"Have you told her what's goin' on with you, Derek?" his mother asked that night after Penelope and the boys had gone to bed.
Derek shook his head as he took a sip of beer.
"Don't you think she has the right to know?" she pressed.
He nodded. "Yes. I just…need to find the words."
His mother cleared her throat. "If it's affecting you like this, Derek, then maybe it's time to think about a new career."
Derek's head flew up. "I can't leave the bureau!" he said firmly.
"But you can leave your family?" she shot back.
He lifted his hand and rubbed it across his forehead. "It's not like that," he said.
Fran sighed. "Do you think she's just gonna be here ready for you to come home when you decide it's time?"
God, he hoped so. But Derek didn't say anything. He played with the label of his beer instead.
"Your father would be beside himself to know that you've deserted your family," his mother said.
Derek's head snapped up, anger flaring in his eyes. "Dad would understand," he said.
"Would he?" his mother asked softly. She shook her head. "I don't think so. You left your wife and kids, Derek."
"Dammitt, Momma! I didn't leave them!"
"Don't you curse at me," she warned quietly.
He sighed at the reprimand. But he had to admit, it was deserved. "I'm sorry," he said sincerely.
She smiled sadly at her son. "Are you still having nightmares?" she asked.
He nodded, looking away.
"Did they give you anything to help you sleep at night?" she pushed.
"Yeah," he said tiredly. "But I only took it once."
"I slept too soundly," he said. "Didn't like it."
She shook her head. "I hope you talk to your wife before it's too late," she said as she stood up. She leaned down and kissed her son on the forehead. "Good night, Honey," his mother said.
He smiled at her. "Night, Momma."
Penelope reached for the glass of water on her nightstand only to find it empty. Derek kept the furnace up high and it made the house dry. She'd already stripped down to her tank top and panties. Taking off anything else wasn't an option. She sighed in frustration. It was almost one a.m. and she hadn't slept a wink. She had a sneaking suspicion it had something to do with the man downstairs on the couch. It was hard enough to fall asleep at night without her husband by her side, but to know he was downstairs? Well that made it nearly impossible.
She got out of bed and pulled her pajama bottoms on, then made her way into the kitchen. She opened the fridge to pour a fresh glass of water and was heading for the stairs when she heard Derek thrashing around on the overstuffed couch.
"Don't go in there, Derek," he heard. It was Prentiss' voice and it was echoing throughout the room. He looked around, but all he could see was darkness. "Derek!" he heard her say again. "Don't go in there!" He walked straight ahead, hands out in front of him, until he bumped into something. He began to feel along the wall at a furious pace until his hand came to a door knob. He grasped it, moving to open the door. "Don't do it, Derek!" Prentiss said adamantly. But it was too late.
Derek sat up in bed, his t-shirt soaked with sweat. His breathing was ragged, his chest heaving. He rubbed the palms of his hands over his eyes.
"Derek?" he heard.
He just about jumped out of his skin.
The light flipped on, and Penelope was standing there wearing a pair of hot pink Capri pajama bottoms. The color reminded him of earlier that evening. She had on a matching tank top—no bra. He knew from experience that all he'd have to do was look at her nipples and they'd be hard. But he forced himself to meet her eyes instead. They were filled with worry.
"Are you OK?" she asked.
He nodded, clearing his throat. "I'm fine," he said.
She nodded, too, but hers was uncertain. She took a deep breath. "Leaving was one thing, Derek. But when are you going to stop lying to me?"
"What do you want me to say? That I'm not fine?" he asked angrily.
"For starters," she said.
"I'm not fine," he shot back.
"Really?" she said sarcastically. "You don't say?"
"Oh, don't start," he told her.
"Start what? I think I've pretty fucking patient with you, Derek."
"This is patient?" he shot back.
"No, this is me fed up!" she said heatedly. She sighed. "When your mother leaves, Derek, so do you. And you don't come back."
"Fine," he said.
"I mean it. You don't pick up the boys here; you don't drop them off here! You don't come in to see Jack Frost—I'm done!"
He looked at her, his eyes widening. He'd seen her angry before, but not like this. She never raised her voice. And he couldn't blame her. He'd been purposely vague for months, and then he'd left without really leaving. He came and went as he pleased, and for the most part—up until now—she hadn't said a word.
She shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. "Oh, you're not gonna say anything?" she said, lifting her eyebrows. She laughed bitterly. "There's a surprise." She choked back a sob. "I'll do the talking." She stood there for a minute studying his face before continuing. "I'm gonna see a lawyer after Christmas." She was lying. And Derek probably knew she was lying, but Penelope was a desperate woman. They'd worked so hard to build a good marriage and a structured home for their children. And Derek was just throwing it all away. And for what?
