Penelope shut down the windows with the images of the various crime scenes then took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. Viewing crime scene images was one part of this job that she hated. But these images, this case - it hit her harder than most. Her cell phone rang and she answered it without looking at the caller ID. She knew she would hear his voice. "Hello?"
"Penelope? Are you okay?" The concern in Hotch's voice felt like a balm to her battered psyche. Days of seeing graphic gruesome images of bloodshed and carnage left her wishing for sanctuary and calm. Just hearing his voice at the other end of the line went a long way toward bringing her back to tranquility.
She hastily brushed the tears from her eyes. "I've been better, Aaron," she whispered.
"I'm sorry. You can't imagine how sorry I am that..." His voice trailed off.
"I know,” she replied. “At least we caught the SOB."
"It's why we do this, Penelope. We chase and capture these monsters so others can sleep safely at night."
She nodded and brushed away more tears. "I know, Aaron, but some of these cases..."
"Hit harder than others?"
Penelope nodded again. "Yes." She paused. "Like you and cases with young children," she whispered.
"Yes." A few seconds passed. "Penelope, we found the last three he kidnapped. They are alive, but a bit malnourished."
She let out a sigh of relief, letting the tears fall this time.
"Shhh, Penelope. They'll be okay."
"Just get back...just get them here safely." For a moment, she wondered if he caught her slip. But she knew he did. He wasn't a Unit Chief for nothing.
Aaron snapped the phone shut and let out a deep sigh.
"Is she okay?"
Aaron whirled around to face David. "She's been better."
"We both knew this was going to be difficult for her."
"But I didn't have to bring her here."
"Perhaps not, but would it have been better for her to be in Quantico without us? Dealing with those images without us there to comfort her, if necessary?"
Hotch stared at Rossi. "What if I brought her here for purely selfish reasons?"
David shrugged. "It kills two birds with one stone. You get to see her and she has us around her to comfort her. It's a win-win for everyone, right?"
Aaron sighed again then climbed into the SUV. Trust his friend to call bullshit on his motives and actions. In this instance, his motives for bringing Garcia on the case had initially been selfish. Since the birthday surprise six months earlier, he'd started looking for any reason to bring Garcia along with them. Most of the time, he could find a legitimate justification. But there were those few times when it was flimsy at best, and David knew him too well.
They rode in silence back to the sheriff's office. Aaron guided the three teenagers into the station, into the arms of their foster families. He paused when he saw Penelope across the squad room. Her gaze locked with his. Even from across the room, he could read her emotions. He knew when he stood face-to-face with her he would see bloodshot eyes, puffy and swollen from crying. Rossi had been right. At least here, the team would rally around Garcia.
Hotch watched JJ wrap her arms around Penelope. Garcia clung to JJ and buried her face against the other woman's neck. Aaron clenched his fists and stayed his ground. Sometimes being Unit Chief was a pain in the ass and left him feeling utterly helpless. He took solace in knowing his had been the kill shot, that he had put down the monster causing Penelope this grief.
After reports had been filed, when the gruesome images of the senseless crimes had been momentarily forgotten, the team gathered in the hotel bar. Rossi groused about the selection of top-shelf liquors, or rather the lack thereof. Morgan, Prentiss and JJ laughed at Rossi's pouting. Reid seemed a bit stunned, maybe even distressed, by the antiquated decor and the dance floor with the flashing lights. Penelope was the last to arrive, and Hotch chose to ignore the look Morgan shot him when he took the seat next to Garcia. Tonight, Aaron didn't give a damn about appearances.
More subdued than usual, Penelope seemed to go through the motions of lifting the cocktail glass to her mouth. Aaron cast several sidelong glances her way but clenched his fists to keep from resting a reassuring hand on her thigh. One touch might lead to another. Unsure of how the team would react, he thought it wiser to keep his hands to himself.
Aaron watched the slow metamorphosis as Penelope went from quiet and withdrawn to more bubbly. Every now and then he caught her swaying to the beat of the music and he ducked his head to take a sip of his drink to keep his half smile hidden. After two rounds of drinks, he looked up to find David watching him with an intent stare. The other man tilted his head just a bit in Penelope's direction then nodded toward the dance floor. Aaron gave a quick shake of his head.
David arched an eyebrow, and Hotch downed the rest of his watered-down Scotch.
One song faded but before the next song began, the DJ said, "This one goes out to Penelope, from your girl JJ."
