Garcia usually bubbled with joy as her computers hummed and zipped along the cyber-highway. People could talk all they wanted about guns, bombs, and money. She knew true power…the power of information. All kinds of details waited in the electronic trails in front of her. A true mistress of the computer, she could travel and traverse them like the scouts of old. This was her new frontier; this was her guiding star.
More than anything, she loved the fact that her greatest love could be used to help people in need. When her team called, she answered; when they needed something, she provided. Then her team would go out and make things right like the superheroes she loved as a child. Whether Morgan needed an address, JJ wanted a name, or Hotch wanted a number, she could find it.
That was what made this so damn frustrating!
As the sound of her irritated scream faded, a much more polished voice drifted from her doorway. “Problems, Principessa?”
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and repressed a wince. Turning to glance over her shoulder, she met David Rossi's dark eyes. “It would be fruitless to hope no one heard that, right?”
He cocked one sarcastic eyebrow at her and she shrugged. “Well, it was a nice pipe dream.”
Giving a low laugh, he walked into her domain and sat down. “So, you didn’t answer me. Problems?”
“Not really,” she groused. “It’s just…well, remember a couple of months ago when that hacker managed to get into the files but the top office told us not to worry about it?”
“Sure,” he nodded easily, but sat up straight. His indulgent smile slid away to reveal a more serious mien. “Something come up?”
“Oh, not bad,” she hurried to assure him. “They waved it off, so we figured a security thing, right?”
“Right,” he said, dragging out the word slowly. She bit her lower lip worrying it. His eyes narrowed. “Penelope?”
She sighed. “Several of the offices have been getting some rather scathing emails about their security from someone claiming to be the hacker in question. Top office confirmed it.”
He snorted. “You got a reprimand, tesoro?”
“No,” she replied, rolling her eyes even as a blush climbed up her cheeks. “That’s just it. I got a really nice email complimenting me on my security and offering me a couple of suggestions for making it even better!”
“So, why were you screaming?” He gave her a confused frown.
“They want to hire me.”
Silence descended on her office. He leaned forward, bracing his forearms on his thighs. After several tense moments, he tilted his head to pin her with dark, flat eyes.
“Thinking about it?” His question came out in a careful, studied voice.
“No!” She exclaimed, not missing his quick breath of relief. She shook her head. “No, I’m staying with the team.” Waving her hands around the office, she tried to emphasize her point. “Where else can I both run the office of Supreme Genius while helping save the world?”
He gave a breathy chuckle. “You scared me, Principessa.”
“Oh,” she cringed. “Sorry about that. No, it just made me curious so I was trying to find whoever it is, or at least who they work for.”
She snatched her troll out of its place and heaved a sigh. “Even worse,” she sniffed. “They’ve been leading me in circles, carefully staying out of my reach, and then pointing out where I’m going wrong!” She waved the troll at him in exasperation. “It’s like having a one-way link to Yoda or something!”
“And the problem is?” he prompted, fighting a smile at her pout.
“I want to know who I’m listening to!”
“Did you ask?”
She gaped at him and now he did smile. “Maybe, Principessa, they are waiting on a question instead of a chase.”
Her eyes grew wide as she considered it. With a squeal of delight, she hopped up and pressed an excited kiss to his cheek. “Thank you! Let me try!”
Even as she became engrossed in her computer, he reached up to touch his cheek. A rueful expression slid over his face. He could just imagine the reaction if he even thought about pursuing the thoughts now flitting across his mind. He started to rise.
“Nope,” she said, pointing at him without turning around. “You stay right there. If this doesn’t work, I’m going to be absolutely desperate, and you are going to talk Italian at me for a few minutes to make me feel better. If it does work, you are going to be here to make sure I don’t hyperventilate.”
A surprised laugh escaped him and she threw a quick grin over her shoulder. With a final flourish of keystrokes, she sat back and watched her monitor. “Now we see if they…”
Before she could continue, her monitors flickered. A brief expression of panic stole over her face before they settled. The two agents stared at an unexpected face.
