Disclaimer: FAKE and its characters belong to Sanami Matoh.
Author's Note: This is set around Volume 5 or 6 or so—before Volume 7, anyway. My first FAKE fanfic.
"No. No way. You can't be serious," Dee protested, but the look of panic in his eyes indicated that he was very afraid that his partner was serious.
"It'll only be a few days," Ryo said as continued straightening his desk, putting paperwork he'd been working on in the correct folders so that anyone else who needed it would be able to find it in his absence.
"Can't the kid go to Carol's place? He goes there when you work nights."
"Exactly, I already impose on Carol's aunt enough. Testifying in this retrial will keep me out of town at least three days. I can't just expect her to take care of Bikky all the time; he's my responsibility."
"But you can ask me to take care of him," Dee said petulantly as he crossed his arms and slouched against the wall.
Ryo put the folders in his lower desk drawer and slammed it shut. "Fine. I just thought— Don't worry about it; I'll work something else out." He grabbed his coat off the back of his chair and swept out of the room.
"Aww, don't be mad, Ryo," Dee pleaded as he grabbed his own coat and chased after his partner. "You know I'd like to help you, but the kid hates me. He wouldn't want me to babysit him while you're away." Ryo did not answer, but the stormy look on his face told Dee that he had yet to make Ryo see reason. "What about your downstairs neighbor, what's her name—Joyce? She seems like the maternal type. Maybe she could watch him."
Still silence—all the way outside.
"Ryo? Why me? Bikky hates me." Dee pointed out again.
"I just thought that—" Dee said very quietly, but he fell silent without telling Dee his reason. They had reached the top of the stairs that led down to the subway station. Ryo paused off to the side rather than descend.
Dee moved in front of Ryo and tried to look into the other man's downcast eyes. "What?" he asked quietly.
"Bikky's part of my life now; we're sort of a package deal," Ryo explained. "And you're always telling me that— and if you really do feel that way— about me— we're a package deal."
Now it all made perfect sense to Dee—unfortunately. It was easy to remember that Bikky was a thorn in his side when it came to getting Ryo into bed, but he also needed to remember that if he truly wanted Ryo in his life, to build a life together with this man, that life would include Bikky. Dee and Bikky would have to learn to coexist, and Ryo needed to see a first step in that direction.
"All right, Baby. I'll do it," Dee said. "I'll take care of the little brat, but only because I do feel that way about you."
Ryo smiled in embarrassment and finally looked up with the dark eyes Dee found so fascinating.
"But I expect some sort of 'thank you' when you come home, and I'm not talking flowers."
Ryo's blush deepened. "I think that could be arranged. Want to come have dinner with Bikky and me?"
"Can I stay for dessert?"
"No! No way! Him?" Bikky stared in horror at his guardian and the person his guardian thought was fit to care for him.
Dee just smirked. He took another swig from his beer bottle and hopped up onto the kitchen counter to watch the show.
"I'll stay at Carol's," Bikky said.
"You've been there enough this month," Ryo said calmly as he continued grating cheese for their tacos. "Her aunt's going to start charging you rent."
"I'll stay alone."
"No, you won't."
"I used to all the time when I lived with my real dad."
Ryo didn't rise to the bait. "And now you live with me, so you have to follow my rules."
"Anybody but him, Ryo," Bikky said pleadingly. "He hates me; he'll kill me. Do you really want to come home to find me dead on the floor? Blood all over your nice white couch."
"Set the table. He won't kill you. In fact," Ryo paused for dramatic effect as he put the serving bowls and platters in the center of the table, "I think you two may get along quite well."
"No way," Bikky said as Dee snorted his equal disbelief.
"Really. Remember when we were on vacation? When you two thought you had seen a ghost—"
"We did!" they both protested.
"You two got along very well that night," Ryo pointed out. "You also managed to get along when you were locked up together in your school with a bomb."
"Needing each other's help to stay alive has a way of overruling your differences," Dee said.
"He pushed me out the window," Bikky grumbled as he dropped into a chair and slouched as low as possible.
"Would you have preferred to stay with me and the bomb?"
"MAYBE," Ryo raised his voice to carry over the bickering, "if I'm not around, and you two aren't fighting about me, maybe you can get along with each other again."
"It's worth a try," Dee agreed. He didn't really think so, but he wanted Ryo to see him making the effort.
Getting summoned to the vice-principal's office was not an unusual occurrence for Bikky; however, finding his social worker waiting there for him was. He wracked his brain for whatever he'd done bad enough to merit her presence.
"Hello, Bikky," the red-haired woman said with a smile. "Do you remember me? I'm Ms. Finch, your social worker."
He nodded and closed the door behind him. "You're the person who said I could live with Ryo when my dad died." With a sudden stab of fear, Bikky realized exactly why she might be here for him. "Is Ryo all right? Did something happen to him?"
"He's fine," she said in that same quiet, calm voice she always used when speaking to him. Bikky thought of it as her 'kid voice' for he had noticed that she spoke differently to adults. "Is there some reason we should be worried about his safety?" She patted the seat of the chair beside her as she spoke. He did not sit down.
"Other than the fact that he's a cop? Yeah, you're here."
"No, I'm here about something else," she said in the 'kid voice,' then she turned to the vice-principal and switched to her more commanding 'adult voice.' "Thank you, Mr. Freedman. I think Bikky and I should talk alone now." She waited until the man had closed the door behind himself before returning her attention to Bikky and patting the seat again.
"Please sit down, Bikky. I'd like to talk about how things are going at your new home. I understand that you and Ryo have a third person living with you." She smiled as she said it, but Bikky wasn't fooled. He had enough friends who'd been in foster care most of their lives to know that he had to be very careful what he said to this woman. She could—and would—take him away from Ryo if Ryo didn't measure up as a parent in her eyes. And now she seemed to be fishing for information on Ryo's relationship with Dee. Would she take him away from Ryo if she found out he was gay? Probably. One good thing on their side, her information was wrong.
"No, it's just Ryo and me."
Ms. Finch smiled wider. "But one of your teachers overheard you talking about another man living with you."
"That's just Dee. He doesn't live with us. He's just staying with me for a couple of days while Ryo's out-of-town."
"I see. And who is Dee?"
"Dee Latener, he's Ryo's partner—police partner," he clarified quickly. "You know, Ryo's a cop, and Dee's his partner at work."
She nodded, but Bikky mentally swore at himself for being so obviously nervous. She had to know something was wrong.
"And how long has he been staying with you instead of Ryo?" she asked. More alarm bells went off in Bikky's head. Dee wasn't an official foster parent. Maybe his taking care of Bikky violated some rule.
"Just since yesterday. Ryo should be back tomorrow. It was kind of last minute. Ryo didn't think he'd have to tesitfy in this trial, but the lawyer changed his mind, and Ryo didn't want me to miss school to go with him."
"Very sensible of him," she agreed, "but perhaps Dee wasn't the best choice to stay with you."
"No, Dee's great," Bikky forced himself to say. As much as he'd love to get Dee in trouble, in this situation, getting Dee in trouble would get Ryo in trouble. Bikky didn't dare say anything that would jeopardize his continuing to live with Ryo. He knew enough about foster care to know he'd gotten very lucky to have Ryo as a foster dad. "You know, he helps with my homework, makes dinner, and all that stuff."
She pursed her lips for a moment. "Bikky, has Dee ever done anything that makes you uncomfortable? Anything that you felt was inappropriate?"
Bikky knew very well what adults meant when they used those words with kids. They were euphemisms for adults having sex with kids. He shook his head vehemently. "No, no way. Dee's never laid a finger on me—not like that." She placed her hand on his forearm in what was obviously meant to be a reassuring gesture, but he pulled away and crossed his arms.
"You don't have to embarrassed, Bikky. It isn't your fault; I won't judge you. But I do need to know the truth."
"I am telling you the truth," he insisted. "Just because Dee's gay doesn't mean he's a pedophile, and you'd have to be pretty stupid if you think it does."
She raised her eyebrows in surprise, and Bikky wondered if she'd already known that Dee is gay or if he'd just outed him. He had assumed that she knew, and that it was why she was worried about Dee going after him. Now he wondered.
"No, I don't think they go together," she agreed. "But I was wondering how you know that Dee was gay. Did he tell you?"
Bikky shrugged. "Don't remember. I just know he's gay is all." He did not want to tell her about the many times he'd walked in on Dee all over Ryo. He may have inadvertently outed Dee, but he wouldn't do the same to Ryo. He still didn't know whether or not she approved of gay men as foster parents for boys. He suddenly smirked and added, "I guess he's just such a flamer that I knew." He could imagine macho Dee, Mr. 'I'm not gay; I'm bi!' screaming in outrage at being described as a flamer.
"Here's my problem, Bikky," Ms. Finch said as she leaned forward in her seat. "One of your teachers overheard you talking about Dee. You called him 'the pervert.' I need to know why. Believe me, if he's done anything to you, if he's made you do anything, it's not your fault; it's his fault. He's the adult. No one will blame you."
Bikky shook his head again. "I call him 'the pervert' because he's gay; that's all. And the truth is, I couldn't care less about that. Calling each other names is just part of our thing. I call him 'pervert,' and he calls me 'brat.' It's like that. Can I go back to class now?"
Dee pulled his cell phone from his pocket as soon as he left the interrogation room. He'd set it to vibrate before going in and had felt it go off twice during the hour he'd been in there. The phone did indicate two missed calls, one from Ryo and one from a pay phone, but only one voice mail. Unfortunately, the voice mail was not from Ryo.
"Couldn't take an extra minute to say 'hi,' Ryo?" he groused as he pushed the button to listen to his voice mail.
"I'm so sorry, Dee; this is all my fault," Bikky said in a rush. "One of my teachers heard me call you a pervert, and now my social worker thinks you're a creep, and—I'll just let you guess what she thinks," he added in a whisper. "I told her she's wrong. Her name is Finch. If she shows up to talk to you be careful what you say. She knows you're gay. She doesn't know about Ryo. Don't screw things up for him and me, please."
"Oh fuck," Dee swore as he closed the phone and stared at it.
"Problem?" Rose asked.
Dee looked up to see his boss leaning against the opposite wall. The man's infuriating way of raising one eyebrow as he stared at Dee like a cockroach he was studying before squashing, seemed all the more infuriating today. Somehow Dee knew that nothing even remotely like this would have happened if Ryo had asked Rose to take care of Bikky.
"No, nothing important."
"Good. There's a social worker waiting to talk to you. She said it's about Ryo's foster son. I told her to wait at your desk."
"Thanks," Dee answered with practiced nonchalance.
"And, Latener, don't piss her off," Rose said to his retreating back. "Ryo will never forgive you if you say something that jeopardizes his having custody of that boy."
Dee kept walking and pretended to ignore Rose's warning. He knew Rose was right, but at the moment, he was more worried about Bikky. He knew the foster care system too well to be hopeful about Bikky's future if he were removed from Ryo's care. There just weren't enough good foster homes to go around, and a kid with Bikky's record wasn't likely to end up in any of them. He'd probably end up in a group home. Dee considered his own childhood at the orphanage more or less fondly, but that was only because he'd had both Mother's love and Jess's attention. In most group homes, Bikky wouldn't even have that. It would just be a warehouse full of troubled kids.
He saw a redhead doing paperwork at his desk, braced himself with a deep breath, and approached her with a smile. He'd already decided to pretend he hadn't gotten Bikky's warning. "You must be Bikky's social worker," he said as he extended his hand. "I'm Dee Latener."
"Victoria Finch," she said as she closed the folder in front of her and shook his hand.
"Could I get you a cup of coffee or something?
"Not if your coffee is as bad as police station coffee usually is," she said with a smile.
"In that case—" He sat down at Ryo's desk as it faced his own. "What can I do for you Miss Finch?"
She cocked her head and said, "I understand that you're looking after Bikky for a few days."
"That's what friends are for," he replied with a smile. He judged her to be no more than eight years older than he was. She was close enough in age that he could turn on the charm, and she might buy it as honest flirtation rather than an attempt to con her.
She watched him silently for several long moments, but Dee waited her out. He knew very well what she was doing. Silence could be a very effective interrogation technique. Those with guilty consciences sometimes began babbling to fill the silence and very often hanged themselves with their own words.
"Was there anything else?" he asked at last. "If not, I should get back to work."
"Did you know that Bikky calls you 'the pervert'?" she asked him abruptly.
"Care to explain why?"
"She is a pretty good interrogator," Dee thought approvingly. "First she tries to shock me with the tiny piece of information she does have, and then she gives me a chance to explain away what I might think she knows, thereby admitting something she can't prove. Nice."
Dee smiled wider and shrugged. "I suppose it's because he doesn't approve of my taste in men."
"And what is your taste in men, Detective Latener?"
"I think my personal life is my personal life."
"Not when it impacts Bikky it isn't."
"I'm only staying with Bikky for a few days, and the man I'm currently seeing is out of town. Now, given that fact, do you think my personal life is impacting Bikky?"
She leaned forward suddenly. "Do you like little boys, Mr. Latener?"
"You mean sexually?" he asked with a surprised laugh at the absurdity of the question—he thought his pretended surprise was rather convincing. "No! What on earth gave you that idea? I like men, and I like women. I like fully-mature, consenting adults. And, at the moment, I'm head over heels in love with someone—an adult."
She looked into his face for a few seconds longer as if trying to read the truth there, and then she smiled. "Either you're a very good liar, or this has all been a colossal misunderstanding. I do apologize, Detective." She put the folder she'd had on the desk back into her battered briefcase and stood to leave.
"No apologies necessary," he said as he stood to escort her out. "You're just doing your job and watching out for Bikky. But could I ask you a hypothetical question?"
"What if I were Bikky's guardian instead of just babysitting him for a few days? Would it be a problem that I'm bisexual? Would your department be willing to have a boy live with a gay man?" He tried to make it sound like mere idle curiosity instead of a matter of greatest importance to his own future. He knew that Ryo would never allow their relationship to go any further if it put his guardianship of Bikky at risk.
"Officially, it wouldn't be a problem," she said, "nor would it be a problem for me, but I'll be frank with you. You know as well as I do that homophobia is out there. My department isn't any different. I know that children have been taken away from, or denied to, gay foster parents. It's always for some other trumped up reason, never because they're gay, not on paper at least, but—"
"I see. But it wouldn't be a problem for you," he repeated. She was the one who mattered most; she was Bikky's social worker. Of course, if she were to leave her job and one of her coworkers were to get assigned to Bikky—
"No. Why?" she asked as they paused at top of the stairs. "Are you thinking of becoming a foster parent, Detective Latener?"
"Something like that," he said.
"How much more homework do you—" Dee paused in mid-question as he heard the unmistakable squeak of the front door opening.
Bikky heard it too and nearly leaped out of his seat before realizing in time that it wasn't 'cool' to seem excited to see one's own parent. He settled for calling out, "Hi, Ryo! We're in the kitchen!" before disguising his wide smile by taking another bite of the pizza they'd had delivered.
Ryo touched Dee's shoulder in passing as he went to give Bikky's blond hair an affectionate tousle and then sat down. "Pizza. Great, I'm starved. They let me leave at four-thirty, and I jumped in the car to get out of town before rush hour started." He picked up a slice with one hand while stealing Dee's empty plate with the other. "Not that rush hour there is anything like rush hour here, but—" Any further commentary would have to wait as he began to devour the lukewarm slice.
"Good to have you back," Dee said with a happy smile. "As you can see, Bikky and I managed to refrain from killing each other—even if the little brat did almost get me arrested on false charges."
"It was your fault!" Bikky protested around a mouthful of pizza. "If you weren't such a flaming pervert, none if it would have happened!"
"I'd say your big mouth was the reason it all happened," Dee countered.
Ryo sighed and took the last slice of pizza.
--Written October 2004