Title: Together on Christmas
Rating: I'm going to go with FRT (for teenagers) simply because of some profanity and discussions and insinuations of sex.
Disclaimer: ER and its affiliated characters do not belong to me. I only use them as a means to de-stress myself.
Summary: Sequel to Together On Thanksgiving. Ray and Neela celebrate Christmas together.
Note: You do not necessarily have to have read Together On Thanksgiving to understand this story, but this story does take place right where the first one left off. To catch you up to speed (or remind you of what happened), Ray and Neela put together a lovely Thanksgiving dinner for themselves and Abby and Kovac and, following a Barnett family tradition, they kissed under the mistletoe, which brings us to where Together On Christmas begins.
Neela could hear her own heart thumping loudly in her chest as she pressed her hand firmly against Ray's chest above where his own heart was beating wildly. Their lips met again.
"Happy Thanksgiving," he said, smiling as he pulled apart from her.
"I think Thanksgiving is my new favorite holiday," she replied.
"I think every holiday from now on will be my favorite holiday," Ray remarked as he kissed her lightly again.
"I think…I think we should take this slow."
"You're right," Ray agreed.
"I am?" She asked, surprised that he agreed with her. For all of the time that Neela knew Ray, she knew that he didn't usually take relationships slow.
"We should take it slow." He took her hand in his. "I mean, I would hate to lose what we have because we pushed too far too fast. Maybe we should…date.
"Yeah, you know, go out to dinner and a movie or something. Get to know each other as…a couple rather than as roommates. It does seem like we missed a few steps since we're already living together."
Neela chuckled. "I guess dating it is then."
Ray smiled and leaned in for another kiss. "What are you doing tomorrow night?"
"I have to work. What about Saturday?"
Ray shook his head. "I'm working a double. Sunday?"
"I promised Abby that I'd go shopping with her." Ray got a look of discouragement on his face. "I can always cancel."
"No, it's alright," he said, knowing that it was important that Neela and Abby have their 'girl time' together. He put his arm around Neela's shoulder and pulled her close to him. "We'll figure out something."
Neela brought the glass of water to her lips and took a large gulp. Her stomach rumbled as the cool liquid slid down her throat.
"I guess I didn't realize how hungry I was," she stated as she put the glass back on the table.
"That's what you get for skipping breakfast," Abby replied, smiling.
They were sitting opposite each other in a small café across the street from the mall that they had spent the last four hours shopping in. Neela had never been one for shopping and she was certainly less than amused at the hundreds of people she had to fight through just to make it to the registers. As it was, though, she had managed to buy Christmas presents for almost everyone on her list.
"I didn't have time for breakfast," Neela said.
"Would that be because you were too busy playing tonsil hockey with a certain someone?" Abby joked.
Neela rolled her eyes. She and Ray had agreed to keep their relationship quiet for as long as they felt necessary, but Neela knew that she wouldn't be able to not tell Abby. And Abby was quick to remind Neela that she had predicted that Neela and Ray would end up together from the beginning.
"We were not playing tonsil hockey," Neela scoffed, thinking about that morning. She and Ray did have quite the rousing game of tonsil hockey happening on the couch, but she wouldn't admit that to Abby.
Neela took another long drink of water, hoping that it would temporarily satisfy her hungry stomach and keep herself from blushing at the memory of the morning.
"I can't believe you two haven't had sex yet."
"Abby!" Neela practically shouted, looking around to make sure that the other patrons in the restaurant hadn't heard Abby's comment. The waiter approached them with two plates in his hand. He put a bowl of salad in front of Neela and a chicken salad sandwich in front of Abby.
"Can I get you anything else, ladies?" The waiter asked, winking at Neela.
Neela averted her eyes from him and hid her face with her hand.
"No thank you," Abby said, smirking. The waiter walked to another table. "He was cute."
"I didn't notice," Neela said, still hiding her face from embarrassment.
"Even though you're dating someone, doesn't mean you have to stop looking."
"He obviously heard you," Neela stated, finally putting her hand down when the waiter had gone to the back of the café.
"So? Who cares?"
"I'd rather not discuss my sex life with the wait staff," Neela answered. She had never quite gotten used to Abby's lack of inhibitions when it came to the conversation of sex.
"Or lack there of," Abby replied as she began to eat her sandwich.
"Ray and I are just…"
"Taking it slow, I know. Any slower and you'll be going backwards."
Neela picked up her fork and began to poke at her salad. Even though her stomach had been growling, she suddenly wasn't hungry.
"We've only been dating for two days."
"But you've been living together for over a year."
"That doesn't count."
"Come on, you two know more about each other than I knew about my ex-husband. What else do you need?"
"I just want to make sure that we're not going to do something that will ruin what we have."
"Yeah, well don't ruin what you could have by not going for it."
Neela sighed, not wanting to admit that what Abby said was true.
"What do you think I should get him for Christmas?" Neela asked, trying to change the subject. Despite the dozens of stores they had gone into, nothing jumped out at Neela and screamed 'Ray.'
"I know what you can get him," Abby said, shaking her chest.
"Stop!" Neela yelled, laughing. "I'm serious."
"You could always just buy him a gift certificate."
"I'd like to give him something a little more personal than a gift certificate."
"Well, all I've got is sex and gift certificates. Take your pick."
"You're so not helpful."
"That's what I'm here for," Abby replied, taking another large bite of her sandwich.
December 5, 2006
"I'm home!" Neela called out through the apartment as she waked in and closed the door behind her. She unwound her scarf from around her neck and threw it over the back of the couch along with her mittens and hat.
"I'm in my bedroom!" Ray called back.
When Neela had successfully taken off all of her outer layers, she made her way to Ray's bedroom. She pushed open his semi-closed door and gasped. Ray was standing with his back towards her, wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. His skin glistened with beads of water and his hair was messy and sticking up in every direction.
"This is so not fair," Neela whimpered, unable to take her eyes off him.
Ray whipped around, startled. He smiled as she stared at him.
"What's not fair?" He asked seductively as he took a step towards her.
Neela's face turned a bright red as she watched him move. She couldn't help but stare at his abs. She had seen him shirtless on several occasions, but she had never felt what she was feeling before.
"I'm not naked…," he began as he brought his hand to the knot on the towel that was keeping it secure at his waist, "…yet."
"Don't you dare."
He took yet another step towards her.
"What's wrong, doc?" He walked towards her until she was only inches away. "Haven't you seen a naked man before?" He leaned his head down and began to kiss her neck.
"What happened to taking it slow?" She muttered, trying to hold back a moan.
"Maybe we should rethink our little agreement," he mumbled as he moved to the other side of her neck.
Neela let her head fall back, leaving more of her neck exposed.
"We still haven't been on a date yet," she reminded him.
"Dates are overrated," Ray whispered, kissing her jaw.
Ray planted his lips on hers and kissed her.
"Okay," he said, taking a step back. "How's tomorrow night?"
Neela shook her head. "Working. Thursday?"
"I picked up a shift for Pratt and I told the boys I'd help them with some gear on Friday so how about Saturday?"
"I'm working from four to midnight, but we could do something during the day."
"I'm working until five," Ray replied, sighing.
"How is it that we spent more time together when we weren't trying to date?"
Ray chuckled. "We'll figure something out," he said as he gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
"I'll let you get dressed," Neela said as she turned and walked out of his room. Ray watched her leave, thinking that they better find a time they could go on a date together soon or he was going to explode.
December 14, 2006
They held hands as they walked down the snowy street. Even though it had taken them two weeks since they had decided to date to find a night when they were both available, their date had been perfect. They had gone to a fancy, Italian restaurant that was both cozy and romantic. Ray had insisted on paying for everything, including the overpriced wine that they ordered. He had been the perfect gentleman on their date, opening all of the doors for her and pulling out her chair. He had commented on how beautiful she was in her black, knee-length dress more times than Neela could count.
"You must be freezing," Ray said. He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her a little more closely to him. "We should have taken a taxi, I'm sorry."
They had taken the train to and from dinner and were now walking back to their apartment from the station. Neela had worn the short dress because Abby suggested that she wear something nicer than scrubs, and, although she didn't regret it after Ray's reaction to it, she was freezing. Walking in Chicago in the middle of winter with a short dress and heels was not one of her best judgment calls. But, she thought, at least Ray liked it.
"It's alright," Neela assured her. "Besides, I like just being with you."
"We really haven't spent a lot of time together recently, have we?"
"We're just so busy."
"Well, I think after tonight we're going to have to become a lot less busy."
