Laura needed thicker pillows. Clearly, the ones she had were defective if they couldn’t even block out music from another fucking floor of the building. Even layering her pillows wasn’t enough! Two pillows stacked on top of her head, pulled down tight enough that she nearly smothered herself, and she could still hear the travesty that was Mr Downstairs' personal pity party.
She threw the pillows off the bed with a groan. It had crossed her mind (an hour ago) to call in a noise complaint, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Anybody who was playing Adele on repeat at 1am had to be going through a tough time and Laura wasn’t going to be that person to sic the cops on some dude who was probably drowning himself in ice cream and tears.
But also, one, Laura had work in the morning. She needed sleep! And, two, it was honestly the most depressing playlist she had ever heard. Even she was starting to feel melancholy and she hadn’t felt bad over a breakup in eight years. This guy had officially perfected the art of the breakup playlist if he was managing to make a proud aromantic tear up.
The music turned over from Adele to Daughtry and Laura couldn’t take it anymore. Her blanket joined the pillows on the floor and she was out the door without even pausing to grab shoes. It was probably rude to bang on a stranger’s door in the middle of the night, but it was also rude to play loud music in an apartment complex with thin walls in the middle of the night, so she figured no one had the moral high ground here.
She was perfectly ready to let loose a tirade of epic, sleep-deprivation-fueled proportions. It had been building up for the last hour and was on the tip of her tongue. And then the door opened to reveal the most pathetic picture she had ever seen, and all the fury disappeared because, while romance didn’t do much for her, she was still a massive softie at heart.
The guy was tall, his thin form absolutely swallowed by a sweater that was at least three sizes too big for him. The sleeves hung down over his hands in a way that made him look like a twelve year old playing dress-up. His hair was an absolute mess. There were tears and what looked like pillow creases on his cheeks, like he’d been lying face down while he cried.
The worst part was, he clearly knew why she was here.
He dragged one of his sweater-paws over his face, trying to scrub away the evidence of his intense crying jag, and sniffed as best he could through his stuffy nose.
“Sorry,” he said hoarsely. “Sorry, I know, I shouldn’t— I’ll turn it off, I promise, I just—”
“Do you want some company?”
The question surprised them both. She didn’t take it back, though. Her days off had been piling up for months—Workaholic? Maybe a little bit—and the office could survive one morning without her if she called in sick. Faced with so much concentrated pitifulness, her big sister instincts were overwhelming. There was nothing to do but give in to them.
The guy’s surprised face gave way to a trembling bottom lip, and then there were fresh tears. Laura decided to take that as a “yes”.
The apartment she let herself into was kind of a wreck, but the layout was the same as hers, so she didn’t have any trouble finding the kitchen. She pushed the crying boy down onto the couch as she passed and set about making hot cocoa; that always made Derek feel a little better when his relationships fell apart.
By the time she had two mugs ready for drinking, the tears had subsided a bit. The guy mustered up a smile for her when she handed it over.
Laura leaned over him to his laptop before answering and cut the music volume in half. She met his sheepish face with a very judgmental raised eyebrow, but also a grin.
“I’m Laura,” she said. “3B.”
Eyes flicking upward, his grimace intensified. “Yikes. Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Laura said breezily, as if she hadn’t been ready to put his head on a pike a few minutes ago. “So somebody really fucked you up, huh?”
The guy downed half his cocoa in one swallow, which was honestly sort of impressive with how hot it still was. “Yeah, you could say that again.” He smacked his lips and peered down into the mug, momentarily distracted from his sorrows. “This is really good.”
Laura dragged out the filler noise deliberately, head cocked to the side, and the guy rolled his eyes.
“Stiles,” he said. “I’m Stiles. Hi, nice to meet you, I’m a certified disaster.”
“I can tell.”
He made a face at her. “You’re not supposed to just agree when people say stuff like that!”
“Hey, you’re the one going for the gold in Olympic wallowing.” Laura nodded to the coffee table where, sure enough, there were three different pints of half-melted ice cream with spoons stuck in them. “I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.”
Stiles did a little head wobble that clearly communicated “yeah, okay, you’re not wrong” without him having to actually say it out loud. Somehow, he managed to throw himself backward onto the couch without spilling any of his remaining cocoa. Laura snorted into her own mug and claimed the cushy armchair as her own, since the couch was now fully occupied.
“How is it that you can love somebody so much—” Stiles said, waving his drink through the air for emphasis. “—dedicate your entire heart and soul to them, and they can just—” He made a loud, explosion-y sound effect noise. The cocoa sloshed dangerously. “—rip it out in a second?”
Laura rescued the poor drink and delivered it safely to the table. “Sounds rough, buddy.”
“And it’s just, like, how is it fair that she can just walk away?” Stiles went on, undeterred by his stolen beverage. “I thought we were in love! At least, I loved her. Like, the real deal kind of ‘miss you every minute, your laugh is my favorite sound, might want to marry you someday’ love. You know?”
“No, not really,” Laura admitted placidly. At Stiles’ questioning look, she shrugged. “I’m aromantic. I don’t do the whole relationship shtick.”
“God, I wish that were me. That must be so much easier.”
Laura pursed her lips. It took a second for Stiles to register her lemon-sucking expression, and a few more to parse it, and then:
“You get that a lot, don’t you?”
“You probably hate getting that.”
Stiles sighed, head falling back against the couch with a muffled thump. “Sorry.”
“I’ll forgive you just this once because you’re upset,” Laura said. “Trust me, I’ve got plenty of problems of my own. But I will admit that I’m glad I’ve never ended up here. ”
She gestured to the tableau before her. Some pop star was crooning about her broken heart—though, thankfully, at a much more bearable level now—the ice cream containers were starting to leak melty goop onto the coffee table, and the throw pillows under Stiles’ head all had damp patches on them. It was horribly cliché.
Stiles made a sad little whimpering noise and rolled over to bury his face in one of the damp pillows. He mumbled something that Laura couldn’t understand with how muffled it was, but she sighed anyway.
“I know it hurts, sweetie,” she said. “My brother once said having his heart broken felt like dying, which I still think is a little melodramatic myself, but I’m not here to judge or tell you how you’re feeling.”
Stiles emerged from the pillow to look at her, though his face stayed smushed up against it. “Why are you here? You don’t even know me.”
Laura smiled a bit. “Because it hurts,” she said simply. “And everything hurts worse alone.”
It must have been the right thing to say because it earned a few more tears, but even with them, Stiles didn’t look half as sad as he had before. He pushed himself upright again and rubbed at his eyes, laughing when all it did was get his sleeves wet again. Finally he gave up and let them fall unimpeded. He managed a watery grin.
“You’re pretty great, Laura from 3B,” he said. “Did you know that?”
“Yeah, I get that a lot too,” Laura told him solemnly. “It’s the cocoa.”
“It’s good stuff.” Stiles retrieved his mug and gave it a shake. “Mind making us some more?”
“Another round of magical, chocolatey, heartbreak-easing goodness coming up.”
Laura retreated to the kitchen, rooting around for another packet of cocoa powder from the back of Stiles’ pantry. It was a good thing his spice rack was in better shape than the rest of his apartment or she would’ve had to scrimp on her normal recipe, and what a shame that would’ve been. She was just measuring out the cayenne when Stiles said her name. She glanced back to see him cross-legged on the couch, hugging a pillow to his chest. His face was red, but dry.
He said, “Is it bad of me to say I’m glad I woke you up in the middle of the night?”
Cocoas in hand, Laura shook her head. “I’m glad you did too.”