Sometimes Spencer Reid hated having an eidetic memory. Sure, there were many things that an eidetic memory helped with, and remembering every place he’d ever been, every word he’d ever read, and every person he’d ever met had come in handy in his line of work more times than he could reasonably count. Except if he thought about it for any length of time, he was sure that he could reasonably count them.
When Reid woke up one morning in summer, he had no idea that it was going to be the start of the most awkward day for him in terms of his eidetic memory. He woke up as usual, took a shower as usual, drank several cups of coffee as usual, and made his way to work as usual. He got to work and started in on the massive pile of paperwork that plagued their jobs—as usual—and watched as the other team members filed in in varying states of chipper, sleepy, and grumpy.
Garcia came to say her customary bubbly hellos before secreting her way into her lair, exchanging varied innuendos with Morgan, whose replies were halfhearted and had been since he had recently broken up with his girlfriend. Morgan hadn’t shared the details of what led to their breakup, but he’d been grouchy more or less since it had happened. Rossi came in looking like he could use another cup of coffee, and JJ appeared as perfectly put-together as always. Blake’s desk still sat empty—they hadn’t managed to find a suitable replacement for her yet, and part of Reid was secretly hoping they never would. That post seemed cursed—and Reid was tired of meeting and becoming close with the people (inevitably women) who filled the post only to have them move on.
Reid sighed and drank his fourth cup of coffee to the sounds of clicking keys and soft conversation until Hotch’s head poked out of his office. They all automatically looked up at the appearance of their boss.
“Meet in the conference room in ten. We have a case,” Hotch said in his usual businesslike manner before disappearing back into his office without preamble. Reid pursed his lips thoughtfully as he wondered what their new case would be—something that would take his mind off their newest team member’s departure, he hoped, as he absently rubbed at the still-raw, forming scar on his neck from their last case together.
And that was how Reid ended up sitting in the conference room for what was undoubtedly the most awkward briefing of his life.
“We have two victims thus far, both found in the greater Los Angeles area. Both male, both Caucasian and roughly of the same age. Both suffered blunt force injury to the head and were stabbed multiple times. Cause of death on both victims is blood loss from the stabbing,” Hotch prefaced, letting Garcia press the buttons on the remote to bring up the image of the first victim.
“The first victim’s name is Paul Dunn, age thirty-seven,” Hotch said, and a picture of the man’s body—nude, facedown, and bearing some visible bruising on his torso—dumped in what looked like the area behind a store, next to dumpster. There was also bruising around his wrists, indicating he’d been restrained.
“He was found three weeks ago behind a supermarket with seven stab wounds to the chest,” Hotch continued, and Reid mentally catalogued the information—the stab wounds weren’t visible in the initial shot because he’d been stabbed in the front but dumped facedown. “He was reported missing the day before by his mother when she couldn’t get in contact with him, but investigation revealed that he hadn’t been heard from for more than two days prior, indicating that he may have been held for up to three days. Head wound is partially healed, indicating that he may have been hit over the head by some sort of blunt object and incapacitated before he was taken.”
Garcia hit the button again and brought up a picture of the man’s face—and Reid felt like someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on him. Reid never forgot a face, and he knew that face. The name hadn’t struck him at first—how many Paul Dunns must there be in the world?—but there was no mistaking the face.
For a moment, Reid felt as though he was going to hyperventilate, and he had to force himself to gulp in a deep breath. With 3.858 million people living in Los Angeles according to the most recent census, what were the chances he’d recognize a random victim, even if he had lived in the area for so many years while attending Caltech? He’d aged, certainly, since Reid had seen him, but it was unmistakably the same man.
Reid suppressed the very rare urge to curse and tried to bring his mind back to the case. The man wasn’t a friend, wasn’t someone he’d known well. Was someone he’d barely known at all. It wasn’t relevant, and there was no reason for it to distract him from the case. Or so Reid told himself.
“The second victim’s name was Kirk Graves, forty years old,” Hotch plunged on, obviously unaware of Reid’s persistent inner dialogue as Garcia pulled up a second picture, nearly identical to the first. “He was found three days ago, dumped in a similar manner to the first victim. Nine stab wounds to the chest, found dumped behind a motel in Burbank. He was also reported missing two days prior by his partner when he failed to come home the previous night and he also suffered blunt force trauma to the head that was partially healed.”
Garcia pulled up an image of the second man’s face, and Reid was more than certain that he was going to vomit very soon. Because he knew this man as well; there was absolutely no mistaking it. He remembered the face—fifteen years older now, but no less attractive for it—as if he’d seen it just yesterday.
“What’s the connection between the victims?” that was Morgan’s voice popping up and jerking Reid out of his reverie. His heart was still beating uncomfortably fast.
“As far as the local police can tell, there is only one—both victims were homosexual. Victim number two was in a committed relationship with his partner, and victim one was single but openly gay,” Hotch explained succinctly. “As far as the local police can tell, though, they don’t seem to have known each other. I’m going to have Garcia look into it and see if there is some deeper connection, but for the time being, we have to assume there is a possibility that these are some kind of hate crime. The local gay community is on high alert. We need to catch this guy. Wheels up in twenty.”
They all took that as the dismissal that it was, but Reid lingered in his seat for a minute, his mind racing even faster than usual, wondering what was the correct course of action in this situation. His connection to these men was probably totally irrelevant—it had been fifteen years since he’d seen either one of them—but didn’t he have to disclose a connection to his boss? Could he disclose that connection?
A hand on his arm shocked him out of inner battle. He looked up to see Morgan staring down at him with a concerned expression. “Reid, you okay?” he asked, his brow furrowed. “You’re looking a little spaced-out there.”
Reid looked around to realize that his other colleagues had already left the room, and he felt himself flush in embarrassment. “I…yeah, sorry, I’m fine. Just got lost in my own head for a minute,” Reid said, mentally hitting himself the second the words came out of his mouth. He was a genius and he couldn’t think of a better excuse than that on the fly?
Morgan, however, seemed to take the comment at face value. “With all that’s goin’ on in your head, pretty boy, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often,” the older man remarked, ruffling Reid’s hair affectionately as he made his way out of the room. “Let’s get a move on, kid.”
Reid felt his heart warm at the affectionate treatment by his colleague—who had gradually become his best friend over the years. And then his stomach fell as he thought about how Morgan’s easy affection toward him might change—inevitably would change—if anything about Reid’s connection to this case came out. Reid swallowed thickly, but even as he thought that, he knew he needed to come clean to his boss. He didn’t think it was likely, but if his connection to the case came out from another source, it would be even worse. At least this way, he could have a tiny bit of control over the message and how it got out.
Steeling himself, he stood up and made his way to his boss’ office, tapping gently on the doorframe because Hotch had left the door ajar. “Come in!” Hotch called, obviously distracted as he double-checked one of the pockets of his go bag, which was sitting atop his desk. He looked up, surprised to see Reid standing there, awkwardly, in the doorframe.
“What is it, Reid?” Hotch asked, his voice stuck in that odd compromise between frazzled and annoyed while still trying to be accommodating. A new case could do that to Hotch.
Reid cleared his throat nervously. “I…I need to talk to you about something before we leave,” he prefaced slowly, again rubbing at the scar tissue on his neck. It was becoming a bit of a nervous habit for him. “It’s about the case.”
That piqued Hotch’s interest instantly, and the frazzled man was gone, replaced at once by the all-business leader and commander. “What is it? Why didn’t you bring it up in the briefing room?”
Reid shifted nervously between his feet before moving all the way into the office and sliding the door shut behind him. Hotch seemed surprised when Reid moved to sit at the chair in front of his desk, but he mirrored Reid’s movements as he sat down, realizing what Reid had to say was serious. Reid began to speak before he lost his nerve.
“I know both of the victims…or, well know is kind of a strong word, I…” Reid trailed off, not quite sure how to finish his thought. Hotch gave him a penetrating look, seeming impatient when his agent didn't move to clarify.
Reid pursed his lips for a moment, figuring there was only one way to move forward, and that was to plow directly on to what he wanted to say.
“I’vehadsexwithbothofthem,” Reid forced out, not taking a breath. Hotch blinked, not understanding the rushed slew of words. Reid took another deep breath, his heart pounding in his chest, before forcing himself to say the words slowly. “I’ve…had sex with both victims.”
It was clear that whatever Hotch had been expecting to hear, it wasn’t that, because Hotch stared at him, speechless, for a good fifteen seconds before he could formulate a response, trying his best to appear unshaken.
“When was this, precisely?”
This, at least, was an easy one. “The first victim, Paul Dunn, was three times in February and March of 1999. The second victim, Kirk Graves, was once on November 22, 1999.”
Hotch blinked twice, but he took Reid’s token specificity in stride much more quickly than he took the younger man’s initial confession, although the topic seemed to make him a little uncomfortable. Reid understood—talking with his boss about his teenage sex life was plenty uncomfortable for him as well.
“You were not in relationships with either of these men?” Hotch tested after a moment.
“Do you believe that they were intimate with other men at the time?”
Reid gulped, but he knew what Hotch was asking. If these men were promiscuous, then it was more than likely that Reid wasn’t the only sexual partner they might have had in common fifteen years ago. And Reid’s connection to the case was only a coincidence.
“I…I know Paul was. He was another student at Caltech, and he had…a reputation,” Reid felt his face heating as he talked about this. He’d never been comfortable talking about sex, not even when he was having it, and certainly not in front of his boss. “The second victim…I’m not sure. I picked him up at a bar for a one-night stand, so one would tend to assume he wasn’t exactly celibate.”
Reid saw the moment Hotch took trying to reconcile the man he knew with a young man—a teenager—who would pick up random strangers at a bar. Hotch frowned.
“You know what this means, Reid, as well as I do. It’s more than likely a coincidence. The chance that this could be in any way related to you is incredibly slim,” the older man said, keeping his composure very admirably.
“I know,” Reid breathed softly, because he’d been thinking that to himself as well, but to hear his boss—and an experienced profiler—reaffirm his opinion was a bit of a relief. “But even so, if you want me off this case—or if you want me to disclose this information to the rest of the team, I understand.” Even if it would kill him to have to discuss this with everyone.
Hotch shook his head without preamble. “I don’t think your actions fifteen years ago are relevant to this case, unless you foresee yourself having trouble investigating considering the circumstances?” Hotch’s words seemed to become a question at the last minute, as though he belatedly realized his younger colleague might have that problem. Reid shook his head adamantly.
“I…no, I have no problem with it. I haven’t seen either of them in fifteen years.”
Hotch nodded again. “Then I see no conflict of interest here, and I don’t see any reason to divulge any information to the rest of the team, unless you feel you would like to.”
Reid’s eyes shot wide as he shook his head adamantly again, moving to get up out of the chair. “I should get ready to leave—” he started, but Hotch’s voice stopped him in his tracks.
“Sit down, Reid.”
Reid sat immediately—he’d always been a sucker for that commanding tone from older men. He eyed his boss questioningly, nervously as he waited to hear why Hotch wanted him to stay. Hotch himself almost seemed reluctant to broach whatever topic he wanted to bring up.
“Reid…I know it’s really none of my business, but why have you kept this a secret from us all these years? Did you feel that we wouldn’t accept you?”
Reid’s brow furrowed. “Kept a secret…that I slept with two random men when I was in college?” he ventured, confused. Hotch seemed compassionate but unamused.
“That you’re gay, Reid,” he supplied kindly. Reid’s eyes widened again as he realized what his boss had meant initially.
“Oh! That, I…well, you see…erm…well to be fair, I’m not sure I’d say I’m gay. I mean, most people aren’t exclusively one or the other, but fall somewhere more toward the middle of the Kinsey scale…”
“Reid.” Hotch said it in that commanding tone again, and Reid realized that he’d been rambling. He swallowed thickly.
“I didn’t…I didn’t set out to keep it a secret,” Reid confessed quietly. “I just…I wasn’t seeing anyone, and so I had no reason to bring it up. Everyone just found it easier to assume I was too awkward to…well, anyway, after we found out about…about Morgan and…what happened to him when he was younger, I was worried about what having a homosexual team member might do to the dynamic of the team.”
Hotch seemed taken aback by the confession, even more so than he had been by Reid’s initial revelation.
“Morgan isn’t a homophobe, Reid,” Hotch pointed out kindly. Reid sighed.
“I know he’s not, but…not actively hating gay people and having to work with one every day, when you were the victim of a male sexual predator in your youth…those are two different things.”
“Homosexuals and pedophiles are not the same thing, and you know that, Reid. And so does Agent Morgan.”
Reid sighed. He knew that Morgan knew that on an intellectual level, of course, but what would Morgan feel if he knew? The easy camaraderie between them, the casual touches, the sense of comfortableness between them would die immediately—Reid was sure of that. And he couldn’t even stand the thought of alienating his best friend. Still, he wasn’t about to argue the point with Hotch.
“I know, sir,” Reid said deferentially, hoping his boss would drop the subject. He did, but not in the way that Reid had been expecting.
“Can I ask you one more thing? What about Maeve?”
Reid smiled softly at the memory of Maeve—even though the memory of her death brought him lots of pain, the sound of her name still brought a rush of warmth to his chest. He’d loved her, certainly, but in more of an intellectual way than anything. He hadn’t even known what she looked like, after all. Not until the end. Whether or not he could have a physical relationship with her…that was a bridge he’d planned to cross when he came to it. Of course, he’d never had to find out.
“I’ve had sex with women a few times,” Reid defended before deflating. “Or…well, twice.”
Oddly, this pronouncement seemed to make Hotch even more uncomfortable than the gay thing had, so Hotch quickly changed the subject again.
“Reid, I just want you to understand…I don’t want you to feel like this is an unwelcome place for you. Like you can’t trust us.”
Reid nodded slowly, a soft smile coming to his face. “I know Hotch, and I don’t feel that way at all. It’s been my choice not to disclose this information, but…I always intended to come clean if I became seriously involved with someone. Keeping it a secret hasn’t been a burden on me, and I haven’t felt as though this is an unsafe environment. Don’t worry.”
Hotch seemed satisfied by his answer. “Okay,” he said, standing up and brushing invisible dust off his pants. “We should get going, then, before the team wonders what’s happened to us.”
Reid nodded, moving to stand up as well.
Garcia came out of her tech lab with her bag, expecting to see the whole team assembled and waiting for her since to Hotch and the rest of the team, twenty minutes usually meant fifteen. Which is why she was surprised to find the rest of the team hovering around their desks, staring at Hotch’s closed office door. Except that one member of the team was conspicuously absent.
“What’s going on? Where’s Reid and Hotch?” she asked as she walked up, heels clicking on the floor. Morgan just frowned and Rossi looked pensive. JJ was the one to finally answer Garcia’s question.
“We’re not sure what’s going on. Reid has been in there for fifteen minutes.”
Morgan’s frown just deepened. “Did you guys think Reid was acting strange at the briefing today?” he queried.
“Reid is always acting a little strange, Morgan—and I mean that in the kindest way possible,” Rossi said, pursing his lips when Morgan wheeled on him, as if about to defend Reid. Morgan calmed at that and settled back down on the edge of his desk, eyeing Hotch’s closed door once again as if it would somehow give him answers.
What seemed like hours later but was actually only another few minutes, the door opened and Reid stepped out, looking startled as he realized the whole team was staring at the door. He shifted uncomfortably, looking as though he’d gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
“I…I’m just going to get my bag and then we can go,” Reid murmured under his breath, shuffling towards his desk awkwardly. Rossi tossed a glance over at Morgan as if to say, ‘That’s what I mean’ before Hotch came out, telling them in no uncertain terms that it was time to leave and silencing any further discussion of Reid for the moment.
Reid sat in the plane, lost in his thoughts as he shuffled through the case file for what seemed like the hundredth time, bypassing the crime scene and autopsy photos every time. For Paul…it was one thing, because he’d known Paul, worked in the lab with Paul. It was Paul who had had a part in inspiring him to pursue his advanced degree in chemistry. They hadn’t been close, but he’d had a very certain part in shaping Spencer Reid’s future. Probably more than he’d known at the time.
But the second victim, Kirk Graves…Reid hadn’t even known his name when they’d slept together or afterward. It seemed like that should have made it easier for him to look at the photos of his body, but somehow that was almost harder. Because when it came to Paul, Reid could picture other things, could picture Paul laughing, Paul studying, Paul enthusiastically explaining chemical equations.
With Kirk, there were only memories of his body, the way that he kissed, the way he held Reid’s hips when they’d had sex. It was disconcerting to see the photos of the nude body and remember the way that same naked man had taken Spencer all those years ago, left bruises and bite marks all over Reid’s body that night—that night that eighteen year old Reid had gone out looking for trouble and been perversely pleased to have found it in spades.
Reid frowned, rubbing his the crook between his neck and his shoulder, remembering the bite mark that Kirk had left there. Remembering the way that the only man he’d really been longing for at the time had glared, eyes full of judgment, at the mark when young Spencer’s too-loose shirt had fallen to expose it.
Paul, though…Paul had been different. Perhaps it was because Paul had known him, sat beside him in class—nearly five years his senior—and known how young, how vulnerable and especially how inexperienced he was at the time. Paul had been sweet when he’d taken Spencer, loved to kiss and guided Spencer through so many of his firsts, shown him how to do it right.
Reid shook those thoughts away for at least the tenth time. Remembering these two men in bed wasn’t going to help find their killer. He tried to turn himself back to the facts, including what they’d gleaned from Garcia when she’d provided additional information about the victims and any possible connections between them. And although Reid awaited her announcements with bated breath, anxious for something, anything to grasp onto that these men had in common besides him, Garcia had come up blank.
Paul worked at a company that developed and tested psychiatric drugs—and Reid remembered that, remembered that one of Paul’s big motivating factors was that his mother had also been schizophrenic; it was one of the things upon which they’d managed to find common ground. He was single, didn’t seem to be active in the gay community, wasn’t registered at a gym and for all intents and purposes seemed to be totally devoted to his work.
Kirk, on the other hand, was a regular social butterfly. A personal trainer, owner of a gay-friendly gym, he had a long-term partner who was apparently HIV positive, and he was active in various charities and fundraisers related to HIV research and treatment. It was strange to see a rundown of this man’s life like this, to see all these little facts of his life Reid hadn’t been privy to when he’d let the man fuck him. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, tall, and muscular, his file also told Reid that he was every bit the ex-jock Reid might have imagined him to be fifteen years ago, when he’d let the man take him home.
And now both men were dead, and the only common thread the authorities could find between them was that they were both gay—and unbeknownst to anyone else besides Hotch, they’d both had sex with Reid in the year 1999. The first assumption, of course, was a hate crime, and the team had bounced that around a little, but it wasn’t an easy option. Kirk Graves was a prominent figure in the gay community—openly in a relationship, specifically creating a gym with a gay-friendly environment and active in charities linked to the LGBT community.
Paul, on the other hand—Reid remembered Paul, and looking at his most recent driver’s license picture, he hadn’t changed much with age. Brown hair and brown eyes, he was the type of man who didn’t stand out, who could blend in anywhere. Fifteen years ago, he could more than pass as straight—and Reid was willing to be that he still could have. He wasn’t in a relationship, wasn’t active in the gay community—so how would anyone know to target him?
Unless, of course, he’d been actively dating or picking up men—then there was the chance he’d been seen doing so, and that had made him their killer’s target. Reid made a mental note to make sure that question was asked.
Reid pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose, feeling a headache coming on. No matter what he did, no matter what mental avenue he tried to pursue or how skeptical Hotch was that Reid’s involvement with these men was relevant, Reid just kept coming back to that, wondering if it could have anything to do with him, regardless of how implausible it sounded. Wondering who could even know, who could even remember about a one-night stand he’d had fifteen years prior. Reid had barely remembered himself until he’d seen their faces again, and he’d been a participant.
Spencer Reid was always determined to catch killers, but he was even more determined this time—if only to ease his own mind.
The team landed and made their way to the local police station without preamble, talking with local law enforcement before Hotch ordered them all off. Garcia began setting up and JJ stayed behind at the station to coordinate with local detectives and interview Kirk Graves’ partner, who had come into the station. Rossi and Hotch went to the morgue, sending Reid and Morgan to interview Paul Dunn’s mother at the facility where she was living. Hotch usually tried to avoid giving the team members assignments that would specifically trigger unpleasant thoughts for them—and interviewing a victim’s schizophrenic mother definitely qualified as that for Reid—but given the choice between that and dealing with the corpse of a man he’d slept with, Reid was actually quite a bit more comfortable with the former. He appreciated what he could only assume was Hotch’s foresight on the matter.
Morgan drove as Reid flipped through the file again, and Reid could feel the other man’s eyes on him the whole time, flicking his way whenever they stopped at a stoplight. Reid mentally timed how long it took for Morgan to say something—and the older man was able to hold out for all of five minutes and twenty-six seconds before the words that were obviously burning in his mind finally came out.
“Reid…are you okay?”
Reid had expected the inquiry, so it wasn’t difficult to keep his reaction neutral. He looked up at his friend with a placid expression. “I’m fine. Why?”
Morgan stopped himself from rolling his eyes at the non-answer—only just. “Well, let’s see. You spent fifteen minutes holed up in Hotch’s office just before we left, you’re acting jumpy as hell, and I haven’t heard your rattle off a single statistic today. Not to mention the way you keep looking at the file even though I know you memorized the whole thing the first time you read it,” Morgan ticked off seriously. “So let me ask you again, kid—what’s wrong?”
Reid pursed his lips, rolling through several possible answers in his head. Morgan was a profiler, though, and a damn good one—he would read through any of Reid’s lies in a second. On the other hand, Reid had no desire to tell him the full truth. In the end, he settled for a half-truth, one they could both live with—and one his colleague would have been able to figure out himself, with enough digging.
“I knew Paul,” he admitted after a moment, pursing his lips as he looked out the window, trying to figure out the best way to frame the situation to placate Morgan. “We had a class together in undergrad at Caltech. That’s what I was talking to Hotch about. I thought he should be informed of a potential conflict of interest.”
There was a moment of silence in the car as Morgan appeared to be mulling over the information. Ultimately, though, he seemed to accept the explanation.
“I’m sorry,” Morgan said finally. “Were you friends?”
Reid shrugged. “We were friendly, but I’m not sure I’d say we were friends,” he said, in as bland a tone as he could manage. “We talked about our mothers. He wanted to develop better drugs to treat schizophrenia.”
There was another long silence. “Well it looks like he got his wish,” Morgan provided at last, referring to Paul’s employment. “Even though you weren’t close, though, I'm sorry. It’s hard to see the body of someone you knew personally.”
Reid pursed his lips. “Yeah,” he agreed slowly. “You should turn left here—it’ll be faster,” he said suddenly, hoping Morgan would give in to his change of subject. Thankfully Morgan did, and they made the rest of the drive in silence.
Morgan handed Reid the keys and flopped into the passenger seat with a sigh of frustration. It was rare that Reid drove, but Morgan was willing to admit that he was more familiar with the area, and his backseat driving had been giving Morgan a bit of a headache.
“Well that was a total bust,” Morgan breathed out as Reid slid into the driver’s seat and started the engine, pulling out the car and guiding them toward Paul’s apartment to take another look to see if there was anything the local police had missed when they’d searched it.
Reid frowned but he silently agreed. Paul’s mother—who had filed the missing person report on him, met with some resistance and stalling by the police, who had been reluctant to believe the word of a mentally ill woman—didn’t have anything to add to the already-established facts or anything to support the theory of a hate crime.
According to the mother, Paul hadn’t kept a secret of his sexuality at his workplace but he hadn’t flaunted it either. He hadn’t been in a relationship in several years and, as far as she knew, he wasn’t actively dating or going out to meet men. That seemed to discount Reid’s theory that being seen picking up another man might have made him a target, although Reid wasn’t necessarily inclined to believe Paul would be totally forthcoming with his mother about his sex life. Which meant that talking to some of Paul’s friends would be imperative in that regard, and they’d at least been able to get a small list of them from his mother.
Paul’s mother had also indicated that there had been no recent changes in Paul’s life, that he hadn’t been acting strange in any way, and that he called and visited her regularly. And that had been about all the useful information they’d been able to get out of her—but Reid was intimately familiar with the difficulties of talking to schizophrenics.
He sighed softly but continued to discuss the results of the interview with Morgan, throwing back and forth theories and ideas but not really landing on anything that seemed to fit. That continued until Reid pulled up in front of Paul’s apartment building. He stopped the car and turned off the engine, but before he could get out, Morgan’s voice stopped him.
“Reid, wait,” he protested, and Reid stopped, hand halfway to the door handle as he turned to Morgan. The older man looked thoughtful for a minute before he continued. “Are you going to be okay looking through this guy’s stuff? Considering you knew him and all.”
Reid huffed out a breath. “I haven’t seen the man in fifteen years, Morgan. It’s fine.”
Morgan frowned and looked for a moment as though he was going to press the issue, but eventually he dropped it and nodded, moving to get out of the car. He followed Reid up the stairs as they let themselves into Paul’s apartment, looking for anything that might help them catch his killer. Paul’s apartment, though, revealed nothing that seemed to contradict with his mother’s assertion that he was wholly dedicated to his work. The bookshelves were lined with scientific journals. It was sparsely furnished and didn’t look particularly lived-in. The only pictures that lined the wall were of Paul and his mother or of Paul’s late father.
