Nelson glanced over the table at him. "Pick whatever you want. This is my treat."
"I can't let you do that," Ryder protested.
"Count it as my way of making things up to you."
Ryder frowned. "What did you do wrong?"
"Don't you remember what happened the first time we met?"
Ryder thought a minute before it came to him. "I'd brought in a kid, the parents said he'd hurt himself on his bike, but I knew it was bullshit. I'd seen enough abuse in my life to spot it the second I see it. I wanted you to call CPS, but you insisted on examining him first. You told me that I was just jumping the gun and wanted to make drama."
Nelson reached across the table and took Ryder's hand. "And I was wrong. As soon as I saw the X-rays, I knew you had been correct. Ever since then, I've felt like a big ass."
For some reason, Ryder felt the need to reassure him. "That's okay. I know you really didn't mean anything about it. You didn't know me then, and the kid's father was a police officer, so you had to be careful how you handled things. I just happened to have more experience when it came to spotting that stuff, thanks to all the years of foster care."
"I'll know never to doubt you again."
Ryder chuckled. "Don't be so sure about that. The other night I brought in a girl who I thought was suffering from appendicitis, and Lucas barely had time to play catch when she popped out a baby instead."
They both laughed, and the tension was broken. They ordered huge steaks and lingered over them as they talked mostly about work related stuff. As they were drinking coffee with their desserts, Ryder confessed, "When I first met you, I thought you were some stuck-up jerk. Especially, since you never talked to me like the rest of the doctors do. Well, I should say most, there are a couple who think they're too good to talk to medics, and I thought that you were one of them."
"If I tell you the real reason why I didn't talk to you, do you promise not to laugh at me?" Nelson asked, a slight blush coming over his face.
"I thought that I was too old for you," Nelson blurted, hoping that Ryan wouldn't agree with him.
Ryan smiled. "I happen to like guys who are a bit older than me. I just don't understand why it was me that you wanted."
"Can I tell you a big secret?" Nelson asked.
When Ryder nodded, Nelson continued, "Ever since you stood up to me that day, I've had it bad for you. It wasn't just because you're a spitfire, either. I love the way you laugh, your smile, the way your hair is always a mess, the way your eyes light up when you talk about Jensen or Mrs. Wilson. Hell, I can't think of something I don't like about you."
The words touched Ryder so much that his heart pounded hard and for a moment he was speechless. "Most people say that I'm too quiet."
"Just because you don't talk much doesn't mean your words can't make a huge impact. You always put others' needs before your own."
Ryder ducked his head, a heat coming over his face. "Thanks."
"So, now that we're done eating, where do you want to go? I can take you back to your place, we can catch a movie--"
"I want to go home--with you," Ryder blurted before his courage failed him.