Fake Fan Fiction ❯ Preheat ❯ Chapter 1

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]

PREHEAT

BY TOKYO SHAPIRO

ANIME: FAKE

RATING: NC17

PAIRING: DEE/RYO

"I caught Bikky with a Hustler magazine."

Deewas at it again. Ryo didn't realize it at first, of course, because Dee was being his usual devious self. His car was in the shop and instead of giving Ryo a ride home from the 27th Precinct as had become their habit, he and Ryo were riding the New York subway together. Ryo's stop was the one right before Dee's. Normally, this would not have been a problem. However, on this evening, when Ryo marked the passage of the stop right before his, Dee leaned toward him from the seat opposite and dropped that little bombshell.

Ryo's jaw dropped. "What?! When?"

"The last time I was at your place." Dee shrugged. "I guess it's to be expected at his age, and all, but what really surprised me was that he said it was yours."

This left Ryo indignant. "You know that's not true," he sputtered as they sped past the point where he should have been getting into the aisle for the next stop.

"How do I know that?" Dee challenged. "I've looked at Hustler. I'm not going to pass judgment on you if you look at it, too. But I am surprised that you'd keep it where a young, impressionable kid like Bikky-"

"That's ludicrous, Dee! You know I would never-"

"Never what? Look at Hustler or leave it around for Bikky?"

"Both!" Ryo scowled, hoping that Dee would acknowledge how out of character that kind of carelessness would be. He felt a fleeting moment of uncertainty though, which he attributed to Dee's assumptions. In retrospect, he would know it was because he was sitting there waiting for Dee to speak while other people were getting off at his usual exit.

Deestudied him for a moment, then smirked. "Yeah, I guess I know you well enough to know that you wouldn't corrupt a minor. And God knows you never show any interest in sex. But what's wrong with looking at a little porn now and then?"

Ryo's eyes grew wide and he looked around quickly. "Do you always have to bring this kind of thing up in public?"

"Right. Right. Tell you what, we'll pick this up later." Dee swayed a bit as the train accelerated.

Ryo exhaled. His mind was returning to Bikky and how he was going to handle this matter, when Dee remarked casually, "Hey, you missed your stop."

"My…!" Ryo saw the marker for the next stop…Dee's stop. He wasn't stupid, and just as Dee professed to know him, he also knew Dee pretty well. "Did you really catch Bikky with Hustler?"

Deetried to look penitent but failed. "Nah, and I don't think he's so young and innocent either. But you should be getting ready for just that kind of situation to arise. Besides, I wanted you to come over for dinner."

"And you couldn't just ask?" Ryo demanded in exasperation.

"I would but you always have some kind of excuse." Dee pouted a little, pulling out all the stops in his quest to subvert his partner's will.

"I don't make excuses," Ryo huffed. "And I don't like being manipulated either. You're normally a very honest guy, Dee."

"But honesty doesn't seem to be getting me anywhere."

"Still." They stared each other down until Dee finally broke the silence.

"Want to come over for dinner?"

Heaving an exaggerated sigh, Ryo capitulated. "Sure."

"Great!" Dee exclaimed. "But…um…I don't have anything in the place to eat, so we'll have to stop at the market on the way."

"Why am I not surprised? I suppose you want me to cook it, too?"

Deesmiled. "What a guy! Thanks!"

Ryo shook his head, careful not to let his amusement show. His partner was incorrigible, but also irresistible. Besides, Bikky was going to be late because of basketball practice and Ryo didn't enjoy eating alone. Even though this evening would doubtless be another one of Dee's endless attempts to flaunt his bisexuality by making shameless advances, Ryo still enjoyed Dee's company and he never regretted the time they spent together. But one of these days, he thought, he was going to call Dee's bluff. There was no way the vivacious flirt could be serious about a committed relationship with another man, maybe not with any one. If his sole purpose was to get under Ryo's skin, this game had gone on long enough.

And if his sole purpose was actually to get into Ryo's pants, well, that presented a problem all its own.

Growing more somber, Ryo wondered if such a ploy on his part would end this little dance of theirs. In a way that would be a relief, he supposed, since it kept Ryo on edge, forcing him to think about what he wanted in life. It made him question things about himself that had never been an issue before. Where did his preferences lie? He'd dated girls; he liked girls! But there wasn't a girl right now, and he was only too aware that Dee's flirting excited him as much as it troubled him.

Dee's a vibrant personality, Ryo reasoned. His attention is flattering. It's the only reason that I would punch out the likes of Berkely Rose for coming on to me, and yet let Dee get away with much worse. It's because Dee…is Dee.

"Here we are!" Dee said, reaching over to tap Ryo on the knee.

Ryo got up and shuffled along with Dee and the rest of the people who were getting off at this stop. He continued to think about how Dee kissing him might have become comfortable, even welcome, but might just be no more than one guy trying to get a rise out of another. Dee didn't seem like the stable, ready to settle down type, the type who'd be able to deal with the tough issues that would go with a lasting relationship between two men.

And honestly, Ryo wasn't sure he could do that either.

Dee's probably just horny. After all, there's no girl in his life now. No guy either. If he's really bisexual that is.

After climbing the stairs from the subway, they walked side by side toward the 24 hour corner grocery next to Dee's apartment building. Ryo couldn't help but feel good about them being friends and co-workers, Spending the whole evening with Dee was something he really liked. He smiled a little in anticipation, and wondered what they should get for dinner.

"What do you feel like eating?" Ryo asked as he pulled open the door to the corner store, the florescent lighting keeping the city twilight at bay. Just inside the store, he stopped dead in his tracks.

"Anything…I'm starved, you know?" Dee replied before bumping into the back of his partner.

Ryo felt him back there, but his attention was riveted on the gun. This gun was being held in a desperately shaky grip by a kid who couldn't have been much older than Bikky. And now it was swinging wildly back and forth between Alfred, the proprietor with whom they often chatted when stopping there after work, and Ryo and Dee, the only other people in the store. The ones, Ryo realized, who just interrupted this robbery.

Deehad stayed close. He was so close that Ryo could hear his breath in his right ear.

"Don' move! Don' move!" the kid ordered in a strained voice. He swung the gun from Ryo to Alfred. "Now get busy!"

"Okay, okay!" Alfred answered, his voice strained as well.

Ryo felt his partner move behind him, felt something brush against the middle of his back. Immediately, he knew that Dee was going for the gun nestled in the holster under his arm. He's using me to conceal it, Ryo thought, but he's going to force a confrontation! His heart started to hammer in his chest. Adrenaline flooded his body, setting the scene around him in razor sharp detail. The air around him crackled in anticipation. In a low voice he warned, "Dee. No."

"What?!" the kid yelled. "Don' talk! Don' do anything!" He had swung the gun back toward them.

Putting his hands up, palms out, Ryo tried to reassure the boy. "It's okay. We won't try to stop you….but…but do you really want to do this? Maybe we can help you…?"

The kid brought the gun up, so that it pointed toward the ceiling, and then jerked it back down again for emphasis. "Shut the fuck up!" There was sweat running down his forehead and he brushed at it ineffectually with the back of his other hand.

"He's strung out, Ryo," Dee said in a flat voice. "He won't be reasonable."

"One more word!" the kid warned. His actions were growing frantic, the gun in his hand was shaking almost uncontrollably. He pointed it at Alfred again. Alfred had put the money from his cash register into a plastic bag and pushed it across the counter toward the kid. As he reached for it, the kid staggered. He groaned and doubled over. As his knees gave way, he sagged and fell heavily against the metal shelving that stood next to the checkout counter. The gun's barrel dipped toward the floor.

Ryo moved forward impulsively, seizing the opportunity, but he stopped as the boy's knees hit the floor and the gun again came up in his direction. The kid's eyes were wide and his finger convulsed on the trigger. A sudden violent push from his right side sent Ryo staggering to the left. The report was strangely benign sounding, and another shot echoed almost instantaneously, but there was nothing benign about the savage tug Ryo felt at his shoulder. There was a wind rushing in his ears and suddenly he felt something hard across his back that halted his fall. Instinctively he flung his arms back and found himself grabbing a line of nested shopping carts for support.

He wasn't the only one who was down. The kid was on his knees, as if in prayer, the gun pinning his limp hand to the ground. He was staring dumbly at the red stain blossoming across his chest. He clutched weakly at his jacket with his other hand, then pulled it away, looking at the blood there.

Voices. Ryo heard shouting and he looked up to see Dee's grim face hovering over him. He was holding his gun steadily in his outstretched hand. His mouth was moving, but the words were all blending together with the rushing wind in his ears. Dee wasn't looking at him. Who is he shouting at? The kid? Ryo shook his head and waited for the words to make sense.

"Are you okay? Ryo!"

The words were faint, but Ryo was able to finally understand and nod his head. Dee glanced quickly down; he looked miserable as he stepped away from Ryo. Dee kept his gun trained on the kid while he pinned his wrist with one booted foot and relieved him of the handgun. Tucking it into his waistband, he looked up at Alfred and shouted again. Alfred was nodding his head and turned away to pick up the phone. Ryo noticed that Alfred's hands were shaking. Alfred's hands were all he could see for a second. Then the world expanded again.

Senses started to return to Ryo. He felt a burning sensation in his shoulder, and the moist sticky feeling beneath his jacket confirmed that he'd been shot. But the pain that was starting to sear across his shoulder wasn't as severe as Ryo would have expected. He pushed away from the carts awkwardly, feeling his knee protest much more vehemently than his shoulder had.

Deelooked up at him as Ryo knelt down awkwardly, joining him beside the kid who now lay sprawled bonelessly on the floor of the shop. He was holding the plastic bag of money against the kid's chest, but blood was still running from beneath it in thick, persistent rivulets. Dee looked wretched. Ryo shrugged out of his coat and offered it to replace the bag.

"You're bleeding, too, Ryo," Dee said, speaking loudly and aiming his voice toward Ryo's left ear.

"I know," Ryo replied. "But I'm okay."

The paramedics arrived and were inclined to have Ryo wait for another unit, but Dee would have none of it. He insisted in his own intimidating way, eyes flashing fire and threats bubbling under the surface of his voice, that they could all share the ride. "A cop's been shot," he argued. "You won't send the man who shot him ahead."

"This kid could die," the paramedic protested.

"We all go together," Dee insisted.

"Dee, I'm okay. I'm fine."

But in the end, Dee won out. He helped Ryo into the back of the van and no one stopped them.

Ryo's injured shoulder pressed against Dee's good one as they sat in the cramped rear of the ambulance. Ryo had convinced Dee that he was going to live, which left Dee free to watch uneasily as the paramedics talked with the doctor over the radio and tried their utmost to keep the boy alive until they reached the hospital.

After his initial crusade to get Ryo into the ambulance, Dee had subsided into silence. He hardly glanced over at his partner, keeping his attention fixed instead on the unconscious boy. Not that Ryo had anything to say either. He felt numb. His shoulder was screaming, "Close call!" He felt tremors in his thighs, wanted to lift his hand to see if he was shaking as badly as he suspected.

The ambulance slowed and turned sharply into the hospital turn around. As it stopped, the rear door was opened from the outside by emergency room workers. Ryo was closest to the door and started to rise. It was then that he noticed Dee had been clutching his pant leg. As Dee let go, Ryo saw that the fabric was wrinkled from Dee's steadfast grip.

