by Brit Columbia
Pairing: Dee/ Ryo
Rating: Worksafe. There's always swearing, however.
Spoilers: To Volume 7
Timing: Set in May, directly after book 7 ended
Summary: Ryo is coming to terms with his new sexual identity, as well as the changes in his relationship with Dee. Meanwhile, Dee and Ryo are trying to find enough evidence to expose a crooked cop. This story explores homophobic attitudes, but is primarily a love story between two men.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fake or any of the characters created by Sanami Matoh. Detective Shaver is mine however, along with Captain McCormick, the commander of the Bronx 51st Precinct, and Helen, the private secretary of Commissioner Rose. I have not based these characters on any living person.
Author's notes: Two rather illicit meetings and a whole world of trouble! Please read and review. Incidentally, I just want to remind everyone that although some of you have been reading this story for almost two years, it's only been about three weeks since Ryo told Dee he loved him on the Brooklyn Bridge. In earlier chapters of this story, Ryo has been doing a fair amount of soul searching and has been feeling quite off-balance (see chapter ten, specifically) because he's having a bit of an identity crisis over his 'sudden' discovery that he wasn't the straight guy he always imagined himself to be.
Thank you to mtemplar , Moontatoo, and LadyFeather for all the feedback and catching of typos, etc.
Dee was about 90 percent awake when Ryo came home, a little after 2:00 a.m. He lay in Ryo's bed, listening to the general rustlings, and the opening and closing of cabinets. He heard Ryo thirstily drinking something he had gotten out of the fridge, and he also heard the rattle of a pill bottle. Aw. His baby must have a headache. Well, no wonder. That had been a hell of a long day for him, even longer than a back-to-back double shift.
Dee had left the bedroom door ajar, but Ryo didn't come in right away. Dee caught a glimpse of him padding by on his way to the brat's room and heard him have a brief exchange of words with a sleepy-voiced Bikky. That was a little surprising, as he hadn't thought Bikky was still awake. Unbeknownst to each other, they had obviously both been waiting for Ryo to come home.
Dee continued to listen, impatient for the moment when Ryo would finally come into the bedroom and discover him there. He ached just to touch his partner. He hated it when Ryo worked without him; he could never be sure his beloved would come back alive and in one piece. Anything could happen out there, as their encounter with the skinheads had proved last Friday night.
He waited through the sounds in the bathroom: Ryo took a piss, brushed his teeth, splashed water around, but didn't take a shower. Finally, the footsteps he had been waiting for approached the bedroom.
For some reason, Dee hadn't been expecting Ryo to flip on the light, but he did, and the bright glare caused him to wince and burrow under the covers.
"Wha - ? Dee!"
Dee barely realized that Ryo had snapped the light back off again because he was suffused with happiness at the note of delight in Ryo's voice. Ryo was surprised, but happy to see him. That was good because he had taken it upon himself to stay over without asking permission. A moment later, his lover was kneeling on the bed beside him, unwrapping him from his nest of blankets, and squeezing him enthusiastically.
"Dee!" Ryo whispered. "What are you doing here? I thought for sure you'd be at home, fast asleep by now!"
Dee hugged Ryo back, and spoke softly so as not to attract Bikky's attention and potentially bring the brat wandering into the bedroom. "How can you think that I could sleep, knowing you were at a drug deal with a 70% shoot-out factor? If anyone had figured out what those vans were really for, you'd all have been sitting ducks!" He loosened his hold just enough to be able to look accusingly at Ryo in the half-light coming through the open door from the hallway. "And I wouldn't have been there to help you because you wouldn't let me come along!"
"I'm sorry you were worried." Ryo meant it. It was the nature of their partnership that they went into dangerous situations together and backed each other up. He would have felt the same in Dee's place, but it had been necessary for Dee to make sure Shaver actually showed up for the meeting.
Dee subsided, slightly mollified, and sniffed him. "You smell like smoke. JJ said it was a really bad fire."
"It was. Maybe I should take a shower..."
"No, no, stay here with me. Take a shower when you get up tomorrow. I mean 'today'. At least we can sleep in a bit because of the funeral, huh?"
"Not me, not really. I'm going in about half an hour later than usual, but that's all I can get away with. I have to do a debriefing at 0800 hours." Ryo thought it best not to mention that it was a personal debriefing for Commissioner Rose alone.
"Shit, I guess you do. That sucks! You were supposed to be off today, too."
"Shhh! Yeah, it does suck, but it's not every day you get a five-alarm fire in New York complete with explosions. Are you due to work?"
"Yeah, my doctor's note was only good until Wednesday. But I'm not rolling in there until after the funeral." Dee let go of Ryo and said, "Hey, you should get changed for bed, unless you're planning to sleep in your clothes."
Ryo nodded assent and got up to fetch a pair of pajamas.
Dee spoke again from the bed. "Hey, I heard Shaver got barbequed."
"Yeah," said Ryo. "Unfortunately, he didn't make it, along with most of the people inside. But no other cops or firefighters got hurt, so he was our only casualty."
"That's too bad. The guy had a wife and child."
"I know. It's really sad. He made some bad choices, but no one can say he didn't have guts." Ryo draped his work pants over the chair in the corner and tossed his shirt into the laundry hamper before climbing back into bed with Dee.
It hung unspoken in the air between them that with Shaver gone, their chances of nailing Lieutenant Abernathy had dwindled to almost nothing. Ryo stroked Dee's hair gently, and changed the subject. "I'm so glad you stayed here. I missed you tonight."
