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About A Pie

Chapter Text

Thanksgiving, 1989

 

Kevin stared out into traffic, from the passenger seat of the 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder. "We can't take the Cross-Bronx. It's going to be awful."

"Considering the day we just had," Raymond said, beside him in the driver's seat, "I think a little more awful is, on the whole, negligible."

"I apologize," Kevin said, in genuine apology, but the gesture felt as empty as he did. "Had I known my family would be so unwelcoming, I would have declined to participate."

Kevin wasn't sure whether that was true, but it felt true enough.

"They didn't demonstrate any signs of hostility prior to our arrival for Thanksgiving dinner?"

"No," Kevin said. "They really didn't."

“He’s a policeman?”
Kevin knit his brows ever so slightly at the phone receiver, to no avail. The crisp but thinning voice of one Mrs. Abigail Cozner did not sound disapproving, but confused.
“He’s a detective, Mother,” Kevin explained. “He’s very intelligent.”
“I wouldn’t have thought a policeman,” Abigail continued, over-articulating her words in a way which betrayed great mental effort. “I suppose I would have expected, you know, another academic, or someone in the arts --”
Something more obviously gay, Kevin mentally translated. Or at least less blue-collar, goodness.
Abigail then went on to mention a certain bachelor uncle, as she usually did when Kevin's romantic life (or, until recently, lack thereof) came up, indicating that his mother understood the nature of his 'companionship,' but did not quite have the words for it.
“How did you meet?” she asked.
“Through the New Yorker,” Kevin said, keeping things as simple as possible. “You’ll like him. He’s funny."

"Shall I turn on the radio?" Kevin said, absently.

"I am attempting to put the radio back on," Raymond said, tersely. "It is not working. If it were working, I would not be in the mood for our typical classical music listening, considering the Fünf Gesänge debacle."

"What?" Kevin said.

"I mis-labeled Brahms' Opus 104 as Opus 106. I wouldn't be surprised if your parents never forgave me."

Kevin stared, flustered, as Raymond continued ruminating on his own so-called stupidity.

"Raymond!" Kevin sputtered. "I’m not blaming you! How on earth could I blame you?"

"You and your mother disappeared shortly after my gaffe," Raymond said. "I could only presume it was my doing."

Kevin set his jaw, thinking unkindly of the conversation which followed. "This was not your fault."

Raymond seemed cooler now, possibly fishing for information. "So it wasn't about Brahms?"

"Goodness, no."

 

Kevin recalled the looks on his parents' face when they had arrived; something was wrong, something other than the stress of a relatively small holiday dinner. At first they were tense, but tolerant, in the way that someone tolerates a pain in their side until they are unable to tolerate it any longer.

As Raymond went on about Brahms -- he was blustering, sure, but so were his parents, that was normal -- he placed his hand, without thinking, on top of Kevin's on the table. It was an automatic gesture, one they made without thinking, several times a day. Kevin almost regretted it. If it had been a touch on the leg, something out of sight, perhaps it wouldn’t have set her off.

But he did not regret it. Because he knew that was nonsense.

His mother had seen the hand and then snapped at Raymond about Brahms. Kevin had met her eyes, defiant, and she had called him out of the room. Kevin could hear his brother Marty and Raymond, loudly, trying to have a polite conversation about the particulars of dentistry, to drown out their voices. Kevin was alarmed that whatever it was about Raymond was so very appalling that his mother had broken her cardinal unwritten rule: one behaves oneself around company .

"I don't understand," said Kevin, who understood more than he preferred to let on. He understood that an individual who might, say, fit in better at the country club would have been permissible, but Raymond, as he was, was not. Kevin bitterly resented her insinuation that Raymond was doing some type of harm to him, and that poor, confused Kevin did not know any better.
"You’re not yourself," his mother insisted. "You haven’t been yourself."
Kevin gave her a look of unbridled befuddlement. "Who did you think I was?"

 

"She broadly disapproves of our relationship," Kevin summarized. "And apparently hadn't made up her mind to do so until we showed up."

"I should have anticipated this," Raymond said. "They’re called WASPs for a reason."

"Touché," Kevin said. He almost smiled at his Raymond, attempting wordplay at a time like this.

Kevin, still fiddling with the jammed radio switch, had accidentally activated the tape deck.

You have placed a chill in my heart, Annie Lennox sang.

"I anticipated they might be distant," Kevin explained. "Uncomfortable, even. I didn’t think they would misunderstand our relationship completely. I was unable to imagine it."

A whole heap of nothing for you and me, Annie continued.

