Disclaimers: None of the BAU belong to me, though I love them dearly. All the fun toys belong to Mark Gordon and Eddie Bernero, though Eddie in particular can't seem to play gently with his nice things.
Rating: K. All the whumping mentioned here was inflicted by Chris Mundy, and I am only filling in the comfort half.
Spoilers: Set immediately after the events of "Nameless, Faceless", so BIG spoilers up to 5x01.
Characters: Garcia, Reid, JJ, Hotch
Notes: a) This is (somewhat) part of my Hotch/Garcia post-ep series, retroactively called the NightWatch'verse. Which started with "I Watched", and the most recent of which was "The Devil and Mr. Coffee". (Which is now necessarily AU, given that the ending was Bernero'd by the premiere.)
b) Yes, I know, I should be working on Chapter Three of VITA, but I have writer's block on that, and this story would NOT LET ME BE until I wrote it.
c) I have actually scored the eponymous word in Scrabble, in real life. True facts.
Summary: In the peace of evening, after the harsh light of day, Garcia goes to visit her boys in the hospital.
The boisterous voice echoed around the cold walls and particle-board ceiling of St. Sebastian's mostly quiet third floor.
"Oh come on, Reid, you have to be able to come up with a better word than that!"
"Ah, but you notice, I've also spelled 'ohm' going this way, which adds ten points to my total."
"Really? Oh. I see what you did there. Very clever, young sir."
"I honed my Scrabble skills in the rough and tumble world of the Arbor View High School lunch table. You learn to exploit every opportunity you get."
After Reid's pronouncement, Garcia looked down at her own Travel Scrabble letter rack. Which seemed woeful inadequate to the task of winning. But then again, winning wasn't the sole point of this game, was it? She (subtly, she hoped) glanced at Reid; he hadn't looked at his leg, or unconsciously rubbed it, for about 5 minutes now. That was good; she knew that the talented staff was doing all they could with non-narcotic painkillers, but there was a limit. So in came Penelope Garcia to the rescue, bearing her ever-trusty bag of Travel Scrabble, Uno, and a deck of cards.
"Damn it! My fatal Scrabble flaw hits me again!"
Reid smiled at Penelope's slightly overdramatic outburst.
"And what is that?"
"I lack vowels. I always lack vowels. If we were playing in Pylean, I'd be all set, but we're not, and I'm screwed. All right, I guess I'll go with this."
She placed her word on the board. And as Reid begin to open his mouth, she pre-empted his mercy.
"And yes, I know, I've opened up the triple word score, but if you could see my letter set, you would know that there's really no other choice."
The younger man looked down, apparently trying to find the proper words to condition his next statement. Then he looked her straight in the eye.
"Garcia, you really don't have to go easy on me. I'm doing just fine."
Garcia would have laughed, if Reid hadn't been making the statement so sincerely. Damn him and his puppy-dog eyes. He knew she couldn't resist.
"You think I'm going easy on you, boy wonder? I learned to play scrabble at my Grampa George's knee, and if you think your high school was bad, let me tell you, my Grampa was ruthless. Scrabble was serious business to him. My proudest day was my senior year of high school, when I beat him for the first time. Going easy on somebody is not in my Scrabble vocabulary."
Reid smiled even broader, and raised his arms in the movement of mock surrender.
"All right, all right, I get it, I get it." But his expression softened again, and he glanced over at the clock conspicuously. "I'm just saying, I'm really doing okay here, Garcia. They think they're going to be able to let me out day after tomorrow."
Penelope's heart rose, but she tried to keep from grinning too broadly.
"Really? That's great. So the long-term prognosis is good?"
"Well, they're going to keep me under observation." He broke eye contact at this, and Garcia's previous good feeling slightly evaporated. But he looked back. "There was some significant tendon damage, so I…might need another surgery in the future. But they said they're pretty hopeful I'll regain full mobility and function."
Reid's eyes now betrayed a tender exasperation. "My point being, after several tries at this, I have come up with a fool-proof strategy for avoiding boredom during hospital stays."
