[Safe Haven – 6x05]
"Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. "
- Fred Rogers -
Emily had worried throughout the entire case about her partner. She knew how distracted he was. Ellie had come back to Morgan from her awful foster home and it was all he could think about. She tried to comfort him, but she was at a loss of what to do.
Emily knew better than anyone else how Derek could relate to the young girl because of their shared history of losing their fathers. So during the case when they were in the SUV together, she had an idea.
"Morgan…" she began softly, but received no answer. "Derek," she whispered a bit louder as she reached over and rubbed his arm.
"Hmm?" he mumbled absentmindedly.
"What do you know about Ellie's mom?" she asked him, seeing his worried, far-off look.
"What?" he asked as he was pulled out of his thoughts and turned to look at her.
"Her mom. What if we could find her? She and Ellie could have a second chance. And she wouldn't have to go back into the foster system," Emily offered along with a hopeful smile as she spoke. For the first time since Ellie had returned, she saw hope appear in his eyes.
"Princess, what would I do without you?" he smiled in her direction. Derek asked Emily to get Garcia back on the phone and set her on the quest of Emily's idea of finding Ellie's mom.
The team wrapped up the case and flew back as soon as possible. The rest of the team headed straight home for a much-deserved rest. However, Emily and Derek went straight to the FBI offices and into Garcia's lair together to check on Ellie. The girl was ecstatic to see both of them, offering hugs and telling stories of her time with Penelope, before Garcia mentioned that Ellie's mother was waiting in the conference room.
Garcia insisted she had to get to her date with Kevin so she hugged Ellie and Emily offered to wait while Morgan took Ellie in to meet with her mother. It got off to a rocky start, but eventually, both Derek and little girl were becoming comfortable with the new situation, and everyone was happy she wouldn't have to go back to the horrible foster home. Derek made his way gloomily out of the room. He was replaying the murder of Ellie's father over and over in his head, allowing the guilt to build with every memory. He was almost down the hallway when he heard his name called from behind.
He turned to see Ellie running out of the room and straight towards him. She reached him and threw her arms around him as he knelt down and did the same. "I may have a mom now but we still have to talk you know."
"Of course we do sweetie. I wouldn't have it any other way," Derek winked at the young girl. Ellie's mom had approached the two at this point, and was smiling down in thanks that her daughter had had someone when she couldn't be there for her. She proceeded to offer that they all go for dinner in the city so Ellie could spend a bit more time with Derek. Ellie insisted that Emily accompany them as well so Derek went to get her and offered to drive her and pick her up the next morning for work so they left her car at the office.
The four individuals made their way to a pizza place Derek recommended and time passed quickly, full of laughter and excitement. Morgan's worry had subsided and he finally felt comfortable with Ellie going home with her mother. However, his guilt about her entire situation would not leave him.
Derek insisted on paying and Ellie accompanied him to the register so she could tell him goodbye more privately. He knelt down to hug her and heard her trying to hold back her tears.
"I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you kiddo," Derek whispered.
"I miss him too," Ellie whispered as the tears began to fill her eyes. "Why did all of this have to happen?" Derek leaned in to hug her; sadness and guilt filled his heart as it always did when he thought of Ellie and her dad because ever the protector, in his mind, this entire situation was his fault.
"I ask myself that question every single day," he replied, completely defeated.
"Does it ever get better?" Ellie sniffed.
Derek looked straight into her eyes, remembering his own father and the time with him that he had missed out on. He would never wish that on anyone. It was one of the worst experiences anyone could go through. But despite all of that, he knew that it would get better. "Yes, it may not seem like it right now. But I promise you Ellie it does get better. You just have to live every day knowing that even if you can't see him, your dad is still with you – He's in here," Derek said as he pointed to the little girl's heart. "Remember how much he loved you and now, you've got your mom. And I know that she loves you just as much as he did."
Ellie's tears had finally subsided and a smile had replaced her pitiful look as she thought of the love of her father.
"Now it's your turn, you know," Ellie said as she pulled out of the hug.
"My turn?" Derek asked with confusion. "My turn for what?"
"You found a family for me. Now I'm going to do the same for you!" Ellie said with a smile as she glanced over at Prentiss. "I've got you and now I've got my mom back. But who do you have?"
"I've got my mom. And my sisters too," Derek replied.
"I know but they're far away. My dad always said everyone needs someone to love every day so we can be reminded of the good still in the world. He said that was why he could do his job despite all the evil he saw people do. He could do it because he had me to love and to love him in return. He had it with my mom. Dad tried to pretend it didn't bother him when she left but I knew the truth. He missed her every single day – he told me that she was the only one he ever loved like that. That's why he said he loved me so much. You need that too."
Derek simply started at the nine-year-old girl whose words were well beyond her years.