Reid was ready to call the visit to Paul’s apartment a bust as well when Morgan’s voice pulled his attention away from his search. “Hey Reid, I think I found something,” Morgan called out from the bedroom, and Reid followed the other man’s voice, seeing the other agent holding a plain black bound book in his hand. There were literally dozens of them lining another bookshelf in the bedroom. “Paul kept journals—for years it looks like. This is the most recent one. Maybe if we read through it, we can see if there were any recent changes in his life that his mother doesn’t know about.”
Reid’s eyes scanned the shelf carefully, seeing the volumes of journals that lined it. Morgan was right—the journals must go back for years, possibly all the way back to his undergrad days as Caltech. He wondered, for a moment, if Paul might have written about him—and he shook that thought away before it could fully form. What would it matter if Paul had written something? ‘Dear Diary, Today I deflowered my seventeen year old genius classmate?’ Would it matter? They had no reason to read the volumes from 1999, if they even went back that far. The team would never see them.
“Let’s take the most recent one with us,” Reid concurred, as levelly as he could manage. “Did you find anything else?”
Morgan shrugged. “Not unless you count his porn and sex toy collection. But I’m not sure ‘Naughty Twink Takes Nine Inches’ is going to help us with the investigation.”
Morgan said the words lightly, but Reid couldn’t help the flush that colored his cheeks, despite his best efforts to stop it. He didn’t know why—the porn tastes of his former lover, especially one so fleeting, shouldn’t embarrass him. But they did, because he was pretty sure Paul was the one who had taught him the word “twink,” had told him he was one.
Reid turned away quickly, trying to hide the blush, but Morgan caught it anyway. “Seriously, kid, what is going on with you?” Morgan asked after a second, and Reid could feel the other man’s eyes burning into the back of his head. “You say you weren’t close with this victim, but you’ve been acting strange since we caught this case.”
Reid remained silent, clawing through his mind for a reasonable explanation that wasn’t ‘This is the man who took my virginity.’ Which was something he hadn’t even told Hotch, despite all he’d revealed to his boss. When no answer was forthcoming from his brain, Reid just shrugged. Morgan barreled on, undaunted.
“I never would have thought—not you, with how open-minded you always are, but Reid…do you have a problem with gay people? Is that what’s bugging you about this case?”
Reid wheeled on the other man, so shocked that his brain literally seemed to stop for a long minute—and that was a feat that Reid wasn’t sure anyone had ever achieved before, save perhaps during very intense sex. Morgan really—really—had no idea.
“Wh…what?” Reid finally managed to force out.
“That’s the only thing left that I can figure. Every time something about these men’s sex lives comes up, you freak.”
Reid opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, wondering how Morgan could possibly come to such a totally wrong conclusion. Clearly he’d learned to pass as straight much better than even he had anticipated. Or perhaps he just managed to pass as totally disinterested in sex; that was another possibility. After a long moment, Reid finally managed to gather his thoughts.
“I don’t have a problem with gay people,” Reid proclaimed seriously, but that was all he was able to manage. Morgan raised a disbelieving eyebrow.
“If you say so.”
Reid pursed his lips but didn’t press the argument. “I didn’t find anything else useful in the apartment. The police already took his day planner into evidence, so I want to take a look at it, and I want to see if I can get anything off of a geographic profile. Let’s get back to the station and reconvene with the team.”
When the whole team reconvened at the station, it seemed that no one had any new leads or evidence. Rossi and Hotch had visited both crime scenes and Kirk Graves’ home, but nothing had panned out from that. JJ’s interview with Graves’ partner seemed to have been about as productive as Morgan and Reid’s interview with Paul’s mother. Paul’s journal had also yielded nothing out of the ordinary in the weeks and months before he was killed. Speaking with the ME had failed to produce any new leads. Basically, they’d hit a dead end. There was an extra police presence in West Hollywood, L.A.’s gay district, but since no one had any idea where or when these men were being taken, that wasn’t doing a whole lot of good.
Which is what led to Reid going over a Los Angeles area map for the thousandth time, hoping to see something that he’d missed. But with only two dump sites, no actual crime scenes and no abduction sites, there wasn’t much he could do with a geographical profile. He had both dump sites marked off on the map as well as both men’s residences and places of employment, but the patterns just weren’t making sense. Paul lived in Glendale and was dumped in West Hollywood…and Kirk lived in West Hollywood and was dumped in Burbank.
The only thing that kept coming up, the only common thread as Reid marked the clear plastic he’d placed over the map, only to erase it and draw on it again, was West Hollywood. It pointed toward an UNSUB who was comfortable enough to blend in in West Hollywood, to know how to get in and out—and dump a body—without drawing any attention.
But that clashed with the idea that this was a hate crime, that these men were targeted specifically because of their homosexuality. An UNSUB whose comfort zone was the gay district of Los Angeles targeting men because they were gay? It could be a man who was gay and fighting his sexuality, but then would he really be comfortable in West Hollywood? Enough to know how, where and when to dump a body without attracting suspicion?
Which kept leading Reid back to considering another motive, another connection between the men. But for all of Garcia’s searching, they hadn’t been able to find anything that linked the men together. Nothing that Reid knew of except himself and their fleeting sexual encounters more than a decade ago.
Hotch was right, of course. If these two men had had casual sex with Reid, they probably had casual sex with other partners. They probably had more men than just Reid in common. Several, maybe dozens. The problem was that Reid didn’t know who any of those men were, didn’t know of anyone but himself. Which brought him right back around to where he’d first been—to the question of who would even know what men Reid had had casual sex with in 1999, to why they would target them, why they would wait fifteen years after the fact to do so.
Hate crime wasn’t making sense, but this wasn’t making any sense either.
Reid only stopped pouring over the maps when Hotch’s commanding voice boomed through the conference room they were using, breaking his concentration.
“Everyone, I think it’s time to call it quits for today. We’re not going to get anywhere further tonight. Let’s look at it with a fresh set of eyes tomorrow morning.”
Hotch said the words clearly and with determination, but Reid knew what they were all thinking, because he was thinking it too. A fresh set of eyes wasn’t going to help them solve this case. The only thing that was going to propel this investigation forward was additional evidence. Which more than likely meant another missing man—or another body.
They had been at the station for less than an hour the next morning before their morbid wish was granted. One of the LAPD detectives walked into their conference room with a resigned expression. “We’ve got a third victim, found dumped this morning in the Hollywood Hills,” he reported grimly. “Driver’s license identifies him as Dominic Harrison, forty-two years old, a pediatric surgeon. They've taken the body to the morgue already but they’re holding the scene for you.”
The detective held out a copy of the man’s driver’s license photo, and Morgan watched as Reid went deathly pale all of a sudden, all the blood seeming to rush out of his face.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Reid muttered under his breath before making his escape from the room. Morgan immediately got up out of his seat to follow, but Hotch grabbed his arm, keeping him from leaving the room. The detective looked back and forth from the door that Reid had just exited to the bizarre behavior of the other two FBI agents, but Hotch took charge of the situation immediately.
“Thank you, Detective—we’ll set out to the crime scene shortly,” he said, his face the perfect mask of professionalism, as if his subordinate hadn’t just run out of the room at the sight of a victim’s driver’s license photo. “We just need to have a quick conference before we leave—we’ll come get you when we’re ready to set off.”
The detective frowned but took the dismissal for what it was, leaving the room with a curt nod. As soon as the door closed behind him, Morgan rounded on his boss with an accusatory expression.
“What the hell was that?” he demanded angrily. “What is going on here?”
Hotch was unruffled by the other man’s anger.
“Morgan, if you could go check on Reid—as was your original intent—and bring him back here as soon as he’s able, that would be appreciated,” Hotch said, nonplussed. Surprisingly, JJ was the one to pipe up at that.
“Morgan’s right, Hotch. We have a right to know what’s going on here,” she argued evenly. “You and Reid have been holding something back.”
“We have,” Hotch admitted, unruffled. “But the only one who can give us answers right now is Reid. So I suggest that you heed my earlier words, Morgan, and go get him.”
Morgan eyed his boss for a long moment before finally nodding and making his way out of the room to find Reid.
He decided to check the bathroom first, to see if Reid really had gone to be sick—and that had looked like a distinct possibility. He found Reid in front of the sink, as pale as he had been when he left the room, washing his mouth out with water. Morgan closed the door behind him carefully, eyeing his friend’s trembling hands.
“You doing okay there, pretty boy?” he asked softly—because his desire for answers was strong, but the moment he saw his younger colleague suffering, his need to care for the other man kicked in, overriding any desire he had to demand answers. Reid met his eyes in the mirror, his expression drawn.
“Not really,” he admitted softly, holding the edge of the sink perilously. Morgan tacitly handed him a paper towel, and Reid took it gratefully, wiping excess water away from his mouth before taking a deep breath to steady himself, discarding the paper towel in the waste basket.
“You gonna tell me what’s going on?” Morgan tested finally. Reid sighed, lowering his eyes.
“I will, but…I only want to explain this once,” Reid forced out finally, his voice tight. “Did the others leave yet?”
Morgan shook his head. “Hotch said we had to wait for you.”
Morgan wasn’t sure if the look in Reid’s eyes was relief or trepidation—maybe it was a mix of both—as he took in the response. Finally he nodded slowly.
“Let’s go back, then,” he said, obviously fighting to keep his voice level. Morgan watched him with a concerned expression but didn’t say anything as they made their way out of the bathroom, Morgan holding the door open for Reid and then leading him out, hand on his lower back. Morgan didn’t miss the strange looks that he and Reid were getting—the FBI agent’s obvious distress over what were fairly routine killings for them wasn’t going overlooked by the local PD either. Morgan ignored them and shuffled Reid back to the conference room, where the rest of the team was waiting.
“I don’t understand why you can’t just tell—oh!”
JJ cut herself off the moment that Morgan and Reid entered the room, but it was obvious that the other members of the team were in a rather heated argument with their boss. The moment JJ’s eyes landed on Reid, though, her expression softened and her mothering instincts took over.
“Spence—are you okay?” she breathed softly, taking in Reid’s uncharacteristic pallor. “You should sit down.”
Reid didn’t argue, let JJ lead him to a chair and sit him down. After he’d sat, he exchanged a meaningful look with Hotch. Hotch’s words, when he spoke, were measured.
“I assume this means what I think it means?” he ventured. Reid nodded resignedly and Hotch let out a long breath. “You have to come clean, Reid.”
“I know,” Reid breathed, but it was more of a squeak than actual words. He took a deep breath. “Two can be a coincidence, but three is a pattern.”
Morgan exchanged looks with Rossi, JJ, and Garcia—all of whom seemed to be as much in the dark as he was—and waited for either Reid or Hotch to enlighten them. Morgan looked back at Reid, whose eyes were closed—and the younger man took a deep breath before he finally spoke, still not opening his eyes.
“All three victims are former sexual partners of mine,” Reid confessed quietly, his tone detached, as if he were speaking about someone else. The words bounced around Morgan’s brain for a few long moments before it finally struck him what Reid was saying. That Reid—Doctor Spencer Reid—had had sex with these three men.
That Reid had sex.
The words swirled around and around in his mind until something threatened to well up—and Morgan stamped down the thought as he always did, forcing his mind back to the case. It wasn’t the time to be considering the implications of Reid’s sexuality.
The rest of the team sat in shocked silence for a long moment. The first one to speak was Rossi.
“And you think this is…connected to the case somehow?” he finally ventured, tentatively. Spencer’s eyes shot open, seeming somehow surprised—at the lack of reaction, maybe, at the blasé way Rossi was able to phrase the question, like the revelation about Reid didn’t matter. Reid took a deep breath, appearing to center himself a little.
“Hotch and I didn’t think so at the beginning,” Reid admitted finally. “It was…” He blushed a little, but he forced himself to continue. “With all three of them, it was casual sex, not a relationship, and it was fifteen years ago. We posited that if they had casual sex with me, they likely had casual sex with other partners, and I probably wasn’t their only partner in common. Coupled with the fact that it all happened over a decade ago…it seemed unlikely.”
The pieces were slowly falling into place for Morgan—what Reid and Hotch had really been discussing before they had left for California, Reid’s strange reaction to the case. He had to have been wondering, the whole time, whether or not he was the reason these men had been killed. Must wonder even more now.
“How many people even knew who your sex partners were at that time?” JJ asked—and she blushed a little too, embarrassed for herself or for Reid, Morgan wasn’t sure. His colleagues were all asking the obvious questions, but Morgan was still too stunned to speak.
“I’ve been wondering the same thing,” Reid said seriously. “Even I’d have been hard-pressed to track them down. Paul…I knew him, went to school with him. But the other two…I didn’t even know their names, literally only saw them once. I didn’t exactly advertise my sex life at the time. I just…I don’t know.”
Hotch’s commanding voice took control of the room once again. “We have to consider this as a potential theory, regardless of how unlikely it may seem,” he posited seriously. “But I would encourage all of you to consider other possibilities as well. Either way, we have to consider the possibility that other sexual partners of Reid’s might be in danger.”
Hotch turned to Reid, and for the first time, he seemed uncomfortable. “How many of your prior sexual partners from your time in Los Angeles do you think you can identify?” he finally asked, his discomfort obviously born of the fact that he was asking his colleague to air out the details of his sex life for all to see. Reid flushed again, lowering his eyes.
“I don’t know…maybe a dozen?” Reid ventured after a minute, and Morgan felt as though the air had been knocked out of his lungs. Minutes ago, he’d been assuming his friend was straight, that he wasn’t even interested in sex. And here Reid was, telling them that maybe—just maybe—he knew the names of a dozen of the men he’d slept with in college.
“Wait,” Morgan burst out before he could stop himself. “A dozen…out of how many total?”
Reid just blushed even more deeply, rubbing the side of his neck where his gunshot wound scar was forming. Hotch shot Morgan a warning look, as if telling him to tread carefully. Morgan averted his gaze.
“Is there anyone you knew at the time who you think could help you put together some of the other names?” Hotch asked neutrally after a moment, as though he was asking Reid to round up completely innocuous information and not making a detailed list of his anonymous sex partners.
Reid considered this for a moment. “Well…there is a friend of mine from when I was in college, and she might be able to help add a few names to the list,” he admitted after a moment. Hotch nodded slowly.
“Call her and see if she’ll be willing to help you. Get as many names and descriptions to Garcia as you can, and we’ll get to informing them that they might be in danger,” Hotch said seriously, not voicing the other thing that they were all thinking—that Reid’s friend, if she had knowledge of his sexual partners, would immediately be a suspect. Reid clearly knew this as well, but he nodded stoically.
“The rest of us will follow up on the newest victim,” Hotch continued, as if there was nothing strange about this situation at all. “Morgan, Rossi, you go to talk to the ME about his preliminary findings. I don’t expect him to have much yet, but it can’t hurt. JJ and I will go check out the crime scene. Reid, you stay here and work with Garcia and your friend.”
Everyone nodded and moved to get up, scattering to follow the various directives. Morgan shot a look in Reid’s direction, but he was busy searching through his phone for something, presumably his friend’s phone number. Morgan wanted to say something to Reid, but he couldn’t even begin to puzzle through what he might want to tell the younger man. So instead, he and Rossi made their way to the car without a word, leaving Reid to his own devices.
Rossi waited until they were in the car—Rossi driving and Morgan in the passenger seat—before he spoke.
“You seem unduly shocked by this revelation about Reid,” he pointed out bluntly as he pulled the car out onto the street. “What is it that shocks you—that Reid sleeps with men, or that he had casual sex in college? Because from where I’m standing, you put a teenage boy in a college situation, especially when his peers are all older than himself, and sex seems like a pretty obvious conclusion.”
Morgan mulled over this thought—because Rossi was right, he was shocked about Reid, and not because he’d never considered the possibility of Reid being gay. But Reid had never expressed much interest in either men or women, and the few times he had, his attentions had been directed at women.
Maeve had put the final nail in the coffin for Morgan—who had always gravitated toward Reid, in some of his most honest moments had wondered if Reid could be the one with whom he could finally unleash his unspoken curiosity about men. Because he trusted Reid, Reid wasn’t a threat, Reid didn’t intimidate him—and that made it easy to fight back the demons that usually rushed in when he even considered the possibility of being intimate with a man. But he trusted Reid, cared for Reid—and most importantly, he knew that he could overpower Reid, that Reid would never be able to take advantage of him the way Carl had when he was a teenager.
Which brought Morgan right back to Reid, teenage Reid. Who said he hadn’t seen Paul in fifteen years, which would be placing Reid at seventeen or eighteen at the time. And placing Paul at about twenty-two, clearly an adult to what Morgan had to imagine was Spencer’s teenage naïveté. And the other two men were even older than that.
“They would have all been adults,” Morgan mused after a moment. “But Reid would have been what? Seventeen? Maybe eighteen?”
Rossi shrugged and flicked on his turning signal as he reached a light. “When I was seventeen, having an older woman teach me the ways of making love was probably my biggest fantasy,” he reasoned flatly. “I’d imagine the same would hold true for a gay seventeen year old, except with men.”
Morgan mulled that over too—because he knew he was letting his own experience override his judgment on this. He’d never, ever have wanted an older man to lay even a hand on him when he’d been a teenager, not after Carl. But Reid didn’t have that baggage, and clearly even Spencer Reid had a sex drive, for all that he’d studiously pretended he didn’t.
“Do you think he is?” Morgan questioned after a moment. “Gay, I mean.”
Rossi shrugged again. “Gay, bisexual, pansexual, sapiosexual—does it really matter?” he questioned after a moment, and Morgan almost laughed—because sapiosexual was a word that Reid had taught them in one of their more amusing rounds of banter.
“The fact is,” Rossi continued, “he’s slept with men, at least in the past. But does that change anything about the Reid that we know? I don’t think so. It shouldn’t, at least.”
Morgan silently agreed, but that wasn’t what was bothering him. “Why do you think he kept it a secret, though?”
Rossi was silent for a moment before he answered. “Well law enforcement isn’t exactly the most friendly environment toward homosexuality,” he reasoned after a moment. “Reid already gets singled out for a lot—for being young, for being a genius. Maybe he didn’t want another reason to draw attention to himself.”
“Yeah, I mean, that might be why he wasn’t broadcasting it, but why didn’t he at least tell us? He should have known we wouldn’t judge him.”
Rossi parked the car and turned on Morgan with a serious look. “Isn’t that what you’re doing right now, Morgan? Judging him, his sexuality, his sexual history? And from where I’m looking, you’re not exactly one to judge in terms of promiscuity. In fact, neither am I. The fact is that you guys were at least smarter than I was in not marrying so many of them.”
Morgan couldn’t help but laugh at that as Rossi got out of the car, but he silently had to admit that Rossi had a point. The idea of Reid having casual sex with multiple partners—it had shocked him, bothered him to the point that part of him was almost looking down on Reid for it. He wondered if he’d have felt the same way if he’d found out Reid had slept with over a dozen women when he’d been in college, or if he’d be patting him on the back instead, saying, ‘Way to go, man, didn’t know you had it in you.’
There was some uncomfortable truth in there, intermingled with the fact that he was also assuming Reid was the submissive partner in these relationships—because all three men had been older and physically larger than Reid was. But ultimately, he didn’t know if that was actually the case—and as Rossi would tell him, if Rossi were privy to his thoughts, it shouldn’t matter either way.
Morgan considered this as he let himself out of the car slowly, following Rossi into the building to check with the medical examiner.
Morgan was still mulling over this thoughts, so he was grateful when Rossi took the lead in introducing them and getting them taken back to see the body. It wasn’t until they got into the room, the medical examiner rattling off his preliminary findings, that it struck Morgan that he was looking down at the naked body of a man who had been intimate with Spencer Reid.
Well. No wonder Reid had been acting strange about this case.
Morgan had been distracted by Reid’s reaction when he’d first been shown the driver’s license photo of the man—forty-two year old Dominic Harrison, which made him ten years older than Reid and their oldest victim yet. Unlike the other two, who were both Caucasian, this man was clearly of mixed race, at least part African American by Morgan’s estimation. He had black hair, cropped short to his head, and Morgan remembered his startling green eyes from the photo.
“He was stabbed, just like the other victims,” Morgan heard the ME saying, breaking him out of his reverie. “Thirteen times in the chest. Liver temp puts his time of death at sometime between ten p.m. and midnight last night.”
Rossi exchanged a look with Morgan and said what they were both thinking, “He’s escalating,” he murmured, and Rossi was doubtlessly correct, both in terms of timeline and in terms of level of violence. The last body had been found only four days prior, and it had gone from seven stab wounds on the first victim to nine on the second to thirteen on the third.
But what could have caused him to accelerate his timeline so much? There had been nearly three weeks between the first two victims, and the investigation had surmised that both had been missing for around three days. The same timeline would have meant that the killer had taken victim number three before he’d even killed victim number two.
Of course, if this really was about Reid, then maybe Reid’s presence in Los Angeles had caused the escalation. Except that didn’t track either, because the victim had to have been taken before the BAU had even arrived in Los Angeles.
Unless he hadn’t been.
Morgan turned away, letting Rossi continue the discussion with the ME, vaguely hearing him say that the wounds seemed to match with those on the previous victims, seemed to have been caused by the same weapon. Morgan pulled out his phone and called Garcia. She picked up on the second ring.
“Queen of the world, how may I serve my people today?”
“Hey baby girl,” Morgan greeted, the customary banter making him feel more at ease when everything otherwise seemed to be going totally out of control. “Can you tell me—was there a missing person’s report filed on our newest victim, Dominic Harrison?”
“Don’t even need to look that one up, sugar; the answer is no,” Garcia answered immediately. “Husband is on his way in now; he was away on a business trip and didn’t notice his husband was missing. Preliminary interview with detectives has him stating that he talked to Dominic yesterday afternoon, though.”
Morgan felt his heart falling in his chest. “So…he was taken after we’d already arrived here, then, and he wasn’t held for days like the others,” he intoned slowly.
“Looks like not. What are you thinking, gorgeous?”
Morgan frowned. “I’m thinking this lends credibility to the theory that the killings have something to do with Reid. And that Reid arriving in the city might have been the impetus for our UNSUB to take another victim.” He didn’t sugarcoat it, and Garcia’s muffled “Oh” showed that that had had an effect. “How’s he doing, Garcia?”
Garcia huffed out a breath. “His friend arrived ten minutes ago, some pretty young thing around Reid’s age,” she intoned softly. “They’ve been pouring over the list Reid’s been writing since about the moment she got here. They haven’t given me any names yet, though.”
Morgan considered this information, but it didn’t really tell him anything about how Reid was dealing with the situation. He figured he’d wait until he got back to the station to find out and instead turned his attention to the other topic dogging his mind.
“Did you even remotely see this coming? About Reid?” he breathed out before he could stop himself.
“Being gay?” she responded immediately. “You mean you didn’t?”
Morgan almost didn’t have it left in him to be shocked. “You knew?”
“I didn’t know, sweet cheeks, but I suspected. It didn’t exactly come out of left field for me,” she admitted.
Garcia chuckled like a schoolgirl. “Have you seen the way he eyes your bulging muscles, my walking wet dream?” she teased, and Morgan spluttered.
“He does not!” Morgan countered, because he would have noticed if that had been the case—wouldn’t he?
“Relax, mon cher, I was kidding—well, mostly kidding,” she appended after a moment. “I just have better gaydar than most.”
Garcia sighed, as if explaining a simple concept to a child. “Gaydar. It’s like gay radar. It’s how some people can sense those of the homosexual persuasion, if you know what I mean. Now get your pretty little butt back to finding this killer. If he is killing these men because of Reid, we need to stop him before he thinks he wants to turn his attentions right onto the source. Enough people have already attempted to kill Reid recently.”
Morgan froze as the idea struck him for the first time—which was stupid, because it should have struck him immediately that someone targeting Reid’s ex-lovers might come and target him next. He’d been so distracted by his shock—jealousy?—over Reid’s prior lovers that he’d missed what was right in front of him. The idea made Morgan’s blood run cold.
“Garcia, baby, you make sure Reid doesn’t set foot outside that police station without an escort, you hear me? An escort carrying a gun.”
Garcia laughed softly. “This isn’t my first rodeo, cowboy,” she assured him. “Now you catch this sicko, my crime-fighting god.”
“I’ll do my best, baby girl,” Morgan promised, hanging up the phone with a frown.
By the time Rossi and Morgan got back to the station—after visiting Dominic Harrison’s house and finding, predictably, nothing—the table was littered with dozens of pieces of paper and photos. Reid was sprawled on the floor with a map while a petite brunette leaned over Garcia’s shoulder, looking at her computer screen.
“No, it’s not that one either,” the woman hummed in a harried tone. “Jesus Christ, Aaron Smith is a common fucking name.”
As Morgan and Rossi walked into the room, though, everyone seemed to stop to look up at them—and the brunette wolf-whistled, breaking the sudden silence. “My goodness, Spence, how in the world do you get any work done with these exquisite specimens of man-meat surrounding you every day?” she sing-songed. Reid rolled his eyes, turning his attention back to his map.
“You don’t even like men, Anna,” he said blandly, using a compass to draw a perfect circle around one of the points on the map.
“No, but you do, and I know enough to tell an attractive man when I see one,” the woman—Anna—said, her tone almost scolding. “Special Agent Derek Morgan, you might even be beautiful enough to make me switch teams.”
