A/N: It has been a really long time since I've written anything for Criminal Minds. I don't quite know why, but I haven't felt as inspired the past season. I still love watching the show, but it hasn't…I don't know, really. I've felt detached from writing for it. I hate that, but it is what it is I guess. So this is based on "Profiler, Profiled" and "Restoration". I guess this is an attempt at getting back into it. I'm very rusty.

Disclaimer: Unfortunately neither CM nor Derek Morgan belongs to me. A girl can dream. There are mentions of sexual and alcohol abuse. Unbetaed so all errors are mine. Honest reviews are welcomed and appreciated.

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i.

When he was five he remembered looking up to the sky.

The warm sun would beam down on his face, the waves of heat would blast against his skin during the hot Chicago summers. He'd try to see how long he could look directly into it before the blinding light burned his eyes and tears fell down his face. He never got too far in that endeavor; before his father's smiling face would eclipse the sun. A solid presence so tall and grand he looked as though he could touch the clouds himself. His father would smile at him, a brilliant, blinding smile filled with warmth and happiness and adoration for his only boy.

His mother told him that he got his father's smile.

He'd lean his head back further, and he was no longer looking up at the sky. He was looking up at his father. He'd smile a toothless smile and his father would grab him firmly. Warm, brown, calloused hands securely locked around his toffee colored arms. His father would give him that mischievous look, a sparkle of excitement and unadulterated joy in his deep brown eyes, and before he realized it his feet were off the cracked concrete. He was spinning in circles, flying around. Shoelaces dancing in the wind created from his swinging frame. He'd laugh until the air choked him, and then he'd laugh some more as the forced wind whipped across his cherubic cheeks. He remembered the way his father laughed too, it was hearty and thick, and comforting and the sound of it made Derek smile so hard he felt as though his face would split in two. He felt invincible, untouchable, like nothing and no one could permeate their bubble of contentment. He felt like a superhero, or at least the superhero's sidekick. They'd spin around for what felt like hours, when truthfully it was only mere minutes. They'd spin until Derek got so dizzy that the only point of focus that stopped him from getting sick was focusing on his father's face. They'd spin until they collapsed to the ground, and he'd never fear falling because he always knew that his father would be there to catch him, and he always was.

He would look up to the sky and feel pure bliss because he always seen his father's smiling face looking down at him.

ii.

The first few times it happened he didn't know how to react.

He was conflicted really, because he felt indebted to Carl Buford. Buford was his friend and his mentor. Everyone said he was a good guy. They couldn't possibly have said that if he wasn't? Right? But good guys didn't do that. Good guys couldn't possibly do that. He had wished that he could ask his father about it, but he couldn't because he was gone. He was long gone. He tried to avoid thinking about his father when Buford was doing…that. He couldn't think of his father and Buford at the same time. He wondered what his father would say.

The first few times it happened it was so foggy and yet so frighteningly lucid. His head was heavy, lethargic from the sweet concoction of red wine and Kool-Aid. His eyelids would get heavy, his head would loll to the side, and he'd close his eyes and wish, pray, for it to be over. He'd try his best to ignore the rough, calloused hands groping around, calloused hands that weren't warm and gentle like his father's, hands that hurt him rather than protected him. His head would pound and he felt so groggy, so tired. Too tired to do much of anything.

The first few times he'd close his eyes, because looking at the inside of his eyelids was safer than looking anywhere else.

iii.

When he was fifteen he realized that it wasn't going to stop.

It was a petrifying conclusion that he had come to, but there was no way of freeing himself from it. He couldn't be free of Buford if he tried. And he tried. At least, he though he tried. Maybe he didn't try hard enough. Did he try hard enough? Why didn't he try harder? He could have tried harder. He could have, he should have, he didn't, and maybe he didn't. He didn't try hard enough. He had to try harder. He would think too much, about the not trying harder to stop it. He must have thought too much, about what was happening to him. He must have done something, furrowed his brow, and clenched his jaw. It must have been the "Jesus Juice". It didn't work anymore. Did he somehow become immune? Is that how it worked? Maybe he had become immune to the sugary sweet concoction, because he had to make an effort to close his eyes after a while. It didn't come so easily. He couldn't get drunk out of his mind anymore. He didn't feel like he was floating, there was no feeling detached. He felt it all.

