Title: And Hearts Semicolon
Author: Reiko K.
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Category: High School AU
Pairing: Penelope Garcia/Derek Morgan
Warnings: AU, OOC-ness (obviously), adult themes (c'mon, they're teenagers), potty language, and schmoopish-flangst
Summary: In which there are dysfunctional computers, wacky late-night texts, outlandish terms of endearment, and love. Or, the one where Derek Morgan kindasortamaybe falls in love with the uber-weird Penelope Garcia (against his better judgment).
Notes: I tried to keep the characters as IC as possible considering how obviously AU this story is. Um. This is my first CM-based story, and was written for nothing more than my own amusement and love for Morgan/Garcia. I took a lot of liberties with the characters, and claim artistic license for doing so. The fic is set in NYC, and the characters are all around 17-18 years old. And Hearts Semicolon (& hearts ;) is the HTML code for a heart symbol, btw.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, obviously, and have made no profit from this.
Penelope: The 1980s just called. They want their security system back.
Derek: Now you're breaking my heart, baby girl.
—Criminal Minds ep. 3x5, "Seven Seconds"
So here's the thing. She wasn't even his type, not really. Actually, she wasn't his type at all. Derek normally preferred his girls to be a little darker, a little thinner, a bit sweeter, and definitely a lot more, well, normal. And alright, so maybe he was a bit conceited, but he was a good looking guy. Was it a crime now to have standards?
As he was saying, she wasn't the typical kind of girl he usually fell for, but he found himself plummeting in love with her anyway.
The story of how he, Derek Morgan, fell in love with the insufferable, ornery, utterly wicked and shockingly irresistible Penelope Garcia goes like this.
[ And Hearts Semicolon ]
She hung with the geeks.
Not surprising considering her taste in fashion or the fact that she carried around a laptop like some girls carried around handbags. Derek didn't think he ever saw her without a machine attached to her like a limb.
He guessed that was why they recommended her to him when he mentioned to his friends, casually, that his computer was giving him problems.
He found her in the library, which was the second place he'd written on his list of likely places to find one Penelope Garcia. The first was the computer lab, the third was the lunchroom.
"What do I get for my assistance?" she asked him, looking at him a bit like a shark about to be fed.
"Um. My thanks?" he answered.
"Not good enough."
"I can pay you, alright?" he said, rolling his eyes. He couldn't pay her much, hence why he hadn't gone to a computer shop in the first place, but he was sure he could scrounge up a bit of money. Maybe convince his mom to give him next month's allowance early. It would suck, but not having a computer would suck more.
Derek frowned at her. "Then what the hell do you want?"
She peered up at him, big brown eyes narrowed thoughtfully beneath blonde bangs, and suddenly smiled.
"Your soul." She said.
Derek was sure he looked ridiculous with his eyes bulging out and his mouth hanging open like a fish. Garcia seemed to think so, anyway, because she threw her head back and cackled—cackled—and yeah, what the heck was up with this chick?
"Just kidding," she chirped, snatching his laptop from where it'd been lodged beneath his underarm. She flipped it open. "I've got enough souls in my depository. Since you're cute, I'll help you out for free this time."
Derek could only gawk as Garcia booted up his computer (scoffing when the Windows insignia flashed on the screen) and did something that made the monitor turn black and a list of white text stream down.
"Don't you want to know what's wrong with it?" he asked her. He could almost feel his mental facilities slowly rebooting.
"I'll figure it out, brown sugar," she said, and Derek thought his face might actually morph into a fish if he was around her any longer.
Derek watched her work, ignorant of what the hell she was doing to his computer but fascinated anyway. She was a bit of a freak, but she looked like she knew what was she doing if the confident set of her shoulders and the gleam in her eyes was anything to go by.
A few more indecipherable words and symbols typed in, a few more weird graphs and images flashing across the screen, a few more taps and clicks, and then she was shutting his computer down and restarting it.
Derek watched in awe as the Windows symbol wavered on screen and actually started up, and then the blue page that prompted for his password appeared. He hadn't managed to get that far on his poor laptop in days.
"The password's—" he stopped, staring as she quickly typed in eight letters and the screen blackened and changed, immediately putting his wallpaper of a scantily clad Megan Fox on display.
Garcia nodded, obviously pleased with herself, and closed the laptop and passed it over.
"There ya go. Lay off the porn and upgrade your anti-virus package and you should be fine. Until the next time you try to download Busty Latina Beauties vol. 2, anyway."
Derek flushed, 'cause yeah, embarrassing.
"Thanks," he muttered, tucking his computer into its original place and taking a step back. "I owe ya."
"Nah," Garcia said, eyes sparkling up at him, "I said it was a freebie this time. Next time, though, you're on your own, cuteness be damned." She then winked at him, got up, grabbed her own laptop, and sauntered away.
She stopped when she reached the end of the long table and glanced at him, her expression sly. "By the way, password as a password is so ridiculously lame. If I were you I'd choose something that didn't take a complete stranger—even if she is a genius— all of five seconds to crack."
And then she walked away; went down the elongated aisle and disappeared behind a large stack of books on classic third-world literature.
Derek watched her go, transfixed.
And yeah, that was pretty much how it started.
The next time he said anything to her she'd dyed her hair red.
Actually, the next thing he said to her was pretty much just that.
"Your hair's red," he stated redundantly.
"I see Captain Obvious is making an appearance today," she said.
"Funny," he snorted, taking a seat beside her at her lunch table.
The guy across from them—Reid, he thought his name was—glanced at him briefly before re-burrowing his nose in a book that probably weighed more than he did and didn't really look to be in English.
Derek frowned and peered closer, squinting at the tiny black text…and yup, not English.
"It's Esperanto," the guy said without looking up from the book.
Whatever the heck that was.
"Computer trouble again?" Garcia re-captured his attention. She blew a purple gum bubble and peered at him over it, her head tilted as it rested on the palm of her hand.
Derek resisted the urge to stick his finger into it and pop it.
"Yeah," he said, slinging his carrier bag around and retrieving his computer. He placed it beside her with a gentle push.
"I knew you wouldn't be able to lay off the porn for a month," she jibed.
Derek absolutely did not blush.
"Of course you didn't."
Derek glared at her, and she laughed.
"You know the rules. First time was a freebie, second time's a charge. Whatcha gonna give me for my prowess?"
Derek had been planning this. He went into his pocket and pulled out a couple of oval pennies he'd had modified on a class trip to Philadelphia last year. A few of them even had holes where you could stick thread or wire into if you wanted. Which he figured Garcia might want, if she used them for what Emily had said she would.
Garcia didn't disappoint. She eyed them for a long moment before she nodded and snatched them out of his hand. She slipped them into the front pocket of her bag, gave him a somewhat impressed smile, and dragged his laptop in front of her.
"Not going to tell me what's wrong with it?" she asked as she started it up.
"I thought you didn't need to know," he shot back.
She snorted. "Fine. You're lucky I like a challenge."
He watched her get into places on his computer he never knew existed and type codes and data he probably wouldn't be able to decipher with a manual. In less than three minutes she was successfully typing in his password—drowssap1— and logging on.
"Cute," she said.
Derek grinned at her. He'd thought so, too.
"Well, here ya go," she said after a while, "all's good."
She passed it over to him and after a quick check that yes, it was in fact running, he shut it down and flipped the lid close.
Garcia tapped him on his shoulder. "By the way? Renaming the title of your porn doesn't erase the original designation. Just to let you know."
The guy across from them coughed, and Derek fought to keep himself from flushing.
"Thanks," he gritted at her, swinging his legs over the bench and pulling himself to his feet.
"No problem-o," she said, and while her face was passive her eyes were laughing. At him.
He huffed at her and strode away. He forced himself not to turn around to see if she was still watching him as he maneuvered around the table and left the cafeteria.
