Title: For better or worse – part 8
Disclaimer: nothing’s mine, it all belongs to CBS and so on
Summary: Sequel-sequel to Twelve hours and Nightmares and other after effects. Penelope realizes that family doesn’t necessarily mean kindred.
Please read and review!
“Good to see that you’re back with us.” Fran smiled when she entered the NICU and hugged Penelope. “Where’s Derek?”
“He just received a call.” Penelope replied and turned back to her daughter. “Something work-related he said.”
Fran frowned a little. “I thought Agent Hotchner gave him the next few weeks off?”
“Yeah” she shrugged. “I guess they need him for something really important.”
“You know, you should get some rest. It’s been two weeks now and you’ve barely slept.” Fran stated when she noticed the bags under Penelope’s eyes. “Go take a nap. I’ll take care of Eliana.”
“I can’t leave her alone.” she simply replied. It was pointless to say she wasn’t tired because it was way too obvious that she was. Fran was right, she hadn’t slept much during the past two weeks. But Penelope was much too afraid something could happen and she wouldn’t be here. She needed to be here with her girl.
Smiling Fran put her arm around Penelope’s waist and led her towards the door. “Go to your room and take a nap. You need to do that. It won’t help Eliana if you collapse. I promise I won’t leave her alone, not a second. And if anything happens I’ll call you.” She pointed towards the door of the room the hospital provided parents of preemies. “The room is right across the floor. You can be here in less than a second.”
“Okay.” Penelope sighed. She was much too tired to argue with Fran. Slowly she stepped inside the small room and sank onto the bed. She laid back on the bed and closed her eyes. It was hard to fall sleep at all. But after several minutes she felt sleep overpowering her. She was already half asleep when the ringing of her cell phone startled her. She quickly fished it out of her pocket and frowned when she looked at the display. She had received a text message, the ID was an internet provider. Penelope opened the message and frowned even more when she read the words: Do you know what he’s really doing at this moment? Below the text there was a picture of Derek in a restaurant with a beautiful Afro-American woman. They were laughing and holding each other’s hands. Penelope thought about calling Derek to ask him where he was but decided that it was useless. First of all he wouldn’t do something like that to her. And if he did he would certainly lie to her about where he was at the moment when she asked him. Someone obviously wanted to make her angry at him. Maybe that sleaze who drugged her coffee. It was probably an older photo of Derek with one of his flirts. When her phone rang again she thought about deleting the message without reading it. But she didn’t. The picture showed Derek with that woman. They were now leaving the restaurant and kissing each other. Penelope realized that Derek had on the jacket his sister had given him as a present this Christmas. That must be an altered photo maybe with Photoshop. He wouldn’t do that to her while she was…
Her phone rang again. Penelope shook her head and wanted to delete the message. You should at least take a look. A voice in her head said. No, she trusted Derek. He had never given her any reason not to do so. But, of course, they didn’t spend twenty-four hours a day seven days a week with each other… No, he’d never asked her to marry him if he was cheating on her, right?
Penelope sighed and opened the message. It couldn’t hurt… She gasped when she saw the picture of Derek in a compromising position with that woman. She recognized the tattoo on his neck. This couldn’t be true. It simply couldn’t.
She sank back onto the bed and stared at the cell phone in her hands. She wasn’t sure how long she stayed like that but was startled when someone opened the door.
“I’m so sorry, I guess it was a mistake.” Derek informed her when he entered the room and saw she was awake. Fran had told him that she had sent Penelope to this room to take a nap. “Someone sent for me but when I arrived they told me that… Pen? What’s wrong?” he asked concerned when he saw the expression on her face.
Penelope slowly raised her head and looked into his eyes. “Where have you been?”
Puzzled he stuttered: “I… um… at the Bureau. I was just about to tell you that some agent there sent for me. But it must have been a mistake. This agent never sent for me and…”
“Who is that?” Penelope wanted to know and showed Derek her phone.
Derek’s eyes widened when he saw the picture of him and another woman naked in bed. “I don’t know.” he said. “What the…”
“Do you really think I believe that?” Penelope asked in an amazingly calm voice for a question like that.
“Baby girl, I would never hurt you like that.” he assured. “I know my reputation is far from that of a saint but I never cheated on anybody – and I would never cheat on you. I love you and I don’t want to lose you. I bet that sleaze realized that drugging your coffee and almost killing our baby wasn’t enough so now he’s trying something else.”
“Yeah, I thought the same thing.” she said in a low voice.
Derek frowned. “But you don’t believe it?”
A single tear ran down her cheek and she whispered: “I don’t know.”
“Please, sweetness… Penelope, I don’t know this woman. I have no idea how he could manipulate this picture. But I promise I was at the bureau and not in any bed with any woman.”
She didn’t answer.
Derek felt a sudden rush of anger rising in his chest. How could she believe this sleaze rather than him? But then he noticed the expression on her face and knew that she wanted to believe him but her uncertainty kept her from ignoring these pictures. Although she was probably sure someone faked the pictures there was this little voice in her head telling her that she wasn’t worth his love, that he couldn’t love someone like her or something similar. Why did she still feel like that? He’d made every effort to show her how much she meant to him. Why was she still doubting their relationship? Why wasn’t he able to make her trust him, to erase that uncertainty and doubt? “Baby girl” he softly said and sat down next to her. “Why do you think I can’t love you?”
