There are two conversations any self-respecting thirty-something single guy must at all costs avoid having with his mother. One starts with, "It's such a shame you couldn't work things out with Stella. It must get so lonely for you." The other one goes, "My friend Marge's daughter is moving to Chicago, and she doesn't know anyone here, Stanley."
Faced with not one but both of these conversations at once, Ray did the only sensible thing. He lied.
"I really appreciate your concern, Ma," he said, pinning the receiver against his shoulder as he fished through the junk drawer in the kitchen for a church key. "But I'm kind of seeing someone." Success! The battered plastic key-ring was hidden under a fist-full of rubber bands and a sheet of garbage bag twist-ties. He pulled it out and popped the lid off his Corona.
"Oh?" his mom said. "Have I met her? What does she do?" She sounded excited. And really surprised—it was actually kind of insulting. Jeez. You'd think he was a hermit or something. He went out. He did things. Fun things. He had a life. Hey, just last week Fraser beat him at a game of pool. Tuesday before that they saw that movie, the one with the old guy and some aliens. They were having dinner tonight, in fact, but that probably didn't count because it was a work kind of a thing. Still, it wasn't like he was sitting alone in the dark with nobody but the turtle for company.
"No," he said, "you don't know her. Somebody from work. I don't think I've, uh, talked about her before." He fished his cell phone from his jacket pocket and dialed his pager as he talked. Seconds later a steady beeping filled the kitchen. He held the pager close to the receiver so his mother would be sure to hear it.
"Oh, hey, I gotta get this. It might be related to a case I'm working on," he told her. He hung up, congratulating himself on getting out of yet another uncomfortable conversation with his mother, then promptly forgot about it.
Ray was in the bathroom stripping out of the sodden clothes that had gotten disgusting when a simple meeting with a snitch had, for reasons that didn't need exploring at this juncture, required him and Fraser to wade through two dumpsters and roll around in a gutter. He was gingerly peeling his boxers down his legs when the phone rang.
"Hey, Frase!" he shouted through the door. "You wanna get that for me? I'm kinda naked, here."
The ringing stopped immediately and he heard Fraser say, "Detective Vecchio's residence. This is Constable Benton Fraser speaking."
Ray rolled his eyes. Jeez. Guy couldn't even answer the phone like a normal person. He preferred the short-and-sweet approach himself. Something like "whaddya want?" or a simple "yeah?" would do it every time.
"Ah, yes, of course," Fraser said. "It's a pleasure to speak with you again, ma'am. How have you been?"
Ray wadded his clothes into a ball and threw the wet mass in the general direction of the hamper. It hit the wall above the basket and broke apart. Clothing fell like rain onto the floor. A single sock dangled from the rim, dripping brownish goo onto the linoleum below. A matching smudge decorated the wall above. Ray sighed and started picking up the mess.
He was leaning over the tub, reaching for the faucet, when he heard Fraser say, "Ah. Yes. We had a delightful dinner at a charming little Italian restaurant over on ... Yes. Yes, I was with him all evening."
The rush of water drowned out the end of the conversation. Half an hour later, feeling a little more relaxed and a whole hell of a lot cleaner, Ray emerged from the bathroom. Fraser was nursing a mug of tea and intently watching TV, where eight guys were sliding stone teakettles around an ice rink.
"Ray," Fraser said, eyes glued to the tube. "Your mother called."
"She want me to call her back?"
"She didn't say." Fraser took a sip of tea.
"She say what she wanted?"
"She asked after your evening. We had a nice talk about Italian restaurants in the greater Chicago area."
"Oh. So I don't need to call her, then." Ray went into the kitchen in search of a beer. "You want something to drink?"
"No, thank you, the tea is fine."
Ray popped the cap off his beer and joined Fraser on the couch. After downing most of it, fast, he could almost see why Fraser found this activity—on principle he hated to call curling a sport—so compelling. Almost.
Sunday afternoon brought the usual trip to the trailer-park for dinner. The first thing he noticed when he drove in was the sticker on the bumper of the RV. It was pretty dusty, but with the dry weather they'd been having that didn't mean much as far as how long it'd been there. The sticker was really thin and almost unnoticeable, but it was very definitely a rainbow. Ray figured his mother saw it somewhere and just thought it was pretty. He forgot about it as soon as he stepped inside and smelled the pot roast.
