Title: Together on Thanksgiving
Rating: I'm going to go with FRT (for teenagers) simply because of some profanity.
Disclaimer: ER and its affiliated characters do not belong to me. I only use them as a means to de-stress myself.
Summary: Ray and Neela celebrate Thanksgiving together.
Author's Note: Hello everyone, I hope you all have (or had, depending on when you are reading this) a wonderful Thanksgiving. I decided to take a break from my other story to write this "short" story about Thanksgiving. I know that it isn't my best writing and I wrote it extremely quickly (in an hour or so), but it was a great joy to write and it was nice taking a break from my other fic, which is much more dark and angsty. I wrote this mainly because Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite holidays and I thought it would be fun to write a little something about how the roomies might celebrate. The stuffing that is talked about in this story really is my secret family recipe stuffing. I'm in charge of making it each year and I really do stand there with stuffing up to my elbows. But anyway, I hope you enjoy this more light-hearted story of mine and please let me know what you thought!
Neela pushed the cart down the long aisle, looking at the products on the shelves as she strolled by them. She stopped next to the frozen meat section and threw three packages of hot dogs into her cart. She knew that hot dogs weren't the most nutritious food, but they were the easiest to cook after a long day. Ray walked up beside her and dropped three boxes of macaroni and cheese into the cart.
"Looks like we're psychic," he remarked, pointing at the hot dogs.
"Couldn't we get the white macaroni and cheese for once?" She asked, picking up one of the boxes from the cart.
"Real men don't eat white macaroni and cheese," Ray scoffed.
"Real men don't eat macaroni and cheese period," Neela replied.
"Well, they do if they work thirty hour shifts, but we're still not getting the white stuff."
"Why is it that whenever we go shopping, you always get the final say?"
Ray shrugged. "Because no matter what we buy, you would never cook it anyway."
Neela smiled. "Good point."
"Come on, we just have to get some rolls."
Ray walked next to the cart as Neela pushed it. To anyone else, they looked like a happy couple doing their weekly shopping together. But, unbeknownst to the strangers around them, they were far from being a couple.
As they approached a large freezer in the middle of the aisle, Ray stopped and stared inside of it.
"The rolls are at the end of the store," Neela reminded him.
Ray reached into the freezer and pulled out a large turkey.
"What are you doing for Thanksgiving?"
"You know, Thanksgiving. The Pilgirms landed on this desolate rock called America and the Native Americans came and saved their butts from starving. I mean, come on, I know you're British but you should brush up on your American history."
"I know what Thanksgiving is," Neela retorted, annoyed.
Ray smiled. He knew exactly how to push her buttons. "I was just thinking that maybe we should have a Thanksgiving dinner at our apartment. You know, for anyone who wants to come from the ER."
"Don't most people celebrate Thanksgiving with their families?"
"Well, yeah, but who wants to spend time with their families when you can hang out with your friends and watch football?"
"And what happened to Thanksgiving being about the pilgrims and Native Americans?"
"Traditions change. Come on, it could be fun."
"Fun for who? Do you know how long it takes to cook a turkey?"
"Yeah, fifteen minutes for every pound," Ray replied.
Neela lifted an eyebrow at him, surprised that he knew so much about how to cook a turkey.
"I used to help my mom cook Thanksgiving dinner for the entire family," he explained.
"I don't know, Ray. Thanksgiving's in four days. I would think most people would already have plans."
"Then we'll celebrate…together."
Neela looked down at the floor. They had been doing a lot of things 'together' recently it had seemed. Besides just living and working together, they increasingly went out on the weekends to eat together or they would sit home watching TV together. They went grocery shopping together almost weekly and they did their laundry every other week together, too. Neela had never noticed just how much 'together' time they had spent until that moment.
Neela sighed. "Alright," she said. "I'll invite Abby and Kovac over."
Ray triumphantly put the turkey in the basket. "Now we have to go buy the ingredients to make stuffing and we can't forget the potatoes and cranberry sauce. Oh, and have you ever made an apple, pumpkin, squash, chocolate cream, or pecan pie?"