"Really?" Dee cuddled against Ryo, sounding pleased. "How much?"
"This much." To Dee's surprise and pleasure, Ryo kissed him tenderly with just a hint of tongue. He tasted like toothpaste and grapefruit juice. "Let's go to sleep," Ryo whispered. "I've got a lot to tell you, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow. I'm so dead right now."
"Sleep, baby. I love you."
"Love you...too..." Ryo murmured, his voice dropping away as sleep surged up, captured him and bore him far from the waking world.
Ryo arrived at the 27th Precinct a few minutes before 7:30, and learned to his relief that the Chief wasn't going to be in until after lunch that day. That meant he had just one meeting to worry about before going back home to get Bikky jammed into his suit for the funeral. Bikky hated suits and always kicked up a fuss on the rare occasions when he had to wear one.
Drake greeted him cheerfully outside his office and asked him about the previous night. "You must be beat!" he said. "What time did you get home, anyway?"
"Don't ask," said Ryo with a tired smile, setting down his briefcase on his chair.
"I heard you lost your second witness in the fire. Too bad, man."
"Yeah," said Ryo, "but that's how it goes sometimes. However, we'll still get the bastard we're after. It'll just take us longer, that's all."
He picked up the bone china mug that JJ had selected for him and looked at it with an expression of vague discomfort, debating with himself whether or not to take it to the Commissioner's office with him. He still felt that, beautiful though it was, it was more a mug for a woman than a man. Unless, of course, one wanted to announce to world that one happened to be a gay man. On the other hand, however, the Commissioner already seemed to know about his relationship with Dee, although he seemed to believe it was mainly a sexual arrangement. What finally decided Ryo was his knowledge that the Commissioner was an aficionado of fine china and crystal, indeed, all fine things. Ryo had once drawn unwelcome attention to himself by recognizing a vintage Heubach hand-painted vase on the windowsill of the Commissioner's office. This mug was not in the same league, naturally, but it was extraordinarily beautiful and the Commissioner would be bound to notice it. Perhaps it would give them something neutral to talk about, if that should become necessary.
Drake hung around for another few moments, hoping Ryo would ask him about his date the night before. He had mulled it over, and now he was dying to bitch about it to someone, even though he knew in his heart that Ryo was probably not that someone. Ryo most likely didn't even remember that his good buddy Drake had actually been out on a date, because Ryo didn't really care about things like that. Yet, Drake reflected, when his mom had been hospitalized for pneumonia a year or so back, Ryo had been one of the few who asked after her at regular intervals. He let out a sigh, wondering if Ted or Dee would be showing their faces today, and the sound, soft though it was, made Ryo look up.
"Drake, I have to get going. I have a breakfast meeting at eight. But I'll see you briefly after, if you're still here. Are you going out in the next little while?"
"Nope. My first appointment isn't until 11:30. Say, if there's any leftovers from your meeting, make sure you bring 'em back here, okay?"
Ryo agreed with a smile and hurried out of the building to fetch breakfast for himself and the Commissioner. He was relieved Dee hadn't come with him today. He had been a little worried when Dee unexpectedly got up at the same time he did, but his partner had told him that he wanted to get to the dry cleaners to pick up his black suit. When Ryo left his apartment, Dee had been drinking coffee at the kitchen table, looking none too awake. Ryo kissed him goodbye without mentioning anything more about his upcoming debriefing. It would have been hard to explain to Dee that he had been explicitly asked by the Commissioner not to bring his partner, and Dee would naturally have ignored that directive anyway and insisted on coming along.
Ryo cut through the little park near the Precinct to get to Amici's Coffee bar, and stood in line feeling vaguely guilty for not telling Dee what he was up to. Oh well, it would soon be over, and Dee would be none the wiser. He definitely wasn't looking forward to telling the Commissioner about the fate of his Dragon vest. He felt more than a little uneasy when he let himself imagine how the Commissioner might react. He thought he'd better pick up an extra good breakfast.
Heading back through the park, laden down with one paper bag that contained hot gourmet breakfast sandwiches, another with fruit salad and pastries, plus a thermos of high grade Columbian extra dark coffee, Ryo's dread-filled thoughts about his coming meeting were interrupted by a voice that sounded exactly like Dee's. His ears pricked up, naturally. It couldn't be Dee, of course, but he was curious, nonetheless. What did this guy look like, whose voice was so similar to the one that Ryo knew and loved? But the next words the voice uttered stopped him dead.
"Okay, but remember, not a word of this to Ryo, you got that?"
"Sure, Mr. Sexy," came the breathless reply. "Now, c'mere..."
Ryo forced his suddenly leaden feet to move forward again. Not a word of what to Ryo? That voice was none other than Dee's; he was sure of it. And the second voice belonged to JJ, unless he was very much mistaken. What the hell was going on? He turned a corner on the path and what he saw caused him to drop both bags of food. The thermos would have fallen too, if he hadn't fumbled for it and slowed its descent before it too slipped from his suddenly nerveless fingers.
