Gravestones Carved In Blood

By Illyria13

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Not the characters or the show or anything else you might recognize.

Timeline: Set sometime after season 2 episode, "Profiler, profiled". No particular episodes other than this one are mentioned, so consider spoilers for said episode.

Warnings: Abuse, rape/molestation, suicidal thoughts or actions and slash. All of these have been kept according to rating, so please keep that in mind. I have tried not too be too graphic for graphic's sake; everything has a purpose in the story.

Now, this is your SLASH warning. I won't tell you again. If you have a problem with slash, then kindly ignore it or stop reading. I would like to point out that it isn't overly graphic but it is still there. So don't flame me. I don't like it and to be frank, I don't know an author who does. Thank you.

As for the abuse, rape, and molestation, these are (somewhat) canon. So it's not out of the range of possibility. Please understand that.

I'd like to thank my lovely beta Lynxgoddess and this is mainly a surprise for her. Hope you like it, Lynx!

Summary: Sometimes he had good dreams. Sometimes he has nightmares. But the worst dreams are the ones with snow-covered gravestones, because they always end with bloody glass on the floor.

/

He wanted love, I taste of blood

He bit my lip and drank my warmth

From years before, from years before.

-AFI, 'Love Like Winter'

/

Another head hangs lowly,
Child is slowly taken.
And the violence caused such silence,
Who are we mistaken?

- The Cranberies, 'Zombie'

/

Though one were strong as seven,
He too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven,
Nor weep for pains in hell;
Though one were fair as roses,
His beauty clouds and closes;
And well though love reposes,
In the end it is not well.

–'The Garden of Prosperine' by Algernon Charles Swinburne

/

You are not afraid of the pain. Instead, you welcome it, embrace it. Because you tell yourself that you are sacrificing for others and that this is the one true thing that you know how to do. You watched your father die trying to keep people safe and you watched your mother cry for her loss. You've seen friends and enemies fall in the streets, victims to a cause that is noble only to them. So you've learned that sacrifice is the only way to get by in this world. And in the end, it will all be worth it.

You've lived your whole life for the happiness of others.

And you wonder when you'll finally get the chance to live for your own.

/

When he first realizes that he wants Hotch, wants to kiss him and touch him and let Hotch touch him, he goes home after work, locks himself into his room, and freaks out. He isn't sure if it's because he likes another man, or if it's because he likes Hotch. In a way, it doesn't matter, because Derek doesn't think he could ever let another man close enough to touch in that way, so really, it's a moot point. It's this thought that calms him down, and the next day at work, he's back to normal. He can't afford to be anything else.

The thought had never crossed his mind that Hotch would want him.

It's late at night when a knock on the door draws him away from the dishes he's cleaning. When he opens it and sees Hotch standing there, he can't deny the way his heart leaps or the rush of arousal that floods him. He fights it down, though, because he has promised himself that he won't do this, that he can't do this, no matter what. But it doesn't stop him from inviting the other man in or from offering him a drink and it can't stop his curiosity, so he leans against the counter, looks at Hotch from over the top of his glass and asks.

"So, what brings you here, Hotch?"

The other man looks at him, eyes dark yet calm, and Derek isn't prepared for the answer he gives.

"You, Morgan. I came here for you."

He blinks, caught completely off-guard and tries to speak, attempting to figure out exactly what Hotch means even as a part of him wants desperately to hope. The words aren't coming to him, however, and his mind continues to fail him when the dark-haired man steps forward, setting his own glass on the nearby counter before reaching out to take Morgan's. Looking him straight in the eye, Hotch smirked slightly, a playful twist of his lips, and drank from Derek's glass before setting it to the side as well. Then, with two steps forward, he's directly in front of him, and Morgan swallows hard at the smoldering desire in the other man's eyes.

If it had been anyone else standing this close to him, he'd have already pushed them away, feeling trapped enough to react. But this is Hotch and he knows that the other man would never hurt him, never touch him without permission or knowingly do something to make him uncomfortable. And a part of Morgan wants the other man, wants Hotch enough to let him stay this close to his body.

So he stands his ground and looks back at the slightly taller man, his own desire shining in his eyes and watches a smile dance across the others' face. When Hotch reaches a hand up to brush his cheek slightly, gently, he lets him, and is inwardly relieved when he feels no fear at his touch. And when the other man speaks, he listens closely, hoping to find the answer as to what he should do.

"I don't want to hurt you, Derek. If you don't want this, then tell me." Hotch kept his hand on the others' cheek, running his fingers across the smooth skin in a caress. "Nothing will change between us," his thumb moved down to skim across Derek's lips, "unless you want it to."

He felt his breath quicken as the other man bent down slightly, bringing his face closer to his own.

"Because I do, Derek," a whisper broaching the charged air between them, "I want you."

The words linger, echoing through his head as if they had been screamed, and suddenly, he knows exactly what he wants to do.

So he does it.

He surges forward, his upper body bending until his lips meet the other man's in a desperately hopeful kiss, and he lets go, giving this man who is offering Derek everything all that he himself has to give. It's fierce and desperate and cracked, a broken caress that has only known pain every single time it's been taken by force, but it's all he has to offer. And when he feels Hotch respond, he feels that small part of himself that had always screamed of guilt and shame slowly begin to heal.

Because he's not perfect, he never will be, but this man makes him feel like he can be something, something other than tainted. And it's what he's been looking for, what he's needed, and what he'd never thought he'd be lucky enough to find. But it makes sense, in a way, because who else would be better to heal him, who better to suture all his gaping wounds and kiss away his scars, than a man with the strength to hold him together?

When they break apart, lungs burning for air, Derek realizes that he has never felt safer in another man's arms than at this moment. And he doesn't know whether it's because he is in Hotch's arms or if it is because he might actually trust the other man, and a part of him doesn't care. But when Hotch runs a hand down his back in a soft caress, Derek tenses in an instinctual reaction, and reality sets in. Because as much as he wants this man, he doesn't know if he can give himself completely to Hotch, in the way that the other will want, and it isn't fair to him. Derek will not make Hotch wait for something he isn't sure he will ever be able to give.

