Title: I’ll be there for you
Pairing: a little Morgan/Garcia but mostly friendship
Rating: maybe PG-13 for mentioning of child abuse
Disclaimer: Neither the show nor the characters belong to me, they belong to CBS. Nonetheless, I love to borrow them from time to time. No copyright infringement is intended. The idea behind the story and the story itself are mine, though.
"Listen" Penelope's voice indicated that she was about to loose her temper and she nervously twiddled with the pen in her hands. "I don't care how you do it and I don't care what it costs. I have to be in Chicago tomorrow by no later than nine, comprende? So do your best to get me a flight ticket!"
"Ma'am I can't help you." the women on the phone repeated impatiently. "All plane rides are fully booked."
"This answer is not acceptable." Penelope replied. "You get me this flight or I'll cancel every single flight you have booked for the next two days. What do you make of it?"
"You can't do this." the woman sounded a little insecure.
"I can and I will, darling." she grinned confident of victory. "There is nothing I can't do. Shall I give you a sample?" her fingertips flew over her keyboard and said. "A man named Peter Johnson has booked a first class flight tomorrow at eight. Imagine his reaction when he'll be flying business class instead?"
"Don't" the woman on the phone had probably checked the information and decided that it was unwise to challenge the oracle of Quantico. "There is a private airplane taking off at five a.m. The owner sells tickets to earn some money. That's all I can offer."
"I'll take it." Penelope almost jumped out of her seat, but constrained herself to stay calm. One and a half hour would be enough to get what she needed and head for the airport.
"It make 200 Dollar." the woman informed her. "I need your banking connection."
Penelope would have paid almost everything, she needed this flight. 200 Dollar was quite expensive but it was worth it so she didn't really care. Afterwards she booked a room in a hotel as close to the court building as possible. It was four a.m. when she left the building heading for her apartment to get some clothes. Only seven hours ago Gideon had informed them that Derek had gone to Chicago to witness against Buford. He said Derek hadn't wanted them to know about it any sooner. Only a few minutes after that Derek had called her. He told her he just needed to talk to someone because he couldn't sleep the night before the testimony. They had talked about three hours before Derek had hung up. Right after their talk Penelope had tried to get a flight, any flight. She didn't like flying very much and it had probably not occurred to her follow Derek without being asked. He'd sounded so wasted, so exhausted and sick, that she'd just had to fly to Chicago. The worst that could happen was that Derek wouldn't want to see her and sent her back to Quantico!
The private airplane belonged to a rich businessman who had to fly to Chicago because of his job. He earned some extra-money by selling the seats in his plane that were free anyway. Penelope was his only guest that early in the morning. She didn't even notice the plane shaking vigorously when they took off. There were too many thoughts running through her mind. I took the little plane longer than the passenger planes usually were but at seven a.m. Penelope had reached the Chicago airport. She had enough time to go to the hotel, refresh herself and rest for a while. The trial wouldn't start before ten. A quarter past nine she left the hotel and called for a cab. But unfortunately she had underestimated the traffic at that time of the day. After a few miles she paid the driver and left the cab to walk the rest of the way. She prayed she wouldn't be too late. Ten past ten she'd finally reached the building and swore quietly. She hoped Derek wasn't in the hearing room yet. She at least wanted to talk to him, to tell him she knew he could handle this.
She asked the security guy at the reception for the way to the room. When she left the elevator at the third floor she approached a door with a small window. She could see Derek sitting at a bench. He looked so lost and so sick. She couldn't remember if she'd ever seen him that wasted before. He got up, paced up and down, sat back on the bench, ran his hand over his face and got up again.
He couldn't do this, he simply couldn't. As much as he wanted to see him behind bars he couldn't go in there, face him and tell the whole world what he did to him in this cabin. He suddenly felt sick. Never in his whole life had he felt that sick before. He knew he hadn't the strength to face him. He couldn't do this. He had to get out of here! He needed to…
Slowly she opened the door and hesitated. She wasn't sure about his reaction to her presence. Maybe he'd damn her, tell her to go to hell.
Derek paused for a moment and stared at her. He couldn't believe she was here. How on earth had she known how much he needed her at this moment? How much he wanted to call her, beg her to help him get through this? He rushed to her and clasped her in his arms. He suddenly felt better… stronger. Her soft, warm body pressed against his flooded him with warmth and strength. For a while they just stood their holding each other tight. "I'm so glad you're here." he finally whispered. "I don't think I can do this."
"Yes, you can." she objected and lead him back to the bench. Then she made him look straight into her eyes and added: "When you are in their making your declaration I don't want you to look at Buford, you understand me? You will not look at him, not once! Whenever you don't know where to look, look at me! You can handle this."
He smiled cheerlessly and looked down at his hands. "I'm not sure I have the strength to go through this."
She gently took his hands in hers and replied: "Then my strength will have to suffice for both of us."
He shook his head and avoided to look at her. "I can't demand that of you."
"You don't demand anything of me." she answered. "I'm here by my own choice, remember?"
She didn't get an answer this time.
"If you don't want me to go in there with you, that's fine." she said in a low voice.
"It's not that I… don't want you to." he reassured. "But… If you go with me into the hearing room and… hear everything I'm going to say… everything Buford did to me… that will change our relationship, right?"
"Probably" she returned. "but not every change has to be a bad one."
He tried to smile but knew he failed miserably. "Changes always meant… more pain to me. My father's death, Buford…"
"Derek" she interrupted him putting her hand on his cheek forcing him to look at her again. "you've been there for me so often. Let me be there for you now."
"You already did so much for me." he answered and hoped she could tell from the look in his eyes how grateful he was. "I can't demand anything more of you."
"As I said you don't demand anything of me, honey" she repeated her former statement. "I want to be here with you… for you. I know you, Derek, and nothing I will ever hear from you or about you could ever stop me from… considering you my best friend." she'd almost said 'from loving you' but that was probably neither the right time nor the right place for such a confession.
Wordlessly he pulled her into his arms and held her tight. He couldn't find any words to express what this statement meant to him.
Only seconds later Derek was called into the hearing room. She followed him and took a seat among the audience. He adhered to her advice and looked at her over and over again almost during the whole testimony. Only when he had to describe what Buford did to him he lowered his head avoiding her eyes. Her stomach turned at what he said. But she knew she had to be strong now, for him.
Derek kept looking into her eyes whenever he thought he could dare to do so. He still couldn't believe she did this for him. She was there hearing what Buford did to him – and all she did was looking at him, giving him strength and courage to go on. He'd thought he would break down in the hearing room as soon as he had to answer the first question. But her eyes kept him from breaking down. She went through this with him and she was so incredibly strong. Who was he and what had he done to deserve that? To deserve her? Her beautiful dark eyes portrayed her concern and how much she cared about him.
After his testimony Derek took a seat next to her and took her hand without saying something or looking at her. He clutched her hand as if his life depended on it and she stroke the back of his hand with her thumb. Finally the judge pronounced the sentence: for life. Penelope heaved a sigh of relief and Derek hugged her. The same day they flew back to Quantico. Derek seemed to be his old self again. During the flight they flirted so heavily they drew the attention of almost all other passengers. Laughing they took Penelope's car back to the FBI building.
On their way up Derek suddenly stopped the elevator and pulled her into his arms for a long embrace. He felt he had to tell her how much it had meant to him that she'd been there. How grateful he was for what she did for him. But he wasn't sure he could find the right words. "Thank you" he whispered. "You have no idea what it meant to me you were there with me, mama. I wouldn't have survived this without you."
"You're welcome, Sweetness." she smiled gently stroking his back. After an eternity Derek finally released her from his embrace and the went the rest of the way up in silence. He gave her a slight kiss on the cheek and went to his desk to go through some case files.
Penelope went to the ladies' room. She'd managed to not letting him see how much all this burdened her. But now she felt she couldn't do it any longer. So she went to the only place she knew Derek would never find her. She had to throw up the moment she'd stepped in. She hadn't recognized how much her stomach had cramped but when she stood in front of the pan it simply turned around.
After several minutes she got up, swaying, and rinsed out her mouth. She looked into the mirror which made things only worse. She had to think about everything Derek had testified; had to think about the pain on his face that within an inch had ripped her heart out of her chest. Penelope abutted against the wall next to the washbowl, slid down to the ground and gave free rein to the tears that had wanted to flood her eyes from the moment she'd seen him sitting on this bench and that she had managed to hold back until now. But now she couldn't hold them back any more. She wasn't as strong as she'd have liked to be for him. Hearing what he'd gone through, seeing how much he still had to suffer from the memories simply had been too much. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
She didn't notice JJ until she laid a hand on her shoulder. "Pen" she asked softly. "Pen, what's wrong?"
"It's nothing." she sobbed wiping the tears from her face. "I'm fine, really."
"I don't believe that." she declared and knelt down next to her. "Penelope, tell me what's wrong. You know you can talk to me about anything."
"Okay" she whispered. "but promise you're not telling anyone."
"Alright, I promise." she said reluctantly hoping she'd not given this promise over hastily.
"I" she started fighting back more tears that wanted to flood her eyes. "I was in Chicago."
"I understand." she replied in a low voice. She'd never thought Derek would trust anyone enough to accompany him in this trial – but she had obviously been wrong. She hadn't recognized how close the two of them really were. But that didn't matter right now.
"To hear… what this sleazebag did to him and to see how much… this is a burden to Derek… just was… a little too much." she started sobbing again.
JJ leaned over to hug her. "That's okay, Pen." she said. "That would have been too much for all of us. You've been strong for Derek the whole time, I know that. Now you are allowed to be a little weak."