Title: Together on New Years
Rating: I'm going to go with FRT+ (I'm not sure if there is such a thing as +, but this story's not exactly a story for 'mature audiences,' but it also goes a little further than my last two stories.) I gave it this rating because of some 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 Christmas and Together on Thanksgiving. Ray and Neela celebrate New Years together.
Note: Even though this is a sequel, you do not necessarily have to have read the first two (although it would make more sense). To catch you up to speed, though, on what happened in the last two stories – After a kiss under the mistletoe at Thanksgiving, Neela and Ray decided to keep their relationship slow and to date for a while before moving on to the next step. After having little time to spend together, they eventually do go on their date and, on Christmas Eve, they admit their love for each other. This story picks up a few hours after the last one left off.
With her eyes still closed, Neela spread her fingers and ran her hand over Ray's bare, muscular chest. Her fingertips tingled as her skin made contact with his. She felt him stir beside her. With his eyes closed, he kissed her on the forehead.
"Morning," he said, lazily opening one eye. He rubbed her naked back with his hand. They had fallen asleep after an almost sleepless night, wrapped in each other's arms.
"Good morning," she replied.
"Merry Christmas," Ray said.
He kissed the tip of her nose.
Neela sat up on her elbows and leaned over him. She lowered her head to his and kissed him deeply.
"I think I can definitely say that this is by far the best Christmas I've ever had," Ray commented as he brushed her loose hair away from her face and placed it behind her ear.
Neela laid back down, resting her head on his arm.
"I'd have to agree," Neela replied, looking at the diamond necklace that she had carefully placed on the bedside table the night before. Throughout the night she had looked over dozens of times to make sure that she hadn't been dreaming. Ray really had given her a real diamond necklace.
Ray glanced over at the clock beside her necklace and grunted.
"I have to be at work in an hour."
"I wish you didn't have to go."
"I know, but it's just me and Pratt."
"I thought Kerry was working."
"She's on call," Ray replied.
"I could go in with you to give you a hand."
"No, stay here…" Ray yawned. "Sleep."
Neela smirked. "We didn't get much sleep last night, did we?"
"It was worth it," Ray assured her.
Ray couldn't help but smile as he thought about what had happened just hours before. He never expected Neela to be so free and uninhibited with him, but she had been, and he had enjoyed every minute of it.
"It certainly was," Neela agreed, rubbing her foot against his calf.
"Uh-uh," Ray mumbled. "I have to take a shower."
"Showers are overrated." Neela giggled, moving her foot up his leg.
"Not if you join me."
He threw the blanket that covered them both off of him and walked out of the room towards the bathroom. Neela immediately scrambled to get herself disentangled from the sheet and blanket and jumped out of bed.
Hours later, Neela puttered around the apartment in one of Ray's T-Shirts and a pair of Jeans. She had gone back to bed after the shower, but she hadn't been able to sleep well without Ray beside her. She hadn't realized how good it could feel to sleep beside someone and how empty it could feel without that person.
Instead of sleeping, Neela had decided to get up and try to occupy herself before Ray came home. The truth was, she already missed him. So, she turned to one of her least favorite things to do – cleaning. Neela wrapped up the leftover pizza from the night before in saran wrap and put it in the refrigerator. She threw away the greasy pizza box and recycled the empty bottle of beer.
As the bottle clinked against the other bottles that were already in the bin, Neela glanced around, noting all of the things that she could clean up, but she simply didn't want to.
Rather than continuing to clean, Neela flopped down on the couch, careful not to knock over Ray's guitar. She picked up the remote control and turned on the television. The A Christmas Story marathon was still playing. Although Neela never really understood why the movie was such a holiday classic, she snuggled against the back of the couch and prepared to watch it.
In the ER, Ray was standing at one of the computers at the front desk. He scrolled down the page, knowing exactly what he was looking for, but he couldn't find it. He yawned for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning.
"Late night?" Pratt asked, sliding over beside Ray in an office chair on wheels.
"You could say that," Ray replied, quickly closing the Internet site he was searching.
Pratt threw a large wrapping paper ball at Ray. Ray caught it.
"Want to play wheelchair soccer?" Pratt questioned.
"Yeah, it was a game Carter invented when the ER was slow."
"I'll pass," Ray said, yawning again.
He threw the makeshift ball back to Pratt.