It is with regret that he lets go of the other man, a soft sigh of disappointment escaping as he takes a step back, out of the warm embrace. He looks down at the ground, unable to look Hotch in the eyes, and braces himself for what he's going to have to say. And silently, he curses every demon in his past, every nightmare in his closet, every skeleton buried in the dirt, for ruining this moment. For ruining what could be.

"Hotch, I can't-. I-, I can't be what you need." He took a deep breath and breathed out. "I don't think I can give you what you want."

Derek looks up, afraid to see the realization in the others' face and watch it turn into disgust or anger. But all he sees is the same desire as before, want and need entwined, and a smile slightly shadowed with sadness. Hotch brings his hand forward and like before, runs it gently across a cheekbone and Derek idly thinks that Hotch must really enjoy doing that. He's brought back when Hotch speaks softly, a wistful tone that belies the sincerity and violence of his words.

"If I could, I'd kill him for what he did to you, Derek. I'd rip him apart and drown in his blood and I'd be glad for it. Because you'd be safe from him forever." He brushed his lips against Derek's forehead before continuing, his eyes softening with a profound sorrow.

"I hate what he's done to you, what he took from you. And I hate that you can't seem to see that what happened wasn't your fault." His head tilted slightly and Hotch let out his own quiet sigh. "But most of all, I hate that you think you aren't worth it. Because you are; you're more than worth it."

"I want you. I want you with me in my arms and in my home, to see you after work and when I wake up in the morning. I want your nightmares and your screams, your darkness and your pain, every shadow in your heart and all the memories that you hate. You are one of the strongest people I know, Derek Morgan, because you've refused to let your past destroy you. So don't let it destroy you now."

He's holding his breath now, afraid to break the spell that the other man has created with his words, and wants to hope that everything Hotch is saying is true. And when the dark-haired man continues, it breaks his desire to deny him.

"You deserve to be happy. And I deserve you."

Derek gave a shaky laugh, a half-sob and half-delighted, and if maybe his eyes were a little red, neither of them would mention it. And he knows he'll give in, but he thinks he can be okay with that, because if anyone can touch his body and his heart, it's Hotch. More importantly, Derek wants to let him try, even as he feels compelled to warn the other man.

"I can't promise anything."

He should have known better than to try.

"I don't need you to. All I need is you, Derek, in whatever way you can give to me."

It's Hotch's turn to answer this time with an action, and he does, with a gentle kiss that feels more like a feather brushing across his lips. It's an affirmation, a promise, a desire for more from Morgan than his body, and Derek wonders briefly why he hadn't done this earlier. Because everything he wants is captured in this man and he knows that he won't ever be able to let him go.

In a way, he isn't really sure how it happened, or what exactly brought them together. All he knows is that he has gained a lover and that he'd been wrong, because it'd been a lot easier to let Hotch close than he'd believed. They don't rush into their relationship, though, and sometimes Derek thinks that this fact is what made them work as a couple.

They're together eight months before they have sex and afterwards, he lets his lover hold him as he cries on his chest in a mixture of relief and love. He'd never thought he could feel safe with another man, but he does with Hotch, and though it doesn't erase his past, it makes it slightly easier to deal with because now, he doesn't have to deal with it alone.

And when Hotch leans in and whispers into his ear, "Thank you for trusting me," Derek thinks that maybe he could fall in love with this man.

Because he does trust him, trusts him with his body and his heart.

Trust is a very difficult thing for him. He's been hurt, he's been broken, and he's been betrayed by people that he trusted. But no one had hurt him more than Carl Buford, his mentor and savior and betrayer. He'd taken from Derek things that he didn't have the right to take and didn't care if he hurt him in the process.

But Hotch isn't Carl, and it hadn't been hard to distinguish between the two. Carl was all hands and pain and biting, teeth breaking skin and fingers bruising arms and hips. Hotch was strong but gentle, caring and attentive touches that barely brushed skin yet said more than any words ever could. He acted with permission and at the first sign of discomfort or panic, he backed off and calmed Derek down with soothing kisses and soft words.

Hotch has promised him, in gestures and in words, that he will never hurt him and Derek believes him.

But the most important difference, Derek learns, is that he can say 'no' and Hotch will stop without hesitation.

It takes him longer than he'd like to admit to learn this truth. He hadn't wanted to acknowledge it, but he'd been afraid to say 'no' to his lover. It's something that had been engrained in him through years of pain and abuse and deep down, that fear is too much for him to risk it. And a part of him desperately wants to believe that there will never be a time when he'll want to deny his lover.

But he's forgotten the effects of trauma, forgotten how quickly bad memories can overtake you, because he doesn't want to think of himself as a victim.

His lover hadn't forgotten. Despite his wish that his team would never find out what had happened to him, they had, but only Hotch and Gideon had been witnesses to his true pain. They'd been the ones standing as silent shadows to his shame, to the taunting confession thrown in his face by a man who should have gotten on his knees and begged for mercy if he'd had any conscience. And when it was done, and Morgan was free to go, it had been Hotch who'd driven him to his mother's house in unexpected silence. Before he left, he told Morgan in no uncertain terms that if he needed to talk to someone, Hotch would be willing to listen, but he would not force the issue.

Even now, Derek had never taken him up on the offer. It was too hard to put into words all of his pain and guilt and doubt and fear. It was easier just to stay silent. And despite the fact they were now in a relationship, he still couldn't bring himself to let it all out. Not even for his own peace of mind. Besides, Aaron Hotchner was one of the greatest profiling minds. He didn't need Morgan to tell him the details to understand what had been done to him, nor did he need to be told to expect flashbacks or bad reactions to certain things, most notably in a relationship. He doesn't think of Derek as a victim, but he knows that some things will never go away. Trauma is trauma.

Because of his past, Hotch had made it very clear early on that if Derek never wanted to be touch, all he had to do was say so. If there was something he didn't like or didn't want to do, Hotch wanted Morgan to tell him. And Derek knew this, but knowing something is far different than understanding it. His own stubborn nature is both a burden and a hindrance, because he doesn't like to admit to fear, and fear for Derek is a weakness.

Weakness is unacceptable. So is fear. And if there's one thing that he's learned from lessons in the dark, it is that there is no way to give in to unacceptable things without facing consequences.

