Thirty Days Later…

Penelope slowed down as she turned the big orange caddie onto the narrow gravel road. After all that had happened she couldn't believe she was once again driving down this road, but she'd promised to come and so she carefully navigated the tree-lined path. She was relieved when the small, dilapidated house came into view and she pulled next to the late model red Chevy pick up and stopped her engine. Even from the front she could hear the hammering and knocking going on inside. As she opened the car door she made a mental note to add a new driveway to the long list of things to do to the place.

The door was opened and so she stepped inside careful not to step on the debris scattered across the floor. She could still see faint signs of her last visit there. She'd been assured that once the restoration was complete the light burgundy stains would be replaced with a dark stained hardwood floor. So, she took a deep breath and walked across the room stopping in front of the window that looked out into the back yard.

She watched as he hoisted old wooden planks and dusty drywall into a large dumpster. His caramel-colored skin glistened with sweat as the sun beat down on his muscles and tattoos. Her heart skipped as her mind insisted on taking her back to the night she'd almost lost him. Even though his bruises had long healed and faded, the memories of Mason and what he'd tried to do to him and her were still present. Even though he'd tried to convince her that he didn't blame her, she still blamed herself and the guilt of the lie that nearly destroyed their love haunted her during the quiet moments of her day. She continued to stare into the large dirty yard as he disappeared from her sight.

His arms snaked around her waist startling her for a moment and when she realized that he wasn't a dream but the real thing, she relaxed against his damp chest. His arms felt good as he pulled her tight against him and planted a light kiss on her cheek.

"You're sweaty Handsome!"

He chuckled at her fake protest and pulled her even tighter against his body."

"You weren't complaining last night, Princess." His voice was like warm butter in her ear.

"No I wasn't was I?"

She pulled away slightly to turn in his arms to face him. His eyes bore into hers looking for something, she wasn't sure what. He'd been keeping a close eye on her since the showdown with Mason, looking for that look of shame and sorrow that he'd often find there. He didn't blame her for anything and he was sorry he'd overreacted. It had been thirty-three days and he knew she was still struggling even though she tried so hard to hide it and deny it when he asked if she were okay.

"Are you okay, Baby Girl?"

She placed her hands on each side of his face and pulled him into a sweet delicate kiss. He loved her lips on his and even though he knew she was trying to distract him they both knew it wouldn't work. He kissed her back and waited for her reply to his question.

"I will be."

"Yes, you will. I promise."

"How can you be so sure? I almost got us both killed!"

"Baby, you are not responsible for what Mason did?"

"But I lied…"

"Stop it! No more…I was a bone-headed jerk for the way I reacted and I need you to forgive me!"

"Derek…"

"No, Penelope, I'm serious, I'm sorry for making you feel that you had to be perfect. I understand why you did it…"

"Still, I shouldn't have…"

"Listen to me." He began. "Mason was a monster and he's not worth your time feeling guilty."

Penelope pulled completely away from Derek and turned back toward the window. She didn't want to cry; she wanted to be strong for once. Mason had always made her feel weak and helpless and that was one of the reasons she'd fought so hard for a new life on her own. She couldn't help feel that it had all been a big waste of time.

She could feel his eyes on her back as she searched for something to say to him. Again, his arms wrapped around her and he rested his chin on her head. They'd been through so much and wasted so much time denying their feelings for each other; she couldn't bear the thought of losing him. That night had almost taken everything from her.

"I love you, Penelope Garcia. No matter what happens, don't ever forget that. We've survived a lot and I won't lose you to Mason Burton."

"You can't…Mason is dead."

"No, Mason will still live if you keep feeling guilty for what he did. Every time you think you caused this, then I lose you to him." He turned her to face him. "I swear to you right now, Penelope, I won't lose you to the likes of that man…not without a fight!"

She looked tearfully into his eyes.

"I love you Derek Morgan."

He pulled her gently against his chest and she relaxed in his arms. The next several minutes were spent in sweet silence.

"I can't believe I let you buy this place. It's a reminder of so many bad things."

"Not for me."

"How can you say that?"

"Because, that's why. This is the place that you kicked Mason Burton's ass! You showed him once and for all that Penelope Garcia is a strong, intelligent woman, who can't be taken out or manipulated or frightened any more by the likes of him!"

She could feel fresh tears running down her face this time they were tears of joy and of gratitude. She wondered what she had done to be blessed with such an amazing man like Derek Morgan. He'd literally picked up her broken heart, dusted it off and then set it next to his own. He cared for her and showed it with each beat of his own heart just what love felt like.

"I was so afraid…"

"So was I, but you came any way and you saved my life."

"Who would have thought?" She giggled.

"Well, obviously, Mason didn't and look what it cost him."

"Yeah, I have to admit, my Sweet Prince, you are so right."

Derek turned her to face him again and kissed her lightly at first but then he deepened it and then they were both lost in the feeling and taste of each other. Their bodies telling them that they wanted more.

Penelope reluctantly pulled away breathless and smiling into his face.

"Oh no you don't, Handsome! The team will be hear any minute and unless you want them walking into an embarrassing scene on your floor we better stop right now."

Morgan groaned stealing one more quick kiss before releasing her.

"Well they already proved that they can kick down doors, let's see if they can knock down some walls."

"Yeah, did you see bossman knock that door off its hinges?" Penelope giggled.

The two headed toward the kitchen laughing as they remembered Hotch leading the charge through the door with Rossi, Reid and JJ close behind, guns drawn, raising the dust on the floor and taking Mason and his men out. Morgan would tease him about it later…he'd also thank him and the others for the umpteenth time for arriving just in time. They were family no matter what and family always showed up on time!

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

-Nelson Mandela

The End.