It’s funny, when he’d gotten off the train, Morgan hadn’t really said anything to him. They’d met each other’s eyes from a distance and then they’d gone to the hospital separately, and then… well, now they’re there and Spencer finds himself being pulled into a bear hug, Morgan’s lips close enough to his ear to fuel a lifetime of fantasies. Well, the nearness, and how good he smells, and how nice it is to be held hard...
“What did I tell you?” Morgan asks him, voice low.
“Something about not ‘letting’ me be alone with the gunman? Or the part where you thought you could learn sleight of hand in a half hour?”
“The part where I told you not to take your vest off, dammit.”
“He could have shot me in the head if I didn’t.” Spencer says, which he feels is a perfectly logical defense of his actions, but saying so only has Morgan holding him tighter.
He doesn’t mind it.
Morgan remains clingy, on the way back from Texas. It’s… nice. Of course, Spencer is pretty sure Morgan wouldn’t call himself ‘clingy’. ‘Watchful’, maybe. Or… something. ‘Vigilant’. ‘Not trusting you to have the sense God gave you’, that might be what he’d say.
He doesn’t mind that, either.
He doesn’t mind it when Morgan doesn’t so much offer him a ride home as insist upon it, calling him ‘pretty boy’ and slinging an arm around his shoulders before he can refuse.
“You know, you don’t have to worry about me.” He says, when they separate at the car.
“Well, I beg to differ, because I seem to remember telling you not to take your vest off, and I seem to remember you taking your vest off.”
“Yeah, I told you, I had a good reason. I do know what I’m doing.”
Morgan sighs, opening the passenger’s side door for him. “I know you do. But that doesn’t mean I won’t worry, when you go in and I’m not there to back you up.”
“Okay, well… next time.” He smiles. “We can go put ourselves in danger together.”
“You won’t be in danger. You’ll be with me.”
Okay. Okay. So now he just has to spend the ride home pretending that didn’t completely obliterate him and that he’s not kind of pathetically in love with Derek Morgan and that he hasn’t been for a while now. And it’s one thing if his stomach twists up and his face feels warm when Morgan teases him, teasing is… fine, it’s fun, it’s not serious, it’s how he is. But this? This is different.
This is Morgan’s knuckles softly meeting the side of his chin, before he closes the car door for him. This is the floaty feeling that accompanies the car ride, the world shrunken down to the bubble of space around them, radio playing-- quiet, but there. This is the sudden anxious want bubbling up inside of him when they pull into a parking spot and he finds he’s not done sitting next to Morgan in comfortable near-silence.
“I don’t suppose I could ask-- or you would want-- That is, if I invited you up for a minute? Like, for coffee, or for-- or to hang out?”
Well that was the exact opposite of smooth. Is there a better way of announcing you’ve never had a normal friend before than to ask to hang out like that ? Also, to announce that you have never asked someone to spend time together in a less friend and more date-like manner?
“I’d like that.”
“You would? I mean, great! Coffee, or, um-- or I could make popcorn, we could watch a movie, or… I don’t know. Or…”
“I’d like that.” Morgan repeats, turning the key and shifting into park, in the spot outside Spencer’s building.
“Great. Excellent.” Spencer nods, nearly trips over himself in getting out of the car.
“So what are we going to watch? Go ahead, hit me with your best shot, unload the nerdiest thing you’ve got.”
“I’m afraid my nerdiest movie pick is too time-intensive. Would you like to see the dumbest movie I put on when I just need to stop thinking for a while?”
“Absolutely.” Morgan’s hand moves to his back, and stays there until they’re inside his apartment.
And just like that, they’re sitting together on Spencer’s couch-- well, not just like that, but it’s close enough, and Morgan’s arm stretches across the back of the couch and their hands never quite meet in the popcorn bowl, but the idea that it might happen is kind of enough excitement for one night.
“So this is your idea of dumb? How many PhDs does this guy have?”
