AND HEARTS SEMICOLON
- Chapter Two -
Derek Morgan: Garcia, baby girl, please tell me something I wanna hear.
Penelope Garcia: You're a statuesque god of sculpted chocolate thunder.
Derek Morgan: How about something I don't already know.
Penelope Garcia: I have a sweet tooth?
— Criminal Minds ep 3x02, "In Name and Blood"
Garcia called at 10:32 a.m. on Thursday.
Derek hadn't recognized the number and had been about to set his cell to ignore the call when he suddenly remembered. He hastily flipped it open and brought it to his ear.
"Hey, you milk chocolate stud," Garcia's tinny, almost unrecognizable voice came through the phone, and Derek found himself thinking that she sounded so much better in person.
"Did you just—"
"So I saved your computer," she interrupted him, "and I know just the place you can take me."
Carmine's Pizzeria, located on Graham Ave in Brooklyn, was…unique. The restaurant was narrow, with both ends—the front being the pizzeria, the back a dining area—opening up into squares that would take Derek only a few seconds to walk the perimeter around.
The place was covered floor to ceiling in Yankee memorabilia, from laminated pictures of star players to framed jersey shirts and autographed baseballs. There was a large flat screen television stationed towards the back, which would have been cool if it wasn't set on ESPN, which Derek thought might have been its permanent fixture.
Derek walked in and was immediately accosted by the smell of fresh garlic and cheese. He thanked his lucky stars that he'd changed out of the Mets-tee he'd donned earlier (because that would have been awkward) and took a moment to search for Garcia. He spotted her red hair in the back, and after a moment's hesitation, walked over.
The table she'd chosen to sit at was a double, so he pulled out the opposite chair and took a seat.
"The food here is great," she said, eyes never leaving the menu, "though I wouldn't recommend the pizza. Kind of bland."
Which was ironic considering the place was obviously a pizzeria first, restaurant second.
"Find the place okay?" Garcia said, setting down the menu and grabbing her glass of water. She took a sip.
"Yeah," Derek said. He didn't venture into Williamsburg often, but the place had been easy enough to find, right off the Brooklyn-bound L-train just as Garcia had said.
"You live around here?" he found himself asking.
She set down her cup and shook her head. "Nah. I live in Queens. Um, near Ridgewood? No? Well, yeah, I live there. If you stayed on the L train it would have taken you to Myrtle, and I live a short bus ride away from there."
Derek remembered Myrtle Ave. being quite far down the stop line.
"Kinda far," he commented.
"A friend of mine lives a few blocks from here, on Olive St., and another near Powers. I'm in the area often."
"Yeah. Anyway, here." Garcia bent over and pulled out his laptop from a bright yellow purse. She handed it to him over the table and he took it and peered at it curiously.
"Is fine," she continued sunnily. "It was a bitch retrieving the contents of your RAM—um, memory—but I, in all my mystical glory, succeeded. You should bow down to me."
Derek snorted and gave a short bow, palm extending towards her and everything, and Garcia laughed and pushed the menu towards him.
He looked up at her and his lips twitched at how cheerful she appeared, then glanced down at the menu when he realized he'd been looking decidedly too long.
"I don't know what to get," he admitted after a few minutes. The waitress, a tall, too-skinny blond woman with pretty eyes, had already come by and dropped off another glass of water and a basket of baked bread and butter, which Garcia was happily munching on.
"What do you usually order when you get Italian?"
She rolled her eyes at him. "Boring."
"Then what are you getting?"
"Penne alla Karen," she said, and elaborated when Derek gave her a blank look, "it's this cheesy pasta with chicken, but it's really good. The sauce is amazing."
Pasta with chicken. Sounded good.
Derek had been about to close the menu when he saw Stuffed Shells w/ Broccoli listed at the very bottom and paused. "Shit," he muttered.
Garcia rolled her eyes again. "Just get whatever it is you're eyeing and you can share some of mine, okay? It's a big plate. More than enough for two."
"You sure?" he asked. They didn't know each other well—well enough to be sharing food at least, Derek thought—but Garcia seemed okay with it so he ordered the stuffed shells when the waitress came by with her pad and pen. They both ordered Kiwi-Strawberry Snapple.
"How's your vacation been so far?" Garcia asked while they waited.
Derek smeared butter on his piece of bread and said, "Alright. I've been helping my grandmother remodel her attic, which isn't all that fun, but it pasts the time. Um. Tomorrow me and the fam is heading out to Pennsylvania, though."
"Ooh. What's in PA?"
"Dorney Park. You ever been?"
Garcia shook her head.
"It's an amusement park up there. Real fun, though personally I like Great Adventure better. There's this hotel called Wingate that we always stay in whenever we go, which is almost every other summer, but whatever. You can't really do anything besides go to the park or play in the hotel pool 'cause the town, I think it's called Allen Town or something, anyway, there's like, seriously nothing else to do, but it's still fun."
Derek realized he was rambling and promptly snapped his mouth shut.
Garcia was smiling at him in amusement, which wasn't as bad as outright humor, but still pretty scowl-worthy, in his opinion.
"That sounds cool," she said after a moment. "At least you're going to be doing something. I'm pretty much stuck here all summer. By myself since all my friends went to do, y'know, normal spring vacation stuff."
"All of them?"
