Title: "All These Conversations End the Same"
Ray and Neela get distracted. (Post-series.)
I apologize that this isn't an actual story, but I'm trying to shake the rust off my writing gears, so I thought I'd share. Each chapter is a standalone scene, linked by a loose theme (talkin' and makin' out, basically).

"Baby, Let's Fly (Using Our Miles, Subject To Restricted Dates and Conditions)"

"The beach isn't really as fun for me as it used to be."

"Right, sorry." She flicked at the touchscreen, a little wrinkle of concentration appearing above her nose. "What about the mountains, then? The Rockies are supposed to be gorgeous. I've never been, have you?"

"What, like skiing?"

"Yeah, like skiing. I haven't been since university. I doubt our insurance covers extreme sports prostheses, but don't tell me you wouldn't want to try it."

"Do you remember back in, like...2005, I think? The guys and I went snowboarding up in Wausau."


"I almost asked you to come."

"You're kidding. I would have said no."

"I know. That's why 'almost.'"

"All right, so that's a possible." She tapped at the screen again. "Aspen?"

"Aspen's full of rich dicks. Boulder's supposed to be cool."

She frowned. "Yeah, cool. As long as we both get pertussis boosters first."

"If you ended up yelling at some anti-vax nutjob on the street that would be like the best part of the trip. Hey, why don't you check the NIH website and find out where we can go that'll require the most injections, that'll be fun." He leaned over to look at the iPad. "Okay, if you're going to add disease clusters to your vacation search criteria this whole process is going to take a lot longer."

"We could..."


"We could go to London."

"Cool, let's go to London. I'm ready. Let's do it."

"But we might be expected to actually stay in Southall, and that is not happening. I suppose we could stop over for a few days and then go on to Paris..."

"Awesome. That is a plan. I love when you speak French. Book it."

"But then we do only have a week, maybe we'd be better off sticking closer to home..."

He dropped his head back onto the couch and rolled his neck in her direction. When she started tapping away again he reached over and grabbed the iPad out of her hands.

"Excuse me! Ray!"

He held it over his head, and she kneeled unsteadily on the cushion and stretched up both arms to snatch it back. He tugged on the hem of her nightshirt and gravity brought her down on top of him with her prize, a corner of which landed hard onto his thigh. "Fuck."

She sat back as he winced, her eyes full of concern. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah." He rubbed at the spot. "I've had worse bruises."

When she saw he was fine, she said, "I was talking to my iPad, actually."

"I'll throw it across the room, I swear to god, Neela."

"Oh, fine." She laid it gently onto the coffee table, out of his reach.

"Why are you so stressed out about this, anyway? It's a vacation. It's supposed to be relaxing. That's the whole point."

"Well I haven't been on holiday in a really long time, and this is our first one together, and I want it to be-"

"Perfect, and if you can't plan it exactly right, then maybe we shouldn't go at all, and you can have this hypothetical perfect vacation in your head and not have to deal with a potentially unsatisfying real world vacation, all without ever having to spend a week away from work."

"Nice. I want it to be nice. I don't know what you're on about."

"Neela, we could do six nights at the Doubletree in Lake Charles, I don't care. It'd be nice just to spend the time with you. You know what I realized? I've never known you when you weren't working. I'm not even sure you can go a full week without working."

"Of course I can."

"It'll be like an experiment. Maybe I'll write it up."

"Honestly, I don't even know if I want to go away with you anymore..."

"Do you even know how to relax?"

"You've seen me relaxed!"


"All the time! Constantly!"

"Okay, prove it. Remind me what that looks like. You, relaxed."

"Fine. I'll take that challenge." She laid across the sofa on her back, extended her legs and rested her crossed ankles on his knee. A smile pulled at the corners of her mouth, and she clasped her hands genteelly over her ribcage. "See? Get ready for seven solid days of this action."

He laughed, slid one hand under her bare calves to gently lift her legs while he shifted his weight slightly. She uncrossed her ankles and he leaned forward until his hands were behind her knees. "I don't know, I think you could do better."

"Really? Perhaps you ought to look closer."

"Perhaps." She laughed as she started sliding forward, his hands traveling up her legs and her elbows pushing her along. Her nightshirt bunched up under her breasts.

"Hm, I am a little more relaxed now..."

"Yeah, it looks that way."

"Except that my pants are twisted up in some inconvenient places."

"Don't worry about that, it's a temporary issue."

She braced her left foot against the back of the couch, and her right against his biceps. Her toes curled around his sleeve as he kissed the inside of her knee.

"You know, you're right, it's coming back to me now. I've definitely seen you relaxed like this before."

"Told you so." The last syllable became a stuttered exhalation as she lifted her hips for his hands. A minute later her underwear was on the table next to the iPad.

She scrunched her fingers in his short hair as he leaned down, and, just for a split second, wondered about the rates for the Doubletree in Lake Charles.