The Opposite of Loneliness
Requested: the Reader discovers Reid with a book of social cues/making friends so that he can get her to like him.
Spencer gave her a spare key to his apartment a long time ago, when they first became good friends. Living only a few doors down, she is the one he entrusted to take care of his plants and make sure his fish don’t die while he’s away on a case. He’s been away for a few days when she notices the large package waiting for him at the front desk. The man behind the desk is familiar with their arrangement, and allows her to collect Spencer’s mail for him. Careful not to drop anything, she lets herself in and deposits everything on the coffee table in his living room.
It’s then that she notices the books stacked on the couch, and she can’t help but to look at the covers. Spencer never leaves books out like this. How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less; Emotional Intelligence: Socially Awkward No More; Improve Your Social Skills. The last one really strikes her – Stop Being Lonely: Three Simple Steps to Developing Close Friendships and Deep Relationships. Is he lonely? Has he been hurting all this time and she never noticed? Next to the books is a ring of index cards, and though she feels bad snooping, she’s worried about him.
Picking them up, she briefly flips through them, expecting to find tips on making friends, or perhaps insights into his emotions. Instead, his messy handwriting has marked each card with short notes.
The Breakfast Club is
a movie from the 80’s, directed by John Hughes, not a restaurant.
The phrase “Challenge Accepted” is from a TV show called How I Met Your Mother.
Tumblr is a website where people create customized blogs, not a cup to mix drinks in.
When she talks about Hamilton, she usually means the musical, not the historical canon.
Taylor Swift is not related to Jonathan Swift. She likes the video of Taylor Swift’s song mixed with the screaming baby goat. It makes her laugh.
Her favorite musician is Regina Spektor. Ode To Divorce always makes her cry – it reminds her of her parents. When it does, she doesn’t want to talk about it, but she does want someone to hold her hand.
That card makes her breath hitch in her throat, and stands paralyzed with them in her hands. Every index card is filled with pop culture references, but what’s more, they’re all her favorite things. One by one she flips through them, scanning for anything else, but they’re all her. He’s been taking notes on all the things she likes so that he’ll understand what she’s saying or what she’s referencing.
“Y/N? What are you doing here?” The sound of his voice makes her jump, and she turns to see him standing in the doorway of his bedroom. He’s been home this whole time? He must have gotten back late last night, as he always calls her to let her know when he’s returned. When he realizes what she has in her hands, his eyes grow wide, and his mouth falls open. Horror-stricken. “Wh-what… how did – where did you get that?”
“It was on the couch,” she says softly. In sharp contrast, her heart is beating too loudly, so loud she cannot think. It’s hard to breathe. The only thing she can think to do is flee. “Um – I didn’t think you were home. I brought your mail. I’ll just be going, then.”
She starts towards the door, but just before she can open it, something stops her. That title flashes in her mind – Stop Being Lonely. What will he think if she runs away now? So she turns back to look at him, still rooted to floor in the doorway of his bedroom.
“Those index cards- what are they for?”
The sigh he heaves is so deep it seems he’s exhaled his very spirit. He rests his head in his hands and mumbles, “They’re references to pop culture. Things I wanted to learn.”
Fingers shaking, she glances back down at the stack. White paper covered in his messy, scrawling script. “But these things – they’re all about me.”
The tentative statement rests in the air, and her heart beats so loudly as she waits for him to respond.
“Yes,” is all he gives her.
“Because…” Spencer looks up at the ceiling, eyes searching for answer that won’t appear for him, no matter how hard he wills it to be so. “Because I don’t want to be lonely anymore. I want to make friends, and I want to understand people. I’m not good at that.”
The books on the couch tell her as much, and it breaks her heart that he’s so achingly lonely, longing for a connection. Still, it hasn’t answered her question. “But why me? Why only the things I like?” She’s not sure why her voice has fallen so soft, but she feels she is treading lightly, afraid to wake up whatever revelation lies sleeping.