“Only two.” He shrugs, and Morgan laughs.
“You know your dumbest movie is someone else’s nerdiest movie, right?” He teases, hand coming up off the back of the couch to ruffle Spencer’s hair.
“I never said it wasn’t nerdy, just that it isn’t the nerdiest thing I have. If you would prefer Star Trek--”
“No, no, I gotta see how all these PhDs are gonna stop this alien invasion. I never realized Robocop was this pretty…”
“Right?” The fervent agreement is startled out of him. There’s no walking that back, but then… if Morgan can recognize when a man is pretty, he probably won’t call Spencer out for being able to do the same. Would he? Maybe it’s a stupid thing to worry about, but then, it’s not like anybody at work is privy to the details of Spencer’s sexuality. They assume and he lets them, it’s neater.
“I mean, not as pretty as you.” He adds.
“What?” Spencer’s laugh verges on ‘hysterical’. “No, he’s way prettier than I am. He’s got… lips.”
“You have lips.” Morgan laughs at him.
“Yeah, but not like that!” He gestures at the screen, makes the mistake of turning towards Morgan, and he really has no idea what to do with the way he’s being looked at. He doesn’t want to read too much into it, but it’s very tempting to imagine that the warmth could mean something.
“Face it, pretty boy.” He pinches Spencer’s cheek, still laughing. “Facts are facts, you’re cute.”
And so he squirms and bats ineffectually at Morgan’s hand and soaks up every nanosecond of attention. He knows there are social conventions at play-- even if they don’t make any sense to him-- and that he has to pretend he doesn’t love this, but not so convincingly as to make Morgan think he doesn’t enjoy it at all. There’s something exhausting about the confusion of intrapersonal relationships…
It’s more rewarding than he once thought.
“You know, next time, we should watch your favorite movie to not think to.” He suggests, and hopes that it’s not coming on too strong. He’s not sure if it counts as coming on at all, it’s a fairly benign thing to suggest to a friend, and it’s only fair, but he can’t help second-guessing himself.
“It’s a date.”
“It is? I mean-- nice. Good.” He winces. “It’s a date.”
“Yeah. Next time we’ve got an evening off that we’re not too exhausted to enjoy.”
Next time. A date. A date-date? He can’t quite bring himself to ask for clarification. He doesn’t think Morgan would be mean about it-- he teases, a lot, but it’s never his intention to hurt. He does think it’s possible he’d laugh, at first, but not much. He thinks it’s probable he’d feel sorry for him, a little embarrassed… and then things would be weird.
It’s just that he can’t quite let go of the idea that the warm looks and the word ‘date’ and the general overprotectiveness and the touching and the remarks about his prettiness could mean something. On the one hand, he’s got very little experience in believing good things could happen to him, especially romantically, but on the other hand, if this was happening to someone else, he would say there was some potential there.
He manages to get through saying goodnight like a normal person who sees his colleagues every day and is definitely not weird about it. He doesn’t really sleep.
Not over Morgan, or not only over Morgan. Being alone with his thoughts means remembering the threat of being shot, not to mention seeing everyone else on the train get shot, if he’d handled it all wrong. They’re not thoughts conducive to a good night’s rest. And that’s on top of the usual insomnia.
At least his caffeine consumption is usually not cause for comment… though he must look rough enough while making himself a cup, because Garcia and JJ both hover around him giving off an intense air of concern.
“I’m okay.” He says, though it doesn’t seem to convince them.
“Are you, though?”
“After an experience like the one you’ve had--”
“I’m not even thinking about that, honest. I’m just… I just need some coffee, and I’m good.”
“Are you sure?”
I don’t know, he doesn’t say, what does it mean when you keep wistfully longing for your crush to put you in a gentle headlock? It seems… not good.
