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Dear Spencer,

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.“ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. Otherwise known as the greatest love story of all time. Of course, that quote is from Mr. Darcy’s first proposal, which I’m sure you remember didn’t turn out too well. Let’s forget that, okay?

Spencer. Spencer, Spencer, Spencer. I don’t know why I’m writing this. I like the way your name feels in my mouth. I like the way you say it when you’re introducing yourself. I like the way Reid feels in my mouth, too. I like the way Spencer Reid moves my lips. I can’t explain it, but it fits you. I like a lot about you.

To be honest, I’m only writing this because of JJ. You wouldn’t know it, but she can keep secrets like nobody’s business. She’s known for about a year, now. She told me that writing it out in a letter would help me sort out my feelings. I told her she was batshit crazy if she thought I would be writing you a letter, but she kinda just laughed at me and told me I never needed to send it. So that’s what I’m doing.

Spencer, Spencer, Spencer. Oh, what can I tell you here that matters? You won’t read it. I can say anything. That might be too much freedom, actually. I might show this to JJ when I’m done, just to keep me honest. Don’t need my imagination getting too carried away—at one point it just gets pathetic.

I guess it all started about two weeks after I first joined the team. I hate being the newbie, but everyone here was so nice about it. And you, you, adorable, nerdy, chronically late you were the nicest of all of them. I remember watching you play chess on the jet. You against everyone else on the team, and you still beat their ass every time. And don’t get me wrong, before that moment I definitely thought you were cute—who wouldn’t?—but it was totally platonic.

But then you sort of looked up at me—no, not at me. For me. You won the game again, and then it was like you suddenly noticed I wasn’t there. I was sitting a few seats away, and I remember seeing your head pop up over the seat like a gopher. Is that the right animal? Maybe not. But you looked at me, and you smiled, and you said—I think this could be word for word—you said, “Why don’t you come join us? I’m sure they could use your help.”

And I swear to god, whatever god you’d like, in that moment my entire stomach dropped to my toes and I thought, “Oh shit. This is happening.” It was like a light switch. You turned into an entirely different person. Out of nowhere, you went from Spencer-the-coworker to Spencer-the-crush. I never had any time to adjust, you just grabbed my wrist and took off sprinting.

So I joined the game. And you totally kicked my ass. I still haven’t gotten any better at it, by the way, but I’ll let you in on a secret: I haven’t been trying. I like seeing how proud you get when you win.

What next? One time, we were all out at a bar after a case, and you had been drinking. I looked at you, and you were tipsy, and your cheeks were red, and your hair was messy, and you couldn’t stop grinning. I don’t really remember what we were all talking about, I think Derek was telling a story. But you and I were sitting next to each other. You looked at me, and you leaned over, but you got dizzy or something so you put your hand on my thigh and you whispered in my ear, “You know, I’m not actually one for bars, but it’s really funny to watch you pretend you care about what they’re saying.” Your lips touched my ear. You pulled away and smiled at me and then held a finger to your lips like you promised to keep my secret.

This is so embarrassing, but that night I went home and

Well. Sorry JJ.

What you didn’t realize was that I wasn’t trying to pretend I cared about the others’ stories—I was pretending not to care about you. Bet you feel stupid now.

Don’t even get me started on how I felt after we got closer. I hope you don’t mind, but I call you my best friend. I don’t know if you call me your best friend, though. I thought maybe being friends with you would force my crush to go away. But no. It just grew and grew and grew. All those nights at your place watching Doctor Who, listening to you talk about everything, organizing your books, trying to cook. You gave me a sweater because I was cold. I still have it. If you remember our fight about the unsub who decapitated his victims just to

You remember the case. I shouldn’t bring work into a love letter. But I went home that night after we were done screaming at each other and I put on that sweater and I cried.

I think I should stop now. I think if I keep going, I would never shut up. One last thing, in case you haven’t realized it:

I love you. God, it hurts. I love everything about you. Please don’t hate me. Whenever you touch me, I feel guilty, because it makes me so happy and you think I’m only interested in you as a friend. Our friendship is still real, I promise. I’m still real.

