The more Morgan talked to his therapist, Velasco, the more he found to say.
"How are you feeling about the anti-depressants?"
"Better," Morgan shrugged. "I've stopped thinking about killing myself most of the time."
"That's still an issue for you?"
"Not an 'issue,' I'm not going to do it," Morgan said. "I still think about it sometimes, though, yeah. But I'm a lot better than I was the first session. If that session had gone wrong, I was pretty set on ending it all."
"How might it have gone wrong?"
He shrugged again. "If you'd said the wrong thing."
"What would have been the wrong thing?"
"I mean, if you'd told me I was responsible for the abuse or something."
"Is that something you expect people to believe?"
"It's something I know people believe. But hearing it from a therapist or – would have sealed it."
"What?" Morgan met the man's eye, considering his last statement. "Oh – my team. Thinking about them believing it was my fault... I don't think I could have taken it."
"Do you think the medication has helped?"
"Yeah. It's cleared some of the fog."
""I've been thinking about James a lot. When you talked about every part of relationship being abusive, I... I thought you were psycho-babbling. I didn't want to believe I could have just walked into an abusive relationship. But the more I think about it, the more I get it. He knew what to look for in a partner that he could isolate and abuse, and I was that. I did so much of the work for him though, convincing myself he was a good thing in my life. He didn't even offer me anything, you know? He didn't promise me a life; he didn't give me anything to hope for. All he did was make it clear he was entitled to fuck me, and that was going to be the arrangement as long as he decided. And I was so desperate, I twisted it around and told myself that's what I wanted, and that's what I deserved. But that's not what I want, I know that now."
"What do you want?"
"I want someone who loves me," he said, because that much he was sure of. "I want things to be equal, and honest. I don't want to be hurt. I want to be with someone who doesn't want to hurt me."
"And who do you want that relationship with?"
Morgan considered him for a moment, and the fact that he'd committed himself to being completely honest in his therapy.
"Reid. I've probably been in love with him since I first met him."
"Do you believe in love at first sight?"
"Not really. I mean there was an attraction right from the start."
"Do you think he has any romantic feelings towards you?"
"Have you ever asked him?"
"I'm not his type."
"What's his type?"
"I don't know, probably guys who are out, for one thing. Guys who don't have abusive ex-boyfriends or sexual complexes. Guys without baggage."
"Does he know how you feel?"
"Hell no. I didn't even know how I felt until last year, not really. I'm not ruining a friendship over some stupid crush."
"You said you were in love with him; that seems more than a crush."
"We're friends; he's my best friend. The best friend I've ever had, I can't ruin that by putting him in that position. He doesn't want me."
"How do you know?"
"Because I wouldn't want me."
"He pulled the gun out from under my chin," Morgan snapped, suddenly on edge, his chest tightening. "He held me up in the shower and washed my torn up ass – if I'd had to do that for him I wouldn't want him, not in the same way, I couldn't. Everything changed, even if he felt something before that, it all changed."
"Why does that change things?"
"It changes... it changes the power dynamic. We're not just friends now, he's... he's like my carer. I'm fucked up, and he's my carer. I'm just an obligation now. Sooner rather than later, he's going to get tired of dealing with me."
"Because I am not worth this much effort!" Morgan huffed, leaning back in his seat. "I'm not worth it."
"Because I can't be fixed, it's too late."
"You think you're broken?"
"I don't think it," Morgan said firmly, "I know it. I am."
"Then what needs to be fixed, Derek?"
"All of me."
Velasco paused, watching him, and then he shifted in his chair, and held Morgan's gaze. "Okay. Where do you think we should start?"
When he'd finally started calling his mother again, he hadn't told her anything, just said he had been busy. He knew it was vague and she didn't believe it, but she didn't push him for detail, even though she sounded worried about him every time they talked now.
"You doing okay, mom?"
"I'm fine, baby. I've only just got in, I was running errands. I got your package, I'll open it in a minute."
Morgan felt the bottom drop out of his stomach.
"You tell me. It's pretty flat, like documents or something?"
"Momma," he said, trying to sound firm but calm. "I need you not to open that."
