Love Me Do
Synopsis: My first one-shot. Bray/Danni pairing. Danni thinks Christmas is the perfect time to bring feuding siblings Bray and Martin together. Originally posted on Eyeboards as part of the Christmas Treats challenge 2005.
CONTENT WARNING - domestic violence
Character(s): Bray, Danni, Lex, Patsy, Brady
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… uhm…something…strange”
“That’s my Christmas present?”
“Oh my God, you, it was you ? You got rid of it? YOU? I don’t believe it!”
Three Objects: dead cat, Beatles record, pink thong with Bray’s name on it
Thursday 1st December
Bray stood in the queue at the department store, waiting for his turn to be served. It was only the first of December but already the city centre was packed with shoppers, all trying to beat each other to this year’s must-have items. He didn’t understand it. It wasn’t like he was a Scrooge, far from it; he loved Christmas! He loved hearing the Christmas songs on the radio, loved walking down the high street on a chilly winter’s day, just as it was getting dark, with the Christmas lights illuminating his way. He loved acting like a kid again and having snowball fights, and he loved sitting by the fire, laughing and sharing memories with his friends, having stuffed himself with turkey and mince pies. One thing he definitely did not love, however, was shopping. Why did people insist on rushing around, stressing themselves out when there was plenty to go around? ‘Let It Snow’ was blaring out of the store’s speakers and he sang along happily to it in his head, trying to ignore the jostling he was getting from the impatient customer behind him. He took a step forward to give himself some space but the prodding continued. Finally he turned around, only to be confronted by an irate young woman with blonde Zulu-knots.
‘Are you deaf?’ the woman snapped, giving him another poke for good measure. ‘It’s your turn!’
’ Next please!’ one of the sales assistants shouted, not sounding best pleased. The rest of the queue, now halfway down one of the aisles, muttered angrily, wondering what the hold-up was for.
‘Sorry,’ he said simply., before heading over to the front desk and handing over the fruits of his hour spent in the store - one A4 pad of plain paper.
‘Is that it?’ the woman at the till asked him, somewhat surprised.
‘Yes, that’s everything,’ he said.
‘Would you be interested in any of our Christmas special offers?’ the woman said mechanically.
‘No, thank you,’ he replied just as mechanically.
‘Would you like any stamps?’ she persisted.
‘No, thank you,’ he repeated politely.
After what seemed like an age he finally paid for the pad and walked away, an icy breeze hitting him as soon as the automatic doors slid open. Too busy thinking about how glad he was to be out of the stuffy store, he didn’t notice the raven-haired woman hurrying in the opposite direction until it was too late. The pair collided and hit the ground, the woman squealing as she fell on top of him, unable to steady herself with all the bags she was carrying. Bray immediately helped her to her feet before dusting himself off. ‘I’m so sorry, are you…Danni?!’ he spluttered, recognising the woman standing before him.
‘Hey Bray,’ she smiled. ‘I was hoping to bump into you today, although not quite so literally!’ She noticed the bag he was carrying and raised an eyebrow. ‘Christmas shopping already? That’s not like you!’
He chuckled and ran a hand through his mane of chestnut-brown hair. ‘Afraid not,’ he said. ‘Lex is babysitting his nieces again this week and he wants me to go over tonight and entertain them so he can get some sleep. He’s got some meeting or something tomorrow morning and he doesn’t want to turn up looking like one of the living dead.’ He showed her the pad. ‘We’re doing origami!’ Danni chuckled. ‘What?’
‘Oh, nothing. You’d have thought I’d be used to your little quirks by now, wouldn’t you? Anyway, stop distracting me or I’ll forget what I was going to ask you!’ She punched him playfully in the arm.
‘Ouch!’ he joked. ‘And what would that be?’
‘If you’re free for a little pre-Christmas get-together at our place next Friday? Around seven?’
‘I don’t know, Danni,’ he said, tensing up. ‘I don’t think that’s such a good idea.’
‘Oh come on, Bray. Ever since you two fell out I’ve hardly seen you, and don’t you think that Christmas is the perfect time for you two to make up? He is family after all! Ooh, have I shown you what I’ve got him for Christmas?’
‘No,’ Bray smiled. ‘But I’m sure you’re going to.’
