A/N: Well, loves, this is the last chapter. I really hope you like it. I do intend to do a "Part 2" at some point, but I want to work on some other stuff for a while. I may go ahead and do an epilogue in which I will give you a hint of the new story line and let you know what it will be called, but this is the end of this time period for our guys. I really appreciate all the kind reviews, all the faves and alerts, and all of you for reading. Thank you!
Two weeks later, Garcia and Morgan's plane landed at the Las Vegas airport. They picked up a rental car and headed for the local hospital to meet Spencer and Diana in time for visiting hours in the Neonatal ICU. Morgan drove; after a while, it occurred to him that Garcia was being uncharacteristically quiet, and he glanced over at her. He saw she was drumming her fingers on the door handle and staring out the passenger side window.
"What's the matter with you, babe? You look nervous."
"Oh-I guess I am. I've never met a, you know, preemie person before."
Morgan chuckled. "She's not going to burst into flames or anything. She's just a baby; a little on the small side, but still a baby."
"I know that, but what if I drop her, or pull out a tube or something? I'd never forgive myself."
"You won't-it'll be fine. Just relax!"
Garcia sat back and continued to mull over her concerns. After a moment, her eyes widened and she said, "Hey, what if the outfit I bought her doesn't fit?"
"She'll grow into it."
"But, what if she's allergic to Argyle?" Garcia gestured at a large stuffed teddy bear riding in the back seat.
"'Argyle?' That's what you named that thing?"
"Yeah. After the production manager on 'I Love Lucy.'"
"I-Penelope, stop worrying. She's in a hospital. No one's going to let you mess up, even if you could, which I doubt."
"Oh, I don't know. I was babysitting for a friend once, and the kid ate a peanut."
Morgan cast a look at her. "And? Was he allergic?"
"Well, no, but I rushed him to the emergency room just in case, and my friend came home early and freaked out. It wasn't pretty."
Morgan gave up trying to comfort her, and was very happy when they rounded a corner and the hospital come into view, putting an end to Garcia's free-floating anxiety.
Once inside, they got directions and found their way to Sophie.
"Knock, knock." Morgan opened the door and felt a little leap of excitement at seeing Spencer. The teen was seated in a rocking chair cradling Sophie. His eyes were locked on her small face, and a broad smile had transformed his own into a sunny vision that belied his recent traumas. Diana was leaning against the crib, beaming. They both looked up when their visitors came in.
"Oh, Morgan-you're here! And, wow-this must be Miss Garcia!" Spencer happily shifted the baby to one arm, stood up, and strode over to meet them. He grinned at Morgan, and stuck his hand out to Garcia. She ignored it, dropped her bag of presents and threw her arms around him and Sophie.
"Oh, my gosh, Spencer-I feel like I know you already! Look at you, you're such a cutie-pie! And, this baby-oh, my God, she's adorable!" Garcia promptly divested Spencer of the little bundle and carried her over to the rocking chair, all fears forgotten. She stared at her, clearly intent on absorbing every feature of her tiny face.
"It's nice to meet you, too." Spencer laughed, then turned to Morgan. "Hey-it's good to see you," he said shyly. He leaned in to give Morgan an awkward hug. Morgan turned it into a big bear hug, then did the same to Diana.
Morgan looked Spencer up and down. He was still way too thin and still carried the drawn look of someone who'd recently been through major surgery, but his color was healthy and he looked happy.
"Damn, kid, your mama must be feeding you good, you look great."
"I feel really good. I've been sleeping a lot, and I'm beginning to get some energy back."
"Yeah, well, you're going to need it, once that little one comes home."
"I know! I can't wait."
"Neither can I," Diana said. "It's been so long since I've had an infant to care for. Spencer grew up so darn fast-I'm really looking forward to another opportunity to baby someone."
Garcia suddenly squealed in delight. "Oh, my God! She opened her eyes!"
Spencer grinned. "She started doing that a lot just lately. It's funny, all the little things we take for granted are so exciting with a new baby, especially a preemie."
Abruptly, Garcia stood up, went over to Spencer and peered intently from him to Sophie and then back again.
"Uh-what?" he asked, sounding disconcerted.
"Oh, nothing. I was just noticing that you have brown eyes, but hers are this intense blue. Weird, huh?"
A shadow crossed Spencer's face and he shifted uncomfortably. "No, not really. Her, uh... The other parent has blue eyes. In such a situation, there's a fifty-fifty chance that the child will have blue eyes too." The room fell silent for a moment and Garcia blinked, not sure what the awkwardness was all about. Then, realization dawned, and she gasped.
"Oh! Spencer, I'm sorry, I mean, I didn't-"
"It's okay. Excuse me everyone, I, uh, need to go to the bathroom." With that, Spencer turned and darted out of the room, leaving the three to look at each other uncertainly.
After a long moment, Morgan cleared his throat. "I think I'll go check on him. Be right back." He stepped out into the hall and headed for the guest area. He found Spencer clutching a railing by the window, his head bowed and his shoulders slumped. Morgan came up and stood beside him.
"Hey, kid. Garcia didn't mean anything-she wasn't thinking, you know?"
"I'm not upset with her," Spencer said softly. He looked up and Morgan saw tears welling up in his eyes. "It's just that it suddenly hit me-I'll always see things in Sophie that'll remind me of him. Her eyes, some little mannerism, the way she'll say something, how she'll stand or walk. It'll be like he's in there, in her, forever, and I... I love her so much, but I don't know-what if I subconsciously respond to that? What if I... What if I end up resenting her for something that isn't her fault?"
"Ah, no, come on now. I'm not saying it might not bother you once in a while. That'd be normal. But, you're too smart to let it become a problem. If it did, you'd get help." Morgan tipped Spencer's chin up and searched his eyes. "Wouldn't you?" he asked pointedly.
"I guess." Spencer pulled away and looked down at his hands, flexing them on the rail. "But, it'll always be a reminder of my own foolishness. I've tried so hard to forget everything that happened before-how stupid and trusting I was." Spencer's voice became hard. "How I fell for everything he said, thinking he cared for me when he was just using me. How... How I would have done anything for him. Then, he took my choice away and forced me... He turned something wonderful and good into something disgusting. I hate him for that. I hate him, and I hate myself for falling for his promises."
Abruptly, Spencer laughed. "Promises, right. 'Promises of paradise...'"
Morgan frowned, puzzled. The phrase sounded familiar. "Huh?"
Spencer sighed, then began reciting.
"'With a time-rusted compass blade
Aladdin and his lamp
Sits with Utopian hermit monks
Side-saddle on the Golden Calf
And on their promises of paradise
You will not hear a laugh
All except inside the Gates of Eden*'"
He shook his head and looked back at Morgan. "My mother used to play Bob Dylan songs for me when I was little, if you can imagine. I remember all the words. Some of them... come back to haunt me. It's as if he were singing about my life."
Morgan thought about the lyrics Spencer quoted and nodded slowly. "Yeah. I get it." He took a deep breath. "Carl Buford... He told me about all the wonderful things that would happen for me, what a great future I had, if only I would trust him, if only I would let him 'help' me. But, it's like you say. He just wanted to use me. And, I let him. I... let him."
They looked at each other, each seeing his own pain reflected in the other's eyes. After a moment Spencer's expression softened, and he smiled. "But, look at you now. You're strong, not just physically, but on the inside. You're doing good work. You took that betrayal and turned it into a source of power. I want to do that, too. I want to be like you, Derek. Maybe someday... Maybe someday I will be."
Morgan squeezed his eyes shut, choked back a sob, and waited until he could speak normally to say, "You're a good kid. You'll grow up to be a good, strong man. You're already an amazing daddy to your little girl. Don't worry, Spence. You and Sophie are going to be okay. I don't have a shred of doubt about that."
Spencer's smile faded, replaced by a tentative frown. "So... you'll be there if I need you? To talk, or something? My mom's great, but... She wouldn't understand, not like you do. You know?"
"Yeah. Of course. You can call me anytime-don't even hesitate."
"Okay." Spencer straightened up and pushed his hair out of his face, and after a moment he perked up. "You can call me, too. If you ever want to talk about... stuff."
The youth's kindness almost sent Morgan into another emotional spasm, but he clamped a hand on the back of Spencer's neck and managed to say, "You bet I will." He gave him a reassuring squeeze, then added, "Well, we'd better go see what's going on back in the room. I've got to put a stop to Garcia hogging that baby-I want to hold her, too!"
Spencer laughed and they walked back to the NICU, each one feeling a little lighter than he had in a very long time.
It was the last day of their Vegas weekend, and Morgan and Garcia were at Diana's apartment. She was pouring coffee for her guests, following a tour of what was now her and Spencer's home. They'd gotten to see the bedroom she'd made into a whimsical nursery for her granddaughter, and also Spencer's room. In addition to a bed and dresser, it was furnished with a large desk, a good quality microscope, a comfy chair, and it was lined with bookshelves, most of which were already nearly filled up.
Morgan thought if he were a teenage boy he'd hate a room like that, but Spencer obviously loved it and felt completely at home in it. Morgan had to admit that it suited him to a T. He felt a swell of gratitude and appreciation for Diana Reid; she really had made every effort to make her son as comfortable and secure as possible in his new home.
Diana pushed a pitcher of cream toward Garcia, and said, "Sophie's doing so well, the doctor thinks she may get to come home before Spencer starts school."
"That's wonderful!" Garcia poured a little cream into her cup. "The nursery is absolutely perfect."
"Thank you. I had great fun picking out little girl things. I know it's a bit of an indulgence, but I have to admit-decorating with pink and violet is a lot more fun than blue."
"My childhood bedroom was dark green," Spencer said, wrinkling his nose slightly.
"Yes, dear, I didn't want to impose too much in the way of traditional gender bias on you, but your father wouldn't let me get away with pastels. And, Sophie can have any color she wants when she gets old enough to care."
"Speaking of Spencer's dad-he hasn't been causing any trouble, has he?" Morgan asked.
