There had been an explosion. This, of course, was not unusual for EOS 10 – what with Levi’s incessant paranoia and itchy trigger fingers. Chaos was hardly anything to bat an eyelid at by Ryan’s standards.
The man in question had been in the emergency wing doing his final nightly rounds when he felt the aftershocks. Sighing, he ran his hand down his face and spoke wearily.
“Yes, Dr Dalias?” Her reply was instantaneous, if not a little eager. Ryan didn’t acknowledge it.
“Was that an explosion I just felt? Where did it come from?”
“Very perceptive, doctor! There was, in fact, a small explosion near the eastern maintenance shaft.” Her voice was chipper as ever as reality dawned upon Ryan.
“Akmazian,” he whispered before he could stop himself. The unfortunate occupant of Ryan’s thoughts lived in the sealed cargo bay just off of that maintenance shaft. Much to his chagrin, the doctor began to worry about the true source of the explosion. Akmazian was the only person he could think of with potentially more enemies than Levi.
“What was that?” Ryan had almost forgotten that the Interface could hear him. That she heard him say the name of a still-wanted terrorist, innocence non withstanding.
“Nothing. Thanks, Interface.” Ryan found himself hurriedly scribbling down his unconscious patient’s vitals before hanging the clipboard at the end of the bed. His rounds could wait.
“You’re more than welcome, Ryan.” The Interface shot back, her informal address going completely unnoticed by the now distracted doctor. She sighed dreamily as he rushed out of the room.
With a racing mind and feet trying to catch it, Dr Dalias briskly walked the hallway of the emergency room, turning a sharp right out of the hospital. He ignored Jane’s greeting as he strode past the cafeteria, brow set and head bowed. Jane, completely used to his moodiness, didn’t bat an eyelid and continued to eat. She had hotter doctors to ogle, anyway.
Somewhere between Jane’s third and fifth mouthful of her late-night taco, Ryan had descended the flight of stairs that lead to the eastern maintenance shaft. The air around him was ever-so-slightly hazy, and his eyes stung as he advanced.
His pace picked up as he registered the possible smoke. Frantic footsteps echoed throughout the cold steel of the hallway as Ryan turned the corner.
He completely halted once he entered the last section before the crawl space that led to the cargo bay. The walls had been newly decorated with a thick, cream-coloured liquid, and the area smelled faintly of eggs.
“Levi,” Ryan hissed at the figure who was currently hunched over a bottle of kerosene, apron completely filthy with what he could now identify as failed sauce.
“Oh! Dr Dalias, what a lovely surprise. Would you care for some bernaise?”
Now panting and thoroughly disgruntled, Ryan crosses his arms over his body. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Levi had the nerve to look incredulous, his three eyebrows raised in question. “Why, I’m practicing, of course! Really, doctor, I quite would have thought that you were smart enough to see that.”
Ryan buried his now-curled fists into the pockets of his white coat. “Yes, but why here? Specifically?” He asked through gritted teeth.
“To preserve the secrecy of my recipe, of course! Do you know how many enemies I have in that kitchen? There could be spies! Assassins, even!”
“For your sauce.” Ryan deadpanned.
“Sauce assassins, then! The kitchen is a very dangerous place, you know,” the saucier protested.
“Levi,” the sauce-splattered man’s ears pricked up at the bite in Ryan’s voice. “I’m going to give you three seconds to get out of my sight, or else I will send every single one of my infectious patients to eat at your restaurant. Do you understand me?”
Levi shuddered audibly. “Understood. So sorry for the mess!” The saucier scampered in the direction in which Ryan came, not bothering to take any of his wares with him. Ryan glared after him, the air seemingly leaving his body as his adrenaline wore off. What has he been worried for, anyhow?
“That was quite a show, I must admit.” The tired Texan drawl made Ryan nearly jump out of his skin.
“Akmazian!” He hissed as the taller man chuckled at his jitteriness. “How many times have I told you to stop sneaking up on me?”
The man in front of Ryan sobered. “Sorry, darlin’.”
As his heart recovered yet again, Ryan took a moment to really look at his alleged terrorist. The alleged terrorist, rather.
Akmazian was by no means an unattractive man, as much as Ryan was reluctant to admit it. But in that moment, he looked exhausted. His dark skin seemed dull, were that possible, and his smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. He didn’t want to think about how little sleep he must have been getting, taking in the bags under his eyes.
“Hey, are you okay?” He asked with as little emotion in his voice as he could muster.
Akmazian laughed weakly. “Don’t tell me you’re going soft, Dr Dalias. You concerned for little old me, now?”
“I am not going soft,” huffed Ryan, “and as a doctor, it’s literally my job to care.”
“Aw, and here I thought you cared.” Akmazian tried to laugh again, but the sound didn’t come out right, more alike a sob than anything else. Ryan itched.
Taking a step forward, he asked again. “Seriously, Akmazian. What’s going on?”
The man sighed. “Listen, you don’t need to pretend for my sake. I know you only came here because that idiot saucier wreaked more havoc down here. You can cut this visit short, don’t worry.”
Ryan balked. “What are you talking about?” There was more of an edge to his voice than he would have liked.
