Disclaimer: I do not own ER, Ray, Neela, or any of the music mentioned. I'm not trying to profit from any of the songs, it's for entertainment purposes only.
A/N: I am terribly sorry for taking so long to update.
Once again, I want you all to know that I haven't forgotten about this fic. One of my biggest pet peeves is reading an entire fic, only to come to the very end and realize that it was never finished! I'm not going to do that to you. This story WILL get finished.
I want to say thank you to the ones who reviewed the last chapter, as well as everyone who is taking the time to read my story. It means a lot to me!
Neela walked into the apartment after coming back from the store. The last few days had gone by so fast. You would think that having to look after someone and having to do so much for them would get to be tedious or too much sometimes.
She enjoyed the time she got to spend with him taking care of him. She had missed him so much lately. She still did, but she would always tell herself that he would get his memory back eventually. Hopefully soon. Very soon. But did her best not to think about that when they were together. If she focused on that the whole time then she wouldn't be able to enjoy what they had together right now. Not to mention that also wasn't going to help him remember.
She had gone out to get them something for dinner, which was in about a couple of hours. If there was one thing Neela hated, it was leaving things until the last minute. Why put off until later what you can do right now? There was no excuse for procrastinating. It was just another word for being lazy.
She put the container of roast chicken in the refrigerator and the box of garlic bread in the freezer. Easy food that didn't require any real cooking but just heating up, although she would probably make those inedible too by forgetting all about the food she had left in the oven until it turned to a very lovely shade of black.
She was getting better though. She hadn't burnt last night's dinner, but that was also because they had ordered in. The point was that she still hadn't burnt it.
That was when she heard what sounded like soft music coming from the other room. Ray must be listening to the radio. She walked towards his room until she was standing in the doorway and looked in.
A look of tranquility came over her face as she saw him sitting against his headboard, softly playing his guitar. He looked so at peace with himself and possibly even everything. It gave him a touch of unique happiness that she had also seen during the only night he spent with her. Only not anywhere close to that degree.
She hadn't heard him play in a long time. She had forgotten how good he was. Then again, it was difficult for her to be able to tell. He usually played faster, more loud songs. In her opinion, noise rather than music. This was slower and nice. Soothing even.
She didn't say a word, not wanting to startle him with her presence, but also not wanting him to stop. Not that he would care she was listening.
He was so wrapped into his playing that he didn't even see her standing there. Or better yet, didn't even know she was home in the first place. It wasn't even a song, technically, he was sort of making it up as he went along. He liked the way the chords sounded and how the strings felt beneath his fingers. After having so much practice since he was young, he switched almost perfectly from chord to chord.
She could see him getting lost in the music, first by the look on his face, and then when he started playing a little louder and faster. She realized how much his music meant to him. It was part of who he was. It wasn't just the music, it was that he could completely lose himself in something for as long as he wanted.
He finished his impromptu song with one last chord that was as melodic as it was graceful. This had been the first time he had picked up his guitar since the accident. Actually since the whole thing with Neela. But at least he still remembered how to play. Good thing it hadn't affected that part of his memory. Then again, why would it?
He let out a deep breath that sounded more like a sigh of contentment as he opened his eyes, only to see Neela standing in the door watching him.
"Hey" he said casually, not even being startled that she was there "I didn't know you were home." When did she get back? He looked at the clock next to his bed and couldn't believe the time. He had missed his guitar more than he thought. He just played for over an hour and to him it seemed like nothing. Except that his fingers were starting to get sore, which was unusual.
"I brought us back something for dinner." she smiled, letting him know that it was taken care of.
He gave her this look like it was so typical of her but also that he felt she was kind of crazy at the same time, as he gave her a small smirk while he still held the guitar in his hands. It was only half passed three, they had eaten lunch right before she left. He wasn't even hungry yet, and she was already thinking about dinner. Sometimes she thought way too ahead in advance. He wouldn't be surprised if she scheduled her days out from start to finish like clock work. 8-8:15 take a shower. 8:35 eat breakfast. 8:40 leave for work.