He felt it all. The shame hit him most of all.

When Buford would…finish. Derek would cast his eyes down, because he couldn't look that man in the eye anymore. He couldn't look anyone in the eye anymore. He could barely look at himself in the mirror. He wondered what his father would think of him now. He wondered if his father would be ashamed. He was ashamed. He spent a year or more familiarizing himself with every crack in the concrete pavement. He knew every stain on the floor. He could make out who a person was based on his or her shoes.

When he was fifteen, he could only look at the ground. The ground couldn't judge him.

iv.

When he was seventeen Buford wanted him to "look up to the sky".

He didn't understand at first, because where he looked never seemed to interfere with Buford doing whatever he wanted anyway. He shrugged it off, figured his eyes looked a little too dead. Maybe, just maybe, Buford could see the defeat in them. Maybe he seen the way the shame weighed him down. Maybe he could feel the self-worth he once had slipping from his body. Maybe it was just his body…he wasn't a young kid anymore. He was almost a man. A growing man. He presumed he was grown enough to fight back, but he didn't see where there was any use in doing that anymore. He was trapped. Just for now. Just one more year. That's what he told himself as he looked up to the sky. That would be just one more way in which he gave in to Buford.

When he was seventeen he looked up to the sky.

He didn't like what that did to him. He didn't see the use. When he looked up at the sky he no longer seen his father's smiling face looking down at him. When he looked up at the sky all he seen was the black of night, because God stopped answering a long time ago.

When he was seventeen he looked up to the sky. He prayed to something he didn't believe in anymore that he would make it through. He promised himself that it was just one more year.

v.

When he was nineteen he looked people in the eye.

It had been a year and a half since he escaped his previous hell. He barely made it through. But the look of pride on his mother's face as he walked across the stage with a diploma, in a sickening way made those last few months worth it. No one seen the way his body tensed when Buford clapped him on the shoulder. Then again, no one ever really did. He got his freedom; he got his escape in the form of a football scholarship to one of the best schools on the east side. It was definitely an achievement for a poor black kid from the Southside of Chi-town. He didn't want to think about what that scholarship cost him…everything.

No more.

When he was nineteen, he swore to himself that no one would ever hurt him again. He doesn't quite know when he became aware of his stature, his size, the imposing presence his body could have on other beings. The gym was his sanctuary. It was the place he could release pent up frustrations, hurt, damage, years worth of anger. It was where he molded himself into something strong, masculine, everything he wished he could have been when he was a kid. It was the place where he could prove that he could take care of himself. He couldn't then, but he could do it now. He was strong, he was virile, and he was no one's victim. Never again.

When he was nineteen, he learned the value of looking someone in the eye. There was a small part of him that relished in the intense glares, gazes, and stares. If he could look someone directly in the eye, if he could challenge them face to face, nose to nose, with the ferocity of a lion, he could never be underestimated, taken advantage of, or hurt again. When he was nineteen, he learned the power of one voice. His voice. Shy and soft spoken was cast aside in favor of outspoken and forthright. He learned the value of being direct.

When he was nineteen, he learned to look people in the eye. It was the best way to protect himself. It was the best way to guard himself. He could convince people of anything if he looked them directly in the eyes. The best way to hide was in plain sight.

vi.

At thirtysomething he looks up to the sky.

It isn't like it was twenty years ago when all he seen was emptiness and all he felt was his father's disappointment and shame. It isn't like when he looked up searching for whatever God there was, who failed to answer the helpless pleas of his younger self. But it also isn't like thirty years ago when he challenged the sun and seen his father's face beaming down at him. It's something else entirely.

When he looks up to the sky now, he sees the promise of a new day. When he looks up at the sky he's filled with a certain hope for the imminent, for those whom he has helped, for those whom he will save in the future. And he will save them, because he'll spend the rest of his lifetime making up for the fact that he didn't save himself. He's at peace with that now. He knows that there was nothing that he could have done, that he didn't do anything wrong, but he still feels like he owes it to himself to help others. It's what fuels him. It's what makes everything he's ever gone through, every travesty in his life, worthwhile.

Buford's dead now. He hasn't quite sorted through the numerous emotions that that has stirred up in him. There are so many, too many, for him to make sense of, but for once, he's okay with that.

At thirtysomething he looks up to the sky…and he feels restored.

~~o~~