Part of me won't go away

Every day reminded how much I hate it

Weighted against the consequences

Can't live without it so it's senseless

Wanna cut it out of my soul

And just live with a gaping hole

Take control of my life

It wasn't just the poker. For a long time it wasn't just the gambling…

It never started with the gambling…

It's only been a distraction at first. Something to keep his anxiety away, all the panic attacks and PTSD.

A mere hope to stave the OCD away, something to stop the intensive spiral down the darkness…

He didn't know it would only lead closer to the rock bottom..

The same one he'd stared down the well at long ways down for most of his life. The same he kept telling himself won't happen to him, not to him, like he'd never been that guy…

He was well right on time for the entire parade to pull him in.

And wash out all the burnt taste

I made the problems in the first place

Hang my head low 'cause it's part of me

Poker was part of his childhood as much as anything else his uncle did. The older man was his only family he was aware of and it had to do it. He tried to give Ryan his best and that didn't come easy.

His uncle was the type of person who liked to dip into more pots than one to make the most. Especially with a child who soon will need a whole lot more to get on with his life.

And Florida wasn't a place yet either of them could land despite being a place they both had watched telly talking about since Ryan was just two years old and holding more curiosity in his body than any sort of encyclopaedia ever could provide answers to.

According to Ronald Wolfe he was a true son of his sister, Maria Wolfe, and in her son he'd taken to adopt as his own he'd seen her entirely.

The woman never managed to marry with anyone and the father of her son sort of ceased to exist after her untimely demise. So all three of them still shared the same last name and even knowing some part of his history Ryan never felt the need to change his last name to his father's.

If he was being honest it held no appeal to him, at least not by a long shot and least in his age.

His uncle had taken care of him when he most needed it and they've always been super close. He always felt free to express himself and talk of all kinds of personal matter.

Before school he had been part of the casino Ron owned and he loved to mingle with the guests and learn things. He liked all the funny and shiny things as well as the buttons that literally begged him to push them.

He knew it wasn't for kids like him but somehow he was already too bored to help with bookkeeping which Ron at first had tried to teach Ryan but somehow he'd taken on that way too quickly so it was already boring for the child.

Next thing he discovered was card games and other things down at the big open space with tables and people. He wasn't allowed during the active hours since casinos in general were a no-go places for underage. However he spent a lot of time behind security screens spotting all the cheating ones and also observing humans as his personal science project, which also led to him looking at the tables and memorising each game for each table.

His uncle had no idea of how deeply his stepson could lean into things like that so he accepted the kid to help in small ways like bookkeeping and security, mildly holding out a hope for Ryan one day to become a business owner after him to keep it in family. Sure it wasn't even close to Vegas but it wasn't too shabby for a decent living either.

But there also were options for other ventures at the same time. Like when Ron had needed to be elsewhere and still run his operations, he had a person he left to deal with the business while he was gone and that worked well too, so Ryan had options to keep the business and meanwhile look at other adventures, he wouldn't be one of those to keep their children locked and loaded, he knew the boy was already a wild spirit, stubborn and curious about world. The kid had way with numbers since he first started to spend his time at Ron's office so that was a start. He also had a keen eye for detail and way with observing people, so there also was a hope for his future to bring something good.

And of course, the science, a force to reckon in such young age. Ron could tell there was something about the kid he will forever be worried about but also so proud of.

Only years later he'd find out how much pain had truly lived in the boy and how clueless about fighting it he's been. While they still shared a lot of personal things yet Ryan managed to deflect and turn around his actual deepest troubles. Which in later years was the thing of how Ryan always gets into way more trouble than he deserved.

That was also how his mother had been and Ron somehow let it slide. Maybe too much for the kid's good…

Ya hardly see right next to the heart of me

Hurting me, the wounds soon scar

Ryan found himself drawn to poker tables more and more each time. He'd studied the players from afar and finally when he was legally able to sneak in it was already just another thing to add.

The list had been growing the day he turned thirteen. Teen parties while someone's parents had gone to play on cruise ships, random street corners in the darkness of the city, underground tunnels explorations and so many other things that somehow sneaked their way into Ryan's life by the time he first set his foot on the casino ground floor entering through the main lobby. And he was so good at so many things too.