He can still feel hands around his throat, fingers against limbs, lips brushing sensitive skin even as poisonous words slither from a mouth to his ear, threatening and promising and destroying his hope and his faith. Hope to be saved and faith that he deserves saving to begin with, and sometimes it was the only thing keeping him going.

But everyone falls. Everything fades. And hope, such a quintessential delusion of the human race, shatters when faced with overwhelming despair. So does faith, when no one hears his pleas and prayers and silent screams. And he does what he has to in order to survive because he has to save himself. Even if that meant sacrificing every part of himself, his dignity and strength and pride, to a monster with the power to swallow him whole.

He cannot be weak. He cannot be afraid. So he isn't. Even now. He stays silent and unreachable when it comes to his secrets and doesn't allow himself to dwell on things that have happened. He doesn't believe that a relationship with a man that he trusts more than any other man before is enough to heal him, but neither does he allow it to break his silence.

He has learned that silence will keep him safe. It had saved him before because staying silent had kept his sanity. It had kept him somewhat whole by denying his abuser his screams or his pleas or his pain.

But his silence now only leaves room for him to be hurt accidentally and by the one person who never wanted to hurt him in any way.

Because what Derek hasn't realized is that silence is the language of his life before, not his life now.

It comes to a head one night when things between the two of them shift from watching a movie together to heading to the bedroom with lips locked and clothes being tossed along the way. He's tired, but the gentle coaxing of his lover makes his lust rise, and a part of Derek thinks that maybe this will help him sleep that night, so he falls onto the bed with his lover and submits to the rush of feelings.

When Hotch brushes his lips across his neck, though, something in Derek snaps.

Maybe it's because he had nightmares the night before. Maybe it's because he feels utterly exhausted and the memories are too close to the surface. Whatever the reason, the familiar feel of his lover against him turns into a suffocating heaviness and every muscle in his body tightens before falling disturbingly lax, loose and still.

Because he's gone trapped, 13 years old and young and stuck beneath a man he trusted, beneath his mentor and friend and hero, the key to escaping this shitty neighborhood and the hope for his family. Only he's none of those and all of them, a two-sided blade that will cut as much as help and leaves him no way to turn to avoid its sting. There are two faces to everyone but this man, he's different. Both of his sides are as fatal as the other; one damning in its' false sincerity, the other in its' perverted desires.

And he can't escape from either one.

So he pleads inwardly even as he shatters, because there's no way to get free but that doesn't stop him from trying, and he grinds his teeth together to stop from screaming because he will not let him win.

"Stop…"

Nonononono, please, not again, don't touch me, nononono, get off me, nonononon-

"Derek?"

A hand comes up and brushes gently against his cheek and it isn't until now that he realizes he is crying. The weight on top of him is gone and he gasps softly, suddenly feeling like he can breathe again. Awareness returns somewhat, confusing and mixed with sights and smells of the past, but with the addition of breathing, it starts to clear enough for him to realize where he is, as well as who is with. He closes his eyes in a mix of shame and relief, not wanting to look at Hotch and see the anger in his face. A few moments of silence pass before it's broken by a voice.

"Derek, look at me."

It's said softly, gently, but he can't do what it asks, so he shakes his head slightly.

"Please, Derek, look at me? I need to know you're okay."

It's the plea in the others' voice that gets him, so he shifts his head slightly to the left to look at his older lover. He opens his eyes slowly, hesitantly, landing on Hotch's face as soon as they're opened completely. There is concern there, as well as a hint of fear, and his eyes are full of pain. But there's no sign of any anger or disappointment, and slowly, Derek relaxes, his muscles falling from tense to loose.

When Hotch reaches a hand towards him, he tracks it warily with his eyes, and can't help the flinch when it lands gently on his arm. But when his lover tries to retract it, he reaches out with his own hand and grabs hold, suddenly and irrationally afraid to let it leave. He doesn't want to be alone but neither can he bear more physical contact at the moment than this, so he holds tight to the hand and tries to stay afloat in the memories that have been awakened.

"I'm sorry."

He doesn't even know what he's apologizing for exactly. Whether it's for being afraid, for being a failure, or for breaking his silence; for allowing himself to fall back into his past, or for letting himself believe that Hotch was Buford, he isn't sure. He thinks he might be apologizing to himself as much as to his lover, but everything is a little muddled right now and it's hard to tell right from up, left from down. Wait, that didn't sound correct. He shakes his head slightly to clear it, but the blurriness is still in front of his eyes and he realizes that it's not dizziness that's assailing him, but tears. They drip from his eyes onto his cheeks and for a moment, they're red; blood-stained and razor-sharp and aching like a knife in the chest.

They smear his vision, leaving behind a crimson glow, and when he looks at himself, everything is tinged with red. It's fitting, though, because it only proves what is already there.

Because blood covers him, covers every inch of his skin and Derek has always known that he will never be free of it. He can't fight it, can't erase it, can't scrape it off his skin or wash it out of his veins. It's always there and it never changes. Only now, he's afraid it'll leech off of him onto Hotch and there won't be anything he can do about it.

Fear. One of the unacceptable sins.

But he's afraid for Hotch, afraid for himself, and it's this that makes him try to run, jerking his hand away from the other as he sits upright on the bed, attempting to shove away the covers in a near-blind panic. The more he struggles, the more he gets caught, and he's three seconds away from sheer, flat-out, heart racing panic, when a voice filters into his hearing.

"Derek, don't."

His name. A life-boat in the waves of panic, a familiar line in the ocean of fear drowning him.

"Please, Derek."

Quiet and calm, yet holding a world of pain. He doesn't like the pain. It doesn't belong there. Makes his chest feel tight and his heart ache.

"Don't run."

The words make his heart stutter because it's exactly what he'd been thinking. Planning. Wanting and attempting to do. Run. Escape. Flee before the boogeyman gets you and you're trapped, unable to get free of his clutches.

"I know I frightened you. I know I hurt you. And I'm sorry."

Everyone's sorry. They're all so sorry. Sorry for his loss. Sorry for his pain. Sorry for his damage and his brokenness and the shattered fucking shards of his innocence. Sorry for the tattered remains of a soul and for granite etched with nightmares, but not Sorry enough to do anything about it.

"God, Derek, I'm so sorry."