The doctor greeted the ambulance at the emergency entrance of the hospital. He took a quick look at Ryo's shoulder as Dee supported him and kept the weight off his twisted knee, and sent them off with a nurse. He then turned to the gurney being rolled out of the back of the ambulance. Immediately he began to give orders to his staff.

As the nurse helped Ryo into a wheelchair, he looked up to see his partner's pensive gaze following the kid's gurney as they whisked him away to emergency surgery. "Dee?" Ryo said. As Dee looked down quickly, concern creasing his brow, Ryo instructed firmly, "Go with them and then come back and tell me how he's doing."

Deehesitated, but capitulated with surprising ease. He asked the nurse: "Where will Ryo be?"

The nurse jerked his head toward the hall to their right. "Just down that way, second door on the right."

Deenodded and then gave Ryo a weak smile. "I'll be right back, okay?"

"Sure."

The nurse had waited for Ryo to undress. Now clad in a hospital gown and his underwear, Ryo was sitting on the edge of an examination table, against the instructions of the nurse, who warned that he might become light-headed and pass out. At first, Ryo had tried to comply, but as soon as the nurse drew the curtains around his bed and left him alone, Ryo got up. Hearing was returning to his right ear, although everything still had a muffled, underwater quality to it, and he strained to listen to the conversations around him.

He felt jittery, jumpy. There was something nagging at the edges of his mind, but he couldn't quite place it. Instead of trying to pin it down, he concentrated upon his concern for Dee.

He really wanted to know how his partner was holding up. It had been quite alarming, to see the normally vibrant and outspoken Dee Laytner become the dark, troubled man who'd ridden in the ambulance next to him. Ryo was reconsidering his sending Dee off by himself. He'd shot that young man. How would he handle that? Ryo got off the table and started to look for his clothes. He was interrupted as an intern arrived to look at his wound.

"Hey, back up on the table!" The young doctor smiled to take the edge off the order. "I can't have you dripping blood all over these floors. You'll scare the kids, man."

Ryo did as he was told, knowing that the sooner he was looked at, the sooner he could go off and find Dee. "Sorry. As you can see though," he nodded over at his shoulder, "it's not that bad."

"Uh huh." The doctor scrutinized the bloody trough on the top of Ryo's shoulder. "This looks clean. We can't stitch it, but we'll dress it. You'll have a nice scar."

"That's good?"

"Make up a clever story and use it to impress the girls, Detective." The doctor motioned the nurse over. "Sean, clean and dress this, would you please?" He moved down to Ryo's knee to examine it.

While he manipulated the joint, Ryo couldn't hold back any longer. "Doctor, how is the young man who was shot? Do you know?"

"I don't know. I can find out for you. Were you the one, who…"

Ryo shook his head. "No, my partner. I'm kinda worried about them both, you know?" He winced, sucking in his breath when the doctor forced his injured knee to bend just a bit too far.

"Hmmm. I'm going to order an x-ray, but I don't believe it's anything worse than a sprain. What happened exactly?"

After explaining about Dee pushing him out of the line of fire, Ryo noted: "It was a close call."

"That's a fact," the doctor replied. "Is there anyone waiting for him at home? Family? Girlfriend?"

"No. He lives alone."

"How about you? Anyone waiting for you?"

Ryo frowned at the questions. "No. Why?"

The doctor motioned to the nurse who had placed all the materials to dress Ryo's wound on a tray. "See if X-Ray One or Two is free for Detective Maclean here? And on your way back, check on the gunshot victim for us. I'll take care of this shoulder. Thank you, Sean."

The nurse nodded and left. The doctor sprayed some topical anesthetic on Ryo's shoulder. "You're going to be fine. But you might want to ask your partner to stay with you and help you out. Tell him that you need to stay off your feet. Which you really should, by the way, but I know no one ever does what I tell them when it comes to staying off their feet." He washed the weeping groove with antiseptic-soaked cotton. As he placed Telfa pads over it and taped them down, he continued to talk. "You never know how a shooting is going to affect someone. The police have a psychiatric doctor on call over at City General, but they might not be able to see him right away. He might need someone around tonight to talk to."

"I see." Ryo mumbled. He had been worried about Dee, but the doctor put the actual reasons for the concern into words, made them real by speaking them.

"Are you two close?"

Ryo felt his face start to burn. "Uh…" He wondered if his thoughts from earlier this evening were written all over his face. "Uh…we're friends."

"Then it should be no problem for you to get him to go home with you, right?"

If you only knew, Ryo thought wryly. He was saved from having to answer when nurse Sean returned. Ryo looked at him expectantly.

"The victim is still in surgery. It's going to be a while, too. I saw Detective Laytner outside the operating room. He'll meet you in the waiting room outside x-ray."

"Thank you."

"Sean'll take you down." The doctor tossed an extra dressing into Ryo's lap. "I'll meet you in the waiting room and let you know what the x-rays show. I'll also write you a prescription for a painkiller." The doctor made a note on his clipboard and before he left, he told Sean, "Remember to let him take his clothes."

Nurse Sean did an efficient job of wrapping Ryo's knee with an elastic bandage after the x-rays. Afterward, Ryo put his clothes back on and would have insisted on limping out to the waiting room but for the doctor's advice on appearing to need some help. He allowed Sean to wheel him into the waiting room, where Dee brightened to see him. "Hey, Ryo, how are you doing? What's with the shoulder?"

It was almost as if Dee was back to his normal self.

"I was just grazed." Ryo made a little show of moving from the wheelchair to the waiting room chair next to Dee's.

Dee's concerned frown returned.

"And I twisted my knee. Actually, that hurts more than the shoulder."

"Aw, man, I'm sorry…"

Ryo quickly laid his hand on Dee's knee. "No, don't you be sorry! If you hadn't pushed me aside, that bullet would've gone right through!" Ryo pointed to the spot at the base of his neck, and he got that jittery feeling again. But he pushed it down. What he really wanted was to show Dee what that meant to him, wanted to…to…touch him in some way. But in this place, all he could manage was to look steadily into his partner's eyes and try to convey the depth of his gratitude. Dee met his gaze but appeared perplexed. When he opened his mouth to speak, they were interrupted by two detectives from the 12th Precinct and Detective Drake from their own 27th. Self-conscious, Ryo pulled his hand back.

Deedidn't bat an eye at the sudden retreat. Ryo realized that he must be used to these hot and cold messages by now. It made him feel kind of sad to think that he could offer comfort and then withdraw it for no other reason that not wanting to have anyone misinterpret him touching his partner, and that Dee didn't seem to expect anything more. If it was anyone else, would Ryo have pulled away so quickly? This fleeting realization left Ryo wondering if Dee felt punished because of his feelings for him.

The wait for the x-ray results was spent giving statements to the detectives and promising reports to Drake when they returned to the station. Dee gave his statements in a clear, no-nonsense way. Ryo listened to him carefully, trying to hear any hints of distress or conflicted emotions but Dee seemed to be in fine cop form tonight. Maybe a little too professional. There was none of the trademark Laytner irreverence or wisecracking.

The detectives clearly considered it a justified shooting, what with the statement from Alfred at the corner store and the evidence of Ryo's gunshot wound. They called for a uniform patrolman to wait outside the surgical unit for the boy, whose name, they learned, was Ric Tupper. Drake hung around a few minutes to make small talk with Ryo and Dee. He left when the doctor joined them.

"Well, Detective Maclean, the x-rays looked just fine." He glanced at Dee. "You must be the partner? I'm Doctor Jones." He extended a hand which Dee took.

"I'm Dee Laytner. Thanks for looking after Ryo here."

"All in a night's work." The doctor turned his attention back to Ryo. "Now, I hope there's someone you can depend on to stay with you tonight and help you with that knee."

Deebroke in eagerly. "That's me, Doc. I'm already on it."

"Good. He'll need to ice the knee. I've got a prescription here for the pain meds that can be filled at the hospital pharmacy before you leave. You're free to go now." He gave Ryo a little wink while Dee was standing up to help Ryo out of his chair, then he left. Ryo smiled a bit at being a co-conspirator. After Dee's sneaky way of getting Ryo to come for dinner, Ryo felt a little vindicated in turning the tables on him.

To follow through, Ryo didn't protest when the nurse again presented the wheelchair. Dee waved Sean off, though, and pushed Ryo toward the hospital pharmacy. "I'll be right back," Dee told him, before leaving Ryo to wait for his prescription.

Ryo assumed that his partner was off to check on the surgery. When Dee returned, Ryo pocketed his prescription and asked, "Do you want to wait here till the Tupper boy is out of surgery?"

Deeshook his head. "The officer assigned to him has my number. He'll call when the operation is done. I can't really help out here anyway." He gave Ryo's shoulder a little squeeze. "Besides, I gotta take care of you tonight. Doc wants you off your feet. I've been trying to get you off your feet forever, and now I got a good excuse."

Ryo was saved from having to respond to another one of Dee's veiled innuendoes by the necessity of hailing a cab. Since the fare was suddenly expense-reportable, they even had the driver detour to an all-night drive through so they could get something hot to take home.

They went back to Dee's place since it was the closest. After Dee deposited Ryo on the couch with instructions to give Bikky a call, he went to the kitchen to get some plates for their food. Before he returned, Ryo could hear him on the phone. He was calling Alfred.

aa bb

There was a ringing that slowly worked its way into the muffled black of Ryo's sleep. He rolled up on one elbow before he was fully awake, reaching out instinctively for his alarm clock. But his hand swung out into empty air.

"Huh?"

The ring sounded again and he sat up fully, his shoulder stinging and his knee feeling thick and immobile. I'm at Dee's, he remembered. The room came into focus, along with his memory of stripping down to his t-shirt and shorts and crawling into Dee's bed. The sheets around him were warm, but the other side of the bed was cool. Apparently, Dee had decided not to share. He heard his partner's voice speaking quietly in the next room.

"Laytner……Uh huh."

There was a long silence. Ryo looked at the clock on the table on the wrong side of the bed. After two in the morning.

"Shit."

There was more silence.

"Okay. Yeah. I'll be there." A pause, and then, "He's good. He's out like a light. Uh huh. Me, too."

Ryo got out of bed and walked stiffly to the step down into the living area of the apartment. Dee was sitting on the couch, still fully dressed. Even from the back, Ryo could tell that something was wrong. He was hunched forward. As Ryo came around the couch, he saw that Dee's elbows were resting on his knees, his hands still clasping the cordless phone between them.

Sitting down next to him, Ryo placed a hand on Dee's shoulder, finding the muscles below it tight and strained. A blanket and pillow had slipped off onto the floor, presumably when Dee had risen to answer the phone.

"The Tupper kid died." Dee's voice sounded like it had when he'd spoken on the phone. Quiet, not emotional. But he didn't look up, and a tremor preceded his rise from the couch. He walked quickly across the room to the phone base and replaced the handset in the cradle. He turned around and said, "How are you feeling?"

The room was dark except for a patch of illumination from the city lights outside the large window in the loft over the bed. Dee stood by the phone, just outside that bit of light, his hair spilling down his forehead, hiding his eyes.

"A little sad."

That got Dee's attention. Reluctantly, he crossed the room again and sat down. "Sad?"

"Yeah. He was so young."

Deedidn't respond for a minute, then finally he said, "Bikky's age."

Ryo studied his partner's profile in the gloom. He put his arm around his shoulders.

"I need to be the one to tell him."