The opening chords of Madonna's "Holiday" began and Penelope let out a soft shriek. "JJ!" Her smile to JJ left Aaron with a hint of envy but it was enough to see a smile on her face again.
JJ returned her smile. "You needed something to make you smile. I know Madonna is one of your favorites. You select enough of her songs at our karaoke nights."
Penelope blushed, the apples of her cheeks turning a bright pink. "JJ! You're not supposed to mention how you know that fact. That was our secret."
Hotch glanced at her and smiled. "Is there anything you don't do, Garcia?"
She shot him a fierce look and his smile widened into a grin. Determined to put her fighting spirit back into her, he was willing to risk the infamous Garcia Glare of Doom.
"Yeah, baby girl, is there anything you don't do?"
Hotch stifled his chuckle when Morgan chimed in. He knew the other man had no clue about Garcia's other outside interest. He and Garcia had discussed it a few times during their little game of hide and seek with the veil. He arched a brow and smiled at Penelope.
"Derek Morgan, you know damn well that I cannot speak Spanish well enough to even ask where the bathroom is much less save my life." She shook her head and rolled her eyes before taking another sip of her drink.
Pleased to see Penelope was in a better mood, Aaron decided to take David’s advice and make his move. He stood, took off his suit coat and offered his hand to Garcia. "Let's dance, Garcia."
Wide-eyed, she stared at him for several seconds then shook her head. "That's okay, Hotch."
She shot him another glare, shook her head.
"PG, give the guy a chance. He can't be that bad." Emily nodded toward Hotch. “Right, Hotch?”
“Well…” He trailed off and threw a pleading look in Garcia’s direction.
Penelope opened her mouth to say something then shut it. She sighed heavily then stood and took his hand. She gave it a tight squeeze then followed him out onto the dance floor.
He turned to face her, hesitated to release her hand and leaned in close. "Just relax, Penelope. You're still wound tight from this case. I understand why this one hit you. Orphaned children in the foster system. It’s not a difficult connection to make to your own situation. I want you to unwind. Let's just have fun."
She nodded and began to sway to the rhythm. Her movements seemed almost stilted in comparison to the nights he'd seen her dancing at the restaurant. He knew she still held herself in check.
Leaning closer once again, he brushed a tendril of hair from her cheek. "Penelope, I know you're not letting go. Your body screams tense; your movements are not loose and easy. I’ve seen you dance enough to know the difference."
"Hotch, you promised you'd keep my secret."
"I haven't told anyone, not even Jack. And David and I have even made a pact not to discuss it between us." He grabbed her hand. "But you look like you're about to break, and I can't stand to see that."
She stopped moving and stared at him.
He brushed away the errant tendril a second time. "Look, tonight I'm not SSA Aaron Hotchner, supervisor of tech analyst Penelope Garcia. I'm Aaron, a man who has just asked a beautiful woman named Penelope to dance." He leaned in closer, pressed his lips to her ear. "Just let go and enjoy yourself." Perhaps a second passed before he added, “For me.”
Garcia watched him pull back, the memory of his warm breath along her cheek sending a shiver of delight down her spine. He smelled wonderful. The randomness of that thought amused her and she smiled.
"Is that a yes?"
She smiled wider and nodded. He wanted her to let go, enjoy herself and dance with him. It was a simple request. No trouble could arise from dancing this close to someone I find myself more and more attracted to, right? She began to move again, swaying in time to the rhythm. When the music soon ended, she started to let out a groan of disappointment until “Vogue” began. Garcia glanced over at the table and JJ shook her head then pointed at Rossi standing at the bar.
She returned her gaze to Hotch and stifled her laughter. While not the worst dancer she'd ever seen, Hotch and rhythm seemed to be in two different places at the same time. For a brief moment she wondered about his rhythm in other activities but brushed aside that thought almost as quickly as it appeared. This was no place to be wondering how well her boss kept rhythm when fucking. She closed her eyes and the quick image that came to mind caused her to misstep for a second.
Hotch caught her arm to keep her steady and she felt her cheeks grow warm. He smiled and her knees threatened to buckle again. Ever since that fateful night six months ago, Penelope had seen Aaron's dimples on a more regular basis. As lethal as his stern glare could be to an Unsub, his smiles left her warm and fuzzy, almost giddy. She opted to do the one thing that might keep her from letting her guard down too low around her boss and other teammates. She decided she'd try to help Hotch figure out how to Vogue. It fit the music and should keep her from reading too much into those words and those looks.