He sighed. Ray was more down to earth and spontaneous than she was. In his mind, the opposite definition of her. "What are we having tonight? More Cajun?" he teased about her cooking. He didn't care. She already knew how he felt about it, what's the use in trying to flatter her? They lived together, they were well passed that stage, and he couldn't help loving to see that look on her face. It felt good being around a girl that he didn't feel like he needed to impress all the time. It was a relief in a way. He could be himself.
All his groupies would eat up everything he said. It was no secret to him or to anyone else that he had a way with women. A way of treating them, charming them, really. Who knew if it was his way of talking, or his technique, his personality, the fact that he played guitar…why does every girl flock to any guy under the age of 35 that can play guitar? Or it could ultimately be because he was honestly attractive. Not that that seems to matter or not with actual famous rock stars.
Maybe it was all of it.
She shot him a brief glare for his 'funny' remark. She realized she wasn't a gourmet chef, but he was exaggerating. Her food was still edible, that was if you still wanted to eat it. "Are you hungry or not?" she warned, but it was an empty threat. She would never let him starve, especially at a time like this, but in her culture, you never insulted a person's cooking no matter how bad it tasted.
He didn't know why he loved seeing that look on her face. It wouldn't last long. She always got over it soon enough, he made sure of it. He just liked messing with her. It could have been childish, but what else was he supposed to do? She never fell for anything. That wasn't what he was used to. It frustrated him as much as it confused and fascinated him. This seemed like the only way he could get to her.
He decided to change the subject, he didn't need to know what they were eating right this minute, he would find out later "How long you been home?" It was fun to bug her every so often, but that didn't mean he wanted to push her further. He didn't want to piss her off. He did still have to live with her. Besides, they only had a couple more days left of her vacation, and he didn't want to spend it with her upset with him.
But no matter what he said or did right now, that wasn't happening. She couldn't. He still bugged her sometimes, yes, but she wouldn't let it go passed that. Right now he could probably say or do just about anything and it would be fine. A thing which she was sure Ray knew and would use to his advantage.
"Just got here" she told him truthfully. Ok, so she had been watching him, but it had only been for a minute. "And we're having chicken" answering his earlier question.
He nodded. "Cool" not really sure what else to say. He strummed quietly on his guitar a little more, just a few chords. Surprisingly, this seemed to help ease the slight headache he had been having before she left. It didn't even hurt any more.
She came in and slowly crawled onto the bed, making her way next to him. She hoped this would be ok. It wasn't like they barely knew each other, but she didn't know how he would feel about it. Knowing Ray he might take it the wrong way. He was a guy and this was his bed, but it wasn't like that this time.
Thinking about that right now wasn't the best idea either. Not that. If he sees her blushing then he's going to want to know why, and she would not be able to come up with a lie fast enough right now. She wasn't going to tell him about their one night stand tonight. She still wasn't ready. Things were finally good between them again. They still weren't back to normal but he was finally her friend again.
He didn't even really acknowledge her until she settled in beside him. She made sure she gave him enough space so she wouldn't be in his way. He flashed her a brief smile, before looking back to his guitar.
She was immediately relieved. That was it? So much for him having a problem with it or getting the wrong idea. He didn't even make any kind of obscene joke about her wanting to lay on his bed.
She didn't want to go back to work. She wanted to stay here with him; listening to him play his guitar, talking to him, being with him.
But she knew she had to as much as she didn't want to. He would be fine on his own. He was recovering well from his surgery. In a few weeks he would be back to normal. She was the one who wasn't ready. If he suddenly got his memory back, she wanted to be there when it happened. Of course she would be happy, but she would never be able to forgive herself if she was at work if and when he remembered. Or if she had been anywhere else. She was going to spend every free moment she had with him.
"I missed playing when I was in the hospital. I would dream about it sometimes" he told her somewhat shyly. It was embarrassing, she would think he was weird. Why had he just told her that? He was never separated from his guitar for very long, he played every opportunity he could.