"What did you do last night?" Ray didn't reply. Pratt smirked. "Oh, I get it. So, who was she?"
"What?" Ray responded, trying to act as surprised as possible. He and Neela had managed to keep their relationship a secret, and he wasn't about to let the cat out of the bag without talking to her first.
"Come on, Barnett, who was she?"
Ray turned, trying to drop the discussion. As he looked up, he was startled.
"Neela!" He exclaimed.
Neela approached the desk, shaking the light snow that had begun to fall just minutes earlier off of her coat. She pulled the wool hat that she wore off of her head. Her hair stood up with static cling. Ray lifted his hand to smooth it down, but then remembered that Pratt was standing right behind him. He put his hand down and Neela smoothed her own hair.
"It's Christmas, what are you doing here?" Pratt asked Neela, raising his eyebrow.
"I thought you guys might need a hand," Neela answered.
"You came in on Christmas to see if we needed a hand?" Pratt questioned, not believing her story.
"It just started snowing," she explained. "You know the ER's always slammed when it's snowing."
Neela began walking towards the lounge. Ray watched her as she went, unable to keep the smile from forming on his lips.
"Guess it wasn't just some girl you picked up in a bar," Pratt commented, smirking.
"It's a little obvious. You and Neela."
"You don't know what you're talking about, man."
Pratt chuckled as Ray walked off after Neela. It was more than obvious that there was something going on between Ray and Neela that was more than friendship.
"What are you doing here?" Ray asked as soon as the door to the lounge had closed shut.
Neela took off her coat and shook the flaky snow off of it.
"You're not glad to see me?" She teased, hanging her coat over the back of a chair to dry. She was still wearing his T-Shirt. When he saw her in it, he smiled and walked towards her.
"Of course I'm glad to see you." He brushed the few remaining flakes from her hair and kissed her. "And you look fabulous in my shirt, by the way."
"I thought you'd like it."
Neela began to make herself a cup of coffee. She was going to stop somewhere on her way into the ER to get a freshly brewed cup of coffee for herself, and to bring one to Ray as well, but she didn't want to have to wait to see him. The truth was, she missed him terribly.
"Pratt suspects something, you know," Ray told her.
"Well, we knew we wouldn't be able to keep it a secret forever."
"Think we should tell him?"
"I think we should let him think whatever he wants to think," Neela replied.
She took a sip of the coffee. It wasn't the best, but it would do.
"Seriously, Neela, you didn't have to come in."
Ray sat down on a nearby chair.
"I know, but I tried to sleep and that wasn't working. So then I tried cleaning…"
"Yeah, well, that didn't go over too well either. Then, after watching A Christmas Story twice, I decided to pay you a visit."
She put her coffee mug down and lowered herself onto his lap. She wrapped her arms around his neck and they kissed.
"I like visits," Ray commented, smiling.
"I missed you," she admitted, nuzzling his neck.
"I missed you, too," he said, kissing her again.
He put his hand against her cheek as their kiss intensified.
"Ray, we've got…" Pratt swung the door open and stopped mid-sentence as he saw Ray and Neela making out like teenagers. Pratt smirked and lowered his eyes. Although her first instinct was to scramble off of Ray's lap, Neela stayed put and instead just laughed. She was becoming much more comfortable with the idea of them being together and everyone knowing about it.
"Got what?" Ray asked, unable to stop smiling.
"Three traumas pulling in. There was an accident on the highway. Looks like the ER could use your…services after all, Neela."
"We'll be right there," Ray said.
Pratt walked out and closed the door. Neela and Ray burst out laughing.
"I guess Pratt knows," Neela stated.
"I guess he does," Ray replied.
After another short kiss, Neela got off of Ray's lap and quickly threw on a pair of scrubs over the clothes she was already wearing. She walked off after Ray as the first trauma pulled in.
After twelve separate traumas, a number of upset stomachs, dozens of wounds that required stitches, one man with frostbite, and one foot of snow, Ray and Neela had made it back to their apartment. The three traumas that Pratt had announced to them in the lounge had only been the beginning. They had to call in both Kerri and Morris and, without Neela's help, they probably never would have survived.
"I can't believe that woman locked her husband out of their house for that long," Neela said, talking about the man with the frostbite. Neela quickly took off all of her outer layers and headed for the kitchen.
