shallowness: Five panels featuring pictures of different female characters based on my interests at the time. (Bright Star dancing)
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Title: Don’t Look Back
Author: shallowness
Fandom: ER
Rating: PG
Characters/Pairing: Ray/Neela, references to other characters and canonical pairings.
Word count: 434.
Summary: Neela wants to know why Ray was smirking. The reason surprises her.

Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine, and I make no profit from this fan-written fiction.
Author's Note: Set after 15.20 (Shifting Equilibrium)


Don’t Look Back: shallowness


“What are you smirking for?” she asks. Ray’s expression changes to boyish, busted. “All I said was that I can’t believe it took me so long to find out that Sam moved back in with Tony. And Alex. And Sarah…you know what I mean. What was in that to make you smirk?”

“Nothing,” Ray mumbles, wishing he’d bought coffee to Neela’s office, so there’d be some kind of distraction about right now. There’s no point denying that he was smirking. She could probably draw the expression in her sleep, if she could draw.

“It’s not like we had a bet on it,” Neela says, “although, you know, I’m glad it happened. They’re good for each other.”

He takes the softening for the opportunity it is.

“I smirked, well, smiled really, because—“ he hesitates, but her face is open, her quick temper damped down, “because you didn’t know about it until now.”

“Huh?” It’s not a noise that Neela’s been making a lot of in Baton Rouge; it’s more of a noise that comes from the staff trailing in her wake on a daily basis.

“There was a time when you were on that damn computer to County, well, whenever you had a break.” He tries to make his voice sound casual, because he didn’t mind. She’d come to Baton Rouge. To him. He’d told himself the calls would lessen eventually as she settled in, although it was harder to remember that when Simon Brenner oozed compliments than when she laughed at Frank or Archie’s jokes, although he sometimes felt that they were all County in-jokes from after his time. But he’d tell himself again – because it still felt unreal – that she’d chosen Baton Rouge. Him. And she always explained the jokes.

He looks at her steadily and watches her process his words. She’s so alive. He missed being able to do this, and now he can watch her without interruption. It’s not his fault that he’s afraid of losing this – her - all over again.

“I wasn’t that bad,” she says, stepping towards him. “Was I?”

“It was just nice to hear you say that you hadn’t known that something had happened at County,” he responds. “So I smiled.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think. You could have said – but it was a big part of my life.”

“I know.”

“Which is why you never said.” She takes one more tiny step towards him. “I’m here, Ray. I’ll still keep in touch, but I’ve left County. I’m here. Really.”

He pulls her into his arms, holds her and the moment for a long while.


Fin.

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