Title: Nowhere Else I'd Rather Be
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Summary: Post Retaliation (5x11). Garcia looks after Emily in a time of need.
Author's Note: This little piece of fic goes out to Yellow Smurf and Miss Widget. They know why.
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Nowhere Else I'd Rather Be
Since Jason Clark Battle, Penelope Garcia's home security protocol had grown to rival that of Fort Knox. She'd gained the permission of her landlord to maintain the security cameras that surrounded the apartment block – evidently a shooting on the premises did not inspire confidence in potential tenants, a fear that was somewhat assuaged by these new practices.
Garcia brought the footage up on her laptop, giving a slight cringe at the activities of one of her neighbors. The job she'd taken upon herself had some perks, but watching the elderly Mr. Hendrickson fetch the mail in his tighty-whities was not one of them.
The last of the afternoon light had just started to duck under the horizon, but Garcia was too tense to be watching the sunset. Really, she ought to lock Emily up – the woman had more concussions than was expected for an FBI Agent, even a member of the BAU. No, she considered. Even if I keep her locked in the apartment, she might still slip and crack her skull open. Chain her to the bed, maybe.
Except that thought opened a whole new can of worms. Specifically, how to keep Emily Prentiss chained to the bed whilst simultaneously suppressing the urge to jump her every ten minutes. The thought process became moot as she brought up the camera feed that covered the street and saw the black SUV pulling to a stop.
Surely she didn't drive here herself?
But no. It was Morgan that got out of the driver's seat, which, in a way, terrified Garcia more than she realized. To her dying breath, Emily would protest being driven around by Derek Morgan. It was that trademark stubbornness that had compelled her to work the rest of the case, even though she really should have been in a hospital bed. At times, Garcia had felt like reaching through the phone line and bitch-slapping her back to the ICU.
Garcia's breath hitched in her throat as the passenger's side door opened, and she would have gone down there to greet them, but she was frozen, rooted to the spot, as though expecting the worst. Sometimes, even her optimism failed her.
The Emily that stepped out was bruised and broken, but determined, and still in one piece. There was a brief, but heated exchange of words between her and Morgan as he took both her bags and slung them over his shoulder. Garcia could imagine that conversation, even without the sound on:
Morgan, I can carry my own bags.
That was probably what Garcia herself would have said, but it sounded funnier in Morgan's voice. In any case, she'd probably be doing plenty of her own taking charge tonight – Emily Prentiss did not take well to orders of bed rest. Or orders of any kind that were given for her own well-being. Selectively obedient, Garcia called it.
The phone buzzed.
'Hey gorgeous.' It was Morgan that had pressed the button, but really, the words were equally applicable to both parties.
'Hey, girl. I got a grumpy little gift for you.'
The microphone wasn't particularly good, so she couldn't quite catch Emily's retort, but it was clearly disgruntled. Apparently, someone didn't get any sleep on the plane. She pressed the buzzer to open the door. Emily had a key, somewhere, but was resistant to using it for reasons that Garcia couldn't quite fathomed. Being the Oracle of All Knowledge didn't always extend to human behavior, and especially not profiler behavior. It was difficult to help when they decided to keep it all bottled up inside.
Garcia opened the door, mentally going over the checklist in her head. After the team had finished up the case, she'd driven home in a mad rush, stopping only to buy up what seemed like the store's entire stock of chicken soup. She wasn't quite sure she believed that it was good for the soul, but she did concede to its merits as the world's best comfort food, save only for ice-cream.
'…don't need your help to get up the stairs.' She heard Emily's voice echoing in the stairwell.
'I know,' came Morgan's reply. 'But it's fun watching you try to resist.'
Emily's eyes rolled, the expression morphing into a smile as she caught sight of Garcia. 'Hey.' Her voice was soft, tired. Vulnerable.
'Hey.' Garcia can't stop her own voice from warbling. The bruises were so much worse than she'd imagined – all she wanted to do was take Emily into her arms and never let go again.
The hug she did give was gentle, not wanting to exacerbate any other injuries Emily might have – Garcia had seen the accident photos, and it was a little more than just a fender bender. Silence reigned as the three of them stepped inside, Morgan excusing himself to put Emily's bags in the master bedroom.
'Please don't scare me like that again,' Garcia breathed into Emily's shoulder.
'I guess I'll cancel that trip to the nearest archery range for the blind.'
