you don't have to say i love you @chthonic
to say i love you hi! so this is pulled directly from my ao3. i will be moving over my fics here over the next few weeks! i wrote this fic over four years ago now, and it remains my one and only forray into this fandom, and this pairing. i'm still quite proud of this fic so i haven't changed anything from the original posting :) this is unbeta'd, but read over extensively by me. i hope you like it! please let me know what you think if you read it!

“To those who have given up on love: I say, 'Trust life a little bit.'” -  Maya Angelou

 

 

i.

 

 

The first time Derek holds Spencer’s hand, it’s right after Hankel. They’re in the ambulance -- much to Reid’s annoyance and insistence that he’s fine and doesn’t need medical attention, post field injuries always need to be noted by a local hospital.

A few hours ago, Derek wasn't sure what to expect when they finally found Spencer. They had gotten a glimpse of the torture he had suffered at the hands of Tobias, but there were also plenty of dark hours where they had no idea what Reid was suffering through. The thought alone had enough power to rile Derek up enough that he had punched quite a few walls. 

Now that Spencer's here and safe, though; alive and breathing in an ambulance, Derek can't even begin to get a read on him.

His eyes, when they're open, dart across the ceiling from side to side in panic, like he knows where he is but he doesn't want to be here. As often as they move Derek notices they never once come to rest on him, not even for a moment. 

He doesn't like the look on his friend's face, so he leans as forward as the cramped space allows him to, and grasps one of his hands. Reid's shaking like a leaf, so violently that Derek uses his free hand to tuck the shock blanket tighter around Spencer's small frame. 

Somehow, the younger man looks even smaller than he did when he first got abducted. Derek knows Spencer wasn't with Tobias long enough to lose a significant amount of weight, but it almost looks like his body wants to. Like just a few more days with him and Spencer would have given up. The thought makes Derek clench his free fist on his thigh. 

Spencer is either too out of it to notice or is kind enough not to mention it.

“Hey, kid. Come on now. Don’t do that to me.”

When Reid still won’t meet his gaze, Derek thinks about what Hankel must have done to break him down like this and sees crimson.

“Spencer,” Derek tries again, squeezing his fingers as gently as he can. “Don’t do this.”

It takes a moment, but eventually he rasps, “Do what?”

Spencer sounds small, almost afraid, and it does nothing to quell the fire that has been steadily building inside of him since they realized he was missing. It's only a small consolation -- Derek would have liked to do the honors himself, not that he would ever admit that to anyone but himself -- but at least Tobias can't hurt anyone else. 

“Don’t hide from us,” Morgan tells him. “We’re here for you. Don’t shut us out.”

Reid looks so fragile underneath the harsh glare of the lights and it makes Derek's heart physically hurt inside his chest. Derek isn't used to seeing Spencer (who is just as confident in his work as he is in his intellect) so weak. Derek hasn't thought of Spencer as weak single he apprehended Dr. Bryar on the train. But, there's really no other word for how Spencer looks right now.

It's almost as if all of his strength has left his body and it's all that he can do not to curl in on himself.

Derek's fist clenches again without his consent. 

“I’m not hiding,” Reid mumbles.

Morgan shakes his head. “You are, and I understand why you want to hide, kid. What Tobias…” Spencer’s eyes flash at the name.

“Tobias didn’t do anything to me,” Spencer tells him. “He saved my life.”

“He nearly killed you.”

“That wasn’t Tobias. That was Charles. And Raphael. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for him.”

Derek wants to believe he's imagining the disdain in Spencer's voice, but he knows that he isn't. He may not be able to read Spencer as well as he usually can right now, but anyone could see that a part of him wished Tobias hadn't tried to resuscitate him. A part of Reid never wanted to get out of that disgusting ass shed alive and Derek... Derek doesn't know what to do with that. The thought of living in a world without Spencer Reid was almost a little too much to bear. 

This is normal, Derek tells himself a few moments later. It's normal for Spencer to feel like this after what he went through but that doesn't mean it's any easier of a pill to swallow.

Instead of dwelling on it, which isn’t something either of them need, Derek meets the other man’s eyes.

He tries a different angle. “We almost lost you in there, kid.”

“I know.”

“I’m glad we didn’t,” Derek tells him sincerely, even if that doesn’t even begin to cover half of the tsunami of feelings waging a war inside of his stomach. “We’re all glad we didn’t.”

