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The Very Meaning

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She has an old silver ring of her grandmother's that she threaded on a thin green velvet ribbon. It makes her happy, but she never really wears it anymore. It gets her, the nostalgia of it, the memories of being a little girl, makes her voice soften, her movements slow slightly. It's totally inappropriate for her job, in other words.

She was a consultant, once, for software being developed for airport security personnel. She had to watch interviews and give an opinion as to which subjects were lying. She aced it; they said no one, not even the expert in facial cues who had created the program, had been as accurate. But she wasn't able to help them. They needed to know how she knew, and yes, there are tells, she knows all the tells, but that's never what proves it for her. It's something deeper, there's no way to quantify it. She just knows.

Sometimes it's hard, though, to be able to read people and know what they're hiding. Sometimes she wishes she didn't know herself so well, either.

She is really, really good at sublimation, so good that sometimes she thinks she deserves a title: Megan Reeves, Queen of Sublimation. She has to be. She sees things, deals with people, who make her sick, literally sick to her stomach. Predators. They're the worst. Someone who just flips out one day, loses it and goes mental, that she can handle. They do it, they can't believe they did it, they're even sorry. But predators, they plan it out. They have so many times, so many opportunities to stop. But they never, ever, do. So. Sublimation. She's facing the wall of evidence, the pictures of the victims, their bodies, and she wants to cry, even though it would seem she's been doing this too long to have any tears left. She's facing the evidence, she wants to cry and she tells herself no. No, Megan. Calm down, Megan. This is what you're going to do. You're going to go to your desk and you are going to pull together the profile, and with that profile they will narrow down the suspects and they will find the monster. See? Nothing to be scared of, nothing to cry about. Take that energy, direct it, get the job done.

It's not always bad feelings that get in the way. Sometimes good feelings can paralyze you, trip you up, and that's why she's got repression covered, too. She wants to be able to repress. After all, once you've figured out the contrast between lust and love and decided you want the latter, you've still got to do something about the former. Those instincts don't go away. They won't disappear. You've just got to keep them down, under your control.

Colby and David are talking in the coffee room. Colby's distressed, she can tell by the way his chest caves in and his head hangs forward. David stands solidly next to him, looking for all the world like the rock, the person you can always depend on, one hand on his coffee cup, the other resting against Colby's shoulder blade. It tells her more than it should, that simple placement of a hand. It tells her something about the currents between them, that they're no doubt involved in sublimation and repression of their own. It's been a quiet day at the office, well, it's never quiet. How about: not overtly traumatic? If there were a hypothetical trauma scale and it ran from one through ten, this would be about a 1.5. Shit may be going wrong today, but there's nothing horrible facing them, nothing that could lead Colby to feel like that, so they must be talking about something that's happened in the past. And that, right there, is another insight into their relationship. The closer a person is in time to what's disturbing them, the more likely they are to unload on anyone around them. If a person has time to process the initial experience, it becomes much more significant who they choose to share the burden. It has to be someone they trust.

David and Colby are relatively easy to read. They're who they are, no pretense. A social façade, sure, like almost everyone constructs to make their way through the world. But there's not a huge disconnect there, between who they are and what they do and how they feel about it.

There's nothing going on between them, they're not the type of guys to admit an attraction like that, even to themselves. But the possibility is there, she can see it, she sees the possibility and she also sees everything working against it, and the opposing force is stronger.

She shouldn't be doing this, watching them as though they're the subjects of her job. They're her colleagues. They're her friends. She doesn't want to be like Edgerton. She has the feeling that he's always looking through the sight of his gun, so that everyone he sees seems very far away, and it can't ever hurt when they drop, even when he's the one squeezing the trigger.

She can imagine how it would be with Colby. She knows he wants her. It'd be good, she thinks. But where would the comfort be? She can see it, the two of them lying side by side with an estranged silence filling up the space between their bodies.

It's lunch time and she heads over to Cal Sci, thinking she'll surprise Larry, see if he wants to go out with her. Or maybe they could just bring sandwiches in, she really doesn't care which. It's a pretty day, not too hot, not too smoggy. Maybe they could sit outside and have an impromptu picnic on a bench.

