Monday, December 23, 2013

Home For The Holidays

Derek reluctantly decides to spend Christmas in Chicago. Will family drama threaten to ruin his first Christmas with Penelope or will he learn the true meaning of Christmas?

Home of Derek Morgan- Morning
Derek had dodged his mother’s request for a holiday visit for months now. Things hadn’t been the same since he’d rescued his cousin Cindi and brought her home two years ago. Even though the reunion was a miracle, things had not been the same between him and his family especially his Aunt Yvonne.

Up to now he’d been able to blame work on his infrequent visits and phone calls. This year his mother however, was insisting on a visit from her Baby Boy and she wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“…And bring Penelope with you.” She insisted firmly.

Derek closed his eyes and inhaled trying to remain calm. He hated denying his mother anything. They had always been close and she knew him better than anyone, well, almost anyone. Penelope had that spot now. He was certain that his mother had more in mind besides, wanting to see him opening presents in his childhood home. Her constant chiding about grandkids and settling down were sure to be main topics during his visit.

“Mom, you know I can’t promise anything. If we get a case…”

“Derek, I know all of that, son, but I want you home. Your sisters miss you, I miss you.” She pleaded.

“Fine, fine. I’ll talk to Pen when she gets home, okay?”

“Thank you, Baby! I’ll see you in a few days.” She cheerily replied.


Fran Morgan quickly hung up before her son could protest further. He released an exasperated breath, looked at his mother’s face on the screen of his cell, hit the “END” button and pocketed the phone.

A broad satisfied grin spread across her face. Except the two times cases had brought him to Chicago, it had been two years since he’d been home for a real visit. His calls home to her had dropped from once a week to once every two weeks. Their family had been fractured since Cindi’s return and she knew Derek blamed himself for the strained relationships.

Fran had made it quite clear that she wanted her son to settle down and give her some grand babies. She didn’t just want him to settle down, she wanted him to settle down with his “best friend” Penelope Garcia. She knew that the two of them were hopelessly in love and as smart and aware as her son was he was clueless when it came to his true feelings for his Baby Girl.

Derek hadn’t told his mother about his new relationship with Penelope. He knew she’d be thrilled but he didn’t want any pressure for marriage and babies. Too many things had gone on in the last few months and adding a determined mother to the mix would definitely push him over the edge.

Penelope would be thrilled over the invitation from his mother. The two had never met in person but had talked several times over the phone. The two hit if off immediately, which made him happy and terrified all at the same time. A case had sent them to Chicago a few months ago and his mother sent homemade peach cobbler back with Derek just for Penelope. He had himself to blame really; he talked non-stop about her whenever he called home.

He loved his family and he missed them terribly but he didn’t look forward to spending Christmas in Chicago. Things hadn’t been the same in the last few years. A visit would mean seeing his Auntie Vonne, his cousin Cindi and her son Anthony and memories of a lie he told that caused the rift in the once close-knit family.

The sound of jingling keys and his squeaky front door drew him out of his thoughts. He and Penelope had keys to each other’s places and so it wasn’t strange that she would let herself into his home. Clooney’s ears perked up and he lazily walked toward the front of the house, tail wagging at the familiar figure that met him in the front room.

Penelope bent down and greeted the overgrown puppy with a scratch behind his ears before heading toward the noise in the kitchen. She smiled as she saw him shirtless and his back to her which meant that something was bothering him; she never got this far into his house without him at least turning to meet her as she crossed the kitchen’s threshold.

“Hey Baby Boy.” She said gauging his mood.

“Hey.” He growled in a low voice.

Uh-oh not good she thought.

“Okay, let’s cut to the chase. What’s up, My Sweet?”

Penelope sashayed playfully toward her man as he slowly turned to face her eyeing her up and down. Even though he tried to hide it she could see the frustration behind his grin. He took the last few steps to close the gap between them and pulled her into his arms. Looking into each other’s eyes momentarily made him soften a bit and shift his mood.

“Sorry, Baby Girl.” Kissing her lightly on the lips. “You deserve a better greeting than that.” Kissing her again but this time deeper as if to prove a point.

“Okay, wow!” She said pulling away for air. “You’re forgiven Hot Stuff!”

Penelope looked at her watch and held up her hot pink travel mug glancing at the coffee pot filled with fresh coffee.

“Let’s go, we’re running late. Hotch will be looking for us.”

Derek’s smirked turned into a fake frown as he took the mug from her and walked toward the coffee maker filling her cup and his.

BAU Headquarters – later
Derek and Penelope had been at work for three hours and he still had not told her about his earlier phone call with his mother. It was all he could do to stay focused on the mundane consults that he had been assigned by Hotch while they weren’t out of town on a case. He knew he had to tell her sooner than later because it was only a matter of time before she demanded an explanation for his still foul mood.

