"Tell Jack I need him to work the case"
"Tell Jack, I need him to work the case." He repeated as though he was willing her to remember,
"Jack, did you hear that?" Hayley says softly to Jack as it sank in what Aaron had meant. She watched as her son got up from where he sat playing, inches away from a murderer.
"Hi Daddy" Jack greeted
"Hi Buddy," Aaron replied trying to hold his composure.
"Is George a bad guy?"
"Yes he is. Jack, I need you on this case with me. Do you understand? I need you to work the case with me." Aaron was desperate for Jack to understand what he was trying to say and was relieved when he finally answered.
"Jack, hug your Mom for me." Doing as he was told Jack wrapped his arms around his mother. Hayley, who knew only too well that it would more than likely be the last time she would be able to hold her child in her arms held on to him for dear life.
"Mommy hug me too tight." Jack complained,
"Why are you sad?" he asked worriedly
"I just love you so much."
"Mom, I gotta go. I'm working on the case."
"Okay," Hayley watched as he ran out of the room.
"So cute, he's like a little Junior G Man. I'll be right up Jacky boy." Foyet called out.
"Is he gone?"
"You're strong Hayley. You're stronger than I ever was."
"You'll hurry right?" he realised she wasn't asking for herself, that she was wanting to make sure that he would be there in time to protect their son.
"I know you didn't sign on for this."
"Neither did you."
"I'm sorry for everything."
"Promise me that you will tell him how we met," She requested tearfully, pausing for a moment,
"And how you used to make me laugh."
"Hayley," Aaron interrupted wanting to believe that he would be there in time to save her.
"He needs to know you weren't always so serious Aaron. I want him to believe in love, because it's the most important thing. You need to show him."
"Promise me." She begged. Tears poured from both their eyes, and those who were listening the precious last moments shared by Aaron and Hayley. Though a part of them felt as though they were invading their privacy, and not really wanting to hear what was about to happen, they couldn't bring themselves to switch off the speaker, knowing that they had to listen, to know what was going to happen, and to be there for Hotch, even if he didn't know.
"I promise." They heard him promise, and then one single gun shot stopped time, for all of them.
Penelope had shut down her computers for the evening. It was the most horrific day she'd ever had to endure with the exception of the day her parents had died in a car accident. That one gun shot, which she later found out was aimed directly at the temple of Hayley Hotchner, continued to haunt her in head. Hayley, in time had become her friend. She had often babysat for Jack before and after Hayley and Aaron split up and they had developed a friendship outside Hotch. They had a coffee date at least once a month, at least until Foyet.
Dave had called her to tell her that she was taking the Hotchner's to his place, knowing she would want to be there. Penelope had raced to Dave's and let herself into his cabin with the key that he had long since given her for the times when he would get called away and hadn't had an opportunity to make arrangements for his dog. She had just enough time to grab basics from the grocery store should the Hotchner's and their team need to be fed. She was just unpacking the bags when she heard Dave's SUV pull up at the front. She opened the door to greet them and upon seeing his Aunt Penelope Jack wriggled out of his father's arms and straight into Penelope's. Penelope picked up the little boy and hugged him tightly
"Hey little man." She soothed caressing his hair as he buried his face into the crook of her neck as he held on tightly to her. Penelope looked up in time to see the look of gratefulness that crept into Aaron's face knowing that as much as he wanted to be there for Jack and was, he needed a moment where he could just fall apart. Penelope merely nodded giving his hand a squeeze as she ushered them in
"Can I get you guys anything?" though it should have been weird that she was asking that question when the owner was right there, it seemed almost natural. Both Dave and Hotch shook their heads.
"How about you my little one? Aunt P can make you anything you want. I brought over stuff to make all your favourites." Hotch smiled knowing how typical of Penelope that was. Jack just shook his head and hugged her tighter.
"Okay then, maybe later. What do you say sit out back on Uncle Dave's porch swing and just hang out?" Jack looked at Hotch as if to ask for his permission before answering
"Sure buddy. You hang with Aunt P, we'll be right here if you need anything."
