She kept her distance, but her eyes never left him. After so many years apart, it was a habit that reactivated itself the moment they were in the same vicinity as the other. The sorrow on his face broke her heart to a million pieces. All she wanted to do was gather him in her arms and hold him for as long as it took for the pain to stop. Yet she couldn't. After everything, she didn't feel as though she had the right to offer him the comfort she knew he needed.

"Oh Fran, he still needs you. We all do. God I miss you." She said softly as she stood apart from everyone, hiding behind the sea of people paying their respects to a great woman. A woman she had grown to love as her own mother. He stood there between his two sisters, each one on his arm weeping. He shed quiet tears trying to be strong for all of them. Determined to hold it together for his Mom, for his family. Derek had looked up to shake the cobwebs from his head and his eyes fell on a familiar blonde dressed in a black suit. It had been years since they had gone their separate ways, and he hadn't seen her since. Gone were her golden locks, replaced by a stylish wispy layers that accented her features. Gone also were voluptuous curves, if his soul didn't know hers so well, his eyes would have merely passed her, but it was their connection that caused him to look a second time, and to linger in his stare. She was there. Last he had heard she was living in Paris, and now she was here, for his Mother's funeral, but then again he wasn't surprised.

Penelope's eyes met his, and it was though no time had passed, and the window to his soul was still open to her. After everything, she could still read him like a book. Des began to sob uncontrollably and Derek was forced to tear his gaze away from the one person he wanted to hold on to. He gathered Des in his arms, and when he looked up, she was still there offering her strength for him to draw from. When the service had finished, and Fran was lowered to her grave Sarah and Des clung to their brother for dear life. Derek's gaze however held Penelope's, through his tears he did break their connection, as though she was keeping him together. Moments later a familiar red head walked over to him and possessively clutched his arm as Des and Sarah walked in front of them. Derek tore his eyes away from Penelope and looked at Joan, the person he had given up his best friend for. He gave her hand a squeeze as they walked away from the grave. When Derek turned his head towards where Penelope was, she was no longer there. As though she had disappeared into thin air.

As everyone paid their respects Derek couldn't help but scan the crowd for her. Surrounded by his BAU family, as comforted as he was, he longed for her. Finally he saw her hugging his sisters, and just as he was about to walk over to her Joan had intercepted. When he had finally extracted himself from Joan's grasp, she was gone again. He saw the disappointed look in JJ and Emily's face. It was no secret that they disapproved of Joan. He knew they blamed Joan for the final nail to Penelope's plans to flee the country.

Just as he, his sisters and Joan began to drive out of the cemetery Derek threw a longing look back from the rearview mirror, at where his mother was buried, the inner boy in him wanted to scream. He didn't want to leave her there alone.

The cemetery was empty, they had been the last ones to leave, but there she stood holding a red rose in her hand. He could see her mouth move, whether in prayer or conversation with his mother, he would never know.

"What a beautiful centerpiece. Mom would have loved that. It has all of her favourite flowers." Sarah commented as they stood by the fire place where their Mother's photo sat.
"Yeah she would have, who sent it? Who else knows the perfect combination?" Derek asked, knowing that his Mom's love for the particular flowers before them was not common knowledge, for each flower represented something significant in her life. Des and Sarah looked at each other and smiled,
"Penelope," they answered in unison. Emily, Hotch, JJ, Reid, Rossi and Gideon who were watching nearby saw Joan tense up.
"Mom must have told her." Sarah answered before she could stop herself.
"What?" Derek demanded. Des and Sarah looked at each other before explaining,
"Mom kept in touch with Pen. They wrote constantly, talked on the phone. When Mom got sick she didn't want to worry us. It was Pen she confided in. Pen got on the next plane and took Mom to see Doctors, got second opinions. When it was confirmed that it was terminal, Pen got transferred to their Chicago office so she could be close to Mom. Before Mom told us, it was Pen who stayed with Mom. Afterwards she visited her everyday, they'd knit, or read, play cards. Mom loved her Derek, and she loved Mom almost as much as we do."
"Why didn't any of you tell me?" though the sinking feeling in his stomach already knew the answer.
"It was the one thing she asked of us." Des replied, the deeper meaning not lost on her brother. He knew it was because her resurfacing would put him and Joan in a difficult predicament, and that was the very reason why she walked away.

The team had known that Penelope had remained in close contact with Fran, and suspected that the reason why she moved back to the States and most specifically to Chicago was to be closer at hand. Though it wasn't clear until that very moment, just how involved Penelope was.