A knock on his office door provided a much-needed break from the current file he was working on. Rossi opened the door after a few seconds and entered making himself comfortable in a chair across from Derek.

“Hey, what’s up, Rossi?” Derek said closing his file.

“I noticed you’ve been holed up in here all morning like a man hiding from something.” He said staring at his younger friend.

“It’s this case Hotch handed me. Just trying to get it knocked out before I leave today.”

“You sure it’s not something else, like holiday plans with family and friends?”

Derek looked at Rossi in amazement; he always seemed to know things, gossip that no one else was privy to.

“What are you talking about Rossi?”

“It’s just that I’ve noticed you haven’t been home much since we solved your cousin’s case. She’s home now, I’d think everything would be back to normal.”

Derek leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes for a moment not knowing where to begin but needing to talk to someone.

“Rossi, when I told my aunt that I lied about my cousin being dead, she freaked; I can still feel her slap across my face.”

“Your cousin’s home now. She and her son are safe and they’ve started a new life.”

“My Aunt told me that she’d never forgive me for that lie. She told me she didn’t want to see me again.”

“But you brought Cindi home…”

“Yeah, I did. I thought it would change things, that she would forgive me but I haven’t spoken to her since.”

“Have you tried calling her?”

“No. I just thought that it would be better if I just left it alone. If she wanted to talk to me then she’d call.”

“And how’s that working for you?”

“It’s not. Now my mother is insisting that I come home for Christmas and she wants me to bring Penelope with me.”

“Does she know that you two are together now?”

“Nobody’s supposed to know that we’re together, Dave.”

“Derek, c’mon. We’re profilers we knew the moment it happened we just thought we’d let you guys make an official announcement.”

“We’d planned to say something sooner but…”

“Yeah, I know…Erin…” Rossi said sadly.

“Dave…” Morgan said sorrowfully.

Dave straightened in his chair and shook off the dark mood that threatened to overtake the room.

“Derek, listen to me. Life is short and family is everything. Go to Chicago and make things right, clear the air. If nothing changes than at least you know you did everything to fix things with your aunt.” Rossi pleaded.

“Rossi, I thought I was protecting my aunt when I told her Cindi was dead.”

“And you never stopped looking for her, right?” Rossi interrupted.

“Right. I kept looking.” Derek confirmed.

“Then tell your aunt that. She needs to know why you did what you did.”

“I don’t know…”

“And take Penelope with you. She has a way of melting the heart of ogres and dragons. Besides, your mother needs to know that she may be getting those grand babies sooner than she thinks.”

Penelope’s Lair
Penelope sat running diagnostics on her babies. She knew Derek’s mood had to have something to do with his family. Lately the holidays were filled with his mood swinging from bad to worse even though he tried to hide it from her. She wasn’t going to push him to talk; that was an unspoken rule between them. No pushing which often meant a lot of waiting for the other to be ready to talk.

Penelope was slightly disappointed, to put it mildly that Derek hadn’t mentioned Christmas. She loved the holidays but since her parents died when she was eighteen, they just weren’t the same and she’d spent most of her holidays alone or with quick dinner drop-ins with friends and their families which in the end only managed to make her feel even more alone. Now that she and Derek were together she wanted to begin making happy memories with him.

A knock on her office door interrupted her thoughts. She knew it was him even before he wrapped his arms around her and planted a soft kiss on her cheek.

“What’s cracking, Hot Stuff? She smiled turning to face him.

“My mother wants us to come to Chicago for Christmas.” He said cutting to the chase.

“Us? As in you and me, us?” She questioned.

“Yes. You Penelope Garcia and Me.”

“Does she know that…?”

“No but you know my mom, she’s the president of the Penelope Garcia Fan Club. If she has her way we’ll be married before the New Year.” He interrupted.

“Is that why you’re in such a pissy mood?”

“I’m not in a pissy mood, woman!” He said defensively.

“You my Chocolate Hunk of Burning Love are in an extremely pissy mood!”

Derek surrendered and pulled her up and into a close embrace. He didn’t want to fight with her; besides she was right as usual, he had been an unbearable bear since his mother’s call.

“I’m sorry, Baby Girl.”

Their private moment was interrupted by a knock on the door. The two released each other just as JJ poked her head in the door pretending that she did not know what was going on.

“Hotch wants us in the conference room.” She smiled and quickly retreated.

JJ smiled as she headed toward the conference room. “Those two.” She said to herself.

Home of Penelope Garcia – Evening
Derek and Penelope sat comfortably on the sofa eager to start their weekly movie night. Tonight’s menu was pizza from Derek’s favorite Italian restaurant, wine and if they managed to stay awake long enough Penelope had planned hot fudge sundaes for dessert.

“Man, I thought when Hotch called us into the conference room he was going to tell us we had a case.” Morgan began.

“Yeah, me too. I can’t imagine you guys out in the field on Christmas.”

“Well the bad guys don’t observe the holidays, Baby Girl.”

“I know but still…”

“I hear you.”

Morgan opened the wine and poured two glasses handing one to Penelope.

“Thank you my Sweet. So, have you decided if we’re going to Chicago? She said changing the subject.

“You know I won’t hear the end of it if we don’t go. Besides, my mom is already making plans. Are you up for meeting the rest of the Morgan clan?”

“I’ve been ready, Baby Boy. The real question is, are you ready?”

“No, but I know we need to make a decision so we can enjoy the weekend off that Hotch was good enough to give us.”

Penelope grabbed his phone off the cocktail table and handed it to Derek and smiled at him encouragingly as he dialed his mother’s number.

Home of Fran Morgan – Chicago – Evening
Fran hung up the phone and began putting the finishing touches on dinner. Her Baby Boy was coming home for Christmas; all of her babies would be home and eating dinner together.

There had been a few changes in Fran’s life since her son had last come to visit; changes that she knew she should have probably shared a while ago but she kept putting it off hoping to be able to share it with him in person. With her sister-in-law and her family joining them Christmas for the Morgan family was sure to be interesting to say the least. As she pulled the roast out of the oven she secretly prayed that if there couldn’t be peace on earth, perhaps there would be peace in the Morgan household, although she didn’t hold out much hope.

“Derek and his best friend are coming for Christmas.” She said placing a plate in front of her dinner guest.

“I assume you haven’t told him about us.” He said placing his napkin on his lap.

“It’s not something I wanted to tell him over the phone.” She said placing her plate and sitting across the small kitchen table.

“Are you sure Christmas is the best time to tell your son that we’re dating? I’m not his favorite person in the world.”

“Stan you do have a knack for the obvious.”

Stan Gordinski chuckled and began eating his dinner. Detective Gordinski and Derek Morgan had a bad history. When Derek was a young boy, he was a constant target of Gordinski’s. Even on a visit for his mother’s birthday about seven years ago, Gordinski arrested him and was convinced that Derek was a serial killer. That arrest led to the discovery of Derek’s secret of childhood sexual abuse that he had fought so desperately to keep hidden.

“How’s your food?” She said trying to change the subject.

“Delicious as always, Babe.” He said exchanging smiles with her.

“Let’s not fool ourselves, Fran, your son is going to blow a gasket! His mother and me, his arch nemesis, dating. I don’t know that’s just a Christmas disaster waiting to happen.”

The two continued to eat and discuss the impending start of World War III that was sure to begin with an epic explosion when Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia arrived on Christmas Eve.

BAU Headquarters – Monday Morning
Hotch stood on the catwalk watching his team goof off. Christmas was two days away and he knew unless they got a case in the next few hours nothing productive was getting done. He much preferred giving them the entire week off but the bureau would not hear of it.

Rossi joined him as they both grinned at the silly goings-on below. Reid was showing JJ some silly magic trick, Alex chatted with Penelope and Derek was noticeably absent from the group. He still wasn’t in the Christmas mood so he sat in his office finishing reports and thinking about the next few days and feeling guilty for wishing for a case that would take them out into the unknown. So many personal plans had been interrupted in the past, birthdays, anniversaries and graduations that it wouldn’t be out of the norm to have to cancel Christmas. Somehow, Derek had a feeling that this year Christmas would come and drag him right along with it.

Morgan Family Home – Chicago, Illinois- Christmas Eve
It didn’t matter that it was thirty degrees and snowing Penelope was happy to be in Derek’s hometown. She’d dreamt for years for the day to come when she would meet his family. Of course she wasn’t na├»ve enough to think that these were ideal conditions. With the strained relations with his aunt and the two of them revealing that they were now a couple, the next two days were going to be filled with lots of tension, drama and home cooked meals, just the way the holidays should be, she chuckled to herself.

Derek pulled the rental car into the freshly shoveled driveway and cut the engine. Looking at all the white snow reminded him of how much he didn’t miss Chicago. He also wondered when his mother started shoveling snow because she was way too frugal to pay for a service to do it. Quickly helping Penelope out of the car and grabbing their bags the couple dashed to the front door and rang the doorbell. Fran Morgan quickly opened the door beaming from ear to ear and welcomed them inside.

“My Baby Boy is home!” She shrieked.

“Hey, Ma.” Hugging her tightly.