While the music played, Penelope guided Aaron through easy poses and hand movements. Every now and then she looked at the table, amused that their teammates seemed quite content to let them make fools of themselves on the dance floor. Then she'd turn to look at Aaron and find him watching her. She'd see amusement in his eyes but something else, something more intimate and personal. At the end of one particularly pretzel-like move, she ended up behind him, her arms around his waist. She flattened her hands on his abdomen and slid one up to rest over his heart. His fingers curled around the hand over his heart then the contact was broken.
The song ended and she giggled at the applause and catcalls from the rest of the team. Then she let out a sigh of contentment when “Music” began. She'd be sure to bake David a plate of his favorite cookies to thank him. She flashed a smile at him and he smiled back, toasting her by lifting his Scotch. Spinning to face Aaron, she tilted her head then smiled. Garcia stretched up and whispered in his ear, "If you're going to dance with me, there's something that just has to change."
"What?" He gave a quick shake of his head, not sure what she referred to.
"This." In a bold-even-for-Garcia-move, she began to loosen his tie then untie it before flipping it behind her head to hang around her neck. She deftly unbuttoned the top three buttons of his shirt then smiled. "There." She went up on tiptoes and whispered in his ear, "Now, that's what Aaron dancing with Penelope should look like. Casual and relaxed, as if he’s enjoying himself."
Her lips that close to his ear tempted Hotch to throw more caution to the wind and turn his head to brush those lips in a kiss. He wanted to. Oh, how he wanted to. But he stopped himself short. Instead, he relished her momentary boldness and her comfort in being so bold with him.
When she stepped away from him, she let her head fall back and began to move her hips in time to the music. He smiled to himself. She spun then swayed her upper body from side to side. He refrained from touching her or saying anything to her. He limited himself to swaying from side to side, hands shoved in his pockets.
Penelope twirled to face him and smiled. She mouthed the words while dancing. This rhythm seemed to inhabit her hips and she found herself dropping in a few of her belly dancing steps. She used Hotch’s tie as a prop and felt a secret thrill when he laughed. But God love him, he really could not dance. She pressed her lips together to hide a little smile at his inability to keep rhythm. When dancing, PG, you are only going to think about his rhythm while dancing.
The song drew to an end and Penelope started to leave the floor. Aaron snagged her hand and pulled her back to the dance floor. When she realized what song was playing, she cast a panicked look at Aaron. She loved this song and wanted to let loose but one did not dance to Madonna’s “Justify My Love” around her boss, much less with him.
Her breath caught in her chest when he pulled her against him. “Aaron?” she hissed against his neck.
“This…what are you doing?”
“I’m dancing with you.” His arm around her waist tightened and pulled her closer. His rhythm changed to match the music. She thought she now had the answer to the question she’d been trying to avoid all night. He knew a few tricks with his pelvis that left her feeling a bit breathless.
“But this song, it’s…”
“It has a good beat.
She pulled free of his embrace and took a few steps back. His smirk told her he knew the meaning of this song. Her heart raced. When he held out his hand to her, she took it and let him tug her close. She closed her eyes and let go. She moved her hips to the music, ignoring the fact that she was grinding on her boss in front of her co-workers.
Garcia let her head fall back against his chest and purred softly in her throat when his arm around her waist pulled her closer against him. She felt his erection pressing against her and worried her bottom lip with her teeth. Grinding her hips against him, she let go of her inhibitions. She wanted him, had wanted him for years. She might never have this opportunity again, and she intended to take full advantage of the moment.
Hotch slid a hand down Penelope’s side, grazing the side of her breast then lifting her arm to curve it around his neck. She threaded her fingers through his hair and gave a slight tug. The growl in her ear threatened to buckle her knees. Lost in the music and the sensations of dancing this close to Aaron, Penelope almost missed the end of the song.
The next song jarred her out of the sultry moment and she jerked her body away from Hotch’s embrace. She took several breaths before turning to face him. Her cheeks grew hot. When he reached out to her, she shook her head then scurried from the dance floor. She ignored the stares of her co-workers and dashed out of the bar.
Only once she reached her room did she realize she’d left her purse in the bar. She reached into her cleavage for the spare room key and unlocked the door. Inside her room, she shut the door and leaned against it. Palms to her cheeks, she took several deep breaths and wondered what had come over her.
