Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds or its characters.

AN: Hi, all. I'm sorry for the very long delay in posting. I'm also sorry that I have been horrible about responding to reviews with this story. Please know that I appreciate every review left and all of those reading. Here's the last chapter before we take off on the case portion of the story!

Hank went to bed early that night, leaving Penelope sitting in silence in Derek's apartment. Only her thoughts kept her company. She found a few bottles of beer in the fridge and drank one. The beer was bitter on her tongue, but she finished it anyway.

She took time to explore. It was a good size, having rooms for both Hank and Derek, a kitchen that flowed directly into the living room, and another bedroom converted into an office for Derek. She would go into the office tomorrow; it was almost midnight and she was nowhere near the headspace to focus on a crime.

Instead, she studied the apartment, its every nook and crack on the wall, all the photos lined neatly around the television. Derek always liked everything being neat. If ever she needed help with spring cleaning, Derek was always the one she called. Frequently she would catch him straightening the knick-knacks she once kept in her office when he thought she wasn't looking.

"Clutter means comfort, my love," she had told him.

He had rolled his eyes. "I'll be damned if I let you work in this," he groused. "How can you keep all the shit you fill us in on when you can't function in your own damn office."

Her only response had been to purr a laugh.

Heaving a shaky sigh, she flipped the lights off in the living room and started down the hall for Derek's room. She pushed the door open, the streetlights outside guiding her towards the lamp on the bedside table. She set her bag down and looked around. The room was sparse. Derek's rooms always had been. On his dresser was a picture of Hank. His son was dressed in a suit and tie, apparently at an academic decathlon event. Every surface shined as if he dusted three times a day. The bed was immaculately made. A barely read book sat on his nightstand. There was a pair of reading glasses on top of the book. She picked them up, briefly chuckling to herself about Derek needing glasses as he aged.

She sat down on the edge of the bed. Her fingertips traced the lining on the pillows. Before she could stop herself, she pulled the pillow to her chest and took a deep inhale. The woodsy, musky scent of Derek filled her nostrils. Her heart stopped as the memories flooded back into her head. She felt his arms around her again, a bundle of silky ribbons knitting a tight cocoon around her. She remembered looking down at him from her spot straddling his hips when her heart was filled to the brim with ecstasy and guilt.

As if the pillow burned her, she thrust it away. Her eyes stung and she was struck by a freight train of emotion. She choked on a sob, barely able to contain it. Balling her left hand into a fist, she covered her mouth and trying her hardest not to fall into a well of tears.

Pushing her glasses up on top of her head, she wiped her eyes gently. She sniffled. How was she going to be able to get through this case when she could barely hold herself together just sitting on the edge of his bed?

To distract herself, she pulled the binder out of her bag, as well as a laptop. She changed her mind: she was going to work. Anything would do to take her focus away from her love for Derek. It didn't even matter that it had to do with grisly murders that usually made her stomach roll.

She flipped first to what he had about the homeless John Doe. Apparently he was listening into a police scanner because he had a transcript about when the body was found. He had autopsy information detailing every single torture mark on the man's body. Ligature marks bruised his wrists while black splotches covered his torso, back, and chest. Both his shoulders were dislocated, indicating he may have been strung up. Oddly enough, he showed no signs of malnutrition or dehydration. Whoever had taken him clearly had kept him fed for some purpose. What had killed him wasn't the torture, but a bullet in the back of his skull.

Chewing on her lip, she studied Derek's notes scrawled in the margins:

Quick and painless death compared to the extreme signs of sadism. Connection to the revelation that John Doe was missing? Killed before the search could begin?

She frowned. How could he have gotten all this paperwork? They were clearly copies, but who made them for him? Or had he made them himself? Derek had always been resourceful, it was possible he might have snuck into the morgue or a police station. She flipped in his notebook back to the phone number of the detective. She studied Derek's note. Her fingers traced the numbers. She needed to speak to the detective as soon as possible.

Glancing at the clock, she sighed. It was almost three o'clock in the morning. Hank needed to be off to school in just a few short hours and she needed to get him out the door before she could do any real work.

