Title: Oh Christmas Tree…
Characters: Ryo, Dee, Bikky, Carol, OMC
Setting: After the manga.
Summary: Dee is determined to make his and Ryo’s first Christmas together as a couple as memorable as possible and you can’t have a proper Christmas without a tree…
Word Count: 3423
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
A/N: Not sure now exactly where this idea came from, but it quickly outgrew the little ficlet I’d intended it to be.
Ryo glanced across at Dee as he got into his partner’s car and slammed the passenger side door.
“So, where are we going?”
“To get you a Christmas tree, dope. It is Christmas, in case you’ve somehow managed to overlook that little fact.”
“Very funny. I’m well aware that it’s almost Christmas, I’m not that much of an airhead!” Ryo grumbled.
“You managed to forget last year,” Dee reminded him.
“That was different, I had a good reason for trying to avoid thinking about it.”
Dee winced; he knew that Christmas always reminded Ryo of his parents’ death.
“Anyway,” Ryo continued, smiling, “this year I have an even better reason for remembering.”
“Good to know.” Dee smiled back at him. “I want to make this a Christmas you’ll always remember, and the first step is to find you the perfect tree. I just so happen to know the best place to get a tree in the whole of New York!”
“And where would that be?”
Dee winked. “Wait and see!”
The corner lot was packed with people, and with Christmas trees: small ones closest to the sidewalk and the tallest way in the back. Dee dragged Ryo straight past the smallest trees, not even sparing them a glance.
“Wha…? Dee! What’s wrong with these trees?”
“They’re way too small, babe. With the height of your ceilings, they’d look ridiculous,” Dee told him, casually overriding all Ryo’s protests. “You need something with a bit of size to it. Now that’s more like it!”
Ryo gave a sigh of relief; at least Dee didn’t seem to have set his sights on the tallest trees. Even so, the ones Dee was considering were easily twice Ryo’s height.
“Don’t you think these are a bit too tall?”
“Nah, one of these will look great in the corner of your lounge!” Dee strode along the row, examining each tree in turn, finally pointing at a particularly impressive specimen. “How about this one? It’s nice and bushy, and it’s got a good root ball, that’ll help keep it stable once we get it planted up.”
“But…” Ryo started to protest, but gave up almost immediately. It was clear by now that his concerns were falling on deaf ears. “I just hope the floor’s strong enough,” he muttered under his breath, eying the tree dubiously.
As he’d expected, Dee paid no attention to him, instead waving the tree seller over. “We’ll take this one, dude, and we’ll need a tub for it.” He handed over some money.
“I’ll bring the tub and yer change to yer car,” the seller told him, smiling. “Need a hand with yer tree?”
“We’ll be fine, thanks.”Dee turned to Ryo and carefully tilted the tree towards the horizontal. “I’ll take the root end, you grab the top and navigate.”
“You’re insane,” Ryo said, shaking his head, but he did as asked anyway and they reached the car without too many problems. The tree seller was waiting for them there as promised.
“There ya go, Detective, one tub and yer change. I’ve got the orphanage’s tree reserved for ya. Still pickin’ it up at the weekend?”
“Yep, that’s the plan! Thanks, Mike, you’re a star.”
“Anything fer Mother.” They shook hands and Mike returned to his lot and the task of selling trees.
“Right,” said Dee, “let’s get ‘er loaded up.”
The tub and other necessities were soon in the trunk; that part wasn’t a problem, but…
Ryo looked from the tree to the car and back again. The tree was massive, the car... not so much. Not that it was a small car, just the tree was noticeably bigger. Ryo had grave misgivings.
“Dee, there’s no way this is gonna fit in your car!”
“It doesn’t have to. Look, don’t worry; all we have to do is just tie it on the roof. It’ll be fine. I’ve done this loads of times taking Mother’s tree to the orphanage. Piece of cake, there’s always plenty of rope in the car.” Dee started digging about in the trunk.
Several minutes later, he emerged. There was no sign of any rope.
“I though you said you had plenty of rope!” Ryo gestured at the single length of strong twine Dee was holding.
“I usually do! I just used it for something else last week and forgot to put it back.”
“Brilliant.” Ryo folded his arms and just looked at Dee. “Well? Now what do you suggest we do?”
“It’ll have to go in the car. And before you say anything, don’t worry, it’ll be fine.”
“You keep saying that like you expect me to believe you, but so far you’ve been wrong every time.”