Spencer doesn’t look like he believes him, but he also doesn’t complain when Derek tightens his hold on his hand, refusing to let go even when his palm starts sweating.

 

---

 

ii.

 

 

The next time they hold hands, Derek has just driven a van with an active bomb out into the middle of a field and instead of blowing up in it like he should have, he’s able to comfortably watch it from a few hundred feet away.

Penelope is mad at him for risking his life but Derek knows with time she'll get over it. He also knows that Hotch is probably going to yell at him later for doing something so reckless but Derek doesn't mind the reaming out. Especially when Hotch would have done the same thing and is only mad because everyone expects him to be. 

Derek doesn't know how long he stands there watching the embers before an unmarked SUV pulls up. Long enough that the aches in his shoulders and knees are starting to peak and it hurts to stay on his feet. He can see Rossi and Hotch through the tinted windshield, and both of them look equal parts thankful and resigned. 

Unfortunately, he doesn't get more time to worry about them. Suddenly there's a vaguely Spencer Reid shaped blur in front of him and there are cold, clammy hands blanketing his own. 

“Morgan,” Reid says. "Morgan, are you alright?”

Derek takes a moment to look at where they're practically holding hands and has to blink to make sure he isn't hallucinating this. He doesn't know what it says about them that this is twice now that they've resorted to tactile comfort while one of them is either injured or under duress, and if he's being honest with himself it's not like he wants to start to analyze it, either. Derek also doesn't want to draw unnecessary attention to their skin-to-skin contact, so he regretfully tears his gaze away.

Spencer probably hasn't even noticed they're holding hands in the first place. 

He would definitely pull away if he did.

(Derek doesn't want him to pull away.)

“I’m fine, kid.”

Spencer seems to take this in for a moment, nods once, and then his eyebrows furrow and his mouth sets into a thin line. “Why would you do something like that, Morgan?”

“Someone had to do it,” Derek tells him. If it hadn’t had been him, Hotch would’ve done it. He’s sure of that.

“You should have waited for us.”

“There wasn’t time,” he says. “I couldn’t let it blow up in a building full of people.”

Reid shakes his head. “Garcia screamed at us for five minutes for letting you go off and do something so stupid.”

Derek laughs.

“Of course she did.”

Spencer’s eyes narrow, mouth open like he wants to say something but before he can, Hotch approaches them with a serious look. 

“Are you alright?”

Derek’s going to be bruised from hell and back tomorrow, but right now he’s alive and that’s all that really matters to him. “I’m okay.”

“You’ll need to get looked over by the medical team but once you’re cleared meet me in my office back at Quantico,” Hotch tells him, giving Reid a tiny nod of acknowledgement before he turns on his heel to walk away.

“That’s going to be fun,” Derek mutters to himself.

Spencer’s mouth twitches like he wants to smile. “You kind of deserve it, man.”

Derek laughs. “I know. Are you sticking around for a while?”

“Presumably, yes.”

“Mind giving me a ride back to Quantico?”

“I’m sure we can work something out.”

Derek smiles in gratitude and doesn’t mention how he can still feel the ghost of Spencer’s hands cupped around his own.

 

---

 

iii.

 

Spencer is sleeping again.

They said their goodbyes to Dr. Kimura after she came back to check on Spencer last time, and Spencer didn't last a single second longer before he fell asleep again. Derek's refused to leave his side since they got him to the hospital.

It's nothing short of a miracle that Spencer was right about where the antidote would be and that they had found it in time to save him. The volume of anthrax he was exposed to would've been enough to kill him in just a few more hours, and Derek doesn't want to think about it. He can't afford to think about it, not when Spencer is breathing right in front of him. But he also can't help it. 

The amount of times Derek has been in the position is far too many.

For a while there, the possibility of losing Spencer again hung over all of them like a heavy and unforgiving blanket. All of his team members are invaluable to Derek but it's only when one of them is in danger that he remembers just how true that happens to be. Spencer more-so than the others, though that has more to do with Derek's deep-seated feelings for him than anything else.

Not that that's important, though.

The point is, Derek could've lost him today. The thought is so intrusive and upsetting that he doesn't even try to stop himself from reaching out to grasp at Spencer's hand, feeling the weight comfort him more than it probably should. 

“Derek?”

He looks up from where he’s been boring a hole into Spencer’s sheets for the last twenty minutes, and smiles.

