and do a little bit more digging.

"So, Nathan, what is it you do, exactly?"

"I dabble."

Either meaning he works from home and is an independent or he lives in his 85 year old mother's basement and still eats PB&J with the crusts cut…

"Oh," Garcia tried to pry further but he didn't take the bait.

"What do you do, Penelope?"

"Computer work," she answered, knowing it'd be to her best interest to be as discreet as possible on this first date.

"A computer nerd, huh?"

"You could say that," Garcia shrugged, "So, what's your favorite color?"

"Color?" Nathan laughed, "What is this? Dating Trivial Pursuit?"

"I just want to know more about who is taking me out to eat is all."

"Alright, alright," Nathan chuckled, "If you must know, red."

Red – passion, creativity, openness. And not to mention my favorite color. Either he is passionately and openly creative or he is real good with the lines.

"Really?"

"Yup. Lemme guess, yours is red too?"

"Red and orange. Yellow sometimes. And purple."

"Alright. Now it's my turn to ask the questions here."

"Alright."

"What's the craziest thing you've ever done?"

Wow, that's a toughie. Let's see, I've hacked into almost every file, every database, every system you can name, I've gotten myself almost fired and killed because I try to help families of those killed, I have a tattoo of a dragon that I can't remember getting, and I've gone bungee jumping.

"Bungee jumping."

"Really?"

"Really," Garcia nodded, "On my twentieth birthday I decided to give it a whirl. What's the craziest thing you've ever done?"

"Hmm…" Nathan rubbed his chin with his hand, "Asked you out I guess." Upon seeing Garcia's look of surprise and hurt, Nathan quickly added, "Not that that's a bad thing. It's just…I don't normally ask a lot of girls out. Besides, I didn't think you'd really be interested in me."

"Me? Not be interested in you? I thought you wouldn't be interested in me!"

"Why wouldn't I be? You seemed so…confidant."

"Confidant? Me?" Garcia laughed, "Hardly."

"Well you are."

"So do you regret your craziest thing?"

"Of course not. Here we are," Nathan announced as he pulled the Mustang into the parking lot of a restaurant.

"You still haven't told me where you have taken me," Garcia reminded.

"You'll just have to wait and see."

Nathan swung his car door open after yanking the keys from the ignition and came around to open Garcia's door. She gracefully strolled out of the Mustang and took the arm her date had offered her.

Alright, Garcia, he is charming and he's funny and he's everything you've ever imagined but don't let yourself fall for another trap. Be on your guard the whole time. Now, the whole bit about being worried I wouldn't like him either means that is a complete goon too afraid to talk to any other girls but me or it means he genuinely likes me. Which still I find unsettling. Why would I guy that's tall with black hair and blue eyes and the most gorgeous smile ever be interested in me?

A few moments later, Garcia found herself being opened a door and taken inside to a Chinese food restaurant. The walls were covered in royal red wallpaper and the tables were all black with black chairs and white serving dishes. There was a tangy tune coming from the speakers that lined each corner of the dining hall. A woman in all black approached the couple with a plastered smile and fake red hair.

"Hi! I'm Amy. Follow me to your table."

Amy led them over to a distant table in the corner. Nathan pulled the chair out for Garcia and sat across from her in the corner.

Alright, what does that mean again? Something about modesty…

"Anything to drink?" Amy asked impatiently, stirring Garcia from her thoughts.

"Water with lemon please."

"And I'll have a glass of your house blend," Nathan ordered. Amy left with a flippant flip of her long, fake red hair leaving the two alone, "I hope you like this place. It has the best Chinese food in the state!"

"Well then, I'm sure I'll love it."

Just then, Garcia's phone let off the tone of some 80s song. She quickly foraged around in her purse and lifted the bright red blackberry from its compartment.

"I am terribly sorry," Garcia apologized, looking down at the number, "Damn it!"

"What is it?" Nathan asked, concern lacing his voice.

"It's someone I work with," Garcia rolled her eyes, "He's either being a bother or I have to leave right away. Long story. Mind if I take this?"

"Not at all," Nathan smiled sweetly as Garcia grabbed her phone and hurriedly headed towards the entrance. She scurried outside and wrapped her coat tightly around her. The cold air stung as she dialed the number that had just called hers.

