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And When It Was Good

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There are shows when it's good, when they're on. When they're all grins and smiles even when they shouldn't be and it doesn't fit with what they're saying. When they sneak glances at every opportunity and talk without talking, all "I'll tell you at commercial why Paula was poking me" and "remind me later to tell you the comment I wanted to make just then but couldn't." When Ryan spots a joke and sets it up for Simon with an easy lob and Simon knocks it out of the park; when Ryan plays offended or put upon for the cameras but is barely able to keep from laughing. When there's no discussion after about whether they'll spend the night together because they know without saying.

And it's good the nights after those shows, when they drive out to Ryan's in separate cars, speaker phones on the whole time, Simon telling Ryan exactly what he wants to do when they arrive. When they make it to Ryan's living room but no further before clothes are off and they're on the floor and it's fast and frantic and messy and over quickly but that's okay. When they clean up and move to the couch and watch the show when it airs and there's "what does that metaphor even mean?" and "god, that angle makes me look dreadful" and "you looked really good there" and "did you just roll your eyes at me? I missed that before." When the credits roll and the tv's turned off and they stumble to the bedroom tired, but not so tired that there isn't time to strip down once more and they climb naked into Ryan's bed and they move together again, slow and unhurried and unfrenzied and comfortable. When, after, Ryan hogs the blankets and Simon complains and Ryan pouts and Simon kisses him and Ryan relents and pulls Simon closer and shares the covers with him.

And it's good the mornings after the nights after those shows, when Ryan tiptoes around the house the next morning getting ready for work, quiet because Simon hates mornings. When Ryan returns to the bedroom when he's ready to leave and pats Simon lightly with an "I've got to go" and Simon groans out an "okay, I'll get up" and Ryan tells him he can stay but Simon never does and they walk out to their cars together, Ryan bouncy and animated and acting more caffeinated than he really is and Simon still morning-groggy. When they say goodbye with a kiss and an "I'll see you tonight."

There are shows when everything's out of sync, when they're off. When they're running long and Ryan has to cut Simon short. When jokes are set up but missed until it's too late. When Ryan's in a bad mood because Debbie's in a bad mood or Simon's in a bad mood because Paula or Randy or Kara or Ellen's in a bad mood and it spreads. When a quip comes out harsher than intended and there's no way to take it back when they're live. When Simon's out smoking during the commercial break when Ryan wants to talk, and Ryan needs a makeup touch up during the commercial break when Simon wants to talk, and they don't talk at all until after the show. When they meet out by the trailers with an "I've got an early flight tomorrow" or "there's work I need to get done" or "I'm really tired" and "maybe not tonight."

There are shows when it's bad, when it's all going wrong. When they don't talk before and barely talk during except what's scripted. When they don't make eye contact because anger would show through or they do make eye contact and anger does show through. When Simon beelines for a cigarette or Ryan hides backstage at every break, not wanting to be found. When words are carefully chosen to appear innocuous or teasing on camera while carrying hidden barbs aimed to hurt. When they meet up after only out of routine, knowing there's no chance they'll be heading off together. When they don't meet up after the show at all.

 

***

 

I suppose, Ryan says after the credits roll on a night when they watched the show together, in a tone that would seem casual to all but those who know him well (Simon knows him well), we should figure out what we're going to do.

Simon motions for Ryan to continue, but says nothing. What's coming has been looming for far too long, but he held off bringing it up, waiting for Ryan to broach the subject. He wants to hear what Ryan has to say first.

We'll be heading into contract talks again soon, and I... Ryan trails off then starts again. Are we talking about this? Are we deciding together? Separately? Have you already decided? If we're both returning, are we talking about terms beforehand so we're up at the same time again?

What do you want, Simon asks.

I want to stay, Ryan says.

Simon waits.

I want you to stay, Ryan says.

I've been thinking a lot about leaving, Simon says.

Ryan nods, unsurprised.

I never liked all the production meddling and interference, Simon says, and it's getting harder to play along. And it's frustrating watching votes going to the wrong people every week. And I have ideas for new shows, lots of shows. Here and back home. And I'm tired of all the back and forth, airports and airplanes and jetlag.

You'd still have to travel for other shows here, Ryan says.

Producing and meetings and getting everything set up, yeah, Simon says.

But not as often, Ryan says. Not every week.

Right, Simon says.

Right, Ryan says.

There are shows, Simon says, when it's bad. When we're angry and it shows and it's bad for us and it's bad for the show and I hate playing that out on national television.

Ryan says nothing. He can't argue with that.

And there are shows, Simon says, when everything's out of sync. When I feel like we've been at this too long or I've been at this too long, when it seems like a change of scene for me and a new face for Idol would be best for everyone.

Ryan says nothing. He's had the same thoughts.

But there are shows, Simon says, when it's good, when it's better than good. When everything clicks and it's fun and we're funny and you wink at me or make me laugh and I want to stay on for as long as they'll have us and do shows like that every week.

Ryan says nothing. His heart races.

I'm not done having shows like that, Simon says. Not done having shows like that with you. I'll stay as long as you stay, as long as you want me to stay.

Ryan says nothing. He stands and takes Simon's hand and pulls him to his feet and they stumble to the bedroom tired but not so tired that there isn't time to strip down and climb naked into Ryan's bed and they curl up together, slow and unhurried and unfrenzied and comfortable.