Rated: PG
Category: Drama
Spoilers: Coda fic for Here and There
Description: Because Neela can't rely deny it any longer.
Notes: I don't know why I wrote this...if that helps.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not mine.
Feedback: I fiend for it.
Stretching and moaning, Neela awoke grieving the fact that sleep always went by so quickly. Glancing over at her alarm clock, she could see that it was almost 9:30 already. Before she knew it, it would be three, and she would be heading back to County for another invigorating round of mind games, body fluids and insecurity - the fuel of her quarter-life crisis. Eat, sleep, and work: it was the unholy trinity of her life. And she was ready for a new religion.

She walked, or rather, fell forward like an hour-old foal to the bedroom door and down the hallway towards the bathroom. It was only then that she realized that Ray was just entering the door, and that he, no doubt, had woken her up.

"Neela," he chirped, absently combing through the mail she had left for him by the door. "Top of the morning to ya." He looked up. "Long night?"

Neela squinted in the rude flood of light coming in from the window, and she crossed him on her way to the bathroom. "I've got to pee" was her groggy reply.

"Take your time, I'll be here when you get out," he replied. Neela turned around to see if it was actually Ray standing there, and was more than a little jolted to discover that it indeed was him, and that he was grinning from ear to ear.

Who are you, and what did you do with Ray, she thought as she disappeared behind the door.

After taking care of her business, she realized that a shower, some toothpaste and her sandalwood lotion could do wonders for her disposition. Taking a look around, there were filthy towels everywhere, though exactly one clean towel remained in the linen closet, and only through a firm dose of denial was she able to use the toothbrush that was inexplicably wet, and that possibly had been used since she had last touched it. That same denial helped her use her blow-dryer, despite a greasy handprint on its handle. Her lotion, unsurprisingly, appeared unmolested and was the crowning touch in her foray into the world of the living. It had to have been twenty minutes before she re-emerged into the living room.

Lo and behold, there was Ray, sitting on the couch...waiting for her?

"Sooo?" he asked, as if they were picking up on an abandoned topic.

"Sooo...what?" Neela asked, perplexed. He continued his goofy smiling. She ignored him, and commenced to picking up random items from the floor. There were always things on the floor, and it was driving her mad. "This place is a pig sty," she lamented, "and it has got to change."

"Why - having company over?" he asked. She glared at him from behind a cascade of partially dry hair, and resumed her cleaning. "Hmm," Ray said rising from the couch, "a little nookie usually puts me in a good mood." With that, he got up and turned on the TV.

And then Neela had a sudden realization.

"Are you meaning to tell me that you were in on..." She stopped.

"Look," Ray said, "my buddy already liked you. All I did was tell him that he could hang out here until you finished your shift." He lifted his glass of orange juice, toasted her with it and nodded. "You can thank me later."

"I'll do no such thing," Neela snapped, slamming an armful of junk on the coffee table. And she was suddenly feeling angry.

"So, I'm going to take that as an aborted mission," he said, scratching his chin and talking to the air. "I'm surprised; he's mad cool."

"Ray," she exclaimed, "I would truly appreciate if from now on you would remain firmly outside of my personal affairs."

"Neela, c'mon," Ray began, muting the television. "Did you ever think that maybe I did this for him and not you?" She rolled her eyes. "Besides, what if I had? He's a nice guy. Bright guy too. He has more talent in his left seminal vesicle than I have in my whole body."

"Aren't we witty," Neela replied.

"He's passionate..." Ray continued.

"I know; he told me," Neela muttered.

'And - I'm secure so I don't mind saying it - he's hot."

Neela sighed. No argument there.

"So, why are you getting your panties all in a knot?" He paused. "Or maybe that's exactly what you need to do."

Neela didn't reply. And, to be honest, she wasn't really that mad. She walked to the couch and slumped down in the seat next to him. They looked at each other eye to eye, his eyebrows arched in anticipation for a response, and her eyes reflecting the future regret that she would surely feel for having even a semblance of a personal conversation with Ray. She'd start her confession with a rant.

"I don't believe in casual sex, Ray, and truly, if we're to be roommates, I hope you don't either." His faced dropped incredulously.

"Suit yourself," he shrugged. He leaned back and took the mute off of the television.

"Besides...," she added quickly.

Ray tilted his head and turned his head in her direction. "Besides...what?" he asked.

He was looking at her with the kind of expectant ease that she faced so often. Someone would ask a simple question, expecting a simple answer. Questions about dating, and family, and favorite clubs, and marriage, and careers and how weekends were spent. And their simple, simple questions would get blank stares in return, as Neela groped for some answer that wasn't as complex as the maelstrom that was inevitably raging in her head.

Dating and relationships and decisions and life and everything seemed so much easier for other people. They just kind of did things. She was pretty sure that Ray didn't entertain a gut-wrenching deliberation over every decision in his life; the vegabonds who roamed their apartment with questionable tatoos were proof. And yet, here they were in the same spot in life - both single, residents at the same hospital, living in the same apartment, and watching the same TV show. Except that Ray seemed to be having a lot more fun doing it. And why?

She was still sorting that part out. And whatever the answer was, that missing piece was the "besides." The part that just barely kept her from screwing "Mr. Passionate" the night before. But she couldn't tell Ray, because she hadn't quite admitted it to herself yet. And she wasn't sure she'd tell him anyway.

"I don't know," she said, rising and heading towards her room.

"That's it?" he exclaimed, "'Besides...I don't know' and that's it?"

"Sorry," Neela remarked. "Anyway, we've had enough bonding for one day; we're only roommates, remember?" She lazily strolled into her room, collapsed into her bed, and laid back, trying to find answers in a ceiling that was slowing becoming her confidant. "Ceiling, Ceiling on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" she whispered. It made her laugh.

She leaned over to her nightstand, and pulled open the little drawer in front. She brushed aside the knicks and knacks, the odds and ends, and pulled out a manila envelope. She shuffled through the months' worth of correspondence, and plucked the most recent addition out. By proxy, items become the people they represent and Neela had grown an attachment to the letters that had brought storied reports from a world away. She was as intimately familiar with the physical aspects of the each letter - their ink, their smells, their distrressed creases - as much as she was with the sentiments they contained, and probably could recognize any installment from a distance of twenty feet. That had to be some kind of weird obsession. Or maybe...

She read the line again about Michael yearning for the day that he would be able to come back to the States, even for a day. Inside, she ached for the very same thing. But until that day, she would have to make due with a too-short phone-call and servile letters to satisfy the dull ache that told her she missed him. Because, he needed someone to miss him. Besides...

She, Neela Rasgotra, was in love with Michael Gallant.

She had been wrestling with it, suppressing it, denying it really, for a long time - but it had all been pointless. And admitting it only made her miss him more.

Little did she know that he was somewhere soaring over the Atlantic at that very moment, and he was headed her way.