"Oh really, and that is?"
"The wonders of cable television, Garcia." At her amazement, he did continue. "And, Morgan swung by my place and got me some books, too. So I'm really doing just fine."
Garcia understood the inherent message in Reid's previous statement, loud and clear. It didn't mean she had to be happy with it. "Listen, Supervisory Special Agent Reid, I spent the day on the phone, scanning hospital records, calling emergency rooms, digging through all sorts of tragedies. And, since you seem to insist on getting yourself hurt, sending out ambulances and armies for you and others. But now, I am off duty, and no one, I mean no one, is going to prevent me from visiting my boys. You got that?"
That had come out significantly angrier than she intended, and Penelope regretted that fact. She said as much.
"I'm sorry, Reid, it's just…it's been a long day. For everybody."
Reid at first seemed surprised, but then an understanding visibly came to him.
"You haven't gone to see him yet, have you?" He murmured softly.
Garcia would have gone for the quick lie, but she saw immediately that that would be of no use. The man was a profiler, after all.
"No. I went by his room when I arrived, but his doctor and a bunch of nurses were in there, doing stuff. I just…I couldn't, watch him like that. I think JJ's there now."
Reid looked like he was restraining a sigh, but instead, he picked up three letters from his rack. "If you need any more reason…" And he placed a Q, an U, and a Y around her A. And on the open triple word score. "That's 47 points."
"Wait, is that really a word? Or did you just come up with that on the fly?"
"It's a British term for 'dock', it's in the dictionary. And I am now winning quite handily. So go see him."
Garcia smiled at her boy genius. "You are a gentleman and a scholar, sir."
"Go forth!" Reid yelled, but he grinned as she picked up her bag, and headed down the hallway to the elevator.
It was much quieter here, in post-op, than it had been on the third floor where Reid was. Or, rather, it was just as noisy, but in different ways. The third floor had had the noise of people, of families talking with recovering loved ones, of friends playing Scrabble together. Fourth floor post-op was filled instead with the noise of cardiac monitors, ventilators, all the machines required to keep these patients alive. She remembered what it had been like, and shivered. She hadn't wanted to see Hotch like that, it was true. But her own fragmented memories of another quiet hospital floor, other machines, other procedures…those were still pretty strong.
She found his room, but stopped at the door. Garcia had heard that he was sitting and awake earlier, but there he lay, flat, too still. There was a familiar blonde figure in the chair by his bed, and she whispered, to get her attention.
JJ looked up and backwards, and beamed at the sight of her friend. She came to the door, and wrapped Penelope in one of her famously warm hugs.
"Hey, Garcia. How you doing? How's Reid?"
" Full of piss and vinegar. Kicking my ass at Scrabble. So, almost back to normal. How is…"
Garcia couldn't finish, but she motioned to the man in the bed.
JJ's face fell. "He's doing as well as can be expected. Better, in fact. They say it really is a miracle that he's alive."
Garcia knew the file as well as JJ did. "Not a miracle. Intentional. That bastard knew just where to stab him. The same nine places, JJ."
JJ sighed. "I know, I know." She seemed to be battling both tears and fury. "But Hotch is exactly as tough as he looks. " She squeezed Penelope's elbow, trying to be comforting. " Just to warn you, Dr. Zwerling is being really strict, saying the whole thing with Haley and Jack wore him out, and he needs his rest. They came in to give him more morphine a little while ago, so he's probably going to be out of it for a while."
"Mostly." JJ seemed pained at this. "But only in short increments. He'll be peaceful for 5-10 minutes, and then wake up. He might ask where he is, or something like that. And then he'll fall back asleep."
JJ paused after this, but Garcia said the word they were both thinking.
"Yes. But he'll be glad to see you. He was asking about you and Reid earlier."
Garcia briefly panicked. "Does he know about Reid's leg?"
JJ, with her usual insight, saw Penelope's anxiety, and immediately answered. "Yes, he does, Rossi told him earlier. From what Rossi said, Hotch wanted to get up out of bed and go down to Reid's room right away, but Rossi and Dr. Zwerling nipped that in the bud."