Morgan couldn’t help it—despite the awkward situation, the comment made him smile—before the fact that she knew his name on sight made him frown slightly.
“He is beautiful, isn’t he?” Garcia breathed out dreamily. That, at least, was familiar.
“Not as beautiful as you are, sweetness,” Morgan bantered right back, crossing the room and standing by Garcia. “Have we made progress here?”
Garcia nodded slowly. “With Anna’s help, Reid was able to pin down the names of seventeen men,” she murmured, leaving out the unspoken that Reid slept with. “There are another twelve with only descriptions and dates, but it gives us something to start with. Hotch and JJ are contacting the names we have and warning them that they might be in danger.”
Morgan raised an eyebrow at that—seventeen identified plus twelve more with only descriptions. That meant that Reid had had casual sex with twenty-nine men when he was in college. Morgan wondered if that number included the three that had already been killed. He forced himself to still that thought, thinking of what Rossi had said to him about judging Reid. He forced himself to stop.
It was easy enough when the brunette reached her hand out for him to shake. “Since Spence is too wrapped up in what he’s doing to introduce us, I’m Annabelle Collins,” the woman intoned, her tone unexpectedly serious after the previous joking. “Spencer and I went to school together.”
Morgan shook the woman’s hand, “Nice to meet you, and thanks for your help,” he said, trying to keep his tone professional. He wasn’t sure what was the best way to address the situation, having called the woman in to help his teammate track down his former paramours. That just wasn’t the type of situation that lent itself to professionalism but at the same time, professionalism was necessary.
“Anything for Spencer,” she said earnestly, and Morgan eyed the woman carefully. She seemed sincere enough, but Morgan knew they had to treat her as a suspect. If Reid thought that she had detailed knowledge of his sexual partners, then she was potentially someone who could have committed the previous crimes. Nothing in their profile lent credence to the UNSUB being a woman, but the profile was all upside down with the new revelations about Reid. Anything was possible.
Garcia’s voice chimed in suddenly. “Is this the Aaron Smith you’re talking about?” she asked, and Annabelle turned back to Garcia, immediately immersing herself in the problem again. Rossi excused himself to go find Hotch.
And that left Morgan in the room with the others, Garcia and Anna engrossed in trying to track down all of Reid’s lovers, Reid sprawled on the floor working on the geographical profile because there was no room left on the table, and Morgan…he wandered over to the table, unable to help himself. He knew that they had all promised not to profile each other, but this was a case…he told himself that, that there was really a legitimate reason for him to be looking at all these photos of Reid’s past lovers.
Of the seventeen they’d identified—and Morgan saw that that did seem to include the three deceased—they’d managed to track down and print out photos and recent contact information for all but one, clearly the illusive Aaron Smith for whom Garcia and Anna were still searching.
There was no need to profile Reid’s taste in sexual partners, but Morgan found himself doing so anyway, glancing through all their information from what Garcia had compiled—dates of birth, height, weight, race. Reid didn’t seem to discriminate much on the basis of race; including the most recent victim, who Morgan judged to be possibly half black, there were four African American men, three who appeared to be Latino of some sort, and even one Asian. The rest seemed to be white.
Other than race, though, the men all had two major characteristics in common—none were under five foot eleven and all were older than Reid. The first victim Paul Dunn, in fact, was closest to Reid’s age at thirty-seven. The oldest ranged to a current age of fifty-three, meaning he would have been in his late thirties when he’d been with Spencer. Reid did seem to have a type.
All the men had dates written above their pictures, too, some approximate and some uncomfortably specific. They’d been laid out in chronological order—with the first victim, Paul Dunn, as the first from February to March of 1999, which according to Morgan’s math put Reid at newly seventeen. He followed the timeline through several more men before he got to Kirk Graves, the second victim who had a specific date, November 22, 1999. Morgan frowned at that—Reid’s memory was good, but it was a little disconcerting that he could be that specific. Morgan followed the line some more until he got to the third victim, Dominic Harrison, in August of 2000.
Morgan frowned—that lent more credibility to the theory that this was about Reid, that the men had been killed in the same order that Reid had slept with them. But why these specific men? Why skip the ones in between? Was it simply a matter of accessibility? Had some of them moved away? He glanced through their information again, but a fair amount of them still lived in the Los Angeles area, and all those others had been skipped.
Then Morgan noticed something else: there were only three men after Dominic Harrison, and then the dates and pictures dropped off abruptly in November of 2000. Morgan frowned, picked up a pad of paper on which Reid and Annabelle had clearly been brainstorming. He found dates and descriptions of all twenty-nine men, and the ones with names had their names written as well. The rest had approximate height and weight, hair color, eye color, and sometimes distinguishing marks. One even had a sketch of a cross tattoo that Reid had clearly done from memory, which he described as being on the left bicep.
But the list confirmed the same thing—there was only one unnamed partner following Dominic Harrison, in December of 2000. Which meant that following his experience with the third victim, Reid had only slept with four men. And the killer seemed to be working chronologically.
“Guys,” Morgan pressed suddenly, and everyone in the room looked up at him. “Have you noticed this? The UNSUB killed these men in the same order that Reid describes having slept with them. If he sticks to pattern, the ones we should be worried about are these four here. We need to figure out this last guy’s name.”
Reid was up off the ground in a second, surveying the information on the table. He glanced through the mountain of papers before shaking his head. “That’s assuming that this still isn’t all a coincidence and we’re not going on a wild goose chase through my sexual conquests,” he said bitterly, far more ill-tempered than Morgan was used to from him. He turned to go back to sit on the floor, but Morgan caught him by the arm and stopped him. Reid turned around slowly to face him.
“Hey,” Morgan said gently. “We’re still following other avenues of investigation. But for now, this is the best lead we’ve got. And we want to make sure you’re safe, Reid. If this UNSUB is focused on you, it’s only a matter of time before he stops going after men you’ve slept with and goes after you directly.”
Reid frowned before looking at his feet, cowed. “Sorry,” he murmured apologetically. “This is all just…”
“I know,” Morgan murmured understandingly. “I didn’t much like you guys rifling through my past either. But kid, you don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”
Reid rolled his eyes and pulled his arm from Morgan’s grip. “Don’t I?” he bit back. “I saw the way you reacted when I told you all this.”
Morgan gave Reid a steady look, trying to gather his thoughts. Trying to toe the line between the instinctive disapproval he’d actually felt and what he wanted to project to his co-worker and friend.
“It went up against the image I had of you, the image you showed me of yourself,” Morgan said seriously, locking Reid with a penetrating stare. “I was surprised, sure. But there’s nothing wrong with a teenage boy experimenting with different sexual partners. No matter what this UNSUB might be trying to make you think.”
Reid calmed at that, seemed placated, although he still looked a little uncertain. Still, Morgan took his chance while they were still on the topic.
“Can I ask the obvious question here, though? Why did you stop all of a sudden? You seemed to be riding high on your sexual liberation for almost two years, and then…nothing.”
Annabelle’s girlish chuckle broke into their conversation. “He finally found what he was looking for,” she said cryptically, and sullen Reid made his reappearance immediately.
“Anna, for fuck’s sake,” he breathed, and Morgan raised his eyebrows, surprised to hear the rare curse from Reid’s mouth. “This is already awkward enough without you sharing every aspect of my private life from more than a decade ago. Can’t I keep anything to myself?”
Annabelle rolled her eyes. “I liked you better when you were the sexually liberated eighteen year old,” she murmured under her breath, and then her eyes lit up. “Oh, there he is! Aaron Smith! It’s this one, right Spence?”
Reid sighed and went to look at the computer screen.
After they’d let Annabelle leave (with a discreet tail on her, since she was still a suspect), Morgan called the others into the conference room and shared his theory about the timing of the killings with the others.
“I think we should focus on the last four, if we’re going to be sending units to patrol or guard them,” he intoned seriously. “If this really is about Reid, the killer seems to be killing them in a specific type of sequence. It’s possible that he might loop back to the beginning, too, so maybe we should focus our efforts on the first several as well.”
Hotch nodded slowly. “Well, of the last four, two of them now live out of state, so we can probably count them out,” he reasoned slowly. “That leaves Danny Kennedy and the last, unnamed man. Reid, you weren’t able to pinpoint anything more than you wrote here?”
Reid shrugged. “Sorry. I put down all I knew about him, but even with Anna’s help, I wasn’t able to figure it out.” Where Reid had been embarrassed before, he now only seemed tired, too tired to even be flustered to be talking about his sex life.
“Well we’ll just have to hope that if neither you nor Annabelle could put the pieces together, neither can the UNSUB,” Rossi said sensibly. “That’s assuming that she isn’t the UNSUB herself.”
Reid seemed scandalized by the mere suggestion. “She’s five foot three and must weigh like a hundred pounds soaking wet,” he said, exasperated. “How could she incapacitate three men over six feet tall, let alone have the strength to dump the bodies?”
“Maybe she has a partner,” Rossi argued reasonably, although none of them were really focused on Anna as a real suspect. It was mostly just protocol that they were considering her, because they weren’t able to fully rule her out.
Reid rubbed the bridge of his nose again, as if he was getting a headache. “What about the early ones?” he breathed after a moment, voice exhausted and annoyed. “In case the UNSUB can’t track down either of those two and loops back to the beginning.”
Garcia typed a few strokes on her laptop. “After Paul, the next five include two men whose names we weren’t able to ascertain. One of the other three is deceased—car accident—which leaves two remaining who still live in the area, Ron Erickson and Dale Lewis.”
Hotch nodded again. “I’ll have the local PD station extra units on the three we’ve pinpointed and contact them again to give them a better assessment of the possible danger they’re in,” he remarked blandly. “Reid, have you gotten anything off the geographic profile?”
Reid pulled out the map, glad to be back in his comfort zone. “Triangulating off the dump sites, I believe the UNSUB either lives or stores the victims in one of these areas before he kills them,” Reid remarked, showing them the areas he’d marked—which weren’t particularly helpful, in his own opinion, because they made up a huge section of Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Glendale.
“We’ll see if we can get an increased police presence in those areas,” Hotch remarked, but they all knew the local PD would already be stretched thin doing drive-bys of the three possible victims they’d pinpointed. And not knowing when or how the victims were grabbed, there was only so much an increased police presence could do. Adding that to the fact that they hadn’t found any evidence on the bodies that pointed to where they’d been held only made that more difficult.
Reid sighed, feeling helpless.
The next day passed uneventfully, without a single lead. The three men they’d pinpointed as potential victims were all accounted for. No new bodies turned up. The autopsy of the third victim revealed nothing. And Annabelle Collins went to work—a small psychiatric practice—as usual, exhibiting absolutely no suspicious behavior.
Reid, Hotch, Rossi, and JJ had all gone out to talk to the victims’ friends, employers, family—anyone who could shed light on a new presence in their lives, anything out of the ordinary. Morgan sat with Garcia as she grew increasingly frustrated, unable to find any non-Spencer-related link between the men as Morgan collected a file on each and every one of Reid’s previous sexual partners, putting them in neat file folders so they could make use of the table again. Morgan would have gone out with Hotch instead, but Reid was obviously getting restless sitting in the room surrounded by pictures of his former lovers, so Morgan had offered to do the cleanup and organizing.
He wasn’t sure how he felt about it either. Looking at the faces of all these men, all of whom knew Spencer Reid intimately, Morgan felt a lot of things that the honest part of his brain was able to identify easily. Anger. Jealousy.
Morgan frowned. His feelings for his younger colleague were something he never felt comfortable addressing in the light of day, but they had always been something Morgan had considered safe—safe because Reid would never know and safe because Reid seemed to have no interest in sex. Even his relationship with Maeve, as intense as it had been, had been purely intellectual. Now Morgan wondered if that was because Reid was gay—or was he bisexual? And what about Morgan? Was he bisexual? It’s not that he’d never thought of being with another man—consensually this time—but he’d never acted on it, never dared.
But now that he knew that Spencer Reid was a possibility, that Spencer did have an interest in sex—or at least he had, once—he couldn’t stop thinking about the man, and that was making it frustratingly difficult to do his job. Especially when greeted with these photos of all the men who had had Spencer.
Which brought him back to his jealousy and to the more important question—why did he stop? Did he have sex anymore? Did he have casual sex partners in D.C.?
Morgan slammed down the file folder a little too hard, Garcia looking up from her laptop with a raised eyebrow. “What’s troubling you, my sexy G-man?” she asked, tapping lime green fingernails on the edge of the table. Morgan sighed, wondering what to tell his friend.
“It’s just…I wonder how much more there is that we don’t know about Reid,” he breathed out after a second, but that was a half-truth. “And why he hid his sexuality from us.”
Garcia shrugged. “Well he didn’t hide it as much as no one ever asked. Everyone just assumed,” she pointed out levelly. “As to the rest of it, I think you’d be relieved, not annoyed.”
Morgan sat up with a start. “What?”
“That Doctor Spencer Reid has a taste for chocolate, my Nubian God,” she intoned sweetly. Morgan stared at her for a long moment before he seemed to realize what she was implying.
“No, Garcia—no,” he protested thickly. “That’s not…” But it was, exactly.
Garcia just shook her head knowingly. “What did I say about my well-honed gaydar, my friend?”
“I’m not gay,” Morgan countered, and that he could say with a straight face. That was something he was more than sure of. Garcia smiled.
“No, I’d say you’re more…bi-curious,” she said with a Cheshire-cat grin. “And you’ve certainly entertained more than a single inappropriate thought about the good doctor.”
“I…” Morgan began to protest, but then he stopped, resigning himself. “Is it that obvious?”
“With you stomping around here like a jealous lover, hell yes,” she said without preamble. “I’m not sure the others have caught on yet, but I can’t really say for sure. They are profilers, after all. Reid, in the least, seems completely in the dark. And for what it’s worth, I can’t see him sleeping around either. He seems completely oblivious to anyone being attracted to him, ever. I would have assumed that he walked through all of college with men and women hitting on him left and right, totally oblivious to what was going on around him.”
Morgan couldn’t help himself—he laughed at the mental image that produced, and how so Reid that sounded. But clearly it wasn’t Reid at all. Reid had been more of a twenty-nine random men in two years kind of a guy.
Morgan sighed, but he found that he wasn’t nearly as bothered by Garcia knowing his secret as he thought. His attraction to Reid—however sublimated it had been—had become this inextricable part of him that he wasn’t surprised she had seen it. Savannah had certainly seen it, or at least seen that he hadn’t been all there in their relationship, which was why she’d broken it off. Morgan hadn’t been able to convince her otherwise—and how would he have, because it would have been a lie to say that there wasn’t a part of him holding back from their relationship.
The bi-curious part of you, his mind supplied, and he had to suppress the urge to roll his eyes at his own subconscious. He turned back to Garcia.
“Do you think he still does this?” he pressed after a moment. “Sleeps around with random men? And if not…what changed? What was going on in those two years of Reid’s life?”
Garcia shrugged. “Reid is the only one who can answer those questions—and he hasn’t been incredibly forthcoming,” she murmured. “But…give him time. He’s had a huge part of his life exposed to all his colleagues basically against his will, and he wasn’t prepared for it. He’ll come around eventually, when he sees that this doesn’t change anything for any of us. Well, it might change something for you.”
Morgan did roll his eyes this time, but it was accompanied with a smile. “You shut your mouth, baby girl,” he said playfully, but he couldn’t deny that part of him wanted that change. He just didn’t know if Reid would ever be open to it, not with the way he’d jealously guarded the secret of his sexuality for so long.
They all stayed at the station until well into the evening, brainstorming and rehashing the evidence, but eventually they had to admit that they weren’t getting any further that night and went back to their hotel. They were still waiting for the UNSUB to make a mistake—and frustratingly, he hadn’t yet. The UNSUB was careful, almost freakishly so—but if it was true that he was targeting Reid through men he’d slept with fifteen years ago, then he had likely had a long time to plan.
But then, there was still the possibility that it wasn’t about Reid at all, that this was somehow some sort of coincidence, no matter how unlikely that was starting to seem. But if Reid was actually being targeted here, Morgan would have expected something more—a note, a message, something taunting Reid with the kills. But all was silent on that front.
Morgan sighed and rolled over in bed, sleep entirely evading him. His thoughts kept coming back around to Reid—to the case, to Reid’s connection to it, to the faces of all the men that Reid had slept with. To his conversation with Garcia, to his thoughts about Reid…and looping all the way back around to concerns over Reid’s safety. To Reid, alone in his hotel room two doors down, where anyone could get to him.
Not that Morgan didn’t think that Reid could take care of himself, because Reid had proven that he could, time and time again. He’d proven himself to be a capable agent, but that still didn’t stop Morgan from thinking, from worrying about all the horrible things that could have happened to Reid in the time since they’d separated.
Knowing that he wouldn’t be getting any sleep until he checked on Reid, Morgan got out of bed with a sigh, pulling on a pair of black jeans and a tank top and letting himself out of his room quietly, making sure to bring his gun. With a slight sense of trepidation, he knocked on Reid’s door.
It took a few moments, but Reid pulled open the door in pajama pants and an old t-shirt that looked like it had seen better days. He looked wholly unsurprised to see one of his team members at his door.
“Hey,” Morgan said softly as his eyes fell upon Reid’s face, looking even younger than his years, sleep-rumpled and in his pajamas. “Did I wake you?”
Reid shook his head. “I’ve been lying in bed, but I can’t sleep,” he admitted slowly. Morgan nodded at that.
“Me too,” he acknowledged. “Mind if I come in?”
Reid looked a little surprised by the question but after a moment, he opened the door wider and stepped aside to let his teammate in. Morgan brushed past him, perching himself on the edge of the hotel bed. Reid looked around the room, seeming flustered, until Morgan patted the spot on the bed next to him. Reid sat down tentatively, glancing over at Morgan.
“You’re not…I mean, this doesn’t make you uncomfortable?” Reid ventured after a moment, but if anything Reid was the one who seemed uncomfortable, unable to stop figeting. Morgan eyed the younger man for a long moment before it dawned on him what Reid meant.
“Kid, you've got it all wrong,” Morgan said sincerely, meeting Reid’s gaze. “Were you really worried about that? That I would be uncomfortable being alone with you?”
Reid shrugged and dropped his gaze, but that was enough of an answer for Morgan. Morgan sighed softly. “I’m sorry that I’ve inspired such little faith,” he said seriously, and Reid’s eyes shot up immediately, wide and shocked.
“That’s not it at all, Morgan,” Reid protested immediately. “I have a lot of faith in you. It’s just…” Reid trailed off for a long moment, looking hesitant before he seemed to steel himself to continue. “It’s just that, considering your past, I didn’t know how you’d react to…this.”
Again owing to Reid’s vagueness, it took a moment for Morgan to catch on to what Reid had been implying. The realization took Morgan’s breath away—that Reid had been so worried about what he might think, that Reid had been concerned Morgan would somehow associate him with Carl Buford and the horrific things that Carl had done. Morgan took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts before speaking.
“Kid, look at me,” Morgan murmured softly, and though his tone was gentle, the words left little room for argument. Reid hesitated for a long moment before he seemed to force his eyes up, meeting Morgan’s with a definite sense of trepidation in his gaze.
Morgan took another steadying breath. With all the honesty that Reid had given him—the honesty that had been forced out of him before he was ready to share it—Morgan figured that he owed the younger man at least as much truth.
“Carl took a lot of things from me,” Morgan breathed after a moment, surprised at how steady his voice sounded to his own ears. “One of which was the ability to…explore the other side of my sexuality without worry and fear. And trust me, I’ve thought about it, about…being with men. I’ve thought about it a lot, but I’ve never had the courage to act on it.”
Reid looked at a total loss for words, so Morgan took advantage of the rare stretch of silence from the usually exuberant man and got out the rest of what he wanted to say, before he lost his chance.
“And I want you to understand…there is no part of me, not a single one, that associates you with that man. Gay, straight, pink, purple, polka-dotted—it doesn’t matter. I know you, Doctor Spencer Reid, and I know you would never take advantage of anyone in that way, know you wouldn’t even entertain the thought. So get those worries out of your pretty little head. We’re good.”
Reid stared at him for a full thirty seconds before his mouth seemed to work again. “You’ve thought about being with men?” he echoed disbelievingly. Morgan chuckled—because it turned out that wasn’t nearly as difficult to say out loud as he had originally thought it might be.
“Trust that you latch right on to that part and cruise right past all my heartfelt declarations about your character,” Morgan laughed, and Reid was back in perfect form, because he flushed dark red and lowered his gaze again, embarrassed.
“Sorry,” he murmured softly, his eyes flickering up to Morgan’s face for a brief moment before he averted his gaze again. Morgan just laughed one more time.
“Calm down, Reid; I’m just poking fun at you.”
Reid nodded slowly, raising his eyes once again, the flush beginning to recede from his face. When it looked like Reid had calmed down, Morgan spoke again.
“How about this, boy genius? We should both try to get some sleep, but I’d feel better if I was here, so I know that no Reid-obsessed UNSUB has gotten to you. No funny business, I promise.”
Reid smiled softly at that. “When you came in here, I thought I was trying to reassure you that your virtue was safe. How did the tables get turned around like this?” His tone was light, relief radiating in his whole being.
“The world works in mysterious ways, doc. So whaddya say?” Morgan tried to keep his tone light as well, but there was a part of him that was afraid Reid wouldn’t let him stay. In which case, he had a feeling he’d spend the night guarding Reid’s door.
“You’d better not snore,” Reid threatened, moving to stretch out on the mattress. Morgan took off his shoes and slid onto the other side of the bed, flicking off the light as he lay down next to Reid, both men still on top of the covers. It was hot enough that they didn't need them, anyway.
They lay there silently for a moment, Reid on his side with his back turned to Morgan, before Reid turned and met Morgan’s eyes in the darkness. “My protector,” Reid sing-songed in a teasing voice. Morgan chortled.
“Shut up and go to sleep, Reid,” Morgan said, but his tone was amused.
They were awakened what seemed like mere moments later by a persistent banging on the door. Both men startled awake, Morgan not surprised to see that they’d gravitated closer as they slept, Morgan partially spooned against Reid’s back. Morgan was faster out of bed, Reid still groaning in annoyance as Morgan flicked on a light, moving to look out the peephole. Standing outside was a characteristically unruffled Hotch, although he was dressed down in dark jeans and a t-shirt. Without thinking, Morgan pulled open the door.
“What is it?” he asked immediately, before Hotch could say anything.
To his credit, if Hotch thought finding Morgan in Reid’s room was strange, he didn’t show any sign of it. “The local PD got a call about a possible kidnapping. Sounds like our UNSUB. We’re off as soon as everyone is dressed,” Hotch said, his tone businesslike. Morgan sensed rather than saw Reid stumbling out of bed behind him, still in his pajamas.
“Understood. We’ll be ready in five,” Morgan replied immediately, but Reid piped up from behind him.
“Was it…?” he began, his voice coming out a nervous squeak. He didn’t finish his question, but Hotch seemed to understand it anyway.
“It wasn’t anyone on the list,” Hotch reassured him, and both Reid and Morgan let out a relieved sigh. They both knew that there were still men whose names neither Reid nor Anna had been able to remember, so it didn’t put Reid fully in the clear, but it still left room for the possibility that it could all be a coincidence.
“Do we have a photo?” Reid pressed.
Hotch shook his head. “I don’t have any details yet,” he remarked. “The local PD sent the address; we’ll find out more at the scene.”
Reid nodded and went to get dressed and brush his teeth. It was with some trepidation that Morgan left Reid’s side to go back to his room and do the same, throwing a black button-down shirt on over his tank top and brushing his own teeth. Everyone met outside within a few minutes.
They split into two cars, Hotch driving one with Morgan and Reid as passengers and Rossi, JJ, and Garcia riding in the second. Hotch hurriedly plugged the address into the GPS, letting it guide him down streets Reid found familiar and at the same time not. Some things had changed since he’d left Los Angeles to go to the FBI Academy, but in a lot of ways, the streets had remained exactly the same. A quick study of recent maps and traffic patterns before they’d arrived in the city had helped matters.
Which was why Reid felt an encroaching sense of trepidation as Hotch followed the directions of the tinny voice emanating from the GPS. He clutched the back of Morgan’s seat, leaning in to try to get a better look at their destination.
“Hotch?” he ventured, his heart beating faster, seeming as though it might burst out of his chest. “What was the address?”
Hotch frowned but pulled out his phone and rattled off the address to Reid, a condo in West Hollywood. And for a moment, Reid was sure his heart had actually stopped.
Morgan glanced back at Reid in the rearview mirror as the man seemed to grow increasingly agitated while taking in their surroundings. Finally, Reid leaned forward between their seats, clearly trying to get a better look at the GPS screen.
“Hotch?” Reid breathed, and there was a sense of desperation in his voice. “What was the address?”
Hotch looked a little disgruntled at having to look up the address again, but he pulled out his phone and called up the information one-handed, barely taking his eyes off the road as he rattled the address off at Reid.
Morgan watched as all the color drained from Reid’s face—and if he’d thought that Reid’s reaction to the third victim was extreme, it had been nothing compared to this. Reid looked like he’d actually forgotten to breathe, as he sat frozen in the backseat. Morgan turned around to face the younger man, eyeing him seriously.