She hadn't realized his music had meant this much to him. She didn't find it strange at all, but she also didn't know which he loved more: being a musician or a doctor. "When I was little, I used to lock myself in my room and play for hours" she said as if she was in a daydream, knowing the feeling he was experiencing "My mum and dad always wanted what was best for me, but sometimes they expected too much" he stopped strumming so he could give her his undivided attention. "They loved me but, I couldn't always meet their expectations." She wasn't trying to switch the focus off of him and onto her instead, she was trying to tell him that they expected a lot from her. In school, in life, and even in something like playing music. That she could relate to what he was going through.
He kept listening as he tried to figure out what she was really saying. She was talking about playing the viola, he knew that part. Neela was a very strong-willed, determined person, but he knew it hurt and was hard when all you want is your parents respect and approval, even though they do love you.
"Playing was the only thing that helped calm me down and made me feel better" she explained, trying to make him understand.
And now he did. Completely. That was what he did when his father left. It helped him not to think about it and to be able to lose himself so completely in something. They weren't as different as he thought. They actually had something in common, besides that they were both doctor's.
"I know what you mean" he sighed softly, wanting to show her he cared but also not really wanting to get into all that.
She turned her head back and faced forward, not sure what to say next. She understood that he didn't want to talk about his dad. She wasn't going to pressure him and she wasn't going to bring it up. He had said that she was the only one he had told, so she couldn't expect him to talk to her about something so traumatic and painful. Then why was she so sad and disappointed?
"How old were you when you started playing?" he broke the silence, which she was glad he did, otherwise it would have started to get awkward.
"When I was 6. I hated it at first. My mum and dad wanted me to play all the time. Then it was the only thing that helped me at the time" she told him, not sure exactly how to explain it.
"Helped you with what?" he asked, wanting to know more as he looked into her eyes. He didn't realize that she could be this personal. They were roommates and he knew she was serious most of the time, but she didn't really tell him about her childhood.
"Everything" she said simply. "When I needed to think or just get some time away from them" she looked him back in the eye, seeing that he was genuinely interested in what she had to say. She didn't get that feeling from many people, especially from men. She always felt that guys only pretended to be interested in what she had to say, but that was only for the obvious ulterior motive. Ray, of all people, actually listened to her when she was talking. Something she doubted he did with most girls.
He nodded. After all, he could relate. It was starting to remind him too much of his situation and wanting to change the subject, he asked "Your parents were really strict?", but also said as more of a statement. He just assumed. It seemed obvious, at least in his opinion.
"Yes. At times, but they were still good parents" she explained, letting him know that even though they were strict and expected a lot from her, they still loved her and she respected them. "We just didn't always see eye to eye."
He wanted to know more, but didn't want know how to ask. They were close, but that didn't mean there weren't things she didn't want to talk to him about. Like him. He couldn't ask her to put more into this than he was. He would never do that. He gave her a gentle smile, and said sweetly "That happens to every kid" which was true of course.
She leaned back against the pillows to give her back better support so she could get more comfortable. He was the only person she would act this way around.
She silently agreed. She knew that. "This was different" she said slowly.
His eyes never left her. What did she mean by that?
She knew him better than that, he wanted to know but wanted to respect her privacy. "When I was 17, they wanted me to marry a childhood friend. Start a family. Our parents were trying to talk us into it, I guess you could call it sort of an arranged marriage. In my culture, at that age you're supposed to be married already and have a family" she confessed. This wasn't easy for her to talk about. It was the custom, but 17 was way too young to get married, in her opinion. She had had no desire to. "But I didn't love him."
He couldn't imagine having to grow up like that. He knew there were places where it still happened, but she was right. How could some people do that? He couldn't blame her, he couldn't marry someone he didn't love either. "You did the right thing" he said, trying to make her feel better. "How did your parents take it?"
"Not well. They thought I was a disgrace to the family, but they eventually came around." She stopped for a second. She wasn't used to someone being this interested in her life.
But if she wanted him to trust her, then she had to make that effort first and talk to him. "I was tired of having everything decided for me. Someone telling me what I should do, and how I should do it, what to say and how to act." She realized that she wasn't just talking, now she was telling him things that she had never told anyone before. He's not just a roommate anymore. He's her very best friend.
"What did you do?" he asked, now really interested in the story. He could see that she had always been the strong person he knew. Not always confident in herself, but somehow strong. If Neela wants or believes in something, she doesn't let anything stop her, and nothing can change her mind. She could be pretty stubborn when she wanted to be.
"I told them the truth. I couldn't do it. I told them I wanted to do something more with my life, that I wanted to be a doctor." She had never been this open with anyone, but it was easier than she thought it would be. He made her feel more at ease with herself when she was with him, like everything was going to be ok.
He had never seen this side of her before. "Were you scared?" She was always so private and self reserved most of the time, sort of to herself. He liked that she was able to talk to him. He was touched, but what made him so special? He was her roommate, but she was telling this to him of all people? Not that he didn't want her to.
It was even better when he didn't try to make her talk to him by asking intrusive questions. Which was why she was willing to telling him anyway. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do" she confirmed, letting him know that it was true. "But I wouldn't have been able to do it without them. They helped me pay for med school."
He couldn't believe it. He couldn't imagine her being scared, and if she was, then she definitely didn't show it. He didn't think she was afraid of anything.
But something didn't make sense. "What about college?" She didn't say anything about that. They only helped her with med school?
"I had a scholarship" she explained, letting him know why her parents hadn't given her any money for it. "In med school they paid for most of it, but when I was going to Yale, I got a part time job so I could save up the rest." That was her thinking ahead and trying to think of every contingency she could talking again. She didn't want to start her future off being thousands of dollars in debt. She took out loans just like everyone else, but at least this way she didn't owe nearly as much afterward.
He laughed. Figures. "I should have known" he teased her, but could be taken as a hidden compliment. Her having that much courage to stand up to her parents and do what she wanted, then working hard to make it happen, made him respect and admire her. "I did it the old fashioned way" he smiled, telling her that he had been one of those people who didn't plan ahead. He applied for student loans, piling up the money he owed more every year. He wasn't a brainiac like she was who could go on a scholarship, but his mom did help him with the college fund she saved up.
"It was probably the only way you could do it" she mumbled. She didn't mean it as an insult, but was talking about his alternate career as a musician. She doubted he would have been able to find the time to go to school, play in his band, and get a job all at the same time. There wasn't any way anyone could have time for all of that.
Looking down at his guitar, he replied, "That's true I guess" knowing exactly what she meant and agreeing with her. He barely had enough time for his schoolwork as it was. He would rather go after his dreams, even if that meant he would have to spend years paying it all back. He didn't care. He was able to do both this way. He didn't want to have to choose. Both gave him it's own sense of happiness and inner satisfaction.
"It's the only thing that keeps me sane" he admitted, talking about playing his guitar. "The only weird thing is, my fingers were starting to hurt. That never happens. When was the last time I played?" He hoped he hadn't stopped playing recently for some reason. He would never give up his music.
"I don't know exactly" she told him truthfully, she couldn't really remember the last time she heard him and she couldn't tell him exactly when the last time was because she hadn't seen much of him lately. "We were working a lot, but I think the last time I heard you play was about a month ago", telling him that to answer his question, but being somewhat vague also so she wouldn't have to tell him why.
She knew what he was thinking. When she hadn't played the viola for a while it would have the same effect on her. Now she was wondering when the last time he had played herself. She was never home when he was, but if his fingers were sore then it must have been a while. She hoped what happened between them hadn't kept him from playing. Music was the only thing that helped him and if he hadn't been playing, then before the accident he was worse than she had thought. Maybe the music reminded him of her, they did spend a lot of time at the bar.
It had also taken him a little longer to tune than it normally did, which was another thing that made him think that it had been some time since he had last played. But he had been sick in the hospital for a while and hadn't been well enough to play until now. Maybe that was it.
Pulling the guitar up over his head and placing it softly onto the bed in front of him, he looked at it, admiring his guitar strap. "I don't remember this" he said as he smoothed his hand on it, reading the writing. He had never seen it before.
She leaned forward until she was only a few inches away from him and looked at what he was talking about. Turning her face to him, she mumbled "I gave that to you" with a small but warm smile on her face.
He looked at her, noticing how much closer she had gotten within only the last few seconds, somewhat affecting his concentration. He almost forgot to listen to her. "Really?" he said sweetly, matching her expression. He was more confused now than ever. He thought she said there was nothing going on between them.