"Well, most of them," she amended, then started ticking off her fingers. "JJ went to Jersey, Reid's in Madrid, Kevin's in Cancun—the asshole, Leslie's on some grand music internship in San Francisco, and the two friends I mentioned living nearby, Max and Paula, are off road trip'n across the US. I have another friend who stayed in the city, but she's mostly working, so."
"You couldn't tag along with any of them?"
"Nah. My granddad—he lives upstate—he got real sick so my dad went up there to take care of him. It's just me and my brother, who's thirteen, so I had to stay behind and watch over him." She shrugged and gave him a rueful smile, as if to ask 'well, what can ya do?'.
Derek could relate.
"What's your brother doing?"
Garcia snorted. "The little asshole—his name's Patrick, b.t.w— he's been spending every spare second he has with his friend Robby. The kid has a pool and a game room and everything, so him not going anywhere this break? Not an issue. I'd totally be chilling with them if I didn't feel a bit like a creeper hanging around a bunch of pre-teen boys."
Derek snorted out a laugh and coughed to cover it up.
Garcia was giving him a look that conveyed she hadn't been fooled in the least.
"What about you?" she asked. "What're you planning to do for the week after… Dorney, was it?"
Derek shrugged. "I don't know. My friends are all coming back this Saturday, which I won't be here for, and then they're all heading out to do their own thing. Well, except Jody, but he has a girl so…"
"So he's not going to be around much to hang out with," she continued for him. "And is this the same Jody who nearly sent your laptop to an early grave?"
Derek gave her a sheepish look.
"I sincerely hope you—"
"Never let the asshole near my computer again? Believe me, I won't."
She gave him an approving nod and opened her mouth to say something, but just then the waitress came over with their meals and whatever she'd been about to say was lost as they settled to eat and argue over how much pasta Derek could take.
They talked as they ate, about nothing and everything. It was laid back and fun, and Derek hadn't really expected their tête-à-tête that day to be. Not that he'd expected much considering how unpredictable Garcia was.
After a while, Derek realized that Garcia was the… well, the girl-next-door kind of girl, he supposed. She was laid-back, witty, smart, had a sharp tongue and a wicked sense of humor that never failed to have Derek spewing his drink back into his cup—which was gross—or glancing nervously around to make sure they weren't being overheard.
They sat and talked even after they'd finished eating, ordering glass after glass of water and a bowl of sweetened fruit they picked on very, very slowly so the waitress wouldn't hover. Didn't stop her from casting them annoyed looks from across the room, though.
When Derek's grandmother called him a quarter after four to ask if he was still coming over, Derek had stared at the digital numbers in bemusement, unsure as to where the time had gone.
Derek paid the bill, as he'd said he would, but Penelope covered the tip ("Five dollars, and she's lucky I'm in a good mood or else I'd given her a quarter of that for the ugly faces she's been giving us"; "Shh, Garcia, she can hear you!"). They took turns using the single unisex bathroom in the back (after all the water they'd drunk, that had been a given), and walked together to the train station.
"Your bag's kind of bulky," Garcia noticed as they stood in front of the Metro. "Were you headed somewhere after this?"
Derek frowned at her, glanced at his bag, and nearly smacked himself when he remembered what'd he'd brought.
"Oh! No. Um, actually, I brought you something," he said, slipping his bag off his shoulder. He pulled out the dolls his grandmother had let him keep when he'd uncovered another box of them in the attic.
He handed them to Garcia, feeling suddenly, inexplicably, shy. "Um. I know you liked the other one, and, well, these aren't the same, obviously—," And they weren't. Whereas the one he'd given to her as payment for her help had been Asian, the two she now held in her hands were of different origins; the first was an African doll, the second Indian, both dressed in traditional attire that represented where they were from. Derek didn't know what she could make out of them considering their sizes, but he trusted Garcia to figure it out, "—but I hope you like them anyway." He continued lamely.
Garcia's turned her wide gaze away from him to the two dolls and nodded mutely.
"Y-yeah," she said eventually, clearing her throat. "They're real pretty. Um, you didn't have to, y'know. You already paid me for fixing your comp."
Derek lifted his shoulders. "My grandma was going to toss them anyway," he lied.
"Oh," she said. She opened her bag and slid them inside carefully, then gave Derek a small smile. Derek noticed her cheeks were pink.
"Um. Thanks," she said, biting her lip.
Derek scratched the back of his neck. "No problem."
"Well, see ya, I guess." She gave him a short wave and turned to leave, and before Derek could even think about it he was reaching out to grab her arm.
"You want to maybe hang out together next week?" he blurted in the face of her confusion.
Her brows shot up and he added quickly, "One can never have too many friends, right?"
For a split-second Derek thought he saw her face fall, but then she was smiling and he figured he must have imagined it.
"I dunno, Morgan. You're kinda lame. I mean, you don't even know what CPU stands for. What would my friends think?"
Derek mock-glared at her. "They'd think you were friends with the studliest stud in the school, that's what. In fact, maybe it's best we weren't. I don't think your geeky friends could handle it."
Garcia's mouth dropped open and she swatted his arm with a surprised laugh. "My friends are not geeks!"