“Reid,” Morgan said firmly, hoping to capture the other man’s attention, break him out of whatever trance he’d fallen into, but there was no visible response, no sign that Reid had even heard him. “Reid,” he tried again, more sternly, but still nothing. “Hotch, stop the car.”
Hotch looked skeptical for a moment, but then he caught sight of Reid in the backseat and found a place to pull to the side of the road. There was a parking meter they were conveniently ignoring, but that was the last thing in Morgan’s mind at the moment. He unfastened his seatbelt as soon as the car had stopped and climbed over the center console into the backseat, grabbing Reid roughly by the arm.
“Reid, listen to me, you’ve got to breathe,” he said harshly, and finally something seemed to have gotten through to Reid, because he exhaled sharply, drawing in a few ragged breaths. He looked like he might actually pass out. “That’s good, kid, keep breathing.”
Morgan exchanged a look with Hotch, seeing his own concern and confusion reflected in his boss’ eyes.
“Oh God,” Reid finally managed breathily, and Morgan held onto his arm, trying to draw his friend’s attention to him.
“Reid, look at me. Tell me what’s going on,” Morgan said seriously, but Reid didn't seem to hear him, continuing to speak as though talking to himself.
“Oh God, I didn’t think…I didn’t think—”
Morgan gripped Reid’s arm even harder, possibly hard enough to bruise. “Didn’t think what, Reid?” he pressed, and Reid finally looked at Morgan, seemed almost surprised to see the other man sitting there, as if he hadn’t even noticed Morgan’s move to the back seat.
“Jonathan,” Reid finally murmured breathily. Morgan frowned.
“Jonathan?” he echoed.
“There was no Jonathan on the list,” Hotch supplied quietly, but Morgan already knew that—for better or worse, he knew that list front to back, knew every name and face on it. Morgan met Reid’s gaze again, seriously.
“Reid, who is Jonathan? Should he have been on your list?” he asked levelly.
Reid’s wide brown eyes looked panicked. “I…they were all casual sex partners, and Jonathan wasn’t…so I didn’t list him, we didn’t warn him…” Reid said, his words almost nonsensical, but Morgan could read between the lines. Jonathan wasn’t a one-night stand. Jonathan was more.
The moment was interrupted by Hotch’s phone ringing. He picked it up on the second ring. “Hotch,” he barked into the receiver.
“It’s Garcia,” Garcia identified herself, seeming startled by her boss’ gruff tone. “Where are you guys? We thought you’d beat us here.”
Hotch frowned, watching Morgan’s continued efforts to calm Reid down while considering how to respond. “We ran into a bit of trouble,” he finally intoned, his voice level. He could almost hear Garcia’s frown through the phone.
“What kind of trouble? Are you guys okay?” she asked immediately. Hotch bypassed answering her question and instead rebounded with another.
“Garcia, is the victim’s name Jonathan?”
Garcia sucked in a surprised breath. “Yeah, Jonathan Warner. How did you know?” she asked, clearly taken aback. Hotch’s stony silence gave her all the answer she needed. “Oh no.”
“We’ll be there as soon as we can,” Hotch said curtly and hung up the phone. When he turned back to Reid and Morgan, Reid was breathing normally again. Morgan had managed to produce a bottle of water from somewhere, which Reid was sipping slowly. He looked at Hotch, his tone resigned.
“It’s Jonathan, isn’t it?”
Hotch nodded. “The victim’s name is Jonathan Warner,” he confirmed quietly, giving Reid a moment to let the words sink in. “Who is he, Reid?”
Reid seemed at a loss for words. “My…he was…we were together for several years,” he finally managed.
“How many is several?” Morgan found himself asking, unable to help himself. Reid sighed tiredly.
“It depends on your definition of ‘together,’” he murmured finally. “Two and a half. Three.” Reid screwed the top back on the bottle, leaning back in his seat and closing his eyes. “I’ve never felt so stupid. I don’t know why I didn’t consider that he’d be in danger.”
Morgan and Hotch exchanged a look before Hotch spoke, tone surprisingly gentle. “Are you going to be able to do this, Reid? Or do you want us to drive you back to the hotel? But if we do, we’re going to have to leave a guard with you. There’s no doubt that this is about you, not anymore.”
It was likely a testament to Hotch’s experience with Foyet that he didn’t tell Reid he had to step back from the case, that he just gave him the option. Protocol be damned, Hotch was the last person who would tell one of his colleagues that they couldn’t hunt an UNSUB because of a personal connection to a case.
Reid sat forward then, a determined look in his eyes. “I can do it,” he said seriously.
Hotch just nodded and moved to turn the car back on while Morgan re-buckled himself in, this time staying in the back with Reid. He kept his eyes on Reid the whole rest of the drive there, watching as the man obviously psyched himself up for dealing with the kidnapping of his former lover.
Reid still seemed a little shaky but had himself mostly under control by the time they reached their destination. Local police had cordoned off the area in front of the condos with crime scene tape, and as usual, there was a small crowd of people gathering beyond the barrier, trying to ascertain what was going on. Red and blue police lights flashed over the scene, bathing everything in a familiar flickering glow. Morgan glanced at the clock on his phone—it was almost one in the morning.
Hotch parked the car and the three of them stepped out—and it only took a moment before a loud call of, “Spencer!” broke through the buzzing sounds of a busy crime scene. Morgan turned in the direction of the voice, saw a man jogging across the lawn toward them, only to be stopped by a uniformed officer.
“It’s okay,” Reid called to the officer, flashing his badge. “You can let him through.”
Morgan watched as the officer let the man through and he jogged the rest of the way to Reid, throwing his arms around Reid with no preamble, sobbing softly. The man was shorter than all three of them—making him less than six feet—with dirty blond hair and a slim build. Reid wrapped his arms around the man without hesitation, cradling the back of his head as he cried.
“Oh God, Spence,” the man murmured against Reid’s neck, still clinging to him. “Thank God you’re here.” He pulled back from Reid’s embrace finally, looking Reid in the eye—and Morgan was finally able to make out his light eyes and slightly freckled skin. His pale green eyes had a look of desperation in them.
“You’re going to find him, right Spencer? Please tell me you’ll find him.”
For all that Reid had been a complete wreck just a few minutes ago in the car, he seemed completely in control now. Hotch and Morgan watched the exchange silently before Hotch excused himself to take a look at the crime scene, leaving Morgan with Reid.
“We’ll find him, Andrew,” Reid promised, with a conviction that Morgan was sure he’d likely have believed, if he hadn’t had a better idea of the odds. “But I need you to tell me what happened.”
The man—Andrew—sniffled slightly and rubbed his eyes with the sleeve of his suit jacket, a move surprisingly childlike for a man who had to be at least forty, judging by his appearance. After a long moment, he seemed to gather himself enough to speak.
“We were supposed to go to an AIDS benefit tonight, but Jonathan had a migraine and decided to stay home,” Andrew managed between sniffles. “You know how he gets those migraines, Spencer.”
“I do,” Reid said, obviously projecting patience in his voice when he wasn’t actually feeling it. “So he stayed home, and you went by yourself?”
Andrew shook his head. “No, I took Monica,” he said softly and his eyes darted up to Morgan, showing his first signs of awareness of his presence. “My sister,” he added for Morgan’s benefit, jerking his head in the direction of a petite blonde woman in a tight red cocktail dress who was speaking to some other detectives, looking quite troubled.
“Then what happened?” Reid pressed when Andrew didn’t move to continue, seeming to be in shock. Andrew turned his eyes back to Reid.
“I came home a little before midnight and I went into the bedroom to check on him,” the blond man continued. “The bedroom…it was trashed. The lamp and was broken and some pictures were scattered on the floor. And…there was blood on the carpet, a big stain. Jon wasn’t there.”
“And you think he was taken against his will?” Morgan pressed after a long moment, looking at the shorter man, obviously the victim’s partner, though he hadn’t had the benefit of an introduction.
“What the fuck else could it be?” the man snapped, clearly frustrated. “He destroyed the bedroom in a fugue state and wandered off somewhere after bleeding all over the carpet? For fuck’s sake, he spent years decorating this condo. He wouldn’t destroy it. And Spencer, you know what he’s like when he’s got a migraine. He can’t even get out of bed.”
Reid put a calming hand on the other man’s arm. “Andrew, he didn’t mean anything by the question,” he soothed softly. “We’re just trying to figure out what happened.”
Andrew took a deep breath to steady himself and looked up at Morgan with apologetic eyes. “Sorry, I know. It’s just…”
Morgan nodded. “We understand,” he said calmly, mind looping back through the story, to the part about the AIDS benefit. And he remembered that the second victim had been active in various HIV-related charities. “Can I ask you one more question? Did you know Kirk Graves?”
Andrew looked a little startled by the question but he answered without preamble. “We knew Kirk,” he affirmed softly. “His partner Eric owns the foundation that held the benefit I attended tonight. They thought about canceling, considering the circumstances, but…”
Morgan’s hopes were buoyed by the words. Because now they knew the UNSUB was targeting men because of Reid, but they still didn’t know why he was picking these men, out of all the ones still residing in L.A. There was a chance he was planning to go through all of them eventually, or there was a chance that the UNSUB had some connection to all the victims he’d chosen. This was their first real link between victims.
“What about the other two victims, Paul Dunn and Dominic Harrison?” he ventured carefully.
Andrew exchanged a look with Reid before answering. “Paul…I think I was the TA for a class he was in, one that Jonathan taught,” Andrew mused after a moment. “But that must have been…what, fifteen years ago? I barely remembered him, not until I saw…” Andrew trailed off, his face growing pale. “Oh God, is that going to happen to Jonathan?”
“Not if we can help it,” Reid said with a confidence Morgan didn’t feel. “What about Dominic Harrison, did you know him?”
Andrew shook his head. “I’ve never met him,” he breathed. “The first time I ever saw him was when I saw his face on the news…”
Reid squeezed Andrew’s arm supportively. “We’re going to find Jonathan, Drew,” Reid promised again. “I’m not going to let that happen to him. Okay?”
Andrew nodded and sniffled again. “We’re going to go take a look inside, okay? Someone will take you back to the station so we can ask you more questions.”
“Thanks, Spencer. Just…thanks.”
Reid nodded and motioned for some officers to lead Andrew away. Andrew followed quietly, looking defeated, and Reid seemed to deflate a little, as though the conversation had drained him. Morgan eyed Reid carefully as the two of them made their way into the condo, where Rossi, Garcia and JJ undoubtedly already were.
“Partner?” Morgan queried as they walked, and Reid huffed out a breath.
“Husband,” he corrected absently, eyes scanning the exterior of the condo for anything that seemed out of place before they made their way inside. “They made it official last year after the Supreme Court ruled on Prop 8—or declined to rule on Prop 8, rather.”
Morgan pursed his lips as he followed Reid inside, and Reid walked straight through the place as though he was familiar with it. Morgan wondered how long Jonathan had lived here, wondered if this wasn’t Reid’s first trip inside.
“And you’re friends with your ex’s husband? That’s…rare.”
Reid wheeled around to face Morgan, just outside the door to Jonathan and Andrew’s bedroom. “I’ve known both of them since before they got together—since before Jonathan and I got together, even,” he affirmed, eyeing Morgan, daring him to make some comment about it. Morgan pursed his lips.
“And Jonathan was a professor…your professor?” he ventured. Reid let out a frustrated breath.
“Yes, okay, he was my professor,” he forced out. “He didn’t lay a hand on me before I was eighteen, and I wasn’t his student anymore at the time. Drew was his TA. That’s the whole sordid tale. Have I satisfied your curiosity? Can we look at the crime scene now?”
Morgan held up his hands in a universal sign of surrender. “Hey, Reid, I'm not the enemy here,” he defended softly, but Reid just shook his head sadly, ducking into his ex-lover’s bedroom.
The bedroom was exactly as Andrew had described it. There were clear signs of a struggle; things had been knocked off of the dresser, including a lamp and several framed photographs. Crime scene technicians were still logging and photographing all the broken pieces, so Morgan made his way inside tentatively, avoiding disturbing the crime scene. The bloodstain Andrew had described was also there, stark against the cream-colored carpet. Rossi, JJ, and Garcia seemed to be occupied elsewhere, but Hotch was still in the bedroom when they arrived.
A quick conference with Hotch told them what Morgan already expected—that what they saw was what they got. There appeared to have been a struggle, but there was no evidence to suggest where Jonathan might have been taken, if he had indeed been taken. Hotch informed them that CSU was taking fibers and finger print samples, but they all knew that the majority of trace evidence found in the room likely belonged to Jonathan or Andrew. By the time they sifted through it all, it was more than likely that Jonathan would already be dead.
But finally having an abduction site did give them their first real lead; there were no signs of forced entry, which suggested that either Jonathan had let the kidnapper in or the kidnapper had a key. Either option suggested that the killer was acquainted with Reid’s former lover.
Following his report, Hotch turned his attention to Reid. “Reid, have you been here before?” he queried. Reid nodded.
“I have, but not terribly recently,” he admitted, and Hotch nodded absently.
“Well with the exception of Andrew, who we may walk through here later, you’re in the best position to tell us if anything else appears out of the ordinary,” Hotch reasoned. “Take a look around the whole condo and see if anything strikes you.”
Reid nodded sharply, already turning to take in the scene once more. Morgan followed his gaze, taking in the plum-colored bedspread, the decorative wooden headboard, the paintings on the walls, all of landscapes or cityscapes. The sheets in the bed were bunched up and in disarray, seeming to support Andrew’s story that his husband had been in bed. A glass of water sat, undisturbed, on the nightstand.
The framed photos that littered the ground seemed to have previously lined the dresser, which was now bare. Most of the photos had landed facedown and still hadn’t been moved, but as Morgan glanced over at them, he caught sight of one that had landed face-up. It was a photo in a dark wood frame—a photo that showed a group of about ten men and women. In the center of the photo stood a man Morgan assumed was Jonathan, his arm around a much younger Reid, both smiling widely. Next to them stood a smiling Andrew, but none of the other faces in the photo were familiar to Morgan.
Morgan studied the photo, taking in his first sight of the man Reid had admitted to spending several years of his life with. Jonathan was tall, taller than Reid, and wore oval, wire-rimmed glasses. His hair was a dark brown with a bit of a wave to it, and his piercing blue eyes seemed to radiate happiness even through the photo.
The photo displayed a group, certainly, but was it really normal for someone to display a photo with their arm around their past lover—in the bedroom they shared with their husband, no less? Morgan raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t say anything about it. Now wasn’t the time to be judging the man; now was the time to be looking for him.
Reid silently made his way out of the bedroom, clearly having taken in everything he needed to see. Morgan stalked after him, equally silent; he wasn’t even going to pretend he wasn’t keeping an eye on the other man, wasn’t worried about how he was taking this.
The younger agent made his way directly into what was obviously a study, a wood desk the centerpiece of the room. The walls were lined with bookshelves, all of which were full, and they found Garcia and JJ in the room, Garcia typing away at the computer while JJ appeared to be searching through the drawers of the desk.
“Have you found anything?” Reid asked without preamble. Garcia shook her head.
“No threatening emails or anything even slightly suspicious on his computer. Most of his correspondence is with students and other university faculty,” she reported concisely, looking up at Reid with sad eyes. Hotch had obviously filled her in. “Honey, are you okay?”
“I just want to find him,” Reid said impatiently, brushing off Garcia’s concern. “JJ, what about you?”
“Everything in the study seems pretty standard. Nothing is setting off any alarm bells for me. The bottom drawer is locked, though, and I can’t find the key. I was trying to decide whether or not to pick the lock,” JJ reported, looking a little sheepishly at Reid, as if realizing she was admitting to wanting to break into the property of her colleague’s ex-lover. Reid shook his head.
“Don’t bother,” he murmured absently, turning toward one of the bookshelves and staring at it for a moment, counting quietly under his breath. After less than ten seconds, he pulled out a book seemingly at random and opened it to its back cover, sliding a key out from under the dust jacket. Morgan blinked in surprise as Reid walked over and handed the key to JJ. JJ looked as surprised as Morgan felt.
“How did you know it was in there?” she asked seriously, and Morgan looked at the book in Reid’s hand, caught something about “applied quantum cryptography” on the cover—whatever that was. Reid just shrugged.
“Math joke,” he explained self-consciously. “I’ll explain it to you later if you want to hear another lecture about Fibonacci numbers.”
JJ didn’t answer but took the key, putting it into the lock on the drawer and making a triumphant noise when she was able to open it. The first thing she pulled out looked like a scrapbook, and she flipped it open slowly, her face becoming more and more troubled as she went through page after page. She glanced back into the drawer and frowned but quickly schooled her expression, glancing up again.
She met Morgan’s gaze, desperately trying to express something—and then she flicked her head over at Reid, whose eyes were traveling over the room again, clearly following Hotch’s directive and looking for anything amiss. He seemed not to have noticed JJ’s reaction. Morgan frowned as he looked back at JJ—he wasn’t sure what JJ had seen in that drawer, but it was clear she didn’t want to discuss it in front of Reid. Morgan cleared his throat.
“Anything strike you as out of place in here, Reid?” he ventured. Reid sighed softly.
“Not as such, no,” he admitted, finally turning back to JJ. “Anything relevant in the drawer?”
She shook her head immediately. “It’s just old letters,” she said, clearly trying to make her voice sound bland. It was a testament to how distracted Reid was that he didn’t even notice. Morgan pursed his lips as JJ met his gaze again.
“Reid, why don’t you check the other rooms? I think Garcia and JJ and I have it covered in here,” Morgan suggested finally, and Reid looked back at him, seeming out-of-sorts.
“Yeah, I’ll…yeah,” Reid agreed before wandering absently out of the room. When Morgan was sure Reid was out of earshot, he turned back to JJ.
“What the hell was that about?” he inquired impatiently.
“You should take a look at this, Morgan,” was all she said, handing him the scrapbook she’d been looking through. He took it from her hands gingerly, leafing through the pages carefully. They appeared to be news articles, some from actual newspapers but most printed out from the internet. It didn’t take more than a moment for Morgan to put together the common thread—almost all of them were articles about the BAU and their cases, with a few further articles about Reid having given various lectures or written various papers, things he did sometimes in their time between cases. There were some photos, too, showing Reid at crime scenes, Reid in the background of news conferences. It was a long, detailed chronicle that seemed to catalogue every aspect of Spencer Reid’s life from the moment he’d joined the FBI.
Morgan looked up. “Is there anything else in there?” he queried quietly, and JJ nodded, holding up a stack of envelopes, the front of which was decorated with a familiar scrawl. Addressed to Jonathan, return address Spencer Reid, Washington D.C.
“There are probably…god, a hundred letters from Spencer in here,” she said softly. “He saved every single one. And photos, too.”
She handed a stack of photographs to Morgan and he ruffled through them—some were of Jonathan and Reid together, but many of them were of just Reid. Young Reid smiling, reading, sipping a can of soda. Reid asleep on the sofa. Reid eating ice cream. There were some more recent photos of Reid, too, probably ones that Reid had sent. A couple of them even featured other members of the BAU team. Morgan frowned.
“So Reid has kept in touch with his ex,” he breathed. “He’s admitted as much.”
“Keeping letters and photos is one thing,” JJ admitted softly. “But that scrapbook—you don’t think that borders on obsession? It’s like he’s been tracking Reid’s every move since the moment he moved to D.C. If this were anyone but Reid—anyone but Reid’s ex-lover—we’d be questioning whether this person is a stalker.”
Morgan looked up at Garcia, who had paused in her typing to survey the contents of the drawer with them. “She’s right, Morgan,” Garcia agreed, her tone uncharacteristically serious. “There’s something really hinky about this.”
Morgan looked between the two women. “What are you guys thinking?”
JJ took a deep breath. “Well Jonathan was around at the time Reid was sleeping with these other men—or at least he was after the fact,” she reasoned. “He might have been in a position to know who Reid’s former lovers were. To be able to target them.”
Morgan’s eyes widened as he followed JJ’s thoughts to their conclusions. “But why? Why target Reid’s former lovers after all this time?”
JJ shrugged. “I don’t know…jealousy? Maybe he ran into one of them after all these years and it triggered latent rage in him. Maybe he’s been plotting this all along, and some recent event in his life was the trigger.”
Morgan still wasn’t totally on board with JJ’s theory. “And then what? He faked his own kidnapping?” he prodded.
“It doesn’t seem suspicious to you? That we haven’t found a single one of the primary locations until this one, and it’s a huge mess? What with how careful this UNSUB has been, he now snatches a guy right out of his home, breaks a ton of stuff, and leaves a huge bloodstain on the carpet?”
“Maybe Reid’s arrival made the UNSUB sloppy,” Morgan suggested, but JJ had placed a little niggle of doubt in his mind. He was arguing now mostly to play devil’s advocate.
“Yeah, or maybe someone wants us to think the UNSUB has gotten sloppy.”
Reid, predictably, was not receptive to JJ’s theory.
“You think Jonathan kidnapped himself?” Reid asked incredulously, his voice raised. It was clear that JJ had been right about taking Reid out of the room back at the condo, at filling the others in and waiting until they got back to the station until they brought up the theory with their youngest agent. “Have you lost your minds?”
JJ was quick to defend her theory. “Spencer, he’s clearly obsessed with you—”
Reid wheeled around to face her with disbelieving eyes. “Obsessed with me? Obsessed with me?” Reid demanded, more agitated than Morgan had ever seen him. “He’s known me since I was sixteen—literally half my life. We shared a bed—a life—for three years. And you think he’s obsessed with me because he kept track of my career and saved my letters? I save his letters, too. I have copies of every paper he’s published in the last ten years. Maybe I’m ‘obsessed’ with him too!”
The other members of the team looked startled by Reid’s uncharacteristic outburst but no one seemed sure what to say. Morgan felt their eyes turn to him, silently imploring him to reason with Reid. Morgan took a deep breath.
“Reid, would he have been in a position to know the identities of your former lovers?” Morgan pressed.
Reid threw his hands up in exasperation. “Of course he would! I only did it because—” Reid snapped his mouth shut suddenly, as if realizing what he was saying. He glared at Morgan, as if his friend had somehow betrayed him with the question. “No, forget it. I’m not helping you build this ridiculous theory. Jonathan is not a killer.”
Morgan took the two steps across the conference room to reach Reid, putting his hand gently on the other man’s arm. Reid bristled, seemed as though he was about to shake Morgan off, but instead he tolerated the touch, glaring at Morgan with steely eyes. When Morgan spoke, his tone was gentle.
“If he is or if he’s not, either way we need to find him,” he said reasonably. “Our goal is the same no matter what. Which means we need to know everything, Reid. If we’re off base, the investigation will show that. But you can’t protect him by trying to hold back information you think might make him look guilty. Instead of protecting him, that might get him killed. I know you know this.”
Something in Morgan’s words seemed to get through to Reid, because his body sagged a little bit, resigned. He glanced around at all his colleagues. “Okay,” he breathed finally. “What do you want to know?”
“Let’s all sit down,” Hotch suggested reasonably. “Then I suggest you start at the beginning. Anything you can think of about the men you slept with, about your relationship with Jonathan. You never know what might be relevant.”
Reid collapsed into a chair more than he sat, the others taking places around the conference room table. Reid ran a hand through his already-messy hair, disheveling it further, before he spoke, dully.
“I met Jonathan when I was sixteen,” Reid breathed finally, his tone detached, as if he were talking about someone else. “I was going for my mathematics doctorate and he was my professor. Andrew was one of his TAs. I…God, I was completely taken by Jonathan the moment that I met him. But I was sixteen, and I was his student. I kept my feelings a secret, or…well, I thought I did, but it turns out I’m not so great at hiding things.
“Just after I turned seventeen, I…I confessed my feelings toward him,” Reid admitted, flushing slightly. He could still remember that day, remember how mortifying it had been to stand in front of the man he’d spent months fantasizing about only to have the man turn him down quite soundly.
“He shut me down immediately,” Reid admitted softly. “But at the same time, he made it clear that my feelings weren’t totally one-sided. He said all the things you’d expect—that I was underage, that I was his student, that I was still innocent and didn’t know anything about relationships or sex. That I didn’t really know what I was asking from him.
“It sounds ridiculous, looking back at it now, but…I really saw those as problems that I could overcome. He had a problem with me being his student, so I put all my effort into finishing my dissertation, got my first doctorate when I was still seventeen. He thought I was too inexperienced, so I set about…getting experience,” Reid explained awkwardly, looking down at his entwined hands.
“I…flaunted it in his face, enjoyed making him jealous,” Reid admitted guiltily. “I thought that if I made him jealous enough, he’d cave on the final obstacle he’d set up, my age. He didn’t, though, regardless of what I tried. And then after I turned eighteen…”
Reid trailed off with a sigh, rubbing his eyes as he seemed to be gathering his words. After a long moment, he continued.
“After my eighteenth birthday, he finally gave in, despite our almost twenty year age difference. But…it didn’t all work out for the best, mostly because of me. My mom…her condition had been deteriorating for quite some time, and I wasn’t in Vegas to take care of her anymore, to make sure she was taking her meds, so it got even worse than it probably would have otherwise. I was legally an adult, which gave me the authority…so I was struggling with the decision to institutionalize her. I was angry. At her, at the world…and at Jonathan, for making me wait so long.
“So I lashed out. I fought him every step of the way, even though I’d been trying to get him to give in for months. I continued to sleep with other men, refused to commit to him and continued to flaunt the other men right in his face.”
