Beta-ed By: Me! Oh, pick me! Pick me! (Mistakes make me human...)
Summary: Just a little piece until I recover from my writer's block. I think the title pretty much explains it. I'd like to think that this explains why we never see the 'slash' part in the show (all taking place between the lines, I suppose).
I. Crime Scene
The first time they met, Ryan Wolfe was still in Patrol uniform responding to the scene of a bus crash involving a young woman. He saw Horatio Caine standing at the crime scene, talking to a tall Cuban, who he could only assume was one of the CSIs, judging from the silver kit he carried. Armed with his small notepad and a deep breath, he boldly approached the two men.
"Lieutenant Caine. I'm Officer Wolfe," he introduced himself, nodding at the Cuban in acknowledgement. "I ascertained there were no surveillance cameras at the scene, so I canvassed the witnesses to see if there was any camera, video equipment that might've filmed it. I've got a couple of names, sir."
Looking impressed at the young officer before him, Horatio replied, "Thank you, Wolfe. We'll take it from here."
And with that, Ryan left the scene, feeling satisfied that he had made the first move. He could only hope that he had made a good first impression...on both men.
Slightly surprised but amused nonetheless, Eric observed, "He's thorough."
"Yes..." Horatio agreed. "Follow up please."
And with a mocking salute, Eric replied lightly, "Will do, Lieutenant," before walking away to follow up with the young patrol officer.
Horatio smiled to himself as he briefly watched the interaction between the two young men from a distance.
"Looks like Eric may have found a new friend."
II. Layout Room
He couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe he fell for it. He couldn't believe he didn't suspect something sooner either...the look on Calleigh and Eric's faces when they 'dared' him to go to autopsy should have been a dead giveaway. It should've clued him in.
But most of all, he couldn't believe how freaked out he was when he saw the headless body of one Richard Laken.
And then Alexx had to go 'process' the severed head...
Skull... Melting tissue... Hair... And skin...
He shook his head at the memory, not wanting to dwell on the image that he was sure would make him turn green and hurl out his lunch in a heaving jiffy. Sure, he wasn't lying when he told Alexx that he'd observed an autopsy before. And honestly, he had handled that whole experience quite well, but that was different. No, this was different...
The man was missing his friggin' head!
And to top it all off, he realized too little, too late that Calleigh and Eric had purposely sent him down to the autopsy to mess with him.
"So, uh, how'd it go on autopsy?" Eric asked, feigning nonchalance, even though Ryan could hear amusement in his voice.
Playing it off as if the whole experience hadn't fazed him, Ryan responded, "I handled it. Who hazed you?" he asked with a slight smile.
"Speedle," came Eric's short reply.
At this, Ryan looked up to watch Eric's face. And for a brief moment, he saw the reminiscing look on the older CSI's eyes as he remembered how Speedle 'initiated' him into the lab.
"...A headless woman," Eric continued, chuckling slightly. "Freaked me out a little too."
Ryan merely smiled and ducked his head down to continue what he had been working on. It was strangely comforting to know that his 'hazing' wasn't done out of malice or anything of the sort. It was probably some sort of an unwritten tradition within the lab: haze the newbie by sending him down to observe an autopsy on a headless body. Heck, he'd probably do it too if he was given the chance to 'mentor' another rookie and if the same 'opportunity' presented itself again.
He was interrupted from his musings by Eric's voice.
"So, what killed Richard Laken?" Eric finally asked.
"Based on the paint in Richard's arms and the measurements in these guys, he was killed with a tire iron," Ryan listed matter-of-factly before proceeding with his own work again.
Nodding, Eric replied, "Okay. Now we know what we're looking for." But just before he turned around to walk out of the room, he added, "Good work!"
Ryan's head snapped up in surprise when he heard this. He saw Eric's back and watched his retreating form as he left the room, wondering whether there was something more to the tone of his voice when he had praised Ryan for his work.
Shaking his head once again, however, Ryan decided to stay focused on the task at hand. He really shouldn't be reading between the lines. After all, Eric was just being a guy, right? And guys do this kind of thing to each other all the time. Right?
Or maybe, he was 'dipping pigtails in ink'...
"Nah... It can't be," Ryan thought dismissively. "Eric is a bona fide ladies' man," he reminded himself. "And this was nothing. There was no move, no hidden intent... No pigtails to be dipped."
Yes. It was just a stupid prank.
III. Suspect's Apartment
It was a few weeks after the 'hazing' incident when Ryan had the opportunity to work with Eric again. This time, they were working on a case that seemingly started out as a theft, but then quickly revealed a cover-up for a murder. They had gone into Edward Mathis's apartment to look for a nitrous oxide canister.
