"In violence we forget who we are." - Mary McCarthy
The first time Derek came into the bullpen with a bruise under his eye, Emily asked if a woman had punched him, and even Hotch had smiled. He pretended to look hurt, putting his hand on his heart.
"I got this saving kittens from a burning building!" he said, and Rossi clapped him on the shoulder. Reid looked up from his desk, studying the mark on Morgan's face. It was dark purple and sore-looking, around two inches long curving under and around the side of his eye.
"He got bested in Judo." Garcia informed, bustling through the bullpen towards her office.
"Hey!" Morgan called out after her. "Why you being a snitch, sexy momma?"
"Sorry, honey!" she called over her shoulder, not sounding sorry at all. Morgan looked around, catching Reid's eye and grinning at him. Reid returned a smile, trying to drag his eyes away from the mark on his friend's face. He did not need something else about Morgan that was distracting, did not need to feel that small ache in his chest making him want to reach out and sooth the bruise.
The second time Derek sported a bruise was almost two months later. It was bigger this time, and definitely considered a black eye. Reid watched him wince in discomfort as he stretched out his face on the plane back from a case.
"You're six-foot-something." Emily said, considering him. "How do you manage to get kicked in the face?"
"By sparring with someone who's a damn site better fighter than you are, even if a foot shorter." Derek conceded. "I'm a black belt twice, he's training for his fifth."
Reid wondered why it was no that Morgan was receiving injuries in Judo, when it had been a long running pastime of his.
"Well, women like injuries," Morgan said confidently, "gives them something to take care of."
"Ugh." Emily pulled a face, and Morgan grinned guiltily. "Maybe the women you're into."
Reid quickly went back to concentrating on his coffee.
The third time, the bruises weren't on his face.
Five weeks after the last occurrence, Spencer had noticed when Morgan came to work in a shirt and tie. It had been a long time since he had, even though it was casual and he carried it with such confidence that everyone was commenting on his return to such suave wardrobe choices. It wasn't until Morgan hadn't rolled up his sleeves when he was interrogating a suspect that Reid started to feel weird about the clothing choice. He remembered making similar ones when he was injecting himself with drugs to hide the evidence.
He saw the bruises in the bathroom when Morgan was washing his hands. His sleeved had inched up to reveal deep red and purple bruising around the man's wrists, and Derek had caught him looking. He'd quickly flicked his shirt down to cover them, and met Reid's eyes defiantly, as if daring him to ask. Reid swallowed.
"Handcuffs." Morgan said quickly.
"A girl I went home with. I told her I used to be a cop, and she got carried away."
"She had her own cuffs, dude, she was intense." He laughed.
"Right." Reid nodded. Morgan tugged at his sleeves again as he passed Reid, heading to leave.
The explanation didn't fit for Reid. Morgan was an alpha, a dominant personality, and he was strong; he couldn't envision a situation in which he'd be convinced into submitting long enough to be restrained in handcuffs. He considered whether the marks could be from ropes, wondering if perhaps the man was engaging in consensual BDSM activity; but again, Morgan profiled as dominant. It made little sense for him to be sporting bruises from wrist restraints.
Reid left the bathroom feeling a slight writhing in his stomach.
It was just a week later when Morgan showed up for work with a split lip, a bruised cheek and abrasions on several of his knuckles. Morgan flopped down at his desk opposite Reid's, having just returned from Hotch wanting to talk to him in his office.
"He asked me if I'm getting into fights." Morgan sighed.
"Are you?" Reid asked.
"What? No." He pulled a face. "I'm getting humiliated at Judo." He said. "I'm losing my touch, kid."
"Maybe you should take a break from Judo." He said, worrying the inside of his lip with his teeth.
"Eh," Morgan waved his hand dismissively, "I'll get back in stride soon."
The next week, when Reid walked into the locker room to find Morgan pulling on a clean t-shirt, he saw the bruises on his torso. They weren't slight discolouration; they were angry black and blue marks, and they were huge, all over his back and ribs. He must have been staring because Morgan looked startled when he realised Reid was in the room, and hurried out without saying anything to him.
Those bruises could not have been from Judo. Their placement made it clear that Morgan had been kicked and punched while he was on the floor, and that did not happen in Judo. Even if Morgan was fighting – Reid had considered him attending an underground fight club – hitting an opponent who was already grounded was considered cowardice.
As he parked up his old car in front of Morgan's home, he hoped he was doing the right thing. Morgan answered the door, looking surprised at his visitor.
"Hey Reid. You okay?"
"Can I come in?" Reid asked, eyeing the boxer dog trying excitedly to get past Morgan's leg.
"Sure." He shrugged. "Back, Clooney." He ordered, pushing the dog out of the way. It didn't work for long, and soon Clooney was jumping up at Reid, attempting to lick his face. Reid knew the drill and placated him with affection, enough to get him to stop fussing.
""What's up, Reid?" Morgan asked. "You want a coffee?"
"Sure." He smiled.
He followed him through to the kitchen, Clooney pushing at his leg and trying to get more affection. He watched Morgan preparing coffee, raking his eyes up and down his form.
"Is someone hitting you?" he asked suddenly, unable to formulate a plan to drop the question into coffee-chatter.
"Excuse me?" Morgan frowned.
"You didn't get those bruises from Judo." Spencer said non-confrontationally.
"It's none of your business." Morgan snapped.
"I know," Reid assured, "but I'm worried about you, man. Your explanation and your injuries don't match, and if-"
"You need to leave." Morgan's face was stony.
"Morgan, please, I'm just trying to understand."
"You don't need to understand." Morgan cut. "It's none of your damn business. I want you to leave, Reid."
"Okay, okay." Reid held up his hands in front of him in surrender. He backed up, heading for the door. Morgan followed, trying to shut it behind him. Reid wedged himself in the half-shut door, turning back to Morgan one last time.
"Morgan, you know I'm your friend, right?" he said. "If you need to talk, about anything, you know I'll be there."
"Goodbye, Reid." Morgan said pointedly, and Reid moved, biting back a protest as Morgan slammed the door behind him.
It nearly always started when Morgan was at his most vulnerable. They were watching basketball on the TV when the other man on the couch grabbed his neck and punched him in the gut. Derek coughed and reeled, winded and unable to fight back, leaving him pliable for the other to climb onto him, pinning his legs with strong knees, tightening his grip on his neck and raining more punches against his ribs and stomach.
"James!" he choked out, struggling under the other's weight. One hand flew to the hand on his neck to try to loosen the hold that threatened to strangle him, while the other attempted to defend his middle from blows. "Stop, James!"
"Shut the fuck up, pussy!" the other snarled, the usually caramel skin of his face turning a blotchy, angry red, his dark eyes wide with fury. He didn't even have to have a reason any more. The first time he'd hit Derek, he'd fought back, shocked by the sudden violence. It had ended with James' foot between Derek's shoulder blades, pressing him down into the floor and telling him to apologize for refusing to comply with his request to put out the trash. Morgan had, and had felt like a child for doing so. He knew he should have walked away from the relationship, the first real relationship he'd ever had, but he hadn't. He'd told himself it wouldn't happen again, and reminded himself how lucky he was that James wanted him, that James had finally given him what he wanted.
He'd wanted to be able to stop pretending he was straight, he'd wanted to stop having to be the person in control. He'd wanted to move on from the person he knew he was never going to be able to give up control to. He hadn't wanted to lead; couldn't. He was terrified of what he was capable of if someone offered that kind of power to him. James had been dazzling; strong, alpha, charming, his equal. He'd wanted Derek, known instinctively he needed someone else to take the lead.
The violence hadn't started until Derek realised the only time he was happy, truly fulfilled and sated was with James. Sex, affection, companionship, all of it was what he'd wanted for so long. Granted it wasn't with the man he was never going to have, but James mattered because he was giving him everything he wanted, even if he wasn't the same man. Derek was sure in time he'd be able to fall in love with James the same way he'd been in love with the one he couldn't have for years.
Derek had rationalised that it wasn't intimate partner violence, at least not the conventional sense. James wasn't like a typical abuser; he didn't cycle through abuse and remorse. He never apologized for striking out; instead he justified it. Derek couldn't even remember when he'd started believing the other when he'd told him he needed to be hurt, that he deserved it because he was a coward faking his way through life as a playa, a pathetic faggot too scared to face the world's judgement that he was still pretending to sleep with women when in reality he was submitting his body to a man, and enjoying it. Derek had realised it was true, that he was petrified of the judgement. Taking the violence had become considerable easier then, because he'd realised he deserved it; if he was too pathetic to be his true self, he deserved everything he got.
He'd tried to end their relationship once. James had shown him the collection of photographs he'd taken discreetly in some of their most intimate moments; they were photos of Morgan at his most vulnerable, wanton, submissive. He knew he couldn't walk away, even in the moments when he doubted everything he'd been told by Buford that was echoed by James, that he wanted it and he deserved it and they were just giving him what he needed. If the people he threatened to show the photos to knew what Morgan was, what he'd done, it would ruin his life. He knew James owned him.
"I'm sorry!" Derek gasped out, holding his hands out in submission. "I'm sorry!" he didn't even know what he was apologizing for. It didn't matter anymore. James stopped, throwing Morgan back roughly.
"It's your fault." James barked without looking at him, and Derek knew better than to counter him. "If you didn't piss me off I wouldn't have to put you in your fucking place, you pathetic queen." He struck out with one last blown to Morgan's abdomen. Now," he went on, dropping a hand to palm at the front of his jeans, "apologize properly."
Morgan felt his lip tremble, but he fought back the emotion. He'd once done that willingly, even enjoyed it. Sex with a man that didn't hurt like it had with his abuser as a teenager was part of how James had captured him, made him dependent. Now whether he got to enjoy it was entirely at the whim of his handsome, charming, cruel lover. He knew it would be worse if he refused; James would get so angry he'd go for the face, and then Morgan would have to explain to his team how he'd got hurt. The thought of them finding out what he was, what he was doing, what he was letting happen to him terrified him. He slipped off the couch and onto his knees between the other man's legs.
"His name is James."
Spencer opened his eyes in the darkness of the hotel room he was sharing with his team mate on a case.
"Who?" he said, trying not to sound sleepy as his brain tried to work out the significance of Morgan's words.
"Oh." Reid's guts writhed with this information; Morgan was with a man. Morgan wasn't straight. There was a little more than the zero percent chance Spencer had thought there was that his feelings might be reciprocated, and now the other was with a man who was hurting him.
Reid turned over, facing towards the other bed. Through the darkness he could see Morgan lying on his back, looking up at the ceiling. He'd changed after the lights went out to stop the other man from seeing his bruises again.
"He hurts you." Reid stated quietly. He couldn't fathom what kind of man James had to be to be able to keep hurting Morgan, for Morgan not to leave. He couldn't believe Morgan could be anything but assertive in a relationship.
"It's not like that." Morgan said. Reid didn't believe him.
"Then what is it like?"
"It's fine." Morgan said into the dark. "It's alright."
"Are you saying him injuring you is consensual?"
"Yeah." Morgan said quickly. Reid instantly regretted asking, and giving Morgan an easy explanation instead of pushing him to explain it without prompting.
"Why are you telling me, Morgan?" he asked gently.
"I don't know. I trust you. You can't tell anyone."
"You can't, Reid, you've got no right. I can do my job, I'm fine, my personal life isn't anyone else's business."
Reid wondered why his friend had told him at all if he wasn't going to be allowed to do something – anything to stop it, but he didn't say anything. He might not be the most socially talented man, but he knew this was delicate. Morgan trusted him with this admission, and as much as it reminded him of when he'd known there was something wrong with Elle so many years ago and hadn't told anyone, he knew this was so much more complicated. Telling someone about Elle's behaviour might have stopped her actions, but he wasn't sure that telling someone about what he suspected was going on with Morgan would help.
"Are you happy?" Reid asked, not sure what else he could say. He wanted Morgan to tell him everything, wanted to know if it was as bad as the bruises looked. The other man didn't answer for a long time.
"I'm going to sleep now."
To Reid that was a resounding no. If there was any other answer, Morgan would have said. He didn't completely understand Morgan's apparent inability to lie to him; they were friends, of course, but Morgan kept his emotions closely guarded. This sharing was out of character, which made it even more worrying to the other man as he settled and tried to let himself sleep.
As Derek lay panting on James' bed, naked and violated and trying to steady his breathing while he listened to the shower running, his mind whirred.
The first time Carl Buford had raped him, he had told him letting a man do that to his body was the ultimate expression of how much you cared about him. Derek had cared about Buford; he had given him so much, helped him, he was almost fatherly to him. It had been at his cabin; he'd made Morgan get on his hands and knees and put on a condom which was only slick enough to keep from chaffing the man who was violating him, offering no relief for Derek as he'd willed himself not to cry and failed, muffling the sound into his arm as he did what Buford had asked of him.
The first time he'd had sex with James, he'd been slightly tipsy but willing and consenting. James was sure and experienced, and while it hadn't been comfortable it was nothing like his first experiences, overall he'd enjoyed it, and James had been attentive to Derek's need afterward, bringing him off with his hand.
When Derek had worked up the courage to go to a gay club, James had been the first man to treat him in a way that didn't make him incredibly uncomfortable. It was strange really; the conduct of previous men wasn't any different to how he knew he had acted towards women: forward, flirty, clear that sex was the only question. He knew it was hypocritical for that behaviour in men towards him to make his skin crawl but it did. On the third time Derek had tried attending a gay bar, the time when he was considering giving up on the whole thing, he'd met James. He was attractive; mixed race, dark eyes and coffee-coloured skin, short cropped hair and clean shaven, tall and broad and even more muscular than Morgan. He'd been intense and charming, perceptive and able to read Morgan easily. They'd ended up going for a drink, and a week later going to see a football game together, and soon after the relationship had developed sexually behind closed doors. James wasn't affectionate when it wasn't part of the build up to sex, and he didn't kiss as much as Derek found himself wanting, but he made him feel good. He was being sexual with a man, even being penetrated, and realising it didn't have to feel dirty and it didn't have to hurt so bad.
The violence had started after they'd been seeing each other for around three months, the first time Derek had spent the whole weekend at James' apartment. He'd thought then about leaving, but the idea of letting go of what he'd wanted since he could remember, being fulfilled in a way he never had with women, and going back to the intimidating scene of down-low and seeking scared him. So he'd pushed away every instinct he had that told him James was dangerous, and he was foolish to stay when was able to leave, because leaving meant solitude and Morgan wasn't sure how long it would be before solitude meant death.
The first non-consensual sex he'd had with James had been after he'd missed a pre-planned date with him because of work. He'd made him feel guilty, manipulated him into undressing. He'd plied him with kisses that were prized like jewels to Derek, told he could make it all better if he had sex with him. Morgan had been lying on his stomach on James' bed when he'd changed his mind, deciding he shouldn't have to do it to make up for something he couldn't help. James, with the situational upper hand hadn't liked that development, and had twisted his arm behind his back painfully. When his lover raped him he regressed, buried his face in his free arm and didn't resist, hoping it would be over as soon as possible.
That was almost what had just passed; a joyless coupling for Morgan, while James used his body, having decided his boyfriend didn't deserve any attentiveness. He had a feeling that he would deny him the chance to shower, as he had done previously; he evidently enjoyed knowing Derek was uncomfortably reminded of what had just happened by way of burning pain and tacky lubricant coating his most private recesses. James was the only person in his life that Morgan did not profile; profiling him would make it impossible to justify why he stayed. James controlled him, and that was what he needed, because he knew he would be dangerous if he wasn't controlled. And at the very base of it, he would rather be hurt than be alone.
"Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence." - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn