For the Christmas Gift Fic Exchange.
Christmas song & prompts: All I Want for Christmas is You; a snowstorm, a candlelit Christmas tree, and a large bow-tied ribbon
Gift for: tayababy
Summary: Sometimes you have to decide that something is worth the risk, but sometimes, it's something you can't risk losing. M/G. For the Christmas Gift Fic Exchange on Chit Chat on Author's Corner.
AN: Many, many thanks to each of my betas, EsmeCarlisle1921, FloatingAmoeba, and BonesBird, especially FloatingAmoeba who did the best beta job I have ever seen!
"Tell me again why I have to come?" Garcia moaned. "It's winter! It is cold! I would much rather be holed up in my lovely, warm lair behind the safety of my screens than traipsing around Middle-of-Nowhere, Montana!"
"I've told you five times already, baby girl, cell service out here is spotty–"
"Which means Internet likely is too," she interrupted petulantly.
"–and we need you close at hand."
"Ugghhh!" she moaned. "Couldn't the killer at least have some respect and start his rampage in the summer?"
Morgan chuckled. "Baby, I don't think he was exactly considering your feelings when he decided to devolve."
"Well, he should! Common decency, you know? Does he know how inconvenient this is?"
"Honestly? I don't think he cares, Garcia."
A disgruntled mutter slipped past her lips, and Morgan couldn't help but grin at her attitude. She narrowed her eyes at him. "Are you laughing at my distress?" she asked incredulously.
"Sorry, sweetness." Morgan's tone was sincere, but the corners of his mouth curled up slightly and his eyes danced merrily. Realizing that her protests were falling on deaf ears, Garcia huffed and folded her arms across her chest.
"Quit pouting, G, we're here!"
"And where's the good in that? All that means is that I have to get out of this nice heated SUV and traipse through three feet of snow to a tiny hotel that probably doesn't even have a television, where I will finally get warm and then – just my luck – you will need me to leave!"
"Where'd my pocket full of sunshine go?"
"She froze to death," Garcia muttered darkly and hopped out of the SUV, grabbing her purse and slamming the door shut behind her, leaving Morgan to retrieve the bags. The crack of the door echoed across the frozen landscape, reverberating until the snow finally muffled it. Morgan followed soon after, worried, but chuckling all the way.
"More FBI?" the woman at the counter asked, exasperated, "The rest of your team is in the common area, right through there." She pointed to a cozy room with a roaring fire, comfortable burgundy furniture, and a squishy looking white rug covering the floor. The room barely sat the six of them, but it would do.
"This many of you?" the woman muttered under her breath as they joined the others, "Hope you don't mind sharin' rooms."
"What took you two so long?" Prentiss asked. "You missed our lovely conversation with that cheerful woman at the desk. Turns out there's only four rooms. Rock, paper, scissors?"
"For a team of intelligent adults, I find it just a touch astonishing that we can't manage to find a more mature and effective method of determining who has the worst luck," Reid commented wryly as each of them held out a fist.
Garcia sighed as she dropped her neon orange purse on the faded, forest-green bedspread.
Two new victims had already flashed across her screens since they had arrived that morning, the third couple discovered in a week, and their guy showed no signs of slowing down. Morgan dropped his stuff on the opposite bed.
"Remind me again why I get the pleasure of your company tonight?" Garcia asked as she took her suitcase from him and pulled out a fluffy pink pair of pajamas.
"Because Rossi and I got the short end of the stick. Rossi chose to bunk with Hotch, so my choices were you, Prentiss, and Reid. There was no choice there, sweetness."
Garcia grinned. "And because you love me. Just admit it."
Morgan couldn't help but grin in response. "Yeah, baby girl. And because I love you."
"And you love me so much, you'll let me have the shower first, won't you, my Chocolate Adonis?"
"Why does someone have to go first?" Morgan asked innocently.
Garcia laughed. "In your dreams, hot stuff. Only in your dreams."
He groaned. "You're cruel, Mama." He took one look at her expression and sighed. "Fine, but don't you dare use up all the hot water!"
"Wouldn't dream of it."
Forty-five minutes later, Morgan was wondering what had happened to, 'Wouldn't dream of it.' There was no way the hot water could last so long.