"Mom, put it somewhere safe and don't open it under any circumstances."
"Derek, what's going on?"
"It's not dangerous, Mom, but I need for you to promise me you won't open it."
"I need you to say it, to promise me."
"I promise, baby, I won't open it."
"Good. I'm going to fly out and see you."
"You sure it's not dangerous?"
"I'll fly out tonight or tomorrow, okay? I haven't seen you in too long, Ma."
"Derek, is it dangerous?"
"No, Mama. I promise it isn't."
"Hotch said you're coming back to work," Reid said, smiling at him as he took another slice of pizza, absently brushing his foot against Morgan's calf as they sat together on the sofa.
It was so easy with Morgan, but every new piece of physical contact felt like a victory. When they'd rearranged themselves on the couch at the start of the film they ended up with their feet touching, brushing together, hands resting against each other's arm until pizza had given them something between them. Their friendship had become more and more intimate during the past months, a mixture of reaction and necessity; it wasn't leading to what he wanted, to what he's always hoped, but if being able to touch someone and be touched without being hurt was something Morgan needed, Reid was glad to be that.
"Yeah, next week sometime."
"You're done with therapy?"
"Nope," he said shortly; clearly he didn't want to talk about it, but his tone remained relaxed so Reid tried to make it obvious he understood not to press the topic.
"But first I'm going away for a few days."
"Where are you going?"
"Just to see my mom. It's been a while."
The way Morgan's gaze shifted to the television, a little too casual, left Reid wondering if that was true. Morgan seemed better, in less pain, and he didn't want to push sensitive topics and derail his recovery. He was still in therapy by choice, which was a good sign; he had to trust that a professional was giving him the help he needed. All the same, there was a part of him that wanted Morgan to want to tell him what was troubling him.
"It's James," Morgan said into the lull.
"What about him?" Reid asked, carefully, as he knew how fragile the moments were when Morgan opened up. The man's voice was small when he responded.
"I think he sent photos of me to my Mom."
"What?" Reid felt his heart jump and his anger swell.
"I called her and she talked about a package from me, and I didn't send her anything. I asked her not to open it. That's where I'm going. I can't let her see."
As he gestured, his hands were shaking, and without planning Reid reached out and took them, covering them with his own and holding gently.
"If you want, I can come with you."
"I have to do this on my own."
"No you don't, Morgan. I'm your friend, and if you want someone there as a buffer, or just to keep you company I'll be it, I'll be that."
Morgan held his gaze, searching, and after a long moment he blinked and nodded minutely.
"Okay. Okay, I'd like that."
Reid smiled, still clutching his hands; he wanted desperately to offer to be more.
"Derek!" Fran sighed with relief as she let her son and Reid into her home. "You've had me so worried."
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Doctor Reid, isn't it?" Fran asked as she let Morgan go from a tight hug, turning her attention to Reid.
"Hello, Mrs Morgan."
"Call me Fran, dear," she chided gently as she took their coats. "Now, are you going to tell me what all this is about?"
"Do you have the package?"
"I put it in your room. It has a lot of boxes in there that I keep meaning to get rid of, so I made up the beds in your sisters' old room for you two."
"Thanks," Morgan nodded, looking towards his room. Fran made to follow him as he took a step towards the hall, and he stopped. "Mama, wait here. Can you make tea?"
"Oh," she said, nodding and looking worried. "Yes, of course, baby."
Morgan smiled weakly, and headed down the small hallway towards his old bedroom, with Reid following him.
His bedroom had changed over the years since he'd left, but it was still memorable; even with all the boxes, the files, the printer and shredder and an old vacuum, it was still full of memories. It had been a haven and hell, giving him solitude and isolation with the knowledge of everything he was going through as a teenager. It almost seemed fitting that this would play out there too. On top of one of the boxes was a slim package addressed to his mother with a Maryland postmark.
"He's still close," Morgan said, unsurprised but still sickened as he turned it over, noting that the seal was indeed intact. Reid perched on the edge of the desk, keeping his distance and himself out of range of seeing the contents of the package.
There were seven glossy print photographs, and he was the subject of all of them. Each of the memories were vivid, the sting of a grip too tight, a position that hurt, words that made him hate himself, things he did to please a man who only wanted to break him, all fresh like a wound except – he let out a shuddering breath he'd been holding and pulled the photos against his chest.
"If I hadn't been on the phone with her when she said she had a package from me-" he shook his head, trying to get rid of tears that stung at his eyes.
"What are you going to do with them? Keep them?" Reid asked.
"No." He gestured to the shredder by the desk. "Got her that a few Christmases ago for shredding documents. Diamond-cut, you couldn't possibly piece together anything you put through it."
Reid nodded, moving off the desk to find the shredder's plug and a socket.
As Reid pretended to study the spines of books on a shelf, Morgan fed each photo through the shredder, trying to take comfort in the sound of the images being destroyed, but knowing they were only copies.
"I need to talk to her," he said, straightening up.
"Do you want me to leave for a while? Or stay in here?"
"No, it's okay. You know it all anyway. I never wanted it to happen like this."
Fran looked up from the table as they came up the hallway, making to stand.
"Don't get up, mom, I have some stuff I need to talk to you about," he said as he took up the seat on the opposite side of the table. She pushed a mug of tea across to him, and he accepted it, while Reid took his to the nearby sofa, facing away from the kitchen annex.
"What's wrong, baby?"
"I don't know where to start," he murmured, wrapping his hands around the hot mug, considering. Part of him was confident she would take it in stride, even if it was all going to be more than he ever planned to tell her, but part off him was still petrified she wouldn't be able to accept what – who – he was. He'd come this far, and he couldn't go back.
"Momma, I'm gay."
"Oh, Derek," she sighed, relieved, "Is that what you've been worried to tell me? I love you no matter what. Nothing could make me not love you, silly." She laughed, the sound a tinkling of relief and ease as she reached out and took his hands across the table. If that had been all he had to tell her, maybe he'd have laughed too, relieved to find he'd worried for nothing. But there was more; he pulled back his hands, wrapping them around the mug once more.
"I was in a relationship with a man-"
"You have a boyfriend? Oh baby, I'm so happy for you!"
"Mom, please!" he pleaded, voice cracking. "Just listen to me." He inhaled through his nose and exalted through his mouth before he went on. "I was in a relationship with a man. He- he hit me."
Fran gasped, putting her hands up to her mouth.
"He hit me a lot," he went on before witnessing his mother's breaking heart could stop him. "He was abusive, physically and mentally and- and after I broke up with him he attacked me. He broke into my house and he- fuck - sorry – he, he- he forced me." He couldn't say it, couldn't say the word, wouldn't tell his mother he'd been raped; the look on her face made it clear she knew anyway. His throat felt tight like he was going to vomit. "He put me in the hospital, and I'm not okay. I'm still not okay. That package was pictures of him hurting me. I couldn't let you find out like that."
"My baby," she said, beginning to sob as she got up from the table and hurried around to Morgan. "My baby boy," she cried as she pulled him against her chest. He wrapped his arms around her, closing his eyes and fighting his own tears as she wrapped herself around him. Her smell was familiar and comforting, and he clung harder. She stroked his hair, sniffling as she cradled him.
"I'm so sorry, Derek."
"It's not your fault," he said into her sweater.
"Maybe I could have stopped you getting hurt, if I'd said something," she went on. "When you changed, you stopped calling, I should have known something was wrong, like I should have known something was wrong when you were a kid."
"Mom, don't blame yourself like that," he said. "Please don't do that."
She began to sob again, a miserable sound as she did her best to hold him close to her, as if she could fix it by absorbing his pain. Her hair tickled him as she bent to kiss the top of his head, still shuddering with sobs.
After a few long moments she pulled back, and held his face in her hands. "I love you more than you can imagine, Derek," she told him, eyes red with tears, "I will always love you, and I will always feel like I failed when you get hurt."
They had talked for a long time; Morgan hadn't given his mother explicit details, but an overview of how the relationship with James had started, progressed and ended, and what had happened since. She had burst into tears again when Morgan told her he'd almost killed himself, and as Morgan had detailed Reid's role in helping him get through everything she'd attached onto him with a hug; Reid, to his credit, was pliant and let her hold him until she was ready to let go.
When they were all talked out they helped Fran to make dinner, they ate at the table and cleaned up, making small talk and taking comfort in each other's company.
Eventually the day drew to a close and Fran excused herself to bed; Morgan and Reid stayed up to watch the end of a film they'd been idly paying attention to, and then headed for his sisters' old room. They changed into sleepwear without looking at each other, offering privacy without having to draw attention to it, though once they were done Morgan found himself smiling at Reid's faded, baggy Thunderbirds t-shirt.
They mumbled their goodnights and climbed into the two beds, cool, fresh sheets quickly warming to their bodies. Morgan wrapped himself up and tried to clear his head so he could sleep, but after the day he'd had to felt like an impossible task. James had tried to out him in the worst possible way to his mother, and he hated to think what else he might try. He'd tried not to think about it too much, but now he wondered if the pictures of him were already on the internet, circulating and out there forever. He swallowed around the lump forming in his throat and turned over. He'd come so far, but it wasn't over while James was still out there. He'd never really feel safe with him out there, but at least now his mother knew.
As he buried his face in the pillow he could feel his eyes stinging with the attempt to keep his tears at bay, but the more he tried the more shortly his breath came until he let out a ragged sob into the pillow. His chest ached with the effort of keeping quiet, but apparently it wasn't enough.
"Morgan, what's happening?"
"She knows," he gasped into the pillow, too muffled to be heard, but said all the same. It brought fresh tears with it.
"Derek?" His voice was closer, but Morgan couldn't stop sobbing, pressing the pillow against his face. He moved his mouth out of the material, his breath hitching.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
"Derek, what do you need?"
"Hold me, please, I need-" he tried to take a deep breath, but it shuddered through him and just made the crying worse. "Please, I need something, I need... can you hold me, please?" He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually sought physical contact as a source of comfort, but it was all he wanted now.
He felt the bed dip and move as Reid clambered over him onto it, placing himself between Morgan's back and the wall, dipping under the covers to spoon himself against his back, wrapping his long arms around him.
"I've got you, Derek," he said quietly.
"Thanks, I-" he started, but began to sob in earnest. Reid squeezed him tighter and he clung to him, desperate for the physical contact to sooth him. Now that he couldn't very well bury his face he had his hands clamped over his mouth to hide the sobs, and it muffled his words. "She knows!"
"Who? Your mom? You wanted to tell her, didn't you?"
"I know! I'm happy she knows, but she knows everything, and I just-" He didn't know how to put into words the rush of emotions, the relief, the shame, and all the things he couldn't quite identify.
"I've got you," Reid repeated.
"I'm sorry," Morgan sobbed, trying to regain his composure. "I don't know why I ask you to hold me, I just needed you."
"Hugging releases oxytocin," Reid said softly, his voice at the top of Morgan's spine, "and has shown to lower blood pressure. Oxytocin reduces inflammation and speeds wound healing. It lowers stress and anxiety."
He found it soothing; the words, the contact, the reassurance, and slowly his crying quietened as Reid softly relayed what he knew about oxytocin's effects, loosely citing a few studies as he held Morgan close to him.
"It promotes pair-bonding, can suppress the nervous system. Hug therapy has shown noted success amongst people with autism who report favourably on its use for anxiety management."
He put his arm over's Reid, stroking his skin absently as his breath hitched and he breathed through the last of his tears.
"The pictures," he said, preparing to give voice to the ache in his chest. "There were a couple I- I didn't recognise." The words began to tumble out, as he felt himself building towards tears again. "I'm asleep in one of them but in the other my eyes are open but I don't remember it and I think, maybe, he drugged me. So who knows what else he did apart from take obscene pictures of me?"
He dissolved into sobs again, and Reid squeezed him tighter, wrapped himself around him more securely.
"I'm sorry this happened to you," Reid murmured. "You deserve better, Derek."
"I don't know how to process the idea that I was drugged and I don't know what happened to me. Not knowing... he's always going to hold that power over me, knowing the extent of what he's done."
"You're safe now," Reid reassured. "He's never going to hurt you again; you are never going to have to feel like that ever again. Nobody will ever treat you like that again, because I won't let them."
"Thanks," Morgan sniffled, squeezing Reid's hand where it lay under his, rested on his stomach.
"I mean it," Reid murmured. "I will never let anyone hurt you again."
Exhausted from a day of pain and revelations, Morgan relaxed against Reid's body and tried to believe it.
Morgan woke up warm and calm, with Reid's arm around his chest, his hand latched onto his t-shirt. As he recalled the night before, he wondered if it was safe to let himself believe that Reid felt some measure of what he did, something romantic, something beyond platonic. The way Reid interacted with him was unique, not shared amongst all his friendships, at least he thought so. He hadn't felt safe or cared about like this in a long time; bed sharing with James had not been pleasant; if they weren't having sex, he didn't like to touch, and Morgan would be pushed to the edge of the bed. A weight was gone from his soul, he thought, now his mother knew. It didn't fix anything, not really, but it felt like a start. He felt good for the first time in a long time.
He turned over, which roused Reid, who dragged his hand down his side as he made a noise and tried to stay near to Morgan's warmth. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking sleepily.
"Hi," Morgan echoed.
Reid flex his hand where it had come to rest on Morgan's hip, and in response Morgan scooted a few inches closer and braced his hand gently against Reid's elbow, encouraging him to keep the hand there. He relaxed, and let his legs come into contact with Morgan's, a sock-covered foot stroking gentle against an exposed calf where his pants had bunched up. It was warm in their cocoon of blankets and limbs, and Reid looked at him sleepily as he smiled, their faces only inches apart.
"Thank you for staying," Morgan murmured, "and for coming with me."
"There's nowhere else I could be," Reid said, as if what he'd done wasn't above and beyond. Before he could think twice about it, Morgan moved his head forward across the pillow, closing his eyes, and pressed his mouth softly to the corner's of Reid's.
One, then two seconds later, he felt Reid turn his face minutely and kiss him on the mouth. They initiated a series of soft, lingering kisses, fingertips gripping ever so slight on each other's body, flush with the new sensation. Their lips caught against each other, but they didn't rush the shallow, sweet exchanges, drawing breath against each other's mouths as they pulled each other closer. He was kissing the man he loved in his sister's childhood bed, wrapped up with him as the smell of breakfast wafted through the apartment. He'd imagined it hundreds of times, when he was still allowing him to do so, what a first kiss would be like; it was always spur of the moment, frantic; this was relaxed and gentle, no urgency in their movements, no sense that the moment was at risk of fading away.
Reid's hand stroked up his side and up his back, skittering over the fabric of his t-shirt as he nudged his nose against Morgan's, seeking to align their lips again. He couldn't think how he'd expected Reid to kiss, couldn't think of anything else except the soft pink skin, the delicate flush of Reid's cheeks he saw in the stolen glances from under heavy eyelids, his long delicate eyelashes. He hadn't expect soft, or sweet, or delicate; he'd never had anyone touch him like this in his entire life, and is that moment he would be happy for it to go on for all time.
He wasn't sure how long they lay there together, holding each other and kissing softly, long minutes melting into each other, but it came to a slow stop when they were interrupted by a faint call.
"Breakfast in 5!" They heard Fran announce into the hallway.
"She doesn't do sleeping in," Morgan chuckled softly, bumping his nose against Reid's. "She always said if we wanted longer in bed, we had to go to bed earlier." A little reluctantly, he pushed himself up, stretched out his arms and rolling his shoulders.
"Our flight is at one, anyway," Reid said, stretching out his legs under the bedsheets, hair splayed out on the pillow in the most beautiful way.
Morgan leant down and kissed him, a last lingering one before he pulled away again, swung his legs out and got up from the bed, stretching as he went. He felt happy and calm, warm and peaceful, like something fundamental had changed in the universe, and for the first time in a long time, he wasn't scared of what might happen next.