Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Sorry about the tardiness on releasing this chapter. I've been busy with my other stories. I hope you'll enjoy it!
"You remember to listen to everything the teacher tells you," Penelope murmured to her son. She moved a lock of hair from his eyes and smiled. Tears swam in her eyes as she stood amongst the stream of other parents sending their kids into kindergarten for their first day of school. Derek stood behind her as she leaned down to speak to Logan. "You have your lunchbox?"
Logan grinned, his dimples becoming more prominent. He lifted his arm to show her his Avengers lunchbox in his grasp. "Got it!" he said.
Derek grinned at his son and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Kick some ass today, champ."
Pursing her lips, Penelope glanced up at her husband. "Knock it off!" she muttered. She returned her attention to Logan and resumed her grinning. "I love you, honey. Have a good day. I'll pick you up outside of school as soon as it's over."
"Can you have Tyrion in the car with you?" Logan asked, using puppy dog eyes to ask for the dog to be brought to him.
"I can't do that today, buddy," she said, kissing his forehead, "but you'll see him when you get home. I'm gonna work from home tonight so I can be there and make dinner with you, okay?"
Logan nodded and wrapped his arms around his mother. "Okay, Mama," he said in Penelope's ear. "I love you."
As Penelope straightened up, resting her hands on her protruding belly, the teacher for Logan's class signaled for all the students to line up. Before Logan turned to dash off, Penelope blew him a kiss and blinked tears from her eyes. "I love you," she said again.
Her son grinned, waving once before turning and joining the rest of his classmates in line. Penelope watched, forcing herself not to cry.
Derek laid a hand on her shoulder. "He'll be okay, Baby Girl," he said, massaging her back.
Biting her lip, Penelope shook off Derek's grasp and back toward his SUV. She was still annoyed with him after their conversation the previous night. Behind her, she heard him sigh. Her husband could not understand the feelings she was experiencing, and she was not about to use their son's first day of school as a platform for enlightening him. She got in the passenger seat and started buckling herself in. Derek got into the driver's side, a gruff expression settling on his face.
"Are you going to be alright tonight?" he asked as he pulled out of the school lot. "Because I can call Anderson to –"
Penelope rolled her eyes. She focused her eyes on the street as they started to merge onto the highway to drive to the BAU. "I don't need a babysitter," she mumbled.
"Baby, I wasn't saying you need a babysitter," Derek tried assuring her.
Biting her lip, Penelope rubbed her temples. She cursed her raging hormones and depression. Lashing out at Derek made her furious with herself. She never wanted to be this way with him, but some part of her just could not control the raging PTSD from overtaking her personality.
"I just don't want you stressing out with the baby, and with it being Logan's first day of school, I know you're a bit tense," he went on.
"Oh, enough!" she snapped. "I'm not stressing anymore than I would be if this weren't Logan's first day."
Derek's jaw locked when she glanced over at him. "Stop treating me like I'm bullying you," he growled, switching lanes. "I'm trying to help you and be supportive while you deal with whatever this is. You're acting like I'm your enemy."
"You can't help me with this, Derek," she hissed. "You don't understand what I'm going through, so stop trying!"
"No, I could understand if you would just let me in!" he retorted, getting off at the exit to the BAU.
Penelope did not respond. The two of them remained silent the entire rest of the way to work, neither of them even making a sound. They let the anger stew between them, and as they stepped off the elevator to go to the bullpen, their tension was immediately recognized.
Kate Callahan opened the door of the bullpen and followed after Penelope as she and Derek parted ways without so much as an acknowledging kiss on the cheek.
"Garcia? Garcia, is everything okay?" she asked.
"Fine, why do you ask?" Penelope asked dryly.
Callahan arched a brow. "Umm, well how about the fact that you and your husband dear barely made eye contact as you walked in?" She chuckled. "I am married. I know a thing or two about husband and wife behavior."
Unlocking the door to her office, Penelope rolled her eyes yet again. "I'm not in the mood to talk about it, Kate," she muttered. "Let's just get to the bullpen so we can get started on this case." As she started to remove her jacket, she felt her friend's eyes following her. "Kate, what?"
Kate held her hands up in surrender. "I'm just wondering what's going on with you lately. You're missing your usual sparkle. You have been for the last few weeks, and it's making me sad. You're the happiest person I know, and seeing you like this is weird."
Penelope grabbed her tablet. She stopped abruptly and rubbed her face. "I know you're just trying to help, but I'm really not in the mood to talk right now," she murmured. Thinking back on her arguments with Derek in the past twenty four hours and the fact her son was growing up made her heart start to droop. She hated arguing with Derek, and she knew he was trying to help. She also hated him treating her like a victim, and that was what this felt like.