‘You know me too well! Here…’ She picked out one of the bags she was carrying and handed him a flat, brown paper package from inside it that he proceeded to unwrap carefully. ‘Do you think he’ll like it?’
He uncovered an old-looking record in fairly good condition. It was ‘Love Me Do’ by The Beatles, his brother’s favourite. ‘He’ll love it,’ he replied before rewrapping the gift and handing it back to Danni. His brother Martin was an aspiring musician, a saxophonist, and had been given the nickname Zoot after the saxophone player in The Muppet Show. He didn’t get much work, however, and paid the rent on the flat he shared with Danni by working casually as a truck driver. Danni didn’t know it, but she was the reason the pair of them had fallen out all those years ago. Bray had told his brother how he felt about Danni, then the very next day found the pair of them holding hands in the street. Martin had just winked at him, and the two had barely spoken since, even after their parents died. Now Danni was sporting an engagement ring, and he would have to pretend to be happy for them all through dinner next week.
‘Would you like some help with those bags?’ he asked her. ‘You seem a bit weighed down there.’
‘You’re an angel Bray!’ she said, offloading some of the bags onto him. ‘My car’s not far away. I just got a bit carried away with my retail therapy.’
‘By the amount of stuff you bought you must have really needed it!’
‘Yeah. Ebony died the other day.’
‘Oh Danni, I’m so sorry. I know how you loved that cat.’
‘Thanks Bray. It’s pretty sad, but at least we still have Trudy.’
It wasn’t long before they reached Danni’s car. Bray waved her off and continued down the street. Checking his watch he decided he had just about enough time to get changed before he had to go to Lex’s house.
Some time later, Bray arrived at Lex’s place armed with the spoils of his shopping trip earlier that day. The huge holly wreath on the door reminded him that Lex was perhaps the one person in the world who loved Christmas more than he did. As soon as the brass knocker hit the wood the thump of small, eager footsteps coming down the stairs was heard. ‘Uncle Lex! Uncle Lex! Bray’s here!’ a small voice shouted excitedly as the festive door swung open. Bray just had time to recognise Patsy, Lex’s niece, before she scampered off to find her uncle. His friend soon appeared, sporting a pair of plastic reindeer antlers and a flashing red nose. Coupled with his glasses they made him look ridiculous, but Lex was a big kid when it came to Christmas, so he wasn’t surprised to see him dressed up for the occasion. In fact, it was a mark of the man’s restraint that he hadn’t had the full Father Christmas suit out yet.
‘Am I glad to see you, Bray!’ he said. ‘Zandra gave them sweets before she brought them over, and they’re practically bouncing off the walls with all the E-numbers!’
‘Uncle Lex! Brady’s trying to catch the fish again!’ Patsy shouted from inside. Lex gave a small yelp and quickly ushered Bray in, before gently prying his youngest niece away from the aquarium.
‘Okay,’ he said, when Brady had been safely positioned at the other side of the room from the fish. ‘I’m off to bed! You know where everything is right?’
‘Thanks mate, I owe you one…again!’
Bray laughed. ‘Don’t forget to take those antlers off before you get into bed!’ Lex looked up and took the antlers and red nose off before going upstairs, leaving Bray alone with the kids. ‘Right you two.’ he said, brandishing the pad of paper he had brought with him. ‘Time for origami!’
Patsy looked aghast. ‘But you know I’m a vegetarian!’ she wailed. Bray scratched his head, realising he was going to be in for a long night.
Some time later, surrounded by screwed-up balls of paper, he put his master plan into action. ‘Alright then, Patsy you’re starting. Quietly though, we don’t want to wake Uncle Lex. Ready? One, two, three: on the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… uhm…something…strange. What is that?’
‘It’s a partridge in a pear tree!’ the little girl said angrily, holding up one of her origami creations.
‘It looks like a giraffe!’ Brady squealed, laughing so hard that tears were beginning to fall down her face. Patsy did not look amused.
‘Okaaay, maybe the Twelve Origami Days of Christmas was a little ambitious…’ Bray decided.
‘You think?’ Patsy replied curtly. ‘I’ve had enough of this, we’re going to bed now. Come on Brady.’ The two girls stood up from where they had been sitting on the floor and went to their room.