"Bikky?" Ryo knew that there was something solid and good in the turbulent relationship his partner had with the teen who was so much like him. Still, it hadn't occurred to him that Dee might need to address something this serious with Bikky personally. It was almost as if Dee had just admitted some kind of ownership, some actual familial responsibility to the kid.

"Yeah. It should come from me."

It was suddenly crystal clear just how deeply Dee felt about what had happened. Ryo moved his hand back and forth, soothingly he hoped, over Dee's back. "He'll understand. He's very worldly."

"That's the problem. He's too worldly."

"What I meant," Ryo said, "was that he's mature for his age."

"And I meant that he grew up on the streets. If he's mature, it's because of you. If it hadn't been for you, Ryo, it could have been Bikky in that store." His voice had dropped to a whisper. His back and shoulders were still tense under the rhythmic caress of Ryo's hand. "He looks up to you. You're a good influence on him. Ever notice how he tries to protect you?"

"He's a lot like you," Ryo commented fondly.

Deelooked over at his partner. "He tries to protect you from me. How's he gonna feel when I tell him I killed a kid…a kid his age?! What if he thinks I don't…that I don't…."

"This is really bothering you…how Bikky will react?"

"Well…yeah. What kind of role model does this make me?"

"Role model?" Insight dawned and clarified this for Ryo. In Dee's mind, he was Ryo's partner and that made him Bikky's other parent. He didn't even have the perks of a spousal partnership, but he'd already assumed the responsibilities. It was as much of a commitment to the people in Ryo's life as it was to Ryo himself.

Deesnorted. "Doesn't matter. You can be both mother and father to the brat. I guess he really doesn't need me for anything."

"I need you," Ryo rested his cheek against Dee's shoulder. "You saved my life tonight."

Deeshook his head. "What if he only shot because I had my gun pointed at him?"

"He was going to shoot no matter what. Don't second guess yourself. You did exactly what you should have."

Ryo felt that tremor run through Dee's body again. His partner's head dropped and he scrubbed the back of his fist against his cheeks.

Is Dee crying? "It's tough, isn't it? Is there something I..."

"You told me not to. You told me not to…" Dee's voice confirmed that he had lost the battle against tears. "Do you ever get tired of me not listening to you?"

"Never. Especially not when you're right." Ryo put his other arm around Dee, ignoring the stinging of his shoulder. He pulled the other man tight against him. Dee turned into the embrace, looping his arms around Ryo's waist and burying his face in the curve of Ryo's neck and shoulder.

Deewasn't loud. His shaking subsided after a few minutes. Ryo turned his head to cradle Dee's head against his shoulder. He used both hands to rub Dee's back, glad that Dee's shaking had masked his as he lost his own battle against the truth that he could've died tonight. The silence enveloped them like the darkness and minutes turned into hours.

Ryo woke, half lying on the couch with his bare feet on the cold floor. Dee was sound asleep with his head on Ryo's chest and both arms still around his waist. How did we end up lying together like this? Does it matter? It was still dark, but Ryo could tell by the sounds of the city outside that dawn wasn't far off.

As uncomfortable as he was, Ryo tried to remain very still. Alone with his thoughts, he could admit it was nice to have Dee lying with him like this. I needed you so bad tonight. No pressure, no come-ons. He concentrated on the feel of Dee's weight against his chest, his stomach, his hip and thigh. He closed his eyes and imagined what it would be like if he allowed Dee to caress him. Would he be rough and impatient? Would he be gentle? Loving? He catalogued the feelings so that he could analyze them later in private. Almost instinctively, Ryo tightened his embrace.

Deeshifted slightly. He rubbed his stubbly cheek over Ryo's chest, and Ryo felt Dee's whiskers poke through the thin cotton fabric to the nipple below it. A slight thrill at the sensation coursed through him. Dee was waking up. His head lifted slightly and he seemed to assess his whereabouts. With a slight sigh, he let his head rest again on Ryo's chest.

"God, this is nice." Dee's voice was fuzzy with the last hold of sleep.

Ryo smiled. "Grab the blanket then and let me get my legs up. The floor is cold." They were already lying together on the couch. It didn't seem so brazen to try and get more comfortable. Clad in only a t-shirt and boxers, Ryo was more exposed, more vulnerable than he'd ever been in such close proximity to his partner. But Dee hadn't taken advantage. The shooting must be keeping him preoccupied. Dee pulled his arms out from under Ryo's back, leaning back up on one elbow. Ryo grunted a little as he lifted his injured leg off the floor, Dee pulled the blanket up and over them. They ended up facing each other in a loose embrace, with Dee's head still just under Ryo's chin.

Starting to doze again, Ryo was roused suddenly by his partner's warm palm sliding up under his shirt, and over his bare back, up to his shoulders and then back down to his waist. There was the slightest hesitation, and then Dee pushed his hand down into the back of Ryo's shorts. He grabbed a handful of cheek, pulling Ryo's hips close. Almost simultaneously, Dee sucked on the skin stretched over Ryo's collarbone.

Ryo gasped in surprise. It felt so good. Still, he knew he wasn't ready. But I'm lying here in my underwear. What message am I sending him?

Deepaused, as if waiting for the negative reaction he was so used to getting.

That's exactly what I do, Ryo realized. He felt blood rushing up to his cheeks. I let him kiss me and then I push him away. It's always about what's comfortable for me. But what about Dee? What about Dee? What does he need?

When Ryo didn't immediately protest, Dee was emboldened to begin mouthing and nibbling the t-shirt until he encountered the bump of a nipple. He laved it with his tongue, and played with the nub between his lips, all the while rubbing, pulling and squeezing Ryo's ass.

Ryo willed himself not to panic. He couldn't relax, but he decided not to object. He was not going to push Dee away, whatever he needed. If it didn't turn out to be anything more than a one-time fling, that was just going to have to be okay. I love him, Ryo thought. I really love him.

Deepulled his hand out of Ryo's shorts and hitched himself up so that he could look his partner in the eye. He searched Ryo's face, one hand resting lightly on Ryo's hip, the other trapped between their bodies. He whispered,"You're gonna let me do whatever I want, aren't you?"

Ryo didn't know what to say. His mouth opened, but there were no words.

Dee's hand left Ryo's hip, his knuckles grazing the skin of Ryo's stomach. One finger pushed under the elastic waistband and slid back and forth. Dee's gaze was speculative, challenging. "How about this? Is this okay?"

Ryo swallowed. Nervously, he nodded.

Then it was Dee's entire hand under the elastic and reaching down. "And this?"

Ryo closed his eyes, muscles tense with nervous anticipation. Fingertips lingered at the edge of his pubic hair and then retreated. Ryo's eyes flew open.

Dee's expression was mildly amused, but there was something…He brushed his lips lightly over Ryo's. They were gone before Ryo could respond. "You're the best friend I could ever have. I already know you'd do anything for me; I'm not gonna make you prove it. You mean too much to me." He climbed over Ryo and got up. "I'm getting the shower first."

"Dee…I…." Ryo stammered.

Waving his hand in dismissal, Dee continued to the bathroom without looking back. "It's okay, pal."

He knew he should feel relieved, but Ryo couldn't get the image of Dee's face out of his mind. The amusement had gone no further than his mouth. His eyes had been full of understanding and mostly…despair. Ryo covered his face with both hands, cursing to himself. Why can't I just relax and do this? He heard the water running in the shower. Getting up from the couch, he hobbled to the bathroom door. I can do this. I'll get in the shower with him. And I'll show him just what he means to me, too. With a new resolve, he reached for the knob only to find it wouldn't turn. Dee had locked the door.

Is this what it feels like each time I push him away?Sadly, Ryo went back to the bedroom for his clothes.

aa bb

Dee was expected at the precinct to fill out reports on the incident, but after that he was being excused from duty for an appointment at City General Hospital with the department shrink. He made light of it as he said goodbye. Ryo gave Dee a reassuring smile and watched him go.

When he could spare a minute in private, Ryo called his apartment, hoping to catch Bikky before he left for school.

"Yo!"

Frowning, Ryo said, "That's not a proper way to answer the phone."

With exaggerated courtesy, Bikky said, "This is the Maclean residence, Bikky speaking."

Ryo shook his head. "Bikky, I need to talk to you when I get home. Please come straight back from school, okay?

"Is this about last night?"

"Yes."

"You were at Dee's all night, weren't you?"
"That's right."

"Awww, please tell me you didn't!" Bikky whined.

Ryo felt his cheeks start to heat up and looked around the bullpen to make sure no one was noticing his embarrassment. "That would be none of your business, Bikky." How in the hell was he going to handle Bikky if he actually ever stayed the night for reasons other than convenience? The idea was half-formed, but in his heart, Ryo knew that he planned to make it with his partner and soon.

And then, what made him think that sleeping with Dee would change anything about them? Where are all these hearts-and-flowers expectations coming from? Ryo thought angrily.

"Well, why else would you need to talk to me? Are you guys driving to Canada to get married or something? Christ, Ryo!"

"Oh for…Just be there tonight, Bikky, it's important." His tone was as uncompromising as steel. He rarely used it with his young charge and Bikky reacted as Ryo had hoped.

"All right."

Ryo hung up and thought again about Dee's request to be the one to tell Bikky, his concern about being a role model. Those two things spoke to him on a level that would never be accessible by Dee's constant flirting. Those were the things that a real partner would want, that someone who just wanted a convenient lay would not.

For the twelfth time that day, Ryo rebuked himself for not taking the initiative that morning, for not making it happen with Dee. If you love someone, you should be able to show them. And I do love him…don't I? Do I love him that way? Maybe the question is: Can I love him that way?

Ryo walked up to his apartment building after his shift and found Dee waiting on the steps. He sat down next to him. "How'd it go with the doctor?"

Deeshrugged. "Okay, I guess. You know that I have to take mandatory leave, right?"

"How long?"

"Five days."

After doing some research earlier in the day, Ryo knew that the department shrink had discretion when it came to time off. It didn't have to be five days or even one. The doctor must have determined that Dee needed the time. Ryo wondered if he could use some of his vacation. He didn't like the idea of Dee spending five days alone with nothing to do but think about the shooting. "That's…good, I guess."

Dee shrugged again. "I don't know how it's good. I'd just as soon be working." He swayed over and bumped shoulders with Ryo. "Well, ya wanna get this over with?"

They got up. "You'll stay for supper, right?" Ryo asked.

"We'll see," he said darkly.

When the door to Ryo's apartment opened, the tension in the apartment exploded outward in the form of a hot-headed teenager with flashing amber eyes. "Is it true?" Bikky demanded of Dee before the two men could even step inside. "Did you really kill Ric Tupper?"

Ryo opened his mouth to reprimand Bikky, but Dee spoke before he got the chance.

"Yes, that was me."

"I knew it!" Bikky spat. "I just knew it! What?! You always gotta be some kind of super cop?"

"Do you want to know what happened?" Dee was trying hard to keep his voice level, but the timbre was strained.

"How did you know about it, Bikky?" Ryo asked. He moved into the apartment and shut the door behind them.

"I knew him!" Bikky shouted. "It was all over school that the man got him!"

"How did you know him?" Ryo asked, surprised. "And there's no need to shout…"

"Take it easy, Bikky," Dee added. "You don't know how it went down."