"No, not a peep. He already sent the first child support check. I think he's going to be fine, judging by the fact that his campaign for the Senate seat is well under way. He won't do anything to rock the boat in the foreseeable future."
They chatted and laughed, and the afternoon passed more quickly than any of them would have liked. Morgan eventually checked the time and sighed. "Baby girl, we need to make book if we're going to catch our plane."
"Oh, darn it, I know. This was so nice, Diana. It was so great, getting to meet you and Spencer-and Sophie! You'll send me pictures, right?"
"Constantly. The marvels of the digital age..." Diana shook her head in wonder and began gathering cups and saucers. Garcia helped her, and the ladies disappeared into the kitchen.
Morgan stood up, as did Spencer. They stood facing each other, momentarily unable to put thoughts into words.
"Saying goodbye to you just keeps getting harder," Spencer finally said. He bit his lip and stared down at the floor.
Oh, God, Morgan thought. He didn't want this. Knowing the kid had feelings for him, too, didn't help anything; in fact, it just made everything worse. He began digging in his pockets for his keys, and said in a business-like tone, "Well, I'm just a phone call away if you need anything, you know that. But, you'll be focused on school in just a bit-think about it, you're going to be in college! You'll be going to class, making new friends, doing all kinds of fun stuff." He looked up and saw a heartbreakingly bleak look on Spencer's face. He stepped forward and put his hands on Spencer's shoulders.
"Hey, look at me."
Spencer raised his eyes and held Morgan's gaze. "What?"
"You need to try being a teenager for a change. I know you have a baby, but your mom's going to help you, so don't let yourself miss out on this part of your life entirely. I mean it, kid-you'll never be fifteen again, and you need to enjoy it as much as possible. Okay?"
Spencer shrugged. "I'm not going to fit in very well, being younger than most of the other students. That on top of, well, everything else that's different about me."
"You'll do fine." When Spencer's sad look didn't diminish, Morgan added, "You know you're going to meet someone closer to your own age, right? Someone special-someone you have a chance of a future with?"
Spencer made a dismissive sound. "I doubt that."
"You will. Just-give yourself a break, that's all I'm saying."
Spencer seemed about to respond, but just then his mother and Garcia came back from the kitchen.
"Well, we'd better go, right, choco-hunk?" Garcia asked Morgan.
"Just a second. I have something for you, Penelope." Diana handed Garcia a white cardboard box. Garcia looked at her questioningly.
"Homemade chocolate chip muffins. I hear they're your favorite. These are the big ones, not the teensy kind."
"Ooo, yummy! Thank you so much!" Garcia said delightedly. Then she shot Morgan a dark look. "This doesn't let you off the hook, though. You owe me." Morgan rolled his eyes, but nodded.
Diana continued, "And, Spencer, didn't you have something you wanted to ask our friends here?"
Spencer brightened. "Oh, yeah. Morgan, Miss Garcia-I was wondering if you'd agree to be Sophie's godparents."
The two just stood there for a moment, and Spencer rushed on. "It's okay if you don't want to-I mean, don't feel obligated, although you won't really have to do anything, it's largely just a symbolic gesture since Mom and I aren't religious, but-"
"We'd love to!" Morgan and Garcia said in unison.
Spencer looked from one to the other, then smiled. "Really? Wow, that's great. Thank you."
"It'd be an honor," Morgan said gently. "Okay. Come on, baby girl, we need to go for real now."
"All right. Well, bye! Pictures, don't forget, godmothers get lots of pictures! And, I'll send her a savings bond every birthday, that's what my godmother did for me, and-" Garcia's voice trailed off as Morgan led her out of the apartment and down the stairs.
Spencer looked at his mother and grinned. She smiled back, then put her arms around him and gave him a hug.
"You have good friends, son."
"I know. I guess I'm pretty lucky, all things considered."
Diana looked into his eyes. "We both are. Now, come on. If we hurry, we can get back to the hospital in time for Sophie's five o'clock feeding."
The two of them gathered their things and headed out the door. Spencer couldn't wait to get back to his daughter-Sophie was already so much a part of him that he felt a rhythm that matched her own even when he was away from her, and he knew she was just starting to get hungry.
He rode beside his mother in her sensible sedan, and his thoughts turned to Morgan. Unlike the other men he'd made the mistake of counting on in his life, Morgan had protected him. He'd given him so much, and had asked for absolutely nothing in return; he'd made no grandiose promises, and he hadn't needed to. Even if his growing attraction to the handsome federal agent was useless, he felt grateful to have been a part of his life, even if just for a little while.
And, somehow, Spencer knew Morgan would be there for him if he really needed him.
He wouldn't trade that for any hope of paradise, in heaven or on earth.
He switched on the radio and smiled as Bob Dylan's nasal tone filled the car. He and his mother began to sing along to "Subterranean Homesick Blues," laughing as they tripped over the lightening fast lyrics they both knew by heart.
The man could definitely turn a phrase, Spencer thought.
He knew he'd play Dylan's songs for Sophie; he wondered if, someday, she'd remember all the words.
*The Gates of Eden, by Bob Dylan
Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music