Who am I kidding? You’re never gonna read this.

I shouldn’t have showed JJ the letter. I was sitting, and I was thinking about it, and I just knew it was a dumb idea. She didn’t need to know any of that. She would only try to—

CHEETOBREATH : You should show Spencer the letter.

Fix things. She would only try to fix things. At least she was messaging me over the private chat server Garcia had set up for the team, far away from the prying eyes of the Bureau. If she tried to talk to me face-to-face, I might have had to hide under the desk.

Less than ten seconds later, I was replying.

PRIDEANDPICKLEJUICE : Abso fucking lutely not

CHEETOBREATH : if you really feel this strongly, he needs to know

PRIDEANDPICKLEJUICE : no he really doesn’t? 

CHEETOBREATH : this is bigger than I thought, I’ll admit. I thought you just had a crush, I didn’t think you actually loved the guy

PRIDEANDPICKLEJUICE : did you read the whole thing?

CHEETOBREATH: Yes. I really really think you should give it to him. It isnt healthy keeping feelings THAT strong to yourself. And you obviously mean it all. I mean, how long did you like him before I figured it out? You can’t just pretend to be his friend forever.

PRIDEANDPICKLEJUICE: 1: I can and I will. 2: the whole point of writing the letter was so that I WOULD NOT HAVE TO TELL HIM! And 3: I’m not pretending to be his friend. I am his friend. I just happen to love him at the same time. People can do two things.

I looked up from my screen to glare at JJ, who was across the bullpen at her own desk. I could see the letter on the edge of her desk, unfolded and open for anyone to see. Out of some stupid romantic sentiment, I had written the letter on the expensive, ivory letterhead Spencer had gifted me a while ago.

PRIDEANDPICKLEJUICE : put the letter away before someone sees it.

She looked up, saw my death stare, and held her hands up as if to say, Woah, calm down. She grabbed a stack of files and put it on top of the letter. The bottom of it was still peeking out, but no one could read the actual content, I didn’t think.

CHEETOBREATH: What’s the worst that happens?

PRIDEANDPICKLEJUICE: he says he doesn’t like me like that. Our friendship is ruined. I slowly implode from the inside out. Become an alcoholic. End up jumping off a bridge.

CHEETOBREATH: the worst that happens is he says he doesn’t like you like that, things are awkward for a bit, but eventually it goes back to normal. Like it or not, I’ve known him a lot longer than you, and I know he wouldn’t be mean. Surprised, sure, but ultimately he wouldn’t stop being friends with you.

PRIDEANDPICKLEJUICE: how would you know, JJ?? You’ve never had to confess your love to him!

CHEETOBREATH :   honestly? You guys would be cute. And I’m not just saying that because you’re my friend. You get along really well, you’re always laughing together, you hang out outside of work. You’re basically already dating, without the benefits.

PRIDEANDPICKLEJUICE: I get along with YOU really well. I laugh a lot with you. We hang out outside of work. Do you wanna date me, agent? Is that what you want? 

CHEETOBREATH: depends, are you willing to work around will’s schedule? Don’t think he’d be too fond of me having an affair with my coworker—he’s already suspicious of Em and I.

PRIDEANDPICKLEJUICE: we’re all suspicious of you and Emily. There’s a betting pool.

JJ barked out a laugh, then clapped a hand over her mouth when people looked at her. I half smiled when she looked at me, wiggling my eyebrows.

Standing up, I grabbed my coffee cup and jerked my head to the kitchen. A silent, Follow me.

She nodded and stood up as well, smoothing down her pencil skirt before following. We didn’t speak to or acknowledge each other until we reached the quiet, tucked away kitchen. Lunch had just finished, so it was empty and still messy.

While I started a fresh pot of coffee, she started cleaning off a table. “Ridiculous. Bunch of grown men, still can’t clean up after themselves. Henry does better than this.”

“I can’t tell him because it would ruin everything,” I blurted. I couldn’t look at her, but I heard her slow down. “Because I know … I know he doesn’t like me like that. I’ve seen him when he likes a girl, and he’s never acted like that around me. There’s no stuttering. No blushing. He doesn’t flirt.”

“Well, you don’t flirt, either,” JJ said gently. “You don’t do any of that. Maybe, it’s because you’ve been friends for so long, you don’t need to. Liking him is so natural that it doesn’t change the way you act. It could be the same for him.”

I was shaking my head before she even finished. “No, JJ, you don’t understand. If he finds out I love him like that, he couldn’t just brush it off. I’ve felt like this for years. He wouldn’t—wouldn’t want to be friends with me after that. It would make things awkward. Then the team would start feeling it, Hotch wouldn’t be able to pair us together anymore.”

“The team is already feeling it! It’s so obvious how you two feel about each other, we can all see it. For god’s sake, you spent the weekend at his apartment just last week. Not a night, the entire weekend. You’ve told me yourself that you have your own drawer full of clothes over there! How is that not beyond a normal friendship?” She joined me at the counter, grabbing my shoulder to make me face her.

My cheeks were burning. I couldn’t look her in the eyes. The golden necklace draped around her neck shimmered in the light. It felt like she had reached into my chest and grabbed my heart, yanked it out, and shoved it in my face. “Please, JJ,” I whispered. “Please, just let it go. I shouldn’t even have written the note in the first place.”

“I want you to be happy,” she said quietly.

“You think I don’t know that? I do. And I love you for that. But … I don’t know. Some things are just better left alone.”

The coffee machine sputtered to a stop. I grabbed the pot and poured it too fast. It splashed out of the mug and onto my hand. Hissing, I shook my hand out. It wasn’t until I lifted the mug up that I realized it was the one Spencer had gotten me—a Pride and Prejudice themed one, with Mr. Darcy on one side and Elizabeth on the other. The background was the entire script to the 2005 movie version printed in minuscule font. It was like even when I was trying to avoid him, he found ways to creep into my life. Huffing, I grabbed the creamer and poured it generously.

JJ grabbed the pot after me and filled her mug. I could hear her heels clicking behind me while I pushed my way through the door with my back. “Face it,” I said. “This is just one of those things I need to suffer through alone.”

I turned, ready to return to my desk with my tail between my legs.

And then I stopped.

And my heart spasmed behind my ribs.

It was normal for my heart to do that whenever I saw Spencer. On instinct, I started to grin and lifted my hand to get his attention.

And then I saw what he was doing.

The bottom of the letter, which wasn’t covered by the files, was sticking out over the edge of the desk. He was bent over, reading the bottom paragraph.

The blood drained out of my face. “JJ,” I croaked. “JJ, JJ, look!”

She joined me at my side and cursed. Neither of us could move—we were frozen in horror as he slowly grabbed the letter and started to tug it out from under the files.

Spencer!” JJ blurted—loudly. I could see people stop to start at us, the two women who looked like they were caught in a rabbit trap.

Like her words shattered the ice in my legs, I lurched forward, feet clacking loudly across the floor. “What—are—you—doing?” I hissed from behind my forced smile. Reaching him, I grabbed his wrist and yanked it away from the paper. It was almost a third of the way out now—I dared a glance down—his name wasn’t visible. Maybe, I prayed, maybe he hadn’t figured it out.

He was smiling, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Is this yours?” He asked. He sounded teasing. Teasing! “Did you write this?”

“I—yes, but it’s not what you—”

“Woow,” he drew out. “Awfully romantic. Who’s it for?”

“Nobody!”

JJ caught up to us. She put her coffee down and snatched the letter out in one smooth motion, like a magician pulling out a table cloth. It was folded and in my hands before I could fully process it. “Do you not know how to mind your own business?” She asked. “That couldn’t have been more private.”

“It was an unfolded letter poorly hidden in a room full of profilers, JJ!” Spencer looked past her to where I was standing, cheeks red as apples. “Is that a love letter? I didn’t know people actually wrote those.”