"What was it Reid said to you last week? Something about 'accentuating statistical corroboration'? And maybe I heard wrong, but I could have sworn the guy was reading something called Esperanto. What is that, anyway? Is that even a language? Don't tell me—it's a language geeks have created so they could speak in secrecy. Will I need a manual if we start hanging out? 'Cause I gotta tell you, I suck at foreign lang—"
Garcia outright shoved him and Derek stumbled, grabbing onto her for purchase. She threw her head back and laughed and Derek couldn't help but notice how pretty she was when she laughed like that, like he'd just told her the funniest thing in the world. He didn't know why he felt so proud at that, but he kind of did.
"Oh my god," she said, wiping her eyes. "You're insane. I thought I was the weird one in this relationship, but you're clearly the crazy one. God." She snickered to herself for a moment longer before visibly pulling herself together.
"Besides," she continued, smiling widely, "you can't use Reid as an example, that's not playing fair."
Derek snorted. "Please, baby girl, you're only a different brand of geek than Reid is."
His words took a while to register, but when they did his eyes widened and he looked at Garcia warily, just in case she took that slip of tongue the wrong way. He allowed his shoulders to relax when he saw that she was smiling, her expression caught between being quizzical and amused.
"Baby girl, huh?"
"I have no idea where that came from," he admitted. It had just come out.
"It's alright," she said, shrugging. "It's not like I don't give you every brown and-slash-or chocolate related nickname under the sun. Chocolate Love-Candy." She added pointedly.
Derek laughed, and allowed himself to relax further.
They said their goodbyes, Garcia promising to call, and went their separate ways.
Derek didn't know why he seemed wholly incapable of getting rid of his smile on the ride home, even after people had started to look at him funny, but chalked it up to having his computer back (and possibly gaining a new friend).
He couldn't remember ever being this, well, ecstatic after making friends with someone, not even Emily who Derek had pretty much fallen in platonic-love with from the start, but he figured Garcia, being as weird as she was, just came with different rules.
It wasn't a good excuse, but it was all he had so he used it.
dmorgan18: central processing unit. ;)
_andheartsemicolon: we'll make a geek out of you yet *heart*
dmorgan18: btw, whats up with your sn?
_andheartsemicolon: techgeek lesson #1: & hearts = html = *heart*
dmorgan18: you can't see it, but im rollin my eyes at you.
_andheartsemicolon: you can't see it, but i'm lmao at u.
_andheartsemicolon: mmm, you chocolate man beast, growl at me moar.
dmorgan18: i hate you.
dmorgan18: i love the pool. i can swim for hours.
_andheartsemicolon: i hate u
dmorgan18: aw, don't be jealous bbgirl
_andheartsemicolon: ha! i'll have you know im in a pool rn 2
_andheartsemicolon: it's only a few feet wxl, and it comes up to my knees, but it has bubbles!
dmorgan18: …are you talking bout a bathtub?
_andheartsemicolon: bubbles! do *you* have bubbles in *your* pool? i think not!
dmorgan18: rflmao! oh, bbgirl, thnx for that
_andheartsemicolon: hmph. see if i do anything nice for you again.
_andheartsemicolon: im bored. how are you over there?
dmorgan18: same. sis is drivin me crazy
_andheartsemicolon: probably not as bad as mine. unless yours also blows up your microwave tryin to cook eggs in ALUMINUM FOIL
dmorgan18: yikes! blew up? wait, eggs in the mw? foil in the mw? doesnt he know how to cook?
_andheartsemicolon: i think he was trying to do some kind of sci experiment, tbh, but thats what he told the fire dept.
dmorgan18: and you say youre bored?!
_andheartsemicolon: believe it or not, exploding mw's are tame as far as pat's concerned
dmorgan18: i love my sisters
_andheartsemicolon: f**k u
dmorgan18: I luv you too, penelope
dmorgan18: im comin back tomorrow. wanna hang?
_andheartsemicolon: sure. when&where, chocolate lips?
dmorgan18: youre a sexual harassment lawsuit waitin to happen, you know that, bbgirl?
_andheartsemicolon: ive embraced it
dmorgan18: your inner perv?
_andheartsemicolon: if thats what you wanna call it
dmorgan18: i think thats what the world calls it
_andheartsemicolon: earth is lame
dmorgan18: im sure whatever geek planet you were hatched on is lamer
dmorgan18: how about the pool? so you wont have to be jealous anymore. i heard a new place opened up in greenpoint, so we can try it out if you havent already at 3pm
dmorgan18: we dont have to go if you dont want 2
_andheartsemicolon: sorry! um, sure i guess. pools fine. see ya 2mrw!
Derek frowned and checked the time. It was only six, and he and Penelope usually stopped texting each other around nine.
He thought about how long it had taken her to get back to him after he'd recommended going to the pool, so he figured she was busy or something.
Maybe her brother blew up the fridge this time.
He bit his bottom lip to keep from smiling and flipped his phone closed, then tossed it on the bed.
After a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, he realized he didn't know what to do. His parents had gone out for a walk with Desiree and probably wouldn't be back for hours, and Sarah was… well, he didn't know where she'd gone off to. Probably in the gym, the freak.
For the past few day's he'd primarily spent his evenings (and afternoons) texting Penelope, and now that she wasn't available he had no idea what to with himself. He'd already talked to Emily and Elle, had already traded texts with Ashley and Jody, and as much as he loved them, he really wasn't in the mood to chat with any of them again. He doubted any of them wanted to talk to him right now, either.