“Yeah, yeah. Look, all we have to do is open the rear window so the top of the tree sticks out.”
They tried, and it worked, sort of, aside from the part where it was the top five feet of a twelve-foot tree sticking out. Ryo was close to despairing. Why couldn’t Dee see there was a problem?
“There’s no way we can drive like that! We’ll be knocking down pedestrians like bowling pins! Not to mention what it’ll do to other people’s cars! I hope you have good insurance because you’re going to need it.”
“Oh ye of little faith. Just so happens, I’ve got an idea!” Dee waved the piece of twine at Ryo. “All we need is this!”
Dee tied one end of the twine to the top of the tree and the other end to the rear door handle on the other side of the car, so the tree curved up and over the roof.
“See? That’ll work! Gets it right out of the way.”
Ryo had to admit it was an ingenious solution. No one was looking, so he leaned in and gave Dee a quick kiss. “Guess I should’ve learned by now not to doubt you. Your methods are often unorthodox, but they usually seem to work out in the end.”
Dee shrugged. “I’m good at improvising, learned that at the orphanage. When you don’t have a lot, you learn to make the most of what you do have. You’d be surprised at what can be made from the things other people throw away.”
“You mean like some of your‘furniture’?”
“Exactly! Come on, let’s get this tree back to yours.”
Arriving at Ryo’s building, they were confronted by their next challenge; getting the tree up three flights of stairs to the top floor. Once again, Dee shrugged it off with those famous words ‘No problem!’ and took the root end while Ryo got a good grip about midway along the trunk, thankful that he was wearing thick gloves; the tree was rather spiky as well as being heavy. Unsurprisingly, it proved harder work getting up the staircase with their burden than Dee, with his cavalier attitude, had anticipated; the worst part being trying to manoeuvre it around the hairpin turns at the end of each flight.
Dee shoved the tree up and to the side, trying to ease it around the next turn and there was a thud as Ryo, knocked off balance, collided with the wall.
“Ow! Dammit, Dee, be careful!”
“Sorry babe; can’t see where I’m going.”
“Well whose fault is that? You chose the tree.”
“Sheesh, I get blamed for everything!”
“Only when it’s your fault. Which it usually is,” Ryo grumbled.
“Quit bitchin’ and keep movin’,” Dee panted. “Gotta get to the top before I collapse from exhaustion.”
“Well if you’d picked a smaller tree, we wouldn’t be having this problem.” Ryo tugged and the tree slid around the bend.
“You’ll thank me later, trust me.”
“I’m not sure I’ll ever trust you again,” Ryo muttered, starting up the final flight.
“You say that now…” Dee somehow still managed to sound supremely confident; it was a trait Ryo often found himself envying. He wished he could be as sure of himself in all things as Dee always seemed to be.
Finally making it to the top floor, they hauled their burden to Ryo’s door. Somehow, with a bit of juggling, they managed to get the door open without setting the tree down and manoeuvred it through the doorway, root end first, setting it down just inside.
“I think we could both use a drink about now. I’ll make coffee.” Ryo headed for the kitchen.
“You can have coffee if you want, but after that, I think I’ve earned a beer!” Dee declared. “Loosen up, babe, let your hair down a little. It’s not like either of us is gonna be doin’any more drivin’ tonight.”
Dee had a point.
“Okay, beer it is.”
“Set ‘em up, I’ll be back in a minute, just gonna get the rest of the stuff from the car. We can get the tree planted up and in position then decorate it after dinner. Seeing the place lookin’ all Christmassy will be a nice surprise for the rugrat when he gets back from his sleepover tomorrow. He didn’t say anything to you, guess he didn’t want to hurt your feelings, but I know he was disappointed about the lack of decorations last year.”
Ryo sighed. “I know, and I feel bad about that. I’m just used to spending Christmas with my aunt and uncle; there never seemed to be any point putting up decorations when nobody was gonna be there to see them. I just didn’t think.”
“I didn’t say that to make you feel bad, idiot.” Dee lightly touched Ryo’s face, delighting in the way Ryo leaned in to the caress; only as few months ago he would’ve stepped back, frowning at Dee, but not anymore.
“I know that too, but I can’t help feeling that way.”
“Well, you’re making up for it this year, with the help of yours truly.” Dee gave Ryo a quick kiss, a pat on the rump, and headed for the door. “I guarantee the house ape won’t know what hit him when he gets home. Leave the door open, I’ll be right back.”
