Winner of Best Characterization of Derek Morgan for the Profilers Choice Awards 2011!
A/N: This story is for the Theme Song Challenge. The prompt is for Derek Morgan, Bigger Scars Make Better Stories by Search the City from Someone aka me. There's a very vague reference to some of Morgan's past revealed in Profiler, Profiled.
Bigger Scars Make Better Stories
Everyone knows that bigger scars make better stories. Even if the injury came from something mundane like accidentally putting your hand through a plate glass window, your five-inch scar could easily be explained as the result of something dramatic like a shark attack or something heroic like throwing yourself between a runaway lawn mower and a baby. Or maybe it was from the removal of a regrettable tattoo, the result of a night involving too much tequila and a woman named Margarita.
After all, while everyone wants to hear the story of how you ended up with a five-inch scar on your forearm, they don't actually want to know that it came from your inability to control your anger. You were ten and only a year had passed since your father was killed in the line of duty. On Take-Your-Child-to-Work Day of all days.
At your insistence, he had taken you to Dunkin' Donuts. So you could be like real cops. While you ate your donut, your dad told you stories about the time he used powdered sugar to lift a fingerprint. And how the red jelly had accidentally been sent to the lab because a rookie thought it was blood. You thought it was hilarious when he walked you through the process of deducing from the crumbs on your table that your donut had been Boston Crème. It was the speck of chocolate next to a crumb still covered in custard that gave it away. You watched as your dad wiped the powdered sugar off his uniform and decided that one day you were going to wear that uniform, too.
You walked out of the store carrying the box of Munchkins you were going to bring home to your sisters. The events that followed are still somewhat of a blur. You remember the motorcycles and wondering why the riders were wearing ski masks when it was April. You remember your dad was trying to tell you something, but you couldn't hear anything over the roar of the motorcycles. You couldn't help but stare at the riders as they made their way into the bank next door. Suddenly one of the riders turned to face you and your dad.
Even to this day, after several self-cognitive interviews, the only thing you remember is falling to the ground. And then there was just noise; it sounded like fireworks exploding. There was a sharp pain on the palm of your hand, which later you'll learn was a piece of glass that you had landed on. And then, as though someone skipped to the next chapter on the DVD, the next thing you remember is lying on top of your dad, using your entire body to try to stop the blood that poured out of his chest.
The skip button is hit again and you're sitting in a green plastic chair in the break room at your father's precinct, watching as your sister Sarah tried to find the pieces to complete the sailboat puzzle sitting on the table. She asked you to come help her, but you were too busy trying to get the piece of glass out of your hand. Desiree was sitting in the chair next to you equally engrossed in the process of braiding, unbraiding and re-braiding her hair.
Finally one of the other officers came into the room and walked you, your sisters, and your mom out to the parking lot. You're confused as to why your mom is in the passenger seat in her own car and for a brief moment you realized that it's because your dad was going to drive you home. But then you remembered about the motorcyclists in ski masks, the box of Munchkin's spilling underneath your dad's squad car, and the blood. Mostly you remembered the blood.
So you weren't surprised when Officer Adams got into the driver's seat and drove your family home. Officer Adams came into your house and fixed your mom tea while you and your sisters sat on the couch. You were still picking at the piece of glass when Officer Adams sat down next to your mom. In your memory sometimes you hear Officer Adams say it; sometimes you hear it said in your mom's voice. Your dad was shot and killed.
And that was when you realized that you didn't just fall onto the ground. You were pushed. By your dad. Out of the way. You had this realization just as you finally pulled the piece of glass from the palm of your hand. Suddenly you regretted taking it out. After all, it was the last gift your father ever gave you.
It was almost exactly one year to the day of your father's death. It was time for Take-Your-Child-to-Work Day again. Your teacher wanted everyone to write a report on what they did on their day at work. You just kept your head down while the teacher explained the assignment. You knew you weren't going to do it.
