Beta: Michelle Morningstar
Title: A New Year, A New Book
Word Count: 1284
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Story Summary: Penelope Garcia finds that if she opens up, it can be a very happy New Year indeed.
Prompt #: New Year 5
A New Year, A New Book
Tomorrow is the blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one. ~ Brad Paisley
She was nervous and excited all at once. The saying once bitten, twice shy came to mind. In her case, however, it was once shot, twice shy. She had never been the girl that guys saw across a smoky barroom and wrote songs about. The men she tended to date were often found in front of a computer or a comic book. She stood out in a crowd no matter what she did and she learned to use it as a shield to hide all of the hurts she felt. The world had dealt her a rough hand, but she was the Black Queen and she would have a Royal Flush this round.
She hadn't celebrated New Years since she was a teen. Honestly, she didn't really celebrate it then either. Tonight, she toned down her attire, a black crushed- velvet dress, her hair in an up-do, and her heels under four inches. She had just put the finishing touches on her makeup when the knock on her door resounded throughout her apartment. Men, like Luke generally did not find her attractive, it was a fact of life. She remembered when she had told Morgan about Baylor. He had been so right about the entire situation. Hot men just didn't look at her that way. Tonight, was a bureau event and everyone would be bringing dates. When Luke discovered that she would be attending alone, he asked her to go with him. At least, that's what she wanted to believe. She answered her door and found Luke in a tux holding a single red rose.
"You look amazing," He told her.
"You don't look to bad yourself, handsome." She blushed when she realized that she hadn't called him ‘newbie’. She did speak the truth, he looked beautiful in a tux.
Chuckling he held out an arm and asked, "Are you ready to go?"
She picked up her wrap and clutch before taking his arm. The butterflies that had previously been in her stomach were now replaced with a marching band, complete with a band front. She could do this, she could get through a night with a man she admired from afar. They were just coworkers, he only saw her as the office pet. She would never be anything more. Taking a deep breath, she plastered a smile on her face and they were soon waiting in the valet parking line.
He handed the keys over then helped her out of the car. She didn't realize it, but she took his breath away every day. Tonight, she had rendered him speechless. He had been falling for her for so long, that this felt like a dream. She was an amazing woman; one that never got the credit she was due. If they didn’t have her, most of their cases either wouldn't be solved, or there would be a lot more victims. The team tended to take her for granted. They didn't seem to know that if she wasn't in their personal lives as well, none of them would be as close. He placed his hand on the small of her back and gave her a gentle grin that made his eyes shine.
He heard a voice call out as he was guiding her in. "Luke! Hold on, we'll walk in with you and you can introduce us to your date," Rossi said.
"Sir, if I need to introduce you to her, then you need to look for a new job," Luke called out as Penelope turned around.
"Kitten?" Rossi asked in a surprised tone. "You seem shorter."
"Lower heels, Dave," she deadpanned with a grin. He chuckled at her cheeky reply. Hayden was stunned by her appearance. She had never seen the perky tech in anything other than bright colors and bold patterns.
The four of them made their way inside the ballroom. Once they were all seated at the BAU table Penelope noticed two open seats. She shrugged her shoulders and didn't think anything of it. After all, everyone and their dates were already there. Luke noticed an old friend from his military days and wanted to introduce her to him. It was a short and pleasant chat with his former unit leader.
He took her hand and led her to the dance floor where a few couples were swaying to the soft music before dinner began. Neither she nor Luke noticed the curious looks coming from their table. They had become so lost in their own little world that they even missed the arrival of another couple. Nothing else mattered to them in that moment. His hand rose to cup her cheek, his lips lowered to hers, and he pressed a soft kiss to her lips.
Pulling back, breathlessly, she looked at him questioningly. He smiled and replied, "I would like to find more with you."
She blushed prettily and was at a loss for words. She simply nodded her head. Placing a hand upon her lower back, he helped her back to their seats, gently. They were pleasantly surprised to find who was occupying the open seats.
"Derek!" Penelope squealed out as she rushed forward to hug him and his wife.
"Baby Girl, are you here with Alvez? Is this what you want?" Derek asked.
"Absolutely. He makes me happy." She smiled and looked back at Luke. His eyes lit up with joy upon hearing her words. Taking their seats, the meal was soon served. They laughed and spoke of older memories and new. They filled Derek and Savanah in on the newest happenings in their personal lives. This was not a night to talk shop.
The speeches were given after the meal was finished, and awards were handed out for service and merit. She was shocked to find that she had won “Technician of The Year”. She hadn't even been aware that she was up for the thing. Luke beamed with pride as did the rest of the BAU as she accepted the small plaque and an envelope containing a bonus.
The champagne was flowing, and it was nearing midnight. Luke and Penelope were on the dance floor once again when Derek asked to cut in.
"Are you sure he's what you want, Baby Girl?" He queried, with an eyebrow raised.
"I'm sure, Eyebrows."
"He'll been gone a lot and you deserve so much more than that, you know, that right?"
"We understand each other and how important our work is to us. He makes me smile, Derek, really smile. Even when the cases are at their worst."
Derek hugged her tightly before whispering, "I'm just looking out for you. You're my best friend."
"Thank you. I love you, Derek Morgan."
"I love you too, Penelope Garcia. Just remember I want to be the man of honor at your wedding."
She giggled, "As long as you don't mind a purple dress and six-inch heels."
He shook his head at her antics and handed her back to Luke when the two minutes until Midnight warning was announced. Luke had brought a glass of champagne for each of them to be ready for the toast that would ring in the new year. The countdown had begun.
"5, 4, ,3 ,2..." the crowd chanted. He pulled her close and kissed her with such fire that she felt like a puddle of freshly melted snow when they broke apart. All around them strains of “Auld Lang Syne” rang out as they stared into each other's eyes.
"Happy New Year, Penelope," Luke said softly.
"A very happy New Year for both of us, Luke.”