"Pretty boy? What's got you thinking so hard?" Morgan asked softly from behind him; Reid gave a ghost of a chuckle.

They were lying in the bed of the spare bedroom in Morgan's mama's house, celebrating another Thanksgiving come and gone. He'd thought Morgan was asleep behind him, right up until the point he'd spoken; he should've known Derek would know he wasn't sleeping either.

"Why are you still awake? You should be exhausted by now. Logically," he added teasingly.

Derek snorted quietly, the sound full of amusement. "Please. You think a couple games of football with a bunch of teenagers is enough to tire me out?"

Reid smiled as he remembered the picture of Derek fast asleep after dinner on the recliner in the living room; he'd looked completely relaxed and was stretched out fit to fall out of the chair entirely. "Well, you did take that nice long nap," Reid reminded him.

"What's that hormone you get from eating turkey that makes you sleepy? Melanin?" Derek replied.

Reid laughed silently. "Melatonin," he corrected, "but you were very close."

"Damn," Derek muttered, running his nose over the back of Reid's neck, making the other profiler shiver. "Either way, it was the turkey, not because I was tired. And you didn't answer the question."

Reid sighed, a thing Morgan more felt than heard with his arms around Reid's waist. Reid's cool hands pushed gently at his arms and Morgan relaxed his hold, scooting back in the bed to allow Reid to turn over and face him. For all that he'd been laughing just a second ago, he face was very serious now.

"I was thinking about what happened this time last year," Reid murmured, barely able to see Derek in the darkness. The room was lit only by a ray of moonlight making its way in through the curtains closed across the window, shedding pale light around the room; the deepest corners like where Derek now lay remained untouched, full of darkness and secrets like the one they now discussed.

That light was their compromise to Morgan's inability to sleep with a light on and Reid's trouble sleeping in total darkness. Now, though, Reid didn't really need to see to know what Morgan's reaction would be; his handsome face would be twisted at the memory and Reid wished that he'd held his silence, that he could take it back before this led to a place neither of them wanted to revisit.

"Jesus, Reid, what a thing to bring up," Morgan said disgustedly. He shifted and Reid retracted his hands, folding in on himself until he was in as much of a ball as he could be given the lack of space in the bed.

"Sorry," he whispered, staring down at the sheets, "I know it's really bad timing, being Thanksgiving and all. Just forget I said it, okay?"

A breath of silence hung in the air as Reid stayed very still and very small, waiting for Derek to make the first move; he'd pushed the last time, and it had turned out so badly…

"God, Spence, please don't do that!" Morgan begged, warm hands tilting Reid's face up to meet his. It was nothing more than a light brush of lips, much gentler than other times, but it left Reid tingling all over. Morgan's hands were still cupping the sides of his face when he began speaking again.

"Please, please don't look like that; you don't know how much I hate it when you look ready to cry at the next thing I say. Don't be afraid of me. I swear on everything I hold dear that I will never, ever, hurt you again like I did last time."

With things so tenuously balanced, Reid couldn't voice his doubts but it didn't matter; Morgan seemed to know them anyway.

"I know you doubt my word, Spence, and you have good reason to; after everything I put you through last year, all the empty promises I made, the trust I broke, I count myself lucky that you still listen to me at all. I would give most anything to undo what happened. But if I have to keep saying this, keep proving this to you every day for the rest of my life to make you believe it, I will."

Derek's voice was warm and soft in the darkness, full of a confidence that was hard to doubt. "I promise you here, now, and forever, that I will not ever willingly hurt you like that again. Not physically, not mentally, not emotionally, not anywhere, I promise you. More than that, I promise I will protect you from everything I possibly can; I won't ever leave you, not so long as I have any say in the matter."

Reid took note of the wording even as he slowly nodded his acceptance, beginning, finally, to believe what the other man had been working so hard to tell him all this time.

Through the terrible months after the disaster when Reid went between not caring who he was and lashing out at Morgan whenever he came near…

Through the whole team trying to work around the other agent without acknowledging he existed…

Through the dark loneliness of those nights when Reid had to resort to nightlights in every room in his apartment because the darkness was too much without the other profiler's protective hold…

Through living at JJ's when even that failed to make things better again…

After Hotch telling them both they needed to get help…

After Emily's tentative peace offering between Morgan and herself, the first of the team to forgive Morgan for what he'd done, or rather, what he hadn't…

On the day Reid finally broke and admitted to himself that he needed Morgan, that he understood what he'd been trying to do, finally understanding the darkness in both of them…

Despite the hostility, anger, and rejection, every day, somehow, Morgan had tried to apologize, not always only in words but also in the little things he did to try to make it up to the other man. Getting coffee, running errands, holding doors, anything that got him close to Reid, to try and make him see how sorry he was. It didn't seem to make a difference.