"This is the perfect place to hide sex tapes, and murder weapons," Eric commented.
Ryan, who was scanning the place with a flashlight, observed, "Based on his pad, everything has its place." Then turning around in realization, he concluded, "Edward Mathis may have made our jobs easier. He's OCD."
At Ryan's comment, Eric flashed him his infamous shit-eating smirk. There was something about the way Ryan's eyes lit up whenever he discovered new evidence or was able to draw out a conclusion that reminded him of himself when he was a rookie CSI.
Chuckling lightly, Eric replied, "Huh. Sounds like someone I know."
Even though they hadn't had much opportunity to work together since Horatio seemed to keep assigning Ryan to work with Calleigh, he had noticed enough about Ryan's work habits and quirks to know that he was OCD. And it didn't really bother him at all. If anything, the young man's OCD had ensured that he was thorough, a trait that was extremely valuable when one was a CSI.
"So...where would you keep a nitrous oxide canister?" he asked curiously.
Ryan didn't immediately respond to Eric's question but continued to search through the apartment. Try as he might to act unperturbed by Eric's comment and to concentrate on finding the damn canister, he couldn't shake off the words that kept echoing in his head.
"Sounds like someone I know... Sounds like someone I know... Sounds like someone I know..."
"I sound like someone he knows," he thought to himself, mentally dissecting Eric's words as he opened Edward Mathis's meticulously organized closet. "He knows... Wait. He knows me? What does he know about me aside from my OCD? What else does he know about me? And how does he know about..."
His thoughts were suddenly interrupted when he picked up a shoe box and opened it to reveal the missing nitrous oxide canister.
"Bingo!" Ryan remarked as he glanced over at Eric.
"Ha!" Eric replied, smirking in amusement as he walked over to Ryan. "Twisted minds think alike." Then, taking the box from Ryan, he added, "Good work!"
There goes that praise again. And Ryan wasn't sure what to think anymore. He knew that he was attracted to Eric physically since that first time they met at the scene of the bus crash, and he had been working extremely hard to earn Horatio's and the team's trust and respect. He had been striving to prove to them, especially to Eric, that he was very capable, and that he was a damn good CSI.
And although he couldn't really understand why it mattered to him so much what Eric thought of him, he still couldn't help but try to impress the older man. He still couldn't resist hearing Eric praise him. It was like his words were water to his soul...or to his career-oriented ego.
"Good work!" Eric's words echoed in his mind again, and Ryan smiled.
Maybe Eric wouldn't be opposed to hanging out with him after all. Maybe he'd get his chance to make a 'move' and ask Eric if he'd be interested in grabbing a beer with him after work. Because knowing involves spending time together, right? And really, they haven't been hanging out that much at all.
Maybe it's time he made another move.
IV. The Elevator
Several months passed, and for reasons he knew he had brought upon himself, Ryan and Eric's relationship had suddenly deteriorated from being easygoing to being openly resentful and sometimes hostile.
He knew that he never should've taken credit for the finding of that key gun alone. It was Eric, after all, who had gone underwater and retrieved it. At the time, however, he was just so damn stubborn and only too willing to follow Horatio's orders that he didn't think much about leaving Eric behind.
It wasn't like he wanted to purposely exclude his colleague from the investigation, to upset him, or to compete with him. He was just following Horatio's damn orders, something that he was used to doing ever since he was in Patrol.
But if he was being honest with himself, he knew that he had done what he did because things had been on a predictable plateau as far as his 'relationship' with Eric was concerned: Eric still hadn't made any significant or telling 'moves' to show him if he was interested.
Apart from hanging out with him after work to grab a beer or dinner or something, Eric hadn't expressed to Ryan whether he even remotely felt anything similar about him, and Ryan was getting more and more confused with each passing day.
He wanted so much to know where he stood with the Cuban, and he had done his part by dropping subtle hints...but to no avail. Try as he might, he couldn't seem to get an honest reaction out of Eric, and well... He was getting pretty damn impatient. Hence the whole 'excluding Eric from the investigation' fiasco...
And then there was the whole other debacle of a mistake with that reporter...
Ryan shook his head in dismay, "Stupid, stupid, stupid..."
If he could turn around and bang his head against the wall, he would...only he was too proud to admit publicly that he had messed up. He really dipped the proverbial pigtail this time...and in the blackest ink he could find, no less. The only solace Ryan could think of now was that at least, he was able to finally raise a genuine reaction out of the older man...even if it was his anger.
