"Move in with me."
Derek's words still rang in her ears as Garcia sat trying to focus on the latest case.
"Move in here..with me."
She'd dreamt of hearing those words and now that he'd finally spoken them she was speechless. She saw the puzzled look on his face when she didn't jump at the offer. This is what she wanted, right?
BAU Headquarters, Quantico, VA - Morning
The team sat in the conference room examining files of the case that had required their presence at an ungodly hour. It had been a while since they'd been called in so early and especially for a local case. Their last case had ended less than eight hours ago and each of them seemed drained and exhausted; what little sleep they had only served to tease them of what they craved but could not have. So, deliriously tired they struggled to listen as Hotch outlined the latest nightmare.
It struck Morgan odd at how peaceful and normal the streets seemed as they arrived to begin their investigation. People coming and going with no clue that three people had been murdered mere steps from where they now hurried about their business. While on the way to the crime scene, Garcia had learned the identification of the victims; Marc Taylor 45, Irving Johnson 29 and Eduardo Espinoza 53. All the men were homeless veterans who had fallen on hard times.
The crime scene was unremarkable a typical alley. Morgan and Rossi confirmed that indeed there had been no signs of a struggle which meant that the victims knew their attacker or they were killed somewhere else and dumped in the alley or perhaps, both.
"Three veterans, willing to fight for their country, no doubt saw some action and this is all their country can offer them is a dirty alley to die in. Somehow it just doesn't seem right." Rossi muttered to himself sadly.
"I hear you. Nobody should die like this; especially a veteran." Morgan added looking concerned at his friend. " You okay, Rossi?"
"No! Not at all. Not at all." Rossi turned and walked out of the alley toward the SUV.
Hartman McLemore wasn't a wealthy man but what he had he worked hard for. He had a special place in his heart for the homeless citizens of D.C. He knew all too well what it felt like to be homeless. He watched as the needy of the nation's capital were treated as if they were invisible; stepped over and ignored by the people rushing blindly by each day and night as if they didn't see the countless men, women and children huddled in doorways or hiding in the cloak of darkness in the city's alleys and abandoned buildings. Hartman had spent five years on the streets of D.C. shortly after coming back from his third tour of Afghanistan. He was suffering from PTSD and everyone was eager to dismiss him as some worthless drunk who couldn't take care of himself. His family had grown tired of his binges and nightmares and his status as a veteran had not helped him find work. He served his purpose and now he'd been thrown out like the rest of the men he'd seen on the the streets, invisible, disregarded by the good citizens of their nation's capital.
Now, he ran a food bank and on Friday nights he fed over 100 people a hot meal. He'd been able to clean himself up and get a job but he knew he was one of the fortunate ones. His earnings as a butcher at a local market wasn't much but he was willing to give what he had to help those less fortunate. When he heard of the recent murders of the three homeless men he was overcome with grief; they didn't deserve this, not at all…
Hotch and JJ joined Morgan and Rossi at the mouth of the alley where the three bodies were found. Neither of the two groups had found anything that would lead them to a break in the case.
"Nobody saw a thing." Hotch said.
"Yeah. there's nothing here that seems out of place either." Morgan added.
"Just three dead vets. If that's not out of place then I don't know what is." Rossi added bitterly.
"Come on Rossi. I didn't mean…"
Rossi walked away toward the SUV before Morgan could finish his sentence.
"Is he alright?" Hotch asked concerned.
"You know how he gets when it comes to our vets. He's upset." Morgan answered.
"Who would want to kill three homeless men? What's the motive?" JJ asked to no one in particular.
"We could be dealing with a housecleaner." Morgan piped up.
"Ridding the city of what they believe to be dirty, worthless." Hotch added. "Let's head back. Reid and Alex should be back from the coroner's by now."
The ride back started quietly, Rossi was still upset by what he saw in the alley. Morgan didn't press him to talk about his feelings.
"Look, Morgan, I'm sorry about what I said back at the crime scene."
"You don't owe me an apology Rossi. I get it." Morgan interrupted.
"I asked Garcia to move in with me last night." Morgan said changing the subject.
"Well, congratulations!" Rossi welcomed the change in subject. "She must have been thrilled."
Morgan kept driving not responding his jaw tightened as he kept his gaze straight ahead. Rossi sensed something off.
"She was thrilled, right?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean?"
"She didn't answer me, Rossi! She just jumped up and bolted. I didn't know what to say or think."
"Well, have you talked to her?"
"No. I haven't seen her or talked to her since she left my house around ten last night."
