Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds or its characters.
Author's Note: Hello all! It's been awhile since I've posted, but this new idea bit me and the whole outline is all done. I've decided to put my other stories on hold indefinitely to work on this new one. I wanted to try something new with Morgan and Garcia and a different tone than what I usually do for my fanfiction stories. Hope you will enjoy!
"We're here," the Uber driver grumbled from the front seat of his car.
The teen boy in the back seat nodded and grabbed his duffel from beside him. He stepped out of the car and looked around. Washington DC was virtually a foreign country to him. His Uber had taken him past the Capital Building and he had seen the Washington Monument in the distance. Everything here was so different from the Midwest, where he had spent his entire life.
His mother used to tell him about the city where he'd been born. Her eyes would be overcome with a bittersweet light that she may have been happier there once. He hadn't had a chance to ask her before she died, and his father never answered any questions about it either. When he looked around the city streets and listened to the bustle of twilight traffic, he couldn't help but think of what might have been like if his parents had never left.
But he wasn't in the nation's capital for sightseeing or reminiscing about his mother's past. He had a specific job to do here, even though he was just seventeen years old. Shouldering his bag, he stared at the building. His stomach churned as he entered the apartment building's courtyard and made his way into the building. He looked at the mailboxes on the wall to find the exact apartment he needed.
The elevator in the main lobby was busted. With a grunt, he hoisted the bag higher on his shoulder and went for the stairwell. If he weren't so nervous he might have cared about the inconvenience. Instead, all he could do was wonder how his footfalls up the stairs could sound so much heavier than they should have.
Eventually, he reached the floor he needed. It was stunningly quiet save for the flickering of one of the fluorescent lights above him. He gulped. You can do this, he lectured himself. It had been so long since he'd seen her, but he had no other choice than to show up randomly on her doorstep. He had someone depending on him and there was no one else he could think of to help him.
Upon finding the door to apartment 324, he swallowed hard, raised his knuckles, and knocked.
Penelope Garcia poured herself a large glass of wine and sighed. It had been a long day. Hotch had finalized his retirement, JJ was thinking of leaving the BAU for a different division, and Penelope found herself looking in the mirror and seeing the only thing that could have made the day worse: gray hairs sprouting from her scalp. It was one of the worst she had had in a long while, even worse than the day she and Luke broke up a year ago.
Sighing, she went over to her couch and plopped down. She flipped on the TV for old re—runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation and closed her eyes. With a gulp of her wine, she wrapped herself in a throw blanket and kicked her heels off.
She couldn't remember how this had happened to her. When had she become a borderline alcoholic who sat in front of old television shows for hours and hours until she only managed to get a few hours sleep? It was before she and Alvez broke up. He told her he loved her before he left, but that he was tired of her not loving him back.
"I do love you, though!" she had protested, even though she had not had the energy to muster tears.
He'd given her a sad smile, but shook his head. "I know you want to," he'd said. "But that's not enough to make me the one you want."
Luke and she remained friends, but she felt lonelier than ever. She quit trying to find the answer to her melancholy after that.
Soon she was on her second glass of wine and Jean Luc Picard was attempting to make peace between two feuding groups of aliens that she had hardly paid attention to. She lay on the couch, feeling empty save for the alcohol coursing through her body.
A knock sounded from the door, making her eyes snap open and gasp. Her wineglass tumbled to the ground. The crimson liquid stained the carpet, eliciting a groan from her throat. She didn't care enough to make an effort to clean up other than picking up the glass, though.
The rapping from the door grew louder. She glared at the door. "Geesh, I'm coming! Chill!"
She unlocked her front door and squinted at the person standing on her threshold. At first she didn't recognize the young man. He had deep brown skin and his head was covered in a mass of brown curls. Streaks of honey colored highlights peeked out from the depths of his curls. He was at least six feet tall and had a duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
When she met his eyes, she recognized those immediately. They were the same dark brown, almost black eyes that belonged to another man she knew.
A man from so long ago in her past she had tried to forget him.
The boy swallowed hard. "Umm, hi," he said. "Listen, I don't know if you remember me. It's been a long time since I've seen you, but I'm – "
"Hank," she said, smiling for the first time in a few weeks. It felt strange, but also familiar. She missed the days when she would smile all the time. "I know exactly who you are." Glancing around, she frowned. "Umm, are you here by yourself?"
He nodded, but his face remained stony as iron. "Yeah," he said. "I just…" Emotion struck his face all of the sudden. It was devastation. "I need your help, Aunt Penelope."
She allowed him inside the apartment. "Umm, okay," she said, closing the door behind him. "But, uh, what are you doing here? In person, I mean. Does Der – " She stopped herself abruptly, swallowing the name. She tried again, . "Do your parents know you're here? Shouldn't you be in school?" There were more questions swirling in her mind, but she refrained from asking them just yet.
Dropping his duffel bag on the ground, Hank began wringing his hands together. "That's actually why I'm here," he said. Anxiety rang in his voice, so obvious that she felt it fill the room. Goosebumps of worry raised on her arms.
Concerned, she went forward to rest a hand on his shoulder. "Sweetie, what's – "
"Dad's missing, Aunt Penelope," he blurted out. "Dad's missing, and you're the only one who can help me."
17 Years Ago
Derek inhaled the scent of Penelope's honeysuckle perfume as he held her in his arms. Her tears fell on his shoulder. A small sniffle filled the air between them. He held her close. She had just told him that it was him that made her feel super brave. Right then, he wished he could borrow some of that bravery because he didn't think he had the strength to let her go.
He hadn't realized it until this moment, that he may have made a mistake. Nothing in the world would make him regret having his son. Hank was now his whole world. But before he had Hank, Penelope had been that person. She meant more to him than even Savannah.
And he'd made the wrong choice.
Pulling back, he looked Penelope in the eye and gave her a small smile. He cupped her cheek in his hand. The tears on face wet his skin, straining his heart. His eyes fell on her ruby lips.
"You should get going," she said, wiping her nose.
Derek didn't know if he could. But he mumbled a "Yeah" anyway.
Swallowing hard, he nodded. He leaned forward, staying away from her lips for fear he might press his own to them. Instead, he bestowed a soft kiss on her forehead.
"Text me when you guys get to Chicago safe," she said. "Kiss my godson for me."
"I will," he promised.
Then he turned from her and left his office. He swore he heard her choke on a sob, but he couldn't bear to turn back. If he did he would never be able to leave her.
Maybe one day he would return one day to her. Maybe things wouldn't work out with Savannah. The deepest, most selfish parts of him wished that maybe it might happen. He wanted Hank…but he didn't want his wife.
As the elevator doors closed in front of him, Derek closed his eyes and pictured his son he would be returning to. Hank was all he had left now.