Not that it needs to be a headlock. That’s not a thing he thinks he’s into. He just… likes being messed with, the way that Morgan messes with him, which is different from the way most people have messed with him. He likes being grabbed for and mussed and treated like… like he’s not someone Morgan wants to hurt or upset, he’s just a guy, like a guy who can be messed with in a fun way, the kind of physical playful way other people-- bar those who did want to hurt or upset him-- seem to act like he couldn’t take or wouldn’t want to. And okay, he wouldn’t, from most people. Physical contact is a weird thing, he’s defensive about it even when he doesn’t want to be, even when he craves it. It’s hard. And if Morgan were gentler, maybe he would like it less. Not in a masochistic way-- he doesn’t think-- but because there’s something satisfying about the firmness in it, something that relaxes him.
It’s really only a couple of days of waiting and wondering, before they’re both free, and Morgan asks him if he’s good with dogs, and he’s not what he’d call good with them, but he’s not bad with them. He’s… slightly nervous and awkward with them, but if he’s honest, ‘slightly nervous and awkward’ is one of his better settings.
Clooney is one of those dogs that could look intimidating, good-sized and well-muscled and sturdy, but it’s hard to be intimidated by a dog whose stub of a tail is wagging so hard his whole back end goes with it, not to mention the look of pure adoration he turns on his owner. And the look of pure adoration Morgan gives him right back, dropping to one knee once they’re inside and vigorously rubbing Clooney, from his face down his sides.
There’s a big, cushy dog bed in the living room, with a blanket, a basket with toys. A leash hanging up by the door on a hook next to Morgan’s keys.
“Clooney’s got a nice set-up.” Spencer says.
“You have no idea how carefully I vetted his dogwalker.”
He laughs. “Did you make Garcia do a full background check on some college student?”
“Maybe. My special boy’s gotta be in good hands. He’s been through a lot. Huh, buddy? You deserve the good life.”
Spencer and Clooney greet each other nervously, the tail wagging dying down a little, the two in a mutual agreement to trust each other for Morgan, but to give each other some space. Clooney gives him a sniff without sticking around to be touched, and Spencer gives him a wave in return-- to Morgan’s amusement.
“If he really makes you nervous, I can put him in the bedroom with his food and water and stuff-- he’ll be happy rolling around on the bed for a while.”
“No, no, this is-- no, I’m cool. We will… get to know each other.”
“He doesn’t bite.”
“Neither do I. Um, I mean, you can tell him that.”
Morgan laughs, motioning to the couch. “Go ahead and sit down, I’ll grab us something. I’ll leave the door for him if he wants a little alone time, and he can decide whether he wants to watch the movie with us.”
Spencer sits, and Clooney regards him with some caution from a slight distance, flopped out on his belly. When Morgan gets back, bearing chips and drinks, Clooney scoots over to rest his chin on Morgan’s foot.
“Any guesses as to what you’re in for?”
“Are you asking me to profile you? Because we have a rule…”
“Just asking you to guess.” He lays his arm across the back of the couch, as he had at Spencer’s place.
Morgan cocks his head to one side. “Really?”
“Is that the vibe I give off?”
Spencer shakes his head. “I don’t think the you that you are at home can be reduced to the vibe you consciously craft.”
“Mm… half points.” He says, after some thought. “There are laughs. There is kissing.”
“So you and Clooney are big softies?”
“Oh, I’m man enough to admit it, baby.”
Spencer settles back, leaning his head against Morgan’s arm. Morgan starts the movie. They fall into the comforting familiarity together, when it turns out they’re both capable of parroting swathes of dialogue along with the movie.
“Who does he remind you of?” Spencer shifts a little, his shoulder coming to fit against the curve of Morgan’s underarm, so that it’s a bare twitch of his arm to nudge him in the ribs for further attention.
“I don’t know.”
“Okay, okay, but… try and imagine him, like, twenty years older.”
“I really don’t know.”
“See, you’ve got to-- focus on the voice, but ignore the accent.”
“I can’t ignore the accent.”