"Sweetness?" he called, "You still alive in there?" The only answer was a thump as the water shut off, and he stepped away from the door just as it opened. Garcia stepped past him, her pink pajamas smelling of soap and lavender.
"Garcia? You okay?"
"You've been…off, all day," Morgan began in concern, "You just spent forty-five minutes drowning your sorrows, and don't even try to tell me that wasn't what you were doing."
"You noticed that?"
He laughed lightly. "Of course I did. I'm pretty certain that I do my job well enough to know when something's eating my best friend." He watched her hesitate and stated, "You know you can tell me anything, right?"
Penelope tried to smile, but only managed a grimace. "I know, hot stuff." She paused, sighing. "Yesterday…I had nothing to do, so…I went down to visit Kevin. I found him in his office." Morgan felt his brow tighten as she closed her eyes against the image imprinted on her eyelids. "He was swapping spit with the blond bimbo from counter-terrorism."
Morgan clenched his fists furiously. "That little–" he began, but she cut him off.
"Don't, Morgan. Just don't. Not now."
He nodded slowly. "I'm sorry, Pen. You okay?" As soon as the words escaped his mouth, he wished he could take them back, but they were already beyond his reach. "Sorry," he amended, "Stupid question."
Garcia smiled sadly. "I'll be fine." She paused, before confessing, "Things have been going downhill for a while now. I didn't think they were this bad, but… It was never going to work."
"He didn't deserve you," Derek said after a moment, "You're beautiful and bright and bubbly, and brilliant, and… I'm out of b words, but you're sassy and intelligent and–"
"Don't, Morgan. Don't patronize me. Don't just tell me what you think I want to hear because I've been 'hurt'. We've never been like that, so don't start now."
"Baby girl, I'm not patronizing you," he replied, drawing the word out to mimic her inflection, "I'm telling you the truth. If it's what you need to hear, well, two birds one stone, right?" He shrugged.
Garcia smiled shyly. "Thanks. I think."
"Baby girl, I'm here for you. Whatever you need, whenever you need it."
"Right now, what I need is sleep. We have to leave for our vic's house early tomorrow and I hate digging through their lives. It makes me feel all…icky."
Morgan nodded. "Garcia?" he said after a moment.
"Yes, my love?"
"You know that I love you, right? We tease each other, but that, that's no joke."
"I know it, hot stuff. You know I love you too?"
"I know it," he echoed. "Night, PG."
Garcia groaned as the alarm clock went off, playing the song, 'All I Want for Christmas is You.' Morgan was surprised they were already broadcasting Christmas music before Thanksgiving was even over, but he shrugged it off.
"Why you moaning, P? That's the best Christmas song there is!" he chirped, far too cheerful for six a.m.
"It's not the song, Derek, it's the waking," she groaned, rolling over to bury her head in the pillow.
"Wakey, wakey!" Morgan teased. Her hand collided with his chest.
"Ugghhh! You are really too much of a morning person!"
Morgan frowned. "You know, really, it should be the other way around, Ms. Eternal Optimist. Where's your six a.m. spirit?"
Finally rolling out of bed, Garcia murmured, "I'm a night owl. I stay up late and get up in the afternoon, naturally."
Morgan couldn't help but chuckle at the sight of Garcia's flaming red hair so mussed it stuck up nearly a foot from the top of her head. She stumbled to the bathroom and emerged ten minutes later her typical neatly groomed and perky self. He gaped in awe at the transformation. It wasn't like he hadn't seen it before, but she amazed him every time.
"I do not understand you, woman," he muttered.
"That better be a compliment!" Garcia chirped as she danced out the door and down the hall.
Morgan nodded along with Garcia's chatter the entire first half-hour of the drive, not really listening to what she was saying, before finally pulling off the highway and onto a dilapidated two lane road.
"Garcia?" he interrupted eventually. He struggled to find a way to phrase the question without upsetting her and finally settled on, "Are you okay?"
It wasn't exactly what he wanted to ask, but he knew she would understand. She grinned, comprehending perfectly.
"I haven't forgotten. I decided that I'm not going to let him drag me down anymore. I'm not going to waste my time on regrets when he obviously hasn't. Besides," she smirked, "Maybe it was for the best. This is my chance to start over again."
