Epilogue – One year later…

A lot had happened in the Morgan family. Derek was on his feet fully recovered and he was back to chasing unsubs, knocking down doors and facing his demons. Garcia had become a part of his life in a big way. His accident and even his life before Chloe had stepped into it, had taught him a lot. He was ready to let go of his anger and fears of rejection and of failure. He wasn't quite ready to admit that he was only human, but he'd come a long way in becoming the man that was able to love a woman the way she deserved to be loved. He was looking forward to Thanksgiving in a few days; it had been a long time since he'd actually looked forward to the holidays but this year was special and as he fumbled with the small velvet box in his pocket, he welcomed the changes he anticipated in his life.

Fran had fought hard to show Jason that she regretted the past and it hadn't been easy. There were days that she wished that she'd kept the past hidden but most days she relished in the freedom that the truth had generously given her. Her first-born was an incredible man and she felt herself grieving the lost time with him. Dave had become her rock pulling her from the darkness and loving her without strings. She was blessed and she knew it and it gave her the desire to be stronger than the woman who'd allowed a terrible event to hold her hostage.

Things were changing in her life and as she sealed the last box she stood to look around the small house that held so many memories, good and bad. She'd raised her children here and waited for her husband to come home from work here. She felt a brief twinge of guilt for being excited to leave and begin a new life. Dave convinced her to move to Virginia with him and she quickly accepted. She was headed there for Thanksgiving with the news of her move and she hoped it would make her family happy. All of her children would be there- Derek, Sarah, Desiree…and Jason. She hadn't been this happy in a long time.

Jason was nervous, so nervous that his stomach was queasy and he couldn't keep any food down. He felt like that little boy who felt abandoned and alone waiting and praying for a sign from God that his mother wanted him. He was a grown man now and had made a good life for himself, he was the top in his field and he'd accomplished a lot. Still, there had been a gaping hole in his heart that he couldn't fill or deny.

Fran had invited him to join the family in Virginia for Thanksgiving and he was having second thoughts as he closed his suitcase. Derek insisted that he stay with him and Penelope and it was all a little overwhelming. He'd spent a lot of time over the last year getting to know Fran, Sarah and Desiree and it seemed surreal. He'd dreamt of having a relationship with them and now that he was becoming a part of all of their lives he felt odd. Even now, Jason wanted to be angry and he wanted to lash out at the people who'd denied him all of his life. He'd gotten so comfortable in his anger but he had to admit his anger was misplaced, so he resigned himself to be thankful that finally, he had a family. He was thankful, he was thankful…he was thankful…and if he kept repeating it long enough, one day he'd believe it.

Home of Derek Morgan – Thanksgiving Day –

He wondered if it all was some crazy dream; he was happy. He'd somehow believed for so long that he would never be truly happy. But now he was and even if it only lasted for a little while he now knew how it felt. No one and nothing would be able to take it from him without a fight. He looked around the house and every room seemed to be filled with everyone that meant anything to him.

His mother was running a tight ship in the kitchen, orchestrating dinner preparations with his sisters, JJ and Penelope taking orders without resistance. He quickly grabbed beers for the men and slipped out before being noticed and risk being accused of spying.

He saw it now, what everyone had been seeing, he and Jason did look alike; it was still odd having a brother and he wished silently that they'd grown up together. There were so many times he needed a big brother. He wondered if Carl Buford would have been a part of his life had Jason been around.

"I haven't heard from you in a while, Carl! Where are you?"

He pretended to look up waiting for a reply from the spirit of the man who'd haunted him for so long. He laughed to himself at the silence of no reply. He knew that he'd never hear that voice in his head again. One by one he handed the bottles to the men; Hotch, Rossi, Reid, and Jason, all of them had helped to save his life this past year. He'd always thought he was supposed to be the hero but they'd all rescued him from the black pit that had held him. He'd been lost and afraid determined not to let anyone in and refusing any help. He had begun to die long before the car accident. He knew that now.

He watched her as she giggled out loud. He'd never seen her smile and laugh as much as she had in recent months. He wanted to believe he was part of the reason why, but he wouldn't dare to be so arrogant. It had taken him a while to convince her that he wasn't going to change his mind about them. She'd waited so long for him to come to his senses so he understood. It broke his heart still when he would allow himself to think back. He'd hurt her too many times, he was sorry…the box in his pocket felt heavy suddenly.

"DINNER IS SERVED!"

They all took their seats around the table even Henry and Jack sat among the adults this year at Fran's insistence. The array of food smelled and looked amazing. Rossi began filling the adult's glasses with expensive wine while everyone got comfortable. Then after his glass was filled, Rossi set the empty bottle next to his plate and raised his hands to quiet the unruly crowd. Soon, silence fell over the room and all eyes were on him.

"I'd like to say a few words if I may."

"You've got the floor, old man." Derek kidded.

A light chuckle then silence fell over the room.

"It's been a tumultuous year and most times I didn't know if I was coming or going. We've had a lot of challenges but our victories far outweighed those challenges." He began.

Dave turned to face Fran who was seated next to his now empty chair and listening intently.

"Out of the fire and pain came an awareness. I found a jewel, a rare diamond. I've been blessed beyond anything I deserve. Now, I've been married enough times to have learned a valuable lesson and that lesson is, that when you find love, true love you better hold on to it for dear life."

