Penelope straightened up her desk. All her pens in a cup. The necessary reports filed away in the cabinet near her desk. Paper clips in the basket next to the cup. She stepped back, gave a quick nod then smiled to herself. Her team was coming home and soon he would be there. A warm, tingly feeling filled her at the prospect of seeing him. Her cheeks grew warm as she recalled their phone conversation two nights earlier. She fanned herself, reminded herself to keep things calm and collected while the rest of the team was around. Damn, that would be hard because she had racy images of the pair of them rampaging through her mind.
When she turned away from her desk, the plate of brownies and cookies caught her eyes. She smiled again. He would be surprised, pleasantly so, by the tempting offering she brought. She rubbed her hands on her skirt. She wanted to see him but was more nervous than she expected. Not even after their interrupted moment a month earlier had she been this nervous. The familiar sound of the elevator made her jump. They were back. Her team was back and she could count the seconds before she saw him.
With a slow, deliberate pace, she made her way from her office to the bullpen. He stood outside his office. Their gazes met and locked across the room. For a moment, they seemed to be the only two people in the room. Then he turned away and strode into his office.
"Hey, baby girl, you feeling better?" The weight of an arm draped over her shoulder made her smile.
Penelope turned her head and smiled at Derek. "Yes, much better. Knowing you caught the SOB responsible for that carnage and that video helped me sleep last night." But not as well as I slept the night before after my conversation with Aaron. She cast a quick glance in the direction of Hotch's office.
Morgan hugged her closer. "Thanks again for the call to warn us. That video hit him hard." Derek brushed a kiss to her temple. "What would we do without you to look out for us?"
She rested her head on his shoulder. "I have no idea." Garcia smiled while she watched the other team members scurry about their desks. She loved her little family but at the moment she was thinking of him and how soon she could slip into his office to check on him. Penelope almost groaned out loud when she saw Rossi head into Hotch's office and close the door. The reunion would be delayed a little while longer.
"Hey, PG!" Emily greeted Garcia with a smile. "We're thinking about grabbing a bite somewhere. Wanna join us?"
Penelope shook her head. "Thanks for the offer, but I think I need a quiet night at home."
"I heard about your lost lunch." The other woman grabbed her hand and gave it a quick squeeze. "I know how much you hate seeing those kinds of images. I'm really sorry you had to see that."
Garcia squeezed Prentiss' hand in response. "Thanks, Emily. I'm just glad you guys caught the bastard responsible."
JJ came up and hugged Penelope. "Enjoy your evening at home. I'll tell Henry that Aunt Penelope sends her love."
"JJ, don't forget to check in your office. I left a little something for you to take to Henry from his Aunt Penelope. His favorite."
The blonde grinned. "Peanut butter cookies? Henry will be over the moon."
"Give him a kiss for me, too." Garcia watched the others collect their go bags and coats then head out to the elevator, chatting amongst themselves about where they wanted to go. She smiled then cast a longing gaze over her shoulder at Hotch's office. First Derek, now Rossi seemed intent on interfering with her plans. She let out a resigned sigh then headed back to her office. She'd wait another fifteen minutes or so for Aaron, then she'd make good on her quiet night at home. Alone.
Hotch looked up to find Rossi propped against the door, his arms crossed over his chest. The moment was reminiscent of the night that would forever be etched in his mind as a night of infamy - the night of the birthday surprise. Aaron reached down to touch the handle of his briefcase. Inside was the veil Penelope had wrapped around his head. He started to smile then stopped himself. David Rossi was too good a profiler to miss that dead giveaway.
"I'm going to get straight to the point, Aaron," the other man said.
Aaron looked up. "You always do, Dave." He smiled and clasped his hands together on his desk. "Why should this time be any different?"
David rolled his eyes then looked squarely at the Unit Chief. "Look, it's been about a month since Morgan served as coitus interruptus between you and Penelope, and I can tell from that look the two of you just shared that you still haven't done anything to remedy that."
"Dave..." The last thing Aaron wanted was interference from his friend. Not that what he wanted would stop the other man.
"Don't 'Dave' me in that tone of voice." He arched a brow. "It's reaching a crisis point, Aaron. You either need to act on it or step out of the way and let someone else have a shot at her."
Hotch stared at his friend. He was a little stunned to hear the other man say this. "Rossi?"
The other man shrugged. "What? You think I don't know that I stand a snowball's chance in hell with her because she definitely has eyes only for you? Well, I do, but if you're going to piss away the chance with this curvaceous blonde, then at least step out of the way and let me have an opportunity at being shot down by her."
