Chapter 12 - The Epilogue Chapter

Chicago, Illinois…October 31st, 2013

One year later, Penelope and Derek found themselves back in Chicago, setting up for the second annual Spooktacular Ball. Last year's party had been so successful—and so welcomed by the community—that it was now a yearly event. This year, Sun was back and in charge, so the workload was far lesser for both P and D.

This was a good thing... They were rather busy.

"Miss P!" Willie called out, running up to Penelope with a box of streamers for decorating. "Wanna help?"

Derek slung his arm over her shoulders and looked at the little boy. "You mean Mrs. P, right?"

Last year, around Christmastime, Derek had surprised her with a sweet, little personal-sized chocolate cake. Only she had received that particular cake...

"It's because you like that cake so much," Derek said.

"Oh," she said nonchalantly, but inside she was so excited. She was pretty certain there was a ring in that cake. Last time someone had proposed to her, she wasn't at all ready, even after three years of dating...and she never would have been. Now, less than two months after dating Derek...

She was ready. Oh, how she was ready.

She began to eat the cake, poking her fork inside in different spots and coming up empty.

She didn't realize she had been frowning with concentration as she ate it until Derek said, "Looking for this?"

Her eyes shot up to him, holding a sparkling diamond between his first finger and his thumb that was nearly as brilliant as his smile...

Although there was a twinkle in Derek's eyes, the little boy didn't catch it, and he blushed uncomfortably. "Ummm..."

"Behave," Penelope chastised as she shoved Derek's arm, and then she addressed the little boy with a smile and took the box of streamers. "Ignore him, Willie. I'll always be your Miss P."

Al and Cassie were in the corner, hanging decorations and hanging on each other, too. Apparently, that romance was budding as well as Penelope and Derek's. Well, not quite as fruitful as Pen and Derek's relationship, but they were young. They had all the time in the world to catch up.

Sadly, James and Vonda were no longer an item, but he had a new girlfriend, Sara, who seemed to be an absolute doll. She was the fourth girlfriend the young man had had since last Halloween. It seemed that James was following directly in Derek's footsteps when it came to relationships, too—it might take him awhile to find the right girl.

"Okay, Willie, where should we hang these?" Penelope asked.

"Same spot as last year," he replied, heading to the corner of the gymnasium. He smiled at her. "New ladder this time."

Penelope followed with a smile, thinking about Derek catching her when she'd fallen—like he always had, both figuratively and literally. That was okay—he'd always said she'd saved him in return.

They began removing the streamers and the sticky tape, and Penelope was about to ascend the ladder when she heard, "Oh, no, you don't!"

Derek came walking over to her, and she pouted at him. "I'm not an invalid, Hot Stuff."

"You're still recovering." He cupped her cheek and said softly, "No stairs yet, peaches. Okay?"

She sighed. "Okay." Although the doctor had said that she was all clear for activities now, she could never deny him anything when he looked at her with those golden brown eyes...

"Look who's up and wants to join the party," Fran said, carrying in a little bundle dressed in a chili pepper costume/bunting.

"There's my little hot stuff!" Penelope said with a big smile on her face.

Derek reached for the baby from Fran. "Hi, peanut. Been a good boy?"

Fran brushed a finger on the soft cheek of the baby. "He's always Grandma's good boy."

Derek leaned down and kissed his son on the forehead. "That's my boy."

Penelope sighed happily and stood next to Derek as he held little DJ. "Two months old today. Can you believe it?"

Closely after that first time in Chicago that they'd made love, Penelope had become pregnant. It hadn't been expected. They had been using protection, and they were both older, but that hadn't been an issue for the two of them.

When he didn't answer, she murmured, "Derek?"

"You hold him here, in this building where I had so much pain, and to know he's never going to suffer like I did..." Derek looked up at her with tears in his eyes. "Full circle, baby. Full circle."

She snuggled even more into his side and kissed his bicep. She didn't need to say a thing; she knew that her presence was enough.

Derek reached a finger down and touched his son's cheek. DJ turned toward that finger, suckled it just the slightest bit, and then his adorably cherub-cheeked face began to crumple in distress as he didn't get what he probably had woken up for. He let out a wail, loud enough to cause the others in the room to coo and fuss over him, too.

"Here, I'll take him." Penelope reached for DJ and smiled at her husband. "Coming with?"

Derek kept her company often when she fed their son. With his big hands, he was the best at burp production.

He gave her a gentle kiss. "I'll follow in a minute."

Penelope walked out of the room, singing softly to her son, thinking that life didn't get much better than this.

The End

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