Garcia finally smiled. "That's our Hotch, all right."
JJ returned the grin. "Go in. Maybe I'll take your part in the Scrabble game." With a final pat on the arm, JJ left, and Garcia finally crossed the threshold, sitting down in the chair.
She got out her sudoku book from her bag, and settled in, listening to the white noise of the hospital. When she next looked up at the clock, she was surprised to see that a whole half-hour had passed. Maybe, she hoped, Hotch's mind would allow him some peaceful dreams.
But that hope quickly evaporated as she looked over to Hotch's prone form. His face had tensed, his eyes moving more rapidly. The tempo of his EKG had ratcheted up several beats, and finally his eyes opened wide with fear. He obviously took stock of the white ceiling, and the machines around him, and seemed to relax a bit. He looked over in Garcia's direction, and squinted.
"JJ? What did…why did you go change your clothes? And why does your hair look like that?"
Garcia suppressed what she was sure would be some very undignified giggling. " Thank you for the compliment, sir, but try again. Think of your other young, gorgeous and blonde subordinate."
Hotch's brow contracted in thought. That morphine must have knocked him for a loop, she thought to herself, because it took him a minute or so longer than it should have to come up with the answer. But when he did, he gratified his visitor with a very small smile.
"Hey yourself. Are you feeling all right? Is there anything you want, anything I can get for you?"
The smile disappeared. "No, not really." He looked out the window, and Penelope mentally kicked herself. She hadn't been present, but she knew the whole story of earlier, the one that had ended with Haley and Jack riding away in an unmarked sedan to an undisclosed location.
The one thing Hotch really wanted, the team couldn't get for him right now, as much as they all wished they could.
She didn't really know how to continue the conversation from there, so she was very surprised when Hotch did.
"I didn't see him."
This confused Penelope, since she knew that Hotch had at least gotten to say "goodbye" to Jack.
"David Bowie. So I really don't think he's God, Garcia. I'm so sorry."
She tried not to laugh, but she couldn't help it. Because Hotch had said this, with just enough sincerity, that she wasn't sure whether he was joking or not. At least his deadpan had come through the ordeal intact.
"Yes, I think you may be right, Hotch. To my eternal disappointment."
Hotch didn't laugh. (Garcia gave a quick thinks for that, given all the stitches that were currently holding her Boss-Man together.) But he seemed more peaceful than before, as he watched Garcia's laughter subside to a slow chuckle.
Then he looked aside, and seemed to be about to say something, but couldn't.
"Hotch? What is it?"
"Prentiss told me. And, I think, I wanted to say… what I want to say, is, thank you, Garcia."
"For what, sir?"
The conflicting emotions she saw on Hotch's face threatened to overwhelm Penelope's mainframe as well. So she broke eye contact. "Don't thank me, sir. Thank that woman running admissions down in the ER. I might have been calling hospitals all day if she hadn't noticed what she did."
Hotch didn't respond. But Garcia knew what was on both of their minds. The woman wouldn't have noticed what she did, if Foyet hadn't wanted her to. The team had been one step behind the entire time.
Garcia was not, by her nature, a violent person. But right now she almost felt like it might be better if the rest of team got to Foyet first. Because, face to face with him…she wasn't sure what she would do.
Hotch had gathered the strength to speak again. "You found me. You always find us."
Garcia returned Hotch's steady gaze. "That's because you guys always come home to me afterwards. Don't stop doing that, okay?"
The volume on this last affirmative was slightly low, and Garcia could see Hotch's energy was obviously depleting rapidly.
"And you sir, as usual, need to stop overdoing it, and go back to sleep. I'll be right here, at least until they kick me out. And maybe after that."
"Okay." And at that, Hotch closed his eyes, and leaned back on the pillow. He seemed to pass into unconsciousness almost immediately, and his breathing leveled.
Penelope leaned back in her own chair, watching Hotch gain a few minutes of peaceful rest. And she spoke now only to herself and the walls of the hospital room.
"I'll be right here."