He sighed and glanced at the clock again. 6:05.
Christ, was he bored. He leaned over and grabbed the remote from the bedside table and switched on the TV. He spent a good ten minutes flicking through the channels, pausing every so often when he landed on something he thought he'd get into but never did, before he eventually just shut the entire thing off.
Derek wished he'd brought his laptop. Or a book. Or something. There was a custom hotel bible and restaurant menus spread out on one of the tables across the room, as well as some chick book his sister was reading, but he wasn't really desperate enough to read any of those.
He must have glanced at his phone no less than twenty times before he growled, got to his feet, grabbed his swim trunks, and went into the bathroom to change.
He was being ridiculous. He'd spent years without Penelope—and seriously, when the heck did he even start calling her that?—there to amuse him, and the fact that he was staring at his phone like some love-sick girl because he needed her to keep him entertained was freakin' stupid.
Derek pulled up his trunks, threw over a white shirt, hung his towel over his shoulder, and stepped out of the bathroom. He left their room and went downstairs to the pool.
He wasn't surprised to see his sister there, doing laps like the mad woman she was. He also wasn't surprised to see that guy who'd been drooling after her since they arrived at the hotel sitting on a chair in the corner, making cow eyes at her.
Derek cleared his throat loud enough to be heard across the room and gave the guy his best look-at-my-sister-one-more-time-and-I-will-cut-off-your-balls look. The guy's eyes bulged and he frantically looked away, and Derek bared his teeth and gave himself a mental pat on the back.
"Derek!" his sister called.
He looked over at her and she started waving him in. "Wanna race?"
Derek shrugged. Not like he had anything else to do.
He pulled his shirt over his head and discarded it, as well as his towel and room key, in a pile on one of the vacant chairs. He then ran to side of the pool and dove in, resolutely ignoring the large 'No Diving' sign on the wall in the corner.
He and Sarah swam until they were so tired they were leaning on each other on the way back to their room. They took turns washing and getting dressed in their shared bathroom and as Derek waited, slumped over on his bed and tingling from exertion and exhaustion, he forced himself not to check his phone to see if he'd received any messages.
His resolve lasted until just after he'd taken his bath and crawled onto his bed, when he saw the screen flashing.
He flipped it open, and as he read the message he felt tension that he hadn't even realized was there seep out of his shoulders.
_andheartsemicolon: night, caramel eyes.
Derek fell asleep with a smile.
The first thing he did when he saw her again was hug her.
He didn't know where it came from. One moment he was casually walking up to her, and the next he was pulling her into his arms and squeezing her until she said she couldn't breathe.
"Sorry," he chuckled awkwardly, rubbing his chin. "Don't know what came over me."
"S'okay," she said, giving him a saucy wink, "it's my charm. I'm irresistible."
"You're something alright," he muttered, loud enough for her to hear, and he danced away with a chuckle before she could slap him.
"You ready to swim?" he asked.
"Sure." She didn't sound too enthusiastic, but she smiled brightly at him so he figured he was putting too much thought into it.
The new public pool was located on Lorimer. The route Penelope had taken him through was almost dizzying with nothing but turns and more turns with no real noticeable buildings to mark the way clearly, and he had a feeling that if he wanted to find the place again he'd need someone's help.
They walked beside the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which Derek didn't think he'd used more than a handful of times, passing condo after condo, Penelope complaining the entire time about the buildings that hardly anyone could afford but were springing up like weeds in Williamsburg anyway.
There was a long line to the pool entrance that wrapped halfway around the entire block, and waiting wouldn't have been so bad if the sun hadn't been beating down on them quite so hard. Fortunately the line began to move quickly the moment the whistle for the second session blew, and before long they were entering the building and going their separate ways; Derek to the men's lockers, Penelope to the women's.
Derek was quick to grab the nearest corner locker and wasted no time in shucking off the shorts he'd worn over his swim trunks. He tore off his shirt, kicked off his sandals, and stuffed everything inside—iphone, wallet, and keys hidden between his clothes—and locked it, giving the combination lock an extra spin for good measure. Derek moved on to the showers, rinsed off, and made his way to the pool.
Derek was one of the first ones outside. He sat down on one of the benches near the women's locker rooms, which was thankfully concealed from the sun by the extending roof of the building, and dragged his toes over the warm cement while he waited for Penelope. He took the time to survey the pool, and was more than satisfied by the size of it. City pools tended to be small.
He'd been to a couple in the city, like the bug-infested one on Marcy and the overlarge bathtub they tried to pass off as a pool on 1st Ave, and was rarely impressed. Even the pool at Central Park, as acclaimed as it was, was not without faults. The third, and last time he'd gone, there hadn't been any room to swim. He'd felt like a sardine trapped in a can, and never went again.
The city did had some upstanding ones, such as the one in Staten Island he'd gone to a few times, and Derek's personal favorite in Astoria, Queens, but the trek there and back was awful, and there were few things worse than spending a day at a pool and having to take four different public transit units afterward just to get home.
Derek caught sight of a volleyball net on the far side of the pool, and when he stood up to get a better look he noticed that the area was covered in sand.
He was definitely coming back here again.
The pool slowly began to fill with people, and Derek waited. He glanced at the watch on his wrist and realized that fifteen minutes had passed, but there was still no sign of Penelope. He stood, determined to ask one of the female guards if they could check the locker room to make sure nothing had happened, but came up short when he realized that she was standing behind him, one hand gripping the opposite elbow and her bottom lip crushed between her teeth.
