She looked at herself in the mirror again, but it wasn't to check her appearance, but more to buy herself some time before she literally threw herself out of her hotel room. It had been five years since they had been all in the same room, she and the girls saw each other some what regularly, but it had been years since she had seen the others, it had been five years since she had seen him.
Emily and JJ remained her best girlfriends for all terms and purposes, but many years ago he reigned as the person who knew her best, the person who without meaning to became the person she cared most about in the world. The disbandment of the BAU thwarted them in different parts of the country, and for a term in different countries.
She wasn't quite sure how they had lost touch, she managed to stay in touch with everyone else to a certain degree, and with the exception of emails maybe once a year on birthdays or Christmas', nothing. They were all busy and she knew that, and she didn't begrudge it, but she missed him terribly. After five years, it still made her heart ache to think of how much time they had missed out on each other.
What brought them together in one room after so long was the long awaited nuptial of Emily and Aaron. Penelope couldn't be happier. She had watched their friendship blossom into romance in the last few years and it had been an absolute honour for her to be a witness to the love that had transpired and continued to grow. She had arrived a week ago, and was enduring last minute fittings and bridal party duties. JJ had flown in a few days before and was staying at the same hotel in the room adjoining hers. Penelope later figured out everyone was staying at the same hotel, which made sense as it was where the reception was being held.
It was the night before the wedding and they were having the rehearsal dinner at the restaurant downstairs. Penelope knew that he was arriving just in time for the rehearsal dinner, as he couldn't get away any earlier, while Reid, Rossi, and Gideon had arrived in the last couple of days before. Despite her efforts to the contrary she was nervous, the thought of seeing him after so many years, and their infrequent conversations scattered in those five years didn't provide her with any sense of comfort.
Penelope was sitting between Emily and JJ when he finally strolled through the doors she had been subconsciously watching from the corner of her eye. She felt her heart stop as the sight of him. He looked just as she remembered. Like a moth to a flame his eyes fell straight on her, he grinned as his eyes met hers. He walked over to Hotch and Emily to congratulate them and the moment he let Emily go he looked at her standing there looking at him with a thoughtful glance,
Garcia, as I live and breathe." He stated gathering her in his arms
tightly, lifting her off the ground. Penelope chuckled,
"You look amazing Baby Girl." He complimented only releasing her for a moment to take another look at her. Gone were the long locks, replaced by short wispy layers, no longer hiding behind the loud clothes, sophisticatedly dressed in a simple black dress,
"You are much too skinny. It's so good to see you. I have to hug you again." He said pulling her into another hug.
"God I've missed you P." he whispered.
"Me too Handsome." She replied getting a little choked up herself.
After hearing a subtle clearing of her throat Derek grinned at Penelope as he released her before pulling JJ into her own gigantic hug. Emily patted Penelope's knee as she sat back down. Emily saw the glimpse of fear in her friend's eyes as she gave her a small smile. Emily draped an arm around her and gave her a brief squeeze. So much time had passed, but in some ways it seemed it was only yesterday that they were all going their separate ways promising to stay in each other's lives regardless where life took them, a promise that was never fulfilled. With the exception of the three of them, all they heard from everyone else was the occasional phone call that came once of twice a year, with the random mass mail here and there, which did not reflect the friendship they deemed to hold with one another. Perhaps it was easier that way, but for Penelope it had hurt. Despite how she tried to hide it, Emily knew she was most affected by it. Of course the only empty seat available was the one directly in front of her and she almost let out a chuckle as he sat before her throwing a wink her way. Dinner was eventful, going through last minute details with Aaron and Emily's mother's who were both heavily involved, much to their children' dismay. When formalities were done, those with the exception of the BAU family remained.
When Hotch had excused himself halfway through dinner to go to the bathroom he had placed both his hands on Penelope's shoulders, she looked up and smiled at him as covered his hands with hers gratefully. In the absence of Derek, he had stepped in as her token guy best friend, forever watching over her. After the BAU parted ways, before he and Emily got together, she and Hotch spent a lot of time hanging out. She had talked him through the getting enough courage to finally tell Em how he felt, while he had encouraged her to take the job she was offered in Seattle because it held great travel opportunities for her, which he knew she had always dreamed of. He made a point of checking in with her at least twice a week. Even though he knew that she and Emily were in constant contact. She stayed with him when passed through town, especially after he and Emily got together. It wasn't at all surprising when Hotch had asked Emily if she minded if he asked Pen to stand is as her best man, knowing that Pen was the person who filled that position in his life to the T.
