Title: A Pleasant Ambush
Author: Sibyl Moon
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Relationship: Gen, Penelope Garcia & Stiles Stilinski
Prompt: Penelope Garcia meets someone new and interesting.
Summary: Stiles tracks down someone who used to know his mom
She stopped, turning around cautiously. No matter what Derek and the rest of the team thought about her, she’d learned a few hard lessons while working at the BAU, one of the hardest had happened right here on these steps not too long ago. She touched her side as a phantom pain flared briefly. She wasn’t about to forget it any time soon.
“Yes, that’s me,” She said smiling politely, even as she kept her hand on her phone, thumb on the panic button, and mace combo J.J. had insisted she start carrying. “Can I help you?”
He was a kid, standing at the bottom of the steps under the lights. He couldn’t have been too far into his twenties, he was tall, gangly, and a bit awkward. Deceptively so, she thought as he moved up the steps toward her, he reminded her of Reid, despite stumbling on one of the steps, there was a grace in him that spoke of hidden strength under the nondescript white shirt, tie, and black slacks.
“Um, I’m really sorry for just showing up like this,” The kid stopped a few steps away, he waved his hands around and then stuck them in his pockets rocking back on his feet, before he seemed to realize what a bad idea that was on a set of concrete steps. “I’m Stiles, Stiles Stilinski. I think, maybe, you knew my mom a long time ago.”
Penelope slowly shook her head, thinking, but not quite relaxing her guard. She wondered if he was a kid that had come from one of her groups, “I don’t recognize the name, sorry.”
“Oh.” Stiles frowned, chewing on his lip and staring at the ground before his head snapped back up, his brown eyes wide. “You probably knew her by her maiden name. She went to Berkely under Claudia Gajos. It’s okay if you don’t remember her, it was a long time ago and I didn’t even know about you until a few days ago. I found a bunch of her old college stuff in the attic before I moved out here a few months ago and brought it with me. I didn’t go through it until this last weekend and came across your name. I wouldn’t have even recognized it, but we’ve been studying case files and stuff at the academy and I came across your name. I know I shouldn’t have been nosy and I’ll probably get kicked out of the academy, but I had to find you, see if you knew her…” Stiles sucked in a gasping breath.
Penelope was dazzled and impressed.
“Claudia Gajos,” She felt her smile grow from distantly polite to enthusiastic as memories began to flood in, “I remember her extremely well, she was a firecracker, and looking at you, I can see the apple didn’t fall very far. My goodness, sweet pea, did you take a breath in all that?”
Stiles stared at her for a second before a smile spread across his face, doe eyes sparkling and nearly stopping Penelope’s heart with how hopeful he looked.
“I babble when I get nervous, it isn’t as bad as it used to be, but it still crops up from time to time,” He said with a nervous laugh, shrugging his broad shoulders.
“How is Claudia?” Penelope asked, coming down the steps to stand in front of the boy. “She was quite a few years older than I was, I’m surprised that she remembered me at all. I only knew her briefly during that one summer mentor program, but she made an impression.”
“Uh,” Stiles rubbed the back of his neck, not meeting her eyes. “She died when I was ten, from frontotemporal dementia. I don’t know much, but she saved a lot of things from that mentor program and was impressed with you as well. She made a note that you’d disappeared and that she wanted dad to look for you, but then she got sick.” Stiles shrugged again.
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that, Claudia was great, I had no idea she was keeping up with me,” Penelope said. “Why would she want your dad to look for me though?”
“Oh, my dad was a deputy sheriff at the time,” Stiles said, pride oozing out of him. “He’s been elected Sheriff for the last ten years though, he’s the best.”
Penelope laughed, “You said you were at the academy I think, in that long ramble?”
“Oh, yes,” Stiles blushed, biting his lip again. “I’m at the FBI academy in Quantico. I should probably tell you that I–uh–misused resources to get your address.” He turned to look at the building and then back at her. “Not to excuse me or anything, but whoever is doing the security for that might want to make sure that you’re as covered internally as you are externally when it comes to things like that.”
Penelope couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled out of her, “I’ll get right on that.”
Stiles winced, “Please tell me it’s not you.”
“Not entirely,” Penelope replied. “I do usually cover it for my team though. Don’t worry Bambi, it’s a good thing to know now instead of later,” She reassured at his look of chagrin.
“Still,” Stiles said, his hands out of his pockets and twisting together. “I suppose I won’t be at the academy much longer now, but I couldn’t stop myself from looking and next thing I knew I was here. I’m getting better at curbing my impulsive reactions, no matter what Derek says,” He grumbled before continuing, “I just wasn’t quite able to do it this time. It’s just–my mom.” He held his hands up as if helpless to come up with anything else.
“Moms are a tough subject,” Penelope agreed, impulsively reaching out and dragging the boy in for a hug. Maybe the team did have a point about her sense of self-preservation, but she couldn’t go through life keeping everyone in the world at a distance and she could tell that this boy needed a hug and family. “Come on, I was heading out to get some dinner. We’ll talk about how to sell this security breach without you losing your place at the academy.”