He just hoped Ron wouldn't find out about all of them because Ryan already had trouble facing the man on sober days.

So he had to always appear impeccable and not let anything to betray a single thing not exactly right about him.

Maybe that's why he was deemed the lab's weakest point in Stetler's book. Maybe that's why people rarely tried to befriend him. But at least one thing had earned him a spot he'd worked for so hard.

And the sacrifice was all the other things he did to survive this one.

Poker became a bit more than just a hobby and a relaxation after tough day. He was also really good. At first.

He also trained himself in disguises and deflections even harder than ever before.

Staying up for many nights in a row and keeping appearances during days that followed shouldn't become his nature, but it did quite easily.

Just as hiding in plain sight once was his trademark game as a kid.

And damn how good he was at hiding. He graduated near genius level and paved himself a way to college where he probably went too far more times than was safe, however he also found a new dream to add to his growing list.

But then he started to develop other things on the side that were basically already calling for attention.

But science always came in to help him. He moved on to the next addiction once the previous one turned out to become a roadblock in the long run.

After graduation he finally decided to pursue that long dreamed dream of his so he simply stated the fact to Ron - he was going to move to Florida. Ron knew he will do that one day, and he will join another day once he's retiring. But his parents had left him a small house that he decided to keep for when one of them first arrives. And so he kept investing into Florida based businesses as well to prepare for the day Ryan, his only son, would be ready for his own family.

They'd talked long and passionately about this for years so when Ryan came to announce his plans for the future Ron was ready to offer the kid all the support, plus they also inherited few things along the way from some other relatives, which was extremely helpful for the young man.

They weren't poor or average but they were humble riches - was how Ron described their wealth. Turned out at twenty-one Ryan also got news of being a stockholder of his mother's shares at the casino Ron owned meaning that he already had a business that allowed him to not struggle to exist.

In the long run it turned to be of some importance when his OCD roared above his attempts at life in a very bright and impactful city that held a bit more life than he was used to.

Nearly allowing the minor condition to derail him from the next goal he'd planned. For the very first time in his life he allowed himself to appear vulnerable and open up a bit more than he usually allowed. Loosing control over something he never wanted to acknowledge even to himself was a bit more painful and tough than he felt ready for but that's how he played his cards and resulted with an official diagnosis of an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He'd known since he was a kid that the urges to have things a certain way was a suspicious thing, however he didn't allow himself to become a target for inspection as deep down he was extremely private and struggled to open up.

The therapist suspected some more psychological issues that he tried his best to keep under wraps so he still could aim for his dream inn a place where any weakness would be more devastating than any lost poker game or overdose of stuff.

By the time he entered the Police Academy he was squeaky clean if just a tiny bit more medicated but all within acceptable levels and they saw he was all green lighted from his medical team.

And then he excelled at that too.

One step closer to his dream and he was already pausing the studies so he could devote himself to the job, however he managed to squeeze in some short classes of local offerings that helped his science side and he did attend the criminology events at local universities, it all was his investment he hoped would bring the needed attention one day…

It did came in the most unexpected and sad way possible. Somebody of the Crime Lab's day shift died at a crime scene and he was offered a position. Not ideal but it would do, he'd decided the day Horatio called him in for a talk.

His nerves had nearly brought him to a comatose but somehow it went better than he hoped. Apparently the officer who died didn't much care for his most important piece of equipment while Ryan had managed to barely keep it not all scrubbed off of original markings. He'd even nearly obliterated his two backups and a knife he also carried on himself as added protection given his previous mishaps on the job. But all Horatio could see was his fallen comrade and how easily it would've been avoided in the first place.

And basically the same day he was given a chance to prove himself and he gladly took it, eager than ever to be proven useful and help at his best ability.

Not that he'd ever expected acceptance or anything. He never was there to make friends or be part of some gossip mill so at first it felt weird, by the end of first week he believed being an officer had been walk in a park, compared to more enclosed working conditions. But he was used to being constantly observed and gossiped about, he basically managed to eliminate such trivial stupid things out of his life and only paid attention to doing his best work and performing at his best ability.

