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Life is Too Short

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Her heart skipped a beat when she watched the image. Hotch's body flying through the air, thrown back by the force of the explosion. "Oh my god." The tears welled in Penelope's eyes immediately.

"They weren't inside." Lisa touched her arm. Garcia heard the attempt to reassure her but it didn't fully register.

"They…" She heard the panic in her voice. She could not stomach the thought of losing Hotch, even though he didn't really belong to her. Despite the divorce, Hotch's heart still belonged to Haley, but even knowing he loved his ex-wife didn't stop Garcia from being devastated at the potential loss.

"Weren't inside." The other woman's tone was more insistent this time, and it helped Penelope collect her thoughts and gain some control of her panic.

"Right." She took a few deep breaths then said, "Play it again, right now." A whimpering sound of panic escaped her as she watched the footage of the explosion again. She pointed at the monitor. "Move this camera. I have to see where they ended, where they are now."

"This isn't live, Penelope," Lisa reminded her.

"Right, um, get me another angle. We need to see what happened to Hotch and Kate." She felt like her heart was lodged in her throat.

The other woman started to type on the keyboard then Penelope brushed her hands away.

"Wait," she said as she began typing.

"What are you doing?"

"We're going further back." Garcia typed at her usual speed, determined to find the information she wanted. She ignored the worry and panic about Hotch's condition for the moment. There would be time to break down and let the tears flow unbidden later. Now she wanted to find the bastard who dared hurt her Hotch. "That explosion looked like it came from under the SUV, not inside it, so I'm gonna guess that bomb wasn't there when it was parked."

She and Bartleby found the footage of the bomber setting the bomb in place. They continued searching the footage, watching from different camera angles. The realization of exactly what happened dawned on her as she scanned the footage. "He watched," she murmured. Even she could hear the tears in her voice.

"That son of a bitch watched." The anger at the injustice of the whole incident began to rise in her. "Get me another time code – twelve-twenty-nine-thirteen." She stared at the screen, unable to believe what she saw. The Unsub. Hotch. "Oh my god, that's the Unsub, and he's walking right up to Hotch."

She went into auto-pilot mode, shoving aside her panic and worry. For now, she needed to focus on getting her team in the right place to take down the bastards who did this. Whatever it took, she was going to do her part.

***

Hotch rested his head on the back of the seat. The drive from New York to Washington had thus far been quiet. He assumed Morgan was busy thinking about the exchange they'd shared before getting into the SUV. The silence suited Hotch fine, because it gave him a chance to decompress after everything that happened.

A thought of someone came unbidden to him. Penelope had seen what had happened, and for some reason that disturbed him. He knew how much the images of victims upset Garcia. The last thing he wanted was for her to have been upset, but he also knew how tender-hearted and compassionate she was. The visual of his body flying through the air would have elicited tears.

Hotch clenched his right hand into a fist. He knew why he didn't want Penelope to have worried, but it was not something a boss should feel toward his employee. Never would he admit to anyone, much less Penelope herself, that he cringed every time he saw her with Kevin Lynch. Never would he acknowledge that he wanted to be the one who received those beaming smiles and be the recipient of those stolen kisses in the hallway.

He squirmed in the seat then opened his eyes and stared out the window.

"Hotch?"

"It's nothing, Morgan. Just trying to get comfortable in the seat." Hotch had no intention of sharing with Morgan just exactly what he was thinking. That might earn him another trip to the ER. But once he was back in Washington, Hotch knew he needed to make some hard decisions. This explosion and Kate's death taught him life was too damn short to spend playing games. To him, certain things seemed worth the risk, and admitting his feelings for Penelope Garcia was one of those things.