Morgan nodded as he pulled the SUV onto an unplowed dirt road. Sparse vegetation decorated the white landscape, the occasional tree popping up from under the snowfall . The snow on the road was a sludgy brown from dirt tossed up by tires, and a thin layer of ice lay underneath. He slowed the vehicle, maneuvering carefully on the treacherous surface. They trundled along the dreary landscape until a house finally rose up in the distance.
Garcia sighed. "Back into the cold we go," she muttered darkly, insisting, "You're going first."
Chuckling, Morgan hopped out and walked around the SUV, opening the door for her. She walked behind him the entire way, stepping in the prints his boots made in the snow.
As he stepped back to kick the door down, Garcia protested, "Wait! These people are victims, Derek, not UNSUBs! Do you really have to ruin their lovely door?"
"Do you have a better idea?"
"Watch and learn, Mr. Muscles. Brain over brawn." She moved to the door, pulling a bobby pin out of her hair as she did so. Lowering her ear to the lock, Garcia inserted the make-shift pick and experimented until she hear the telltale click and the door swung open. Smirking at him, Garcia said smugly, "After you."
She sat at the laptop and cracked her knuckles as Morgan explored the rest of the house. Booting it up, she ran her fingers across the sleek keyboard, admiring the quality. Pulling her own computer out of her bag, she hooked it up as she examined his password protection. It wasn't half bad. It took some tech savvy to crack, but savvy was something Garcia had in spades. Five minutes later she was through the firewall with no problems and could start searching through the computer files.
Having finished his tour of the property, Morgan wandered up behind her, looking over her shoulder, and she twisted her neck to look at him.
"You're lurking," she accused.
"Sorry," he apologized, straightening, "I've got nothing out of the ordinary. As far as I can see, this was just a normal couple.
"Fear not, my knight! If there is a dirty little secret buried anywhere within this veritable fount of knowledge, I shall find it!"
"I have faith in you, sweetness." Just then, Morgan's cell rang.
"It's a miracle!" Garcia cried triumphantly, "You have service!" Chuckling, he walked away to answer it.
"What's up?" Garcia asked when he returned, frowning at the concern creasing his brow.
"Pack it up, baby girl. That was Reid. Wonder Boy says a major snowstorm is blowing our way. We gotta get out of here if we want a chance of making it back before the storm."
Garcia nodded, packing up both computers in her bag and following him out to the SUV. They drove in silence, the miles passing endlessly. Morgan swore as the clouds rolled closer. He moved into the right lane, preparing to exit the highway as he shook his head.
"We're not going to make it."
Having followed the first road sign they saw, the hotel they arrived at was a little dingier than they were used to, but each room was a separate building and Garcia dubbed it 'run-down adorable.' The place had only one vacancy.
"We'll take it," Morgan decided.
Opening the door to their tiny cabin, Garcia gasped in awe.
"It's perfect!" she cooed. He set the bags inside the door and stepped into the tiny room, gaping in amazement. Vibrant red paint coated the walls; downy white carpet covered the floor; even the ceiling fan had been painted a Christmas green. A medium-sized Christmas tree stood undecorated in the corner; a box of decorations sat on the hearth of a nearby fireplace.
The green and red bedspread was so flamboyant; it looked as though it had been designed especially for Garcia herself. Even the small bathroom was red and green, with a few accents of white.
Garcia ran straight for the large box of decorations. He chuckled, unsurprised, and followed behind her.
"Slow down, sweetness. We're gonna be here a while." Absentmindedly, he switched the radio on, tuning it to a Christmas station as had always been his family's tradition while decorating the tree. Her only response was to squeal in glee when she opened the box, and he turned just in time to see her pull out a string of multicolored electric candle lights.
Morgan grinned at how happy she appeared, before asking, "Find something, baby girl?"
"I love these! We used to have the same ones when I was a kid, but they got lost when everything happened with my parents and I had to move," she explained, "Help me put them up."
Obligingly, Morgan held the strand as she danced around the tree, the lights falling in the most unorganized rows he had ever seen. When she finished and they took a step back, he could understand why she liked them. They were different in a way that went beyond unordinary. They were outrageous, shocking, and unconventionally beautiful – just like she was. Before he could say so, however, Garcia was back in the box, digging around.