Ray took over pushing the basket and he excitedly walked briskly back towards the beginning of the store to begin their shopping all over again.
"You're forgetting the hot dog rolls!" Neela shouted. Ray didn't even hear her. "Bloody hell," she mumbled to herself before stomping off after Ray.
"You're doing it wrong," Ray stated, peeling a red apple over the garbage can.
"You told me to stir it," she replied, "so I'm stirring."
Neela stood next to the counter with a large, wooden spoon in her hand. She stirred the mushy contents of the large black pot, circling the spoon around and around in circles. She wiped her forehead with the back of her flour-caked hand, leaving a smudge of white powder on her skin.
"You're not supposed to stir it with a spoon."
"Then what, pray tell am I supposed to be stirring it with?"
"My mom always said that if you wanted anything mixed right, you should stir it with your hands."
"If you want it stirred with your hands so bad then come over and do it yourself," Neela said, dropping the spoon into the pot. She stepped back from the counter as Ray put his apple down and walked over to where she was standing. He quickly washed his hands before plunging them into the pot. The contents nearly reached his elbows.
"Why is it that we need this much stuffing again?" Neela asked, taking Ray's seat the kitchen table. She began cutting up the apples that he had already peeled. As she cut them, she put them in a pie crust.
Ray shrugged. "We always used to make the recipe times eight," Ray explained.
"Times eight? And how many people did you have for dinner on Thanksgiving?"
"About 15 or 16."
"Maybe 15 or 16 people could eat eight times the recipe, Ray, but we've only got 4 people for dinner."
He shrugged again. "Then we'll have a lot of leftovers."
Neela picked up a piece of an apple peal and threw it at him.
"Hey!" He said, flicking a piece of stuffing at her. It landed on her cheek. Neela stood and picked up one of the pieces of apple that she had cut. Before she could throw it at him, he scooped up a large handful of the wet stuffing and flung it at her. The glop hit her on the right shoulder.
"You wanker!" She yelled, running over to the pot. She picked up the wooden spoon and held it out, threatening to fling the stuffing at him.
"The Barnett family secret family recipe stuffing is meant to be eaten, not thrown," he said.
She slathered the stuffing on the spoon across his face. Ray used his tongue to take a small lick of it from his upper lip.
"That's got raw meat in it," Neela warned. "Not to mention raw egg."
"And it definitely tastes better when it's cooked," Ray responded.
He attempted to wipe the stuffing from his face but he only managed to get more on him with his messy hands. Neela ripped a paper towel from the paper towel dispenser.
"Here, let me help you," she offered, bringing the paper towel to his face. She took a step closer to him and began wiping his cheeks. Ray quickly grabbed a handful of the stuffing and dumped it down the back of Neela's shirt. She squealed as the cold liquid slid down her back. Ray began to back up away from her, smiling.
"Maybe it is better for throwing," he laughed.
Neela lunged towards him. He narrowly escaped her grasp and ran into the living room. He went behind the couch and Neela stood in front of it. They both stood opposite each other, neither of them moving, but both ready to run when the other one finally did move.
"You know, we could call a truce," Ray suggested.
"Or I could come back there and kick your…"
Ray raced down the hallway. When he got to his room, he ran inside, closed the door, and leaned against it, silently cursing himself for not putting a lock on his door. He waited a moment, expecting Neela to bang on the door or to try and open it.
A few minutes later, when he heard nothing, Ray opened the door a crack and peeked outside. When he didn't see Neela, he took a step out, still hiding partially behind the door.
"Neela?" He called out.
Ray turned to look down the hallway when he saw her arm extending towards him. In the blink of an eye, she creamed him square in the face with a pumpkin pie.
"Yes?" She replied, laughing.
The pie slid off Ray's face and fell to the floor at both of their feet. Ray wiped the pie from his eyes and spit some out of his mouth.
"Now we can call a truce," Neela declared, walking away.
"I knew this was a bad idea," Neela mumbled as she wiped down the counter with a wet cloth for the fifth time in the past hour. Every time Ray entered the kitchen and so much as touched something, the counter somehow became messy again.
"It was not a bad idea," Ray stated as he walked into the kitchen, holding a bag of groceries.
