A/T: Break out the balloons and party food; it's complete! Praise and awe can be sent my way; flames are used to toast the celebratory marshmallows.
Disclaimer: Nothing, I say!
in Four Movements
Movement 4: Duet and Finale
Ryan didn't know what it felt like to go crazy, but he had a feeling (reflecting in a watery mirror) that it wasn't going to be long before he found out. Insanity was a tricky devil; it silently begins to attack the victim and creep into everyday actions; it flowed around in the blood stream and veins. It spoke. It gestured. It acted.
Insanity was contagious and Eric had spread the disease. His not showing up (if you came this way) had caused it; there were a ton of reasons that could explain why Eric never arrived, most of which were logical and quite possible. But nevertheless, he didn't come and the delirium that had always been lying dormant within Ryan was making up for lost time.
The first symptom made itself known immediately after he left the restaurant: denial. Of course there was a reason Eric didn't show up. Work. Traffic. Emergency. Or, quite possibly, the fact he didn't want to come (taking the route you would be likely to take) at all. The point was that Ryan was trying to tell himself that he wasn't hurt; this little detour meant absolutely nothing. Nadda. Zip. Eric hadn't wanted to come and Ryan could deal with that.
Ryan had gone home and changed into his pajama bottoms and a t-shirt and didn't even bother to put his clothes in the hamper. No, he just let them lay on the floor. Symptom number two was beginning to infect him: loss of will to move and the inability to acknowledge the biting fact that his OCD inclinations were killing him. The clothes needed to be in the hamper. But he wasn't going to put them there. This caused quite the mental war.
It was an hour later that the third and worst symptom had arrived: delusions. (from the place you would be likely to come from)
When Ryan heard the doorbell, he ignored the gnawing hope that it could be Eric. It was probably the annoying neighbor in 4E, the one who was constantly stopping by to try and sell life insurance. "You're a law enforcement officer," he'd argue. "I'm sure your wife would want you to have a decent policy. It's the right thing to do." Maybe it was the nice old lady in 4J who always wanted to stop and chat. Or maybe, since he was going clinically insane, it was his great aunt who had died or his uncle who no longer existed among the living.
But when he peered through the peephole and actually saw Eric standing there, all thoughts of insanity disappeared like ghosts. His mind quickly began sorting his concerns and notions, filing them back to their specific order. The fact that Eric was there (if you came by day not knowing what you came for) was enough to send him falling right back down to Earth, back to the blue pearl that hung in space by a string.
He couldn't seem to open the door fast enough.
And there they were. Facing each other, as if dueling, as if maybe they were counting to ten to see who could draw the quickest. Both were silent, hoping to read each other's minds. Only then would they not actually have to speak.
"Hi." (taking any route)
"Hi." (starting from anywhere)
Though not the most intelligent conversation, it was still a conversation for all intents and purposes. Ryan took a small breath before opening his door.
"The hallway gets uncomfortable after a while," he said, trying to lighten the mood. "Want to come in?"
All Eric could mange was a smile in reply before accepting the offer. Ryan closed the door behind him and knew Eric was taking in his surroundings, observing how and where the bane of his existence resided.
"Nice place," the older man commented. "It's way too clean for me though. I'd have to un-alphabetize the books and skew some pictures around."
Ryan laughed before turning to face him. "I had the feeling you were going to say that. Sorry. I'm a neat freak."
Eric shook his head, making a small "tut" sound with his tongue in disapproval. "Always apologizing, Wolfe. We're going to have to fix that. However," he said, holding up a plastic bag, "Before we fix anything, I come bearing food."
"It's from the Thai restaurant," Ryan stated before his mind could tell him not to.
Eric looked uncomfortable. "Yeah. I just got whatever everyone else seemed to be eating. I don't know what half of it is."
"Then let's see." Ryan took the bag from Eric's hands and led them over to his dining table. He began to pull out white Styrofoam boxes, peaking into each one and listing what was inside before setting them down. "Pad thai. Spring rolls. Green curry," he said, appreciatively. "It's all good. Hopefully you bought enough for both of us," he continued lightly before turning and entering his small kitchen, gathering two sets (would have to put off sense and notion) of forks and plates. "Want something to drink? Before you ask, I don't have any beer."
"No beer? That's a basic food group."
"It's nasty. Reminds of urine samples."
"You're completely ruining my appreciation of beer, dude. Got any soda?"
"Sounds good. We're just going to have to work on your shopping habits."
"I think your habits are the ones that need improvement."
They sat at the table across from one another, neither able to look each other square in the eye. Ryan wasn't quite sure what to (dust in the air suspended) say and Eric apparently wasn't sure either; instead, Ryan forked the food onto the plates and Eric took his with a quiet "thanks".
Ryan watched as Eric gave the green curry on his plate a wary look before taking a small bite, as if he were a child who didn't like vegetables. There was a pause before he took another bite. "This is good. What is it again?" he asked as Ryan laughed and shook his head.
"It's mainly chicken, rice, and coconut milk. You chose pretty well for a guy who probably couldn't pronounce what he was ordering."
"You give me way too little credit, man. I told the guy to give me whatever was on special and some spring rolls. The term "special of the day" is universal."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"You'd better. A CSI needs to know this stuff."
There was another lull in the conversation and they mainly ate in silence. The ticking of clock hands could be heard; Ryan winced at the sheer magnitude of the quiet that was between them. Ryan tapped his foot nervously underneath the table as he waited for the other man to say something.
And exactly two minutes and thirty seven seconds later, he did.
"So… how long did you wait?" Eric asked, not looking up to see the look on Ryan's face, the hurt in his eyes, the frown on his lips. Ryan swallowed and shrugged, hoping not to make a huge deal out of it.
"Just a couple of minutes."
