"In a sea of strangers,
you've longed to know me.
Your life spent sailing
to my shores."
-Lang Leav, Love & Misadventure
They met, of course, in a library.
She was one of the new librarians, young and fresh to the profession but not the hardships of life.
He was one of the first patrons, equally young and hardened.
She was pushing a cart of books down the aisles, humming softly to herself. He was walking from the other direction, balancing a ridiculous pile of books in one hand that might keep him occupied for a few hours. The other hand held a book open in front of his face, obscuring his view.
She didn't see him coming, having halted the cart and clambered on top it to reshelve a book that lived on a particularly high shelf. The library had ordered rolling ladders for convenience, but they hadn't arrived yet, to her never ending petite chagrin. His long legs ate up the aisle, and his peripheral vision worked well enough that he managed to swerve to avoid the cart, but not one of the wheels that jutted out awkwardly, catching his scuffed Converse.
There was a feminine yelp and an only slightly less-than-manly shout, a great clatter and crash as the cart collided with the bookcase, and a series of dense thuds as books rained from the sky. Then there was quiet as the two unfortunate klutzes stared at each other wide-eyed.
She had her arms instinctively raised to block blows from the falling tomes, but the defense was needless because in a great and - unknown to her - uncharacteristic show of reflexes and chivalry, he had snatched her around the waist and yanked her out of harm's way… and into his unintentional embrace.
He stared down at her; she was of average height for an adult woman but still rather short compared to him. He absently noted that she was quite pretty in an unassuming way, with an oval face, a rosy complexion with freckles dusting her nose bridge and voluminous chestnut curls caught back at the nape of her neck with a tortoiseshell clasp. Straight dark brows and thin lips gave her a solemnity that offset her girlish features, along with big brown eyes that were blinking owlishly up at him as her cheeks reddened and she shifted awkwardly in his stiff grip.
"Um." She cleared her throat. "Do you suppose you could let go of me now?" Her voice; a surprisingly low and sultry timbre tempered by a crisp British accent, was equal parts amused and embarrassed.
He released her like she was on fire. "Er - sorry." He muttered as one hand awkwardly jerked up to rub the back of his neck; not knowing what to do with his arms now.
"No, I should be thanking you." She said dryly, already gathering up the scattered books. "You saved me from some probably very painful and strangely geometric bruises." She said, examining the sharp corners on one particularly large book that had landed right where she had been standing.
"Oh - uh - you're welcome..." He responded, automatically beginning to help her clean up the mess. As she leaned down near him, her name tag dangled in his line of sight and he noted her name, "...Miss Granger."
She too glanced at her tag, logically inferring where he learned her name and not appearing surprised. "Hermione." She corrected. "I know it's a bit of a mouthful, but 'Miss Granger' seems a tad formal for the man who just saved my life." She said with a teasing lilt to her voice and smile in his direction that was little more than a flash of teeth.
"Hermione." He repeated. "You were named after the character from Greek mythology, the daughter of Helen of Troy." He rattled off the fact without thinking, then winced. He could imagine his friend shaking his head and rolling his eyes, nice job, kid.
But Hermione did not give him the baffled and vaguely disturbed look he had come to expect. She simply nodded, then commented absently, "And King Menelaus." The words came out grunted as she forcefully shoved a book back onto an already full shelf. He stared at her.
"What?" He managed. She glanced at him, eyebrows raised in response to his incredulous tone.
"Was I not supposed to know that?" She asked, a glint in her eyes. He quickly catalogued her body language - crossed arms providing a physical barrier against a perceived threat, chin lifted to convey defiance and confidence, rooted stance providing physical and psychological strength - and deduced that she was used to people challenging or doubting her intellect. He knew the feeling. Perhaps that was why they both felt the need to establish it when they first met people.
He spread his hands wide to placate her territorial subconscious. "I didn't mean to offend you. It's just most people don't know that information. I was only surprised." She relaxed slightly, and afforded his hands a slightly withering glance.
"I'm not a cornered animal." She groused without any real anger, lightly and unexpectedly batting at his hand. "You can holster your weapon, agent." She quipped.
He was flabbergasted. "How -"
She stood, holding another book, and dropped it onto the stack of books he was accumulating with a chuckle that came out more like a snort. "Your hand flinched towards your hip when the books fell, say where a holster would be; you reacted with reflexes that could only be acquired through self-defense training, a man of your obvious intelligence living this near Quantico could only be employed there, AND... You dropped your badge." She finished, dangling said badge in front of his face before casually tossing it on top of the books under his nose, undisguised mischief sparkling in her eyes. "Pleasure to meet you, Spencer Reid."
Spencer cast about trying to gauge what exactly he was feeling. Embarrassed, confused, impressed... He managed a sheepish grin. "Sorry. I guess it was pretty rude of me not to introduce myself. Morgan… well, my friend is always telling me to be less socially awkward and… not… do stuff like... that." He cringed at his verbal inelegance. "Or this." He gave up and sighed with a loud huff of air that came out a little like laughter. "I swear I'm usually a better conversationalist than this. I have an IQ of 187, for crying out loud." Why did I say that? "And I don't know why you needed to know that…" Spencer closed his eyes and made a determined effort to keep his mouth shut. For God's sake, I'm acting like a high school freshman.
Well, I was a twelve year old freshman. Not the best frame of reference.
Hermione simply looked at him, clearly fighting a smile. "Oh, do go on. This is rather entertaining." She japed. He glared half-heartedly.
"I don't know you Miss Granger, but I didn't think you were cruel."
She laughed more openly. It wasn't a bad laugh; not too loud or reserved, but genuine and unapologetic. But it still struck him as strange until he realized it did not sound truly carefree, but the escaped joy of someone that had seen and felt suffering enough to feel slightly guilty during times of happiness. He had heard laughter like that too many times; heard it from himself. He found himself wondering what heaviness was on this young librarian's shoulders, and if she would ever really laugh.
Quick, clever fingers snatched back his badge and slipped it into his pocket with a twinkle of dark eyes before relieving him of a few books. He looked into that young face, noticing anew the dark circles concealer couldn't quite cover that came from years of nightmares that lived in daylight, and the sparkle in those eyes that he suddenly knew used to be brighter. She turned back around to get the last books from him and whatever she saw in his face made her pause and the merriment faded from her expression into something vulnerable and tired, but raw. It was too intimate for the first meeting of two strangers, but he couldn't look away.
She sighed, a soft exhale only slightly more deliberate than her regular breathing. "Stop profiling me, agent." Her voice was gentle.
He didn't feel the customary embarrassed defensiveness at such a remark. He didn't even wonder how she knew that he was a profiler - of course she did. He only shrugged. "I'm not." And he couldn't decide if he was lying or not.
By her narrowed eyes, neither could she, and she said so. "I don't know if you're lying to me." She said with surprising even temper for such an inflammatory accusation. "But if you are, it's only because you profile so regularly you do it instinctively. And if you're not, it's because you don't need to profile me…" Here her face softened into something unreadable, "I think we're rather alike, you and I."
He smiled crookedly. "I think so too."
The moment ended sharply and abruptly with the shrill beep of his cell phone. He was instantly embarrassed - how had he forgotten to put his phone on vibrate in a library? - and swung his messenger bag around to his front and rummaged around in it before closing long fingers over his prize and forcefully pressing down the little tab for volume. He shot the offending device an irritated glare. He knew who was calling, and he was loathe to leave the company of the young librarian.
He looked back up into her understanding face. She gestured to the books he had left over; the books he had started with. "Let's go check these out for you."
They abandoned her cart in the aisle and made their way to the checkout desk in relatively comfortable silence: relative because he kept trying to come up with something to say and failing. All too soon he felt the slight warmth of their fingers brushing as she passed his officially borrowed books to him, along with a complimentary bookmark, and knew if he tarried much longer it would be telling.
Still, he hesitated under her knowing and maybe even anticipatory gaze, uncomfortable because he just didn't do this - they had just met! - but entirely too tempted to throw his learned caution to the proverbial wind.
She smiled at him. "You should probably get going."
Feeling disappointed and not entirely knowing why, he nodded, stuffing his literary acquisitions into his bag, muttering what felt like an inadequate farewell of 'nice to meet you' before turning and walking towards the door, both cursing his long legs for hastening his departure and wishing he could go faster.
His hand had met the subtle grain of the mahogany door and pushed it open before he ignored his mental tug-of-war and spun around with resolve. He raised his voice slightly. "Hey -"
The words died in his throat at the dazzling smile she gave him. "I'm disappointed, doctor. You're a profiler, you should know we don't actually give out complimentary bookmarks." With that cryptic remark, she shot him a disarming wink before spinning around with a swirl of modest skirts and contrastingly wild curls and disappearing among the endless labyrinth of shelves.
He took a moment to get his bearings before reaching into his bag, grabbing the thick laminated rectangle slid under the cover of one of the books, and tugged it out. One side of the bookmark had a word and a definition printed on it:
Eunoia (n.) beautiful thinking; a well mind.
He blinked at the unusual word that he already knew, before adjusting his grip and seeing his finger come away blue. He quickly flipped over the bookmark to see the slightly smeared message, 'My IQ is 188' followed by a smiley face, and a phone number.
"It was as simple as that - they met. As simple as only beautiful things can be beautiful, as only life-changing things, turning-point things, can be simple." -Cornell Woolrich, Angels of Darkness
Author's Note: This is just something I've had in my mind for awhile, that I managed to get written out suitably well and suitably finished enough to entertain the idea of publishing. This is not my first story, or my first fanfiction, but this is my first fanfiction story under this name. So it's just the slightest bit momentous. I haven't decided if I am going to leave this as a stand-alone one shot or maybe let it grow naturally into a multi-chaptered story, so feedback would be appreciated.
P.S. I find disclaimers patronizing. We're smart enough to know what belongs to whom.