AN: Written for the Wild Wednesday Word Wars on Facebook...and Dedicated to Hellomy, whose birthday is today! Happy Birthday, fellow Romantic!


A Decent Proposal by Kricket Williams

"Oh...oh...ooooooh, my sweet and spicy cocoa puff," Penelope moaned, her eyes closed in ecstasy. "Ohhh...yes, that's good! So, so, sooooo good."

Derek glanced at the door of her lair and felt his cheeks heating. "Baby...keep it down just a little, okay?"

"No no no, my love!" Penelope argued, shaking her head. "I want to proclaim it to the world. Like I said before: I don't care who knows, it's always been you!"

He chucked and leaned down, kissing the top of her head. "The world is fine. Strauss, on the other hand..."

"Oh, phooey on that woman." Sighing dramatically, she sat up in her chair and rolled her stiff shoulders, before turning and smiling at him. "Thanks, lover. I really needed that."

He nodded. "You did. Felt like you had knots the size of tennis balls in your shoulders." Strolling around to the front of her, he sat on the edge of her desk. "Something bothering you?"

She took a deep breath and hesitated for a second, her blue eyes clouding with wariness. "Well.."

"Come on, momma," he encouraged. "I'll get it out of you some way."

She smiled and then said, "Kevin proposed."

Derek's brow shot up immediately. "For real this time?"

She nodded, and her face twisted into a grimace. "Yeah. For real."

His expression was stoic. "What did you say?"

Blushing, she looked downward, a feeling of shame rolling over her. "I made him take it back."

Both brows shot up this time, and he chuckled despite himself. "You what?"

"Oh, you would've, too!" she huffed. "Derek, it was awful! He did it at the IHOP. He didn't kneel or anything. Just...said, 'Penny, dearest, will you marry me?'"

Derek winced. "Damn, I always knew Lynch has bad taste-" He wisely paused and smiled, adding, "Except for you, sweetie- but that's...bad."

Penelope fought the instinctual urge to protect Kevin. She usually was the first one telling everyone that Kevin meant well, that Kevin was a good man, that Kevin really did love her...but deep down, she kind of wanted him to get yelled at today. It had hurt, how little thought went into his plan to ask her to be his wife. She could tell he threw it together haphazardly. Yes, Morgan wouldn't help him—he told her he'd asked for help—but she thought he knew her better. He said he loved her, but she was having doubts.

Because after that proposal last night, she didn't feel very loved.

For a moment, a crazy moment, she thought about some of the things the tall, fit drink of chocolate milk had said in the past to her...and how romantic they'd seemed. For a moment, a dangerous moment, she let herself think where she shouldn't.

And then for a moment, a careless moment, she threw caution to the wind and asked.

"Derek," she whispered, and he gave her a questioning, ready look. "I-if you had to propose to me... what would you say?"

His expression went from surprised, to curious, to incredulous. "You serious?"

"As a heart attack."

Speaking of hearts, hers wasn't beating too well at the moment! It was rapid, and skipping beats.

The play of emotions on his expressive face didn't tell her what she wanted to hear. She waited, and felt so nervous. How stupid to ask her best friend to do something like that! What was she thinking? He didn't think that way about her—they were like friends...or really perverted siblings.

Giving a brittle laugh, she said, "Never mind, I-"

"What I would do," he interrupted, leaning forward slowly, so that he was inches from her, "is a series of things."

Her heart had stopped beating, and her breath hitched in her throat. "What things?"

She'd expected him to be joking, but she was surprised. His smile was soft, not at all the teasing smirk she expected. "The first thing I would do...if I were the incredibly lucky man who proposed to you...

would be to take you somewhere memorable, somewhere that meant something to us...like Westside Park..."

Penelope smiled at that thought. Westside Park was the place Derek had taken her the day he'd purchased Clooney. He'd been so excited, showing up in her No Dogs Allowed apartment complex with a puppy that had piddled on the middle in her hallway. They'd let him run between them, like a toddler on 'roids, and it had been a very good memory.

"Would you do it there?" she asked softly.