"Well, I guess after the cell phone message from his mistress, she was a little miffed. I think I would be too."
"Are you saying that if I were to get a cell phone call from another man, you'd make me stand outside in the cold naked?"
Neela took out a jar of peanut butter and scooped some out with her finger.
"Well, first I'd have to kill him, but I'd rather you be naked in my bed than outside."
She lifted her peanut butter covered finger to his mouth and he ate the peanut butter of it. Neela took a bite of the peanut butter herself and yawned.
"I'm exhausted," she said, putting the peanut butter back in the cupboard. She wasn't that hungry, but she had been craving something salty and the peanut butter had hit the spot.
"Me too," Ray replied, also yawning.
"Maybe we should just call it a night."
"As much as I was planning something else for tonight," he said, smiling, "I think I'd have to agree with you."
Ray reached for Neela's hand and they walked off together towards his bedroom. He stripped off his shirt and they both got into bed, not bothering to change out of their others clothes. They snuggled against each other and immediately fell asleep.
Abby and Neela walked down the street together, each holding a styrofoam cup of steaming hot coffee. The snow that had fallen on Christmas still covered the streets. They had taken a quick break together while the ER was slow and Neela had used the time to catch Abby up on all of the juicy gossip of what was going on between her and Ray. Abby couldn't have been happier for them.
"So, what are you guys planning on for New Year's?" Abby asked as she sipped the hot coffee and stepped over a large mushy puddle of melting snow.
"I'm not sure actually," Neela answered. What time Ray and Neela had spent together in the last few days hadn't really been spent talking.
"Well, Luka and I were thinking of having a quiet dinner if you two wanted to join us."
"Thanks, but we wouldn't want to impose." Neela liked used the word we. She still hadn't grown completely accustomed to how it sounded, but it still made her smile.
"You wouldn't be imposing," Abby assured her, "but I'll understand if you two want to spend it alone."
"Despite what you may think, we do not spend all of our time having sex," Neela remarked.
Neela playfully hit her on the arm. She and Ray did have a strong physical attraction to each other that couldn't be denied, but they also enjoyed each other's company when they weren't being so physical.
Both Abby and Neela walked into the ER to find it as dead as when they had left it. They both enjoyed moments like those, but knew that there was always a calm before the storm.
Neela spotted Ray wiping off a patient's name from the dropdown board.
"I'll…ah…talk to Ray and let you know," Neela said. Her eyes were totally fixed on Ray and she practically ignored Abby standing beside her.
Again, Abby smirked and headed off to find a donut to go with her coffee. Neela walked up behind Ray and placed a hand on his back. He turned around.
"Hi," he said, resisting the urge to kiss her. Even though everyone knew about their relationship, he also knew that there was an appropriate time and place for everything and right in the middle of the ER was not it.
"Hi," Neela replied. She offered her cup of coffee to Ray and he took a sip. "So, Abby just asked me what we were doing for New Years."
"What did you tell her?"
"That I hadn't even though about it. She invited us over to hers and Luka's."
"Do you want to go?"
"Well, I don't know. I figured I'd find out what you were thinking first. What were your plans?"
"I was planning on visiting my other girlfriend," he replied with a straight face. "You got Christmas, she's got New Years."
Neela didn't reply, not knowing what to make of what he had just said. He cracked a smile.
"That was mean," Neela said. A sense of relief flooded over her.
"You know you're the only girl for me," he responded, picking up her hand and kissing it lightly.
"So what were you really planning?" Neela asked.
Ray shrugged. "I hadn't really thought about it."
The truth was, he had been thinking about it ever since Christmas morning. He wanted New Years to be perfect, but he didn't want Neela to become at all suspicious. Besides, he had asked Abby to invite Neela over.
"Well, would you like to go to Abby and Luka's?" Neela asked.
"Sure. It'll be nice celebrating with friends."
"Alright, I'll let her know."
"I've got to go check on my patient from this morning," Ray stated.
"I'll see you later," Neela said as he walked away. She stood where she was, knowing that something was going on, but she just couldn't figure out what it was.
"Come on, Neela, we're going to be late," Ray yelled through her closed door.
"I'll be right here," Neela shouted back.
Ray looked at his watch and shook his head. They were supposed to leave more than 15 minutes before and Neela still hadn't emerged from her bedroom. Standing in his rented, black tuxedo, Ray impatiently tapped his foot on the ground.
"Abby's going to…"
The door opened. Neela stood in the doorway looking absolutely radiant. She was wearing a red, strapless, floor-length dress that perfectly fit her small body. Her hair was curled and it fell softly around her face. Ray's diamond necklace hung around her neck, completing the outfit.
"Wow," Ray muttered, unable to say anything else. Neela turned around slowly, showing him the whole outfit. The dress was backless. Ray couldn't help but stare at the soft skin that the dress left exposed. "You look…beautiful."
He leaned in to kiss her, but she took a step back from him.
"You'll ruin my makeup," she said playfully.
Ray reached for her arm and pulled her towards him, crushing her body against his. He gave her a big, wet kiss.
"We have to go," he said, still holding her around her waist.
Neela grabbed a matching red purse off of her bureau.
"I'm glad Abby decided that we would have a formal night," Neela said as she walked out of her room with Ray behind her.
"Me too," Ray agreed as he stared at her body as he watched her walk.
"Are you checking me out?" Neela asked, smiling.
"Maybe," Ray replied.
Neela grabbed her jacket and Ray helped her into it. They walked out of their apartment hand in hand. As they reached the front door and stepped out onto the sidewalk, Neela gasped. A white limousine was parked on the street. The driver of the limousine opened the back door.
"Ray?" Neela stuttered, unsure of what was going on. She had assumed that she and Ray would have either taken a taxi or the subway to Abby's. She had never expected Ray to get a limo.
"Get in," Ray said.
"Ray, you didn't have to…"
"Get in," he repeated quietly, whispering in her ear. He held her hand as she lowered herself onto the seat of the limousine. He got in beside her and the driver closed the door.
As the driver pulled away from the curb, Ray poured two glasses of champagne. He handed one to Neela and put his left arm around her shoulder.
"To us," he said, clinking his glass against hers. They each brought the glasses to their lips and sipped the champagne slowly.
"Ray, this is too much," she insisted. "You're spoiling me."
He kissed her.
"I like spoiling you."
Neela glanced out the window while Ray couldn't take his eyes off of her. He put down his champagne and rested his right hand on her knee.
"Ray, the driver's going the wrong way. We should be going South," Neela explained, looking back at Ray.
"We're not going to Abby's."
"But…" Neela began. She looked at him inquisitively, trying to figure out what was going on. Ray smiled. "You planned this?" She asked, finally figuring it out. "You got Abby to ask us over for a formal evening so that you could get me out of the apartment. We're not really going to see Abby and Luka at all."
"Abby does work as a nice decoy," Ray remarked.
"So, if we're not going to Abby's, where are we going?"
"It's a surprise," he whispered.
They drove to their destination in silence. When the car finally stopped, Ray hopped out of the limousine and quickly went around to open Neela's door. He offered her his hand and helped her out of the car. When she got out, she saw that she was standing in front of one of the most exclusive restaurants in Chicago.
"How did you…"
"Well, you might have an in with Bob Hodge's fourth cousin, but John Rhodes up in oncology is brothers with the owner."
"This place must be ridiculously expensive, Ray. Oprah eats here for God's sake."
Ray laughed and took her hand.
"Then Oprah has good taste," he remarked.
They walked inside. The restaurant was nearly full, but you couldn't really tell. If anything, it looked almost vacant. Unlike most restaurants, the booths and tables were far from each other and allowed for as much privacy as one wanted.
Ray gave his name to the host and they were seated immediately at a private, candle lit booth in the corner. Ray ordered them a bottle of wine and they looked over the menus.
"Thank you, Ray, for all of this," Neela said.
"I wanted our first New Years to be special. I wanted to celebrate the first of many to come."
"I'm going to kill Abby for not telling me about this."
"I wouldn't be too hard on her, but she was more than willing to deceive you."
Neela chuckled. "Abby's always more than willing to do anything to get us to spend time together."
"I knew I liked her."
Three hours later, Neela and Ray were back in the limousine and heading for their next stop. Neela still had no idea what Ray was planning, but it was nearing midnight. For the first time in her life, she would be kissing the man she truly loved at midnight and it made her smile.
"So, where are we going?" Neela asked.
"I can't tell you," Ray answered.
"Oh, and why not?"
"It's a surprise."
