"Noooo!" I groaned into my pillow as the piercing knock resounded through my apartment once again.
I hadn't been in a deep sleep, but I was well on my way and I can't lie, it was feeling good. Usually, the idea of having a day off disgusted me. Serial killers don't take days off neither should I. I even said as much to Hotch when he all but forced me to take a day. He forced all of us to take a day. 'Mental health days' he called them. Since Foyet, he has been adamant those, about preserving our minds, our sanity, and spending time with loved ones. Although it is typical Morgan fashion to dispute the day off, I couldn't give Hotch too much of a fight. One look at Reid, who has his fragile moments, JJ who practically unravels when there is any case dealing with a kid, Emily who spazzes out on occasion, and my baby girl, who tries to be bright most days but falters on occasion, one look at them tells me that a day off every now and then isn't horrible. We all went out for drinks last night, to kick off the break. Which brings me back to the incessant knocking at my door, I didn't get in until one, and now there is a racket just two hours later. So much for my sleeping in.
I staggered out of my bedroom and slumped down the stairs towards the noise. I couldn't ignore the commotion, something could be wrong; after all I didn't get too many visitors. I caught a glimpse of my self in the mirror. Would it be rude to answer the door in just my underwear? I really didn't feel like climbing the stairs. The annoying thump at the door made the decision for me.
"Hold on, I'm coming!" I unlocked the deadbolts and swung open the door rougher than necessary. There was no hiding my irritation.
It took me all but a second to recognize the statuesque brunette before me. It took even less for me to be exceedingly taken aback. She looked, well, beautiful. Her dark hair had grown since I last seen her. It cascaded down in loose waves, falling just below her shoulders. The caramel tones framed her face and complemented her slightly tanned skin. Her almond shaped eyes were dark and brooding, there was a burning edge to her glare. She stood as confidently as ever, her black leather jacket fitting her perfectly. The red camisole beneath it clung to her small frame accentuating her curves, as did the tight black jeans hugging her waist. It was nothing short of mesmerizing. She seemed taller than I remembered, but I quickly took into account the heels. She never wore them much before. I fought to bring my eyes back up to meet hers, a million questions running through my mind. "Elle,"
His voice was gruff and just a little groggy before he flung open the door forcefully. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised. After visiting the BAU and receiving word from an acquaintance that my former team was not working a case, I figured I would find Derek at home. It had not crossed my mind that he could have been sleeping. The Derek I knew didn't sleep much; then again the Derek I knew didn't take days off either.
I stared into his eyes, watching as the annoyance turned into recognition, the recognition gradually becoming shock. I studied him, caught off guard but very pleased with his appearance. His thick brows had furrowed slightly before smoothing out. He looked…different, good different. His perfectly groomed goatee would take getting used to, but I liked it. It was as if my brain no longer controlled my wandering eyes. I followed the contours and lines of his body, scanning each and every muscle, the tattoo on his shoulder, the perfectly developed six pack. I stole a quick glance at his black boxer briefs before finally regaining control of myself to look into his questioning eyes.
I couldn't gauge his reaction. He moved aside and let me in, hugging me awkwardly as I passed him. I felt him close the door gently behind me and put all the deadbolts back on. He turned to face me, unsure of what to do or say next.
"It's good to see you again Derek!" I flashed him a smile. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to disturb you. Hell, I'm still trying to recover from hearing that Derek Morgan of all people took a day off! The thought of me actually waking you is even more shocking, sleeping beauty!" I playfully punched him in the shoulder. He stared at me incredulously. Still trying to figure out the late night visit, no doubt, but he chuckled anyway for my benefit, I'm sure.
"Some things change," his voice was quiet and hesitant.
I turned away from him and plopped down on the black leather sofa. His apartment was very neat and simple, a well maintained bachelor pad. In fact it was evident that he didn't spend much time there. Something about that mere fact saddened me. The walls were burnt amber, very warm and inviting. Derek was very warm, when he let his guard down that is. There were frames on the walls, pictures of his sisters, his mother, even an old picture of his father. The furniture was black and very simple, I wouldn't be surprised if Derek had made it all himself. Everything was perfectly in place. I could sympathize with that, when you have a job where you don't always have control, at least you can have it at home.
"Uhh, make yourself comfortable. I'll go slip some clothes on and then I'll be right back down?" he said it with a question rather than a statement, I could tell he was confused. I leaned back against the couch and closed my eyes as he jogged up the stairs.
She appeared to be sleeping when I returned in my Henley and sweatpants. It was perplexing that she showed up at my doorstep at three in the morning after three years of nothing. I plopped down beside her, studying her face, she looked so peaceful. The last time I seen her she was everything but, and there were dark circles under her eyes from her insomnia. Now she at least looked well rested.
"Why do you always do that?" she seemed a tad annoyed. She turned to face me for a split second before deciding for whatever reason that it was too difficult. She stared intently ahead of her at nothing in particular.
"That staring thing. Has anyone ever told you that you stare at people as if you're…I don't know, trying to see into their soul? Okay that sounds a bit cheesy, I know," she snorted.
"I'm trying to figure out, why somebody I haven't seen or heard from in three years has suddenly dropped by at three in the morning for a late night visit!" I could hear the frustration creeping into my voice and I tried to suppress it. "Elle, don't get me wrong it's great to see you again-"
"Is it really?" she interrupted me, her voice acidic.
"But what exactly is wrong? What do you want?" I continued softly without a hitch.
She turned to face me again, staring at my mouth, the side of my face, just above my head, but never my eyes. She avoided my eyes, as if one glance at them would turn her into stone. There was indecision registered on her face, she seemed slightly distraught, and was that what I thought? Was that vulnerability? For a split second I seen beyond her bold demeanor, her confident pretenses, her brash manner, all the things that made Elle, Elle. I seen beyond all the things that she hid behind and used as a shield. She noticed the change in my voice, the complacent look forming on my face; she risked a glance into my eyes and noticed the realization in them. She quickly turned away and did what Elle did best.
"Geez, Der, that tone was so comforting, when's the last time you spoke directly to a victim's family? That almost made me want to spill my guts and everything!" she smirked, but I could tell it didn't quite reach her eyes and it was more forced than genuine.
"Elle," I warned. It was an unspoken rule at the BAU that we never profile the profilers. Elle, though no longer with us, was still in my opinion a profiler. She used sarcasm as a shield, an attempt to deflect from her emotions, a wall to block people out, a defense mechanism, a coping technique. I didn't quite have the patience for it tonight though. I was too tired for digging
I jumped off the couch hastily and walked forward, my back to him. He seemed concerned, that was a bit reassuring. He seemed agitated as well, that was a bit amusing. Unfortunately, he didn't seem patient. He had no intentions of engaging in our old banter, no plans of appeasing me or my nostalgia. For some reason that moved me, pushed me to where I needed to be to finally get my sentiments out. The emotions surged through me.
"You never said goodbye," my voice was cold and accusatory. I sensed him tensing up, despite my back being turned to him. "Not once. You didn't call me or come to see me," I finally gained enough confidence to face him, to stare into those eyes, something I had been avoiding since I had arrived. "You never said goodbye," His face fell a bit, as the weight of the words hit him like a ton of bricks.
"Elle I spoke to you briefly…"
"You spoke at me!" I contested harshly. "Derek, I know how wrong I was. I know I went against everything we work for, against everything you believe in. You couldn't hide it then, the disapproval, the disappointment, the disgust, it was written all over your face!"
"Elle, that isn't-"
"And I understood it," I ignored his interjection. "I was wrong and I deserved as much, but only for a little while. I knew why you were upset, why everyone was upset. Hell, I was upset after I finally recovered from my mental breakdown and the repercussions of my actions caught up to me. What I didn't understand, what I don't understand is why did you let me go? Discard me? Cast me away?"
"Elle, you left," he said quietly. He was still on the couch rubbing his temple and clenching his jaw tightly.
"I left because I had to! Derek I…I don't know what you ever thought about me, all I know is what I thought about you, and I know that I seen you as my best friend," I could hear how small my voice had gotten, strained and soft, no longer strong and confident as it had been. "Sometimes it felt as if you were my only friend, and not just at work but…but in general. Maybe I was wrong though, maybe it was wrong of me, foolish even, for me to hold you to such a high regard, for me to think that you held me to a similar title. I mean you get along with everyone just the same,"
I walked towards the couch and sat back down, driven by a sudden fear that my legs would give out beneath me. He just turned to face me, advising me with his eyes that he would not interrupt or say anything until I was finished. "So…yeah, I understood the disappointment from the others. I didn't expect to be forgiven by them. I didn't expect them to ever want to speak to me again. But you, I thought you knew me better. I thought you could forgive me. I thought we would still be friends after I was gone. I figured I was disposable when it came to the others, I knew I was expendable to them. I didn't think I would be for you though. I didn't think you could go on as if I never existed, forget me altogether. I thought you cared, I know you did, I know you do, but I thought you cared…more," my voice cracked betraying me, exposing my hurt and the tears that were slowly building up.
She was fighting back tears, I could see them pooling in the brims of her eyelids. I was finding it hard to compose myself. The words were heavy and her pain was deep. I wanted to respond to her so badly but she was being candid and vulnerable and if I said too much she would shut down. So I grabbed her hand and held it and let her finish.
"Time went on and you never reached out. You never called to see if I was alright. I felt abandoned, as if I lost my best friend. It seemed as if you went on like business as usual, as if I never existed. It's a devastating feeling, that of being forgotten. You didn't call me, not once. You didn't try to comfort me, not really. You severed ties, cut me out completely, left me alone. You always seemed to get me, to understand me, to not find me offensive," she chuckled darkly. "You seemed to enjoy me, you were safe and comfortable. I lost that when I left. All of it, and I don't understand it. I assumed that we were closer than we were apparently. I had expectations, unfair ones, which I projected onto you. I thought you cared more." She stared off ahead of her, not looking at me directly and then she surprised me, she began to cry uncontrollably.
Her tears were like daggers, her words like bullets. They penetrated my very core. Her vulnerability saddened me and a stray tear slid down my cheek as well. I tried to keep quiet in an effort to respect her to allow her to say whatever it was she needed to say. I couldn't hold back any longer, this troubled me too much.
"Elle, when you left if hurt me deeply. You're right. You did some horrible things. You did something that was unfathomable and I was disappointed in you. I won't lie to you and tell you I wasn't. I was also disappointed with myself as well. All the signs were there. Everything pointed to you unraveling right before my eyes and I did nothing. I seen it, I seen you hurting and I ignored it," I lifted her chin up hoping that her eyes would reach mine and that she'd here the sincerity in my voice.
"I never realized that you held me to such a high regard. I didn't know that I meant that much to you," she averted her eyes. Eye contact didn't last long with her when she was like this. "It…bothers me that you question our friendship. I did care about you, I still do, and you were not wrong in making that assessment," she let out a small sigh, whether it was out of relief or a reflex I couldn't quite determine. "You want to know why I didn't call?" she continued to stare in my general direction but not directly at me, she nodded. "You told me to leave you alone. Those were the last words you said to me. You quit on me, you took off, and it seemed effortless, your leaving. I figured I'd give you some space, back off, let you get the help that you needed. I figured I would let you come to me when you were ready. I thought you would call then, but you didn't,"
I leaned back into the couch and let her hand go. This sudden action startled her, and I couldn't' be too sure but a touch of hurt flickered across her face. She looked at me recognizing the anguish in my face. "And then I was wrongfully arrested, forced to face my childhood demons, then Reid was kidnapped almost died, then Gideon left…I knew you would call then, but you didn't. When I think about all the things I've been through the past few years, the things our team has gone through. I thought you would come back to us, come back to me. You didn't," I paused letting the words linger in the air.
"I didn't think you wanted me to," she said simply.
"The best way I could get through those things was to bury it," I continued. "So many things had happened and I had to suppress it, all of it. I didn't want to believe that it was that easy for you to cut everyone out of your life, but after awhile it started to seem that way. I think the hardest thing for me to hear right now is that you doubted our friendship. I thought I was being a good friend by respecting your wishes, no matter how much they hurt me. You don't think I think about you everyday? You were a close friend to me, I wasn't pretending. I don't forget about people I care about. I guess we both felt betrayed," I sighed deeply. I had no intentions of having such a discussion, especially at this hour, but it felt good, years overdue. I stared across the room at the bookcase, at one of my favorite photos.