It was a good couple of hours before Penelope let out a discreet yawn. She looked apologetically at Emily,
hon, I'm going to head to bed."
"That's alright, I know you were up at some crazy hour this morning doing work. We'll be up soon." She said speaking for her and JJ who seemed to be struggling with staying awake too.
"Alright you guys, I'm off to bed. I will see you all in the morning." Derek watched as Hotch stood to his feet, just as he was about to,
"I'll see you at dawn for our usual jog before I wake princess here with her breakfast in bed." Penelope said as she hugged him,
"Oooh I get breakfast in bed." Emily said excitedly while Penelope rolled her eyes.
"Hey hon, why don't you walk Pen to her room?" she suggested,
"No, I'll be fine. Really."
"Sorry, m'lady has spoken and you get an escort to your door." Penelope bent down to hug Emily muttering a thank you in her ear.
"Night everyone." She said with a wave as she and Hotch headed out the door. Emily saw the longing in Derek's eyes as he watched Penelope and Hotch engage in what had become their usual bantering. She placed a hand on JJ's arm who happened to be observing the very same thing.
looks amazing." Rossi commented.
"She does doesn't she? Who would have thought it, but Seattle totally agrees with her. Though the round the world trips doesn't hurt either. She flew in straight from Florence for the wedding. It's a good thing I've kept her outfit otherwise she would have to have had Ginny her assistant to Fedex it."
"She's doing what exactly these days?" Jason asked,
"She designs software for a huge firm, she designs, overseas, trains and implement. She's crazy busy all the time but she loves it. She makes it a point to come and visit once a month, to see Hotch, myself and Jack, even if only a day or two. They have an office here, so she makes a point to check in with the Virginia office."
"That's the excuse she uses to visit me in LA, checking in with the LA office." JJ shared with a smile. Derek soaked up the information hearing it all for the first time.
"Boyfriend?" Rossi asked.
"Why, you interested?" Em teased while the table laughed.
"Funny Prentiss." He replied throwing a napkin in her direction. Em and JJ exchanged a look, not sure if they were privy to share the information. Before they could reply Hotch had returned.
"Hey, what'd I miss?" he asked sitting between JJ and Emily.
here was just enquiring after our Pen's availability." Em teased.
"You're going to have to ask her that yourself. I'm certainly not at privy to say, the girls were your best bet in getting dishy gossip." Hotch replied with a smirk.
Not long after the rest of them parted ways. JJ was in charge of getting Emily back into their room in case she decides to sneak into Hotch's breaking traditions, patiently she waited as the lovebirds said their goodnights. When they were finally in Penelope stirred,
how long did it take for Sonny and Cher to say goodnight?" Penelope
asked with a knowing grin,
"Almost as long as it took for one Derek Morgan to stop staring after you long after you'd left." Emily quipped. Knowing she was beat Penelope buried her head back under the pillow. Emily and JJ looked at each other and jumped on the bed with Penelope like a bunch of teenage girls,
"Pen, something you want to share with the class?" JJ poked.
"Ah no, but thank you for asking" was Penelope's answer
"Really, because your nothing sounds like a whole lot of something" Emily added. Penelope lifted her head and sat up to look at her friends,
"So it was good to see him. What else is there to say?"
"Oh I don't know, that after all this time you're still in love with him."
"What? You're crazy! I'm not in love with Derek Morgan. How much have you had to drink?" Penelope said exasperatedly.
"Not nearly as much as you if you actually believe what you just said." Emily retorted.
"Hon, it's okay to still feel something for him. You're human and what you had was special."
"Hmm, so special that we've managed to live our lives without each other. There's a tell tale sign right there."
"Em, please let it go. Tomorrow is your wedding day, and I would like to concentrate on that okay?"