Take-Your-Child-to-Work Day came and went. You went to the Community Center that day since you couldn't go to school and you couldn't stay home. You were grateful to Mr. Buford who promised to call neither the school nor your mom. You spent the day throwing around the football and playing one-on-one against Mr. Buford. At the end of the day he hugged you and told you to take care, son. It was your first hug from Mr. Buford, the first time you had that feeling.
It had been a week since the essay was due in class and you still hadn't handed anything in. Mrs. Lowenstein called you up to her desk while the rest of the class was dismissed for recess. She wanted to know why you didn't do the assignment.
Mrs. Lowenstein was new to the school that year so she didn't know anything about you, your family, and how you spent last year's Take-Your-Child-to-Work Day. You tried to explain it to her, but you couldn't find the words. It's as though the DVD player in your head was suddenly controlled by a madman who started hitting the skip button with impunity. None of your thoughts made sense, none of your sentences flowed in the right order. Perhaps it was because there appeared to be two simultaneous DVDs playing: the one set in the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot and the other starring Mr. Buford.
So Mrs. Lowenstein thought you were lying. She told you to stop making excuses for being lazy and that you needed to learn the value of hard work and that it was a shame your parents weren't there to teach you.
That was when you lost it. That was when you punched Maurice the Mouse's cage. Fortunately, Maurice the Mouse survived the ordeal unscathed. The same thing could not be said about his cage or your arm. A large piece of glass cut your arm nearly the entire length from your wrist to your elbow. There was blood everywhere and suddenly Mrs. Lowenstein was lying on the floor at your feet. At first you thought you had killed her, but you later learned that she couldn't stand the sight of blood. The teacher across the hall heard the shattering glass and came in to find you standing over your unconscious teacher, blood pouring from your arm.
It's the only time you're grateful for the mad DVD skipper because the brief snippets of memory you have from the rest of the afternoon are enough to know that there was a lot of yelling, a lot of pain, and a lot of disappointment. Your mom met with the principal and with Mrs. Lowenstein to try to straighten things out, to put your actions into the appropriate context. She was successful in keeping you from getting suspended, but the damage to your reputation was done.
You were now seen as a troublemaker, a problem child. Your classmates called you Morgan the Mouse Murderer. Even though you didn't kill Maurice, or even hurt him, and you bought him a new cage using all the birthday money you had saved up over the last two years. There was blood that was shed and that's all that mattered.
You learned the hard way that once people saw you as the troublemaker, it was nearly impossible to change that perception. In fact, it was easier to just perpetuate it. They expected you to be violent, to get in trouble, to start fights. So you did. If something went wrong, the teachers were going to look to you first as the cause. So why not just be the one who caused it? If you were going to get in trouble anyway, you may as well have made the trouble first.
The scar on your arm defined you. You were Morgan the Mouse Murderer, you were a thirteen-year-old spending your mama's birthday at Juvenile Detention, and you were a fifteen-year-old with three misdemeanors on your record.
It's hard to have a five-inch scar on your arm and not have people ask about it. You became adept at coming up with implausible stories because it was easier to tell someone it happened while you were hiking near the Congo River and were bitten by a green mamba and the locals had to nearly cut your arm off to save your life. You have stories about a malfunctioning jetpack, a sword fight, and an aggressive fondue party.
Sometimes you hint at the true story by saying something cryptic like, "It involved a lady, a mouse, and a sixth grader..." Then you let the sentence dangle mysteriously.
It took less than three seconds for your hand to crash through the glass box, but you spent six years living up to the reputation it had earned you. You were left with a five-inch reminder about the importance of self-control.
All it took was that extra trip to the bathroom to get the powdered sugar off your face. Or your dad stopping to get his coffee refilled. Two minutes more or less in Dunkin' Donuts and your entire life would be different. But that's not what happened and you were left with a half-inch reminder of your dad's love, heroism, and sacrifice.
There have been other scars: football injuries, drunken dancing injuries, chasing UnSub injuries. When asked about those you tell the truth. But you continue to come up with outlandish explanations for the five-inch jagged line that runs up your arm because you know that story is incomplete without the one about the half-inch scar on your palm.
That's the story you keep to yourself. Because the important story is not the one about how you got the scars, but rather how the scars got you to where you are.