Disclaimer: Much to my dismay, Criminal Minds is not owned by me!

A/N:Right, call this the buffer story just so that I can get my 200th (yes 200th!) story out after much pestering =P This story will be updated every other day whilst I deal with assignment stress... So without further ado, enjoy!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- The Compassion of Mortality -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Penelope sat and watched the life around her continue. She had to laugh at how normal everything seemed to carry on when nothing felt normal around her anymore. This morning had started like any other morning off. She had taken a long lie in before getting up to go to a doctor's appointment that she had only made as a direct result of her best friend's pushy nature.

After spending the last few months with constant back pain she knew he was right and she had to get it seen to. However, she never realised that life could change as quickly as it had the moment she had entered the hospital.

Now she was taking a moment to help herself, before she even attempted to seek out the aid from the important people in her life.

She smiled a little at the irony of seeing Derek jogging with Clooney next to him. Whilst he had been living a perfectly normal work-free day, she had literally watched her world crumble and fall around her. Even now as he continued to run past, her life still felt like it was ending.

Dropping her head down, she bit her lip and tried to gather some reserve of strength back as she mentally prepped herself for the upcoming months. However, living this alone was making it harder to keep some sort of morale alive.

Having paced back, Derek had thought he was seeing things, but he hadn't and he couldn't let her be alone for a moment. "Baby Girl," He said, his breathing racy as he stopped his sprint with Clooney.

She smiled up at him, "Hey Handsome." She watched the sweat as it glistened upon his skin and didn't think it was possible to ever see Derek Morgan look even more handsome than ever, but right now he was even more delicious on her eyes than ever.

"Been to the doctors?" He asked before anything else, knowing she had an appointment that morning. He had listened to her complain about how her first day off in a while resulted in her going near a hospital. He watched her nod at him and he prompted her to talk to him, "Everything okay?"

"It will be," Was all she told him, all the while she prayed he wouldn't pressure her to discuss what was wrong.

She thanked her lucky stars when he didn't persevere with the topic.

"How's your day been?" Derek said as he stretched out and calmed his breathing entirely. He had his face scrunched up with a stitch as Penelope spoke. Even at that point, Penelope noticed she was his sole concern.

"I start chemo Friday," Was all she told him. She didn't want it to come out how it had, but it had just slipped out in response to his question. It wasn't even the right answer, but it was all she had. She watched him slump down and stare at her. "I have cancer."

"And you're only telling me now?" Derek asked, his grief at the news coming out in anger.

"I-I," Penelope spoke out shocked at his reaction. "I haven't told anyone yet."

"You should've called me as soon as you found out," Derek told her as he turned to her, putting his arm along the back of the park bench, the peeling green paint on it digging into his skin.

Penelope looked up as his hand rose from the wood to move some hair back out of her face, "No, because that would change everything."

"No it wouldn't have, P. I would have come to you and supported you like your boyfriend should have. God damnit," He said smacking the bench, "Lynch should have been with you! He should have let his own fears go and helped you with yours. Someone should have been there for you." He felt angered at this news, "God, you should have told me, Penelope! I'm your best friend, you shou-"

"Don't make this into an argument," Penelope told him as she moved away from his touch, "I am barely holding this together as it is, Derek. I honestly don't need a lecture for not calling you when I don't have a clue what I am actually doing right now."

"I'm sorry," Derek quickly apologised to her sincerely. He realised anger wasn't what she needed, but the immediate fear driven into him was of such velocity he had to just lash out. "I don't want to argue with you, Pen, but I would have been there for you."

"I know," Penelope choked back at him.

"That's all, Princess. I would have come along as soon as you had called, but I shouldn't need to feel like that, because Kevin should have been there regardless," Derek told her truthfully.

"He doesn't do hospitals," Penelope defended him.

Derek sighed, "And you do?" He queried with slick sarcasm and he saw Penelope shot him a quick glare. He put his hands up to reveal his sincere regret, "All I'm saying is that he should have stepped up today. Four years should tell him to fight his damn fears and put you first on all occasions. Christ, I would have!"

"He isn't you though," Penelope sighed nonchalantly.

Derek accepted that fact gracefully, "You need to go and tell him. He deserves to know what's going to happen from now and for a while. He needs to realise he has to step up and prove his worth now. This is his time to shine, but you just need to tell him."

Bile rose in Penelope's throat as she wondered about Kevin's reaction and she was reduced to one and one only. "Kevin's going to leave me," Penelope admitted lowly and looked down at Clooney as he slept away at her feet.

"Whoa, you don't know that," Derek interrupted her thoughts. "He loves you, P. He won't give up on you just like that. He will stick by you through this."

"Who wants a girl with cancer?" She asked him, her tone now emotionless.

Derek put his hand to her chin and forced her to look at him, "Anyone would want you."

