On the Edge
By Clarity Scifiroots
Criminal Minds (Disclaimers apply! This is a fan's work.)
Characters Reid, Hotch, Rossi, Garcia, Morgan (team)
Genre: AU, (pre-)slash Hotch/Reid
Warnings! Sexual abuse comes into play - mention of Morgan's canon history, also revisiting this verse's Reid previous assaults
Summary: When Morgan's past comes knocking, the case's aftermath affects Reid and Hotch as well.
Enormous thanks to the supportive efforts of olizashihar. Thank you for your awesome beta-ing and your encouragement. Your help is what got this story finally written. Thanks for all of your kind words and assuring me that everything was going to work out okay. :)
And I'd like to change all this / And I'd like to wake up from this / By your side - "If I'd Found the Right Words to Say" Snow Patrol/center
Reid stared blindly at the ceiling. Street light filtered through the window and between the partially drawn curtains. He was relieved that the dim light revealed his surroundings, assuring him that this was home, not any of the places he dreaded and faced in nightmares. His breathing steadied and he could feel the sweat cooling on his skin exposed above the tangled sheets. He closed his eyes for a moment and inhaled deeply.
He untangled himself and slipped out of bed to take a shower and change into fresh clothes. The alarm clock next to his bed read 3:03, but he didn't want to try sleeping again after his recent nightmare. He switched on the bedroom and hallway lights on his way to the bathroom. He noted that the bathroom light had an unsteady glow and took a second too long to turn on, warning him that he needed to replace a bulb. It can wait until later, he mused as he stepped out of his sleep pants and boxers. At home, with no one else to see, he had no qualms sleeping bare-chested.
With the shower as hot as his skin could stand, Reid stood beneath the flow and braced his hands on the wall. He hung his head, his long hair diverted the water around his face as he stared down at his bare toes. He tried to clear his mind of cases, his history, his nightmares. The mismatched skin on his forearm felt overly hot compared to the rest of his body and he winced, carefully adjusting his stance so that it was no longer under the direct spray.
As soon as he'd come home from the Miller case he rid his wardrobe of short sleeves. He had kept a few tees, ones with certain positive memories associated with them, but only wore them when he was in his apartment, out of sight with no one present to judge him.
He had always felt awkward about his body, although that was not unexpected given how he was by far the youngest in any class he took at the schools he attended. Locker rooms had been strange and he had always kept his head down and changed in a shower or toilet stall. It was even stranger to finally want to be naked with his first girlfriend. That awkwardness made him all the more nervous later when he decided to get intimate with his first boyfriend.
It stopped being uncomfortable to show off his body once he had a boost in confidence, but he continued with standard necklines and he declined sleeveless shirts. On rare occasion a friend or lover convinced him to wear form-fitting apparel and took him out for a night of fun. Reid had to admit he'd felt confident and sexy on those occasions, and the positive feedback had made him even more willing to go out dressed up with the people he trusted.
Reid's fingers curled against the wet tiles and he looked down at himself. The bruises had long since faded, even most of the other marks had become invisible, but he could still feel the strange sharp-bluntness of human teeth sinking into his skin – claiming, marking. In the aftermath of his nightmare, every pain felt like a new ache. He knew what else marred his skin besides the permanent scars.
He stared grimly at the bold pinkish scar tissue along his left hip. Thomas Miller had left a crueler mark than any of the men from prison, and yet he had never sexually violated. At least, not in any typical sense of the term. The carved letters, the goddamn name cut into Reid's flesh felt like an inescapable assault he would never overcome. Whenever Reid could work up the courage to satisfy his attraction and sexual arousal for a willing partner, he knew they would both have the ghost of violations past shoved in their faces.
Reid grimaced and closed his eyes. It might be okay if he were able to make up a story about the scars or push the issue aside, leaving his lover ignorant. But Reid knew who he wanted. He had been interested in the man from their first meeting, and that interest had grown and developed to an uncertain attraction. Recently, he had felt the stirrings of desire and arousal, and the other night Reid had even taken himself in hand and masturbated while imagining Hotch and reliving a good memory of sex. Of course, with Hotch all the history would be known, and Reid wasn't sure he could take the look in Hotch's eyes when he stared at Reid's naked body, knowing the scorn he would see.