"If she got transferred to Chicago it means she has a place here,"
"Had. After Mom, she made arrangements to head back to Paris. She only stayed for the funeral." Derek looked over at Hotch,
"She's gone again?" he asked. Hotch nodded.
"I'm sorry."
"JJ, where's Will?" Derek asked noticing that JJ's husband was no where in sight. JJ dropped her gaze to the floor and looked back up at him.
"Airport, her flight leaves in a couple of hours. She refused to have any of us take her because you'd notice one of us missing, so we said our goodbye's last night. Will literally had to brow beat her into letting him take her to the airport."
"Ugh, Des, Sarah, I need to go. You guys going to be okay for a couple of hours?" Sarah and Des nodded violently practically pushing him out the door.
"We'll stay with your sisters Derek, you do what you need to do."
"Excuse me?" Joan interrupted. Derek let out a breath, he had almost forgotten she was there.
"I'm sorry Joan, I have to try and catch Pen."
"Derek," she protested,
"No, this has gone on for long enough. She has every right to be here, not sneaking off as though she's done something wrong. She's family. I was an idiot, and I should not have let it get this far. I care about you Joan, but I think we're going to need to talk when I get back."
"Don't bother." She said storming off, leaving JJ, Emily, Sarah and Des with their jaws to the floor.
"I have to get to the airport."
"I'll drive." Emily volunteered stealing Hotch's keys to the SUV from his jacket pocket.
"Let's go." Morgan said as he practically ran out of the house. Emily gave everyone a quick wave goodbye and followed a determined Derek Morgan out the door.

The drive to the airport was silent, every so often she threw a worried glance his way. She hoped that they would make it in time, but they truly were cutting it close.

"Morgan,"
"I let her walk away Em, she was my best friend and I let her walk away without so much as an argument, and despite of that she moved to Chicago to help my mother."
"She's Pen." She answered as though it explained everything, and it did
"Besides she loved your mother. Their relationship may have began with you but they held their own, especially after she left."
"I didn't fight for her, or for us." He confessed ashamed,
"Why is that Derek?" she asked, she had been wondering the very same thing since Pen had told her that she had said her goodbye to Derek.
"Because I was angry that she made the decision to walk away, to just jump ship"
"You know she did that for you don't you? She knew that Joan wasn't crazy about her, and that she was less than happy of your rapport with Pen and her place in your life. Joan was the first girl she'd ever seen you serious with and she thought you deserved an opportunity to be happy, and she thought by taking herself out of the equation, you would devote yourself whole heartedly to Joan, which you know you would not have been able to do had she stuck around. You would always be torn between the two of them, and she didn't want that. She was willing to step down as the person that knew you best because she cared about you that much. She thought taking herself out of the equation it meant giving you the opportunity to give yourself to Joan completely."
"But that's the thing Em, something was always missing, and I never could. At first I thought it was just because I missed her, but as more time passed, the more I realized that wasn't the case."
"Oh Derek," Em empathized,
"I'm in a mess aren't I?"
"Yeah, you are my friend."
"Do you think she'll ever forgive me?"
"Honey, this is Pen we're talking about. You know she already has."
"But it'll never be the same again will it?"
"No, and you can't expect it to ever be again. She's moved on with her life too. She's had to."
"I just want to hug her Em. I miss my best friend."
"I know," she said placing a hand on his knee and giving it a gentle squeeze.

Derek literally flew out of the SUV without waiting for its complete stop. He ran in trying to find her flight, while Emily went to legally park the car. He ran into Will who was on his way back to his vehicle.

"Derek," Will said surprised.
"Hey man,"
"I'm sorry Derek, her plane's just pulled out. It's just making its way to the run way now awaiting to take off. I was going to wait, but I realized that I had the baby's formula in the car and Hannah's due for a feed shortly." Derek's face faltered, she was gone again.
"Okay, thanks Man. I might just wait a bit and watch her flight take off."
"Sure, it's the one at the end, Air France. I truly am sorry for your loss Derek." Will said clasping a hand on Derek's shoulder. Derek knew that Will wasn't just talking about his mother.

Will watched as Derek walked over to the window, his eyes transfixed to the airplane that carried a person who meant so much to him, more than she could ever possibly know. Tears streamed from his eyes, as though the floodgates had opened and there was no stopping them. Grief overtook him, and his body shook in pure devastation. He managed to sink into one of the chairs, his eyes never leaving the plane that carried his baby girl. His heart ached for her, just when he thought it couldn't possibly hurt anymore, it did. When the plane had finally taken off he buried his face into his hands.