"I think that's a good idea."
They reached their apartment and went inside. Ray helped Neela off with her coat and he rubbed her bare arms to warm them up.
"Let me walk you to your door," he said.
Neela smiled as they walked hand in hand to her bedroom door. They both stopped outside of her bedroom and faced each other.
"I had a really nice time," Neela commented.
"Does that mean I can call you?"
She couldn't help but laugh out loud. She knew that Ray was trying to make her feel like she was on a real first date, even though she knew their relationship was already much deeper than that.
"You can call me any time you want," Neela replied. "Or better yet, just stop by."
"I'll do that."
"Goodnight, Neela," Ray said, giving her a peck on the cheek.
"That's it?" Neela asked as Ray turned to walk to his own room.
"I thought women didn't kiss on the first date," Ray remarked.
"I never really believed in that rule," Neela commented. Her eyes sparkled. Ray wrapped his arms around her and kissed her deeply. Her knees became weak and she was thankful that his arms were around her, holding her up.
"Goodnight," he whispered in her ear as the kiss ended. Again, he turned and walked to his bedroom. Neela heard his door close, but she couldn't move. He had literally taken her breath away.
December 24, 2006
"I thought you had Christmas Eve off," Abby said as she sutured a man's hand who had fallen off his ladder while trying to put up a Frosty the Snowman blow-up doll on his roof to top his neighbor's blow-up Rudolph doll. Neela stood next to her, watching her stitch. It had been an extremely slow night in the ER and Neela had almost five more hours to go.
"I asked for it off," Neela replied, concentrating on her stitching. "But they were short staffed."
"He's at home, probably watching A Christmas Story and drinking a beer."
"You on tomorrow?"
"No, but Ray is."
"So, let me get this straight, you're basically not celebrating Christmas together?"
"That wasn't exactly what we planned, but yes, we're basically not celebrating Christmas together."
"Well that sucks."
Abby tied off her last stitch.
"Alright Mr. Murphy, next year I suggest you and your neighbor come to some sort of agreement that decorations on the roof are overdoing it just a little."
"Next year I'll have a Rudolph ten times the size of his," the man replied.
Abby rolled her eyes and pulled off her latex gloves.
"A nurse will be in to bandage it up for you and then you're good to go."
Abby began walk away and Neela followed her.
"You should go home, Neela."
"I wish I could."
"Why not just go?"
"Come on, Abby."
"What? There's absolutely nothing going on here. Kovac is here and Morris is sleeping in one of the exam rooms somewhere. If we need you, we'll page you."
"Are you sure?"
"Go spend Christmas with your boyfriend."
Neela smiled. She hadn't yet referred to Ray as her boyfriend, but she liked the sound of it.
"Thank you, Abby."
"Just make sure you sleep with him, for Christ's sake," Abby yelled down the hallway as Neela ran to the lounge to get her things. Even though everyone in the hallway turned and stared at Abby as she shouted, Neela didn't care. She was determined to get home to Ray.
Meanwhile, Ray sat on the couch doing exactly what Neela had expected he would be doing. He was sipping a bottle of beer and watching the 24 hour marathon of A Christmas Story. He was already on his third viewing.
Sighing, Ray popped the top off of another beer bottle. He had wanted Christmas to be special this year. He never much cared for the holiday, but this year he wanted to put up a tree and listen to Christmas music and spend time with Neela. As it was, they didn't have a tree, they hadn't listened to music, and they hadn't even been on a 'second date.' Their work schedules were crazier than ever and they barely got to spend time together. Ray wasn't even sure when she would get the chance to open the present he bought her.
Ray took a swig of his beer as he heard the door open. He stood immediately as he saw Neela walking in. She had a small, fake Christmas tree in her hand.
"What are you doing here?" He asked, greeting her with a small kiss.
"Abby told me to go home, so I did."
"Remind me to thank Abby later," he said, leaning in for another kiss. "Where'd you get that?"
Neela put the small tree down on the coffee table. She plugged it in and it glowed with multi-colored lights.
"I stole it from the lounge. I figured no one would notice."
"If I had known you were coming home, I would have cooked dinner or something."
"There's a pizza on the way," she said, smiling.
"You are the perfect girlfriend," Ray commented. He picked up his beer bottle and offered it to her. She took a sip.
