It was December 23rd when they got the case; six teenaged girls all abducted and murdered in the past three weeks, with a seventh abducted that morning. Derek Morgan suppressed the sigh that rested in his chest, trying to push aside the brief feeling of regret. They were supposed to be spending the day finishing up paperwork and then have the next three days off, but all the other BAU teams were already out on cases - the holidays were a busy time for the FBI - and this couldn't wait. Darcy Milligan couldn't wait.
Reid was already flipping through his copy of the case file at super-speed, his face thoughtful and expressive as he processed the information. Hotch took one look at the pictures that were spread out on the table, pictures of the dump sites of each of the six victims along with a school picture of Darcy Milligan who was so far only missing, his hand already in his pocket reaching for his cellphone.
Gideon held up one hand as Hotch turned toward the door. "We've got this, Hotch. Go home to your wife," he said, his nod communicating more than his words.
Hotch paused, his cellphone still held tightly in one hand.
"Do you have plans these next few days, Reid?" Gideon asked.
Reid looked up from the file folder and shook his head, taking a quick glance around the room before responding. "No plans."
"Morgan?" Gideon asked, turning to him.
Derek set down the photograph he'd been holding, the one of Darcy who was possibly still alive, and shrugged. "Free as a bird," he said. Truthfully he'd been planning on flying up to Chicago to see his mom and his sisters, but he hadn't gotten around to buying plane tickets yet. He would say that was because he never knew if a case was going to come up, but any profiler would have suggested that it was because he actually didn't really want to go. He loved his mom and sisters, a lot, but that didn't make spending the holidays at his childhood home any easier. At least this way he could say he was on a case and that he'd fly over if they finished soon.
Besides, it wouldn't be fair to send Reid on a case with Gideon all by himself over Christmas.
"There you go," GIdeon said to Hotch, spreading his hands in the air like he had solved the problem and there was nothing more to be said about the matter.
Hotch glanced at the team and then down to the case spread out over the round table, indecision clear on his face. Finally he nodded and slipped in cellphone back into his pocket. "Call me the instant you need me, I can be on the next flight out."
They all nodded even though Derek knew that they'd have to be pretty desperate before they called him.
"I'll call ahead and smooth things over with the local field office, make sure they're set up for your arrival," Hotch said, taking a long look at the pictures again before leaving the room.
"Wheels up in thirty," Gideon said to Derek and Reid before following Hotch out.
Derek looked around the room, pausing to take a closer look at one of the dump site pictures before turning to where Reid was perched on the edge of the table and staring intently at one of the pages. "Well, pretty boy. This is going to be an interesting trip," Derek said, trying to stay upbeat.
Reid looked up, his eyes taking a few seconds to focus on Derek. "I think that the unsub is involved in their schools somehow. The victims are from three separate schools, but look at their schedules."
"We'll talk about it on the plane. I hope you packed an extra sweater," Derek said, leaning over and tugging on the sleeve of the slightly too large knitted sweater that Reid had pulled over his collared shirt. "Come on."
They packed up the case files quickly and twenty minutes later were out on the chilly tarmac bidding farewell to Hotch and climbing on the jet that would speed them to New York City.
It had been surprisingly easy to catch a cab, Gideon sitting up front with the driver and Derek and Reid in the backseat, despite the holiday rush of people coming to the city to visit their families or see the city during the holidays. Gideon had quickly urged the chatty cab driver to silence, but when Derek had glanced over to Reid to share an eyebrow raise at Gideon's social quirks he had instead found Reid plastered to the window and peering out as they drove into the city proper.
The cab was quiet, now that Gideon had silenced the driver and requested that the radio be turned off, and instead of looking through the case file again or looking out at the city itself, Derek found himself watching Reid instead. Reid had craned his head down to get the best view possible, his longer hair tumbling down and mostly obscuring his face. Derek could understand; New York City went all out during Christmas and it was something of a spectacle to see for the first time.
They arrived at the Federal Plaza that housed the New York City Field Office quickly enough, the early afternoon traffic allowing them to slip through with a minimum of delays. As Gideon paid the cab driver, Derek climbed out of the cab and held the door so that Reid could crawl out after him.
