Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Experiment time! I'm practicing writing in a different tense for an extended story. Since 2017 is gonna be a big year for me with thesis and finishing up my degree, I figured it might be good to try something new writing-wise. I've also been obsessed with Halestorm's song "Private Parts" (which is where these lyrics are from), so I thought I'd try using it, too. Not my happiest one-shot, but hopefully something enjoyable to read.

Baby forgive me did I do something wrong?

(I don't wanna talk, can't we just let it go?)

What could be so bad that you'd leave me hangin' on?

(I'm not doin' time, this is not the scene of a crime)

I lay in bed contemplating, why the hell you gotta keep me waiting

Derek lies beside Penelope, mocha skin glowing in the pale light of dawn. Her eyes trace his form, following every muscle and every curve of his tattoos. The heat of his body radiates beside her. She tries resisting the urge to reach out and touch him, but she can't. Like a magnet, her hand is drawn to his skin. He is warm to the touch. Her lover didn't even stir as her hand stroked upward towards his strong neck. He has just returned from a long case, and he is exhausted. When he had arrived home last night, he hardly said two words to her. He needs this sleep.

Dawn grows into morning, with the light spreading into the room. She loses track of time, unable to remove her hands from him. While he sleeps, she can imagine what things would be like if he were happy, if he were him. Lately he has been distant, as if hidden behind a thick curtain that was sewn shut. When he sleeps as he does now, she can forget the pain of his neglect and pretend all is fine.

She marvels at him, knowing he is lost somewhere within his own mind. The demons from the fallout of the case in Texas six months ago cling to him with bloody hands, scratching away at him until there's nothing left. She knows he cannot escape the memories of the unsub who tortured children and how he got there too late to save the last one to be abducted.

She tries to hold onto hope he will return to her, but each passing day dissolves that hope a little more until it seems as though it will be gone for good.

Leaning forward, she places a kiss on his bare, broad shoulder. Only at the touch of her lips do his eyes flutter open. She smiles, touching his goatee.

"Morning, Hot Stuff," she whispers.

With bleary eyes, Derek stares at her. Nothing. She sees nothing. No spark to show he is anywhere in his own mind. Her heart freezes in her chest, sending shock waves of cold through her body.

Swallowing hard, he manages to choke, "Hi."

His voice is not what it used to be. There's no light humor, nothing that carries her heart up above the darkness that shrouds their jobs.

She leans down, kissing him softly. His lips are wooden beneath hers. She sits up to look at him, searching his eyes once again for any reaction.

"I have to get up and shower," he says, sitting up. "Got a self-defense class to teach."

Kissing his shoulder, she traces the tattoo of a lion on his bicep. His skin is warm beneath her touch.

"Isn't it too early to be leaving?" she whispers in his ear, hoping to awaken something – anything – resembling passion in his heart.

He shakes his head. "No."

Shards of ice begin to form around her heart. "Baby…" she starts. "Baby, can't we talk about this? Please."

Shooting her a sharp glance, he pulls away. "Not now," he snaps.

"But – "

"I'm not on fucking trial here, Penelope." His voice is cold as iron.

Furrowing her brow, she shrinks further away from him. He doesn't notice. She watches him pad across their bedroom toward the bathroom. He closes the door behind him, the sound of the shower coming faintly on the other side.

She flops back on the bed, her head landing on the pillows. Her heart threatens to burst and hemorrhage through her body. Tears pool in her eyes, burning. Where has he gone? She knows El Paso still haunts him, knows he still sees murdered children and apparitions in his dreams; he thrashes in his sleep and even her arms cannot calm him. He never hides from her, but something this time is different.

Numbness spreads through her chest, and she rises from the bed. She wants to know how she can get him back. Should she yell, scream, demand he return to her? Or should she leave?

Her biggest question, though: does she even have the strength to leave?

Every time I try to get a little closer

You shut down and the conversation's over

I'm right here, but you leave me in the dark

Show me your private parts

The temperature is muggy. A crack of thunder sounds from the distance, signaling a severe storm is on its way. No rain has fallen yet, but it's coming. Penelope's hair sticks to her neck as she unlocks the door to her house. She's come home late, hoping that if she stayed later than she usually does Derek will say something, or at the very least take notice.

He took no notice; not a surprise. What does surprise her is he is already home.

When she enters the house, the foyer is dark. A light glows from the kitchen as she sets her bag down on the entry table and kicks off her shoes. She pads toward the light she sees on in the kitchen. When she enters the kitchen, she finds Derek sitting at the table with a bottle of scotch in front of him.

He says nothing. It is like entering a room with a ghost; silence spreads over the room like a coat and all she feels to indicate a presence is a chill. He doesn't even look up at her. His eyes remain glued to his glass.

Penelope walks to the fridge and pulls out a bottle of water. She takes a swig from it and watches him. He's still a stone. Her annoyance builds to rage. "You're home earlier than me," she says, pursing her lips. Her voice shook as she tried to stay calm.

"Hotch didn't have anything for me to do and we don't have a case tomorrow, so I came home," he says. He picks up his glass and downs the rest of what is in it.