Bikkydidn't seem inclined to listen. He took several determined steps back into the apartment, but then swung around and glared at Dee. "It won't make much difference. Everybody's gonna know that I'm living with the partner of the guy that killed him." Bikky's face had reverted to the cocky, careless mask of a street kid. It was a mask that Ryo had seen flaking away, each day that they lived together, each day that one learned to trust in the other. But it was back in place, concealing the reasons for Bikky's tirade. Those emotions were ruthlessly guarded, save for the vitriol that escaped in his voice and his disparaging words. "He was just a kid," Bikky snorted. "But then I guess that's just one more punk out of your way, right Laytner?"

"That punk had a gun. He shot at us!" Dee was getting angry.

"You're a cop. It's your job to get shot at-"

Dee's hand flashed out. Bikky staggered back, going down to one knee before recovering from the open handed slap. He brought a hand up to his cheek in shock.

"Dee!" Ryo captured Dee's arm with a hard grip. He yanked his partner back against the wall.

Tears were slipping down Bikky's cheek. "You're so goddamn tough," he choked. "Why don't you just get your gun out and shoot me?"

"Bikky!" Ryo warned. "That's enough!"

Deepulled his arm out of Ryo's grip. He shrugged his shoulder and tossed his head. Getting himself under control, Dee stared hard at Bikky. "Listen, you little shit, before you shoot off that stupid mouth of yours again. Just remember that the man who took you in is a cop, too. The man who puts you first doesn't deserve to be shot at."

Bikkyjust glared back. He had lowered his hand. His cheek was flaming.

"As for me, I'm not perfect. I did what I what I felt I had to at the time. I'm not proud of it, and I sure as hell ain't happy about it. And I'm not saying that there couldn't have been another way to handle it. I bet there were a hundred other ways! I have to deal with it. Not you, not Ryo." Dee scowled. When he spoke again, his voice was quieter, but still heavy with anger. "And I didn't know he was a friend of yours!"

"Would it have made a difference?" Bikky said, despite a withering look from Ryo.

Dee's head dropped, his hair falling down to conceal his eyes. "Probably not. But if he was your friend, maybe you need to ask yourself why you didn't see this coming."

Bikky'sface had gone as scarlet as his cheek. He was fighting the tears and his mouth worked on words that he just couldn't get out. Finally, he surged to his feet and ran to his room. The door slamming was just another noise at that point.

Deelooked over at Ryo.

Ryo bit his lip and shook his head.

"I guess I can't control my impulses these days," Dee said bitterly. "About dinner, let's do it another time, huh? You probably need to…" He jerked his head toward Bikky's room.

"I wish you could…," Ryo asked, not wanting Dee to leave after the scene.

Shaking his head, Dee deferred. "Nah, I think I've done enough damage here for one night, huh?" He blew past and was out the door before Ryo could protest or stop him.

Ryo stood for a second and looked at the door. Eventually the sounds from Bikky's room filtered their way through to him. He had turned up his music and was knocking things around. Can't control your impulses, eh? Ryo sighed. There's a lot of that going around lately. He shrugged out of his coat and limped to his bedroom to change.

He pulled on a pair of sweatpants. The music from Bikky's room reduced in volume, which allowed Ryo to relax a bit. He drew a loose sweater from his closet. As he fed his arm into so that he wouldn't have to lift it over his head, Ryo turned around to find Bikky leaning against the doorframe of his bedroom. The teenager was looking uncertainly out from under his shaggy blond bangs. "What happened to your arm?"

"When you're ready to listen, I'll tell you the whole story." Ryo pulled the sweater over his head with his good arm. "I don't really feel much like cooking…is something from the freezer okay for dinner?"

"Whatever. You can go be with him if you want. I can make dinner." The words were generous, but the tone in Bikky's voice was still surly.

"No. I'd rather stay here and talk to you if that's okay."

Bikkyshrugged

He left the doorway, and when Ryo walked back to the kitchen, he saw that Bikky was setting the table. Without even being asked.

Ryo selected a frozen lasagna dinner that he could microwave. While it was cooking, he started making a salad. Bikky wandered in and hovered near the door.

After a few moments he noted, "You're limping."

"'Fraid so. I'm okay, though. Don't worry about it." Ryo gestured to the raw vegetables. "Would you like to do these and I'll toast some garlic bread?" He turned away to search the cupboards for olive oil, but there was none. He found some Thousand Island dressing in the fridge instead.

They spent the rest of their time in silence while preparing dinner. By the time they sat down to eat, Ryo had sorted out what he planned to tell Bikky about the events of the night before. Though he thought it would be best to let Bikky finish eating first, it appeared that the boy didn't have much appetite. He ate only a fraction of what he could normally put away and spent a few minutes just pushing food around his plate and stabbing his bread with a fork.

"I was going to eat at Dee's last night after work."

Bikky didn't look up, but he stopped stabbing his bread.

"We walked in on a robbery at the all-night store next to his building. You know the one?"

"Alfred's All-Night," Bikky murmured.

"That's it. Tupper was holding a gun on Alfred. He told us not to move and we didn't. How did you know him, Bikky?"

"He used to play ball down on Franklin."

"Did you know he was using?"

"Sorta. He used to hang out with some older dudes. He stopped coming to the courts a couple months ago. I pretty much guessed…"

"Well, I tried to talk to him, but he was pretty strung out. When he went to grab the money, he doubled over, maybe he just collapsed, but I thought I had a chance to take him, so I went for it."

Bikky was listening hard now.

"Tupper went down but he still had the gun and he shot. Dee was right behind me…he pushed me to one side and he shot Tupper."

"Th-that bandage on your shoulder…?"

"The bullet just grazed me. It's kinda ugly cause they couldn't stitch it up."

"Why are you limping?"

"I twisted my knee when Dee pushed me out of the way. Bikky, Dee saved my life." Those quiet words preceded a long silence.

Bikky slumped in his seat, his eyes cast down at his half-finished dinner. When he look up at Ryo, the detective was surprised to see fear in his eyes. "You're probably really pissed at me."

Ryo smiled and shook his head. "No. But I wish you'd given Dee a chance to tell you all this. He may not show it, but this is really hard on him." His mind flashed back to holding Dee the night before while he wept. He could have told Bikky, but he didn't think that Dee would appreciate it. That was a moment that would live between them and them alone until the day they died. Dragging himself from that thought, Ryo said, "He wanted to tell you himself. It was important to him, probably because he feels so responsible. Did you know that most police officers finish their careers and retire without ever firing their gun in the line of duty?"

"Uh uh."

"About what you said tonight…about it being our job to be shot at…"

"I was just mad. I didn't mean it."

That was about as close to an apology as Ryo figured he'd get from Bikky. He got up and Bikky helped to clear the table. After the dishwasher was loaded and running, Ryo limped to the couch. He held up the TV remote control. "Want to watch TV?"

Bikky, who'd been dawdling around the kitchen, looked at Ryo uncertainly. "Uh…sure." He took the remote and sat down beside Ryo, but he didn't turn on the TV. Ryo looked over at him expectantly. "Aren't you gonna go see Dee?" Bikky asked.

"No. I was with him all night. He's hurting, but I think he's going to be okay. Besides, I think he'd want me to stay here with you."

Bikky turned on the TV and they watched together. Ryo lost himself in his thoughts and even Bikky seemed to have his mind on something besides the sitcom on the screen. Neither of them laughed when the laugh-track indicated that they should.

Later that night, Bikky had gone to his room and Ryo climbed into bed. He picked up his phone anddialed his partner's number. The phone rang twice.

"'Lo?"

"Hey." Ryo kept his voice low. He leaned back against the headboard of his bed.

"Hey."

"How are you doing?

"I'm good. How'd it go with Bikky?"

"He knows what happened now. He said he didn't mean what he said about cops getting shot at."

Dee tsked. "Oh hell, I know that. He was just pissed off. Was this Tupper a good friend?"

"I guess he knew him from the courts on Franklin. I don't think they were very close. And he seemed to suspect that Tupper was using."

"Oh." Dee paused. "Ryo…I'm sorry for hitting him."

Ryo sighed. "I've got a confession for you. After that crack, I felt like hitting him, too."

"But you didn't, that's what counts."

"Well you do have to work on self-control if you want to be a good role model." Ryo left those words like a trail of breadcrumbs, hoping Dee would see where they were leading.

"He's got you for that," Dee answered shortly. Then he switched gears and subjects smoothly. "How's the shoulder feeling?"

"It just stings when I lift my arm too high. The knee is more trouble than the shoulder. I think I'm gonna call in tomorrow."

"Oh. Are you in bed?"

"Yeah…," Ryo drew the word out, wondering if Dee was going to made some kind of lewd suggestion or ask him what he was wearing or…

"Then I'll let you go. Later, huh?"

Disappointment, poignant and unexpected, dampened Ryo's spirit. "Ah…sure. Good night, Dee." He hung up, but before he had time to ruminate on what he was disappointed about, a soft knock sounded at the door to his room.

"Yeah?"

Bikky opened the door. "Was that Dee on the phone?"

Glancing at the phone, Ryo nodded. "Yes."

Coming closer to the bed, Bikky asked, "Is he still mad?"

"Not at you. Like I said, Dee's tough. He'll be okay." When Bikky just stood there, Ryo gave him a little push. "What's wrong?"

"I just wanted to tell you that…I'm glad you're okay." His voice was trembling.

Such a tough guy, Ryo thought fondly. He held out his arms. "C'mere."

Bikky practically flung himself into the waiting hug. "Don't go and get yourself killed," he said in as gruff a voice as he could manage on the verge of tears.

"Hey, hey. We're fine here. In fact, you were doing fine before I even met you. You're the smartest, toughest kid I know."

"It doesn't matter. I'm getting used to having you around."

"Likewise, buddy. But you have a lot of good friends, friends who would help you in a heartbeat." He ruffled the boy's hair. "Like Carol, and Dee, too, if you give him a chance."

Bikky pulled back. He said seriously, "I guess I owe him for saving your life. For that I'll try to be nice to him."

"Thank you." Ryo smiled.

"And because he's your friend and all…"

Because he's my friend and all…

Something in the open-ended way Bikky said it made Ryo stop and consider if friendship was really what their relationship was all about. Ryo still felt the disappointment as Dee had brusquely ended the phone call a few moments ago. What do I want? To sit on the phone talking all night like some teenager with a crush? I'm calling your bluff, Dee. If I want to take you up on the offer of more, then I should let Bikky know…Is Bikky giving me a chance to clarify this?

"He's…he's more than my friend, Bikky."

"Eh?"

Ryo made sure that Bikky knew just how serious he was when he said, "I love him."

"Like…how?" Bikky asked, almost cringing as he did so.

The heat in Ryo's cheeks was like a five alarm fire, but he screwed up his courage and said evenly: "I love him in every way it's possible."

"You mean like…?
"Yes, like."

Bikky slapped his hands over his ears and screamed, "Noooooooooo!"

aa bb

The next morning, Ryo boarded the subway on his way to Dee's. He was apprehensive. Normally not an aggressively sexual creature, much of his nervousness could be attributed to the mission he was on. Outside of that, he wasn't sure why he was afraid. Dee had been trying for so long to get him in bed that this should be another step in this awkward journey. But something was still not quite…right.

I know I can do this, he thought resolutely. Didn't I prove that last night?

The proof was obtained after Bikky had calmed down and gone to bed. Ryo recognized the teenager's histrionics for what they really were: Bikky's way of regaining his super cool personae, a little detachment and his casual adversarial relationship with Dee. Ryo smiled to himself. It was Bikky's way of distracting Ryo from the fact that he had needed that hug. His parting shot after Ryo had ordered him back to bed had been: "Just don't come whining to me after he gives you some evil kind of Dee-seases!"

"Bikky!" Ryo had admonished in mock astonishment.

But Bikky's laughter as he ran back to his room and shut the door was like a release valve for the tension that had been building ever since the shooting. It also sounded to Ryo like Bikky's tacit approval. Ryo fell back on his pillow with a sense of teetering on the brink of bliss or disaster.

He knew that it was time to think this through. Ryo had rushed to a half-formed decision to let Dee know how he was feeling about him. I love Dee, he thought, but now the question is: Can I make love to Dee?

After all, I'm not gay, damnit!

Or does the fact that I'm even considering this mean I am?

There was no doubt that he enjoyed the holding, the kissing. Even though there was the initial resistance, Dee seemed to like the challenge, and it was now expected that Ryo would give in and enjoy it, too. Ryo had even taken the initiative a couple of times.

But this morning, when Dee had pushed past those unvoiced boundaries, he'd suddenly backed off. Ryo thought back to that moment, wondering why. Yeah, I was scared, but I didn't say no. This time it wasn't me. I didn't push him away. Is he serious or not?

And what if he hadn't stopped?

His mind replayed Dee's finger slipping under the waistband of his shorts, his hand pushing down, rough knuckles scraping lightly against the tender skin there.

As if to recreate the sensation, Ryo slid his left hand into his underwear, palm flat against the same tender skin.

The tips of Dee's fingers had encountered the top edge of his pubic hair, and paused there.

What if he hadn't stopped?

Ryo's fingers pushed through those coarse curls, further down, withdrawing briefly only to dive down even deeper.

What if Dee had touched me? Would he have rubbed, or stroked or just grabbed…?

Ryo's hand closed around his stiffening sex, trying not to feel it through the palm of his hand, but through the sensitive skin of his cock. As if it was another hand…Dee's hand.

Maybe he would have licked my nipples again? Would he have sucked…?

Ryo brought his right hand to his mouth, wetting his fingertips with saliva before finding a nipple and teasing it. He rolled and pulled it, eyes closing and he fell willingly into the fantasy.

He grew more excited.

I'll bet he's coarse in bed. And he likes to talk….

The pace of his stroking increased, and the oozing pre-ejaculate made the process slick and easy.

Does he do this and think about me? I wonder what he looks like when he does?

Letting go of his rigid flesh, Ryo reached lower to fondle his balls. He was so hard, but he didn't want to let go of the images quickly. Ryo imagined Dee licking and kissing his nipples, and his tongue tracing a wet path down his chest. In his mind, he could see those smoky, sultry eyes, the barest flash of a smile while Dee hovered over him, breath cool on the super-heated flesh of his erection.

What would that feel like, Ryo thought, biting his lip and moaning in his mind, to have Dee's warm, wet mouth close around me…? His hand returned to his hot, hard shaft.

Ryo's hips strained upward, his orgasm taking him quickly and by surprise. His muscles quivered with each intense wave of sensation, and his breath puffed out in longer and longer streams. At last his body relaxed. "Damn," he whispered and lazily pulled at his sticky, softening penis. He had a hazy but wonderful idea that sex with Dee might be great.

But a troublesome thought also surfaced: sex with Dee wouldn't be just masturbation and blowjobs.

Pulling his hand out of his underwear, Ryo brought it to just above his mouth, inhaling the aroma of his emission. Then, tentatively, he tasted.

Okay. Didn't gag.

He took two fingers into his mouth and sucked.

Ryo'dnever seen Dee's penis. Once, in the lockers at work, he'd glanced over when Dee emerged from the showers. Ryo noticed that Dee had a partial erection that pressed against the wet towel that was tucked around his waist. Dee saw him look, of course, and never one to miss a trick, he'd leaned over and whispered: "That's the trouble with being bisexual!"

"And nothing to do with being perpetually horny?" Ryo had quipped back.
"You could help me with that, you know."

Deealways won those little verbal wars. It was impossible to out-brazen him. Ryo blushed and looked away before Dee ditched the towel and began to dress.

Maybe I should have looked, Ryo mused. He pulled his fingers from his mouth, experimenting with the taste. I can do this if he's not bigger than two fingers.

There was something more, though.

What if Dee wants to go all the way? I don't know what to expect. I'm not naïve…well, maybe I am. Ryo knew what the score was, but without any practical experience, would he be an able partner? With all the sexual thoughts going through his mind, Ryo found himself getting hard again. The need wasn't as urgent, but he used his arousal to test scenarios in his mind, thoughts of being penetrated and of sucking Dee's cock, of allowing himself to hand himself over totally to his partner's desire.

When he was again tempted to masturbate, Ryo restrained himself. Not wanting to lose some of that edge before the next day, when he might really need it, Ryo forced his thoughts to less arousing subjects, like the subway schedule and how he would show up at Dee's place in the morning. Maybe I'll buy bagels…

Now, the bag of bagels was sitting next to him on a nearly empty subway train. Ryo marked the approach of his stop. He knew that this might not work, that his determination to make love to Dee might be for naught if his body failed him. And that uncertainty was the most likely source of his remaining reluctance.

But if Dee loves me, really loves me, he'll go slow.

Ryo realized that the corners of his mouth had pulled into a stupid, sappy kind of smile. The train stopped and he got off. He burst from below ground, fired with a confidence that he stoked as he went and moving as fast as the throbbing in his tightly wrapped knee would allow.

This will be good…like laying on the couch that night…warm, nice…and he's a good kisser…I really love kissing him…and we'll have all day….

By the time he reached the door to Dee's apartment, he was fully engaged, committed to this course of action. Even if Dee was half-expecting him to show up, he was clearly unprepared for the juggernaut of newly won enthusiasm that burst through the door as soon as Dee opened it.

"Hey-" he yelped as Ryo charged.

Slapping one arm over Dee's shoulder, Ryo elbowed the door shut behind him before sliding the other around his waist. He pushed Dee up against the wall.

Dee's mouth was stunned into complacency and Ryo slipped his tongue in. He pulled Dee away from the wall and maneuvered him back toward the couch. Dee grabbed handfuls of Ryo's coat. When the back of his knees hit the armrest, he fell back on the couch, with Ryo falling on top of him. Their lips separated with a pop. Letting go of Ryo's coat, Dee grabbed his shoulders, careful to avoid the bullet wound he knew was under his partner's clothes, and pushed him back.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Ryo hoped he looked bold enough to convince his partner. "I'm making my move." He dipped his head toward Dee, but his mouth grazed Dee's stubbled cheek.

"Don't, Ryo," Dee said firmly. "Just don't." He continued pushing Ryo back until he could slide out from beneath. He walked toward the kitchen, calling back, "Want something to drink?"

Stunned, Ryo could only stare after Dee. He was still half-laying on the couch with his legs hanging awkwardly, and one quite painfully, over the armrest. Dee pushed himself up to a sitting position. He felt the last of his confidence desert him. Slouching down on the couch, he thought, What just happened?

Nothing, he realized. Nothing.

Deereturned with a couple of cans and handed one to Ryo. He sat down and pulled the tab on his Coke. He took an endless drink before he spoke. "So you took the day off to come over here and make me feel better, huh? I've gotta say, I'm flattered, buddy." He gave a wry, almost bitter sounding laugh. "So what shall we do today?"

Ryo set his can down without opening it. "What did you mean, don't?"

"What do you think?"

He moved closer. It felt as if the air was suddenly sucked out of the room as he watched Dee withdraw. He raised the can for another long drink. "Dee, what's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong."

"I thought about this all night. I came here today to tell you how I really-"

"Don't say it!"

"Why not?"

Dee turned steely eyes on Ryo. "Don't you dare say it. Once you do, you'll never be able to take it back."

"I won't want to."

Launching himself from the couch, Dee paced to the center of the room and then turned around and came back. He dropped to his knee before his partner. "You are my best friend. I trust you with my life. And that's good enough for me. You don't have to be any more than just that."

"But…I thought you wanted…" It was too abrupt an about face for Ryo to counter. A feeling of dread was settling in his stomach, and that little feeling of nagging uncertainty was starting to make sense.

"My fault," Dee nodded. "I know. But I'm telling you now. This isn't necessary."

"Dee! I want this!" He leaned forward, reaching with both his arms.

Dee smacked aside the reaching hands. He surged upward and looked down at Ryo. His brow was dark and his eyes flashed. "No. You don't. When did all this happen, Ryo? Two days ago I was tricking you into coming over for dinner. Now suddenly you want to fuck?" He laughed without humor. "C'mon, Ryo. You're trying to help and I love you for it, but the last thing I want from you is pity sex."

Ryo felt the walls closing in on him. It was hard to breathe. His face was burning and he looked down, unable to meet Dee's eyes. "It's not like that, Dee." His voice sounded pathetic, even in his own ears, but Dee dropped down again to get at eye level.

"I've been a big pain in your ass. I know that. It won't happen again, Ryo, I promise."

"You think we can just-what--put this behind us?"

Dee shrugged. "Why not?"

"That I can just forget everything I went though to get here?" His heart pounded hard in his chest. He lifted his gaze to meet Dee's. "That's not going to happen."

Quietly, Dee said, "Well neither is you and me. Not today. I can't be sure you really want this now."

"And I guess I can't be sure you ever did."

Twenty minutes later, Ryo was riding the subway again. He wasn't heading home, he didn't think he could bear to stay alone there and do nothing but think about what a fool he'd made of himself. Instead, he sat on a subway train and did nothing but think about what a fool he'd made of himself. But at least here, in public, he wouldn't cry. At least, he didn't think he would.

Pity sex? How can he think that?

Dee had tried to get him to stay. Maybe he was feeling bad about the way he'd handled it, but the humiliation had been more than Ryo could stand. He needed time alone to lick his wounded pride. And to consider if Dee was right about this.

aa bb

"Okay, tough guy, what's bugging you?"

"Nothing!"

Carol wasn't about to let it rest. She was the one person that Bikky wanted to hang out with, so he hadn't protested when she started to follow him home as she was sometimes likely to do, but she could be absolutely unbearable when she was on the scent of some internal conflict. She was like Scully on the X-Files, always wanting to perform an autopsy on things that are best left dead. She was only about an inch taller than he was now, but she could make him feel pretty damn small from that slight advantage. Looking down her nose, she persisted.

"I bet I know what's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong."

"Oh? So you're saying that you're not majorly pissed about Dee shooting Ric Tupper?"

"Well, I'm not happy about it, if that's what you wanna know."

"Everyone at school makes it sound like Dee's on some kind of mission to blow away street punks." Carol sounded indignant.

Bikkyshook his head. "What do they know? Assholes."

Carol nodded. "Really! Just don't pay any attention to them, Bikky."

He glanced over at her sternly. "I don't care what anyone thinks."

"Good for you. I think I know Dee well enough and he's not out to get anyone…except Ryo that is."

Bikkyscowled. Carol noticed. She had some kind of radar when it came to stuff that bugged him, Bikky thought irritably.

"Oh, I get it. Dee must be making progress. You're afraid that you're gonna lose Ryo to him any day now." She sighed and the dreamy look on her face was both fascinating and annoying.

Bikkystopped. How could some ditzy girl know just what was bugging him? Ryo had as much as said that he was going to do---something-about Dee. Bikky didn't like to think about it.

Carol stopped next to Bikky, looking at him curiously. "What's the matter?"

Besides the fact that the whole idea of them doing those kind of-things-together was disgusting, if Ryo did let Dee do it, then what would that mean for Bikky? Would Dee and Ryo move in together? What would happen then? Where would Bikky fit into their little honeymoon? He could almost feel the sting of Dee slapping him again.

"Bikky?"

Is that the price he would have to pay for not losing Ryo to a street punk's bullet? Because as scary as that was, he'd gladly give Ryo up to Dee if it kept him safe.

Ryo had been like a father and a mother to him. He deserved to be happy. And Dee could protect him…

What can I do for him?

Bikkytook off running.

But what about me?

Carol's voice faded behind him. "Bikky!"

aa bb

Bikkylet himself into the apartment. He didn't expect to find Ryo there and he wasn't. As he dropped his backpack on the floor in the kitchen, the phone rang. Grabbing it, he opened the door to the fridge with his other hand. "Yo-uh…Maclean residence, Bikky speakin'."

"Bikky, is Ryo there?" Dee sounded tense.

"No. Wasn't he going to your place?" Bikky let the fridge door swing shut. He started to walk toward Ryo's bedroom.

"He did, but he didn't stay." There was a frustrated sigh over the line. "Look, just have him call me when he gets in."

Ryo's room was empty. "What do you mean he didn't stay?" he asked suspiciously. "What's going on?"

"Nothing. Just have him-"

"Don't give me that crap, Dee! He told me …"

"Told you? Told you what?"

"Look, he would've stayed! What did you do to him?"

"Nothing!"

"You better have been nice to him!"

"What?" Dee blurted.

Bikkyhung up. I bet Ryo went over there, said a bunch of mushy stuff and that bastard Dee jumped him! His mind was racing with possible reasons for Dee to be calling, obviously worried about Ryo and where he was. Ryo didn't know what he was getting into. He wasn't ready for all that

Let's see, there's that coffee shop he goes to for bagels, Bikky thought. I'll try there first.

aa bb

Dee lay on his bed. He turned on his side and pushed his face into the pillow, trying to inhale the scent of Ryo, but the bedding was too saturated with his own smell. On his back again, Dee closed his eyes and replayed the shooting for the hundredth time. For the hundredth time, he chose Ryo.

He could see it so clearly in his mind, the way Tupper's finger convulsed on the trigger. Remembering how his heart had seemed to stop, how the whole scene started to slow down as he pushed Ryo with one hand and brought his gun up with the other, firing before he could do more than aim by instinct. When his partner had cried out in pain, he thought for sure he'd been too late, but he couldn't look at him. He kept his eyes and his gun pointed at Tupper, watching the kid fall and clutch at his bloody shirt, dumbfounded. Calling out to Ryo and waiting for the answer had been the most excruciating moment he ever wanted to experience. The relief, when he heard Ryo's voice, when he could sneak a look and see that his partner wasn't grievously wounded, hadn't truly hit home till later that night. When Dee had been there after the phone call had come in about Tupper's death, when he had sat next to him and put his arm around him, when he had held Dee tight while he tried not to cry it had all come rushing in: the relief, the regret, the doubt and worst of all, the realization of how close he'd come to losing the person he loved more than anyone or anything.

When Ryo had willingly held him while they lay on the couch, it had almost been too much. The same man who froze up whenever things got too physical, just lay there and let Dee push the envelope, let him touch his ass, and lick his chest. His muscles tense and quivering, Ryo had given him the go-ahead.

Man. I wanted it so bad!

But it had been too quick, too close on the heels of the shooting. If Ryo had been confused, Dee was ten times as unsure. He felt crappy. He'd shot and killed a desperate kid in the throes of withdrawal. He felt relief. His partner was alive. He felt grateful. Ryo demonstrated his support over and over. He felt angry. Ryo would sacrifice his virtue on the altar of Dee's misery. He felt lust. He always felt lust. He wasn't going to be a slave to lust.

Now he was even more miserable. Should he have let Ryo take the lead and do what he'd been wanting him to do for a couple years now? If Ryo had second thoughts about it the morning after, well, who could he blame but himself? If he had regrets…

And was that it, in the end? Dee couldn't stand the idea of Ryo regretting a night of love between them. It was the only thing that stopped Dee when Ryo had barged in earlier with his asinine attempt at seduction.

He couldn't help but smile. His cute, clumsy, asinine attempt at seduction…

'And I want it so bad! It would be so much better if I pushed him into it and then he could blame me. But I can't stand the idea that he would ever regret anything about us. I know he loves me…as a friend. He shows it over and over. He doesn't regret it.

There was a sharp rapping at his door. Dee leapt out of bed. He felt his heart pounding as he flung open the door.

But it was Bikky.

The kid scowled at Dee as he strode in. "I went to the Coffee House, the library, the park, the gym! I'm running out of places to look!"

Dee swung the door closed. "He's a big boy, Bikky. He'll come back when he wants to."

Bikky wasn't about to be placated. "Like you're not worried about him? Why'd you call then?"

"Not that it's any of your business, but he might be mad at me."

"You sonofabitch!" Bikky launched himself at Dee and snapped a kick off at his midsection. "Why's he mad? Did you do something to him, you goddamned pervert?! Why couldn't you have gone slow?!"

Dee took the kick, moving back reflexively which lessened the impact. "Cut it out!" He dropped into a fighting stance, ready to strike if Bikky came at him again. "I didn't do anything to him! That's probably why he's mad…" He stood up straight. "What the hell are you talking about 'go slow'?"

"You didn't do anything?" Bikky also straightened up. He looked relieved.

Dee took a step toward Bikky. "What did you mean 'go slow'?"

Bikky crossed his arms over his chest. "A guy like Ryo doesn't change his spots overnight, you know. It's gonna take time, no matter how much he wants to."

"Time? I've been waiting for two-huh? He wants to?" Dee shook his head. "That's not right. He really doesn't want to."

Bikky smirked.

Dee's hands snaked out like lightning. Once he had the teen in a half-nelson, he growled, "What do you know? What did he say?"

"I'm not telling you!"

"Tell me, you little prick! I won't let you go till you do!"

"No!" Bikky growled. "Maybe he changed his mind!"

"About what?!" Dee slid a hand down under Bikky's armpit, threatening to tickle with his fingertips.

"About loving you! Don't! Stop!" he squealed.

Dee's grip loosened. "He actually said that? He said that he loves me?"

Bikky ducked out of Dee's grasp. He turned around as Dee sank down on the floor, sitting crosslegged against the couch. "Yeah, well, he probably didn't mean it. Maybe he was just grateful 'cause of you saving his life." He sat down next to Dee, also leaning back against the couch.

"Yeah," Dee sighed. "Yeah, that's what I figured."

After a few seconds of silence, Bikky spoke. "I'm grateful, too."

Dee snuck a sidelong glance at Bikky. "You are?"

Flushing, he nodded.

"'S'okay." Dee put his arm around Bikky's shoulders.

"I gave this a lot of thought," Bikky said. "I decided that if having you around keeps Ryo safer, then so be it..."

"Well, I'm not goin' anywhere, kid."

"…and if he's not just grateful," Bikky added reluctantly, "then I guess it's okay, too."

"Really?" Dee said.

"Uh huh. As long as Ryo's happy."

Dee smiled. "That's all I really want, too."

Bikky shrugged and Dee let his arm slip away. "Well, before this gets any more sickening, I'm going home to wait for Ryo there." He got up and started for the door. "If he comes here, make him call me."

"Hey, Bik."

Bikky paused, looking back. "What?"

"I shouldn't have--"

"Forget about it."

"Really, man, I'm sorry."

"If you ever do it again, I'll kick your ass."

Dee snorted. "I'm quaking in my boots, twerp."

Bikky grinned and then shut the door behind him.

Dee fell sideways to the floor and rolled onto his back. He said he loves me. He actually told Bikky. I wonder…

aa bb

A few hours later, Dee woke to the sound of his phone ringing. He was still lying on the floor, and glanced quickly at his watch. "Nine o'clock! Geez!" He grabbed the phone from where he'd left it on the couch. "Hello?" he said hopefully.

"Hi."

"Ryo! You're back. Where'd you go, man?"

"Just around town."

"You had Bikky worried." Dee added quickly, "And me, too."

"I'm sorry. Bikky told me that I should call you. Look, Dee…"

"Hey, Ryo…" As they both paused, Dee heard Ryo chuckle. The sound made him feel better. "Ryo, can I come over. Just to talk."

Silence.

"Ryo?"

"Sure. But can it wait till tomorrow? I'm beat."

There was nothing in Ryo's voice that Dee could identify as emotion…any type of emotion. "Okay…"

"See you after work, then."

"Okay."

aa bb

Ryo put away the last dish from dinner. Bikky had left for Carol's a half hour ago, and Ryo used the quiet time to tidy up and think about seeing Dee. The long subway ride yesterday had helped, but only to calm him down. He was glad that he hadn't stayed at Dee's place. He was too stung by Dee's rebuff. Now, he was just embarrassed.

Maybe it's for the best. There was no way this could be an easy relationship. The friendship, the partnership, it all works so why rock the boat? He's offering me the easy way out. I should be relieved.

Did he really ever want me? He was so…persistent…so convincing.

But Bikky was staying over at Carol's, and that guaranteed that he and Dee would have the whole evening without interruptions. And that left any number of possibilities for finally defining their relationship. Ryo didn't know how it would turn out, but he did know one thing: he wanted it done.

All day at work he'd found his mind wandering back to various personal landmarks between the two of them. Over the last few years, Ryo had come to take the sexual sparring for granted. Not that it hadn't mortified him at first. The first time Dee had kissed him was in a public park. It had been so quick and so unexpected that Ryo could only gape in astonishment afterward. Dee, being Dee, had just brushed it off, covering his retreat with a line about it being a joke, a prank between two new partners.

Repeat performances, however, made it abundantly clear that Dee was either serious about getting under Ryo's skin, or into his bed.

And just when I'm finally convinced it's the latter, I find it might be the former. Ryo sighed. I kinda got used to it, too. Wasn't even too embarrassed any more. I just figured, everybody knows how Dee is…No one will think it's me.

Was Dee right? Am I just reacting to his pain?

He took a couple of glasses down from the cupboard, retrieved some wine from the fridge and poured. I hope we can toast something tonight. He's my best friend. I trust him with my life. That's a pretty good combination. And that's all I really need.

Even though his thoughts came to the easy resolution, his heart ached a little for the loss of something he hadn't even known he wanted. It felt like a loss of hope.

Before he could ponder it further, a knock at the door pulled him out of his reverie. Dee was waiting outside, looking grim.

"Hi. C'mon in."

Brushing past him, Dee then turned around, his eyes searched out Ryo's. It seemed to Ryo as if he was testing his welcome. "Did you know about this?" He held up a letter with the NYPD letterhead.

"No. What is it?"

"Look!" Dee thrust the letter out before him, but just as Ryo reached out to take it, he pulled it back, pointing to the first paragraph. "It says they're scheduling a special hearing...there's been some kind of public inquiry." He waved the letter over his head in his agitation, then plowed into the living room. Ryo trailed along in his partner's wake.

"Can I see it?"

"See the date?"

"I could if you'd-"

"It was mailed out the day after the shooting. The same day I talked to the shrink. I hate those guys! They trick you into saying what they want to hear." Dee wadded the letter up and threw it to the floor.

Ryo snatched it. "Calm down, let me see what it says." Ryo knelt down and smoothed it out on the coffee table. He read it quickly. It really seemed rather formal, very impersonal. "I think it might be a form letter." He looked up to see Dee glowering down at his nemesis: the letter.

Dee snorted. "No way!"

"Why not? You know that there's an investigation into any officer-involved shooting."

"With IAD, maybe! This is with a review board! Something's up. It was cut and dry. It was cut and dry, wasn't it?" He looked angry, but Ryo could hear the fear behind the last few words.

"Of course it was. Self-defense. And you have Alfred's testimony." He watched as Dee paced, his hands clenching. "And you have my report."

"For what it's worth," Dee scoffed. "You're my partner. You're biased."

"Yes, I am," Ryo said softly. If Dee heard it, he gave no sign.

Dee stopped pacing by the hallway that led to Bikky's room and the bathroom. Leaning with his back up against the wall, he seemed to realize that he was making fists convulsively and shoved his them into the pockets of his jacket. "Where's Bikky?" he asked suddenly.

"Carol's."

"Humph," he replied, then blurted, "They think I'm trigger-happy."

"What makes you think that?"

Dee scowled, meeting Ryo's gaze from beneath his wayward bangs. "My session with the shrink...it didn't go so well."

"You didn't say. I figured it must have been pretty routine. What happened?"

"I...I got a little...emotional."

Ryo got up and, leaving the letter on the table, approached Dee. The muscles in his jaw were jumping. Ryo rested his shoulder against the wall next to Dee. "Aw, Dee. Did you cry?"

"I never cry!" Dee lied angrily, and his eyes warned silently for Ryo to never mention again that he had.

"What do you mean, then?" Ryo asked in a soft, encouraging voice.

"I'm not stupid, Ryo. They didn't have to give me five days off, but they did. They think I'm trigger-happy, that I didn't have to shoot. Or they think I'm a wuss and can't handle it. Either way, they want me off the street."

"Or they know that you're upset about it, like anyone would be. They're giving you time to deal."

"Being a cop is all I've got," he said in a voice nearly ragged with the strain.

"No it isn't." Ryo countered firmly, trying to infuse the argument with the depth of his feelings. You've got me. He fought the urge to reach out and pull Dee close.

"You're so goddamned optimistic."

Ryo felt that warm, melting sensation in his chest again. It had been happening more and more often of late, and Ryo recognized it now. Too late, as always, he thought wryly. He hoped that Dee could hear it behind the words, in his voice, because he was so afraid now that he'd never get a chance to actually spell it out. "No, I just know you. I know your heart and I know that you see yourself in every kid on the street. There's no way that you'd have shot Tupper unless there was no other way."

The reassurance seemed to soften the angry lines on Dee's forehead. "I need a drink."

"I was pouring wine."

"Nothing stronger?"

Ryo just smiled and shook his head. He returned to the kitchen.

Dee considered that briefly, then called after him, "Guess I'll need several then."

A half hour and two glasses of wine later, Dee had removed his jacket and shoes and settled on the couch with his feet on the coffee table. One of his heels rested on the wrinkled letter. Though he had relaxed somewhat, he was still worried.

"You're right, Ryo. Being a cop isn't all I could do. I could be a P.I., you know."

Ryo brought the wine from the kitchen, poured Dee another glass, and set the bottle on the coffee table. He sat down at the other end of the couch. "But you won't have to." He was still sipping at his first glass.

"But if I did have to...we could still be friends, right?" His head, resting against the back of the couch, rolled to one side so he could make a case with his eyes.

We could be anything you want, Ryo thought, but just smiled a little instead.

"Maybe what I mean is...is being cops together all we have between us?"

Ryo froze. What do I say? What does he want me to say?

Before the silence could stretch, Dee grinned ruefully. "Gun shy, eh? Can't say that I blame you. Are you still mad at me?"

"No." Ryo shook his head. "That would be impossible."

"Then I could come to the precinct and wheedle restricted information from you?"

"Huh?"

"When I'm a P.I. You'd be my police contact, right?. Every P.I. on TV has a friend in the police department that feeds him good information."

Where are you going with this, Dee? Ryo decided to play along. "I would never bend the rules for you. But I could send you business. People that need help through 'unofficial' channels."

"Right! And we could exchange information after work," he lifted his glass, "over drinks."

"And you could hide out here when you piss off some mobsters or cuckolded husband, which you inevitably would." Ryo said knowingly.

"And while I'm hiding out here, I could give you back rubs after really, really hard days of police work."

Ryo looked at Dee. His partner was staring at him intently, his head still lolling on the back of the couch. Ryo's mind conjured up images of Dee's hands on his back, rubbing, stroking. I'd really like that. Damn! I'm reading sex into everything he says now!. But he said, "You would?"

"I'd make you take your shirt off, though, 'cause I might use warm oil…you know, to do a real good job."

Are we back to this again? Ryo thought in dismay. The teasing? The flirting. "Uh, wouldn't want to get oil on my nice shirts…" He felt himself falling into the depths of his partner's dilated eyes. In the growing twilight, he'd neglected to turn on any lights.

"And it would be easier on my knees if we were in your bed while I rubbed you down. Did you know…?"

Ryo felt wariness taint the longing in his heart. God, I don't know if I can go back to this… "Know what?"

"That tension can tighten every muscle in your body. It can…keep you awake at night, frustrated, worried, tense. I could fix that. I could work the tension right out of the hardest muscles. I could make you so relaxed, so con-"

Ryo set his glass on the table carefully and then rose. He took the bottle from the table and then walked into the kitchen.

"Ryo?"

Ryo put the wine back in the fridge and then rested his forehead against the cool door. Why is he doing this? He jumped as Dee's hand settled on his shoulder.

"What's wrong?"

Turning around, Ryo found that himself standing nose to nose with Dee. "Nothing. I didn't want the wine to get warm." He tried to slip to one side, but Dee blocked him with a hand flat on the door to each side of his shoulders.

"Don't lie," he said gently.

Ryo saw the challenge in Dee's eyes. "Okay. I won't. I just don't want to go back to the way we were."

Dee frowned. "The way we were when? Before Tupper? Before yesterday morning?"

"Before tonight. I want to go forward. I want an end to all this double talk and pointless flirting. I can be your partner, Dee. I can be your friend. But don't make me think about oily massages if I can't be your lover, too." The words had spilled out before he could think, which Ryo mentally rebuked himself for the moment the word lover left his lips.

Dee appeared stunned. He dropped his hands to his sides and took a step back. "Does this mean…are you giving me the go ahead on the oily massage? I mean, 'cause that is what I was shooting for."

In a voice that trembled, Ryo replied, "Only if you're serious and only if it's just with me."

"I…I don't have any oil."

Ryo snorted nervously, his face and neck burning. "That's okay. I didn't really mean a massage." He met and held Dee's gaze for an excruciating second. Then Dee was pressed against him, and their mouths came together.

It was a first because they both gave it their all. There wasn't any holding back, no coy withdrawal, no self-satisfied smirk to end the first and final step in the journey of them. Ryo let Dee push past his lips with his tongue, accepted it, even reveled in it. The world outside this new familiar sensation ceased to exist. But his breath quickened, and he found his arms around Dee, his hands clutching the soft cotton of his shirt.

Dee's mouth slid off to the side, till they were cheek to cheek, leaving Ryo gaping. "When's Bikky coming home?" Dee whispered roughly into Ryo's ear. His hands felt so hot as they slid under Ryo's sweater and up his back. He smoothed and kneaded, the muscles under that confident touch went as soft as putty.

"Tomorrow," Ryo whispered back, surprised at how out of breath he was.

"Oh, there is a god!" croaked Dee. He kissed Ryo again. "Ryo, is this what you want? Really?"

The old familiar paralysis started to keep the words locked away inside Ryo's chest. He hesitated and as the silence began to lengthen, he watched as Dee's hopeful expression began to fade. When wariness appeared in his eyes, and Dee tried to push away, Ryo refused to let him go, his fists clenching even tighter in the back of Dee's shirt.

"Yes," he said. The words were so hard to get out. "But I'm…I'm…"

"Scared?"

Ryo stared into Dee's eyes. "Yeah," he barely breathed. "I am."

Dee's lips curved up into the slightest smile. He pulled Ryo close again and whispered into his ear. "I would never, ever hurt you."

"I know that. But…I'm not…I mean, I've never…"

"I figured that, Ryo. It's okay."

"But I've never even thought about it."

"Never?" Dee lowered his head and licked Ryo's neck. He fastened his lips on that bit of skin and sucked gently.

"Uhhhh. Not until recently."

Dee let go, his lips making a soft, wet pop. "Like how recently?"

"About two nights ago." Ryo was breathing deeply as Dee pulled back enough to look him in the eye.

"Tell me about it?" When Ryo didn't answer right away, Dee kissed him and murmured "Please?" against his lips.

"I…" Ryo began, while Dee kept a light contact between their lips. "…I made myself come thinking about having sex with you."

Speaking the words sent a shiver through Ryo's guts, but hearing them seemed to ignite a fire in Dee. His partner groaned and pushed his tongue back into Ryo's mouth. When he pushed forward with his hips, Ryo realized there was a definite hardness there. Maybe it had been there all along, but Dee rocked against him slowly, wanting him to feel it. Finally, he broke the kiss long enough to ask, "Then what are you scared of?"

Ryo laughed weakly. "Oh, lots of things. But do you want to talk or…give me that massage?"

"I want to give you head." Dee smirked at the flush in Ryo's cheeks. "But a massage would be a great way to start, eh?" Dee pulled out of Ryo's embrace and turned away. He began to open up the kitchen cupboards in search of something.

Ryo watched him, wanting to ask him what he was looking for, but instead using the moment to catch his breath and study his partner from a new perspective. He tried to imagine what Dee was going to look like naked. He let his gaze travel from Dee's wide, athletic shoulders to his narrow hips, from the arch of his lower back to the swell of his butt below. His reverie was cut short as Dee spun around and held up a can of cooking spray.

"Dee, that's Pam!"

"And she's gonna have to do!" he laughed and pushed Ryo out of the kitchen.

In the bedroom, Ryo paused before his parent's massive bed. Just a couple nights ago I masturbated and thought about him! Ryo took a deep breath, attempting to slow things down, to plan the next move, but as he bent to pull the comforter back, strong arms circled his waist from behind, lifted him up and shoved him down awkwardly, face down, on the bed.

"Dee?" Ryo said in surprise.

"I'll take care of everything. You just relax." Dee pushed Ryo's sweater up to his shoulders and Ryo hesitated only a moment before he rolled a little to the side, lifting his arms so that Dee could get it completely off.

The butterflies were going crazy in his stomach, but nothing was happening south of the border. Ryo breathed deeply, and tried to relax. What if I can't get it up? What if I suck? What if I don't? Dee had turned on the stereo before following him to the bedroom, so something soft and jazzy was playing. The apartment was dark, but the large, naked window illuminated the room with the lights of the city beyond. Nice. It's nice, Ryo thought. Then Dee straddled his hips and sprayed his back with Pam.

Cold! And it seemed so…crazy! But then Dee said, "Now I'm cookin'!" and Ryo could hear that…smile…in his voice, that ever present optimism, and he couldn't help but snort his amusement into the soft down comforter. Then Ryo felt his partner's warm hands on his back again, this time massaging in earnest.