How did he have this kind of power over her? No one else ever made her feel the way that he did and he wasn't even doing anything.
"You didn't have to do that" he said, still looking at her. What was happening? Did Neela have feelings for him? No, that was impossible. She hated him. He guessed living with someone and being in such close contact, you could get all sorts of mixed signals.
Laughing quietly, for no reason at all, she replied "I know" letting him know that she had done it because she wanted to. Sitting next to him made all her feelings for him come back, but she didn't want to confuse him or put him in this kind of situation right now. It was just when she was around him sometimes she couldn't help herself.
"I think that's one of the nicest things you've ever done for me" he said, before looking away and back at the strap, still with that goofy grin on his face. Of course, he wasn't really positive but it was as far as he knew. Obviously taking care of him over the last few days was one of them, too. Flipping it over, he looked at the other side, seeing that it had his name on it. She hadn't been stingy about it either. It was leather.
"It was nothing" she said shyly with a slight blush on her cheeks. She didn't think it was really that big of a deal.
She leaned back against the pillows again. They had never spent so much time talking since she moved in. They had talked frequently whenever both of them were home, but it had never been like this.
Turning his head around, he said "Not to me" letting her know that it meant something to him.
Getting up, he placed the guitar carefully back into the case and shut it still with a smile on his face the whole time. He didn't want to be rude to her and be playing the whole time she was in there and just be ignoring her.
She was happy to see him smiling again. He had been so depressed lately. She smiled at him as he made his way back onto the bed and laid next to her.
"What do you want to do tonight?" he said as he placed his hand underneath his head and closed his eyes. He never acted this way around other girls. With her it was so comfortable, like he had known her his whole life.
Thinking about it for a moment, "We could watch a movie again" she suggested.
He loved to listen to her commentaries on the movies that they watched, 'Don't go in there, what are you bloody stupid?' and so on. Not to mention she would always hate it when people were being chased by the bad guy and the prissy in high heels would always trip over absolutely nothing at all. He personally found her more entertaining than the movie most of the time.
He wasn't up for it tonight though "We've already seen all the ones I wanted to watch. That's ok" it wasn't that he didn't want to spend time with her, he just wasn't feeling that well today. His stomach was sore again. He would rather just talk right now.
He liked talking to her. It was nice. Which was saying a lot because he didn't ordinarily just sit and talk to girls. Better yet, he wasn't just friends with girls. Neela was very easy to talk to. He hated the feeling he got that it was his responsibility to keep the conversation going so the girl would stay interested. He loved girls, but there was always so much pressure. Although most people would never have thought that about Ray. He just liked that he could talk to her and that they talked to each other, not just him talking to her. It was so much easier with her and so comfortable. It just came naturally. It was only like that with her.
And before they knew it, that was what the two of them had spent the whole night doing. Talking about anything and everything they could think of, not remembering when the last time they had had this much fun together.
"So, you have to testify in a couple days, huh?" he asked, she had talked to him a little about it before but she didn't really like to spend much time on it. He didn't know why. He didn't mind talking about it. It didn't bother him.
She didn't know where that had come from, but she didn't like talking about that with him. She didn't want to make him think about that. It was something she had to do and she didn't want him to worry about it. "Yes. I have to be there at 9am. I'm not sure how long it's going to take." She didn't want to spend her last day off in the courtroom but it was the only time she could do it. She had to go to work every day after that and who knew when she would be able to get a day off again. She just wanted to do it and get it over with.
"Are you nervous?" he asked, worrying and hoping that it wouldn't be too much for her. It had been traumatic for her, too. The whole thing had happened right in front of her.
"A little, but I'll get through it" she told him, not exactly lying but not telling him the whole truth either. She didn't want him to worry about her, he had enough to deal with. Besides, she was worried enough for the both of them. About him, about the trial, about everything, but Abby and Sam were coming so it wasn't like she had to do this alone. She still hadn't told him what he had done for her. She wasn't sure when the right moment was or even how to tell him something like that.
Suddenly Ray let out a long, deep yawn as he stretched out both his arms and legs. Why did doing that somehow make you that much more tired? Out of nowhere he was starting to be overcome with fatigue.