“Yes, you-- look, just… focus on the eyes and the voice-- when he says ‘you son of a bitch’, try to not think about the accent and tell me who he reminds you of.”
Morgan snorts, flicking at a lock of Spencer’s hair. Or possibly flicking at his ear and missing, it’s hard to be sure.
Over the course of the movie, Clooney worms his way under their feet, back pressed to the sofa, where he seems content to be a gently snoring footrest, and Morgan’s arm drops around Spencer’s shoulders, comfortably heavy.
“You passed the Clooney test.” He smiles.
“Because I didn’t want you to lock him in the other room?”
“No-- if you had really been nervous around dogs, it’s better for him to be alone for a little while in a place where he’s comfortable, plus if I crack the patio door he can get out to the yard… it’d be more stressful for him to be around someone who’s afraid of him. I’d just have to start out introducing you slow, with a door in between you.”
“Like introducing an old pet to a new pet.” He nods.
“You said it, not me.” Morgan laughs, jostling him a little. “It usually takes him a long time to warm up to someone. Especially men. The rescue got him in pretty bad shape… huh, buddy?”
Clooney smiles up at him and gives a little wiggle, before he flops his head back down.
“He was shaking like a leaf in the back of his kennel the first time I saw him. They said if I was looking for a good guard dog, I didn’t want this one, I said look, I’m with the bureau, I don’t need a good guard dog. But he looks like he needs a good guard human. I sat on the floor and talked to him until he came around. Now… he feels safe in his home. But sometimes if I have someone else over, he’ll go and hide. He’s a sweetheart… he just… when he was young, someone he trusted to take care of him just wanted to use him, hurt him… so he had to learn to let himself be loved. It’s pretty scary, when you’re used to having it rough, and you’re not sure when the good stuff’s going to go away again. Not sure if someone who seems nice really just wants the same things…”
Clooney wriggles out of his spot so that he can rest his head on Morgan’s knee, stub tail starting up again when Morgan rubs the broad top of his head. He takes his arm back from around Spencer’s shoulders, only to hold a hand out to him.
“Here, give me your hand.” He says, and Spencer doesn’t think twice, or really finish thinking once, before placing his own in it, their fingers lacing together. Morgan rests their linked hands on his thigh, and Clooney snuffles at them gently.
If he’d simply been told to hold his hand out to be sniffed, he might have been nervous-- no, he knows he would have been nervous, which is no fault of Clooney’s, it’s not even down to his size, it’s that he’d have been nervous putting his fingers in biting distance of any strange dog for the first time. Like this, he doesn’t feel nervous at all. When Morgan lets go of his hand, he’s slow to take it back.
“You can pet him, just don’t come at him from over his head. If he decides he’s had enough socializing, he’ll go hide under the covers in the bedroom, but he’s pretty chill right now.”
“Hi, Clooney.” Spencer says, voice soft. He touches Clooney’s shoulder, sleek-soft fur warm under his fingers. Tries to mimic the way Morgan rubs and scratches at him.
When he’s had enough attention-- or at least, enough attention from this new interloper-- he retreats, but he doesn’t go off and hide under anything, merely flops out across his own big dog bed and rests his head on a bedraggled stuffed animal of some sort. At least, Spencer assumes it looked like a specific animal before being enthusiastically loved.
Morgan’s arm returns to its place around Spencer’s shoulders, their attention returns to the screen. They’re both mouthing along to the dialogue during the climactic sword fight, he thinks.
“Oh my God.” Morgan says.
“Oh my God.”
“I’ll never un-notice this.” He smacks the back of Spencer’s head gently. “I’m still going to be thinking about this on Monday.”
Spencer laughs and tucks himself in against his side for the remainder of the movie.
“Next time… your favorite?” Morgan asks, as the credits roll.
“It’s four hours long.”
“We’ll get dinner.”
“You really want to watch a four hour contemplation on the meaning of life, love, and identity, and the problem of communicating with an alien intelligence, which happens to come in the form of a distant planet’s ocean?”