“Hey, kid.”

“What are you still doing here?”

Derek doesn’t want to tell him that there’s no way he would’ve left Spencer here alone because that’s too embarrassing to admit to.

“Hotch wanted someone to watch over you,” Derek says, and if Spencer isn’t going to mention Derek gripping his hand like a lifeline, well, then neither will he.

“You drew the proverbial short stick, huh?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Don’t talk like that, Reid. Any of us would gladly be sitting here for you, you know that.”

Spencer blushes, which means he most certainly does know. “I know.”

He looks at Spencer for a second longer (he’s fine he’s fine he’s fine he’s fine repeating like a damned mantra in his head) before he says, “I’m glad you’re alright, kid.”

“Me too,” Spencer says, and Derek is only seventy-five percent certain he’s not imagining the way he squeezes Derek’s hand.

 

---

 

iv.

 

Derek’s the one who drives Spencer home in the wake of what happens to Prentiss.

Spencer hasn't stopped crying since they got the news that Emily never made it off of the table. His face is swollen and blotchy and maybe Derek feels like a fraud because he hasn't yet shed a single tear. It's not that he doesn't want to, Emily was his partner and one of his best friends and he's not sure he'll ever think of her and not feel a knife cut through his abdomen, but it's almost like he just... can't. He just can't bring himself to cry in front of his team. Not like this. 

Especially not in front of Spencer. Derek doesn't think it'd be a fair move to try and express his own grief when Reid can barely keep it together.

Hotch pulls him aside a few minutes after JJ leaves the hospital.

“Can you take Reid home?”

Derek blinks. “What?”

“He’s in no position to drive,” Hotch explains. “If he gets behind the wheel anytime soon he’ll crash.”

It's true, too.

Spencer is in no condition to drive. He's got his faced buried in Penelope's shoulder now, and she's stroking his hair, muffling her own sobs into the crook of his neck. Derek should be over there. He should be comforting the both of them, but he feels rooted in place and his legs won't move no matter how hard he tries to force them into motion. It's just so much easier to focus on what they're feeling than what's trapped behind his rib cage. 

Derek held Emily's hand as she was dying. Derek was the one who told her how proud of her he was, how he was thankful to be her friend because of what she did for Declan. He had watched as her eyelids fluttered when the pain became too much and he couldn't do a damn thing to stop it. He held her as she was dying and he had nothing to show for it. His friend was dead and she wasn't coming back, and maybe it was a little ridiculous but he almost felt responsible. If he had only gotten there a minute earlier, Emily might be next to them laughing about another close call.

Instead, he'll help carry her coffin.

Derek hasn't felt guilt like this in a long time. 

“I’ll take him home.” Derek tells him. “What about Garcia?”

“She lives on the other side of town. Rossi or I will drive her home after we sign all of the paperwork.”

Derek swallows against the tightness in his throat.

“I’ll take Reid home.”

“Thank you.”

Derek nods and then walks over to where Penelope and Spencer are still huddled close together. Penelope is whispering in comforting tones that Derek can’t even begin to make sense of, but she catches his approach and meets his eyes over Reid’s shoulder.

She looks upset, her mascara running in tracks down her cheeks, but she’s still the strong and beautiful tech analysis he knows and loves.

“Hey, baby girl. I should get pretty boy here home. It’s late.”

Spencer looks up at that. His eyes are even more red-rimmed than they were a moment ago. Derek's hand twitches at his side, and he barely manages to control himself from putting a comforting hand on Spencer's shoulder. That's just a disaster waiting to happen. 

“I drove myself here.”

“I know. I’ll come by tomorrow morning and pick it up for you. You’re in no position to drive right now.”

“I’m fine .” Spencer says, even though he most definitely is not fine.

Derek knows Spencer will sit here for the next twenty minutes and fight him about this, so instead he says, “Hotch’s orders.”

The furrows between his brows tightens a little, but eventually Spencer lets out a resigned sigh.

“There’s no need to pick up my car. I’ll take the metro here tomorrow and get it.”

Derek counts this as the defeat it is, and nods. “Okay.”

Penelope wipes at her eyes. “Are my boys leaving me already?”

He reaches forward to wrap his arms around her and holds her as tight as he can. “We’ll never leave you.”

“I know,” Penelope’s pressing her smile into his neck and it sounds watery.