The third time his computer crashed he lost everything, and it hadn't even been his fault that time.
Fucking Jody who'd tried introducing him to torrents.
In view of how grave the problem was, his mom had actually given him the money to take it to a computer repair shop, where they'd made him leave it behind. They called a few days later to tell him that there was nothing they could do. When he went to pick up his damaged computer they rattled on about a whole lot of nothing in a bunch of technical jargon that Derek didn't understand but sounded a lot like 'sorry, but we don't know what the heck is wrong with the thing' anyway.
His mom had tried to convince him to toss it, said she'd even try and get him a new one before the month was over, but Derek couldn't. His life was on that thing. Alright, so maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but the point still stood. Derek's music, movies, games, bookmarks, not to mention class work, was still somewhere on there. He hoped.
Anyway, there was no way he could toss the machine when there was even the slightest chance that he could retrieve his stuff. All 312 gigabytes of it.
He'd been browsing his sister's computer in search of reputable computer repair shops in the area when it had hit him.
Garcia. Garcia could probably help him. He'd told his mother about her, about how she'd helped fix his computer twice before, and his mother hadn't been all that confident that a high schooler could do what trained professionals couldn't, but she didn't stop him when he snatched the computer from her I-have-to-throw-away-anything-that-doesn't-function-properly OCD clutches.
And then there was the issue of finding something she'd want. Money was out of the question—she'd made that abundantly clear from the beginning (which Derek thought was bizarre as the girl could have been rolling in dough considering how many people went to her with their technical problems, but whatever). A little birdie—by the name of Emily—had told him she liked being given unconventional things she could fashion into accessories, and it'd been sheer luck that he'd stumbled upon those pennies when he'd been cleaning out his closet, otherwise Derek wouldn't have known what to give her. It wasn't as if he had jewelry beads stashed beneath his bed or something.
When Derek got home from his grandmother's house Sunday night he rummaged through his room, desperate to find something. He'd intended to check out the dollar store earlier that day but he'd been so busy helping his grandmother paint her attic that he hadn't had the time. He'd left her house at seven, which would have been fine had it been any other day but Sunday, when most stores in the city closed early. As it was, Derek was pretty sure he was assed out until Monday, the last day he had to find and/or buy something before their almost two-week long spring break started.
Thirty-five minutes and one messy room later, and Derek was still at a loss.
Derek saw her the next day, chatting with Jennifer Jareau in the outdoor cafeteria, her now orange-y hair pulled up into a large bun with two black sticks poking out on opposite ends. He thought of an old box of ceramic dolls he'd carried out of his grandmother's attic and grinned.
Maybe he didn't have to go shopping, after all.
His grandmother had seemed perplexed but hadn't pushed when he desperately tried to come up with an excuse as to why he wanted one of her dolls. Later, she'd looked at him with a knowing glint in her eye that made Derek wary (not to mention quite sure that whatever she had thought up was wrongwrongwrong) and let him pick out one of the twelve-inch dolls he liked best.
She'd called out "Go get 'er, Derek!" as he hurried out of her house, and Derek had spluttered but hadn't bothered correcting her. He didn't think his grandmother would have believed him anyway.
"You know, you have a horrible track record with machinery. I bet you're one of those people who just looks at electronics and manages to break them. You are, aren't you? You so are."
Derek rolled his eyes as Garcia set his computer next to hers.
Reid, who'd been sitting beside her, cleared his throat. "Here, Penelope. You should, um, augment more data on the correlation between depression and anxiety, further accentuating that there's little statistical corroboration that either directly commences the other. Aside from that, you're essay's quite good. I've inserted further suggestions and recommended reference material in the margins, and, um, checked for grammatical errors. Hope this, um, helps."
Derek found that hard to believe. He didn't even think the guy had been speaking English. But Garcia nodded like she understood every word and took the stack of papers—which was covered top to bottom in indecipherable red markings and barely legible handwriting—with a smile.