He thought about these things as he rode up the elevator with his fellow CSIs. Eric had been disturbingly different lately...and not in the good sense either. His face was haggard, his appearance worn, his posture tired, and there was a look of despondency in his eyes.
It was all Ryan could do not to reach out and wrap his arms around the older man's defeated form, press him against his body, and comfort him like he had always wanted to.
Make a move.
But he knew that their relationship was strained, and that this was neither the time nor the place to offer comfort, even though it was killing him to see the object of his affection look so downhearted.
He wondered for a moment what had caused Eric's change in behavior, and he wished so much that he could just ask Eric about it. But knowing his colleague, Ryan abstained from asking about it, merely keeping his mouth shut. The last thing he wanted was to be accused of poking his nose into his business.
He heard Calleigh ask who the last person was who had used the spare kit from the Hummer, and Eric hesitantly admitted to being the culprit. Smirking to himself in amusement, Ryan watched as the blonde re-stocked the spare kit with supplies from Eric's kit.
"Could you at least leave me a pair of gloves?" Eric asked easily.
"Sure. Yours are too big for me anyway," Calleigh replied.
He could feel Eric's body heat as he stood next to him in the elevator, and he shivered to himself despite the heat and the enclosed space. He knew the temptation that was Eric Delko, and knew that he couldn't afford to give in and look weak.
And so, reigning in all of his self-control, Ryan crossed his arms and leaned against the side wall of the elevator as far away from Eric as the enclosed space would allow, trying to alleviate some of the heat radiating from Eric's direction, as he waited for the machine to take them up to the top floor of the hotel.
He was just about to look away when something caught his eye, "Dude, are those rolling papers in there?" he asked, frowning.
Eric glanced down at his kit and stammered a reply, "They're not mine. Someone must've brought it in my kit." And really, how lame of an excuse was that?
Smirking slightly, Calleigh muttered, "At least they re-stocked it."
And Ryan couldn't help himself. Grinning sarcastically, he added, "Yeah. We really have to crack down on the pot-smoking kit thieves around here," earning him a glare from the Cuban.
"I said they're not mine," Eric repeated rather defensively.
Feeling the older man's burning glare upon him, Ryan merely chuckled dismissively, "Move, Ryan..." he told himself as he pushed his frame off the wall and stepped up to press the damn elevator button once again. "Relax, Delko," he replied, grinning as he returned to his previous position against the wall. "I believe you. I hate it when people jump to conclusions, don't you?"
And boy, did that remark hit home. He felt smug satisfaction as soon as the words left his mouth. The look on Eric's face had been priceless: surprise at Ryan's remark mixed in with a righteous glare. But Ryan didn't care. He got his reaction, and that's all he really cared about at that moment.
Score one more point for inciting another reaction from the Cuban.
V. Emergency Room
Ryan couldn't ever remember being in so much pain, and all he ever wanted to do was pull the damn piece of metal sticking out from the corner of his right eye. Had it not been for Eric's voice of reason, he might've done more damage to his eye, not to mention, lost consciousness from the blood loss.
Vaguely, he remembered the look on Eric's face as he found him lying on his back inside the contractor's trailer, shaking and hyperventilating in pain, bleeding from the eye, and trying his best not to panic.
Eric's voice had been soft and reassuring despite the evident concern on his face and the trace of fear in his eyes. He remembered grabbing a hold of the older man's arm and squeezing it hard, trying to ease some of the pain, trying to draw comfort in knowing that he had been found and that someone was there with him, and perhaps trying to assure himself that he was still alive.
"Hold tight. Just hold tight."
He wouldn't wait for the paramedics to arrive. No, he said there was no time for that, and that he had to get him to the hospital now. And despite the fact that the bumpy and hellish nightmare of a ride to the ER didn't help to alleviate the pain he was experiencing, Ryan was strangely relieved to be able to scream out his pain and frustration in front of someone he trusted.
"Wolfe! You stay with me, Wolfe! You stay with me. We're almost there!" Eric had told him, panic and concern mingling in his voice.
And then there was that touch on his arm as Eric drove the Hummer like a crazed maniac on his way to the emergency room...
"Wolfe. You stay with me, Wolfe. Alright? You stay with me. We're almost there."
His eyes began to roll towards the back of his head as he felt his pain parameter reach the unbearable mark. Darkness was beginning to cloud his vision, and the last coherent thing he could remember before he blacked out completely was Eric's reassuring hand still clutching at his arm, telling him not to dare go into shock.
Yeah. It was just like Eric to be the one to give the order... Just like him to do that.
By the time he was able to walk out of his room and into the lobby of the emergency room, Eric was already standing by the wall, waiting for him.
"I heard they were letting you out," Eric said just as Ryan was about to walk by him.
"Well, I promised I wouldn't drive," the words slipped out quickly in a joking sarcasm kind of a way before Ryan could stop himself.
In reality, however, he did have a hell of a time convincing the doctor and Alexx to release him and to let him go home. He had to make a few promises in order to garner his release from the hospital, and he was sure that Alexx wouldn't hesitate to check on him to make sure that he was keeping his end of the bargain.
Hell, she probably sent Eric to pick him up and take him home just to make sure that he wouldn't attempt to drive behind her back.
But maybe Eric merely came of his own accord because...
"Nah... You're dreaming again, Ryan. Time to get a grip on reality and move past this... this... whatever this is," he heard himself say through the raging confusion in his drug-muddled brain.
Or maybe he felt guilty for not answering the call out...
"I know. That's why I...came by...to give you a lift," Eric stammered.
And God. How he wished it were true that Eric came by the hospital for him, just because it was him... and for no other reason at all. But no. Ryan was no fool. He immediately detected the trace of guilt in the other man's voice, and he knew that this was nothing more than Eric trying to atone for his imprudence.
Shaking his head dismissively, Ryan replied, "Thanks." The last thing he wanted was his pity, and he wasn't going to allow himself to be used simply for Eric's redemption from his guilt.
Seeing the younger man's reluctance to his offer, Eric tried again, "Look. I'm...I'm going by your place anyway."
But Ryan merely shrugged, "That's cool." And without accepting his colleague's offer for a ride, he brushed him off one last time, "I'm just gonna take a cab," before walking away.
He would've succeeded with his plan to just leave Eric behind...again, had Eric not reached out a stubborn hand, grabbed his arm, and stopped him from moving away any further.
He turned around out of curiosity, and for the first time, he saw the look of pain and defeat in the Cuban's eyes.
"I know this was my fault," Eric admitted finally.
"Your eye," came Eric's simple reply.
Yeah... As if that answered everything.
Not wanting to make direct eye contact, Ryan looked away, feigning ignorance, "What are you talking about?"
Looking at him incredulously, Eric replied, "I'm talking about – it was my call. Okay? No matter what's going on in my life, I should've...I should've rolled."
Now it was Ryan's turn to look at the older CSI with disbelief, "And taken a nail in your eye? I don't think so."
And he knew how he must've sounded...arrogant and maybe sarcastic, to say the least. Seeing the look on Eric's face, however, Ryan backtracked a little and put on a serious expression.
"Look, Eric. I went in there without any backup. I went in there without my gun drawn. This was my fault."
He waited as the other man seemed to take his reasoning into consideration, knowing that he had just relieved him of any responsibility for the accident that happened that very afternoon. To be honest, laying the blame on someone was the least of Ryan's concerns.
He knew that he should've waited for backup to arrive. And having been a patrol officer before, he should've known better than to poke around anywhere without having his gun drawn, especially when he was searching through a suspect's trailer.
No. The blame really lay on him. And he was man enough to own up to that.
Stunned by Ryan's admission, Eric merely stood there, nodding his head as he tried to figure out how to respond, the awkward silence growing uncomfortable between them. Ryan, however, redeemed him yet again when he opened his mouth to speak.
"Um... Thank you very much for driving me to the ER," he paused and then added, "that was some crazy driving."
This time, Ryan offered Eric a small grin, and feeling the tension between them dissipate a bit, Eric grinned as well.
"That's no problem," he chuckled slightly.
And with that, both men turned around and walked out of the ER together, knowing that with the end of that conversation, they had at least, and in not so many words, buried the hatchet. They had made a tenuous peace between them, and Ryan was just relieved that at least they could get back to some semblance of the normal that they used to have before all the tension began.
A stale mate...
He had been the one to admit his fault.
He had been the one to relieve Eric of any responsibility.
He had been the one to lighten up the situation.
He had been the one to make peace.
And he had been the one to make the last move.
Thankfully, Eric readily accepted everything. Now, they could finally move forward – a step in the right direction, so to speak. And Ryan was just grateful that despite the year's worth of tension between them, that he and Eric could finally have a decent working relationship again.
Who knows? Maybe someday they could even become friends again...even if that wasn't exactly what his heart desired. But he would never shut the door on that slim chance. Because in the back of Ryan's mind, there was always the possibility, however minute it may be, that his relationship with Eric could blossom into something more than just being colleagues or friends.
Yes. The last move had been made.
But that doesn't mean it's the end.