With A Little Help from My Friend
She'd been expecting the question, but the actual verbalization of it was still surprising. Especially when it came from a male as dominant and self aware as Derek Morgan appeared to be. But, she told herself, in his defense, they'd all placed him in a difficult position. They'd expected this man to shift from team profiler to unit leader in a mere number of hours. It was an unfair position to be in during the easiest of circumstances. And these were anything but easy days at the BAU.
"Derek," JJ began gently, sinking into her seat behind her desk as she weighed her word, "It's not a competition. You and Hotch are two very different men."
"Yeah, tell me something I didn't already know, Little Sister," Derek sighed, dropping into one of the two office chairs in front of her desk, grateful for the sudden support.
"That isn't the bad thing you assume it is, Derek," JJ assured him as she leaned forward, steepling her hands as she pressed her elbows onto her desk blotter. "Hotch and you both have your own set of strengths and weaknesses. One of you isn't any better than the other."
"I feel like the team is watching me…waiting for me to fail, JJ," Morgan confided quietly, his words almost whispered in the otherwise quiet room.
"Nobody wants you to fail, Morgan," JJ said firmly, the affirmation backed up by the tone in her voice. "Not one of us. But this is an adjustment that none of us saw coming. Hotch didn't give any of us any warning and that's on him."
"He's doing the best he can," Morgan said, defending his friend automatically as soon as his mind processed her words.
It didn't escape her notice that this man, the one that had fought and disagreed with Hotch more than any other team member, was one of the first to rise to his protection. "And it's speaks to your character that you'd defend him, Morgan," JJ smiled, knowing that their team was stronger for that very fact.
"Of all of us, JJ, you've worked with Hotch the closest. You'd be the best equipped to tell me if I'm doing okay here," Morgan prodded, shrugging off her earlier comment. He didn't want her to pat him on the back as much as he wanted an honest review of his performance.
Cocking her head to the side, JJ measured the man sitting across from her as she thought about her words. Finally, she said, "I think you're doing the best you can in the situation you're in. You've got the ability to be a great leader, Morgan. Hotch would never have put you in this position if he didn't believe that. And Hotch is rarely wrong. You've got different strengths. You're more attuned to the victims. Hotch is more driven in the hunt. You're two different breeds. Neither of them is wrong or right though." Taking a breath, she debated her next words carefully. "You've got to give the rest of the team time to adjust to the changes. And, you've got to learn to listen to Rossi and Hotch. Their advice isn't a criticism, you know. They're trying to help because they've already walked in your shoes."
"I know," Morgan nodded, tilting his head as he accepted the mild rebuke. Then he added, needing her to know his reasoning, "But to gain the respect of the team, I feel like I need to make those decisions on my own."
"But that's just it, Derek. We're a TEAM. Yeah, somebody has to make the final calls. And right now, that's you…but everybody's input should matter no matter who they are," JJ explained, shaking her head as she impressed her point. "The thing about Hotch is that he always takes the time to examine all sides. Arbitrary decisions have never been something that he made very often."
"But at the end of the day, isn't it my ass on the line here, Jayje?" Morgan asked defensively as he leaned forward, pressing his elbows into his knees. As much as he had wanted the honest repartee, he couldn't help but keep in mind the weight of the job, knowing that the buck honestly now did stop with him.
"To inspire the loyalty that Hotch has, you're going to have to learn that we'll back you up. You have to trust us to do that," JJ replied, not letting him throw her as she watched his dark eyes flash slightly. Leaning forward a slight bit more, she bored her gaze into his as she added, "And you have to trust yourself to make the tough calls. There isn't a lot of time for self-doubt in the Unit Chief's position."
Her words took the air out of his sails as he let her wisdom sink in. If he had faith in her analysis, then he needed to recognize the validity of her words. "You're right about that," Derek said tiredly, collapsing back against the hard leather.
Smiling gently at her colleague, his slumping shoulders catching her attention, JJ said quietly, "The bottom line today is that we got the bad guy, Derek. It was a win. OUR win. Everyone came home and the people in Kansas City are a little bit safer tonight because of calls you made. You can be proud of that."
"But-," Derek interrupted, his mind refusing to let go of the topic when he felt there was still areas he had not yet explored.
"But nothing. That's the bottom line. Go home. Have a drink. SLEEP. And let us back you up," JJ ordered, staring at the older man with a raised eyebrow.
Her tone caught his attention as much as her words, and it didn't take a master profiler to catch her obvious meaning. Drawing in a deep breath, Derek smiled with a shake of his head. "You missed your calling, Jayje. You shoulda been a drill sergeant."
"I already am, Morgan…I just don't serve in the Armed Forces," JJ replied, rising and draping the strap of her briefcase over her arm, the leather digging heavily into her skin.
Following her movements with his eyes, Derek nodded. "JJ," he said genuinely, rising and walking toward his office doors. "I know I don't say this enough, but I really appreciate everything you do."
"Thank you," JJ said with soft sincerity, tucking his words into a special place in her mind. "And here's something else you need to know. Hotch would never have had the guts to have this conversation with me. That took courage, Derek."
Shrugging off his embarrassment as he pressed a hand against her door frame, he returned softly, "I had to know."
"And now you do," JJ replied with a smile as she shifted her bag. Reaching for her phone, she glanced down at the time display, then said with a wince, "I'll see you tomorrow. I've got a welcome party waiting for me at home, you know."
Nodding once at her words, Derek tapped the edge of the doorframe, then walked out of her office. The silence of the darkened hallway was broken only by his footsteps for a moment, then his ears picked up the sound of the quicker steps behind him. Suddenly, he realized her steps had moved in a different direction, the soft ping of the elevator catching his attention.
Glancing over his squared shoulder, he caught sight of the blonde stepping into those closing metal doors, her destination clear. Nodding to himself as he turned the corner, her words still ringing in his ears, he told himself that, maybe, just maybe, he could do this.
If a woman like JJ could believe in him, he might stand a chance after all.