He wondered how long she'd been standing there.
He took a step forward and extended his arm, an 'are you alright?' on the tip of his tongue, when he noticed her expression and it dawned on him. She was nervous. Which was baffling, she had no reason to be—oh. Oh.
For someone who got mostly A's and had a 3.7 GPA, he was awfully slow at times.
Derek took her in. Took all of her in. She was wearing a dark blue two-piece, one of the dress-like ones that had become popular in the last few years (his sister had a few before she discovered the wonders of bikinis, to Derek's never-ending horror). The top looked like any other bathing suit, cut down the middle in a modest 'V', but the bottom fell down like a dress, cutting off a few inches above her knees. There were white, sparkly frills and black sequins on the edges of the suit which Derek didn't think for a moment had been there when she bought the thing.
She looked extremely hesitant standing there, her white beach hat slanted over her face and her large sunglasses, also white, hiding her eyes. She had a bottle of sunscreen in one hand and held her flip flops loosely in another. Her nails were painted indigo.
Derek thought she looked cute.
He'd never given it thought before that she might be insecure about… certain things. It wasn't that he hadn't noticed her—he had. Penelope was, well, plump. She had nice curves in all the right places, had an hourglass shape most girls would kill for, but she was still…chubby. Still had a little too much meat on her.
The way she held herself, though, sometimes made you forget. At least, made Derek forget. She walked and talked with such confidence that it wasn't until you touched her arm and felt how soft it was, or crowded over her and realized how not tiny she was (at least, compared to most of the girls Derek knew, like Emily who he could wrap his arms around her four times and still have fingers to spare), that you remembered.
And, well, even when you remembered you just didn't really find yourself thinking about it for long 'cause it had always seemed like she just didn't care. Derek had dated plump girls in the past, though they'd all been much smaller than Penelope, and he'd always been aware of it because they'd so obviously been aware of it. They'd eat salads at restaurants, suck in their stomachs as if they thought no one would notice, squirm whenever someone tried to hold them, curl into themselves as if to hide. When he and Penelope had eaten at Carmines she'd ordered a normal meal and dug in without a care in the world. She'd even gone as far as to steal one of Derek's shells (which was only fair considering Derek had eaten almost half her pasta). She'd moved around like she was assured of every inch of her body, and hadn't even batted an eyelash when Derek had unthinkingly grabbed her waist to squeeze past her.
The girl who was standing in front of him now, uncertain and insecure and looking for all the world like she wanted to put on a t-shirt and hide, was unrecognizable to him.
And yeah, so maybe Derek didn't know Penelope all that well, but what he was seeing right now—he didn't like it.
Derek moved forward again and wrapped his hand around Penelope's wrist and tugged her towards him.
"Lost in la-la land, baby girl?" he teased.
"Sorry," she said, then flashed him a smile, big and fake.
"You ready to get your swim on?" She said, faux-cheerful.
Derek smiled at her. He could pretend to play along.
"You bet your sweet vanilla ass I am," he quipped, and that seemed to throw her off so completely that she dropped her bottle of sunscreen and turned to gape at him.
"Did you just—?" She asked, visibly shocked.
Derek beamed at her, pleased he'd succeeded in distracting her.
"Oh, my young padawan," she breathed, placing her now-empty hand over her chest. "You can be taught."
Penelope groaned and said, "Now I kind of know how Anne Sullivan felt."
Derek laughed. God, the things that came out of her mouth sometimes.
She bent down and retrieved her sunscreen. "I brought it out 'cause I figured you wouldn't have put any on."
Derek flashed his teeth at her. "I'm black. I don't burn."
She rolled her eyes at him. "So not the point. I'm putting it on you anyway," she said, and pulled him over to the corner of the building's edge, still bathed in shade. She then proceeded to rub the white cream all over him, leaving the places he could handle himself—like his arms and chest—alone.
When he was completely covered in the white stuff (she promised it dissolved and lost its coloring in the water), she took a step back and raked her eyes over him appraisingly.
"Mm. White chocolate."
Derek clapped his hand over his eyes and said, "I hate you sometimes."
"You love me," she retorted. She bit her lip and seemed to hesitate for a moment before she shoved the open bottle in his hand and turned around, her back facing him.
"I'd appreciate it if you could do my back," she said, her cheerful tone failing.
"Sure," Derek said easily. He squirted a good handful in his hand, capped the bottle, and placed it on the bench behind him. He turned to look at her at back, creamy and soft-looking, and carelessly slapped the sunscreen onto it.
"Cold!" she hissed, and Derek snorted.
"Deal," he said, and worked to spread the screen all over, making sure to get it just under the edges of her suit in case the material pulled. When Penelope shivered when he pushed the very tips of his finger under the material that dipped down her lower back, he reasoned it down to her being cold and pointedly did not think too much on it. Not that he wanted to or anything, of course.
"Thanks," she sighed, and Derek gave her arm a soft squeeze and lead her to the very corner of the pool, which looked out into a skating park.
They went into the water, shivering at how cold it was and splashing each other playfully as they waddled towards the deeper end. They stopped when the water reached the very bottom of Penelope's chest, and when Derek tried to persuade her to go further, she gave him a rueful look and said:
"So… I don't know to swim."
