A/N: once again thanks to seahaven, there'll be a bit of a gap between this chapter and the next as i'm still working on it, but i'm pretty determined to finish this story so please bare with me. Thanks.

Movie Night 18: Ray's decision

"I have to go." Ray lifted his head off the bed and Don stopped mid pace.

"There's still a couple hours till dinner." Don observed picking up the alarm clock from his night stand. Watching the little red lines blink from one number to another.

"I have free training."

"So? You also had chem lab."

Ray pushes himself up off the bed, the rips in his body are tender but the pain is subsiding finally. He's not used to the pain thing, not physical pain anyway, and he is not at all a fan. Don runs a hand through his already messy red hair and shrugs.

"Whatever man, your GPA."

He's not sure why he doesn't just tell Don that he's teaching Forest to fight, it's Don he finds out everything sooner or later anyway. It seems so wrong to teach Forest of all people and not Donny.

"I'll be back before dinner." he tells him as he leaves.

"Cool. If you rip more stitches you're being stitched up with regular ass thread, keep it in mind." Don doesn't even look over at him, just flicks open his Latin workbook and fishes out a pencil from his drawer.

He's getting a little worried about Don, he seems so much more subdued since Emily's disappearance slash death. Perhaps he needs out of this place as much as Suki does. Actually he's sure he doesn't want anyone out of this hell hole more than Suki, why else would he bother teaching up Forest? It certainly wasn't for his own benefit.

He loved her and it wasn't that selfish thing in his gut that wanted to hold onto her no matter what, and it wasn't the heavy feeling in his skin when they touched either. It was the light thing, a kind of weightlessness that wanted what was best for her if it included him or not.

He was determined to listen to that part.

He pushed open the door to the training room. Forest and Archer were already there. They were deep in what appeared to be a meaningless conversation about Batman and Forest was following Archer along as he stretched.

Ray picked up a water bottle from the bench and threw it at the pair.

To his disappointment Ian's arm moved quickly and hit the bottle away from Gabe's head.

"What the hell Ray."

He shrugs; Ian and Gabe bring out the worst in him he's sure.

"You should be more aware of your environment. If I was a gnome you'd be dead."

"But Ian deflected it."

"A water bottle, if they used anything with stopping power your arm'd be broken."

Ian looks away from him and he knows that he begrudgingly agrees. It's a small victory in his war against Ian so he'll take it. He throws his sweater down on the bench and checks his white shirt. It is still completely white.

"Don't use that arm the rest of the session." Ray tells him and there's a deadpanned authority to his voice. It's the same exercise Coach used on him when he was getting too cocky.

Maybe it'll do Ian some good.

They go half an hour focusing mainly on Forests' blocking and evade. It's primarily in silence broken only once and a while for Ian or Ray to correct Gabe's stance. Ian is even keeping his arm tight to his chest and unused.

The door bursts open and Gabe looks like he's about to have a heart attack. A blonde with thick rimmed glasses is standing there in the open doorway, doubled over and breathing heavily. He recognizes her as a member of student council, she used to hang around with Emily, hang off her every word.

"Gabe-" she huffs and Gabe regains some of his bravado and at the very least no longer looks like he needs Nurse.

"What is it Heather? Kind of in the middle of something."

She stands up straight and the light glints off her glasses making it near impossible to see her eyes, "You should be in the middle of the budget meeting!" she picks up a bottle from the bench and throws it rather expertly at his head.

Gabe ducks and the plastic bottle hits the back wall and cracks.

"Headmaster is there and wants to know what's taking you so long!"

"Oh crap."

"I told him you must be in the cafeteria getting a snack. I've been running around everywhere looking for you!" she looks away and mumbles something that's not meant for them but they hear it anyway, "This never would have happened if Em was here." the girls shoulders sag and she turns away from the door and heads back to the meeting room.

"Sorry, gotta cut it short. A president's work is never done." and with that he grabs his sweater and runs out the door, "Heather baby-" is the last thing they hear as he shuts the door.

A dead awkward silence falls over the room.

"It's nice of you to do this for Gabe." Archer tries and he recognises it as a kind of peace offering sentence but he doesn't want it.

"I'm not doing this for Gabe. He has a good hook it's a waste not to use him."

More silence as they both stand looking at the door. Its odd how Gabe has become some strange buffer since as long as Gabe's been at Tower he's wanted to punch him so hard in the stomach that he threw up meals he hadn't even had yet.