Garcia didn't laugh, because the danger that the team face every day was very, very real, and part of her was becoming increasingly aware of the fact that one day, one of them might not come home.
Especially when they had such a cavalier attitude towards their own mortality. Maybe handcuffs weren't such a bad idea.
Emily withdrew from the hug, and Garcia didn't miss the wince that accompanied the movement.
'I am going to the bathroom,' Emily announced, looking pointedly at Garcia first, and then at Morgan, who had just stepped back into the room. 'And I do not need any help.'
Garcia gave Morgan a Look. His eyes were filled with denial before she even asked the question. 'Have you been coddling her, Derek?'
'No,' he said, defensive. 'I just...pushed her wheelchair.'
'And drove her home, and carried her bags. You know she doesn't like being fussed over.' Her voice softened; the bathroom was down the hall, but she still didn't want to take any chances.
'Don't tell me you're not going to be doing exactly the same thing for the next five days.'
'That's different.' Garcia crossed her arms. 'I'm her girlfriend, I'm expected to coddle.'
Morgan gave a tired grin. 'She had her prescription filled at the hospital, so make sure she takes all of her pills. And she probably won't tell you, but the ER doctor recommended a follow-up appointment, so make sure that gets sorted out too.'
'This isn't my first rodeo, cowboy,' Garcia said, cutting off whatever instruction he was about to give next. 'Unless you'd forgotten, this is the third time the Warrior Prentiss has come home with a concussion.'
He sighed. He didn't forget. None of them forgot. Just like they couldn't forget what happened to Hotch, what happened to Reid, what happened to Elle.
'I'm going back to the office to help Hotch with the paperwork,' he told her. Garcia nodded – since Haley's death, they'd all been trying to take some of the burden off Hotch's shoulders, whether it meant staying late to go over potential cases, or entertaining Jack in the middle of the bullpen while Hotch packs up his briefcase. Tonight, though, it was down to the rest of the team. Garcia had something else she needed to be doing.
'You two behave yourself,' Morgan winked, as Emily stepped back into the room. She stared at him, eyes wide.
'Did I miss something?' she asked, as the door clicked shut behind him.
'I was just telling him about my cunning plan to have my way with you.'
'As nice as that sounds,' Emily grimaced, 'I think it'll have to wait until I can move without my body feeling like it's been used as a punching bag.'
'You'll have bruises of a different kind when I'm done with you,' Garcia told her playfully, before adding, in a much more somber tone, 'I'm glad you're okay.'
'Me too,' Emily replied, equally as soft, and Garcia took that as her cue to go run a bath. There would be molly-coddling tonight, whether Emily liked it or not.
True to her word, she clucked over Emily's bruises as she helped the other woman unbutton her shirt.
'I'm going to make you some soup,' Garcia said as soon as she was satisfied that Emily wasn't going to slip in the tub and crack her head open. 'Is chicken noodle okay?'
'Penelope, I…' Emily started, before hesitating. 'Chicken noodle is fine.'
Despite her initial hesitation, Emily padded back into the kitchen with unfettered enthusiasm half an hour later. She looked better - hot water couldn't heal the bruises, but it did its share of rejuvenating. The oversized sweatshirt made her look even more vulnerable though, and Garcia found herself ladling the soup out just the slightest bit faster. The sooner Emily got some sleep, the better.
'Pills first.' Garcia slid over the tiny bottle that she'd taken from Emily's go bag. The brunette rolled her eyes, but said nothing. 'We'll call your doctor for a follow-up appointment tomorrow,' she added, in a voice that didn't leave room for argument.
They ate their soup in silence, the only sound being the occasional slurp from Garcia. Emily had been brought up not to slurp upon pain of death. Garcia often wondered if that was the reason she was so shut away. Not the soup specifically, but the upbringing itself.
It wasn't really the time to think about such matters, though. Once they'd finished eating, Garcia put the bowls in the sink; she'd wash them in the morning, along with the saucepan that she'd used to heat the soup.
It was barely seven o'clock, but after the events of the past few days, it was late enough. Garcia slid into bed beside Emily, planting a kiss on the sliver of skin at her neck. After what seemed like an age, Emily said, 'Thank you…for being here.'
Garcia leaned over to give another, more passionate kiss, letting her tongue run across Emily's dry lips.
'There's nowhere else I'd rather be,' she said.