“And this must be Penelope!” Quickly pulling her into an embrace.

“Good to meet you Mrs. Morgan.” Returning the hug.

“Come in you two, come in!”

Derek and Penelope followed her into the main room of the house. Derek took their coats, scarves and hats and hung them on the coat rack in the hallway as Penelope made herself comfortable on the couch.

“I’ve got fresh coffee or tea, hot chocolate?” Fran offered.

“I’d love some hot chocolate.” Penelope piped up.

“Coffee for me Ma.”

Fran disappeared into the kitchen as Derek sat close to Penelope on the couch nervously tapping his fingers on his knee.

“Relax, Stud Muffin. You look like a man about to walk the green mile.”

“You don’t know my family. I love them dearly but once my mother’s on a mission, she’s relentless. My sisters, man, they are nosier than The National Inquirer on steroids!” And once they find out about us, Baby…”

Fran returned with a steaming tray of drinks, which put a halt to Derek’s rant.

“Penelope, your are simply gorgeous! My son has good taste…”

“Ma! Please!”

“What? You don’t think I’m falling for that ‘just friends’ thing do you?”

“Ma, Pen and I are just…well, we were just…”

Penelope blushed and looked at Derek as he fumbled with his words. She thought it best she take the conversation at this point.

“Well, Mrs. Morgan…”

“Fran. Please call me Fran, baby.”

“Thanks. Fran. Uh, Derek and I are officially dating now.”

Fran shrieked in delight as she jumped up and hugged Penelope for dear life as Derek rolled his eyes and shook his head in embarrassment.  Then came the questions of “when,” “how,” and demanding blow-by-blow details. Derek excused himself and headed toward the basement in hopes of finding some sports on TV or a dull knife to slash his wrists. “Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-f’g-la,” he thought to himself.

Fran and Penelope talked well into the late afternoon; Fran sharing things about Derek that Penelope didn’t know and some of those things he would be mortified if he knew she knew. Both women bonded immediately and Penelope felt as if she’d found someone that filled the empty space left with her own mother’s passing. She didn’t mind the questions about her and Derek or even her own childhood and it was clear why the man she loved possessed the qualities of compassion, fearlessness and everything else that made her fall madly in love with him.

The Morgan home was warm with love that sent a twinge through Penelope as Fran explained the history of the many ornaments on the tree that stood filled with garland, blinking lights and homemade and store bought decorations. The blazing fire made everything seem surreal and straight out of a Hallmark Christmas special.

Derek got comfortable on the old couch in the basement and surfed the channels for something to watch settling on Sports Center. He was glad that he had decided to come to Chicago even though he still wasn’t looking forward to seeing his Auntie Vonne tomorrow. The joy in his mother’s eyes was worth whatever came next. Penelope was happy too she had finally gotten a chance to meet the woman who he spoke so highly of and who had raised him and his sisters under tough circumstances.

The smells coming from upstairs reminded him that he hadn’t eaten since early this morning and he climbed the steps up to the main level of the house and headed toward the kitchen where he found his mother and girlfriend laughing, talking and cooking. A goofy smile crept across his face as he watched them momentarily unnoticed from the doorway.

“I’m not sure it was a good idea to leave you two alone.” He said as he eased into the room.

“Remind me not to let you near any kitchen appliances when we get back home.” Penelope teased.

“Oh no! Mom you didn’t tell her…”

“What? She needs to know!” Fran giggled.

“Not that!”

“Hush Hot Stuff there’s so many other things that you’re good at.”

Derek moved to Penelope and wrapped his arms around her waist nuzzling and planting a sweet kiss on her neck.

“I know that’s right, Sweetness.”

“Okay you two, enough.” Fran scolded playfully.

The three worked together to finish the meal and prepare their plates. The meal of smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, salad and homemade biscuits was incredible and brought childhood memories flooding back. No matter how long her day had been his mother always prepared a warm meal for them. She never cut corners and she had a way of expressing her love for her children through the meals she would prepare for them.

Just as Fran and Penelope finished the dishes Derek’s older and younger sisters arrived bearing bags of gifts as they filled the room with noise and laughter as they hugged their mother and brother. Derek introduced them to Penelope and his sisters grabbed her and embraced her like a long lost relative. It felt good to be introduced as his girl friend and seeing the shocked looks of delight on his sister’s faces as they responded in unison, “finally!”

“We thought we’d bring our gifts tonight so they’d be under the tree in the morning.” Sarah said excitedly.

“No, you just needed an excuse to see who Derek brought home!” Desiree teased. “This is a first you know!” She said looking at Penelope.

“What?” Penelope asked puzzled.

“My baby brother has never brought anyone home before.” Sarah answered.

“See. This is why I wanted to stay in Quantico! The two Nosey Nellies, here will drive you crazy!” Derek whined.

“Oh, come on, Derek! You know it’s true! Right Ma?” Sarah continued.

“Leave your brother alone or it might be another two years before he comes for a visit.” Fran warned.

“Exactly! Thank you, Ma.” Derek teased.

Penelope sat and watched the exchange between Derek and his sisters and couldn’t help but smile. So much love, she missed that and she missed having a family that showed love so easily.

Morgan Home – Christmas Morning
The house was quiet and Fran Morgan was up preparing her turkey for the oven. She absolutely loved holiday dinners and she had a traditional meal planned; roasted turkey with oyster dressing, baked ham, yams, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, greens, corn pudding, corn bread and biscuits and lots of gravy, and cranberry sauce. Her desserts were, peach cobbler, red velvet cupcakes, pumpkin pie, and lots of ice cream.

Derek and Penelope were still sleeping and Sarah and Desiree had promised to arrive around one to help her get everything ready for dinner at three. Breakfast would be a no frills continental breakfast so she could focus on the main meal of the day.

Stan had arrived an hour ago; he had made it a habit of coming by early each day to clear her driveway and sidewalk of snow. He was nervous because he knew that she hadn’t told her family about them dating. Scraping the snow out of the way had provided him an outlet for his nervous energy today.

Fran Morgan and Stan Gordinski had not met on good terms. He seemed to have it in for her son from the beginning. Derek had gotten into some trouble as a teenager when he and a friend were attacked by a local gang. From that point on he was on Gordinski’s radar and was constantly brought into police headquarters whenever anything happened in the neighborhood.

Stan had been treated at Chicago General where Fran worked when he had been injured on a case a year and a half ago. They were both shocked when she was assigned as his nurse. To say that you could cut the tension in the room with a knife when she entered the exam room would be an understatement of epic proportions. Nevertheless, from that moment on he could not get her off of his mind. He then ran into her at the movies and again at the grocery store and figured that he was either being tortured or it was a sign that he needed to ask her out. He was shocked when she accepted.

Fran shocked herself when she accepted his invitation to dinner. This man had given her son hell but there was something about him that made her give him a chance. There was a kindness and passion behind the gruff hardened exterior and she respected the fact that the first words to her was an apology for how he had treated Derek growing up.

Fran had assumed that she would spend the rest of her life alone; she’d loved her children’s father deeply and when he was killed a part of her died as well. Her life had been dedicated to her children, which meant sacrificing a part of her life that she had convinced herself that she could live without. Now her children were gone living their own lives and Fran had to admit that she didn’t want to live alone, existing on occasional visits from her children who seemed determined not to give her any grandchildren to distract her in her latter years.

Stan entered the house through the back door, which lead into the kitchen where Fran was mixing the ingredients for her cornbread. She glanced his way as he removed his gloves and stuffed them into his coat pocket; his cheeks flushed from the cold outside. Smiling she poured him a mug of coffee and turned to face him as he approached. Kissing her lightly on the lips he took the mug from her hand and as he looked deeply into her eyes took a long sip from the hot steaming cup.

“I’m not staying long. I don’t want your son getting any ideas if he sees me here this early in the morning.” He said taking another sip of coffee.

“He and Penelope are sound asleep. Besides, I’m a grown woman and if my son sees my gentleman friend here in the morning that’s my business.” She smiled kissing him gently on the lips.

“Okay, that’s what you say now but you know as well as I do that you would have a heart attack if Derek were to walk in on us right now.”

Fran smiled and playfully grabbed the mug from Stan and placed it on the counter behind her, then she wrapped her arms around his neck as he pulled her close to him as they lost themselves in a long passionate kiss.

Fran sighed. “When did the roles reverse?”

Derek never could sleep when his mother was in the kitchen cooking Christmas dinner. The smells of sage and the other incredible spices pricked his senses and roused him from his slumber. He glanced over at Penelope who was still asleep and quietly eased himself from the bed. Tossing on a t-shirt and sweatpants he tipped out of the room in search of free samples of his mother’s fixings. As he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and rounded the corner to the kitchen he stopped dead in his tracks at the sight before him. There were no words and no amount of inner strength to keep him from losing it at the sight before him.


“Derek! Baby!” Fran shrieked.

“Derek!” Stan stammered red-faced.

“What the hell is going on here?” Derek shouted.

Fran quickly pulled away from Stan and approached Derek grabbing his arm. Derek jerked away and stepped back mouth opened in shock.

“Mom! Answer me! What’s he doing here?”

Stan stood there wishing he could disappear or crawl under a very large rock.

“Calm down…let me…us explain!”

“No! Mom I know your lonely…I get it…but are you this desperate?”

“Now hold on, Derek, that’s hitting below the belt.” Stan interjected.

Derek shot a death-glare at Stan that froze him in his tracks.

“Please, Derek, lower your voice! This is still my house!”

“Mom, this man made my life a living hell and your…your… oh, DAMN, please don’t tell me you’re sleeping with him, Ma!”

“Who I am or am not sleeping with, young man is none of your business!”

“Derek, look your mom and I love each other. A lot has happened since you’ve been home.” Stan said a little calmer.

“Why are you talking right now? I don’t want to hear anything you have to say, Gordinski!”

“Derek! Stop it right now!” Fran then turned to Stan. “Maybe you should leave. I need to talk to my son.  See you later for dinner?”

She planted a tender kiss on his lips and walked him to the door. Watching, Derek shook his head in disgust.

“Oh, hell no! This cannot be happening!”

Awakened by the commotion, Penelope sleepily comes around the corner to see Derek in a rage as his mother is closing the back door.

“What is going on in here?” Penelope asked.

“My mom was so busy in my business that she forgot to tell me that’s she’s sneaking around with my worst enemy!”

Fran red-faced approaches the couple.

“We are not sneaking!”

“No? Does Sarah and Desiree know about this?”


“Exactly! Then you’re sneaking around!”

“Derek, baby, let your mother explain.” Penelope said cautiously.

“There’s nothing to explain. Mom, I can’t believe it! You and Stan Gordinski?”

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you but you haven’t been home for a visit in two years. I didn’t want to tell you over the phone.”

Derek was inconsolable. He rubbed both of his hands over his head and neck and paced the small kitchen. Penelope hadn’t seen him this made in a long time and it scared her.

“I’ve got to get out of here.” Derek grumbled.

Derek left the kitchen and headed to his bedroom slamming the door behind him leaving a humiliated Fran and Penelope staring after him.

Upward Bound Youth Center – An hour later
Derek is shooting baskets alone in the indoor gym of the Youth Center. Since Carl Buford’s incarceration, Derek’s family along with Damian Walters mother have run the center so it was easy getting access to the center on a holiday. Christmas had crashed and burned quickly and he hadn’t even seen his Auntie Vonne yet.

Derek ignored the sound of the door opening and closing sure it was probably someone he didn’t want to talk to, so he continued to shoot baskets.

“We need to talk, Derek.”

“I think we’re a little late on the talking.” He growled.

“It’s never too late to talk.”

Derek didn’t respond as he kept shooting basket after basket.

“I was wrong.”


“I was wrong about you all those years ago when you were a kid.”


“You didn’t deserve what happened to you…with Carl and all.”


“Your mother loves you very much and she wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.”


“I love your mother, Derek and I want to take care of her.”


“Derek! Talk to me! Look I’m sorry!”

Derek slowly turned, sweat dripping down his face as he looked Stan angrily in the eyes.

“Why my mother? Huh, why? Of all the women in Chicago, why my mother? Haven’t you done enough to torment me, Gordinski?”

“It’s not about you, Derek! We didn’t plan this! It just happened!”

“Nothing just happens, Gordinski!”

Derek turned and resumed shooting baskets, more like launching rockets toward the basket would be more accurate. Gordinski just stood watching him release his anger on the rim of the hoop, better than him he thought to himself.

Gordinski knew that Derek would take the shock of his mother dating him hard but he was willing to deal with the fallout. He loved Fran and his love had caught him off guard but no one had affected him in such a powerful way. Nothing and no one would keep him from loving her even if he had to get his ass kicked in the process.



“You don’t have to like me or the fact that I’m with your mother.”


“She’s happy…I make her happy!”


“I make her happy…she makes me happy!”


Derek had to admit it; his mother seemed happy. There was something different about her, lighter, something in her eyes that was bright and it wasn’t just about him being home or bringing Penelope with him. Everything made sense now. His mother, the woman who had grieved the death of his father in silence for thirty years and raised her three children alone was happy again and had managed in the midst of everything found happiness and contentment in the most unlikely of places and faces. He couldn’t deny it even if he didn’t want to see Stan Gordiniski’s face across the dinner table this evening, but he was responsible for the gleam in her eyes.

Derek grabbed the old weathered leather ball, that had seen many years and hands and tucked it tightly under his arm and faced the older man inches from him breaching his personal space and with deadpan determination and sweaty conviction he spoke his mind.

“I don’t like you and I’m sure that I’ll never like you. The thought of you and my mother together frankly, turns my stomach but if she is happy and I mean truly happy then that’s all that matters in the end.”

“Thanks, De-“

“Uh-uh…I’m not finished. If you ever hurt her in any way, I will kill you. It will be a slow, deliberately painful death and I will bury your body in the Chicago sewer system where the rats can feast on your old bloated carcass!”

Stan stood silent with a glint of shocked fear in his eyes.

“Have I made myself clear?” He finished.

Stan cleared his voice and took a step back and took a calming breath.



Derek turned back and began shooting baskets again as if nothing had just taken place.

Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh!

Morgan Family Home –
Fran was visibly upset as she desperately tried to distract herself with dinner preparations. Penelope stood by helpless. She was so mad at Derek she could wring his neck as she thought about his childish display earlier. She knew he was angry but she also knew how it felt to love a man even though it made absolutely no logical sense. She thought about her and Derek and how it took them so long to get their act together to finally admit the feelings they had for each other. She had kept silent because she was certain he couldn’t love her beyond a platonic friendship and he kept silent because he was certain that his past would prevent her from loving him either. Yeah, as she cut the vegetables for the salad, she could definitely see her hands around his neck and wringing it real good!

“Fran, I’m so sorry for Derek’s behavior…”

“Please, you don’t have to apologize for my son. I should have told him long ago.” Fran interrupted.

Penelope stopped her work and wrapped the older woman in a comforting embrace.

“He’ll come around. He just wants you to be happy, that’s all.”

The two women bonded in that moment over tears and a deep love for the men in their lives.

The sound of Derek coming through the back door caused the women to pull away from each other as they watched him enter with a remorseful look in his eyes. No one said a word as he slowly approached his mother.

The new tears threatening to expose themselves on her cheeks held firm in her eyes as he pulled her to him and held her tightly against his chest. Penelope stood next to him bursting with love for this man who held his mother so delicately and so obviously sorry for his earlier behavior.

“I’m sorry, Ma.” He said his voice shaky.

“Me too, Baby Boy.”

Penelope rubbed his arm lovingly as he shot a teary glance at her.

“Are you happy?”


“I mean really happy. Not settling happy but happy.”

“After I lost your father…”

He didn’t want to think that anyone could replace his father but his mother had been alone long enough and he knew his father would want her to go on with her life.

“Mom, you don’t have to explain anything. I know Dad was the love of your life.”

She pulled away and looked up into her son’s eyes. He was right; no one could replace his father but that didn’t mean that God couldn’t send another man to love her and cherish her.

“Yes. Yes he was but is it wrong for me to want love again?”

“No Ma, it’s not.”

After a few more seconds, Fran pulled away and wiped her face with the back of her hand. The silence between the three spoke volumes and they knew that things would work out just the way they were meant to.

“Now, go take a shower, you stink!” She said playfully.


Derek headed out of the kitchen, Penelope and Fran embraced and giggled at the man who would be boy as they continued working on dinner.

Sarah and Desiree had arrived and relieved Penelope so that she could shower and get dressed. It was noisy in the Morgan home; laughter and teasing with Christmas music playing in the background and the aroma of the most amazing food filling the air. Fran beamed as she supervised her daughters while running back and forth to answer the doorbell.

Stan arrived dressed in his Sunday’s best taking Fran’s breath away when she opened the front door to let him in. She had informed her daughters of her new relationship status shortly after they arrived and they surprisingly took it better than she thought they would. Once they heard that Derek had not killed Stan they seemed to be a bit more accepting of the whole deal.

Derek and Penelope were still dressing but they could hear the others arriving. As Derek adjusted his tie in the mirror, Penelope approached him and took over the task.

“You ready for this, Handsome?”

“Whatever happened to those Christmases where you could just pop a frozen pizza in the microwave, grab a cold one and sit on the couch and watch football all day? Is that too much for a man to ask for?”

“When have you ever spent a Christmas like that, Silly?”

“Never but I’d like to.”

“Really, Derek?”

“Anything is better than what’s about to go down out there.”

“Oh, come on. It’s not going to be that bad.” She chuckled.

“Penelope, my mom’s boyfriend who happens to be the same man who tried to send me away for life, will be sitting at the table with us! Oh, and then there’s my adoring aunt who helped raise me but now hates my guts because I lied and told her that her daughter was dead, who by the way, slapped the hell out of me when she found out I lied, will also be at the table!”


“No, Pen, really, we are about to have dinner and we are the main dish!”

“Stop it! Listen, you need to talk with your aunt and settle this. Besides, it will make your mother really happy.”

“Don’t even play the mother card Baby Girl.”

She smiled and patted his chest as she finished adjusting his tie.

“All done. Now let’s go out and enjoy dinner. You’re mother worked really hard to make everything perfect.”