Aaron blinked a few times. He really couldn't believe what he was hearing. Rossi attracted to Garcia? When did that happen?
"Look, at first I didn't pay as much attention to her. She seemed a little too quirky for my tastes but Penelope grows on you and you find yourself wanting to know more and wanting to spend more time with her. When Battle shot her, I wanted to hunt the bastard down and return the favor. The thought of losing her cut me to the core, and I hadn't known her nearly as long as the rest of you." He sighed. "I know we all felt like that, but something about seeing her in the hospital, so lifeless made me realize how much she meant to me." He shrugged. "I know I should feel like a heel that it took seeing her dressed in that pink outfit and shaking her hips to realize how attractive I found her, but I'm a man. And you're one to point fingers about noticing her then. I wish it had been my birthday. That she had danced for me and wrapped that pink veil around my head."
Rossi's monologue made Hotch's head swim. He expected David's instigation but not for this reason. For any reason but this one.
"Will you stop smiling like that, Aaron? You don't have to rub it in," the other man growled.
Hotch threw up his hands in mock surrender. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It's just..." He paused for a moment. "I expected you to tell me to act on this but not because you like Penelope."
"What's not to like about her, Hotch? She's beautiful, brainy, damned fine at what she does. I'm just jealous, damn it, that you saw her first." The other man frowned at him, crossed his arms over his chest. "On one hand, I'm happy for you and for her. On the other hand, I'm jealous as hell that she likes you and not me."
Aaron found himself at a loss for words. He'd never been in a situation like this, unsure of how to respond to his friend. But then he'd never been in a situation like the one he found himself in with Penelope. He agreed with his friend. Penelope was everything the other man said and more. "Dave, I, I don't know what to say in response to all that."
"Just tell me you're going to move your ass and do something. If she looked at me with even half the interest she does you, you'd have a fight on your hands because I would not let her slip through my fingers." The other man moved into the room and flopped in a chair across from Hotch's desk. "And don't let Derek stand in your way. Or Erin Strauss or the stupid rules about fraternization. Those rules were meant to be broken." He offered Aaron a wry smile. "I should know since most of them were written because of me."
Hotch laughed then smiled at his friend. "You have my word that I'm not going to let her slip through my fingers." He felt the blush on his cheeks and dropped his gaze to his desk.
"You sly dog. What have you done?" Rossi leaned forward in his chair, steepled his fingers. “Tell me more.”
"I told you before, I'm not the type to kiss and tell," Hotch replied. "Just know I've got it under control and Derek Morgan, Erin Strauss and fraternization rules be damned." His lips curved upward in a brighter smile. "The only person other than Penelope whose opinion I'm concerned with is Jack's, and he thinks the world of his Aunt Penelope."
Rossi chuckled. "Of course, he does. I bet she's baked more than one or two batches of cookies for him."
"I've lost count how many." Aaron smiled. "But it was the phone call two days ago, along with a promise to bake cupcakes with him that really won him over."
The other man laughed. "I want to see photos of that one."
"I make no promises, but if the moment arises, I'll be sure to snap a photo of a flour-covered moment." He sighed. "But before I get to that, I have to finish these." He held up a stack of reports.
"Seriously, Aaron, you should let those wait. Go home and take Garcia with you." He waggled his eyebrows in a suggestive manner that elicited a laugh from Hotch.
"Ordinarily, I'd do just that, but this is one case I want behind me before I go home. I do not want to have to revisit this one later."
Rossi rose and moved around Hotch's desk. He rested a hand on Hotch's shoulder. "I can't say that I blame you." He gave Hotch's shoulder a squeeze. "That video was one of the worst things we've had to deal with since, well, since Foyet."
Aaron nodded. "Yeah. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it's a sign of things to come."
"Finish those reports and put it out of your head. Then enjoy the weekend. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do."
"You enjoy your weekend too." He watched Rossi cross the room.
"I'm sure I will, but not as much as you." The other man flashed him knowing grin, saluted him then left the room.
Hotch chuckled, shaking his head at his friend's antics. He still couldn't quite wrap his head around Rossi crushing on Garcia, but at the same time, he couldn't blame the man. Rising from his chair, Aaron moved to the windows and peered out at the bullpen. The team had gone home. "Damn it," he muttered under his breath. He hoped Penelope was still in her office, although she really had no logical reason to be. Still, a man could hope she'd hang around waiting for him.
