Scene 1: Afternoon at the Park
A/N: This would have taken place very near the beginning of "The Worst Fourth Pirate in History" (WFPH). Probably pre-Haley.
The grassy park with the sturdy wooden playground and half-fenced basketball court was only a block or two from the school. It was on the way home, sort of, and it made for a much-needed detour.
Aaron Hotchner sat glumly on a swing hanging by two chains on the farthest end of the playground. His toes dangled in the grass, and he shuffled them, barely moving the swing as he did so. He stared at the treeline just past the field of grass and the patch of concrete for basketball. In his imagination, the world slowly faded away and became a better place.
He had an arm hooked around one of the chains and he rested his temple against the links. He could barely move and felt as if a crowd of hornets swarmed all over his back, stinging every inch of him, repeatedly. His lips were lined with bite marks from his attempts at holding back a scream all day. Even in the midst of so many people, he felt utterly alone in the universe of pain.
Aaron couldn’t ignore the playful noises all around him and looked over at the playground. A handful of kids, preschoolers and pre-teens mostly, ran screaming through the grass and over the play equipment. Parents sat on benches or in nearby cars, watching their children or reading books. Unnoticed, Aaron gazed at the slides sloping into the sand and the children cascading down them. Two little girls with blond pigtails leapt off the teeter-totter and ran chattering to their mommy in the grass. Mommy handed out crackers and laughed along with their childish jokes. One boy with a crop of sandy hair tripped on a wooden step and skinned his knee. Daddy was at his side in an instant, consoling, wrapping the wound with his kerchief.
Aaron watched expressionless.
Another little boy started fussing because his mom said it was time to go home for dinner. “I’m not done yet!” he whined, running just out of her reach.
“We’ll come again later. Time to go.” His mom scooped him up. “I’ll make waffles with berries and real maple syrup!”
“I want to go down the slide one more time!”
Go home with your mom, you little brat, thought Aaron as the tantruming child got carried into his mother’s car. You don’t know how lucky you are.
Just as the car left, a light blue minivan pulled up, and a small family clambered out. Aaron had never seen them before. The mother, holding a bunch of maps, had a pale complexion and wavy brown hair, but her three children had darker, almost chocolate skin. The boy and two girls left their mom on a bench and ran across the field, all shouting to each other about where they wanted to play first. The boy, about twelve and probably the second oldest, had a basketball and headed straight for the tall, metal hoop. His two sisters raced past Aaron to scramble up the playset. Aaron watched their smiling faces and listened to their radiant chatter as they crossed the monkey bars like gymnasts. They didn’t know a trouble in the world.
Suddenly a ball bounced off Aaron’s knee. He gasped in surprise and saw the darker-skinned boy come running after his ball.
“Sorry!” the boy called out. “It hit the edge of the hoop. Woulda been a clean shot otherwise!”
“No big deal,” muttered Aaron.
Collecting his ball, the boy looked warily at Aaron’s gloomy expression. “Do you want to play with me?”
Aaron shook his head. “I’m fine here. Thanks.”
Without another word, the boy went back to shooting hoops.
Aaron knew he should head home now. Any later and his parents might get angry. Angrier than usual, that is. But Aaron couldn’t move.
Only minutes later, one of the little girls came running to the boy with the ball. “Hey!” she interrupted his solo game.
“What now, Desiree?”
“Where’s the bathroom?”
“How should I know?” The boy then turned to the swingset. “Hey, you kid!”
Aaron looked up, a little annoyed. That kid calling him kid was several years younger!
But he meant no harm. “Can you tell us where the nearest restroom is?”
Aaron pointed wordlessly to the brick stall over by the covered picnic tables. Desiree took off running with her big brother watching to make sure she made it safely.
Aaron looked the stranger over. “You aren’t from around here, are you?” he asked quietly.
“Nope. Mama and the girls and I are on vacation. We’re driving to D.C.”
“Chicago.” The boy gave a weak, half-grin, as if trying to show some sense of pride for his city. It came across as a wince.
“Hm.” Aaron sighed. “Well, I hope you enjoy your trip.”
“Trying to.” The boy let the ball fall and caught it again as it bounced back up. His voice had somehow lost some level of self-protection. For a second, he actually sounded vulnerable. Sad. Maybe a little scared.
Just then, Desiree bolted out of the outhouse and, with a territorial shout, rejoined her sister on the play equipment. Her brother glanced at her then back at Aaron.
“Have you lived here all your life?” he asked.
“Some of it. Some of the time.” Aaron looked down again.
The boy seemed to have detected the dejected tone of Aaron’s voice. He set down his ball at his feet and crossed his arms. “Hey, are you okay?”