"I know you Derek. Did you call her?"
"Yes, I called her! She wouldn't take the call. It just went to voice mail."
"Give her time. She loves you. You probably caught her off guard she'll come around."
"I don't know. I think she's having second thoughts about us. Things have been kind of crazy these last few months."
"No. I'm serious. She's probably come to her senses, man. I mean really, what woman in her right mind would sign up for all of this?"
"Give her some credit. She knows exactly what she's signed up for and she's not going any where."
The two men rode the last few minutes back in silence. Rossi felt another hair turn gray and swore that Morgan and Garcia were responsible for at least ten of his newest grays. Those two were hopeless and he wanted to wring both of their necks and put himself out of his misery.
BAU Headquarters…Conference Room…
"The Coroner says all three men had high levels of cocaine in their system." Reid began.
"Cocaine? Where would three homeless men get the money to buy cocaine?" Rossi shouted.
"The Coroner says there were no signs of injection and their was no trace around their noses indicating that they had snorted it." Alex added.
"It doesn't make sense. How did it get in their system?" JJ asked.
"The Coroner believes it was given to them in their food." Alex said.
Hotch placed a call to Garcia.
"Garcia. What else have you found on our three victims?"
"I was just about to buzz you my Fearless Leader. It looks like all three men were regulars at the Craven Street Shelter."
"That would make sense. The Coroner said that all three men had the exact same stomach content; remnants of beef, carrots and potatoes." Reid chimed in.
"Remind me not to order the Beef Stew special in the cafeteria." Morgan mumbled under his breath.
"Rossi go with him."
The two agents headed to the Craven Street Shelter to question the director. Rossi had seemed a little calmer as they approached the worn building two blocks from the crime scene. The pair were greeted by a heavy set graying woman of about sixty. Her light gray eyes examined the two suspiciously until she was satisfied that their credentials where in order.
Abigail Witherspoon had been running the shelter for twenty years and was fiercely protective of the people who came through her doors. She was unimpressed by the agents interests in the murders and was reluctant to answer their questions. Why didn't the government send agents to investigate why thousands of people found their homes amongst the garbage and in the doorways of buildings? Why were these unfortunates pushed out of the heavy traffic and tourists areas? It just seemed ludicrous to her now that these men's lives didn't matter until they were dead.
"Yeah, I know them. They were regulars here. Good men! Veterans! Look what they got for it!"
"We're sorry for your loss. You seem quite attached to the folks that come here." Rossi surmised.
"Somebody should care about these people. Most of them served in battle for this ungrateful country!"
Both men became uncomfortable at the woman's rants.
"Um, ma'am…according to our coroner's report all three men had beef stew as their last meal. What was on the menu here last night?" Morgan asked.
"What are you trying to say? That I killed these men? That would make it real easy for you wouldn't it!"
"We're not trying to say anything. We just want to find out what happened to these men." Rossi insisted.
"I was under the weather last night. the guy who runs the kitchen on the weekend can tell you."
"We'll need to talk to him." Rossi said.
"He's not here. He works down at the Third Street Market during the day."
The two agents stood and headed toward the door. Morgan fished a business card from his wallet and handed it to the woman.
"Thank you for your time, Ma'am. If you think of anything else please give us a call."
The woman took the card without responding and watched the two men leave.
Third Street Market -
Hartman McLemore was is in the back wielding a large cleaver, hacking away at a fresh side of beef. He heard voices up front and saw the two men hold up gold badges and I.D. for the store manager's approval. His heart stopped he knew why they had come and he wasn't going to get caught and he damn sure wasn't going to jail.
"Sure he's in the back working." Said the manager puzzled.
"We need to talk to him. Now." Rossi said impatiently.
Just then the sound of the back door slamming shut was heard that startled the manager and agents.
"Is there another way out besides the front?" Morgan asked.
"Uh, yeah. The side door. There."
The manager pointed toward a door to the left of them about one hundred yards away.
"Rossi, take the back door. I'll go this way."
Morgan headed out the side door where the manager had just indicated and Rossi headed toward the butcher shop behind the counter. Morgan nearly collided with McLemore rounding the corner of the building like a mad man. Morgan grabbed the man and slung him violently to the ground where he crashed face first.
"FBI! Don't move!" Morgan yelled.
Rossi crashed through the back door and ran up to Morgan just as he was cuffing McLemore who was laying face down sweating and out of breath on the alley floor.
"Let me guess, you were just coming out to take a break. Am I right?" Rossi asked sarcastically.
