Author's note: I thought I'd started writing this Christmas one-shot in plenty of time to get it posted before Christmas, but as usual, it ran away with me! Hope you're all still feeling Christmassy enough to enjoy it! It's basically a sequel to 'Dance with Me' this time written from Ryo's POV, but I think it should make sense on its own. Happy New Year everyone! Much love – Swordy
Summary: One-shot. Since New Year's Eve the previous year Ryo and Dee have been in a relationship that they have kept secret from their family and friends. Knowing the secrecy hurts Dee, Ryo decides it's time to come clean... Written as a sequel to 'Dance with Me'.
Warnings: lil bit of sap!
It was such a simple thing that started it.
It's been a long day – a twelve hour shift topped off by a training session with the armed response unit that went on an hour longer than I'd hoped. The weather is bad, the traffic worse. By the time I reach my apartment I'm cold, tired and hungry.
Dee is there as I let myself in, sitting on the floor surrounded by what I first assume is paperwork. He looks up and smiles, that dazzling expression, which always seems to hint at mischief.
"Hey, sexy," he says, his green eyes watching me from behind unruly locks of ebony hair. They remind me of a jungle cat, peering out through long blades of grass.
"Hey," I reply, dumping my briefcase at the door and returning the smile despite my weariness. Dee always seems to have that effect on me. My eyes stray to the floor, unable to believe that Dee is doing paperwork without having his arm twisted up his back. I was right. On closer inspection, I see that he's doing no such thing.
"I'm writing my Christmas cards," he explains as he sees the direction of my gaze. "Thought I'd get them done while I had a little free time." He jumps up as the timer sounds on the cooker. He's obviously been preparing something for us, judging by the pleasant aroma now wafting in from the kitchen. Before he goes, he casts one last look at the cards and then me. He opens his mouth, hesitates and then speaks. "Knowing how busy you've been lately, I almost put your name on the cards too, save you the trouble of writing your own, but then I figured, well, you know…"
I nod in response to his unfinished statement as he smiles and leaves the room. Despite the smile, there is a sadness in his eyes that tells me how much that has just cost him. I suppose I should explain. What he was about to say was that putting my name on the cards would look too 'couply' and so he didn't do it. Not that he didn't want to, of course.
The problem is me.
It's been almost twelve months since I told Dee that I wanted to start a relationship with him, when at the precinct's celebration on New Year's Eve I laid bare my feelings in the hope that he hadn't gotten tired waiting for me to reciprocate his devotion. To my relief, he hadn't and it became the start of a wonderful and mutually rewarding relationship. We're in love, soul mates, two sides of the same coin, however you want to term it. No one makes me feel like Dee does; so happy to be alive and so lucky to have found someone who adores me completely. So what's the problem, I hear you ask? Shouldn't I be shouting my happiness from the rooftops? Of course, but have I? No. And why? Because I'm a coward. There, I've said it.
You see, back on that magical night when we took our fledgling steps as a couple, I warned Dee that I wouldn't find it easy admitting we were together. He told me he was okay with that and I loved him even more for it. I guess I just assumed after a while that I would become loud and proud like Dee and would be happy to tell people I was gay, but it just hasn't happened. I still feel that squirming sensation when anyone talks about homosexuality, even if it's not even related to me or Dee. I still watch people's reactions when the subject comes up to see whether they're tolerant or whether they're disgusted.
The thing is, aside from Bicky and Cal who I might add have also been sworn to secrecy, no one actually knows me and Dee are together. For almost an entire year, we've pretended there is nothing between us in public and to our family and friends. To everyone else, we're just Dee and Ryo, partners in work and good friends outside. Those that know Dee's sexual preferences, like the guys at work, still think that they're witnessing a long-standing case of unrequited love. He gets teased mercilessly that he should just give up and move on, but he goes along with it to throw them off the scent. He says it's fun to keep them in the dark, but I know he does it just for me.
What he definitely doesn't find fun is the attention I get from our female colleagues. You see, they know about Dee's crush on me and have deduced that because I have not responded, I am fair game as a potential heterosexual suitor to any number of them. He has to endure their flirtatious attentions towards me, their constant attempts to take me out to dinner, or worse, get me into bed. He's told me that sometimes they've asked his opinion about how they can win me over, like he should know because we're such good friends. They have no idea that when we leave at the end of our shift in our separate cars, we meet at one of our apartments as lovers rather than friends. Dee still maintains that our activities together more than make up for the secrecy that I insist shrouds our relationship, but I know that deep down he would like nothing more than to have our love on show; to be able to tell our female colleagues that I am his, and not to have to be forever on guard when others might be around.