Just when he was going to ask her if she wanted him to come, Neela looked out the window of his bedroom and noticed the sun starting to rise. Where had the time gone? She was tired but she had been ignoring it all night. She hadn't realized they had been talking so long, and they had eaten dinner a long time ago. "Do you realize that we've talked all night?" she said, almost not believing it herself.
Opening his eyes a little, he looked outside his window himself and saw that she was right. "I guess I didn't notice either" he told her, guessing she hadn't been paying attention either and that was why she had pointed it out.
Good thing she didn't have to go to work today. She could sleep in, but she didn't usually sleep during the day unless she had worked the graveyard shift. This was so unlike her. She had never stayed up all night talking to someone before, not even with one her girlfriends. Which was kind of sad when you thought about it. She had stayed up late before with her friends but never all night. It did feel good, aside from the complete and utter exhaustion.
His eyes were still open a little but she could tell he wasn't going to last much longer. She would go in a minute, she still wasn't ready to leave his room just yet.
As she was looking out the window, she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head all the way to the right and noticed something on the stand next to Ray's bed. She almost couldn't believe it at first and thought it was the sleep deprivation playing some sort of weird trick on her brain. Was she seeing things?
It was the picture of her and Ray from her photo album that she had let him borrow. She felt an instant happiness when she saw that he had framed it and put it next to his bed. Where had he gotten the frame?
"Ray…" she said to get his attention and wanting to talk to him about it.
"What?" he asked as he looked at her, wanting to know what she wanted, then shifted his eyes to see what she was looking at. "Uh..." he said nervously, guess he probably should have asked first. After all, it had been hers. "I couldn't resist. I hope you don't mind." He wasn't afraid of her, but he didn't know how she would react to him essentially 'stealing' her picture.
Mind? Was he joking? Of course she didn't mind. It had just surprised her. "No. It's fine" she looked at him with a smile to let him know it was all right "Where did you get the frame?" She had to know. She knew she hadn't bought him one and he hadn't left the apartment.
"I found one in my closet" he told her truthfully. Yes, he admitted it. He was looking for one just so he could put that picture in it. "It's the only one I took." He didn't want her to think there had been others. He had taken it, but just the one, he wasn't going around stealing all of her stuff. Besides, if she had had a problem with it, then he would just give it back to her. All along, he knew deep down she wouldn't care.
She loved that picture of the two of them at the bar, but she had others of the two of them so it was ok and if he wanted it that badly then he could have it. Actually, she thought it was kind of sweet that he liked it that much. "Don't worry about it" she assured him, letting him know that it was fine with her. "Do you still have my album?" she asked, wanting it back now, figuring he was done with it.
"It on top of my dresser" he said, slightly pointing his face forward in its general direction.
After walking over and picking it up, she told him "I have to go get some sleep" making her way towards the door.
Watching her as she left he said, "Ok. Goodnight, roomie."
She came to a sudden stop after he said the last word and looked at him as tears started to come to her eyes. He hadn't called her that in so long, and ordinarily she hated when he called her that, but right now, it was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard.
He wasn't entirely sure what to do right now. He hadn't meant to upset her and he didn't mean to make her cry. What did he say? What did he do? "I didn't mean to…" he started to apologize but she stopped him.
She couldn't let him think there was anything wrong and that she didn't like it. It wasn't affecting her in the way he thought. "It's not that. I'm fine" she smiled happily still with tears in her eyes threatening dangerously to spill over "Goodnight, Ray."
He had no idea what just happened here, but as long as she was ok then that was all that mattered.
She turned off his light on her way out and shut the door. She stood on the other side of his door as a tear finally fell slowly down her cheek.
Maybe there was hope yet.
A/N: Thank you to all of you who made your suggestions! It helped me come up with more for this chapter. As I said, I still don't have this story completely mapped out yet, and I'm still doing a little brainstorming. I used a couple of the ideas, but some will have to wait until later (sorry goldstaar). With all the drama going on in this fic lately, I also felt that it was time for something a little lighter and more fun for a change. Hope you liked it!