She felt the smile weakly press against her lips as she realised she had a solace in Derek she had never truly experienced. Of course, she had felt his presence, taken advantage of his comfort, but right here and now, with her life hanging in a new balance, she knew he would always be her safe haven. It didn't matter what transpired between them – Buford, Battle, Kevin – they were forever going to be a constant in one another's life.

That's why you fell in love with him, Penelope! Duh!

"I guess I have to tell him don't I?" She asked quickly as though Derek was now the genius that held every answer to her life because at that moment she felt completely and utterly helpless. Even though she wanted Derek by her side, and she wanted to admit to him the dangerous truth of her heart, she had a relationship started at home. One with a man that loved her already and she knew he was her safety net. Course he was! She was already caught in it!

"That you do, Princess," Derek told her tenderly and leaned in, kissing her temple as he pulled her against his body. "We'll get through this." He held her there for a moment, "Together."

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- The Compassion of Mortality -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

In the time since she had allowed Derek to walk her to her apartment, Penelope was calmed and collected. She was sure about the prospect of not only her future, but her future with Kevin. However, no more than two seconds after her apartment door was closed, she broke her resolve and all the fears came bubbling up.

She was terrified – plain and simple.

Taking in a deep breath, she picked herself up off of the floor and paced. She needed a plan and she needed one quickly. She also needed to work out how the hell she was going to tell the team about what had occurred. Her head was alive with so many crossing thoughts that she was becoming more and more overwhelmed. As she heard the key slid into her door, she decided she would wait until after dinner before she uttered a work to Kevin. That gave her more time to think of ways in which to say it, and ways in which he would respond.

However, the moment she watched her boyfriend walk through the door she knew she couldn't wait until after they had sorted something for dinner. She couldn't wait another minute without telling him what had transpired today. How she had gone for a check up, and to check the complaint with her back and now here she was already transferred to the oncology clinic at their local hospital. She needed him to know why she couldn't act right, or why she couldn't be strong for the moment.

"We need to talk," Penelope said solemnly and she watched the scared expression take over Kevin's entire face. "I don't want to break up," She quickly covered that base and took his hand, leading him to the couch. "What I'm going to tell you is hard, Kevin, and it's not easy."

"What is it, Plum Sauce?" Kevin asked as he inspected her up and down. He knew something wasn't right and if he could claim anything, she looked like someone had hurt her. His mind had become an absolute chaos heaven. He had bad scenario after bad scenario streaming live in his mind and he couldn't fight them down with one ounce of logic.

Penelope decided her best route was to just blurt it out, no circling around it, no buttering it up. Just plain harsh bluntness: "I have cancer."

Apparently she was only hurting herself with this.

Kevin's entire world enclosed in on him hastily and he found it hard to comprehend, even harder to draw in a normal breath. He wasn't sure if this was some sick joke, or his hearing was going weird, but when nothing changed and he never woke up and Penelope continued to speak, he knew it was the complete God's honest truth.

"I-I understand if this is something you can't cope with, Kevin. I would never hold this over you," She told him truthfully, "Ever."

Kevin sat there and looked at Penelope, he couldn't believe that this morning had started fine and now his girlfriend had cancer. He couldn't deny that he loved her and cherished having her in his life and now as she gave him a get out from this relationship he felt overwhelmed to stay unmoved.

"I'm not leaving you," He told her and his eyes watered immediately. "I love you, Penny. I'll help you through this. I can support you and look after you and I will."

Penelope felt herself begin to cry, "Thank you," she began to sob and Kevin quickly captured her in his arms.

As they separated Kevin sat upright and stared at her. The words that left his mouth changed his entire promise feeling his minor speech. "You'll get through this," Kevin told her as he patted her hand sympathetically.

Penelope was struck at that. Kevin applied this battle on her; it was all hers and hers alone. Derek, however, had made it his battle too. It was their fight, not just hers. Even she couldn't stop herself from wanting to run to Derek after that cognitive thought entered her head.

As she watched Kevin sit opposite her, she felt a surge of disappointment rush through her veins. Maybe she was expecting aggression and fear of the potential to lose it all. Maybe she was after tears and sorrow. Maybe she expected an outburst of some point.

Not a man who absolved himself from the moment.

Then it hit her suddenly as Kevin got up from his place next to her. She had already received that. She had received anger and sadness, and she had already seen a man with fear in his eyes at the truth of her pain. Derek had been her knight, her noir hero, and had shown her the rush of anger and fear all in one shot. Kevin had just placated it and shed the feeling of responsibility off of his shoulders. He had left her defenceless, whilst Derek had cemented his place in her life.

"I'll think I'll go and get you your favourite Thai for dinner," Kevin said as he stopped in the doorway and turned to her with his small goofy grin. "And a box of red velvet cupcakes too for dessert."

There was Kevin Lynch's saving grace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- The Compassion of Mortality -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-