Jack's whole body was wrapped around Penelope as his head lay on her shoulder, his face buried into her neck. When the team arrived a couple of hours later, Jack was asleep in the very same position. Hotch had come out a couple of times to check on them, but Jack was perfectly content to be in the arms of his Aunt P, much to Hotch's relief. Every so often Jack would whimper and she would murmur into his ear, or start singing him a song and he would eventually quieten down. It was going to be a long and tough road for the Hotchner men and her heart broke for them. They had all stayed till late that evening. Jack went from Penelope to Emily, and back again throughout the evening. Eventually it had taken Hotch, Penelope and Emily to put him down for the night and get him to sleep. Emily had offered to stay the first shift, enabling Penelope to head home for a few hours before returning early the following day to help. It was unspoken that they were going to be there for both Jack and Hotch, whatever it took. They knew that the nightmares would come, and someone else aside from Hotch would need to fight the demons that will inevitably haunt his son. Emily and Penelope had taken it upon themselves to be those people for Jack, as they had already established a close relationship with him.
Penelope went back to the office before going home. Leaving in such a rush she knew that she had left a few things unattended that she needed to attend to before she went home. As she drove out of FBI headquarters Penelope's thoughts fell on to Derek. She could see the weight of the world that lay on his shoulder, the darkness behind his eyes. In the last few months he had immersed himself in solitude, bringing distance between not only them, but to the rest of the team in general. He had stopped calling her anything else but Garcia, which hurt in the beginning. Gone were the days when they would flirt with each other to the point of nauseating, these days they were lucky if they had a conversation that was not case related. She missed him. Ached for him, and wanted to have him back. Especially now, she needed her best friend. She needed him.
Purposely missing the turn to her house, she headed straight to his. If anything she was going to force herself through his door if only to sit on his couch and just have him in the same room. She needed him to make it better. Despite the growing distance between them, this day surely warranted a cease fire. A day that warranted a Wild Card that could be used to make the day better disregarding reason.
After knocking on his door and receiving no answer Penelope let herself into his apartment thinking that he may still be at Hotch's and she may as well feed Clooney or let him out for a bit. Clooney greeted her happily at the door,
"Hey boy," she said affectionately scratching behind him behind his ears as he barked appreciatively.
"Shall I let you out for a bit?" she asked receiving an excited wag of the tail as an answer.
"Well let me leave a note to your Daddy so he doesn't think you've been kidnapped." Just as Penelope was writing Derek a note, she could hear voices and giggling from outside his door that made her glance up. Just as she did the door opened, Derek walked in with Tamara Barnes in his arms.
"Ugh, I'm sorry. I was just, I came by to make sure you were okay, and I saw that Clooney needed to be let out so I was going to do that but didn't want you to think he'd be kidnapped so I was leaving you a note." Penelope rambled obviously shocked to see him wrapped around the very woman she had warned him about. Derek saw the look of hurt and betrayal that shot through Penelope's eyes, just quick enough for him to see, but for Tamara to remain oblivious.
"Hi Penelope right? You're the tech analyst in Derek's team." Tamara said somewhat territorially.
"Yeah that's me, the tech analyst slash dog sitter. Well, I'll let you guys go on about your evening. Though Derek you may need to take Clooney out before the night is over." Penelope added grabbing her belongings. She gave Clooney one last pat before walking past Derek and Tamara to let herself out. Hurriedly Penelope made her way back to her car telling herself to hold it together till she was at least in her car. She went from being hurt to being angry to being sad that they had reached the point that they were at. That she truly had lost him.
Derek watched the door close behind Penelope. His heart dropped to his feet feeling like a complete jack ass.
"Babe, do you mind if I let Clooney out for a bit. He's been cooped up all day."
"Sure, go on ahead." Tamara said making her way towards his kitchen to make them both some coffee. In just a few short months, she had made herself at home in his place. Derek quickly grabbed Clooney's leash and practically ran out the door,
"Penelope wait." He yelled as she was about to get into her car. Penelope turned to see him running towards her with Clooney, but she merely shook her head and hopped in the car. She drove off without looking at him. Derek stopped, and watched as she drove away. At that moment he felt the loss of Hayley, Penelope and their friendship fall in together. He dropped exhaustedly to his knees, feeling overwhelmed. He knew that he had more than blown it with Penelope, and she was never going to forgive him.
Penelope drove off with tears pouring uncontrollably from her eyes. She had lost so much in one day. She wasn't quite prepared for losing Derek too, but if she were honest, he had lost him months before. At least it now made sense why he only referred to her as Garcia these days. What she thought was set in place for the appearance of propriety turned out to be something else.
Penelope knew at some point Derek was going to be looking for her, and she wasn't ready to talk to him. So instead she went home to Emily's on the pretence that she was getting a bag ready for her. It wasn't unusual for the girls to spend the night at each other's apartments, and she knew that Emily wouldn't have minded her staying in the guestroom especially once she found out why. The last thing she needed was Derek showing up at her doorstep.