I don't know why it was the Christmas cards that did it. There was just something about that action that made me realise it wasn't fair of me to ask Dee to live this lie any longer. Just the simple act of signing both our names would hint that we are a couple and he knew I wouldn't like it, so he didn't do it. That's not how it should be. Why should Dee have to feel that I am ashamed of him?
It's me I'm ashamed of.
For almost twelve months, everything has been on my terms. I've allowed him to get close to me, as and when it suited and pushed him away when I thought our actions might arouse suspicion. I'm ashamed to say that once, when my Aunt Elena had started to question my lack of a love life, I took a female colleague to a family party to deceive them into thinking I was a happy, healthy heterosexual. Despite my thinking it would be a good idea, I spent the evening wracked with guilt, knowing Dee was at home and I was denying him every time I told a curious family member that it was 'early days' between me and Kelly. Knowing she would like nothing more than it to be 'early days' too, I had to let her down gently, keeping the real reason out of it of course, before she got the wrong idea about us.
I know what you're thinking: I'm a prize bastard. Well if it's any consolation, I agree with you.
When Dee comes back into the living room it's like I'm seeing him again with new eyes. I see everything that he is and my heart flip-flops as I fall in love all over again. He is kind and gentle, beautiful and funny, wise in his own way and most importantly, deserves so much more than I am giving him right now.
"You okay, Ryo? You look… I dunno, worried."
I am, I guess. If Dee had any sense, he'd have left me long ago, but the thought of him leaving makes me feel sick and it has clearly shown on my face. I rectify this with a smile, a genuine one for the man who never hesitates to give me everything.
"I'm okay, just tired."
Dee visibly relaxes. "Tell you what. After we've eaten, I'll run you a bath. You can have a soak and I'll pick Bicky up from basketball practice."
See what I mean? There are men and women that would kill for a partner like Dee.
Dee quirks an eyebrow at my request, then does as he's told and moves towards me. I draw him into my arms and hold him close, savouring his musky scent and the warmth of his skin on mine.
"I love you, Dee."
He pulls back and frowns ever so slightly. His radiant emerald eyes search my face for signs of deception. "Hey, is something wrong? Don't hold out on me, Ryo."
I kiss him gently on the lips and smile. "Nothing's wrong. I just think that I don't tell you enough."
A broad grin is my reward. "Yeah well, it's okay. I know it – in here." He gestures to his chest, near his heart. "Now come on, let's eat before I play up to my useless bachelor stereotype and serve you something burnt."
We make love that night. In the glorious aftermath as we lie together, I begin to form my plan about how I can right the wrongs that I have caused Dee over the past twelve months. I watch him dozing before sleep claims me too and say a prayer of thanks that I have realised the error of my ways before it is too late.
It is time for me to be everything Dee deserves.
In the morning we rush to get dressed after neither of us remembered to set the alarm. Breakfast is a hurried affair, indeed Dee is still eating a doughnut he found at the back of the cupboard as we ride the elevator down to the parking lot beneath my apartment block. Our cars are parked side by side and I throw my briefcase into the trunk of mine as Dee starts the engine of his battered old Chevrolet. For a split second I almost suggest that we ride together, but I don't want Dee to become suspicious about my change of heart. I want to surprise him, so I maintain my façade as the in-the-closet homosexual as we set off to work individually.
The day passes quickly and an hour before we are due to finish, Drake asks Dee if he wants to go to a bar afterwards to watch the Knicks play and have a few beers. As always, Dee surreptitiously makes eye contact with me to check we have no plans and I nod my approval.
"Sure, buddy," he says to Drake before the other man leaves the room. Once we're alone, he turns his attention back to me. "You don't mind me going out? I did promise I'd help you with getting your Christmas decorations out of storage."
I shake my head and smile. "You go. I think Bicky said he and Cal would be home for dinner. I'll get them to help me."
Dee chuckles. "That's it. Make them work for their dinner."
"Hey," I chastise him gently with a smile. "I might do the same for you."
My lover quirks an eyebrow and offers me an impish grin. "Oh yeah? And what kind of work would you have in mind? For your information, I give a mean blow-" He stops suddenly when Drake re-enters the office and I quickly look down at the file on my desk since a sudden blush has rushed to my cheeks. If Drake sees it, he doesn't comment.
"Okay, Latener. We're all set. Ted's gonna meet us there."
"Cool," Dee says with a nod, all business-like again. For not the first time, I marvel at how he can switch like that while I am left blushing furiously.
Later on as we are preparing to leave, Dee suddenly swears.
"What?" I ask, startled by his actions.
Dee looks around to check we won't be overheard. "I left my Christmas cards at your place. Tomorrow's the last day for posting so they need to go in the mail tomorrow morning at the latest. Shit, why do I always leave everything to the last minute?"
I smile, knowing I am no more organised than he. "Don't worry, I'll mail them for you. Like you said, I still have to do mine."
His beautiful green eyes display his relief. "As usual, you're a star." He winks, the action only just beating Drake's arrival.
"Ready to go, Dee?" he asks, seeing my lover with his jacket on.
"Sure. See you tomorrow, Ryo," Dee says, giving me a quick wave, his farewell gesture deliberately impersonal so that no one would think we were anything other than friends.
"Yeah, bye, guys. Enjoy the game."
My apartment feels empty when I arrive home even though I know that Bicky and Cal will be here soon. Dee has this… presence. I can feel him here even though there is nothing of his on show that would cause me to think of him. As I wander through to the kitchen this changes - I see his pile of Christmas cards on the side. I flick through them, reading the addresses penned in Dee's almost unreadable scrawl, and realise I know everyone he has sent a card to, everyone that means something to him. Again, I realise how much of his life he has shared with me and I reaffirm my decision to offer him the same.
My bedroom holds the only clue that Dee spends time here, as I find one of his t-shirts screwed up on the floor at the end of my bed. I pick it up, unable to resist inhaling the scent I know will be there. Despite the fact that I am alone, I blush at my actions. I realise that I have it bad and there is only me that knows it. Obviously I've told Dee I love him but I don't think even he knows how deep my true feelings for him run. Then I think about how dangerous our line of work is, and how I'd hate anything to happen to either of us without him knowing that.
I know what I have to do.
Christmas Day arrives and still Dee is none the wiser about what I have planned. I feel nervous but excited at the same time as I bustle about the apartment, humming along to the Christmas carols that are playing on the radio while I put the finishing touches to the preparations. As far as Dee knows, I have planned a party for this evening, inviting our friends and colleagues as well as my Aunt Elena and Uncle Rick. He is joining Bicky, Cal and me for a sit down Christmas lunch after he has been to church and as far as I can tell, he doesn't suspect a thing. He received his invitation to the evening party at the same time as Drake, JJ and Ted. All of them are coming, with the exception of JJ. He is going visiting his family and will not be back in time, and in a way I am glad. The party is really a ruse for the surprise I have planned for Dee, and I was worried that JJ would think I was just rubbing his nose in it when I came clean about my relationship with Dee.
The melodious strains of 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' filter through from the kitchen as I set four places around the table. The Christmas tree in the corner of the room looks wonderful, despite Bicky's slightly haphazard method of decoration. Cal and I rectified most of his attempts whenever he left the room, which amused us no end. I have just finished putting down the name place cards Cal has made when the front door opens and she steps in, accompanied by Bicky. They are both the picture of happiness, cheeks flushed from the cold and the sight of them further cheers my heart. I abandon my position at the dining table and move to give her a hug.
"Merry Christmas, Cal," I say as I embrace her tightly. She wishes me the same and when she pulls away, she kisses me on the cheek.
"Do you like what Bicky bought me?" She fingers a pretty pendant set with a modest princess cut diamond.
I smile and nod my agreement. "It's beautiful, just like you."
She flushes now and slaps me playfully on the arm. "So are you ready for you-know-what?"
My heart does a little flip-flop as she mentions what I have planned for today but I reply in the affirmative. "I'm excited, but a little nervous too." Cal, being the sweetheart she is, takes my hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze.
"I'm sure it'll all go to plan." Her confidence is blessedly infectious.
An hour later Dee arrives. My stomach does that funny little turn again when I see him, looking so handsome as he takes off his coat and scarf. He has a large bag, which is bulging with presents and he grins when he sees me looking at it.
"Hey! No peeping yet."
I smile as I cross the room towards him, eager to be in his arms. "Merry Christmas, Dee."
He hugs me tightly, just like I did with Cal. "Right back at ya. Ummm, you smell good."
I blush as Cal and Bicky come into the room, no doubt having heard Dee's arrival and his last comment.
"Hey, perv," Bicky says with a frown. "Don't you ever take a day off?"
