Fandom: Criminal Minds
Prompt for 24_runes: #12 Jera (a time of peace and happiness)
Word count: 3055
Disclaimer: Neither the show nor the characters belong to me, they belong to CBS. Nonetheless, I love to borrow them from time to time.
Summary: Part 15/? of the ‘Loser Lynch’ series.
warnings: spoilers for season 3
AN: First of all, I want to thank everyone who reviewed this story or one of my other stories, or put them on their alert/favorite list. It helps a lot with the writing to know that people read and actually like your stories. :) I wish I could tell you how much that means to me.
Now, I hope you enjoy this chapter. You know, my biggest love is a cliff-hanger. So don’t complain after you read this. ;)
I want to finish with the words of a pop musician (it’s up to you whether you think he was great): Thank you, I love you all. ;) Sorry, I’m a little drunk right now.
Derek walked over to his favorite girl and put an arm around her shoulders. “Come on, Baby, let’s go back home. Maybe you should get some rest.”
“But I don’t feel like resting,” she complained. “Actually, I feel better than I have in ages.”
“I know,” he smiled, “but your work here is done. Now come on, let’s go home!”
“How about we just tell the local police what Penelope found and let them take over?” Rossi suggested. “They can handle the rest of the case on their own, and we could have lunch together.”
“Now that sounds like a plan!” Penelope beamed. She hadn’t known just how much she had missed these people.
Derek could have sworn there was the hint of a smile on Hotch’s face. “I’ll send them the results,” the BAU leader nodded.
Derek wasn’t sure he shouldn’t make Penelope go home with him. He was still afraid this was too much for her, but he couldn’t even start arguing with his Baby Girl. JJ and Emily were already dragging her towards the door.
Sighing, Derek followed them. If working again had done Penelope some good, maybe having lunch with the team couldn’t hurt. It was just lunch, after all.
His worries vanished the first time he heard his Baby Girl laugh. It was vivid and ringing, and it was the best sound Derek had heard in what seemed like ages. He didn’t even realize that he was staring at her until Penelope turned to look at him.
Frowning, she leaned over and whispered, “Is everything okay?”
“You know, I should be asking you that question,” Derek grinned and softly pecked her lips, “but I can see that you’re just fine.”
When they realized the others were watching them, Penelope and Derek quickly let go of each other. Penelope blushed the most beautiful shade of red Derek had ever seen. “Sorry,” he mumbled, “I got… carried away.”
Fortunately, that was the moment the waitress came by to ask for their orders, sparing Penelope the embarrassment of having to answer anything.
“How’s my favorite godson doing?” Penelope wanted to know.
Smiling brightly, JJ pulled out a bunch of pictures and handed them to Penelope. “He’s great. He’s missing his godmother, though.”
“Aw, I miss him, too,” Penelope replied, a dreamy smile on her face.
“Maybe we can baby-sit him next time you and Will need some time for yourself,” Derek suggested, looking over Penelope’s shoulder at the pictures.
“Really?” Penelope beamed at Derek.
“I can’t believe it,” JJ grinned. “I thought you didn’t like children.”
“Hey, I never said that,” Derek protested, making the others laugh.
They talked mostly about the latest gossip, and about Henry and Jack. Derek watched Penelope, who was obviously having a great time. She wasn’t only smiling, she was literally beaming – and she was as cheerful as usual.
It had definitely been the right decision to let Penelope come back to work. It had done both of them good.
Emily nudged JJ under the table and pointed her head towards Derek.
JJ followed Emily’s gaze, and saw the cutest scene she could imagine. From the expression on Derek’s face, it was obvious he was unquestioningly in love with the woman next to him. There was an expression of peace and mere happiness on his face.
Derek felt the gaze of his co-workers and turned to look at them. “What?”
“Nothing,” JJ grinned and decided to change the topic. “So, if you’re allowed to help us out, it means… you can come back… eventually, right?”
Penelope smiled shyly. “I… I don’t know…”
“It’s completely up to you,” Rossi told her. “Once you’re cleared to come back to work, you’re more than welcome to do so whenever you’re ready.”
“How about tomorrow?” she suggested, making everyone laugh again.
“It’s good to see your old self back,” Hotch commented. “This place is a lot darker without you.”
She wasn’t able to stop the tears that sprung to her eyes, and if she was honest, she didn’t really want to stop them. “You know, I had almost forgotten how much you all care about me and how much of a family we really are,” she sniffled. “Thanks for reminding me.”
“Just promise me one thing,” JJ demanded as she wiped her own face. “Next time you feel like we don’t care, just call me so I can prove you wrong.”
“I really don’t know why I did this,” Penelope sniffled again, and was grateful when Derek handed her a tissue. “I mean, I remember I wanted to die. I felt so… lonely, and… After everything Kevin did to me, I just thought maybe I wasn’t meant to be happy. I… I thought I would be lonely for the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I knew you all cared about me, but… I just didn’t want to be a burden for anyone, you know? I was so… ashamed.”
