Author's Notes: Hello, everyone! Here's my entry in the C.C.O.A.C. OC Challenge!
My hope is that you all will like it -and- favorite it!
Happy reading & enjoY!
- E. :)
Lessons from Next Door…
Another date failed… he didn't understand why he couldn't find love.
He tried to do everything that everyone had told him to do…
He tried not to ramble so much (like J.J. told him). He tried to 'put on the nerd charm' (like Morgan told him). He tried to be chivalrous (like Garcia told him). And, he tried to be calm, cool and collected (like Emily told him).
He couldn't understand what he'd done wrong. Trudging up the stairs to his apartment, he felt defeated… like nothing could help him feel any better. As he approached his front door, he heard a door open slowly behind him.
"Spencer…?" A soft male voice spoke up. "You okay, son?"
"Yeah…" The boy genius responded tiredly. "I'm fine…"
"Doesn't sound like it… you sound blue…"
The man behind him was right: he was rather blue… and in need of someone's guidance.
Turning around, he saw the soft smile and thoughtful blue eyes of Horace Carlson.
Horace was the first person, who he had met at the building, when he moved in over 10 years ago. Back then, Spencer was so much younger, age and maturity-wise, that both Horace and his dear wife, Rosemarie, would watch out for him. At least once a week, the two almost 90-year-olds would knock on Spencer's door and invade his apartment (namely his kitchen) with groceries to making a week's worth of freezable meals for the F.B.I. agent, knowing that the young man worked hard and needed to be nourishment. Even after Rosemarie passed away, Horace was still there, coming over for dinner once a week and giving the young doctor advice and life lessons. Tonight would be no different…
"Come into my office, Doctor Reid…" The almost nonagenarian piped up. "Time for some discussions, I think…"
As Spencer walked into Horace's home, he began to notice all of the framed pictures and photos all around. On the walls… on the tables… on the bookshelves… almost every place had a frame sitting on or handing from it.
"Spencer, would you like a cup of coffee or a cookie?" The older gentleman inquired aloud from his kitchen. "Mrs. Hahn from Apt. 10C made me some chocolate chip-walnut cookies. I think she has a thing for baking. She makes me cookies, cakes, pies, fudge at least once a week…"
"Maybe she's sweet on you, Horace…" The genius replied with a soft grin.
"She very well could be… she is only 75, you know…"
"Wow… 75… Isn't she a wee bit young for ya?"
"'Young for me'? Pish, tosh… she's prime age for me, Spencer…"
"Maybe you should invite her to your birthday party…"
"My 90th? Maybe…"
"Or, how about the U.S.S. Arizona reunion in December? I keep remembering how much Rosemarie would rave about how picturesque Hawaii was and how much I needed to go there on vacation…"
"My Rosie… she was an angel… my sweet, sweet angel…"
Spencer could tell Horace was getting emotional. The young agent made his way over and took over pouring the coffee and getting the cookies for the two of them. The father of four, grandfather of nine, and great-grandfather of 18 made his way over to his large, comfy chair in the living room and sighed sadly. The 89-year-old WWII army vet had just lost his wife of 65 years ago from chronic lymphocytic leukemia eight months ago; he hadn't been taking her loss well. Carrying both cups of coffee and the tray of Ms. Hahn's chocolate chip-walnut cookies in his hands, Spencer made his way to where Horace was sitting, immediately noticing the older man's disconsolate demeanor. Setting everyone on the coffee table, Spencer sat down on the couch, running his fingers through his soft, chestnut curls. He took in & let out a deep breath, before grabbing his coffee mug off the table and taking a long drink of the warm, dark liquid.
"Spencer, what happened tonight on your date?" Horace inquired aloud, as he reached for his mug of the dark roast flavored joe.
"Wasn't really a date, sir…" The FBI agent responded, before taking another drink from his mug. "Felt more like a test… a dating exam, if you will…"
"Spencer Reid, you are a man with eidetic memory, a 187 I.Q. and 5 Ph.D.'s… you can ace a test better than anyone else I know… what happened tonight?"
"He wasn't interested…"
"Really? Well, I could have told you that one, son… no man is the right type for you, other than that dark-haired gentleman, who comes over to your place occasionally…"
Spencer knew who he was talking about: Hotch…
"Now, what's the name of that tall, dark & handsome devil?" The man questioned softly. "Well, whatever his name is… why don't you ask him out?"
