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Genre - Hurt/Comfort

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Table 9 - Hurt / Comfort

01. Pain 02. Relief 03. Nightmare 04. Trust/Distrust 05. Memories/Past
06. Righting a wrong 07. Run to me 08. Here in my arms 09. Haunted 10. Holding out for a Hero

01. Pain

Ryan prods at his nose experimentally, then winces and hisses in pain.

"Hey, don't do that." Jim says, appearing at his door, his and Ryan's coats draped over one arm looking tired. He comes up to the hospital bed, where Ryan's got big white tape over his nose, a pair of black eyes and his right wrist in a splint.

"How are you doing?" Jim asks, pulling up one of the chairs in the room alongside the bed.

"Not too bad." Ryan says, poking at the bridge of his nose again. Jim grabs his fingers though. Ryan looks at their hands, and Jim lingers and holds on for a long beat before saying "Called Michael for you, he changed your emergency contact to himself and I figured he'd be worried."

Ryan smiles and twines his fingers with Jim's.


02. Relief

Ryan's nodding off in the passenger seat, banged up yes, but okay. He's got a number of painkillers in his system but the doctors declared him ready to take home. His nose isn't broken but his wrist is pretty badly sprained and will need to be in a cast for several weeks. It's both really late at night and very early in the morning and Jim's just glad that Ryan's okay, and he's going to take him to his place and put him in his bed and call into work and worry about all the other things later.


03. Nightmare

Jim jerks awake, momentarily disorientated. Ryan is jolted awake beside him and he gets his bearings together as Jim rubs at his face.

"What's up?" He asks in a sleep muffled voice.

"Hmm? Oh..." Jim glances at Ryan distractedly, "Bad dream."

He doesn't expect the comforting hand on his shoulder, however hesitant it seems, but he'll take it and he turns to press his face into Ryan's neck. Ryan's arms go around his shoulders and he settles back into the bed with a sleepy sigh. Jim breathes out against the warm skin, trying very hard to appreciate what he has, and not dwelling on the fleeting traces of the dream where Pam grins up from behind her wedding veil at a man that isn't him.


04. Trust/Distrust

Jim laughs as Pam recounts her day, holding her bag for her as she flips her scarf over her neck, describing in horrible detail the confrontation Michael had with Toby over playing Howard Stern at full volume in his office during lunch. Jim's drifting in and out of the story, watching every shift of her hair in the light, the amused smile that makes her eyes sparkle. He hands her bag and follows her to the elevator, where he just catches the door as it's closing. Ryan's backed into a corner, and he looks up as Jim and Pam file in. Jim meets his eyes, and he gets uneasy at the accusing look Ryan shoots him with a pointed glance at Pam. Jim clears his throat and tries to pay attention to Pam's continuing story, turning his back on Ryan. In the parking lot, he walks Pam to her car, and pretends he doesn't feel Ryan's eyes on the back of his neck.


06. Righting a Wrong

"I'm so sorry." Jim says and even to his own ears he sounds hoarse and pathetic.

Ryan's chucking his briefcase on the table, flinging around his coat and stomping around. He hasn't said a word to Jim since he stormed off to his car, shrugging off Jim every time he tried to grab at him. Jim followed him home, cursing his own stupidity, then running after him to his house and banging open the door before it could close in his face.

"Please, Ryan. I don't..." He doesn't actually know what to say but he's feeling desperate and dumb. "I don't know why..."

But he knows, really, that he can't say why he reached for the girl he's in love with instead of his, for lack of a better word, boyfriend. He doesn't know what to say to make this right.

Ryan's finally stopped huffing and puffing and is staring at him along the hall, framed by the doorway. There's the look of anger that Jim expects from him, but he can just make out - his skills at finding it honed after hours scrutinizing the inscrutable Ryan Howard - the look of hurt underneath.

"What...what can I say?" Jim begs him.


07. Run to me

Ryan hisses as he finally bites his nail to the quick. He forces himself to stick his hands under his thighs but his legs are bouncing up and down too much, so he just moves on to another finger. He tears his eyes apart from the window and stares down the hospital halls. People are teeming everywhere, but the person Ryan wants to see still isn't here.

He checks his phone, but there's nothing new there. His eyes sting and he rubs at them before he can cry.

"Ryan!" He hears suddenly, and he looks up to find Jim, a coat drapped on one arm, his clothes and hair mussed.

Ryan starts to walk to him, only to find himself practically sprinting into Jim's open arms. He didn't expect to break down, he tried not to cry, but once he falls into Jim's arms, Jim whispering comforting words into his neck, he can't stop himself. Jim just holds him tighter.