“What did I tell you about playing the mother card Baby Girl?”

“Oh hush!”

She playfully grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the bedroom door.

“I’m telling you that frozen pizza and beer is sounding real good about now.”

The table was set with Fran’s beautiful family china. The food was placed just like a print ad in a magazine. Fran made sure that all of the new “family” was introduced to the old. Smiles and glances where shared as everyone found their assigned seats around the table. Derek had for the most part avoided his aunt but was happy when he received a warm greeting from his cousin. He was also pleased that his cousin’s son, Anthony still remembered him and in fact, insisted on sitting next to him which threw a kink in Fran’s well planned seating arrangement.

Surprisingly, dinner went well with everyone catching up and trying their best to be pleasant. Penelope marveled at Derek’s family and even in spite of recent conflicts they obviously loved each other. After dinner everyone found places to settle and relax and it gave Penelope a chance to chat with Derek’s cousin Cindi and his sisters. Fran and Stan remained in the kitchen to clean up and conveniently Yvonne and Derek were left alone in the living room.

Derek wanted to make a hasty retreat but there was no where to go without being obvious about not wanting to be alone with his aunt.

“It’s good seeing you Derek.” She said unconvincingly.

“Yeah, you too, Auntie Vonne. How’ve you been?”

“Better now that my baby girl is home.”

Derek sat down on the couch.

“Good. I’m glad to hear it.”

Yvonne joined him on the couch.

“Derek, listen. I owe you an apology. I said some pretty harsh things to you the last time I saw you.”

“Auntie Vonne, I was wrong for lying to you. I’m the one who should apologize.”

“I know you thought you were doing the right thing, but Derek you don’t get to say what’s best for me. I needed the truth about Cindi, no matter what it was.”

“I know that now. It’s just that I saw what it was doing to you; you weren’t eating, or going out, you weren’t taking your medication, it was killing you. I couldn’t let that happen; not if I could do something, anything!”

“You’ve always wanted to take care of everybody but there are some things you can’t take care of.”

Yvonne grabbed his hands and held them in hers until he looked at her.

“Listen to me, Derek, it’s not your fault what happened to Cindi…”

“But it was, Auntie. If I hadn’t convinced her to leave Chicago none of this would have happened!”

“Derek, Cindi was taken before she even left Chicago, you know this!”

“I just should have done more!”

She knew he blamed himself for Cindi’s disappearance, which made it so easy for him to accept the harsh words she had spit out at him. She had been so angry with him but she didn’t mean what she said about not wanting to see him again.

“There was nothing more you could have done. I’m so sorry I made you feel like it was your fault.”

“When it was all over and you all left the station without me, I never felt so alone in my life; like even though I’d brought her home I still lost my family in the process.”

“You can never lose us, okay?”


“Besides, in case you haven’t noticed your nephew is crazy about you. In fact, he’s talking about becoming a cop or FBI agent when he grows up!”

Derek shot a glance at Anthony seated near the fireplace looking at all of the wrapped presents under the tree. As if on cue, the little boy jumped to his feet and scurried over to his grandmother and Derek.

“Grandma, can we open presents now? Please?”

Yvonne smiled at Anthony and then Derek.

“Sound familiar?”

Fran began rounding up everyone to open presents. As Fran and Stan read the labels and passed out the gifts, Derek felt full; he’d missed being around his family. Life and work had made it easy to be absent but it didn’t replace what every one of these people, well almost everyone, meant to him. No matter what was going on between them life was too short to let distance and misunderstandings divide them.

He pulled Penelope closer she smiled and planted a tender kiss on his lips. She was glad to be with him for Christmas in his family’s home. This is what she had longed for and now here she was with Derek, the love of her life; their first Christmas of hopefully many together.

This was what Christmas was all about, family, no matter how it looked family was family, period. He silently promised himself that he would even try to accept his mother’s relationship with Stan Gordinski although he wasn’t sure how long it would take his stomach to stop wrenching at the thought of the two of them together, nevertheless if he wanted his mother to have the happiness like he had found with Penelope he had to shut up and let things work themselves out.

In spite of all the unexpected drama, he was happier than he had been in his life. The year had been filled with tragedy, and drama and pure hell but it had also been miraculously salvaged by the love of a wonderful woman who loved him and whom he loved beyond any explanation. He knew he didn’t deserve her but he knew enough to know that she was his God given solace. No, Derek still wasn’t a religious man and spiritually he was still struggling day to day, but he definitely knew that surviving this year had absolutely nothing to do with him.

He smiled and pulled Penelope even closer and as he looked around the room he had to admit that this was much better than frozen pizza and beer.


“Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles with the cold.” – Andre Maurois