Ian takes a deep breath and he readies himself, whatever it is Ian doesn't want to talk about he's sure he doesn't want to talk about either.

"They want you to come with us." it sounds as if the words had cut on the way out.

"Do you want me to come?"

"Of course not."

He's glad that he didn't bother to lie; perhaps they both know it would sound too fake to even bother with.

"Does Suki know that you're asking me to go?"

"No."

"Good."

"Good?"

Ray turns to Archer, "Don't let her know."

Ian's eye widen and the fact that he's turning the offer down is left unspoken between them and he's glad. he's not sure if he could say the words again. So he asks something else he doesn't want to know.

"How long?"

"Week... tops."

He had expected it to be soon and he had expected it to hurt no matter what the time frame was but god. It was like a well placed blow to his chest, he was having trouble breathing.

"My girl is too smart." is all he can say and he hates it but my girl breaks and he can see Ian look away.

"Sorry." Ian whispers and it's possible that he is sorry but it doesn't help any, "What are you going to do about Suki, she doesn't want to leave without you. I can tell."

"I'm going to break up with her." he says it simply like that was his plan all along, and maybe it was he can't remember. Maybe he thought they would just fail at it like he had, maybe he just assumed that they would be tracked down by Gnomes and wake up in their own beds just like he and Don had what felt like a millennia ago.

He picks up his sweater and leaves before Ian can stop floundering around long enough to say anything.

She's not really all that hungry but Suki is stone-faced and stonewalling her so there is nothing left to do in the observatory but her French homework and she isn't really feeling up to congregating anything at the moment.

"Voulez-vous aller dîner?"

Suki looks up from the math homework she wasn't really working on and shrugs, "Might as well. I'm tired of looking at this problem."

They wind through the tunnels and end up dusty and in their dorm.

"Do you think Ray loves me?" Suki asks, the words rush out of her as if against her better judgement. Her face is flushed and scared is screaming at her from every characteristic on Suki's face.

"You mean like forever?"

Suki nods but can't bring her eyes to hers. The weight of the question is crushing. even thou Suki isn't saying anything she knows that her answer determines way more than it should.

She sits down heavily on her bed and thinks about Ray. Thinks about Ray and Suki. Recalls the little things, the way he looks at her when he thinks no one else is looking, the way he threads his fingers through hers. The movement of his mouth, and eyes and hands.

yes

He wants to be with her so bad it hurts him, she can tell in the slightly too tight grip of fingers, in the hitch in his breathing,

forever

He loves her. Really, properly. Can tell in the fact that he wants her out of this place, can tell in the way he keeps it to himself, so it's easier on her. In the fact that he knows she'll be gone from this place and still talks about a future. That he will find her is something she believes with all the sentimental desperate bits of her.

"CJ?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." and so do you.

"He loves me." she tells the room as if it doesn't already know. The entire school knows that he loves her. it's been a constant for years long before Suki even looked at him twice. Maybe for most of that time it had been a more hormonal teenage thing then it is now but the soft undertone had always been there. Just like it was there in Suki now. In the way she kept flowers that had shown up at their door with a get well note in writing they both recognized as Rays, in the way she wouldn't let him feel abandoned at the movies, in the way she held his hand and moved his hair and laughed at his surprisingly innocent juvenile jokes. In the way she chose him over Gabe and Ian.

"Love you." she tells CJ in Ray's voice and it's private and easy and panicked at the end in the sound of a quick breath.

"He said it out loud?" she can't help it there's a girlish hysterical edge to her voice as she bounces off her bed.

Suki nods quickly and the wall crumbles momentarily as CJ's arms wrap around her best friend and she forgets all about what she's done what's she going to do, forgets all about the deal she's made and is for maybe the first time in her life just a girl.

The hug is digging fingers and laughter and spinning and for that minute everything is perfect.

The door burst open and Ian is standing there, red in the face from exertion panic written all over his features and the perfect girl moment is gone.

"I need to talk to you." he points at CJ and his entire body seems to be jumping but there's something in the twitch of his mouth. Self satisfaction that worries her more than everything else.

"I'll meet you guys at dinner." Suki tells them and she skips past Ian.

Ian steps fully into the room and closes the door and all the joy and levity just disappears from the room.