Oh, heh. Hi. Do I need to tell you I really shouldn't be doing this? Because it's totally true. I shouldn't. But I am. Because I love this series and I've been looking forward to Chris and Seth's stories forever.
So, fans of this series know how this works. I listed the other one as complete, for the record (Beta Release) because I looked over the plot and realized I'd done what I wanted to do with that. I'll probably be coming back to AJ and definitely will be coming back to Calleigh, but there's a few things to take care of first.
Like this, for example. This is Chris' Tale. Refresher course: Christopher Morgan, born in 2017, is the youngest child of Penelope Garcia-Morgan and Derek Morgan. The last two characters you should be intimately familiar with. Or mostly. But, for the record:
Hotchners: Em married Hotch. A million years ago in this universe. Considering this isn't a Hotchner family story, I'm going to kind of leave it at that in terms of what the family's gone through. They have 3 kids and Jack. In chronological order: Jack, AJ, Kate, Seth.
Reids: JJ and, well Reid. Spencer. Three kids, in chronological order, Calleigh, Nate, Eric. Same as above holds true. The family stuff is irrelevant to you at this point because it's not a story that's going to be heavily Reid involved.
Garcia-Morgans: Penelope and Derek. Two kids, Gabi (who married Jack after essentially being in love with him her whole life) and then this guy, Chris. This is a Garcia-Morgan story, but I'm going to leave the rest up to you guys to piece together. That's half the fun, to see if I can make sense of everyone without you guys getting too confused.
Otherwise, check the profile page. All of the stories in the series are listed in chronological order with links so you don't have to go searching through to find them. For the record, and fair warning if you've never read them before, there are errors, but this series is REALLY long and I'm not going back to fix them right now. I know they're there, I promise!
NOTE: There is a 10 year time jump here between this and Beta. I'm hoping to fill it in over time with AJ's story and maybe Kate's, but just so you know and you're aware of how much time has passed.
How to Woo a Single Parent
Late March 2047
. . . . .
Christopher Morgan had a keen eye for students with issues. He had a knack for it and a reputation within the elementary school where he taught third grade. He had a way with parents that ensured they took him seriously while making the issue sound more than manageable, even if it was serious.
But Bryce Pasquin was causing him problems. He'd seen the boy out on the playground during recess, sitting separately, but happily interacting when he was invited. Bryce wasn't one of his, but he intrigued him. He was a bright kid; not genius level but smart. Every time he ended up beside the eight-year-old, and there had been more than a few since he'd pegged the kid with issues back in October, he was drawn in by how animated he got, while simultaneously holding himself separate. Lonely. And they were tilting towards April with surprising alacrity. He wanted to know.
He got an inadvertent chance in late March.
It was bitterly cold out. Winter was hanging on tight to Washington with a death grip. Usually, it wasn't an issue. There was no reason for it to be. The kids enjoyed it and Chris drove so it wasn't like he had to trek home in it. Chris, being as far from a morning person as a teenager, preferred to stay late to prep for the morning instead of coming in early, and that was the only reason as four crept up on five that he saw the little body jumping up and down by the road, alone.
Instinct kicked in quickly and he was bundled up against the cold in two minutes, heading towards the little body in the heavy snowscape. No child should be left alone. It had been drilled into him by his parents, aunts and uncles and it was a sentiment he still carried. Partially, it was issue of safety, partially of compassion. He recognized the blue cap as he stepped closer.
The boy turned, looking surprised, nervous and glum until he registered who it was. Then he just looked downright upset. "My mom's late."
Chris wasn't surprised when Bryce burst into tears. Instead, he wrapped his arm around the kid's shoulders. By law, he wasn't supposed to touch the students, but really. The kid was crying and he was eight. Considering how upset he as that his mother hadn't arrived yet and that beyond that loneliness, he was an otherwise good kid, Chris had logically concluded he'd been brought up in a household where affection was plentiful. He'd be used to physical comfort and Chris wasn't a paedophile, so really, he didn't see a problem with it.
What he did see a problem with was how Bryce was shivering in the cold.
"Come on, let's go inside, okay?" he suggested, already moving around to the front of the school. They locked all exterior doors after hours to limit the traffic and to ensure that it passed by the bright windows of the main office. "We'll get Miss Freemount to call your mom and let her know you're with me."
Really, the kid was in no position to argue, not that Chris seriously believed he would and let Chris lead him around to the office.
As a rule, faculty had rather lax rules on use of names, except in front of students. "Miss Freemount. Can you pull up a number for Bryce Pasquin's mother, please?"
