Disclaimer: Criminal Minds is owned by CBS. I own nothing but my imagination.
~I was originally going to submit this for the 'Dealers Choice' challenge at the Chit Chat on Author's Corner forum, but I decided I wanted to write it instead.
Out of My Element
"Good God, Garcia! Where exactly are you taking me?" David Rossi asked, exasperated. They had just emerged from a BART station, which hadn't put Dave in the best of moods, since he hated taking public transportation, and San Francisco's subway hadn't been any different. Actually, now that he thought about it, it had been different, because he had been riding in an underground tube that was built upon seismically unstable ground. He felt damn lucky that the train hadn't become his tomb.
"What do you mean, where am I taking you? We're here!" Garcia responded back, looking at the man as though he was an idiot.
"I hate to break this to you Penelope, but right now we are just standing on some street in San Francisco. I'm fairly sure this isn't a destination."
"Au contraire, my Italian Stallion, this is a destination!" She informed him as she pointed up at the street signs. He looked to where she was pointing and groaned; they were standing at the intersection of Haight-Ashbury, otherwise known as 'hippie central.' He couldn't believe he was there, that he was standing at pretty much ground zero of the counter-culture movement! He remembered seeing the images back in the sixties and seventies and he swore he would never set foot here unless he was one of the cops in the riot gear holding a fire hose. He desperately looked around for a cab that would take him back to the nice hotel the team had been staying at, but he found none.
"Trying to find a cab, sir?" Garcia asked, as if reading his mind. "Good luck! The cabbies know that most people in this area don't have enough money to take the BART, much less a taxi!"
"Great, just great," he mumbled, but the tech picked up on it.
"Come on sir, it's not going to be that bad, you'll just have your mind opened for an afternoon," she told him, thinking that the man could do with a change of scenery. For God's sake, his idea of a good time was going to an outrageously priced restaurant and then to a stuffy cigar lounge to smoke a couple of stogies. He needed to learn how the other half lived, and Penelope Garcia was going to do her best to show him that all afternoon.
Still hearing the profilers grumbles, Garcia said, "We can always get back on the BART and head over to Castro Street."
Dave glared at her, he knew that Castro Street was a large gay community and while he didn't have anything against gay people, he sure didn't want to be the only straight guy in a sea of men. "We'll stay here," he growled.
"Good!" Garcia said, linking her arm through his and leading them down the street. As they walked, or skipped in Penelope's case, Dave thought back to that morning, and how he had been shanghaied into accompanying Penelope Garcia around San Francisco.
"Pleeeeaaassseeee Cupcake," Penelope begged her best friend, "It's no fun going around the city by myself!" The team had been called to San Francisco to help catch a serial rapist and while the case itself hadn't been too gruesome, relatively speaking, it had been a long one and it was one that required their technical genius to be on the premises instead of back in her lair at headquarters. They had just wrapped the case, but the plane had been delayed due to weather at Quantico, so the team had an unexpected free day in the city.
"I already told you Pen, I have to give an interview to one of the reporters. Since it was our planted information in his column that pretty much helped us capture this bastard, I really can't renege on our deal." The absolute last thing JJ wanted to do was give an interview, but she had made a deal and she had to honor it. "Maybe Hotch will go with you," she said.
"Maybe Hotch won't," he said from behind her. "Sorry Garcia, but I have to finish up some paperwork. What about Morgan?"
Garcia pouted, "He has some relatives in the area that he hardly ever gets to see, so he's going to visit them and Emily has an old college roommate in town that she's going to see. Hell, even Reid has friends in the area that he's going to visit!"
"Wait, didn't you used to live here?" JJ asked and Pen nodded, "Then why don't you visit some of your old friends?"
"Because, my innocent friend, it would take me days to find my friends, since most of them still live off the grid. Besides, very few of them want to hang out with me now that I work for the feebs."
At that moment, Dave strolled into the conference room they had been using at the precinct. "How about Dave?" JJ suggested enthusiastically.
"How about Dave what?" He asked, his eyes narrowing slightly.