Aaron watched Penelope hurry from the bar and let out a resigned sigh. Before he reached the table, David stopped him, shoved something into his hand and muttered, “Go! I’ll deal with Morgan. Just don’t waste this opportunity.”
Hotch glanced at the item Rossi shoved into his hand and realized it was Penelope’s purse. He hurried over to the table, grabbed his suit coat and ignored the rest of the team. He strode from the bar without glancing back to see if anyone followed him, shoving his arms into his suit coat. He knew the room assignments, knew her room was only a few doors down from his.
Outside Garcia’s room, Hotch paused then knocked. “Penelope?”
“Oh God, Hotch. Just go away.”
“Please let me in.”
He heard her loud sigh and smiled. He was waiting with her purse held up when she opened the door. “You forgot something.”
She took it from him. “Thank you.” She started to shut the door again and he placed his hand on it.
“Please let me in.”
He shook his head. “This isn’t about Garcia or Hotch. This is still about Penelope and Aaron.”
Garcia let out a sigh then stepped back and let him into her room. She shut the door behind him and reluctantly turned to face him again.
“Penelope, we just finished up an incredibly gruesome, tense case that hit close to home for you. We let the stress out in a natural manner and sometimes the response is primal and intense. This happens.”
He shook his head again. “No. No ‘sir,’ no ‘Hotch.’ Just Aaron.” He touched his chest. “And Penelope.” He touched her arm.
Penelope stared at Aaron for several seconds. “Oh fuck it,” she muttered under her breath. She rested her hands behind his head and pulled his face close. She claimed his mouth in a heated kiss. Her tongue delved between his lips and tangled with his.
He wrapped his arms around her, tugging her close.
She slid her hands down to his chest then to his abdomen, fighting with the buttons on his shirt and tugging it out of his waistband. She wanted to touch him. A soft moan escaped her lips when her fingers brushed his stomach.
When he stilled, she tilted her head back. “Aaron?”
“My scars. I’m still self-conscious about the scars Foyet left,” he whispered.
His confession touched her heart and she offered him a tender smile. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
Aaron buried his face against her neck and chuckled. “I’d like that.” He wanted that and so much more; he wanted to touch every inch of her body. He wanted to taste her. Now. No delay. He dropped to his knees in front of her, rested his hands on the backs of her calves.
“Aaron?” Penelope rested her hands on his cheeks.
He looked up at her while sliding his hands up her legs to the waistband of her panties. Silky stockings rubbed his palms and he smiled. He curled his fingers into the satiny fabric of her panties and began to tug them down. When he had her panties down, he stroked her ankle and she automatically stepped out of the silken fabric. He shoved the panties in his coat pocket. No matter what happened after tonight, he’d have this souvenir.
Penelope leaned against the door, her hands clenched in fists, as Aaron pushed her skirt up around her waist. She opened her hands and pressed her palms against the door at the first brush of his warm breath on her thigh. She closed her eyes and murmured his name in a litany when his fingers teased the juncture of her legs.
His hands nudged her legs open wider and she dropped her head back down to watch him. He met her gaze, sucked his middle finger into his mouth then eased it inside her.
“Oh fuck me,” she whispered.
“Is that an invitation?”
She groaned as he moved his finger inside her then nodded. “Yes. Please.” Her breath caught when he slid a second finger inside her. She reached for him, tangled her fingers in his hair when he sucked her clit between his lips. He fucked her with his fingers while teasing and licking her clit. She barely kept herself upright, lost in the intense pleasure. She pressed his face closer as she neared her climax. Her body began to shudder.
Aaron lapped and sucked, thrusting his fingers faster and faster.
She cried out his name then started to sink. He caught her and held her in place while he slowly licked from her slit to her clit. She tasted even better than he’d expected. While she panted for breath, he eased away and rested his cheek against her thigh.
A loud knocking on the door followed by “Baby girl?” shattered the passion of the moment. Aaron grit his teeth, dug his fingers into her buttocks.
Derek knocked again. “Penelope?”
Penelope tugged Aaron up to stand beside her then hastily brushed her skirt down. She stared at him then gave him a deep kiss. She broke the kiss then called out. “Give me a minute, Derek.”
Aaron sat on the corner of the bed, tucking in his shirt, and settling his jacket to cover his obvious erection. Damn Morgan and his timing.
Garcia opened the door and smiled at Morgan. “What’s up, chocolate thunder?”
