Author's Note: For all my Morgan/Garcia shippers, this is their "100" post-ep story. I hope I did the couple justice. Please let me know your thoughts. I love hearing from each and every one of you. As ever, I don't own Criminal Minds.
The Simplicity in a Gesture
"Come on, Sweetness. Open up! I know you're in there," Derek called through the locked door of Penelope Garcia's funky apartment. "I can hear you sniffling," he added, leaning his head against the solid wood of her door, the urge to crack his head against it almost overwhelming him.
"Go away, Derek," Penelope yelled from her position curled on her couch, dabbing at her swollen eyes gently with a sodden tissue. God, why wasn't he with that girlfriend of his? Let her comfort him. She had more pain than she could handle right here on this couch. Haley's heart-wrenching final words and the sounds of those gunshots echoed through her mind every time she closed her eyes. Nope, she definitely couldn't add Derek Morgan and his pain into the mix. Not tonight. Not anymore. He had someone else to comfort him now.
"I'm not going anywhere, Baby Girl," Morgan called back, his shoulder resting against the door. Shaking the bag in his hand, the rustle of paper against cardboard obvious in the concrete hallway, he bargained, "I've got enough Rocky Road in this bag for two. Come on, let me in. Neither one of us needs to be alone tonight."
"Then go find your girlfriend," Garcia shouted at the closed door, glaring at it as she grabbed her pounding head once again, rubbing her fingers against her throbbing temples.
"I don't need Tamara. I need my best friend! And she needs me," Morgan retorted, tightening his grip on the brown bag in his hand. "Penelope, open the door," he cajoled, softening his voice, hoping against hope that the stubborn woman would listen to reason.
Closing her eyes, Garcia swallowed tightly, the lump in her throat making it near impossible. Damn him and his seductive voice. Damn her for allowing his coaxing pleas to affect her. Damn everyone and everything associated with this hideous day!
"Damn it, Mama, I'm about thirty seconds away from breaking this goddamn barrier down," Derek warned, his patience fraying as he kept his eyes on that damn door.
She knew that tone. His voice had lost the pleading note and morphed into the determined, "Don't fuck with me" realm. Sighing, Penelope slowly pushed herself off the overstuffed lime green couch and trudged toward the door, her footsteps heavy against the wooden planks. Viciously twisting the deadbolt as the tumblers clicked, she didn't bother saying anything instead opting to simply turn and make her way back across her floor. He could let himself in…he'd been doing it for years.
Hearing the locks release, Derek didn't waste any time shoving open the door and stepping into the unusually dim apartment. Automatically reaching for the light switch on the wall, he flipped it, flooding the room with light as Garcia groaned, lifting a hand to shield her eyes.
"Damn it, Morgan," Garcia cursed huskily, lowering her head as she covered her eyes. "Turn it off," she ordered with a groan.
"No can do. Sitting alone in the dark suffering isn't good for you," he said, shrugging out of his jacket and dropping the paper bag on her coffee table with a cold thud. Taking a step toward her, he ordered, reaching for the hands covering her face, "Let me see the damage, Baby Girl."
Wincing, he took in her swollen eyes as he pulled her hands away. "Jesus, Angel," he breathed, probing tenderly at the swollen flesh, "You've really done a number on yourself."
"Not my fault," Garcia grumbled, sniffling as she wiped her nose with a crumpled pink Kleenex again. "I can't stop crying."
Nodding wordlessly, Derek walked through the familiar apartment into Garcia's happy yellow kitchen. Its cheerful color seemed to mock him as he opened her freezer, fishing around until he came up with a package of frozen peas. Retracing his steps, he dropped back to her side on the sofa. "Use these, Baby Girl," he said softly, pressing the chilled bag against her eyes gently. "We need to get that swelling under control."
Pressing the refreshingly cool bag against her face more firmly, Pen grumbled, "Don't you have better things to do than to play nursemaid to a former friend?"
"Don't even start," Morgan warned, covering her hand with his as he helped her shift the make-do icepack into place. "There's nothing former about our friendship," he rebuked her softly. "I know I haven't exactly been forthcoming in my personal life recently, but…"
"You hid it from me, Derek," Penelope retorted flatly, her voice devoid of the normal peppiness that characterized her personality. "You intentionally hid your relationship with her from me. Friends don't do that kind of thing. And, honestly, compared to what we saw today, that's a triviality," she sniffed as she fought a fresh wave of tears, idly wondering how one person could cry this much.
"You're right, it is. But that doesn't change the fact that I'm sorry that I'm one of the things that caused you pain, Sweetness," Derek replied quietly, the silence of the apartment almost deafening.
"It's done, Derek. Nothing you can do about it now," Pen shrugged, shivering as the effects of the icy bag on her face coursed through her body down her spine. Feeling his warm arm drop around her shoulders, she didn't bother fighting as he pulled her against his chest, warming her automatically. It wouldn't have done her any good. Derek Morgan was nothing if not a stubborn pain in her ass.
