A/N: Part of the Pieces series which is a series of (unconnected) one-shots, written in a self-imposed challenge of chronicling every pairing in the CM universe. This one is set five years into the future.
You haven't seen him in five years, and he's changed so much that it feels as though you're meeting him for the first time. He seems older, but that's to be expected. You know why he left. He's trying to forget. Trying to forget how the rest of the team abandoned the two of you. He handed in his application for transfer the day after.
You think that if it had been the first time, he would have stayed. But then, it had already happened to him once before; two years before you even joined the team. You know he thinks that maybe he's cursed, that maybe people just keep dying around him. It happened with Adrian Bale. And it happened that night, five years ago.
'Agent Morgan,' you greet him formally. In another life, you would have given him a friendly hug, a pat on the shoulder. You might have asked him if he'd read any good books lately, or teased him about his most recent sexual conquest. But he is not that man anymore.
He's wearing a dark suit; he looks good in black – hell, you think he looks good in anything – but it isn't about looks anymore. He's grown his hair out a bit, and you can see it starting to grey at the edges.
'Agent Prentiss.' The only acknowledgement of your former acquaintance that he gives is a small smile, and you're not entirely sure that it's fake. There's something of his old self still in there, deep inside him.
You've come into the Chicago Field Office on a consult at his request. You work alone a lot more often now; no matter how much time you spend with this new team, it will never be the same as it was before. They will never be the people that you had come to know as family.
You wonder why he called you in; he's been keeping you at a distance, keeping everything that reminds him at a distance. He doesn't even speak to Garcia as much as he used to, but then, Garcia had been just as badly torn up about the whole affair. She had quit not long after Morgan left.
You wouldn't let yourself react. Wouldn't let yourself break down at the loss of the team. You were – are – a professional. It became so simple just to lock yourself away. To ignore the pain, or at the very least, keep it trapped.
You know that since that night, you've been a different person too.
It almost feels like old times when you strap into your Kevlar beside him. He's taken off the tie and the jacket, and he almost reminds you of Hotch. You flash back momentarily; you don't remember much about that night. You remember flashes of pain and noise in amongst the darkness. You remember the blood that stained your fingertips, the blur of lifeless bodies littered around you. Those bodies used to be people, you remember. Those bodies used to be Hotch and Rossi, Reid and JJ.
So it goes.
It was only five years ago, but it feels like so much longer. You've still got the scars, and sometimes you think that they're the only thing left to remind you. This moment reminds you, but not in a bad way. This moment reminds you of the times before that night. It reminds you of the good times; the cases solved, the killers caught. It reminds you of the time you went out drinking with JJ and Garcia, or the time you got Thai food at three o'clock in the morning with Morgan and Reid. It reminds you of the time the whole team went bar-hopping after a particularly difficult case.
After that night, you drank alone.
Tossing back shots in places you would never have dreamt of going to before. You can still remember the liquid burning your throat as you tried so hard to shut away those feelings. If it was this hard for you, then you don't know what it was like for him. You know that's why he had to get away, to leave you behind.
You don't blame him.
The bullets are striking the wall above your head. None of you had expected this kind of carnage, but then, unexpected things happen all the time. You could never have picked the events of that night. It feels so similar, the pain, the noise. You know you're bleeding from your left arm, but that's all you know. He's lying on top of you, from when he tackled you to the ground. The bullet had hit your arm instead of your chest. You're only alive right now because of him.
When the dust finally settles, he helps you to your feet. Sits with you as the paramedic cuts away the sleeve of your shirt. Makes you laugh as the bullet is pulled from your arm. This is the Derek that you remember. The Derek you love.
He takes you to dinner that night; the jet leaves at some ungodly hour tomorrow morning, but you don't feel like sleeping.
It's almost like old times, as you talk, laugh. The things you always used to do, but can't remember having done at all since that night. You play with the glass stem between your fingers. It's your fourth glass of red; you know you'll be hungover in the morning, but you think you can sleep it off in the plane.
It's almost like old times, as you reminisce. You think that the memories should be more painful that this, but they're not. You share a laugh about the time Reid accidentally split coffee over a New York detective, or about the time Rossi was almost courted by a black widow.
It's almost like old times.
His fingers intertwine with yours as you share a lingering kiss.
Almost, but not quite.