"Okay, but if you do want to talk about it,"
"You're both here, I know. Thank you. I do appreciate the sentiment but there's nothing to talk about. It's the past and it should remain there." JJ and Emily both reluctantly agreed before getting ready for bed.
Penelope sighed in frustration, long after she heard the deep breathing that confirmed that her friends were deep in their sleep she was still awake. Throwing her covers back in frustration she gently got out of her bed, changed into her swimmers and board shorts before throwing her oversized hooded jumped on before slipping out with her towel. She swiped her card to the roof top where the pool was located. Penelope secured her ear phones in and tucked her waterproof MP3 player into the pocket of her board shorts before shedding her jumper and jumping into the pool in one clean dive. He watched as she swam easily stroke for stroke, he had no idea what an excellent swimmer she was, but then again there was very little he knew about her these days. He watched her for a good half an hour noting that she had not stopped that whole time. When she had finally come up and hopped on the edge of the pool he had held her towel out to her.
what are you doing up?" she asked surprised.
"One could ask you the same question P." Penelope smiled,
"The girls woke me when they came in and I couldn't get back to sleep, so I figure I may as be productive but I refused to do work so here I am. You?"
"I wanted to clear my head and swimming usually does that for me. Imagine my surprise when I get here and you've beaten me to it."
"I can go, I'm done." She offered.
"No P, stay. It's really good to see you."
"It's good to see you too. What have you been up to? Last I heard you ended up in New York"
"Yeah, it seems that Kate's position was still available when they pulled the BAU apart and Strauss offered me the position."
"How are you liking it?"
"It's not the BAU, but it's okay. It's a lot more politics than I care about, but it's not too bad."
"Who are you trying to convince Derek Morgan?" she asked bluntly. Derek couldn't help but grin,
"God I've missed that P."
"What?" she asked confused,
"Someone calling me on things. I've really missed you P. I'm sorry I've sucked at keeping in touch."
"I guess it was bound to happen. I know my life's crazy busy, so I can just imagine yours."
"I heard you're doing great things P." Penelope shrugged,
"I design software, I'm not exactly changing the world." She replied nonchalantly.
"Are you not designing software for major hospitals so that they are able to detect cancer earlier?"
"No, Yes, but it was just a concept. There were hundreds of others who made it what it is now."
"Then you're changing the world P, just as I always knew you would."
"Ah there's that blind faith you've always had in me." She joked nudging his shoulder with hers out of habit. As she did it she shivered.
"You cold?" he asked.
"A little," she answered reaching for her hooded jumper and slipped it on. Derek smiled,
"I'd always wondered what happened to this?" he said running a finger over the sleeve of her hooded top. Penelope grinned sheepishly, completely forgetting he was the original owner of her favourite item of clothing.
"You should know that seeing as I've had this longer than you ever did, it's now mine." She said hugging the jumper close to her protectively.
"It seems it's been well loved, who am I to take it away from it's loving home." Penelope kissed his cheek as she snuggled into his jumper.
"Are you sticking around after the wedding?" he asked
"More than likely not, I've got the office calling me all hours as it is. I just wasn't going to miss this for the world."
"Can you believe it?" he asked.
"Long time coming, he's been so smitten with her since she walked through the BAU doors, his stupid pride just wouldn't let him admit to it. I'm glad I wore him down." She joked.
"I'm sure they're both grateful."
just glad they're both happy. They totally deserve it."
"And you?" he pried,
"There's someone, but we're definitely at that yes or no to forever stage. He's a great guy, I just feel like something's missing though, either that or I got cold feet. I found an engagement ring in his sock drawer and I freaked out." She admitted.
"Is he coming to the wedding?"
"I sort of didn't invite him. I know, it's terrible, but I figured I would be busy and I wouldn't get a chance to take care of him and that would be unfair. Or at least that's what I told myself. How about you?" She said sheepishly.
"I've been totally committed to my career, there's the odd girl or two, but before you give me that typical Derek Morgan look, it's not like that. If it's not there on the first date, I walk away. I haven't really met anyone that extended to a second date."
"We make one heck of a sorry pair don't we?" she kidded.