"I don’t understand," Raymond said. Part of him truly did not understand. Part of him understood that Kevin was deeply shaken, and he was feigning ignorance, to let Kevin talk.

Kevin did not say: She assumed the worst of you, and I can’t stand it. You mean the world to me, you are the one who is here for me every day, and they don’t care about that. They won’t listen. Now I think they never will, and that is the thing that is breaking my heart.  

Love is a temple, love is a shrine, Annie sang.

"She thinks you turned me gay," Kevin said, because it was the easiest of her absurd sentiments to repeat. He tried to turn it into a joke. "As if I, of all people, would have needed convincing."

"That’s ridiculous," Raymond said, sensing something concrete he could argue with. "You can’t turn a person gay. What would they think I did? What could one even do?"

Raymond was monologuing about potential corrupting influences. Was it his devilish good looks? Magic genitalia? He might have been trying to make Kevin smile, but Kevin seemed far away, haunted.

"It upsets me," Kevin said, "that they think this is something I am doing to them."

I’m gonna leave this love behind, Annie Lennox sang.

"I thought estrangement happened to other people," Kevin said. "How do you end a relationship you’ve been in all your life? And all of a sudden, at that?"

I JUST WANT SOMEONE TO HO-OLD...

"Have we been listening to popular music?" Raymond said.

Kevin shrugged. "I like her, but it isn't strictly necessary," he said, clicking off the finicky tape deck.

I prefer to drive in silence, Kevin would decide, some time later. As long as you are here with me.

Chapter Text

Two Weeks Before Christmas, 1989


"In light of recent events," Kevin said at the breakfast table one morning, "I am somewhat concerned about meeting your family as well."

"It is true that my mother is..." Raymond circled a hand in thought. "Somewhat judgmental."

"Your mother is a literal judge," Kevin said.

"I also came out to her quite some time ago," Holt said.

"Oh?" Kevin said, and Raymond told him.

Kevin nearly spat out his coffee. "You were sixteen?"

"I was late coming home one evening," Raymond recalled, "and was required to explain myself."

 

"You may present your evidence," his mother said, calmly.
"My bicycle was vandalized, rendering it unusable," Raymond said. "I thus had to walk it and I home, which took over an hour."
"Were there any other witnesses?"
"I believe it was my classmate, Robbie Carter. The evidence being that he also threw a sandwich at my head and called me a homosexual."
"My condolences. He should not have done that."
"The homosexual detail is accurate."
Laverne paused. "Well, he shouldn't have thrown the sandwich."
Laverne was silent for several moments, which was a common occurrence in the Holt household. At the time, Raymond could not have surmised that, in her great efforts to be free of emotional outbursts, she was tamping down the impulse to say: are you sure, you've never been good at reading other people, what makes you think you have a handle on this?
Instead, she said: "True or not, it sounds as though he said it in a derogatory manner. He should not have done that either."
Raymond half-nodded.
"Raymond," Laverne said when she finally spoke again, "you know that as a four-foot-eleven African-American woman, I entered the legal profession at a considerable disadvantage, and have made great strides despite being under-estimated by my peers."
"Yes."
"And you know that I have similar, though not identical, hopes for you."
"I do."
"People are going to go out of their way to make you feel less-than. It is wrong of them to do so. They are going to do it anyway. Your job is not to believe them."

Kevin finished his coffee. "That's good advice," he said. "I am...somewhat jealous."

"I think you will make a positive impression," Raymond said.

When he and Raymond met Laverne for tea, Laverne asked Kevin to help her with some research. Kevin was momentarily confused -- shouldn't she have clerks, or others within her profession, who could help with that sort of thing? But he agreed, of course, sensing that this was some kind of test, though he couldn't say of what. A sort of check on his academic credentials? A desire to know if he was responsible, reliable for a favor?

"Of course," Kevin said, wanting very much to know what this was about. "I have access to all the academic libraries."

A week later, Kevin handed Laverne his packet of research, and Laverne took out a red pen. So, confirmed: it was a test. Kevin respected the approach.

"The conclusion of this section is incorrect," she pointed out.

Kevin frowned. "That isn't what the literature says."

"The primary source in the literature is racist," Laverne said. "What other justification do they have for ignoring the opposition testimony?"

Kevin froze for a moment, then blinked. "I can't believe I missed that."

"You don't have a counter-argument?"

"I do not. You are the expert. This was a test. Have I failed?"

"You listened," Laverne said, pleased. "You passed."

Raymond received a handwritten note the next day.

Dear Detective Raymond Holt,

You have my full approval.