08. Here in my arms

One thing Jim has always found fascinating is that fact that Ryan takes up very little space in bed. No, that would be an understatement: Ryan takes up as little space in bed as is humanly possible. Jim wakes up in the morning to find Ryan on the far end of the bed, arms pulled close up to his chest, one leg on top of the other. Meanwhile Jim's practically spread eagle on the rest of the mattress and even his gangly limbs can't reach him.

At first, when they first starting sleeping together - or at least once they finally started staying the night - Jim didn't think twice about it. But now that Ryan's at his house most nights out of the week and when he's not, Jim's sharing the bed at Ryan's apartment, Ryan's sleeping habits tend to take up more thought. He'll be honest and say it's partly off-putting, slightly worrying, and mostly cold to wake up and find his, well, boyfriend trying his damnedest not to touch him. Then he realizes that Ryan does this regardless of whether Jim's there with him when he gets home late - and decides Ryan's apartment's closer than his house and uses his brand new key - and Ryan's a tight long line under the blankets. So, it's not him, and Jim's not sure what it is - and he's not about to ask. So Jim just silently resolves to rectify the situation.

One night when they're both too exhausted to do anything but flop into bed, Jim heads off Ryan's attempt to curl up into himself by slinging his long arms around Ryan's chest and pulling him close. Ryan makes an annoyed noise and tries to glare at him over his shoulder. Jim plays stupid and presses his face into the angle of Ryan's neck and shoulder. Ryan seems to put up with it, though he doesn't seem to be willingly touching Jim by wrapping his arms around himself. By the next morning, Jim wakes to find Ryan away from him again, but not so far that one of Jim's hands isn't still trapped underneath his warm body. Jim repeats the process over the rest of the week, with Ryan always submitting with a harassed sigh and a roll of his eyes. But in the morning, Jim finds Ryan sleeping closer and closer, gradually letting himself loosen up.

It's a week and a half later when Jim wakes up to Ryan curled up close to Jim's side, one arm still tight to his body but the other hand gently spread over Jim's side that Jim privately declares victory.


09. Haunted

"We can't have what we want," Ryan says in the low lamp light of Jim's living room, looking somehow weak and frail cast in yellow shades, "so we should just take what we can get, right?"

Jim doesn't know what to say, or maybe he just wishes he didn't. Either way, he says nothing.

"I mean..." Ryan says, and he ducks his head for a beat then hesitantly meets Jim's gaze, "You could learn to love me, couldn't you?"

Jim wants Pam, Ryan wants out, Ryan wants Jim, Jim wants peace. Neither wants to be lonely. Jim nods, hopes Ryan can see it in the near-dark.

Ryan doesn't smile, but he looks down again. "See? Then we'll be just fine."

It's 2 a.m. Jim's not sure he's drunk, though he feels tipsy. He reaches out a hand to touch Ryan's cheek and Ryan closes his eyes and lets out a breath.


10. Holding out for a Hero

Of all the days, Ryan thinks as he slogs down the side of the highway, a gas can in one hand, the other firmly wrapped in the neck of his trench coat, desperately keeping out the rain and cold.

He's already walked a quarter of a mile after his car ran out of gas. At first it was only spitting, a damp mist over everything, a regular March evening. He'd even turned down Michael’s, albeit overeager, offer for a ride.

"I'm, uh, jogging. It's good exercise." He told him.

"Oh yeah? I gotta do that, I'll join you some day!" Michael chirped from the warmth of his car, then looked suspiciously at the gathering clouds, "Some other day."

As soon as he was out of sight, a lightning bolt split the sky and the heavens opened to drench Ryan in a freezing downpour.

Five minutes later, he's still struggling through, cursing his need to be too cool to associate with Michael, cursing his lack of foresight in filling his gas tank, cursing his sweeter-than-sweet Italian leather shoes that do absolutely nothing to keep the water out. He's already starting to feel feverish.

"Hey!" He hears suddenly, and he's so waterlogged he can't even jump in surprise. He turns to find Jim peering out at him from his open car window. "Need a ride?"

"God yes." Ryan says and practically sprints to the passenger side and flings open the door.

Once he's inside he reaches over without asking to blast the heater, and shivers at the contrast of his shivering skin and artificial warmth.

"Here." Jim says and reaches behind him to dig around in his gym bag to pull out a towel and Ryan doesn't even care if it's crusty with sweat (it's not, thank goodness), he grabs it gratefully and dries his face and neck and ruffles it through his hair.

"Nearest gas station?" Jim asks, putting the car back in drive.

"My hero." Ryan sighs and tries to rub feeling back into his arms.