And when suddenly there was a nail sticking out of his eye he suddenly realized he has never been this scared in his life, not even drowning in his kiddy pool had scared him this much or whatever was the horrible car accident that made his father disappear or whatever plane crush his mother didn't survive.

Three weeks after initial injury he was still in shock, somehow blaming himself for becoming too cocky. He didn't hear Eric apologising and telling that technically it was more his fault. The first night at home he had passed out by bathroom sink still in cleaning attire, holding no memory of getting there. The next three days after some team members left he fell to a complete victim of yet seventeen more cleaning rounds he held no memory of the day after.

He almost begged Horatio to allow come in for at least a couple hours a day, Alexx immediately had decimated that idea by nearly wrapping him in bubble wrap.

Another week later he had no idea about anything whatsoever and he'd managed to scrub his carpet clean of any fur surface and his wooden side table had lost all of the natural texture and colour. He'd survived a boxing match with a mirror in his bathroom and nearly lost his hand to a hallway mirror.

His anger felt hot and raw.

Two days later he went for another evaluation and for the first time saw a light at the end of darkness.

With baby steps he was allowed back but only one step at a time.

Somehow it went on better than he imagined and that had given him a bit more sunshine.

Then issues started to pop out of shadows and fear took its steel grip on his heart in a way he managed to outplay literally everyone at a poker table.

Three weeks straight it became his only escape from drowning. The sleep didn't come easy. So his house was cleaner than any hospital he'd ever set his foot in.

He kept the winnings at a safe in the far corner of the house to keep away from his sight on daily basis.

Then he got too drunk to think and it became the only sleeping pill he could afford.

Finally he was back and hoped his eye holds its end of their deal. He still struggled with balance right after waking up but that was small sacrifice for being able to work. Occasional vertigo had been a part of his life for all his life but it only happened when he was startled awake and tried to run mile a minute the second he was capable to stand. Some odd migraine also no longer bothered him since that came with being him.

His hands shook lightly every time a similar conditions reminded of the nail barreling at his eye that his mind had managed to cripple into horrid images just to keep him on his toes.

But then everything went sour again as other things at lab raised his stress levels to a crippling anxiety levers so hard his OCD couldn't cope the regular way, and he was slipping hard.

Poker games until things started to get tight and he was loosing what once was his absolute roll. He drunk some more that night knowing he had to figure out how to keep it together.

He didn't dare to talk to Ron and kept his appearances just as perfectly fine as he could.

Until the poker debt invaded his workspace and questions arose. Damn glass walls…

He tried to smooth it over in hopes that he would just be able to slip out of the chokehold of the attention.

He had become sloppy, negligent of the way his job worked and how wired into the observing and detecting they all were.

It was the second sign he'd ignored a little too long and then it came back to bite him hard and relentless…

On the way down that elevator he lost it and possibly exited the building a bit too harshly. He didn't care anymore. And when he sat in his car wallowing in his guilt over being stupid he lost it once more before he arrived home that night and locked the doors, windows and went down into the basement, his phone slightly crumbled was left on a kitchen island…

Three days later he walked outside at night to pick up the box Lab sent with his belongings, he growled angrily and tossed it at the wall so it left a slight imprint in the plaster.

Another week later he dared to get a new phone and call his uncle, there was a strong pull inside of his chest to just give up but his stubbornness slapped at his cheek and he only had a casual small talk that as he grew older he enjoyed the least however unable to bring himself to talk openly he just skipped all of the details.

Maybe in a month he'd get lucky and they'd take him back..

Two months later he tried his hand at other things that eventually never did any good.

And by the end of the third month he barely felt alive. So he not only fell into the most dangerous game of all but also managed to get into a really bad fallout.