"It's kinda hard to that, Ace…" The FBI agent responded timidly. "He, ah… works with me…"
"Well, who-gives-a-crap! If you love him, and he loves you, go for it! Screw those bastards who hate the idea of two men together! There was a buddy of mine in college named Marco Dietz, who was dating a girl during the day and dating a guy at night… it worked out, but he ended up marrying in the girl. He kept dating the guy though… they were happy together until 1953 happened… and one of them died…"
"Ace… why didn't you ever tell Rosemarie about your boyfriend?"
Horace sat there looking at Reid in silence. He had just been profiled correctly… no one had ever done that to him before ever. He didn't know whether to be scared about it or happy his secret was finally revealed.
"Spencer…" the man murmured softly. "There are things that people didn't talk about, back when I was your age…their private matters between the bed sheets was one of them. Marco and I had many good years together, albeit hiding our true feeling for one another… before war tore it about… and, Rosemarie… she knew it…"
"She knew, sir?"
"She walked in on us one afternoon, talking about being together… more than best friends…"
"And, she didn't leave you?"
"Oh, but she did… for a month during college summer break… she got on a train that very afternoon with a small suitcase of clothes and went to her sister's in Durham… that's in North Carolina… said she had to 'think things over', before marrying me. I tried to convince her that me & Marco 'together' wasn't a serious thing, but she didn't believe me… not then…"
"What changed her mind?"
"Not 'what', Spencer… 'Who'… and, that 'who' was Marco. Days later, while I was taking a summer vocational class, he got on a train and went to find her. He had found her sister's address and telephone number in my contact book. From what he had told me, sometime later on, he immediately called Rosemarie's sister, Felena, and by all accounts, she was surprised by his call. He told her that he had made an indiscretion and wanted to beg for her forgiveness. Surprisingly, Felena allowed him to come to her home and try to speak some sense to Rosie. Rosie said that she'd never heard a man wax so poetically about another man's love in her whole life. She also told me that Marco mentioned his intentions for me and mine for her… and, she didn't know what to think. Marco left her in Durham and come home that same day on the last train. Weeks later, there was a knock on our room door, and standing there, soaking wet from head to foot from the pouring rain outside, was Rosie… and, the first thing out of her mouth was, 'Horace, if you love me, you will admit that you don't love Marco and you love me…' I loved her too much to let her go this time, so I lied & replied to her, 'Yes, my Rosie… I love you and I will never love Marco…' Looking back at him, I could tell he was visibly upset… I couldn't lose them both, but I had to sacrifice one, and that was Marco. He moved out of our room and out of our lives that next afternoon. We never spoke again, even though we saw one another from time to time at school. Occasionally, we would get letters from him, but nothing to suggest that he still loved me. And, after the birth of our first child, our son Edward, things changed quickly… things happened too fast…"
"The Korean War happened…"
"Yes… Marco had been in the Army since 1943, and when the conflict, he wanted to go… he thought he needed to help people… to save the world… and, I couldn't stop him. What right did I have to stop him anymore? One afternoon, Rosie, Eddie & me were reading a letter from him, telling us 'goodbye' and that hewas heading to Korea, the next we found out from some mutual friends that he had been killed in the line of duty at Pork Chop Hill. I took it the hardest, and I… I was numb… I didn't know how to breathe anymore… I was just gone…"
"He was one of the greatest loves of your life… who wouldn't be numb over that?"
"I shouldn't have been… I should have been strong for Rosie… but I wasn't. I was ashamed of myself… and vowed to her & our children that I would never speak of him again..."
"Oh, God… that must have been so horrible…"
"After 59 years of keeping it a secret, Spencer, I feel more at ease than ever… there was just one thing I regret though…"
"And, what's that?"
"Never telling him things that I should have said… important things, like 'goodbye' and 'I'm sorry…'"
"Maybe someday, you will…"
Before Horace could say anymore, Spencer's cell phone vibrated to life. As he pulled it out of his pants pocket, he immediately saw the name on the caller i.d. and grinned.
"Let me guess: your tall, dark & handsome?" The elderly man questioned softly.