If they ever got that far.
If Reid ever allowed them to.
If Hotch stayed interested.
"Fuck," Reid muttered. He straightened up and began fiercely scrubbing shampoo into his hair. He ignored the ache of his jaw from clenching it too tight and the way the sensitive grafted skin seemed to burn even as the water began to cool.
Hotch wondered how often he was going to make it a habit to meet up with Dave to knock back a few beers now that his friend had moved to Montclair. In the past two months he'd seen Rossi four times during the weekends he was in town. While it was nice to get away from both work and his previous endless days of solitude at home, Dave did not consider Hotch's colleagues a work topic to avoid; and his friend was annoyingly adept at sneaking Hotch's personal life into their conversations.
Never should have told him anything, Hotch considered, not for the first time. Although he had to admit that he preferred Dave's persistence to Gideon's. Unlike Gideon, Dave actually acknowledged his personal failings in past relationships, yet he continued to show interest in one day finding a good relationship and making it work; as if helping Hotch in his own relationship would somehow help Rossi.
"Fill me in," Rossi said, his voice jolting Hotch into the present.
Dave stared pointedly at the half-empty tumbler in Hotch's grip.
Resisting the urge to sigh, Hotch finished off his drink. He ran his finger along the glass's rim, debating the wisdom of ordering another right away.
"Well? What happened?" Dave prompted again, tone firm.
"Rough case all around," Hotch said. His fingers tightened around the glass. "Pedophile. Bastard worked at a youth community center."
Rossi tugged the tumbler out of Hotch's grip. "Another drink?" he asked rhetorically when Hotch glanced up.
A few minutes later, Dave returned. "Pedophilia cases are a bitch," he offered feelingly.
Hotch snorted quietly. There were no words to describe the cases that gave nightmares to even senior agents. Every agent had their individual triggers, but pedophilia tended to challenge even the most seasoned agent's attempts at emotional distance. Hotch was haunted by the realization that predators existed in the world that his son had to face, Rossi knew that. But there had been additional complications in the case.
After taking a fortifying drink, Hotch said, "One of my agents had a history with the man." He didn't continue, knowing that his terseness implied his meaning. He wouldn't give Morgan's name, though he knew Dave could make the connection.
"You've got the jackass nailed?" Rossi asked, expression grim.
Hotch gave a brusque nod and took another drink. He let his gaze wander the room, all the while feeling Rossi's stare. "Seems like the guy's tastes spanned a range of years, though," Hotch said tightly. "He—" was eyeing up Reid in interrogation. I know he was playing it up to get a response, but there was no way all that interest was completely faked. It took a moment for Hotch to push aside the vivid memory of Carl Buford and his effect on Hotch's team.
"Hotch..." Dave didn't reach out a comforting hand, but his lowered voice indicated his concern.
Hotch met his friend's gaze briefly before staring down at his drink. "He triggered some memories for Reid, too," he explained. "Pretty boy." The younger agent momentarily had the look of someone sucker-punched before he could gather a stoic mask. Gideon had made the call to pull Reid off interrogation duty.
"I don't suppose you have the time to get stinking drunk," Rossi commented dryly after the silence continued to drag.
"Not terribly appealing," Hotch replied. "Besides, I'd like to drive home."
Rossi snorted inelegantly. He drained his drink and knocked in noisily against the table. "Alright. A nightcap at your place." He rolled his eyes when Hotch looked at him askance. "You're going to obsess over this all weekend. At least let me convince you to get drunk enough to sleep soundly for at least one night."
Hotch had to admit he didn't care to argue.
"Good morning, sunshine!" Garcia greeted cheerily when she saw Reid . She sidled up next to him in the mostly empty elevator car. He cast her a sidelong glance but his lips were quirked up in a smile. "How're you doing, lovely?" she continued.
"Fine. You know, you're extra perky this morning." He raised his eyebrows in a silent prompt.
Garcia beamed and slipped her hand around his elbow. He stiffened for a moment before relaxing. Her delighted mood increased even further with that.
