Do You Know How Much I Love You? Chapter 18
2 Weeks Later…
Derek slowly pulled his tired body to a sitting position. His neck, shoulders and back ached but it didn’t matter. The small whimper of his son made him feel alert as he glanced at the restless bundle mere inches away. This had been the routine for the past two weeks and Derek had resigned himself to the reality that sleep was something from his distant past.
Penelope sprung to her feet at the sound of Hank crying. She knew Derek would beat her to him but she still got up and headed toward the living room. She watched from the doorway as he massaged his neck and shoulders trying to work the stiffness out before picking up his son. She knew he was determined to go it alone and that made her sad.
“I didn’t buy that couch because it was comfortable. I bought it because it was cute.”
Morgan smiled tiredly as he stood looking into the bassinet that had been the first official gift from Hank’s godfather. Spencer had been extremely proud of himself to have found and had it in place before Morgan and Penelope brought Hank home.
“I’m sorry if Hank woke you, Baby Girl.”
“No apologies needed, Handsome.”
Morgan began moving his neck back and forth and rotating his shoulders still trying to work out the stiffness.
“You know you don’t have to sleep out here on this couch. There’s plenty of room in my bed.”
“What? It’s not like you haven’t been in my bed before, Derek.” She teased.
“Yeah, I know…it’s just…”
“Just what? Listen, I’m not expecting anything, okay. I just want you and Hank to be comfortable and that couch, my handsome best friend, is not comfortable.”
She watched him relax a little and the smile that crossed his face gave her a smidge of hope. Derek picked up Hank and cradled him against his chest. The little baby boy looked so small against his father’s muscular frame.
“You’re a good father; you know that?”
“I don’t know. Most times I think he deserves a lot better than me.”
“No one can love that boy more than you, Derek. Stop doubting yourself.”
“I can’t help but think that there’s another Omar around the corner or a Zolton or a…”
She watched his face drop and the hope she’d held moments ago disappeared.
“Or what? Talk to me.”
“Or another Savannah.”
Penelope exhaled and laid her head on his shoulder.
“Savannah is dead. Omar is dead. Zolton killed them both and then blew himself up in your house. It’s over Baby Boy, you’ve got to believe that!”
“Is it? Is it really over?”
“Yes. It’s really over! You have to fight to get your life back. Hank needs you to be you again. And…”
He turned to look at her for the first time since she’d entered the room.”
She lifted her head from his shoulder and moved slightly to look him in the face.
“And I need you.”
He kissed her on the lips gently and she returned the kiss taking the time to show him that she was serious. He pulled away still looking into her eyes.
“Are you sure you’re up for this? You can do a whole lot better.”
“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. I love you and I love your son. I’m more than up for this.”
He kissed her again, and again until the sounds of his son’s cries pulled them apart.
3 Months Later…
There were days when the memories of the last eleven months were still fresh in his mind. The scar on his chest had stopped hurting but it was still hard to look at. Then there were the nightmares; vivid images of the kidnapping, the beating and torture and being set on fire all with the approval and initiation of his wife. The bureau had closed his case and deemed the threat against him over. The bureau had also insisted on his attending ongoing sessions with a therapist. He fought it tooth and nail but in the end he had to submit to the process before he was allowed back in the field.
Today was moving day. He was nervous. He’d become comfortable in the cramped space of Penelope’s one room apartment. She’d managed like always to make him feel welcome and safe. Hank had settled in nicely as well and even seemed at times to prefer Penelope’s company over his. He loved her and that scared him. He’d never discussed that fear with her and like everything else that scared him, he denied it and tucked it away for later.
Penelope watched him as he loaded the last of his and Hank’s things into his truck. She didn’t want him to move. She knew this day was coming and she’d tried over and over again to convince him to extend his stay. As much progress as he had made in therapy and even with his part-time return to work he was distant and reluctant to discuss their relationship. Her doubt and insecurities had begun to surface and she hated herself for it. Patience had never been her strong suit but once he’d admitted his feelings shortly after Hank’s birth she’d vowed to wait for him no matter how long it took.
He wanted her with him but when he’d asked her to move with him she’d turned him down. He was confused because they had been so close and her space was clearly too small for the three of them. He’d assumed she’d say yes; yes without hesitation but her reasons for saying no, caught him off guard.
“Are you sure you won’t change your mind?”
“I’m sure I won’t change my mind, Handsome.”
