Morgan helped Penelope put the top down on the old convertible. "Are you sure you want to do this? It's kind of chilly." He asked, concerned.
"Yes," she laughed, glancing at the sky. "It's an awesome night. I want to enjoy it."
"O-kay." He conceded. He locked down the roof and turned to give her a long embrace. "Good-night, Baby Girl. Drive, carefully."
Derek watched as Penelope got in and started the engine. He waited in the driveway until she turned off his street. "Silly girl." He thought, affectionately, shaking his head as he went back inside.
It was nearly two a.m. It would be awfully late by the time she got to bed tonight, not that it mattered. Garcia was so exhilarated by her conversation with Derek that she knew she would never be able to sleep anyway.
The air was crisp, and the sliver of moon seemed to be smiling in the sky. "Fantastic," she thought to herself…this moment…this night…and Derek Morgan. Definitely one of the best nights of her life, she decided, turning on the radio. The oldies station was playing a 70's song by The Hollies. "All I need is the air that I breathe, and to love you…" Penelope sang along. She had a surprisingly good singing voice, something even most of her friends didn't know. As late as it was, she drove just under the speed limit, in no hurry to get home.
Earlier, when she'd asked Derek if she had a purpose in his life, he was incredulous. "My God, Penelope! Do you have to ask? Don't you know what you mean to me?"
Staring down at the carpet, she shook her head 'no.' Yeah, she thought. There was that "God given solace" remark he made on the night of the explosion, but he was pretty stressed out at the time. And, of course, that was before he reconnected with Vanessa.
"Look at me, Penelope," he said, emphatically. He hoped she would finally grasp what he was going to tell her. "Baby Girl, you're my sanity. You bring laughter into my life. You remind me that there's beauty in the world, even when I'm sick to my stomach from dealing with the horrors. God damn, without you…" He paused, reaching for the right words. "Without you, I'd be like Gideon, wandering around the Southwest somewhere, trying to find myself. Or Elle…or fuckin' Hotch. They snapped…lost their damned minds, the both of them. If you ask me, Hotch is still walking a damned thin line. Elle's probably drinking herself to death. But me…hey, I'm okay." He took her in his arms, and held her so close to him that she could feel his heart beating. "You're my strength. That's what you are to me, Baby Girl. I can't even imagine my life without you."
"But you said you loved Vanessa."
"I do love Vanessa. She had a huge impact on my life. That doesn't mean I don't love you." He gave an exasperated sigh. "Babe, you get yourself hung up thinking it has to be either-or, and then you start letting your damned insecurities get in the way, thinking that you're not as good, or that you don't measure up."
With an uncomfortable knot in her stomach, she admitted. "Yes." She looked up at him, sheepishly. "You're profiling me."
"Yes. I am." He grinned. "I love you, Penelope Garcia, just the way you are. I wouldn't want to change one damned thing about you."
"What about Vanessa?"
"What about her? I told you last night. She went back to her world, and I've come home to mine."
As she turned onto her off exit from the freeway, Garcia was still singing.
David Rossi took another sip of cognac. He studied Morgan, who was yawning for the third time since they'd finished dinner. "Rough day?" He asked, a tad sarcastically, knowing damned well it wasn't. Their Tuesday had actually been a pretty easy workday.
"Did you have a late night?" Dave lit the tip of his cigar and took a long puff. O'Reilly's didn't allow smoking, but they looked the other way for Rossi, who was a frequent customer and a friend of the pub owner. "Damn, that's good." He offered Morgan a cigar taken from his coat pocket. "I have another."
"No, thanks." Morgan answered with a slight wave of the hand, and then he yawned again.
"I'm beginning to think I'm lousy company." Rossi remarked, but looking at Morgan, he could see that something was bothering him. He'd been unusually quiet during their meal. Rossi changed his tone. "What's wrong, Derek?" He took another puff of his cigar and exhaled, slowly, savoring the bouquet of the tobacco.
Morgan just rolled his eyes and gave him half a laugh. "I'm still recovering from my vacation."
"I thought you went home to see family? Didn't it go well?"
"Eh?" Morgan shrugged, off-handedly. He gave his friend a summery of his vacation, and concluded with "and I went to my class reunion. Met up with my old high school sweetheart."
Rossi flashed his familiar, lop-sided smirk. "Oh, that's what causing you to lose sleep."
"I'm not having trouble sleeping. I got to bed late." He played with his spoon and looked down when he said. "I had Garcia over to my house for dinner last night. She didn't take too well to me spending a weekend with my ex. We were talking until about two."
"Your reunion went that well, huh?" Rossi laughed. "So, I'm gathering there's still a little spark left with the old flame, and you had some explaining to do to the lovely Penelope."
"Dave, I've spent twenty years love-hating Vanessa. I was crazy about her back in high school. I even thought we might have a future together. Then she dumped my black ass… shit, on the night of our senior prom…of all nights. I thought it was because she'd decided I wasn't good enough for her."
"And…come to find out, it wasn't her. Her father broke us up because he didn't want her dating a black guy."
"She's Caucasian, I gather?" Dave knew he could never understand racism from Morgan's perspective. Color never mattered much to him, but he'd investigated enough hate crimes and racially motivated murders over the years to know how ugly some people could get.
Derek got out his cell phone and showed him the photos from the reunion. He'd been meaning to download them to his computer. He didn't want Penelope to accidentally stumble across them. Suddenly, he had an awful twinge of guilt for wanting to keep the pictures, and he felt even guiltier for feeling the need to hide them.
"Wow! Good-looking girl!" Dave remarked with appreciation, looking slowly through the photos while he puffed his stogie. "Is she single?"
"She's a widow. Her husband died several months ago. Crapped out from a heart attack. Vanessa said he was a workaholic." Morgan took the phone back from his friend and put it in his pocket. "She has a teenage daughter. I think the kid's sixteen. They're fairly affluent people. She and her husband had a business. 'Nessa's running it now."
"Okay…so you and this Vanessa are both single. Now, that could open the door to all kinds of possibilities." He flicked his ashes into a heavy, ceramic ashtray, and leaned back in his seat. "No wonder you and Garcia had a lot to talk about. How did you leave things?"
"Dave, the last thing I ever want to do is hurt Garcia." He paused before he added. "I'm not going to see Vanessa again."
Rossi snuffed out his cigar and finished his drink. Rubbing the stubble on his chin as he formulated his response, he said. "Morgan, there've been a hell of a lot of women in my life. Hell, I even married three of them. At the time, I sincerely believed I loved every one of them. The job had a lot to do with why things didn't work out. You know how it is. We're away so damn much. We get caught up in the cases. It's hard not to be affected, and we can't really talk about it. It's not like you can go home, sit down over dinner and say 'honey, let me tell you about this headless corpse I saw today.' We close ourselves off emotionally." He gave a small shrug. "Maybe it's the only way we can function."
He gestured to the waiter. The server added coffee to Derek's cup and brought Rossi another glass of cognac. "The thing about Garcia…She works with us. She understands how it is. It's amazing the way she manages to keep her sense of humor." He swirled his cognac in the tall, stemmed glass and took a drink. "Morgan, she's a great girl. You could do worse."
"Why do I feel like there's a 'but' you're leaving out?"
Rossi flashed another crooked grin, and his tone turned wistful. "When I was twelve years old, I met this girl…back in the old home town, back in Boston. She was the cutest thing…petite…big, brown eyes…really 'blessed' for her age, if you get my gist" He cupped his hands in front of his chest to emphasis his point. "I fell for her the first time I laid eyes on her. We went together all through school. I went to my prom with her. I should have married her, but I was young. I wasn't ready to settle down. I thought I wanted adventure." He sneered. "I went off and joined the Marines, thinking she'd be there when I got back. Well, shit happens. She wasn't."
Rossi had a melancholy look when he confessed. "Morgan, I've loved that woman all of my life. She might have been the reason my marriages didn't work out. I should never have let her go. I guess we were soul mates or something."
Over the years Rossi and Morgan had been working together, they had become close friends, but Morgan had never heard him talk like this. "Soul mates?" Derek repeated. "Vanessa talked about soul mates. Do you believe that stuff?"
"Yeah," he said, shaking his head. "Yeah, I do."