"If you must know, my luscious genius, I enjoyed the delights of a good sexing with a charming, handsome stud last night." The agent in the corner behind her choked on his coffee. She turned her head and fluttered her eyelashes charmingly at him. "Aw, you must be new," she cooed. She turned her flirtatious expression on Reid and inquired, "Aren't the newbies cute?"
Reid's eyes had widened and she could tell he was trying very hard not to look at the three other agents in the elevator. At the next floor Agent Newbie and one of the others stepped off. Reid relaxed a little and whispered, "I can't believe you."
"Why not?" Garcia bumped their hips together and grinned up at him. "I don't get embarrassed, sweetie. Why shouldn't I be happy about getting the good sex? " She looked over at the other passenger, who was determinedly staring at the floor numbers but could not hide a little smirk. "Everyone needs a good sexing," she confided in a loud stage whisper to him. The agent looked at her and chuckled.
Reid coughed uncomfortably. The elevator came to their stop and he tugged her out, muttering, "Come on, Garcia."
She winked at the agent and gave a little wave before following after Reid. She was happy he had not decided to push her off as they walked into the bullpen. She was going to cherish this close contact for a long as she could. Reid was very slowly making progress in letting everyone near, but so far it had mostly been JJ or brief, casual touches from Morgan and Hotch – the more hands-on members of the team.
"Wow, Reid, how did you make her day?" Prentiss asked with a grin as she caught sight of them. Morgan turned around in his chair to look.
Garcia brought up her free hand to clutch Reid's arm and pressed in close as she cried, "He's mine, people! Back off!"
She smothered a grin when she heard Reid's nervous mumbling. "Umm..."
Morgan rolled his eyes but surprisingly made no comment, instead turning back to his desk and hunching over his work. Prentiss picked up his slack, even though there was a lack of lightness in her tone. "Let Reid be, Penelope. I know for a fact you found a mister tall and dark this weekend."
Garcia pouted and reluctantly let Reid have his arm back. "Why do you have to spoil my fun?"
Reid quickly escaped to his desk and sat down with his bag held protectively in front of him. He, along with the women, looked over at Morgan, wondering if he'd finally speak up. Garcia felt her good mood plummet when Morgan did nothing more than purse his lips in annoyance.
Hiding a sigh, Garcia reminded herself that getting glum would only perpetuate the problem. Before heading down to her personal domain, she leaned over Reid's desk and whispered huskily, "Thanks for the good time, sweet cheeks."
She turned, grinning broadly at Reid's sputtered incoherence. Prentiss chuckled and Garcia was relieved to see Morgan's lips twitching toward a smile.
iMy work here is done,/i she thought triumphantly.
That afternoon Reid timed his need for a coffee refill to coincide with Morgan's. With a brief look at Prentiss, who nodded at him encouragingly, Reid made his way to the kitchenette.
"Who the hell keeps forgetting to refresh the pot?" Morgan grumbled.
"I- uh. It's not me," Reid said, blinking in surprise.
Morgan rolled his eyes as he set about preparing a new pot. "I know, man. Probably some idiotic intern thinking they're too busy to spend an extra minute to keep the office caffeinated." A slight smirk crossed his lips, "Bad idea."
Reid licked his lips and shifted nervously. He'd tried to rehearse something to say but nothing had seemed natural or particularly helpful. He took a deep breath and plunged ahead blindly. "You know you can talk about it, right?" he blurted out, the words running together.
Morgan deciphered the rush of words and his expression blanked. His mouth tightened as he stared at Reid.
Not entirely discouraged, Reid stuffed his hands in his pockets to keep from fidgeting. "You can.... Me. I-I mean, if you want, I'll be here to, um, listen."
"Right." Reid winced at Morgan's curt reply.
This is not going well at all. Reminding himself that Morgan had been helping Reid out with his own issues, Reid didn't back down. "Look, it's hard. It's... not comfortable to, to talk about it. I-I know. But sometimes... it's necessary. Mor—Derek, I just wanted to say I—"
"What?" Morgan snapped. He threw his arms wide and Reid noticed that his hands tremored. "What did you want to tell me? You know? Do you really think that does shit? It's too fucking late. He kept after god damn kids who couldn't lift a finger against him. I should have protected them!"