Failing to have any form of rest or sleep, Penelope gave up at 5am. She showered, packed a bag for Emily, drove past her own home to pick up a few things, and stopped by the office to pick up Hotch's spare Go Bag before heading to Rossi's.
Dave woke first to the smell of waffles and pancakes. He found one Penelope Garcia in his kitchen cooking up a storm. He saw Hotch's spare Go Bag by the door, beside a Gucci overnight bag that he recognised to be Emily's, with the dark circles that were evidently beneath her eyes, he knew that she had not had any sleep the night before.
"Hey, I hope you don't mind. I couldn't sleep so I thought I would make myself useful."
"Penelope, I'm a man. I don't turn down home cooked meals, even if they are made so early in the morning." Penelope gave him a small smile as she continued to flip the bacon on he grill.
"Stupid question, but are you okay?"
"As okay as any of us will be for awhile." She answered honestly
"What else is bothering you Penelope?"
"Wow, again with the I hate profilers!" Dave smirked,
"It's nothing really. On the scale of things, after Hayley, it's nothing."
"But it is to you." He pressed
"Well it shouldn't be."
"And telling yourself that, is it working? Are you convinced?"
"No, but I will be if it's the last thing I do."
"You found out." He guessed. Penelope jerked her head up to meet his gaze, before dropping it back to the stove
"You knew? Did you all know?" she asked feeling a little humiliated.
"Sweetheart," he said gently taking on that very fatherly voice with her,
"Wow. I guess I overestimated where I stood in this team. I thought we all looked out for each other, I guess you all look out for each other." Penelope said dropping the spatula from her hands and looking at him with hurt in her eyes. Dave closed the distance between them and put both his hands on her shoulders as he spoke,
"Penelope, you know you are a part of this team, that you are an integral part of this family. You not being told wasn't for Derek's protection but yours. We felt that it was something that should come from him. This is between the two of you. I am sorry that you are hurt, but that was not our intention, if we thought for a moment that it would spare you the hurt that you feel right now, we would have told you in a heartbeat." Penelope met his gaze and nodded. She knew that had it been one of them who told her, she would have been just as mortified.
"I'm sorry." She apologised looking away,
"Its okay Kiddo. You have every right to feel angry and hurt." Penelope nodded and turned back to her cooking.
"You know where I am if you want to talk."
"I do, and thank you." She said dropping a kiss on his cheek before handing him a plate full of food.
"Oh my Lord, what smells so good." Emily exclaimed as she came down the stairs
"I should have known that smell is familiar. It's the famous Garcia breakfast." Emily said as she found Dave and Penelope sitting side by side at the dining table swapping newspaper segments. Penelope looked up at her friend and smiled,
"Grab a plate. I also dropped by yours to pick up clothes and your toiletries so you can have a shower and change your clothes."
"I love you Penelope Garcia."
"I get that a lot." Penelope answered with a grin handing her a fork as Dave chuckled beside her. For the last hour, they had sat in companionable silence. They had discussed, Aaron and the tragic events that took place the day before. Action plans, and Jack rotations. Dave could sense that Penelope was not up for discussing Morgan just yet and gave her the privacy she needed and the distractions necessary to be able to compose herself for the day ahead where she will inevitably run into him.
Half an hour later Little Jack Hotcher came down the stairs and grinned at the sight of Penelope,
"Aunt P you're here." He said happily making his way to her as gathered him in her arms and placed him on her lap.
"I made waffles especially for your little man."
"Your Aunt P spoils you." Hotch observed with a grateful smile as he came into the room.
"Of course, who is Aunt P's favourite four year old?"
"I am!!!" Jack said exuding with confidence bringing a smile to all of their faces. Hotch plated food for Jack and placed it in front of him as he dug in heartily as he remained sitting on Penelope's lap. Hotch was glad to see that Jack's spirits had lifted slightly. It had been a night filled with nightmares and screaming for Hayley. Penelope could see that there was very little sleep had by all.
All the arrangements had been made the day before. Hotch had spoken to Hayley's family, and they were wanting to see Jack. When Emily had taken Jack up for a bath, Penelope broached a difficult subject with Hotch.
"Hotch, would you like me to pick out an outfit for Hayley from your house?" Hotch's eyes lifted to meet Penelope's, tears began to form in both their eyes,
"If you could, I would appreciate that. I just can't go in there right now, and I would never ask Jessica to go knowing, what took place there." Penelope reached over the table and placed a hand over his,
"Then tick it of your list. I've got it."