Derek's mouth fell open, because really?
For a fleeting moment it made him wonder if the bout of nervousness he'd witnessed on the deck had really been about her fear of drowning, before he dismissed the idea for being silly. There was a difference between I-don't-like-the-way-I-look nervous and Oh-my-god-I-might-die nervous, and as dense ad Derek might be at times, he liked to think he could differentiate between the two.
"How?" He asked, more incredulously than he intended to. He gave her an apologetic smile when she frowned at him.
"I just never learned, alright? Never did much swimming when I was a kid and, well, when I got old enough to go to places where I could swim by myself, I always just waddled around."
"What about your brother? Didn't you tell me he was a good swimmer? How come he learned and you didn't?"
Penelope snorted. "My brother essentially taught himself by throwing himself into the deep end of the pool and flailing around until he finally learned how to move correctly. Don't even get me started on how many times the kid almost drowned. I lost count after fifty."
Derek shook his head. Patrick sounded like a real treat.
"What would you do if I picked you up and threw you into the deep end," he said, pointing over his shoulder at the area that went six and a half feet deep. "Give you some of the old Patrick schoolin'?"
Penelope glared at him. "I would send your computer so many viruses you wouldn't be able to touch it without it exploding in your face," she threatened.
Derek took a step back. "Whoa there, cowgirl. I was just kidding."
"You'd better have been," she said dangerously, but her eyes were gleaming and Derek knew she was just messing with him. Mostly.
"Would you like me to teach you how?" he asked.
She shrugged. "No, thanks. Maybe I'll take a class or something during the summer."
"Why pay for a class when I'm offering to teach you for free?"
"'Cause I'm not afraid that a licensed instructor might accidentally drown me?"
Derek stared at her, and stared, and stared, until a wide smile bloomed across her face and she started backing away as quickly as she could.
"Don't you dare!" She warned, throwing up her arms up, but it was too late.
Derek pounced on her and she shrieked, yelling threats about viruses and explosions and possibly broken testicles, but Derek didn't stop his assault.
By the end of the session they'd been warned by the lifeguard twice, almost-drowned a few times (Penelope was strong for a midget), and while Derek hadn't managed to teach her how to swim, he'd learned that 1) Penelope Garcia was hysterically ticklish, 2) she looked like an adorable drowned mouse when she was wet and sulking, 3) she could hold her breath for an insanely long time, and 4) she felt ridiculously soft in his arms.
Derek wouldn't be thinking about that last piece of information too much, though.
"God," she complained as they trudged out of the water, ten minutes before the session was due to end so they could make it to the locker rooms before the rush, "I think I drank, like, half the water in the damn pool."
"Ew," Derek scrunched his nose.
Derek laughed and threw an arm around her as they finally made it out of the water and headed for their—well, Penelope's—things.
She sank into his side, obviously tired.
"This was fun," she said after a while. She sounded the tiniest bit surprised, and Derek found himself grinning in triumph.
"A course it was," he boasted. "You were with me."
"You're so humble."
"And handsome, and smart, and funny, and—"
"Certifiably insane and weird."
"You're something, alright."
"Perfectly funny looking."
"I'm gorgeous, girl."
"You have squinty eyes and your eyebrows sort of freak me out a little."
She dissolved into giggles and he tucked her in closer.
"I'm wounded," he pouted. "Now I'll need, like, ten years of therapy to deal with the esteem issues you've just given me. I'll never recover."
"With your ego I'm sure you'll be fine."
"What is this? Pick-on-Derek time?"
"It's always pick-on-Derek-time in my book."
"Say that the next time I get you in the pool."
"Viruses!" she warned, poking him in the chest with a finger.
Derek snatched her hand. "Bad Penelope."
"You've got it the other way around. You're my bitch, Morgan."
Derek scowled. "I don't remember signing that contract."
"Sugar, we don't need a contract to know that," she said, and snatched her hand away.
Derek took a step back and she leaned down to pick up her things. When she dropped her hat standing, Derek plucked it up from the floor, waved it a bit in the air, and then plucked it on her head.
Her nose scrunched as it drooped over her eyes, and Derek found himself tweaking her nose.
"You're adorable," he told her.
She froze for a moment, and Derek would have probably missed it if he hadn't been somewhat immobile himself.
He had no idea what had happened to whatever feature up there was responsible for filtering his thoughts, but as of late it seemed to have just disappeared.
"You say the sweetest things, my dark chocolate man," Penelope jibed.
Derek shook his head, and let his compliment be swept under the rug. So to speak. "I'm dark chocolate now?"
"Yup," she said, eyeing him and his new tan with a mischievous grin. "I'm gonna have to spend all evening coming up with different TODs with dark chocolate now. My milk chocolate ones have been put in storage until the winter, I guess."
Derek laughed. "You're insane."
"You're not so sane yourself," she grinned at him, like that was a compliment.
They parted ways to get changed, and thankfully Garcia got dressed a whole lot quicker than she had before. He hadn't been waiting even five minutes before she tapped him on his shoulder and nodded her head in the direction they had to go.