"You were one of those kids," Reid said quietly. "Carl Buford and people like him know how to—" he took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment "—to draw his victims in, make them believe they're completely powerless. Do you blame yourself? It's what the others feel, too, but it's not their fault. It's not your fault."
Morgan crossed his arms over his chest. "No, it's not my fucking fault. He preyed on kids who couldn't fight back." He met Reid's stare and there was barely restrained fury in his gaze. His voice was ugly when he bit out, "Did you even fucking try?"
Reid felt his heart thud heavily against his chest, counterpart to the sudden rush of blood to his head.
" No one's coming, pretty boy. Go ahead and scream."
"How d'you want it?" Reid tried to recoil as a firm hand pushed him towards the man's crotch. "You gonna bite?" His face was pressed against a hard thigh and he could feel the erection next to his jaw, separated by two layers of cloth.
"Please..." Reid's voice cracked and he closed his eyes tightly.
"Too fucking pathetic to try biting," another commented.
The man holding him snorted derisively, "Doesn't matter, I think I like his ass better."
Shit shit shit! Reid clawed at the hand holding him. He tried yelling, praying that this time one of the goddamn guards would come by to do something.
"Shut the fuck up!" A solid punch to his face rattled Reid enough that he faltered in his struggle. Two pairs of hands grabbed at him, yanking off the scant protection of clothing and pinning him against the chilly wall beneath barred windows.
"C'mon, pretty boy. Beg. Beg for it."
Reid's fingers curled against the concrete and he squeezed his eyes shut. "No," he rasped, fear making his adrenaline spike.
"You're a sweet piece of ass, kid, but not so bright."
He bit his lip to keep from screaming.
Reid couldn't speak as he stared at the angry expression on his friend's face. Was Morgan really suggesting–?
"E-excuse me?" Reid asked. He immediately wanted to withdraw the request for clarification. He knew he should have stopped when Morgan started getting worked up. I'm not qualified for this. What am I doing? he thought, a rising sense of panic making him feel light-headed. This was a mistake, what was I thinking trying to get him to talk?
Morgan leaned forward and snapped, "You're skinny as hell, but you're no slacker. Did you even try to fight it? We were kids, we were smaller and confused and—"
"Don't." Reid's jaw clenched and he couldn't say anything else. He stared at Morgan and saw only the anger and pain and need to push it all to someone else. Reid couldn't handle this, it wasn't his to take and thank god he'd had enough therapy to know he didn't deserve the accusation. He stood frozen, eyes unblinking as he stared at Morgan. He wished he could see the wall of fury and need to lash out start to crumble— but he didn't. He'll be sorry later and apologize. It didn't matter right now; Reid wasn't sure it would even make a difference later.
"I—" can't deal with you right now. Reid turned on his heel and walked away. His fisted hands shook as he strode through the bullpen and toward the restroom. He wanted to go home, find a decent bottle of wine, order take-out, and watch some sci-fi movie he could tear apart to distract himself. But it was two in the afternoon and he'd be damned if he took off running when he'd done nothing wrong.
Hotch heard a crash and someone shout. Pulse jumping, he had his hand on his gun before he opened the office door. Gideon stood at the rail but didn't glance at him as he moved to assess the situation below. A handful of support staff were clustered in one corner, whispering excitedly as they threw wide-eyed looks over their shoulders. Prentiss stood awkwardly, looking as if she wanted to go in two directions at once. Hotch frowned when he didn't see Reid or Morgan.
"There," Gideon murmured. He indicated the kitchenette where Morgan was partially visible through the doorway.
JJ appeared and glanced up but apparently didn't find anything helpful from their end. The blonde's voice was pitched low, but Hotch could still hear her when she walked over to Prentiss; "What's going on?" Prentiss shook her head silently, shoulders tense.
"What is going on?" Hotch asked quietly, glancing sidelong at Gideon.