So when he had awoken at a hospital, hooked to many machines, his mind almost sent him to the dark place…

Alexx had come to visit and she absolutely hated the sight but he either played possum or was for real asleep so she left with only saying that she wished for him to talk…

Next time he was awake they assigned him to many activities but most disturbingly the rehab. According to his file he'd taken way too many drugs and drunk too much and did some other disgraceful things before somebody had called it in…

New cuts cover where the old ones are

Ron was called in rom Boston and apparently Alexx was the one reaching out since the rest from the lab seemed too busy to care. And so he had to talk and talk and get better otherwise he'd be hung by them all to see and he'd never hold another chance for his dream..

There had been no other way to do it so he did it the way he was told to do it because there was nothing else left.

His job attempts meant nothing in the big picture, his addictions turned out to be a side effect of his untreated OCD, the impulse control stemmed from his early life traumas and fact he held the urge to control everything so loosing it led to an even deeper hole.

He'd dug himself deep, maybe there was this rock bottom all of the addicts talked about, maybe he reached it before he realized it or…

He's been too far gone to care…

And with that thought Ryan decided to actually start taking care of things. He had to because apparently with his internal struggle he'd missed the people around him taking notice of his behavior slipping, his mood swings, dark circles and occasionally half-hidden injuries he'd tried to deflect with some random excuse that didn't sound solid for even his own ears had he paid more attention to his own actions. It was hitting hard, the mental side of the situation, being one to hide his deepest emotions from everyone, himself included. It was the hardest part that now he couldn't hide anything from anyone. There was just the talking and talking, about him and his life, his problems and struggles.

It took enormous amounts of effort to talk about absolutely everything and keep talking for two months that followed. It was the beginning that was the worst when he had to just start therapy sessions out of his hospital bed with no way out of this. And he decided to change his emergency contact information after this however Alexx threatened with something ugly if he actually did it. He'd completely forgotten this tiny detail after his eye incident. He initially planned only keep her as his emergency contact for a while, until his eye gets better and then covertly remove her and leave it empty. He absolutely didn't want to bother Horatio and he couldn't face anyone else so he'd leave his file empty like when he first joined and didn't fill that one field.

Now he regretted basically every single choice he'd made in his life.

In retrospect it was the common theme among addicts. They often overlooked things that usually would be considered in more depth because there was the drive for the next dose, next fix, next thrill and more chances to forget for a moment, stop feeling all that pain, on their minds so things slipped from their usually tough grasp and as things progressed less and less became important.

He lost it completely when those elevator doors closed in his face and it was just that, he'd been so close to being escorted out of there in cuffs. There would be no recovering from that one. Luckily it's yet to happen with his luck.

On the bright side, he was out of the hospital now and there was only another two months at the rehab clinic that uncle Ron had organized in complete anonymity for obvious reasons and together with Alexx's help and quite possibly H's subtle touch he was having private room with a garden view that showed very lovely rock garden and a small pond with beautifully sculpted swan family fountain in the middle.

He finally started to feel at peace with himself and things. For the first time in a very long time Ryan felt relief. And some light at the end of the tunnel…

Within a year and a half after his release from being a CSI he was finally making baby steps to get the job back. It was going to be super slow and agonizing road but with the help and support he now realized he always had been surrounded by people that cared about him but his illness never allowed him to see that with his own eyes.

For many years he'd been overwhelmed by pain of his trauma that his mind had blocked inside so he could survive but it's been eating him away silently for all these years. Until he was breaking nearly beyond repair…

He was saved at the last moment possible by unexpected hand catching his at the very last second before he was hitting the rock bottom and bouncing against the walls like a child's toy rabbit as it slowly descends down the well..

He was the toy rabbit and his trauma and pain was the walls of that well. But he was no longer falling, there was steady ground underneath his feet, his toes curled in a little as he stood there by the window reflecting on his feelings. He was a changed man now that he was about to go home. The journey wasn't over, it won't be over for a very long time, possibly the rest of his life if he so chooses. And it's not going to be an easy one.

Horatio helped with the secrecy of his data to keep things from IA longer and there was no direct need to place all of the cards on the table yet. Ryan was officially diagnosed with a gambling addiction as he was fired because of that. Yes he had the privilege to keep other things private at least if there ever came a need to be more specific. Yet there will be more details under some hidden file or some stuff that would require special permission to view legally even for IA. So technically while there will be more things available they weren't a direct threat and Ryan has been clean and will keep being that way for the years to come.

And he will find a sponsor and attend the meetings. So he kept talking and the more he talked the easier became.

By the time he was back to normal life with a new morning routine and night routine, with all the necessary medication to manage his mental state and every disorder he had he also begun the next chapter of his journey towards better life.

And somehow enduring the very long way back to his white lab coat and police badge didn't feel so hard anymore, nor as long.

And suddenly he had people around that supported him and actually turned out to want to be his friends as long as he would let them.

It was a new feeling but it changed everything.

So tired of making the same mistakes again and again,

It sucks that it just won't end and I can't let myself be,

the man that's staring in the mirror through me

So when the next big hurdle came to trip both Ryan's feet and slap his both cheeks only to push him down on the ground hard he was feeling some of that old pain breaking through the surface and ugly darkness rearing it's head but this time he had something to keep fighting for. He had a boy to save and a man to help after that.

He didn't expect one day just becoming this man's strong shoulder and support, not after all the trouble he went through himself. But a changed man was a changed man even in the face of old demons. But was he?

Hearing Horatio's words on the other side of the phone brought on such a powerful wave of relief it was near cathartic, like being high. Billy was okay and that was the only high he needed that day.

So why was he holding a bottle in his hand twelve hours later?

He wasn't ready to take the step, but oh so how he longed for it. Not when he was feeling all these emotions again. It's what brought him trouble the first time.

For some reason with Ryan drinking has always been different affair. Yet he wasn't seeking being freed from it just yet. Hell, his fridge was full of beers. There was a cupboard full of hard liquor and he did enjoy a bit of a stiff drink after tough days.

No the alcohol itself wasn't what took him to places with no return. It was his own deliberate plan to get that level drunk to try and loose control, to break free and forget. He just wanted a little bit to ease the physical pain from torture and maybe let himself loose.

He didn't though. He wasn't there to break his promises and break his own heart by his own hand. It won't work, not anymore, not again.

He put the bottle back into its place and walked over to the window. His own garden bathing in the moon light with tiny shimmer in the small pond. Couple ducks had found his pond and decided to take a lap or five with their seven ducklings. He smiled and turned around.

He felt the building energy inside slowly crawling into a pile. He had no idea what would take the edge off.

Therapist said that in his case there might be a problem if he reverted to his old ways but as long as he found new and healthy ways to break down that build up of energy he should be fine as long as he could balance his compulsive part.

The thing with obsessive compulsive was that it was the defining element of an addiction. It was an obsession and it was a compulsion. Toughest to manage but also quite rewarding once it's under control.

His guns were still pristine and his cereal organized. He allowed his cleaning madness to go wild once in two weeks and he went to all his meetings and called his sponsors. Well the only one who wasn't currently available for foreseeable future.

He didn't want to be around people, not after having few nearly destroy his mind and body.

Something tickled at the back of his mind and from afar an engine revved. It's been a while but the night was still young. He was to coiled up to stay still. The adrenaline was not crushing and he desperately needed to burn some of that down.

Five minutes later he walked down the stairs and slid into his car. He almost forgot one thing an east coast harbor town boy did for that. His face lit up in a smile at the long forgotten memory. His father may not be much of a memory but the concept had been there. And Ron did the same thing his mother did. They were all connected by blood and by traits.

It would take a while before he would walk inside a casino without a side feeling and he won't be going to races of any kind, even crime scenes could be a potential trigger.

Ryan wasn't afraid anymore. He felt strongest he'd ever been.

The walk down the pier felt like old summer afternoon on the docks with his mom's smile warming his heart.

He moved like an animal in stealth mode, as if it wasn't legal. It was, he was just nervous.

At least this one's tires won't get slashed he thought to himself and as he descended down into the small cabin a strong fit of hysterical laughter took over and for entire ten minutes Ryan was laughing like some maniac on acid.

Well, he didn't need that to feel the same way.

Just like that he was over it and the young man stood back at the steering wheel. It was a modified speeder boat his father had built for his family. It had a small cabin for shelter and storage in case they traveled further than planned or something else came up.

It had slightly different geometric than racing ones but it was fast enough for Ryan. He liked it better anyway.

And as he took off down the river his mind wasn't plagued by the memories of Russians tearing him apart, there were no resentment plaguing his mind of his colleagues hatred that afternoon.

No, just the memories of his family taking him out for boat rides and uncle Ron pretending to get smacked by the fish he just caught. And he laughed along the moon light shining down on his path. He felt so light and free.

He was once more the happy kid before his life changed forever. He knew the time at work will be something else but it didn't bother him, H told how proud he was of Ryan despite him going the wrong way at first, but he also understood the way Ryan had chosen and what was at stakes. And he'd seen everything in the older man's eyes reflected back at his red rimmed hazel ones.

Sometimes they didn't need words to understand each other. He heard a story once, about H and his heart was at peace ever since.

Eric and Calleigh was a different story entirely but after all of his struggles and choices he was more proud of the story he will tell everyone willing to listen, even if not willingly. Because only those who will ask for it will matter in his book.

There was no doubt the second his phone will be back on the amount of voicemails and messages would become overwhelming momentarily he also knew that was what mattered. And then he'd go and tell the story. A completely new one and oh so inspiring.

Freedom can be frightening if you've never felt it

Once it's been dealt with you feel like you've been touched by something angelic

So next time when things go south he's there to support. Knowing so well that it doesn't need to be an addiction for a person to deny the obvious.

It was enough to sustain an injury for one to hide away if it's always been their instinct and nature.

It's a primal instinct born within animals for the need to protect themselves in the nature. Evolution didn't change that for humans because it wasn't about species, it's always been about a defense mechanism. To avoid showing weakness. Because it's been any live organism thing not just single species.

But he felt strong enough to try and help another human being to see they're in denial and it's getting dangerous. It was harder than he expected but he recognized himself there. And he knew that there were two ways to do it.

One was to turn his back and walk away and never look back.

The other was to walk up and tell a story regardless of anything that would happen after he's done telling.

Ryan chose the one he recognized himself in. If it was lifetime before he'd chose the one he'd walked out the door and ended up high in his own basement after a wildly bad poker game because he'd loose his control.

And once upon a time he was so proud of being so great at all of that. And he was so damn good. Until he let the control slip and he allowed his pain to spiral pulling himself down like the stream does to a dead body. He once became that corpse and without help he saw no way out.

He won't let another one to fall like that.

He maybe did hit one rock bottom but there's rarely just one. After a while one can loose a count and then there won't be any way out.

He chose to fight like he's never done before because it was the real Ryan Wolfe. He'd lost him along the way but then he was pulled out of one rock bottom while his corpse still held warmth.

He saw the denial in her eyes long before he started offer the chances. He recognized himself from lifetimes ago and next time he saw her he knew that this was the last time, the last chance, her only hope and his final attempt. He gave her so much time but he knew it before he walked up to her the first time. There were none of what he hoped for. Yet he still tried just to prove to himself he could do better. Maybe he still felt he received significantly less chances and options before getting tossed but then he sensed that also was for a reason. He thought he'd spotted something in H's gaze that time but something was there, he knew deep inside. It felt like recognition but possibly not direct. Horatio had a brother. Something happened and he never asked out of respect for the red haired man.

Ryan saw her reach for the fallen pill bottle the second his vision stabilized after the explosion and two seconds after checking on Kyle.

He swayed and decided to watch. The more he saw the less was necessary to be said.

He filed it away and at the end of the day when case was closed he walked back into the office and told her his story. Her eyes didn't hide the change of mind when he was done.

And then he told another story from a recent night not that long ago. And tears started to slowly slide down her cheeks. She'd made her final choice and there was nothing else left for him to say. He knocked on the door and Horatio walked inside.

The man looked his CSI with such a pride that Ryan barely could keep upright. He wanted to cry too.

Then her arms wrapped around his shoulders and she whispered a heartfelt thank you in his ear and walked outside with H's arm on her shoulder.

She's gonna be alright and he felt relief wash over.

H had found him in the locker room a while later and hugged him so tightly, it was something so intimately personal for the young man. He wanted to ask but he didn't. Didn't feel right.