‘Um…goodnight then!’ Bray said, then started to tidy up the mess the three of them had made. He pocketed one of his paper animals - that one had never been meant for tonight - but deposited the rest of them in the bin. When the room was tidy he mechanically set up the couch bed like he had done so many times before, and went to sleep.
Friday 9th December
Putting his car park ticket on the windscreen of his car, Bray replaced his gloves on his hands and checked his watch. He prided himself on his punctuality but tonight he was running slightly late by his standards, and would have to walk at a brisk pace to get to Martin and Danni’s apartment on time. He wasn’t particularly looking forward to tonight, he had to admit, but he didn’t want to let Danni down. Despite this, he still felt a foreboding sense of dread as he walked down the street on which his brother lived. No sooner had he thought this than he felt the unmistakeable sensation of ice beneath his boots. One minute he was striding down the pavement, the next his legs had flown out from under him and he had landed ungracefully on the ground looking up at the clear, star-filled sky. Just as he was thinking his dignity could suffer no more, he heard a group of children laughing at him. Quickly he got up and brushed himself off, walking the rest of the way to the apartment block at a slower pace, wary of more ice.
‘Just come right up, Bray!’ Danni said cheerfully when he pressed the buzzer. She greeted him again at the door to her and Martin’s third-floor apartment, where he produced something from his back pocket.
‘What is it?’ she asked after a pause.
‘It’s supposed to be a cat,’ he smiled. ‘I made it last week when I was looking after Patsy and Brady for Lex. I guess it must have got squashed when I slipped on some ice down the street.’
‘Aww, that’s so sweet! Thank you Bray!’ She gave him a peck on the cheek that made him blush slightly.
‘I know it can’t replace Ebony…’
‘It’s ok, it’s cheered me up, really it has.’
Danni led him inside where he was greeted, in a manner of speaking, by his brother. It was clear that Martin didn’t want him to be here, but he seemed to have let Danni have her way for once. Perhaps he was feeling generous with it being so close to Christmas. During the meal, Danni placed herself strategically between the two of them, and afterwards Bray only stayed for a couple of drinks to be polite before feigning tiredness and asking to be excused. Danni looked disappointed that her plan to get the two brothers to stop fighting hadn’t worked, but seemed to understand. As he left, he noticed that the paper cat her had given to Danni was perched on the mantelpiece, among her collection of precious things.
Monday 12th December
A few days after the disastrous dinner, Danni was alone in the apartment. Martin was out working a shift for the trucking company and she had decided to take the opportunity to clean up the place before Christmas. It had taken her most of the morning but finally the place was spotless. Suddenly she noticed that the little cat Bray had given to her when she had last seen him was missing. Had she thrown it away by accident? Frantically she gathered together all the bins in the small apartment and overturned them in the middle of the living area. All the rubbish from the previous week had been collected earlier that morning, so if she had thrown it away it should be easy enough to find. As she scrambled through the rubbish, Trudy entered the room, mewing with curiosity. She approached the pile of rubbish and started playing with it.
‘Oh, go and play somewhere else, Trudy!’ Danni said absent-mindedly to the cat. ‘Have you got Bray’s cat?’ Trudy ignored her and started playing with a ball of paper. After searching the pile three times, she finally decided to give up. She was surprised to find tears rolling down her face - it was only a squashed paper cat, why did it mean so much to her? It was at this moment that Martin returned home. He took in the scene - a crying Danni sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by emptied waste bins. Instead of rushing over to comfort her like she wanted him to, he rolled his eyes and smirked at her.
‘Something wrong, Dan?’ How she wished he wouldn’t call her that.
After his reaction she felt silly explaining what had happened. ‘M-m-my paper cat,’ she sobbed. ‘I think I’ve…thrown it out.’
Martin threw back his head and laughed, actually laughed at her. ‘That piece of junk?’ he said when he had finished. ‘Nah, I chucked that yesterday.’
‘Oh my God, you, it was you ? You got rid of it? YOU? I don’t believe it!’
‘Woah, calm down! I was doing you a favour! I know how you hate having clutter around, Dan!’
‘Ugh!’ she moaned. ‘If you knew me so well you’d know that I hate being called Dan!’