"I used to love airports, there was always this sense of adventure about it, but lately, it's all been about goodbyes, which really sucks." Derek's head snapped up upon hearing her voice.
"Pen!" he whispered in disbelief as he came face to face with her. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. Being so close to her literally knocked the wind out of him.
"I thought you were on that plane."
"I was, I had said my goodbyes, I had no plans of ever returning, but then I heard your Mom's voice in my ear reminding me of a promise I made to her."
"And what would that promise be?"
"That I will always look out for her Baby boy, that regardless where we may be in each other's life, that I will always look out for him. Make sure that he was okay. She told me that I was the only one who could get through to her son, and one day he's going to need that. Looking at you today at the funeral it unnerved and comforted me that I could still see right through you and your mother was right, it was a gift I was blessed with because no one else knows how to do that. She said not even her. So I knew I couldn't in good conscience get on that plane without at least giving you this," Penelope gathered him in her arms and held on to him tightly. Derek buried his face into her shoulders as he wept.
"It's alright handsome, we'll always miss her, but she's such a strong energy that she will always be around."
"I'm so sorry Pen,"
"I know you are, but I made the decision Derek. I chose to walk away. I miss you but I knew it was the right thing to do. It was the fairest thing to do, for all of us. We couldn't keep going the way we were, we would have reached breaking point eventually, and at least this way, we walked away with some pretty awesome memories. I have no regrets. Loving you has been one of my huge blessings, and that doesn't leave room for regret."
"Pen, when you walked away I was so angry that I didn't get a chance to stop you. I couldn't believe how easy it was for you to just walk away, to cut off all communication and never look back,"
"Oh sweetheart, it was anything but easy. It was a decision I questioned every day, one that breaks a piece of my heart every time it's any wonder there's any left." She whispered in admission still holding him in her arms as he gripped tightly to the arms that were wrapped around him.
"Pen, Joan and I aren't meant to be. I think I've always known that, but after everything it seemed like I had to try harder, it cost so much that I had to make it work, but there was always something missing Pen. I know you walked away to give us a chance to be together, so that I can fully give her all of me, but I realized that I can't give her something I gave away a long time ago. I can't give her my heart, when I already gave it to you." Derek said sitting up to look right into her eyes. Penelope gasped inwardly, her heart raced as her mind tried to keep up. Fran had uttered the very same words to her the last time she sat by her bedside only a week before.

"Thank you Penelope, for everything you have become to this family. I want you to know that I couldn't' have loved you more had you been my own daughter. You have never been anything less than a Morgan. I want you to be happy sweetheart. I know what you gave up to give him a chance for happiness, but a time will come my love that he will realize what you tried so hard to release so that he can give it to someone else is no longer his to give. You already own his heart sweetheart. You just need to give him time to catch up. He'll get there."
"I don't think so Fran. It's been so long already. Maybe in the beginning I could believe that, but it's been years, he obviously loves her."
"He's being stupid, he's my son and I love him but stubborn and blind, but I promise you Pen, one day he will know, I just pray that you will be ready to receive him. Promise me that no matter what you will always look out for him, after I'm gone he's going to need you. You're the only person in this world who has ever been able to get through his walls, he's going to need that Pen, and I know it's a lot to ask, but promise me you'll make sure he's okay. He's going to try so hard to keep this family together, and he'll bury his emotions and the more he'll drown. Don't let him drown, please don't let my baby drown."
"I promise Fran. I promise." Penelope said giving her frail hand a gentle squeeze.

"Pen, are you alright Baby Girl?" he asked worriedly as her face went ashen before him.
"Yeah Handsome. My heart's just catching up to my mind as it wraps itself around what you just said. Funny enough, your Mom said exactly what you just said."
"She did?"
"Yeah, a week ago. The last night, before you got there I was with her and she made me promise to never give up on you, that one day you'll realize what she's known all along."
"That would be my mother on her death bed, using all her cards to ensure my future."
"Yeah, I could never really say no to a Morgan." She admitted. Derek took her face with both hands and brought his forehead to hers.
"I know we still have so much to talk about P, but will you please stay so we can do that?" his eyes begged.
"Sure, after all I have a promise to keep." She replied with a small smile. Derek grinned and pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly, burying his into her shoulder as she breathed him in, feeling for the first time in years that she was home.

Emily grinned from where she stood and pulled out her phone to call Hotch.