Derek felt as if a bomb had just dropped into his lap. But instead of trying to diffuse it, all he could do was stare at it.
Penelope could see the shock on his face. Besides earlier this afternoon, this was the most response she'd gotten from him in months. She looked away from him and rubbed her arms with her bare hands, then headed for the stairs. She'd almost made it to the bottom step when she heard him speak.
"It was Montgomery," Derek said quietly.
She froze for a second and then turned around. "What?" she asked confused.
He cleared his throat. "It was the first week of school vacation, and you took it off to be with the boys," he told her. "We had a case in Alabama."
"I don't remember that," she said, walking over to the couch to stand in front of him.
"Because I didn't tell you about it. You asked me how it went when I got home, and I couldn't tell you," he explained. "So I played it off like it wasn't a big deal."
"Well, how did it go?" she asked. She knew it was a stupid question—obviously something had gone horribly wrong—but she didn't know what else to say. Her husband was talking to her and she was desperate for him to carry on. She had to say something.
He shook his head, the images still clear in his mind. "Not good," he answered honestly.
"What happened?" she asked.
Derek nodded, giving Prentiss the go ahead. She returned it with a nod of her own then proceeded to kick down the front door. Prentiss went straight ahead, Derek went left, and Hotch went right. "Clear!" Derek shouted when he'd searched the area thoroughly.
"Clear!" he heard Hotch yell.
"Hotch!" Prentiss' voice came from upstairs. It was filled with urgency.
Derek reached the stairs first and practically flew up them. Hotch was right behind him.
Prentiss was standing in the doorway of one of the rooms when Derek reached her. "In here?" he asked.
She nodded. "Derek," she warned. "I don't think…" Her voice trailed off.
"You don't think what?" he asked swiftly.
She swallowed past the lump in her throat. "You shouldn't go in there," she said. Her voice was hoarse.
"What are you talking about?" he asked angrily. Derek Morgan didn't shrink away from a case.
"Prentiss?" Hotch said. "Step aside."
"Hotch…" she said. Her eyes were pleading, but Derek hadn't seen it then.
"Prentiss." Hotch remained firm.
She stepped to the side with a sigh and Derek pushed past her.
What he saw made his blood run cold.
Derek lifted his eyes to his wife's, and she could see the torture in them. She'd never noticed it before. Had it been there prior to him leaving and she'd been too busy to see it? She didn't know, but she wished she did.
"The crime scene," he told her. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
Penelope sank down onto the couch next to him, resting one hand on the back of his neck. She placed the other one on his knee. "Derek?" she said gently.
He opened his eyes. "It wasn't even gruesome," he told her with a shrug. "It was pretty mild compared to most of the other ones we see. But…it was a family," he told her. "A white mother and her two sons."
Penelope inhaled sharply. "African American?" she guessed.
He nodded as he took a deep breath. "The mother had long, curly blond hair." He lifted a hand and picked up a piece of her hair, running his fingers down the lock until it fell back onto her bare shoulder. "They found her glasses a few feet away from her body." He shuddered at the thought. They'd been thick, black rimmed, like Penelope's. "Prentiss warned me. But I didn't listen and I pushed past her. This was the second family of victims. And they were hate crimes. But we didn't put it together until that second family. They were killed for no other reason than they chose to marry black men and have babies with them. The first one wasn't too bad. But the second one…God, she looked just…like you."
Penelope had thought it would take more than words for her to forgive him, but she'd been wrong. The pain in his voice was raw, and in that instant, it was done. "Derek," she said feelingly.
"Everything changed that day, Penelope," he said softly.
She shook her head and leaned forward, putting her forehead on his. "It's baby girl," she said softly.
He gathered her in his arms and pulled her to him in a crushing hug. "My baby girl," he corrected.
He pulled away and she let her hand rest at the base of his neck again. "I was always the first one in, fearless and focused," he told her. "And then, all of a sudden…it's like everything that I could lose was staring me right in the face. It wasn't just about me anymore. And it hadn't been for a long time. I wanted to catch the bad guys to make this world a better place," he explained. "And…I did it at any cost. I…kicked down doors, I chased UnSubs."
"That's your job," she reminded him.
He shook his head. "My job is to do that stuff while I take precautions. But sometimes, I'd throw caution to the wind."
"So…you pushed us away because you were afraid of losing us?" she concluded. She didn't like it, but in a way she couldn't explain, she understood her husbands' logic.