"Yeah…" The genius replied, before answering the phone, "Hotch, hi… no, I'm free… coffee? Right now? That sounds… that sounds great… meet you in ten? Alright, maybe not ten then… see you there… bye…"
"Coffee in ten, maybe not in ten? Huh?"
"Yeah, he wants to meet me at Bella's Café… it's in Stafford…"
"That's like what… 30 minutes away?"
"27 actually… it's near work…"
"Oh, one of those dates, eh? What do you kids call them now… a 'working dinner'?"
"No, he didn't say anything about work… he said, 'Are you free? Do you want to have a coffee with me?'"
"Oh… well, it's a start…"
"I guess I'll see you later than, eh Spencer?"
"Yeah, I guess you will… goodnight, Horace…"
"Goodnight, Spencer, my boy…"
The young F.B.I. agent found his way to the door, and as he opened it, he heard Horace say softly, "Thank you, kid… for everything…"
Exiting the apartment, he took and let out a deep breath. This was his chance to impress Hotch, not just as a man, but as something 'more than a friend' and work colleague.
The sounds of sirens woke Reid up the next morning, and loud voices erupted up & down his hallway and outside of his apartment.
Opening the door, several paramedics moved past him and into Horace's apartment. A police officer that he knew (who also lived in the building), Darnell Bass, was busy taking statements from Horace's visibly upset home-healthcare aide, Jayne. Something was most definitely going on… and it wasn't good.
"Mornin', Doctor Reid…" The officer spoke up softly as he moved over to the agent, still standing in his doorway. "It's a sad day for everyone…"
"Darnell…what happened?" Spencer murmured back.
"Doc, hate to tell you this, man… but Old Man Carlson died early this morning… his nurse found him in his favorite chair, slumped over and not breathing…"
"Oh my God… I was just talking to him last night."
"M.E. said that he died around 12 midnight… what time did you leave his apartment?"
"Around 7:30… he seemed fine… we were talking about his wife, Rosemarie…"
"Well, at least, he went out thinking of his two favorite people…"
"You and dear Ms. Rosie… she was a doll… shame she's gone…shame he's gone too…"
"Yeah… what a shame… I'll talk to you later, Darnell…"
"You got it, Doc… hey! You still owe me that chess rematch… don't forget about that…"
"I don't think I can…"
Just as he was about to close the door and walk into his apartment, Spencer heard a familiar voice say his name, "Dr. Reid?"
Turning around, he saw Jayne, Horace's nurse, eyes and face red & puffy from crying.
"Horace left this for you…" She spoke up again, handing him an envelope. "He put a sticky note on it, telling me to make sure that you got it…"
"What is it?"
"I have no idea, but I hope it's something special… he really did love you, Dr. Reid… like you were one of his own sons… he always called you 'special'…"
Soon after telling him that, she walked away, starting to cry yet again. This left him to wonder what-on-earth the old man had put inside of it. Closing the door behind him, he slowly tore into the envelope.
Inside was a letter on beautiful baby blue stationary, which amazed Spencer, because Horace didn't seem like a man who would write on such paper. (He assumed it may have once belonged to Rosemarie).
Opening up the folder piece, he saw his first name, before reading on, tears filling his eyes at once:
In my 89 years of life, I have never met someone so special to myself and to my family.
You are an amazing person, who deserves the respect of everyone around him. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you aren't special.
There are times in life, where you think too much and act too little. In your case, my dear boy, you need to act more and think less, when it comes to love.
People who make us happy and love us genuinely in this lifetime, come around too seldom. Cherish the ones who do… tell them how you feel… listen what your heart tells you!
In the end, we only have those around us, who truly love and believe in us… and, I had you, Spencer. Now, I'm going to meet up with my Rosie and 'my' Marco, who are most likely having a cup of orange tea together and sharing recipes for carrot cake… my favorite.
I will always have a piece of you in my heart… and my hope is that you will have a piece of me in yours… I love you, son… don't ever forget me…
Yours in friendship,
Shaking, Spencer dropped to his knees, tears running down his cheeks like rain. He never expected to feel so much love & respect for a senior member of the community before.
And now, he could say that he had met and befriended a great man, who taught him that no one is alone in life and that love needed to be expressed no matter what repercussions may occur.
He would carry that message with him for the rest of his life and not just because of his eidetic memory.