“Come on, doc. A guy like me? Doesn’t get many visitors. It’s okay, I’ve accepted it. But I was in the middle of something before all the excitement, so if you wouldn’t mind-”
Ryan reached for his shoulder before he could think of turning away. “No. I’m not going to leave you like- like this!”
Akmazian batted his hand away, words biting. “Like what, dear doctor? What’s your diagnosis?”
His hand, once veering for the taller man’s shoulder, now closed around his wrist.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Why are you acting so weird? What’s gotten into you? Damnit, look at me!”
Akmazian’s eyes were fixated on Ryan’s hand. In his line of work, touches only meant bad news, and it had been a long time since human contact had meant anything but that. The alleged-terrorist didn’t quite know what to do with himself.
“Don’t leave.” The request was murmured so quietly that even Ryan wouldn’t have heard it were it not for how closely he was paying attention.
“What?” He still asked, regardless.
Akmazian finally met his eyes. “Please don’t leave me here alone.”
Ryan felt as if his heart slowed down all at once, which – in his medical opinion – was not particularly healthy. Amidst his worrying, though, he brushed such unhelpful concerns aside.
Emergency rooms and ORs always had an underlying (if not pressing) sense of urgency. Wounds, aches, and pains brought all kinds to his doorstep. But as skilled as he was with a scalpel and a host of diagnoses at the forefront of his brain, Ryan wasn’t great at emotional intelligence. It was a quality that joined the laundry list of the reasons why he was still single. Feelings were most definitely not his forté.
That being said, he knew. Ryan knew that he felt far more than mere annoyance for the desperately lonely man that stood in front of him. It scratched at him when they bantered, when his eyes lingered too long on his silhouette or the dimple in his right cheek. The shivers that accompanied hearing his southern drawl went past platonic admiration.
So, Ryan felt something for Akmazian. He didn’t entwine their fingers out of pity or concern. His reasons were almost entirely selfish. The infuriatingly attractive and clearly sad man before him had asked him to stay. Who was he to refuse?
“I won’t. I promise I won’t.”
Akmazian couldn’t stop his small shudder. The heavy cloud around him seemed to dig in a little deeper.
“Do you want to go to bed?”
His head snapped back up to the doctor’s. “Was that a proposition, darlin’?”
Ryan barely resisted an eye roll. “No, and God you flirt a lot. You look like you’re gonna drop dead. You need some rest.”
“Are you telling me I don’t look like my dashingly handsome self? You wound me.” Despite his attempts at joking, Ryan could tell that his heart wasn’t in it.
“Stop. You can stop pretending that nothing can hurt you. It’s okay.”
A silence lapsed between the two of them. Akmazian didn’t let go of his hand, eyes seemingly fixed to a particularly interesting blob of sauce a few metres from his feet.
Ryan prepared to protest as Akmazian began to turn away again, until he realised that he was being dragged towards the cargo bay. He had to stop himself from suggesting his own, obviously more comfortable living quarters instead. Reminding Akmazian that he had to sneak around to survive didn’t seem like the best plan of action at present.
Hand still in his grip, Akmazian led them to his makeshift bed. A thin roll of foam lay on the floor, a blanket and a couple of pillows sparsely draped over the top. Ryan couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t a particularly homey setup.
“Do you want to sit?” Akmazian asked, once again refusing to look at Ryan.
“No. I think we both could use some sleep, and the bed looks big enough for the two of us. Scoot over.”
Akmazian didn’t argue, shifting across the bed and letting go of Ryan’s hand, much to the other’s dismay.
“I’ll keep to my side of the bed.” He said quietly. “...Thank you. For agreeing to keep me company.”
Ryan barely let him finish speaking before taking Akmazian’s arm and slinging it over his torso, moving closer to almost tuck his head against his chest.
“Shut up.” He whispered fondly.
Akmazian felt his face grow hot. “Alright,” he replied, eyes locked into the freckles on the bridge of the doctor’s nose. “Goodnight, Dr Dalias.”
And that wouldn’t do. In the small space they occupied, Ryan could feel Akmazian pulling away with the moniker. The lack of familiarity in such a domestic (or at least he had hoped) setting left him feeling hollow and more than a little selfish. He wanted more than this.
Pushing up the tiniest bit, Ryan brushed a kiss onto Akmazian’s lips. It was soft and over far too quickly, but it did the job well enough.
“It’s Ryan.” He said firmly, pulling back – his face close enough that his lips brushed against Akmazian’s with both words.
Akmazian let out a puff of breath, eyes wide and locked on his lips. He silently commended himself for not freezing up at the more-than-welcome advance; it had been a long time since he had done, well, anything. The thought left him feeling emptier than before, until he realised that he finally had a way to alleviate it.
As if daring himself, he closed the distance between them once again in a longer, more lingering kiss. Then another, and another. They were syrupy sweet and slow, like honey in his tiredness. His hand moved to cup Ryan’s face, thumb stroking against his cheekbone slowly as he drank in the affection.
He hummed softly as the two pulled apart again, foreheads touching.
“Okay. Goodnight, darlin’.”