Title: The Hours Home
Summary: You. You have taken all of me without giving any back. You have broken me down to nothing, and yet you have shown me what it is to be alive.
Disclaimer: I own Nothing. This is a Ray/Neela/Simon Fic. Please enjoy and review!
It was muggy and humid and definitely not as cold as Chicago, he inwardly shook his head. How silly he must look in the seventy five degree weather, still sporting his frigid-wear as he left Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. He was home, sort of. That word still felt somewhat foreign to him. Ray felt like he had just left home, his real one.
He didn't know what he wanted to come out of that trip. All of his other colleagues merely attended a similar conference in their own region in New Orleans. He convinced them and himself that he just wanted to go to Chicago for their line up of lecturers. He was lying.
"Thanks," he smiled to the parking lot attendee, as he retrieved the keys to his new, fully loaded SUV. It was definitely bought on a whim as a form of retail therapy. That was one good thing about working in Baton Rouge. Combining his new, fuller salary with the lower cost of living, Ray Barnett definitely felt like he was at least living like a doctor and not a poor college student.
He smiled. What he wouldn't trade to go back to living like that, like a poor student making a life with his roommate, going grocery shopping, drinking beer in a messy apartment whilst watching poker. It was easier then, a simpler time. It was comfortable. Oh how he missed Neela. He couldn't count how many times he wanted to turn around and go back to her, telling her how ready he was to go at it again. He wanted to so desperately to tell her to take a chance with him.
He smiled as he drove up the onramp to I-10, leading himself back into Baton Rouge. She was radiating, glowing when she looked at him. Her eyes said it all. She cared about him, he knew that for sure. She cared about him after all the time that they were apart. And that was what puzzled him so much. The Neela he knew never would have allowed him to kiss her so many times without a swift nail to the head for retribution. The Neela he knew was so guarded with her feelings. Even though he knew they were there, something happened between then and last night that made his beautiful Dr. Rasgotra decide that she wanted him.
Or at least act like she wanted him.
He shook his head. He was supposed to go to Chicago for clarity, closure. That was his plan – whether it be closing that chapter of wanting and needing his ex-roommate, or taking that next step – it was closure that he longed for. Now he was more confused than ever.
A sudden flash light near his middle consul caught his eye. "Y-ello?" he crooned into the contraption.
"Ray Barnett as I live and breath, glad to see Chicago didn't kill you," Brett LeBeouf laughed out loud.
"Nah, man…just ate me up and spat me out,"
"Doing anything? Or do you want to meet up for a drink? I'm dying for a break,"
Ray quickly checked the time. He wasn't expected anywhere until tomorrow. "See you in fifteen,"
Brett didn't look any different than the last time he had seen him a good four days earlier. To be truthful, he didn't look any different since the first time they met in Ms. Tuminello's kindergarten class. They were both sent to time out for peeing on the wall of the bathroom. The rest was history. He pulled himself to a seat at the same bar they had been going to since the two grew out of their 'red cup' phase.
"How was the weekend, buddy?"
"Boring. Learned about this new technique for stimulating muscle memory quicker after a stroke, like literally hours after the blockage happens. Totally cuts down-" he smiled
Brett rolled his eyes. "So, how was the windy city?"
Ray grinned against the mouth of his bottle. "You ask that as if you didn't live there for a good four years of your life,"
"I ask that as if I want to know what you did other than go to a boring conference,"
He put his drink down and shrugged. "I went back to County,"
Brett nodded. "I kind of figured you did. How did that go?"
He shook his head. "It was…refreshing. I don't know. It was so different and exactly the same all at once. It was like going home and someone forgot to tell you that they changed the locks," he laughed. He could picture the admit desk in his head, filled with faces from ages ago.
"It was good, though?"
"It was really good, Brett."
Ray always enjoyed an afternoon drink with his friend and ex-bandmate. Oh the stories he had, just from Chicago alone. But Brett had taken a new lead on his life. The guitarist was now knee deep in paperwork, meetings and administrative duties. Who would have imagined that the same Brett who used to slum it on his couch and run up his bills by using too much hot water was now working a seven to five job at hospital admin.
Some time later, they found themselves in the parking lot, Brett on the outside of Ray's car with him in the driver's seat. They were merely chatting, waiting for the other to leave. After a brief silence, Brett tentatively spoke, "Hey…um, so how was…how was Neela?"
Ray ran a hand through his hair, inwardly laughing that it that long for Brett to graze the subject. He focused his gaze on a fixated point and shrugged, leaning his arm along the window. "She was good, I guess. She looked great. She definitely isn't that mousy roommate that you met," he laughed.
"Did you…" he left off, searching for an answer in Ray's eyes.
"No," Ray finished for him. "We hung out, yeah. But…I don't know. I wanted conclusiveness, definity, and I got an assload of messy 'I don't knows',"
"Nice to know some things don't change, Ray." He patted his arm.
"She's a surgeon now, you know?"
"Yeah, cutting people open. Kicking ass," he somberly laughed. "Yeah, she's. She looked like she was really good," he clenched his fists. Brett didn't quite believe the smile he read across his good friend's face.
"Sounds really good, man. Hey do you want to…?" he motioned back to the bar. "More drinks could make anything feel better,"
"No. No I'm good. I don't know what I was looking for or expecting. I just, I don't know. I think I just want to go home and sleep in my own bed. Shit's tiring," he laughed.
"Ok then. Call me or something, man,"
He drove down the road, drumming his fingers along the steering wheel at the traffic stop. His mind felt blown, what was supposed to happen? Where did he go from there? Was it possible that he had more questions roaming through his mind now than he did after he jumped off the plane?
He grabbed his phone and dialed. "Doctor Phil me, bro,"
Maybe he shouldn't have had that last Jack and coke without the coke. Or maybe he shouldn't have had that last beer. Or maybe he should man up and hold his alcohol better than he was. Any way you looked at it, maybe Ray shouldn't have been pacing back and forth, ranting whatever it was that bothered him.
"And there was that, that guy there – with the hair and the eyes and that really cool Australian accent like Russell Crowe except, you know you want to punch him in the face,"
Brett followed him back and forth. The two must have looked ridiculous. "Man, fuck Russell Crowe man,"
"And then he has this smug ass look on his face like he has something going on with her, which he might, because he showed up at her damn apartment with eighty dollars worth of champagne, which pisses me off by the way. And then I'm like, 'does he know that she likes chai instead of coffee or that she can't cook worth a damn or that the world poker tour is the key to her heart? Or that she likes to steal t-shirts and sleep in them?' No, I'm sure he doesn't. But then I'm like, she's changed so much that maybe there's so many things about her that he knows and I don't, and it makes me want to kill him!"
"Then we kill him!" Brett hazza-ed in a drunken haze.
"No. We can't kill him, Brett," Ray shook his head, "Ugh, I'm just. I should be over this right? I should be done with the games. I'm a goddamn doctor. We don't play games,"
"Yes! You're Ray freaking Barnett. You were king of our dorm floor. You shouldn't be sulking. You should be do-ing! You should be out there,"
It was as if someone had hit them both behind the head as simultaneously sunk to the bar stools, the alcohol suddenly smashing them at once. "I should be better than this," He shook his head and let it fall to the counter.
He was better than this.