"That is the third time you have gone to the supermarket this morning," Neela replied.
Ray put the bag down on the counter that Neela had just cleaned.
"We needed yams," he protested.
"And the time before that we needed apple cider and the time before that we needed…what did you call it?"
"Right, bell seasoning."
"It's for the stuffing."
"The stuffing that we already made yesterday."
"Everyone knows that you have to add the bell seasoning right before you put it in the bird to cook."
"Of course, everyone knows that." Neela rolled her eyes. "I just think you're going through an awful lot of trouble for Abby and Kovac."
"Well, I invited everyone from the ER."
"Yes, but no one is actually coming. I told you that people would already have plans."
"Well, then we'll have a lot of leftovers. Besides, it's our first Thanksgiving together. It should be special."
There was that word together again, Neela thought. What exactly did together mean? Did it mean together as colleagues? Together as roommates? Or together as something more?
"I just don't see why we needed five different kinds of pies."
"Because it isn't…"
"I know, it isn't Thanksgiving without chocolate cream, apple, pumpkin, squash, and pecan pie."
"Well, we did have pumpkin until someone smashed it in my face last night."
Neela smiled. "Just consider it an early Thanksgiving present."
"You don't give presents on Thanksgiving," Ray reminded her.
"Well, then, I'm already on top of things for Christmas."
This time it was Ray who smiled. "Come on, we've got to get the turkey in the oven if we want it cooked by seven."
Ray took the turkey out of the freezer while Neela found the thick string and skewers that they would use to close the bird up after they put the stuffing in. Although Neela knew nothing about cooking, she was good at suturing, and she was determined to at least be somewhat helpful.
"Everything was absolutely delicious," Abby complimented.
"Don't look at me," Neela said. "Ray did all of the cooking."
"Well, then, my hats off to you," Abby replied, looking at Ray.
"And thank you for inviting us," Kovac added.
"Well, what's Thanksgiving without a few friends?" Ray asked.
"It's too bad no one else could make it," Abby commented.
The four of them sat around the kitchen table that Ray had moved from the kitchen into the living room so that it looked more like a dining room. While Ray continued to cook for the rest of the afternoon, Neela had spent her time cleaning up the apartment. It took her hours to throw away all of the old pizza boxes and beer cans, but the apartment now sparkled. One would barely notice that it was inhabited by two slobs.
Ray had taken great care in making sure that everything was perfect. The table was set with actual matching dishes (Neela didn't even know that they had four of the same plates) and the food was exquisite. Although Neela had doubted the entire evening from the moment Ray brought it up in the market, she was impressed at how it went, and she was glad that she had agreed to it. She enjoyed spending time with Abby and Kovac outside of the hospital, and she had to admit that she didn't mind one bit that she and Ray were celebrating 'together.'
"Can I entice anyone with more dessert?" Ray asked, setting another pie on the table.
"I'm stuffed," Kovac stated, rubbing his stomach.
"I could manage a few more spoonfuls," Neela remarked, smiling. Even though she did feel rather full, she couldn't resist something sweet. "What kind is it?"
"Pumpkin? This wouldn't be the same pumpkin that ended up…"
"I stayed up and made another one last night because..."
"Because Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without chocolate cream, apple, pumpkin, squash, and pecan," Neela interjected.
Ray shook his head. "No, because I knew it was your favorite."
Neela couldn't help but blush. It was her favorite but she never remembered telling him that.
"How did you know?"
"It's the only kind of pie filling you didn't put up a fuss about me buying at the market."
"I'm not even going to ask," Abby said, smiling to herself about how Neela and Ray acted towards one another. They reminded her of two teenagers who really wanted to go to the prom together, but who were afraid to admit their true feelings for one another.
"Well, we should be heading out," Kovac said, standing up from his chair.
"You're welcome to stay," Ray offered. "We could start a rousing game of charades," he joked.
"As tempting as that is, I'm on in three hours," Kovac responded.
Kovac pulled out Abby's chair and she stood, as well.
"Thank you for coming," Neela said, also standing.
"Oh, well, thank you for inviting us. It truly was delicious, Ray," Abby stated.
Kovac helped Abby into her jacket. Neela and Abby hugged briefly while Kovac and Ray shook hands, saying their thank you's and goodbye's. Abby and Kovac made their exit, leaving Neela and Ray together and alone.
"I have to admit," Neela began as she and Ray cleared the table, "you were right. This was a good idea."
"I knew you'd come around once you tasted my stuffing."
Neela laughed. "You were right again."
"The stuffing is much better cooked." Ray smiled. "You'll have to give me the recipe."
"Uh-uh, that's a Barnett secret family recipe." He paused. "Although, I guess it wouldn't hurt giving it to you."
"Oh, why the change of heart?"
"Because you'll never actually cook it."
Neela picked up a spoon of mashed potatoes and pulled it back with her fingers, aiming it at him as if she was about to fling it at him.
"What happened to our truce?" Ray asked.
"Truces don't last forever."
Neela smiled and put the spoon back into the pot of potatoes. Although food fights were fun, she also wasn't looking forward to picking potatoes, or any other food, out of her hair like she had done the night before.
Ray went back into the mock dining room and brought in the last dish. They both began to spoon the food into various Tupperware containers.
"You know that there's no way we can eat this much food," Neela remarked.
"We can bring it to the ER tomorrow. It'll all be gone before our shifts are over."
"Mhmm…ER tradition. If there's free food, you eat it before anyone else gets the chance to."
"Speaking of traditions, there's one more Thanksgiving tradition I didn't tell you about," Ray said.
"Oh? What's that?"
"After Thanksgiving dinner, my mom would take down one of our boxes of Christmas decorations and we'd each pick a decoration out of the box. Then, we'd put up the decorations and thus, the holiday season officially began."
"Well, too bad we don't have any Christmas decorations," Neela responded.
Ray opened the cabinet below the sink and pulled out a large box. He took the top off and let it fall to the floor.
"Where did you get these?" She asked.
Ray shrugged. "Most of them from my mom's house. She let us all take our favorites when we left. She always wanted us to put them up in our own houses when we had our own families."
"Your family sounds so…amazing. I'd like to meet them some day."
"I think they'd really like you."
"Oh, why's that?"
"Well, for one, you're smarter than me. My mom was always worried I'd end up with a groupie so she'd be overjoyed that you were a doctor. Two, my dad would love your accent. And three…you're beautiful."
Neela stared at him. Had he really just said what she thought he said?
"Go ahead, pick something out of the box." She hesitated. "Come on, we can't break tradition."
Neela looked at the contents of the box, her mind still reeling from his comment. She found a glass snowman that shimmered and changed colors when the light reflected on it. She pulled it out of the box and held it out to him.
"My dad gave that to me when I was seven. He said that no matter where I went, whether there was snow or not, I'd always remember building snowmen with him. And I do. I remember the cold afternoons we spent outside together and then going into the house for some hot chocolate."
"It sounds nice."
"It was." Ray looked into the box. "Okay, my turn."
He rummaged through the contents, knowing exactly what he was looking for. He found it towards the bottom of the box. He pulled it up and held it above their heads. Neela looked up. Ray gazed at her as her eyes grew wide. She slowly brought her head back down as Ray closed the gap between them. He grazed his lips against hers. Neela barely felt it as he lightly pressed their lips together. She felt the air escape her lungs with just his simple touch. He pulled away from her all too soon.
"You can't break tradition," he said softly, his own mind whirling from the contact. He put his arm down, but held on to the mistletoe.
"No, we wouldn't want to do that."
Neela grabbed the mistletoe from his hand and raised it above their heads again. This time it was she who leaned in towards him and she kissed him with more passion than she had ever felt before in her entire life. He immediately buried his hands in her hair, pulling her closer towards him.
"I say we start our own tradition," Ray suggested when their kiss ended.
"What's that?" Neela asked, her face only inches from his. She had dropped the mistletoe from her hand so that she could wrap her arms around him.
"Being together," he said.
"I think that's the best tradition I've heard all day."
Ray initiated another kiss, knowing that no Thanksgiving would ever be the same again.