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This is a pinch hit for our dear friend currently suffering thru the Australian floods. Our prayers are with you and all our Australian friends. Written for the New Year's Challenge on Chit Chat on Author's Corner.

Again, thanks for bearing with me, my fanfic friends!

Prompts: Hotch/Garcia; Resolutions, kiss from someone unexpected at midnight, drunken confession and/or marriage proposal

Love in the Most Unexpected Places

Standing outside Penelope Garcia's brightly painted apartment door, Hotch shifted hesitantly on his feet. Was he doing the right thing? Coming here now?

Perhaps not, but after over eight years of allowing this woman to invade his heart...his thoughts...his dreams, he knew he was helpless not to follow through on this New Year's Resolution. It was time. Hell, it was well past time.

He had to do something.

For months since Haley's death, she'd been his steadfast supporter, doing everything in her vast, almost goddess-like power to ease his path, to lessen his son's unrelenting pain. And slowly, he'd fallen under her spell. Much like everyone else in her sphere did.

She simply had that unique personality that pulled a person in and held them captive. Her compassion, her understanding, her ability to comfort without ever uttering a word. She knew when to make a quip to lessen the building tension within him and she knew when to simply sit silently in his office, her mere presence a balm to his soul.

And without realizing it or making a conscious decision to do so, he'd fallen in love.


Haley had told him to teach Jack about love's importance...that she wanted him to experience it. And if ever there was a woman that could teach them both about that intricate, complicated emotion, it was Penelope Garcia.

He had to tell her. Damn the policies and fraternization rules. Damn everything. In the last six months, he'd realized that he needed her in his life as much as he needed to inhale his next breath.

And he owed her the truth.

Glancing at his watch, he noted the time absently. Fifteen minutes until midnight. Fifteen more minutes until a brand new year commenced. Blowing quickly into his hand, he was relieved that there was no aroma of scotch. Dave had insisted he needed at least one shot of liquid courage to fuel this confession...and honestly, one had turned into four. Obviously, he'd needed a lot more bravery than he'd anticipated. But he was steady on his feet...and he'd taken a cab. Even half lit, he still knew how to be responsible. And with Jack safely ensconced at his Aunt JJ's, Aaron's evening remained completely free.

But time was ticking. It had been ticking for months now. And he'd been wasting it...waffling it away with his indecision. He still doubted that he was a good enough man for someone as wonderful as Penelope Garcia. He'd made mistake after mistake. But she seemed to understand him instinctively. And no one, save his son, could fill his heart the way she could with one single smile.

Stiffening his spine, he rapped sharply against the door, immediately regretting the force he'd used. The last thing he wanted to do was frighten her at almost midnight on the night when society often ran wild. He was still amazed she was even home, but a vague comment Emily had sent his way had clued him in to the fact that Garcia would be solitary this New Year's holiday.

It only took a moment to hear padded footsteps approaching the door, and he had to smile as he heard her cautious, "Who goes there?"

"It's me, Penelope. Hotch," he clarified needlessly. If anyone knew his voice by now, it was her.

"Hotch?" he heard Garcia yelp as he listened to the deadbolt turn and the security chain rattle. Suddenly standing in front of her, he felt his mouth go dry. "Hey," he said weakly.

"Hotch," Garcia choked, hoping her tear stained cheeks weren't evident in the dim light of the hallway. "What are you doing here?"

Frowning as the light from the overhead bulb caught her visage, he lifted a hand to unconsciously touch her still damp cheek. "What's wrong?"

Great, leave it to the master profiler to spot a tear at ten paces, Penelope sighed to herself. "Nothing," she said, taking a step back to gesture him inside. "Come on in. I was just about to watch the ball drop over Times Square," she said, forcing a smile but not quite managing her normal cheerful tone.

Preceding him into her small cozy living room, she kicked herself…literally. She should have played 'not at home'. At least then, there'd have been no witnesses to her humiliation. Tonight had been almost more than she could handle...and she could handle a hell of a lot. And usually she could do it with a pep in her step and a smile on her face.

But the pep had peppered out and her smile had long since slid into a frown.

Dropping on the couch, she patted the cushion beside her. "Well, sit down. Watch the New Year usher in and tell me what brought you to my humble abode," she invited, forcing a lightness into her tone that she didn't feel.

"Penelope," Hotch said softly as he barely perched on the edge of the sofa, "I'll ask again. What's going on?"

Lips twitching uncomfortably, Pen shook her head. "It's...personal, Boss Man. And we both know how you feel about intimate conversations regarding the uggy mushy feeling crappola," she said with a slight laugh. Sitting beside her was the one man in the world she couldn't confide in...not about...THIS.

"I think we both know how persistent I can be," Hotch reminded her gently. "We're friends, aren't we? Friends let friends vent," he insisted, his earlier reason for coming here evaporating in view of her current less that chirpy state.

"Hotch..." Garcia whispered, biting her lip as she stared up into his dark, compassionate eyes.

"Aaron," Hotch corrected. "Tonight I'm not your boss, I'm your friend. And how many times have you let me vent about my life? Turnabout is fair play. Talk," he ordered gently.

"I got my first ever marriage proposal tonight," Garcia admitted softly.

"Wh-what?" Hotch faltered, his eyes widening. Son of a bitch, he'd missed his chance, he thought morosely. He'd thought that she and Lynch had ended things months ago. Had he really been so self-involved that he'd overlooked their reconciliation? Could fate be that cruel?

"Kevin showed up earlier. He told me that he'd made a huge mistake trying to change me all those months ago..."

"No kidding," Hotch spat, his anger rising as he remembered how Penelope had tearfully informed the team of all the perceived shortcomings Lynch had found in her before dumping her. Everything he despised was what had made Garcia intrinsically her. The boy had been an idiot. And he, Rossi and Morgan had taken extreme delight in pointing out Lynch's own shortcomings...personally.

"Anyway, he said he'd made a rash mistake and showed up earlier with a big sparkly ring. He actually expected me to say yes right that moment. Like he was doing me some colossal favor," she snorted.

"Please tell me you showed him the door," Hotch muttered.

"Right after I showed his ass the floor," Garcia said, a sparkle entering her eyes again.

"Then explain to me why you looked like somebody stole your favorite troll doll," Hotch offered softly.

"What if I missed my one and only chance? You know, home, hearth and family," she explained with a shrug of her sagging shoulders.

Heartbeat quickening as he realized that his earlier hopes had not been groundless, Hotch shook his head. "You haven't, Penelope," he said with quiet assurance.

"And how exactly can you be so sure of that, my captain?" Penelope quipped.

"Because," Hotch began, pausing. Oh, hell...sometimes actions could speak louder than words. And damn, but he hoped this was one of those times. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to hers. Feeling her startled gasp, he took quick advantage of her parted lips. Kissing her tenderly, he released a relieved breath against her lips as her body leaned into his.

Finally pulling away, he met her eyes. "That's how I know. I came here tonight to fulfill my New Year's resolution. I came to tell you that somewhere along the way, I fell in love with you. And unlike Kevin, I want you exactly the way you are...bright colors, bubbly personality, troll dolls and all."

And in those moments, Penelope Garcia knew that her new year had truly began. For the rest of her life.


Dedicated to Our Nation's Great of which belongs to me!