“You are anything but a burden to us,” Hotch replied. “You’re the one who makes this job easier to handle every day. I know, we’ve never told you, but you’re the one we turn to when this job is getting too dark. You never fail to find the right words to make us laugh. I’m sorry you didn’t feel you could turn to us when you needed someone.”
“I know better now,” Penelope whispered as she let the tears stream down her face. “I… To be honest, I was afraid you would never want to talk to me again.”
“We’re mostly… shocked.” Rossi knew he was speaking for all of them. “We never thought that any one of us would try and commit suicide – least of all you. And I guess we all thought that we would notice somehow. We are profilers, after all.”
“I did notice,” Derek said, his voice full of guilt. “I just wasn’t able to interpret the signs. If I hadn’t agreed to go to church with my mom that day…”
“I would have tried another time,” Penelope quickly interrupted him, “and maybe then you wouldn’t have found me in time.”
Derek just took her hand in his and squeezed it gently. Everything happens for a reason. If that reason had been so he finally woke up, it had succeeded. Derek knew he was never going to let this woman go again.
“What about… us?” Penelope suddenly asked, realization hitting her.
If they both returned to work, they had to worry about the fraternization rules and about Strauss, who wanted to rip the team apart already.
“It’s all taken care of,” Rossi grinned, which took a load off Penelope’s mind.
When they arrived at Dr. Melrose’s office to tell her how things had gone at work for Penelope, Dr. Melrose immediately noticed the change in both of them. “So, I guess things went well?”
“More than that,” Penelope nodded. “It felt… great. I was able to find a clue to help my team solve the case, then we had lunch and talked about everything and… I don’t know. I haven’t felt this happy in ages.”
“How are you doing?” Dr. Melrose asked, looking at Derek.
He sighed before answering. “Well, I was anxious. This really did Penelope good, though. I haven’t seen her laugh so much in what seems like an eternity.”
Dr. Melrose smiled and thought about what she’d just heard for a moment. Then she turned to Penelope. “I think it’s time to loosen the restrictions a little. You don’t have to be watched 24/7 anymore. How about we start with you coming to therapy on your own on Monday?”
“Really?” Penelope asked surprised. “I… I’d love to.”
“Are you sure…” Derek wanted to object.
“Honey, please,” Penelope almost whined. “I promise I’ll call you as soon as I’m here, and you can pick me up after the meeting.”
Derek sighed. He was still afraid Penelope might try and hurt herself again, but she wanted to trust in him, so it was time for him to trust in her. “Okay,” he nodded.
They arrived at Derek’s place about an hour later. Clooney seemed a bit annoyed, but it didn’t take Penelope long to make the puppy forgive them. When she returned from feeding the dog, Derek was sitting on the couch, a box in his hand and a serious, somewhat worried, look on his face.
“This is what I wanted to show you,” he explained, placing the box on the coffee table and standing up. “I’m… gonna take Clooney for a walk.”
Penelope nodded, not sure what to say. Apparently Derek didn’t want to stay and watch her reaction to whatever the contents of said box might be. Slowly, she sat down and opened it. To her surprise, she found letters, each one addressed to her.
Taking out the first one, Penelope immediately recognized Derek’s handwriting. When she looked at the date, she winced a little. Derek must have written this letter in the hospital. It was dated one day after
You know I’m not good at talking when it comes to my feelings, so I’m writing you this letter. Guess what? Turns out I’m not good at writing about them, either.
I can’t tell you how sorry I am. I feel like this is all my fault. I know you would argue with me about that, but if I hadn’t been the insensitive idiot I was, you wouldn’t have called this guy back.
I never thought a handsome guy couldn’t be interested in you. The reason I thought something was wrong with this guy was that I was jealous. It’s as simple as that, but it took me a while to realize it – and even longer to admit it. I was jealous.
You mean more to me than I can ever put into words. I would cross any crowded room for you, at any time. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to tell you. What if you don’t want me? What if you do? What about the frat rules? What if I screw up?
The funny thing is, usually I turn to you when I’m lost. I’m afraid, Baby Girl, but I know I love you.
Penelope blinked back the tears as she took out the second letter, dated only a few days later. She recognized her writing paper with the pink rose at the bottom right. Derek must have written this letter the day he’d stayed with her.
I’m not sure you entirely understood what I tried to tell you earlier. I meant it, every single word. I love you. I never thought this would happen to me. I’m just not the guy who wants to settle down and think about submitting himself to a single woman. At least, I thought I wasn’t.
With you, everything is different. I don’t know why. At first, I thought it was just us being best friends, but there’s so much more to it, neither of us can deny that. We’re much closer than I’ve ever been to anyone. I was oblivious to the facts for so long, or maybe I was just afraid to see the signs.
I love you, unquestioningly, unlimitedly, eternally. How can I make you realize that?