I need a short break before I finish these reports. I can't face them at the moment. He cast a glance at the photo of Jack he kept on his desk and smiled. He strode from his office, determined to clear his head. Much like a teenager with a crush, he stopped by the men's restroom to check his appearance. He smirked at his moment of vanity then leaned in closer to check for gray hairs. Hotch almost laughed at himself, at this hint of insecurity, but he wanted to look good before talking to Penelope.
Pausing outside her door, he took a deep breath, rapped lightly with his knuckles then opened the door. He frowned. Perhaps it has been a bit presumptuous to think she'd wait for him. Disappointment filled him until he realized her bag was still there. Where was she? He backed out of her office and crossed the bullpen to his own office. If he had to, he'd call her.
Unaware he had a visitor, Aaron barreled into Penelope. He grabbed her arms to keep her from stumbling and heard something hit the floor. He ignored whatever she'd dropped to look at her, noted her upswept hair as well as the tendrils escaping and teasing the back of her neck.
"Oh, damn it. I'm so sorry, I..." Her words trailed off and he took a moment to look at the floor. A cling-film wrapped plate sat upside down on his carpet and he bent to retrieve it. Flipping it over, he half-smiled at the selection of cookies and brownies.
She sighed. "Since this case hit close to home..." She shrugged. "I thought you and Jack might enjoy some homemade cookies and brownies. A father-son treat."
"Thank you. That's very sweet of you." He offered her another smile, touched by this simple gesture. His hand cupped her cheek and he stroked his thumb over the apple of her cheek. "Very sweet."
Her cheeks turned a deeper shade of pink and she returned his smile. She waved her hand toward his desk. "I, um, well, I wanted them to be a surprise but wasn't sure where you were and I didn't want to leave them sitting out on your desk so..."
He reached out for her hand, stroked his thumb along the back of her knuckles. "I have reports to finish before I leave. I, um..." Suddenly nervous, he dropped his hands to his side then moved toward his desk and set the plate down. "I planned to leave earlier to have some time with Jack before he goes to bed, but duty calls." Come home with me. Share these treats with Jack and me. He settled into his chair, lifted his pen then glanced up at her. She looked beautiful and he felt tongue-tied, unable to utter the simple invitation for her to join them for dinner.
"Hold on." She came around his desk, leaned down to peer at the papers on his desk. "You are not going to write those reports by hand, are you?"
He nodded. "It's what I always do."
"Oh, Hotch." She shook her head. "Why do you take three times longer to complete task than you have to?" She waved her hands at him, obviously shooing him out of his chair. "Let me drive this bus."
Aaron rose and offered his chair to her. Fascinated, he watched her whirl around to face his computer. Fingers flying across the keyboard, she pulled up an electronic version of the report then glanced up at him. He arched a brow. She smirked.
"You want time with Jack and I can type a lot faster than you can write. Bonus points for it being legible and double bonus points for you leaving early to go home to your son." Triple bonus points if you invite me to join you.
"I can be such a luddite at times, but I'm old school. What can I say?" He chuckled then shrugged. When she stared at him, Aaron grinned. "Yes, I know the term and know it can be applied to me at times. While I have a working knowledge of technology, there are some things I still do manually."
"No, it's not that...well, okay, that is part of it. But it's also..." She paused, stared at him intently. "You're laughing, smiling, even grinning at me, and well, it's a pleasure to see." She worried her bottom lip with her teeth then turned back toward the screen.
Aaron rested a hand on her shoulder. "Penelope,' he murmured. "I really appreciate this." He took her chin between his fingers and tilted her head. Bending at the waist, he brushed his lips over hers. When she sighed, he took advantage of the moment and deepened the kiss. Several seconds later, he broke the kiss.
Penelope's breath caught in her chest. Smiles, laughter, grins, his hand on her shoulder and that kiss. She swallowed hard and tried to shake off the flutter in her heart at this alone time with her boss. He smelled good, looked good. And his eyes had a slight twinkle in them again. She forced herself to focus on the business matters at hand. "Okay, boss, let's roll. You talk, I'll type."
The time passed quickly. Occasionally she regretted her offer to help him with the report, especially when he described some of the gruesomeness they encountered at the crime scenes, but this was tempered by each gentle squeeze of his hand on her shoulder. When he leaned in to glance at the screen to make sure all the information was included, she caught a whiff of the scent that was all Aaron Hotchner. Why does he have to smell so good? Why do I act like a lovestruck school girl around him? She shoved those thoughts aside, determined to enjoy the simple joy of the moment alone with him.
"That's everything," he said, offering her yet another smile.