Outside, the clouds burst and raindrops batter the house. A crack of thunder rings in her ears. The lights flicker, the tickling sound comes off louder in the room than the sound of Derek's voice.

"Gee, thanks for letting me know," she snaps.

He sighs. "I had a few things I needed to think about on my own."

Rolling her eyes, she grips the side of the countertop. Her eyes burn with tears she's refused to shed for so long. A snarky retort bursts forth from her lips before she can stop it. "When are you not thinking about something on your own?" She turns to face him, eyes blazing.

Derek makes no moves, but he does keep his eyes on her. "Are you leaving me?" he asked.

She laughs. The unbearable temperature suffocates her and stifles her answer. Does she have an answer, though? The thought crosses her mind constantly these days. Her heart pushes and pulls her toward and away from Derek, and she wonders if she needs to abandon her heart entirely and follow her gut in an attempt to be more objective.

When it comes to Derek though, she doesn't think she has the ability to think with a rational mind.

Rising to his feet, he strides forward to stand in front of her. He crosses his arms over his chest. "If that laugh is an answer, I don't know what it means," he says.

She stabs a finger into his chest. She cannot be too close to him. "You know what," she starts, "that laugh isn't an answer. It means I don't know either. I keep trying to tell myself that this should be an easy choice, but I can't ever figure it out." Derek says nothing. He reaches for her, but she shoves his hand from her. "Don't. You weren't wanting to talk about it this morning. You never want to talk about it!"

Derek looks away. She swears she sees shame glittering in his eyes.

That's a first since this bullshit started, she thinks darkly.

"I'm sorry," he whispers.

"You should be! I've tried so hard to be here for you, but you've just treated me like crap!" she hisses. Her tears begin burning the backs of her eyes. She wants to hide them, but she has no notions that she will be able to do that. Shaking her head, she adds, "I can't remember the last time we felt like a real couple. You shut down and left me behind. What could have been so bad in El Paso that you would basically dump me?"

He swallows hard. "If I didn't love you, I wouldn't have stayed."

"You didn't stay though, Derek!" she cries. "You keep wanting me to just sit here and accept you suffering, but that's not something I can do if I'm going to stay with you."

He shakes his head vigorously, meeting her eyes again. A dagger slides between her ribs at the dull glow that shines back at her. "You think you know what happened on that case, but you don't really know until you see that kind of horror, Penelope," he said. "What happened to those kids, what that sick fuck did to them? It was so much worse than any of the team would have told you. You didn't stand in the same spots as the bodies of those kids and see what he did to them. You heard some details, but you didn't have to stand over their bodies and feel helpless because you have to find the person who did that."

Tears fill her eyes when his voice darkens. This storm he unleashes hits her full force, his suffering hitting her like lightning. It's true: she does not know the specifics about the case. Hotch and the others managed to shield her from anything that wasn't necessary for her to find their information. But had she known the result of that ignorance would lead to the man in front of her now, she would gladly have taken in all the details if it meant she could help him.

"I had to tell that little boy's parents at the end that even though we caught the unsub, we didn't make it in time to save their kid from being abused and beaten before having his neck snapped. I can't share that with someone like you!"

Penelope scoffs amidst her tears. "Someone like me?" she demands. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Derek reaches out again, his hands gently cupping her face. She is so unprepared by the gentleness in his touch that she can't find the strength to push him away.

"You're someone who sees the light in this world, even through the shit that we see every time we solve a case," he murmurs. "Something like what really happened in El Paso would destroy you. I can't let that happen."

She shakes her head, her heart pulling her between rage he thinks she's so fragile and affection for his desire to protect her.

"I'm not weak," she says. "You can't decide what to hide from me."

His eyes, so full of sadness and terror, gaze back at her. She knows he wants to protect her, but she will not let him. There are things he cannot control, and she is one of those.

Reaching up, she takes his hand as he holds her face. Her palm is warm over top his. "I know you aren't weak," he murmurs. "I know it. But you're good. I can't let you lose that."

She shakes her head, wondering if he has heard anything she has said to him. "This isn't a matter of you letting me do anything," she goes on. "This is where you listen to me telling you that I will do whatever I can to help you move past this. I want to help you. I'll do anything." She knows there is more she needs to say, but she has a hard time finding the words. There is no part of her, no drop of blood that wants to say what she knows she has to. But the reality of her choice stood before her as an unstoppable roadblock she is not going to be able to slide beneath.

"But if you're going to keep pushing me away, I'm not going to stay."

A piece of her heart shatters as he bends his head. His hands are still cupping her face, but he cannot look her in the eye. She wants to force him to look at her, to beg for him to let her help him through this, but she swallows her voice. She has given him six months of that, and won't give him a minute more.

Derek looks back up at her after an eon of silence, then grabs her roughly by the hips to pull into him. Her breath catches in her chest. His lips capture hers in a fiery hurricane that sends tiny shocks through her heart. Slowly, her lips tremble beneath his. The kiss is full of sorrow and desperation, but also the raw desire he feels for her. He loves her, this she knows and has always known.

If he's going to open up to her, he'll need to go into the darkest depths of his memories. He'll need to revisit what he most wants to forget.

Penelope hopes this kiss means he'll try, but a walk into hell is never a surefooted one.