"Well, at least it's all for one and one for all."
"I'm glad you're here Morgan."
"You too P. I've missed you."
"Me too." She said softly as he draped an arm around her kissing her temple.
Penelope was first out the door dressed in her sweats waiting for Hotch outside his room. Aaron smirked at the sight of her sitting on the hallway against the wall of his room, holding two rather large cups of Starbucks coffee.
"Do I want to know how long you've
been up?" he asked taking a cup from her and pulling her up with
that free hand.
"Hmm, maybe not, what do you say we go for a walk instead of a jog?"
"That's a fairly loaded suggestion Pen,"
"You have no idea." She replied as they got into the lift.
"So teasing and walls aside, what are your thoughts?" he asked as they walked.
"I don't know really. It was just nice to be with him again, I realise how much I've missed him, how easily we seemed to pick up where we left off."
"Would you be willing now, to pick up where you left off and move forward?"
"I already have a best friend." She replied looking up at him as though needing to reassure him of his place.
"I appreciate the sentiment,"
"To heck with the sentiment Aaron, unconditionally you have been my best friend, and that means more to me that you could ever possibly imagine and don't you dare try to down play it as though you were merely filling in for someone else, you know that was never the case, at least for me." Penelope declared folding her arms defiantly.
"Are you seriously going to fight with me on my wedding day when you're standing beside me as my best man?" he inquired as she shrugged. Hotch placed both hands on her shoulders as he looked at her,
"I was never filling in for someone, did I look out for you more than usual yes, but after hanging out as much as we were, you became my best friend Pen, you had this uncanny way of just reading me and calling me on things, and I have always appreciated that, even before we were friends in the truest essence of the word. You're my best man, because there was no one else qualified to stand beside me as the best man in my life but you." Penelope bit her lower lip,
"Okay?" he reinstated.
"I didn't mean to imply as though I was merely keeping his spot warm for when he came back, you know our friendship means more to me than that Pen."
"Back at you Hotchner. Fight over." She said solemnly. Hotch grinned and draped an arm around her as they walked back to the hotel.
"I best get your almost wife up. We have a few things to do before getting ready for this afternoon."
"You won't know till you ask her." She replied with a teasing smile.
"I'll see you in a bit, let me know if you need anything."
"I will, give my almost wife a hug for me."
"Yes, because anything more would be inappropriate." Hotch dropped his lips to the top of her head before releasing her. Derek walked up behind him admiring the exchange between his two friends.
"That's one hell of a woman Morgan. You do right by her." Hotch spoke softly yet sternly.
"I will do my outmost Hotch, I promise."
"You do that. You break her heart, I break your knees, and there will be a line behind me. I promise you."
"I know that too." Derek nodded with a smile.
"Good, as long as we understand each other."
"Hotch, thank you. For,"
"No thanks necessary, and I didn't do it for you. In hindsight, I didn't even do it for her. She blessed me, not the other way around."
"I'm sure she'd be the first to argue."
"Yeah she would be, and she'd kick my ass. My point stands, I got a lot more than she did."
"She is remarkable."
"That she is."
Beauty you're getting married today wake up?" Penelope said
coaxing her friend out of her slumber waving a coffee beneath her
nose. Emily's eyes flew open,
"Today is really the day?" she asked excitedly,
"Yeah hon, today's the day you make the Aaron Hotchner the luckiest man in the world."
"Aww thanks Pen." She said giving her friend a hug. JJ joined them a few minutes later when the breakfast cart arrived.
The three of them enjoyed a nice relaxed breakfast. They each took turns taking a shower while before a Masseur arrived for each of them, they had a full day of pampering ahead of them before them courtesy of Emily's mother. Massage, manicure, pedicure, hair and make up. They giggled and talked for the next couple of hours. Penelope had snuck out and in throughout the morning going from Em to Hotch, dressed in her sweats.
P!!!" Little Jack Hotchner, who at nine was not so little anymore
squealed as she entered the room where the boys were gathered. Jack
ran over to Penelope and flung his arms around her waist.
"There you are. I was wondering where you were. Let me look at you." Penelope said circling around the boy with a smile on her face,
"My you are hands down the most handsome man in this room."
