When Truth Comes Knocking Chapter 18

Doubletree Hotel – Morning –

Penelope panicked when she woke up in bed alone. Her hand immediately went to his side of the bed. It was cold. Jumping up she looked around the room there was no noise coming from the bathroom, no sign of Derek. Her mind was flooded with a dozen doom and gloom scenarios. Her imagination was vivid with him being hurt or worse. His phone was still on the nightstand…he never left his phone.

Just as she was about to call the others she heard the door open. The smell of coffee and fresh pastries preceded him as he walked in. He realized the magnitude of his leaving by the wide-eyed look of utter terror on her face. On any other day, him running out for breakfast would have been no big thing, but not now. Suddenly he regretted this simple act.

“Damn it, Derek!”

“What? I’m sorry I…”

“I thought something had happened…that you’d done…”

“He quickly set the drink carrier and bag down and rushed toward her pulling her in a sturdy embrace.

“Whoa, whoa, Baby, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you worry. I just wanted to get us something to eat. I wasn’t thinking.”

She suddenly lost her resolve and began crying against his chest. He held her without saying a word. She’d worried about him for weeks now and she’d reached her limit.

“I’m sorry. I should have told you where I was going. Forgive me?”

She shook her head, yes against his chest and after several more seconds, she pulled away collecting herself and wanting to forget her little outburst.

“I don’t know what came over me. I’m fine. You don’t need this right now.”

“No it’s okay, you have nothing to be sorry for. I’m the one who should be sorry.”

Derek knew where the conversation was leading and he wasn’t quite sure if he was ready to talk about it. Turning he grabbed the coffee and pastries and headed to the small round table on the other side of the room.

“Come on let’s eat before Hotch calls us downstairs to head to the police station.”

He extended his hand beckoning her over. She joined him as she wiped the remnant of tears from her face. For the next few minutes the couple sat silently eating and drinking. Penelope needed to talk about what was happening with him but she also knew he wouldn’t want to talk. Last night had been rough riddled with nightmare after nightmare and neither of them had gotten much sleep.

“Derek we need to talk about what’s going on with you.”

Derek slowly set his pastry down and wiped his hands on the paper napkin next to him. He couldn’t look at her. He didn’t want to see the pity in her eyes.

“I don’t know if I can.”

He’d already shifted in survival mode with his sudden trip to the coffee shop for breakfast. He returned acting as if nothing was going on and using his concern for her as a diversion, but this time she wasn’t going to let him off the hook so easily.

“You started to tell me something before we got called away on this case. What was it? I know it has something to do with Carl.”

“Penelope, please.”

“Derek, talk to me. It won’t change how I feel about you. I love you more than I can say and there’s nothing that can change that.”

“I think you should wait until you hear the truth.”

“Nothing, Derek.”

“I won’t hold you to that.”

Penelope gently placed her hand on his and waited for him to speak again. His eyes seemed vacant as he inhaled and began to speak.

“When my father was killed I kind of became this rebellious kid, not bad just…I started running with older boys trying to be grown and I got into some trouble.”

He knew she needed to know but he wondered if it would change things between them; if she would still love him like she promised. There was so much to tell, horrible shameful things. Things he’d allowed to happen to him and through his silence had allowed to happen to countless others.

“There was this kid, Rodney…Rodney Harris…”

For the next several minutes Penelope listened and watched Morgan relive the worst times of his young life. She couldn’t imagine having endured the nightmare alone believing no one would believe him if he told, believing his pain would be even greater if anyone found out what was happening and worse yet, believing it was his fault and that he somehow deserved what Carl Buford was doing to him.

There was a knock at the door and it was the first time that Garcia realized that she was crying…so was Morgan. Both of them jumped at the sound exchanging curious looks.

“I’ll get it.” She volunteered.

“No, no get dressed it’s probably one of the team letting us know it’s time to go back to the station.”

She nodded and quickly headed toward the bathroom. The knock came again just as he reached the door. Looking through the peephole Morgan exhaled and slowly opened the door.

“Hotch?”

“Can I come in?”

“Uh, yeah…come in.”

Hotch stepped inside and waited for Morgan to close the door behind them. He dreaded the conversation they were about to have but he had put it off as long as he could and it would be time to head to the precinct soon.

“We were just having a light breakfast there’s an extra Danish if…”

“Morgan we need to talk.”

Garcia stepped out of the bathroom to see the two men standing in the middle of the room. The air was thick and she suddenly felt the need to protect Derek. Morgan looked at her and reached for her to join them, which she did without hesitation.

“What’s going on Hotch?” She asked.

“Morgan, I’m pulling you from this case…”

“Hotch! I’ve never been pulled from a case in my life!”

“Well you have now. Go home, talk to somebody, anybody…”

“Please, I know I was out of line yesterday I’ll apologize just don’t send me home.”

“I’m sorry, Morgan. I’ve been watching you over the last several weeks and something’s bothering you and whatever it is you don’t trust any of us to tell us to share.”

Morgan pulled away from Garcia and moved to the bed sitting and hanging his head in defeat. Garcia shot a glare at her boss as she moved to sit next to Morgan.

“Morgan, I can’t have an agent in the field who isn’t one hundred percent. It puts us all in danger, you know that.”

Morgan didn’t answer he just shook his head while Garcia gently placed her arm around him. There was more Hotch needed to say, things that were long overdue and as he watched Morgan struggle he knew this was the time.

“Garcia, can I talk to Morgan alone?”

She looked at Morgan waiting to get his response. He nodded affirmatively and after planting a light kiss on his cheek, Garcia stood and left the room.

“Morgan.”

“I get it Hotch I’m a liability. You don’t have to explain it any more.”

“That’s not what I was going to say.”

Hotch grabbed the chair nearby and pulled it close to the bed facing Morgan.

“I need you to understand that this is not punishment and I’m not mad at you.”

“It feels like you’re mad at me.”

“I’m worried about you we all are. Believe it or not, it’s my job to protect you and I’m sorry I haven’t done a very good job of that.”

“I don’t understand.”

“When Cruz sent us here after Chicago, I should have insisted you go home. You’re not recovered from your injuries and with what happened to James, you shouldn’t be here.”

“I need to catch this guy. He deserves to burn in hell for what he’s done to those innocent boys.”

“We’ll catch him. He won’t get away with what he did, I promise you.”

Hotch stood to leave and just as he got to the door Morgan looked up.

“You know don’t you?”

“Know what?”

“Come on Hotch, you’re one of the best profilers I know.”

Hotch looked away for a second and then back at Morgan.

“I have an idea.”

Morgan smirked and shook his head.

“An idea…right.”

“Morgan, don’t let whatever Carl Buford did to you beat you.”

“How do I do that? After all these years…how do I get over it? Now I’m guilty for everyone else Carl hurt! James…he’s dead! Did Carl win, huh? Tell me, Hotch did Carl win?”

Hotch watched the tears swim in the man’s eyes and his heart broke for his friend a man who was fearless willing to challenge him and his authority regardless of the consequences. Hotch saw the crack in his armor as he struggled to stay on his proverbial feet. He had no words of comfort; no answers to his questions because he couldn’t imagine surviving what Morgan had endured as a young boy. Even with his own father’s physical abuse against him it didn’t make them kindred spirits. He’d heard time and time and again that time heals all wounds. It was a lie, time didn’t heal all wounds; Morgan had fought for almost thirty years to keep his secret, to prove his manhood and still he was bleeding, his wounds festering because they’d laid open and undressed simply hiding behind bravado and ego, promiscuity and a silence that now seemed powerful enough to rip the band-aid away revealing his truth and branding him a fraud.

Morgan had fought this battle for too long alone. He needed help someone needed to call in reinforcements because Hotch knew he’d never ask and he’d never admit that he was losing. But he was and now it was time for his family and friends to step in and take up their position on each side holding up his arms and allowing him to rest the weight of his despair against them. After all, he’d done it for each one of them countless times and even in his battered state he’d do it again without a second thought.

He was a hero in need of a hero and they would be that for him. Hotch didn’t have to say it, he didn’t have to make any declarations of allegiance to their friendship. It was what family did; they took care of each other. Life and secrets had kicked the hell out of him now it was time for his family to put him back together again.

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