A flower-seller with several buckets of flowers around her sat on a park bench looking hopefully at the two handsome men nearby. One of them was Dee all right, wearing the same jeans from yesterday and one of Ryo's tee-shirts. The other was JJ and the two of them stood next to another park bench that was scattered with the remnants of A&W 'bacon and egger' wrappers. Ryo's shocked eyes took those two sights in as a matter of course. But what riveted him to the spot, draining away all the strength from his muscles, was the sight of JJ squirming happily in Dee's arms. Ryo's heart began thumping in his chest, while black clouds of dizziness began rolling in from his peripheral vision. Fortunately, they halted before they could meet in the middle and take his sight away altogether. Dee's mouth was moving and so was JJ's, but Ryo couldn't hear what was being said because of the sudden roaring in his ears. Then JJ stood on tiptoes to kiss Dee's cheek before he ran off laughing in the direction of the precinct. Dee stood there looking after him broodingly for a minute before something made him glance over in Ryo's direction. He started visibly and actually went pale.
"Ryo - sweetheart - it's not what you think..."
Ryo didn't know what kind of expression he had on his face, as he stood there with the foundations of his new life heaving sickeningly under him, but it must have been bad because he had never seen Dee looking so afraid before. The only thing he retained any kind of grip on was the beautiful blue and pink china mug that JJ had given him.
He couldn't think clearly; all he knew was that Dee was taking halting steps toward him and he had to stop him. He couldn't bear for Dee to come any closer. Something terrible was going to happen if he did, but what it was, he couldn't even guess. Somehow, he found his voice.
"Stop right there, you lying, cheating sonofabitch!"
"Baby, let me explain -"
"Get away from me!"
Dee's eyes widened and he ducked quickly as the mug Ryo had been holding came hurtling at his head. It actually stirred his hair as it passed over him and then smashed to a hundred pieces on the concrete path behind him. Fuck! That was close. He'd forgotten what good aim Ryo had, whether sharpshooting, or throwing things. He hadn't been the star pitcher on the 27th's softball team last summer for nothing.
Without breaking eye contact, Ryo bent and picked up the thermos, causing Dee to step back swiftly, raising his arms protectively to his face.
"Dee," Ryo's voice was low and vibrated with barely suppressed rage. "Just...don't come near me." He snatched up the two paper bags along with the thermos, and hurried away, taking a slightly more circuitous route back to the station than JJ had.
Dee took an impulsive couple of steps after him, but was halted by the voice of the flower-seller saying, "Stop!"
"Huh?" Dee turned around, seeming to notice her for the first time.
"Oh, go after him, by all means," she said, bright grey eyes in a weatherbeaten face blinking earnestly at him from under the rim of her summer hat. "But give the poor fellow a head start. He needs time to cool down or he's likely to knock you into a rosebush."
Dee nodded, seeing the wisdom of this, but clutched his head in anxiety as he looked in the direction Ryo had gone.
"Which one do you want? The first one or the second one?"
"The second one! ONLY the second one," he said emphatically, turning back to her angrily.
She was holding up two bouquets of flowers and looking at him with amusement.
Dee colored. Of course she must have been talking about the flowers, not JJ and Ryo. "Um..." He looked down at her in confusion.
"You're going to be needing some flowers," she said helpfully.
"Yeah," he said, knowing she was right, although he felt it was highly likely that Ryo would throw them in his face. "Gimme that yellow and white bunch there, and throw in some red roses and a ribbon, too. He pulled out a couple of bills out of his wallet and sighed loudly.
"Don't worry," she said to him reassuringly. "Your day can only get better from here, right?"
"Not likely," grumbled Dee. "I'm going to a funeral at eleven."
"Oh," she said. "In that case, you'd better get some lilies too."
Ryo strode toward the station, his heavy footsteps matching the heaviness in his heart. He imagined it was Dee he was treading underneath his feet, rather than the dusty, litter-strewn pavement. Angry and incredulous thoughts that were centered on the perfidy of his partner whirled about in his brain.
How could he? After all those times when he had professed undying love and faithfulness! Of course that asshole hadn't really been celibate while waiting for him. What a crock! Ryo ground his teeth and tugged at his collar. He had been a fool to believe Dee. It was just that he had wanted so much to believe him. It had made him feel special, cherished even. He felt a familiar sense of pressure building in his throat. Goddammit, if he didn't keep nursing his anger, he felt there was a danger he might cry. Maybe he should try to think about something else, like perhaps the best way to give the Commissioner the bad news about the previous night's work. But it was impossible. His mind immediately returned to the image of Dee and JJ embracing in the park. They had obviously been lovers all along. Maybe it was casual, but of course it made sense.
But Dee does love me... At least I think he does. Ryo felt almost certain of that, but wondered if it was as much as he had believed. He guessed that perhaps monogamy had turned out to be more of a challenge to his lover than he had expected. At least I was happy for a few weeks. Bastard! How could he do this to me?
He reached the parking area of the 27th all too soon, and braced himself to be greeted by various co-workers who were smoking out front, or heading out on calls. Officers Pettigrew and Fenton called to him boisterously on the front step, thanking him loudly for bringing them breakfast. He dodged them effortlessly, promising, "Next time," and was amazed at how normal his voice sounded. A similar thing occurred as he went past the front desk, with Marianne and Janet begging for one of his food bags. Each step he took through the halls that led to the Commissioner's office was a torment, as he had to smile, nod and otherwise acknowledge the various people who said hello to him, when all he wanted to do was crawl alone into some dark hole and try to come to terms with the fact that the man he loved was a faithless, cheating, deceiving, self-centered son of a bitch.
Presently he arrived at the reception area of Commissioner Rose's office, which was presided over by Helen, his quiet and efficient secretary. She eyed Ryo's offerings and saw that he wasn't carrying any cups. Without a word, she got up and went to a nearby rosewood cabinet and took out two matching fluted white mugs with slender handles. Then she buzzed the Commissioner and informed him that Detective MacLean was there to see him.
When she opened the door for Ryo, her shrewd eyes met his in passing. He felt she had seen all the turmoil that he was trying so hard to keep locked inside his heart, that she somehow knew how he was feeling. He turned away from her quickly and his eyes sought out the Commissioner. He forced himself to smile.
"Good morning, sir. I've brought us breakfast, as you requested."
"Good morning, Ryo. I see that. Set it on the coffee table over there, please. I wouldn't like to drop any food on my papers." He indicated a brown leather sofa against one wall of his office, underneath an Ansel Adams print.
Ryo quickly set down his bags and thermos and started to unpack the food. He tried to speak lightly. "I got croissants stuffed with scrambled eggs, Havarti cheese and peppered rosemary ham, sir. We also have a fresh fruit salad with strawberries, melon balls and pineapple. I didn't know what kind of pastries you like, so I brought four kinds."
"It looks wonderful, Ryo. It's clear that I won't be needing lunch after a breakfast like this! Now would you like to discuss the events of last evening over breakfast, or would you prefer to eat first and then give me your report?" He absently thanked Helen who had just come in bearing a tray with the two white mugs and some cream, sugar and napkins.
Ryo hesitated. As for himself, he didn't think he could eat anything, and he would prefer to get the bad news over with as soon as possible. But on the other hand, he had learned a long time ago that you don't give bad news to a man with an empty stomach. Low blood sugar could make people fly off the handle quicker than they otherwise would.
"Um...I think I'd rather we ate breakfast first, sir," he said. "I think the sandwiches are still warm. They probably taste better when they're warm."
"By all means, let's eat then. Won't you sit down?"
"Thank you sir." Ryo quickly sat down on the sofa, his eyes sliding away from the Commissioner's sharp gaze. He passed one of the wrapped croissants to the other man and reached for the thermos with a hand that shook slightly.
Dee hurried in through the front door of the 27th Precinct not long after Ryo had.
"Hurry up, Laytner!" called Officer Fenton. "You're late for breakfast!"
"I bet Parker's eaten your share by now," added Officer Pettigrew. They both guffawed at their wit. Ordinarily, Dee would have shot them an off-color zinger that would have doubled their mirth, but today he was not in the mood. He made a beeline for the Chief's office, totally ignoring Janet's attempt to jokingly thank him for the big bouquet of flowers he was carrying.
Janet and Marianne looked at each other thoughtfully after he was gone.
"Hmmm. First Randy, looking like he wanted to kill somebody..." said Marianne, flipping her long blond-streaked brown hair off her shoulder.
"Then Dee, looking like he needed to apologize to somebody. With flowers and everything," said Janet, whose mind was working rapidly.
"But Randy was carrying a lot of food, wasn't he? Maybe he picked up breakfast for the other guys on his team."
"Nah. Drake and Ted are the only ones up there, and if you'll recall, Ted came in only five minutes ago eating a breakfast burrito. I think that food is for somebody else."
Marianne started as she remembered something. "Oh! I remember Helen told me that the Commissioner had an eight AM breakfast meeting today...and it's eight ten now!"
Janet immediately called out to their co-worker who was typing away at a computer terminal behind them. "Jerry! Me and Marianne are going upstairs for a moment - be right back! Cover the desk, would you?"
They were gone before he could protest.
Dee rapped briefly on the Chief's office door before turning the doorknob. It was locked. "Chief!" he called, banging harder on the door. "Let me in!"
Leona, the Chief's secretary, hurried over to him with a frown, saying, "Detective Laytner, please stop shouting. Lieutenant Smith isn't in there."
"He's not? Where did he go? The boardroom?"
"No, he hasn't even come in yet. He told me yesterday that he'd be in at one o'clock today. He had to take one of his children to..." Her voice trailed off as she saw Detective Laytner react as though a thunderbolt had hit him. "Detective? Are you okay?"
Detective Laytner took off without a word, which was really quite rude of him, Leona thought, shaking her head. It seemed like with each passing year she had been in this job, the number of people who cared about good manners seemed to be sadly decreasing. As she returned to her desk, she saw Marianne and Janet scurry by, giggling as though they were up to no good. Why those two felt they could just leave the front desk practically unattended any time they liked was beyond her. They had probably left that pea-brained Jerry in charge again. Why, the man couldn't even answer simple questions. However, Leona mused to herself, that awful Janet did have an unerring nose for drama and other interesting happenings... There was probably something going on upstairs. Leona quickly rose to her feet and snatched up a file. She had been meaning to ask Helen if she wanted a photocopy of this. Perhaps now would be a good time.
The Commissioner took a bite of his croissant and pronounced it absolutely delicious. "Amici's, am I correct?"
Ryo just nodded because it seemed that he needed all his concentration just to pour coffee into the two mugs without spilling any.
"You're not eating, Ryo. Is something wrong?"
"Not at all, sir."
"Are you sure? Because I can't help noticing that you're trembling a little. Your face also seems to be flushed."
"Um, I might be coming down with a fever, sir," Ryo lied. "It's nothing. It'll probably be gone by lunchtime."
"You had quite a long night last night, didn't you? Eventful, too." The Commissioner watched his detective to see how he would respond to this sally. As he had anticipated, the beautiful man next to him flinched almost imperceptibly and shot him a nervous look. The Commissioner didn't believe the fever story for one second.
"Ryo, I must insist that you have a bite of something. I can't sit here and feel comfortable eating by myself, you know. Go on."