The apartment buzzer went off.
"That must be the pizza," Neela said.
Ray got the door and brought the pizza over to the living room table.
They both ate a few pieces and shared Ray's beer. They ate in silence and Ray simply watched her. She was still in her scrubs and her hair was in a ponytail, but she looked just as beautiful as she did the night of their date.
"I think it's time for presents," Ray said as he finished his third slice.
"What happened to opening presents on Christmas morning?"
"Barnett family tradition. Everyone gets to open one present on Christmas Eve."
"Is that really a tradition in your house?"
"No, but we could make it a tradition," he said, smiling.
Neela laughed. "I think I like these Barnett family traditions." Neela got up off the couch and headed for her bedroom. "I don't think my present is going to fit under our tree, though." When she reappeared in the living room, she was holding a large, elongated package.
"What is it?" Ray asked as she set it down on his lap and sat down cross legged beside him.
"You'll have to open it to find out."
Ray tore through the red and green wrapping paper, throwing it on the floor. When he saw what was inside, he gasped.
"This isn't…Bob Hodge's guitar, is it?"
"Well, one of them," Neela answered. "And it's signed."
Ray looked at the silver letting on the guitar and traced it with his finger. He couldn't stop staring at it. Bob Hodge had been his musical idol for longer than he could remember.
"Bob Hodge? The Bob Hodge? How did you…Neela, how did you get Bob Hodge's guitar?"
"I knew that you liked him and I heard one of the nurses in the ER talking about him. Turns out that they're like fourth cousins or something. I told her that I'd empty bed pans for her for a week if she got me the guitar."
Ray leaned in and kissed her passionately.
"You are the best girlfriend in the world. Thank you," he said as he kissed her again.
"You're welcome," she said when their kiss ended.
Ray carefully put the guitar on the floor and leaned it against the couch.
"Now, it's your turn."
Ray picked up his present from under the table and presented it to her. She looked at it first, trying to guess what the medium-sized package could be. She began to unwrap it carefully, trying not to rip the paper.
"A recipe book," she stated as she unveiled what was inside the paper.
"Not just a recipe book," Ray explained, "A Barnett family secret recipe book."
He flipped open the cover and revealed the first page. It was the recipe for the stuffing they had made at Thanksgiving. Tears sprang to Neela's eyes. She knew that Ray hadn't been kidding when he called the recipe a 'secret family recipe' and she felt honored that he had given it to her.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"There's more," he said. "Turn the page."
Neela looked up at him, puzzles, but then turned the page. She gasped. A beautiful, diamond necklace was attached to the page. The chain had three glistening diamonds hanging off of it.
"Oh Ray…" she gasped.
He detached the necklace from the page and held it up to her. She turned and he placed it around her neck, clasping it in the back.
"Let me see how it looks," he said.
She turned back to him. This time a tear rolled down her cheek.
"It's…so beautiful," she said as she touched it lightly with her finger.
"You're beautiful," he said.
"It's too much," she stated. "You didn't have…"
"Yes I did," he replied. "It stands for our past," he kissed her on the right cheek, "the present," he kissed her on the left cheek, "and our future," he gave her a soft kiss on the lips.
"Future?" She said meekly.
He kissed her again.
"I love you, Neela."
She gasped for a second time and more tears of joy fell down her cheeks. He hadn't before told her that he loved her and yet, it felt so right.
"And I love you."
"Merry Christmas, Neela," he whispered in her ear.
He kissed her deeply. As they kissed, he pulled her hair out of the ponytail that it was in and it fell, perfectly framing her face.
Neela pulled away from him and stood up. She pushed her hair behind her ears and fingered the diamonds that rested on her chest. She reached out her hand to him and he took it.
"Merry Christmas, Ray," she said, her eyes lighting up.
They walked off together towards her bedroom.
I decided to put the author's note at the end of this one because I didn't want to spoil everything. I want to start off by saying Happy Holidays everyone! I have to admit that I was a little concerned about doing a sequel to a story because I've never been a big fan of sequels in general, but I really wanted to write something short and fun and as far from angst as possible and writing a sequel seemed to be the easiest way to do that. Just as a side note, I totally made up the person Bob Hodge (because I have no idea who Ray's musical influences would be). As always, I hope you enjoyed my story and I appreciate the comments and support that I receive from all of you!