I was stunned. To think we went years without speaking to one another, and for what? We both shared the same feelings, both felt hurt, abandoned and betrayed, and there was no reason for it. He felt the same way I did, something profound and tragic about that. Years I spent without my best friend and all due to neither of us breaking down enough to tell the other how we felt. I followed his gaze and my heart stopped. There were a series of photos lined up across his bookcase, one recent photo of Garcia at her computer her hair a deep red, it was beautiful and definitely suited her. The other photo was of Dr. Reid, he was asleep on the jet, sprawled out across the couch. He had really matured since I last saw him. I bit my lip, I definitely missed that kid. It was the next photo, perched on the edge of the bookcase that caught mine and Derek's eye. It was of Derek and me stretched out side by side near the pool, our trip to Jamaica. We looked so happy, so close.
He must have heard me gasp in surprise because he turned to face me. His eyes were wet, whether it was from him being exhausted or from the depth of our conversation, I wasn't sure. I didn't have words, not even a sarcastic retort. I was beyond those at the moment. I didn't have it in me to be sardonic, my emotions were too raw, and I felt too exposed. I don't know what he read in my awed expression, what he made of my watery smile.
"I'm sorry Elle. I would never intentionally hurt you," his face was worn but his eyes and the tone of his voice were incontestably heartfelt.
I shook my head, struggling to find the words. "No Der, no apologies. I'm sorry to have doubted you, questioned your motives, our friendship. I guess…I guess, and this is rather pathetic, I'm so accustomed to people not really making an effort to be, close to me. They're usually turned off by my abrasiveness. I'm so used to that, so much so that I tend to question and wonder when a person actually does make the effort," I mumbled.
"True, I did wonder on various occasions why I subjected myself to everything that makes up Elle Greenway," he teased.
I punched him in the shoulder gently. We stared at one another once the laughter subsided. He did something unanticipated; he pulled me into his arms in an embrace, resting his cheek on my hair. I stiffened momentarily, not used to being so close. His warm embrace was comforting. It soothed me, something I hadn't been accustomed to. I knew our issues were settled.
"Are we good now?" he whispered in my ear.
"I think so,"
"Can I be honest with you now?" he asked.
I paused and pulled away forcing myself to face him once more. "You weren't being honest before?" I asked raising my eyebrow and smirking.
"Ha ha, Elle. I actually wanted to say that, well, what have you been doing to yourself? You look beautiful!"
"And I didn't before?" I pretended to be offended. He scratched the back of his neck nervously and bit his lower lip. "Damn Der, I'm kidding! I just changed over time I suppose. You don't look too shabby yourself," I downplayed it, the man was nothing short of gorgeous, half the time he never seemed aware of it, which made it all the more attractive. "I like the goatee," I stroked the side of his face and his chin. "Looks good on you,"
He stared at me for a moment before reaching up and running his fingers through my hair. "I missed you Elle,"
"I missed you too," I whispered back
He pulled me towards him again. My heart nearly thumped out of my chest as he leaned towards me. He paused inches away from my face, his warm breath making my cheeks flush. He cautioned me with his eyes before pressing his lips to mine. I pressed up against him until there was no more space between us, wrapping my arms around his neck and deepening the kiss. I felt his hands around my waist yanking off my jacket. He pulled away first, pulling his Henley over his head. He chortled as he watched me marvel over his chiseled chest and abs, marveling over his sculpted muscles.
"What do you have planned for tomorrow?"
"Nothing in particular," I kicked off my heels.
"Good. Me neither," he replied coyly, pressing his lips against mine once more and pulling us both down until I was lying firmly on top of him. He reached behind the couch and pulled out a blanket that he wrapped around us both. He pulled away from me and leaned further back onto the couch, resting his head against the pillows and closing his eyes.
"Derek? Derek!" I edged closer to his face, peeking up at his closed eyelids. He wrapped his arm around me tighter, cradling my head into his chest, not once opening his eyes to look at me.
"Gah, I hate you!" I growled.
"No you don't!" he chuckled, the deep throaty chortle resonating in my ear. "Night Elle,"He stroked my hair and brushed his lips against my forehead before drifting off to sleep.
"No, I don't." I whispered, as the thumping of his heart and his soft snoring lulled me to sleep. I finally felt home.