Derek looks between the both of them, and the thought of leaving either of them alone for the night doesn’t sit right with him. They shouldn’t be alone right now, not when they’re all grieving like this.

“Let’s all go back to my place,” Derek blurts, before he can stop himself.

“What?” Reid asks.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to be alone right now,” Derek admits. Garcia nods like she was thinking the same thing, and Reid isn’t immediately saying no, which means he isn’t completely against it either.

“I would rather spend the night in your hunky arms,” Penelope flirts, though her voice lacks it’s usual cheer.

He winks at her.

“I live right down the street,” He says, because he does. One of the reasons he chose his current residence is it’s location. “We can get food from this diner around the corner. You know,  make a day of it.”

“I’m in,” Garcia smiles. She nudges Reid who is staring off over Derek’s shoulder and hasn’t said anything for a few minutes. “How about you, handsome? Fancy a night of Morgan snuggles and good 'ol greasy food?”

Derek doesn’t expect Reid to say yes.

They hang out frequently enough outside of work but this is something entirely different. Derek doesn't think Spencer's ever had a chance to share his grief with someone else. When he put his mother into the sanatorium he was only eighteen and his dad had already been absent for eight years. Nobody was there to hold his hand and assure him he wasn't a horrible son because he wasn't properly equipped to take care of his own mother. And then Tobias and the anthrax case a few years back happened. 

Reid wouldn't let any of them get close enough to help him through his grief. 

But, this time is going to be different. Now, Derek isn't going to let Spencer push them all away again and retreat into himself. Emily was important to every single one of them, and Derek will drag Spencer out of the depths off hell a thousand times over if it means Spencer will continue to talk to them. 

So Derek’s (rightfully) surprised when Spencer’s shoulders slump with exhaustion and he leans further into Garcia’s touch. “Alright.” He murmurs.

Derek counts it as a win.

 

***

 

By the time they get back to Derek’s place, the sun is just starting to peek up over the clouds.

Spencer is curled so tightly in the backseat that he barely takes up any space at all, and not for the first time that night Derek worries about him. Spencer has always been sensitive when it comes to his abandonment issues, but there's a huge difference between people leaving you by choice and people dying. They've never really talked about the issue before, but Derek's almost positive this is the first time Spencer has lost someone close to him when he's been old enough to remember it. 

“He’s just so small, isn’t he?”

Derek looks over to Garcia where she’s watching him with assessing eyes from the passenger seat.

Thankfully, Spencer is fast asleep in the back. It's fitful, though, and small, almost inaudible whimpers are ripped out of his throat every time his dreams turn unpleasant.

“You think he’ll be okay?” He asks.

"We made a mistake after Hankel by not talking about it," she says, softly, still not directly referencing 'it.' 'It' being Reid's addiction to dilaudid. They had all noticed something was off with him but talking about his drug addiction meant acknowledging it and that was an entirely different horse all together. "We can't let him slip through the cracks again, Der." 

Derek shakes his head. “We won’t,” he says, reverently. Derek will pour all of his extra energy into making sure Spencer doesn’t slip back into addiction again. The kid has fought way too long and way too hard for that.

When he puts the car in park, Penelope lets herself out almost immediately, and while he's never directly talked to her about his feelings for Spencer, this is her way of trying to give them some privacy, of which he is grateful for. 

He really needs to get her some flowers. She’s way more than he deserves.

Derek reaches out with a gentle hand to shake Spencer’s shoulders. “It’s time to wake up, pretty boy.”

Spencer blinks awake slowly, eyes far away and cloudy with sleep. He looks at Derek with confused eyes before everything starts coming back to him in a sudden onslaught. His expression goes tight, grieving, and Derek doesn’t even have to think about it before he’s reaching to the back seat to grab Reid’s hands in his own. The angle is awkward but Derek’s dealt with worse. He would deal with worse for Spencer.

“Spencer. Are you okay?”

Spencer glances to the front to see that Penelope isn’t there. He chances another glance at Derek, seemingly resigning himself to not being able to talk his way out of this one. Good.

“I can’t believe she’s gone,” Spencer whispers. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

Derek tightens his hold on Spencer’s hands. “I know, kid. But I also know Prentiss knows how much we all cared for her. She didn’t die on that table alone, Spencer.”