As if he hadn't spoken, JJ pressed on, "I know for a fact that Dave doesn't have any plans for the day, why not take him with you to see the city?"
Garcia considered this as a horrified look came across Rossi's face. "Jennifer, can I speak with you for a moment?" He asked tightly. He did in fact have plans for the day; he planned to hole up in his hotel room and forget that he was in one of the most liberal cities in the country.
He gently grabbed his wife's elbow and led her to a corner of the conference room. "Did you fall and hit your head? Why would you ever think that I would want to tour San Francisco with Garcia? Are you crazy?"
She shook her blond head, "Look Dave, this case hit close to home for Garcia. Usually our unsubs go for my type or Emily's type, but this one went for voluptuous, red headed geeks. Who does that remind you of?"
"Garcia," he said grudgingly.
"Exactly, and while Emily and I have grown pretty much immune to seeing our doppelgangers attacked, Garcia hasn't. She needs this, she needs to get in touch with her roots again and she doesn't want to do it alone, so suck it up and go with her!" JJ ordered.
"What do I get in return?" He asked petulantly.
"You mean besides the knowledge that you helped a colleague in her time of need?" JJ asked and watched as her husband nodded. "All right, if you do this, I'll call my mother and ask her to watch Henry next weekend so we can have the cabin to ourselves."
"And you'll wear that negligee I bought you?" He added.
JJ nodded. "And you'll do that thing with your tongue-" the rest of his suggestion was blocked by his wife's hand smacking over his mouth. "Don't push your luck, old man," she warned.
Dave considered her terms and finally nodded. They went back to where Garcia was standing and Dave cleared his throat and asked if he could accompany her around the city. She nodded enthusiastically and led them to the nearest BART station.
He was pulled from his reverie when he heard the banging of a drum from the sidewalk. He looked up and saw a man who appeared to be Bert from Mary Poppins…if Bert had been a fifty year-old hippie, who appeared to be on a bad acid trip. Dave watched open mouthed as the guy played a harmonica, guitar and drum at the same time. He might have been impressed if the guy had actually been playing music, but it sounded like he was just making random noises. Still, the small crowd that had formed was applauding enthusiastically, as if they had just heard some of the greatest music on earth, and they all threw change into the hat on the ground, including Penelope.
"Wasn't that great? Isn't it amazing how people can just play music like that?" She said in awe.
Dave bit his tongue and nodded. As they continued on their journey, he wrinkled his nose in disgust. The further they went into the bowels of hippie-land, the smellier it became. Right now the area smelled like feet. He briefly wondered why that was until he really looked at the people on the street and realized most of them were barefoot. He rolled his eyes at this, but stopped when Garcia stopped and took off her own high heeled shoes. He gave her a look and she shrugged, "When in Rome," she said. "Besides, that feels much better."
He just shook his head and kept walking with her. After another half-hour or so, after seeing numerous freak shows out on the street, Garcia led him into an eclectic looking shop.
As soon as they walked into the shop, Dave got a contact high from all of the pot smoke. As he waved the haze away, he suddenly wished he hadn't, as his vision was assaulted from all sides by neon tie-dyed material. He tried slowly backing out of the store, but the guy behind the counter had spotted them.
"Penny!" He yelled, running to greet her. He picked her up in a bear hug and spun her around.
"Fish! I was hoping you still worked here! How's it going man?" She followed him back to the counter and pulled Rossi along with her. She didn't fully trust him to not start things with some of the other customers.
"Business is good, especially now that we have that tyrannical pig out of office," he said, referring to the previous President.
Dave's lips tightened and he had to bite back a response. He had voted for that 'tyrannical pig,' twice in fact, and while he agreed that he screwed up at the end of his final term, he still had respect for the man.
He half listened to the conversation between 'Fish' and Penelope, but his ears perked up towards the end, when he saw Fish take a drag off of a joint he had stashed under the counter. "Want a hit?" He asked Penelope.
She shook her head, "You know I was never into that stuff! Besides, I've gone legit."
"Too bad, babe. You want a puff?" he asked Dave.