"Fifteen. It's not a big deal."
"You waited way longer than fifteen minutes, Ryan."
"Twenty then. I lost track of time, but it wasn't that bad."
"Cal called. You left that place at eight. You sat there an hour."
Ryan let out a laugh, truly amused and nervous, slightly hysterical and pained. "Did she call you? She really is a wonder. The woman can't let us sort out our own affairs."
"Mainly because we can't sort out our own affairs."
"True. But it's really not a big deal. I didn't mind."
"I stood you up."
"For good reason. I've done much worse to you."
"In case you didn't notice, Wolfe, this is my apology dinner. I'm bribing you with food."
"I know. And it's a very good bribe. Consider yourself successful."
Eric cast a careful look Ryan's direction when he heard those words. "So we're okay?" he asked, uncertain and unsure. "Whatever's been going on… we're on the same page, right?"
Ryan looked up from his food and gave him a small smile. In the back of his mind, he knew he couldn't say it: he could never admit the crazy thoughts that often crashed violently in his head or the emotions that often battled ruthlessly within his conscious. But that didn't matter; he and Eric were friends now and they would stay that way. He was selfish (marks the place where a story ended) to want anything more.
"You're okay with me. Am I okay with you?" A ridiculous question, but Eric understood what he meant.
Eric laughed at the question, rolling his eyes and slightly exasperated. "For the last time, yes. I promise."
"So I'll see you Monday?"
They rose from their seats, Ryan following Eric to the door, the younger man's mind kicking and screaming, telling him to stop him before he could leave. Their meal was only half eaten but that hadn't been the point. The point was that he would forever be stuck in an exhausting cycle: wake, pretend, sleep. That was life most of the time.
Eric's hand touched the door handle and stayed there for a moment. Ryan looked up to see Eric's eyes; within them there was a war. Words, common sense, pieces of memories racing around, meaning nothing and meaning everything. (in the uncertain hour before the morning)
It was a silence that was heavy and Ryan wanted to break it by somehow saying something. Anything. He'd burst into song if he had to, if that's what it would take.
"Ryan," Eric said slowly, turning and leaning against the closed door, "We talked." Another internal struggle; Ryan knew what those felt like all too well. "But I don't think we discussed… everything."
Everything? To discus everything would mean to include the truth and Ryan knew for a fact that there was no way he could manage to say the words. He could barely remember his own name or birth date or day of the week; proximity with the other man was making him (in concord at this intersection)forget all things but one: his mistakes with Eric. There were too many and it was too late.
"I think we got everything," Ryan said, hoping his voice wouldn't crack or show his inner turmoil, his lost mind.
He didn't want this to be the place and time where their friendship would be irreversibly ruined.
"There's nothing to talk about. Honest."
"Ryan, listen to m-''
Ryan turned away and shook his head, backing away. "Don't," he warned. "Don't complicate it. The things I did were my fault and I'll take the blame. But I didn't mean to do anything that would intentionally hurt you." Words were spilling out, all the things he had been meaning to say. He had gotten started and only some sort of lethal weapon could stop him now. "So fine. I'm here to say that I'm sorry, okay? I messed up. I've messed up a lot. I can't take it back but I can try and fix it." His words were laced and colored with anger; anger that he couldn't voice (of all that you have done) what was really bothering him.
"Everyone makes mistakes, Ryan."
"Mistakes?" Ryan asked, looking up at the other man incredulously. "Mistakes? I make catastrophes! I make it so that Horatio has to hide from news crews and crushed blood samples. I make it so that Valera gets suspended. I steal evidence! Your evidence! How can you tell me it's a mistake when I've taken something of yours?" (the shame of motives late revealed)
He was on a roll.
And he was breaking into a million pieces.
"So that's what you've been so upset over?"
Ryan took a deep breath. "Some of it."
"And was this little moment of talkative insanity therapeutic?"
"You got anything else to say?"
"No, that's about it."
"Good. Because now it's my turn."
The thing about Eric was that he was calm, always. There wasn't much that ruffled his feathers besides potential exploding bombs and guns being blasted in random, life-threatening directions.
"I think there's been something going on between us. Has what I think been happening… happening?" he asked slowly. Ryan paled and ignored the feeling of sickness that was clamoring around in his gut. (this is the use of memory)
"I'm sorry?" A moment to truly say what he felt was presenting itself. A situation wasn't being forced; it was already there. The only thing he had to do was speak.
Eric leaned casually against the door. "Between us," he clarified. "Our problems. They're not just because of tox reports."
Even as he was speaking, Eric's right hand reached out and (for liberation—not less of love but expanding) softly grabbed hold of the side of Ryan's shirt. He pulled him slowly forward and was met with little resistance.
"Tox reports?" Ryan echoed. "No. Yes. Those are our problems," he whispered even as their lips inched closer, Eric amused at Ryan's inability to speak properly. But all Ryan was certain of was that this wasn't some far off dream. It wasn't an idle thought. (of love beyond desire)
And finally, their lips brushed softly. Then again.
Eric's hands were on Ryan's arms; Ryan was leaning against him, not trusting himself to stand without collapsing. The kisses were hot, sensual, slow and Ryan heard himself whisper Eric's name quietly. It was all he wanted.
It was all he had ever wanted.
Words. Words were nothing. Movement, motion; that's all there was. It was the only thing that changed the courses of lives. And this turn was undeserved; at least, that's what Ryan thought.
"Our problems,'' Ryan began, pulling away for only a moment. "And work-'' The disapproving looks of his co-workers (minus the excited squeal of Calleigh) and the trouble they were bound to stir made him pause for only a moment.
"Are nothing," Eric finished before he switched off the lights.
may be servitude,
History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,
The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,
To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.
Little Gidding (Quartet #4), T.S. Eliot