It would have been easy to say yes, to pass off an emotionless fib and forget about it. Aaron didn’t know this kid, and chances were he’d never see him again. They had nothing in common other than their status as total strangers.
But Aaron couldn’t lie to this boy. He didn’t know why. The boy wasn’t looking for a fight or for a reason to mock him. This boy cared. Besides, he was only passing through town. He wouldn’t tattle to anyone Aaron knew, and soon he’d be gone for good.
“No,” said Aaron in a faint, choked voice. “I’m not okay.”
The boy furrowed his brow, unsure how to respond.
Aaron felt his eyes burn with tears. He bit his lip again and forced his gaze downward. “Someone hurt me,” he whispered.
He could hear the birds, the wind, and the children’s joyful shrieks more clearly now that he and the boy had fallen silent. Aaron’s lip quivered; he twisted his mouth and wiped his eyes with his knuckle.
“I’ll be fine,” he mumbled. “Go back to your game.”
Instead, the boy sat down on the swing at Aaron’s right. His legs were shorter than Aaron’s and dangled even higher off the ground. They sat silently for a minute, and Aaron did all he could to hold back tears. His fist became so tightly curled on the chain, he knew the links would remain imprinted in his palm for a while afterward. He trembled as though the temperature in the park had suddenly plummeted to below zero.
Then the boy at his side spoke, very softly: “Someone hurt me, too.”
Aaron glanced up at him and saw his tears mirrored in this young stranger’s eyes. The boy understood, somehow, and he was suddenly a companion. They didn’t need to say anything more. They both knew enough.
Aaron was a little surprised to find the boy’s hand outstretched. He reached out his own hand and clasped the boy’s. The hand felt small and clammy. It squeezed Aaron’s right back.
They sat for awhile on the swings, dangling their feet in the grass, holding hands, saying nothing, but sharing what they could — a peaceful silence. A break. A moment of knowing they were not suffering alone. Aaron found that his hand stopped shaking and his chest felt less tight. Even his many concealed welts and bruises stopped stinging so badly. He found renewed courage for the prospect of going back home.
Only a few short minutes passed before the boy’s mother folded her maps and began calling to her children. The dark-skinned boy released Aaron’s hand, slid off his swing, and picked up his ball. Aaron watched as he turned to join his sisters.
“I’m Aaron, by the way. What’s your name?”
“Have a good vacation, Derek,” said Aaron, and he meant every word.
The boy smiled, then ran off to the minivan. As Aaron watched the mother interacting with her children, he knew she didn’t hurt them. There was someone else, someone back in Chicago, perhaps, someone monstrous. The very thought made Aaron’s heart ache, and he said a silent prayer for this young stranger named Derek. He prayed that Derek would overcome whatever he was going through, and that he would not be destroyed by his secret burden.
And, God? I wouldn’t mind meeting him again someday. Think You could arrange that somehow?-----------------------
As a child, the Criminal Minds character FBI Special Agent Derek Morgan was molested by his basketball coach. This backstory was based on the tragic real-life childhood of James T. Clemente, a now retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent of Quantico’s real Behavioral Analysis Unit. Like the fictional Derek Morgan, Clemente was sexually abused by a mentor, which ultimately drove him to specialize in the field of Child Sexual Victimization. Through his career, both before and after joining the FBI, Clemente did undercover work, brought a serial child molester to justice (the same one who abused him), and even worked as a first responder at the World Trade Center on 9/11, where he contracted lymphoma. While recovering from this disease, Clemente met Mandy Patinkin, who was doing research for his role of FBI SSA Jason Gideon on Criminal Minds. Through his acquaintance with Patinkin, Clemente became a consultant for Criminal Minds, a show that he strives to make extremely accurate in hopes of raising awareness about the BAU to law enforcement agencies nationwide. In addition to consulting, Clemente has written several episodes.
Like other forms of abuse, child sexual abuse is devastating. It doesn’t help that, by federal law, the age of consent is a minimum of thirteen years old. In some jurisdictions, a pedophile might assault a 13-year-old child and then argue that it was consensual. As Morgan’s abuser, Carl Buford, claims in Season 2 Episode 12, “Look, Derek, I never hurt you. You could have said no.” Children do not understand this concept nor can they understand what is being done to them. While physical abuse can be extremely harmful and also affect a child’s psychology, sexual abuse is harmful on many additionally complex levels because it warps a child’s understanding of sexuality. While the vast majority of molested children do not grow up to repeat the cycle of sex abuse (it works differently with the “cycle of violence”), their lives are forever impacted. Some may struggle with the effects all their lives. But as with physically abused children, those who are molested can find healing and release from their past. God’s love is transformative and restorative.