"I don't have any right to ask your forgiveness," he said huskily, ashamed of himself…of his actions. "But I hope you'll give it to me in time," he added softly, his fingers stroking against her shoulder as he pulled her closer. "In the mean time, the most important thing in the world to me is getting you and the rest of our team through the next few days."
Pulling the bag of peas away from her face as his sincerely spoken words flooded over her, Penelope met his sad dark eyes and felt her heart twist. Damn…those eyes….they could melt a woman with just a carefully directed look. And she was no exception. Swallowing, she darted her gaze away from his, staring at the brightly colored wall hanging she had just placed that weekend. "That's gonna be easier said than done, Hero. I don't think any of us are gonna have an easy time dealing with this. It was too close. It was family, Derek. That monster stole a member of our family from us," she whispered, emotion rising to the surface once again as her own words tore at her core, the memories of the last few hours rising back to the surface with a volcanic bubble.
Watching her eyes fill with tears again, Morgan frowned, wanting to keep her from reliving the pain. "He paid, Penelope," Derek assured her softly. "Hotch made sure that bastard paid."
"That doesn't bring her back to us though, does it?" Penelope said with a cracking voice, shaking her tussled blonde head. "It doesn't give little Jack his mommy back. We both know what it's like to lose a parent, Derek," Pen whispered, fighting the memories that she thought were buried firmly in the deepest recesses of her mind. "It's a void in your heart that you can't fill with anything else. And we had the benefit of being old enough to understand…that little boy….he's so scared and confused."
"We'll help them through it, Angel. Both of them," Derek soothed softly, pressing a kiss to her hair, his own memories flooding back for a just a bare moment, his own pain rising to the surface, only to be firmly locked back away.
"How? How do we make this okay, Derek?" Pen asked sharply, the need to wail at the unfairness of their situation growing with every passing second.
"We don't make it okay, Pen. We do our best to make it bearable…survivable," Derek explained with a shake of his bald head. "That's all any of us can do. But first, we've got to make sense of our own grief before we can help anybody else."
"I'm trying," Penelope moaned, burying her head against his strong shoulder, her cheek rubbing against the soft cotton of his shirt. "I really am."
"I know that, Baby Girl," Morgan murmured, keeping his arm around her as he reached for the paper bag on the table. Raising an eyebrow, he asked with a frown, "When was the last time you ate anything?"
Shrugging, Penelope shook her head, not even bothering to plunder her memories for such an unimportant fact. "Dunno. Not hungry."
"Then this oughta be easy to deal with. It's ice cream. Doesn't even require chewing…it'll just melt inside your mouth," he replied, popping the lid off and using the plastic spoon to collect a rounded scoop. "Open up," he ordered firmly.
Raising one perfectly penciled brow at him, Pen shook her head at the sight of the spoon aiming toward her mouth. "You're force feeding me?"
"Whatever it takes…you gotta keep your strength up," he replied, popping a bite into her gaping mouth, grinning as she automatically closed around it, swallowing. "We're gonna need your patented optimism over the next little while, Sweetness."
"In other words, I get one measly night to wallow," Penelope said on a watery chuckle, the feel of the ice cream sliding down her throat more soothing than she had expected.
"Exactly," Derek grinned, white teeth gleaming in the duskiness of the room.
"You're a pain in my ample, yet perfectly formed tushy, Derek Morgan," Penelope grumbled, shifting against him. "If you weren't so pretty to look at, I'd have offed you years ago."
"You still love me," Derek said with a confident smile, digging the spoon back into the sugary confection.
"Yeah," Penelope sighed. " I guess I do. In spite of your secretive nature and cocky arrogance, you're a pretty good guy to have around during a crisis of faith," she grudgingly admitted, easily swallowing another bite of the frozen treat.
"And I'm hot…it doesn't hurt that I'm hot, does it?" Morgan winked, relieved to see some of the sparkle returning to her swollen eyes.
"Eye candy has the benefit of having no calories. So yeah, hot helps," Penelope giggled, wiping at her eyes as she dropped the frozen peas to the hardwood floors with a soggy plop.
"We're gonna be okay, right, Mama?" Morgan asked hopefully, needing her reassurance. This woman, this solace straight from heaven, had the ability to sway him like no other woman ever had. And a part of him lived and died with her displeasure. More than that, though, was the simple, undeniable fact: he couldn't stand to see her in pain.
Seeing the baleful look in his chocolate eyes, Pen softened with a sigh. "We'll be fine, Handsome," she said softly. "We're all gonna be okay," she added, resting her head tiredly against his solid chest, praying with every word that she was telling the truth. Regardless of anything that had happened, these people…this man ...was her family. And she knew, she'd do whatever it took to preserve what was left of it.