Title: Secrets – part 3
Disclaimer: nothing's mine, it all belongs to CBS and so on
Summary: I wondered why Penelope's brothers didn't show up in the hospital after she was shot – and that's the explanation I came up with.
warnings: Well, I thought since I rated it M anyway… It's not really smut, but I think I'm slowly getting there.
AN: Thanks to Melissa for the beta-reading!
"Come on, let's go!" Derek commanded chucked her jacket to a puzzled Penelope on his couch.
"Where are we going?" she wanted to know as she got up and put on the zebra striped jacket.
"Sorry, honey, but I can't tell you yet." he smiled. "But I promise, you won't regret it." In fact, he was quite apprehensive about her reaction when she finally found out where he was taking her.
"Okay." she frowned. This was one of the few times she had ever seen Derek Morgan nervous. I don't think I like where this is going. She thought to herself. But she'd decided to wholeheartedly trust him a long time ago. So she followed him to his car and got in.
The drive was silent almost the whole time. Both of them were dwelling on their own thoughts. Penelope wondered why Derek refused to tell her where they were going. He'd never done that before and she didn't need to be a profiler to tell from his behavior that this wasn't meant to be a romantic date. When they arrived in front of the huge apartment building, Penelope frowned.
"I want you to meet someone." Derek stated when he opened the door for her.
Penelope got out and mumbled: "I hope it's none of your ex-girlfriends."
Derek gave her a puzzled look and then replied: "No, they are… some of my friends."
"Your friends?" she raised both her eyebrows.
"You sound surprised." Derek frowned. "Did you think I don't have any friends outside the BAU?"
"No" she stumbled. "I… I'm just… Why do you want me to meet them?"
A small smile crossed his face: "They are special friends."
His words made her feel a little flattered. He really wanted her to be a part of his life.
"Remember when JJ and Reid asked us out for dinner one Tuesday and I refused saying I had other plans?" Derek asked as he gently led her towards the front door. "I want to show you what these plans were."
"You were here?" Penelope frowned even more. If she hadn't met his mother yet she would have sworn she'd now be introduced to a very ill woman he secretly took care of.
"We meet here because Karen has the biggest apartment – even though the house looks a little rotten, her place is really nice."
"Derek, you're confusing me." she sighed and slowly walked up the stairs. Derek hadn't been exaggerating, the apartment was huge, looked newly renovated and was tastefully arranged. A group of six people was standing in the living room. A tall brunette rushed towards him and hugged Derek briefly. "Derek, it's good to see you here again." she smiled and then shook Penelope's hand: "You must be Penelope. Derek told us he was going to bring you with him."
"Did he?" Penelope asked and gave him a querying look.
Derek just shrugged.
"I'm Karen" the brunette introduced herself, "I guess we can start now." She rushed back to the group and they all sat down in a circle.
"Start what?" Penelope whispered and gave Derek another questioning look.
"Um… you know… these people are all… survivors." he stammered.
She stared at him for a moment, then just nodded and let him lead her over to the group. She shifted, feeling more and more uncomfortable as she felt everyone staring at her.
"Ladies and gentleman" Karen smiled, "I want you to welcome Penelope." she nodded in the direction of the blonde next to Derek. "She's a friend of Derek's."
Everyone gave her a nod along with a smile.
Penelope tried to smile back and answered in a low voice: "I… um… I'm not sure how this works. I mean, am I supposed to… say something?"
"You're not supposed to do anything." Karen smiled. "This is not a therapy group even though I'm a psychologist. But here I am just a survivor. We spend some time together and whoever wants to talk gets the chance to and we will listen. But no one demands anything of you."
She nodded, smiled and took a deep breath. She felt a little relieved and a little more comfortable now.
"I suggest that we first introduce each other." a tall man in his late thirties piped up.
"That's a good idea." Karen nodded at him and then looked back at Penelope. "Everyone is allowed to tell us whatever he or she wants us to know. Meredith, do you want to start?" Karen smiled at a skinny woman with short blond hair.
She nodded. "Hi, I'm Meredith and I was abused by my dad." she started and gave Penelope a small smile. "I spent almost all my life in therapy before I met Karen. The doctors kept giving me advice on how to deal with this but… well, none of them could really understand."
"My name is Peter." the tall man smiled. "My grandmother used to hit me and lock me up in the basement whenever I visited her. I'm… still afraid of the dark."
"Well, you already know my name." Karen smiled at Penelope. "My husband used to beat me up whenever he felt like it. He broke almost every bone in my body before I finally left him. It was the best decision I ever made."
"I'm Mary." a girl of about sixteen sitting next to Karen said in a very low voice. "My mother is working as a prostitute and she's addicted to cocaine. She sold me to some of her customers. I… tried to commit suicide and met Karen in the hospital. She took me in and… I'll always be grateful for that."