"You are one smart young lady Miss Ellie. I know you're dad would be very proud of you."
Ellie smiled even more broadly at his words. She turned her head to the side as she began to speak. "Do you think someday you'll have it too?"
"Have what?" he asked.
"Someone you can love everyday too?" she replied full of expectancy.
Derek was completely taken aback by her question but it certainly wasn't anything new to him. He asked himself that very question each day. "I hope so kiddo."
"I hope you do too," she said with a smile before her mother calling her name cut her off. They both looked over to see Ellie's mom and Emily standing together smiling at both of them. Ellie leaned in to hug Derek once more, "But you might have found that already," she whispered as she nodded over at Emily once more.
She began to walk over to the two women before Derek could respond to the comment, leaving him pondering his feelings more than he ever had before as he glanced over at his waiting partner. A smile came to his face as he saw her kneel down to hug Ellie – she was always so good with children – it was one of the things he liked most about her.
He made his way over to the group of women and they proceeded to all say their goodbyes. Derek promised Ellie he would visit her soon. After final hugs, Ellie and her mother made their way to their car, which was in the opposite direction of Derek and Emily's.
Emily walked beside her partner down the city street to the deck where they had parked the car. But her mind was only on one thing - she continued to glance over at Morgan with worry. Emily knew the look on his face. He was doing something he did best - blaming himself.
"Morgan…" she began. "What is it?"
"None of this should have happened," he replied, frustration clear in his voice. Not at her of course, but at himself. "Ellie lost her father because of me."
"Derek," she began, but he already knew exactly what she would say.
"Emily, you know it's true," he cut her off; despite her words, his gloomy, guilty demeanor didn't go away.
"You've got to stop blaming yourself," she told him. Nevertheless, she was met with a sad gaze of defeat from a man who was completely broken and just continued on his way.
By the time they made it to the next intersection, Emily had formulated a plan in her mind. She hated seeing her partner like this so she knew she had to help bring him out of this guilty feeling before it got worse. "Come on," she gestured with her arm and began to walk briskly in the opposite direction of the parking deck.
"Where are you going?" Derek asked in bewilderment.
"We are going on a walk," Emily turned to tell him. "Hurry up! D.C. can get scary at night if you're alone. I wouldn't want to have to come save you," she giggled with a wink before turning around and continuing to her destination.
Derek shook his head but hurried to catch up with her. They walked two blocks until they came upon a park. He knew it well. Families came here with their children every day to play on the jungle gyms or in the grassy areas, friends could just come to sit or talk and runners and bikers loved the various trails it offered. But at night, Derek wasn't so sure this was the safest place to be; even if it was in a good part of town.
His fears were confirmed at the sight of a man walking along the edge of the park, eyeing himself and his partner as he went. However the man, who was simply a curious pedestrian who had just gotten off of work, continued on his way. "Emily," Derek worried aloud. "Come on. Let's go to the car. If you really want to walk we can go somewhere inside if we must – somewhere safer."
"Derek Morgan, are you scared?" Emily smirked.
"Not at all. I just need to make sure you're safe," Derek said firmly as he glanced over at a homeless person sleeping on a park bench. Emily followed his gaze and smiled as she remembered another encounter they had shared with a homeless woman. That was the moment Emily had realized just what a good guy Derek Morgan really was. She turned to look back into his eyes with a smile and noticed the worry she knew would be there – the over-protective worry that was always there.
"This is exactly my point," she started as they continued to walk. Morgan moved in as close as he dared to Emily as his protective mode moved into full gear. "One of the things you do best is protecting people. You have my back every day and I trust you with all that I am. You give your all no matter what. But when something goes wrong you blame yourself and Morgan… you have to stop. The guilt is eating away at you and that's not healthy…"
"Can we talk about this later?" Derek huffed. He knew she was right, but somehow he felt this was easier than attempting a therapy session about his feelings.
"No, we can't." Emily responded forcefully. "Because this isn't just affecting you. Every time I look at you blaming yourself, it breaks my heart. You're my partner and you are my friend. I have to fix this. You have to stop beating yourself up inside for what happened to Ellie's father."
"Thank you for caring Princess. Really," Derek said with sincerity as he began. "But I just can't. I promised him I would keep her safe and not only did I let him die in front of her…" he faltered, stopping in front of a set of swings as tears forming as his eyes as he choked on his words. "I just wish I could go back to that day and change it all."
"Morgan, there was nothing you could do," Emily continued, resting a delicate hand on his shoulder. "Morgan, you're my partner. I know you. I know that you did absolutely everything in your power to protect Ellie and her family. But sometimes there is a different plan that is supposed to unfold no matter how much it hurts or how hard we fight against it. But what matters most is how we respond to it. And Ellie knows that you did everything you could for her father and now you're doing the same for her."