"We couldn't save her," Spencer isn't listening to him, instead he's closed his eyes and he's shaking. Derek turns in the driver's seat so he's in a more comfortable position to face him. "I know statistically there was always going to be a chance someone on the team was going to die eventually, but I didn't take into consideration that it would be now. Or that it would have been Emily."

“I don’t think any of us did, kid.”

There was always a part of him that almost considered Emily to be invincible. If anyone on the team died, Derek had always expected it to be him. He was the one who was always taking unnecessary risks.

“I miss her.”

Derek’s thumb starts stroking the skin of Reid’s hand. “I do too.”

“I don’t want to do this without her,” Spencer admits, voice as small as it was back with Hankel. Derek’s heart clenches.

“We made it through Elle, and Hankel, and Gideon leaving. It might take time, Spencer, but we’ll make it through this, too.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“I am,” Derek says, with confidence he doesn’t feel. He lets go of Spencer’s hands to squeeze his knee comfortingly. “We should go meet up with Garcia. It’s not nice to keep a lady waiting.”

Spencer cracks a smile. It’s humorless and broken but it’s still manages to steal Derek’s breath away.

“Wouldn’t want her to exhaust your bath bomb collection.”

“What? How did you even know about that?”

“I didn’t,” Spencer says, and the smile this time doesn’t look nearly as forced. “But you just confirmed it.”

Derek feigns annoyance, and he’s glad that Spencer can’t see him smile. “Yeah, yeah, pretty boy. Laugh it up. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to smell nice.”

 

---

 

v.

 

The last straw is when Reid almost dies (again).

This time, though, Derek gets shot too so he can’t focus entirely on Spencer. He does, however, ask for updates enough times that both Rossi and Garcia threaten him with bodily harm if he doesn’t calm down and stop stressing himself out (“Reid’s with the people who can help him most right now,” Rossi tells him, when the others have left to go get coffee; Morgan wants to tell him that does jackshit to help him right now but he doesn’t).

It’s not like Derek can help it.

A part of him is burning so painfully he's surprised he's still breathing. The thought of losing Spencer hurts more now than it ever has before, but what's really killing him is being holed up in a hospital room on the other end of the damn floor. They'll have to deploy every single nurse and doctor in the place to stop Derek from marching over there when Spencer wakes up.

By the time they get the news that Spencer’s out of surgery and on the mend, Derek’s gotten word that he'll be released in the morning as long as the additional testing they want to run him through goes smoothly.

“The bullet narrowly missed the carotid artery,” Penelope tells him, before he can even ask how Spencer is doing when she walks back into his room. “It’s a minor miracle he’s alive, but he’ll be okay. Derek. He’s going to be okay.”

Derek’s filled with so many emotions -- relief, guilt, elation, worry -- he almost feels like crying.

Almost.

“I need to see him.”

“Slow down now, handsome. We told you before, you can see him after you’ve went through all of your testing.”

Derek only narrowly misses rolling his eyes. “We both know I’m fine.”

“We both know nothing,” Garcia scolds him, and then places both of her hands placatingly on his shoulders. “We almost lost you too, Derek. If it weren’t for that bulletproof vest..”

“Stop, babygirl,” Derek says gently.

“We need to make sure you’re okay, too.”

“I need to see him,” Derek tries instead, which is the truth. He regularly feels like he’s drowning when he’s away from Spencer for too long, but he passed drowning a while ago. Now it’s like he’s already at the bottom of the lake and it’s too dark to see anything anymore.

“I know you do,” she says. “He’s not even awake yet, Der. As soon as you’re able to, you’ll be there. I promise.”

He knows she’s right. Spencer isn’t even awake yet and there’s not much he can do for him while he’s still sleeping. It doesn’t make it any easier. Not that Derek was expecting anything about this to be easy -- nothing since joining the BAU has been easy -- but it would’ve been a nice surprise.

“Okay,” He relents. Penelope smiles at him, big and wide and pleased.

“You are a god among your people, Derek Morgan.”

Derek snorts. “Yeah, yeah. Just. Make sure he’s okay.” He doesn’t add the ‘until I can’ but he thinks she probably hears it anyway.

“You know I will.”

She’s right. The truth is, if it were anyone else asking him to lay in wait like this he would already be across the hospital with Spencer. But if there’s anyone who is more protective of their team than Derek is, it’s Garcia.

“Thank you.”

Penelope kisses his cheek. “You don’t have to thank me, stud.”