She saw the hurt in his eyes. There was nothing more in the world she wanted. To live in the same house with Derek and Hank would be a dream come true but she needed him to be sure; sure about her and where she belonged in his life. For over eleven years Penelope had loved him and dreamed of him. She didn’t want to be his default she had too much to lose to settle for that.
“I don’t understand, I thought you loved me…and Hank.”
“I do love you; both of you but…”
“No but’s…I need you…”
“And I need you. I need you to be sure that I’m what you want. I don’t want you to ever second-guess me or us. I want you to know that I’m not Savannah and I’d never hurt you like she did.”
“I know you wouldn’t…”
“Shhh…” Silencing him placing her finger gently on his lips. “I hear you asking her why in your sleep, Derek. I hear you cursing her and crying as you fight the demons when you close your eyes…”
“Baby Girl, I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to…”
“I’m here, right here, Derek. I love you more than I thought anyone could love another person. I want a life with you and Hank and I plan on fighting for it but you’ve got to fight too.”
He pulled her against his chest and held her tight. Her mind was made up and he understood even though the thought of spending their first night in their new home without her was almost unbearable.
“Just don’t give up on me.” He whispered.
6 Months Later…
Even though she had not made it official, Penelope spent most of her days and nights at Derek’s. She’d even helped decorate the large home with Derek allowing her to make most of the design choices. He loved watching her move around the house and fussing over Hank. He still had not managed to persuade her to give up her apartment. Still, he was his happiest when she was there with him and his son. The team seemed to be permanent fixtures as well. The home had become the gathering spot for weekend get-togethers and sleepovers.
She knew he was still struggling still trying to make sense of his life and where it had brought him. Hank was the light of his life and he’d taken to fatherhood with an ease and confidence that seemed effortless. Derek fought his demons but he insisted on fighting them alone. It was his way of protecting her and insuring that he could protect himself. He talked less and worked more hiding himself behind a freshly painted wall of pretense saying the right things and doing the right things. She wasn’t fooled in the least.
Derek hated his body. His workout regime had doubled from one hour to two hours each day yet he despised the reflection that stared back at him from the mirror. The scar stood out discolored, mocking him, a constant reminder that he’d been bested. He’d grown tired of his family and friends referring to the, ‘old Derek’ as if it were possible to resurrect him from the grave. The simple truth was that there was no, Old Derek. Old Derek had died in that dirty remote farmhouse. Old Derek had not been strong enough to rise from the fire and all that was left was the memories, the lies and the tears. No, Old Derek was dead and buried…he wasn’t quite sure what to make of the new man he had become.
His hand felt as if it weighed a ton as he slowly lifted it placing it on the wet misty mirror. The scar on the back of his hand stopped him momentarily.
She allowed him to think that she wasn’t aware of the fact that he never allowed her to see his upper body. She always adored his body especially his abs but it had been almost a year since she’d had the pleasure of ogling him from afar. It didn’t matter to her, the scars, the darkened irreparably damaged skin; none of it mattered to her at all. Like most things, he refused to discuss it keeping his feelings tucked close and his clothes on. Today would be different, no more coddling him and walking on eggshells she needed him; needed his arms wrapped around her. She wanted his hands and mouth on her, she’d been patient and waited but she was human and her human needs were screaming…today, today she’d make him see what she saw and she’d make him admit that he saw it too.
He took in a shaky breath drawing his hand across the mirror wiping away the steam revealing first his face then his shoulders then lastly…
Penelope gripped the knob and turned it slowly. She’d heard the water stop minutes ago and by now he would be out of the shower. He’d be pissed, defenseless…she wasn’t sure if this was the right thing to do but it was now or never.
The scar caught his eyes grabbing his attention. He focused on the horror and the sight slammed him dead center of his worst nightmare. He could feel his captor’s fingers running down his body as he applied the white phosphorus to his skin. He closed his eyes just like he did that night trying desperately to keep his mind safe and away from what was about to happen.
He hadn’t heard her come in; didn’t see her standing hidden in the steam that still filled the room. His eyes widened his hands searched for the towel…it was in her hand. He reached for it angrily but missed as she moved it behind her body.
“Baby Girl! What…are you doing in here?”
“I need you.”
“I’ll be out in a minute…give me…”
“No! I’ve waited for six months…”
“Give me the towel! Now Penelope!”
He turned his back to her and leaned against the counter struggling to maintain his breathing just like that night a year ago.
He jumped as her arms wrapped gently around his waist. She felt him stiffen as she laid her head against his back.
“I love you, Derek Morgan.”
“I don’t care about the scar. You are the most gorgeous man…”
“Don’t do this…”
“Do you trust me?”
He nodded his head, yes. He wanted to disappear…he wanted to believe that what she was saying would still be true once she saw what he was forced to look at everyday.
“Let me show you how much I love you Derek.”
“I can’t do this…not now…”
Penelope began to kiss him lightly on his toned back tracing her fingers over his tattoos as she went. He began to tremble under the weight of his own tears. He wanted her here and now. Even though she was his hero she was still human and what woman would want him now?
If nothing she was persistent and sheer determination drove her as she stepped away from him and waited. He lifted his head staring at her through the mirror. He watched her as she removed her clothes piece by piece letting them fall to the floor around her feet. He was speechless he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Again she approached him placing her hands on his shoulders and turning him to face her.
She shook her head as he lowered his eyes…the shame moved her and so did his tears.
“No! Derek, don’t do that. Look at me!”
“You are so beautiful how can you possibly be with someone like me?” He muttered.
Without saying a word she placed her index finger under his chin and lifted his head.
“Look at me, Baby Boy.”
There it was in her eyes. He didn’t understand how but it was there…her heart shone front and center as a smile crossed her lips. He couldn’t speak, or think.
“How? I don’t understand…”
She tenderly placed her hand around his neck and pulled him toward her placing a gentle kiss on his lips. She felt him relax as she deepened the kiss. She kept the control while he was still trying to make sense of what was happening.
He returned the kiss and as she began to lightly run her fingertips across his chest he hissed ending the kiss. She increased her grip around his neck as she trailed kisses starting from his neck to his shoulders to the undamaged parts of his perfect chest. Just as she leaned in toward the center he stopped her placing his hands on her shoulders to block her progress. Without a word she stared into his eyes and held him there for several seconds. Taking his hands from her shoulders she kissed the palm then the back of his scared hand. He watched her meticulously explore every inch of his hands, arms shoulders taking her time not missing one centimeter. Again she leaned toward the center of his chest holding his hands firmly in hers refusing to be denied what she wanted.
Morgan backed away bumping against the vanity, there was no escape Penelope pinned him in place as she gently kissed the top of the scar that seemed to divide his chest in half. He stiffened and hissed…then moaned as she continued down inch by inch until she’d marked the thing that had prevented him from sharing himself with her. She felt him relax and she smiled as he ran his fingers through her hair. This is what he needed; this was what she wanted to give him.
She ignored him as she began her journey back toward the top of the scar. When she was finished he pulled her toward him and devoured her mouth with his. He was in control now as he nearly inhaled her with his need of her.
“He’s asleep.” Then without another word he took her hand and led her out of the bathroom.
Penelope opened her eyes and quickly realized that she was in bed alone. She smiled and stretched taking up most of the bed. She could still feel his large hands on her body as he made love to her less than an hour ago. It wasn’t how she’d imagined their first time it was better. He’d managed to set his fears aside and show her without saying a word how he felt and what she meant to him.
Her memories were interrupted by the sounds of baby giggles and daddy noises coming from the monitor next to the bed. She smiled as she listened to the two loves of her life. Pulling her robe on moments before Derek walked through the door, carrying Hank in his arms, Penelope watched them approach the bed. Hank immediately reached for her nearly plunging from his father’s arms.
“Hold on little man.” Derek chuckled placing Hank in her arms.
Penelope gobbled the wiggling bundle in her arms smothering him with kisses and holding him tightly against her. Derek moved to the dresser and opened the top drawer. Looking back he breathed a sigh of relief at the two most important people in his life. Pulling a small velvet box from the drawer he returned to the bed joining them.
“He looks good in your arms.”
She smiled and continued playing with the baby.
“I love him like he was mine.”
“He loves you too. We both do.”
“I have a question.”
She sounded serious and he waited for her to continue. The nervousness in his eyes didn’t go unnoticed by her.
“Sure. You can ask me anything, Baby Girl.”
“Is that invitation to move in permanently still on the table?”
He waited for a moment as he gathered his nerves.
“Under one condition.”
“Oh, and what would that be?”
He extended his arm and opened his hand revealing the box. Penelope’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. It was all she could do to concentrate on the baby in her arms.
“You have to be my wife.”
“Oh my god, Derek.”
He opened the box revealing a large round cut diamond ring with two pink diamonds on each side.