"Does she though?" Derek questioned as they continued their way through the park. "When my father died, I blamed everyone. I hated myself for being a coward. I blamed the officers in his division for not getting there on time. I even lashed out at my mother for being grateful I was even alive. I thought I should have died right along side my father. Now I know I survived to make him proud; to carry on what he couldn't. But what if Ellie begins to feel that way about me too? What if one day, when she wakes up from a nightmare of her father's murder and she chooses to blame me?"
"Oh Derek," Emily stopped in her tracks and whispered as she turned to look deep into his pained eyes. "That could never happen. She saw her father killed by a man. He is the person she blames, not you – never you. She saw you promise to keep her safe and she see's that you've done just that. You got her out of that foster home… You found her mother. You gave her the chance to have a family again. If anything, you're her hero. You're your mother and sisters' hero because they are so proud of you. You're a hero at the BAU. When will you finally be able to see that?"
Derek simply looked at Emily with a grateful smile as he exhaled, seemingly releasing the weight of the world.
"And I know you're father would be proud of you too," Emily began again. "I know I've told you this before but you really are a good guy. So don't you see, Ellie is lucky to have you. She's lucky to have had to you do everything you could to protect her even now. She would still be in that awful foster home without a mother if you didn't," Emily offered as she took a seat on the swing and began swiveling herself around.
"Thank you. But I know you, Em. You would have done exactly the same thing." Derek said as he sat down beside her and gave her a knowing look. "I'm just lucky I have you to force me to talk about it even when I may not want to. You're right, it's not healthy to keep it all inside."
At that, Emily's smile dropped as the vision of beautiful, blonde-haired little boy jumped into her mind and her heart ached at the memory she was harboring within. There was nothing she wanted more than to tell Derek everything about Declan, about Lauren Reynolds... and even about Ian Doyle. Emily thought that it would be easy to leave her past behind when she joined the BAU.
At first, it was. But as she became closer to each of the members of the team, soon they became the only family she had ever known. She shared a deep connection with each and every one of them... but her connection with Derek was something extra special. He wasn't simply her partner anymore - the time they spent together: working the case, protecting one another's very lives, and even times like this when they simply talked - they had become best friends. He was the first person she had told about the abortion she had when she was fifteen. He was the only one who knew her greatest fears - even if she couldn't tell him where they had really come from.
She knew how hard he dealt with guilt, so she knew she would never stop trying to get through to him, especially because it was a way to deal with her own since she couldn't speak the truth. But still, keeping what was perhaps the biggest secret of her life from her partner, from her best friend, was one of the hardest things she ever had to do.
"Em, what is it?" Derek asked as he pulled her out of her thoughts.
"Nothing," she smiled, trying to suppress her memories of her past once more. She had to admit though; it was becoming easier the more at home she felt with her BAU family. "I'm just glad you're finally realizing the truth. You really are a good guy."
"You're never going to let me forget that are you?" Derek smiled as his guilt finally vanished.
"Never," Emily replied without missing a beat.
"What would I do without you Princess?" They both laughed before Emily began swinging faster and higher. Derek looked up from his own swing, thinking no longer of the guilt he had felt but of the words Ellie had spoken before they said goodbye. He had tried in the past to keep his feelings professional, but with every moment like this they spent together, Morgan found it harder and harder not to think of his partner when he asked himself if he would ever find love like his parents had.
"Come on!" she laughed, finally able to smile now that her partner was back to his normal self. "You had better swing faster if you want to keep up with me!"
"Is that a challenge Agent Prentiss?" Derek laughed beside her as he picked up the pace of his own swinging.
The two agents continued laughing, worries completely forgotten as they acted like two children without a care in the world. The night became darker and finally, they made their way back out of the park, walking side by side.
"So Em… Who's your hero?" Derek asked with a smirk and a wiggle of his eyebrows.
"Oh buddy your ego is getting a bit too big." Emily giggled.
"Don't play coy with me Princess… it's me, isn't it?" Derek continued the joke.
"Oh yes… Always," Emily answered with a sarcastic tone and a nudge shoulder to shoulder with her partner as she tried to mask the truth of her statement. They both tried to laugh off the deeper meaning of the word that had come to mean so much to the both of them.
"Thank you for this," he smiled as he wrapped his arm ever so protectively around her.
"Anytime, you're my partner remember. I'll always have your back."
"And I'll always have yours," Morgan responded as they walked arm in arm.
Derek's guilt had finally subsided, and Emily's worry for him had as well. All was right in the world of partners Emily Prentiss and Derek Morgan… for now at least. Soon the test of their deepening relationship would reach its peak and nothing would ever be the same. Derek's guilt and Emily's regrets would not be going away anytime soon. But no matter what came their way… they would always have each other.