A/N: I...don't have much to say here, I guess. What else is new. Post season six and slight spoilers for season seven.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em...but boy would I love to... I mean have you seen those men? Unbetaed so all errors are mine (and most likely the pesky Document Manager). I try my best.
Derek Morgan sometimes wonders if the ending will be like the beginning.
More specifically, he wonders if they'll reach the point in both their careers where all they have is each other. He's an intuitive man, and he's noticed that over the past ten years of him knowing the kid there have been more than a few times where by inexplicable cosmic forces it has been just them.
On the outside they are an unlikely duo, one only known for his brain, the other only known for his brawn. One growing up on the mean streets of a Chicago ghetto, the other a cozy Vegas suburb. One older, jaded by life and circumstance doing his best to prove to any and everyone that a poor black kid from Chicago can actually make a difference. The other younger, a pasty white kid, far more broken then anyone will ever know, doing his damnedest to prove that he's capable. Yes, on the surface Morgan knows that they are an unlikely duo, and yet his kinship to Reid is deeper than any of the others will ever understand.
Prentiss is dead, and while the others mourn and feel the despair of losing a colleague, a friend, a family member...no one will ever feel the weight of her absence like he and Reid. It's always been that way, and it probably always will be. Hotch and Rossi can retreat to their offices, lock themselves away sometimes separately sometimes together, and drink hard liquor after hours before heading their separate ways. They can shut their blinds to the slightly empty bullpen and for an hour or two block out the void that Emily's death has left. Garcia, his dear sweet angel, can lock herself away in her cave and bury herself in computer games, festive colors, elaborate pens, pictures of good times, memories frozen on a computer screen. She can cocoon herself in her own personal bubble of denial. JJ isn't with them anymore. She doesn't have to see their grief stricken faces, doesn't have to hear their voices crack, doesn't have to experience the same pain that they do. And it will never be the same for Ashley. On the days that she is there, she's huddled up in a corner somewhere, her nose buried in a book. She can never mourn the way that they do, she can never feel the void...she can never fill the void.
For he and Reid it's different. They're the ones that knew Prentiss best. They are the ones that spent the most time with her and knew the most about her. Although, Morgan isn't sure he really knew her at all...and even in death it's a tough pill to swallow. Their eyes occasionally linger on her empty desk, before meeting each others and giving a small nod. They are the ones in the trenches of grief and pain everyday...and like always all they have is each other. They're familiar with the emptiness...because it was similar with Elle. They are the only ones that felt the magnitude of her absence and her prior actions, they are the only ones that still mention her, talk about her, miss her...because as with Prentiss they are the only ones who really knew her. It's the same with the host of other individuals that crossed their paths in the ten years that they've known and worked alongside one another, before Rossi, before Prentiss, before JJ, even before Garcia.
It's for that reason that he worries about the kid. It's nothing new, really. He always worries about him. Although, as he glances across the room at the man before him it's hard to still consider him a kid. Reid has come a long way from the skinny, awkward, baby-faced, nerdy kid with the penchant for rambling. He's a man now. He isn't as gangly and awkward as he used to be, his hair isn't nearly as unruly, he's grown into his face and occasionally lets some stubble come through. His clothes fit him better now, he owns who he is now. He's lived a lifetime in the past ten years and it's aged him in good ways and bad ones, made him a bit more refined but even more jaded. He's a full blown, qualified agent...and Morgan is proud of him. Proud of the man he has become...but he is still and always will be his kid brother, and he's still worried.
There was a time when they weren't nearly as close as they had been. Reid found a kinship in Emily and for a while she became his sole confidant. Morgan missed their heart to hearts but was happy that the kid still had someone. Prentiss is gone now. He knows that too many people have abandoned Reid before, some of them willingly, others not so...but the abandonment is there all the same, as is it's effect. He sees Reid shutting down. He sees him pushing people out. He sees Reid retreating into himself the way that he does when bad things happen. He can't allow it. He won't allow it. And surprisingly enough Reid's making it easier than he thought. He talks to him now. When they even bother to talk. There is something about their relationship, where most days they don't really need to...they get each other. A quiet understanding where they don't always need words.
Morgan can't allow himself to be too torn up. He won't allow himself to crumble under the anger, the pain, the guilt and the need for revenge. Because Reid needs him now more than ever. It isn't lost on him that he has been Reid's only constant in ten years, and Reid has been his. So on those tough days, when cases hit a little too close to home and they both think of things that Prentiss would have did or said to make them somehow feel better, he looks to Reid. Occasionally the kid absentmindedly scratches at the crease of his elbow...mostly he rubs at his temples and sighs. Morgan offers him a ride, sometimes they go to a movie, perhaps they grab a bite to eat, and then there are those days when Reid flat out refuses both and yet two hours later he appears at Morgan's doorstep, ambles into the living room and plops down on the couch. They don't say much on those days. Morgan's eyes sweep over the kid, scrutinizing him a little bit more than usual before he grabs himself a beer and grabs the kid a root beer and they turn on the TV. They put it on anything, neither of them really watch, but it's something. It has become a bit of a routine for them, so Morgan places a house-key in the door panel, and is no longer surprised when he comes back from a harrowing night at the gym tripping over Reid's converse sneakers, and being handed a beer. Not even a flicker of shock encompasses his body when he notes that after four months Reid has somehow commandeered Morgan's guest room as his own. Two months after that they stop asking each other about the nightmares they both are plagued by.
