When Truth Comes Knocking Chapter 22
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” Buddha
Morgan stood shaking looking at his ragged reflection in the mirror. He’d sought refuge in the men’s room locking the door behind him. He couldn’t get the water cold enough to wash away the sting of being exposed and reminded of his sins. His knuckles were white as he clung desperately to the small porcelain basin remembering the prayers of his youth. He’d prayed that he was the only one; the only one chosen by Carl…but he wasn’t the only one…not by a long shot. He couldn’t ignore Jamal’s admission and resemblance. His old mentor had a type… suddenly, his stomach wretched sending him spiraling toward the sink.
There was a knock at the door…a banging…a persistent demand for entrance. Morgan grabbed a handful of paper towels and dried his face and hands. Taking another glance at his reflection he grimaced as he headed toward the door. His hands were still shaking even as he unlocked and opened the door. Her terrified eyes and tear stained face met him in anticipation of a sign that told her that he was okay.
“I’m fine…really I’m okay.”
He’d read her mind.
“I was worried…”
“Don’t. I don’t want you worrying about me.” He stepped around her and whispered. “I’m not worth it.”
“Derek, talk to me.”
“I just want this to go away…”
Penelope gently pulled him into her arms. Derek wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his face in the side of her neck. This is where he felt safe, here in her arms. She’d saved him so many times before…she had no idea…
Reluctantly, the pair pulled apart to face Agent Arthur.
Morgan shook his head and grabbed Penelope’s hand. The two followed the woman back to the room. The walk down the hallway seemed even longer this time.
“Agent Morgan, feeling better?”
“Can we just get this over with?”
“Agent, I know this is unpleasant but we have important business to settle…” Dr. Alves began.
“Look, I know it’s my fault that the other boys, including Dr. Henson were victimized by Carl Buford. I should have told someone…I know that…”
“Agent Morgan…” Jamal interrupted.
“I’m sorry…I don’t know how to make it right.” Morgan continued. “If there’s a punishment for what I did or didn’t do, I’ll take it. I thought it was only me, that I had to keep my mouth shut or…”
“Or what?” Dr. Alves asked.
Morgan looked down at his hands that were folded across the table.
“That you’d lose everything you were gaining, right?” Jamal asked.
Morgan shook his head, yes keeping his focus on his hands. Then the door opened drawing everyone’s attention to the main entrance of the room. Morgan froze then closed his eyes fighting back tears as Jan Barfield entered.
“Oh my god.” Morgan whispered under his breath.
Jan took the empty chair to Morgan’s left and glanced at the man who had been a friend and mentor to her late son. He couldn’t look at her she watched as he broke in front of her. His lips moved but no words came. She felt her own tears as her own emotions welled up inside her. She felt him jump as she placed her hand gently on his shoulder.
“I don’t blame you.” She whispered.
She wasn’t sure if he’d heard her as tears continued to fall from his eyes.
“Did you hear me? I don’t blame you. I know you cared about my son…”
“No. No it wasn’t. Carl Buford hurt my son, not you Agent Morgan. James kept his pain locked up inside but I know he didn’t blame you either.”
“I let him down. I was too busy to talk…I wasn’t there when he needed to talk and I promised him that…”
“He knew you were there for him, Derek.”
“No but’s. James…he just go tired, that’s all. Buford started contacting him, taunting him and he just got tired.”
“I’m so sorry…I’m…”
Then she gently placed her hand on his face and turned him to face her.
“Hang on, Derek…don’t you get tired, you hear me? You hang in there, please. If you get tired, if you give up, then my son’s life and all the other boys that Carl hurt…their lives and their pain will all be in vain.”
Derek was overcome but he shook his head to let her know that he understood. Penelope placed both hands on his shoulders praying that she could share her life force with him in that moment.
“We’re not here to condemn you, Agent Morgan.” Sen. Beard began. “We’re here to help you.”
Derek slowly raised his head and looked toward the panel. All of them were shaking their heads in agreement.
“I-I-I don’t understand…”
“This panel…all of us are experts in the field of child abuse, counseling, social services or…” Then casting a look at Jamal. “Or are victims of abuse.”
As if on cue the door opened again and Morgan stood as he saw his entire team enter led by his mother and two sisters. He saw their tears, even Hotch…he hadn’t seen his boss cry since Hailey’s death.
Fran rushed to her son and quickly wrapped her arms around him. Overcome with emotion, Penelope stood next to mother and son. While holding his mother with one arm he pulled Penelope close to his side.
Then suddenly finding strength from an invisible source Fran pulled away from Derek and waited for him to look at her.
“Derek…I’m so sorry for what happened to you and if anyone is to blame it’s me. I sent you to that monster, I insisted you go to the Community Center and I…”
“No! NO! No! It’s not your fault. How could you have known?”
“I’m your mother…”
“Ma, unless you have some super powers that I don’t know about, you couldn’t have known!”
“The only person to blame is Carl Buford.” Said Hotch “And as long as we continue to take on his guilt and continue to make ourselves responsible for his actions then he wins.”
“Hotch, come on…”
“No, he’s right Handsome, you’ve been carrying around this guilt and shame for too long. We needed you to know…”
“We? What are you talking about, we?”
“Garcia?” He began bewildered. “What’s going on? What is this? Did you have something to do with this?”
“Baby… we were worried about…”
Morgan pulled away from Penelope and his mother and began looking around at the faces of his family and friends. They were all in cahoots; they’d all known about everything. He didn’t know whether to be angry or feel betrayed. He needed air…he needed to sit.
