Ratings: Slash, m/m, motss content. Ernie/Bert.
Summary: Truly, dear.
Disclaimer: "It's a Wonderful Life" and all its characters belong to Frank Capra.
Notes: I've said it before and I'll say it again: slash changes the way you look at television. All of it.

by Sitnah

My problem is, I'm a sucker for romance. Always have been. Jean, that's my wife, says that's why she married me -- none of the other fellows knew how to sweep a girl right off her feet like I did. I just had so much inside me, you see, that I had to let out somehow. And though if I were perfectly honest I'd have to admit she wasn't my first choice, I do love Jean -- love her for letting me love her, for letting me take out my feet-sweeping urges on her. Most of them, anyway, the ones I see coming and can get under control. Sometimes one still takes me unawares, and then, well, it's hard to say what I'll find myself doing. That's what happened to me the night of George Bailey's honeymoon.

Everyone in Bedford Falls was real excited for George and Mary. There weren't a couple of nicer kids in the whole town, and though George had only been the chief of the Building and Loan for a few years then, there were already plenty of folks with cause to be grateful to him for helping them get out from under Potter's thumb. So when he and Mary announced they were getting married, we were all real pleased for them.

Well, they came out of the church and it was pouring rain. I had the cab waiting for them so they could jump right in and not get any wetter than they had to. I headed for the station, but I could have been driving to the dump for all they'd have noticed, they were so busy stealing kisses. Oh, they made quite a pair.

Finally George looked up again as we were going through downtown. When I saw the commotion outside the bank, though, I almost wished he hadn't, and I think Mary did too. Naturally he got concerned about the Building and Loan, and though Mary begged him not to stop, he got out and went running across the street to see what was the matter. And Mary, bless her heart, followed him in, still clutching the wad of cash George had earmarked for their honeymoon. I wasn't a bit surprised when she came out again a while later, empty-handed.

"Ernie," she said, "I need your help for today. Yours and Bert's, both. Will you help me?"

When she put it like that, of course I couldn't say no. In fact, I sometimes wondered how much she might have guessed. But naturally she never said anything outright. Anyway, we drove round and picked up Bert, and then she told me to drive to 320 Sycamore.

"Three-twenty Sycamore?" I said. "Mary, you don't want to go there. That's nothing but an old abandoned house."

"Not anymore," she said.

All the while she was telling us her plan, I couldn't help looking over at Bert to see what he thought of it all. I mean, not staring, nothing he would notice. Just little glances now and then. He has to be tough, of course, to be a cop. Sometimes when I see him in his uniform it gets me right between the eyes. But he's got a soft heart underneath it all, and Mary just wrapped him right around her little finger. And me, well, a chance to spend a whole day side by side with him, instead of just hanging around the corners of the streets he works, I wasn't going to turn that down.

Even with both of us working together, there was only so much we could do, with only one afternoon to work in, and the rain never letting up a moment. But we did plug up the worst leaks in a couple of rooms downstairs, and hauled Mary's old bed and a little table and chairs over from her mother's place, and got the fireplace working -- I don't know how he did it, but after Bert was through with it there was a nice little fire going, just right for Mary to roast some chickens over. There wasn't anyone to turn the spit, but she had a clever idea for that too -- she asked me if I could hook it up to the gramophone and work it that way. I never would have thought of that, but once she mentioned it I thought I could see a way to set it up. And I was glad to do it -- glad to do all of it, for the pair of them. Always a softy where romance is concerned, like I said, and she had got me so I really wanted to make this honeymoon the best ever, even though I wasn't one of the parties concerned.

I won't say my mind didn't wander over from time to time to wonder what it could have been like if we'd been working to prepare the house for ourselves -- no Mary, no George, no Jean, no Ida, just the two of us in a place of our own. But I knew that was crazy thinking, and I didn't let myself spend long at it.

Six o'clock came around, and George wasn't far behind. Bert and Fred were still putting up posters to cover the broken windows, but Mary had everything else ready inside: the table set, the chickens done to a turn, and the bed made in the other room. I let George in -- almost forgot myself and said "Hiya, George" like usual, but then I remembered to play my part, fancy as could be. I took his hat and coat and hung them up, and then I let myself out. George and Mary didn't even notice that anymore -- they were beyond noticing little things like other people.

Fred had left already with the rest of the posters that Bert didn't think were romantic enough to put up. I joined Bert under the window, shivering as the rain soaked me through all over again. He gave me a long look, and my heart turned over inside me. Then I realized he was waiting for the cue. I settled my breathing and waited till the first sounds of George's surprise had died down, and then I gave the downbeat.

I love singing with Bert. You might not think it to look at him, but he's got a swell voice. Choir rehearsal over at the church is fine, but nothing beats a duet, our two voices tuned to each other and blending together into one sound. It was lucky we had learned the song for Harry's wedding. We were a little rusty, but mostly we managed pretty well. It's a perfect song for lovers. I let out everything that honeymoon had made me feel in those simple words: "Ah yes, it's something, by your side to stand..."

I didn't let myself look at him while we were singing -- I would have been too distracted. But as we finished, I couldn't help turning to him. Raindrops were running down his face and his uniform was plastered to his shoulders and chest. And I had one of those impulses that I just couldn't control. I reached up, I just about had to stand on my toes to do it, and I kissed his forehead, just under the visor of his cap. His skin was warm under my mouth and for one moment he held still.

Next moment he was giving me a heavy thump on the head and stalking off down the path to the street. My hands were shaking. I swallowed hard and tried to tell myself it would be all right. He'd put it down to honeymoon fever or something, wouldn't tell anyone. I know if Jean ever found out about me, she'd leave me like a shot. It'd be back to my old ramshackle place in Potter's Field for me then, though I suppose that'd be the least of my worries if people started talking. But I knew, when I thought about it, that Bert wasn't the type to make a story of it and spread it around. He's a good family man, he wouldn't want to upset Ida. He pushed me away and that was the end of it. It would be all right.

As I walked back to the cab, I lifted my face to the rain. Lightning cracked and I was back in the moment when we were touching. I didn't care about the risk anymore. It was worth it.

Inside, those two crazy kids were kissing like mad.