"I believe Morgan broke a couple glasses." Gideon paused and tilted his head thoughtfully. "Actually, it might have been the coffee pot."
Hotch finally withdrew his hand from the butt of his gun. "Right. That helps a lot." He cast Gideon an irritated glare before he went downstairs to find out what had happened. He considered going to Prentiss first, but he knew the real problem lay with Morgan, so he braced himself and went to the kitchenette.
Morgan had his arms crossed tightly across his chest as he glared at the pieces of broken ceramic scattered over the linoleum. Unsure how to start, Hotch asked, "Are you going to clean that up?" Morgan cast him a quick look before returning his glower to the floor.
Hotch positioned himself inside the doorway to make it clear that he wasn't moving until Morgan started talking. Hotch had a guess now as to what had inspired the dark mood, so he asked, "Did you make your appointment yet?"
Morgan grunted at that and moved to grab a ratty-looking broom from a dusty corner. Hotch ran his gaze over the floor and noted two distinctly handle-shaped ceramic pieces. He prodded, "I suppose you thought there was a good reason to throw around coffee mugs. Did you hit anyone?"
Morgan's glare determinedly stayed focused on the floor as he swept. After a while he grunted, "No. Kid was already gone."
"Hm." Hotch's jaw clenched as he had his suspicion confirmed. "I need you to make that appointment. Then I want you to go home and rest."
Morgan shrugged, expression tight. Hotch warned, "You won't be cleared for field duty until the psychologist approves. Get the appointment. Go home. I don't think either of you is ready for an apology." Morgan's shoulders hunched at that. "Morgan?"
"Yeah..." Morgan wiped a hand over his face. "I'll make the damn appointment."
"Good." Hotch took a step back. Before he left he said, "We're here, Derek."
The group of gawkers had spread out or disappeared by the time he made his way over to Prentiss' desk. She glanced up at him over JJ's shoulder.
"Where's Reid?" he asked.
"He'll be right back," she said. Hotch waited, gaze locked with hers until she sighed. "Bathroom, I think. Things ran hotter than expected." Hotch didn't reply as he went in search of Reid. He did not look forward to damage control.
He wasn't all that surprised when he found the restroom door locked. "Reid," he said, voice firm as he rapped his knuckles against the wood.
A few moments later he heard the lock retract. He waited a couple seconds to open the door, not wanting to hit the younger man in a rush to see if he was alright. Reid had wandered over to the sinks by the time Hotch entered.
Reid crossed his arms as he turned to face Hotch. "Is he headed home?" Hotch inclined his head in agreement. Reid nodded, gaze trailing away from Hotch's face. "Okay, that's good."
"What happened?" Hotch asked as he made himself relax his posture. He didn't want this to be a stand off.
Reid sighed as he shifted to lean his hip against the sink. Hotch waited, sensing that unlike Morgan, Reid would eventually talk. It took a few minutes, but Reid finally said, "I tried talking to him, but he didn't want to listen. I kept pushing. I know I should have stopped earlier." He shrugged dismissively. "I can profile, I don't do comfort."
Hotch replied, "I wouldn't draw that conclusion yet. Morgan just needs a few days to come around."
Reid shook his head. "It's going to be longer," he said quietly. Hotch watched as a flicker of grief washed across the younger agent's face. "He's going to drive himself crazy trying to come up with an apology."
"You probably deserve one," Hotch returned.
Reid looked up, weariness lining his face. "He wasn't paying attention to what he said. I don't think he even knows what he said. It doesn't really matter."
Hotch held his gaze. "Yes, it does." Reid gave a shaky shrug in response. "You still want the apology." Whatever he said... I'm betting you deserve groveling, flowers, and chocolates.
"I already forgive him," Reid muttered, gaze darting away for a moment as he licked his lips. "It's just..." He sighed. His arms uncrossed and he ran a hand over his hair.
Just what? Hotch wondered, attention focusing to look for additional details in his encounter with Morgan and current conversation with Reid. Was there something more underlying this outburst? Maybe the flowers and chocolate approach isn't far off, he mused, something in his gut clenching at the thought.