Derek's eyes sought out Penelope the moment he stepped through the doors. He had found her at the dining table, Jack on her lap, her hands held his arms as they sang silly songs together. The sound of Jack's giggles warmed and healed their hearts.
When Morgan arrived Penelope took it as her opportunity to get her list done. Hotch was taking Jack to see Hayley's family. From there he and Dave were going to the funeral home to pick out her casket and organise the funeral. Penelope was going to meet them there with Hayley's outfit. She also wanted to pick up some photos of Hayley, and the family for the wake. She wanted to do a slideshow for the life that Hayley that lived. JJ, Emily, Morgan and Reid were going to hold the fort at Dave's taking all calls and fielding them appropriately. Without a word to Derek, Penelope had bid the rest of them farewell.
"Can I come with you Aunt P?" Jack asked as she rose to get going
"Sorry little man, Aunt P has somewhere she has to go and good looking little boys aren't allowed to go. Besides you're going to see your Gramma and Aunt Jessica. They're going to be so happy to see you."
"Will they be sad too." He asked quietly, as though he was scared
"Yeah baby," she answered crouching down to look at him in the eyes
"They're going to be sad just like you. Your Mommy was so special and we're all going to miss her. So you make sure you give Grandma and Aunt Jess a big hug okay."
"Okay Aunt P. Will you be here when we get back?"
"Try and stop me!" she said with a grin pulling him into a tight embrace.
"I'll see you guys later."
"I'll walk you out." Dave announced standing to his feet. Penelope threw him a grateful look knowing he was trying to help her get out of there without having to converse with Morgan. By that act alone, Derek deduced that Dave knew that Penelope had found out about Tamara.
"Did you want to take my car?"
"The precious JAG that sleeps in your garage only to be used on special occasions, sheesh you must be that worried about me." She teased
"I was actually thinking my SUV," he retorted
"Then in that case no." she replied grinning.
"Are you sure you want to go alone?" he asked seriously,
"Yeah, I would prefer it. It'll give me a chance to say goodbye to her properly."
"Penelope, where she was found…"
"Was their bedroom where her clothes would be. I know Dave. It's okay. Thank you though. I promise if it gets too much I will call for reinforcements, for now I just want some time to myself, to process everything, and say goodbye."
"Okay, check in when you're on your way back. We're going to drop Jack off to spend time with Hayley's family, then heading straight to the funeral place."
"I will do. Thanks hey."
"You're welcome Bella." Dave replied dropping a kiss on her cheek as he opened the door for her. She honked the horn before driving off and stuck her hand out to wave.
As Dave walked back into the house he saw Derek lingering out the door. He could tell that Derek was dying to ask him questions. He could see the jealousy in his eyes that Penelope was leaning on someone else aside from him.
"You're an idiot. She deserved better than finding out the way she did. I have no doubts that you care about her, love her even, but you blew it. You don't get to stand there in contempt that someone else it looking out for her. You don't hold exclusive rights to Penelope Morgan. We all care about her, whatever misled prior claim you seem to think you have on her, you lost that right when you set her aside for your career and for your girlfriend. So don't you dare pull that caveman crap on me, or anyone else who is willing to put that girl first because she deserves nothing less, because if you haven't quite noticed Morgan, despite everything she has been going through the last few months when you abandoned her, she's still front and centre, first and ready in line to be there for someone else. She lost one of her really good friends yesterday Derek. And I don't mean you. Hayley was her friend, and she had to listen to her friend be murdered. Where were you to help her pick up those pieces?"
Derek hung his head in shame. He didn't know how, but he had forgotten to make the connection that Penelope and Hayley were friends. The thing was had that been almost a year ago regardless of who it was they listened to get shot, his first instinct would have been to head to her office to make sure he was okay. Rossi was right. He failed her as a friend. He knew that she had come over that night, to yes check on him but also to seek comfort that she once would never have had to seek. He knew what it would have taken her to go to his place, only to find out that he had been lying to her for months, that he had been putting boundaries between them for a girl, the very girl that she had warned him about, how that would have hurt her.
Sorry guys, I'm in an angst-y mood…as always! This evolved into something different than what I had envisioned, and I was just letting it write itself, so I am not entirely sure where it's going or how it's going to be resolved, if it is going to be resolved. Talk to my muse! =) Hope you all had a great Christmas! I will be updating my other stories. I'm back on nightshift so you need to be patient with me. Take care! xxE