He totally does, though. And he tells her as much.

 

***

 

Derek lasts five hours before he breaks his promise to Penelope and sneaks into Spencer’s room.

If he's being honest, he's definitely proud of himself for lasting this long.

This must be the kind of character development his therapist has been trying to drill into him all these years (he's lost count of the amount of times he's heard "You're too stubborn, Derek, and it's going to keep getting you into trouble if you let it" and "Stop taking unnecessary risks just to prove your value to your teammates,"). If this had happened even just a few years ago he would've marched right into Spencer's hospital room and pitched a damned tent, codes and regulations be damned. 

And it's not like he planned on sneaking into Spencer's room when he did. Derek's been awake since he woke up at 2 am to use the bathroom and he can't seem to go back to sleep. His mind wanders for a while, from his mom and sisters -- they're going to be livid when they learn he didn't call them immediately after being shot -- to the restoration project out on Main Street he has in the works. It always, however, seems to come back to Reid.

Once he starts thinking about Spencer, it becomes hard to stop. 

Penelope has been spending most of her time in Reid's room, which means sneaking in there without her knowing might be a problem. All he can do is hope that by the time he gets there she's either sleeping or won't be too angry with him for doing exactly what he told her he wouldn't. 

Derek decides right then that whatever punishment Penelope thinks up for him would be more than worth it, so he doesn't waste anymore time before he pulls the IV from his arm. The other wires are quick to follow, and after that it's easy enough to push himself out of bed. Luckily the staff hasn't been paying much attention to him because of a highway pileup that happened just after midnight. 

When he finally gets to Reid's room (he needs to send JJ a fruit basket for offhandedly mentioning the room number) he sees Penelope curled on the chair in the corner. There's blanket that's barely on her, almost like Reid threw it to her after she fell asleep and his chest almost explodes. 

Derek walks over to tuck the blanket more firmly around her, because he really can't help himself. 

Spencer, when Derek finally lets himself look, is spread out on the hospital bed so his feet are close to hanging off the edge. Derek smiles, grateful for the darkness of the hospital room even if both Garcia and Reid are asleep. 

The doctor doesn’t look as fragile as he expected him to. Sure, he looks tired, and he makes quite the sight with an almost soiled bandage around his neck, but he's seen Spencer look much, much worse and despite it all this is almost comforting.

Derek doesn’t think there’s been a time he’s ever felt more in love with him before now.

He walks as close as he can before he’d have to crawl on the bed with Spencer, and sighs. He takes one of Spencer’s hands in his own, more of a reminder that the kid is alive and okay than anything else. Derek rubs a thumb back and forth along his skin gently and has to take in a deep breath so he doesn’t do something stupid. Like confess. Even if he'd only be admitting it to himself it's still too much. 

“You had us worried, kid,” Derek says, which is pretty much what he says whenever Spencer gets hurt. He doesn’t want to think about how much of a routine this feels like. “I’m not supposed to be here right now and if babygirl were to wake up she’d kick me out of the room instantly. I’m just... I'm glad you’re okay, Spencer.”

It’s quiet for a while after that.

Derek doesn’t know what else to say that isn’t too damn obvious, and it’s not like Spencer is up for conversation right now. Part of him wants to stay here to be the one to protect Reid but the bigger part of him wants bloodshed. Spencer has almost died an alarming amount of times but it hasn’t been this close since Tobias Hankel.

Maybe Derek was foolish for thinking they’d never have another Hankel. Maybe Derek is foolish now for hoping this would be the last close call they’d have.

It doesn't stop him.

“I can hear you thinking,” Spencer whispers.

Derek doesn’t jump , but he does almost get whiplash from looking up so fast at Spencer’s face.

“You’re not supposed to be awake,” Derek tsks.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” counters Reid groggily.

He laughs. “I had to make sure you were okay myself.”

“I’m fine,” Spencer tells him, and even in the darkness of the room Derek can see he’s frowning. “You’re going to put the nurses on high alert once they've noticed you’re missing.”

“They’ll live,” Derek tells him, and Spencer breathes out a laugh. “I’m glad you’re okay, man.” He squeezes the younger man’s hand in emphasis.

Spencer squeezes back, “Me too.”

“Blake says you pushed her out of the way.”

“I did.”

“Do you have a deathwish?” Derek asks, and a few hours earlier it might’ve been angry, but now it’s simply amused.