Dee was as good as his word, returning a few minutes later lugging the big tub for the tree, and everything they’d need to plant it up. Ryo smiled, watching his lover with open appreciation as he set everything down in the corner he’d chosen for the tree.
“Don’t think I don’t see you checkin’ me out,” Dee said with a grin.
Ryo blushed furiously. Caught again, dammit! A beer in each hand, he walked over to Dee. “Need a hand?”
Dee smirked. “Maybe later.”
If anything, Ryo’s cheeks burned even hotter. “How d’you manage to turn everything I say into innuendo?”he muttered.
“Talent?” Dee took his beer and downed half of it. “Ah, just what I needed. Okay, this shouldn’t take long.” Setting his beer aside where it wouldn’t be knocked over, he emptied the tub and moved it into position. “About there, I think. Okay, let’s get this puppy planted!”
Fifteen minutes later, they had the tree settled in its tub, just in time to take delivery of their dinner. Ryo paid the delivery guy while Dee fetched a couple of glasses from the kitchen and opened a bottle of wine to go with their Chinese takeaway.
There was no need to rush; they had the next day off, so they relaxed and took their time over their meal, unwinding from their earlier exertions and chatting idly until the whole bottle of wine was gone. By the time they got around to decorating the tree, they were both more than a little tipsy. Still, as it didn’t seem likely to affect their ability to put up decorations, they set to the task with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Ryo felt that he was finally getting into the Christmas spirit. Everything was going swimmingly, until it was time to put the star on the top of the tree and they noticed something they’d so far managed to overlook.
After staring at the tree from every angle for several minutes, they finally came to an inescapable conclusion; their tree was bent.
“I’m sure it wasn’t like that when we bought it,” Dee said, scratching his head. “I would’ve noticed.”The top couple of feet of the tree was sticking out almost at a right angle.“How the hell did that happen?”
Ryo’s stared at it thoughtfully, until realisation suddenly dawned. “Oh!”
“What?” Dee turned to look at him.
“It must’ve stuck like that when we tied it over the top of the car.”
“Damn! And that was such a great idea at the time!” Frowning at the bent tree, Dee paced back and forth for a minute, studying the situation. “Okay, no problem. The star will be fine, as long as we turn the tree so it’s pointing towards the east,” he declared confidently.
“I thought it was the wise men who came from the east.” Ryo sounded puzzled and Dee grinned; tipsy, puzzled Ryo was cute. It looked like he was waiting for some kind of answer though; what was it they’d been talking about? Oh yeah, now he remembered.
“East, yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s right, and then they went further east following the star.” Drunk, Dee’s logic bore no resemblance to anyone else’s, but Ryo had drunk just enough himself that he couldn’t quite work out what might be off about it, so deciding to go along with it, he nodded in agreement. Dee apparently didn’t notice, because he continued speaking.
“Look, there’s definitely something about the east in there somewhere, I know that for sure. I remember Mother telling us the story when I was a kid.” He pointed at the tree. “It’s gotta point east.”
“Okay.” Ryo was perfectly willing to defer to Dee’s expertise in the matter. “So, how do we work out which way’s east?” He looked at Dee expectantly.
“Uh… You got a compass?”Dee sounded hopeful.
“I don’t think so.”
“Darn. I thought you had pretty much everything!”
“Oooh, wait a minute!” Dee snapped his fingers. “The sun rises in the east!”
“Dee! Sunrise isn’t until…”Ryo checked his watch. “Tomorrow morning sometime. Anyway, we wouldn’t be able to see it, we’re in the middle of the city, there’re probably buildings in the way.”
Dee’s shoulders sagged.“Hadn’t thought of that. Huh. Oh well.” Dee dug in a pocket and pulled out his phone. “Guess we’ll have to try something else then.”
“I just got this new app on my phone, for charting the position of the stars at different times of the year. You just enter the date, time, and where you are, and it shows you what the stars should look like.”
Ryo looked rather bemused.“Why?”
“I dunno, it just sounded cool.” Dee shrugged.
“No, I mean why bring that up now?”
“Oh! It has directions, like certain groups of stars can be seen in the north, south, west… Well, you know. If we find the ones that are in the east at this time of night, on this date, in New York, we’ll know we’re facing east!” Dee entered the information on his phone. “There!”
Ryo looked at the phone, now displaying the constellations as they should be seen over New York in mid-December. The compass directions were clearly marked.
“Great! We’ll need to go up on the roof.” Ryo snatched up his keys and headed for the door. “Come on, we should get up there before the stars in the east move somewhere else.” Dee hurried after him, smiling; the wine Ryo had drunk was clearly affecting his partner’s thinking. Stars didn’t move that fast; he was almost certain.
It was cold up on the roof, and they’d both forgotten their coats, but they snuggled together in the lee of the stairwell and Dee lit up the display on his phone, pointing to the area labelled ‘East’. “That’s what we have to look for.”
Ryo nodded and peered up into the sky. “Dee, there aren’t any stars!”
“What?” Dee looked up too and then glared accusingly at his phone. “Useless thing. You’d think it would say there’re clouds in the way so people wouldn’t go out on their roofs in the freezing cold for no reason!”
“Dee!” Ryo tugged at his partner’s arm.
Big, fat flakes seemed to have suddenly filled the sky above them, slowly drifting down.
Dee’s face lit up with excitement. “How about that?”
“It’s beautiful!” Ryo agreed.
It really was. Just like that, the cold, bare roof was being turned into a magical wonderland. They watched for a few moments as the snow drifted down around them, muting the sound of traffic, then it was Dee’s turn to tug at Ryo.
“C’mon, babe, better get back inside before we freeze our asses off. We can watch the snow through the window.”
A little reluctantly, they made their way back around to the stairwell door and headed back down to Ryo’s apartment.
“We still don’t know which way’s east,” Ryo commented as they closed the apartment door and brushed melting snow out of each other’s hair.
“Lets just stick the star on the top of the tree and go take a hot shower. We can figure it out tomorrow. Tree’s not goin’ anywhere tonight.”
“Sounds good to me,” Ryo agreed.
Dragging a chair over to the tree, Dee climbed up on it, balancing precariously while Ryo clung to him, trying to keep him from falling off. After a bit of fumbling, he got the star firmly attached and tried to take a step back to look at it, practically falling into Ryo’s arms.
“Oops! Thanks, babe. So, how does it look?”
“Hmmm?” Ryo was staring dreamily at Dee.
“The star, dumbass!”
Ryo blinked. “Oh.” He turned his attention to the tree, tilting his head to one side. Dee copied him.
“Yep!” Dee congratulated himself. “That’ll do. So, shower and bed?” Ryo hesitated. “C’mon, babe, we can clear up in the morning. It won’t kill you to leave it just this once. I’ll help you tomorrow, I promise, but you’re shivering. I don’t want you catchin’ a cold.”
“Well, alright, if you promise…”
“I do.” Dee held out his hand.
“Okay.” Turning off the lights, Ryo allowed his lover to pull him into the bathroom.
The next morning, Bikky stood in the lounge and stared in astonishment at the wonky tree. “What the hell? Were they drunk?”
Carole picked up the empty wine bottle from the coffee table. “By the looks of this, probably. Does it matter? I mean, at least they made the effort, and it’s the thought that counts.”
“Besides, I kinda like it, it’s different. And it’s only the top that’s crooked; the rest of it looks great.”
“That’s true. It’s a pretty impressive tree, they must’ve had a job getting it up here.”
“Exactly! We shouldn’t criticise. It looks really heavy.”
The bedroom door opened and Ryo stumbled out, looking groggy and half asleep. “Oh, hi Bikky, Carol.” He headed for the kitchen, but paused to look back at them. “Umm, do either of you happen to know which way’s east?”
“Are you okay? I mean that’s kind of a weird question…” Bikky looked a bit wary.
“I’m fine, it’s just something we were trying to figure out last night, but I can’t remember why. Doesn’t matter. I need coffee.” Ryo made his way into the kitchen.
Bikky and Carol just looked at each other and shrugged. If there was one thing they were sure of, it was that they could count on adults not to make sense. It was reassuring, in an odd kind of way.
“The day we understand what they’re talking about is the day we’ll know we’re adults, but I think that’s still some way off,” Carol grinned. “It might be best if we stay out of their way while they’re hung over though.”
“For sure. C’mon, we’ll just stay in my room.”
“’Kay.” Just before following Bikky, Carol called out, “Ryo?”
“Hmmm?” He turned to look blearily in her direction.
“East’s that way.” She pointed out the window.
“Oh. Thanks. That’s a big help.” He paused to consider that. “At least I think it is. Or it would be if I could remember why I needed to know. I’ll ask Dee when he wakes up.” That decided, he turned back to making coffee.
Chuckling, Carol followed Bikky into his room and shut the door. Looked like this was going to be an interesting Christmas!