Maybe it's the combination of his name and the apology, and the sorrow he hears in the other man's voice. It's enough to stop his desperate struggles to get free from the sheets and for the adrenaline to stop rushing through his blood.

"But please. Please, don't run. Don't run from me."

He breathes raggedly, panting harshly against the quiet of the room and the soft rumbles of the Hotch's voice. He hears the pain, the plea, and knows that Hotch is ready throw himself onto the floor and beg, even as he pleads with his words. He doesn't like that his lover is pleading but he can't seem to form words enough to get Hotch to stop, and another part of him realizes that his lovers' voice is the one thing grounding him to reality.

So he lets it wash over him as sanity returns, his pulse slowing, his breathing returning to normal, and his surroundings filtering into a clear picture. He reaches out blindly with his hand, searching for the other, and manages to grasp Hotch's arm. And it's enough of an anchor that everything returns to a normal speed and the red tinge fades from his eyes.

He slides his hand down until he's holding onto the others' hand, clasping with his fingers in a desperate plea of his own.

Hold on. Don't let go.

And the gentle squeeze back is reassuring, because their nonverbal communication is still working.

I've got you.

They sit quietly for a few moments, their breath mingling in the air in a soft rhythm of inhale-exhale. But then something shifts, and Derek nearly lets out a sigh at the loss of the peace, because he knows that now, talking is going to come.

He doesn't always like being right.

Hotch breaks the stillness first, his voice gentle and firm, not commanding or begging, but respectfully asking; the one thing that always gets Derek.

"Talk to me, please."

Derek finds his own voice then, broken and hoarse with unshed regret. "There's nothing to talk about."

He still doesn't look at him, but Derek can imagine the relief in Hotch's face at his responsiveness. It's better than silence, to the other man.

But he knows better. Silence is fucking golden.

After his little attack, though, he knows he isn't going to be able to get away with staying quiet. And because it's hard to deny his lover, he speaks.

"I'm sorry, Aaron."

It's soft but heavy with a mix of emotions-regret, shame, guilt- and exhaustion, and he finds himself blinking quickly at a rush of tiredness.

"Why?"

He turns his head finally, looking at Hotch in puzzlement.

"What?"

The other man elaborates, a sad smile dancing on his lips.

"Why are you sorry, Derek?"

He opens and closes his mouth, caught off guard even as he knows he shouldn't be surprised. His lover knows him better than he knows himself. Because Derek has so many reasons for apologizing but even he doesn't know for which one he is.

"I-I guess-. I don't know. Hotch, I don't know. I just- I'm sorry. God, I'm just so sorry…"

He trails off, lost and confused and so fucking tired of shadows and ghosts and memories and dreams. Tired of hands and teeth in the night from years past yet too afraid to sleep without them.

Afraid. A form of fear. There's that word again.

"Derek, it's ok."

He shakes his head mutely because no, it's not okay, nothing is okay, nothing is making sense and goddamned if he isn't going to just lose his mind one day…just fall and fade into nothingness because he's too afraid…afraid to say no to the past and the present…afraid to-

He stops.

Afraid to say no.

Apparently, he does know why he's apologizing.

A warm hand on the side of his face tilts his head until eyes meet, and Hotch smiles again, so sad yet loving, because epiphany really is a bitch.

"Don't ever apologize to me for this, Derek. Never apologize for saying no. You have the right to tell me not to touch you in this way."

And he desperately wants to believe, wants to think that he can deny the other even as he knows that he can't. He never has before. He doesn't want to dwell on that, either.

His stubborn nature rises though and he starts to protest.

Dark eyes studied him, sadness coloring them even as Hotch shook his head.

"No, Derek, I don't think you understand. But I'm going to keep telling you until you do."

Anger explodes in him then and he turns to his lover furiously, fists clenching in order to dig his nails into his palms. It is anger at himself, at Buford for hurting him, at Hotch for caring, and it's a dizzying rush that leaves him barely able to form coherent thoughts. But he still lashes out with his words.

"Damn it, Hotch! I do understand. You don't need me. You don't need this. You deserve better. Hell, you can get better. Don't settle for what's broken. You can't fix it."

Hotch grabs his shoulders then, shaking lightly, not hurting or threatening but trying to get through to the younger man.

"I. Don't. Care. I told you before, Derek, I want every part of you, not just the good ones."

He studies him, dark eyes probing and Derek suddenly feels uncomfortable, like the other man can see every flaw and crack.

"I want you, Derek. That's it. You, and everything that comes with you, be it good or bad."

And he wants to believe because he wants to believe in Hotch, believe that his trust isn't misplaced, so he does, letting himself sink into what the other man is saying.

Because Hotch is still here. Here through the nightmares and the panic attacks and his issues, and it makes Derek want to believe everything the other has to say.

After a few more moments of silence, Derek leans forward and touches his lips to the other man. It's a sign of trust and a signal of understanding, and the other man responds in kind, though he keeps the kiss a light caress. When they break apart, Hotch looks down, catching his eyes and maintaining contact, and Derek understands that his lover has a point that he wants to make.

"Never be afraid to say no to me, Derek. I need you to understand me."

"I do, Hotch."

"Good. Now promise me. Promise me that you will say no."

"Aaron-,"

"No, Derek. Promise me. If you don't want to be touched or hugged or kissed or anything, you will tell me. If you feel yourself becoming lost, tell me."

"I promise, Aaron."

And even though it's hard, he really does try, because his silence is no longer helping him. It's not that he's suddenly able to spill every frightening thought, every painful detail, and every fear and doubt Buford made him feel. He's willing to try, though, because it's the first thing Hotch has truly asked of him. He realizes then that he's hurting his lover as much as himself and it makes something inside him cringe.

So he makes a promise to himself to trust just a little bit more, to try just a little bit harder, to open himself up to Hotch and believe what the other man is saying. Because he hasn't demanded, he's asked, and that makes Derek feel just a little more secure.

But despite his promise, the fear remains, lingering in the back of his mind and shadowing every touch and kiss he gives to his lover. And then one day, he gets it. It hits him like a blow to the face in the middle of the bull pen at work, causing him to stop in his tracks but he doesn't care, because suddenly, he understands. It's not just him who'd made a promise that night. Hotch had made one too. It's an unchanging vow, a screaming promise, a loving oath that Hotch has given to Derek and even though he hadn't realized it at the time, it's more than he'd ever expected to get.