“Is it your favorite?”
“Then yeah. I mean, I will make fun of you, but yes. I want to.”
“Oh.” Spencer bites his lip, against the threat of a smile that he can feel will be too much. “Cool.”
He sleeps well enough that night, but the nightmares are back full-force the night after that. Not nightmares where he relives his experience on the train, which he could handle well enough, but real nightmares.
Their next movie night has to wait for another case to be solved, and it’s a case he has to take on with more caffeine than sleep. He’s not his best self like this, he knows. He gets snappish with Morgan, and feels like an idiot pretty much immediately.
He also gets held at gunpoint, which is never ideal, but he’s had worse. The thing is, Morgan is there, and the one thought that keeps cycling to the forefront is Morgan telling him he wouldn’t be in danger, when they were together.
It still hurts when he’s collateral damage in the unsub getting tackled to the ground, and he’s admittedly sleep deprived and cranky enough to complain about that, but…
But he recognizes that Morgan had been sure about the unsub’s identity when he’d sent Spencer to the front of the house, and he can extrapolate from there-- Morgan had intended to take the boy down while Spencer was a safe distance away and with a building between him and any potential gunfire. He’s not entirely sure how he feels about that. Upset, that Morgan would intentionally arrange to be alone with the unsub… touched, that Morgan had wanted him clear before things got physical. Annoyed, that Morgan was so concerned with Spencer’s safety that he didn’t worry about his own. Ashamed, a little, at the thought that Morgan might have weighed it out and decided he was also safer if Spencer wasn’t there when he took their unsub down.
Relieved anyway, at the end of it all.
On the jet, he’s pretty sure Morgan is awake, lying down within close reach. He’s pretty sure, when he opens up about his nightmares, that Morgan can hear every word. It feels only fair, somehow. And easier, than confiding in him directly.
When Morgan shows up at his place that weekend, to order pizza and watch Solaris, he doesn’t make fun of Spencer once.
“You got any more four hour psychological dramas?” He asks instead, and his arm has once more migrated from the back of the couch to rest comfortably around Spencer’s shoulders, and Spencer has found it very comfortable in turn to sort of… scrunch down and nestle in against his side.
He’s contemplated slouching a little more in order to be able to lay his head against Morgan’s shoulder, but he hasn’t had the confidence to try. Maybe if he was shorter, it would seem natural to, but all things considered maybe it’s too much. Still… their movie nights have certainly gotten cozy. The thought that Morgan wants to spend another four-hour stretch like this is cozy, too.
“Well, Stalker comes in under three.” He answers. “But if you liked this-- Did you… like this?”
“Yeah.” Morgan nods. “I was expecting more… alien stuff, I guess. This was… deep.”
“Aliens can be deep.”
“Yeah, but you know what I mean, this was… more than that.”
“Yeah, well. It’s not a favorite for nothing.” Spencer shrugs. “Well. It’s, um, it’s late…”
“That’s what a four hour movie gets you.” He turns, his arm still around Spencer. “Is that a ‘you should get out of here’ it’s late or a ‘you should stay’ it’s late?”
“I-- I don’t know?”
Morgan kisses him, softly, at which point Spencer thinks he ought to be thinking of him as ‘Derek’, if you’re kissing someone, you’re probably on a first name basis. The fact that they are kissing is-- well, okay, ‘kissing ’ is a strong word for it, it’s over before he can kiss back, but definitely Derek leaned in and kissed him on purpose.
“Okay.” Derek doesn’t pull back far, and Spencer doesn’t want him to, though it feels like he has to keep telling his arms what to do before they wrap around him in return. “Why don’t we save ‘you should stay’, then. Keep taking things slow.”
“We could take things… less slow. Sorry, are we-- is this-- like, is there a word for this?”
