Note: This story takes place after my story, Missed Opportunities, but you do not have to read it to be able to follow this story, but it will explain the small reference to Tamara Barnes.
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 stepped out of his office and motioned for him.
"Morgan, can you step into my office, please."
Morgan stepped 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 news then the 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 his emotions and very rarely if ever did he shed 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.