“Okay?” Stiles agreed hesitantly. He’d stiffened when she’d first wrapped her arms around him, before eventually melting into the hug, but pulled back when she began to speak.
“Okay,” She crowed, skipping down the steps towing him behind her, and heading towards the car.
Stiles looked at her with a bemused expression on his face, “This isn’t how I saw this evening going. I mean, I’m not complaining, but I don’t understand.”
“There isn’t anything to understand Stiles,” Penelope said, practically shoving him in her car before getting in and starting the engine. She turned to look at him. “I’ve decided to adopt you.”
“I’m a little old for adoption,” Stiles said, his eyebrows lifting. “You’re kind of odd and I know odd.”
“Too bad, it’s done and I wouldn’t be calling other people odd,” She replied ignoring his grumbling. “So, tell me about this Derek you mentioned earlier.” She wiggled her brows at him when he groaned. “Oh, that sounds like a juicy story, tell Aunt Penny all about him.”
“Aunt Penny?” The incredulity in his voice was beautiful.
“Adoption,” Penelope sang out turning on to the road and heading towards her favorite restaurant unless she missed her guess, Stiles would love the 24-hour breakfast specials and the ridiculously large hamburger plates. “That’s what you get kid, you show up in your wrinkled slacks and twisted up tie, looking like you’ve missed half your meals and a lifetime of hugs.” She tossed a grin his way to take any of the sting out of her words. “You’ve officially become my new nephew, what about that?”
“Well,” Stiles mused as they pulled into the parking lot and she shut off the car. “I’ve been adopted into worse families I suppose and it turned out okay in the end.”
“You sound like you’re full of stories sugar cookie,” She laughed heartily, waving him out of the car. “You’re going to have to tell me some of them, but don’t think I haven’t noticed that you’re avoiding telling me about this Derek character.”
“Derek is…” Stiles paused as they entered the restaurant and were seated quickly.
“Derek is…what?” She asked.
“He’s complicated,” Stiles shoved a hand into his hair. “I need more than a car ride and dinner to get into him and his–everything.”
“Fair enough, fair enough,” She nodded. “I have my own Derek and he can be just as complicated at times, more so probably since I’m betting he’s had more years at it.”
“I’d take that bet,” Stiles replied with a haunted look that spoke of things better left alone for now.
The server came over and they ordered their food and drinks before settling back into their seats in comfortable silence.
Penelope studied the boy–the young man. She saw him more clearly in the lighting of the restaurant and realized that her initial judgment about his age had been correct. He was barely in his twenties, the roundness of his childhood still clinging stubbornly to his cheeks. He looked tired, exhausted, and somewhat lost sitting there across from her and she felt her heartache for him. He had the look of Claudia, from what she remembered. Pale skin, beauty marks dotting it like paint speckles. Those gorgeous brown eyes sparkled with the same humor that Claudia’s had, though Stiles’ had shadows that hers hadn’t.
She remembered Claudia the more she sat there watching Stiles. Claudia had been a vivacious whirlwind. Always moving and laughing, she’d been kind and caring towards each of the girls under her care during the program and Penelope had been grateful that she’d been one of them.
Claudia had been one of those people who naturally drew others into her orbit, they just wanted to be near her. To hear her talk or laugh or simply breathe sometimes.
“Your mother was a force of nature,” She murmured, the words leaving her mouth before she’d realized it. “I’m sure you know that, but she was one of my favorite people during that period of my life.”
“I–uh–I don’t actually,” Stiles said, he was twisting his silverware around in his hands, avoiding her eyes. “No one back home talks about her and even though I was old enough to have a lot of memories of her when she died, I was still pretty young.”
“I thought,” Penelope paused, going back over their conversation. “Your dad is still alive?”
“Yeah,” Stiles responded flushing, setting down the utensils with care and looking up at her earnestly. “He’s a good man, my dad. A good sheriff and dad but he had a hard time when mom died. He doesn’t like to talk about her, not even now. She was an only child and the rest of her family is all gone, so the only resources I’ve had are the boxes of stuff I’ve found in the attic. It’s part of why I went a little–” he paused and waved a hand indicating the two of them. “And then came to find you when I discovered your name and everything.”
Penelope thought on that, she’d already decided that Stiles was going to be one of hers, she didn’t know why she felt so viscerally about the kid, but she did. The team would probably hate it. At least until they had a chance to meet the kid themselves and do their version of vetting.
“Well then, if you won’t tell me about your Derek,” She laughed when Stiles groaned again and put his head on the table. “I’ll tell you about the time that your mother led the girls in our summer dorm against the boys at the summer training camp in an all-out prank war.”
“She did?” Stiles sat up and leaned forward, his eyes wide with excitement, sparkling with humor, the exhaustion that had been pouring off him moments before was almost nonexistent. “Did you win?”
“Did we win?” She scoffed leaning towards him conspiratorially, happy to see the change in his demeanor. “Spoilers child, spoilers. So, here’s how it all started…”