Dee grins, his twinkling green eyes meeting mine as he gives me a quick kiss and then lets me go. "Hey yourself, brat. Santa forgot to bring you some toys, huh?"
I give Dee a look but I know that he is only teasing. Evidently Bicky does too as he sticks his tongue out but doesn't retaliate verbally, letting their squabble come to an end. When he and Cal have gone, Dee turns his attention back to me.
"I have your present," he says, indicating the large bag he left near the door. "Do you wanna open it now?"
"Okay, but you only get your present later."
Dee's eyebrow does another little journey up towards his forehead and he nods knowingly. "Later, huh?" He grins mischievously. "Okay, that's cool with me."
He's gotten the wrong end of the stick but I let him have his happy little fantasy as I open my present – a book he knew I wanted and a gorgeous leather jacket he had seen me admiring.
It is soon time to eat and we all sit down to a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Dee and Bicky's infamous love/hate relationship flares up again momentarily as they argue over who should have the last turkey leg but other than that, it is a typical family affair. I realise that, with that thought, I have overcome yet another of my mental barriers. I have regarded us as a family, despite the fact that we are two men and some would say we have no right to describe ourselves as that most traditional of units.
The afternoon passes quickly and soon it is time to start getting ready for the party. Dee, Cal and Bicky help laying out the food before they embark on the monumentally important task of selecting the music for this evening. Here, Dee and Bicky are unsurprisingly alike, and the job is completed quickly and painlessly. Just after eight pm, the guests start to arrive.
"Hey, Dee. Got here early, huh?" Drake says as he spots Dee, with half-drunk beer in hand.
Dee replies in the affirmative before he sneaks a glance at me, assuming that we are playing our normal roles of work colleagues and friends. Inside, I feel a twinge of nervous excitement as I realise we can dispense of this charade very soon, but I am waiting until everyone is here. My Aunt Elena and Uncle Rick arrive at about half past eight. Elena greets me with an enthusiastic hug, Rick's embrace is more restrained but he too is genuinely pleased to see me and I am them, knowing what I am about to say is hugely important for them to know since they were my guardians while I was growing up. The evening is in full swing when I give Bicky our agreed signal and he fades out the music. Conversation ceases as people realise that it has stopped intentionally and I am waiting for their attention. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest but there is no going back now.
"Sorry about that, I won't keep you for long. I, well, I have a confession to make." I pause and scan their faces, all reflecting a deep curiosity about what I might say. Dee too is looking me questioningly but I avoid his gaze as I start on the speech I have been planning to make ever since my conscience finally won over my insecurity. "Although I had planned to throw some kind of Christmas get-together, I have a more important reason why I wanted you all here tonight. I have something to say, something I wanted everyone I cared about to hear." I continue quickly seeing that people are starting to look worried.
"For almost twelve months I've been seeing someone." Everyone looks shocked, but the game is not yet up because Dee looks as stunned by this announcement as the rest of them, although his reasons are very different from theirs. "But because of my own selfish fears I didn't want you to know about the relationship. It was wrong of me to deceive all of you and I'm sorry, but I was scared about what you all might think. But the person I owe the biggest apology to… is Dee." I look up at him now and smile, my heart swelling with pride. "For almost twelve months, Dee has respected my wishes that we keep our relationship secret, but I now realise that it was unfair of me to ask that of him. I want him to know that I am proud of what we have together, and that means I have to stop thinking of myself and start thinking of us."
I look around the room, scared at what I might see, particularly when my eyes seek out my aunt and uncle, but I continued on. "I hope you can accept that Dee and I are together and even if you can't, please take comfort in the fact that I'm the happiest I've ever been."
I've barely finished before rapturous applause fills the air, almost drowning out the music that Bicky has put on. People are smiling and as I anticipated, some of them don't look as shocked as I thought they would. The guys from work are congratulating Dee, which I think is sweet – they all seem so genuinely pleased that his angst-ridden tale of love has a happy ending. I don't watch them for very long though as I realise my Aunt Elena is standing next to me.
"That was a very brave thing you just did," she says, laying a hand on my arm.
"Are you shocked?"
She shakes her head, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Not really. Rick and I started to put two and two together every time you mentioned Dee's name."
I frown, wondering how my mentioning of innocent events that included Dee could have given the game away.
"It was in your voice," she says, obviously seeing my puzzlement and feeling the need to explain. "When you talked about him… I don't know, you just became so animated. Something or someone was having that effect on you and Dee always seemed to be the common denominator."
"Are you angry with me for not telling you?"
