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at the day's end

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Luke doesn’t realise how tense he is until he walks into Garcia's office, closes the door behind him and walks into the welcoming circle of her open arms. Burying his head in the crook of her neck, he breathes in deeply, breathes out slowly, concentrating on the feel of one of her hands on his back, the other moving through his hair. Little by little, he feels the tension in his shoulders ease but it takes a long time before he straightens up, looks into her eyes and tries to smile.

She sees through him though - she always does and he thinks that, for a hacker, she makes a hell of a profiler.

She speaks first. "It was a bad one," she murmurs, her hand sliding down to cup his cheek. He knows he shouldn't try to deny it; after all, she'd been there for most of it, albeit on their other end of a computer screen.

And yet.

"They're all bad ones," he hears himself saying and receives a pointed look for his troubles. He sighs, shakes his head to concede the point. "But this was bad."

For once, Garcia doesn't look happy to be right. Leaning into him, she brushes her lips over his briefly. "Come on," she says. "Let's get you home." It's on the tip of his tongue to ask which home, but she has an answer before he even asks the question. "It's practically the middle of the night, there's no point disturbing the dog sitter. We'll pick Roxy up tomorrow morning and go out for breakfast, we'll sit outside and you can feed her pieces of bacon under the table while I pretend not to notice." She's packing up her office as she talks and he finds himself smiling at the picture that she's painting. "And if you think, by the way, that I'm going home to that soulless shack you call a bachelor pad, you've got another think coming."

He chuckles, low and long, as he comes up behind her, rests his hands on her hips and presses a quick kiss to her neck. She shivers and he grins, does it again. "Wouldn't dream of it, Chica."

There's a minor disagreement over who's going to drive home which he wins by pointing out that if they are going to take Roxy out for breakfast in the morning, there's no way in hell she'll be comfortable in Esther. So she hops into the passenger seat beside him and he easily navigates the streets until they end up at her place. Walking inside, he drops his go bag at the door, heads straight for the couch and practically falls down onto it with a groan of satisfaction. He closes his eyes as he does so, feels the couch give as she sits down beside him and then once again she's running her fingers through his hair.

"You want a shower?" Her voice is gentle. "Something to drink?" Her fingers move down, playing with the fine hairs at the nape of his neck. "Something else?" Her voice is a damn sight more teasing at the end, slightly leading and on a different day, he might just take her up on that.

Tonight is a different story because he knows his head's not in the right place and he's not going to use her like that.

"I'm going to have to take a rain check on that," he tells her, lifting his hand and letting his fingers tangle in her hair, because the mere act of touching her is enough for him. She leans into his touch, a pleased smile on her lips.

"Then let's just go to bed," she suggests and again, any other night, he'd take her up on that too.

"Querida, I would like nothing more." The endearment slips easily from his lips and her cheeks darken when she hears it. "But my head's all..." His free hand makes a circular motion beside his ear, signifying his brain going around and around. "I won't be sleeping any time soon." He leans over and kisses her cheek. "You go on... I'll join you in a little while."

He knows he's said the wrong thing when her eyes widen and her hand goes to her chest, the very picture of Victorian shock. If she was wearing pearls, Luke is willing to bet she'd be clutching them. "Luke Alvez, who do you think I am? Do you really think I would just leave you out here in your hour of need?"

Luke wants to say that it's not exactly his hour of need but she's in full flow and there’s no interrupting her. Even if he could, he wouldn’t - he likes to see her like this.

"I'm not going to sleep if you're not sleeping," she tells him. "So what I am going to do is make us some hot chocolate, grab a blanket and snuggle up here with you while we watch "The Empire Strikes Back" until we both fall asleep and just so you know, I'm betting that you'll go first."

When she pauses for breath, he tilts his head towards the clock on the wall. "It's almost two in the morning," he points out and she looks at him like he's insane.

"Well then we'd better get started."

She's on her way towards the kitchen before he can say anything and he only realises he's called her name when she stops and turns to look at him. He opens his mouth but no words come out at first. Then, without him having to think about them, without any forward planning, he hears himself say, "I love you."

The smile she gives him in return is the best thing he's seen in days, maybe ever. "I know," she says, turning neatly on her heel and continuing on her way.

It takes a second for the words to register in his brain and when they do, he leans his head back against the couch and laughs as he listens to her opening and closing cupboards, humming to herself as she gets the drinks ready. Closing his eyes, he feels the last of the day's tensions leave him and all he can think is that it's good to be home.