"Hello?"

"What do you want?" Garcia asked, her voice angry and impatient.

"Is that any way to talk to your best friend?" Morgan's voice was teasing and Garcia found herself smiling into the phone.

"Yes, when he decides to interrupt my date for no apparent reason!"

"How do you know I don't have a reason? We might have gotten a new case!"

"But you didn't."

"How do you know?"

"Because, this is your home phone number," Garcia rolled her eyes, "If it was a case, you'd have called on your cell."

"You know too much bout me," Morgan said and Garcia knew he too was smiling, "Alright, you caught me. I was checking in."

"You didn't have to do that…"

"Yes I did. You know I don't want anything to happen to you, right, Baby?"

"Yeah," Garcia recited, "I do, and I appreciate it a lot but Morgan, sometimes you just gotta let me go on my own."

"But…"

"No buts, sweetie. I need to be on this date. Besides, Nathan is a real sweet heart. I think we're really hitting it off."

"Alright. Have fun."

"Will do. And if it'll make you feel any better, I'll call you when I get home."

"Be safe."

"Aren't I always?"

"No."

"Oh, well I'll try. Love you!"

"Love you too!"

Garcia pressed the red button on the phone to end the call before returning to the restaurant. She appreciated how much Morgan cared for her but sometimes she felt he was a tad too protective.

"Who was it?" Nathan asked as soon a Garcia returned to the table.

"Oh, my best friend wanting to know how dinner was going."

"Oh, and what did you say?"

"I said that it was going great."

"I'm glad I asked you out, Penelope."

"I'm glad you asked me out too, Nathan."

The rest of dinner went smoothly and was filled with lots of laughter and small talk. It was around ten when the Mustang pulled up to the drive.

"I had a really great time with you tonight, Penelope," Nathan said.

"I-I had a really great time with you too, Nathan," Garcia smiled shyly.

"Can I call you again sometime?"

"I'd be hurt if ya didn't," Garcia grabbed her purse from the floorboard, "Well I got to be going. I promised my friend I'd call when I got home."

"Tell her I said hi."

"Her?" Garcia had never thought that it'd be assumed that hers and Morgan's relationship was that of two girlfriends. An image of Morgan sleeping over and doing each other's nails and hair flashed through her mind. Chuckling to herself, Garcia nodded, "Will do."

She pushed the car door open and hurried up to the walk. Carefully, she glanced back. Nathan was still sitting in his car, waving politely. As Garcia made her way up the steps, a shiver worked its way up her spine.

It's alright. You're safe, Garcia. There was no gun. Not this time. Nathan wouldn't hurt you. He's too nice to hurt you. Just get in and call Morgan and you'll feel better just like you always do after talking to him.

After locking the four locks on her door – Morgan had insisted after the incident – she put down her purse and grabbed the cordless from its stand on the table.

"Baby Girl!"

"Hey, Hot Stuff. How's it going?"

"Do you know what time it is?" Morgan demanded.

"Uh…a little after ten?" Garcia guessed, not understanding why he was so angered.

"Yeah. Dinner doesn't last three hours."

"We talked a lot, alright? Geesh! When did you get so…overprotective?"

"Since you almost got yourself killed!"

"Oh, so it's my fault that I trusted someone I thought liked me?"

"Yes! You should…you should have known better."

"Well I didn't. Besides, how was I supposed to know?"

"Well it was kind of obvious…"

"Wait…what do you mean by that?" Garcia asked, a lump forming in her throat.

"I mean, it just isn't…it…"

"No, no I get it, Morgan. It was obvious he was only going to hurt me because why would a guy ever want to go out with a girl like me," Garcia's voice was low and pained.

"Baby Girl, that isn't what I meant and you know it…"

"Whatever, Morgan."

"Hey, I'm just looking out for you."

"I don't need looking out for."

"You'd be surprised," Morgan's voice faded before he added, "I love you, you know that right?"

"Yeah, I know."

"Good. Still love me?" Garcia could practically see those big brown eyes and cocked eyebrow awaiting an answer.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now wipe that stupid smirk off your face. I am expecting major coffee-age to make up for that comment!"