Spencer walks over to her and takes the index cards gently from her hands, setting them aside with the self-help books. He gazes down at her, and never did she think that a single look would be able to take her breath away. All she can focus on is the softness in his eyes and how near he is to her.
“Of all the people I want to understand, you mean the most. When we talk, I want to catch all the references you make to books and music. I want to know what movies make you happy and what movies make you cry. I want to be able to read you, as easily as I can read my favorite stories. I want to feel the opposite of loneliness, but I want to feel it with you.”
Like a broken record, she repeats, “Why me?”
He shakes his head, bemused by all her questions. “It had to be you. It’s always been you. Ever since that first day you came racing up the steps and nearly knocked me over. There was so much life in your eyes, and just by proximity to you I felt more alive. I wanted to feel that away every day. Then that night you fell asleep on my couch after we watched The Breakfast Club, and you told me about your parents, something in my heart changed. You changed me, and I’ve never been one to like change, but it’s different with you. I feel better with you. You make me better.”
The air around them feels heavier and she struggles to breathe it in. There are so many words, so many things to process, and she can’t quite wrap her head around the pieces of the puzzle that are falling into place.
“That can’t be right. I’m not anyone special.” There’s no way that someone like her can have changed someone like him – someone so brilliant, so brave.
He takes half a step closer, and she swears that for a moment, the world stops spinning. “You are the most beautiful person I have ever known.” Briefly, his hand cups her cheek, before he pulls away. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I – I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“You haven’t,” she assures him.
“I know I’m weird, and I’m awkward, and I’m not particularly attractive, but I do care about you. Very much. It’s just that I’ve been alone for so long, and I know that doesn’t exactly help, but…” He’s rambling faster than his brain can keep up with, face red and jaw clenched. Anxious. Scared. It’s then that she realizes he’s bracing himself for what he thinks is going to be an inevitable rejection. Apologizing for allowing himself to feel something for her.
“Spencer,” she says, cutting him off. “You don’t need to explain anything. I understand.” Then, she places one hand on his chest, right over his heart. “And you’re not alone. You’re not, okay? I’m right here. I know you, and I don’t care whether or not you know about John Hughes movies or popular songs. None of that changes how I feel about you.” Though she has to admit, she’s overwhelmed by the gesture. Who else would take the time to keep track of all of the things she loved simply because they wanted to make her happy? There is nobody else on the planet like him. This man before her, he’s nothing short of incredible.
“H-how do you feel, exactly?” he asks. She decides not to justify that with words. Instead she pulls him closer, stands on her toes, and presses her lips to his. Once, soft, for just a heartbeat, before pulling away to meet his eyes. When he doesn’t protest, she moves back in, and he responds in kind, kissing her deeply, passionately. His hand in her hair, her arms around his neck. Nothing is left unsaid in the movements between them.
“I don’t want you to be lonely,” she whispers, when they part. “I want to be with you. I want to be by your side. I’ve wanted that for so long.” When he pulls her into a tight embrace, burying his face in her shoulder, she can feel him trembling. That burden of isolation he’s been bearing for so long has finally been set down. The disbelief and shock overtakes him, and it’s all she can do to hold him as he cries. She’s crying too, and she doesn’t know why – only that there is some empty ache within her that has now been filled, a place she didn’t realize had been hollow before.
With time, the books slowly disappear. The spend some much time enveloped in the opposite of loneliness together, and it’s deliriously blissful. He takes her to meet his team, and she can see how much they love him. How much they care.
He needs no book to tell him how to form deep relationships and meaningful connections. All the connections have been there before him, all along. Waiting for him to realize the love he has for them is not one-sided. Waiting for him to accept the love he is more than worthy of.
And when it’s late and they’re lying side by side, all she can think of is how lucky she is that she is the one who gets to give such love to him. And she is the one who is so loved by him.
No, they aren’t alone anymore. This, this is exactly the opposite. An emotion she cannot name, but knows by heart each time he looks her way.