Morgan had apologized until he could no longer forget what he was apologizing for, until it haunted him everywhere. Months had passed before Reid willingly talked to Morgan outside of work, every day a long torture for them both; nearly a year went by before he started letting Morgan try to piece together the life he had shattered that night.

The nightmares Reid had wished upon him had started that very night he returned home; plagued by a never-ending regret and guilt for what he'd done and all he'd lost, it became obvious to everyone who saw him that something was wrong.

At the same time, Reid was lashing out in all directions, driving everyone away from himself in fits of temper and unpredictable depression that left JJ and Gideon floundering while trying to figure out how to care for the young genius.

They'd tolerated it for as best as they could, as long as they could. They still did their jobs and did them well but it felt like the family was breaking; what had made them the best, that easy and trusting dynamic that had bound them together, was starting to disappear.

When the atmosphere in the BAU had reached a breaking point, when JJ was regularly only a step away from hysteria, Emily threatening to quit, Garcia retreating further and further into her cave, and Gideon ready to give up on Reid, Hotch had finally stepped in, seeing that the agents were not going to get help for themselves.

He'd known since nearly the beginning that Reid's rage and Morgan's avolition were products of them being separated, of the history they were trying to ignore. He'd waited for them to realize the same thing, waited entirely too long, perhaps, until his second family was at risk; he wondered if maybe he was already too late when he ordered them both to counseling. Together.

He nearly was. Reid had been so destroyed by his anger at Morgan that he'd nearly forgotten how to be anything else; it became instinctual, the reaction he went to first at the merest provocation. Without the team and without Reid to support him, Morgan was drowning in his grief and his guilt. No one had missed the irony; the two agents had now reversed roles, Reid in the extreme of Morgan's anger, Morgan taking on all Reid's vulnerability and hopelessness.

With the guidance of a doctor Hotch trusted personally and professionally, the two began to face all that they had buried and had started trying to restart their lives. Progress was painful, slow, and hard on all of them as they tried to recover from months of abuse, but it was there. There were times when the guilt came back, when someone thought again how stupid it was that they had missed this or done that, but now that the secret was no longer leaving wounds no one could see, they were healing. The family was coming together, healing together.

When Reid had tentatively suggested they try being a 'them' again, Morgan had hesitated. Reid, although upset by it, understood and gave him the space and the time to figure out his hesitation and his fears. This wasn't something either of them could rush; with all that had passed, they had to be certain they were willing to face each other, knowing that the truth that had almost shattered everything they held dear would always lie between them.

But Reid was willing to try; he'd wait for as long as it took.

The day that Morgan sought Reid out to ask him if they could have dinner marked the closing of the longest chapter of their lives, and the start of a new one.

Now when the nightmares threatened, the solace he found was in Reid's slender frame, Reid's firm hands on his shoulders, waking him and holding him steady as he tried to make sense of it all.

Now when he was terrified by the darkness of the night, he had Derek's arms to surround him and his voice to calm the fears as he tried to remember what was happening now and not back then.

In that heartbeat of time, lying in the bed of his adoptive mother's house, Reid remembered everything. All the things Morgan had tried to do, every apology, every cry of regret when he was trapped in his nightmares, and Reid finally understood.

The darkness wasn't absolute. It wasn't who Morgan was, who he was, who any of them were. It lived in them and occasionally controlled them, but it would never be all that they were, especially not if they stayed together, if they never abandoned each other to fight it alone. United we stand, divided we fall, indeed… Or maybe, together we fall, and then we help each other stand again, Reid thought.

Morgan couldn't absolutely promise him that he'd never hurt him or leave him again; the world they lived in and the work they did was just too uncertain. But he promised and meant what he'd just said, that if it was all up to him…

"Those months without you were hell on earth, Pretty Boy. I won't stand living through that a second time," Derek whispered in the darkness, breaking Reid from his thoughts and back to the present. "Please, don't make me."

True vulnerability, true intimacy, the thing that scared Morgan most.

"It's enough, Der; I never needed to hear you say it."

A/N: Thank you all for a great turnout with this story! I hope you enjoyed it, I loved writing it. I'm feeling rather sorry that this is the end, and I hope I haven't disappointed too much by doing this; I simply could not stand to drag this any longer!

As a side note you may find interesting, this is only how the original ending went. Thanks to the lovely lil'spencefan, my brain will now not stop giving me random plots about a possible Revelations segue (lol, sincerely, I do thank you!). So for that, it may become an alternate ending, another story entirely, or some sort of continuation from this as soon as I get something more definite to write on. Hope to see you there if it comes out!


PS: Happy New Year's Eve!