"What? Aunt P never lies. How are you kiddo? I've missed you."
"I'm good. I missed you too. You're still coming for my science fair in a couple of weeks right?"
"I promised didn't I? Aunt P doesn't break promises to handsome little boys." Jack grinned as she hugged him again.
"Dad can I go see Em?"
"Sure kiddo, straight across and back okay. No wandering around the hallways." Aaron answered. It was fairly safe seeing as they had the whole floor booked with wedding guests, but he wasn't going to take chances. Jack nodded before running out the door. Derek, Rossi, Jason, Jack and Reid were playing poker to pass time.
"I thought you guys refused to play with Reid?"
"We figured why not for old time's sake. How's the madness across the hall. Has my mother or her mother driven her nuts yet?"
"No and not for the lack of trying, they're both of an acquired taste hey."
"That's a polite way of putting it." Aaron answered.
"Alright, I'm going back to the ladies. Call if you need me."
"I will thanks Pen."
"Sure sure." She replied with a wave.
Morgan, are you ever going to take your head out form between your
legs and tell that girl you love her?" Jason asked the moment the
door closed behind Penelope. Reid choked on his drink while Hotch and
Rossi merely stifled a laugh.
"I'm working on it okay. Give the boy a chance."
"You've had more than enough time." Rossi piped in.
"That's for sure," Reid agreed,
"Hey, I thought you were on my side?" Derek protested looking at Reid,
"Ah no, I'm on Pen's. Always have been." He stated with a smile.
"Thanks kid, I feel the love."
what's going on next door?" Em asked as Penelope entered. Emily
was on the bed in sweats hair done playing Go Fish with Jack, while
JJ had her turn with the hair stylist.
"They're playing poker. Your hubby to be was concerned that your mother's have driven you batty."
"I bet he was." Em said with a laugh.
rest of the day flew by and before they knew it Hotch and Penelope
were standing in the grooms room at the church straightening each
"So, any words of wisdom before I walk down that aisle?" he asked.
"Love my friend with all your heart."
"I already do Pen."
"I know, don't worry. I gave her the same five words."
"I'm glad we're both covered."
"That you are my friend."
"You know Pen, you deserve the same happiness you know. There's someone out there who loves you every bit as much as you love him, and I don't mean Eddie."
"Aaron," she interrupted,
"You love him Pen, and he loves you. You know he does. I just want you to promise me that if it comes up, you'd at least think about it before fleeing. You know the reason why you can never settle, whether it be with Eddie or any of the others who have tried to hard to win your heart is because you gave it away a long time ago."
"Promise me Pen." Penelope sighed,
"Good girl, now let's get this show on the road." He said draping an arm around her as they walked out together.
Pen walked up first dressed in her tailored suit, hair casually styled, as she came underneath the light you could see the little sparkly diamonties that the hair stylist carefully places in her hair. She looked absolutely gorgeous. As she passed Derek she caught him wink at her and rolled her eyes at him. Next came Aaron with a parent at each side, followed by Jack their ring bearer, JJ their bridesmaid and the beautiful bride with her parents. Aaron's face lit up the moment she turned the corner and came to view. Tears began to roll down his cheeks as he couldn't believe that he was finally hers. Aaron looked back at Pen who gave him a reassuring smile and a thumbs up.
The ceremony was beautiful followed by an afternoon of taking photos. By the end of it Penelope and JJ's cheeks were sore from smiling. Upon returning to the hotel Penelope headed up to her hotel room to change into her dress. She had fulfilled her duties as Hotch's best man, and the only thing left was to read out her speech. Emily had wanted Penelope to have a bridesmaid's dress despite the fact that she didn't walk down the aisle as one. She wanted to take photos with the three of them in their dresses. Penelope slipped on a dress similar to JJ's, checked her hair once more before joining the others in the bridal party one of the near by rooms waiting to be announced by the emcee.
When JJ and Pen walked in together the boys on their table heard Derek gasped as his eyes fell on Penelope in her strapless brown dress, which had a simple pink ribbon attached just below the bust accenting her figure. Reid, Rossi and Gideon exchanged a knowing look. Derek Morgan had finally awoken to how he truly felt about their friend.
did Derek Morgan just gasp at you?" JJ teased as she linked arms
"Hush you." Pen answered dodging the bullet temporarily.