“Why?” He whispered. “Why would you do this? No one was supposed to know…”
“We all know, Morgan. After this last case it was impossible not to know…Rossi began.”
“And we know you. We knew you’d blame yourself. It was already destroying you.” Reid added.”
Then Desiree, Morgan’s youngest sister approached standing behind him wrapped her arms around his neck.
“You’ve always been my hero, big brother; you still are. You’re all of our hero and…”
“And now it’s time we become yours.”
Sarah interrupted as she stepped in front of her brother dropping to her knees in front of him.
1 Year Later…
Crestview Cemetery – Chicago, Illinois – Morning –
Derek pulled his jacket close to his body shielding himself from the crisp Chicago wind. It had been a year since he’d been in the city. His job had kept him busy and had even forced him to cancel his yearly visit for his mother’s birthday. Now here he stood alone looking down on the headstone of James Barfield. His heart ached still dealing with the dread and feeling that he had failed the young man.
He turned toward the familiar voice behind him and smiled then turning back toward the grave.
“I heard you were in town. I knew I’d find you here.”
“Jan, please. We’ve gone through too much to stand on formalities, don’t you think?”
“Yes we have, Jan.”
“It’s good seeing you again.”
She smiled and nodded joining him as they both looked upon the site where her son’s body lay.
“A lot has happened this past year.” She began.
“Yeah, you can say that again.” He chuckled nervously.
“I’m a grandmother now.”
Morgan turned to look at the woman. He saw joy in her eyes at she seemed to draw pleasure from his surprise.
“Shortly after I got back from Quantico I learned that a young lady was pregnant by my son. He met her in college and had brought her home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.” Jan chuckled before continuing. “He always insisted that they were just, friends, but it seemed they were a little more than that.”
“He’s a splitting image of James…it’s almost scary. His mother is a lovely girl…named him James, Jr.”
“Congratulations! I can see the happiness in your eyes.”
“Just when I didn’t think good could come out of this whole mess.”
The two stood in silence for several minutes before either spoke again.
“So, how are you, Derek…really?”
He smiled and glanced at the woman and back at the grave.
“I’m better. I’ve been in counseling for almost a year now and things are better.”
She looked at him not quite convinced. He felt her staring and he smiled, this time more easily.
“Sure about that?”
“I’m sure. For the first time in my life I feel like I’m winning. It’s getting easier to breathe and not despise myself when I look in the mirror.”
“Good. You keep it up. Nobody expects it all to go away over night.”
Derek shook his head. He knew she was right. He felt comfortable standing there with her he’d often wondered what would happen should he see her again. He saw her strength and compassion where he expected to see anger and blame. For that he was grateful.
“Yes, I promise.”
“So, have you married that beautiful blonde yet?”
Derek laughed as he shoved his hands into his pockets.
“I’m working on it.”
“Don’t let her get away. She’s a keeper.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t. I honestly don’t know why she sticks around she could do so much better.”
“You ask too many questions, Derek.” Jan nudged his arm playfully. “You’re a good man, Derek Morgan and that woman loves you. That’s all that matters.”
“Thank you…for everything.”
“No thanks necessary.”
Jan turned back to face her son’s grave again. The next few minutes were again spent in silence. This time Derek spoke first.
“It’s getting late, I better get going my mother will send out a search party if I’m late for dinner.”
“Don’t keep your mother waiting.”
“Hey, would you like to join us?”
“Ma makes the best veal Parmesan in the world.”
“Are you sure?”
“Knowing my mother she’s made enough for an army. She’d love to have you.”
“In that case, I’d love to have dinner with you and your family.”
2 Days Later…
Washington, DC- Airport –
Penelope smiled as she watched him step off the plane. He seemed lighter, happier and she knew that he needed this trip more than he wanted to admit. He smiled as he rushed toward her grabbing her with one arm while carefully balancing a familiar package in the other.
“Ma sent you some cobbler, Baby Girl.”
“Yay!” She giggled just before planting a kiss on his lips. “Welcome home Baby boy! I missed you.”
“I missed you too, Sweetness!”
The two headed toward baggage claims hand in hand. Visiting James’ gravesite and talking to his mother seemed to have given him a new lease on life. He’d put in a lot of work over that past year but still felt as if there were times when he was struggling. He still blamed himself and those were the times when he challenged his therapist the most. He’d welcomed those times especially now that he was a willing participant. No longer did Hotch have to threaten him with suspension or termination in order to get him to take the steps to get help. Derek had begun to let down the walls and allow his team and his family in, trusting them enough to be vulnerable. Penelope was still his solace and his rock and he was thankful for her in his life. He still didn’t understand why she loved him but Jan’s words rang in his ears and he held them close to his heart. Penelope loved him and it didn’t have to make sense. She was everything he needed and she was proof that life was good. He loved her and couldn’t see a future without her in his life. She’d always called him her hero but she’d saved him far too many times to count.
He was free; free of Carl Buford’s hold. He learned through the caring acts of his family and friends that he was loved and revered. They’d taken a huge risk a year ago but somehow thought he was worth the risk and now as a result Derek could walk forward without having to look over his shoulder wondering if his secrets were safe and being afraid that if they all found out what he was and what he had done they’d see him different and blame him like he blamed himself. He was thriving now and he was happy and as he glanced over at Penelope he knew without a doubt that his future was bright.
“I thought about how there are two types of secrets: the kind you want to keep in, and the kind you don’t dare to let out.” – Ally Carter, Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover