Okay, wow, the ending, finally. I feel like I've been working on this fic forever even though it's really just been over a month. I absolutely loved writing this story (even those chapters that weren't my favorite) and it really took on a life of its own. I didn't expect it to be anywhere near this length or have so much depth to it, but I'm glad that I let it go where it wanted to go instead of where my brain planned it to go from the beginning. I wasn't even sure exactly how I wanted to end this and if I wanted an epilogue, etc, but I'm finally happy with the ending. I want to thank all of you for reading this story and giving me your feedback. You guys are extreme ego boosters - just reading your comments sometimes made my bad days turn into good ones. Wow, I'm actually getting a little teary-eyed as I write this. Anyway, thank you again and I hope that I'll continue to write Reela stories (at least until they officially get together on the show). Enjoy and thank you!

Chapter 20

One Week Later

2:09 AM

Neela rummaged through the refrigerator. She picked a Chinese food container off the top shelf and opened it. She brought the container to her nose, sniffed it, and wrinkled her nose.

"Gross," she said out loud to herself. She immediately threw it away and then made a mental note to take out the garbage in the morning.

Neela continued her search through the refrigerator, throwing away old containers of takeout and placing anything on the counter that looked remotely edible. She couldn't explain it, but, for the last week she had been getting cravings throughout the night. She wasn't sure if it was because she was making up for her lack of appetite from the week previous or because she was tired of laying in bed, unable to sleep with nothing to do and eating was a perfectly good, anti-boredom solution.

Satisfied that she had found something that she could eat, Neela closed the refrigerator door. She looked at the three pieces of pizza, the bowl of macaroni and cheese, and the salad that she had placed on the counter. Although she knew she would have been better off with the salad, she opted for the macaroni and cheese. Neela quickly glanced at the microwave, but then decided against it. There was no reason why the noodles had to be warmed. Neela opened up the silverware drawer and pulled out a fork. She popped the top off the macaroni and cheese container and began to chow down.

"You really should heat that up," Ray said from the doorway.

Startled, Neela dropped her fork full of cheesy elbow macaroni.

"Sorry," he apologized. She picked her fork up off the ground, wiped it on a towel that was lying on the counter and continued to eat. "That disgusting."

"I've seen you eat worse things off the floor," Neela commented.

"What are you doing up?" He asked even though he knew that Neela had been up for the past seven days in the middle of the night. The only reason he knew was because he was up, too.

"I was hungry," Neela admitted, knowing that that wasn't the only reason. "What are you doing up?"

Ray walked up to her and took the fork from her hands. He dug it into the macaroni and cheese and piled the forkful into his mouth.

"I guess I was hungry, too." He handed the fork back to Neela.

"Truth be told, I haven't been sleeping too well," she admitted.

She hadn't told Ray about her inability to sleep before. She was afraid that he would be worried about her. Ever since Neela had told Officer Sullivan what had happened to her and Craig had been arrested, Ray was still protective over her, even though she was fine. Having Craig behind bars had released Neela from the prison that she had trapped herself in.

"Are you having more nightmares?" Ray asked, immediately concerned.

Neela shook her head, taking another mouthful of macaroni. She handed the fork off to Ray and he, too, took another bite.

"I don't know what it is," she said. "I just can't sleep."

"I haven't been sleeping too well myself," Ray admitted, giving her the fork.

"Really?" Neela hadn't realized that he was having the same problem. The thought that he was perhaps unable to sleep because she wasn't there for him entered her mind, but she quickly pushed it out again when she realized that she was only thinking what she wanted to be thinking.

Ray shrugged. "I don't know what it is, either." The problem was, he did know what it was, but he knew that he couldn't have it. Everything had gone back to normal after Neela finally admitted she was raped. She no longer cried herself to sleep at night and needed him to hold her. She was the strong, independent woman Ray had always known and he was happy for her, but he also missed her touch.

"All I know is that if I keep eating like this, we're going to have a serious problem," she joked, placing the empty macaroni and cheese bowl in the sink. They stood beside each other, shoulder to shoulder, leaning their backs against the counter behind them.

"Well, I guess we should both try and get some sleep."


"Goodnight, Neela," Ray said as he began to walk out of the kitchen.

"Goodnight, Ray," she replied, hanging back. As he disappeared from sight, she knew that she couldn't take it any longer. "Ray!"

Ray appeared in the doorway. "Yeah?"

She sighed, knowing that it was now or never.

"I know why I haven't been sleeping well.

He walked closer to her.

"And I know why I haven't been sleeping well," he admitted, hoping that he wasn't reading the situation wrong. If he was right, Neela was feeling the same way he was.

"I've missed you," she whispered.

"I've missed you, too," he replied in a hushed tone, putting his hands on her hips.