"Not at all. In a weird way, I'm flattered that you cared what we think so much to have hidden it, but I'm glad you decided to come clean though – you can be a real couple now. I'm so proud of you, Ryo." She reaches up and puts her arms around my neck, the action bringing her lips close to my ear. "And your mom and dad would be too."
She knows I needed to hear that, and I thank her after I have swallowed the large lump in my throat. However, Elena is never one to let you get melancholy and as she sees Dee approaching she whispers: "And I guess I should congratulate you for bagging such a hot guy!" She laughs and winks at me before furnishing Dee with an overly sugar-sweet look of innocence which makes him instantly suspicious.
"Why do I get the feeling I'm being talked about?" he asks, although he is smiling as he says it.
Elena gives me the 'I-don't-know-what-he's-talking-about-do-you?' look and I laugh and join in with her mock protestations of innocence, which Dee doesn't buy for a minute. He looks pleased and a little embarrassed (which is very cute I might add) when Elena hugs him and thanks him for making me so happy. My Uncle Rick has already shaken his hand, and this on top of the congratulations from his friends, has ensured he is wearing a beaming smile that also radiates from his beautiful green eyes. When I look around, I realise people have discreetly moved away, sensing that we would want to talk.
"Not that I'm not over the moon," he says with a grin, "But what made you decide to do this?"
"It was the Christmas cards."
He looks at me strangely. "What? I don't understand…."
I reach for his hand and give it a squeeze. "That night I came in and you were writing your cards. You said you nearly put my name on them but you didn't –"
Dee suddenly looks worried. "Hey, I didn't say it to make you feel guilty…"
"I know. But it got me thinking. How I'd asked you to live, well, it wasn't fair on you. I wanted to do something about it, so I decided to do this."
Dee nods, his ebony hair falling in his eyes. "Is it me or do they not seem too surprised?"
I smile, knowing this is my doing as well. "You know your Christmas cards you asked me to mail? I added my name before I sent them. I think that might have given them a clue."
My lover laughs, impressed. "Well, if this is for me, it's one hell of a Christmas present."
"Christmas present! I almost forgot!" I dive towards the Christmas tree where the large carefully-wrapped gift is waiting for Dee to open. I suddenly experience a fresh surge of nervousness as I realise this as important as my public declaration of love. I hand Dee his gift as he looks at me questioningly. "Here, this is for you."
It is such a big box, people are starting to show an interest.
"You want me to open it now?" he asks, seeing we now have an audience. He quirks an eyebrow that only I can see as he says quietly: "You did say later."
I swat him lightly around the head. "Just open it, okay?"
He shrugs and sits on the floor as he starts to wrestle with the wrapping paper. "What the…?" People crane their necks as he pulls out a smaller box, wrapped in the same paper as the first. This process happens several times until he opens the last box, no greater in size than a large matchbox.
"What is it?" Drake asks, unable to see from where he is standing.
Dee ignores his question and turns to me. My heart is now hammering in my chest.
"Are you serious?" he asks.
"Oh my God, Ryo's bought him a car!" Ted yells as he catches sight of the key in Dee's hand.
Dee looks up at him as if he's grown a second head. "No he hasn't, you moron. This is a front door key. He's asked me if I want to move in with him." He holds up the note I have written to prove it.
"I think I'd prefer a car," Ted says to Drake with a chuckle.
Dee glares at them and then turns to me, his beautiful face lighting up with a smile. "Well I wouldn't."
I am daring to hope. "So… is that a yes?"
Dee grins. "It's a yes. I'd love to."
My party guests again react positively to this news with another round of applause. Cal is clapping too as Bicky gives me the thumbs up. They knew what I had planned as I had checked with Bicky that he would be happy for Dee to move in with us first. Despite man and boy's constant bickering, both teenagers thought I should ask Dee to become a proper part of our family. The fact that he has now accepted is wonderful – our relationship has taken two exciting steps in just one evening.
Dee is about to stand as he spots another present, tucked so far under the tree that it would be easy to miss. "Hey, is this for me too?" He reads the tag and sees it is. "Cool."
I blush profusely, realising he has found the chocolate body paint I bought for him as an extra gift and wondering what in God's name possessed me to put it under the tree. The thought of using it tonight after our guests have left and Bicky has gone to stay at Cal's would be a perfect end to what has been a perfect Christmas Day. I stop him before he can rip off the paper, my hand resting upon his. "That's definitely for later, if you get my drift," I say under my breath.
He gives me a wink and smiles wickedly. He has gotten my drift just fine.