Karen took her hand in hers and smiled. "I'm working in the local hospital." she explained. "That's how I met almost everyone here."
"My name is Robert." a smaller man with a very pale face said. "I was abused by my grandfather. When my dad found out about that, he shot him. It turned out that… my grandfather did the same to my dad when he was a kid."
"I'm Henry." the man next to Derek said and smiled at her. He was almost thinner than Spencer but smaller. "Actually I was… well, hit by my wife."
"My name is Derek." he said and locked eyes with her. "I was abused by the leader of a youth center who took advantage of the fact that after the death of my father he was the closest to a father I could ever get. I was thirteen years old and I didn't talk about it for quite a long time – until I eventually turned him in."
She smiled at him and then took a deep breath. "My name is Penelope." she said after a few moments. "My eldest brother started hitting me when I was eighteen. Our parents were killed in a car accident and he became very angry after that." She continued and told them the whole story, how she'd gone underground and eventually started a new life. How her brother had found her and hit her again. At first she hadn't even wanted to start telling anybody in this room about what had happened to her – but after the first words had left her mouth she simply wasn't able to stop anymore. "… and then I turned him in." she concluded. "That was the best thing I ever did, I guess."
They spend the rest of the evening talking and Penelope had never felt so comfortable among other people before. She didn't need to watch her mouth, she could say whatever crossed her mind. These people understood everything, the nightmares, the flashbacks, the feeling of being dirty and guilty. She absentmindedly kept holding Derek's hand, their fingers entwined in her lap and she didn't notice the others smiling at that scene.
Finally Karen turned to Derek. "What happened to your hand?" she asked and nodded at the small cuts and the obvious bruise.
"Well, I…" he started and cleared his throat. "I beat him up."
"That doesn't explain the cuts." Karen smiled at him.
"Yeah, I… um… broke a mirror… and a glass." he replied. "I was… pretty upset."
"Some things are obvious." she kept smiling at him. "Is there maybe something you want to tell us?" she glanced at Penelope whose eyes where focused on the man next to her.
Derek stared at Karen and then looked down. "I… I guess I have to apologize." he said in a low voice. "I'm sorry."
Penelope gave him a puzzled look and frowned when he refused to look at her. "Derek, this wasn't your fault."
For a few moments the room remained silent. Then Derek looked up and met her eyes. "I'm sorry that I didn't realize what was going on. I should have… paid more attention. I should have seen it! I mean, I'm a profiler and a survivor I… simply should have noticed!"
She reached out and softly stroked his cheek. "Derek, if this is true I should be sorry as well. I didn't realize what happened to you either. You hid it from everyone else and so did I."
"But I should have…" his voice subsided.
"We are all good actors." Karen softly said. "We have to be."
"You were the first who cared and helped me, Derek." Penelope added. "I'm grateful for that – more than words can ever say."
The smile that crossed his face was almost not noticeable and Penelope frowned. "But there's something else bothering you, right?"
Derek took her hand and placed a brief kiss in her palm. "I was… mad at you… because you didn't tell me. I'm so sorry, I never meant to…"
"You don't need to be sorry." she quickly interrupted him. "You were right, I should have told you. I don't know why I didn't. I mean, I should have known that you of all people would understand and help me. But I… I guess I was so used to people not caring about it that I… simply couldn't imagine it would be any different with you. I am sorry, Derek, because I didn't trust you enough to tell you and think you would believe me and take care of me."
"I promise I'll take care of you from now on." he softly said. "No one will ever hurt you again."
"I know." she whispered and smiled at him.
Karen noticed that everyone was smiling now, even Robert. She'd never seen him carry an honest smile before. Everyone of them had known about Derek's feelings for Penelope. He had mentioned her at least twice each evening, mostly talking about the way she cheered him up and made him smile. They were all glad he'd finally made a move.
"I wish I could tell my boyfriend." Meredith quietly commented on the scene in front of her.
"Why do you think you can't?" Karen softly asked.
Meredith looked at her hands. "I'm sure he wouldn't understand."
"In this case he doesn't deserve you." Penelope stated and gave her an encouraging smile when the thin woman looked up at her. "I always thought I could handle this on my own. It was over, just my awful past. But I guess sooner or later it catches up on you. And I'm glad Derek found out."
Meredith simply nodded and gave Penelope a small smile.
When the meeting ended Penelope glanced at the clock on the wall and was surprised that they'd spent almost three hours simply talking. Derek led her to the car and opened the door for her. Penelope remained silent through the whole drive. Her mind was busy recalling the past hours.