Her head snapped up and she locked eyes with him. She wanted to tell him that she didn’t think that but she couldn’t deny the voice in her head telling her that she was not at all the kind of woman he liked.
Derek took her hand in his and looked straight into her eyes. “I love you, Penelope, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you – and only you. There is no other woman. I don’t even flirt let alone think about kissing or doing other things with another woman. Why would want somebody else if he could have you?”
A small smile crossed her face.
“Penelope, I promise you there is no one else but you and our little girl.” he whispered and reached out to stroke her cheek.
She nodded and avoided his eyes ashamed that she doubted him and their relationship. Why couldn’t she simply believe him and trust him? Why couldn’t she silence that voice?
“Hey, what is taking the two of you so long?” Fran smiled as she stuck her head through the door. Realizing the expressions on their faces she frowned and stepped inside. “What’s wrong?”
“This guy who drugged Pen’s coffee sent her this picture.” Derek explained and handed his mother the phone before Penelope could stop him.
She blushed and added in a very low voice: “There’re two more.”
Fran looked at the picture, then at her son and finally at the blonde woman next to him. “Derek, would you leave us alone, please?”
He nodded a little confused and left the room heading back to the NICU.
Fran sat down next to Penelope and handed her the phone back. “I don’t think these pictures are real.” she stated. “I’ve known my son for quite a long time now and he might be a Casanova – or at least he was before he met you. But one thing he never did was cheat on anybody. I know the women he had in the past looked like beauty queens and you think that you’re not the kind of woman he can love.”
A tear ran down her cheek and dropped on her hand.
“I want to tell you something about Derek.” Fran continued. “He’s never brought any woman to my house before you. All these other women where… well, somehow trophies. I don’t mean to blame him for that because he treated every single one of them with respect, I know that. But he didn’t love any of them. He needed approval that beautiful women found him attractive.”
“He said pretty much the same.” Penelope replied quietly. “And I can understand that.”
“He loves you.”
“I know” she whispered. “And I wish I could trust him but… I don’t know. Last time a handsome man asked me out it was just because he wanted to kill me. My entire life not one handsome guy has ever noticed me.”
“I don’t think that is true.” Fran smiled at her. “Most men are not that superficial. But I think you scared many of them off with your brains.”
Penelope raised her head to look at Derek’s mother.
Her smile grew a little wider: “You know, the first time Derek ever talked about you he was praising your computer skills and your outstanding intellect.”
These words made her blush deeply and she smiled sheepishly. “Really?”
Fran nodded. “And when he finally realized that he was in love with you – which was long after everyone else realized it, by the way – all he said was you would never hook up with someone like him because his intellect doesn’t equal yours.”
This statement made her burst into tears.
Fran gently put her arms around her shoulders and said: “I understand your worries, trust me, I have two daughters and Des has gone through the same with her boyfriend. You think that Derek can’t love someone like you because you don’t consider yourself beautiful. But I will tell you something. You ARE beautiful – in many ways. You have a beautiful face. I know that Derek is constantly staring at your lips or into your eyes and he keeps playing with strands of your hair. He wouldn’t do that if he didn’t love you and find you attractive. And you are such a good-hearted and intelligent person. He loves you for your compassion and readiness to help. When you told him you counsel families of murder victims I think he fell for you even more. You have so much to offer, Penelope. You are smart, caring, helpful, precious and yes, you are beautiful. Do I need to continue?”
She gave Fran a watery laugh and shook her head. “Thank you.” she whispered.
“I’m serious.” Fran added.
“I know.” Penelope nodded and looked into Fran’s eyes. “I just… I forgot what it’s like to… have someone to talk to about all my worries and fears. I… appreciate that.”
“People think much more highly of you than you think they do – and than you think of yourself.” Fran smiled.
She nodded again and took in a shaky breath.
Fran leaned forward and pulled Penelope into a close embrace. “You are a part of this family, Penelope. You’ve already been for quite a long time. And I want you to know that whenever you need to talk you have a mother and two sisters you can call.”
“Thank you.” she whispered. “I… I’m glad I do.”
They both stood up and returned the NICU where Penelope immediately threw herself into Derek’s arms. “I’m so sorry.” she whispered. “I never wanted to distrust you.”
“Just promise me he won’t succeed in tearing us apart.” Derek replied and kissed her head.
“He won’t” she assured him. “No matter how hard he tries.”
“We’ll find out who did all this and I swear if they give me five minutes alone with this…”
Penelope silenced him by putting her hand over his mouth. “Don’t swear or threaten someone in front of our daughter or your mother!” she scolded him.
Derek pulled her closer to him and explained: “It just makes me really upset that someone’s trying to take the only good and real relationship I ever had and the only two women – except my mother and sisters – I ever loved away from me.”
The doctor stepped into the room and gave them an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry I can’t give you better news but we still can’t guarantee Eliana will survive. But she’s getting stronger and she’s gained some weight over the past two weeks. The first weeks are usually the most critical and I’m positive that if she doesn’t develop any infections she’ll make it.”
Penelope took another shaky breath and nodded. The nurse had already told them that the incubator kept the risk of infections as low as possible. But still there was some risk and two months were a very long time.So, this didn’t work either. Any other woman would have dumped him by now! But, of course, she wasn’t any other woman. But just you wait, Derek Morgan, Supervisory Special Agent! I have no intention of giving up MY goddess!!!