Standing at the edge of the street, tall buildings and Christmas lights visible at every turn, Derek tugged his jacket closed against the chill and turned to find Reid staring up at all the buildings surrounding them.
"You've never seen New York at Christmas?" Derek asked, remembering his first visit in December when he'd been 17 and traveling with the high school basketball team. He'd seen plenty of city life in Chicago, but there was something about New York that made it seem like it went on forever in lights and noise and people.
"I've never seen New York at all, except on TV and in pictures of course," Reid said, finishing his small circle and turning back to Derek. "Vegas caters to tourists during the holidays, but it's still nothing like this."
Derek was briefly surprised and had to remind himself that Reid was only 22 and probably hadn't had the chance to do much traveling before joining the BAU. With all of Reid's degrees Derek should probably be impressed that the kid knew his way around outside of a library. "Tell you what, we finish up here with enough time left over and we can spend a day seeing the sights. I'll show you around," he offered, a little surprised by himself but immediately acknowledging that spending a day or two playing tourist with Reid did sound infinitely better than going to see his family. Maybe he'd spend a long weekend with them in January, after all the holiday hype had died down.
Reid's expression brightened and he peered down the street. "The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building Library is supposed to have one of the largest and best maintained collections of anthropology and sociology research material in the region."
"Absolutely not. We're doing fun things, not research." Derek rolled his eyes and slung an arm around Reid's shoulder, wincing inwardly as the motion pulled on the still healing wound near his shoulder. He'd been lucky that the bullet hadn't done any serious damage that required surgery or physical therapy, but it still throbbed and pulled every time he fired his gun or tackled an unsub. He might have exaggerated his readiness to be back in the field by just a little, but it had been far better spending another week sitting around the office doing endless paperwork. It wasn't so much that he hated the paperwork, but he did hate being left behind while the rest of the team was out.
"Research is fun," Reid said stubbornly as they started toward the entrance of the building with Gideon leading the way.
Derek attributed the harsh chill from the wind to why Reid didn't immediately pull away from him and tugged Reid slightly closer as they walked. "So you keep telling me. But we'll have fun, I promise."
Reid ducked out from under his arm as they entered the building, raising his eyebrows and adjusting the satchel slung over his shoulder. "You promise?"
"Of course I do. When have I steered you wrong?" Derek asked, glaring in jest when Reid opened his mouth to enumerate any number of instances.
They grew quiet and serious again as they walked into an elevator with Gideon. The violent crimes unit would be waiting for them on the 23rd floor and the weight of the case they were working on settled down on them again. Derek knew the chances weren't good that they'd be able to find Darcy Milligan alive, even though the time frame between abductions and deaths varied from victim to victim, but they were going to do their damned best.
It was past ten at night on Christmas day when they arrived back at the hotel, Derek doing his level best to ignore the throbbing just below his shoulder joint and the still slightly sodden and frozen griminess of his pants. They had rescued Darcy Milligan and the unsub was in custody; that was all that mattered. Reid had been right about it being someone affiliated with the local school system and it rankled slightly that it had taken so long to get all the information they needed to figure out that it was a judge from debate club tournaments that the victims had all attended during the fall and early winter.
The two rooms that they'd managed to book were at opposite ends of the hotel. When they'd checked in, Derek had handed over the single occupancy room key to Gideon without a word; it would have been nice to have his own space, but Gideon was the senior agent and Derek usually shared rooms with Reid when they were required to double up on cases. Morgan turned toward the elevator, thinking longingly of a hot shower, clean clothes, aspirin, and then at least eight hours sleep.
"Goodnight, Gideon," Reid called as Gideon separated from their small group.
Derek watched as Gideon turned in the opening of the hallway, Gideon's eyes focusing on Reid before adjusting to encompass Derek as well.
"Goodnight, Spencer, Derek. Merry Christmas," Gideon said, his voice clear yet his expression distant like he was watching them from a great distance.
"You too, man," Derek replied, saved from any further awkwardness as the doors to the elevator opened.
