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Rituals (Sing Without Words Remix)

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The eggs sizzle when they make contact with the pan. The toast is still in the toaster. The smell of cooking food fills the room.

He prepares the tray while he waits, deliberate in his movements. The plate occupies the center. The cutlery are arranged in a configuration that matches the way she eats, fork on the left, knife on the right. He pours a glass of orange juice and places it in the top-right corner of the tray.

Using a turner, he flips the eggs so that they'll cook on the other side, observing them closely to ensure that the yolks don't cook all the way through. The toast pops in the toaster.

ping

He slides the eggs from the pan onto the center plate. They are flanked by the two pieces of toast on either side. He slices a chunk of butter off the end of the stick and places it on one of the pieces of toast so that it will melt.

When it's all ready, he carries the completed tray upstairs into her room.

She wakes at the sound of the door swinging open, eyes blinking in the bright morning light, her body shifting underneath her heavy blankets. When she notices him standing there, she sits up straight, yawning, stretching out her arms and back, coming into full wakefulness. Her t-shirt is large enough that it hangs unevenly off of one shoulder. He places the tray on her lap and takes a moment to stand there at the side of her bed, watching her expression shift from sleepiness to delight, a soft smile spreading across her face.

Satisfied that his first task of the morning is complete, he turns towards the closet, ready for the next.

---

She holds the loaf of sourdough bread in her left hand and cuts it with the right. The crust crunches underneath the bread knife. She cuts four slices, two for each sandwich, and places one of them on each plate. On the counter, she has arranged her containers of tupperware full of ingredients -- cold cuts, torn lettuce, sliced tomatoes, the pickles he likes -- prepared last night just for this moment today.

Each week, she tries to do something new. Pastrami instead of roast beef. Sprouts instead of lettuce. Sugar cookies from the same hipster bakery where she buys the bread. This week she decided to be boring and bought her usual staples.

She layers the ingredients, spreading the mayonnaise on the bread first, then the roast beef, then the tomatoes, then the lettuce, then the pickles. After she caps off both sandwiches with a slice of bread, she cuts his in half with the bread knife, along the diagonal, the way he prefers it. She doesn't bother cutting her own.

He's deep inside his research when she finds him, a spread of books and newspapers and photographs on the floor. He sits in the middle of it all, cross-legged, fingers steepled as he stares at the words in front of him.

She can tell from his expression that he's not ready to tell her about his current progress yet, so she places the sandwich at his side. His ears twitch as the plate clacks against the hardwood floor.

She lingers for a few moments, watching the shift of his fingers, the rise and fall of his chest. His attention shifts towards her, eyes leaving the page in front of him. He tilts his head in acknowledgement, barely a nod.

He turns back towards his work. She picks up the photographs that Captain Gregson gave her, settling in to read it, her own sandwich resting in her lap, waiting to be eaten.

---

Tonight is a Thai night, something spicy. She's already called in the order for the both of them. Basil fried rice for him, Khao Soi for her. Now she needs to go pick it up.

He paces around the kitchen, his shoes tapping an uneven rhythm on the floorboards. She can hear the frustration in his steps. The case has gone cold. The leads have dried up. She also thinks best with her body moving, but she prefers to do it outside on city streets, not while boxed in by four walls and a ceiling.

The night air is summer warm, and the last bits of red-orange-blue sunlight linger in the sky. The sidewalks here are steady and flat underneath her feet, except for this one patch that's always uneven. She's caught her toes on the edge of it before.

There's something about this case that they're missing here. They've already poured over bank transactions and phone records, but there must be something else that they can chase, something else that they can pull apart and examine. Her brain runs in circles. In her own way, she's as frustrated as he is.

The restaurant is dingy and dimly lit, but it always smells like spices and sauces and freshly stir-fried vegetables in a way that makes her stomach rumble. The food is waiting for her in a brown paper bag that's sitting on the counter. The woman behind the register gives her a toothy grin as she hands it over.

When she arrives back the brownstone with their food in hand, he's stopped his pacing. He's sitting at the kitchen table, quiet and serious, his focus turned inwards. He's also put out the plates, the silverware, the napkins and filled two glasses of water. She settles the bag on a kitchen counter. He stands and helps her unpack.

Their fingers brush together. It lasts only a moment, and then it's gone.

---

The laundromat is bright, all harsh fluorescent lights and stainless steel machines. She shuts the door to her washing machine, listening for the tell-tale click of the latch. She fishes a roll of quarters out of her purse and splits the paper wrapper open with a nail. Each coin lands with a satisfying thunk as she slides them into the slot one at a time.

His machine is already going, and he watches the clothes as they spin, his hands shoved into his pants pockets, elbows back. She selects the cycle and the water temperature and starts up her machine. He glances at her as she steps back, raising his eyebrows in question.

She shrugs, letting the hum of the washers fill in the gaps of their conversation. She nods over towards the far corner of the room, where a harried mother is struggling to both get her clothes out of a machine and keep her five-year-old son from climbing up the face of one at the same time.

His eyes focus on them, narrowing, fascinated in the same way he always is when watching people in their natural habitats. She brushes past him, pretending that she wants to pick up a discarded fitness magazine from the nearby bench. Along the way, she plucks the wallet from his jacket.

It only takes him a moment to realize what's happened. He spins to face her, annoyance crossing his face. She holds up the wallet, expensive leather, worn and comfortable from extensive use, and she smirks with the pleasure of having bested him in this.

He shakes his head and snatches it from her hands, but he can't hide the glint of pride in his eyes and the shadow of a smile that crosses his mouth.

---

The book in his hands is musty, smelling strongly of dust and old library shelves. He shifts in his armchair. The rough texture of the upholstery scratches at his bare feet as he crosses his legs.

She is reading on the sofa, her neck bent as she holds the book up to her face. He watches her expression. The slight grimace of her lips. The tilt of her head. The slope of her shoulders. He can hear the sounds of the city just outside their windows, the chirp of city pigeons, the rumble of cars, honking their horns, the blare of distant sirens, the laughter of a couple walking past. But inside it is silent save for the shifting of their bodies and the flipping of book pages.

He attempts to deduce where she is in this particular forensic science textbook, just by the furrow in her brow and the tension in her fingers, but she could just as easily be reading up on DNA testing as she could be learning about blood splatter analysis. There is something about her that escapes definition, a thing that he cannot pinpoint in words or ideas, that has defeated his lifetime of studying and analyzing and categorizing human behavior.

She looks up and meets his eyes. Her gaze is steady and level. She arches an eyebrow. This, at least, he understands. A question. He doesn't know the answer.

He shrugs his shoulders.

She nods.

And it's enough. They don't need to say anything else.