Before anyone knew it, Dave was down on one knee in front of Fran. Her jaw dropped as her eyes grew wide.

"Francesca Marie Morgan, will you do me the honor of being my wife?"

Derek felt a lump in his throat and a collective sigh was heard across the table. Fran's heart was pounding and for a second she thought she'd been dreaming.

"YES! Yes, Dave, I'll marry you!"

Cheers, tears and hugs took the attention away from the awaiting feast as everyone stood and celebrated the couple. Derek again began to fumble with the velvet box in his pocket.

"Excuse me…Excuse ME! EXCUSE ME!"

Everyone stopped as if somewhere an off button had been pushed freezing them all in place.

"I'm sorry, Dave, Ma…I hope I'm not stealing your thunder but…"

All eyes followed as if everything had shifted into slow motion. Then Derek dropped to one knew in front of Penelope who was seated next to his empty chair.

"I've been a fool for too long and I assumed you'd be around for ever. I took your friendship and your love for granted and I am so sorry."

"Derek…"

He took her hand in his.

"Please…let me finish."

She nodded fighting back the tears. The attention that had just moments ago been focused on Dave and Fran was now on the two of them.

"I love you, Penelope Garcia and I don't ever want to be without you in my life. I know I don't deserve you but I'm asking anyway. Baby Girl, will you be my wife?"

"YES!"

She stood and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately while a symphony of oohs and aahs played in the background. Like a few seconds earlier, Derek and Garcia were surrounded by their family and the celebration erupted once more while the turkey, ham and all the trimmings sat patiently on the table.

Later…

Hours later things had quieted considerably as everyone had found a comfortable spot while letting their food settle. The boys were asleep in the guest room and everyone else had decided to watch a movie. Penelope had decided that it would be a great moment to kick off the Christmas season so she popped in, "A Miracle on 32nd Street." The others were too full to protest.

Several minutes later Fran noticed him get up and leave the room. He'd been quiet most of the day and she hadn't had time to say much to him. She found him on the back porch.

"It's cold out here your gonna catch pneumonia."

Without turning around he smiled and waited for her to take the seat next to him on the porch.

"I just needed some air."

"What a day. I don't think I've ever had a Thanksgiving like this before."

"Congratulations, by the way. Dave is a great guy."

"Thank you. Yes he is. I'm a lucky woman."

"I think he's pretty lucky too."

Surprised she fell silent and turned to look at him. He still hadn't moved still staring out into the yard.

"Thank you. It's not true, but thank you anyway."

It was dark but the yard was lit by the elaborate lighting that Derek had installed around the perimeters of the porch and the patio.

"I wanted to thank you for including my in your Thanksgiving. You didn't have to."

"Of course I did, Jason. You're my son."

"Son…"

He wasn't sure if he'd ever get used to hearing that word from her. It sounded strange, good and he couldn't get enough of it.

"I never thought I'd ever hear you call me that."

"I'm so sorry…for every…

"Stop." He interrupted. "You've apologized enough, Fran…"

"Fran?"

"Ma…"

"That's better."

"This day was the best day of my life. It doesn't feel real."

"I know."

"So, how does it feel to be engaged? Soon you will be Mrs. David Rossi."

"After James died, I never thought I'd find love again."

"He was an amazing man. He was the only father I ever knew. Dave is a lot like him."

"You're right he is, isn't he?"

Jason nodded and pulled his jacket tighter around his body. It was getting colder but he wanted to stay right here and relish the moment with her.

"I wanted to ask you something." She began.

"Sure."

"Dave and I haven't set the wedding date yet, of course but…"

"But what?"

"Well, when we do set a date, I was wondering if you would walk me down the aisle along with Derek."

"Really?"

"Really."

His heart was full that was the last thing he expected to hear from her, ever. He'd gone from him being a dark secret from her past to now being included and accepted in her family. He didn't know what to say or how to react. He was happy, and confused all at the same time. He watched her as she waited for a response, she was afraid of his rejection now and he didn't know quite how to take it.

"Can I think about it?"

"S-Sure…of course…"

She quickly got up and headed back into the house. Maybe it was too soon, she thought. She didn't want to rush him after all, they'd only really known each other for a year. Still, she secretly wanted him to jump at the chance. Her heart felt heavy as she took the steps back toward the sliding glass door.

"Fran…Ma?"

She turned to face him hoping that he didn't see the tears welling in her eyes.

"Yes?"

"I'd love to walk you down the aisle."

She couldn't stop the tears or the smile that seemed to mirror the smile that was now on his face. He stood and met her halfway stopping momentarily in front of her. Without thinking she pulled him into her arms wrapping him tightly in a long overdue embrace. He hadn't allowed her this privilege before. In all the months that they'd been in contact they had not touched; now here he was in her arms.

Life had played an interesting game one that for most of his life he believed had been unfair. The woman who'd bore him in secret refusing to even hold him or claim him as her own was now pleading for space in his life. How could he refuse her? He'd prayed for this and dreamed of being a part of her like her other children. It wasn't too late no matter how long and no matter what had happened in the past. The journey had been treacherous but he'd made it, she'd made it and finally they were both where they were supposed to be all along. They were home.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." Melody Beattie