"Alright," Kate responded. "Just don't shut Derek out because of this. He loves you, and he 's just trying to help."
Looking down at her shaking hands, Penelope nodded. "I know," she whispered, thinking back to Derek trying to comfort her and her refusal to take that comfort. "I'm just tired, and I'm ready to find out what this case is. Hotch wouldn't tell me what it was, so he's presenting it."
Kate rubbed Penelope's shoulder. "Just talk to your man before we leave," she said. "You don't want to have to deal with fighting with him on top of everything else today."
"Alright, let's get started," Hotch said as everyone sat down in the round table room. Penelope took a look at Derek. He sat one seat over from her, on the other side of Rossi. He did not even shoot her a glance. She sighed. He was, of course, still pissed at her.
In many ways she did not blame him.
"Where are we headed to, Hotch?" Rossi asked.
"New York City," Hotch answered. "And we're working with some familiar faces for this one."
Penelope's spine already tingled at the mention of the city, but when Hotch spoke again, she could not suppress the sweat that started to bead on her forehead.
"Familiar faces?" Reid asked.
Hotch clicked the remote and started the reel of crime scene photos in a townhouse with two bloodied men on the floor. "We're working with Manhattan's Special Victims Unit on this one," he said. "Two couples, both gay men, have been brutally murdered in their homes in Manhattan. Both couples' children were found dead as well."
Kate swallowed hard. "Please tell me not in the same condition as their fathers," she said.
"No, they were killed by an injection," Hotch said. "They died peacefully…unlike their parents. Both men in each murder were bound, gagged, and tortured for several hours. Before gunshot wounds to the back of their heads killed them, they were also sodomized. Likely with a pipe."
Derek switched the photo on his tablet. "He's very organized," he said. "Don't suppose there are any prints of fibers."
Hotch shook his head. "No forensic evidence," he replied. "Of any kind. This one will be all about the profile. In addition to working with Captain Cragen and his detectives again, we'll be working with George Huang and JJ."
The mention of JJ's name made Penelope pinch her lips. Her former best friend and her no longer spoke, despite the fact Penelope had tried to maintain the relationship when JJ initially moved to New York. She eventually gave up trying to keep contact when it became clear JJ had moved on from her life in Quantico.
Her bitterness did not take away the soreness in her heart. Even though she was angry, Penelope still felt the anguish of losing her best friend.
"We need to get there as soon as possible," Hotch went on. "Wheels up in thirty." He turned his attention to Penelope as everyone was rising to their feet. "Garcia, I need you to start doing background checks into the victims. I want to know if there is any connection between them we're missing."
Penelope nodded shortly. "Yes, sir," she said. Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of Derek leaving the room, and she went to follow him. Before she could though, Hotch spoke again. She wanted to scream in frustration at her boss, but she managed to keep her tongue in check.
She jotted down everything on her notepad as he spoke. Only half her brain was listening to what he said. There were only twenty four minutes left before the jet would be taking off, and she still had to speak to Derek before he was gone. As soon as Hotch bid her goodbye, she took off toward her husband's office.
She knocked softly on the door when she reached his office door. He called out a soft "It's open!" before she entered. Glancing up from throwing something in his go-bag, his face remained neutral when their eyes met.
"Hi," she whispered, shutting the door behind herself. She wanted to do something to keep her focus off the fact her husband would be seeing JJ shortly.
Derek continued what he was doing. "What do you need, Penelope?" he asked. She went forward to his side. Placing her hand over his, she entangled their fingers. Derek stopped, heaving a heavy sigh. "I don't have time for you to bitch at me anymore before I leave. If this is –"
"This isn't anything," she mumbled. "I'm just saying goodbye before you leave." She looked up at him. He made no response, keeping his eyes averted. With a shaky breath, she added, "I'm sorry."
With another sigh, Derek cupped her face and gave her a soft kiss. "I'm just worried about you," he murmured, moving a tendril of hair behind her ear. He rested his hand on her belly.
Sniffling, she nodded. "I know," she whispered. "You just go catch the bad guy and get home." She made no mention of JJ, hoping she could avoid talking with him about her.
Derek gave her another kiss before asking, "Are you okay with this?" He had no need to elaborate on what he meant this time. She knew he was talking about JJ, just like she wished he would not have. His gaze told her he knew what was going on, but he needed to ask anyway.
"I'll…" Penelope's voice trailed off for a moment, but she shook her head. She was not going to let JJ get to her now, not when she was dealing with so much else that was stressful. Giving Derek a weak smile, she kissed him once again. "I'll be fine. Just get home safe."