Characters: Ryo, Dee.
Setting: After Like Like Love.
Summary: Dee persuades Ryo that he doesn’t always have to behave like a responsible adult. It’s okay to have fun.
Word Count: 2368
Written For: Challenge 3: Jimmy Buffett Song Titles at ficlet_zone, using ‘Growing Older But Not Up’ and ‘Come Monday’.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
Hard as it sometimes was for Ryo to believe, he and Dee had been together for almost ten years already, but despite the fact that they were now both over forty Dee hadn’t noticeably grown up any. He totally agreed with the saying ‘growing older is mandatory, but growing up is optional’ so he’d opted not to bother with the latter.
“I plan on stayin’ young at heart for the rest of my life,” he’d told Ryo the day he turned forty. “Age is just a number, and besides, life’s too short to waste it on bein’ an adult all the time. I have to do the adult thing at work, no choice there, but I reserve the right to just be me the rest of the time, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks. You should try it.”
“Try what exactly?”
“Embracing your inner child!”
“You do enough of that for the both of us,” Ryo had chuckled, amused.
“Doesn’t mean you can’t join in,” Dee said magnanimously. “We could have a hell of a lot of fun if you’d just let your hair down now and then. Not sayin; we don’t already have fun, ‘cause you know I’ve got no complaints on that score, but…” He’d sobered then. “We live in a dangerous world, babe; who knows what tomorrow might bring? We should be makin’ the most of every moment we have, while we still can.”
An uneasy feeling had suddenly swept over Ryo. “Is there something you’re not telling me? Are you sick or something?”
“What? No, dumbass, but you might be before long if you keep workin’ yourself into the ground the way you do, and don’t even try to deny it. But there’s more to life than just sex, food, work, and sleep.”
“Who are you and what did you do with the real Dee Laytner?” Ryo had asked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.
Dee had burst out laughing at that and the conversation had taken a different turn, but his words had sunk in, and that night, as Dee slept peacefully beside him, Ryo had lain awake doing some serious thinking. Dee was right; everything could change for them in an instant, through injury, illness, or even, God forbid, death, and if one of them were to die tomorrow, what would the other have to look back on? Years of hard work interspersed with occasional nights out and even rarer vacations? There had to be more than that, and anyway, wasn’t life supposed to begin at forty? Maybe it was time he stopped trying to be the responsible one and really started to live his life. Before sleep had at last claimed him, Ryo had come to a decision. No more putting the fun things off until later; he and Dee would do them all now, while they were young enough and healthy enough to enjoy them, so that when they were old and grey they could look back on their lives without regret.
It was a fine resolution to make, but they couldn’t abandon their responsibilities entirely. They still had to work for a living, which took up a significant portion of their lives, and when they weren’t working, there were still chores to be done; cleaning, laundry, ironing, grocery shopping, not to mention food to cook and dishes to wash, but if all of that were organised more efficiently… Buying a dishwasher took care of the dishes; that was one chore less. Grocery shopping could be done on the way home from work once or twice a week, laundry could be fitted in around other things, cleaning could be done a little each day, and cooking was something Ryo enjoyed anyway, not so much a chore as a hobby. Even so, he didn’t have to cook every night; they could eat out once a week, and maybe order takeaway once a week too, pick a night at random when he didn’t feel like making the effort to cook…
With the extra time their new, more streamlined home routines freed up they started going out more; movies, concerts, walks in the park, horseback riding, swimming… In good weather there was the beach, although Coney Island tended to get crowded throughout spring and summer, especially at weekends, and some days it wasn’t worth trying to get there because the traffic was so bad that by the time they arrived it would be almost time to head back home. If their days off fell midweek during term time though, when most kids were in school, there was less traffic and fewer people… well, then it was sand, sea, and fairground rides, because why not? There was a lot to be said for being spontaneous.
With that in mind, whenever they had two or three days off in a row, instead of always insisting on catching up on the housework Ryo let himself be persuaded to get out of the city. One weekend they went dirt biking, and on another, rock climbing. They went canoeing, fruit picking, hiking… there seemed no end to the activities they could try. Some things they only did once, others became semi-regular pastimes. Every month or so they took the kids from the orphanage out to give Mother some respite, going paintballing, or to the zoo, or the fun fair. Other times they just grabbed the essentials and took off on Dee’s motorcycle, not caring where they ended up.
Dee was right; tying to be an adult all the time was exhausting and stressful, but letting his hair down, so to speak, was liberating. Was Dee being a bad influence on him or a good one? Sometimes Ryo wasn’t entirely sure. Should he be climbing trees like a ten-year-old, or rolling down hills, building sandcastles, or jumping in puddles? Stuff like that was surely childish, but it was innocent fun that didn’t hurt anyone, and if they messed about on the swings and slide and monkey bars at the local park after dark when all the kids had gone home, was that such a terrible thing? It was more fun than hitting the gym, not to mention cheaper.
They did still go to the gym at least a couple of times a month, to use the weight machines and the pool, but because they were leading a more active life by having fun, they were keeping in pretty good shape anyway; their martial arts workouts helped too.
“You know what we should do?” Ryo asked one morning, as he and Dee were getting ready for work.
“No, what?” Dee said distractedly; he was hopping on one foot, trying to put his socks on.
“We should start cycling to work.”
Dee toppled backwards onto the bed, his sock pinging away across the room. “Are you serious?”
Retrieving the errant sock, Ryo dropped it on the bed and sat beside Dee to pull his own on. “I don’t mean every day, cycling in the pouring rain, ice or snow wouldn’t be fun, but think about it; in decent weather we could avoid getting stuck in traffic jams, or having to squeeze into a subway car, and it’s good exercise for free. Then if we don’t feel like cycling home after work we can always leave our bikes at the precinct and cycle home another day.”
“Just one problem with that,” Dee pointed out. “I don’t own a bike.” He had for a while a few years back, an old second-hand one, but then someone had stolen the wheels off it while it was parked in the lobby of Ryo’s building. At the time Dee had suspected Bikky, but in the absence of any concrete proof there’d been nothing he could do, so he’d had to scrap what was left of the bike. It hadn’t been worth buying new wheels for it.
“That’s easily enough fixed; just get a new one. We can afford it, and it would give us another option for days off; pack a picnic and cycle to the park, or even to the beach; beat the traffic that way.”
The more Dee thought about it, the better the idea sounded. Ryo had a bike, but it seldom got any use because they usually went places together, meaning using public transport, one of their cars, or Dee’s motorcycle. There was plenty of room on the landing outside their apartment to keep bikes, Ryo’s already lived there, so storage wasn’t a problem, and even on those occasions when the elevator wasn’t working they could carry their bikes down to street level without too much difficulty.
“So, wanna go bicycle shopping with me?”
“Thought you’d never ask.”
On their next day off they went on a tour of cycle shops, and it didn’t take them long to found Dee’s ideal bicycle; the sleek, black frame with green trim could have been designed with him in mine.
“What do you think?” Ryo asked, looking it over.
“Shiny! Yep, this is definitely the one.” Dee looked outside at the rain-drenched streets. “Shame the weather isn’t better or I could’ve ridden it home.”
“Maybe it will have improved by next weekend and we can go somewhere then.”
“We can hope.” Dee paid for his new bike, arranged delivery, and they headed home.
Rain was still falling when the bike was delivered the following afternoon and Dee immediately took it upstairs in the elevator to join Ryo’s, wiping off the drops of rainwater before locking both bikes together for security and covering them to keep the dust off. Ryo knew Dee was itching to go somewhere on his new bike, but with the bad weather showing no sign of letting up, and more rain promised for at least the first half of the next week, he would have to wait. They had work the following day anyhow. The first day the weather cooperated though, there’d be no stopping them
Their next weekend off dawned fine, so Ryo and Dee threw on jeans, t-shirts, and lightweight jackets, put a packed lunch and other necessities into their backpacks, donned their helmets, and made sure they had their bike locks and keys before taking the elevator down to the street. It was still reasonably early, only just after eight in the morning, but that didn’t mean the roads were clear. Nevertheless, on bikes they were able to weave their way through most of the traffic jams, or where necessary, get off and wheel their bikes past the worst areas. Within thirty minutes they were crossing the Manhattan Bridge with plans to cycle out to South Beach on Staten Island. They knew the route pretty well having been that way both by car and on Dee’s motorcycle.
The ride was long and far from easy, but buoyed up by enthusiasm they made. After a rest and a drink, they took to the beach, determined to ignore their already aching muscles. It was a gloriously sunny day and they had a great time, in and out of the water, but as the afternoon wore on, they were faced with the fact that they still had to cycle all the way home.
“We made it one way; goin’ the other way can’t be any more difficult, right?”
“I guess we’re about to find out,” Ryo replied, donning his cycling helmet and unlocking his bike from the rack.
“It’ll be fine.” Dee swung his leg over, wincing slightly as he settled onto the seat. “Sooner we get started, sooner we’ll be home.”
Ryo couldn’t argue with that.
By the time they arrived back at their building after the gruelling return trip, they were just about done in, saddle sore and with aching legs that shook as they staggered up the stoop with their bikes and into the elevator, grateful they didn’t have to climb the stairs. Leaving their bikes locked and covered on the landing, they let themselves into their apartment, wanting nothing more than to sit down.
“I’d forgotten how hard cycling is on the legs,” Dee groaned, tottering across the living room to collapse heavily onto the sofa.
“Same here,” Ryo agreed, flopping wearily down beside him. “Maybe a soak in a hot bath would help.”
“Not until I’ve cooled off a bit, otherwise I might melt.” Dee wiped at his sweaty face with the sleeve of his jacket before peeling the garment off and dropping it on the floor.
“Good point,” Ryo agreed, dropping his jacket on the sofa beside him. “We should just sit here for a bit first and get our breath back.” Tilting his head against the back of the sofa he closed his eyes. Sitting down on something soft had never felt so good.
“Ryo?” Dee asked a few minutes later.
“We’re back at work day after tomorrow; d’you think we’ll be able to walk by then?”
“I don’t know, but I have a feeling we’ll be getting some funny looks come Monday. Maybe we should’ve started with a shorter ride and worked out way up to the thirty mile or so round trips.”
“Now you tell me.”
“Don’t blame me; it was your idea to go to South Beach.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right, it was. I like it out there though, it’s quieter than Coney Island.”
“Me too.” They fell silent for several long moments, until finally Ryo spoke again. “You know what this means, don’t you?”
“No, but I have a feelin’ you’re gonna tell me.”
“We’ll have to cycle tomorrow too.”
Dee raised his head from the back of the sofa, about all he could manage at that moment, and gave Ryo a horrified look. “What? Are you insane?”
“The only way to get past the aches and pains is to keep doing whatever caused them in the first place; you know that.”
Dee sagged. “Yeah, I know. Kinda wish I didn’t. Just please tell me you’re not suggesting goin’ all the way out to Staten Island again. I think my legs might fall off if I tried that again anytime soon.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got no intention of trying that again, or not until we’re more accustomed to riding bikes. How about Central Park instead?”
“Yeah, okay, my poor old bod might just about manage that. I’m not gettin’ any younger, ya know.”
“Weren’t you the one going on about staying young at heart a few months ago?” Ryo teased.
“And I stand by that; I’m young inside, it’s the rest of me that’s the problem. Guess I’m not as fit as I thought I was.”
“You’re not the only one, but it’s only because we’re out of practice. Cycling will get easier if we keep at it.”
“I know you’re right, but I wish the process didn’t have to hurt so much.”
“It’ll be worth it in the end. Ready for a hot soak yet?” Ryo had cooled off from the cycle ride and was starting to feel a bit chilly; the thought of sinking into a bath full of hot water held definite appeal.
Dee nodded. “Sounds good to me; let’s go.”
Neither of them moved.
The minutes ticked slowly past until Ryo broke the silence. “Dee?”
“Now I’ve been sitting down, I don’t think I can stand up again.”
“Likewise,” Dee admitted. “But maybe we don’t have to.”
“Huh?” Turning his head, Ryo gave his partner a confused look. “What d’you mean?”
Dee slithered off the sofa onto the floor. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” He got up on all four’s, not painless but easier than trying to walk on his throbbing legs and feet. “You comin’?”
“Embracing your inner child is one thing, but I think you’ve regressed a little too far,” Ryo said, laughing as Dee started to crawl towards the bathroom.
“Don’t knock what you haven’t tried. Anyway, it’s not like anyone else is gonna see. Stay there if you want, but I’m off for a nice, soothing soak in the bathtub, even if I have to crawl to get there.”
Ryo shrugged. Dee was right; it might seem silly but what did it really matter? Wasn’t that what Dee had been saying all along? That there was nothing wrong with being silly? “Right behind you.” Sliding onto the floor he crawled after his other half. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em; maybe his legs would hurt less after a hot bath and standing up wouldn’t seem like such an impossible task. This staying young at heart was turning out to be hard work!