"I watched my father get shot right in front of me! I watched him fall to the ground and die! And I never thought that in all of my life, I would ever feel what I felt that day! But Penelope, when I walked into that room…" He took a deep breath. "When I walked into that room, it was a hundred times worse. Because all I saw…was you and the boys. And I realized that until that moment, I had never known fear," he admitted. He swallowed past the lump in his throat and lifted his eyes to hers. "I was selfish," he said.
"I can't…argue with that," she told him honestly.
"I know," he said. "And…I wanted to stop pulling away from you, baby girl, but I couldn't. And when I saw that you were so miserable—that I was making you that way, I left. It wasn't fair to you."
"And being without you was?" she asked quietly.
"I wasn't the same man," he told her, shaking his head.
She cleared her throat. "Derek, listen to me. You are never going to change so much that I don't want you," she promised him. "Or love you."
"I wish I could believe that," he told her.
She looked him in the eye. "I will tell you as many times as I need to until you believe it," she told him fiercely. "But Derek, you can't ever do this again. You can't just…leave like this."
"Or you won't take me back," he said softly.
She shook her head violently. "You're not listening to me," she said impatiently. "I would take you back. But my heart…would be broken!" she said firmly.
He studied her face for a minute, his eyes locked on hers. "I won't ever leave you," he said.
She looked into his eyes and saw the promise in them. She stood up and took him by the hand. "Come to bed," she said, giving him a soft tug.
He stood up and pulled her against him, her chest resting against his. He lifted his hands to her cheeks and pushed her hair away from her face. "I'm so sorry," he said earnestly.
"I know you are," she told him.
He stood there for a minute, looking at her. "You're gonna forgive me just like that?" he asked quietly.
"Yep," she said with a tender smile. "Just like that."
"Why?" he asked.
"Derek Morgan, have you ever known me to hold a grudge?" she asked sweetly.
He shook his head and she lifted her hands to rest on his.
"Then why would I start with you?" she said, tilting her head to the side. She started walking backwards towards the stairs and he followed her up to their bedroom.
"You know it drives me crazy when you don't wear a bra," Derek told her, his hands covering her breasts over her tank top. "Did you do that on purpose?" he growled.
"No," Penelope said with a laugh. "You know I never wear a bra to bed."
"And I bet that makes your husband a very happy man," he teased with a grin.
"Wait," Penelope said unconvincingly when her husband's capable hands found the waistband of her panties.
"What am I waiting for?" he asked.
"I have to…tell you something," she said hesitantly.
He waited but she remained silent.
"Baby girl?" he asked, his hand moving to rest on her belly.
"I'm pregnant," she blurted out.
His eyes flew to her stomach. "What? You told me you were safe," he said dumbfounded.
"I was!" she told him. "There was no way I could get pregnant, because I already was! We were as safe as we were ever gonna get."
"How pregnant are you?" he asked.
She cleared her throat. "Three months," she answered.
"Three months? Why didn't you tell me?" he asked. But his tone wasn't filled with accusation, just curiosity.
She sighed. "I just found out a few days ago. And I wasn't…" Her eyes left his. "Sure," she finished quietly.
"That you wanted another baby?" he asked. They'd discussed it before, and they'd decided together that they wanted more children.
Her eyes filled with tears. "I didn't want another baby without you," she said softly.
"That's why the boys heard you crying." He said it out loud, but it was to himself.
She bit down her lower lip waiting for her husbands reaction.
But there was no need for nervousness. Her husband was thrilled with the news. He lifted her tank top and kissed the spot just above her belly button. "Daddy's coming home," he said softly.
Penelope lay back on the bed, one of her arms behind her head. She had a grin on her face, her tears forgotten.
Derek gave her panties a swift tug and she sighed. Another pair to replace.
He moved his mouth closer to her belly, placing a soft kiss there. "Now, just so you know, in a few minutes, your momma is gonna be making some crazy noises," Derek whispered. "But don't worry." He lifted his head and winked at his wife. "That means she likes it."
"Ssshh!" Braden said crossly to his brother the next morning as they stood in the hallway.
"Why do I have to be quiet?" Marcus questioned, his little arms outstretched to his sides.
Braden sighed. Marcus questioned everything. "Do you hear what I hear?" he asked excitedly.
Marcus shook his head. "What do you hear?" he asked.
Braden smiled. "It's Mommy and Daddy. And they're laughing."
Marcus grinned. Daddy was right. Santa Claus really did give you what you wanted for Christmas.