“Hi!” The young woman chirped at them, smiling broadly. “I was hoping you’d invite me to talk.”
Rossi stared at the monitor. He would place the girl around twenty-five or so, certainly no older than twenty-seven, except for her eyes. She had very experienced eyes for such a young face. Deep red hair framed a delicate face with pale skin and those old green eyes. Even as she smiled, he could detect the small lines of stress and concern at the corners of her mouth.
“Um, hi,” Garcia answered, a bit unsure how to pursue the conversation. She had expected an email or something, not a sudden live connection. The woman’s age did not surprise her. Most hackers tended to be younger; the result of such new, cutting edge technology.
The redhead’s smile grew a bit bigger. “You’re Penelope Garcia, one of the FBI’s top tech experts. And your friend is David Rossi, an agent with the Behavioral Analysis Unit as well as a best-selling author.”
“And you might be?” Rossi interjected.
“Willow Rosenberg,” she answered without hesitation. She switched her gaze to Garcia. “You can look me up, but don’t be surprised when you can’t access anything. At last check, I think our files had been redacted to our names and original hometown.”
“You’re awfully young for a file that carefully screened,” Rossi commented, giving her a direct look.
She smirked. “We handle some touchy stuff.” Pausing to let him consider that, she turned back to Garcia. “I was impressed with your system. You’ve got more firewalls and safety protocols than the Secret Service and the Joint Chiefs.”
“Thank you,” Garcia beamed. “I did most of my own work.”
“It shows,” Willow remarked with approval. “I never did trust the generic stuff. I could hack the FBI when I was fourteen.”
Rossi chuckled. “Should I be hearing this?”
“Why not?” She shrugged. “Henry knows. He’s the one who lets us go playing around to keep everyone on their toes. It really irritates the brass when we can get into the DOD so easily. I think General Robertson is going to have a stroke one day. General Hammond thinks the whole thing is amusing. Of course, he’s into some interesting stuff, so it probably makes him a bit more laid back.” She gave a wide smile before changing the subject. “So, I’m betting you’re not calling to take the job offer, are you? I mean you probably wouldn’t have him there if you were, right?”
Garcia blinked at the flow of words before realizing Willow was waiting for an answer. “Oh, no, I’m really happy here. I don’t want to leave.”
“I didn’t figure, but I had to try,” Willow shrugged with a wry look. “You’d probably have turned us down anyway the more you learned about us, but the opportunity to pull in the country’s fifth best hacker? I had to take it.”
“Fifth?” Rossi asked, giving his coworker an incredulous look.
“Oh, yes,” Willow nodded. “She’s fifth best in the country, and I think eleventh maybe, in the world? I’d have to check since the list changes fairly often.”
Garcia blushed, looking down and refusing to meet his eyes. Willow giggled. When the FBI tech looked up, she found amused green eyes fixed on her. Before she could say anything however, Willow’s attention moved away from the screen. She nodded to someone out of sight. Turning back, she gave them an apologetic smile. “Sorry, but I have to go. I’ll send you my email address and we’ll keep in touch, okay?”
“Ah, sure,” Garcia agreed eagerly.
Rossi broke in. “Before you leave?” When Willow turned an inquiring look on him, he smiled at her. “If Garcia is fifth in the country, where do you rank?”
Her smile turned mischievous. “Why, Agent Rossi, where do you think I come in?”
With a wink, she cut the connection.
The two agents stared at each other for a long moment. Garcia started giggling and clapping her hands as she realized she would now have a direct connection to the woman driving all of the techies mad. Rossi sat back and watched her for a long moment.
When she settled down, he gave her his own roguish smile. “So, Principessa, if you’ve put your hyperventilating plans on hold for a bit, perhaps we could celebrate over dinner?”
Her eyes grew wide and she stared at him. His smile gentled. Standing up, he walked over and pressed a kiss on the top of her head. “You think it over, tesoro, and call me.”
He walked out the door with a wink as her jaw dropped slightly in surprise.