Sincerely,
The Honorable Laverne Holt

 


Christmas was at one of Holt's aunt's homes, a sprawling side of the family tree who rarely saw each other all in the same place. Dinner was buffet-style, with guests taking over the entire house, which Raymond called 'disorganized' and 'cacophonous,' but Kevin felt relieved about the comparative lack of formal conversational pressure. He spent a lot of time saying "lovely to meet you" to people whose names he didn't quite catch, and meaning it.

Holt's sister Debbie gifted them ridiculous Christmas sweaters, which Kevin insisted they wear.

"We look outrageous," Raymond said.

"Have another glass of wine," Kevin suggested.

Laverne Holt, several glasses of wine in, called Kevin aside.

"He really likes you, you know," Laverne said, smiling. "He wasn't nearly this nervous with either of his other boyfriends."

Kevin's face felt warm. "I think highly of him as well."

"He will be good to you," Laverne continued, "because that's who he is. You be good to him too."

"Of course, Your Honor."

"Please, call me Laverne," said Laverne. "And don't tell Raymond we had this conversation. He'll think I'm being overprotective."

"Thank you, Laverne," Kevin said, heart brimming over with gratitude.

 


Over by the tray of snickerdoodles, an uncle he didn't recognize was trying to figure Kevin out. Kevin became immediately more aware that he did not blend in visually with the majority of Raymond's extended family.

The uncle introduced himself. "So are you Veronica's boyfriend?"

It was nice to be asked directly, Kevin thought. "No, I'm Raymond's boyfriend."

"Huh," said the uncle, surprised but not hostile. "Takes all kinds, I guess."

The uncle gave Kevin a surprisingly vigorous thump on the back as he left the room, which nearly caused him to drop his cookie plate. Kevin smiled, shrugged, and made his way to the living room couch, to look at the tree.

"Gaudy," Raymond said a little too loudly, sitting next to him, and gesturing to the array of colorful lights and ornaments. "The decorative aesthetic is all over the place."

"I like it," Kevin said. "Not everything need be judged on aesthetics alone."

"Guess who's awake!" Debbie announced, entering from the side room with a baby in her arms, and plopping down on the couch on the other side of Kevin.

"Kevin, this is my nephew Marcus," Raymond said, gesturing toward the baby. "He is just over a year old, and appears healthy and developmentally typical."

"Pleased to meet you, Marcus," Kevin said, offering to shake the baby's tiny hand.

"You want to hold him?" Debbie said. "He's in a good mood now."

Baby Marcus gurgled in agreement.

Kevin scooped him up and held him to face them. "Merry Christmas, Marcus."

Baby Marcus pointed at Kevin's face and laughed.

"I suppose you're right," Kevin said, setting the baby down on his lap, and holding him in place with his right arm. "Debbie, I find your tiny human charming."

With his other hand, Kevin reached for Raymond, interlocking their fingers, touching the sleeves of their terrible Christmas sweaters. Nobody brought any attention to this sign of affection, except the baby, who flapped his arms in glee.

 

Chapter Text

Thanksgiving, 2017


Over the years, Kevin and Raymond found different ways to generally ignore Thanksgiving: Kevin was writing a thesis, or a book, come late November; Raymond's extended family scattered across multiple states, and his aunt sold her big house; Raymond opted to work overtime, or, as his work turned to public affairs, attend charity events. Once, Kevin attempted to prepare an overly large meal for his brother and a few friends, and ended up giving the majority of the overcooked poultry to an overjoyed dog.

Kevin received the occasional note in the mail from his parents, generally inquiring about his well-being. As he answered them truthfully ( Raymond and I are well; we are both being promoted ) he never received a response. He sent them a brief, no-nonsense wedding announcement following his marriage in 2011, which his brother confirmed they had received, and had nothing further to say about.

It was Raymond's idea to go upstate more often, especially after they were married. They went antiquing; Kevin found a corgi puppy to adopt. (Kevin was generally lenient about letting Raymond choose activities, since his introduction to a country club had resulted in a lawsuit.) Raymond had read about the English Walnut Pie from the Cottage Inn in Saratoga Springs in a magazine feature. It was a trip they could make on their own. Kevin savored the long, quiet drive more than the destination itself. Together, it was their own newly-created holiday tradition.

When Kevin received the invitation to Thanksgiving dinner -- handwritten, addressed to both him and Raymond, from his parents -- he dropped it as though it were warm to the touch.

"I do not understand," he said. "I am incapable of understanding this."