"I didn't do nothing! I didn't do nothing!" McLemore yelled frantically.
"Why'd you run?" Morgan huffed pulling the man to his feet.
"Maybe he thought we were food critics." Rossi answered.
Morgan looked at Rossi and shook his head and the three walked out of the alley toward the SUV.
Downtown Police Precinct - A few minutes later...
Since Morgan and Rossi had apprehended McLemore Hotch allowed the two agents to interrogate him. Rossi took the lead as Morgan watched standing behind Rossi near the door. As usual this suspect pleaded his innocence. He didn't see the errors of his ways and was puzzled as to why he had been brought in.
"Hartman McLemore." Rossi began taking a seat across from the nervous suspect. "You served two tours in Iraq it says here." Rossi thumbed through the pages of the file on the table.
"That's right. So what?"
"Seems like you had a bit of trouble adjusting when you got back."
"I did alright."
"I see. Went to the community college learned a trade, got a job as a butcher at the Third Street Market."
"Why am I here?"
"Three men were found dead in an alley not too far from the shelter where you volunteer as a cook."
"Yeah. I heard about it on the news."
"They'd all eaten at the shelter, Hartman! They'd eaten the beef stew that you cooked!"
Rossi was steaming and Derek moved a little closer just in case things got out of hand. Hartman shot a quick glance at Morgan and then to Rossi.
"Look, I don't know what you're trying to say…"
"I'm saying that you killed three innocent men who made the fatal mistake of eating your food!"
Suddenly, McLemore's face turned stone cold and confident. He sat up straight and dignified in the steel rickety chair and looked Rossi dead in his eyes without blinking.
"Do you know how it feels to put your life on the line for your country, agent?"
"Yes, I do. I served in the marines!"
"Then how can you sit there and judge me? I gave those men something that this country, their country never gave them!"
"And what was that?"
"Dignity! I gave them peace and an end to the the humiliating life that their country gave them. The thanks for their willingness to die or if they were lucky to be maimed so that you all can sit here on your privileged, ungrateful asses and look down on them like they were garbage when they returned!"
Morgan interrupted; he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"So you think you did these men a favor?" Morgan began pacing the room.
"Yes agent! I lived on those streets! I was one of the lucky ones who got out but I know what it feels like to be thrown out of restaurants just because you want to use the bathroom! I know how it feels to cover yourself with garbage in the winter to keep warm! I know how it feels to knock on doors of your own flesh and blood and they ignore you and watch you from the peep hole refusing to open the door and let you in!"
Rossi stunned and angry stared in silence for a moment and then slammed the file closed. Morgan motioned for the officers on the other side of the glass window. Immediately two uniformed D.C. police officers entered and lead McLemore away. He seemed relieved to have told his story said his peace. Perhaps no one had given him audience before but finally, he'd been able to purge himself of years of pent up hurt and pain and he felt lighter, jittery with relief. Morgan and Rossi looked at each other in amazement and stood in the small room trying to figure it all out.
"I did them a favor, you know! Really! There at peace now…finally!"
BAU Headquarters - 2 Hours later…
Garcia checked her watch again; the team should have been back by now. She knew it would take them a little while to finish up the paperwork for the locals so she expected to have heard from at least one of them by now.
On cue there was a knock at her door and she jumped to her feet. She hadn't talked to Morgan all day except for business related calls. They had a lot to talk about.
JJ poked her head in the door and for a second saw disappointment in her friend's eyes.
"Hey, JJ, I-I...your back!"
"Yeah, uh we just got back…you okay? You look a little disappointed."
"No, no, I'm glad you're back, really."
"Let me guess, you were expecting Morgan."
"No…yes…oh JJ…" Garcia couldn't help but ramble.
"Garcia, what's going on?"
"Morgan asked me to move in with him last night."
"Garcia, congratulations! That's good…right?"
"Yes! I-he…we had just…and then out of the blue…he..."
"Whoa! Slow down! Start from the beginning!"
JJ led Garcia back to her chair and she sat in another nearby ready to listen to her hysterical friend.
"I love Derek. He's my Prince. I never thought we'd be together. Now we are and everyday I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and all of it will have been a dream."
"Penelope, Derek loves you! He's loved you for a long time. You've made him a better man and I'm sure he'd be the first to admit that."
"Thank you. I know he loves me…it still doesn't seem real but I know he loves me. Just hearing him ask me to move in made me panic and I bolted."