When it was time for speeches Pen self consciously got up and took the mic the emcee had handed her.
"To say that it's been an
absolutely honour and pleasure watch these guys go from friends to
being together, to sitting before us now as Mr and Mrs Hotchner would
be an understatement. I am lucky enough to call each of them my best
friend. As my best friends I wish you unconditional love every day, a
partner in all aspects at all times, laughter every chance you get
and unwavering knowledge that there is one person who loves you just
as much as you love them, wanting to spend every waking moment with
you. To Aaron and Em, thank you for being the unfailing constants in
my life. I love you both."
"To Em and Aaron." The guests chorused. JJ passed a tissue to Em who was crying beside her. Hotch stood up and hugged Penelope before she sat down, Em followed close behind.
"We love you too." He murmured as he wrapped his arms around them both.
Once the ceremonial festivities were done Penelope, JJ and Emily went on their own little photo shoot with the photographer in the lobby. The boys watched in amusement from the top of the stairs and the three of them posed, giggled and made faces. The photographer had roped Hotch in and sat him in the middle as the girls gathered around him posing like Charlie's Angels. After the photos headed for the dance floor ready to boogie. They managed to drag each of the men on the dance floor which brought on more laughter. Derek stayed within Penelope's arms reach, she danced with him from time to time, but mostly they danced as a group. When the DJ had changed the tempo Penelope was about to make her way back to the table with JJ when Derek touched her arm gently,
with me?" he asked. Penelope nodded and wrapped her arms around his
neck as he pulled her close.
"Pen, there's something I need to tell you, and I need you to let me finish once I've started because it's taken me days to get to this point, and I don't want to lose my nerve."
"Okay, shoot." She encouraged, seemingly calm and collected despite the jumping jelly beans in her stomach.
"I love you. I have loved you probably that first time I called you Gomez and didn't even know it. Your friendship meant to world to me and it still does. When we were all going our separate ways I wanted to tell you how I felt, but I just didn't know how, and I could never find the courage, I feared you'd laugh in my face, or it would ruin our friendship, so I talked myself out of it. I said we would be better off as friends. As time passed it was easier to just not keep in touch than be in touch with this hanging over my head. I never meant for so many years to pass to get to this point, and I truly am sorry that I just dropped out of your life, but seeing you again, I know that I would rather tell you how I truly felt and have you slap me in the face, than head back to New York having not told you how I feel about you. I love you Pen, and I want to be with you."
"Whoa." She breathed out somewhat stunned.
"Are there any thoughts beyond Whoa?" he asked hopefully.
"Five years is a long time Derek, so much has changed. I've changed and I'm sure you have too. We aren't the same people we were all those years ago. You're in love with the ideal Penelope you've developed in your mind from your memory. Not to mention you live in New York and I live on the other side of the country. We can't go from minus ten to a hundred it doesn't work that way. I have always loved you, I suspect I always will but you can't tell me your love me and Puccini plays in the background and then we live happily ever after. I'm a romantic, but even I am a little sceptical that it would be that easy."
"You make a valid point, so what I am asking you is the opportunity to pursue this, let me show you how much I want this, let me prove to you how much I love you."
"I know you love me Derek, I have always known, but…" she began but was interrupted.
"Pen, I am in love with you. All I am asking is a chance to show you how much and take it from there. I'm not saying let's get married right here right now, but at least let work at it. I need you to know that I'm entering this with every intention of marrying you P. This isn't a casual thing, I want you today, every day for the rest of our lives." He brought his forehead to hers and looked into her eyes,
"You and me, that's all I want. Give me a chance P," Pen could see from the corner of her eyes that Emily and Hotch were watching, just as she was sure the rest of their BAU family was, though she knew they couldn't hear the words, they could definitely decipher what was transpiring between their friends.
"Please P." Penelope sighed,
"Okay, let's give this a go" she relented as his face broke into a huge grin. He cupped her face with both hands and brought his lips to hers.