"Thanks, Spencer," she said, smiling brightly at him as he stood and shouldered his bag. "You're an angel."
Reid blushed and ducked his head, his long hair falling forward to obscure his face.
"Um, you're welcome, Penelope. I have to go see Professor Rossi now, so I'll see you later?"
"Yup," she said, beginning to leaf through the pages. "You wanna come to JJ's tonight? I think she was planning on a Star Trek marathon."
If Reid had blushed before, it was nothing compared to what he looked like now. The boy put tomatoes to shame.
"Y-yeah. I'll be there."
Garcia looked up at him and smirked. "I bet you will be, cowboy."
Reid stuttered his goodbye and fled, his hair flopping as he rushed out of the computer lab like hounds were on his tail.
When Derek looked at Garcia she was chuckling and shaking her head.
"He's so damn cute," she said, flipping her essay closed and slipping it into a pink manila folder.
When that was done, she patted Derek's computer and looked up at him. "So, brown sugar, what can I do for you?"
Derek groaned. "Not calling me that would be a great place to start."
"I call it as I see it," she said, shamelessly.
Derek shook his head at her sheer nerve and sunk into the chair behind him.
"So. My computer crashed."
"No!" Derek exclaimed, giving a furtive glance around the lab to make sure no one had heard. "No. My friend, Jody, tried to set up some kind of torrent software or something. I don't know. He said he knew what he was doing and then, wham, I got the Blue Screen of Death and it just never went back on."
"Sounds serious," she murmured.
"I took it to a computer shop but the technicians said it was irreparable."
Garcia blinked at him, and then smiled, and then smiled wider, and then she was outright beaming at him, plump cheeks rising and dimples that Derek hadn't noticed before flashing proud.
"So you decided to come to me," she crowed, eyes sparkling. "Just the fact that you thought I could do what so-called professionals couldn't makes me forgive you for not asking for my help first."
"Right," was all Derek could say.
"So what have you brought me this time?" She asked, and then she snapped her fingers—she had nice nails, Derek thought absently—and shoved her hand in his face.
"Looky," she said, and Derek finally got the hint and leaned back a little to get a better view of her bracelet.
She was wearing his pennies.
"I was going to use them to make a necklace, but I bought these antiquated beads from a thrift shop on First Ave a few weeks ago that fit the style of the pennies perfectly and decided to make a bracelet instead. It's pretty, isn't it?" She shook her hand for emphasis on the bracelet jingled.
"Pretty cool," Derek said, surprised. When Emily had told him she liked being given things to make accessories and the like he'd figured she'd use the pennies for something of the sort, but he hadn't really given the finishing product, or the fact that she might wear it, much thought. He certainly didn't think she'd be able to make something so trendy out of it.
Now that Derek thought about it, though, it wasn't as if what Garcia wore was ever really ugly. Different, sure, and usually either totally outdated or outlandish, but never ugly. If he had to give her sense of style a description, he supposed it would be… eccentric.
Not bad, like he'd heard some of his girl friends say, just… different.
"Morgan?" Garcia said, waving her hand in front of his face, and Derek realized that he'd zoned out.
"What? Oh! Sorry. Um. Right. What were you saying?"
Garcia rolled her eyes and muttered "Men!", then gave him a pointed look.
"We were talking about what you were going to give me for my excellent services. Ring a bell?"
She jiggled her bracelet for sound purposes.
It took a while for her question to register—and seriously, what the heck was wrong with him today?—and then he bent down and lifted his bag from the floor.
He shot Garcia an uncertain look—'cause what if she didn't want it, after all? What the hell could he give her then?—and pulled out the doll.
Garcia's eyebrows shot to her hairline as Derek set it on the white table.
Derek scratched the back of his neck, sort of embarrassed now for reasons he couldn't even begin to explain.