“I don’t know. This isn’t… this isn’t my usual thing. Cuddling on the couch, I mean. I’ve been liking it.” He brushes a thumb over Spencer’s cheek.
“Me, too. Sorry, are we-- dating?”
Derek freezes. “Are we… not dating?”
“No, no! Definitely yes dating, please! I just-- I’m bad at… this. All of this.”
“But you’re on board with the kissing?”
“Very much so.” He nods emphatically. “I’m just… I don’t… date. And I never know when someone’s interested. In me. Or… I don’t know.”
Derek relaxes, sighs out a near-silent ‘okay’ as he does. This time, Spencer has the chance to kiss him back.
“I am, by the way.” He says, pulling back. “Interested.”
“I was starting to think you might be. I was hoping.”
“You were hoping two movies ago, right? I’m not imagining you laying down those signals?”
“Honestly, you probably know better than I do, because I never know when I’m laying down signals, either.”
“Well, you asking me up for ‘coffee or to hang out’ kind of felt like a come-on.” Derek’s hand rests at his waist, the other arm still around his shoulders, and the feeling of security that comes from just being held is just a lot. Spencer went so much of his life without the kind of security he’s only found now that he has a job where sometimes people might shoot at him.
“So why didn’t you kiss me then?”
“Because you had just walked into a hostage situation. Because you… Because I didn’t want to make a mistake, with you, after an experience with a lot of emotions and a lot of adrenaline-- not just for you. I didn’t want to say no, but I didn’t want to…”
“If you were just vulnerable, or lonely. Or...:”
“I might not know a whole lot about what I’m doing here, but I do know what I want and I know what I’m comfortable with. You’re not going to take advantage of me. I mean there are always going to be days when I’m vulnerable. There are going to be days where you are. That’s life. But I’m an adult. You don’t need to worry about me.”
“I always worry about you. But okay. You know what you want. I know what I want. We’re both adults. I’m just… I’m sorry we don’t get something easy.”
“I don’t think I’d know what to do with easy.” Spencer admits, shifting to move himself closer, find the least-awkward position possible for being as close as possible while kind of facing each other for conversation purposes.
“Okay, fair point. But you know what I mean. The job makes things complicated. The world makes things complicated. I think what we could have is worth complicated, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to have easy.”
The job… okay. Yeah. It’s not their team, who he likes to think would all be decent people about it, but they still have to answer to the rest of the bureau. There are still people with a not-inconsiderable amount of power over their daily lives who might not like that they’re dating and working together, and that’s the most generous reason that comes to mind for someone taking an issue with the relationship. He can’t just discount the idea that there might be some bigot up the ladder who would cause problems for them given half the chance.
“You think we should keep this a secret.”
“I think a secret is safer.” Derek sighs, pulls him closer still and presses a lingering kiss to his cheek. “Believe me, I’d rather be showing you off--”
“You would be showing me off?”
“Pretty young thing, certified genius… tell me where I don’t have a reason to show you off.”
Spencer opens his mouth, but nothing that comes out of it qualifies as a word, exactly. The kisses trail along his jaw, which doesn’t make him feel more coherent.
“One of these days, you’re going to believe me.” Derek whispers.
“When I call you pretty.”
“I just never thought it was an expression of… actual personal attraction, or-- um, intent.”
“Well… even genius has its limits, then. Hey…” He draws back, gives Spencer the serious look again. “We’re not going to hide it forever. I care about you. But we’re both where we belong, and I don’t want either of us getting moved because someone thinks we can’t work together.”
“Sure. But work up a good track record before we come out and it’s harder to argue.”
“Yeah. We good?”
“We are definitely good.”
“If we don’t have to fly out anywhere tomorrow, you want to come over? Get some takeout, watch a movie?”
“You didn’t get sick of me after four hours tonight?”
“Clooney’s been asking about you.”
“Well… I mean, if Clooney misses me, I have to come over. I’d be a monster not to.” Spencer grins.
Maybe he could become a dog person…