AN: Thanks so much for reading and reviewing, and for reading it over at TWCS, too. I won second place in the contest on FB, so I am so happy! We have reached the end of another story. I am hoping to be back with another story before New Years (Especially with the awesome fodder we got Wednesday on CM-Whoo baby!), but life is kind of hectic right now. I will for sure be back with my next big thing...another epic coming your way. Merry Christmas! With Love, Kricket

Chapter 7

Penelope had never felt so wonderful in her life. Derek was still on top of her, his warm body like the most decadent comforter she'd ever had. She could stay like that forever, in blissful communion, their bodies locked intimately and their hearts beating in time. Someday, they would have to return to work, and with that, the real world, but until then...this would be optimal.

Of course, as with all good things, this, too, had to come to an end. Derek braced himself on his forearms and looked down at her. "You okay?"

She reached for him, trying to pull him down. "I'm perfect."

Derek tried to roll off her, but she held on. She knew it was desperate, but she just wasn't ready to let go.

"Baby Girl," he said with a chuckle. "I have to be squishing you."

"No," she half-pleaded, half-ordered. "Stay."

"Penelope," he said, rising up more. Concern for her was written clearly in his honey brown eyes."Sweetheart...what's wrong?"

Those eyes held hers, eyes that had supported and cared for her forever, and she couldn't lie to him. "I don't... I don't want this to end."

With those words, she gave birth to the biggest fear she had inside of her. That this was just a one-time thing—or even worse, a few times thing before he grew bored with her and moved on to Gymnast Barbie, the underwear model. She closed her eyes tightly, trying to hold back the moisture she could feel brewing in her eyes.

"Angel...this doesn't have to end," he said. He reached up to reverently trace the side of her face. "I love you. I want this to last."

"I love you," she said, "and I want it to last, too..."

Derek's face fell a little, and he prodded, "But...?"

"But we both know I'm not your usual type, and—"

"Fuck that."

"Excuse me?" she squeaked.

"You heard me." He jumped off the bed and ran a hand over his face. "I just made love to you with everything I had in my soul. Do you disagree with me?"

Nudity in their relationship was waaaaay too new, and she found herself gaping at his nude body. Good God, he was luscious. All lean, sculpted muscle and smooth, dark skin. Even his dangly bits, which usually looked kind of funny on most naked guys, flopping around, were gorgeous and nearly majestic.

"N-No," she said, scrambling to sit up and to get her mind out of the gutter.

"Say it," he snapped, shooting her a look that brooked no argument. "The right way."

For a second, she couldn't quite recall...and then she could feel her cheeks heating as she remembered that particular instruction to the tee. Ooh, he was a demanding sort. Hot as hell, but still demanding.

"No, Derek."

Watching his handsome, naked body prowling back and forth with ire and frustration, she felt terrible for making him stressed. He stopped his pacing and turned back to her.

"I am going to say this once, and I expect you to believe me because I have never lied to you." He braced his hands by her hips and looked her straight in the eyes. "I adore the ground you walk on. I have for eight years. I want to be with you—only you—and I want you to want me, too."

Her heart ached at his words. Sometimes, orders were harder to follow.

"I do believe you," she said softly. "I just don't always believe in me."

He frowned for a moment. "What do you mean by that?"

She sighed heavily. "Derek, look at you. You're beautiful. You're perfection. You're everything a woman could want."

"No, I'm not," he said swiftly. "There's a lot about me that sure as hell ain't perfect. Sure, I got a hard-earned six pack, but I'm not as suave as Rossi, as level-headed as Hotch, or as smart as Reid."

"You are, too, perfect. And no one is as smart as Reid," Penelope argued.

He smiled softly at her defense of him and took a seat on the edge of the bed. "Thanks, honey. But not everyone is into guys like me. You know that." He paused and then said softly, "I wasn't your first choice."

"When...?" Her eyes widened, and she thought about when he'd said Again.

Was he talking about years ago, when he'd first told her he loved her? She didn't think...she hadn't thought...

Oh, God... That was five years ago...and she was worried about being a flash in the pan to him? She'd been an insecure moron, even back then, and she was done being insecure about his love. No more wasting time.

Suddenly, she scrambled out from under the covers and knelt next to him on the bed, hugging him tightly.

"Oh, Derek, I love you so much!" she said, tears springing to her eyes as she plastered kisses to his neck, his head, his shoulders...wherever she could reach.

"Baby," he said, chuckling. "What—"

"You were never second choice!" she cried, still kissing him. "It hurts me to hear you say that. It wasn't you! It was me. I was just scared."

His shocked face turned into a brilliant smile as he cooed to her, "Penelope...sweetheart..."

"You were a god, your pursuits were legendary," she rambled on, "and I was just a nerdy girl. I didn't think you could be, that you were interested really in—"

He pulled her into his lap and began to kiss her again, hard and deep, taking control. When he raised his mouth, she was breathless.

"Never badmouth yourself," he said seriously. "You're an angel—my Christmas Angel—and I am the luckiest man alive that you love me, too."

His words reverberated through her, and like the Grinch, her heart grew three sizes that day, until her love overflowed and warmed her soul hotter than the glowing fireplace in the room.

"Derek," she whispered, smiling at him with all the love she felt in her heart. "I love you."

"I love you, too," he said, cupping the side of her face with his palm. "Merry Christmas, Baby Girl."

"Merry Christmas, Hot Stuff," she answered. She may not always believe in herself as much as she should, but she believed in Christmas. She looped her arms around his neck as he lowered his head, sealing this, the greatest present she'd ever received, with a kiss.