And next time came not so far away. Just after the lab gained two great CSIs. And somehow Ryan immediately became best friends with Walter and Jesse. He almost didn't go to his meeting but he knew his therapist would kick him for that and he went anyway and when Walter asked why he couldn't join their basketball game Ryan didn't feel ashamed anymore to tell the man his story. And Jesse had taken that in stride like it wasn't anything to fear of. That night Ryan had told another story to his meeting. And it felt like the more stories he'd told the more of a new role for him was shaping.

Ryan told Natalia immediately the moment he saw her struggle with her iPod player sound volume. He momentarily noted her denial and excuses. It was like a profiler reading body language like a book. More like him reading his own book over and over again.

Eventually she did cave in and Ryan once again saved someone. Another story to tell with joy. That there's always something out there, that light will always be there regardless of circumstances.

And even if he felt shaken and coughing after explosion he knew someone with a history like that would be prone to suffer more.

Sure he recalled Calleigh being in a similar situation but she has always been more direct.

Or maybe he started to feel too invincible now that he seemed to always come out of things barely scathed unlike many years ago.

At least everyone else was fine.


Rick decided to go after him one more time.

This time with a big loud bang and a dash of unforeseen scheming.

Time and time again the man had annoyingly gone after the team. Even before Ryan touched his feet to the floors of this lab. Horatio had talked about this after his downfall as they had taken time to actually talk about things. He did warn Ryan that one day there won't be turning back so him being at his best was important.

And that at all times he should watch his back too, 'cause the monster would never sleep until slayed.

When he'd come back he already felt that intense stare and how deep that man was ready to go for his vengeful plans. H did tell Ryan all about their rocky past and previous challenges so he knew when this one came they'd have to be quick and efficient to slay the monster before he could ship Ryan off to an actual prison.

So when he'd gone home that day and seen all those cop cars on his porch he steeled himself internally and put on his game face.

He played his cards well while H would go around looking for evidence and connection to do what was necessary. The moment Ryan found out about the explosion H discreetly warned the man to be ready so he did. They both knew this would be the time something's gonna happen and IA would take the wheel asap. The first thing was the diamonds and that's where Ryan felt it coming from ten miles.

His own gut was telling a lot before he even imagined there'd be something going on but somehow knowing he's the last one handling them left that feeling inside he was all too familiar from that day he lost it..

So walking up to his home totally on game was somehow giving a small flame in his chest.

Intuition was a finicky thing but it was one he'd put his trust into for so long and it was leaning to his ear telling him this is gonna be a fun show.

And at the end of the day it had turned out to be the most rewarding show ever. It felt like a whole circle had closed finally and the strange heaviness lifted from his shoulders.

He thanked Eric for having his back and walked away to shake of the jitters in privacy. He didn't expect Horatio to walk out of the shadows and tell him how proud he is and that he should remember that people's there to have his back just the way he's having theirs. It was probably one of the rare private moments between them since he had to tell his story to the man. It was part of his journey back to life. And he had to put his trust in the man who put so much trust in him since seeing him for the first time. H didn't know Ryan, not really, and he trusted him out of all the eager scientists willing to work at the lab at any cost just out of pure gun cleanliness.

He had still to prove his worth in other areas because the man didn't even ask too many questions to begin with so finally being able to talk about his past for real and earn the rest of the trust all the way had been an experience of itself.

But it was something that mended a lot of things along the way. And a new respect had grown between the men. It's honestly been a long way for Ryan but it felt like he had finally earned a lot more than he'd ever expected years ago.

He also went to give Natalia the tightest hug for not giving up and being so quick with this new science technique that turned out to help Ryan the most and Walter who actually tried to scream some sense into everyone. He did thank to everyone who was there for him and when he was given the chance to finally return the favor and lead the man in cuffs the same walk of shame that he'd avoided by just a hair it truly gave him hope for the future and later that night he had another story to tell.

He would never imagine that for himself but over the past years he'd grown to be a good storyteller, he'd come a long way to be the man he finally felt happy being and now that huge amounts of secrets were put out of way he finally started to feel that trust from others warm it's way to him and it just made sense.

