2010-09-06: Disappearing Act



Date: September 6, 2010


Sometimes you never truly know someone until they're gone. Sometimes, not even then.

"Disappearing Act"

Randall and Carrie's apartment, The Bronx

It's a typical night at the apartments. Lots of people are finishing up with dinner and settling in for some TV. Others are already asleep, worn out from working the holiday weekend, or resting up for school the next day. A few people are just heading out to hit a club, or work a night shift.

The door to Randall's apartment is slightly open, enough for a thin slit of light to spill out into the hallway. No noise comes from inside, except the faint whir of an air conditioning unit sputtering up to speed.

Portia hadn't originally planned on coming by, but the opportunity to come by arose and she thought she'd give an attempt. Idly, she was hoping it wouldn't be too awkward, since she'd decided last minute and hadn't called in advance, but the fact that the door was slightly open alarmed her. She carefully cracks it open. Was there a burglary? Should she go invisible?

Oh, there's something missing from the apartment, all right - though not in the sense Portia had in mind. Pretty much all the stuff, such as it is, is still there. And Randall is there as well, sitting on the couch— staring blankly at a scrap of paper on the table in front of him. He shows no sign of being aware of the new arrival.

"Are… you okay?" Portia asks, announcing her presence with her speech. She slowly moves towards the couch, staring around a little. She's concerned. Was Carrie there? Should she not interrupt? This seemed like a serious moment. "I… can leave if you want…"

Of course Portia would show up before Randall had a chance to form a coherent thought. Then again, if she'd showed up an hour later, he probably would've still been in much the same state. Wordlessly, he shakes his head, motioning for her to come closer and take a look at the note.

Bye. Love always, Carrie.

"Shit." Portia murmurs, moving to sit down next to him on the couch. She swallows. "She… just left? Just like that?" She looks down. "I… that's…" She wets her lips. "That's kind of a heartless way of ending it. I'm sorry, Randall. And I'm sorry if I had any part in causing this. Did you want to be alone?"

"I just don't want to make you awkward… or if you need some time to yourself, that's cool too." Portia turns to face him a bit more. "Have… you tried calling her? Maybe you could get some answers from her that way."

As she moves into his peripheral vision, Randall turns, looking up at Portia. "You're assuming I want answers. After seeing this… I'm not so sure I do." He reaches for his phone anyway, punching a couple of buttons— but it just goes to voicemail, and he hangs up again without saying anything.

Portia frowns slowly, reaching a hand out towards his shoulder, but she pulls it back at the last second instead. "I'm sorry. I didn't know things were bad… and I guess you didn't either. Just… let me know if I can do anything for you. I feel horrible that this happened."

Acting on instinct, Randall reaches a hand up, only for his fingers to close on open air. "Just… stay here with me for a little while? I need to not be here by myself right now." Because he was, before she walked in, and look how well that was going. "Maybe we can work on a song in a little bit, take my mind off."

Portia reaches forward to take his hand when she notices the gesture, squeezing it gently as she looks at him seriously. "Okay. If you need me to stay I will. We can write something… or maybe just play something. Doesn't take as much effort to play as it does to write… and you might have to think a bit about tough topics to write." She suggests.

"Mmm, maybe," Randall answers, as his fingers absently lace together with hers of their own accord. The easiest thing in the world always seems to be the thing that doesn't involve any thinking… all of which does him precisely no good. How can he not think about what's going on around him?

"I— I know something to write a song about," he says to Portia. "Besides the obvious surface level. But I don't think I'm ready to do anything with it yet… I don't even know whether I should bring it up. I think maybe I have to."

"No, if you've got a song idea, then you might as well tell me. It doesn't have to be something we use for anything right away, there's just stuff you can write, you know?" Portia suggests, fingers still squeezing his for comfort. "It'd be good to get it out. Best way to get something out is through song."

Randall sighs. "All right, but remember— you asked for this." Will she come up with the answers that he can't? Time to find out.

"Should I wait," Randall says slowly, trying and failing to work up the nerve to meet her eyes directly as he continues, "until it wouldn't be a rebound? Or if I do… will it already be too late?"

Portia's eyes flicker back to their hands, then she looks back towards him. "Good topic for a song… it's complicated. Rebounds… usually they're the ones you get bored with quickly. A filler relationship." She looks away. "But you know, if you wait there's always the chance of losing someone to someone else. It's really quite a sticky situation to be left in. I think it's one of those things people just have to figure out on their own. Makes for a good song, yeah…"

Oh, nicely done, Portia. That almost managed to sound generic and detached. It's a much better job than Randall could have done with the topic… and, as if to demonstrate it all over again, he leans closer and drops his voice to a near-whisper. "I think you must have some different relationship in mind, if you think it could ever get boring."

Her eyes flicker to the floor and she lets out a soft breath. "I think you're just lonely and going for the closest thing you have nearby. She wasn't your first choice, after all." Portia murmurs. "Besides, I didn't know we were talking about you… I thought you just wanted to write a song. You know, a hypothetical situation." She looks back at him.

Randall sighs, shaking his head. "It'd be nice to pretend that it was hypothetical, but we know better, don't we?" He closes his eyes. "I don't think I'm just being lonely… you know damn well I've felt something about you for a long time now. But I'm too close to the situation. I don't want to hurt you - any more than I already have - but I don't know what would hurt you worse."

"I don't know anymore, Randall." Portia murmurs, leaning fully back against the couch and shutting her eyes. "Regardless of your feelings, though, you wouldn't have left her for me. That still makes me second best. Second best means rebound. Rebound means it's doomed from the start. Short lived, passionate for only a few brief seconds before it fizzles out…"

"Don't say that!" he almost interrupts, turning to face her. "I wouldn't have left her… but she wouldn't have left me, either. Except she did." Randall shakes his head, as if to drive that thought out of it— but there the inescapable evidence sits. "So… I didn't know her. I guess she didn't know herself, yet. So… I don't know if it's wrong, but at least it isn't wrong for that reason."

"I'm sorry." Portia sighs, then shuts her eyes again. "This is a mess. I wish you weren't stuck in it… it's not fair to you. It shouldn't have happened. No one should have to go through something like this." She opens her eyes and turns to face him again.

"No one should have to go through a lot of what we've gone through. All of us." How many people does that include? Depends how far back you look.

Randall? Has had enough of looking back for a while. Without further comment, he merely shifts a little closer, moving to wrap his arms around Portia's waist and rest his chin on her shoulder. Little steps.

Portia freezes as she's touched, but after the initial shock, she wraps her arms around him and pulls him into more of a hug. "You're right. It's never been easy for us." She shuts her eyes, breathing slower and trying to relax, mostly so she can focus on making him do the same.

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