Morgan stood at the kitchen table and leafed quickly through his mail. He pulled out a couple of bills that needed to be paid, and took them into his office. Sitting down at his desk, he turned on the computer and logged into his bank account. After he tended to business, he downloaded the photos from the reunion. He titled the file "Misc-210." The number attached to the file represented Vanessa's birthday, the tenth of February. He then erased the photos on his phone.
He called Sarah, and was happy to hear that Desiree had changed her home and cell phone numbers. Good, she wouldn't be hearing from that fool, Curtis, again. He programmed the numbers into his phone, and then went upstairs to shower. The phone rang just as he was coming out of the bathroom.
"Bonsoir, mon amour! What are you doing tonight?" Garcia said in a seductive voice.
"Uh, I'm naked and wet." He said, holding the phone with one hand and drying off with the other.
"Oooh…let me just ponder that thought for a minute." She paused, and then giggled as she asked. "I suppose sending me a photo is out of the question."
"Behave, Naughty Girl. Sending naked photos on my cell phone is absolutely out of the question."
She giggled again. "Well, it was worth a try. I'll have to use my imagination." Another pause and "do you need me to let you go?"
"Nah, I'm good." He put his towel under him on the bed and sat down. He wasn't so sleepy now, and it was good to hear her voice.
Penelope told him that they had a suspect in custody in Maryland in the case he'd profiled yesterday. "I saw it on the news a little bit ago. He's a nurse. You said medical field. It looks like you called it, Sweetie."
After several minutes, their talk was interrupted when Penelope received a text. "Hey, I just got a message from Hotch. He says I need have a bag ready. You guys might be flying out to San Francisco tomorrow, and if you do, he wants me to go."
"Did he say what case?" God damn, he didn't want to leave again. He'd barely been home two days.
"No, he didn't…I'd better go. I need to see what I have to pack. I'll see you in the morning…Good-night, Snuggly Bear. Love you."
"Back at you, Baby Girl. 'Night."
Derek pulled on pajama pants and checked out his own ready bag. While he was packing, he came across the letter that Vanessa had given him two days earlier. He sat down on the foot of the bed and began to read.
It was long, just as she said, written on loose leaf paper in an ornate, feminine hand. She began by telling him her impressions on the morning they met. For ten pages, Vanessa recounted their time together, her feelings about him, and her hopes for the future. Some of the parts made him laugh, while others touched him with her sincerity. She concluded with…"I've asked myself if I could awaken every morning for the rest of my life and see you beside me. Yes, yes, a resounding yes! Nothing would make me happier than to have you in my life forever. Could you say the same about me? I hope when we're able to talk, we can plan our future. I'll be eighteen soon. My father can't keep us apart for long…Love you always, Vanessa."
Enclosed on a separate sheet of paper was a poem. ~~~
SOUL MATES by Vanessa Fowler
You have been mine before;
I remember the taste of your tender kisses,
The warmth of your welcoming embrace,
A smile that lit up my lonely world;
That playful way you stirred my passion,
Feeling lost forever, lying in your arms,
Somewhere long ago.
You're the one I want to be with;
I love you with all that I am.
You are the precious air I breathe,
A character in every dream I cherish,
That missing part of me that I see,
Looking deeply into your eyes.
He read the poem over twice, entranced by the beauty of her words and the meaning. Even at seventeen, she was making references to past lives. What had she said about people from other lifetimes? "You see something in their eyes. You have a sense of familiarity, as though you have always known them." It was the way he felt when he first met Garcia, and when he met Vanessa. There was something about them. Even seeing Vanessa again after twenty years, he felt as if no time had passed between them. Did they really have a connection from other lifetimes?
Shit! He didn't have time to think about this. He had to get his head out of the clouds. All this metaphysical-new age stuff! A new case was starting tomorrow. He needed to get some rest. He put the letter in the drawer of his night stand, and got into bed. He pulled out the stem of his alarm clock and turned out the light.
Morgan easily drifted off to sleep and dreamed of the women he loved.
***Author's note*** I didn't not write the poem, SOUL MATES. It was written by my friend and fellow writer, S. Sorbello.