AN: A little holiday treat... I love Christmas, and I couldn't let it go by without giving one more gift to all the wonderful people who review, alert, favorite, pm and support me here and on Facebook...xoxoxo, Kricket

The Sweet Christmas Goodbye

"I can't believe you are up and leaving me, woman," Derek said, shaking his head as he drove her to the airport.

"It's only for a month," Penelope scoffed, rolling her eyes.

He took his eyes off the road to give her an incredulous look. "Only? Baby Girl, that is an eternity!"

"Pay attention to driving," she replied, although secretly, she was pleased at his reaction.

"You'll probably forget all about me in that time."

She smiled to herself. He sounded like a petulant child. "I'd never forget you, angelfish."

Penelope was heading to California for a month. Her sister-in-law, Connie, had just recently had triplets after years of trying to have children, and right before Christmas. It was a very blessed event. Peter, her brother, and Connie, too, were going to make terrific parents. However, right now, they were understandably overwhelmed…

"Hey Peter," Penelope said into the phone, calling her brother for their weekly chat.

"Pen! Are you coming for Christmas vacation this year?" Peter asked excitedly. "Parker and Paul will be in town, and we'd love to see you. Phil is staying in Texas, the party pooper."

Penelope smiled. It wasn't often that she went home for the holidays. Usually, she stayed in Quantico and spent time with Will, JJ, and Henry. She hadn't planned on flying, but it would be great to see her stepbrothers and the babies.

"I'd love to come visit and see the babies for a week."

"Thank you. We'd love to see you, and we'd appreciate the extra set of hands." Peter sounded more exhausted than she had ever remembered him sounding.

"You okay, Pete?" she asked, concerned about her stepbrother. "You need help?"

"Do we ever!" he said with a lot of drama. Unfortunately he didn't sound like he was exaggerating!

"You want me to stay for a week and a half?" she offered. It would be nice to be surrounded by sweet smelling babies.

"Actually, can you stay for longer?"

She frowned. " long, Pete?"

"How about a month?" he pleaded. "Seriously, Pen, we're up to our neck in diapers and fading fast!"

"You'll be fine," she said with a laugh. He had to be joking. She'd thought a week and a half was long! She was relatively close to Peter, however she hadn't stayed at his house for longer than a weekend ever.

"That's what you think. The other day…" Peter paused as Penelope heard a baby cry. "Oh…Oh, dear. That isn't good. Pen, I have to call you back."

"Do you really want me for a month?" she asked, listening to the rising panic in Peter's voice as two more babies started in a symphony of crying.

"Oh, could you, please?" he begged.

"Peter, help!" Penelope heard Connie cry out.

At that moment, she'd realized she was heading to California. She had a lot of vacation worked up; she could take the time. Besides, Penelope's family had never asked her for anything in the past, and she loved babies, although she wondered if she would ever have her own.

That train of thought got her thinking about relationships, love, marriage, babies…and the man sitting next to her. In her fantasies, she saw curly haired little kids running around herself, and Derek scooping them up and bringing them over to her. They always looked just like him…with maybe a smidgen of her intertwined.

The funny thing was that she'd never had that same fantasy about Kevin, even when she was dating him. She'd never dreamed of Kevin having their kids riding on his shoulders, or on his back like a horsey. For some reason, Derek Morgan had always been the hero in that role, almost like it couldn't be cast for anyone else.

Stupid fantasies.

She knew that was ridiculous. She was a friend with Derek—a very good friend to him—but that was all. She'd hoped that maybe there was something more to her and Derek's relationship, but she was a realist. After all, she'd been single for three months now, and they flirted with each other like usual, maybe a little more than they usually did...but that was as far as it went.

She was fine with that. Really, she was...

Derek pulled his little blue car in to short term parking and turned off the engine. "Okay, let's go."

Grabbing her bags, they waited in line for her ticket, teasing and talking like always. Penelope had a lot of gifts for the babies and her brothers that she needed to check; otherwise, she would've just used an e-ticket and saved the time. It was only a few days before Christmas, and Dulles was massively busy.

When she had her tickets and everything was checked in, she turned to say goodbye, but Derek insisted on walking her to the gate.

"They won't let you past security," she explained. "You don't have a boarding pass."

He arched a brow at her, and then walked up to the first security guard he saw. Flashing his badge, he said, "FBI. I'm Agent Morgan. I'm escorting this woman to make sure she makes it on her flight as scheduled."

"Yes, sir," the TSA replied, looking at Penelope with a lot of curiosity, like he was wondering what sort of felony she'd committed to need FBI escort.

She glared at Derek, who shot her a grin as he removed his ankle holster, his keys, and his gun belt, before proceeding through security.

"You are awful," she said, still glaring at him, but unconvincingly—the corners of her lips were fighting for a smile.

He wrapped his arm around her and gave her a squeeze. "And you love me for it."

She leaned back into him and answered honestly, "Yes, I do."

They made it to her gate and chatted about everything and nothing, discussing the babies, food, work.

The time seemed to fly by, before the ticket agent announced, "Now boarding flight 622 to San Francisco, first class, rows T through Z, and parents with small children."

Her row was L.

"I guess I'd better get ready," she said, feeling sad. She was going to miss him, although she'd email and text and call him like she always did when he was gone.

He stood. "Yes, I guess you better."

She stood, too, looking at him. She wanted to tell him how much she'd miss him, that she'd feel like she was leaving behind a part of her heart, but she knew that really wouldn't be appropriate. She should just hug him goodbye, like good friends do, and be done with it.

"I'll miss you," she said softly.

"I'll miss you, too."

"Merry Christmas, Hot Stuff."

"Merry Christmas, Baby Girl."

Penelope's heart sunk to her gut. He didn't make a move to hug her, so she didn't make a move toward him, either. She hated this. She could feel the static in the air, the pure electricity that ricocheted between them, and yet...that was it. Maybe it was destined to be like that forever between them? Missed opportunities and wondering what might have been.

Quickly, she turned away from him and reached for her purse.

"Penelope. Before you go," he said.


She didn't get to finish what she was going to say. With a quick tug, he pulled her into his chest, cupped her face with his hands, and kissed her like she'd never been kissed before. This was no little kiss. This was a full fledged, passion rousing kiss she would never forget.

His mouth on hers was hot, hard, exhilarating, as the pressure increased, causing her lips to part. He angled her head just slightly, so that she opened her mouth even more. Only then did his tongue slide inside, stroking against hers, sending delicious thrills of awareness down her spine.

Lord, how the man could kiss! He kissed her like he had years of passion bottled inside, just like she did, and he uncorked it and let it pour over their bodies. There was such heat and want, bubbling inside her, coating her body, her heart, and her soul.

When he finally lifted his lips from hers, she was sagging against his chest, her eyes were closed, her lips were buzzing...and her panties were wet.

He rested his forehead against hers and cupped her cheeks with his hands, delicately tracing soft lines from the corners of her mouth to her temples while they both steadied their breaths.

"Oh, Penelope..." he whispered, the words nothing more than warm and silky puffs of air, like angels wings falling against her lips.

She leaned back, wanting to see his expression, but she didn't have time. Bracing his hands on her upper arms, he helped her to stand again, holding her until she was steady, and then he took a step away from her.

"Have a great flight," he said, and then he turned and walked away.

She stared after him, watching him walk away…and then a big smile crept across her face.

"Final boarding call for Flight 622 to San Francisco, rows A-Z."

Still smiling, Penelope picked up her bag and boarded the flight.

AN2: Did this get you in a festive mood?...Hee hee...Now, I think this needs a follow-up...The New Year's Hello...What do you think? ;)