Reid gave one of his odd waves, not seeming to notice or care that Gideon had already turned and was already halfway down the hall.
Derek leaned against the wall of the elevator as it took them up to the third floor. He had taken a moment in the morning, before they'd left for the local field office because he knew his mom would already be awake, and called home to wish everyone happy holidays. They had been conspicuously silent on the subject of Derek's absence, as they usually were - most likely in hopes that if they didn't make a big deal of things Derek would eventually come home, but wished him luck on the case. If Derek believed in luck or coincidence, he might suggest that talking with his mom had helped them solve the case as it was the recollection of the mother of the fourth victim that had led them to the unsub, but as it was he just noted that hearing his mom's voice had reassured him in a way that he hadn't known he still needed.
Watching as Reid restlessly ran his fingertips along the zipper of the sweater he wore under his coat, Derek wondered if Reid had taken the time to call his own family or if he even had anyone to call. He suspected that Reid came from a single parent household, missing a father figure if his attachment and deference to Gideon was anything to go by, but he had never seen any indication that Reid was actually estranged from any remaining family members. If anything, Reid seemed almost half oblivious to the holiday season, stopping at odd moments to watch a group of carolers in the distance or examine the decorations in the neighborhoods they'd stopped in. It would all mean something, Derek was sure, if he took the time to piece it together, even though he wouldn't out of respect for what little privacy they managed to maintain within the team.
"First shower," Derek said automatically as he unlocked the door to the room they were sharing. He had tackled the unsub in a snowy embankment, after all, and the resulting chill from being damp for most of the afternoon hadn't gone away.
Reid nodded, focusing his thoughtful and intense gaze on Derek for a brief moment before moving past him to set his bags on the double bed he'd claimed as his. "Knock yourself out," he said, the phrase sounding just barely stilted coming from Reid.
Derek fished a few things out of his bag, suppressing a grimace as his body protested the change in movement, and walked into the small bathroom. He'd been fine before he'd spent an hour in the interrogation room and another two hours helping to wrap up the case, but the rough tackle and struggle from when he'd taken down the unsub were now echoing in his muscles and bones.
The shower warmed up quickly and Derek climbed in, carefully rolling his shoulders to try and relieve the tension in his back while he leaned into the water. He let himself have ten full minutes to decompress. Pushing the images of the case to the back of his mind while keeping what was useful was a trick that he'd picked up working as a cop and he'd gotten much better at it with years of practice. Once he felt remotely human again - and could properly feel his toes - he turned off the water and dried off. He climbed into sweat pants before wiping a patch of the mirror clear and examining his upper arm.
The area around the still healing bullet wound was deeply bruised and Derek was pretty sure he hadn't helped matters by throwing himself at the fleeing unsub. When they had tumbled to the ground, Derek had briefly lost his grip on the man when his shoulder had collided with the pavement and the momentarily stunning pain of being shot had flooded back to him. Acknowledging that the lingering pain had been bothering him through the remainder of the case, Derek dug in his toiletries bag for the bottle of aspirin he kept there. Finding it empty, he briefly considered asking Reid if he could borrow some, but figured that would only cause Reid to worry and become watchful as he had right after Morgan had first been shot. It would be better to go down to the lobby and purchase another bottle from the small convenience stand they had set up.
Carefully pulling on a clean shirt, and after years in various law enforcement activities he was very skilled at getting dressed without aggravating the wounds and aches that came with the job, Derek gathered up the rest of his things and went back out into the main room. He squared away his bag, they hadn't settled on plans for the next day yet but it never hurt to be prepared, and grabbed his wallet and cell phone before shoving his feet into his still slightly damp shoes.
"I'll be right back," he said, glancing over to where Reid was sitting at the desk and writing rapidly.
Reid looked up, focusing on Derek for a long moment before nodding.