"When I told you that day that I didn't need you anymore, that I didn't need to be protected, I was wrong. I might not need you to be there because of nightmares and bad dreams, but I do need you. I need you to hold me when I'm sleeping." She looked down at the floor. "I need you to love me."

"I do," Ray whispered without hesitation. He put his hand under her chin and lifted her face so that he could look into her eyes. "I do love you."

He pulled her closer to him and wrapped his arms around her. He brought his head down to hers and lightly kissed her on the lips. She closed her eyes, savoring every second of their short kiss.

"And I love you," she said.

This time it was she who pulled him down to her and they kissed more deeply.

"Neela…" Ray whimpered, feeling both of their pulses racing as their kiss continued to grow in intensity and length.

Finally, Neela broke their lips apart, but she rested her forehead against his and buried her hand in the back of his hair. He own hands were resting at the small of her back.

"I just need to take things slow," she said quietly. Although she had come to terms with the fact that she was raped, she also knew that starting a physical relationship would be difficult and that she would need time.

"We can take as much time as you need," Ray replied, kissing her forehead.

"I love you," she said again, reveling in the fact that the words now flowed so easily from her lips.

"I love you, too."

They stood with their foreheads together and eyes closed in silence.

"Ray," Neela finally said.


"I'm exhausted," she admitting, laughing.

He smiled. "Let's go to bed."

She began to step away from him, but he quickly scooped her up in his arms as if she were a small child. She giggled as he carried her into his room. He placed her gently on the left side of the bed and then he crawled in next to her on the right said. She immediately snuggled up to him, placing her head in the crook of his neck. He put his arms around her and their legs became entangled. They held hands between them.

"Goodnight, Neela," he said into her hairline, placing small kisses on her head.

"Mm…goodnight," she mumbled, already half asleep.

"I love you," he whispered as he heard her breathing slow.

He closed his eyes and feel asleep, unable to tell where his body ended and hers began.


Twelve Days Later

6:30 PM

Neela opened the oven door as she heard the apartment door open. She reached in and pulled out a tray of lasagna. Although it looked nothing like the picture in the cookbook she was using, she couldn't help but be proud of it.

Ray tiptoed over to her and wrapped his arms around her.

"Hi," she said, smiling as she put the lasagna down on the stovetop.

"Hi yourself," he replied, nuzzling her neck. "You cooked?"

She turned so that she was facing him, but his arms remained around her waist.

"Don't act so surprised."

"It's nice to come home from a hard day's work and have my woman put a nice warm meal on the table."

"Yeah, well, your woman says don't get used to it," she joked, taking off one of her oven mitts and playfully throwing it at his face.

He leaned down and kissed her deeply. As it did every time he kissed her, Neela's head spun. She was surprised at how romantic and truly unbelievable Ray had been. He loved to cook for her and had come home on more than several occasions baring chocolates and flowers. He knew just what to say to make her laugh and just what spots to kiss on her neck to make her sigh. Most importantly, though, he was patient with her and had never demanded more than she was willing to give.

"This looks great," he commented as he let her go and she began to cut up the lasagna.

He opened the refrigerator, searching for two beers, but he secretly watched her as she dished the lasagna messily onto two plates. He thought it would have been somewhat difficult waiting for her to tell him the time was right for them to take their relationship to the next level, but it hadn't been. Although he wanted to make love to her desperately, he also enjoyed getting to know her as the woman he loved and not getting caught up in the physical aspect of their relationship. That wasn't to say that he wasn't enjoying their heavy make out sessions that literally left him breathless, but he was finding unexpected joy in his patience.

"You okay?" She asked as he stood in front of the refrigerator, holding the door open.

"Yeah," he said, quickly grabbing the two beverages and closing the door. He never took his eyes off her. He wasn't sure if he would ever get tired of looking at her. "You look beautiful." Truthfully, she was wearing one of his old T-Shirts that was covered in spaghetti sauce and a pair of old Jeans, but she truly looked amazing in his eyes.

She met his eyes and smiled. Just her smile alone sent him over the edge. He took two steps towards her, put the beers down on the counter, took the serving spoon out of her hand, and kissed her like he had never kissed any woman before.

"Ray," she whimpered weakly as he planted a trail of kisses down her neck. He stopped, not wanting to cross the line.

"I love you," he whispered into her ear. He picked up the beers that he had set down on the counter and put them on the table.

"I don't think I'm very hungry…at least not for food."

He turned around and saw her leaning against the stove, smiling seductively. This time it was she who stepped towards him and crushed her lips against his. She tugged at the bottom of his shirt and she managed to pull it up over her head. She threw it carelessly, not caring where it landed. Without breaking their kiss, Ray lifted Neela up so her legs were wrapped around his waist. He carried her into his bedroom, and, as always, laid her down gently on the bed.