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Methods in the Dark

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“There's no way for them to take away my sadness, but they can make sure I am not empty of all the other feelings.” - David Levithan



It was dark and quiet in Morgan’s bedroom, the light from a small socket-level bulb offering a little illumination to the room. Morgan was sleeping so deeply he was snoring a little, but Reid couldn’t bring himself to be happy, knowing that the sleep was so strong because the man was physically and emotionally drained. 

They’d just come off a six day case in rural Kansas, where a long history of a serial killing team with a racial motivation had been uncovered; a father who had indoctrinated his son into hate, and eleven black adult and teenage males tortured and lynched over twenty years. The police force they were working with was festering with racial resentment that hindered their case, and Reid, on not enough sleep and too much coffee, had been very cutting with certain officers who had made their distain for Morgan’s insight and mere presence clear.

Watching Morgan remain composed while everyone observed him for signs of when he was going to break had been difficult, because there had been so little time away from the case for Reid to offer reassurance or comfort. They’d gone back to the hotel to sleep in shifts, and over six days even though they shared a room the only time they’d had alone together was a stolen hour just holding each other in bed and both barely conscious; Morgan was calm and quiet, but Reid felt the way Morgan held him close with a slight desperation for safe familiar contact. Reid had returned to the local police station and claimed he’d had to double back because he spilled coffee over himself.

Morgan had remained calm when he’d had a shotgun brandished at him while going to talk to a witness, and calm when another refused to talk to him at the station. He’d remained focused when they’d caught the unsubs and Hotch had used him strategically in the interrogation.

His team had clearly registered the flash of white hot anger that was quickly contained when a police officer’s “fancy that, we get justice for niggers too” was said in earshot. The men had withered under Hotch’s and then their chief’s reprimand, and Reid had worried that Morgan’s jaw might break from the force he was clenching it. He’d slammed his fist on a wall as they left, and the team hadn’t mentioned it, because they all felt he was being particularly restrained all things considered.

When they got to Morgan’s house Morgan had gripped his arm, wordlessly asking him to stay over, and they’d gone straight to bed and to sleep without any discussion, both exhausted.

It was dawn when Reid woke up to use the bathroom, and when he returned Morgan’s sleeping form was cast in a soft light from beyond the blinds covering the window, his face half pushed into the pillow with a hand cupping his mouth and nose. As Reid slipped back into bed and settled down, he noticed that the two fingers curled over the bridge of Morgan’s nose were gently stroking, and only then in the dim light as he studied more closely did he realise that Morgan was sucking his thumb, still fast asleep.

As well as the immediate psychological response of finding adorable an infant behaviour in an adult, he frowned with worry. He’d spent enough time observing Morgan sleeping when he was having trouble to know it wasn’t a usual or even occasional habit. If Morgan had unconsciously reverted to a childhood comfort behaviour it meant he had done an inadequate job of reducing the stress his romantic partner had experienced on the last case.

Morgan snuffled and shifted a little, curling his knees up. Reid accommodated him, equally fascinated and worried as he watched his lover sleeping. He wriggled in close and put his hand softly on his lover’s arm, stroking down from his wrist. Morgan didn’t stir, and in the quiet bedroom Reid could hear the gentle sucking noise coming from behind Morgan’s hand.

His urge to protect his lover didn’t manifest as often as Morgan’s did for him, but he was entirely sure he felt it just as often; Morgan was capable and more guarded with what he perceived as his weaknesses than Reid was in the context of their relationship, and Reid understood that Morgan needed more time and different conditions to share certain things. At that moment as peaceful as he looked, he also looked incredibly vulnerable to Reid. He wanted to hold him and tell him things that would make him feel better, even though he didn’t know what those things were.

Morgan groaned softly and Reid recognised it as waking, and considered turning away so the man didn’t have to know he’d seen him sucking his thumb, but quickly decided against it. He watched as Morgan wriggled a little, making noise around his thumb and then finally realising where it was, cracking his eyes open. Once he registered Reid watching him with soft kind eyes he opened his wide and jerked his hand away from his face with a tiny wet noise. Reid kept his hand on that arm, moving to grip the man’s wrist reassuringly.

“How long was I...?” Morgan started, leaving Reid surprised the man hadn’t rushed out of the bed and simply pretended he hadn’t just been caught sucking his thumb.

“I don’t know. Most of the night, I think.” 

“Right.”

“Thumb-sucking is uncommon in adults,” Reid said softly, “although it does occur habitually, as a response to stress, and there have been at least a dozen documented cases of thumb-sucking developing in people with no thumb-sucking history since early childhood, after suffering a traumatic event.”

“I haven’t sucked my thumb since I was five,” Morgan huffed, closing his eyes as if he was trying to go back to sleep. Reid ran his hand along his arm, and up over a smooth bicep. He didn’t want to tell him it was okay, because he didn’t think a harmless behaviour needed to be excused, but he wanted his non-judgement to be clear. He bent his head and lightly kissed the teeth imprints on the back of Morgan’s dark thumb.

“That’s not true,” Morgan admitted as Reid’s lips left his skin, eyes still closed. “I did it sometimes. After...” He let the word hang, without having to acknowledge his history of sexual abuse at the hands of Carl Buford verbally, because Reid understood the inference. “This is pathetic.”

“Derek,” Reid said as a frown quickly formed and then faded and he moved closer, pressing them into an embrace. “The first time you stayed the night in my apartment, I had a nightlight. And after I tried explaining how it was the most energy and cost efficient way for me to have a light source when I slept, you just switched it on and got into bed. You bought one for your own bedroom just for me. It’s on now.”

The corners of Morgan’s mouth curved upwards a little at the memory, and he eased his eyes open.

“There’s nothing pathetic about coping with fear or reacting to distress.” Reid gently put his lips against the stubble of Morgan’s chin, a comforting motion before he pulled away to make eye contact. “I know how hard this case was – actually, I don’t know as in having lived experienced the emotional reaction to the circumstances of the case, since I lack the experience of existing as a racial minority in a country with considerable systematic racism in place, but I know in the sense that I recognise your distress. I know this case was hard for you.”

“This one just hit close, Spencer, and I’m so tired.”

Reid wound their legs together and wrapped an arm around Morgan’s middle, glad when Morgan relaxed against him, nuzzling against his neck. It hadn’t been until Morgan that he’d realised how much of comfort physical intimacy and proximity was, to the point that the nights he spent alone in his own bed or in a hotel bed where the ones where his quality of sleep was the worst.

“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked, smoothing a hand down Morgan’s back.

“I just want to sleep,” he whispered, eyes closed again. “Want to stay here with you.”

“We can do that,” Reid murmured, lifting his other hand to trace his thumb over Morgan’s bottom lip, pride swelling with the knowledge that simply his presence was all the other man desired.

“Sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be near them.” - Veronica Roth