“There was a 76.5% chance it would’ve been a headshot,” Spencer says softly. “I’m 5.3 inches taller than her. It wasn’t a headshot on me.”

Derek thinks he should probably be mad. But the only thing he feels right now is an intense swell of pride.

“I can’t believe you’re trying to undermine my years of being the hero, pretty boy,” Derek smiles at him.

“I couldn’t have you stealing the spotlight all of the time,” Spencer quips back.

Derek shakes his head, and glances over to Penelope again. She’s still sleeping (thank Christ ) but he’s cutting it pretty close and it’s only a matter of time before a slew of nurses are in here trying to force him back into his own room.

Spencer, who has somehow always been able to tell what Derek’s thinking at any given moment, says, “You should get back to your own room.”

“I should,” Derek agrees. “Try and catch some shuteye, yeah?”

“You, too.”

He’s not getting any sleep anytime soon, but he’s at least smart enough not to say anything about it.

 

 

---

 

 

+1.

 

It’s been almost a month since Baylor shot Spencer.

Spencer only came back to work two weeks ago -- he was not happy about taking two weeks of medical leave, much to Hotch’s amusement -- and they’ve already closed another three cases. He should be happy, but Derek, however, has been stuck in turmoil since he left the hospital.

Spencer's latest brush with death has made Derek realize two things: 1) just how important Spencer was to him and 2) how the thought of not holding his hand again until one of them was on the brink of death literally made him want to swallow radioactive acid. If there's anything that Derek knows it's that waiting for the right time in their line of work is literally a death sentence. 

He's also tired of waiting.

For almost a decade his strong sense of self-preservation had kept him from saying anything about his feelings for Spencer. At first it was just a primal base attraction to the doctor's good looks (it had to be a crime for someone to be as pretty as Reid) but eventually Derek's feelings evolved into something a bit deeper. Okay, much deeper. His feelings for Spencer ran so deep that it was hard for Derek to go a single day without thinking about him. Which was just as embarrassing as he thought it would be to admit. 

Now, though, Derek just wants everything to be out in the open. He doesn't want to waste anymore time. The last month has been torture, going out on cases and not knowing if either of them would survive to see another day, and the weight of his feelings were getting to be too much. He had to tell Spencer.

He simply could not wait any longer. 

There was always the chance that Spencer wouldn't return in his feelings. In fact, Derek was almost counting on it. He didn't rely as heavily on statistics as Spencer did, but he knew it was very unlikely for him to return Derek's feelings. He wasn't even sure Spencer was into men in the first place (after all, they've never really talked about it). And even if he did get rejected, maybe it would finally kick start the healing process and Derek could get over it eventually.

Derek just hoped they could still be friends, after.

 

 

 

***

 

 

It's raining when Derek pulls up in front of Spencer's apartment building.

He parks his car as close to Spencer's apartment as possible, and starts the walk towards his building. It's nearly one in the morning, but Derek knows he'll be awake. They returned from a particularly gruesome case a few days ago, and while they haven't talked about nightmares in years, Derek knew Spencer still got them.

He did, too.

When he walks up to the front door, there's no sound coming from inside. It's not unusual, though. As fond as Spencer is of Star Trek and old Russian films, he rarely has the TV on this late. He's almost always reading at this hour.

He knocks once, twice, three times and waits.  

True to his suspicions, it isn't long before he hears the soft footsteps of Reid through the quiet calm of the hallway, and can't help but smile to himself. The door opens a few seconds later and suddenly there's Spencer, sleep-rumpled with his hair pointing in at least fourteen different directions. There are dark bags under his eyes like he hasn't slept since they got back to Virginia, and it wouldn't even surprise him if that were true.

"Derek?"

"Hey, kid," Derek says, clearing his throat. "Sorry about dropping in like this..."

"Don't be stupid," Spencer tells him, and in the same breath he steps out of the doorway so Derek can get inside. 

Derek's has been in Spencer's apartment countless times but it still never ceases to shock him. There are books on every single horizontal surface which means Spencer's been reading plenty again, and there's a single mug of steaming coffee on one of the end tables. Derek wonders how long he's been at it for. Then he decides it doesn't matter.

"Listen," Derek starts. 

"I always listen to you," Spencer cuts him off.