When JJ returns it feels awkward. She's a profiler now, but she isn't Prentiss. She's still their JJ though so they're beyond pleased when she's back. The hole in their family doesn't feel quite as big anymore. Shortly after, however, when a living and breath Emily Prentiss walks back through those doors, Morgan's livid. In fact that is an understatement of gigantic proportions. There aren't words to describe the level of anger and betrayal that he feels, towards Emily, towards JJ, towards Hotch. He has the hardest time with Hotch, because while Emily did what she was forced to do for her own safety, and it wouldn't be the first nor the last time that JJ did something that irritated the shit out of him so he's accustomed it by now, but Hotch...Hotch is the one that faced him everyday for a year. Morgan can't quite bounce back from that, and after an almost brawl and a few choice words the tension is palpable. Emily is working with them again, and he doesn't personally see how that's possible, and she is still using her given name and he doesn't see how that works either, and Doyle is still out there...so he doesn't quite understand why the hell she's coming out of hiding...but she's working with them again. And Ashley is gone. She packed her little items she had there up and got the hell out of dodge and a small part of him is jealous of her for leaving and a smaller part of him is impressed at her self preservation skills because the girl knew she didn't stand a chance anymore.
He only barely holds himself together because Reid needs him. He reluctantly may admit to himself that they kind of need each other, because they are the only ones...the only ones who seem to be the most hurt by the year long mindfuck that they endured. He's actually surprised. Reid isn't usually one for holding grudges, but he can see the kid pulling away from JJ, from Hotch, and even more shockingly from Emily. He sees the hardened looks that mask the kid's face in a way that he would have never dreamed of. He sees the way the kid avoids the touch of all of those around. He can feel the tension and the anger radiating off of the kid...and if the situation weren't so screwed up he'd probably laugh because he doesn't know when Reid became a younger, skinnier, whiter version of himself. Imitation is the highest form of flattery...but this isn't flattering, this isn't funny, this is tragic. He's bitter in a way that Morgan hasn't seen him ever before, and the only thing that seems to keep Reid from retreating into himself again is apparently Morgan. It's knowing that very fact that keeps him from packing up his things and signing the transfer application that he keeps shoving down further into his desk. He's considered the offer of running his own team in New York...he's come within millimeters of signing it, but his job isn't finished there yet. He still wants Doyle, preferably dead, and he still can't bear the thought of not seeing his Baby Girl everyday, because even though he doesn't like admitting it he needs that ray of sunshine to keep him going. But most of all, he can't leave the kid, potentially on the brink of spiraling out of control, alone. So despite the broken trust amongst their team, despite the shattering of their family, despite the broken bonds of their friendships, and scarily enough despite the bordering on ineffectivness of them all working together as a unit...he stays. Dark brown tormented eyes meet tortured hazel ones, and they give each other a tight smile, because neither of them smile much anymore.
He stays...for the kid...for now.
He's a lot stronger than any of them ever seem to give him credit for.
At times he finds it increasingly infuriating, because he himself has an eerie certainty of just how much he can handle. He has scars...many scars to prove it. He knows though, he knows that the probability of them being aware of his capabilities are surprisingly high. His frustrations lie in them not willingly admitting such notions. He's grown...physically, emotionally, mentally, socially in the decade or so that he's been working at the BAU. He's certain that they realize this, but he's also painfully aware that knowing something and admitting something are not one in the same, and it goes beyond mere semantics. It's in those frustrating moments when he resents the notion of them...all of them, handling him with 'kid gloves' as the age old saying goes, that he finds himself missing, truly missing more so than usual the presences of his mentor Gideon.
He finds Morgan to be the greatest offender of his personal barometer of interactive crime. It's been that way since the beginning and he resented it, the moment he was introduced to the man as Doctor, and Morgan proceeded to calling him, kid. Only after some observational studying of his own and a little comprehensive research did he grow to understand the nature of Derek Morgan. His resentment quickly morphed into a tolerance of the kid role he would forever play in the eyes of Morgan, and a friendship that he and no one else saw coming.
Their friendship was paradoxical and he has an astute understanding that to most they should have never succeeded as friends. He could point out the fallacies and inaccuracies of that wrongful assumption with a hypothesis or theory pertaining to contrasting forces with overlapping factors succeeding with a promising percentage. In lamest terms, opposites attract, especially when the opposites have more in common then people realize. Derek Morgan was the proverbial yin to his yang in a way, their partnership and friendship worked because they complemented each other so well, and nurturing that over ten years only made their bond all the stronger. With that, time and mutual understanding they read each other better than any profile could ever do. He ponders if this is the feeling, the tactile feeling of having a brother. He's visualized, memorized, studied, and observed all the terms, textbooks, videos, and human interactions based on the sibling bond, but could never comprehend it in it's entirety because he hadn't had siblings. He still doesn't, and while the scientist in him knows that even the tenuous bond that he shares with his team will never be comparable by logical standards, the person in him, the young man who never really had anyone, knows that it's as close as he could ever get.
He misses Prentiss every single day and he idly questions many of his logical beliefs when he wonders if there is some validity to the brainless theories that others have about life and karmic forces, because everyone he cares about and even those that he doesn't, always...always seem to leave him in some shape, form, or fashion. He knows that Morgan understands that best, especially in regards to their time spent together at the BAU because they are confronted with it every single day in a way that the others don't. It isn't fair to compare grief, it isn't fair to suggest that one person's pain is somehow more powerful, more palpable, more painful then somebody else's...especially when all of them are dealing with the exact same situation, but that doesn't stop him from truly believing that Morgan is the only one amongst his now broken pseudo familial unit that truly experiences the pain the same way that he does. They somehow lost more...they always do.
He had allowed himself to get close to Emily after a promise that he made to himself not to...because he got close to Elle and she left too. In fact he threw a lot of himself into Emily, and at times it was at the expense of his friendship with Morgan but Emily didn't always treat him like her kid brother, although she did it often enough. She treated him like an equal and he welcomed the reprieve and the burden from being somebody's kid brother that someone is always worrying about. He realized quickly that the burden would never dissipate or diminish.
When she died he very nearly fell apart, and though he's reluctant to admit that to himself sometimes he didn't care enough to bother hiding it from the others. It would have done him no good regardless, because as customary for them during anything remotely close to being traumatic, all eyes were constantly on him. He is still awestruck by the amount of unbridled compassion and love that his team has given to him over the years. He hasn't received that amount of devotion and concern since he was pre-pubescent. He suspects that, that is why they treat him the way that they do, some desperate attempt to make up for things of the past...but you can never make up for the past, you can never reclaim your childhood, despite many attempts...some even by himself in the quiet confines of his own apartment, time travel isn't plausible at this point in time and you can never go back. But it doesn't change things. All eyes are on him the most. They watch him as though he's made of glass and he will shatter at any given moment. It infuriates him, but not merely because he's not the kid they treat him as, but because no one ever watches Morgan.
Morgan is strong and he knows that the others take it for granted. He tries his best not to do it himself. Morgan is criticized, reprimanded, and ridiculed for his impulsiveness, for his inability to bite his tongue. It's a regular occurrence, but no one sees beyond that to see that sometimes the man is right. In fact to Reid's twisted pleasure he's discovered that Morgan's accuracy in given situations are roughly around 84%, shockingly high for someone driven by instincts. He's always admired that in Morgan, because shamefully he's allowed to sit back and watch Morgan speak everything that crosses his own mind, things he wouldn't dare say out loud. But while all eyes are on him, and some on Garcia, no one ever thinks to keep a close one on Morgan. He finds it a bit disheartening.
Perhaps, he's the only one that has figured out how to deal with Morgan when he's going through things. He learned it early on, and was himself bemused at how simple it was. Derek Morgan is a protector. Part nature, part nurture, part circumstance has made him that, so the best way to help Morgan cope is to let him do what he feels best doing...protect. It's the one thing that Reid resents, being treated like a kid, and yet it's the one thing that Morgan needs...feeling as though he's taking care of and looking after someone. It gives Morgan the distraction, it makes him feel in control of things that are otherwise out of his control, it's quite simply what he does. That is why Reid learned not to take Morgan's coddling as personally as everyone else's. So when their eyes linger over Prentiss' empty desk before meeting one another, and he sees the guilt and pain be overshadowed by overwhelming concern for Reid, well...he just let's Morgan feel concerned.
On some days when cases are trying and he sees the despair in Morgan's eyes and no one else bothers to notice, he makes a plan. Sometimes he joins him for dinner, he'll let Morgan give him a ride to a restaurant that he himself is more fond of then Morgan, he knows that it's Morgan's way of looking out for him. But he pays, it's his way of telling Morgan that he will only be coddled to a certain point. Other days they go to a movie or two. He knows when Morgan is feeling worse then usual because he'll extend the invitation to Garcia and Ashley and he knows then that Morgan needs to know that they are all safe...and that he can protect them all...even if all of them know it isn't humanly possible for one man to do just that. There are some days where even he can't handle the weight of it all, those days when he contemplates sticking a needle in his arm just to make the pain go away...the grief, the headaches, the weight of being one man's solace. So he'll decline Morgan's invite for recreational whatever, and he pretends not to notice the vacant look in the older man's eyes. Reid goes to a meeting, it doesn't really matter what type it is, the nature of it all is pretty much the same, he just needs to hear the words, other people's stories, he just needs to tell his to someone who won't make him feel weak. When it's over he catches the subway to Morgan's house, he waltzes in and sits on the couch and they watch mindless television that he would normally protest to but can't anymore. On really bad nights when Morgan disappears long before he's finished gathering up his belongings, he knows the older man has gone to beat the stuffing out of whatever contraption in that godforsaken gym that he can find. On those days, Reid makes himself over to Morgan's apartment himself, he lets himself in using the not so hidden key that he suspects Morgan left out just for him and he knows then that the man doesn't always like being the loner that he sets himself up to be. When Morgan comes in bloody and haggard and his face lights up a little bit after tripping over Reid's shoes, he merely hands the man a beer and they sit and not talk. Some nights Reid stays over, on the couch or in the spare bedroom that he keeps leaving things in. He convinces himself that it's because some nights Morgan can't handle being alone, the multiple sexual conquests that Morgan occasionally indulges in don't seem to fulfill Morgan anymore. He convinces himself that Morgan is the one that can't handle the nightmares...and ignores the fact that he can't handle being alone himself.
When JJ returns he's elated. He's always loved JJ and while he doesn't have the boyish crush on her that he used to years ago he still loves her...like a sister. She's a profiler now, and she's among them now and things feel a little bit lighter when she's around. When Emily appears, rises from the dead like some zombie in those horror movies that he loves so much, he is bewildered, befuddled, confuzzled...but then, he's angry, enraged in fact. His entire world tilts on it's axis...again, and it's a feeling that he should be accustomed to by now but he isn't, he never is. Ashley leaves shortly after. She was always underestimated, just like he was, but he always admired her instincts. It was as though she could smell the eventual downfall, hell-storm to come at the BAU and she bolted before the full weight of the apocalyptic devastation could hit. He almost wishes she had taken him with her. He actually looked at the door longingly when the only thing of her lingering was the faint smell of her sweet perfume.
He's never unleashed this side of him, the angry side that doesn't hold back for anyone anymore. He thinks now he understands Morgan better than ever. He understands why trust and betrayal fuel the older man the way that it does. He didn't know he could be so hurt, he didn't know betrayal could feel this bad. He doesn't speak to the others often, not like he used to. JJ's apologetic eyes, Prentiss' reassuring pats on the arm, Hotch's stiff words...they're all met with a hardened glare. He's not some hurt little puppy-like kid upset that his parent's didn't buy him the toy he's wanted...he's an enraged man barely tolerating the bitter taste of betrayal and dishonesty. It's then when he feels that Morgan and he are one in the same. Morgan's the only one that is on the same level as him, he can see it. He doesn't flinch when Morgan nearly punches Hotch, he vaguely considers doing it himself but he's never been one for the physical. He flashes a bitter smile over just how many rules that are bent for the sake of their family. He's an example of it...and now, so is Prentiss because there is no way to rationalize why she's walking through those doors and working with them again after nearly a year of being presumed dead.
They're barely holding on as a unit. It doesn't take someone of his intelligence to see that they are all falling apart. He doesn't care enough to actually be concerned about it anymore. He thinks about taking off. There are so many things he could do with his life, but he still loves his job, still loves making a difference. He's never felt so stagnant in his life. He sees the application on Morgan's desk. He sees the turmoil and indecision in Morgan's eyes as the man shoves the paperwork further down into the drawer. Sometimes he lingers at Morgan's desk when Morgan isn't there, he reads the worn pages of the application and then puts them on top of the pile again. He thinks maybe if Morgan works up the nerve to leave that maybe he would go with him. He rambles the occasional statistic about NYC, talks about the field offices there, the monuments, the history, the population...anything really. He wonders if Morgan understands the hint. He knows that Morgan is staying, out of his unshakeable loyalty to the broken team, out of his concern for him...and his love for Garcia. He hopes that one day Morgan will clear his clouded mind and conflicted feelings long enough to hear the unspoken promise in the useless trivia that he rambles off. His jaded eyes meet the anguished dark ones of his friend, and he gives a tight smile, because there is nothing much to smile about anymore...life's too uncertain to smile. He says as much as he can in just one look. He'll go with him if he ever decides to make the move. He'll be right by his side...
Because in the end..it'll be like the beginning, where all they have is each other.