And that's the thing about Hotch. He'd do anything to protect Derek, even from himself, and is willing to do what he can to help lessen the burden and ease his demons into a semi-deep rest.

For the first time in a very long time, Derek feels safe. He feels secure. Most of all, he feels content, like everything he's been through has brought him here, making it all worth it.

But like everything else good in his life, this, too, comes to an end.

Because it still isn't enough to stop the dreams.

/

He visits the grave all the time.

He can't help it. Something about it calls to him and he can't ignore it, nor does he truly want to. It's safe there, he's safe there; safe amongst the dead and discarded and lonely, and sometimes, it hurts. It hurts to admit, even if only to himself, that he no longer feels safe except among the departed. But it's true whether he wants to say it or not, because here in this graveyard he can whisper all his secrets and cry about his lies and there's no one to tell him that he's bad or wrong.

Sometimes he wonders how he got here, got to this point where talking to a dead person makes his guilt seem less and his pain less bitter. What does he have in common with this boy, what do they share that makes them so alike? But the answer is simple and it's a wonder he even has to think about it.

He was just as lost as the unknown teen, lost and alone and forgotten; drowning in pain and screaming for any kind of respite. But there was no one to hear him, no one to save him, and deep down he knows he'll be just as dead as this boy someday. Except it'll be worse than that, worse than being dead, because he'll be dead and still walking around, not buried six feet under with an unnamed stone guarding his resting place.

He doesn't want to be lost. He doesn't want to be afraid. He doesn't want anything except for it to stop. But God hasn't answered his prayers and Derek doesn't think He ever will and maybe he doesn't deserve to be saved. What has he done in his life that would make God care about his wants? Maybe this is his punishment. Maybe God isn't listening. Maybe this is a test.

God expects too much of thirteen-year-old boys.

He turns and walks away from the grave, knowing that he'll be back here soon, and a part of him hopes that he'll be doing more than just visiting. It isn't that he wants to die, but he doesn't really want to live either, and apathy is just as damning as desire. It means that he's tired of fighting, tired of praying, tired of trying to find a reason for his pain. Because there isn't any, and nothing will ever make this okay. He wants an escape, wants it to be for forever, but knows that forever is a long time away.

He doesn't deserve it anyway.

The gate clangs shut behind him, metal against metal, and the foreboding sound sends a warning whispering into the frigid air.

Forever may be sooner than he thinks.

A spot of wetness on his nose catches his attention and he looks up into the sky. A small smile curls his lips at the sight of white drifting down, and he knows that his time here is up, needing to get home before his mother begins to worry. Snow is unpredictable in Chicago, turning from a light powder to a fierce storm in the smallest of seconds, and he has no desire to be caught in it.

The hair on the back of his neck rises suddenly, and he quickens his pace, wanting to get off the streets as every instinct in his body goes to high alert. He doesn't know why, but he can feel it in his gut that something is wrong, and he'd rather not hang around to find out what it is. But before he can blink, a car is suddenly next to him, moving slowly to a stop and a window rolls down. He's about to break into a full-out sprint when a familiar voice speaks from inside the car.

"Derek, get in."

Now he wants to run more than ever, run and keep running and never stop until his lungs burst. He wants to scream, wants to cry, wants to know why he can't have just one day without this man being there, touching everything that used to be good in his life. But crying and screaming and begging won't do any good, he's learned this, and there's nothing he can do but accept the inevitable.

He gets into the car without a word, already knowing the destination and hating himself for giving in. He used to be strong, he used to be a fighter, but not anymore; now he's everything he'd always sworn not to become. Weak. Broken. Helpless.

Disgusting.

The silence is deafening but he can't speak, won't speak, has nothing to say to this man who has destroyed him. Nothing to give to a man who has already taken from him in every way possible, and nothing to do to fight the coming storm. The only thing he wants to give to this man is his hate, but Carl doesn't care about what he wants.

But Derek has nobody to blame but himself, he thinks. He'd asked for this, brought it down upon himself, and he'll only get hurt more if he tries to stop it. Experience has already taught him that. There is no saying 'no' to Carl Buford. He'll take anyway.

A warm hand lands on his knee and instinctively, he tenses, before immediately falling loose as he remembers what happened the last time he fought back. He never wants to go through that pain again; in fact, he'd do nearly anything to avoid it. So he does the only thing he can do: he doesn't fight. When the car stops, he follows Carl into the house and goes through the routine he hates but knows so well, going into the bedroom and taking off his clothes before lying down on the bed. He doesn't hear as Carl calls his mother and tells her that Derek is spending the night at his place. He doesn't hear the other man come in and undress, doesn't hear him get on the bed, and doesn't hear what he whispers into his ears as he moves down and over him.

Instead, he blocks it all out, ignoring what's being done to his body, and thinks about a snow-covered gravestone with his name on it. He loves his family, doesn't want to hurt them, but the problem is that he no longer loves himself. Everybody has their limits and he's quickly reaching his. And just as he thinks it, a sharp pain races through him and he cries out, a denial falling from his lips, unbidden and unwilling.

No.

He'd forgotten the rules. He can't say 'no'.

Hands are suddenly around his throat in a vice grip, cutting into his skin and stopping his lungs from getting desperately needed oxygen. They tighten fractionally and he fights the urge to pound against the chest of the man above him, knowing he won't like the consequences. His head begins to swim and the room begins to darken and everything is suddenly too close to his skin, under and over and in him. And a part of him gives up.

So he stares at the ceiling and feels himself die and wonders if he'll ever be able to escape this life. He thinks on an unclaimed teen lying cold in the ground and envies him his death because if there's one thing he's learned it is that freedom only comes to those who don't ask for it.

And as black spots dance on the edge of his vision, he silently hopes that this time will be the exception.

Because forever can't come soon enough.

/

At night, the mind is less guarded than the day, open to feelings and thoughts that aren't acknowledged when awake. It's harder to fight memories, too, because when a person sleeps, they dream. The mind is a very active thing and dreams are often a way of working through the things that happen in the day. It's just a fact of life.