“You saved my life. I’ve loved you from the moment I first saw you and I was too stupid to realize it. I need you, Hank needs you; you are my today and my forever. Please make my life complete and marry me.”
“Yes! Yes! I’ll marry you!”
Derek leaned toward her and kissed her tenderly on the lips while Hank cooed his approval. Wiping the tears streaming down her face, Derek felt a release within his chest. He could breathe again. He hadn’t realized until that moment that he had been struggling just to breathe. Now he felt as if he could fly.
Penelope was happier than she’d ever been. She leaned in this time and took his lips in a passionate kiss. Both of them were lost in the bliss of the moment until Hank broke the trance.
“Ma, ma! Ma, ma…”
Penelope and Derek pulled away from each other smiling in wide-eyed shock at Hank who looked at one then the other puzzled.
“He just called me mama!” She whispered.
“Yes he did!” Derek smiled brightly.
“Is that okay with you?”
“It’s more than okay, Baby Girl.”
Penelope felt giddy as she kissed Hank on the top of his head.
“My precious, precious baby boy!”
“Ma, ma! Ma ma!”
Derek heard an odd noise in the room. He hadn’t heard it in a long while. It was laughter birthed from pure joy. It was his laughter. The sound was something he hadn’t thought about in a long time. He pulled his son from Penelope’s arms and held him high above his head.
“I got him, I got him.”
Then gently he lowered Hank in his arms and kissed him on the forehead. This was hope, he thought. This was what he’d always wanted but never believed he could have. Savannah had tried to steal this from him. She and Omar, strangers who never knew him but were willing to form an unholy alliance to destroy his present and deny him a future.
Suddenly he realized that he’d been looking at things wrong. The scar that he was so determined to hide was not a sign that he had been beaten; it was a sign that he had survived.
One Year Later… Wedding Day
Derek burst through the door and rushed into the room reserved for the bride and her bridesmaids.
“Derek Michael Morgan, what are you doing here? You know it’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding!”
He stopped dead in his tracks. There she stood back to him and staring at her reflection in the large floor length mirror.
“JJ told me you were in hysterics! What’s going on?”
“Where’s Hank? You were supposed to be watching Hank! I gave you only one job, you and Spencer, and Dave and Aaron…one job…”
“Whoa Baby, hold your horses. You know you’re not supposed to get upset!”
Penelope exhaled trying to calm her nerves.
“Hank is just fine. His godfather and uncles are keeping a watch over our son.”
Our son; she melted at the sound.
“What’s wrong, why are you so upset?”
“It’s this dress! It fit perfectly last week when I had my final fitting, now I can’t get it to zip up! What am I going to do now? I can’t go out there with my backside on display.”
Derek began to laugh as he approached her. She saw her face turning bright red as she turned to face him. She was furious and that made him laugh even harder.
“Baby, it’s going to be okay, let me fix it.”
Reluctantly she turned back to face the mirror fighting the tears threatening to ruin her makeup.
“It’s not funny, Derek! This is all your fault!”
“My fault? How can you say that?” He giggled under his breath.
Then with a quick tug he managed to zip her dress much to her relief.
“See? All done, piece of cake.”
Then he planted a kiss on her neck and pulled her against his body. Now the both stared at their reflections in the mirror.
“You are absolutely beautiful! I can’t wait to marry you and make you Mrs. Derek Morgan.”
“I love you too and I can’t wait to become Mrs. Derek Morgan.”
“You saved my life, Penelope. With you, and Hank I have a reason to live and I can’t tell you how you have made me whole. I don’t deserve you…”
She turned to face him, and looked longingly into his eyes.
“We saved each other. We made setting aside our fears worthwhile and I am so glad we did. I get to be your wife and Hank’s mommy…”
Derek bent down and planted a kiss on her expanding belly, interrupting her before she could finish.
“And this little Angel here too.”
Penelope smiled as she placed her hands on his head as he kissed her belly again.
“Yes, and this Angel too.” Then. “You are truly my hero, Derek Morgan and I will forever be grateful.
Derek stood and glanced lovingly at her in the mirror again and smiled. Then planting a kiss on her lips he wrapped his arms around her waist.
“Do you know how much I love you?”
“Falling in love is very real, but I used to shake my head when people talked about soul mates, poor deluded individuals grasping at some supernatural ideal not intended for mortals but sounded pretty in a poetry book. Then, we met, and everything changed, the cynic has become the converted, the skeptic, an ardent zealot.” E.A Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly