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Santa's Little Secret
TV Prompt: F-Troop - "A Gift from the Chief"
He's demanding, but she can work with that.
Especially when, in typical Aaron Hotchner understated style, he does something so sweet he steals her breath.
Looking up from her bank of computer screens, she smiled uncertainly as her Unit Chief dropped a gaily wrapped box in the center of her cluttered desk. "What's this?" Penelope Garcia asked as she lifted her hand to finger the bright red ribbon encircling the box.
"A gift," Hotch replied with a shrug, tucking his now free hand in his suit jacket pocket. "It's Christmas."
"But our gift exchange isn't until this afternoon," Garcia shook her head as she stared at the present resting innocently on her desk. Jerking accusing eyes back to his face, her red brows drew together mutinously. "Nuh uh, Mr. Bossy Britches," she said, wagging a finger at him as she picked up the gift in her other hand and shoved it against his broad chest, "You are NOT bailing on our Christmas party. I don't care how good an excuse you have."
"Penelope, I'm not..."
"No," she shook her head furiously, rising from her desk to face her boss, "I let you escape the Halloween hoopla. I allowed you to slip through the non-existent cracks of the Thanksgiving celebration. I will not stand by and watch you lackadaisically ditch my Christmas revelry. It's my favorite holiday and I'm not giving up the chance to see little Jack's face when he opens the robot I had custom built for him. So just put on your big boy pants, Ebenezer, and suck it up," she concluded, her hands landing on her velvet covered hips with a plop.
"I don't intend to miss the festivities, Garcia, and neither does Jack," Hotch explained with a faintly amused smile as he watched her eyes flash. "This," he said, pushing the gift Penelope had embedded in his chest, "is a special present from me to you. I drew Reid's name this year in the gift exchange, remember?"
Blinking rapidly as he pressed the small box against her bosom with gentle firmness, Penelope faltered, "You got me a present? Wh-Why?"
"Because it's Christmas. And if you need a better reason, because you deserve it," Hotch replied, his voice deep and even as he watched her blush. One of the things he most adored about her was her humbleness, and that trait was on full display now in spades.
"Oh," she said weakly, staring down at the thin box pressed against her, Santa Claus's multiplying face slightly mocking her as the red-cheeked jolly old elf stared up at her from the wrapping paper. "I don't know what to say."
"A commonly accepted response is thank you," Hotch teased, enjoying the rosy hue overtaking her cheeks. It wasn't often one got to experience the pleasure of seeing Penelope Garcia at a loss for words. He wanted to savor this experience.
"Thank you," Pen whispered, still staring at the package she held. "I didn't get you anything," she worried aloud, her heart pounding.
"I didn't expect anything from you, Penelope. I wanted to do this for you. I wanted you to know that you matter to us...to me. Open it," Hotch urged. "You might not like it."
"I don't think that would be possible," Pen denied quickly. Ripping the wrapping paper with trembling fingers, it fluttered to the floor as she stared down at a slim elegant black box. "Uhmm...this looks expensive, Boss Man," she chastised, shaking her head. "You shouldn't have..."
"Garcia, shut up and open the box," Hotch ordered, cutting her off as he watched her flush deepen.
Lifting the lid, Pen gasped. "Oh," she breathed. "It's beautiful," she whispered, lifting the thin delicate golden chain between cold fingertips. Eyes filling with tears, she asked, "How did you know I had a thing for angels?" she asked, staring at the dangling charm, an angel, arms held wide.
Hotch winked. "Takes one to know one, or so I'm told."
"This is too much, Hotch," Pen said shakily, her eyes staring lovingly at the golden pendent at the end of the chain.
"No, it's not. Look, Penelope, you've kept us all sane during the past year. And considering everything that happened, that was no easy feat. I think you've earned your wing status, don't you?" he said, nodding toward the necklace. "I wanted you to know that everything you've done...everything you do...it's noticed. Even when it feels like it's not. I notice."
"I haven't done anything special," Pen denied, blinking back tears as she looked up at the usually stoic man they all depended on.
"You're you, Garcia. You are special. Sometimes, I think you need to be reminded of that," he remarked, gesturing for the necklace. "Turn around," he ordered, "I'll put it on you."
Swallowing past the thickness in her throat, Pen slowly turned around as Hotch's warm hands fastened the clasp at the back of her neck, lingering just a little longer than was acceptable.
"An angel for an angel," Hotch whispered against her ear tenderly, brushing a sweet kiss against her temple as he pulled her briefly against his chest.
Wiping a tear from her cheek, Penelope smiled tremulously. "Thank you, Boss Man. For a self-proclaimed hard ass, you have a great big mushy center, don't you?" she noted with a watery chuckle.
"Don't tell anyone," Hotch whispered theatrically, winking at her again.
"Your secret is safe with me," Pen smiled, her heart warming as her eyes sketched her superior's uncommonly relaxed face with adoring eyes. He'd always been her hero...and moments like this reminded her why that was. "We'll call it Santa's little secret."
And that was just it, wasn't it, Hotch thought. His secrets, as well as the rest of team's, were entirely secure with her.
And that was why he, like everyone else he knew, was just a little bit in love with the very unique, supremely special Penelope Garcia.