Some dreams are pleasant. Some aren't. Some are easily remembered upon waking, like real events that happened a mere second ago. But others are less so, more like hazy recollections of real or imagined things that may or may not have occurred. Still others are never recalled at all.

They differ among people, too. Monsters, demons, shadows, trees, cars, people; the content of dreams is unique to the dreamer, their meaning known only to their conjurers. And some people dream in sequences rather than objects, like reels of film playing across a shadowed mindscape.

Derek isn't surprised that he has nightmares and even less so when he wakes up screaming from the images that haunt them. It doesn't stop him from hating it, though, because when he does, it also wakes his lover.

He doesn't know which ones he hates more, the dreams about actual memories or the ones that are just sensations and feelings, spiders under the skin and skittering across it. He thinks he hates them both equally. Dreams about memories are harder to shake and bring up things he doesn't want to think about. But the others, the others frighten him more, because there's nothing in them to be afraid of and yet, they make him feel afraid. Because they feel like phantoms, like touches hands ghosting across his body, going places without permission.

And he hates this fear, hates this dread, hates that a man long gone from his life still has the ability to ruin it. But hate is just another part of living, engrained and intrinsic and as inescapable as the skin he's trapped in. So he forces himself to live with it, because it's the only thing he can do, and tries not to let it wash him away.

So he follows a routine of nightmares and wake, nightmares and wake, and wonders if he'll ever have something different. But dreams are for people with hope, people that know what it's like to be free, and Derek has lost them both. And even though so much time has past, the stains that Buford had left on his soul will never fade, remaining like a padlock on a chain.

And the only way to get rid of a lock is with the key. A key, or a pair of bolt cutters.

/

Sucker love is heaven sent

You pucker up, our passion's spent

My heart's a tart, your body's rent

My body's broken, yours is bent

Carve your name into my arm

Instead of stressed I lie here charmed

Cause there's nothing else to do

Every me and every you

In the shape of things to come

Too much poison come undone

Cause there's nothing else to do

Every me and every you

I serve my head up on a plate

It's only comfort, calling late

Cause there's nothing else to do

Every me and every you

-"Every Me and Every You" by Placebo

/

Sometimes he wonders if he isn't already dead.

He walks through his life in a daze, each day passing him by in a numbing blur as everything about himself fades. He wakes and eats and goes back to sleep before he even notices that the day has past and nothing about it registers.

He screams sometimes. Not when he's in the presence of that man, no; he screams in his heart and his head and with every nerve and fiber of his body. He screams with blood and cries in death and dreams of nothing more than freedom. Freedom from life, from Carl, from pain and fear and sweat-drenched nights; he isn't sure which but doesn't care because to him, they're all the same. Gilded cages with iron bars and deep down, he thinks that he might never be free. He can barely even remember what freedom feels likes, but knows that a part of him yearns for it with a desperation beyond his years.

But he's locked in chains and trapped by silence and he's damned himself from the very beginning. There's no one to blame but himself for walking back into the lion's den, for submitting to the monster every time he calls. How can he ask for something to save him when he doesn't even try to save himself?

So he does. He takes a mirror and shatters it, hating what he sees in its' reflection and hating himself for being the image in it. He grabs a shard, a large chunk of glittering glass, and slashes at his arms, laughing gleefully as he makes his outsides match what he feels like on the inside. Blood pools on the floor around him and drenching his clothes, turning the jersey into a muddy red. His arm gets tired and with one last swipe, he stops, letting the shard drop to the ground, splashing a small puddle in a clatter.

The next thing he knows, he's on the ground too, blackness on the edge of his vision even as his body begins to cool. He's numb and cold and completely, utterly, calm and as he slips away, a smile twists his lips as he finally, finally, finally feels free.

Then he blinks, because he's staring into a mirror and hating what he sees and the feeling of peace he'd felt as he bled out on the floor is the best thing he's felt in a very long time. And he wants that feeling for himself, wants to feel it now and not just in his imagination, so he does what he'd done already (or is it what he is going to do?) and slams a fist into the glass, causing it to fall to the ground in a shower of glistening mirror shards.

His hand is bleeding, a few pieces wedged into the skin, but he doesn't notice, too intent on bringing a piece of glass to his upper arm. He wants to feel free, wants to feel peace, so he starts cutting his skin, wanting it to scar so that maybe, if he's ugly and disfigured, he won't be wanted anymore. And if he dies in the process, he really won't care, because that will be just as good as being left alone.

But a door slamming jerks him from his reverie even as he hears his mothers' footsteps, and he knows now that he can't follow through, not while she's home. And with strength he didn't know he had anymore, he forces himself to stop, letting the glass slip out of his hand and onto the floor. He stares at his skin, at the lines gracing his upper arms and moving lower in some unidentifiable pattern and for a second he feels hate, pure, unadulterated hatred at his mother, for coming home and stopping him from succeeding. And then it's gone, the hate washed away in shame, because if only his mother could see her baby boy now.

He looks back down at the glass and for a moment, thinks of picking it up and putting it in his bag, because if there's one thing he'd like to do more than die, it is hurt Carl, and the idea of slashing at that man's skin is as pleasurable as it was slashing at his own. But he resists, because in some deep, dark corner of his stained soul, he knows that he would never be able to stop until the monster was unrecognizable.

Derek doesn't want to become him.

So he washes the blood off of his arms in the shower, turning the clear water into a startling red-then-pink stream, and wonders if he'll ever get another chance at doing this. It's not the same freedom as dying, but it's close enough that for a while, he feels better. And as the months pass, it gets easier to hide the cuts, because he's gotten so good at hiding all the other marks that these fade into the myriad of other bruises and scars.

Sometimes he wonders if he isn't already dead.

Then he remembers the feeling of freedom and knows he's still alive. Unfortunately.

But he does have something to pass the time, a little sliver of peace in the form of a shard of glass.

He'll take what he can get.

/

If there's one thing he can't stand above anything else, it's a hand on or near his neck. It's too vulnerable an area for such a possessive act and every muscle and nerve and cell goes on high alert when someone gets near it. So when he jerks awake in the middle of the night to the feeling of an arm across his chest and a hand lying half on his throat, he has to force himself not to lash out. He lies there, heart racing and sweat trailing down his skin, as he holds himself on a tightly reined leash, not allowing himself to react in the way he wants to. It isn't Carl next to him, but Hotch, and he will not, he can not, hurt him.