"You're lucky I like surprises," Neela joked, snuggling closer to him.
The limousine stopped.
"We're here," Ray announced.
Neela looked out the window as Ray got out of the car and opened her door.
"Where are we?"
He helped her out of the car and she looked around. They were standing in front of a convenience store. More specifically, they were standing in front of the convenience store that she temporarily worked at not too long ago.
"Come on," Ray beckoned, grabbing her arm.
"Ray, the stores not even open," Neela said as he led her to the front door. He inserted a small key into the lock and the door opened. "What is going on? Ray, what are we doing here?"
He closed the door behind them and led her into the darkened room. She could barely make out the shelves of potato chips and other such snacks through the darkness, but she knew that they were there.
"Stay here," he commanded.
Ray disappeared into the darkness.
"Ray?" She called out after standing in the same spot for a minute. She knew that it was nearly midnight and she desperately wanted to be in his arms when the clock struck twelve.
The lights in the store turned on, except it wasn't the regular florescent white lights. Instead, multi-colored Christmas lights had been strung from the ceiling and they lit the entire store. Even though they were only Christmas lights, they made for a magnificent sight.
Ray walked up behind her and she turned to face him. His face was illuminated with the different colored lights.
"What's going on?" Neela asked again. Ray took her hands in his. "What are we doing here?" She urged.
"I brought you here because this was the first place we met. And even in your statue of liberty hat, you were the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen." A tear rolled down Neela's cheek as she smiled at the memory. She could remember meeting him for the first time as if it were yesterday. "Every time I look at you, every time I see you smile or I feel your touch…you take my breath away. I never thought that I could spend my life with one person, but now I can't imagine spending my life without you."
Ray let go of her hands and pulled a small, black box out of his pocket. He bent down on one knee. Neela brought her hand to her mouth. Ray opened the box and revealed a shining diamond ring.
"Neela, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Would you make me the happiest man in the world and be my wife?"
Tears streamed down Neela's face.
"Yes," she answered shakily. Ray reached for her left hand and placed the ring on her ring finger. It looked perfect. He stood and wrapped his arms around her. He lifted her off the ground and spun her around. They kissed passionately as her feet firmly hit the ground once more.
As they kissed, Ray reached for the remote control that was beside him and turned on the television that hung just over the doorway. The New Years celebration in Times Square was on and the countdown to midnight had already begun. Neither Neela nor Ray saw the ball drop, but the background noise of the celebration filled the store as they continued to kiss.
"Happy New Year," Neela said, still crying. She looked at the ring on her finger and couldn't help but be overcome with emotion. Ray kept his arms wrapped around her waist.
"Happy New Year," Ray replied, not even looking at the TV screen as the celebrations continued. He concentrated solely on her.
"Well, this New Year certainly will be one to remember," Neela stated as Ray gently wiped her tear stained cheeks.
"I think this whole holiday season will be one to remember," Ray responded.
"I can't believe you remembered that we met here."
"I remember every moment with you."
"I love you," she said.
"And I love you…Mrs. Barnett," he said.
They both laughed and kissed once again as Ray began to think about how he could possibly top their holiday season next year.
A few things first: After writing this story (my 5th Reela story), I realized that, in almost every story, I have a scene that includes the lounge and someone coming in and announcing a trauma. I think I need to start rethinking some of my sequences. I also realized that I've been very big on starting each "section" with the day and time. I never really did that before with any stories (except The X-Files, but that's only because they did that in the actual series). I don't know why I've been stuck in this "mold" of doing it that way. I promise you, my next story will not be done like that (because I don't even really like it that much).
Anyway, this was yet another fun one to write. I kind of knew from when I began writing Together On Thanksgiving that I wanted to write about all three holidays, but I wasn't exactly sure how I wanted to do that. I think it came out pretty well, though, and I'm happy with all three stories (and who knows – maybe there will be more holidays to come!) As for the ending of this one, I had gone through a few different endings including ones where they didn't get engaged, one where Abby and Luka popped up in the store, one where they went to Abby and Luka's apartment and Ray proposed there, etc. but this turned out to be my favorite and I just hope that having them get engaged so soon wasn't 'rushing' it too much. I also hope that my memory served me correctly and that they did actually meet at the store!
Well, I hope you enjoyed my story and be on the lookout for more Reela stories to come!