Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Coda 33

Ryo and Kai from Blood Red Butterfly



Ryo had probably had worse Christmases. He couldn’t remember one though.

First, he had to work. That was a drag, but he was new man on the totem pole at Barton and Ross Investigations, so fair enough. He was the guy pulling stakeout duty on Christmas morning. Somebody had to be. Too bad because it was his and Kai’s first holiday as a couple, but he could wait a few hours to see what goodies Santa brought him. Except what Santa had brought seemed to be strife and unhappiness.

Ryo shifted position behind the wheel of the sedan. His butt ached from sitting for hours. Though not as much as his heart ached.

You were supposed to be honest with the people you loved, right? You didn’t tell them lies to keep the peace or make life easier on yourself. So when Kai had started in about how Laurel and Ojiisan were forcing Kenji to spend Christmas with them, Ryo had intervened.

“Dude, you have to think about what’s best for Kenji,” he had said.

“I am thinking of that!” Kai had snarled. He was pacing up and down the living room floor, past the towering Christmas tree piled with gifts and toys for his little son. “It’s our first Christmas together.”

“Yeah, so you’ve said about a dozen times now. But if Kenji wants to be with his mother and Oji--”

Laurel’s lying!”


“It doesn’t matter. It’s my turn. I’ve waited and waited for this.” Kai’s fox-brown eyes glittered dangerously in his pale, furious face.

No wonder the kid was scared of him.

But Ryo did not say that. There were some truths you could not ever share. Instead he said, “Look, what do a few hours matter? He’ll be here the day after Christmas, right? He’ll love it. He gets two Christmases for the price of one.”

“It’s not the same! This was our first Christmas. You’re not going to be here. Now Kenji’s not going to be here.” Kai whirled away again and started another lap of the festively decorated room. 

He’d gone all out. It looked -- and smelled -- like Santa’s Village in there. Garland and candles and a couple of life-sized reindeer statues. Whatever. If it made him happy, it made Ryo happy.

But then disaster. Laurel had called to say Kenji now wanted to spend Christmas day at home. He was worried that Santa might not find him at his father’s or some such excuse. The thing was, Kenji didn’t really need an excuse. Not in Ryo’s opinion. If he was happier waking up Christmas morning in his own bed, well, he was the little kid after all. Kai was just going to have to swallow his disappointment.

But he had not swallowed his disappointment. He had been ranting and raving for nearly an hour when Ryo had made the mistake of trying to reason with him.

In Ryo’s opinion, not only was it not fair to blame Laurel and Ojiisan for this change in plans, it wasn’t healthy. Yes, it was Kai’s turn to have Kenji spend Christmas -- more than his turn -- and yes, Kenji would have had a great time. He usually ended up having a great time, even if he always arrived shy and uncertain and a little reluctant. But that was beside the point. The kid didn’t want to be there. And that wasn’t anyone’s fault.

Or even if it was partly the fault of Laurel and Ojiisan for those years of keeping Kai from his son and creating this unnatural tension…there wasn’t any point dwelling on what couldn’t be changed. Right?

“It seems to me like you’re more concerned with what you want than what Kenji wants,” Ryo said.

Kai had gone perfectly silent and perfectly still. When he turned, his face was bone white and his eyes were red and glowing. Okay, not literally red and glowing, but if Kai had been drawing himself for a manga -- Blood Red Christmas -- his eyes would surely have been red and glowing.


Ryo said, “All I’m hearing is how disappointed you are. You’re not five years old, Kai. So next year, maybe he’ll be ready to spend Christmas Eve over here. And in the meantime you’ll have the day aft--”

“Get out!” Kai had yelled. “Get the fuck out of my house.”

Gee, it was practically like old times.

Except… “It’s my house too,” Ryo had pointed out. Loudly. “So you get out.”

“Fine! I’m going.”

And he had. Stopping only to grab his car keys, he had flung out of the house and driven away into the rainy gray afternoon. Without so much as a jacket.

“Good!” Ryo had yelled as the front door slammed shut.

Peace and quiet at last.

Ryo got a beer out of the fridge and made himself a sandwich. Maybe after lunch, he’d have a nap. He would be working all night and it would be wise to take advantage of this lull in the storm. But he couldn’t sleep. Every time he glanced at that giant Christmas tree sparkling and alight, the embodiment of all Kai’s anticipation and hopes over these past weeks, his heart felt heavy.

He hated Kai being so hurt and disappointed, and maybe that was one reason he hadn’t been patient enough. He couldn’t fix this and so he wanted it not to matter so much to Kai. He wanted him to be reasonable and wise. But Kai was not reasonable and wise. Well, sometimes. But he was also headstrong and impulsive and emotional.

Kai did not call and he was not home by the time Ryo had to leave for work.

Ryo didn’t think he was in the wrong, but he did think he could have handled things better. Anyway, he hated quarreling with Kai, and quarreling during the holidays added a special level of awfulness to it. So he scrawled SORRY xoxo on a post-it-note and left it stuck the fridge door.


Rain drops hit the windshield. A gray Toyota splashed past Ryo and parked half a block up. The taillights went out.

That would be Ellison, Ryo’s relief. He checked his watch. Nine thirty. Shift over. And not a peep out of his phone all night. He checked his messages to be sure. But no. Nothing. Not a word from Kai.