Martin screwed up his face and she suddenly felt frightened. ‘Ungrateful cow!’ he snapped, bringing the back of his hand firmly across her jaw. She fell backwards towards the mantelpiece and several of her ornaments fell to the floor and smashed, as did a framed photograph of the pair of them on holiday together. Shocked, Danni backed away from her fiancé, towards the door.
‘That’s it, Martin. I’ve had enough, I’m leaving!’
‘Going to run off to Alice again are you? Well I’ll be here waiting, just like every other time you’ve ‘left’ me.’
‘You’re going to be waiting a long time, because this time I’m not coming back. And you can have this back too, I won’t be needing it.’ She tugged off her engagement ring and threw it into the pile of rubbish on the floor. It landed, quite appropriately she thought, in one of the bins. As soon as she had done this, she fled the apartment without stopping to gather any of her belongings, in case he got violent again. As she reached the bottom of the stairs she heard his voice shouting after her.
‘You’ll be back!’ he screamed. ‘And when you do come back, I’ll be wanting an apology! You can’t treat me like this!’
She slammed the front door behind her, cutting off his angry yells. In floods of tears she raced from the apartment as fast as she could.
Monday 19th December
One week after Danni had left him, Martin sat opposite a street-corner café, watching her eating lunch with Bray. He might have known she would go running to his baby brother. Bray had wanted to get his grubby hands on her for years now, and he’d always thought the pair of them had spent too much time together for his liking. Anger began to bubble up inside him but the last straw came when the two of them stood up and hugged each other. With a smile on his face and a mad glint in his eye he started to think up ways to get his revenge.
‘Hello?’ Bray said, answering the telephone.
‘Martin? Is that you?’
‘Yes. I need to talk to you.’
‘I don’t have anything to say to you. Goodbye Martin.’
‘No! Wait! Don’t hang up. This is important.’
Bray hesitated for a little while, then sighed. ‘I’m listening.’
‘She’s really done it this time hasn’t she? She’s not coming back.’
‘Look, if you expect me to feel sorry for you then you can forget it. You’ve had this coming for a long time.’
There was a pause on the other end. ‘I know, and…I’ve been doing some thinking, since she’s been gone. I’ve been so stupid, I just want to make everything right between us.’
Bray let out a slight, mirthless laugh. ‘I really don’t think that’s going to happen. She hates you right now.’
‘No Bray, between you and me. I’ve shut you out of my life and tried to stop you seeing Danni and that wasn’t fair. I need to apologise to you properly, but I don’t want to do it over the phone. Can we meet up to talk?’
‘Um, yeah. I guess so. How about I come over in ten minutes?’
‘No, I can’t do it now. Can you meet me at the depot after my shift tonight?’
‘Okay, sure. When do you clock off?’
‘Eleven? That’s a pretty long shift.’
‘Well, what can I say. Making money takes time. See you at eleven then?’
‘See you later Martin.’ Bray put down the receiver and went to sit down. Martin certainly sounded remorseful. Maybe after all these years the two of them could reconcile after all.
And so it was that Bray found himself being driven to the depot that night by Lex, who wasn’t quite as impressed by Martin’s change of heart. ‘I still don’t trust him,’ he said. ‘Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?’
‘Relax Lex, he’s my brother. What’s he going to do?’
‘If you say so. Well, here we are. See you later.’
Bray stepped out of Lex’s car into the blanket of snow that covered the ground. He waved to his friend as he drove away and made his way towards the wooden portakabins that made up the offices of the truck company, passing by the rows of trucks glinting in the moonlight. Only his own footsteps and the now distant tyre marks from Lex’s car marred the snow’s surface, indicating that the depot had been empty for some time. He hoped he hadn’t missed his brother. Suddenly, bright lights obscured his vision and he had to raise his arm to shield his eyes. One of the trucks grunted into motion and began heading straight for him. The unmistakeable face of his brother visible in the carriage as his eyes became adjusted to the light. Shocked by what he saw, he found himself unable to move, his feet rooted in place in the snow.
Immobilised by fear, Bray heard Lex’s voice but couldn’t think clearly. Lex, the truck and even the snow seemed to be in a different world. He barely felt his friend thudding into him, the pair of them flying out of the path of his insane brother in the truck and hitting the snow. As soon as the truck passed them by, everything rushed back into place inside his head. He rolled over in the snow to see Lex clutching his leg in agony. Apparently they didn’t quite make it out of Martin’s path completely unscathed. ‘Lex!’
‘Bray! The truck!’ Bray turned to see the truck making its way back towards them. As it came nearer, Martin leaned out of the window and began yelling at him. ‘If I can’t have her,’ he shouted. ‘Then nobody can!’ Suddenly Bray noticed that his brother was not alone in the truck. Next to him, bound and cowering with fear, was Danni. It was then that he realised that Martin was not attempting to run him down anymore. Helplessly he watched as the vehicle sped past him, straight into the nearest portakabin with a great crash and a splintering of wood. With barely a thought he ran over to the truck and yanked open the door to the passenger side.
‘Bray!’ Danni shrieked. ‘Help me!’ Minding the broken glass, he scooped the girl into his arms and carried her out of the vehicle. She had cuts on her face and arms but other than that seemed relatively unhurt. Sirens blared in the distance - apparently Lex had called for help before he came back to rescue him - but the only thing on his mind was Danni. He held her in his arms, checking her for any further injuries. The pair of them caught each other’s glance and held it. They just sat there for a while, looking at each other, and then Danni reached up, putting an arm around his neck so that she could kiss him deeply.
Soon afterwards several police cars and an ambulance arrived. They removed Martin from the truck and took him into the ambulance on a stretcher. Lex, Danni and Bray himself followed, so their own injuries could be treated. At some point, Bray was aware of the police talking to him and being asked to give a statement, but the rest of that night passed in a hazy blur.
Sunday 25th December
The following week passed by almost as quickly. On Christmas Eve, Bray received a knock on the door. It was Lex, who practically forced him out to spend the night at his house with Patsy and Brady, and of course Danni. ‘How can you still be in the mood for Christmas?’ Bray asked.
‘Because we have lots to celebrate!’ he replied. ‘We’re all fine, just about.’ He motioned to his right leg, which was in plaster. ‘Martin’s off to jail, where he won’t be able to bother any of us for a long time; Zandra’s letting me have Patsy and Brady until tomorrow afternoon, and it’s forecast more snow for tonight! Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that you and Danni have finally got it together after all this time!’ Bray blushed.
The next morning he found himself in Lex’s living room, along with Danni, Lex and the girls. Light shone on him as Patsy threw the curtains open and squealed with delight at the snow covering the garden. ‘How fun is this!’ she exclaimed. ‘Come on Brady, let’s build a snowman!’ Brady looked up excitedly, dropped the cookie she had been eating and beat Patsy to the door.
‘Don’t forget your hats and scarves!’ Lex called to them as they were about to leave. Patsy had anticipated this and managed to get out of the door before Brady had finished putting her scarf on. ‘So,’ she said, turning to Bray and Danni. ‘Who’s for presents?’
Bray looked at Danni, who nodded, and produced a present from behind the sofa. ‘This is to you, Lex,’ he said. ‘From both of us.’
‘Joint gifts already, eh?’ Lex joked. ‘It must be love! Ooh! Thank you!’ He held up a full-size Father Christmas outfit and inspected it, a broad grin on his face. ‘I’m going to put it on right now!’ Grabbing his crutches, covered in tinsel of course, he hobbled up the stairs to try on his costume.
‘Now that he’s gone,’ Danni whispered. ‘I’ve got something for you.’ She picked up a sparkly pink gift bag from underneath the tree and passed it to him. ‘Happy Christmas, Bray.’ He reached inside, frowning a little when he felt the contents. He pulled out a small pink thong with his name emblazoned on it in a glittering gold material.
‘That’s my Christmas present?’ he said, slightly confused. ‘I don’t think it’s quite me!’
Danni laughed at him. ‘No, silly!’ she said. ‘That’s just the wrapping.’ She slipped her dressing gown over one of her shoulders, revealing the bare skin beneath. ‘I just thought I’d help out a bit and do the unwrapping for you.’ She smiled sultrily, and he responded by leaning over and kissing her, as passionately as he knew how, while snow once more began to fall outside.