She set aside the laptop and notebooks on the floor before rising to slip out of her clothes. Once dressed for bed, she slid under the covers and shut the light off. Laying in the darkness of the room, she inhaled the scent of the sheets once more. The sound of the city outside rang in her ears, but somehow Derek's voice slid into her ears. She was consumed with a longing for him with a strength that she hadn't felt in ages. Her chest clenched, as did her fists around the edges of the blanket on top of her. Curling into a ball, she closed her eyes as tight as she possibly could.

But even with eyes squeezed shut so hard they hurt, Penelope was unable to stop the onslaught of sobs that wracked her entire body.


15 Years Ago

"They gave you all some pretty sweet digs for this conference," Derek commented, looking around the hotel room Penelope was staying in for her short time in Chicago. He grinned at her, wiggling his eyebrows. She stood at the door to the room. A grin was spread across her face. It only half reached her eyes, but when she strode towards him and wrapped her arms around his neck, he didn't even mind.

"Only the best for the Bureau's finest," she purred. Her teeth grazed his earlobe, sending shivers up and down his spine.

He laughed. "Nice of you to call me one of the finest even though I retired." He buried his face in her neck, trailing kisses down her throat.

With a snort, she pushed him back on the plush linens of her bed. "Not you, silly boy," she said, straddling his waist. "I'm one of their finest. You're old news."

Neither of them said much more. The sounds of heavy breathing and deep sighs filled the room as they tore the clothes from one another's bodies. Derek finally gained the upper hand over her, rolling Penelope under him so he could look down into her brandy-colored eyes. He took in every inch of her, from her rumpled curls to lily skin. Her face was flushed, hot and rosy from his kisses and love bites on her neck. The hesitation in her eyes when they entered the room was gone. Instead, she smiled up at him. Her eyes were filled with devotion, adoration. No one had looked at him with such desire and love before.

The words tumbled from his mouth before he could stop himself, "I love you, Penelope."

It came out as a whisper, but the strength of what he said filled the room as if he had yelled it.

She leaned up, kissing him tenderly. "I love you, too," she whispered, hand slipping between their bodies and guiding him into her. Their bodies rocked together gently, like waves lapping at the shoreline. She was perfect, her soft body melding into his until they could no longer be separated from one another. The connection between them pulsed, burning stronger and stronger until it culminated into the fiercest climax he had ever experienced.

Penelope stroked the back of his neck. Her lashes rested lightly against her cheeks. His hands caressed her breasts, even as he slid off of her to lie beside her. Wrapping his arm around her waist, he kissed the side of her head.

They were quiet for a long time after that. Derek played with the tips of her bed-rumpled hair. She traced indiscriminate patterns on his abdomen. He felt like he held the whole world in his arms at that moment. If he let her go, anything and everything would fall apart for him.

"Did you mean it?" she whispered finally.

"Hmm?" he asked. "Mean what?"

She sighed. "When you told me you love me," she said. "Did you mean it?"

Leaning up on his side, he tilted her chin up to look her straight in the eye. "There are two people in the world I would never lie to: my son, and you. I do love you." He pressed his lips to hers. "I love you and want to make up for the mistake I made when I walked out of your office when I left the BAU."

She chewed on her lip. "What do you mean?" she asked, unsure.

"I mean that someday soon, we're going to be together," he vowed.

Penelope blinked at him. Her mouth fell open. "You mean…"

He nodded. "Someday, I'm going to leave Savannah." Pulling Penelope into his chest, he kissed her mouth, her neck, her cheeks, the valley between her breasts. He meant everything he said. It hadn't been a prepared speech, but it was as earnest as if he'd been forming it for years. And in some ways he had been planning it, even if not consciously. "I'm going to leave her, and we're going to be together."

"Derek…" she murmured. "I love you so much. So, so much. But I don't want anything we do to hurt Hank, and that's all that this will do."

"I will always protect my son," he whispered. "And I'm always going to protect you. I'm going to find a way to make this work."

Heaving a deep sigh, Penelope chewed her lip and rested her head against Derek's chest. He kissed the top of her head, his head swimming with how he would accomplish everything he wanted, and protect his child.