Reid’s story was followed by a short silence as the rest of the team waited to see if he was finished. After a long moment, Rossi cleared his throat.
“Flaunted other men in his face…how?” he prodded after a moment. Reid released a frustrated sigh.
“I know you’re just going to turn this around on him,” he complained, pinching the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes for a long moment before continuing. “I mentioned them in front of him. I went to bars at which I knew he spent time and purposely picked up men while he was there, watching.”
“And the three victims?” Morgan prodded after a moment. Reid glared at him, meeting him only with stony silence. But Morgan refused to relent. “Come on, Reid; I know you remember everything about this.”
Reid slammed his hand on the table in frustration, hissing out a breath through clenched teeth. After a long moment, he seemed to reign in his temper and continued continued.
“Jonathan knew Paul. Paul had been in one of his undergrad courses. I mentioned to Jonathan that I’d slept with Paul,” Reid admitted, tone both angry and reluctant. “The second and third victims…I picked them both up at a bar Jonathan frequented. At which he was a regular. I did it while he was there watching.”
“…and because he was a regular, just because you didn’t know the men’s names doesn’t mean Jonathan didn’t,” JJ filled in, almost hesitantly. “Or he could have easily asked the bartender or another patron for their names.”
Reid frowned. “You’re twisting the facts to fit your theory,” he insisted harshly.
“Are we?” Hotch piped in finally, seriously. “Or are you just too close to this?”
It was almost five in the morning when Hotch and Rossi finally went in to speak with Jonathan’s husband, Andrew King. He was considerably more disheveled than he had been when Hotch had seen him at the crime scene; he’d discarded his suit jacket, removed his tie, and pushed up his sleeves. His longish, dirty blond hair was in disarray, and when they walked in, he was pacing the length of the room in which he had been waiting for the past several hours. He stopped abruptly, his head shooting up as soon as he noticed the two men enter the room.
“Is there any news about Jonathan?” he asked immediately, before Hotch had even gotten a chance to close the door behind him. Rossi shook his head sadly.
“I’m sorry, but no,” he said sincerely, looking at the missing man’s frazzled husband. “The police are canvassing the neighborhood to see if anyone saw or heard anything, and we have every available unit out looking for him.”
Andrew nodded absently, running a hand through his hair, making it clear how it had gotten so messy. He’d probably been doing so for hours. After a long moment, Hotch spoke.
“I’m afraid we weren’t able to make proper introductions before—I’m Supervisory Special Agent Hotchner and this is Special Agent Rossi,” he began, but Andrew just waved his hand dismissively.
“I know who both of you are—Spencer has mentioned you. I’ve seen pictures. I don’t need the pleasantries. I just want to know what you’re doing to find my husband.”
Rossi exchanged a meaningful look with Hotch, wondering if Andrew had seen the contents of his husband’s locked drawer. Hotch gave a short nod.
“That’s understandable,” he conceded evenly. “I know that you’ve been questioned already, but we’d like to ask you a few more questions, if that’s all right with you.”
Andrew threw his hands up in exasperation. “Fine,” he breathed impatiently. “What do you want to know?”
“Maybe we should sit down,” Rossi suggested, and Andrew huffed but sat down on one of the sofas, waiting for the two agents to do the same. Rossi exchanged a look with Hotch; they’d discussed how to broach the topics they wanted to discuss with Andrew, but they both knew that there was really no delicate way to do so. Rossi cleared his throat.
“Mr. King, how is your relationship with your husband?” he asked, trying to keep his tone as neutral as possible. Andrew frowned.
“It’s fine,” he answered uncertainly, gaze flicking back and forth between the two agents. “Are either of you married?”
Hotch and Rossi exchanged a look. “Divorced,” Hotch admitted after a moment. “Both of us.”
Andrew pursed his lips. “Jon and I have been together for ten years,” he said after a moment. “So yeah, there have been some rocky times. But we love each other. We work through our problems.”
Hotch frowned at the response. Reid had told them that he and Jonathan had broken it off before Reid had gone to the FBI Academy. Considering that timeline, ten years together meant that Jonathan and Andrew had begun their relationship not long after Spencer and Jonathan had broken up, if his mental arithmetic was sound. Something about that didn’t sit right with Hotch.
Andrew took a deep breath. “I realize that I’m a suspect,” he intoned after a second, catching their surprised looks. “I know Spencer, and I’ve watched enough cop shows to realize that the spouse is always a suspect. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that my relationship with Jon is perfect. It’s not. But I would never hurt him.”
“If I may ask,” Rossi began gently, “what kind of problems?”
Andrew looked frustrated for a moment, as though he didn’t want to be part of the conversation, before he finally responded. “Jonathan is…a difficult man to love,” he admitted after a moment, seeming to search for words to explain himself. “He’s reserved. Not big on admitting his feelings. Always caught up in work. Those kind of things.”
“Does it bother you that he’s remained in contact with Spencer?” Rossi plowed on carefully. Andrew frowned, seeming confused by the line of questioning.
“Why would it?” he queried after a moment. “They remained friends after their relationship ended. They broke it off on amicable terms—Spencer got recruited for the FBI and Jon didn’t want to move to D.C. We had been friends, all three of us, since long before that. I never expected them to break off contact just because they’d broken up and Spencer had moved away.”
They were starting to get into the dicey territory now, Rossi realized. “You weren’t threatened by your husband remaining friends with his ex?” he pressed. Andrew just shrugged.
“Jon…he’s been in love with Spencer since Spence was like…sixteen. He didn’t stop loving him when they broke up. I know that…I’ve known that since the beginning, since Jon and I first got together. Forcing him to choose between a friendship with Spencer and a relationship with me wouldn’t be fair to any of us.
“But…love is like that, isn’t it? Loving one person doesn’t mean you have less capacity to love someone else. Love isn’t a finite thing. He can still love Spencer and be with me. It’s not an either/or proposition.”
Rossi was a little stunned by how much the blond man had given them, by how much light he’d shed on things when trying to get Reid to admit to anything was like pulling teeth. Hotch, however, seemed entirely unruffled.
“So it didn’t bother you that he tracked Spencer’s career, kept photos and articles and all the letters Spencer sent?” he asked evenly. Andrew looked between the two agents, his expression confused.
“What are you talking about?”
“Jonathan kept a scrapbook that followed Spencer Reid’s entire career in the FBI as well as his academic pursuits. Photographs, articles, all sorts of things. He also saved, as far as we can tell, every letter that Spencer ever sent him. We found all these items in a locked drawer in Jonathan’s desk.”
Hotch watched Andrew’s face as he made his explanation, watched as it moved from confusion to surprise to something else, something more difficult to identify. Andrew pursed his lips, looking down at his lap.
“I didn’t know about that,” Andrew admitted softly, his voice wavering a little. “I mean, I knew Spencer sent letters, but I didn’t know about the rest of it. But…what does this have to do with Jonathan’s disappearance? Why do you keep asking all these questions about Spencer?”
“We’re just trying to shed light on some things,” Rossi said dismissively, but suddenly Andrew was looking suspicious. Rossi tried to change the subject. “Was Jonathan acting strange recently?”
“No,” Andrew answered immediately, distractedly. “Shed some light on what, exactly? Is this helping you find Jon or are you just wasting time digging into your co-worker’s personal life?” he demanded suspiciously. Hotch held up a placating hand.
“I know it might not seem like it, but these questions are relevant, and we take no pleasure in digging up Doctor Reid’s past,” he said, attempting to diffuse the man’s anger. Andrew seemed disbelieving but he didn’t comment further, so Hotch spoke again. “I believe you were with your sister when you found the scene. Where is she now?”
Andrew sighed, his focus successfully turned. “She had to go home,” he said dejectedly. “She wanted to stay and wait with me, but she has a young daughter who was staying with a neighbor while we went to the benefit. You see, her husband died in a car accident a few months ago, and her daughter was injured as well. This is the first time she’d left her daughter at night, and she was worried…”
Hotch and Rossi reconvened with the others in a different room than before, leaving Reid with Garcia as they scoured traffic cams in the area around Jonathan’s condo. Reid had given them an accusatory look as they’d called the others out of the room, knowing that they were going to talk about him, continue to discuss the theory that Jonathan was behind the recent killings, a theory that Reid still strongly contested. Still, he didn’t say anything or try to stop them as the other agents filed out of the room.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Morgan piped up. “So? Did the husband give you anything?” he demanded impatiently. Hotch and Rossi both nodded.
“The husband claims that Jonathan is still in love with Reid, that he always has been,” Hotch prefaced slowly. “He seemed to have no idea about the scrapbook Jonathan kept.”
Morgan looked at the two older men, seeming to expect to hear more. When they didn’t say anything, he spoke.
“I hate to ask the obvious question here, but if this man was still in love with Reid—in love with him to the point that he would commit violence—why didn’t he just leave his husband? Try to get Reid back?”
“We can confirm with Reid, but from what the husband said, it sounds as though Reid was the one to leave Jonathan,” Hotch explained. “King says the split was amicable, and clearly they’ve remained friendly, but perhaps Jonathan didn’t think Reid would be willing to take him back.”
Morgan followed their logic again. “So he killed these men to what…lure Reid out here? How did he know we would come?”
JJ piped up at that. “I’ve been looking through the scrapbook, and there was a lot of information about the BAU in those articles,” she provided. “He would have known what type of cases we tend to get called in on. It was pretty much a given we would have ended up on this case sooner or later, especially considering the initial theory about it being a hate crime.”
“And faking his own kidnapping accomplishes…what?”
The others all exchanged a look, but Rossi was the one who finally answered. “Maybe he was trying to draw Reid out. Take revenge on him personally,” he suggested after a moment. There was a thick, uncomfortable feeling in the room at those words, a reaffirmation of how much danger Reid might be in.
“Then we’ll have to make sure that Reid is never left alone,” Hotch said seriously. “Whether or not Jonathan Warner is the UNSUB, there is a good possibility that Reid is in danger.” There was a murmur of agreement at that.
“If he did fake his own kidnapping, where is he hiding?” JJ pressed after a moment.
“Garcia already checked other properties under Jonathan’s name but came up empty. Perhaps the university, although I think it’s unlikely he’d believe he could hide at his place of employment, especially after his disappearance hits the news this morning. Either way, a few of us should go check it out, since the local PD is busy following the kidnapping angle,” Hotch said.
“We should also ask Reid and Jonathan’s husband if they know of anywhere Jonathan might go. But tread lightly with King—he’s already on the verge of getting angry and shutting us out for asking questions he views as not conducive to finding his husband,” Rossi added, and they all frowned. None of them were eager to question Reid about this when he was already reluctant to help them add any credence to this theory or to waste any time and resources on a search he believed was fundamentally baseless.
“I call dibs on ‘anything-but-Reid,’” Morgan supplied after a moment. JJ rolled her eyes.
By the end of the day, Reid was more sullen and angry than Morgan had ever seen him. They’d checked local traffic cameras, read through all of Jonathan’s emails and text messages, checked the university, and checked all the places Reid and Andrew had posited that Jonathan might spend time, had he actually left of his own accord. They’d been monitoring his bank accounts and credit card usage, questioned all of his co-workers as well as many friends and acquaintances, and canvassed his neighborhood to see if anyone had seen or heard anything in the hours between Andrew leaving for the benefit and coming home to find his husband missing.
And they’d come up empty on every single avenue they’d pursued and what was almost worse—at least in Reid’s estimation—was that his colleagues hadn’t found anything to turn them away from their ridiculous theory that Jonathan was behind it all.
Reid stared gloomily out the window as Hotch drove him and Morgan back to their hotel; they’d been sleeping in shifts since none of them had slept more than an hour before they’d gotten the call about Jonathan’s kidnapping, thus making sure that someone from the BAU team was always awake and helping coordinate the local police department’s search. It was evening before Reid had finally reluctantly agreed to go back to the hotel, although he doubted he’d get more than a few moments of sleep. Every time he let his eyes close, for even a moment, he saw Jonathan’s dead body riddled with stab wounds.
Hotch had tried to put a whole protective detail on Reid, but the younger agent had managed to argue him out of it, positing that their resources were better served searching for Jonathan and answering any other calls that came in about other crimes. He consented to having one officer stationed outside his hotel room and to have Morgan stay in the room with him, since the team stood together on their determination that he was not to be left alone.
Morgan, who hadn’t left his side nearly the whole time since they’d found out about Jonathan—and when he had, it had only been to join the rest of the team on secret conferences about their suspicions of Jonathan’s guilt. Morgan, who had appointed himself Reid’s protector since nearly the moment they’d begun working together, even as he mercilessly teased him, especially in those early years.
Morgan, who had come to his hotel room less than a day ago—had it really only been that long?—with confessions of having desires to be with men, desires he’d never acted on because of what that monster of a pedophile had done to Morgan in his youth. It was like the flip side of the coin of what Reid had been worried about all along; the gay issue was a sore point for Morgan because of Carl Buford. Not that Reid was gay; Morgan had taken that in stride, though he’d taken the news of Reid’s college promiscuity with much less aplomb. No, what bothered Morgan about the gay issue was that he wanted to try it out but felt himself limited by his negative experiences as a teenager.
It all made Reid’s head hurt. And he didn’t want to be thinking about that, didn’t want to be thinking about Morgan and how he could be the one to show Morgan to that safe place, that place where he could find his way with a man who already knew his history, who was sympathetic to it. Didn’t want to worry about how that little fantasy could go horribly wrong, how Morgan could then realize that he wasn’t interested in men after all, that his curiosity had been just that: curiosity.
What Reid wanted to be thinking about, wanted to focus his whole being on, was the search for Jonathan. He was sure the answer was in there, the piece of the puzzle he was missing. If it was all about Reid himself, then Reid should be able to reason it out, should find the answer somewhere in his vast, encyclopedic memory for the answer. He searched and searched his brain until he had to acknowledge that he was getting nowhere on next to no sleep and finally acquiesced to the team’s insistence that he at least try to do so. Even half an hour would be better than nothing, and he would serve Jonathan better with his brain at full capacity. He knew that.
The fact that Morgan was coming with him, the fact that he was so determinedly not freaked out by Reid’s relationships with men, the fact that he seemed increasingly determined to prove to Reid that it wouldn’t damage the closeness between them…all of that made it harder to focus on the case and easier to focus on Derek Morgan’s beautiful chocolate skin and toned body.
Reid groaned softly to himself and gently banged his head against the car window, earing him a concerned look from the man in question and from Hotch as well. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to steady himself, wondering if they’d get to the hotel soon. Not that that would help matters, alone in a room with Morgan. And Reid couldn't pretend he’d never noticed Morgan before, never found himself attracted to the older man’s devil-may-care attitude and flawless body. And he’d cared deeply about Morgan as a friend for a very long time, but he’d never though the other man was a possibility, had immediately stopped any thoughts about more right at the source.
Reid’s eyes snapped open almost immediately as his mind once more conjured an image of Jonathan’s lifeless body—Jonathan, who was lifetimes different than Morgan, who, if anything, was more reminiscent of Hotch. Ultimately caring but publicly stoic, emotionally difficult, and fearlessly focused on his work—although he had a sense of almost childish recklessness that set him far apart from Hotch. But even though Reid could acknowledge that Hotch was an attractive man, had a personality so close to a man he’d once loved, he’d never felt a flicker of real attraction for his boss.
How, Reid wondered, had he found himself so hopelessly attracted to two very different men at two very different points in his life—and how did it happen that his feelings for his colleague were coming to a head right when Jonathan was in mortal danger?
Reid may have been a genius, but no amount of IQ points in the world could help him weed through this emotional wreck of a situation.
After what seemed like an eternity, Hotch dropped them off at the hotel, telling them in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t be allowed back at the station for at least four hours. Reid accepted the pronouncement reluctantly and walked with Morgan back to his hotel room. They stopped off in Morgan’s room for Morgan to pick up a change of clothes and something to sleep in before going back to Reid’s room. Morgan looked around the room reluctantly for a moment. Reid eyed him expectantly.
Morgan just shook his head. “I was thinking of taking a shower, but the officer who’s supposed to be watching the room while we sleep hasn’t gotten here yet,” he explained evenly. Reid couldn’t keep himself from rolling his eyes; even after all these years, Morgan couldn’t seem to stop babying him.
“Morgan, seriously, you take like five minute showers. You don’t even need to shampoo,” Reid said, silently indicating the man’s shaved head. “I can be on my own for five minutes. I have a gun. If you’re really worried about it, leave the door to the bathroom open. If a knife-wielding UNSUB kicks down the door, I’ll be sure to yell for you like the damsel in distress I am. ”
Morgan opened his mouth to protest. “I don’t think—” he began, but he cut himself off after a moment, seeming to realize that was exactly what he was implying. “Okay, okay.”
Morgan finally disappeared into the bathroom—but Reid noticed that he did leave the door to the bathroom open. Reid scoffed as he heard the shower water begin to run and the distinctive sounds of the shower curtain moving on its rod as Morgan stepped into the shower. Morgan, naked and wet and…
Reid shook his head. He was in serious trouble here, and mental fatigue wasn’t making it any better.
Slowly, Reid went through the motions, unclipping his gun holster and setting it on the nightstand before a knock suddenly sounded at the door. Reid frowned—was it the protective detail he’d finally agreed to? Or was Morgan right that he should be worried about someone coming after him?
Reid shook his head to himself at the thought. “Because nice UNSUBs always knock on the door of law enforcement personnel,” he murmured sarcastically under his breath, going to look through the peephole. His brow furrowed as he caught sight of a familiar figure standing outside his door; surprised and confused, he unlocked it and pulled it open.
Morgan tried not to rush through his shower, knowing that Reid would at the very least glare at him if he came in and out in less than two minutes. The younger man had stopped short of all-out accusing Morgan of not trusting him to take care of himself, but Morgan had understood the implications of Reid’s annoyed words. Regardless of how many cases they worked together, how many times Reid came in and out of dangerous situations, defended himself, saved others, Morgan still couldn’t help but think of him as the twenty-something kid who first started working with the BAU and couldn’t even shoot a gun.
That is, when he wasn’t thinking about Reid the man and…other things.
Morgan groaned, looking down at his half-hard cock as if it had betrayed him.
Trying to keep his mind away from the idea of sex, Morgan kept an ear out for Reid moving around the hotel room. He could barely hear anything over the rush of the shower water, but he could hear murmurs of speech after a moment. The TV maybe? Reid was just the sort of glutton for punishment that he’d turn on the news to hear about Jonathan’s disappearance, despite the fact that he knew more about it than any news outlet did.
Morgan shook his head, rinsing off his body and turning off the shower water. It was now silent in the other room, and that didn’t bode well, not at all. Morgan grabbed a towel hastily, stepping out of the tub.
“Reid?” he called experimentally, hoping to hear the other man’s voice call back, even if it was in that annoyed ‘I’m not a child’ tone he’d been using recently. But there was nothing but silence. Morgan quickly pulled on the pair of jeans he’d discarded, not bothering with underwear as he grabbed his gun off the bathroom counter. “Reid?”
Morgan stepped out into the bedroom and his heart fell. The door was wide open and Reid was nowhere to be seen.
Reid’s mocking tone aside, Morgan had been in the shower for less than five minutes and Reid was gone.
Hotch was surprised when his phone rang before he’d even gotten back to the station, even more surprised to see Morgan’s name on the display. He hit the talk button quickly.
“What is it, Morgan?” he asked, foregoing any pleasantries. Morgan wasted no time.
For the first few seconds, Hotch wasn’t sure he understood what had been said. Some part of him thought he must have heard wrong.
“Reid is what?” he echoed in disbelief.
“Gone. Nowhere. Disappeared,” Morgan confirmed impatiently. Hotch felt a rare surge of anger at the words.
“How in the world could that happen? How did you let him out of your sight?”
Morgan growled out a sound of frustration. “I fucked up, Hotch. I let him convince me he’d be fine for five minutes. I fucked up,” he repeated, sounding truly frustrated. “I looked outside but there’s no sign of him or where he might have been taken.”
Hotch wanted to say something to the other man, but he knew Morgan was beating himself up enough already. And spreading the blame around wouldn't do anything to help them find Reid.
“I’ll alert everyone,” Hotch said immediately. “You go to the desk clerk and see if they have security footage we can take a look at.”
Hotch said it, but he knew how easy it must have been to take Reid out of there. Their hotel had doors that opened right to the exterior, right onto the parking lot. Which meant that whoever had taken Reid wouldn’t have even had to worry about sneaking him through a lobby or past anyone. That all he would have needed was to the get the other man to a car.
Stopped at a stoplight, Hotch ended the call and stared at his phone for a long moment, as if the phone were somehow at fault for the bad news. “Damnit,” he swore under his breath before starting to dial Garcia, turning the car around in the process.
By the time Hotch arrived back at the hotel, Morgan was already at the front desk, arguing with the hotel staff about security video. “No, I need anything you have from the west end of the hotel for the last hour,” he said, frustrated. Morgan had clearly dressed with a sense of haste; he had on just a black tank top and faded black jeans, both of which were distinctly rumpled. He looked up at Hotch with a slight sense of relief in his eyes.
“The officer who was supposed to guard Reid arrived right after I got off the phone with you. He’s radioed it in and he’s cordoning off the area now for CSU,” Morgan reported clearly, glancing back at the screen in front of him. “Yes, that’s the west side. Can you rewind to around 9:25 p.m.? Thanks.”
After a moment, he looked back up at Hotch, who was coming around Morgan’s back to look over his shoulder at the surveillance camera footage. “Did you find anything else?” Hotch inquired.
“Didn’t look like the door was forced, which means Reid was stupid enough to open the door himself,” he spat out in frustration, though whether his frustration was really directed at Reid or at himself for leaving Reid alone, Hotch wasn’t sure. “Which means…”
“Jonathan,” Hotch posited after a second. Morgan shrugged.
“Seems possible,” he acknowledged after a moment. “It was someone Reid knew. Or someone masquerading as our protective detail.”
“There!” Hotch indicated harshly. “Start playing there.”
The hotel staff hit the play button and the video started playing, but the person they saw walking up to Reid’s hotel room door—walking right up to it, as though it was no big deal—was not Jonathan at all. But still, Morgan recognized him immediately.
“Andrew King?” he breathed out in disbelief. “Jonathan’s husband?”
“Spencer! Spencer, wake up! Come on, baby, you have to wake up!”
Reid’s head throbbed as he heard a familiar voice calling his name. He fought to open his eyes but was met by a wave of nausea, so he closed them again with a groan.
“That’s it, Spencer, open your eyes,” soothed the voice, so familiar…
Reid’s eyes shot open. “Jonathan?” he murmured, and immediately regretted the move as an even stronger wave of nausea shot through him, his head throbbing. He could feel the uncomfortably familiar sensation of blood caked into his hair. For a moment, he thought he was going to be sick, but his stomach finally settled as he took a few deep breaths.
“Thank God,” Jonathan breathed with palpable relief in his voice. “I wasn’t sure you were going to wake up.”
His words finally seemed to register to Reid, and he looked around the room, taking stock of his surroundings. Jonathan sat across a dark room—the windows were boarded up, blocking out any light from the street—and he appeared to be bound to a metal chair, his hands behind his back. He glanced down at Jonathan’s feet to see that they were bound as well, with zip ties to the legs of the chair.
It was only then that Reid took stock of his own body—and found that he was also bound to his chair, his hands bound behind him with zip ties to rungs of the chair, his feet also bound in the same fashion as Jonathan’s were.
“Couldn’t have used my handcuffs?” he grumbled to himself, annoyed. Because he’d learned to break out of handcuffs years ago, back when he’d first gotten interested in magic—and that’s when he remembered what had happened, remembered that it was Andrew who had taken him. Andrew, who knew that he could break out of handcuffs, because he’d demonstrated for them once, when he was still a teenager.
“Fuck,” Reid breathed under his breath, flexing against the bonds, trying to see if he could move the chair, maybe topple it over, get it to break so he could free himself, although the thick metal of the chair’s frame seemed to indicate there wasn’t a good chance of that. He heard Jonathan’s heavy sigh.
“Don’t bother,” he warned dejectedly. “He’s bolted the damn things to the floor. And if you remember, Drew’s father owns a construction company. He worked there during summer as a kid. He knows what he’s doing, unfortunately.”
Reid continued trying to rock the chair anyway, not willing to take Jonathan’s word for it. He took another moment to look at Jonathan as he did so, pursing his lips as he took in the other man’s appearance. Jonathan had dried blood caked in his hairline, probably from the blow to the head that had resulted in the rather sizeable blood stain on his bedroom carpet. Other than that, though, he didn’t appear to have any visible injuries. His once-brown hair was grayer than it had been the last time Reid had seen him, and more delicate lines surrounded his warm blue eyes, but other than that, he looked rather good, considering the circumstances.
“You’re taking this rather well,” Reid commented slowly before finally giving up on the chair. It wasn’t budging an inch.
“I’ve had quite a few hours to come to terms with the fact that my husband is, apparently, a homicidal maniac,” Jonathan said rather levelly. His composure again reminded Reid a little of Hotch. He almost laughed at the thought but kept his mind on the problem at hand.
“Have you tried yelling?”
Jonathan didn’t roll his eyes, but Reid had known him long enough to be able to tell that it was a close thing. “I may not be a criminal profiler, but I’m not an idiot,” he said, his tone almost scolding. “I yelled for hours—nothing. If I’m correct, we’re right in the middle of a set of houses that are set to be demolished for a shopping center or something. Probably in the furthest building from the road, too.”
Reid took a moment to listen, but Jonathan seemed to be correct. He could hear the cars on the road, but they definitely weren’t anywhere next to it. Reid pursed his lips, thinking, but it was rather hard to do over the pounding of his head.
“My phone,” he murmured after a moment, but Jonathan just shook his head, jerking his head in the direction of the corner of the room—where, Reid saw, there was a table atop which lay two cell phones, both of which had had their batteries removed. Reid sighed. “Well at least he didn’t destroy it. So I won’t have to get a new phone when this is all over.”
“Supposing he doesn’t kill us, of course,” Jonathan supplied helpfully. Reid shot him a look, suddenly remembering how difficult this man could be. He’d forgotten, with years of only sporadic phone calls, letters, and quick visits when he was in the area.
“I’m trying to look on the bright side here.”
Morgan and Hotch stood outside by the car as Morgan pulled out his phone to call Garcia, the phone on speaker. Garcia answered on the first ring.
“Please tell me you found Reid and he’s totally fine,” she said breathlessly without even an introduction. Morgan felt his chest constricting; he felt the same sense of desperation.
“Sorry baby girl, no can do,” he said as evenly as he could mange. “I need everything you can tell us about Andrew King.”
“Andrew King?” she echoed. “Isn’t that Jonathan Warner’s husband?”
“One and the same. He’s the one who took Reid.”
“Oh my God,” she breathed, scandalized, but she got over her surprise quickly, and they could hear her typing at the keyboard. “Let’s see, Andrew King, born April 12, 1974 in San Francisco California. Got his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, a doctorate in mathematics from Caltech. No criminal record; nothing more than a few speeding tickets. Issued a marriage license in late 2013 to one Jonathan Warner. Currently works at a bank. Owns a silver 2006 Honda Civic.”
The car wasn’t news to them; they had already put out an APB on the vehicle when they’d spotted it on the security footage, observed him carrying an apparently unconscious Reid inside it. But with how careful King had been up until then, he had to know they’d be onto him, and he had to know to ditch the car.
“Does he own any other properties in the Los Angeles area?” asked Hotch. They heard a few more clicks of the keyboard.
“Owns no properties whatsoever. The condo is under Jonathan’s name.”
“What about the sister, Monica?” Morgan tried. He knew he was grasping at straws here, but it was all he could think of. “Or his parents?”
More clicks. “Mother is deceased, father owns a construction company in the Bay Area. Father owns a house there, but that’s all. Sister Monica Dawkins, nee King, husband was killed in a car crash last year that also injured her daughter, Jessica Dawkins. Lives in Van Nuys. No criminal record.”
Something about that stuck in Morgan’s mind. “Wait, Jessica Dawkins, the daughter—did she need surgery?” he asked after a moment.
“Searching hospital records now,” Garcia murmured, and Morgan exchanged a look with Hotch, both of them knowing that what Garcia was doing, searching through confidential medical records, wasn’t strictly legal, though they’d long decided to look the other way. “Aha, right on the money my friend. She had surgery on her lung following the crash. Why?”
“What was the name of her surgeon?”
“The surgeon was…victim number three, Dominic Harrison. Damn.”
Morgan rubbed his eyes in frustration. “And there’s King’s connection to all three victims, why he chose them out of all that were available,” he bit out, annoyed with himself for not seeing the connection sooner. But the first two victims had made it more difficult—because their connection with King had also been their connection with Jonathan, and that had clouded their judgment, turned their focus off of King and onto his husband. “Why didn’t we see this sooner?”
“Jonathan Warner was the more viable suspect,” Hotch consoled him after a moment. “He appeared to be obsessed with Reid. Which is likely what his husband thought as well, and why he is seemingly taking revenge on both of them.”
JJ and Rossi arrived just then, Rossi pulling the car into the parking lot with a maneuver that would have likely gotten him arrested, were he not law enforcement himself. Both of them leapt out of the car.
“Do we have anything?” JJ asked immediately. Morgan and Hotch quickly filled them in on what they had so far, which was a suspect, motive, opportunity, and still no location where he was holding the victims.
Reid’s head shot up as he heard the sound of the door opening. He turned his head toward the source of the sound to see, predictably, Andrew standing in the doorway of the room where they were currently being held.
“Look who’s finally seen fit to grace us with his presence,” Jonathan spat angrily at the sight of his husband. Reid shot Jonathan a warning look, but Andrew just laughed.
“You really have no sense of self-preservation, do you?” he asked, amazed, crossing his arms across his chest as he surveyed them. “I see you’re awake, Spence.”
“Didn’t bring any more of Spencer’s ex-lovers to the party?”
Andrew let out what Reid could only describe as a chuckle. “You put that together, did you?” he asked, his expression cruel. This man appeared to be a totally different man than Reid had seen just a short time ago, a man who seemed distraught with worry over his missing husband. Reid couldn’t believe he had been fooled by the act, but then he knew Andrew, and that had clearly clouded his judgment. What he had an even harder time believing was that Hotch and Rossi had been fooled by the act when they’d interviewed him.
“I’ve had a lot of hours to sit here and think about it, honey,” Jonathan hissed angrily. Andrew seemed to lose it then, pulled something out of the back of his jeans—and in a moment, Reid realized it was a gun. His gun.
Andrew took two strides across the room to Jonathan, pressing his hand under the older man’s chin, holding the gun up against his face.
“Well, sweetheart,” Andrew jeered, mocking, his husband’s tone. “I watched Spencer fuck a whole line of different men, spread his legs for each and every one of them like the little fucking whore that he is, watched him bandy them around in front of you like a whiny fucking child, and you still picked him over me!”
Reid watched his outburst with mounting trepidation—especially as he spotted something else tucked into the back of Andrew’s jeans, a rather large knife. More likely than not, it was the knife that had killed the other three victims. The fact that he now also held a gun was an even bigger worry, especially with Jonathan purposely pushing the man’s buttons. What Reid needed was to buy them time—time for the team to work out where they were being held, as he had no doubt they would.
“Andrew, calm down,” Reid said as evenly as he could manage. Andrew spun around quickly, as though he had momentarily forgotten Reid’s presence. “You got him. You’ve had him for the last ten years. You married him. He didn’t pick me.”
If anything, the tactic at least changed Andrew’s focus from Jonathan to him. He straightened up, striding a step toward Reid and holding the gun casually in one hand, knowing the two bound men were no risk to him.
“Yes, Spencer,” Andrew breathed cattily. “He married me, but he never picked me. He settled for me because you left and you refused to let him follow you. You know that if you hadn’t forbid him from doing it, he would have gone to D.C. with you. If you just said the word, even now, he’d drop me in a second and go running back to you.” He spun back around to look at Jonathan. “Wouldn’t you, Jon?”
Jonathan quirked a cavalier eyebrow. “Probably,” he conceded, no sense of remorse in his voice. Andrew turned the gun back on Jonathan immediately.
“Jonathan, be quiet,” Reid hissed, trying to get the man to stop digging their hole even deeper. Andrew just laughed, but it was a bitter, humorless sound.
“Relax, Spence, he’s just confirming what I already know,” Andrew breathed offhandedly. “It doesn't change the fact that I'm going to kill both of you. I just wonder…who am I going to kill first?”
Reid felt his blood run cold to see this man he’d known for over fifteen years seem to show absolutely no hesitation, no remorse at the talk of killing someone. And not just anyone—he was talking about killing his longtime friend and his husband, and he was doing it with a sense of almost amused glee.
“Hmmm,” Andrew mused out loud, pacing back and forth across the room as he pressed the tip of the gun against his mouth in a thinking pose. “Do I want to make Jonathan watch me kill the man he loves or make Spencer watch me kill the man he loves?” He paused for a moment before he smiled.
“But Jonathan isn’t the man you love, is he Spence?” he taunted with a grin. “You thought you loved him, at first, but you didn’t love him enough to ask him to come to D.C. with you. Does Doctor Spencer Reid even know how to love, I wonder? Or does that 187 IQ of yours leave no room for human emotions?”
“Fuck you, Drew,” Jonathan hissed, but Andrew just laughed again.
“What about the man in Spencer’s hotel room, hmm?” he continued, ignoring his husband’s outburst. At the surprised look in Jonathan’s eyes, Andrew smiled. “Oh yes, baby, Spencer seems to have been sharing a hotel room—with one bed—with one very good-looking muscular black man. Maybe I should go find him, hmm? Kill him in front of Spencer, kill Spencer in front of you, and then finally kill you.”
Reid felt a moment of panic at the idea of Andrew getting his hands on Morgan. Andrew was twisting the facts from how he’d seen them—but Reid couldn’t deny that he was unsettlingly close to the truth. While he’d thought he’d loved Jonathan, and part of him certainly had, the idea of Jonathan dying didn’t cause the same sense of soul-crushing agony that the idea of Morgan dying did. Still, Reid managed to put on a false sense of bravado.
“I’d like to see you try to kill him,” he said flatly. “He’s definitely a better shot than you are, and he must outweigh you by at least twenty pounds of solid muscle.”
Andrew just smirked. “Wouldn’t help if he’s zip-tied to a chair,” he supplied helpfully. “Although I didn’t prepare a third chair for him…too bad. I guess I’ll have to settle for just the two of you.”
Andrew crossed the room, setting Reid’s gun down on the table next to their dismantled cell phones. Then he pulled out his knife with a wicked grin, pulling it out of its sheath, which he also discarded on the table.
“And I think we decided that Spencer is first—so Jon can watch, of course,” he murmured with a large smile, advancing on Reid.
Reid had been missing for almost ninety minutes when they finally got the call from Garcia while they cruised through the streets, hopelessly looking for a sign of King’s car. Garcia got them all on a conference call—Hotch and Morgan in one car and JJ and Rossi in the other.
“They’ve found Andrew King’s car, parked in a parking structure in West Hollywood,” she reported. “They found blood in the trunk that we’re guessing belongs to Reid. I’m waiting for the security footage now.”
Morgan hit the dashboard with a curse. “But he probably just stole another car—someone would have noticed him lugging Reid’s body on foot,” he reasoned.
“Not necessarily,” Rossi put in from across the line. “At this hour, he could have written it off as helping a drunk friend, provided that no one saw the blood. Especially if it’s near any bars.”
“It is, as well as several gay clubs,” Garcia provided helpfully. “Which also means that if he stole another car, it’s possible the owner won’t notice it’s missing until after last call.”
“We’re in West Hollywood now, Garcia—can you give us an address? Maybe we can get the security footage sooner if we go straight to the source,” Hotch reasoned, and they all agreed, Garcia rattling off the address. Rossi and JJ were further away, but they promised to make their way to the area, possibly join with the police who were already canvassing the area for any witnesses.
Morgan and Hotch arrived at the parking structure in less than ten minutes, and the attendant was more than willing to help them with the security footage. It took longer than Morgan expected to find King’s silver Honda Civic—and they spotted two of the same model of car coming in to the structure before they found the right one, which had driven in only thirty minutes prior.
Morgan pursed his lips, exchanging a look with Hotch. “The hotel to here is what…a fifteen, twenty minute drive, maybe?” he posited slowly. “So why did it take him over an hour to get here to ditch his car?”
“He must have dropped Reid off at whatever location he’s keeping him,” Hotch reasoned. “Which means that we can figure out a possible perimeter based off of the hotel, this location, and the traffic patterns.”
“Where’s Reid when you need him?” Morgan murmured with a humorless laugh. Hotch made a pinched expression.
“Look for any footage of King leaving, possibly in another car,” he directed. “I’m going to call Garcia and see if she can help us with a perimeter. If we have a smaller search area, we’re more likely to spot that car, so find the footage.”
“Andrew, stop!” Jonathan yelled, sounding panicked for the first time since Spencer had arrived. “If you want to kill someone, kill me. I’m the one you’re angry at.”
Andrew turned away from Spencer for a moment, and Spencer let out a momentary sigh of relief. His heart was beating a mile a minute, because he’d been sure the man was about to turn the knife on him. Turning his knife on Jonathan wasn’t really a preferable option, though.
“Oh trust me, Jon, I have plenty of anger to go around,” Andrew said with a smirk. He took a predatory step toward Jonathan. “Actually, I’d much rather kill the man Spencer loves in front of him, show him what it’s like to have someone snatch away the person you love from right under your nose. But like I said, I’m pretty sure Spencer is incapable of love, so I’ll have to settle for the next best thing.”
Andrew turned back to Spencer with a wicked grin. “What do you think, Spence?” he taunted. “I’ve gotten better at stabbing people so it takes them time to bleed out, you see. I managed to stab Dominic thirteen times before he died—preparation for this moment, of course. How many times do you think I can stick you? Probably a lot—you always did love when men stuck it in you.”
It didn't take long to find footage of Andrew driving a black Toyota Corolla out of the parking structure just minutes after he’d driven in. They’d put out an APB on the car, but the security footage didn’t give a clear shot of the license plate—which meant that it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Hotch and Morgan reconvened with Rossi and JJ inside the parking structure as they all grew increasingly frustrated.
“Garcia, what’s in the perimeter you established?” Hotch spoke into the phone, which they had on speaker for the team’s benefit.
“Uh…it’s mostly residential, condos and houses. Some stores, restaurants, a couple of bars. Nothing that really stands out,” she admitted dejectedly.
“Nothing industrial? Warehouses?” Rossi ventured.
“Nada. Zip. Zilch.”
“What about a basement?” JJ supplied.
Something stuck out in Morgan’s mind, something Reid had mentioned once, in passing. “Most houses in California don’t have basements,” he said simply. “There has to be something we’re missing.”
They all fell silent for a moment before something struck Morgan suddenly. “Wait, Andrew King works at a bank, right?” he inquired after a moment.
“Yeah. What are you thinking?” Garcia asked over the line.
“Are there any properties foreclosed upon or repossessed by the bank in our radius?” he asked, feeling a sudden surge of hope. They could hear Garcia’s furious typing over the line.
“Let’s see…there are several properties in foreclosure, but…hm, this one is already on the market, and…bingo! There’s a group of houses that were all repossessed by the bank, scheduled to be demolished to make way for a shopping center. Looks like the road leading up to them is a dead end, and currently closed.”
“That’s it!” Morgan said triumphantly. “It must be.”
“Garcia, send us an address—we’re on the way now. And alert the local police so they can send any available units that are close by,” Hotch said succinctly as they all made their way to their cars without preamble.
“Drew, stop!” Jonathan called out, becoming more frantic, finally struggling against his bonds again as his husband advanced on Reid. Andrew just laughed, ignoring the other man as he stopped in front of Reid, meeting his eyes with a wicked grin. Holding his knife idly in one hand, he moved to remove Reid’s tie, ignoring the other man’s struggles in the background.
“You, Spencer, always wore too many clothes,” he remarked idly as he removed the tie with an almost absurd gentleness, undoing the knot and looking back over his shoulder at Jonathan.
“Maybe we should shut Jonathan up with this,” Andrew remarked after a moment, indicating the tie in his hands and sharing an almost conspiratorial look with Reid. “So kinky. Although maybe I do want to hear him beg for your life.”
Reid cleared his throat apprehensively. “You’re not going to get away with this. My team will find you,” he said, with as much composure as he could muster considering that Andrew had moved to nearly sitting on his thigh, carefully unbuttoning his lavender dress shirt.
“I never intended to ‘get away with it,’ Spencer,” Andrew said, as though talking to a naïve child. “Only long enough to get your cute little butt here. Did that bug you, I wonder, seeing the corpses of the men you once let fuck you? It seemed poetic to me, I must say.”
Reid couldn’t help the shiver that ran through his body at that—because a man with no regard for his own safety or survival was the most dangerous kind.
“Never considered…inviting me to stay the weekend?” Reid asked shakily as Andrew undid the last button, splaying the shirt open to reveal Reid’s pale chest. He ran the tip of the knife almost reverently along Reid’s stomach.
“Would you have come?” he asked seriously, raising an eyebrow at Reid. “No, I don’t think so. You couldn’t get away from us fast enough, because the only intimacy you’re comfortable with is through phone calls and letters. You’re so afraid to let anyone see you, Spence, but I see you…I saw you from the start, saw that selfish little boy who was just going to use Jon and throw him away when you were done, then string him along for years and years without letting him move on.
“No…no, there’s no way you’d join us for a domestic little weekend at home. How would I invite you, anyway? ‘Hey, want a threesome’? But oh, that could have been a fun memory to have before I killed you both,” Andrew said, chuckling. “Ultimately, there just aren’t enough serial killers in Los Angeles these days. Such a shame. So I had to take matters into my own hands to get you here.”
“You’re sick, Drew. You need help,” Reid ventured, but Andrew just laughed.
“Help? I think I’m way beyond help at this point,” he said humorlessly. “Actually, you could help me right now. Would you prefer your first stab to the gut or to the chest?” he teased, making a tiny, teasing slice across Reid’s chest, right next to the nipple. “Maybe I’ll just take off the nipples for good measure—Jon said you always liked those.”
Then the room suddenly descended into chaos.
“Freeze, federal agents!” came a familiar voice, and Reid felt a striking sense of relief in his chest at the sound of Morgan’s voice. “Put down the knife!”
But with speed Reid didn’t know Andrew possessed, the blond man was suddenly behind him, knife pressed to Reid’s throat, using Reid’s body as a shield between himself and the members of the BAU, who were slowly filtering into the room. Andrew cackled in Reid’s ear, seeming almost pleased by the turn of events.
“Your boyfriend’s here,” Andrew sing-songed quietly against the shell of Reid’s ear before turning his attention the agents.
“How about this?” he bargained with a grin. “How about you put down your guns or I slit the good doctor’s throat? What do you say to that?”
Morgan met Reid’s eyes, as if trying to confirm the veracity of Andrew’s words. Reid didn’t doubt that Andrew was serious; he could feel the bite of the metal tight against his throat, feel the tiniest bit of blood starting to seep out as the pressure caused it to break the skin. He saw Morgan realize this, saw him hesitate, as if to lower his gun.
Reid’s eyes widened, and he flicked them toward the feet of the chair, watching Morgan’s eyes follow his gaze. Watched Morgan realize the chair was bolted to the floor, which meant that Andrew couldn’t do anything to move their positions, couldn’t try to put Reid any more into the line of fire. Reid held Morgan’s eyes. ‘You can make the shot’ he mouthed, and he saw the moment that Morgan realized it. Morgan smiled conspiratorially.
“How about this?” Morgan countered, and pulled the trigger.
Several things happened at once. Reid heard the bang, a millisecond later felt Andrew’s body jerk as he fell from the precise head shot. With the jerk, the knife nicked Reid’s throat, and he felt a stinging pain before Andrew finally fell to the ground. Morgan was at Reid’s side before he knew what had happened.
“Reid!” Morgan yelled, hand going up to Reid’s throat, trying to staunch the flow of blood that Reid now realized was running undaunted down his bare chest. Reid just coughed.
“My neck just can’t catch a break recently,” he joked weakly, the sight of all the blood—his own blood—making him feel a little woozy. Or maybe that was the blood loss itself, although it seemed a little premature for that. “He didn’t hit anything vital, don't worry.”
“This blood gushing into my hands says different,” Morgan countered, turning to look over his shoulder. “I need a medic!” He turned back to Hotch, who was checking Andrew’s pulse to confirm what they already knew: he was dead. “Hotch, we need to cut him loose.”
One of the other officers in the room managed to produce a knife to cut through Reid’s zip-tie bonds, and with the help of the medics, they were able to transfer Reid onto a stretcher, paramedics now taking care of staunching the blood still flowing freely from Reid’s neck. Someone else had cut Jonathan loose, Morgan saw, and another medic was checking his pupil response for a concussion.
Morgan took a deep breath, following Reid’s stretcher out. It wasn’t over yet.
In the end, Reid needed six stitches, but the doctors seemed to agree with Reid’s own initial assessment that the damage was mostly superficial. They’d also applied a small bandage to the cut Andrew had made next to Reid’s nipple—thankfully that one really had been superficial, hadn’t needed any stitches. He’d suffered some blood loss and he also had a mild concussion from the blow to the head, but overall it wasn’t a bad outcome in the world of post-case Reid. Morgan had been able to sit by Reid’s side as they had stitched him up in the ER, and although watching someone get their neck stitched up wasn’t Morgan’s favorite pastime, he was grateful.
The hospital staff had insisted Reid stay for at least a few hours so they could monitor his head wound, but after some strong-arming from Hotch (after he’d confirmed with Reid that the man would rather go back home and sleep in his own bed), they agreed to release Reid in the morning barring no complications.
The rest of the team went back to the hotel to get some sleep before Reid was discharged in the morning, but Morgan couldn’t make himself leave Reid’s side. He was pretty sure the rest of the team viewed it as misdirected guilt over letting Reid get kidnapped from right under his nose, and he was okay with letting them believe that. Hell, he did feel that guilt, that anger at himself for the outcome, but that wasn’t the strongest emotion inside him.
No, the strongest emotion was the lingering fear over the fact that he’d nearly lost Reid, the gut-wrenching agony that pooled in his gut every time he thought about it. He’d feel the same over losing any one of his friends or family, but with Reid…it was more. It had taken a lot to get him to that point—had taken Reid getting kidnapped, jealousy over seeing so many of Reid’s sexual partners laid out before him—but finally, Morgan was able to see what had been in front of him all along. What he felt for Reid wasn’t just an attraction or a theoretical presumption of safety with the man. It wasn’t just friendly, brotherly affection either.
It was more, it was that all-encompassing something that he’d been missing with Savannah, the something that had eventually caused their relationship to crash and burn. Savannah was beautiful, funny, smart—but not as awkwardly beautiful, not as accidentally witty, and certainly not as smart as Spencer Reid.
Morgan just barely stopped from jumping in his chair as he watched Reid sleep when another person stepped up to the other side of Reid’s bed. He’d been so lost in thought that he hadn’t even noticed the other figure’s approach.
Morgan’s eyes followed the hospital gown-clad body up to the man’s face, finding himself staring into a pair of impossibly blue eyes. He found himself observing the man for a minute—he’d seen numerous pictures of Jonathan from over a large span of years, but the pictures didn’t do him justice. He was tall, easily six foot two, with wavy graying hair and those blue eyes looking out from behind now frameless glasses. He had a bandage covering a good portion of his head—his husband’s blow with the lamp had apparently done quite a significant amount of damage.
The hospital had also insisted on keeping Jonathan overnight, Morgan knew; he had needed several stitches to close his head wound and the hospital staff was concerned about dehydration. Morgan knew because Reid had sent him to check on his former lover’s condition before he’d fallen into a peaceful sleep, seemingly relieved by the news Jonathan was also all right. Reid seemed to be sleeping easily, although medical staff came in every so often to wake him and check his alertness.
“I’m not sure they condone patients wandering the halls at night,” Morgan commented dryly as he and Jonathan surveyed each other slowly. Jonathan just gave him a rakish smile.
“It turns out I know the night nurse assigned to my room,” he commented offhandedly, taking a step closer to Reid’s bed and looking down at the younger man. Morgan bristled, had to stop himself from protesting as Jonathan reached out and brushed a lock of hair away from Reid’s face as he slept. Reid wasn’t his to protect from casual touches, Morgan had to remind himself, and certainly not from a man with whom Reid had shared a bed for many years. Still, he couldn’t help himself from flinching at the sight.
“You could have gotten him killed,” Jonathan finally commented, never looking away from Reid’s face. Morgan couldn’t help it; he felt obsessively territorial at seeing Jonathan gazing down at Reid with such affection.
“I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t then,” he countered combatively, and Jonathan finally looked up again, surveying Morgan in a way that made him feel like a specimen being studied under a microscope. After a long moment, Jonathan released a little chuckle and turned back to gaze at Reid’s sleeping face.
“Well that settles that, then.”
Morgan frowned. “What?”
“You must be the good-looking black man to whom my late husband referred,” Jonathan remarked, seeming surprisingly unaffected at mentioning his husband, despite all he’d done. “The one sharing a room—with one bed, he added for dramatic effect!—with Spencer. ”
Morgan frowned, but of course Andrew had noticed that, must have seen Morgan go into Reid’s hotel room before he’d snatched Reid. Must have seen the inside of the room when he’d knocked Reid over the head and dragged him out. And of course he’d mention that to Jonathan—jealous at the thought his husband was still in love with Reid, he’d never miss a chance to poke at Jonathan with something like that.
“It wasn’t like that—” Morgan began to protest, but Jonathan waved a hand dismissively.
“But you want it to be,” he put in with an air of certainty, the words not even a question. Morgan couldn’t hold back his gasp of surprise, and Jonathan finally looked back at him, seeming slightly pleased at having gotten one-up on the other man.
“Oh, don’t look so shocked,” Jonathan murmured, his tone almost scolding. “If anyone knows what ‘lovesick over Spencer Reid’ looks like, it’s me. Hell, I probably have a second doctorate in the subject. That possessive look in your eyes at seeing another man touch him…ah, I remember that feeling well.”
“I’m not…” Morgan began to protest, almost a reflex. But he was, and Jonathan had identified exactly what he was thinking, and he had no confidence that he could deny that fact with any sense of believability.
