Author's Note: This should only be a two or three shot, unless I get the inspiration to continue it beyond that. First time I've really written anything longer than a drabble for Criminal Minds - that I've published, anyway. Enjoy!
Penelope was not sure how she managed to keep doing her job with a straight face and a sound mind. Day in and day out, it was mentally and emotionally taxing to force herself to look for the worst in people when she was, by nature, an optimistic person. In even the best of scenarios she could come up with, it still involved immersing herself in the most depraved parts of what one human could do to another.
And yet, her team, her wonderful team of superheroes in kevlar vests and button-down shirts - they did what she did, and they did it with their feet on the ground and their hearts pinned close to their chests, but also pinned to their sleeves - whatever would best help the situation at hand. She could never do what they did. Not the least because she didn't look good in collared shirts, but also - it would add a dimension to her job that'd be disastrous at best. She could not find it within herself to go out into the field on a regular basis.
That perceived weakness of hers aside, she looked to her team to be her beacon of solace in the world. They were the ones who made the nightmares go away; how many bad, evil people were behind bars - or dead, she supposed - as a result of their actions?
It was knowing people like them that made it all worthwhile. She could hack her way into just about any database in the world with impunity, and cross-reference Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles records with lists of kids who played Little League in 1996 with people with criminal records in the state of Wyoming, and come up with something useful that would solve the case. And she could go home and sleep easily at night because the former Little League player living in Henderson with an old arson conviction in Cheyenne is in jail tonight, and no one else has to worry about him anymore.
There was one team member in particular - he was not their leader, although in another time, he could have been - that she looked to more often than not. He was her guiding light, her voice in the darkness. It was he that she sought out and formed a deeper connection with. Derek Morgan: the personification of perfection. He could be anything he wanted to be, but he chose to do what he did, and she could not help but be grateful for that long-ago decision he had made. He cared deeply - for the victims, for their families - but he held a special fondness for their comrades in arms, much as she did.
Whatever she felt for him, whatever connection she felt existed between them - it would be enough to sustain her. There was enough banter and adoration - she could see it in his eyes whenever he looked at her - to last for a lifetime. She could not want for more. Even if she wished that, should her nightmares keep her up tossing and turning and moaning at night, that he would be the one to shoo them away and issue in a blessed sleep for them both.
She could only dream of such an occurrence.
And those dreams were far, far away from any nightmares she could ever have faced.
"Garcia? Garcia? Wake up," Morgan said, holding a cup of coffee and a bag of donuts above her head. The smell was heavenly as it wafted downward to hit her nose. "You've been sleeping here for - for a while now, and Hotch needs things - we've been trying to call you, but you didn't answer, so, here I am. With a peace offering."
Shit. She rubbed at her face with her hands. Great. She was lucky that, despite falling asleep face-first on her keyboard, that she hadn't keyboard-smashed her way into a national security crisis. One crisis averted, one to go. "I'll get back to it," she murmured under her breath, snatching the bag from Morgan's grasp. A boost of sugar, to help her refocus her thinking as she went back to finding the lead that would crack this case wide open, sounded amazing right now. "Thanks."
"Anytime, baby girl," he said, a wide grin on his face as he turned to walk away. He rested his hand on the edge of her doorframe and turned back to face her. "Oh, and -"
"Hotch wants this information two hours ago, so I better get to cracking? Tell him I'm on it."
"That, and, uh - whenever we get this case solved - and if there's not some other psychotic serial rapist or murderer or puppy snatcher wandering the streets of Houston that needs to be taken care of right away -"
"Yeah?" She tilted her head askew and looked up at him, a quizzical expression in her eyes. Sugar could definitely wait, when he was talking to her.
"Do you want to grab a bite, then? If you're not still busy saving the world with your goddess-like computer savvy," he continued, "or if you're not grabbing a bite with someone else." If you're not going out with Kevin Lynch, that is. The sentiment was palpable just beneath the surface, and threatened to bubble over at any given moment. There would probably always be a slight residual jealousy whenever his name was thought, let alone spoken, and she couldn't help but mourn the fact. At one time, Kevin meant a lot to her, and in a past tense sort of way, he still did. But things were different now. He was no longer a part of her life, except in memories and the occasional chilly passing-by in the corridors at work. It was infuriatingly difficult to convince Morgan that things were truly done between the two of them, however.
"Sure," she said, trying to contain her excitement from rising within her. It was probably nothing. There would probably be other people there. It wasn't like it was a real date, where he would pick her up at her place and take her out away from work. They'd go to the diner as a team, eat dinner as a team, and watch as Reid explained the intricacies of the mythos surrounding the American diner and precisely how many old-fashioned sockhop diners were still left along the Eastern Seaboard.
It was dinner. With Morgan. And it wasn't going to be just hamburgers brought in from some fast food place and eaten at or around their desks in a rush.
"Great," he said, his wide grin growing even wider at her response. "I'll let you know when and where when we get this creep off the streets."
"Go get 'em, tiger." She made little tiger claws with her fingers and growled playfully; their shared laughter rang throughout her office, as she set her focus back on the task at hand. The prospect of what was to come at the end of this case was enough to allow her to push through. Fatigue could not slow her down now. Nothing could.
She watched as the news broadcast published the arrest of one John Richardson, deacon of his church and, by all prior accounts, a perfectly upstanding citizen - who had a twisted, sordid obsession with abducting women from shopping malls and brutally torturing them before slitting their throats. She shuddered and grasped her throat with one hand, grateful that she had decided to go grocery shopping on her day off instead. It always hit far too close to home when the cases they dealt with were actually local. There was a distancing ability she could use when the bad guys were on the opposite side of the country, but she drove by his church every day on her way to work. They could have easily crossed paths at the bank, even.
"We got him." Morgan's voice rang true and clear over the line. "We got him, Garcia."
She breathed a sigh of relief. She would never tell anyone, but she always held a sliver of fear that something terrible would befall one of hers during a case, and that saying goodbye wasn't going to be an option for her. "What about that dinner you promised me, hot stuff?"
"You need to learn to be patient, but you're getting it. Don't you worry. As soon as I get back into the office, I'm taking you out on the town, milady."
"I can't wait."
"Neither can I." He laughed. "Patience, patience."
"Is a virtue I do not possess, and you know it."
"I know. You won't have to wait long for me. I promise."
She hung up the phone and hid the smile she was wearing beneath the cupped palm of her hand. No one could see her, she knew that much, not when she was alone. But the feeling she felt was one that she could not articulate and would be embarrassed to show to anyone who looked her way. There was not much in this world that made her happier than being around Morgan. They could banter back and forth with the best of them, but at the end of the day, he was one of the few people who could burrow beneath her layers of armor she used to protect herself from the world and find the soft core that was inside her.
How long did he say he was going to be? Did he even say? Did it matter?
The simple answer was a resounding no, and she hummed merrily to herself as she walked away from the screens. If anyone was to see her now, they would think that she was crazy - and maybe she was, but if she was, then she would be all in for whatever came her way.
-to be continued-