Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Garcia risks everything to help Morgan deal with a devastating loss. Will their friendship survive or will it bring them closer to realizing what they’ve denied for years.
BAU Headquarters- Office of Derek Morgan – Thursday Morning
“An I-Pad? Wow, you don’t ask for much!” Morgan laughed into his cell phone.
Ellie Spicer was turning 13 on Saturday and Derek had promised to fly out to Los Angeles for her birthday. Ellie and her mother had adjusted to being mother and daughter again over the past few years and now looking back it was hard to believe that she was the same little girl that had watched her father shot and killed before her eyes. Morgan and Ellie were kindred spirits with so much in common sharing similar grief at losing their fathers, cops killed in action. Now she was about to cross the threshold into the tumultuous teens. He chuckled to himself as he listened to her tell him what she wanted for her birthday and even though he was enjoying giving her a hard time, he knew and she probably did too, that he was going to do everything in his power to get her the I-Pad she wanted.
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do, Angel.” Morgan continued.
Morgan and Ellie continued to talk until a knock on the door interrupted them. His best friend Penelope Garcia poked her head in leading with her mega-watt smile.
“Good morning, Handsome!”
Morgan looked up and his wide smile matched hers as he eyed her from head to toe.
“Well hello Hot Mama!”
“Are you ready for your trip this weekend?”
“Not before I make a stop at the electronics store.”
“Yeah, Ellie wants and I-Pad for her birthday.”
“An I-Pad. Wow, she’s got her own personal Daddy Warbucks.” Penelope giggled.
She loved how he sparkled whenever he spoke of Ellie, the little girl he’d saved from a horrific ordeal and then remained in her life, connected to her by a promise he’d made to her father just before he was brutally murdered.
“I wish I had Daddy Warbucks’ money.” He chuckled.
Penelope sat in the chair in front of his desk. It had been an extremely quiet week; most of the cases were handled without them having to leave town. Both Derek and Penelope were keeping their fingers crossed that nothing would come up that called them out of town before the weekend. It would break his heart to disappoint Ellie. In spite of his job, he’d been a constant in the girl’s life. She’d known that he was someone she could count on. Whenever she called he would make himself available to and for her.
The Mall – Much later
Derek and Penelope strolled the Mall arm in arm. Derek had gone overboard. Not only did he purchase the I-Pad, he bought her a matching case, backpack, several outfits and jewelry.
“Thanks for coming with me, Baby Girl. All this girlie stuff and techie stuff is way out of my league.”
“Honestly Derek, you can never talk about my shopping for Henry.”
“Hey, it’s her 13th birthday. How many times does a girl turn 13?”
“Oh, come on, admit it, Ellie has you wrapped around her little finger.”
Suddenly a serious shade crossed his face as he stopped for a moment to adjust the bags in his hands.
“Penelope, I just want that little girl to be happy. When I first met her, I didn’t think she’d ever be happy again. I mean her aunt was raped and brutalized in front of her, her father was killed in front of her and…”
“Derek, honey, I get it and you’ve done everything to make sure she is the happy, grounded and safe young lady that she is today. You did good…and…if you want to spoil her every now and then do it.”
Smiling, Derek bent down and planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Thanks Baby Girl.”
“Your most welcome. Now feed me, I’m starving.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
The two headed to the mall exit and off to dinner.
Home of Derek Morgan – Friday morning
Derek was excited and a little nervous. This was going to be a quick trip but he was looking forward to seeing Ellie and her mom. He was taking the redeye out and arriving in enough time to check into his hotel, shower and head to Ellie’s party. As he grabbed his bag and headed out the door his phone sounded alerting him that he had a text message. After tossing his bag in the trunk he checked his cell and frowned as he saw Hotch’s name on the display screen.
“No, no, please don’t tell me we have a case.” He moaned to himself as he headed to the BAU.
BAU Headquarters –
Rossi, JJ, Reid, Alex and Garcia were seated in the conference room when Morgan arrived. Just as Derek reached the top of the stairs, Hotch steps out of his office and motions for him.
“Morgan, can you step into my office, please.”
Morgan steps in dreading the news about a new case. Puzzled why he was meeting separately but nonetheless, he was not prepared to hear what came next.
“Hotch, please tell me we don’t have a case. I promised Ellie…”
“Morgan, have a seat.” Hotch interrupted.
“What’s going on?”
Morgan could not help but notice the look on Hotch’s face. Morgan hadn’t seen that look sense Haley was killed.
Hotch didn’t know how he was going to tell Morgan about the phone call he’d received earlier. That call was the reason the team had been called in and it was the reason why Morgan was sitting in Hotch’s office right now. He braced himself wondering how to tell his friend news that was sure to crush him perhaps beyond repair.
“I received a call from LAPD….”
That’s all Morgan heard. Everything else seemed like a blur. His mind wanted to block it out so just by sheer will of not accepting the information then that information would not be real.
“They both were pronounced dead at the scene.” Hotch ended as he hung his head to hide his own tears.
“NO! No Hotch! Please tell me it’s not true! I just talked to them yesterday! Tomorrow is her birthday. She’s having a party, her friends are coming, I’m coming…No…no…no!” Morgan wide-eyed shook his head in disbelief.
Never had Hotch heard such sounds of sorrow, pain and utter disbelief, especially from Morgan. He was the strong one, always in control of tears.
By now Rossi was sharing the same news with the team. He and Hotch had been in the office when the call came through. Ellie and her mother had been running errands getting the last minute items for the party. They never saw the pickup truck racing through the intersection trying to beat the red light. The driver of the truck had minor injuries and walked away. Ellie and her mother were killed on impact.
A cold silence fell over the room. Each team member held motionless trying to process the information. Even though no one spoke for what seemed like forever their minds were on Derek. Garcia’s heart ached because she knew this would devastate her best friend. He’d blame himself and feel as if he’d failed Ellie in some way. That was Derek; he’d appointed himself the protector of everyone he loved, not realizing that he was just a man and that some things were just out of his control.
Derek sat silently wanting to erase the words that had just shattered his world. Hotch sat behind his desk watching, waiting, profiling, and wondering if things would ever be the same again. Then, he said what he always said during times like these.
“Morgan, take as much time as you need.”
Hotch felt foolish because that was all he had to offer. No words existed that would make this go away. The BAU hadn’t trained him to bring comfort. That fact was never more evident than now. Morgan like everyone else on the team had become family and he felt the pain of what his “family member” was going through and it felt as if a hole had been ripped in his own heart.
Time? How much time would it take to fix what he was feeling? Two weeks, two months, years? It was hard to breathe. Derek had spent a lifetime being strong, tough and tears were not acceptable and not allowed. Tears merely betrayed the strength of the man he so needed to be. Now, he couldn’t stop the tears, he had seen so much in his life, dealt with so much and he’d been able to hold back the tears, he’d won that battle. This was different, it was stronger than the invincible Derek Morgan and so the flood came and he quite frankly didn’t know how to make it stop.
The door to Hotch’s office opened slowly and Garcia entered. Hotch looked up and nodded. Morgan hadn’t noticed her coming in or walking and standing behind him. He didn’t notice Hotch leave or his girl wrap her arms around him tightly.
She held onto him for dear life. After a few seconds, he collapsed forward and his body shook as the emotions once again took control.
“Derek, I’m so, so, sorry, Baby.” She continued to hold him tightly.
“Penelope…” He moaned and rocked. It was all he could say.
Her heart was breaking as she for the first time saw him show what he would consider weakness. But she didn’t see him as weak, broken, maybe, but not weak. She was terrified that he would not be able to survive this and she vowed in that moment to do everything in her power to make sure he had a fighting chance.
Dulles Airport – Friday evening
Penelope had made arrangements for the two of them to fly to Los Angeles that evening. Derek was in no shape to travel alone he was barely able to put one foot in front of the other, still trying to appear strong and in control. He couldn’t hide the pain. He was on autopilot and so he without argument allowed Penny to handle the arrangements to get them to California. Hotch had without hesitation given them the time off. Now they sat in the airport waiting for their flight boarding to be announced. Derek was barely aware that he was holding onto her hand for dear life. Penelope felt the tight grip around her fingers, serving as his lifeline. She fought back the tears keeping a watchful eye on her friend as he sat staring into space his numb mind searching for answers as to why he was not on his way alone to a birthday party for a soon-to-be 13 year-old girl.
Los Angeles – Late Friday around midnight
Penelope and Derek had checked into the hotel around midnight. Derek was still silent, both of them exhausted. She knew he hadn’t eaten all day and neither had she. It would be pointless to ask if he was hungry. Derek carried their bags to the room and headed directly to the shower.
Penelope called JJ while Derek was in the shower and broke down as soon as she heard JJ’s voice on the phone. She had held her emotions at bay for as long as she could and she needed a release. JJ listened in silence knowing that Garcia needed some of her strength right now. The team was family; it was the family that understood what the job and life in general could do to the human mind. They’d watched as countless victims’ lives had been shattered by evil, depravity and how they each had hoped that what they did on a daily basis had made a difference in those victims’ lives. Now one of their own was dealing with a cruel nonsensical tragedy, not at the hands of a killer but by an unintentional act of carelessness and it didn’t make sense to their logical way of thinking. They wanted to help Morgan and Garcia as she stood by his side, but there were no words of comfort, no act of kindness that would take away the pain he was now feeling and would feel for days, and years to come. It was several minutes before Garcia could collect herself to begin talking.
“I’m so sorry, I don’t know what came over me, JJ.”
“Listen, you don’t have to apologize. I can’t even imagine what the last hours have been like.”
“He’s so quiet, JJ…”
“Where is he right now?”
“He’s in the shower. I thought I’d check in before he came out.”
“Hotch wants you to let us know when you set the time for the services. We’re all flying out.”
Garcia broke down again. Of course they would be there. That’s what family does. They support each other. Still, it was good to hear the words.
“Thanks, JJ. Morgan will really appreciate that and so will I.”
“Of course. That’s what you do for family, right?”
Garcia heard the shower stop so she hurried to end her call. Morgan stepped out of the shower dressed in a t-shirt and boxers. He looked at her with such sadness and fatigue in his face. The shower had done little to erase the stress of the day. She met him half way and he gently pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly.
“Thank you.” Derek whispered in her ear.
“You don’t need to thank me.” She said fighting back tears.
“Yes. I do.” Derek insisted. “I can’t do this without you. I can’t even pretend that I can.”
“Well, you don’t have to. I’m here for you, Derek, always.”
“I know.” He pulled away slightly and kissed her forehead.
“Listen, I know you’re not hungry but I think you should try to eat. I’ll order room service and then jump in the shower.”
“I’m not hungry…”
“I know you’re not but you have to at least try to eat something.”
“I’ll try.” He said surrendering.
Dinner had come an hour or so later. Derek tried for Penelope’s sake to eat but most of the food remained scattered on both of their plates. He’d made good use of the mini bar however, and she watched has he consumed the liquor trying in vain to ease the pain.
After a while the two fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. Derek was thankful for the warmth of Penelope’s body next to him, her on his chest and her quiet calm breathing helped lull him to sleep. She was his anchor and if she hadn’t been with him he would have surely drowned before leaving Quantico.
Valentine Funeral Home - Saturday Morning
Detective Kurzbard picked the two up shortly after breakfast and took them to the funeral home where Ellie and her mother’s bodies had been taken. Kurzbard had been Matt Spicer’s partner and best friend. Spicer had made Morgan promise to look after Ellie before his was killed and as he looked down on the bodies of the young girl and her mother he came face to face with the realization that he had broken his promise.
Garcia knew what was going on in his head. He was blaming himself for this tragedy. He had asked Garcia to find Ellie’s mother and when she was found he insisted the girl give her mother another chance. He'd felt good about the fact that the two were reunited again. Now, he was second-guessing his decision. She could see the doubt in his face and the guilt. She placed her arms around his waist and he pulled her close as he continued to stare at the two bodies.
Tuesday - Morning
The services were scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. Ellie and her mother had no other family and because Derek had assumed the legal responsibility for Ellie shortly after she had run away from her first foster home he was her family. He chose the caskets and settled on a graveside service and burial next to Matt. As promised, the entire team flew out to support Derek. Hotch had made sure that Strauss understood the importance of the trip and since she was still on David Rossi’s bad side, she was more than happy to comply.
During the services Derek noticed a young man no more than 18 standing with an older woman about 40. He seemed visibly upset as he stood behind the rest of the attendees. Derek hadn’t remembered Ellie or her mother mentioning a young man and he was much too old to have been a friend of Ellie’s. Afterwards, the young man and the woman approached Derek and the rest of the team.
“Agent Morgan?” The young man asked.
“Yes.” Morgan answered puzzled.
“My name is Jeremy Parker.”
“Hello Jeremy.” Derek replied extending his hand. “Were you a friend of Ellie and her mom?”
At that the young man broke down. The woman grabbed him in her arms and held him against her chest.
“I’m Jeremy’s mother. Jeremy was the one driving the pick up that caused the accident. We just came to say how sorry we are.” Said the woman.
Derek felt as if he’d been slapped. He’d been so consumed with his own grief that he never even considered the driver who had walked away with just a few scratches. This young man before him had found the courage from somewhere to come and face him and the other strangers to admit his guilt and to ask for forgiveness. Derek had wondered how he would feel should he come face to face with the driver of the truck. In all of the scenarios that ran through his mind all of them included doing some bodily harm or even killing him. But now as he stood in front of this guilt-stricken, inconsolable young man and his mother all he could feel was sorrow for him. There was no anger and no need for revenge just sorrow. Then he did something that caught everyone off guard even Penelope. He extended his hand to the young man. Jeremy stared in shock at Derek and then at his extended hand and slowly reached to shake it and as he did, Derek pulled him in and embraced him. The two stood there for several seconds crying and grieving for the loss of a young girl and her mother.
Later that evening
Derek and Penelope sat quietly together in the back of the jet. She replayed the scene at the gravesite over in her mind and she realized why she loved Derek so. He was so kind and caring. He was a rare breed who had known so much tragedy and hardship in his life but it had not beaten him. So many times in his life he could have become like the horrible monsters that they hunted everyday but he was just the opposite. He was so hard on himself, never believing that he was worthy of happiness, still dealing with the shame of his childhood abuse and being haunted by the nightmares of Carl Buford.
Hotch couldn’t help but to go back to the day he lost Haley to the Ripper. George Foyet was the epitome of evil. It wasn’t something that he could just take a weekend off and bounce back ready for work on Monday. No, in fact, he was still haunted by the sight of her bloodied body laying on the floor in their home. His new relationship with Beth had not changed or healed that part of him. This death, this child who had been placed in Derek’s care had been killed and even though it was an accident it was still senseless and Derek would still blame himself for it. Hotch watched his friend, the fearless agent sit stone faced and detached from everything and everyone around him and he wondered if he would ever be able to find his way back to them.
Home of Derek Morgan – Tuesday Evening
Penelope had foolishly hoped that Derek’s reaction to meeting Jeremy would be a turning point for him, a point to begin the healing. She was wrong. Things turned drastically wrong the moment the two arrived back at Derek’s place. She had no intentions of leaving him alone but he insisted on being left alone in fact, he was adamant that she leave. She fought hard not to take his request personal because she had been there for him without even thinking twice; willing to risk her job her health, everything. Nothing was too much to sacrifice for him and so she was shocked as he stood in the middle of the room and insisted that she leave.
As Derek watched from the window he knew she was crying. He saw the tears welling in her eyes as she looked up at him not believing her ears. It pained him that he had done something that intentionally hurt her. She’d been his rock and it was only because of her that he had been able to get through the past week. He realized that he was in love with her a long time ago and he knew that she was the most important person in his life and that’s why he had to let her go. He had to save her life…now; the only way to do that was to free her and release her from their friendship. His mind had taken him back to all of the people he had lost, his father, Tamara and he thought about those that were hurt because he had been selfish and kept a dark secret about his childhood. That silence caused the death of other children and caused James and countless other boys to suffer the same humiliating shame of sexual abuse. He was the common denominator in all of those tragedies. He couldn’t let that happen to Penelope. He couldn’t put her in a position to become a target and a victim simply because she cared about him. He knew he had to cut ties with his team as well. They were like family and they knew him better than even his mother and sisters. He had to find a way to cut his emotions and attachments with them as well.
Home of JJ and Will – a few minutes later
It was late and Will insisted on answering the door when the bell rang. It was how he was always the southern gentleman even though he knew that JJ could handle herself against anybody male or female. Both he and JJ were surprised to see Penelope step through the door.
“I’ll let you two talk.” Will kissed JJ on the cheek and headed to their bedroom.
JJ motioned for Penelope to sit.
“Penelope, what’s going on? I assumed you’d be at Morgan’s tonight.”
Penelope broke down as JJ placed an arm around her. The two sat together in silence for several minutes.
“JJ, he’s changed. He asked me to leave, that he wanted to be alone.”
“I’ve lost him. He’s just gone, empty and he wants to wallow in that dark scary place alone…”
“Garcia, listen to me. What he’s just gone through is beyond horrible. You can’t take anything he says right now personally. He loves you. You love him.”
“I’m not so sure…”
“Well, then, you’re the only one that’s not sure, besides Morgan that is. You two are so madly in love and to not have ever shared your feelings with each other is crazy!”
“I don’t know what to do for him. He’s broken in a million pieces and he won’t let me in to help.”
Home of Derek Morgan –
Derek wanted to ignore the doorbell. He was sure it was Penelope coming back. She had a way of not taking his crap but this time he had to stand his ground with her even though he’d never been able to in the past. He was surprised to see who was standing on his porch when he opened the door.
“Not now Rossi.” Derek turned away leaving the door open.
Rossi walked in caring two bottles of expensive red wine. He watched as Derek returned to the couch leaning back and closing his eyes.
“Where’s Penelope? Rossi said looking around the room already knowing the answer to his question. “Let me guess, you sent her away.”
“Did she call you?” Derek frowned.
“No. But I know you Derek. You sent her away to, let me make sure I get this right, you sent her away to, “protect” her. Am I right?”
Rossi heads to the kitchen and begins rummaging through the cabinets looking for wine glasses.
“By all means, make yourself at home. Third cabinet next to the stove.”
Rossi returns with two wine glasses and a cork screw. Derek continues to sit, eyes closed as Rossi pours wine for two and sets a glass in front of Derek.
“Derek, don’t turn your back on the best friend you’ve ever had in your life. I know what you think your doing but believe me you’re going to end up doing more harm than good.”
“Rossi, I can’t afford to lose anyone else because they…” Derek stopped talking unable to go on.
“Because what? Because they love you?”
“I’m going to resign from the bureau.” Derek said flatly.
“I see you made some pretty big decisions in that last few hours. So, you’re going to walk out of our lives too? Hotch, Reid, JJ, Alex, Me? Funny…”
Derek opened his eyes and stared at Rossi.
“What’s funny?” Derek asked sitting up.
“I never figured you for a runner, Derek.”
“I’m not running!” Derek was getting agitated.
“What do you call it then?” Rossi wouldn’t let up.
“I don’t want to talk about this right now!” Derek got up and walked to the window.
“Then don’t. Just listen. Believe me, I’m not leaving here until you listen. I’m not going to let you take the easy way out.”
Derek felt his resolve waver. Tears began to force themselves up and into his eyes. He felt angry that he couldn’t control their appearance as they spilled out onto his face. Then Rossi did something he’d never done before. He stood behind Derek and placed a firm hand on his shoulder. Derek leaned his face on the wall next to the window and cried freely and just for a moment not caring about being judged.
“I broke my promise, Rossi.”
“What promise? Rossi asked.
“ I promised Matt that I would keep Ellie safe. I broke that promise.”
“Derek. You didn’t. You kept that promise.”
“But how? She’s dead! I was supposed to watch out for her and she’s dead!”
Derek resumed his seat on the couch and Rossi sat in a chair nearby.
“Listen to me. You made sure that Flynn could never hurt her or anyone else again. Then you had Garcia hunt down her mother when no one else had been able to do so.”
“Yeah and look what that got her.”
“It got her reunited with a mother she desperately needed. She was settled, in school, thriving…Derek, you did that for Ellie. I’d say you kept your promise, kid.”
Derek looked over at Rossi as if his friend’s words had gotten through. The two continued to talk well into the second bottle of wine.
Home of JJ and Will –
The two friends had been talking and JJ had managed to calm Penelope down enough to get her to listen. Penelope looked at her watch and apologized for staying so long.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize it was so late. Please apologize to Will for me.” Penelope stood and headed for the door.
“No worries. Will is good.”
“Yes he is.” Penelope half smiled and hugged JJ goodbye. “Thanks for being my friend. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Penelope headed to her apartment. She missed him already. She kept wondering where, what day, what moment she had lost him. JJ had admonished her not to take his words personally but she couldn’t help it. Deep inside she knew he would never intentionally hurt her but she loved him and love made things crazy and scary. He had come to her so many times for comfort when things got tough and when the nightmares threatened to overtake him. But now he pushed her away, he didn’t want or need her. She fought hard to see through the tears as she finally pulled into her parking space and climbed the steps to her apartment. This wasn’t how she imagined spending the night. She had been glued to him since he’d gotten the news. Now, she was in her cold apartment, crushed and alone. Intellectually she knew she had to give him whatever he needed. If he needed space, silence then that’s what she had to do even if it meant he walked away and out of her life. That option frightened her. Everything that she wanted was now on the line but this wasn’t about her. It was about Derek surviving this time of sorrow and grief and loss. If things went really bad how would she survive without him she thought to herself. Only time would tell.
Home of Derek Morgan – much later
“What do I do about, Garcia?”
“Yeah well you did make a mess of that didn’t you?” Rossi chuckled at his younger friend.
“Roses are always a good start.” Rossi continued jokingly.
“I need something a lot bigger than roses, Rossi.”
Derek drained his glass of wine and leaned back on the couch to clear his head.
“So, have you told her yet?” Rossi shifted to a more serious tone.
“Told her what?”
“That you’re in love with her.”
“Because that may be the only thing that gets you out of this hole you’ve dug for yourself.” Rossi looked sternly at Morgan.
“Rossi, she doesn’t deserve a guy like me. You know my reputation. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t been that guy in a very long time.”
“It doesn’t matter what other people think. It’s what she thinks that matters.”
“Rossi, why would I drag her into my screwed up life?”
“Whether you like it or not, Derek, she’s already in it and guess what?”
“She’s hasn’t run for the hills yet. Give her a little credit. She’s a smart strong woman and she loves you.”
“I know you’re right. I just don’t want to hurt her.”
“Listen to me. If you learn anything from Ellie’s death learn this. Life is short. Don’t spend what time you have on this earth running “what-if” scenarios through your head. There are no guarantees and there are very few things that we actually control. Grab happiness where you can.”
Rossi got up and stretched and headed to the door.
As the two men walked to the door Derek felt as if a little of the weight that had been pressing on his chest had been relieved. He knew that it would be a long time before he would get over Ellie’s death but pushing the people he loved away was not the way. He hoped that Penelope would forgive him. He hurt her and he had to make that right. There was so much that they needed to talk about and settle between them. He wanted her and needed her and was willing to do anything to make sure she was always in his life.
Apartment of Penelope Garcia – even later still…
The hot shower had done little to ease her mind and calm her aching heart. Just as she’d turned down her bed the doorbell rang. It was late and the only person that would even think about coming over this late had banished her from his home a couple of hours ago. She looked through the peephole and her heart jumped as she saw him standing in the hall, head hung down and hands in his pocket. She slowly opened the door to greet him.
Even hundredfold grief is divisible by love. ~Terri Guillemets