They remained there silently for a few moments, Morgan sitting in the chair beside Reid’s bed and Jonathan standing, his IV bag dangling from its stand next to him as he stared down at Reid’s slumbering face. Then suddenly, unprompted, Jonathan spoke again.
“You know, all these years he hasn’t been in a single serious relationship,” he remarked after a moment, and although he didn’t say Reid’s name, there wasn’t a shred of doubt in Morgan’s mind to whom Jonathan’s words referred. Jonathan pursed his lips thoughtfully for a beat before continuing. “I thought that maybe it was because subconsciously, he still hadn’t gotten over me, that a part of him was waiting for me, and that was why he couldn’t settle.”
And after a moment, Jonathan turned to Morgan, his piercing blue eyes deadly serious.
“I don’t think I’m the one he was waiting for,” he proclaimed gravely.
Morgan opened his mouth to reply but realized that he didn't have any words rumbling around in his brain, just surprise and confusion. He closed his mouth again without uttering a single word. Jonathan seemed nonplussed by the lack of verbal reaction and turned back to gaze at Reid as he continued on, undaunted by Morgan’s silence.
“He talked about you a lot, you know,” he remarked lightly. “Far more than he mentioned anyone else on the team. In retrospect, I should have seen this coming from a mile away. I suppose we can fool ourselves into seeing what we want to see, if we want it badly enough.”
Jonathan turned to Morgan one last time, his expression slightly regretful. “You take care of him,” he ordered seriously. “And please, do try a little harder not to get him killed.”
With that, Jonathan turned and wheeled his IV stand out of the room. Morgan watched him go without a word, everything he was thinking swirling inside him, unable to find an anchor.
It took a little more arguing with the hospital staff in the early morning before they agreed to release Reid after eliciting promises that he would take it easy. Hotch had gone and packed Reid’s things, and it was at Reid’s insistence that Morgan—who looked a little worse for the wear after three days on next to no sleep—went back to the hotel to shower and pack up his own things before they boarded the plane. It was with a certain feeling of reluctance that Reid parted with Morgan; he couldn’t deny that he’d felt comforted to wake up to see the other man sitting beside his bed, watching over him.
Hotch had politely turned his back as he waited for Reid to dress in his own clothes, though Hotch had determinedly selected them for him. A lightweight knit shirt with a wide enough neckline that it didn’t go anywhere near his injured throat and a pair of comfortable pants. He knew the others would insist he lay down in the plane, the situation so reminiscent of their case in Texas not so long before—Reid with a neck wound sleeping on the plane was starting to become a pattern.
Reid straightened his shirt with a sardonic chuckle. “You think the department will shell out extra cash for some sort of neck guard for me?” he joked feebly, rubbing the side of his neck where the rough skin from his gunshot wound still ached slightly. Hotch chanced a glance over his shoulder and, seeing that Reid was dressed, turned around fully.
“I hope you realize that I’m entirely serious when I say that part of me is considering that request,” his boss remarked flatly, but something about the twinkle in his eye said that he wasn’t serious at all. Reid smiled softly.
The hospital staff—and Hotch along with them—insisted on getting Reid in a wheelchair, proclaiming that it was hospital policy, and after a few moments of arguing that he could walk just fine, thank you, Reid reluctantly agreed to let Hotch wheel him around.
“On one condition,” he posited, looking back and forth between Hotch and the nurse. “If Jonathan hasn’t checked out yet, I want to see him.”
That took some negotiating too, but somehow Hotch managed to convince the hospital staff that seeing Jonathan before they left was somehow relevant to the case. It was a little over ten minutes later that Hotch wheeled him into Jonathan’s hospital room. Jonathan sat up quickly at the sight of the two men, seeming surprised to see Reid there.
“I’ll leave you two alone,” Hotch said without any prodding from Reid. “I’ll come back to get you in ten minutes.”
Reid murmured his thanks as Hotch made his way out of the room with a cursory nod of greeting at Jonathan, for the sake of politeness. Jonathan waited until the other man was well out of the room before he spoke.
“I wasn’t sure I’d see you before you left,” was all he said when he finally did. Reid frowned for a moment; he’d asked to see Jonathan, but when faced with his former lover when they were finally out of harm’s way, he found himself unsure of what to say to the other man, unsure of where to start.
“When are they releasing you?” he asked finally, awkwardly.
“As soon as the doctor comes to check me over and they get me the paperwork to sign, I’m told,” Jonathan informed him, watching him with a strange expression, as if seeing him for the first time. “How are you feeling?”
Reid just shrugged, letting his elbows settle on the armrests of his wheelchair. “I’ve felt better, but then I got shot in the neck a few months back, so this is pretty preferable, comparatively. What about you?”
“Finding myself both shocked and totally unsurprised that I married a homicidal maniac,” Jonathan remarked, his voice oddly devoid of emotion. “There was always something about him…”
At that, Reid felt a surge of his suppressed frustration. “You know, my team saw all the stuff you kept—the articles, the letters—and they thought you were the killer,” he bit out harshly, but even Reid wasn’t totally sure from where his anger stemmed, whether it was directed at Jonathan for keeping all those things in the first place or whether it was directed at his team, for reading the situation so incorrectly. “The word ‘obsessed’ was thrown around rather liberally.”
Jonathan seemed surprised for a moment before slowly accepting the pronouncement. “Well,” he breathed after a brief silence, seeming truly at a loss for words at first. “I suppose I can see how they came to that conclusion.”
“Are you?” Reid pressed confrontationally. “Obsessed with me?”
Jonathan frowned. “I wouldn’t use that word, no,” he said, seeming offended by the suggestion. His expression slowly evened out before he continued. “I suppose I never got over you. Always hoped you’d take me back.”
“But you married Andrew anyway.”
It was Jonathan’s turn to shrug. “It seemed like the thing to do,” he commented. “At the time.”
Reid threw up his hands in frustration. “You don’t marry someone because ‘it seems like the thing to do’!” he exclaimed angrily. “You weren’t a straight couple. Andrew wasn’t pregnant with your lovechild, with zealous religious parents demanding you make an honest woman out of him. That’s not how this works, Jonathan.”
Jonathan pursed his lips. “Drew would have made a terrible woman, honest or otherwise. And he’d certainly have aborted our theoretical lovechild.”
Reid eyed Jonathan disbelievingly, having a hard time in that moment remembering why he’d been so taken with Jonathan all those years ago.
“I can’t believe you’re joking about this. Your husband killed three innocent men and kidnapped and nearly killed both of us, all because he was jealous of the fact you were still in love with me.”
Jonathan gave him a argumentative look as though to say, ‘So what?’ Reid shook his head with aggravation.
“Doesn’t that make you think that something in your life needs to change?” he prodded, floundering. Something beat hard in his chest, the familiar frustration that the person to whom he was speaking couldn’t see what Reid saw so clearly.
“You haven’t had a single serious relationship in over ten years—excuse me for thinking that maybe I had some chance,” Jonathan bit out childishly. Reid stared him down seriously.
“And while we’re on that topic, what the hell did you think you were doing talking to Morgan this morning?” The curse slipped past Reid’s lips before he even noticed, incensed at the memory of what he’d overheard.
Jonathan at least had the grace to appear sheepish at the accusation. “So you weren’t asleep, then.”
Reid looked at him stonily. “No, I wasn’t asleep,” he said flatly. “So why don't you answer my question?”
“Believe it or not, I was trying to help you. Agent Morgan seemed as though he needed an additional push.”
Reid forced himself to take a deep breath, trying to steady himself before he answered. “The last thing Agent Morgan needs,” he hissed sharply, “is someone pressuring him into being with me. The last thing he needs is to feel coerced.”
Jonathan opened his mouth to reply, but at that moment, the subject of their conversation strode purposefully into the room. Jonathan shut his mouth hastily, and Morgan looked back and forth between them, as if sensing that he had walked in on a contentious conversation.
“Hotch sent me to get you,” Morgan explained finally, his feeling of awkwardness almost palpable in the room. “Are we all good here?”
Reid exchanged a long, meaningful gaze with Jonathan before looking up at Morgan and nodding. “We’re finished,” he declared with a note of finality. “Let’s go home.”
The trip home passed in much the way that Reid has expected. The team insisted that he lie down, and he had agreed with minimal fuss. He felt restless after being tied up and then being confined to a hospital bed for hours, but the plane was small, and even if he had fought against their mother-henning, it wouldn’t have provided him any feeling of freedom.
So Reid made a calculated decision that there was only one thing he reasonably could do and gave in to his team members’ concerns, although he did manage to extract a promise in return from Morgan—that the man would at least try to catch some sleep on the flight home. Out of all of them, Morgan gotten the least sleep over the past several days, and the fact that he conked out, reclined in his airplane seat just a few minutes after seeing that Reid was comfortable, spoke directly to how burned out Morgan was.
Reid dozed on and off on the flight home, listening to the comfortable lull of conversation between the other members of the team, but it was difficult to keep his mind quiet, especially now that the immediate danger had passed. It was difficult to avoid thinking about how much his life had changed in just a few short days.
His team was now privy to the truth about his sexuality, something he’d studiously hidden for the ten years since he’d joined the FBI. He hadn’t been lying to Hotch when he’d said that at first, he’d intended on telling them eventually, if it ever became relevant, but that revelations about Morgan’s past had made him decide to keep quiet. What he hadn’t told Hotch was that after that, the secret had taken on a life of its own—and he’d stopped even imagining scenarios in which he’d be comfortable with his friends knowing. He’d grown comfortable keeping that side of himself a secret, and he’d been celibate for so long that he’d almost forgotten that his sexuality was even relevant. If it weren’t for his ability to constantly get injured, he’d almost forget that the body that happened to house his brain also had desires of its own.
But now it was all out in the open—not only his sexuality but also his past relationships and all that entailed. He was grateful to his team for taking the news mostly in stride, for accepting him despite the huge secret he’d hidden from them for so many years. He appreciated the silent support he’d gotten from them, but he couldn’t deny that it made him uncomfortable that they all now knew more than he’d ever even imagined telling him, even if he had been comfortable coming out to them from the start. Because sure, it was a possibility that he’d tell his teammates that he was gay, but he’d never considered the idea of giving them photos and detailed profiles of nearly every man he’d ever slept with. It was equal parts mortifying and somehow freeing to know that everything was out in the open.
Then there was Jonathan and Andrew—and the niggling guilt he felt for having been the cause of this situation, having been the reason three completely innocent men were killed, all for having a tryst (or several, in Paul’s case) with him fifteen years prior.
Reid was a profiler and he had a bachelor’s degree in psychology—and even though psychology wasn’t his specialty, he’d read probably more papers and books on the subject than the rest of his team combined, so he knew that it wasn’t really his fault, knew that most men didn’t become serial killers over jealousy and marital problems. Most men found a healthier way to deal with such everyday issues—or at the worst turned to some sort of self-harm or rage-induced violence.
But that hadn’t been Andrew at all—he was the calculated, careful type of serial killer that didn’t result from a mental break or uncontrollable temper. Andrew hadn’t killed those men in a bout of angry rage; he’d carefully planned and executed a plot to bring Reid out to Los Angeles, callously using the dead men as bait.
No, Reid knew that he hadn’t been the cause of the incident, not really. He’d played some part, though, given Andrew the impetus that had finally pushed him over the edge. That violence had been inside Andrew from the start, and there was no doubt about that, but Reid also knew that there were men and women who felt that desire to commit violence but found another way to channel it, avoided hurting others. He recognized that possibility most in Hotch, had seen it come out at the brutal end with Foyet…
Yes, Reid recognized quite strongly how easily Hotch’s life could have taken a different turn, how he could have become a killer instead of hunting them. He also distinctly felt the possibility that if he hadn’t been a presence to stoke the fire, Andrew might have gone on without killing anyone.
It was all supposition, and Reid knew that, knew that Andrew might have taken exactly the same path eventually, with or without him. That didn’t assuage the knot of guilt in his chest.
And then there was what somehow amounted to the biggest issue swirling around in Reid’s brain—Special Agent Derek Morgan. Morgan’s comforting confession, his “I’ve thought about it, about…being with men. I’ve thought about it a lot, but I’ve never had the courage to act on it.” Reid heard those words over and over in his head, as though Morgan had just spoken them. And at the time, he had barely suppressed the desire to ask Morgan the question that had been burning in his chest, the question about whether or not Morgan had ever thought about being with him. It had been on the tip of his tongue before he’d repressed the urge.
But Jonathan…Jonathan had burst right into Reid’s hospital room in the middle of the night. It had been clear enough that Reid had woken partway through a conversation, unable to get more than a fitful few minutes of sleep as nurses came in every so often to wake him and check that he was still responsive. And Jonathan had burst right through the wall that Reid’s previous caution had held up and basically accused Morgan of having feelings for Reid, urged him to act on them by expressing his opinion that Reid reciprocated those feelings.
Where Jonathan had gleaned those impressions, he wasn’t sure, but Jonathan’s lack of self-censorship had always been one of his most immutable traits. What bothered him most was that neither Jonathan nor Andrew’s observations were far from the truth. He’d found Morgan attractive from the start but had learned to ignore that fact both because of the revelation about Morgan’s abuse and because Morgan was arguably one of the most obviously heterosexual men that he knew.
Except that he wasn’t.
Where that left them, Reid wasn’t sure. His anger at Jonathan had been genuine; he truly didn’t want Morgan to feel pressured or coerced into trying something out with him, and certainly not because his ex was a meddlesome, would-be matchmaker. The one thing Reid did know was that if Morgan were to make an attempt at exploring his interest in men, whether with Reid or otherwise, Reid wanted his friend to go into it of his own free will, without anyone pressuring him to action. Morgan had been coerced and taken advantage enough more than enough already.
Reid sighed and shifted on the small sofa, trying to will his overactive brain to calm down enough for him to get a little more sleep.
Morgan seemed surprisingly refreshed when they landed, despite the fact that he’d only managed to get a few hours of sleep mostly upright in an airplane seat. He offered to drive Reid home, none of them wanting Reid to brave the subway with his admittedly minor wounds. Reid was grateful for the offer, but it was more for the fact that he didn’t want to bear the scrutiny of strangers because of the rather sizeable bandages on both his neck and the back of his head. He found himself absently wishing for a collared shirt and a tie to at least partially cover it.
Morgan and Reid passed the ride to Reid’s place in silence, Morgan following him up the stairs and carrying his bag. Reid could carry his own bag—nothing had happened to his arms, after all, besides the bruises from struggling against the zip ties—but he allowed the action without fuss, more for Morgan’s sake than his own.
Reid settled himself on the sofa at Morgan’s insistence while Morgan fussed around, and Reid almost wanted to laugh at his friend’s overprotective behavior. He made Reid coffee after trying and failing to convince him to have tea instead, and Reid couldn’t help but observe Morgan’s body language as he disappeared into the kitchen. Morgan was clearly troubled by something; that much was obvious. And it didn’t take a genius IQ to guess that the thing on Morgan’s mind was his conversation with Jonathan.
When Morgan finally returned with a mug of coffee, Reid accepted it with a smile of thanks.
“You know, Morgan, I have a cut and a bump on the head—you really don’t have to worry,” Reid said tentatively after a moment, and Morgan pursed his lips thoughtfully.
“I know, but…”
Morgan trailed off, and for a moment Reid thought Morgan was going to excuse himself and go home. He almost hoped that Morgan would; part of him felt that it was far too quick for them to have the conversation that he knew was burning at the back of both of their minds. The last few days had been an emotional rollercoaster; neither of them was in the right frame of mind to be making life-altering decisions.
And then there was a part of Reid that hoped Morgan would stay, that they would talk it out. That it would somehow coalesce with Morgan very beautifully naked in front of him. Reid cursed himself internally; apparently his long-forgotten sex drive hadn’t gone extinct after all.
After a short pause, Morgan sighed and disappeared back into the kitchen, coming back with a mug of his own as he lowered himself onto the couch next to Reid. Reid tried to keep his expression neutral, waiting for Morgan to speak.
“I think we need to talk,” Morgan said slowly after a moment. Reid turned to look at his friend with a raised eyebrow, but he was fairly certain he knew what Morgan wanted to discuss. He took a thoughtful moment to consider his words before he spoke.
“Morgan,” Reid said slowly, deliberately taking a deep breath as his desire to protect Morgan won out over his desire to possibly get the other man naked. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to…respond to anything Jonathan said to you. He doesn’t know me anymore, and he certainly doesn’t know you. Just because he sounded convincing doesn’t mean you need to take anything he said seriously.”
Morgan looked at Reid for a moment until the words soaked in and he laughed softly. “Of course you were awake,” he breathed, more to himself than to Reid. “Does you brain ever turn off?”
Reid smiled sheepishly, shrugging softly. “Not really,” he admitted. “Anyway, it’s difficult to actually achieve slow-wave sleep when you’re being woken up every hour.”
Morgan shook his head with a soft laugh before his gaze turned serious again. “Jonathan might be more perceptive than you think,” he said slowly, seriously. “Because he was right. It did bother me to see him touch you while you were lying there sleeping.”
Reid mulled over the words for a moment. “Are you sure it wasn’t just a protective instinct?”
Morgan frowned. “You seem more determined to find a way out of this than I am,” he commented finally, tone slightly defensive. “If you want me to get out of your hair—”
Reid raised a hand to cut him off. “It’s not that,” he insisted seriously, eyeing the other man imploringly; he didn’t want to pressure Morgan, but the last thing he wanted to do was offend him or make him feel less than desirable. He forced his next words out in a rush, trying to make Morgan understand.
“I just don’t want you to do something you’ll regret because you’re feeling pressured by my ex-boyfriend and by the fact that I got kidnapped and nearly—”
It seemed the most natural thing in the world, at that moment, to lean over and kiss Reid, silencing his protests. At first, Reid made a surprised squeak, went stiff under Morgan’s lips. But he finally relaxed into the kiss when Morgan’s hand cupped the side of his face, letting his eyes fall closed as the other man deepened the kiss.
For Morgan’s part, he seemed to be experiencing no hesitation about what he was doing—the kiss was slow but forceful and controlled as he easily guided Reid to open his lips, to let himself be kissed. Reid couldn’t help it; he groaned softly at the way Morgan easily took control, practically melting into Morgan’s touch.
It seemed like an eternity before Morgan pulled away, and Reid eyed him breathlessly, his brain seeming sluggish for once, as though it couldn’t quite catch up with what had just happened. As they broke apart, Reid searched Morgan’s eyes for any sign of uncertainty or regret. He saw none.
“It wasn’t a protective instinct,” Morgan insisted after a moment, breathing still labored, and Reid wracked his brain for a moment before remembering the conversation they had been having, which had somehow been wiped away by Morgan’s lips. “I was jealous.”
“Oh,” was all Reid managed to say, barely a whoosh of air from his lips. Morgan smiled softly. For once, Spencer Reid seemed to have been rendered totally speechless.
“Now can I kiss you again?” Morgan asked after a moment, surprised by how easy it was to ask, surprised at how easy it was to kiss Reid. He felt none of the trepidation he expected, felt none of the uncertainty and fear about finally crossing that self-imposed boundary of willingly kissing another man.
Reid nodded slowly, not seeming to trust his own voice.
Slowly, Morgan extracted the mug of hot coffee from Reid’s hand, setting both their mugs on the table before turning back to Reid. The younger man didn’t seem to have moved a muscle, waiting tensely for Morgan to act.
Morgan reached slowly around to place his hand at the base of Reid’s skull, the side opposite where Andrew had hit him. “I don’t want to hurt you,” Morgan confessed slowly after a moment. Reid let his eyes fall closed for a long moment before he opened them again, a new resolve in them.
“Like I said, just a cut and a bump on the head,” Reid assured him, his tone both lighthearted and breathless. “You know what parts you need to be careful of.”
Morgan managed a soft nod before he leaned in to kiss Reid again—and this time, although Reid was prepared for it, he remained quietly submissive, lips pliant as he let the other man have his way.
With some work, Morgan managed to maneuver them both fully onto the couch, settling himself between Reid’s legs as he eased the younger man to lie back, mindful of his head when he lowered it down onto the arm of the sofa. It was only then that he broke the kiss, looking down at a breathless Spencer Reid, lips pink and swollen. Reid’s eyes flicked open, looking up at Morgan breathlessly before he reached up finally, cupping Morgan’s cheek.
“I don’t want to hurt you either,” Reid managed breathily after a moment, and they both knew that Reid didn’t mean physically. Morgan sighed softly, lowering a bit more of his weight onto Reid’s body beneath him. He reached out to smooth a lock of hair away from Reid’s forehead.
“I know you don’t,” Morgan said slowly after a moment, his tone serious. “But I can’t guarantee that you won’t.”
It was, he found, surprisingly easier than he expected to be open with Reid. But then, he’d had years to get used to the fact that his team knew what happened to him in his past, years to prepare for the fact that they might someday want to talk about it.
Reid looked troubled at his words, and Morgan felt guilty for a moment, seeing the way his brow furrowed and knowing he’d been the cause of it. But he brushed that guilt away, knowing what he’d said was important, knowing that the words had to be said. He took a deep breath and steeled himself to speak again, still absently stroking Reid’s soft curls.
“Look, this is going to be trial and error for awhile, I can’t lie about that,” he said seriously after a moment. “I’ve never done this before, and I don’t know for sure what I might be comfortable with. But I still want to try. Are you up for that, pretty boy? Or do you want me to stop now, while we still can?”
Somehow, the familiar endearment worked to calm Reid’s doubts a little, and he found himself smiling.
“Let’s just go slowly,” he affirmed after a minute. “We’ll figure it out along the way.”
Apparently there was only so slowly that Morgan was willing to go, because it didn’t take long for Morgan to get them into Reid’s bed, kissing and touching him gently. He frowned when he removed Reid’s shirt, thumb stroking absently along the bandage just beside his nipple.
“I hate seeing you hurt,” Morgan admitted quietly after a moment, and Reid smiled softly, stroking his palm over Morgan’s buzzed scalp.
“I’m not so fond of it either,” he admitted lightheartedly, and this was easy. Even if Reid was shirtless, lying below his longtime friend and colleague, the careful caring and concern wasn’t anything new between them. Morgan laughed then, a low, hearty sound before he leaned over and took Reid’s nipple into his mouth.
Reid groaned, arching against the other man’s body. His whole body was sensitive, always had been, but his nipples were especially so, and Reid found himself shivering at the reminder that Andrew had threatened to cut them off. Still, he forced himself to shove that memory aside, focusing on the way that Morgan licked and sucked his nipple, punctuating it with a sharp bite that made Reid groan even more loudly, almost feeling the blood rushing to his cock.
After a thorough couple of minutes, Morgan moved to his other nipple, a dark hand skimming across Reid’s pale, slender stomach. Even though Morgan had admitted he’d never been with a man before, he didn’t seem at all fazed by the lack of breasts and curves. As Spencer cupped the back of his head encouragingly, he found himself wondering where Morgan had found that sense of comfort, found himself absently wondering if the other man spent his free time watching gay porn, or—
Morgan pulled away unexpectedly, sitting up as he straddled Reid’s hips with a knowing grin. “You’re thinking so loud I can almost hear you,” he scolded, smiling as he reached down to the hem of his own shirt and pulled it over his head. And for a moment, Reid wasn’t thinking of anything except Morgan’s perfectly-sculpted chest. He groaned, his eyes riveted by the sight, and he reached up and touched the hard muscle absently.
“What’re you thinking about?” Morgan asked idly after a moment, not missing the way Reid’s eyes darkened with lust when they looked at him. It was a reaction he was quite pleased with, if he did say so himself. He worked hard to maintain his musculature, and the attention he got for it was a pleasant reward, though nothing compared to the way that his strength and stamina had saved his life so many times in the field.
Reid stared at his chest for another long moment before finally tearing his eyes away, meeting Morgan’s gaze again.
“I was thinking you’re the fucking sexiest guy I’ve ever been this naked with,” Reid said candidly, and Morgan couldn't help but laugh at the uncharacteristic words. Despite everything that had happened, part of him still had a difficult time believing that Reid was sexually experienced, but the unexpected candor seemed to throw that doubt right out of the water.
“I dunno. Some of those guys whose pictures I saw…they looked pretty sexy to me,” Morgan said after a moment, his tone teasing. Reid either missed the teasing behind the tone or refused to rise to the bait.
“None of them could hold a candle to you,” Reid said seriously, his voice unsteady. He lowered his eyes, suddenly uncertain. “Are you sure you want to do this with me? That you don’t want to find some…equally sexy man to do this with? Because…you could have anyone you wanted. Honestly.”
Morgan found himself endeared by the sudden uncertainty—it was so Reid, the flustered shyness that Morgan recognized so easily. He was beginning to reconcile the Reid he knew with the Reid that had been revealed on this case. Beginning to see that the unexpected sexual side of Spencer Reid wasn’t at odds with his awkward personality but was somehow a complimentary part of it. Morgan grinned.
“Jeez, show a man your abs and he freaks out on you,” he teased softly, and Reid met his eyes with a frown that morphed after a second into a smile. Morgan caught his hand and leaned over, placing a soft kiss on the knuckles.
“You need to relax, Reid,” Morgan said after a moment, soothingly. “I’m exactly where I want to be. And you’re pretty sexy yourself, you know. And not just what’s up here.” He touched his fingers to Reid’s temple. “Although the way you can pull any scrap of random knowledge out of there is pretty sexy in itself.”