In spite of his frustration, Hotch couldn’t help smiling at her greeting. She’d just come on his fingers and his face and she was calling another man her “chocolate thunder.”
“Are you okay?”
Garcia sighed, nodded. “Yes, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? Your face is very flushed.”
“I’ve been dancing, Derek. I get warm and toasty when I dance.”
“But that was several minutes ago.” Derek pushed past her and stopped when he saw Aaron. “Oh.”
Hotch stood and crossed to the door. “I’m glad you’re feeling better, Garcia. I am sorry this case was so difficult.”
“Thanks for bringing me my purse, Hotch, and for thinking of me.” Penelope offered him a quick smile.
He nodded at Morgan then strode out of the room.
Garcia resisted the temptation to yell at Morgan, especially when she looked up.
“Baby girl, be careful.” Her friend grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze.
“I’m fine, Derek.” She smiled at him, knowing it was not one of her most sincere smiles.
Morgan watched her for several seconds then nodded. “I just don’t want to see you get hurt.” He kissed her cheek then walked out of her room.
Penelope dropped to the corner of the bed, letting out a heavy sigh. She pressed her legs together, still aroused from the moment with Aaron. She wanted to cry in frustration. As much as she loved Derek Morgan, tonight she hated that protective streak of his.
Slowly, hanging up each item as she took it off, she undressed until she wore only her thigh-high stockings. She wished Hotch were there to watch, to see her dressed in only those stockings. Grateful she’d thought to pack a vibrator, Garcia retrieved it from her bag, reclined on the bed and fantasized about Aaron Hotchner until she climaxed a second time. This time she whispered his name when she came.
Hotch dropped his jacket on the chair. He reached for his tie then realized Garcia still had it. Fair was fair. He had her panties; she had his tie. He let out a quiet growl of frustration. “Trust Derek Morgan’s substantial protective streak to frustrate my plans,” he muttered under his breath.
He unbuttoned his shirt cuffs then paused when someone knocked on his door. He knew who he hoped was on the other side but also knew it was not her. He opened the door and David held up a bottle of Scotch and two glasses.
“You look like you could use this.”
Aaron grunted and stepped back enough to let David in. He peered out into the hall to see if anyone else was there then shut the door. “I thought you were going to detour Derek.”
“I did. For as long as he would allow me, but you know how he is when it comes to PG.”
Hotch nodded. “Yes, I do. We might have protective streaks when it comes to Garcia, but his is twice as long and three times as wide as ours combined.” He ran his hand through his hair then took the glass David offered him. He tossed back the Scotch.
“Yeah, there is that.” David sat in the clear chair. “He interrupted?”
Aaron shot him a look. “You could say that, but I’m not going to kiss and tell.”
“You don’t have to.” Rossi sipped his Scotch. “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?”
Hotch shook his head then strode into the bathroom. He groaned. Right there on his lapel, a large smear of bright pink lipstick.
“You know he saw it.”
Aaron nodded then peered around the door at Rossi. “Talk about getting caught red-handed.” He returned to the room, grabbed the bottle of Scotch and poured himself another drink.
“Look,” Rossi leaned forward. “We both know you will not deliberately hurt Garcia. If Morgan asks, then tell him that. He knows you’re consenting adults. His concern is making sure she doesn’t get hurt. Especially after Kevin.”
Hotch nodded, sipped his Scotch. “I know.”
Rossi shook his head. “No, you don’t know the whole story but I really think you need to hear it from PG.”
“Thanks for the Scotch, Dave.” Aaron rose. “I think I need some alone time.”
The other man chuckled. “I know when I’m being kicked out over a hand job.” He grabbed the bottle and smirked at Aaron. “I’m taking this.”
Aaron shook his head and chuckled at the other man’s antics. He didn’t try to deny the veracity of Rossi’s words. He knew the moment the door shut behind the other man’s back that he was heading into the bathroom for a long hot shower. A very long hot shower. “Sleep well, Rossi. Tomorrow you get to enjoy sitting back and watching what unfolds on the plane.”
Rossi laughed, tugged the door open then peered back at Hotch. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’d be tempted to make a wager about you, Garcia and the mile-high club but with Derek’s eagle eyes on you, there will be a snowball’s chance in hell that you get any further than a simple ‘good morning.’”
“Good night, Dave.” Aaron said, pushing his friend out the door. He shut the door then rested his forehead against it. One very, very long hot shower awaited him.