You just don't get to be the way you are by hiding so much because it makes people doubt you and your ability to be trustworthy and this job was all about trusting.

That night he went for a boat ride and it felt so much more freeing than ever before and in that moment he finally felt he's going to be alright. After an eternity he finally made it to a point he knew.

So when they all went down at the lab attack and Jesse didn't wake up it was a test of his resolve but he joined the team basketball game to honor the man and when he went out that night in his boat he felt a presence of calmness and something so intimately personal that he had to go to a random meeting and tell this story. And after the meeting a man about his own age came up to say thanks because his story had saved that man's life that night. And two days later the man had gone to full rehab. Then and there Ryan knew that no matter what he's on the right path. That finally he's at peace of being himself.

And then when uncle Ron arrived to visit they went out golfing and boating and all the things Ryan found joy in. And he wanted to show his old man that he's finally truly okay.

So even a tornado couldn't touch Ryan Wolfe. Horatio for the first time openly allowed himself to slide a bit and publicly called Ryan by his name which almost made him laugh which probably would become too painful if his ribs weren't screaming so much.

And when Walter appeared to be completely devastated about letting him go he smiled and told the man that he's gonna be okay. That things have been okay for him now and he's absolutely fine. And that by letting him go saved them both. And that maybe, very much maybe, he could feel Jesse holding him so he's not slammed too hard on the car hood. And that it's completely okay to feel like shit while not even being close to that.

And he knows things aren't always as shiny as they appear to even if the sun is blinding.

He loves telling stories and he believes in them.

He tells Walter a story as they change in the locker room. And he tells him few more shorter ones. They'd go out later that night and Ryan finally wants to share his story to a man he immediately felt besties with, the man who also returned that sentiment immediately. And while the lab called them The Three Musketeers Ryan still believed that Jesse was still there in their hearts and he knew for himself with hundred percent certainty that the man would stay in his heart for the rest of his life.

They probably didn't share enough time together to fully know each other but when Ryan went out that night he looked up at the moon and told all of his stories from the very beginning to the point. So when he went out time and time after that he had someone else to tell his stories to.

So this this time he invited Walter to join and tell the big man with even bigger heart his own story from the beginning to the point of present.

And if that forged a new friendship, completely different depth friendship and cemented the trust level he always hoped for he'd be happiest person ever.

And from then on things kept looking up. Not just Ryan but the team as well.

Eric and Calleigh finally had their little family they deserved and he was included as the funny uncle or something.

He and Natalia grew closer despite their past attempts because now Ryan had told them all of his stories and sometimes someone would poke their head out of a corner after his story is done and just hug him so tight.

Horatio had finally allowed himself to see Ryan for himself and not as a shadow of his own. They talked this through a long time ago and Ryan finally was at peace by the way how the man had always called him Mr. Wolfe for no apparent reason. He'd asked the question after so many years being stressed about it and the answer had been nearly anticlimactic.

But it did mend something within both men. And that probably held more meaning than anything else.

They both now at peace.

Uncle Ron finally sold his Boston casino business and moved to The Sunshine State and Ryan didn't allow the man but another house. He had enough room for two full families and if he was being honest to himself he was finally at the point in his life things made sense and other things became easier to understand and live through.

He had been alone for so long and at that time it felt like the best thing for him those days were long in the past. So he cleaned the semi-separate part of the house he'd never used and Ron was now living in and somehow it made Ryan feel whole.

Like his heart wasn't in pieces anymore.

And he even discovered a short way to a private access harbor so now their both boats could sit in peace side by side like the both of them.

There was no need nor reason to hide from anyone.

He was a free man. And quite possibly he was the happiest he's ever been. All it took was to tell a story to every living thing and even to a rock that helped him find himself.

And for the first time in his life he dared to dream. To dream biggest he's ever had. So when the time came he only could look forward and say thanks to the past for giving him the greatest gift of all…


Take it to the depths of the bottom of the well

And now you know that you can choose to lose

The part in your heart where your insides bruised

You can live if you're willing to

Put a stop to just what's killing you