"Still," Ryan says, "It's hard not to think that this was actually just an elaborate plot to get rid of me."
Paula settles on the bed and looks at him. "Sweetheart, that's not true."
Simon makes a non-committal sound and Paula slaps him. "Ow," he says, deadpan. "Ryan. Darling. Whatever gave you that idea?" He looks at Paula. "Happy now?"
Ryan lifts his hand to show his fingers. "One. I sign a new contract. Two. Paula leaves 'for contractual reasons' which we all knew was bullshit. Three. You go off to found a new media empire. Four. Paula comes to judge your new show because, and I quote 'you miss her'. Leaving me, five, alone on Idol, with my brand new contract. Well, me and Randy."
"And Ellen," Simon observes. "Who you adore. As you have told me many, many times. And Kara, and Debbie, and a crew of thousands who you know by name. And anyway…"
Simon looks at him. "Even if I asked, you wouldn't leave."
"I have a contract," Ryan says. And I love my job.
"Yes," Simon says, exactly like he knows. Then: "Look, what difference will it make to you and me really?"
"It'll make a difference if you're in Vegas."
"There are flights. You can visit every day that we're shooting if you want."
"Carbon footprint!" This is a bad argument even as Ryan is making it. There are, perhaps surprisingly, plenty of things Simon cares about. Ryan knows this just about as well as anyone. One of these things might even be carbon footprints in the abstract. But it is certainly not either Simon or Ryan's carbon footprint specifically. They have places to be.
Simon shrugs and Ryan smiles. Maybe they have been working together too long, twelve weeks left and counting.
Paula looks at the two of them. She's sitting on the bed between them now. It's not a statement of anything more than that this is only an occasional thing for her and she chooses to enjoy it. She kisses Ryan's cheek and then turns to the other side to catch Simon's lips beneath her own. She stays there for a minute, dancer's body twisted to bend over Simon's legs.
Ryan coughs. "This? Exactly what I me-." Simon's hand has crept across the gap where Paula was sitting. Ryan shifts so there is less gap, more of Simon's hand pushed against him.
Simon laughs, of course, and murmurs, "Feeling left out?"
"Don't tease," Paula says. "Ryan, baby, why do you put up with-?" She stops with a cry, Simon's loose hand shifted and his other still on Ryan. "Oh, God."
"Do not encourage him," Ryan says.
Paula kisses him on the lips this time, tasting of something sweet, mouth closed. He loves her, he truly does. She smiles when she kisses him and she smiles when she breaks off to look at Simon with her eyes wide and bright. "So. How are we doing this? Because everyone needs to be happy."
Simon's laughter begins in his chest and he covers his mouth before the sound reaches it. Ryan had always thought Paula could never be pushed from Idol, because Simon is so honestly amused by everything she does. It's different than he is with Ryan – softer.
"Well, and no offence, sweetheart," Simon answers, "but you're really not Ryan's type." Simon is the one who still likes women. Ryan just likes Paula, and more to look at than to touch. She shimmies out of her little silky top and bra.
Simon coughs and Ryan takes Paula's hand. She squeezes it tightly. "Thank you for having me."
"Well, I missed you too," he says.
Simon says, "That's good, now can we get on with this?"
There are, theoretically, a number of ways to do this, and they've tried a few of them in their scattered attempts at a middle ground. But in reality one of them doesn't bend that way, one of them doesn't swing that way, and this may in fact just be Simon's really roundabout way of asking to be fucked.
Not that Ryan wouldn't and doesn't do that anyway, but Simon doesn't like to ask. He likes things to happen. This happens: Paula spread out on the sheets and Simon above her, opening her with his fingers and sliding in. Ryan takes longer, giving Simon time to set a rhythm before unravelling it with his own push.
"Christ, Ryan," Simon says, as Paula is saying, "Oh my God, Simon."
Ryan keeps hold of Paula's hand on top of the blanket, stroking in between her fingers while she moans. Simon's equivalent is Ryan's bite to the back of his neck and the bend of his shoulder. Wringing out another cry of his name and what might be a please.
Ryan is whispering, "Now, now, now," onto Simon's skin, until Simon clenches around him and pushes shakily into Paula and curses again so as not to say either one of their names.
Ryan, mostly, has trained himself to be quiet. He moans and spills into Simon and concentrates on keeping himself from falling over and crushing Paula beneath them both.
Paula is louder, lovely; she says both of their names, loves them both so much. "That was beautiful," she gasps.
Simon scoffs, naturally, but Ryan privately agrees with her. He likes it when things work, just fit, exactly as they are meant to. Their own private rhythm, before all of this turmoil.
It is late evening now. Paula tweets something like: so much fun to catch up with old friends. Never forget to tell them you love them!! ♥ xo Ryan flicks his blackberry with his thumb and manages: good workour but tired… crashijg but feeling good. Later.
Simon tries to ignore them both before changing his mind and asking, "So you're staying, are you?"
"For a while, anyway." Ryan lies back on the bed to look at the ceiling. He ends up in the middle, with Paula curled up to his right. She murmurs a good night and falls asleep where she lies. Ryan curves his arm protectively around her head.
Simon's arm falls heavy on Ryan's side. "Did you want me to ask you?" he says. "We've been talking about this for months. You never said that you would be…"
"I'm not. You need to- You're bored, Si, and this is going to keep you interested. You've been talking about properly producing this for years."
"It'll be weird doing the show without you. It's weird doing it without Paula."
"We adapted, you'll adapt, and anyway it means… It's easier, this way. We can stop fighting about the show."
"And just fight about everything else instead? We'll find something to yell at each other about, you know."
"I do." Simon kisses Ryan's neck, nipping it lightly. "And we'll have fantastically mind-blowing sex and sometimes we'll do something like this and sometimes it'll just be us."
"So essentially nothing's going to change but the show."
"Exactly." Simon whispers it against Ryan's neck. "And if the big bad Idol producers are nasty to you in my absence, well then we've somewhere else to go. Where I set all the rules and if Fox start listening to the Friendly Family Alliance again we'll move the whole thing – you and me and Paula and the show – over to NBC."
"Noted for their liberal attitudes," Ryan mutters. "And I work for Fox on more than Idol. They pay me a lot of money, and not just to be the butt of your jokes."
"Please stop making this more difficult."
"Sorry, sorry. Continue rescuing me from my Fox overlords, please. Save me, save me."
Paula turns over. Probably she didn't argue so much when Simon said 'I miss you, lets go to Vegas and make TV'. She and Ryan are very different people. Simon raises his head to look at her and then at Ryan. "Give me a year," he says. "If it doesn't work, I'll get us another show together. You like England."
Ryan laughs, and leans up to kiss Simon. "Yes," he says, "I like England."