"Oh, no," he said, shaking his head slowly. "I would just be getting started. I'd make a day of it, make sure you were relaxed and happy."

She had a breathy, internal sigh of wistfulness. "What next?"

He smirked that time, a teasing one. "I'd take you to a fancy, romantic restaurant, one of those ones with the French on the menu that only you can understand..."

She giggled. That would be Chez Daniel, one of the first fine restaurants she'd gone to with him. It had been hilarious, because very suave and smooth Derek had faltered and ordered a lot of food he couldn't stomach. It had been sweet, because he'd done it because she'd made him smile, being her usual "sexy and brilliant" self.

"And you'd do it there?" she asked. This was already nine hundred thousand times better than what Kevin had done.

"No, sweetheart," he answered intently. "I'd have you put my leather jacket on, and we'd go for a ride along the river on my bike. We'd ride with the wind whipping through that gorgeous blonde hair of yours, until we got to a special place...the tops of the cliffs, where the wind is breezy and cool and the moon is so close, you can touch it."

He stood, and then reached for her hands and helped her to her feet. His dark eyes were melted, bittersweet chocolate tempered with diamonds for sparkle and light, and she felt like she were floating, like the wind was buffeting around them. She could almost see the moon, wanted to reach for it, and hold it in her hand.

"There, I would tell you how beautiful you are, inside and out,"he murmured, his voice throaty and rough, like crushed velvet. He closed his eyes for a moment, and tightened his hands on hers. "I'd tell you how much you meant to me, how I couldn't imagine a world without you.

"I'd tell you..." He opened his eyes, cupped her face in his hands. "I'd tell you that you were my solace, my best friend, my heart and my soul...and you'd know...one look at me, Baby Girl, and you'd know...just how much I needed you."

Every pore in her body was singing and open, and love was pouring in them, washing away all the hurt and pain she'd felt, and making her whole. It was overwhelming, it was beautiful, it was frightening, it was intense...and oh, God! She wished it was real...

"Then, and only then, when you were secure in my love, I'd drop to my knee like this." Reaching for her hand, he lowered himself to her feet.

"Oh, God..." She couldn't speak. Tears rose in her eyes and she blinked them back.

"Baby Girl...you make me a better man. I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life showing you just how much." He looked up at her, his heart in his eyes. "Would you do me the honor of being my wife?"

"Oh, Derek! Yes!" she cried, and dropping to her knees, too, she kissed him, letting every emotion she was feeling pour through her in the kiss. As he wrapped his arms around them, she felt pure joy. She'd never felt so loved, so at peace, so-

"What on earth?" a familiar, nasal voice cried from the doorway.

She broke away with a gasp, confused and punch drunk from kisses...It was that moment, Penelope remembered where she was...and what that proposal had really been about.

She stiffened and looked at Derek. "I'm sorry, I-"

"No, baby," he said swiftly. "Don't apologize."

She flushed red. "Derek, you were telling me, and I overreacted. I-"

"Woman, hush," he said, putting a finger on her lips. His gaze was warm, earnest. "I meant it, Penelope. I meant every word I said...but I got one question for you."

Butterflies of joy and anticipation grew in her stomach. "What?"

His grin was brilliant. "Baby...did you mean what you said?"

Tears sprung to her eyes, and she nodded. "Yes, I did."

"Well, this is all well and lovely!" Kevin snapped, obviously upset and confused.

Penelope felt an inkling of sadness—she wouldn't want to hurt anyone, much less someone she cared about—but it didn't rain on her joy with Derek. This was what was meant to be...had always been meant to be.

Always.

She smiled wistfully at Derek. "I better take care of this."

He arched a brow of concern. "Need me with?"

"No, my protective love," she said. "I can handle this."

"I love you," he whispered, and she knew he meant it.

"I know," she answered back. "I love you, too."

She gave him a smile, filled with love and promise that he returned full force, and then they both stood.

"What is going on?" Kevin snapped.

"Derek, if you would excuse us?" she asked.

"Of course," he said, and started out the door.

As he was leaving, he heard Penelope say, "Kevin...let me tell you how a proposal is supposed to be..."