There's suddenly a bright warmth that fills his chest. Maybe this won't be as embarrassing as he had feared. 

Still, though, he hesitates. Now that Derek's here he doesn't know what to say. This had all seemed so much easier when it had just been a theory but now that the opportunity of admitting his feelings for Spencer is actually staring him in the face, he wants nothing more than to tell Spencer to forget about it and go home to lick his wounded pride in peace. 

"Derek?" Spencer asks again. "Are you alright?"

Derek hastily nods. "Yeah, I'm okay, kid. Give me a second."

"Okay."

As much as Derek would like to back out and just head home, he knows that he won't. He's already committed to coming over here. He might as well stitch his heart onto his sleeve while he's at it. 

If there's anyone in the world who would be gentle with it, he knows it would be Spencer.

"Last month, after Baylor shot you... I realized something."

"Oh?"

"I don't want to wait until one of us is dying to hold your hand again."

Spencer looks positively floored. It would be funny if Derek's stomach wasn't currently collapsing in on itself on a continuous loop. 

"What?"

"I think I'm in love with you," Derek blurts out. "Wait. No. That didn't come out right. I am in love with you."

Spencer just stares at him. He almost thinks an outright cry of disgust would have been easier to deal with, because now all he can see is Spencer's eyes, dark and impossibly wide. His pink, perfect mouth is open in surprise and it doesn't seem to be closing anytime soon. 

Derek's never felt more nervous. Not even when he had given his father's eulogy in front of the entire precinct and family. 

Spencer still hasn't said anything, and he hasn't stopped staring either. Derek knows how to take rejection when he sees it, even if it isn't verbally confirmed. He goes to step around Spencer to get to the door -- there's a bottle of Captain Morgan at home that is looking increasingly more appetizing as the seconds of silence trickle by. Just as he's about to take the first step, though, a hand stops him in his tracks and firmly grasps his wrist.

"Say it again."

Derek blinks. "What?" He asks, heart making a valiant effort to pound right out of his chest.

"Say it again," Spencer repeats.

Ah, right. That.

"I'm in love with you," Derek says. "I have been for years. Maybe since the beginning."

Spencer takes another step forward, and then another, until they're so close Derek can feel the younger man breath caressing his cheek. "Years?" He asks.

When he goes to meet Spencer's gaze, what he sees there makes him pause. Underneath the amusement is this happiness that Derek hasn't seen in too damn long. Hoping he isn't misreading the situation, he lets both hands grasp at Spencer's hips only to have two soft, warm hands cover his own. 

Derek's heart gives another forceful, answering pound. 

"Years," Derek confirms.

Spencer makes a noise in his throat, leaning forward to gently brush their mouths together. Derek melts into him instantly, unable to stop it even if he had wanted to. Spencer doesn't waste another moment before he answers in kind, hands tightening their hold on Morgan's own as they both move to deepen the kiss. 

He tastes like strawberries and the Colombian coffee he always drinks whenever they're not stuck at work, and Derek's tasted a lot of things in his time but he's never tasted anything as perfect as this. 

When breathing becomes a necessity, both of them pull back enough so Derek can rest their foreheads together.

Spencer grabs both of Derek's hands where they're still resting on his hips and laces their fingers together. Derek can't even begin to explain the explosion of happiness he feels because of it. 

"Tell me again," he says. "I need to hear it again."

Derek has never been able to say no to Reid when it mattered. "I love you. I love you, Spencer."

Spencer smiles, bright and wide. "I love you too, you know."

"Yeah?"

"Mmm," he makes an affirmative noise in his throat. "For a long time. I didn't realize what it was until you held my hand for the first time, though."

Derek wants to scream. They could have been doing this for years. "All this time, we could've been doing this." 

"That just means we have a lot of time to make up for," Spencer corrects him, a devious look in his eye that Derek wants to spend hours carefully taking apart with his tongue.

"Oh? Is that so?"

"It just so happens I excel at making up for lost time."

He laughs. "I bet you do, pretty boy."

Spencer squeezes their hands together one last time, and then starts leading him toward the bedroom. 

Derek's so happy that he trips over a discarded book on their way to Spencer's bedroom, and Spencer is laughing at him so brightly that he's helpless but to lean forward and see if his laughter tastes like it sounds.

(It does.)

original fic link - https://archiveofourown.org/works/7556806 tumblr - nicolojoe twitter - lyriumheart
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