It's a different time, a different life, but some feelings still remain the same.

After a few moments, his fight-or-flight instincts slow down to a crawl as the feared attack doesn't come. It's enough, though, for him to be wide awake now, and he knows that he won't be going back to sleep this night. So slowly, carefully, he slips from the bed without waking his partner and goes into the kitchen for a glass of water before heading into their shared office to work on some paperwork. Hours pass, two or three, and the files can no longer hold his attention. He throws his pen down in frustration and hunches over, face in hands, wondering why he feels so antsy, so trapped in his own skin, nervous energy thrumming through every pore of his body.

After a few moments of restless contemplation, he pushed back the chair and headed back to the bedroom. He needed something, but wasn't sure what, and sitting in a half-darkened room didn't seem like the best thing right now. He opened the door quietly and carefully made his way over to the bed. Instead of getting in, however, he stopped just near the end and stared at the form of his sleeping lover. Brown hair just curling over his forehead, hazel-brown eyes that (when open) convey more emotions than he's ever seen from the man, and a strong, fit figure hidden under the covers.

Derek studied the sleeping face, brow furrowing at the lines around the eyes and mouth of the older man. And even though he knew that work was stressful and the direct cause of most of said-lines, he can't help but wonder how many of them are from him. Hotch may hid it, but Derek knew that the other man worried for his younger lover; when he woke gasping from nightmares or when they had a tough case. Every time Derek pushed him away and every time he refused to talk about what he'd seen in his dreams, the lines got deeper. And Derek had known, he'd always known, that every time he did, he was hurting Hotch. But he hadn't been able to do anything else and he hated himself for it.

He turned away then and sat heavily on the floor, his back braced against the footboard and legs folded up. He let his elbows rest on the knees and his head fell forward, cradled in his hands. He'd never felt more tired or heartsick than he did in that moment, not even after the confrontation with Buford in Chicago.

It's never been a pleasant thing, looking at ones self, and this time is no different. Because the realization that he's been hurting his lover for no reason other than his own continued stubbornness is difficult for him. After everything he's been through, everything they've faced together, every demon they've overcome, and every promise they've made to each other, it feels like a knife in the heart.

Derek has never wanted to hurt the people he loves and yet, everything he does seems to do nothing but. He can remember the look on his mothers' face after Chicago, the devastation and horror he'd seen in her eyes at what had been done to him, and can remember the guilt he'd felt at keeping his secret for all those years. And it doesn't matter why he had, because his pain wasn't worth her own. So he'd promised then, he'd sworn, that he wouldn't let himself hurt those that he loved anymore, even if, in doing so, he destroys himself. He's used to pain, he can deal with it. But what he's never been able to handle is the pain of others, especially pain that is caused by him.

It reminds him too much of snow-covered nights when he'd wished for death, and of red-tipped, broken glass scattered on the floor like discarded rose petals.

He isn't aware of how much time passes, too lost in his self-recrimination and guilt, but a voice from behind him startles him out of his thoughts. He lifts his head, letting it fall back with a soft thud against wood, and a sharp burn aches behind his eyes.

"Derek?"

He swallows hard, desperately trying to get himself under control enough to answer Hotch. His silence will only lead his lover into thinking something's wrong and that would hurt him.

"Derek, what's wrong? Are you alright?"

Because when he hurts, so does the other man, and Derek has just made himself promise not to hurt the other anymore. So he really needs to talk, to say something, anything, even if it's just a greeting, an acknowledgement that he's okay and there and with Hotch. Not lost in the past or swallowed by despair, but partly-whole and somewhat-sane and not about to completely lose his marbles or go off the deep end, or any other analogy for going bat-shit crazy.

"It's okay; you're okay. You're safe, Derek. It's Aaron."

He felt the bed move as the weight on it increased then disappeared, and through the shadows of the room, saw the form of his lover move towards him out of the corner of his eye. And even though he knows it's coming, he can't help himself as Hotch reaches out and gently lays a hand on his shoulder.

"Derek?"

An indeterminate noise escapes his throat, the first sound he's been able to make since he'd sat down, and he shoves himself back into the bed in a burst of panic. Heart racing, he swallows hard, desperately trying to keep himself in the here and now, because this is the first time in a long time that he's ever felt truly trapped, unsafe in the presence of his older lover. He's had nightmares, yes, and even a few panic attacks, but nothing to this extent in a very long time.

He's vaguely aware of Hotch backing away carefully, trying not to make any quick movements and hands raised in the universal gesture for no-harm. And it helps somewhat, the space giving him a bit of an anchor to cling to, and little by little his heart calms, slowing to a more normal rhythm. Breathing gets easier, too, and after a few moments, he's finally able to find his voice.

"Aaron…"

It's hoarse and broken and rakes like glass but it's what he'd been searching for, and it's enough to lighten the tension in the room that he's suddenly aware of. He blinks rapidly, his vision clearing, and suddenly, he feels cold. He wraps his arms around himself as a shiver races through him, feeling small and uncomfortable under the scrutiny of his partner.

Hotch cleared his throat softly before speaking, a soothing litany of reassurances that serve to further bring him calm and keep him in the present.

"…okay, Derek, you're good…are you cold, I can get you a blanket or a sweatshirt…that's it, you're ok, it's just me…"

And finally, he's calm, grounded by Hotch's voice and the blanket he'd placed in front of him.

"Aaron?"

He interrupts the other mid-word but knows the other won't care, too glad that Derek is speaking. He senses Hotch pause expectantly, waiting for him to continue, and the younger man obliges. He wets his lips, an unconscious gesture, before making his request.

"Can you…can you sit down? Please? Not on the…on the bed, but on the chair?"

He nods shortly to the leather chair sitting in the corner of the room by a small writing desk. He can feel his lovers' eyes on him, dark and gently probing, and shifts uncomfortably, hands clutching at the blanket. And if he jumps a little at Hotch moving towards the chair, well, he can pretend that he's still cold. But before the older man can sit down he speaks again, nearly tripping over his words in his haste.