He started the engine. He could always drop by his mom’s and spend Christmas morning there. If Kai wasn’t home…well, that was going to be pretty damned depressing. Or if Kai was there but still wanting to fight, that would be worse.

 For a few moments he sat watching the rain, car engine idling, then he drove home.

* * * *

Kai’s car was in the garage, so Ryo knew he was back. That was a relief. More of a relief than he wanted to admit, in fact.

The house was so quiet, he thought Kai must still be sleeping. And that could either be a good sign or a bad sign. There were no lights on, no music. The Christmas tree was a dark form in the gloom.

Ryo tiptoed through, heading for the bedroom, stopping only to plug in the Christmas tree lights. In the sudden dazzle of blue and red and green and gold he was startled to spot Kai huddled on the sofa. Kai looked straight at him. His eyes were dark in his haggard face. He said nothing.

“What is it?” Ryo went over to him, sitting down on the sofa, pulling Kai to him. He was thinking death and disaster at the least. Their earlier quarrel was forgotten.

Kai shook his head, but he leaned into Ryo. He was not crying, but there was something so sad, so heartbroken in his silence, that tears would have been a relief.

“Tell me,” Ryo said softly.

Kai moved his head in negation again, but he said into Ryo’s chest, “If you’re not on my side, then I have no one.”

“I’m always on your side. Always. You don’t want me to lie to you, do you?”

He felt Kai swallow. Kai said in that same smothered voice, “I don’t know. No. Only sometimes.”
Ryo smiled faintly.
Kai said, "I do want what's best for Kenji. But if I don't push this -- he's my son. He doesn't know me. I don't know him."
"I know. But you can't force it." Ryo kissed the top of Kai’s head. He smelled like he had been out in the rain for a long time. He felt chilled. His own Ice Princess. But now he knew the ice was a thin and too fragile shell. “I am always on your side. I guess the truth is, I can’t stand it when anyone hurts you. I didn’t want it to matter so much to you because there isn’t anything I can do about this situation.”

“I don’t need you to do anything except…"
"Except what?"
"Be the one I matter to.”

Ryo’s heart squeezed. “Kai-chan. You do matter. You matter more than anyone or anything.”

And that was the truth. Ryo wasn’t even asking for it to be true in reverse. Because if that wasn’t what love was about -- putting someone else first -- what was it?
He held Kai quietly, safely in the soft, prism of many-colored lights, and it was enough.






  1. I wanted to ''save'' this for this evening but I didn't manage it.

    Great coda, thank you very much, dear Josh. I liked the fact that there was a bit of angst, but not too much ;-). And the end is just perfect.

  2. How lovely for Kai to have Ryo by his side, holding him in his time of need. Thank you!

  3. Nice coda, as always, Josh. I really love to revisit those characters I love...

  4. *sigh* *happy-teary-sigh* The codas are all so very wonderful, thank you, Josh! This one feels like a little universe all on its own, so cool how you do that :-) I always liked Ryo and Kai, especially Kai, wild and fragile. Good to hear from them again :-)

  5. Oh, God, Kai and Ryo. Thank you so much,Josh :). I really loved the novel and the story is so beautiful. Thank you!


  6. Oh! I didn't even realize these two didn't have a coda yet. I'm so happy that they do have one now!

    And I hope you enjoy revisiting your stories and writing the codas even half as much as we enjoy reading them. They truly feel like lovely glowing surprise gifts, like small wonders. Everyone of your codas makes me love Christmas and the Holiday season more and more. :-)

    Thank you so much again, dear Josh.

  7. Gosh, that was beautiful. Thank you!

  8. An exquisite glimpse into the ongoing lives of a favorite couple. A little angsty, but still with lots of Christmas cheer. Thank you, Josh, for another of your holiday gifts. And the black and white picture is gorgeous. :)

  9. So sweet. Thank you!

  10. Gosh, I loved this. I knew it wouldn't be easy for them, but this just broke my heart. Then put it back together in an oh so good way. I think we might need another little peek at them again next year. :-)

  11. That was an amazing immersion into the heart of their relationship. I love how you do that! Blood Red Butterfly is one of my favorites. The writing was so visual and filled with fingernail bitting tension. Thank you for sharing. ☺️

  12. Thanks so much Josh. It was a wonderful Christmas moment. Loved it.

  13. I have a cold, I am tired and then I have opend your gift for today and I am feeling so much better now. I am looking forward to reread BRB Thank you so much for these interesting stories.

  14. Oh...I have tears in my eyes. At first, sad tears, then happy ones. :-)

  15. Oh, Blood Red Butterfly is one my favourites just because it is so different. This is a wonderful coda, I do feel for Kai.


  16. I´m so deeply moved by this coda, because it felt so real and true. I have to deal with difficult family situations professionally and in these last weeks I had so many discussions about visitation rights at Christmas and have seen so many sad, angry and disappointed parents and angsty and troubled children and this coda really struck home. But the difference here is that there is someone to share the pain and the sadness with, someone who gives support and comfort. who loves unconditionally and selflessly and helps to get through one of the hardest situations, at the Holidays. Beautiful, heartwrenching and a real christmassy spirit, thank you so much !!

  17. Sweet. I'm glad you didn't forget about Ryo and Kai. :)

  18. Thank you, good to see they're progressing.