Reid looked down at the floor and shifted his weight from foot to foot as he shrugged again. "I do get it," he said quietly. "An-and he knows that. Why did—? Morgan had no right." Reid visibly tensed as his voice rose; a look of desperation and anger warred on the younger agent's face. His stare fixed Hotch in place. "I fought them. I scratched and clawed and kicked. I made him fucking bleed but it wouldn't stop."
Reid moved his hand and it looked like he was giving himself a one-armed hug. It took a few moments for Hotch to place the significance of the gesture, but memory provided him with an image of Reid during their second meeting: Bruised neck, black eye, split lip, and scarring in the pattern of a human bite-mark just beneath the collar of his loose shirt.
"I tried," Reid whispered as his fingers clenched in the fabric covering scars. "It wasn't my fault, I didn't do anything wrong." He suddenly shivered and the look of desperation became more distinct. "God, I know this and it doesn't matter. Morgan's right, it doesn't do shit to have someone tell you they know how it is. It doesn't make it any easier to accept or easier to understand."
Hotch refused to keep his distance any longer; within two strides he reached Reid's side. The younger agent stared at him and up close Hotch could see Reid's emotional turmoil clearer. Can I touch him? Is that even appropriate right now?
"It's..." Reid inhaled deeply before continuing, "it's the sort of thing you can learn to live with. I can read all the material I find, listen to therapists over and over again, and I can even tell myself that it wasn't my fault, but that doesn't—" He squeezed his eyes shut and hissed out a frustrated sigh. "It never goes away, Hotch," Reid said, the weary, broken tone prompting Hotch into action.
"Reid," Hotch murmured a scant second before his hands lifted to curve around the younger agent's shoulders. "Jesus, Reid, I'm sorry. I knew something was wrong the moment I met you, I shouldn't have left you there. I should have come back for you."
Reid's eyebrows climbed upwards and his lips parted in an expression of surprise. "That wasn't your responsibility. I don't really care that you didn't come back to tell me the case was cleared – you were here. When I came praying to find a way to build some semblance of life, you were here and you just... let me in." Reid's gaze darted away only to return focus on Hotch moments later.
"I still regret leaving you there," Hotch said quietly. His hand stroked inward until his fingers brushed over Reid's. The younger agent shuddered, but a cursory glance convinced Hotch the reaction wasn't negative. He swallowed nervously and met Reid's gaze as he moved his hand to fully cover Reid's. The fingers beneath his own twitched and slowly parted so that Hotch's slipped in between. After a few moments, Reid hooked their fingers more firmly together and guided their hands to his cheek.
The name passed Hotch's lips as little more than an exhale of air; "Spencer."
Reid's eyes closed and, as if the sound had been a benediction, he turned his head and pressed his lips against Hotch's hand. "I'm so tired of being scared, but I can't fully avoid it." He spoke the words against Hotch's skin, whisper-soft although the implied meaning rang loud and clear in Hotch's mind.
"I still feel..." Reid's eyes opened as he tilted his face to meet Hotch's gaze straight-on. The anger had completely faded from Reid's expression, although desperation was still there, now joined with an undeniable combination of desire and mild frustration; it left Hotch breathless. " I need to move on. I want..." Reid's brows furrowed as his gaze roamed Hotch's face.
Hotch stroked his thumb against Reid's hand, still caught within his grasp. "What?"
Expression helpless, Reid slowly shook his head and murmured, "You." Hotch closed his eyes and shuddered as he felt Reid's breath brush his skin; they were standing so close.
"Why?" Hotch knew he had been making mistakes from the beginning. He clearly remembered the many instances where he'd failed to catch Reid's cues and thus missed opportunities to talk. When Reid approached him after the undercover case he'd reacted poorly and made an inappropriate pass. For months, Hotch had felt certain that Reid and Morgan were working on a relationship. Now everything was being called into question.
Reid huffed a quiet laugh as he pressed his cheek firmly against Hotch's hand. "I know you're worth the effort."
"Come to the edge," He said.
They said, "We are afraid."
"Come to the edge," He said.
They came. He pushed them... and they flew.
- Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918, Italian-born French Poet, Critic)