"So goddess, what do you want for dinner?" Derek asked when they entered his apartment.
She turned around, slammed him against the door and kissed him gustily, her hands dragging at his shirt. It was off of him within a fraction of a second. "You." she breathed and kissed him again.
Derek wasn't sure how they got rid of their clothes. It all happened very fast and he whirled her around and lifted her up.
"Did I scare you?" she asked quietly without looking up. She was snuggled up against him, her head resting on his shoulder, and her fingers drawing invisible patterns on his chest.
"No" he chuckled, "you just surprised me." At first he'd probably even been shocked by her attack. But the following hours had more than made up for that. They'd been so wild that Derek had been a little apprehensive that he might hurt her. But Penelope had more than enjoyed herself. As passionate as the first time had been, the second time was as tender and soft. Derek had gone very slowly, taking his time to please her and cherish her for every single moment.
Penelope giggled and finally raised her head to lock eyes with him. "In a good way?" she asked playfully.
He grinned, ran his hand up and down her arm and replied: "The best."
She smiled widely and studied his face. "Thank you." she whispered.
Derek gave her a questioning look: "For what?"
Penelope looked down and replied. "That you allowed me to take advantage of you. I… just needed some human contact, well, yours to be precise. Talking about it – as much as it helped me to deal with everything – it brought all those feelings back to the surface and I wanted to forget about them."
The expression on his face changed from questioning to concerned. "But… are you okay?" He knew exactly what she was going through. All those feelings being repressed for a very long time although never completely forgotten… suddenly brought back to the surface. When that had happened to him it had almost been too much for him to handle.
"I don't know." she whispered. "I think I'm getting there. Thank you for taking me to this meeting. It's… weird somehow. I never wanted to talk about it, I wanted all that to stay in my past but… once I started talking about it, it seems I can't stop anymore. I still don't want people to know. I don't want anyone to look at me with pity or… as if I was a victim."
"I know what you mean." Derek softly said. "After everyone found out about my past I… I thought about never going back to the bureau again."
She simply nodded and then added: "But I will not refuse to talk about that at court. I want Antonio to be punished, as hard as possible. And I want him to understand what he did to me, what he made me feel."
"What did he do to you?" he asked in a low voice. Of course, Penelope had talked about it. But she'd avoided every detail so far and she hadn't cried. She still tried to be strong and don't let this feelings overwhelm her.
Penelope stared at him and then shook her head. "I can't, Derek." she whispered.
"Why?" he gently stroked her cheek. "Do you think I won't understand?"
"I know you will." she replied blinking away the tears that sprung to her eyes. "I know that no one understands better than you do. And I wish that was different. I… You never want something like that happen to the ones you love."
"That's true." he nodded. "I never wanted you to know what this is like. What it's like to stand in the shower failing to wash all these feelings and memories away."
"Derek, please don't." she whispered and tried to get out of the bed.
He grabbed her arm and continued. "What it's like to awake from a nightmare in the middle of the night and all you want is lock the door and hide from the rest of the world."
She wasn't able to keep the single tear from running down her cheek. "Please, stop that." she begged him in barely more than a whisper.
Derek reached out to wipe the tear away. "I don't want to force you to talk to me if you don't want to." he explained. "But you will have to talk to someone. Believe me, as hard as it is, it helps. I just want you to know that I understand and that I'm here to listen whenever you need me to." He placed his finger under her chin and made her look at him. "I can make you forget for a while, but as much as I want to I can't undo your past."
When she locked eyes with him she burst into tears. She'd managed to handle all this on her own for such a long time. Antonio had tried to break her, to make her believe that she was worth nothing, that she deserved what he did to her – and she had been strong enough not to believe his words. But suddenly she didn't want to be strong any longer. It wasn't that she felt weak but Derek was offering her comfort – and she wanted to accept it.
Derek sat up and caught her in his arms, slightly swaying her back and forth.
Finally she let it all out and cried for what seemed like an eternity. She held him tight as if her life depended on it, his embrace giving her support, comfort and strength. When eventually her sobbing subsided and she calmed down, Penelope felt stronger and better than ever before. She raised her head and placed a soft kiss on his lips. "Thank you" she whispered, "it makes things so much easier with you by my side."
He smiled and gently put a strand behind her ear. "How about dinner now?" he asked carefully. "I'm sure I can deliver whatever makes you feel better."
Penelope shrugged. "I'm not really hungry."
"Shall I get you another tranquilizer?" he was surprised when she shook her head no.
"I don't need them when you're with me." she smiled. "I'd rather… Can we just stay here and hold each other and… maybe talk?"
Derek pulled her back into his arms, laid back on the bed and placed a kiss on her hair. "Of course, we can." he whispered. "As long as you want to."