And it wasn't so bad. Dee's confident fingers pressed into the tight muscles, digging gently but insistently. His palms followed, rolling and rubbing, under Ryo's shoulder blades, up to his neck and then across the large muscle on top of his shoulder and outward to his biceps and triceps. He deftly skirted the gauze taped to his right shoulder. The nervousness started to leave Ryo, fading like the twilight as he fell under the spell of the massage. His eyes closed. His mind drifted, and for a time he even forgot where this was leading.

Eventually, Dee's hands slid along Ryo's forearms and then both of his hands were clasping Ryo's. His breath blew hot on Ryo's neck and he kissed him there, lingering, then breathing gently in Ryo's ear. "Turn over."

No hiding now. Dee was kneeling, taking his weight off so that Ryo could roll over. Once he did, Ryo could feel the burn starting in his face. But he looked his partner straight in the eyes, not even flinching when the Pam was employed once more, nor when Dee's hands began to move over his chest.

"Don't be afraid."

"I'm not."

"Are you embarrassed? You're blushing," Dee pointed out. He emphasized it by smoothing his greasy hands over Ryo's hot cheeks.

"I…I'm just not sure what to do."

Dee smiled. "We'll do whatever feels good." He passed the pads of his thumbs over Ryo's nipples. "Like this."

Ryo's breath gave a little hitch.

"Do you like it?"

"Yeah."

"How about this?" Dee lowered his head and licked one of the sensitive nubs.

Ryo felt an erotic current that tripped along his nerves. His sex stirred. Placing his hand on the back of Dee's neck, he encouraged him to continue.

"Hmmm, that's right," Dee murmured as he continued to lick and suck. "Let me know what you like." He let himself roll off of Ryo, still teasing the nipple, but also freeing his hand to stroke and smooth the cooking spray coated skin of his chest and stomach.

Dee's hand slid around Ryo's waist and he tightened his embrace. Again they kissed. Ryo familiarized himself with the taste, the texture of his partner's tongue. There was plenty of time, as Dee took a leisurely approach to probing and caressing. Ryo began to explore, tentatively, Dee's back and shoulders, even daring to reach down and fondle his ass. Dee flexed those muscles and pushed his hard-on into Ryo's hip. Self-consciousness melted away and Ryo rolled on his side to meet that excitement with his own burgeoning erection.

"Feels good, huh?" Dee murmured into his ear.

Ryo moaned his agreement. He felt Dee's hand glide down his back, and eventually butt up against the waistband of his jeans. Pushing away, Dee slid his flat hand down over Ryo's groin. Encouraged by the firmness he encountered, Dee cupped his hand and squeezed.

"And that? Do you like that?" Everything he said made little puffs of cool air against Ryo's lips.

Ryo nodded, rocking his hips up a little, just enough to confirm it.

"I want to make you come, Ryo." He worked the button of Ryo's fly open and then pulled it apart, forcing the zipper down.

Just as Dee began to slide his hand under the elastic of Ryo's briefs, Ryo covered his hand and held it still. "You're still dressed. I'd…I'd like it if you…weren't."

Dee's eyes reflected the glow of streetlights, and his lips curled up in a smile. "Okay. But you ditch the rest of your clothes, too." He sat up and undid the top two buttons of his shirt. Pulling it off over his head, Dee tossed it over his shoulder. He got up on his knees and then undid his fly.

Ryo pushed himself up, watching, unable to stop himself. When Dee paused, Ryo remembered that he was supposed to be undressing as well. He lay back and hooked his thumbs under the waist of his underwear and his jeans. Pushing them down, he kept his eyes on Dee as he mirrored the move. Unlike Ryo, Dee was fully erect, his penis springing up eagerly from the vanishing confines of the jeans as he pushed them off his legs, kicking them finally onto the floor. Oh, god, Ryo thought, he's bigger than two fingers!

Dee glanced down at Ryo's semi-flaccid state, then back up to meet Ryo's eyes.

Ryo looked away, nerves finally getting the better of him.

"Are you sure, Ryo?" Dee's voice had gotten deeper, thicker, but it wasn't as sure.

"I am." He sat up and caught Dee behind the neck, drawing him close enough to kiss.

"We'll go slow," Dee said when their lips parted. "As slow as you need." He lay down next to Ryo, sliding an arm under his back and letting his other hand rest easily on Ryo's waist.

Ryo put his arms around Dee's back, pulling him down, pulling him close. "It's not that I don't want to, Dee. I do."

"Sex isn't what's important to me, Ryo." He pulled back a little so he could look at his partner. "What means everything is that you love me."

"I…do, but how did you know?"

"Bikky told me."

Ryo frowned. "Maybe I ought to know what you two talked about."

"Nah. He's out tonight, all night, and we don't have to worry about any interruptions, right?"

"You just said the sex wasn't important."

Dee grinned. "Well, it's a little important. Hey, I've been saving myself for you." He pushed his hard penis against Ryo's hip.

"You mean you've been totally celibate?" Ryo teased.

"Umm, only if that means I haven't had sex with other people," Dee replied. "I jerk off plenty. And I think of you every time."

"Dee!" Ryo felt his face burn anew.

"What? You don't? You don't jerk it?" Dee's hand slid down to curl around Ryo's penis. "You do, right? You told me you did." His hand squeezed and pulled.

"Uhn! Yes…" Ryo breathed deeply, closing his eyes.

"And you told me what you think about when you do," whispered Dee.

Ryo turned his head slightly, finding Dee's mouth right over his, his dark eyes peering intensely into his. "Yes, I thought about you." Talking about sex, and Dee's firm stroking was getting Ryo hard.

Dee lowered his mouth to Ryo's. His tongue, his initiative, was just what Ryo wanted at that moment. He tightened his embrace. Dee stopped masturbating Ryo, running his thumb over the head of Ryo's penis, spreading pre-ejaculate over the smooth, sensitive skin. "I don't think I wanna be celibate any more," Dee said as his lips parted with Ryo's. "How about you?"

Ryo was surprised by how out of breath he sounded when he replied: "Do you mean you want to…?"

Dee started to stroke again. "Want to what?"

"You know."

"I want to hear you say it. C'mon. Say it."

"You want to fuck?" Ryo felt a surge of excitement. It was like he'd gone from 0 to 60 in just a few seconds.

Dee groaned, and pushed his hard, hot flesh against Ryo's hip. "Oh, yeah! But…but not right away. We'll go slow." He was panting, too. Dee pushed up and once again straddled Dee's hips. He sprayed the Pam generously into one hand, then dropped the can behind him on the bed. Ryo felt it roll down against the sole of his foot. Dee took both of their erections into his coated hand and began to slide it up and down.

Ryo moaned, thinking how incredibly hot this was, how ready he was. He propped up on his elbows to watch, feeling an overwhelming urge to thrust, but flexing his hip and thigh muscles was as close as he could get with Dee sitting on his legs.

This is it then, Ryo thought absently, now too invested in the imminent culmination of this encounter to do more than experience the thoughts that flitted in and out of his mind as they would.

Dee was astride his thighs, hands wrapped around both of their erections, pulling and squeezing, his slippery palms sliding up and down to a rhythm that Ryo couldn't master. It kept him unbalanced, first on the verge of coming, and then frustratingly unable to reach that precipice. His gaze would alternate from Ryo's face, then back down to the point where their hard, straining flesh was pressed together. In distant way, Ryo felt shy under his partner's gaze, but the sensation building in his groin was swiftly overriding any reticence. Ryo watched Dee's face intently whenever his gaze dropped to the heady task of masturbating them both at once.

When he saw Dee's eyes flutter and felt the pace of Dee's stroking increase, Ryo looked down just in time to see him come. The first spurt of semen made an arc in the air and landed in a dime-sized puddle on Ryo's stomach. The second shot was scooped up by Dee's retreating hand and increased the lubrication between Dee's pulsing flesh and Ryo's now steely hard erection. Ryo felt the last of his reserve flee and he let go, tumbling over the brink of orgasm. Weakness washed up his thighs and his come squirted forth just as Dee's subsided. Dee continued to massage their cocks, milking out the very last of their ejaculate.

"Oh, god, Ryo," Dee groaned and fell forward to lie on top of Ryo. One of his legs slipped between Ryo's, and he let his head rest on Ryo's shoulder. "I really needed that."

It wasn't a question, and Ryo was glad because he found that he was at a loss for words. Instead of trying to form a coherent thought, he put his arms around Dee's back and hugged him. Their stomachs slid together, slick with their come.

"Did you like it?" Dee said. Ryo felt Dee's head lift a little, some vulnerability creeping into his voice.

"Yes, I did," Ryo replied. "Please don't worry, okay?"

"It's just that I know you've never done anything like this with a guy before." Dee sighed and let his head drop again.

"No." Ryo hadn't ever even fantasized about a guy before he'd met Dee. "I don't think I would have done this with anybody but you."

"I get you. Really. And that's okay by me if you never, ever do this with anyone but me." Dee pressed his lips against Ryo's neck.

"What about you?" Ryo heard himself ask before he could think twice. "How many times have you...I mean, with a guy?"

"Don't think I wanna say."

Ryo felt a surge of panic. "Why not?"

Dee lifted his head so their eyes could meet again. "Well, are you gonna tell me about all your others?"

"All my others? You make it sound like I've got some wild history." Ryo frowned, feeling his nervousness returning.

"But it's okay for you to ask me?"

"I only asked about the guys, didn't I?"

"Doesn't matter. Guys or girls, it's all the same." Then a strange expression slipped across Dee's face. "Well, maybe not quite the same. Girls never really get to be top, you know? At least not with me. And I'm looking forward to you taking some initiative."

"Initiative?" Ryo repeated absently as his mind tried to put a picture to that idea.

"Yeah. Like when you came over to my place a couple days ago. That was a Ryo I'd like to see again. That was a Ryo I'd let fuck me."

"Dee!"

"C'mon, Ryo! Don't go all innocent on me." Dee sounded amused.

"I'm not going all innocent! I am innocent," Ryo protested.

"But I like the idea, don't you?"

"The idea of what?"

Dee bent his knee a bit, rubbing his sticky penis against Ryo's thigh. "Of you fucking me. Jeez, it gets me hard just thinking about it.

And he was getting hard again. Ryo felt his eyebrows crawl higher. "You're…you're…really something, Dee Laytner!" But the seed had been planted and Ryo's mind was working out the notion, playing with it and finding it weirdly exciting. It wasn't a twist he would have expected during this initial tryst.

Dee wrapped his hand around Ryo's wrist and pulled his hand down until it rested on his ass. "I don't expect you to take all the chances here, man." He let go of Ryo's wrist slowly.

Ryo's hand rested on the smooth, pale mound of Dee's ass. Gradually, he began to slide his hand back and forth, then he pushed a tentative forefinger between Dee's buttocks.

"You're the only one I trust, Ryo," Dee whispered. "You're the only one I love."

Ryo probed carefully. Next to him, Dee tightened the arm he had across Ryo's ribs and spread his legs a bit further apart. Ryo's erection was returning. He felt a rapid exhilaration and in his mind he wondered why it had taken so long to get here. As Ryo rolled onto his side, resting his cheek against the back of Dee's tousled head, he felt the cool metal of the Pam bump against the back of his calf. A sudden smile spread across his face. "Well, now we're cookin'."

As the last of the light was leeched away by the night, Ryo felt Dee's shoulders shake with silent laughter until he made a Pam-assisted advance, both bold and unexpected, and stole Dee's breath away in a gasp of pleasure.

The End



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