"Um. Yeah. My grandma has a few and I saw it when I was helping her fix her attic and she said I could take one since they've just been sitting there collecting dust for years, so…" he trailed off, wincing when he realized that he'd been rambling.
Maybe he was coming down with something. That had to explain his weird behavior today.
"You asked your grandma for one of her dolls? Something you want to tell me?" She said, her smile slowly transforming into a small smirk, but her attention was on the doll. Derek watched as she ghosted her fingers over the fabric of the kimono and delicately touched the printed fans and ornamental hair pieces.
"For you," Derek said quickly, not wanting her to think he'd gotten the dolls for himself. That was just embarrassing.
Garcia's gaze shot to him in surprise, and Derek flushed when he realized what that had probably sounded like. "Um. For your, y'know, services."
Derek couldn't decipher the look she was giving him, but it slipped away quickly and he was soon distracted by her next quip.
"Sugar, my services cost a lot more than this." And she said it so seductively, so dirtily, that it left no room for misunderstanding what she'd really meant.
Derek's face went red and he gaped, absolutely dumbfounded, until he noticed the glint in her eyes, the way her lips were being bitten not in seduction, as he'd thought, but in a poor attempt to hold back laughter, and he realized that she was making fun of him. Again.
He scowled at her.
She bent over and buried her face in her hands and snickered, and God did this girl drive him insane.
"Ha, ha. You're hilarious." He said flatly.
"I know," she said, either oblivious to or just ignoring the sarcasm (and Derek would bet on the latter).
She settled after a minute, at which point Derek had to remind himself that pinching girls was bad no less than ten times, and gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder.
"Sorry," she said, completely unapologetic. "I just can't help but tease you sometimes."
"Then try harder."
She giggled, which took Derek aback for a moment 'cause he didn't think he'd ever heard that sound coming from her.
"Okay. I'm okay." She breathed, as if Derek had asked.
She reached over and set the doll beside her, giving it adoring pat on the head, and then turned to him with a very business-like smile.
"This goddess accepts your offerings in return for her miraculous assistance. Now, let me see what you've done to this poor thing."
"Didn't do anything," Derek sulkily denied, folding his arms over the desk and laying his chin in the crook. He watched Garcia boot up his system, frown, lift the laptop and turn it over, and stare at the back.
"Hmm," she hummed. Derek couldn't tell if that was a good hmm or a bad hmm.
She spent a few more moments poking around before shaking her head and closing the lid.
Derek's stomach dropped.
"There's definitely a software problem," she told him, biting her glossy lip, "I'm pretty sure there's something wrong with your registry and your directory. The scanners didn't reveal anything, but I'm suspicious anyway. Also, when was the last time you had your hard drive checked? 'Cause that clicking sound it's making means it needs to be changed… and by your expression I see you haven't even noticed the clicking sound. Righty. Well, like I said, it needs to be changed. I think one of your integrated circuits needs a looking at, as well."
Derek didn't know what half of that meant, but by the look on her face he thought it was pretty serious.
"Can you…?" he said, worried now that maybe the technicians hadn't been lying when they said it couldn't be fixed.
Garcia gave him a wounded look. "You think I, techie-extraordinaire, can't handle a simple job like this?"
It certainly didn't sound like a simple job.
"Well…" he trailed off.
"I'm offended. Truly I am. But to get back on topic—and don't think I'm gonna forget that, 'cause I won't—you need a new hard drive, which I need to buy. You see where I'm going with this?"
Derek saw. "How much?"
Garcia tapped her chin with her finger. "For you…twenty bucks."
"That's it?" He could have sworn those things cost a lot more.
"I help out at few tech places around the city from time to time," she said airily, as if that were no big deal. "So I usually get really good discounts on hardware. If it turns out being more I'll let you know, but it shouldn't."
Derek nodded and reached for the wallet in his pocket. He had twenty on him.
"When do you think I can have it back?" He asked, thinking of the entire week and a half off they were about to have.
"I would say tomorrow," Garcia said, pocketing his money, "but I have things to do tonight."
Derek had an inkling suspicion that what she really meant by "things to do" was "Star Trek marathon", but as she was doing this for him at the cost of $20 and a doll, he wasn't going to say anything about that.
"Hm. How about…Thursday? We can meet up somewhere and you can buy me lunch, because I totally deserve to be bought lunch for all the help I give you."
Derek rolled his eyes but nodded. It wasn't as if she was saying anything but the truth.
"Gimme your number," she demanded, tossing him a pen and post-it pad. "I'll call you when I'm done."
He scribbled his cell phone number—and his name, just in case—and handed it over. She barely glanced at it before she folded it in fours and slipped it in the same pocket she'd put his twenty.
"Nice doing business with you," she said, and Derek took it as his cue to leave.
He stood, gathered his things, gave her a short wave, and walked away. When he glanced at her just before he stepped out of the room, she was watching him.
She gave him a smirk when their eyes met, and Derek didn't even want to know what had warranted it. He rolled his eyes again and left without a word.
He didn't catch her at school the next day, and he wasn't sure why he felt disappointed about that, but he thought it in his best interest not to look at it too closely. When the bell signaling the end of the school day rang on Tuesday afternoon, Derek was all but running out of the building with the rest of the school, more than ready to start his vacation.
"You could still come with," Emily was telling him as they boarded the bus. "It's going to be fun."
Emily's parents had organized lodgings for them at the Poconos, an entire hotel suite with three bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen at a hotel equipped with indoor and outdoor pools, a Jacuzzi, a recreation center that would make grown men weep, a gym, a spa, and an assortment of restaurants that made Derek's mouth water just thinking about. They were renting the place out for four days and three nights, and half their circle of friends were going, free of boarding charge.
And Derek couldn't go.
It wasn't that he didn't want to go. He really, really did. But he'd promised his grandmother he'd help turn her attic into a makeshift bedroom for his late-grandfather's niece who was coming to live with her. Had Derek explained the situation he was sure his grandmother would have let him go, but both Derek's mother's and sister's birthdays fell within the week and he just didn't feel right leaving.
It wouldn't be so bad, he was sure. On Friday they were heading to Dorney Park—a present to his little sister, Desiree—and would spend the weekend at the Wingate, which was no four-star hotel suite but should still be fun. At least there was a pool.
He gave her a small shrug of his shoulders. "Wish I could, but I already made plans."
"It's not going to be the same without you," she sighed.
"Of course it isn't," Derek agreed sympathetically.
Emily laughed and smacked his arm.
"I would feel bad leaving you all alone, but at least you have your ego to keep you company. It's more than most people have. Literally."
Derek grinned and poked her in the side, and his smile broadened when she made a little squealing sound and tried to squirm away.
The bus pulled up at her stop and she turned to glare at him. "Wait 'til we get back, Morgan. Your ass is gonna be mine."
"Lookin' forward to it, Prentiss!" he called out as she stepped off the bus. She turned around and gave him the finger, and Morgan laughed as the doors closed and the bus pulled away.
He was really going to miss his friends this week.
He got numerous text messages that night from his friends, ranging from Elle telling him they'd kidnap him if he wanted (which they probably would), to Ashley reassuring him that they absolutely would not eat at the multi-cultural buffet without him (lies). Jody had even sent him a text saying he'd put a hit on his grandma if he needed an excuse to get out of there.
Three stops after Emily had gotten off the bus, she'd sent him this: we're not even there yet and i'm already missing you. i think this takes co-dependence to a new level.
Derek hadn't thought it possible, but he ended up smiling the entire ride home.
Derek Morgan: Well, look at you, look at you.
David Rossi: Garcia, I don't get to say this often, but I had no idea there was this side of you.
Penelope Garcia: Well, I figured since I'm gonna have to interact with the mass populace, I should dress in the traditional costume of a mere mortal.
- Criminal Minds ep 6x04, "Compromising Positions"