With Raymond's help, he was able to confirm that it wasn't a trick or a forgery, leaving him to puzzle over the reasoning for such a change of heart after such a long time. Was someone dying? On the verge of dementia? Had dramatic shifts in the American political landscape led them toward something more "reasonable"? Had they heard about Raymond's candidacy for NYPD commissioner, and decided that this was finally someone they wanted to know, for the sake of bragging rights?

"Your guess is as good as mine," Kevin's brother Marty said, over the phone.

"I don't see how that's possible," Kevin responded.

He knew they wouldn't explain what had changed their minds. Kevin would have to settle for a "good to see you" as though no time at all had elapsed. His parents had never been confessional, apologetic, or even particularly expository.

"At this point I've had more of my life without them than I've had with them," Kevin told Raymond. "How am I to know what this means?"

Raymond shrugged. "My typical means of gathering evidence to support a conclusion would require us to visit them ourselves."

"It's up to you," Kevin told Raymond, sincerely. "I don't want to put you through anything needlessly unpleasant."

"I would like to know what this is about," Raymond said. "And I would not want you to regret not attending."

"They are elderly," Kevin said. "Perhaps something is amiss."

"It has been nearly thirty years," Holt said. "Almost three decades. That is quite some time."

"I suppose it is."

"We can bring the pie," Raymond said. "It would be an interesting novelty."

"Of course," Kevin said, thinking fondly of a long, silent drive with Raymond. "We can bring the pie."

 

But Raymond had to work the first half of Thanksgiving Day that year, leaving Kevin to twiddle his thumbs at the precinct. He had thought it would be better than waiting at home, alone. But, instead, he found himself worrying about everything that could go wrong, without the comfort of familiar distractions. He fixated on the pie, which seemed strange, inadequate, repulsive even, barely fit for company, a private thing that would never hold up to scrutiny. The pastry was bold, confusing, and tasteless. It could not be.

It was a childish impulse, to throw it away. But figuring out how to do so gave Kevin the mental exercise he needed; he obscured the security cameras in Raymond's office. He placed the pie in the garbage, and in doing so, calmed his nerves.

Raymond, with his flair for the dramatic, launched a full-scale investigation into the pie's disappearance. Kevin wondered if this was nerves, if Raymond loved throwing himself into the distraction as well.

But Raymond caught him, because apparently Raymond and even the least impressive of his colleagues were good at detective work.

"That pie is an abomination," Kevin said, to Raymond's accusing finger. "It has beef suet and apple seeds in it. Why? It's a walnut pie."

Kevin, knowing full well that Raymond took much greater offense at unconventional food than he did, said the most private thing he was willing to say in front of an office full of cops. "If we brought that to my family's house they would have said something. I was trying to protect you."

I feel there is very little I can do to protect you, Kevin meant. I hate that.

"Why didn't you just tell me the truth?"

"Because I love our annual trips to Saratoga Springs. The two of us, driving in silence, looking at the barren trees, it's perfect," Kevin said. "I didn't want to lose that."

For all the fibbing he was doing, that part was the absolute truth.

"I don't know why we can't still make the drive next year," Raymond said, in a pragmatic manner that Kevin found downright sexy. "We just don't have to buy the pie."

"A trip with no purpose?" Kevin said, tossing his head flirtatiously. "Raymond."

Oh? Raymond's face said, raising both eyebrows.

They ought to stop home for a bottle of wine before departing, they decided abruptly, since many stores would already be closed for the holiday. Yes, of course, they should go home, they reasoned, as if it weren't just an excuse to get their hands on each other.

"So dramatic," Kevin teased, wrapping his arms around Raymond as they were barely in the door.

"My pastry-based investigation was born of genuine outrage," Raymond said. "I believed my squad knew better than to come between us."

At the word between, Raymond placed a strong hand to the small of Kevin's back.

Kevin pulled him toward the bedroom. "Come."

"You would risk being late to dinner?" Raymond said slowly, in a way that underscored the risqué nature of such a suggestion.

Kevin beckoned with his eyebrows. "I would."

"I am very attracted to you right now," Raymond said.

"I know," Kevin smiled.



They made love quickly, fervently, the drama of earlier making it impossible to think of anything but each other. Kevin got lost in it, the urgent now and the familiar touch of always .

When they left the house, buttoned-up again, with a very nice bottle of wine -- Kevin was sober but already drunk on this, the glow protecting him from whatever may lie ahead. Isn't he incredible? Kevin imagined himself saying. Aren't I? Indeed, I agree.

They were running a few minutes late to dinner, and it didn't matter. Whatever happened next no longer mattered to him, because they had something strong, good, secret, untouchable.

He took Raymond's arm as they walked through the door.