Larry's not in his office, so she heads to Charlie's. The door's open, so she walks right in and is confronted by Amita, who is crying. Amita looks up at her and Megan sees more than she wants to in Amita's eyes. She can picture it all instantly, sitting close to Amita, her fingers tangled in that dark hair, the very moment Amita turns to her with parted lips. She can hear Amita saying, Megan, please, she can taste her skin, feel the tickle of hair on her tongue as she moves down her belly. They could have that, if they wanted, sweaty, naked, writhing, they both have the desire for it. But the shutters fall over Amita's eyes, and Megan's smile is crooked. There it is. The mind thinks better of it, and the want is submerged.

"I'm trying," pleads a panicked Charlie, still oblivious to Megan's arrival.

"Stop it. Not now." Amita tilts her head in the direction of the doorway and Charlie turns.

"Hey! Is everything alright?"

Megan recognizes the underlying question: is Don alright? "Everything's fine. I'm really sorry," she says, holding her open hands in front of her, that universal gesture of I carry no weapon, I mean you no harm. "Just looking for Larry. I'll see you guys later."

"Wait, wait," Charlie says, coming towards the door.

Megan turns around again, sees Amita standing by the desk, her arms crossed. Baby, she wants to say, it doesn't matter. It's alright. Find someone with passion, yes, passion for you, passion for what they do, and its alright if you don't always understand each other. Charlie isn't for you, or, if he is, it's not because you're compatible intellectually. That shit doesn't matter. It's like thinking you have to fuck someone because of the way they look. It's an ego thing. It's not real. It's not about them, it's about what they have, their body, their brain. Let it go.

They think because they both understand math, they understand each other. But that's not how it works. How could Larry care for her otherwise? She can't keep up with him, she doesn't get one-third of what he tells her of his work, but when she meets his eyes, they see each other. She gets him.

"Did you need help?" Charlie asks and he is more comfortable approaching her then he is with Amita, perhaps because he does not care about her, or perhaps because he sees her as a part of Don's world, an extension of Don.

"I was just looking for Larry," she says and she's angry at both of them, a little, which is irrational, yeah, but she has her reasons. They should be able to work it out. They shouldn't be stuck in their stupid little dance which proves, come on, of course it proves, that at least one of them does not really want the other. No. Perhaps that's too simple. Perhaps they both want each other, but at least one of them wants someone else more. That's when people get into trouble, when they settle. She has a half-formed revelation of who, exactly, Charlie wants, but it's too disturbing to go there. Hooray for repression! Repression steps in and lets her ignore this knowledge, keeps her from shuddering when she sees him stand too close to Don.

They haven't seen Larry, they send her off with some suggestions of where to look next, and she's happy to escape their tension.

She crosses the campus slowly, keeping her eyes on the people around her, but her attention on observing herself, the inner workings of her mind, her heart.


"He's not the kind of guy I pictured," Crystal said, and it wasn't the first time she'd had to put up with a comment like that. What do people expect? Why are the outsides required to match? It's true, though, that she couldn't have imagined this when she was young. She would have looked at her future self and called it settling. But with what she's been through since, she knows it was the other that was settling, getting involved with people she could never love just because she wanted them. Want, attraction, where is the word for the complexity of it, the way your body warms itself for people you don't even like?

And what about Don? She cares for him and she likes how he looks. Yeah, there are practical reasons she would never get involved with him. Given the nature of their work, it would be completely inappropriate. She'd not be able to bear it, worrying about something happening to him. But it's more than that, it's the idea of hands touching her that have killed. Yes, hundreds of lives had been saved because of those hands, she knows it. But she also knows about Don allowing Edgerton to interrogate the boy. Those kinds of rumors always make their way around the office. She hopes, god, she hopes, that he didn't do it for her sake. She doesn't want that responsibility, that guilt. And Don looks no different after that, even after killing Crystal. Don. Don is the most difficult of all. You can't read someone like Don. They have a whole inner life that's locked away, even from themselves.

She gets shocked sometimes when she meets Larry's eyes, all her hairs stand up, her skin tingles. She senses his interior landscape, who he really is, beyond the words that he says, the experiences that he's had. It is the very meaning of Larry, what makes him unique, out of everyone she's ever known.

Her heart jumps and before she can ask herself why, she realizes. He's there, sitting cross-legged underneath a tree, his chin supported by his fist just like Rodin's 'The Thinker'. Perfect. Perfect and she wonders where his mind is. Probably not here, could be galaxies away, and that is just what she needs. His mind's scope is immeasurably vast, vast as this and all other universes, and when she listens to him she can believe that there is so much more to existence, to this life, than she can even imagine. All the difficult parts of her job, of her life, they can't matter as much as she fears.

She is wearing the ring on their next date.