Derek paused, getting the feeling that Reid's nod hadn't so much as been acknowledging that he'd heard what Derek had said and more in response to some internal conversation. Leaving the room, Derek thought about Reid on the elevator ride down to the lobby and then all the way back again, pausing in the lobby to take two of the aspirin, before deciding that he was trying to interpret signals that weren't there and that Reid wasn't behaving any more oddly than usual. There had been moments over the course of the past few days where Reid had looked like he was trying to say something, but he had always backed away and refocused on the case when Derek approached him. Probably something uncomfortable about the holiday season, Derek figured; it was a difficult time for most of them.
When he opened the door to their room, already wondering how late they would be allowed to sleep in, Derek decided that he should reevaluate his conclusion. "Good shower?" he asked, pushing the door closed behind him.
Reid blinked, looking down to where he was clutching a towel around his waist like he'd forgotten he was holding it there, and then looked back up at Derek. A trail of water from Reid's hair ran down the side of his neck and slide down his chest toward the towel.
It wasn't like Derek had never seen Reid in a towel before, they'd changed in the locker rooms at Quantico on more than one occasion after working on their hand to hand skills, but Derek had never seen Reid linger in a state of undress before. Usually Reid was in and out of his clothes like he'd never been undressed at all. Realizing that he'd been staring for longer than was appropriate, Derek looked away and went to his bed. He sat down on the edge, facing the wall and as away from Reid as he could possibly get, and kicked off his shoes and put his wallet and the aspirin bottle away.
Glancing back, Derek saw that Reid was still standing near the bathroom, still in his towel with water still occasionally dripping from his hair and shoulders down his chest. "You should probably put on some clothes before you catch a cold," Derek said, deciding that if Reid wanted to cavort about in a towel it was his own damn business, but Derek was going to go to bed regardless. He pulled back the blankets on his bed and got busy arranging his pillows the way he liked them.
"Actually, it's a myth that being wet in cold temperatures will lead to catching one of the viruses that are loosely referred to as the 'common cold'. As viruses they're passed as a contagion, not manifesting from environmental factors, though body temperature has been shown to potentially play a role in susceptibility once the virus is present," Reid explained, sounding far too serious for someone standing dripping wet in a towel in the middle of a hotel room.
Derek shook his head. "Whatever," he said with a shrug and a smile. Reid had facts and statistics for just about everything, he shouldn't still be surprised after almost four months of Reid blurting out whatever bizarre piece of information he felt the burning need to share. He walked away from the bed, intent on turning the main light in the room off so he could sleep. Reid liked to leave one of the lamps on or the bathroom light on with the door partway open, but that didn't bother Derek. He'd had a nightlight in his room well into his teens, and couldn't really begrudge Reid any extra security that he needed while they were on cases.
He had his hand resting over the light switch when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Derek turned, surprised to find Reid standing right next to him with his eyes wide and intent, almost like he was afraid. Before Derek could ask what was wrong, Reid leaned in, closing his eyes at the last second and pressing his lips against Derek's in a strange and clumsy approximation of a kiss.
It took Derek longer than he should have to pull back, placing his hands on Reid's damp and bare shoulders to guide him back a step. Deciding that he shouldn't make a big deal about it, probably embarrass the kid further than he already was, he aimed for gentle yet amused instead of the sliver of desire that shuddered through him. "What was that?"
"A kiss?" Reid asked, the hand not holding onto his towel reaching up to clasp onto Derek's forearm.
Derek forced himself to smile. "I realize that. I mean, kid, I'm flattered. But," he paused as he tried to find the words that would send Reid to his own bed without ruining their working relationship.
"Don't lie," Reid said, looking directly into Derek's eyes.
"What?" Derek asked, unhooking Reid's hand from his arm and taking a step back.
"Don't lie to me. I've seen you watching other men, and I've seen you watching me the same way," Reid went to fold his arms but had to abort the movement to grab where the end of his towel had come untucked.
Derek automatically smoothed his expression into something that would cover both his surprise and sudden resentment. He wouldn't have been surprised if Gideon had known about his bisexuality, or that he had maybe looked at Reid with a certain level of interest once or twice, but for Reid to have noticed felt profoundly uncomfortable. "Look, I never meant it like that," he began.