"Yeah. I jumped out of bed and ran out of there like a bat. I haven't talked to him since."
JJ shook her head and tried to figure out what to say to her hopeless friend.
"Look Pen, you need to talk to him. He's probably thinking the worse, you know how he is."
"Yeah. I don't know what to say. He's probably so mad at me."
"Just be honest. If you don't want to move in with him then tell him. He'll understand he doesn't want you to do anything that you don't want to do."
"That's just it, JJ I do want to move in; more than anything in the world! I've dreamt of sharing a place with him…I just didn't think it would happen. I panicked and you know what happens when I panic! I do something stupid! I think I really messed up this time!"
"Calm down, just talk to him!"
Morgan had made no attempt to see Garcia when Rossi and he had returned. He struggled to keep his mind on the case report in front of him. He didn't want to think about her reaction when he'd asked her to move in with him. He thought it would make her happy even though he'd asked on impulse he still meant it. He'd been thinking about it every since they'd gotten together but he didn't want to rush her. Now he felt like a fool wanting to take their relationship to the next level, something she obviously did not want. He'd avoided her all day talking to her only when it related to the case. He didn't want to hear her confess that she'd decided that them being together wasn't a good idea.
There was a knock on his door and he looked up just as Garcia poked her head in the door.
"Hey, I didn't know you were back."
"I got back a while ago." He answered going back to his report.
"You didn't tell me you were back…you always tell me when you get back."
"I wanted to get started on these reports."
Garcia walked over to his desk and gently closed the file in front of him.
"Are you mad at me?"
Morgan exhaled and slowly looked up at her.
"No, Garcia, I'm not mad at you…just busy." He said grabbing the report and opening it again.
"Can we talk? She said meekly.
"Not right now. I really need to finish this. Later, okay?"
Garcia stared at him as he continued to write and refusing to look at her. She fought the tears threatening to reveal themselves on her face. No matter how he tried to seem uninterested she could see the hurt in his eyes and in his body language. Without another word she left his office and headed back to her lair.
Home of Derek Morgan - Much later
The smell of pasta sauce greeted Morgan when he opened his front door. There were sounds coming from his kitchen and if it hadn't been for Clooney's calm disposition he would have pulled his service revolver. He leaned down to pet the puppy and nearly tripped over a familiar flower printed suitcase.
"Penelope?" He called out.
"In the kitchen!" She answered cheerfully.
Morgan rounded the corner and stopped in the doorway of the kitchen. Penelope was at the stove hovering over a steaming skillet.
"What's going on?" He said taking a step into the room.
"I thought I'd cook. Pasta okay?"
"Sure. I just wasn't expecting to see you tonight."
"Why not? This is a special occasion."
"Did I miss something? What are we celebrating?"
"Our official first night as roomies!"
Morgan turned and looked toward the door remembering the flowered suitcase.
"Is that why…I thought you didn't…"
Garcia turned and closed the gap between them wrapping her arms around his neck. Smiling she looked longingly into his eyes.
"I'm sorry I freaked out on you last night." She said softly planting a soft kiss on his lips.
He returned the kiss still confused as to the turn of events.
"Are you sure?" He asked pulling her close to him.
"I'm positive. I've always wanted it I just didn't think it would ever happen. I'm sorry for hur…"
He kissed her stopping her rambling apology. It didn't matter why it only mattered that she was here in his kitchen…their kitchen making him dinner and looking like heaven on earth. Only because it was necessary to breathe he pulled away still looking into her eyes with the biggest smile she'd ever seen.
"So, what's for dinner?"
"Spaghetti and homemade meatballs." She said proudly.
"Homemade? Since when?"
"Since I called Rossi and he walked me through it."
"Rossi…so he can keep a secret, well..Okay."
"Good. The meatballs are ready. I just need to cook the pasta. 10 minutes and we'll be ready to eat…"
Again he interrupted her. He wasn't much in the mood for talking. He was starving, true and the smell of homemade meatballs was incredible but he had a taste for something quite different. He kissed her again pulling her even closer to him.
"Can dinner wait for a while?" He asked her with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
"I thought you were hungry?' She asked curiously.
He planted a kiss on her lips again and for a moment she thought she heard fireworks.
"Welcome home, Baby Girl."
“Happiness doesn't lie in conspicuous consumption and the relentless amassing of useless crap. Happiness lies in the person sitting beside you and your ability to talk to them. Happiness is clear-headed human interaction and empathy. Happiness is home. And home is not a house-home is a mythological conceit. It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”
― Dennis Lehane