Reid opened his mouth, looking for a beat like he was going to argue or maybe quote some statistic, but after a moment he seemed to quell the urge and just nodded, smiling softly. He reached out and wrapped his hand around Morgan’s waist, pulling him down for another kiss.
Morgan smiled into the kiss, letting Reid have his way—but after a moment of taking charge, Reid seemed to draw back, surrendering control of the kiss to Morgan. Morgan didn’t mind that at all; he cupped Reid’s chin in his hand, mindful of his injured neck, and kissed him deeply, but there was something very hard and very persistent poking into him. It was novel, feeling another man’s erection against his, knowing that he’d been the cause of it. He was surprised by how much the palpable proof of Reid’s arousal turned him on.
After a long moment, Morgan pulled away, leaving both of them breathless as he scooted down a little to rest on Reid’s thighs, reaching for the button of Reid’s pants. He met Reid’s eyes after a moment, looking for any uncertainty in them, but all he saw was lust.
“Okay?” he asked as he toyed with the button. Reid drew in a shuddering breath.
“You’re in the driver’s seat, Morgan,” he breathed after a moment. “You can do anything you want with me.”
Morgan chuckled softly. “You might come to regret saying those words,” he warned.
Reid smiled wickedly. “I doubt that.”
The gentle teasing was all the encouragement that Morgan needed; he undid the button and then pulled down the zipper, and with a bit of maneuvering, managed to help Reid out of his pants, Reid kicking them the rest of the way off. This was novel too, this gentle, knowing teasing; Morgan wasn’t used to being with anyone he knew as well as he knew Reid, and he felt like that should have scared him, but it didn’t.
The move left Morgan in just his jeans and Reid in a pair of light blue boxer briefs—and Morgan took a moment to just take it all in, to notice the way Reid’s erection strained against the fabric. After a moment, he reached out experimentally to stroke Reid through his underwear.
“Oh,” Reid groaned breathily, head rolling back. That first touch always got him, and even though fabric, it was amplified by the realization that this was Morgan doing this, touching him. After a moment, though, Reid forced himself to look back up at Morgan, to take in the other man’s expression of bewilderment at his first, experimental strokes of Reid’s cock.
After a long moment, though, Morgan froze, his body going stock-still. Reid noticed immediately, his arousal forgotten as he sat up. He reached out to touch Morgan’s arm before he thought better of it, reluctantly pulling his hand away. He couldn’t deny that his heart was racing; his first concern was for Morgan’s mental stability, but the second was the chilling fear that Morgan had realized men weren’t his thing after all.
“Hey,” Reid said softly, trying to break Morgan out of whatever memory had snatched him away. “Are you okay?”
The words seemed to get through to Morgan; after a long moment, he managed to pull in a shuddering mouthful of air, his eyes falling closed as he took several more deep, uneven breaths in an obvious attempt to calm himself. Reid remained still, not sure how to comfort the other man, not sure if he could.
After a long, silent minute, Morgan sighed and settled back onto Reid’s thighs, though he made no attempt to move away. It seemed to take an eternity before he opened his eyes and reached out to cup Reid’s cheek gently, looking down at him from his higher vantage point.
“I know…you said…go slow,” Morgan said after a moment, his tone tentative, clearly expending an extreme amount of effort even trying to get his words out. “But I dunno…that I can do slow.”
Reid searched Morgan’s eyes for a moment, trying to search for a sign of what the other man wanted from him. Morgan’s words were so vague, so open to interpretation that it was hard to tell—and the fact that he wasn’t pulling away, remained straddling Reid’s thighs, made the moment even more confusing. It was obvious enough that they’d pushed things too far, somehow; Reid wasn’t sure what had triggered it, but there was no mistaking that Morgan was remembering something incredibly unpleasant.
“Do you want to stop?” Reid ventured after a moment when Morgan gave him no other clues to go on. The older man just shook his head adamantly. “Morgan, you don’t have to feel obligated to finish what you started. We can stop whenever you need.”
Morgan shook his head again, frustrated, seemingly fighting to find the words to express what he wanted. “I don’t want to stop,” he insisted. “I just want to…change gears.”
Reid raised an eyebrow. Continuing the car metaphor, of course. It was obvious enough that Morgan didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want to address the dark place he’d just gone to in his mind. Reid took a deep breath.
“Okay. You’re in charge, Morgan.”
Morgan rolled his eyes at the obvious attempt to reassure him of his power in the situation, although part of him appreciated the effort, as clumsy as it was. He slid off the bed determinedly.
Reid was worried for a moment that Morgan had changed his mind, that he did want to stop, but instead Morgan just began unbuttoning his jeans, pushing them down his thighs. His teasing tone had done its job to break the thick tension.
“Take those off,” Morgan indicated after a second, and Reid scrambled to obey, shucking his underwear quickly and tossing them over the side of the bed. He would have done anything Morgan said at that moment, anything to dispel the dark cloud that had formed behind the other man’s eyes.
Standing there in his black boxers, Morgan eyed Reid for long enough to make him feel slightly self-conscious. He almost wanted to cover himself—but it wasn’t apprehension or even mere curiosity with which Morgan was eyeing his nude body. There was a healthy helping of interest in there, and that allowed Reid to stand his ground, still under Morgan’s apprising gaze. After a long moment, Morgan smiled.
“Yep. You’re…definitely pretty sexy yourself, pretty boy,” Morgan affirmed after a moment, and Reid couldn’t help his blush then, covered his face with his hands to try to hide his reaction. Morgan laughed, though it was still a little shaky, moving to sit on the edge of the bed again. He grabbed both Reid’s hands by his wrists, pulling them away from his face and stealing another kiss.
“I love that you can call me ‘fucking sexy’ without breaking a sweat but the moment I say it back, you turn red as a lobster,” he said after he pulled away, his tone all amusement. Reid smiled gently.
“Call it a character flaw.”
Morgan laughed again, surprised how at ease he felt with the other man, despite the awkwardness his moment of hesitation had caused. After a thoughtful pause, he eyed Reid again.
“Thank you,” he managed after a moment, his tone still awkward. “For not…”
He couldn’t manage to finish his thought, but Reid seemed to understand his meaning all the same.
“Any time,” Reid affirmed lightly, although there was a tension underlying his tone, like he wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. Morgan took a deep breath; because he did want to proceed, didn’t want to let Carl Buford control his life anymore, not when he’d finally worked up the courage to even get this far. And not when he knew backing down now would hurt Reid, even though he’d be understanding about it.
“Do you have…?”
“There are condoms and lube in that drawer,” Reid indicated after a moment, pointing to the drawer on his nightstand. Morgan nodded, finding the items without much preamble before rolling back onto the bed, tossing them onto the comforter and blanketing Reid’s body with his own.
This was better, Morgan acknowledged, this was more comfortable for him. It was something not tainted by a single bad memory, him on top and pinning a perfectly willing partner to the bed. Not like the experimental touches to Spencer’s cock, the bizarre uncertainty of the moment that had immediately brought him back to something he didn’t want to remember.
What was new, though, was the press of Reid’s erect cock against his own as he pressed down against the other man. The moment he’d seen Reid fully nude, he’d wanted to touch that rigid column of flesh, unhindered by clothing between them, but he’d forced himself to deny the urge, conscious of the fact that he might react badly, as he nearly had just minutes prior. And if he was honest with himself, there was another part of him that still recoiled at the thought, at the idea of touching another man’s cock like that. Even though he wanted to, something was holding him back.
He ground his hips down against Reid’s, his boxers still between them; somehow, he hadn’t had the courage to remove them yet, even though he’d never been self-conscious about being nude before. The younger man moaned against his lips, thrusting up against him, and the slide of Reid’s cock against his was heavenly, even with the layer of fabric between them. As he kissed Reid, Morgan was able to forget the dark thoughts, was able to lose himself in the plush sweetness of Reid’s lips.
Morgan didn’t hesitate then as he grasped the waistband of his boxers with one hand, sliding them over his hips and wriggling out of them. And finally, his cock pressed up against Reid’s without any barrier, and they both groaned into each other’s mouths.
After a long moment, Morgan pulled back, looking down at the younger man. Reid lay back against the pillows, his hair disheveled, his lips red and swollen, his face flushed. The bandage on his neck was the only thing that marred the image of obvious need and arousal, and Reid’s evident enthusiasm went a long way to keep Morgan from having second thoughts.
Morgan followed Reid’s eyes down their nude bodies to where their cocks lay nestled next to each other, and he sucked in a sharp breath at the picture they made together. Reid actually groaned audibly.
“Oh God,” he said, his voice unsteady, sounding more like he was musing out loud than really speaking to Morgan. “I want to suck your dick so badly right now.”
Morgan let out a noise halfway between a laugh and a groan. It was rare, in his experience, that women were so vocal—or so enthusiastic—about sucking dick. And as appealing as that image was, his dick disappearing between Reid’s impossibly pink, plush lips, he knew that if he let that happen, he’d never get around to fucking the other man—and if he were truthful with himself, he wasn’t fully confident in his ability to reciprocate any other way. He was only halfway convinced that he could even do that, and that was only because he’d had anal sex with a woman before, and that had taken a lot of prodding on the girl’s part before he’d been able to agree.
“Next time,” he said lightly, his voice thick with arousal—although it wasn’t really a promise, because all the doubts Morgan had just then were the same ones that would be there the next time. “I want to fuck you, and we’ll never make it there if I let you do that.”
Reid groaned somewhere around when Morgan said the word fuck, and Morgan wasn’t even sure he’d heard or processed the rest of what Morgan had said. After a moment, Reid moved to roll over beneath him, but when Morgan caught on to what he was trying to do, he grabbed Reid by the shoulder before he even registered what he was doing, rolling Reid back onto his back. Reid looked up at him questioningly.
“Like this,” Morgan said after a moment, a tone of finality in his voice. “I need to see your face.”
Reid nodded slowly, his eyes searching Morgan’s, but he didn't press, much to Morgan’s relief. It was a fixation he’d had for a long time in his teens and early twenties, the fear of hurting his partner. He’d gotten over it as he’d slowly learned that sex wasn’t always the shame-filled, painful thing he’d thought it was, but this was a whole new ball game. He needed to see Spencer’s face, or he’d never be able to go through with this.
“Okay,” Reid agreed breathily, lifting his legs to give Morgan access to what he wanted. Morgan settled between Reid’s legs, taking in the sight of the other man spread wantonly for him. He groaned softly, resting his head against Reid’s knee for a moment as he tried to keep himself from cumming on the spot. He’d always been afraid of this, afraid that if he let himself acknowledge it, he’d find that men did it for him more than women ever had.
It seemed that fear hadn’t been unfounded.
After a moment, Reid’s hand stroked Morgan’s bare scalp. “Okay?” he questioned softly after a moment, and Morgan looked up and met Reid’s worried gaze. It was clear in Reid’s eyes that he was one more moment of hesitation from stopping this for Morgan’s own good.
“Yes,” he assured the other man, and this time he really meant it. “Just trying to make sure this doesn’t end before we even get started.”
Reid laughed at that, wrapping a leg around Morgan, pressing his heel into Morgan’s lower back as he handed Morgan the tube of lubricant. Morgan smiled as he took it, finding Reid’s obvious eagerness made it much easier to avoid worrying about what he was doing.
Slowly, he poured lubricant on his fingers, dripping some onto Reid’s entrance. Reid twitched as the cold substance touched his flesh then laughed softly, spreading his legs further as he waited for Morgan.
Experimentally, Morgan rubbed his finger around the puckered entrance before sliding it inside to the first knuckle. The younger man’s body yielded to him easily, and he slid the digit all the way inside, moving it gently. Reid let out a soft sigh, like the air being let out of a balloon, and he pressed back against the intrusion. Morgan crooked his finger experimentally, moving it unsuccessfully a few times before he found what he’d been searching for and heard Reid moan loudly, writhing beneath his fingers. He took a moment to recover before looking at Morgan with an accusatory glare.
“You know way too much about what you’re doing,” he complained breathily, although his tone was teasing. “Please don’t tell me that you’ve been studying gay porn, because then I’ll start imagining you watching it, and this really will be over before it starts.”
Morgan snorted. “Fine, I won’t tell you then.”
Reid laughed breathily, arching against Morgan’s hesitant hand. “You’re not going to hurt me,” Reid said, tone uncomfortably perceptive. “Come on.”
Morgan gave in to the gentle prodding and added another finger, and after the initial resistance, they slid in easily. Reid’s eyes fell closed as he moved, seemingly unconsciously, back against the intrusion, making a low sound that was almost a purr. Morgan watched Reid’s face carefully, but Reid hadn’t been lying; his expression was all contentment and pleasure as Morgan’s fingers moved inside him, punctuated by occasional moans as Morgan found his prostate. Seeing how much Reid was enjoying it was incredibly hot.
Finally, Morgan added a third finger, and Reid groaned, hips undulating against the pressure. After a few gentle thrusts of Morgan’s fingers, Reid’s eyes snapped open and met Morgan’s, his pupils dilated with obvious arousal.
“Please, Morgan,” Reid begged after a moment. Morgan smiled softly as he continued to move his fingers.
“Please what?” he prodded with a wicked grin. Reid groaned, flushing deep red.
“Fuck me,” he finally breathed out, face burning. Morgan smiled, endeared by the paradox of Reid’s needy forwardness with his awkward shyness. He did, however, remove his fingers and grab a condom, ripping it open and rolling it expertly onto his dick. He made sure to coat himself with more lubricant before positioning himself, pressing in slowly as he watched Reid’s face for any sign of discomfort.
Reid groaned at the pressure, unable to hide a slight wince—and Morgan stilled for a few seconds, trying to calm his own moment of almost-panic, giving the other man time to adjust. He reached out and stroked Reid’s cheek gently. “Sorry,” he murmured softly.
Reid just shook his head, wrapping his legs around Morgan’s body and digging his heels into Morgan’s back, as if trying to prevent the other man from retreating. He opened his eyes slowly.
“Don’t be sorry. It’s a little uncomfortable at first—and in case you didn’t notice, you’re fucking huge—but trust me when I say I’m still loving every second. So just move.”
Morgan smiled widely, unable to help it. “Did you just attempt to divert my attention by complimenting my dick?” he teased.
Reid smiled unabashedly. “Yes. Did it work?”
Morgan thrust the rest of the way into the other man’s body, and Reid moaned, throwing his head back and tightening his legs around Morgan’s waist. Morgan groaned softly as well at the feeling of sinking into Reid’s tight heat.
Morgan moved slowly at first, tentatively—partly because he was afraid of hurting Reid, but partly because the other man was so unbelievably tight that he was certain that if he moved any faster, he’d cum on the spot. He watched Reid’s face carefully as he moved, looking for signs of discomfort, but after the initial push, Reid’s face was all beautiful, needy pleasure.
Morgan rolled his hips slowly, finding a rhythm, and he couldn’t stop staring down into Reid’s face, his slightly parted lips, his flushed skin, his hooded eyes. It was both beautiful and unbelievable for Morgan to behold the sight, because this wasn’t something he’d ever been able to convince his mind a real person, someone besides a paid actor in an adult video, would ever find so pleasurable. And when he’d done it with a girl, she hadn’t been so forward and wanton in her pleasure.
But it was clear that Reid did enjoy it, was obvious in the way he was rolling his hips back against Morgan’s thrusts, the way his heels dug into the older man’s back, as if trying to pull Morgan impossibly deeper inside himself. Morgan groaned, finally assured that not a fiber of Reid’s body or mind was objecting to this experience.
Morgan finally let his guard down, burying his face in the nape of Reid’s neck with another groan, the movement forcing Reid to lift his hips even higher to meet Morgan’s thrusts. He breathed a soft sigh into Reid’s neck—one of relief, a release of tension he hadn’t realized had remained in his body even after he’d assured Reid he wanted to proceed.
Reid’s hand moved to cup the back of Morgan’s skull, and there was something absurdly gentle about the gesture, like he was trying to reassure the other man. His moans were loud in Morgan’s ear, and he let out a litany of very un-Reid-like curses and pleas, which would have made Morgan laugh if they weren’t so busy shooting right to his dick.
He pulled back finally, resting back on his knees as he grasped Reid’s thighs, unlacing the other man’s legs from around him as he sped up the rhythm of his thrusts. Reid moaned, fisting his hands in the sheets, his eyes closed as he squirmed helplessly. The most palpable proof of his desire was the way his hardened length lay rigid against his stomach, weeping a steady stream of pre-cum even though neither of them had so much as touched his dick.
Morgan marveled at that for a moment as he moved his hips, the way that Reid hadn’t even made a move to touch himself despite how hard and needy he obviously was. Maybe, Morgan thought, he was the type who wouldn’t without his partner telling him to, and that thought sent a surprising streak of heat straight through Morgan’s body.
“Touch yourself,” he breathed raggedly, and Reid’s eyes shot open, meeting Morgan’s meaningfully.
“Don’t…need to,” Reid breathed out through clenched teeth, and Morgan felt breathless for a second, clutching Reid’s thighs even harder.
“So you can get off just from this? Without even touching your dick?” There was a low, seductive lilt to Morgan’s voice as he said the words—he wasn’t averse to a little dirty talk to get his partner in the mood. Reid groaned, his eyes falling shut again as his dick jerked a little against his stomach, and although he didn’t respond verbally, the deep flush that colored his cheeks was answer enough.
Morgan smiled, picking up his pace, fully cognizant in a second to the way Reid had responded to his words. The reaction bolstered him to continue.
“You love this don’t you?” he said in a breathless growl, though he couldn’t keep the slight tone of wonderment out of his voice. “You love my dick inside you, fucking you like this.”
Reid whimpered, thrashing against the sheets, biting his lower lip hard enough that Morgan was surprised he hadn’t drawn blood.
“Cum for me, pretty boy,” he said breathlessly, using his familiar endearment for the man—and that was all Reid seemed to need, because his dick jerked again, shooting ropey threads of cum along his stomach as he moaned. Morgan watched, so transfixed he almost forgot to keep moving his hips as Reid’s orgasm seemed to go on forever, his dick twitching, untouched, against his stomach as it continued to leak.
After what seemed like an eternity, Reid’s body fell still, sweaty and spent against the sheets. Still, he wrapped his legs around Morgan’s waist again, urging Morgan deeper inside him.
“Don’t you dare…fucking stop,” Reid breathed after a moment, looking up at him through half-lidded eyes, and Morgan was startled for a moment, didn't even realize that he’d stopped moving, so spellbound he’d been by Reid’s release. For a moment, his own pleasure had been secondary as his mind wondered at the way Reid’s body had reacted to this…this thing that Morgan had never been able to truly associate with pleasure before.
But the moment Reid spoke, it seemed to bring him back to his body—and he felt a sense of urgency, a humming under his skin as his dick seemed to throb inside the other man’s body, begging for release. He groaned, beginning to move again, and Reid’s movements seemed more calculated then, having already found his own release, the way he undulated against Morgan seeming geared purely toward bringing the other man the greatest amount of pleasure possible.
And still, as Morgan continued to fuck him, he released a steady stream of low, gentle moans—they’d lost their urgency but he was still so clearly enjoying being fucked, even though he was already so clearly spent. It was to that—Reid’s low groans, the deliberate movements of his hips—that Morgan finally came as well, emptying himself into the condom as he thrust unevenly into the body beneath him.
It was with the barest bit of conscious thought that remained in Morgan’s mind that he kept himself from resting all his weight on the man beneath him. It was second nature when he’d been with women, but even though he didn’t think of Reid as fragile or delicate, he was still conscious of the fact that he outweighed the younger man by quite a few pounds. He rested there, half on the mattress and half atop Reid, catching his breath for a long moment before he finally pulled out. Reid allowed his legs to fall to the bed slowly, sucking in long, deep breaths.
Neither of them spoke; Morgan couldn’t even begin to think of words, couldn’t work out precisely what was going on in his brain. Confusion played a big part, along with reluctant acceptance, and—right alongside that—singing elation.
Confusion because part of him still felt uncomfortable about what he’d just done, felt strange, as though he no longer fit properly in his skin.
Reluctant acceptance because he couldn’t remember being that aroused in his life, couldn’t remember having ever experienced that kind of intensity from sex, despite the fact that he’d been apprehensive, almost frightened. Acceptance because this seemed to confirm his every suspicion and fear that his dick responded far more strongly to men than it did to women.
The elation came from everywhere, from so many sources. From the fact that it felt so right to be with Reid, who’d known when to be concerned and when to sit back and let Morgan work through something on his own. Elation because he hadn’t let that moment of panic—that flashback to the first time in the cabin with Carl—derail the experience. Elation because how could he not feel that way after seeing it broadcast on Reid’s face as he came?
And yet Morgan couldn’t seem to find the words to say any of that out loud, so instead he grasped Reid’s hand, pressing a soft kiss to his knuckles before sliding out of bed and padding toward the bathroom. He sensed Reid’s gaze following his, clearly apprehensive. He wanted to say something to reassure the other man that he wasn’t freaking out—not too much, anyway—but he couldn’t force any words out of his mouth.
Instead he discarded the used condom in the bathroom and made quick work of cleaning himself off before bringing a wet washcloth back to the bedroom where Reid still lay, eyeing the bathroom door with his body in a tense line. Morgan handed him the wet cloth with a shaky release of breath, meeting his eyes meaningfully, trying to say everything he wanted to express to Reid with just his eyes.
Reid took the washcloth, not breaking Morgan’s gaze for a long moment as he searched Morgan’s eyes, trying to confirm what he was feeling. After a long moment, he finally looked away, focusing awkwardly on cleaning himself up. Morgan’s heart was pounding in his chest as he couldn’t help but watch Reid wipe his own cum off his stomach, his now soft length. It was with some trepidation that Reid set the cloth aside on the nightstand for the time being, turning to meet Morgan’s gaze again. He swallowed thickly and took a deep breath before he finally steeled himself to speak.
“Are you okay? Or have I just irreparably ruined our entire relationship by letting you go through with that?” Reid finally managed to ask, swallowing past a thick lump in his throat.
Morgan sat back down on the bed reclined back against the pillows, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath to try to calm his racing heart, trying to find a way to both be truthful and reassure Reid. Reid didn’t deserve the emotional baggage Morgan was carrying around, not after the week he’d just had, and not after the mind-blowing sex. After a long moment, he reached out and grabbed Reid’s hand again, squeezing it reassuringly.
“It was good,” he assured the other man, and he mentally smacked himself as he said it, because it sounded like he was describing some friend’s mediocre cooking, just trying to be polite. He tried again, deciding tentatively that honesty was the best route to go with Reid. Reid was a profiler and knew Morgan extremely well; he’d know immediately if Morgan lied to him, even if it was to spare his feelings.
“It was…too good, and I feel guilty about thinking it was so good,” Morgan continued reluctantly. “And I know that that’s irrational, but I can’t stop it.”
Reid’s thumb ran soothing circles along the soft skin on the back of Morgan’s hand. “Okay,” he managed finally, his voice thick with uncertainty. “So where does that leave us?”
Morgan sighed, lowering his head and rubbing his eyes with his free hand. It wasn’t an easy question to answer.
“I don’t want to saddle you with all my shit, Reid,” he said finally. Reid’s response to that was immediate.
“Morgan, look at me,” Reid said seriously, and suddenly his tone was filled with a sense of certainty and authority so strong that Morgan didn’t even think, just responded. He opened his eyes and looked over at Reid, propped up on his elbow next to him. “Do you want to continue this?”
Morgan found himself at a loss for words. “I…” he couldn’t continue, his mouth suddenly inexplicably dry.
“No, Morgan. This must sound ridiculous coming from me, but don’t think, don’t rationalize. Just feel,” Reid instructed without hesitation. “Forget the baggage, forget whatever obstacles you’re worrying about. What do you want? Do you want to continue this?”
Morgan found a thousand objections in his mind but heedful of Reid’s words, he forgot them, just for a moment.
“I…yes,” he finally managed to breathe. And Reid’s face was deadly serious; it was the face he used during hostage negotiations or trying to talk an UNSUB into lowering his weapon. That thought almost made Morgan release a totally inappropriate laugh.
“Then shouldn’t it be my decision whether or not I want to be ‘saddled with your shit’?”
Morgan opened his mouth to argue but he found he had no ammunition with which to do so. He couldn’t tell Reid it wasn’t his choice to make, and if he even tried, he was sure he’d be at the receiving end of a long lecture about free will. And he knew how that would end, too.
“I don’t know how much I could ever give you, Reid,” Morgan finally admitted, chest tightening even as he spoke the words. He bit his lip. “…sexually,” he added after a moment, tentatively.
Absurdly, Reid smiled at that, sitting up a little more so he could place a chaste peck against Morgan’s lips.
“We’ll figure it out,” he said with a sense of conviction Morgan didn’t feel. But strangely, Morgan almost believed him.
Finished finally! Thank you to all the people who have been reading, commenting, and leaving kudos! You've made me feel very comfortable about getting back into writing after a long hiatus.
Because people have been asking - yes, I do have very tentative plans for a sequel, but like I've already mentioned a bit in the comments, the ideas I have are so disjointed that it would take a lot of fleshing out before I could make it into even a vaguely coherent story. I have a small part of it written already, and I think it's possible I might post it as an interlude or something, depending how my plans for a sequel turn out. I can't make any promises about the sequel actually getting written, though, sorry. (>.>)
Thanks for the support, everyone!