One Second to Go

*Author's Note: This is my first Criminal Minds fic, so I hope it turned out well. I really like the show and I was just dying to write up a little love for my two favorite FBI agents. I hope you like it!*

"You cannot be a hero without being a coward." –George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

We're all afraid of something. Even heroes aren't fearless. In fact, it would be impossible to be both fearless and a hero. After all, a hero is someone who is afraid, but puts aside their fear to do what needs to be done. Spencer had put aside his fear, running blindly into the darkness of the unsub's house to save his intended victim. Unfortunately, she hadn't been there. The unsub had run, had somehow known they were coming. Maybe he was tuning into the police communications on the airwaves. Either way, now that Spencer's immediate need to save the girl was ebbing, he was realizing how unsettling it was to be alone in the dark confines of a serial killer's house.

Spencer hated the dark. No one knew what its black depths could be concealing. Dark was uncontrollable. Dark was an unknown. Spencer hated it. Knowing was all he had; when things were stressful or a situation was awkward, Spencer took relief in facts. Facts were hard, concrete, unfaltering. In a world where so much was uncertain, facts were certain. Darkness was devoid of this reassuring certainty. Spencer hated it.

Spencer crept slowly through the pitch blackness of the unsub's hallway, guiding his movements by running a hand along the plaster of one wall. Suddenly, Spencer heard movement behind him, felt someone's warm breath ghost over the back of his neck. He shrieked. The man behind him laughed.

"Calm down, kid. It's just me," chuckled Derek from where he stood behind Spencer. Spencer flushed, embarrassed the other man had heard his rather undignified squeak of terror.

"Morgan, geez! You scared me!" exclaimed Spencer as he turned around to face the other man. It was hard in the dark, but Spencer could just make out the faint outlines of the agent's smiling face.

"Man, you really don't like the dark, do you?" teased Derek, draping an arm over the smaller man's shoulders. Spencer pouted.

"It's a perfectly normal phobia. Most children grow up fearing the dark." Spencer chose not to mention that only 2 percent of adult males still retained a fear of the dark. That particular statistic just didn't seem likely to help his argument.

"The key word there being children," Derek pointed out.

"Lots of people are afraid of the dark, Morgan," Spencer insisted, turning indignantly to face the other agent in the dark. "After all, darkness could contain anything and you wouldn't be able to see it and thus wouldn't be able to know it was there." Derek raised an eyebrow, although Spencer couldn't see the gesture.

"What? Afraid the boogey man is gonna come get ya, Pretty Boy?" he joked.

"Good guess," came a voice from the dark. A loud clang echoed through the hall and Spencer collapsed from beneath the arm Derek had draped over his shoulder.

"Reid!" Derek shouted, jumping back and reaching hurriedly for his gun. A baseball bat sped past Derek's face, missing him by mere inches as he dodged, and for a moment Derek caught sight of a dark silhouette in the blackness of the hallway. Derek lunged, tackling the man around the middle and sending the pair crashing to the floor. The man struggled and kicked, even managing to land a few glancing blows on Derek's back with the bat, but a few well-placed punches from Derek soon had the man lying unconscious on the floor.

"Reid!" Derek called again, groping around on the floor in search of his injured colleague. Finally his questing finger tips grazed the fabric of Spencer's shirt and Derek hurried to pull the other man into a sitting position, cradling Spencer against his chest to keep him upright.

"Hey, kid, you alright?" he asked nervously, gently running his hands over Spencer's body to check for any injuries. "Where'd he hit you, man? Where does it hurt?" Spencer groaned, stirring in Derek's hold.

"Head," he croaked, reaching up to gingerly touch the bloody gash, and wincing as a jolt of pain shot through him at the touch. He winced again when Derek's concerned fingers joined his own on the wound.

"You're bleeding, Pretty Boy," said Derek, frowning as he felt the slippery liquid on his fingertips.

"Could you stop touching it, please?" asked Spencer. "It hurts."

"Oh, of course. Sorry, man," said Derek, quickly pulling his hand away.

"Can you stand?" he asked, hooking his arm under Spencer's armpit in preparation to lift the slender man to his feet.

"I think so," Spencer mumbled. Derek tugged, hoisting the boy to his feet. Spencer staggered, clutching onto the other man as his head throbbed and a wave of dizziness crashed over him, causing bile to rise in his throat.

"Woah there, big guy," exclaimed Derek as Spencer swayed, adjusting his hold on Spencer so as to keep him from falling down. "It's ok. I gotcha. I gotcha." Spencer allowed the other man to support him, leaning into Derek's broad chest as the room stopped spinning and began to settle around him. He felt like puking.