"Of course, sir. I'm sorry." Ryo picked up his croissant and unwrapped it with unsteady hands. How many times had he eaten one of these with Dee? Too many to count. The smell of the ham and cooked egg rose to his nostrils and he felt his stomach turn over. He hastily put the sandwich down again, and when he glanced at the Commissioner, he saw to his dismay that the man was still watching him.
"Now I know something's wrong. Can I ask you what it is?"
"Sir, really, nothing's wrong." Ryo picked up one of the pastries and took a quick bite. As long as his mouth was full, the Commissioner wouldn't expect him to talk. The pastry, though moist and flaky, felt dry and heavy on his tongue.
"Could it be Ryo, that you came here to tell me that Detective Shaver perished in the fire and my Dragon Systems vest along with him?"
Ryo immediately choked on his bite of pastry, and the alarmed Commissioner had to thump him on the back and offer him a napkin to spit the pieces out in. Ryo coughed and gasped for breath, tears running down his overheated face, and Rose felt his heart go out to the younger man. Poor boy, he must have been dreading coming in here to tell him about the night's failures, particularly the loss of the vest, which he had been so bold in asking for! The Commissioner forgot how he had originally been intending to exploit his upright detective's sense of failure and try to get him to agree to certain concessions in exchange for being forgiven. He hadn't expected Ryo to be quite so unnerved over the whole thing. All he wanted to do now was comfort him, to hold that trembling body close and stroke the tension out of his muscles. He scooted closer to Ryo and suggested he drink some of his coffee. Ryo took a tentative sip, but unfortunately began coughing again, necessitating more back-thumping from the Commissioner. His thumps on Ryo's back gradually got lighter, until they began to resemble soothing caresses instead.
"There, there," he said softly. "Just breathe. I'm sorry I asked you to eat when you were obviously in an overwrought state of dread."
Ryo turned to him, saying, "Sir, I..." in a hoarse voice. He tugged at where the knot of his tie pressed against his throat.
"Shh." Rose placed his fingertips over Ryo's lips. "Don't try to talk. Just keep breathing. Let me get that for you..." The fingers of that same hand slid lightly from Ryo's lips down to his collar where he began to gently tug his tie loose.
Helen looked up from her computer screen just as Detective Laytner appeared in the doorway, the beautiful bouquet of flowers he was holding contrasting incongruously with the mutinous expression on his face. She sprang up with an alacrity that few would have given her credit for and blocked the door to the Commissioner's office with her body, looking warningly up at Dee, who towered over her by a good foot.
He looked down at her plain, but determined little face, not bothering to adjust his angry glower. "Let me pass," he growled.
She shook her head firmly, and then recoiled a little when he took a step closer to her. She didn't budge, however, and his eyes softened.
He gave her his best Dee Laytner grin, and plucked a red rose from the bouquet he was holding. "Helen," he said, "You're brave and loyal, and altogether too good for that bastard." Snapping off most of the stem, he tucked the rose behind her ear and kissed her on the cheek. "I just hope he pays you what you're worth. Now please, move away from the door and let me go in. Ryo's not okay today, and he needs me in there."
Helen looked at him for a moment with eyes that still assessed and measured, despite the faint blush on her cheeks. "Promise you won't hit him," she said in her low, slightly gravelly voice.
It was easy to guess whom she meant. "I promise," said Dee firmly. "No hitting." At least kicking, as in ass-kicking, if called for, was still on the menu.
Helen stepped aside, and then instantly regretted it as three women she knew very well all wandered into her reception area, wearing innocent expressions.
"Sir," Ryo coughed, "I can get that, really..."
The Commissioner shushed him again and undid the top button of Ryo's collar. "There's nothing to worry about, my dear Ryo," he said soothingly. "You don't have to fret about giving me the bad news, because I already know. The warehouse fire was on the news this morning, and I have since talked to Captain McCormick of the 51st. He confirmed for me that Detective Shaver did not make it out of the blaze in time. I assume my Dragon vest did not come walking out by itself, either. It's terrible news, yes, but we take these things in stride at the NYPD, don't we?"
"Sir, I..." Ryo tried to retreat, but the Commissioner's left arm seemed to still be around him, stroking his back, and instead, he found himself being pulled even closer. If only he could stop coughing! And to make things worse, he realized that Rose had opened a second button on his shirt and was gazing at him affectionately! God, he had to get out of here.
"Were you afraid of my anger, my beautiful Ryo? Is that why you were so agitated? Please never think that I would raise my voice or my hand to you."
Ryo's eyes widened as he realized that Commissioner's face was leaning closer toward his own. Could this actually be happening? Could this day get any more awful?
Just then, the door burst open and Dee erupted into the room, saying, "Ryo! I'm so - What the fuck?" He stared at the tableau on the sofa with disbelieving eyes. Was that fucking Rose actually undressing his Ryo, who, moreover, had tears running down his face? Red rage blazed within him, and he sprang across the room toward them.
The Commissioner rose quickly to a standing position, braced for the onslaught with his fists up, but he wasn't prepared for what the man actually did. Laytner leapt onto the coffee table, one foot planted, while he drove the knee of his other leg directly at Rose's face. It would have connected too, if Ryo hadn't shoved the Commissioner aside at the last moment. Rose staggered and fell heavily across the opposite end of the sofa, rebounding onto the floor. Dee's momentum carried him forward onto the sofa, whereupon he promptly lost his balance and also fell, bringing the Ansell Adams print down on top of himself. Behind him, the coffee table overturned with a crash, scattering fruit, pastries, coffee and bits of sandwich everywhere.
Ryo snatched the print off Dee, lest he use it as a weapon to batter Rose with, and grabbed Dee just as he righted himself and lunged toward the Commissioner. "Dee, stop it!" he exclaimed hoarsely, clearing his throat, but Dee only struggled harder, snarling, "Fucking asshole! He's gonna need a plastic surgeon after I get done with him! Fucking evil predatory rat bastard son of a bitch," and more in that vein. It wasn't until Ryo knelt behind him on the sofa, pressing his body up against Dee's, whispering, "Please stop, Dee. For me. Please..." that Dee felt his rage subside. He could never say no when Ryo said please.
At that moment, a wild cry of "Berkley!" was heard outside the door, followed by a thump that rattled the door, then a whacking sound and a wail. The Commissioner, glasses askew, raised himself up into a sitting position and gazed balefully at the pair on the sofa. Laytner knelt with one knee on the sofa and his other leg on the floor, breathing heavily through flared nostrils, his head tilted back to the side and resting on Ryo's forehead. Ryo's arms appeared to be tightly around him from behind, restraining and soothing him. Rose shook his head in disgust. What an animal the man was. What an emotional idiot. The sooner he was gotten rid of the better.
Ryo was thinking hard from his position behind Dee. Both his choking fit and all the misery from his unexpected discovery of Dee's betrayal had been temporarily superseded by his need to prevent a career-ending brawl between his partner and the Commissioner. He had done what he could, but the fact remained that they were all guilty of gross misconduct, and there appeared to be people outside the door who would soon learn what had happened between the three of them inside the closed environs of the Commissioner's office. He needed to talk to the Commissioner, and fast.
"Can I let go now?" Ryo's voice was muffled against Dee's shoulder blade.
"Yeah. I won't do anything." With regret, Dee felt Ryo's arms unwind from around him, and the familiar warmth move away from his back.
"Sir," said Ryo to Commissioner Rose, "we have a pretty big problem right now."
"We certainly do, Detective. But your partner most of all."
"Fuck you," growled Dee, clenching his fists.
Ryo quickly inserted himself between the two men. "Dee, be quiet please," he said over his shoulder before turning his attention back to the Commissioner, who had as yet made no effort to rise from the floor. "Sir, I think I have a way to get us all out of this. Without a scandal, I mean. Will you hear me out?"
"By all means. My office is a shambles, my dignity is in tatters, and it sounds like Helen is fighting tooth and nail to keep a pack of female wolves from tearing down the door and gathering gossip fodder that will spread across the five boroughs faster than the fire took down your warehouse last night. I can't see how you could possibly get us out of this, but please, consider me a most rapt listener at this point."
"Okay, here's our story, which is pretty close to the truth. All three of us had a scheduled breakfast meeting, but somebody naturally arrived late. You and I went ahead without him and while we were eating breakfast, I started choking on a piece of food. You performed a first aid technique, but the piece of food remained stuck. I began to lose consciousness. You jumped up and called 911. They dispatched an emergency team. You returned to me and resumed your efforts to help me. Just then, Detective Laytner arrived and assisted you. The situation was quite dire, and some furniture got overturned. Fortunately, however, in an outstanding act of heroic teamwork, the two of you managed to save my life."
"That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!"
Ryo shrugged. "The alternative is that we were all involved in a homosexual love triangle. Now I don't know about you, but I'd just as soon that not get around to every precinct in the five boroughs. Can you think of anything better?"
"You're forgetting that I did not in fact call 911."
"Do it now, sir," urged Ryo quietly. "It's not too late. No one here will check the call records. If it's the Commissioner of the NYPD calling, the ambulance will get here PDQ. We need some medics to actually make an appearance. If Helen can just hold the curious people out there off for another five minutes or so, we'll be fine."
The Commissioner stood up and dusted himself off. There was a danish stuck to his knee; he removed it with distaste. "It'll be a circus. You do realize that, I hope?"
"Unfortunately, yes," said Ryo, looking miserable at the very thought. "But at least it'll be a circus of our own choosing."
Rose almost, but not quite, smiled. "Detective," he said, "you never fail to amaze me."
"Don't forget to go back to calling me 'Ryo' when the circus is here, like you always do," Ryo reminded him, and this time the Commissioner really did smile. "And I don't want any threats or repercussions on Dee and me," Ryo added. "I know I shoved you off the end of the sofa, but you kind of deserved it." The Commissioner's smile disappeared.
"That's a matter of contention, Ryo. I see it quite differently. And Detective Laytner, let's not forget, actually attacked me. That his intention to break my nose did not succeed, I will concede is because of your efforts on my behalf, but I cannot permit this behavior to go unpunished."
"One of these days, I WILL succeed, 'sir'," sneered Dee, and then the breath shot out of him in a loud "Oooof!" as Ryo elbowed him sharply in the stomach.
"Shut up!" Ryo snapped. "You've caused more than enough trouble for one day, already." He turned his attention back to Rose. "I mean it, sir. If you decide to take revenge, I'll fight back with everything I have."
"Ryo, Ryo, weren't you listening earlier? I told you that you need never have anything to fear from me."
"Yes sir, I heard you. It's true that in all the time we've known each other, you've never raised your voice or hand to me. It's more your style to threaten me through my career or my partner in a soft voice with a smile on your face. I...I wish you wouldn't do that, sir."
The Commissioner looked quite taken aback. "I'm appalled that you think so, Ryo. I have no recollection of ever threatening your career, and if I've threatened your partner, it was not without just cause."
"Look, we can argue about it after you've made the call," Ryo said. "Get that part done now." He pointed to the Commissioner's desk.
"Yes, sir," Rose drawled sardonically. He duly called 911 and lied though his teeth about a male choking victim who had just lost consciousness. They asked him to stay on the line until the medics arrived.
After a few minutes of pretending to try various techniques on the 'victim', Rose was able to report a successful dislodging of the food that had blocked the victim's airway, and a return to consciousness on the part of the victim.
"Do you still need the paramedics or should we call them back?" the 911 operator asked.
"Oh, by all means, send them," Rose replied. "I hope they'll be able to reassure me that Detective MacLean is all right, and that we've done all we can."
After hanging up, he went to the door and opened it a crack. Helen stood with her back to him, on guard and armed with a large wooden ruler. Marianne stood nearby, tearfully sucking the knuckles of her right hand. Janet and Leona were still trying to remonstrate with the recalcitrant Helen.
"Pssst, Helen," the Commissioner whispered. "We've had a choking incident in here. When the paramedic team arrives, please let them in. Incidentally, there may be more than one t- "
Marianne noticed his face at the door and cried, "Berkley! Are you all right? We heard shouting! Fighting too. What happened?"
The Commissioner felt a flash of irritation that she had forgotten herself so far as to address him by his first name in front of the other two women. Although he supposed his involvement with her wasn't exactly a secret, it still didn't do to be too open about certain things. "Marianne, Janet, Leona," he said, "I want to thank you all for your concern and urge you to return to your posts. We've had a bit of a medical emergency here, but all is well. Please go back to your desks. The last thing I want is a crowd gathering in front of my office."
"Berkley! She - she hit me! With that huge ruler she's holding. Look, just LOOK at my hand! I H-HATE her. You have to get a new secretary."
"I'm sorry, Marianne. Please come and see me about it later. Right now, I'm a little busy." He shut the door in their faces, and locked it. Helen had a key and she would open the door when the time came. Right now he just couldn't wait for the whole thing to be over. He had every intention of taking revenge, despite his assurances to the contrary. His ire was directed mainly at Detective Laytner. If the man hadn't come in right then at that particular and precious moment... Well, the time would come when he would regret his cowboy behaviour. Unless Ryo's problematic partner was prepared to do things one hundred percent by the book, he would find it very difficult to stay employed at the 27th Precinct in the future. It would all be done legally and above board, but Commissioner Rose had decided that, one way or another, he was going to free himself of Detective Laytner.
The FDNY medics arrived first, checked Ryo over, and left, after pronouncing him in the clear. They apologized for taking so long to find the right office. There had been a bit of confusion when they had asked at the front desk, and the fellow there had gotten flustered and sent them up to the third floor instead of the second. This gave the Commissioner grounds to roundly scold Janet and Marianne for abandoning their posts on a flimsy pretext and threaten to suspend them without pay if it happened again. Janet took it stoically, but Marianne began crying anew. She was normally such a sweet girl, but today she had tried his patience to its limits.
By the time a pair of medics from New York East had arrived, Commissioner Rose had had enough. They were allowed no more than a very cursory examination of the victim before they were shooed out.
Rose ostentatiously thanked Detective Laytner for his 'assistance', Ryo thanked both of them for 'saving his life', and the staff members who had been drawn by the sight of paramedics going into the Commissioner’s office broke into spontaneous applause. Disaster was averted.
When Ryo was eventually able to leave the Commissioner's office, followed silently by his partner, he was dismayed to learn that it was now nine o'clock. They had to be in Brooklyn for Eddie's funeral at eleven - he needed to leave immediately. But Dee had other ideas.
Once they had reached the relative sanctity of their office, Dee shut the door and leaned against it. "Ryo, we have to talk," he said.
Ryo wouldn't look at him. The sight of Dee's handsome and much-loved face had brought back all the anger and misery that he had been feeling before the crisis in the Commissioner's office. His emotions felt very raw and close to the surface, and if he opened the door to them even a crack, he knew they would come pouring out and he would make a bigger fool of himself than he already had. He just couldn't deal with this now. Not only did he have a very tight schedule today, but he was also afraid he might break down, right here at work. That couldn't be allowed to happen. "Dee, not here and not now," he said
"Yes here, and yes, now," Dee insisted. "We have to fix this before it festers."
"It's too late for fixing. I saw what I saw. I also heard you tell JJ to keep your meeting with him a secret from me." Ryo snatched up his suit jacket and put it on with jerky movements. "Well, that's fine. I won't ask you to tell me all your other secrets. I have a funeral to go to, in case you’ve forgotten."
"I saw what I saw, too. If I hadn't arrived right when I did, I think you would have let that bastard kiss you. And that was a secret meeting too, or else you would have told me about it."
"Are you suggesting that I...that I was encouraging him? That I wanted him to kiss me?" Ryo's hurt and resentment transformed in a flash to outrage.
"No. Well, maybe. What I'm really saying is that sometimes it's possible for a person to walk in on something and get the wrong idea."
Ryo glared at Dee. "Well, naturally you would want me to believe that I got the wrong idea about JJ, especially since you went to such trouble to make me believe that you weren't interested in him, that I was the only one you wanted. Well, I'll tell you right now that you can't have both of us. So take him with my blessing. I'm sorry I was ever stupid enough to trust you." Ryo's voice began to shake on the last sentence and he took a couple of deep breaths, willing his eyes not to fill with tears like they were threatening to do. The tightness was back in his throat.
"Ryo, what's the matter with you?" Dee looked at him reproachfully. "You wanna break up over something stupid like this? It's all a misunderstanding, can't you see that? Back when I was in the hospital with that gunshot wound, you said to me that you had been under the impression that I knew you better than anybody. You were surprised that I'd been afraid you didn't really care about me. Well, now it's my turn to say it. I thought you knew me."
"I thought I did too," whispered Ryo, fists clenched at his sides.
"Then you should know by now that I never lie, not about the big things. You should know that I love you, only you, and not in some casual kind of way. I love you like I never loved anyone. You're the best thing that ever happened to me. I never even imagined I could have this kind of happiness. Yeah, I'm an idiot, but I'm certainly not stupid enough to screw this up."
Ryo blinked at him because suddenly it was hard to focus. Dammit, he thought. I'm crying.
"JJ got all pissy about us trashing his apartment last night. He made me promise to have breakfast with him today, and he also negotiated a hug. That was it, a hug and breakfast. Is that something to cut me loose over?"
"B-but you kept it a secret...You told him not to tell me."
Dee sighed. "That was a mistake. For that, I'm sorry. It's just that you always got so, well, jealous about him that I thought if I told you, you would start imagining things and get mad at me. And you know I hate it when you're mad at me. But what happened today was a thousand times worse than that. I can't stand seeing you hurt, really I can't..."
He took a step toward Ryo, who held up a warning hand.
"Then, are you telling me that you haven't been seeing JJ - or anyone else - behind my back for the last two years?"
Rapid footsteps sounded in the hall and then suddenly he door lurched open behind Dee propelling him forward by a few paces. JJ stuck his head around it, saying, "Hey guys, what happened down in the Commish's off -"
"GET OUT!" Dee and Ryo yelled in unison, and JJ retreated, hurt. Dee slammed the door behind him.
He crossed the short distance between himself and his partner, and took Ryo by the shoulders. "No," he said simply, but firmly. "From the first day I met you, there's been no one for me but you. I swear it on Jess' grave. On Mother's life, too, if you want." He watched a tear well up in the corner of Ryo's eye and run down his cheek. A gasping sound that was not quite a sob came out of the other man, who lowered his head and allowed Dee to draw him into his arms.
"Ryo... Ryo," he murmured against his lover's thick, silky hair. "Everything's okay, really it is. You’re just overworked and overtired. And you recently made a big, life-changing decision – one that involves me – and today you got scared you'd made a mistake, didn't you?"
Ryo didn't answer. But his arms went around Dee's back and held on to him tightly.
"You didn't make a mistake," Dee said in a soft voice with fierce undertones. "You know I'm a religious man, right?" He nudged Ryo. "Right?"
"M-hm," Ryo sniffled against Dee's shoulder.
"Then listen to me. Look at me." He tilted Ryo's chin up with his hand and looked intently into his beautiful eyes, still brilliant with unshed tears. "I swear to you on my love and respect for God in Heaven that my relationship with you is sacred to me. Do you hear me? I have never and will never be unfaithful to you. I promise you that, as God is my witness. And if you think I’m not strong enough to be faithful, you'd better think again." He kissed Ryo's forehead. "When this damn funeral is over with and you've had a good night's sleep, you'll be able to think more clearly and trust your judgment about me."
Ryo's head moved in a slight but definitive nod. He felt incredibly relieved and moved. And Dee was almost certainly right about his needing a good night's sleep. He supposed Dee was probably expecting an apology for his having doubted him. If so, that was too bad because he wasn't going to get one.
"By the way, I am NOT jealous!" was all Ryo said, rubbing impatiently at the tears on his lashes. "And you still owe me a mug."
"Anything you say. Now shut up and kiss me, you gorgeous thing..."
Out in the CI room, JJ sat dejectedly at his desk, mopping at his eyes with a tissue, while Drake awkwardly patted his back.
"Why is everyone so mean to me? Am I mean to them? NO-o! I try my best to be cheerful and - and - friendly... All I said was...I just asked them..." JJ sobbed into his tissue.
"Aw come on, little buddy. Don't take it so hard. They were probably just stressed out by the Commish, that's all. There's a rumor making the rounds that someone actually got choked or something in his office, you know."
"Well, th-that's why I asked them what happened. I w-was worried. But they looked at me like they wanted to kill me!"
"I'm sure it was nothing personal. They're goin' to a funeral this morning too, don't forget."
Ted, who had just sneaked a peek into Dee and Ryo's office and had seen them passionately kissing, snorted quietly to himself.
JJ took exception to this. "What was that snort about, Ted? Huh? Huh? Are you being an asshole today, too?"
"No, man," Ted replied. "Not today, I'm not. By the way, Dee and Ryo aren't freaked out by that funeral, or even by the Commissioner. They had a problem with each other, that's all. But it's done with now."
"Hey," said Drake. "Ted, do you know something we don't?"
Ted just smirked and returned to his files. "You guys call yourselves detectives?"
~end of chapter 37~
Additional author's notes: I hope you enjoyed the dueling breakfasts! I wrote this chapter while listening to my husband singing the same couple of songs over and over, so it was really difficult for me to concentrate. (He’s just lucky I love him!) I'm going away on vacation for two weeks starting on June 21st. I'll write the next chapter when I get back. I'm sorry, but we’re looking at another month before I can update this story.