"Yes you did. Your pupils dilate when you've looked at me during situations in which you find my appearance arousing," Reid said as though this explained everything.
"What?" Derek asked again.
"Just a few minutes ago, when you walked in the room and saw me, the pupils of your eyes dilated when there was no change in the level of light," he continued.
Derek held his hands up in surrender and moved so that he could sit down on the end of his bed. He hadn't won an argument that rested on technicalities with Reid yet and he suspected it wasn't in his near future either. "Reid, I like you, but it's not going to happen."
"Why not?" Reid asked, his shoulders hunching ever so slightly as he shuffled back a step.
"It wouldn't be good for the team, and don't think that Gideon and Hotch wouldn't figure it out, because they would," Derek warned him.
Reid shifted uncomfortably. "I'm not asking you to be my boyfriend. I know that you wouldn't, that I'm not… That you're not interested in me in that way."
"But you just said," Derek said, a little confused as to what Reid was getting at.
"I said that your body is aroused by mine; physiologically, not romantically," Reid stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Derek raised an eyebrow. "You're saying you want to hook up with me for the night?" he asked incredulously.
Reid shrugged and looked away. "I want to be with you, and if this is the only chance I'll ever get then I want that."
"Why?" Derek asked, resisting the urge to sigh. It had been a long day, a long few days actually, and why couldn't this have happened when he was in a mental space where he could deal with it logically?
"I like you, and you want to have sex with me. I don't see why we can't-" Reid broke off and turned away. A moment later he had turned the main light in the room off and had fled to the bathroom.
Derek did actually sigh that time, pressing the palm of his hands against his temples. This was why mild, unrequited crushes on coworkers were supposed to stay unrequited. He left the lamp near Reid's bed on and climbed into his own, figuring he'd give Reid fifteen minutes to come out before he went knocking on the bathroom door to make sure that he was alright.
It was ten minutes later when Reid came out, dressed in plaid flannel pajamas and looking thoroughly miserable and yet somehow adorable as well.
Deciding that he didn't know if he could live with himself if he did what he was about to do, but sure he couldn't leave things as they were, Derek reached out when Reid made to climb into his own bed. "Reid. Spencer, come here."
Reid looked at him for a moment, his suspicion and uncertainty clear yet he moved to Derek with just that brief second of hesitation.
Derek moved back so there was space for Reid next to him and tugged him down until they were both on the bed and under the covers. He carefully placed an arm over Reid's body, aiming for comforting but not restrictive.
"Morgan?" Reid asked. "What's going to happen?"
Derek pressed his forehead against the back of Reid's head, his still damp hair brushing against Derek's eyelids. "Nothing tonight. We'll figure it out, okay?"
It took a minute or two but Reid finally nodded.
"Don't ever settle for less than what you want, pretty boy. Don't give someone that just because you think they want it, even if you think you might like them," Derek whispered, not even sure if Reid was listening.
Derek wasn't sure when he fell into a restless sleep, but he knew he hadn't gotten nearly enough sleep when there was a sharp knock at the door. He got out of bed immediately, knowing from the way that Reid rolled over that he wasn't really awake yet, and opened the door as far as it would go with the chain still on. He blinked, closed the door and unhooked the chain, and then reopened the door to the same sight.
"Gideon?" Derek asked, suddenly more awake than he wanted to be.
"There were three explosions in government buildings in Seattle early this morning, the local field office asked for our team specifically. I've already called Hotch and he's catching the first commercial flight. Can you and Reid be ready in thirty minutes?" Gideon asked, looking slightly tussled but he already had his bag over his shoulder.
"We'll meet you in the lobby," Derek said, letting the door fall shut as Gideon walked away with his cellphone still open in his hand.
Derek turned to where Reid was sprawled out in the bed they'd shared, wondering if Gideon had been distracted enough to not notice that only one bed had been slept in. He doubted it; Gideon noticed everything whether or not he chose to remark upon it.
He sat down on the edge of the bed and shook Reid's shoulder, trying to ignore the fact that the alarm clock read just before six in the morning. "Wake up, pretty boy. We're going to have to save sight seeing for another time."