Pairing(s)/Main Character(s): Morgan/Reid, references to Reid/Lila, Morgan/others, etc. Featuring Hotch, Garcia, J.J., Gideon, Elle.
Length: 1,300 words and counting! Expectations: 20k at the most.
Spoilers: Through season two, to be safe. Set between The Fisher King, Part II and Psychodrama.
Disclaimer: Criminal Minds is property of CBS and Jeff Davis.
Derek wakes up convinced that he's falling, tumbling head over heels down a rough cliffside, when in reality he's rolling onto his side on unfamiliar sheets—crisp, silken, twice as expensive as his own. It takes him a good fifteen seconds to unclench his hands from the blanket and shake off the dream, even longer to open his eyes to the muted gold of early-morning light. He stares up at the ceiling, at the shafts of sunlight shifting across it, and for a single moment has no idea where he is. Then there's a soft, sweet snuffling noise beside him and a sudden headache building in his temples, and he remembers. The girl beside him is nondescript, pretty in a way that he would never have noticed sober. She has a long, narrow face and shadowed, bruised-looking eyes. The sharp curve of her jaw reminds him of someone, but he doesn’t have time to think of whom.
He rolls back onto his back and pulls in a deep, slow breath. His hangover is thudding at his temples, every car horn blaring outside a blow to his aching head. Thoughts burst across his mind, one by one, made sluggish by last night’s shots of tequila. You’re an idiot. You really thought getting wasted on a worknight was a good idea? You’re probably late for work. Everyone’s going to know the moment you walk in. Gideon is going to judge you. Gideon is always judging you. What time is it?
The girl wakes up as he gropes blindly for his cell phone. She props herself up on her elbow, yawns indelicately, and says, “Good morning.”
He is embarrassingly late— and, accordingly, has three missed calls from J.J., a text message from Elle, and what is most likely a very silly voicemail from Penelope. Sighing, he flips his phone shut and swings himself upright, flashes the girl as strong a smile as he can muster.
“Derek, right?” she says, with a slight curl to her sleep-soft mouth, and he realises that he doesn’t have the faintest idea what her name is. Worse yet, she knows immediately: she looks at him sideways, head tilted, and her eyes scrunch and then she laughs. “Derek,” she repeats, in confirmation. “Last night you told me you worked for the FBI. If that wasn’t the tequila talking, I’m guessing that you’re late for work.”
He huffs a little laugh and scrapes a hand across his scalp. “Yeah,” he says. “Sorry.”
“Yeah,” she echoes, not unkindly. She pulls the sheet tight around her, dismissive. “Go.”
If there’s anything Derek knows how to do, it’s to follow orders. He doesn’t linger. Once he’s pulled his shirt over his head and shifted his gun holster higher on his hip, when he’s halfway to the door with pants half-buttoned, phone to his ear, she calls out to him from the bed. All dark eyes and ropes of darker curls, she says, “Will I see you again?”
He figures it would do the girl—whatever her name is—a disservice to lie. She doesn’t look at all surprised when he says no.
Garcia takes one look at him and laughs outright. She whispers to him, aside, that his shirt is inside-out just as Hotch walks out of the conference room as perfectly made-up as he always is, and Derek doesn’t have time to change. “Sorry, boss,” he says easily, picking at its seams.
“I’m not even going to ask,” Hotch says, staring at a spot somewhere below the cut of Derek’s jaw. His eyebrows are a little arched; Derek slaps a hand across his neck and flashes his most satisfied smile, waiting. Eventually, Hotch turns away and says, “We have a case. New York. Four missing college students—all male, all taken between the third and the eighth of this month.” He pulls absently at his cufflinks. “You can ask J.J. for the file.”
“Wheels up in one hour,” says Gideon, striding by. “Get it together.”
“You’re lucky,” says Garcia, sashaying back to her office. Her plaited hair is streaked with colour, freshly dyed.
“Thanks, baby girl,” he says, mostly out of habit, leaning over to pick through the files on his desk. In one corner, there’s a rising pile of unfinished paperwork; pink heart-shaped post-its are sprinkled across it. They all say things like, ‘Why do today what you could do tomorrow?’ in Garcia’s messy script. Smiling, he pulls his shirt over his head; it bunches in a knot around his wrists, leaving him embarrassed and exposed just in time for a familiar step to come to a sudden halt in front of him.
“Morgan?” says Reid.
Reid has a very distinctive walk: immediately recognisable. His strides are long and unusually fast, matching the pace of his speech; he leads with his left side and stumbles often, like his feet can’t quite keep up. When Derek finally wrenches his arms out of the tangle and hurries his shirt back over his shoulders, Reid’s face is blank and open, preoccupied. He’s staring right at Derek but his eyes are far away— thinking about the case. He says, “What are you doing?”
Derek swipes a hand through the curls at the nape of Reid’s neck, what was supposed to be a slap turned into something more affectionate by Reid’s lunge backwards. His hair is growing out, framing his face. Absurdly, it makes him look even younger. The thick-framed glasses he’s wearing do nothing to help and Derek finds himself thinking that Reid looks—now more than ever—like he’s far too young to be an agent, to have his doctorate, to find himself in the danger that he so often does. He doesn’t like it.
But instead of any of that, he says, “Morning, kid,” and smiles as Reid’s eyes bunch up in annoyance. Of all Derek’s nicknames, ‘kid’ and ‘pretty boy’ are the ones he seems to like least. Naturally, they’re the ones Derek tries to use most.
“True to form,” says Reid, tucking his hair behind his ears and bending over his desk to snatch some papers from falling into the nearby wastepaper basket.
“Was she pretty?” asks Elle, as she walks past. It’s teasing but not quite, tone a little too cold for what she was trying to say. Her hair falls around her shoulders, a rough-shorn wave of sandy brown.
“Yes,” Reid answers confidently, before Derek even has the time to open his mouth. “They always are.” He says it with no trace of cruelty, blankly genuine as Reid always is. It’s just a fact, and Reid has to state it before anyone else has the chance to.
The opportunity is too good to pass up. “Not as pretty as you,” Derek says.
Reid makes a show of rolling his eyes as he settles down in his swivel chair and cracks open their newest case. Forty minutes later, he’s curled up across from Gideon in his favourite window seat, papers spread across the table between them, still staring at the same information as the jet leaves the runway and heads into the clouds.