"Come on!" she muttered, her voice muffled under piles of decorations, "There's got to be one in here somewhere…" Rustling noises continued until her head popped back out of the box. "Perfect!"
She held in her hands the biggest bow he had ever seen; the ribbon was every color of the rainbow. Stretching up on tiptoes, she attempted to place it on top of the tree, but she couldn't quite reach. Morgan chuckled.
"Let me help you with that," he smirked. Coming up behind her, he plucked the ribbon out of her hands and reached up over her head, just barely touching her back, and lined the bow up perfectly atop the tree. She shook her head.
"Nope," she disagreed, popping the 'p'. "Too neat," she told him firmly. Chuckling, he reached back up and tilted the bow to one side, so that it sat crooked among the branches.
"Better?" She nodded. Together, they stepped away from the finished tree. Morgan flicked off the overhead lights, and they watched the rainbow bulbs illuminate the room.
"It's beautiful," he murmured.
And it was. The colors, the imperfections – it made the perfect tree. Although not a single piece of the tree screamed Christmas on its own, when put together, the tree had its own kind of Christmas spirit.
The opening chords of 'All I Want For Christmas Is You,' started up on the radio, and Garcia clapped her hands in excitement.
"I love this song!"
"You didn't love it so much at six a.m.," Morgan commented sardonically.
"I don't love anything as much at six a.m.," Garcia said dryly, before switching gears and asking cheerily, "Hot chocolate?"
"Sure," Morgan agreed as Garcia began to sing along as she mixed the drinks.
"I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know. Make my wish come true – all I want for Christmas is... You, baby."
Morgan smiled, though bitterness laced it.
Garcia didn't know how true that was.
A fire crackling in the hearth and a warm mug in his hands, Morgan flopped on the couch, content to wait out the snowstorm in safety. Garcia flopped down next to him with her own mug and plunked her legs in his lap. He chuckled, swiftly moving his hot chocolate out of her way.
He paused, and then said, "Never mind."
"What is it, hot stuff?"
Morgan shook his head. "I don't even know, really. It's just… Do you ever wonder…?" He shook his head again. "No. Never mind."
"What's on your mind, handsome?" He frowned, still unable to put it into words. Sometimes, he mused, you have to decide that something is worth the risk, but sometimes, it's something you can't risk losing. He couldn't lose her, but not knowing exactly where he stood was killing him. It was bizarre for him to flounder like this, but she mattered more to him than any previous girl ever had.
Garcia reached out to rest a hand on top of his. "You know you can tell me anything, right?"
"I know, gorgeous. I know. It's just… Do you ever wonder about us?" he queried, half hoping that she would understand what he meant and half hoping that she wouldn't. Given how well she knew him, it wasn't surprising that she knew exactly what he was asking.
"I do. My problem is that I don't want to be one of your one-night-stands, just another in a long line of women. And I don't want to spend my time trying to live up to your past conquests."
He paused for a moment, taking in the implications of her declaration, before telling her, "You would never be just another woman to me, Penelope. And I would never let you be a one-night stand. That's only ever because they don't matter. And you shouldn't waste your time trying to live up to them." She gaped at him, offended. He immediately jumped to reassure her, "No, no, baby girl. You shouldn't waste your time because there's not a one of them that could live up to you."
Her pale cheeks flushed a bright crimson, and with a sigh, Morgan continued.
"The thing is, baby girl, I can't lose you. You are my lifeline, and I don't ever want to screw that up."
"I can't lose you either," she admitted after a moment. He took her hands between his own.
"I don't want to push you."
"One day at a time?" she suggested.
"One day at a time," he confirmed. "I've waited this long - I think I can wait a little longer. You're worth the wait, baby girl."
And so he waited.
Unwilling to push, he gave her time to get over what Kevin did. Then he asked her to dinner, and they started slow. He told her that he loved her as they said goodnight, and she returned the sentiment, but that was nothing new. They'd known that for years.
A week later, JJ threw a BAU Christmas party so that they could all be together again, but she neglected to mention the mistletoe. Jack had caught them beneath it and insisted that they follow the rule. It was then that they found out slow wasn't working well for either of them – time was being wasted on a journey that was already half complete. Morgan and Garcia discovered that they fit together like puzzle pieces, instinctively.
It was perfect. And if they only got one shot at this, they were going to do it right.