"Wait!"

Hotch looks at him and Derek wants to shrink from the concerned glance but doesn't.

"Move it over here, please? Can you…will you sit in front of me?"

And again his lover nods before pushing the chair over and in front of him, a respectable amount between them, before sitting down. In that moment, Derek falls in love all over again, with this man who doesn't question or pry or demand anything from him but what he's willing to give. He doesn't get frustrated or angry, doesn't get irritated with his nightmares or his insecurities or his quirks. He respects his boundaries, follows his unspoken rules, and above all, he stays. He hasn't run, hasn't hid; rather, he's the opposite, a constant, reassuring presence.

"Aaron. Thank you."

"Anything, Derek."

And with every word and every action, he's saying, I'm here to stay. I'm here for you.

It's this that causes him to open up.

"I had a dream, well, a nightmare, really."

He can tell that he's surprised Hotch with his sudden willingness to talk, but after everything his lover has done for him, he needs to give something back. He wants to, because who better than this man to share himself with?

Derek has given him his body. Now he needs to give him his heart.

"I don't really remember all of it, to be honest. Some of it was memory, some was dream and the rest," he swallowed hard, "the rest of it was a mix of pain and fear."

He looked up and into Hotch's eyes for the first time that night.

"It was about Carl."

And he doesn't miss the way the other man's eyes flash at the name even as he holds himself carefully still, not wanting to break the spell that's descended over them as Derek talked.

"It was one night in particular, one of the…the harder nights. It'd been snowing and he gave me a ride home. Only," he paused, "he took me to his place. Called my mom and said he'd let me stay over there because of the weather. And he…he…,"

Hotch interrupted, a pained mix of love and hate on his face. "Derek, you don't…"

But he spoke over the other man. He's started now and he can't stop. He can't.

"He raped me. And that, that wasn't new, but that night he was…he was brutal. He nearly strangled me to death; I actually passed out at one point."

Derek looked up again, needing his lover to understand.

"That's why I don't like anyone near my neck. I just…I just can't. I'm sorry…,"

"It's okay. I understand, Derek, you have nothing to apologize for. Please."

But the younger man shakes his head hard.

"No, it's not okay, Hotch. It's never going to be okay. It's over and I still…what he did to me…he still has a hold over me and it's not okay…damn it, it's not…"

Derek holds his hand out pleadingly, wanting to grab hold of Hotch and never let him go because he needs the security he's always felt in his presence to come back, especially with these memories swimming in his head.

And his lover always understands what he needs because after a few seconds, he's there, kneeling in front of Derek but not crowding him in any way. Hotch gently runs his fingers back and forth over his hand, a soothing gesture, but the scars he touches bring other memories into his mind. He feels compelled to share them because he's sharing everything tonight and somehow, he feels like it's time to let a few things out.

"The next day, I smashed my fist into a mirror and used one of the pieces to cut myself. If my mom hadn't come home," he swallows again, not as sure about sharing this part, "I might have gone a bit further."

The hand the older man has wrapped around his squeezes, reassuring both himself and Derek that he is there. It's an intimate connection, one that Hotch uses to acknowledge what his younger lover has admitted, and as comforting as a hug can be.

It's silent for moments before Derek cracks, spilling his bloodiest secret out amongst all the broken truths they've shared.

"I think I wanted to die." I think I tried to die.

"That's understandable, Derek." I'm glad that you didn't.

"But not forgivable." Sometimes I wish I had.

"Is that what you want? Forgiveness? There's nothing to be forgiven for. You did nothing wrong."

Yes, I did.

He stays silent, an act that catches all of the other man's attention. He hears the slide of leather against skin as Hotch shifts, and he doesn't have to look to know that the other is now sitting stiffly on the chair.

"Derek? You know that. You know you did nothing wrong."

"I know."

It's hollow and false and empty. Neither of them is convinced.

And the older man knows, even as Derek realizes it himself, that this is the one thing that he'd been holding back.

"Look at me. Derek, look. at. me. You are not at fault for what that man did to you. Do you hear me? He was wrong, Derek. He used you and he abused you and he hurt you. And that will never be forgivable. Not for him. But you are blameless. You have nothing to ask forgiveness for."

Hotch paused, waiting for Derek's full attention before continuing.

"I love you, Derek. I love you no matter what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future. Because I know you, and what I know, I love. And that's enough for me. Remember? You are all that I need, Derek, in whatever way you choose to give to me."

And Derek has to believe him. Because he's trusted this man with every part of himself and he'd trusted him even before he'd loved him, and despite everything that's happened between the first time they'd kissed and now, Hotch has been there.

It doesn't mean everything will suddenly be perfect, or that the nightmares are going to be gone. He's been hurt, if not broken, and it takes a while to overcome demons. But now he has someone to help him heal; a strong enough person that can take up the burden when he no longer can hold it. And just like before, when they'd first come together, Hotch has made him a promise.

This time, Derek trusts it completely. Because Derek doesn't have to believe in himself. He just needs to believe in Hotch.

And that's always been easier for him to do.

/

You are not afraid of the pain. Instead, you welcome it, embrace it. Because you tell yourself that you are sacrificing for others and that this is the one true thing that you know how to do. You watched your father die trying to keep people safe and you watched your mother cry for her loss. You've seen friends and enemies fall in the streets, victims to a cause that is noble only to them. So you've learned that sacrifice is the only way to get by in this world. And in the end, it will all be worth it.

You've lived your whole life for the happiness of others.

And you wonder when you'll finally get the chance to live for your own.

Except you don't have to wonder anymore. You've found your happiness, in this man that you love, and you'll never be ready to give it up. With him, you don't have to worry about running or hiding from the memories that haunt you or the things that make you afraid. With him, nobody can get close enough to hurt you because he's there, guarding you and keeping you safe.

With him, there's no such thing as sacrifice.

And you've finally figured out another way to get by in this world.

By living your life with him.

/

"I see some people who will not give up even when they know all hope is lost. Some people who realize that being lost, is so close to being found." –Michael, 'Legion'

/

End fic.

Authors note:

All lyrics and poems have been annotated. If I missed any, please feel free to let me.

Also, I'd appreciate any criticism or feedback you could provide. Thank you and I hope you liked it.