"Do I look like the type of person who would smoke pot in the middle of a public place, son?" He asked, reaching for his badge. He had a point though; he was dressed in his standard outfit of jeans, button down shirt and a blazer. He might as well have been wearing a neon sign that broadcasted the word 'square' across his chest.
Seeing Rossi reach into his coat pocket, Garcia led him a few steps away from Fish. "Sir, we are going to have a rather large problem if you flash your badge in here," she said, looking around at all of the customers. They were outnumbered two to one. "I can guarantee that most of the people in here won't be too impressed to see an FBI agent in their store. You want to see how quickly the people here can turn angry? Just try to arrest Fish for possession." He stared at her, weighing his options. "It's just a joint sir, let it go," she instructed and he did. After saying a quick goodbye to her friend, she led Rossi out of the store, ignoring the glares he was giving her friend.
Once they were back on the street, Garcia stopped at a street vendor for a quick snack and then led them into a few more stores. Dave had reached his stopping point by then, but since there was a lack of cabs in the area and Garcia had the only map, and knowledge, of the BART system, he was at her mercy. As they passed by a small public square, Dave was approached by a panhandler.
"Spare some change, man?" The guy asked.
"Get a job, hippie!" Dave snarled, and the guy just looked at him while Penelope dug her wallet out.
"Here you go," she said, slipping him a five dollar bill.
"Bless you, lady," he said graciously.
Their walk led them to a small park and as they made their way to one of the benches, Dave said, "Jesus Garcia, you might as well have thrown that money into the toilet for all the good it's going to do. You know that guy is just going to use it for drugs or booze!"
"He might, but maybe he's going to use it to get some food, or pay his rent," she told him as she sat down.
"Yeah, but why doesn't he get a job? These people can't just expect handouts from everyone," Dave said, sitting next to her.
"Maybe there's some reason why he can't get a job," she countered.
"In that case, he should-" Dave didn't get to finish his thought before Garcia interrupted him.
"I know where he's coming from, I was that guy once," she said softly.
"What?" Dave asked in amazement. How could that be? How could their technical genius have been someone who resorted to begging money off of strangers?
Garcia nodded, "I don't know if you know this about me, but when I was eighteen both of my parents were killed by a drunk driver." Dave nodded, he had read that in her file. "After they died, I kind of went off the rails for awhile. I didn't get into drugs or anything, but I was lost. My parents had been my whole world, we were close and when they died my whole world went off kilter. I quit school, which meant I lost my dorm room and I lived with a friend for awhile. Once her money ran out, I turned to panhandling. It was a bad time in my life, sir. I had to do many things I'm not proud of just to get by…" She trailed off at the end as she remembered that part of her life.
"Garcia," Dave said and she shook herself out of her reverie.
"Anyway sir, I didn't tell you that so you would have a great insight into my life, I told you that so you would know that not all beggars are looking for drug money, some of them have just fallen on hard times. Imagine if that were JJ or Henry. Imagine that something happened to both you and your wife and your son had no other choice but to beg people for money in order to eat, or sleep with a roof over his head. Wouldn't you want someone to help him? Would you want people to call him names and snarl at him to get a job?"
Dave looked at the ground, he suddenly felt very ashamed. Of course he would want people to help his son! After a minute of reflection, he looked up at the tech goddess.
"Dammit Garcia, why did you have to do that? Why did you have to open my mind like that? I was perfectly happy to lump all of the hippies, druggies and homeless people into one anonymous group! Why did you have to personalize it for me?"
She grinned, "Sorry my friend, but it was high time you saw the way the other half lives," she said as she stood up. Dave followed suit and they made their way out of the park.
"You know that if you ever need help, you can come to me, right?" He asked her.
Tears pricked Garcia's eyes, "Of course sir."
"Good, but I gotta tell you, next time we're on a case and we have a free day, I'm picking where we go!" He told her, visions of horse races and baseball games dancing in his head.
"Of course sir, that's only fair," she said with a grin. Her smile turned into a proud one when they passed another panhandler and he dropped a ten dollar bill into their cup.