The warm, fuzzy feeling returned and Penelope resisted the urge to melt into a puddle of goo on the floor. Instead, she smiled back at him.
He gave her shoulder another squeeze. "Thank you again, Penelope. I, I would still be working on this if you hadn't offered to help me." Aaron glanced at his watch and frowned. "It's later than I realized. I'm sorry I've kept you this late." He looked at her. "Let me make it up to you by inviting you to dinner."
YES! With much more calm than she felt inside, she rose and turned to face him. "I'd like that." Their gazes locked and she watched his face draw closer to hers. Her eyes drifted shut when his lips touched hers for a kiss. When the kiss parted, she whispered, "Are you sure Jack won't mind?"
Aaron pointed to the plate. "You've made him cookies and brownies; he'll be more interested in knowing if you're going to stay and bake cupcakes with him. He may not even notice me at all."
"Somehow, I doubt that." She chuckled. "I'd forgotten the cupcake offer. Thank you for reminding me."
He nodded, looked down at his desk then back up at her. "Since it's Friday night, um, why don't we drop your car off at your apartment. Then you could get what you need to, you know, make cupcakes then ride with me to my place." He seemed almost like a teenager, nervous and shuffling his feet while asking the girl he liked on a date. It was endearing and so unlike the confident agent she was used to seeing.
Penelope took his hand and smiled. On the inside, she was doing cartwheels and letting out squees of joy. On the outside, she hoped she appeared calm and collected. Aaron had just invited her home. Reading between the lines, she knew this was not just an invitation to dinner but an invitation to stay the night. "Sure." She nodded. "Sounds like a good plan."
Penelope pulled up in front of her apartment building and handily parallel-parked her car. Aaron was amazed at the ease with which she handled her car and attempted to follow suit. It wasn't the worst parking job but it certainly wasn't the best. As Penelope walked toward his SUV, he admired the sway of her hips and the slight bounce of her breasts. When she stopped by the driver's side door, he rolled the window down and smiled at her.
She stretched up and placed a quick kiss on his lips. "I think it's best if I go in alone."
"But I can help you carry what you need."
She laughed then patted his hand. "Uh huh, and we both know that the pair of us alone in my apartment equals a delicious kind of trouble. You want time with Jack, and I guarantee that if you come in with me, we'll be delayed."
"I wouldn't mind a delay." He threaded his fingers between hers.
"I wouldn't either, Aaron, but if I get you in there, I won't want to let you leave." She lifted their joined hands to her cheek and rubbed her cheek along the back of his hand. "As much as we both want that, I think you need time with Jack more. Especially after this case."
He smiled at her. "You're right, even if my body wants to deny the truth. I'll wait impatiently out here."
Penelope stood on her tiptoes, pressed a quick kiss to Aaron's mouth then hurried into her apartment. He sat in the SUV, trying not to think too much about what he wanted to do after Jack went to sleep. First things first, Hotchner, feed the woman. He realized he did not have anything he deemed special enough to feed her and let out a frustrated sigh. A stop at the grocery store was one more delay he did not want.
Aaron furrowed his brow at the number of items Penelope carried out of her apartment. He fumbled with the car door and hurried over to take the bags. "Considering you don't need clothing for what I have in mind and making cupcakes shouldn't require three bags of ingredients, what is all of this?"
"You've be out of town with the case. Probably don't have food in your refrigerator. I have a surplus." She stopped. "Wait, did you say that I won't need clothing for what you have in mind?"
He chuckled. "Nope, no need for clothing." He carried the bags to the SUV, piled them behind the passenger seat then opened the passenger door for her.
She felt her cheeks grow suddenly warm. Garcia got into the vehicle and turned to face him. "Are we really going to do what I think we are?"
"If I have my way, yes. Several times." He smiled at her as he wrapped his arms around her waist. "Over and over and over again. Until we're exhausted and can't see clearly. That's my goal."
"Oh my," she whispered. "I think there's a few things I need to get then." She patted his arm. "I'll be right back."
Aaron watched her walk back into her apartment, appreciating the view but confused about the reason why she felt she needed "a few things," as she'd put it. While he waited for Penelope to return, he called Jessie to let her know he was on his way. Then he peered into the bags of food. The contents intrigued him almost as much as the woman whose return he eagerly awaited.
"Aaron Hotchner, stop being so nosy!"
He jumped then spun around to face her. From the grin on her face, he imagined he must look like the kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. A smile slowly spread as he watched her approach him.
She stopped in front of him, rested her hand on his chest. "You'll find out what's in the bags when we get to your house."