"You ready to move, Pretty Boy?" Derek asked tentatively as Spencer relaxed in his grip. Spencer nodded, not trusting himself to open his mouth without vomiting, although he immediately regretted his decision when the movement caused a fresh wave of dizziness to overtake him. Derek felt spencer swaying in his grip and sighed as he concluded that Spencer would not be walking straight anytime soon. He tucked an arm around Spencer's upper back and shoulders and deftly reached down to scoop up the man's legs with his other arm. Spencer let out a startled squeak as he felt his legs knocked out from under him and was hoisted up into the air, cradled against Derek's chest like a blushing bride. Spencer opened his mouth to protest, to insist that he really could walk, but Derek cut him off.

"You trying to walk would be a disaster and we both know it, Reid. I'm not putting you down." Spencer considered arguing, but what Derek had just said was true so he gave up on that idea, and instead just let his head fall sideways onto Derek's shoulder, snuggling into Derek's torso. Spencer sighed, letting his eyes slip shut as he allowed the rhythmic rise and fall of Derek's steps wash over him.

"Hey now. No falling asleep on me, Pretty Boy. You could have a concussion," Derek murmured, and Spencer could feel the vibrations of the words thrumming through Derek's chest.

"Reid?" Derek pressed when Spencer didn't answer.

"Yeah, I'm still awake," Spencer grumbled, his eyes still closed. He knew he should be trying harder to stay conscious, but he felt so comfortable wrapped in Derek's strong arms. Even with a throbbing head wound and darkness pressing in all around, he had never felt as safe as he did now cradled against Derek. He trusted Derek to take care of him. He'd trust Derek with almost anything.

Derek tossed Spencer up slightly, adjusting the other man higher in his grip before balancing on one leg to kick open the front door. The cool grey light of a foggy day washed over the two agents and concerned voices immediately filled the air as people rushed forward to help.

"What happened?" exclaimed Hotch as he ran over, a worried frown on his face. Not that there ever wasn't a worried frown on Hotch's face. It just seemed to be his expression's natural setting. This job did that to people.

"The unsub was hiding in there, lying in wait," explained Derek, holding Spencer tighter against him as people tried to take the injured man from him. He wasn't ready to part with the other man yet. Spencer was his to protect, his to save. He would carry him to the ambulance.

"He ambushed us. Gave Spencer a solid whack on the head with a baseball bat too," Derek continued. Hotch's frown deepened as his eyes darted over Spencer to rest on the bloody gash on the side of his agent's head.

"The unsub's unconscious in the hallway inside," said Derek.

"Is the girl in there too?" Hotch asked.

"I don't know," replied Derek, shaking his head. "We didn't see her. But then again, we didn't see the unsub at first either, and he was in there. It's possible she's inside." Hotch nodded.

"Ok," he said, gesturing for Rossi and Prentiss to go search the house. "We'll search the house and collect the unsub. You accompany Reid to the hospital."

"Alright. I'll call you with an update on Reid's condition when we have one," Derek called over his shoulder as he rushed Spencer over to the ambulance parked nearby where EMT's were waiting for him.

-XXXXXXX-

Spencer wasn't sure when he had passed out, but he knew he must have when he woke up in the hospital, listening to the rhythmic beeping of his heart monitor and staring up at the stark ceiling tiles.

"Well look who decided to rejoin the waking world," came a voice from somewhere to Spencer's left. Spencer rolled over, wincing when his injury reminded him of its location. He smiled when he caught sight of Derek sitting in the lone chair by his bedside.

"Hey," Spencer croaked before making a face, clearing his throat, and trying again, sounding more normal this time. "Hey, Morgan." Derek smiled, getting up and coming over to sit on the edge of Spencer's bed.

"Hey, Pretty Boy. How are you feeling?"

"Not bad," lied Spencer, trying to hide a wince as a particularly sharp jolt of pain shot through his head.

"You liar," Derek said affectionately, reaching out to tentatively prod at the wound. "You had to get 4 stitches. That guy really gave you a good whack."

"Well it's a good thing I had you there to take care of me then," said Spencer, smiling warmly at his fellow agent.

"Yeah, I guess it was," replied Derek as he smiled back. Spencer blushed slightly as something in that affectionate smile turned his stomach into warm goo. He decided to blame the medication they were pumping into him.

"So, do we know when I'll be able to be discharged?" asked Spencer, ignoring the fluttering in his stomach as he watched Derek.

"Well, now that you're awake you should be able to get out of here in no time," replied Derek, shifting on the bed to get more comfortable. Spencer's blush deepened when this movement caused Derek's hip to brush against his knee.

"And where are the others?" he asked in an attempt to distract himself from the contact, glancing around almost as though he expected to see Rossi and Prentiss hiding behind the door and Hotch suspended from the ceiling like Spiderman.

"What? So I'm not good enough for you, Pretty Boy?" Derek teased.

