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Tender is the Heart

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Dropping his bag on a chair he shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it on top of the bag. Habitually, he would hang the jacket in the closet but tonight he just didn’t care. He walked over to the bar and began rummaging for his favorite bottle of Scotch. He hated this day, it was supposed to be a day of celebration but that bastard had stolen the joy a long time ago. He was normally a man who enjoyed life and living, however it was getting more difficult every year.

His Mother had always accused him of being tender hearted and he had spent the majority of his youth attempting to prove her wrong. It didn’t work. His tender heart made him good at his job and was the crowning glory of his downfall. He took every case personally; spending his personal time tracking down leads, following up on cases and reassuring victims and their families.

It was the reason he had retired and the reason he had returned. Never had he imagined that returning to the BAU would help him find the pieces missing in his life. He had tried three times to fill the hole in his aching heart only to find it emptier with each failing relationship. These people, however, this team, meant more to him than life. They cared as much as he did only they weren’t afraid to show it.

He stopped looking at the bottles of alcohol and sighed. His favorite bottle of Scotch was nowhere to be found. Standing up straight he spotted the bottle – nestled firmly in the grasp of Penelope Garcia.

“Looking for this?” she asked with a soft smile.

“How did you get in here?”

“I have my ways.”

He trudged across the room determined to wrest the bottle from her hand when she held up a half full glass in front of him. He stopped and contemplated her and the glass for a moment before taking it gracefully.

“That’s all I get?” he asked wryly.

She pursed her lips. “For now,” With a tip of her head she beckoned for him to follow her to the kitchen.

He took a sip of the warm amber liquid letting it slide over his tongue and down his throat before following at a sedate pace. It was then that he picked up the faint aroma of pasta.

“You made dinner?”

She laughed a soft giggle. “I would have but I thought you might need something better than gooey spaghetti. I stopped at that Italian place you are always raving about and picked up a few things. Have a seat.”

He watched for a moment as she made herself at home in his kitchen thinking he could get use to seeing her there. He took another sip of his drink and tried to drown the thought before it took root and ruined another part of his life.

“Sit!” she ordered as she waved her hand in the direction of the dining table. With a chuckle he turned and took a step then stopped as he spotted the rest of the team sitting there. Everyone was wearing a paper hat, there were streamers hanging off the chandelier and on the wall was a handmade sign that said “Happy Birthday!”

No one said a word as he sighed and strolled across the room taking his place at the head of the table. “I am not wearing one of those silly hats,” he grumbled.

“You don’t have too,” Penelope smiled benignly. She glared at the others as a few of them reached to remove their hats. “But the rest of us will!”

Penelope set down a large platter of baked lasagna before trotting back into the kitchen for more food.

“You guys didn’t have to do this,” Dave stated quietly.

“We know,” Hotch replied. “We wanted to.”

“This is what families do,” Morgan interjected.

“Yep,” Emily agreed. “It’s called annoying the crap out of each other.”

Everyone chuckled except Penelope who had walked back in with salad and bread. She put both on the table then smacked Emily on the shoulder.

“Ow!” Emily yelped as she reached up the rub the tender spot.

“Family is about caring for one another and being there for the good times and the bad,” Penelope lectured. She settled onto the chair between Dave and Morgan, picked up the hat before her and settled it at a jaunty angle on her head. “Dig in people before the lasagna gets cold.”

They ate dinner and talked quietly about everything except work and when Dave’s glass was empty Penelope hustled off to refill it. By the time dinner was over and the table was cleared Dave was feeling warm inside and a lot less melancholy. He was in the middle of story about riding a burro in Mexico when JJ quietly slipped a medium sized cake in front of him – complete with burning candles.

“Make a wish and blow out the candles birthday boy,” Penelope grinned at him.

He took a breath and slowly let it out as he scanned each of their expectant faces. His eyes settled on his favorite technical analyst. “I honestly can’t think of anything I need that I don’t already have or isn’t sitting here in front of me.”

“Then think of something you want,” Penelope prompted. “Something naughty!”

They all laughed. Dave wiggled his eyebrows at her. “At my age, I’ve already done all the naughty stuff!”

That set off all the laughter again.

“Blow out the damn candles before the fire alarm goes off,” Hotch prompted.

“Or they melt the cake,” Reid pointed out.

The candles were getting very short so Dave closed his eyes, made a wish and blew out all the candles.

“Just in the nick of time,” Emily quipped.

Penelope reached over and began plucking the candles out of the cake. “Who wants cake? Somebody grab the knife, plates and utensils off the counter, please!”

It ended up that Dave and Penelope were the only ones staying and eating cake. Hotch had to get home to Jack and was pressed into taking two pieces of cake with him. JJ took cake home for Henry and Will, Spencer ate his as he rushed out the door, and both Morgan and Emily gracefully refused as they too left for the night.

Dave polished off his last bite and washed it down with a large sip of Scotch. He tipped the glass towards Penelope. “Wanna try?”

She eyed the glass for a moment before cautiously accepting the drink.

“Just a sip,” Dave directed.

She held the glass to her lips and tipped a small amount in her mouth. The smooth whiskey tasted surprisingly good mixed with the remnants of cake. She handed the glass back to Dave. “That was good, thank you.”

“That’s what you pay the big bucks for,” he told her. He rose with her and grabbed her hand staying her motion as she was about to clear the table once again. “Thank you, Penelope. I appreciate you doing this for me.”

“Everyone pitched in,” she said dismissively as she ducked her head. Dave still caught the faint blush covering her cheeks.

“But it was your idea,” he replied knowingly.

She popped her head up and eyed him carefully. “What makes you think that?”

“Deny it all you want, Sweetheart but your fingerprints are all over this one.”

She blushed again at his endearment. “Maybe,” she replied softly. “But it was still a team effort.”

He let her pull away and followed her into the kitchen. Together they loaded the dishwasher and straightened up the kitchen and dining room.

“Leave it there,” he said lightly as she was about to remove the banner from the wall. “I’ll take it down later.”

She smoothed the edge before turning back to look at him. “I guess I should go home then,” she smiled uneasily.

He shrugged. “You don’t have to go.”

“No? But where would I sleep?” she teased.

He pretended to think for a moment. “I suppose you could sleep in my room.”

She reached out and played with a button on his shirt. “Good thing I brought my go bag.”

He half smiled at her and stepped closer. “Should I go get it out of your car?”

She shook her head and wet her lips with the tip of her tongue. “I took the liberty of storing it on your bedroom. I hope you don’t mind.”

His eyes narrowed on her mouth as he slowly shook his head. He leaned forward and whispered, “I don’t mind.”

She smiled widely as he leaned closer. “What did you wish for?”

“Something naughty,” he whispered against her lips. He kissed her gently. Lips rolling slowly against each other he gently probed the seam of her mouth with his tongue until she relented and allowed him access to her mouth. Their tongues rubbed softly against each other. Dave wrapped his arms around her gentle curves and pulled her closer to him.

When they finally parted she had her arms wrapped around his neck as his hands were settled on her hips. They stared deeply into each others eyes for a few minutes.

“Is this all you wished for?” Penelope asked coyly as she batted her eyes at him.

He grinned. “Honey, if you think this is naughty you are in for a shock tonight.”

Her grin matched his as she let him lead her up the stairs to his bedroom.