The tears were now streaming down Penelope’s face, but she didn’t bother wiping them away as she took out the third letter. Why had Derek never given them to her until now?!
When I heard about you and Kevin today, my first intention was to talk you out of it, admitting everything I felt for you. But then I heard you talk about him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you happier than at that moment.
Maybe I could never make you that happy. I’m broken, and I have no idea how to keep up a relationship, because I’ve never tried. I hope Kevin is the one for you. After all, you being happy is all that matters to me.
I will step back and let you be happy with him, but I will never stop loving you.
“Oh, Derek, why didn’t you just tell me?” Penelope whispered more to herself than anything. She’d have chosen him over any man in the world, every time.
The fourth letter was dated a few days after she had moved in with Kevin. Penelope winced again. She still regretted that day as much as she regretted the day she’d fished
All that had happened for a reason, though.
My God-given solace,
You have no idea how well those words describe what you are to me. Whenever this job gets too dark, or my memories become too vivid, you’re there to make it all better. You’ve been chasing away my demons for so long now.
I’m glad that I will at least always have that, at least, because today, I realized I’ve lost you. You and Kevin are having a family now, and I’m happy for you. You will be a wonderful mother. I just hope Kevin knows what a treasure he has in you, and that he will always treat you right. You only deserve the best.
The thing is, it still hurts to let you go. I tried to go out with other women and move on, but it doesn’t work. They’re just not you.
Penelope sniffled as she put the letter aside and took the next one. How could she ever have doubted Derek’s feelings for her? How could she not have noticed what he really felt?!
If only there was something I could do to take the pain away I could see in your eyes today. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I’m worried about you. I know you’re gonna pull through just like you always do, but I don’t know another woman born to be a mother like you are. It’s not fair that you’ve been deprived of that.
I wish I could do something, but I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to say to make it better, and that is killing me. I hate to see you like this, so devastated and sad. If only I knew how I could make you feel better. I want to take that pain from you, but I guess all I can do is promise to be there whenever you need me.
Thankfully, Derek had kept his promise. He’d been there through the whole ordeal. He’d protected her, saved her, in more ways than one.
The last letter had been written the day after Penelope had cut her wrist. She let her finger run over the scar, and imagined Derek sitting next to her hospital bed, writing this letter. Why had she been so dismissive back then when she’d woken up?
I never thought we would ever get to this point. How could I miss this? How could I not see the signs? Why did you do this? What kind of profiler am I that I didn’t notice how bad off you were? I’d do anything to help you, if only I knew what that was.
I can’t believe that you, of all people, tried to kill yourself. When did we become so alienated that you can’t talk to me anymore? I’ve never felt so lost. I could feel you slipping through my fingers every day, and there was no way of keeping you with me. What can I do, Penelope? What can I do?
All I know right now is I won’t let you go. I can’t. I need you too much. I want to keep you with me. I’m not letting you go, Baby Girl. Not now, not never. I will hold onto you. I will be here and love you, because right now, that’s all I can think of doing.
Penelope couldn’t suppress the sob when she put the last letter back into the box. If only she’d known all that earlier.
She heard Clooney whine behind her, and only then did she realize Derek had returned. He was standing in the doorway, glued to the spot, not daring to move or say anything.
Penelope quickly jumped to her feet and threw herself into his arms. “I love you,” she whispered. “I love you so much.”
Relieved, Derek pulled her close to him and leaned down to nuzzle her hair as he always did when they were embracing each other. “I love you, too.”
“I know,” she nodded, and for the first time, she really felt it.
At that moment, Penelope decided to never doubt Derek’s feelings again. Despite all her insecurities, she decided to trust that his feelings for her were real, and that he wasn’t about to change his mind. She decided to let go of her worries, and after only a few days, it made her feel like she was in heaven – until everything went wrong again.
Derek was taking Clooney for a long run. He did that once a week; usually they ran for two hours. Penelope wanted to surprise her chocolate God, so she cooked for him. She had just finished dinner, and a glance at the clock told her Derek should be home any second. Suddenly, she felt his hand covering her mouth. She hadn’t noticed him come in.
“I thought you missed me. I should have known he would take advantage of you, but it won’t happen again on my watch!” Kevin hissed.
She tried to scream when she saw the door being opened, but Kevin’s hand over her mouth swallowed every sound she made. She saw the bullet hit Derek’s chest. She saw blood soaking his shirt, and the puzzled look on his face, and then she saw him stumble to the floor.
Finally she managed to break free from Kevin, and rushed over to Derek. She knelt down and turned his lifeless body over so she could see his face, but it was too late. He didn’t even react. His pulse and his breathing were both gone.
“No” she whispered, “no, this can’t be happening!”
“You should be glad,” Kevin smiled at her. “Now he won’t get in our way anymore. I’m not the loser. This time, I won. We can be together now. Forever.”“No!” she screamed.