Derek peeled himself away from the brick wall he'd been propped against and once again wrapped his arm around her. She didn't lean into him as she'd done earlier (which he did not feel disappointed about), but she didn't lean away, so Derek figured it was okay. Besides, he was only doing it because the block was crowded, and the street was narrow, and he didn't want her getting bumped into. She already looked pretty dead on her feet (not that Derek blamed her; he'd worked her hard), and the tiniest push would probably have her sprawling to the floor.
Derek was tired, too, and the last thing he wanted was to have to fight some asshole for hurting a girl.
Luckily they made it to the station without incident. They were taking the G train this time, and Penelope carefully instructed him on what direction to go to get to the Manhattan-bound L train. Even when he insisted that he knew where he was going she made him take a map she'd pulled out of a plastic wall container just in case.
They split up to catch their trains, but the platforms where they waited were just on opposite sides of each other. Despite Penelope telling him—from across the tracks—that he should walk down the corridor to where the stairs were, he refused to budge. He sat on the exact opposite bench from her and watched her pull out her phone to check the time.
"I'm late picking up Patrick," she told him, loud enough to be heard on his side.
He grinned and said back, just as loudly, "I'm sure he'll survive."
"I know," she said, and she sounded so disappointed that he couldn't help but laugh.
They talked—well, more like half-yelled—at each other until Penelope's train came, ignoring the mutters and dark looks they received from the bystanders for being so loud, and Derek waved at her until the train started and pulled her from his sight.
He put his headphones on, then, turned up the volume, and walked down the platform as Penelope had said he should.
The walk home was slow.
dmorgan18: me. you. repeat rendezvous. tmrw. 1st session. y/n?
_andheartsemicolon: if we must
The second time they went was even more fun.
The third time was pretty awesome, too.
"Who is she?"
"Who's who?" Derek murmured, sending a quick reply to Garcia's question if they wanted to meet up on the last day of vacation for a movie. Apparently some geek film was coming out that she really wanted to see, but was disinclined to go by herself.
_andheartsemicolon: youre a godsend.
dmorgan18: don't i know it.
"This girl you've been texting non-stop to for the past three days," Emily said.
"Penelope Garcia, y'know—"
Emily's eyebrows shot up. "The tech girl?"
"She has a name," Derek admonished.
Emily rolled her eyes. "So when did you two start dating?"
Derek shook his head quickly. "We're not dating. We're just friends."
The look Emily gave him spoke volumes of how much she believed him. "Sure you aren't."
Derek rolled his eyes and sat up from where he was sprawled on her bed. "We aren't. You know, it is quite possible for a girl and a guy to be just friends. Sort of like the two people standing in this very room?"
_andheartsemicolon: where are you now?
dmorgan18: friends. emilys.
_andheartsemicolon: scary russian girl?
"Sure," Emily muttered under her breath, "'Cause that's the same thing." She took a seat beside him and peered at the screen, curious to see what had caused him to laugh so hard. He was already typing then, though.
dmorgan18: youre hilarious, bbgirl
_andheartsemicolon: of course i am, brown sugar
dmorgan18: whats this movie you want to see
_andheartsemicolon: Thor 2!
dmorgan18: omg youre suck a geek.
_andheartsemicolon: an AWESOME geek tho
dmorgan18: whatever helps you sleep night, bbgirl
_andheartsemicolon: you mean besides thoughts of you?
Emily made a sound of disgust and leaned away.
"I call bullshit," she said firmly, then sat up and grabbed a movie off her shelf to pop into the DVD player.
"Call whatever you want," he retorted absently. "Whatcha puttin' on?"
"Not like you're going to be paying much attention anyway," she said, looking pointedly at his phone.
Derek wanted to argue, but truth of the matter was she was most likely right.
"Whatever," he said instead.
dmorgan18: you like the movie hanna?
_andheartsemicolon: never seen it
dmorgan18: dont ever change, penelope
_andheartsemicolon: wouldnt even if you begged
dmorgan18: not even for a million dollars?
_andheartsemicolon: not even
dmorgan19: a billion?
_andheartsemicolon: just tell me what to do
Derek threw his head back and laughed. Eventually Emily kicked him out for being loud (not to mention bad company), but he couldn't bring himself to feel more than the tiniest morsel of guilt since Penelope had been the cause of his distraction (and disruption) in the first place, and he couldn't really regret that.
What? The girl was hilarious.
"That was awesome," she said for the third time, and Derek had to roll his eyes.
"It was alright."
"No. Iron Man 3 was alright. Captain America was alright. The new Superman was alright. That? That was awesome."
"I feel ashamed just standing next to you," she said, and wrinkled her nose in disgust.
Derek gave her a pat on the arm. "Now you know how I feel."
"Jerk!" She slapped him on the arm and Derek snatched her hand and curled their fingers together.
This…this was pretty new. He wasn't sure when it had started exactly, or why it had even started at all, but it had, and Derek, for some unknown reason, had decided to keep it up (and Penelope didn't seem too opposed to it, so that was that). Besides, friends held hands all the time, right? Well, he didn't hold any of his other friend's hands—Emily exempted, but only when she was drunk—but still. Just 'cause he didn't personally do it didn't mean no one else in the world did. Didn't Jody and Rachel used to hold hands? But then they'd started going out, so maybe that wasn't the best example to use…
"Earth to Derek Morgan, do you read me?"
"Loud and Clear, General," Derek retorted, coming back to himself.
He really needed to stop analyzing every aspect of his friendship with Penelope. Their relationship simply didn't hold the usual rules because theirs was different, and there was nothing wrong with different. It was just, y'know, different.
He'd said that already, hadn't he?
Another reason why: it always gave him a headache.
"Wanna grab something to eat?" she asked. They stepped onto the descending escalators together.
"Can't, baby girl. I'm helping my grandma—"
"—Install the rug," she finished for him. "Sorry, I forgot."
"I wish I could, though. I swear, my back is still killing me from yesterday. I told the woman she owed me a session with a masseuse or something and she laughed."
He should have known that Penelope would laugh at him, too.
"All the women in my life are cruel to me," he said to no one.
"Tell me about it," some guy in front of them muttered loudly, and Derek had to bite his lip to keep from snorting.
Penelope, on the other hand, snorted outright.
They left the theater and Penelope's gaze immediately shot towards the shop across the street. Derek stepped in front of her, blocking her view.
"Nuh-uh. I don't think so."
"Last time you dragged me in there we stayed for three hours. Three hours. As far as I'm concerned, you are never, ever allowed inside. Ever." Derek folded his arms over his chest. He meant business.
Penelope's eyes widened and the bottom of her lip protruded. When it began to tremble and her eyes grew glassy with fake tears, Derek had to look away, because damn.
He supposed she'd been head of the drama club last year for a reason.
"No means no, Penelope," he said, staring at the wooden table a few paces down that seemed to be selling jewelry.
"Forbidden Planet is henceforth forbidden," he said. "But I'll buy you a bracelet if you want."
Garcia snapped her head in the direction he was looking and her expression immediately cleared. "Ooh," she said, and left him behind to check out the table, "jewelry."
"I see how it is," he said, trailing after her. "You're just using me for my money."
"Damn straight," she conceded. The woman behind the table gave her a thumbs up, and Derek rolled his eyes.
They stood there for a good five minutes before Derek's impatience got the best of him and he said, "Take 'em all."
"Not buts. Take 'em, or I'm leaving you behind."
"You'd leave me at Union Square all by my lonesome?"
"Damn straight," he said shooting her words back at her.
Garcia's smile seemed to spread despite herself, and she quickly picked up the four bracelets she'd been eyeing and handed them to him.
"Put them on me."
Derek did so, gently clasping the metal fasteners together and careful not to mess up any of the beads. He took her hand when he was finished with the last one and peered at it. He loved the way her hands looked with jewelry on her wrists.
"They look pretty together," he said, and they did, each individual bracelet seeming to compliment the one next to it. Derek never thought orange, blue, and yellow would go good together, but apparently they could. At least on Penelope, anyway.
"Of course they do," she said. "I've got an excellent eye for fashion."
"You wore puce yesterday."
"It was vintage!"
"It looked like bird vomit."
"Your face looks like bird vomit."
The lady snorted a laugh, and Derek shot her an annoyed look.
"That would be fifteen dollars, please." she chirped, heedless of Derek's glare.
Derek burrowed in his pocket for a twenty and passed it over to her.
She gave him his change, thanked them for their purchase, and waved as they wandered away. Penelope shot one last wistful glance at what Derek was pretty sure should be renamed to Geek Central (or Ninth Circle of Hell, depending on your perspective), before taking his arm in hers and looking forward.
"Thanks for the bracelets, Derek," she said appreciatively.
"Thanks for the movies, Penelope." he replied, just as grateful.
"Well, thanks for the snacks."
"Thanks for last night's dinner."
"Thanks for yesterday's lunch."
"Thanks for yesterday's breakfast."
They shared a leveled look before they started cracking up.
"You're insane," he told her.
"Back at you, mocha love."
"God, these names of yours just keep on getting more ridiculous by the day."
"You love the names I call you."
Derek sort of did.
He dropped her off at the 14 street station, gave her a kiss on the cheek for the road, and watched her until she disappeared down the stairs.
He waited a good minute before he turned around and started heading for the bus.
Derek Morgan: Penelope, how's the greatest computer tech this side of the Mississippi?
Penelope Garcia: Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee, Garcia's gonna find what only her screens can see. What do you need, baby?
- Criminal Minds ep 6x04, "Compromising Positions"
End Notes: First, can I just seriously thank you all for all of the reviews? You guys are so, so awesome.
Now I'd like to address a few things about this chapter and the fic in general. I based Penelope's body image issues on what I've gleaned from her character by watching Criminal Minds, and a tiny bit from my own head, as well. That said, I hope the pool incident earlier didn't come across as too out of character for her. To justify it, I feel that Penelope's high esteem is predominantly derived from her intelligence, techie abilities, and chic sense of fashion. Even if she hides it pretty well, I'm sure she's still pretty self-conscious about her body, especially when a lot of it is on display (such as when she's in swimwear). I know that I (as a chubby girl) can feel just fine when I'm fully clothed in pretty outfits, but put me in a bathing suit (especially in front of a guy I might like) and my self-esteem plummets. I'd LOVE to hear how you felt about the pool scene, and whether or not it was too OOC on both Derek and Penelope's part.
Another thing I want to mention—in the hopes of destroying some misconceptions any of you might have—is that this fic is relatively plot-less. :D It's just a lot of schmoop/fluff and humor with a pinch of flangst/HC and drama thrown in to give it that extra zing.
Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed this chapter and I look forward to 'hearing' what you guys thought about it.