“They don’t. It isn’t. Leave it alone.” I shoved the letter in my pocket and turned to go back to my desk.

I think I should stop now. I think if I keep going, I would nev— He started to quote.

“Shut the fuck up!” I whisper yelled. I looked at him, at JJ, and at all the coworkers attempting to listen in to our conversation. Screaming internally, I marched back and grabbed him and kept going without pausing. “Come on.”

“Who’s that for? Do I know them? Are you dating?” He rattled off questions as I dragged him into a dark corner of the BAU office to properly yell at him.

My hands were shaking. The stress of thinking he had found my letter made the blood pulse through my veins. “That was private.”

“It was out in the open.”

“Under a pile of files!

“Why does JJ get to read your love letters but I don’t?” He sounded almost whining now.

“Because JJ is—it isn’t a love letter!”

I love you. God, it hurts. I love everything about you. Please don’t hate me. Whenever you touch me, I feel guilty, because it makes me so happy and you think—” His eyes drifted up and over my head while he recited my secret words.

“Spencer, please.” I choked on my words. Knowing he had read them was one thing, but hearing him actually recite them to me … like they were his own thoughts … it hurt more than anything. It felt like needles were piercing my heart, one by one, syllable by syllable.

He finally looked at me. It must have been obvious that I was about to start crying, because he softened. “I just don’t understand why you couldn’t tell me. I won’t judge, whoever it is. I’m your best friend, I don’t know why you can’t trust me.”

I swallowed past the lump in my throat. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “No one was supposed to see that. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want anyone to know. JJ found out by herself.”

“Who is it? I’ve gotta know them, because you mentioned being friends.” His eyes widened. “Is it someone on the team?”

The idea made me hesitate too long—he had already jumped to his own conclusions.

“It is! You always complain about never having time to make friends outside of the BAU. It’s Derek, right?”

“I—what? No!” My voice skyrocketed. That only made me look more guilty.

“It’s not JJ, Emily, or Garcia. You would never go for Rossi. You call Hotch dad. Morgan’s the only one left.”

Stifling hysterical laughter—he never even considered himself—I shook my head. “Trust me, Spence. It isn’t Morgan. Never. In, like, a million years.”

His eyebrows furrowed the way they did whenever he had to actually try and figure something out. “But—”

“Spencer. Just drop it.”

I felt slightly better. It didn’t seem like he ever thought he was an option. Maybe us being so close was a blessing in disguise; he would never think himself dumb enough to miss the signs of me loving him. Though it was still humiliating that he had seen the letter. JJ was going to regret ever even reading it in the first place by the time I was through with her.

He sighed frustratedly. Ran a hand through his hair to push it out of his face. His eyes flickered over the bullpen. I could see him thinking, eliminating suspects. “Do you not trust me to keep a secret? Is that it? I find it very easy to keep things on the ‘down-low’, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

I put my hands on his shoulders, shaking him gently. “I trust you with everything, Spencer. This is just one thing I’m dealing with alone.”

I left him, then. If I stayed any longer, I would have yelled in his face, It’s you, dumbass! Always you!

And that just wouldn’t do for either of us.

💌

(Spencer)

I never thought I would miss my chance with her.

Logically, of course I knew she would start dating seriously at some point. Knew that if I didn’t tell her how I felt, she would find someone else. Someone braver. Someone who wasn’t afraid of opening up.

But this—this letter? I never thought I would lose her so fast.

The words floated around my otherwise empty head. I couldn’t focus on anything else. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see her face, aghast, eyes filled with tears, in front of me. She never intended for me to find out about him—whoever he was. That hurt the most.

I love you. God, it hurts. My feelings exactly.

How could I not notice her loving someone?

It was selfish. Trying to keep her to myself all this time without ever actually telling her I wanted her like that. Morgan wouldn’t shut up about it sometimes. “Just tell her how you feel, man up, pretty boy, you can figure out what kind of pen was used by the smell of the ink but you can’t tell a girl you love her?

It was more complicated than that.

Y/N was my best friend. Sometimes, at my lowest, she was my only friend. And I loved her more than anything.

And now I’ve lost her.

I stared at the files in front of me blankly. The words may as well have been in—well, whatever language I didn’t know.

I love you. God, it hurts. I love everything about you. Please don’t hate me. Whenever you touch me, I feel guilty, because it makes me so happy and you think I’m only interested in you as a friend. Our friendship is still real, I promise. I’m still real.

I could almost hear her saying the words. Groaning, I fell forward, burying my face in my hands. She had left with JJ and Rossi an hour ago, but I couldn’t make myself go home to that empty apartment filled with reminders of her. Usually I loved seeing her things sprinkled around, but now it hurt to think about, knowing I was no longer the main male in her life. There was competition, now. And I was not an alpha male type, never the type to swiftly steal a woman away. Not like Morgan.

I should have known. She was never interested in me, and it was stupid to get my hopes up. Stupid to let everyone who knew about my feelings on the team—which was everyone but her—get my hopes up.

I love you. God, it hurts.

I wanted to know what the rest of that letter said. I desperately wanted to know who it was addressed to.

“Kid?”

Morgan. How long had he been standing there?

“Mm.” I grunted. I couldn’t look at him.

“Uh … what’s up?” He punched my shoulder. It didn’t help, but at least he was trying.

Sighing, I debated whether or not to tell him. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I did. “She loves someone else.”

He leaned against my desk, crinkling the papers under him. “Who?”

“Who do you think?”

“I mean, who does she love, genius.” It was kind of funny that he already knew who I was pouting about.

“Dunno.”

“Then how do you know—”

“She wrote him a letter.” At this point, I sat up, fixing him with a glare. “A letter. On the paper I got her. She’s never written me a letter. Has she ever written you a letter?”

The fact that the letter was written on the letterhead I got her stung. It was what first caught my eye—I recognized the coloring and texture of the paper from a mile away. I picked it out specifically for her because I knew she liked novelty things.

He shook his head. “Can’t say that she has. It was a love letter? What did it say?”

I closed my eyes. “It was a love letter, it said lovey things.” Standing, I started to frustratedly pack up my things. The only thing worse than being home alone and sulking was being at work with Derek, sulking. “I didn’t read all of it, only the bottom part. She said she loves him. But … but they aren’t dating, yet. They’re just friends. He thinks they’re just friends, but she loves him. How could he not notice that she loves him?”

“Hey, kid, calm down.”

“No, Morgan! I don’t wanna calm down, I—I’m mad. She won’t even tell me who this guy is!” My voice did that thing where it got too high and cracked. It only infuriated me more. From the corner of my eye, I saw Emily look up. Great. Let’s just get everybody involved.

Morgan held his hands up defensively. “Don’t yell at me, Spence. I’m just trying to help.”

A bitter laugh ripped itself out of my throat. “Yeah, sure. You’re being real helpful. Just like when you told me she loved me back, that was also really helpful. A—and what about the time when you said I was the only one who didn’t notice her feelings about me? D’you think that was helpful, too? Because it wasn’t. All it did was it got my hopes up just for them to—to be crushed. Again.”

Emily walked up to us, exchanging a look I didn’t even want to interpret with Morgan. “Hey, Spencer,” she said casually. “What’s up?”

I glared at her. “Nothing, Emily. Just that I’m an idiot who can’t get the hint and was stupid enough to think Y/N might like me back.”

“Oh, well if it’s nothing, then.”

“You aren’t funny.” I grabbed my satchel and made to put it over my head, but Derek grabbed it before I could.

“Nuh-uh, kid, you aren’t getting out of this one.” He held it out of my reach.

“What happened?” Asked Emily.

“His girl is supposedly in love with someone else.”

She scoffed. “That’s not likely.”

“She wrote him a letter,” said Derek. He wasn’t taking it seriously—none of them were taking it seriously!

“Uh-huh.” Emily mirrored Derek’s position, leaning against my desk. “Well, who was the letter made out to?”

“I couldn’t see,” I admitted. “I only saw the bottom part.”

“And you’re sure it was a love letter, specifically?”

My breath flew out of me in a huff. “She wrote, and I quote, I love you. I love everything about you. Whenever you touch me, I feel guilty, because it makes me so happy and you think I’m only interested in you as a friend.” I omitted some sentences for fear of only growing more angry.

It hurt her to love him. She was afraid he would hate her for loving him. What kind of man was worthy of her if the thought of confessing her feelings scared her?

Morgan and Prentiss looked like they were having a silent conversation. She raised her eyebrows, looking faintly amused. He tilted his head, nose wrinkling.

“What? What is it?”

Emily pushed her hair behind her ear and said, “Well, I hate to break it to you, but that kind of sounds like she could be writing to you.”

That made me pause. I would’ve walked out had Derek not been holding onto my satchel still. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“We’re serious, Spencer. Think about it. She said, you think I’m only interested in you as a friendYou think she only likes you as a friend.” Derek poked a finger into my chest. “Did you read anything else?”

I backed up. The tie I wore felt like it was suffocating me. “Uh, she—she said, Our friendship is still real, I promise. I’m still real.”

Emily spoke next. “If she’s worried about confessing to you, it could be because she doesn’t want to lose the friendship.”

“You’re profiling her,” I snapped. “Stop that.”

“Where’s this letter now?”

“She took it home.”

“Alright, alright, let’s think for a moment. Worse case scenario is the letter was meant for someone else. What happens if you talk to her before she delivers that letter to anyone? Beat her to the punch.”

“No! I can’t do that.” I lunged for my bag, but he just tossed it to Emily and stopped me with a hand to my chest. “That would be humiliating!”

“There’s nothing embarrassing about confessing your love,” Emily admonished. “Girls love it when guys do that. Y/N especially, you know how much she digs those dramatic love confessions. You’ve seen her obsession with Pride and Prejudice, right? I’m not the only one?”

“Nah, that’s unhealthy,” Derek agreed.

I ran both my hands through my hair, grabbing it at the nape. “That’s different. That’s fictional, this is reality.”

“And the reality is that it doesn’t matter who she wrote that letter for.” Prentiss stepped forward, putting her hands on my shoulders. Even in heels, she was smaller than me, so I bent over a bit so she could look me in the eyes. “The reality is that the guy who’s man enough to go over to her house, look her in the eyes and tell her he loves her—that’s the man she’s gonna want to be with.”

Morgan was nodding behind her. “Face it, kid. This is the last chance you’re ever gonna get. If she gives that guy that letter and it isn’t for you, she’s gone.” He stepped forward, took the bag from Emily’s shoulder, and pressed it to my chest. I reached up to hold it numbly. “So go.”

“Ju—just go? Just like that?”

Shrugging, Emily huffed a small laugh. “Pretty much, yeah.”

Slowly, I started to nod. They were right. In some sick, twisted turn of events, they were right. And I didn’t want to lose Y/N, not to anyone. I tossed the strap over my head, smoothed down my sweater vest, pushed my hair out of my face, took off my glasses to clean them—

Go, Reid!” He pushed me away from the desk. “Call me from your honeymoon.”

“Alright, I’m going!” I held my hands up defensively while still walking away. My ears were burning, I could feel them watching me. I clutched the strap tightly, felt every beat of my heart against my bones.

Alright, Reid. You got this. All you have to do is go to your best friend’s house, confess your love, convince her to dump the guy she wrote a love letter for, make her love you back, and try not to cry or run away, despite your crippling fear of rejection and traumatizing past with women. It’s easy.

💌

I hated JJ. After I pulled her into the bathroom to yell at her—forgot to check for poopers, so Mary Lane from travel expenses heard all about my love life woes—she put her hands on my shoulders, looked deep into my eyes, and called me a pussy.

Which was fair. Uncalled for, but fair.

I left, and refused to talk to her for the rest of the day. When we left, I ignored her in the elevator. Rossi noticed the tension but didn’t say anything. Bless him.

At home, I took out the letter and reread it over and over and over again. I felt so stupid. And so weak. The opportunity was right there! All I had to do was give him the letter and walk away.

But then he started talking and he kept thinking it was someone else, and he was so stupid about it.

How could I tell him now? He was convinced I was in love with someone from the team. And he didn’t look disappointed or sad, he looked excited for me.

Excited.

Then, a knock.

I tossed the letter onto my coffee table and got up, shuffling over the the door. I had changed out of my work clothes into a pair of shorts and Spencer’s sweater he gave me.

Because of course I would be wearing his clothes and looking like a sad, lazy slob on the one day Spencer shows up at my door with no prior notice.

We stared at each other in silence. His face was red, chest heaving like he had ran up the stairs. I’m sure my face was starting to match.

“Dr. Reid,” I said diplomatically. My hand tightened around the doorknob.

“Agent,” he panted.

“Is there some—”

“Don’t give him the letter.”

We had spoken at the same time.

I blinked at him. He slowly pulled his lips in like he was trying to suck the words back out of the world. “Pardon?”

“Don’t …” He paused, looked around the hallway, ran a hand through his hair. It looked very artistic. “Don’t give him the letter. Please.” His voice dropped to a whisper at the end.

It was like my heart was a candle, he the burning flame. I could feel it dripping off itself, shrinking smaller and smaller. “Why not?” I was whispering, too.

His eyes were trimmed with red. Either he had been rubbing them a lot, or he had been crying. “Because.”

I waited, waited, waited. He didn’t go on. Spencer’s eyes were locked over my head now, his hands two tight balls at his sides.

The sigh basically fell out of me. “Come on,” I said, stepping aside.

He stepped through the doorway. Head on a swivel, as if he hadn’t been in my apartment a thousand times already. “I, uh … I was talking to Morgan. Prentiss, too. Well, she kind of just jumped in, I didn’t have much of a choice, but they were—”

“What do you want, Spencer?” I brushed by him, avoiding eye contact. I grabbed the letter and quickly folded it up again.

“I—sorry, what?”

“What do you want?” I crossed my arms. Stared at his polished shoes. “It’s been kind of a long day.”

He opened and shut his mouth, but couldn’t make any noise. Finally, he started, “I just wanted to talk to you. I don’t want you to give him the letter becua—”

“Do you wanna read it?” I blurted.

This wasn’t right. Neither of us could let the other talk. Maybe I didn’t want to let him talk, because I knew it would only drive the stake in deeper.

“No, I don’t want—”

“I really think you should—”

“Seriously, just listen to—”

I was unfolding the letter with shaking hands, shaking head, cold fingers. My body was moving without my permission, holding it open for a second before pressing it into his chest. “Just read it, for—”

“I love you.”

We both stopped. My hand still held the paper to his chest. I could feel his heartbeat through his shirt. And he was staring at me. Looking at me so intently I thought I might explode. Eyebrows furrowed, eyes glassy, lips parted.

I couldn’t breath. That wasn’t normal. I was usually very good at breathing. “You … you what?”

He said it again, quieter. “I love you.” His eyes shut. The veins in his eyelids were little lightning bolts. “So much.”

“Read the letter. Please, Spencer.”

I already had the words. Had had them for so long, waiting inside me for their moment to be free. If I couldn’t speak them, I would use my only other method of communication.

One of his hands—shaking like mine—came up to grab it. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet, but he looked pained. When he spoke again, his voice was croaky. “Please. I don’t want to.”

Frustrated, I took it into both of my hands and held it up, partially obscuring my face so he wouldn’t have to see the tears in my eyes. “Dear Spencer,” I started.

His eyes shot open.

“‘In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. Otherwise known as the greatest love story of all time. Of course, that quote is from Mr. Darcy’s first proposal, which I’m sure you remember didn’t turn out too well. Let’s forget that, okay?” My eyes flitted up to his. He looked terrified.

I had to lick my lips before starting again. “Spencer. Spencer, Spencer, Spencer. I don’t know why I’m writing this. I like the way your name feels in my mouth. I like the way you say it when you’re introducing yourself.” My cheeks were burning hot. I just wanted him to start talking to I didn’t have to keep going. I really wanted him to interrupt before I got to the bar story.

“I like the way Reid feels in my mouth, too. I like the way Spencer Reid moves my lips. I can’t explain it, but it fits you. I like a lot about you.”

He grabbed my wrist suddenly, forcing it and the letter to my side. “Stop.”

I sniffed. A vain attempt at regaining my computer. “Thanks. I didn’t want to read the rest, it gets really embarrassing.” My voice had shriveled up to a tiny little whisper.

Even though he was still holding onto my wrist, he didn’t speak. I could hear his uneven breaths. “The letter was for me? The whole time?”

I nodded. My eyes were fixed on the knot in his tie. If I made eye contact, I would evaporate.

After a moment of listening, I realized he was talking. It was very, very quiet, but I recognized my own words. He was reciting the section of my letter he had gotten to read. It probably meant something different entirely in this new light.

Out of nowhere, he moved, his hands moving up to cup the sides of my face. All in one motion, he stepped forward, invading my space, putting one leg between mine, lining up our chests. His breath fanned against my face. “Me?” He swallowed. His Adam’s Apple bobbed like a fishing bobber. “You love me?”

Nod. Try not to cry. Don’t grab him and hold him so tightly your rib cages lock together. “Yeah.”

His forehead rested against mine. Lips curling into a small smile. “Will you say it, please?”

“I love you.” I didn’t remember when I dropped the letter, but I had, and now my hands were grabbing the edge of his shirt, pulling him as close as I could. “So much.”

Like my words were the magic spell-breaker, he finally kissed me.

And it was fucking magical. Our lips moved together like we had been doing it our whole lives, a give and take of passion. He pushed, I pulled, and the fire in my belly grew to a roar.

My hands moved to his hair, tangling in the soft strands like I had so often dreamed of.

Spencer’s hands moved from my face to one on my back, one in my hair, holding me like I was so dear he couldn’t bare to let go of me.

I pulled him closer, held him tighter, tried to breathe through my nose so I didn’t have to pull away just yet.

Spencer was the first to retreat. For a moment I followed blindly, eyes still closed, like I could chase the kiss into a corner. But he gently stopped me, whispering my name. “I love you,” he told me. He kissed my cheek. “I love you.” Jaw. “I love you.” Neck. He sounded almost angry. His lips were hard against my skin, like he could permanently imprint the marks there if he pressed hard enough.

“Spencer,” I whimpered. My head fell back. “I don’t … how long?”

“Hmm?” He was more interested in investigating my thrumming pulse point than in what I was trying to say.

“How long have you loved me?”

“God, since forever. Two years and three hundred twenty four days, to be exact.”

“That seems long.”

“A week since I first met you,” he clarified.

“A week exactly?”

“Nearly. Give or take some hours. After a case. You were sitting next to me on the jet, and you were reading a book out of my bag. I was so confused, I didn’t even know when you got into my stuff. I asked why you couldn’t bring your own books, do you remember what you said?”

“Mm-hmm.” I hummed. “I said, ‘Just trying to figure out the enigmatic Dr. Reid.’ And you tried to tell me that you were an open book, but I called you on that bullshit real quick.” It was hard to focus with the way his teeth were working over my skin. I gently tugged on the ends of his hair to get his lips back in proximity.

He spoke to me between kisses. “I am an open book. I just happen to be very selective about who can read it. You’ve always been able to read me, though.” He was drifting again, nearly whispering into my ear. His hand on my back was falling dangerously close to the hem of my shirt.

“I don’t … I don’t know where we go from here.” Every inch of him was so warm, so familiar.

He hummed contemplatively. “Wherever you want. Just as long as you stay by me.”

My breath hitched. How could he be so sweet and so distracting at the same time? “Always,” I promised. “I’ll love you forever.”

And while his hands drifted over my body like they were trying to memorize it, I realized that that was exactly what I planned to do.