For a moment, it looked like Olivia Freemount was going to lean down to inquire about said mother's whereabouts, but a look from Chris nixed that in the bud. Instead, she smiled at him and turned to her computer.
He turned his attention to his young charge, who was currently wiping his nose on his sleeve. "Hey, my man," he said, reaching for the Kleenex box on Olivia's desk. "This'll feel better than the sleeve." He waited a beat while Bryce blew his nose, then offered a smile. "You want to leave a message for your mom?"
Bryce seemed unsure.
"It's up to you. I can do it if you want."
Then came the nod.
"Okay," Chris agreed easily. Olivia was already holding out the phone and punching in the numbers. He kept his face passive when it went to voicemail. "Mrs Pasquin, this is Chris Morgan. I'm a teacher at your son's school. There's no emergency, he's fine, just a little cold, so he'll be in room two when you come by to pick him up. Thanks."
"I'm staying with you?"
Chris smiled. Sometimes it was easy to keep kids happy. Quite obviously the eight-year-old had thought Chris would leave him in the office to twiddle his thumbs. "Well yeah. I could use a helper. My blackboards are a mess."
Bryce's eyes brightened. "I help Mom at home all the time," he said, almost bouncing as he and Chris headed out of the office. "It's just us, so she needs me." Then he frowned. "And she's been busy, so I try and help more. She says I'm a good helper."
Single parent. Chris filed that away. Well that explained why Bryce was still there. He checked his pace when he realized Bryce was all but jogging to keep up with him. "I bet you're an awesome helper."
"She's never late."
"Everybody's late sometimes," Chris said easily. Hell, his cousin Eric was notoriously late. "Even when we need them. Where does your mom work?"
"With weddings and Lauren," Bryce responded. "I like Lauren. She's pretty cool. She lets me hang out in her office if Mom has to work late. Sometimes I go back with her."
This was what was so baffling about the kid. Now that they'd had more than a handful of conversations and Chris made a note when he was on rotation to check on him, he was talkative. They'd just always talked about school and friends and the playground games. Never about Bryce himself. The kid had a knack for behaviour, which was terrifying for the child of two behavioural analysts. Or maybe it was a kid thing. Chris still wasn't quite sure. "Maybe she's just stuck in traffic."
After all, the Beltway was a bitch after four.
"You think so?"
Chris unlocked the classroom door, letting Bryce precede him. The boy stopped just inside. He was in Joy Barrow's third grade class, so he'd never been in Chris' room.
"My classroom?" he asked, ushering the boy inside and over to his desk. He shed his coat and hung it on a hook. "Come on, layers off before you boil."
"It's really empty."
Ah. Yes. His classroom always felt quiet when there were no students in it. The computers all sleeping and silent, no chatter or shuffling It was surreal. He helped the boy out of his winter coat and placed his backpack nearby. Then he cocked his head when Bryce looked up at him. "How are you at cleaning chalkboards." Chris had always loved the old school feel of the chalk beneath his fingers.
"I'm a little short," Bryce admitted.
"Grab your indoor shoes. This is the one time you're allowed to stand on a chair."
Ashley Pasquin cursed as she listened to the message from what sounded like a very nice teacher at Bryce's school. She hadn't meant to be late, but Lauren Carel had put her solo on the Bevin wedding in August and Ashley had discovered they were the clients from hell. They were entitled, they were rich, and while Ashley totally understood why Lauren wanted them as clients and could understand why her boss was so hellbent on giving them whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, they'd been forty-five minutes late for a two o'clock appointment and had kept her well after four. Then she'd had to battle the Beltway and Washington traffic and now she was beyond late. It was skimming towards six by the time she managed to pull into Bryce's elementary school parking lot and killed the engine of her child-friendly Honda. She was going to owe her boy big for this.
"Hi," she said as she all but sprinted into the office to face a perky twenty-something. "I'm Ashley Pasquin, I got a message from a Mr. Morgan that my son was with him? Could you point me to room two?"
"Sure thing, Mrs Pasquin. Take a right out of the office and a left at the end of the hall. It's the last door on your left before you hit the bathrooms."
Easy enough, and she made it without issues beyond the stress that had her blood pressure in the high one-fifties. She knocked, trying to get a handle on herself and the guilt came back full force as she turned the knob and heard her son's laughter. Then she heard a deep voice that had inexplicable heat pooling in her stomach. When she set her eyes on them, her son was giggling with a handsome chocolate-skinned man with a glorious smile. This man was a teacher?
"Hey baby," Ashley said, opening her arms. She pressed a kiss to his head. "I'm so sorry."
Bryce bit his lip. "S'okay. Mr. Morgan let me come inside."
"That was… very nice of him," she finally settled on, looking up into dark, curious eyes. Compelling. Dark. Gorgeous.
He offered her a shrug. "He's safer and warmer in here. My parents would have skinned me alive for leaving a kid out like that."
Ashley stood. It had been a stressful day. "I know okay?" she snapped. "And if I wasn't the only one handling the Bevin account and they weren't so selfish I would have been finished at three, not four-thirty."
"Who are the Bevins?" Bryce asked curiously.
"The big wedding I'm doing," she replied, brushing her hand affectionately over tousled dirty blonde hair.
"Bryce, go switch out your shoes, okay?"
Ashley looked at the man in confusion as the eight-year-old rushed to do just that.
"Chris Morgan," he introduced. "It seems we got off on the wrong foot here."
"Ashley Pasquin," she answered, taking the hand he offered. "And really, Mr Morgan, this is not a regular occurrence."
"Chris," he insisted and she noticed him slide his hands into his pockets. They were elegant hands. "And it's the first time I've seen him out so late, so, no CPS."
He had a nice smile, Ashley thought.
He darted a glance back to see Bryce struggling into his coat. "He mentioned it's just the two of you?"
Ashley recoiled. "Yes, and we're both happy with that right now."
Chris laughed and dammit if she didn't find that attractive too. All the ladies probably found him attractive. "I'm flattered but a, my game is much smoother than that and b, that's not why I'm asking."
She went pink.
"I just really don't like the idea of him out there by himself. Is there someone you can call to get him if you're late?"
Ashley had no idea where he was going with this. "No. We don't have people here. The only person is Manda, the teenager down the hall that babysits him and she's not a nanny so, no pickup service. But I don't make a habit of being late. Ever." It was unprofessional, for one thing, and for her little boy? Yeah, she wasn't going to just randomly abandon him.
"I know," he reassured her, "or we'd be having this conversation months ago. You're a devoted parent, and he obviously adores you."
He'd gotten all that from a few hours with her kid? Huh.
"I was going to ask if it would be okay for him to come in here if you're going to be late. Like I said, I really don't like him out there by himself. It would really be just in case."
"Why?" she asked in confusion. It seemed like an odd offer to make, especially for a single kid.
"Honestly? I had two parents and four aunts and uncles in the FBI. It's not safe out there for him and at least in here, he's warm and safe. I can get you a copy of my criminal record and references if you'd like."
She laughed and it felt good. Almost as good as the warmth that threaded through her when he flashed her that smile again. "No, it's not that it's just… it's an odd offer from a teacher, isn't it?"
Chris shrugged. "He's a good kid, Mrs Pasquin."
"Ashley." Chris shrugged. "He's smart and he's cool. I wouldn't mind, really."
Chris reached out without thinking and ruffled his hair. "Yeah, you're pretty cool."
God, how was she supposed to think straight when he looked so good and her son was smiling up at him so brilliantly? She chewed the inside of her cheek, drumming her fingers against her thigh. "Are you sure it's not too much?"
"I'm used to it, really," Chris said. "I've got a pretty big family, so kids are everywhere." He offered her a look that was curiously serious and sympathetic. "Raising a kid by yourself can't be easy. My cousin's struggling and she's got the whole family at her disposal."
Ashley swooned, and was glad that there were no external signs. "It wouldn't be a regular thing."
Chris waved her off. "It's nothing, really. I'm here late anyway. Can't stand mornings."
Then Bryce was tugging on her pea coat. "Can we have pizza 'cause you're late?"
Chris roared with laughter at the guileless look on Bryce's face.
"Well talk about it in the car," Ashley said on a sigh, already aware she'd be saying 'yes'. Pizza was a small penance and had all five food groups if she played her cards right.
"See you tomorrow, Mr Morgan!"
"Goodnight, Bryce. Pleasure to meet you Ashley."
God, she was blushing. All he'd said was her name, and she was blushing. "Goodnight."
I feel like the ideas running through my head in terms of titles should be dubbed the "how to" universe. Actually, that would be kind of fun since all of these are new romances, not like AJ, Kate or Gabi. I'll see if I can do it. Could be a good game.
Now, there is a part of me that wants to beg for reviews. Of course, I also know that I'm dealing with entirely original characters here with only stop-ins by the ones we know and love. So I definitely understand that most people will not be reading this. So I will say if you do, please just even drop two lines to say you're reading. I love this world, I love this family and it never ceases to make my day knowing other people do the same.
Thanks for reading!