"Oh no, of course not," exclaimed Spencer, completely missing the fact that Derek was joking. "Of course you're enough. I'm very happy you're here!" Derek laughed, raising an eyebrow.

"I was just kidding, Reid. Really, aren't you supposed to be some kind of genius?" Spencer pouted.

"I am a genius," he protested. "I have an IQ of 187, an eidetic memory, and can read 20,000 words per minute."

"I know, kid. I know," Derek said reassuringly, placing a hand on the other man's shoulder. "You're brilliant. I know." Spencer felt his face heat up at the other man's touch. Really, what was getting into him today? Derek touched him all the time and it never pulled this sort of reaction from him. Ok, well it usually didn't anyways. There were those occasional times…

Derek frowned, noting Spencer's down cast eyes and red cheeks.

"Hey, Reid, you ok?" he asked, studying Spencer's nervous face.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Spencer mumbled, still refusing to meet Derek's eyes. This, however, only served to confirm Derek's suspicions.

"Are you sure, Pretty Boy? 'cause you aren't meeting my eyes. I'm not a profiler for nothing."

"Yeah, really, I'm fine. Nothing to worry about. I'm just feeling groggy from my medication," replied Reid, forcing himself to meet Derek's eyes this time. Derek still felt that something was off with the boy, but he could see that Spencer didn't want to talk about whatever it was, so he decided to let it go.

"Alright," he sighed, giving up. "I'll let it slide this time, but if you ever wanna talk about whatever's bothering you, just let me know, ok? You know I always got your back." Spencer nodded.

"I know," he muttered. He knew he could always trust Derek. Derek had never let him down, even when so many others had.

"Good," declared Derek, giving Spencer a friendly pat on the knee. Spencer opened his mouth to say something more, but he was prevented from doing so by the entrance of a rushed looking nurse bearing a tray of food.

"Dinner," she snapped, dropping the tray across Spencer's thighs and glaring at the poor, lanky boy as if it was his fault she was underpaid and overworked. Spencer, like anyone with any survival instincts would, cowered. The nurse's irritated scowl melted into a flirty grin, however, when her eyes landed on Derek.

"Just holler if you need anything, ok hon?" she simpered, supposedly directing her words at Spencer, but staring at Derek the whole time.

"We will. Thanks, baby girl," said Derek, flashing the nurse an easy smile as he slipped effortlessly into flirtation mode. Spencer scowled. He wasn't jealous Derek was paying attention to this nurse instead of him; of course not. Why would he be jealous? It was just irritating, that's all. After all, he, Spencer, was the injured one who deserved attention, not this flirty nurse. The nurse shot Derek one last charming smile before flouncing out, Derek giving her body a friendly once over on her way out.

Derek turned back to Spencer, raising an eyebrow at the boy's irritable glare.

"What?" he asked innocently.

"You're shameless," scolded Spencer.

"Maybe," smirked Derek before scooting up the bed and closer to the tray on Spencer's lap. "You gonna eat that pudding?'

"Yes, I most definitely am!" protested Spencer, snatching up the plastic pudding cup and cradling it protectively against his chest. Derek chuckled, raising up his hands in a sign of surrender.

"Ok, ok. All yours," he conceded. Spencer tentatively replaced the pudding cup on the tray, still eyeing Derek suspiciously. He peeled back the thin seal covering the open end of the pudding container and absently licked the chocolaty substance off of it in one swipe. He had just picked up the spoon and was about to dig into the sweet substance when Derek lunged forward and dragged his finger through the pudding, scooping up as much chocolaty goodness as his index finger could hold.

"Hey!" protested Spencer, staring in stunned indignation at the other agent. Derek just laughed, sucking the chocolate of his digit unapologetically.

"Now you've contaminated it…" whined Spencer.

"Relax," soothed Derek. "My hands are clean." Spencer just glared.

"You do realize that 182 types of bacteria live on the human hand at any given time?" he chided. Derek just shrugged.

"Calm down. I know plenty of women who would be perfectly happy to eat pudding off my hand, let alone pudding that's just had my hand in it."

"That's what worries me…" grumbled Spencer. Derek just laughed, reaching out towards the pudding again. Spencer swatted his hand away.

"What?" asked Derek. "It's already been contaminated, hasn't it? What more damage can I do?"

"You'll eat it all," pouted Spencer. Derek placed a hand over his heart.

"I solemnly swear not to eat it all," he declared seriously. Spencer's eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"I'm not sure I believe you…" he drawled. Derek shrugged.

"Do you really have much of a choice, kid?" he asked as he pulled the pudding towards him and dipped his finger in the chocolaty substance once more. Spencer sighed.

"I guess not." Derek laughed, smiling down at the other man. He was just glad that whatever had been bothering Spencer seemed to have gone away.

"You've got some pudding on you," commented Spencer, pointing at a spot to the left of his mouth. Derek swiped absently at his chin.

"No, over there," Spencer said, pointing once more at the offending pudding. Derek wiped at his face again, still somehow managing to miss the spot. Spencer sighed.

"Oh, just come here. I'll get it," he muttered, gesturing for Derek to lean towards him. Derek swayed forward and Spencer deftly reached forward to caress the corner of Derek's mouth with a pale finger, his fingernail scraping against Derek's lips, lips Spencer was doing his best not to note were very soft.

"There you go," he muttered, withdrawing the now pudding covered finger and licking the digit clean. Derek raised an eyebrow.

"You complain about me getting a finger in your pudding, but you have no problem eating it off my face…" he drawled. Spencer flushed, shrugging.

"Like you said earlier, it's already been contaminated. No further harm can be done." Derek laughed.

"Alright, kid. Whatever you say," he replied. Spencer wanted to tell Derek that he really hadn't minded eating pudding from his face at all. He wanted to tell Derek he would be perfectly happy to lap chocolate pudding from the other man's temptingly soft lips all day, but he couldn't. Spencer was good at being brave to help other people, to help the victims of the unsubs in their cases, but he didn't know how to be brave to help himself. For everyone else he could be a hero, but when helping himself was the only reason, he was unable to face his fears. He couldn't be his own hero.

Derek eyed Spencer's down trodden face in concern. He was a good profiler, but even if he hadn't been, he would still have known there was something bothering the boy genius. But Derek wasn't a mind reader. He had no way of knowing what was going on in Spencer's big ol' brain, and that worried him. Derek was used to being there for Spencer, to protecting the scrawny genius. As far as Derek was concerned, Spencer was his to look out for. He couldn't do that if Spencer didn't let him in.

"Hey, kid, what's botherin' you?" he asked softly. "You know you can tell me anything." Spencer didn't answer at first. His brain was whirling, calculating the risks, benefits, and possible outcomes of telling Derek about his feelings, and for a genius like Spencer, this was quite a process. There were loads of possible outcomes, but what they all boiled down to were two possibilities: Spencer would either be happy, or unhappy. Unfortunately, unhappy vs. happy didn't correlate with Derek denying or accepting his advances. Even if Derek agreed to be with him, things could still turn out badly. They could both lose their jobs, or they could lose focus during their jobs (which, in their line of work could be fatal), and if things turned sour like they so often did in relationships and they broke up, they could jeopardize the dynamics of their whole team. There were a lot of risks. It really would be better if Spencer just didn't tell Derek. If he did, everything would be at stake. He really shouldn't tell him.

"I like you, Morgan," he told him. Spencer immediately began cursing silently in his head. He had such brain power. If only his mouth would actually listen to what his brilliant brain was telling it. Derek wasn't oblivious. He knew that when Spencer said I like you he didn't mean in just a friendly sort of way. This was bigger than that. What Derek didn't know was what to do with that knowledge, or at least he didn't until he looked at Spencer's face.

Spencer's eyes, surrounded by their usual dark circles, were glossy with forming tears. His sharp cheekbones were flushed an embarrassed pink, and he was worrying his lower lip nervously between his teeth. Spencer was clearly very upset and that struck something in Derek, some of the protectiveness he always felt towards the smaller man. So he did the only thing he could think of: he leaned forward and tenderly pressed his lips to the other agent's bitten ones. Spencer gasped, his eyes opening wide in surprise as he tried to process what was going on. His lack of self-confidence had had him expecting rejection, not Derek's lips moving gently over his own.

Derek pulled back slowly, carefully scrutinizing Spencer's shocked face.

"Wha- what was that?" stuttered Spencer. Derek chuckled.

"I know social skills aren't your forte, Reid, but I think it should be obvious what that was even to you." Spencer opened his mouth to protest that of course he knew that had been a kiss, but decided against it before the words could come out. Instead, a broad, mischievous grin Derek had only ever seen before when Spencer had just successfully preformed a magic trick spread over his face.

"Well, maybe if you do it again, I'll be able to identify it," he said wryly. Derek laughed warmly, leaning forward to kiss Spencer again.

"Now that's a plan I can live with," he murmured against Spencer's smiling mouth.

Sometimes it just took a little heroism.

*Author's Note: Well there you have it! My first Criminal Minds fic is complete! (Unless you think I should make it into a multi-chapter?) I hope you guys enjoyed it! I feel bad for beating poor Reid up so much... but hey, I'm sure that chocolaty kiss from Morgan fixed him up in no time ;) Thank you all so much for reading! I also have another fic about this pairing that I'm mostly done with, and I hope you guys will all read that one too when it comes out. Thanks again and please review!*