"Y'know, Raymond," his father said later, from under the car, "I make it a point never to judge anyone for how they live their life, as long as they ain't hurting anyone."
"Uh huh," said Ray, completely at a loss for a reply. What he wanted to ask was "Since when?" but things had been going pretty well with the old man lately, and he didn't want to stir it all up again.
"Hand me the 3/16ths, would you?" his father said then, and the conversation went back to things automotive, as usual.
As Ray was leaving, his mother came running out of the kitchen with a Tupperware container which she thrust at Ray. "Don't forget these," she said. Ray opened the corner and peeked in. Cookies.
"Ma," he started.
"For you and Benton," she said firmly. "I'll pick up the Tupperware when I come over next week to do your shirts. Unless—Stanley, honey, should I call first? Make sure you're not ... busy?" And she blushed.
"Busy? Ma, I'm never even home when you stop by most of the time."
"Barbara, let the boy leave, would you? Stop hovering."
Ray ate three cookies on the way home, then took the rest of them to the station the next day in a big Ziploc bag. He narrowly avoided injury in the resulting stampede.
"So what if—wait a minute. My mother took you where?"
"I think the name of the store was 'Country Curtains'—I'm sorry, Ray, is it a problem?"
Ray shook his head to realign his brain. "Fraser, why would my mother take you shopping?"
"She seemed to value my opinion," Fraser said, sounding a little insulted by the question.
"Yeah," said Ray. "Okay. Where was I? Oh yeah—listen, what if the guy was in the park where he said he was—you think it's possible to get from there to the mall in less than ten minutes?"
"Not by car, certainly, not with the traffic. Perhaps if he was on a bicycle."
"Hey, good thinking. Let's go look for tire tracks. C'mon, Dief."
Another case closed, another curling match on the tube made bearable by another cold beer or two. Ray was as close to heaven as he'd been in a while. "And the best part is, tomorrow's Saturday."
"You got any plans, Fraser?"
Something was giving Ray the feeling that maybe Fraser wasn't actually listening to him. Maybe it was the fact that his eyes were glued to the screen, intent and unmoving.
"I was thinking maybe we could go shoot some ducks at the park."
"Hmm? Oh. Sure."
"Maybe bag a few squirrels while we're at it. I hear they's good eatin'."
"Then we can shave the wolf like a poodle and enter him in that Westminister Dog Show."
Dief's grumble, coming as it did during a commercial break, seemed to finally catch Fraser's attention. "I'm sorry, Ray, what did you say?"
Ray grinned. "You never listen anymore. I might as well not even be here," he said, in his best imitation of his Aunt Edna.
Fraser grinned back, half-apologetically. "Forgive me, Ray, but it's the Molson Canadian Regional Bonspiel. The most-watched sporting event in Canada—a title it usurped from the Stanley Cup, incidentally. And as Turnbull hasn't yet replaced the television at the Consulate after the incident with the shot-put, I have nowhere else to watch it." His eyes flickered for a moment, and a very small smirk formed at the corner of his mouth. "I suppose I could wander the streets looking for a bar that might be showing the match...."
Ray smacked him on the arm. "Doof." The phone rang, and he snaked an arm past Fraser to snag the receiver. "Yeah?"
"Stanley, it's Mom."
Like anyone else ever called him that. "Hey, Ma, what's up?" The game—or whatever it was called—came back on, and he got up and walked into the bedroom so as not to disturb Fraser.
"I didn't know if you were bringing Benton to dinner on Sunday. "
"Dinner on Sunday? I guess I could. Why?"
"Well, your father and I thought it was time we welcomed your, ah, partner."
Ray thought about that for a second. They'd never taken an interest in anybody he'd been paired with before. Then again, considering the kinds of yutzes he'd been partnered with, that was no real surprise.
"That sounds okay," he said cautiously.
"I wanted to check and see if there were any foods he didn't like."
"Ma, if there's anything in this world Fraser won't put in his mouth, I have yet to see it." His mother seemed to be stifling a cough, or a laugh, he wasn't sure which. There was a pause.
Something still seemed weird about this conversation. Was there something going on that he wasn't getting? It was like she was waiting for him to say something else. "Look, you sure there's no occasion?"
"No, no, I just thought I'd make sure you knew you could ... include him. In family things. That's very important."
"Uh, yeah. Right."
"So will you bring him?"
Ray blinked rapidly, as though he could somehow put this conversation back into focus. "I'll ask him. I'll, uh, go do that now. Bye, Ma." He hung up the phone and stood staring at the wall above his bed, trying to make sense of it all.
After ten minutes with no revelations, he wandered back into the living room in time to catch the last stone.
"Come on, come on, faster, okay, good, gooooood, yes, yes, yes-yes-yes—yes!" Fraser was all but jumping for joy. "Did you see that, Ray? A thing of beauty. Unbelievable." He picked up the remote and turned off the television, then turned back to Ray. "How is your mother?"
"She's fine. She, uh, wants to know if you're coming to dinner on Sunday."
Fraser looked confused. "Why?"
"Something about including you in family gatherings. I don't know. What did you talk about on your little shopping expedition?"
"Nothing much. She asked if I had family, I said no, not really. She said that was a shame. I agreed. She showed me pictures of your nephew, which I admired. She mentioned you had wanted children, and I said you'd told me so. She asked me if I'd ever given any thought to a family of my own, and I said not recently. Then she asked what I thought of the curtains."
Ray's mind started clicking. Things were starting to add up.
"Fraser. I think we may have trouble here."
"From your mother?"
"No. Yeah. I'm not sure. Listen to this, okay?" He began to pace as he laid out the facts. "She gives me cookies and says they're for both of us, and asks should she call before she comes over in case I'm 'busy' ...."
"What cookies? I don't recall —"
"The oatmeal ones."
"I thought you made those."
"No, I—what does that have to do with anything? Focus, Fraser."
"Sheesh. Okay. My dad—my dad—makes it a point to tell me he doesn't judge people, which is a complete and total crock. And then the shopping, and now ... and now Sunday dinner."
"I'm afraid I still don't see a problem, Ray."
"Yeah, well, it's all part of a pattern. I just didn't see it until you told me about the interrogation."
Fraser frowned. "A pattern?"
"Yeah. See, she took Stella shopping, too. Gave her the third degree. Made sure she was good enough for her baby."
"Ah. I see. I—Ray? Your mother thinks ..."
Ray nodded. "My mother thinks we're ... dating."
Ray snorted. "Fraser, 'Oh, dear' doesn't even begin to cover it. My mother thinks I'm gay!"
Fraser looked as puzzled as he ever had in all the time Ray had known him. "Well, aren't you?"
"What?" Ray's shout caused Dief to hide in the other room. How could Fraser sit there on the couch like normal, and say something like that? "Hello! Earth to Fraser! I was married!"
Fraser flushed a little, and his voice sounded strained. "I'm aware of that. I suppose the proper term would be 'bisexual,' but still —"
Ray thought of another good reason Fraser was full of shit on this one. "And I'm a cop!"
Fraser gave him a look that was like rolling his eyes, only without the eye-rolling part. "I wasn't aware heterosexuality was compulsory in the American law enforcement system. I'm sure that would come as a shock to the gentlemen in the Rainbow Briga —"
Ray cut Fraser off and rolled his own eyes, for real. Sarcasm. Typical Fraser. And frankly, he didn't really want to hear it. "Whatever. What in God's name would make you think I was queer?"
Fraser began ticking off items on his fingers. "You're single —"
More eye-rolling. "And not remarried, therefore single. You're relatively neat, you cook ..."
"Lots of guys cook, Fraser. Lots of guys cook when they're single because they like to eat."
"You dance." Ray made a small noise and Fraser held up his hand, palm out. Ray closed his mouth. "You have an inordinate interest in your hair—there are more styling products in your bathroom than in most drugstores. And then there's your taste in music."
"Fraser, I cannot believe this. I'm just—I'm speechless. I thought you were above stereotyping someone for how they look, or superficial shit like this."
"Well, there's also—-"
And then Fraser stopped, and turned the television back on. It was showing a commercial for dog food, which Fraser was watching with sudden rapt concentration.
"Nothing, Ray. I didn't intend to —"
Ray stalked over to the couch, grabbed the remote control, and hit the power button. "What is there, Fraser? What were you going to say?"
Fraser's jaw firmed. "I've seen the way you look at me sometimes."
To which Ray had no reply.
Sleeping late had been the plan. The Saturday plan. Sleeping late, then lazing around in bed for a while, then maybe getting up and feeding the turtle and watching some cartoons, and eventually heading over to the Consulate to see if Fraser had any ideas about things to do on a completely empty Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately, Ray woke up at six. And once he was awake, he knew he had no chance in hell of sleeping again.
He wasn't sure he had a chance in hell of sleeping again, ever. Wouldn't have gotten to sleep at all without the shot of whiskey he'd had after Fraser had collected his hat and gone home.
I've seen the way you look at me sometimes. What was that supposed to mean? He didn't look at Fraser. Okay, sure, he looked, but it wasn't looking looking.
What was Fraser thinking, accusing him like that?
This was bullshit.
He had to get out of his apartment.
The gym was mostly empty: just a couple of guys lifting free weights and one skinny chick on an exercise bike. Figured. Who'd come to the gym at 8 on a Saturday morning?
Pathetic losers who were trying to avoid thinking about why their best friends thought they were gay, apparently. Ray scowled at nothing in particular and slung his bag into the locker.
Running laps helped. He'd always been able to zone a little on running, settling into the slap of sneakers on track. It felt good to be moving. Like he could escape Fraser's voice, which was still in his head, only he wasn't thinking about it, which was why the running was helping. Until he thought about the running helping, at which point he was thinking about Fraser's voice again.
I've seen the way you look at me sometimes.
Accusing wasn't the right word, actually. Fraser hadn't been accusing him. There had been something else in Fraser's voice.
Which he still didn't want to think about. He slowed to a jog, then walked one last lap and left the track.
The feeling of pent-up energy wasn't going away. Maybe it was time to kick the shit out of something.
No one else was using the heavy bag, so Ray kicked it for a while. It was solid and didn't move much, which wasn't satisfying somehow. He wanted something to give, for God's sake. So he tried the little bag, the just-for-punching one. That was better. Bouncing almost on his toes, letting the weight rest on the balls of his feet, slamming the bag over and over, jabs and punches: whappity-whappity-whap.
I've seen the way you look at me sometimes.
Ray focused on the punching bag. Tried to replace those words with something else. Unfortunately, the only words he could think of that fit the rhythm were "No, I'm not. No, I'm not. No, I'm not."
Walking into the locker room made Ray nervous. He felt like it might be magically tattooed across his forehead: "I'm thinking about whether I'm gay or not."
But apparently it wasn't, or nobody cared, because nobody acted any different. It was hot and humid in there. Ray headed for the shower.
He snuck glances out of the corner of his eye at the couple of other guys within his line of sight. If he were gay, he'd have some kind of reaction, right? Attraction. He'd feel attraction. He felt nothing.
He wasn't even noticing anything. Not the guy in the corner with the six-pack abs. Not the guy with the towel wrapped around his hips, almost but not quite too loose to stay fastened. Wasn't noticing a thing.
Relief washed over him like the water cleaning his hair of shampoo. He felt nothing. Fraser was full of shit, and he'd tell him so.
Home, dialing Fraser's number, the words returned to him again.
I've seen the way you look at me sometimes.
Fraser's voice had been ... hopeful.
Jesus Christ. Was Fraser...?
"Good afternoon, Canadian Consulate, Constable Fraser speaking."
Ray couldn't say a thing.
Shakily, Ray hung up. He let his head fall back on the couch and stared at the ceiling. Was Fraser interested in him?
It wouldn't make a difference if he was. Because Ray wasn't. So it didn't matter.
There was a sick, nervous feeling in his stomach as he realized he didn't sound convincing even to himself.
And now there was the problem of not being able to talk to his best friend about this. Because ever since he'd met Fraser, any problem Ray had could be made better by talking to Fraser about it. Maybe Fraser didn't always know how to solve shit, but somehow just talking to him helped Ray to get things straight.
He had to call Fraser. Had to. No choice. Because none of it was Fraser's fault. It was just a stupid misunderstanding, that was all. And he'd explain how wrong Fraser was, and Fraser would apologize, and everything would be fine again. Right? Fraser would apologize for making that assumption, and Ray wouldn't ever mention the tone in Fraser's voice, and they'd just go on like usual, buddies and partners.
And why didn't that sound like a solution?
He forced himself to pick up the phone again and dial. He felt his heart thudding like he'd just run all the way to the top of the Sears Tower.
"Good afternoon, Canadian Consulate, Constable Fraser speaking."
"Hey," was all he could manage, but it was enough.
"Hello, Ray," said Fraser, in a small voice Ray'd never heard before. And Ray started feeling a little better. It helped to know that this wasn't just another Saturday for Fraser either.
"Did you, um, eat yet? Lunch, I mean."
"Oh. I ... I was just putting together a sandwich. Would you ... care to join me?"
"Depends. It's not caribou, is it?"
He could hear the almost-laughter in Fraser's voice. "Smoked turkey and Swiss."
"Okay. Give me fifteen."
He was there in ten, despite all his best efforts. The front doors of the Consulate had never looked so big and ominous, but one was open a crack, and he stepped into the familiar dim coolness. Dief came running out to greet him, and he took a second to ground himself in normality. Then he squared his shoulders and walked back towards the kitchen.
Fraser had set the plates on the work-island like always, and Ray went straight over and sat down, surreptitiously glancing at Fraser working at the sink. Fraser was wearing his usual just-this-side-of-too-tight jeans and a faded navy t-shirt, but when he turned, Ray could see where he'd splashed water just to the left of his fly. And Fraser splashing water on himself was such a foreign concept Ray could barely take it in. It meant things weren't normal, maybe wouldn't ever be normal again. He stared down at his plate.
"Sandwich looks good, Frase, thanks."
"You're welcome. Ray, we have to —"
"No," Ray said desperately, shaking his head. He kept staring at the plate like it would run off to Bali if he didn't watch it. "Let's just eat, okay? I'm not ... I can't yet." He looked up then, still not meeting Fraser's eyes. "I just wanna be two normal guys having a normal lunch, okay? That's it."
And damn, that sounded pathetic, but Fraser took it in stride. He nodded briskly. "Of course. What can I get you to drink?"
"I'll get it," said Ray, and things slid back into place a little. Just two guys eating lunch. Nothing to see here, move along.
And later it was those same two guys at the lake, soaking up some sun and watching the wolf chase seagulls.
"What would he do if he ever caught one, d'y'think?"
Fraser smiled. "Probably pass out from the shock of it."
Shit shit shit. "Yeah?"
"Can we—is it—I just wanted to say —" And suddenly there were no more dangerous words in the English language than 'I'm sorry, Ray.' Because Ray couldn't accept that apology. Because nobody should ever have to say they were sorry for telling their best friend the truth.
"Don't apologize, Fraser. Okay? Just don't."
I've seen the way you look at me sometimes.
Ray took a deep breath. "Just—maybe you weren't wrong, okay? But I don't know how I feel about it, and I sure as hell don't want to talk about it."
"I ... see."
"So can we just let it go for now?" Ray was staring out at the water, shielding his eyes with one hand from the sparkles of glare. "I mean, it's not like I can forget about it, but I'm not up to a discussion about whether or not I'm queer."
"Understood," Fraser said, and it was his Mountie-voice, the one he used when a perp said something bad about the Uniform. Fuck.
"Fraser," said Ray, and then he stopped. He made himself turn and look at Fraser, who was standing perfectly still watching him fidget.
The words needed to be right this time. This was a ... a pivotal moment, and he could either fuck it up completely or get them back on track. Ray took a deep breath.
"Dinner's at two, 'cause they go to church. I'll pick you up about one fifteen or so, okay?"
And Fraser's smile almost blinded him.
He'd thought everything was all better. Thought the not-thinking-about-it plan would hold him for a while. Ray had done some laundry, cleaned the apartment, watched half a movie on the tube. He'd fallen asleep early because Friday night had, let's face it, not been a great night in the sleep department. But he woke up early again on Sunday, and the gym was closed 'til noon ...
Well, whatever else, whoever else Stanley Raymond Kowalski might be, he wasn't a coward.
So he sat down on his couch to think about what it all meant. Or that was the plan, anyway. The second his butt hit the cushions, he was back up and in the kitchen, scrubbing the sink to within an inch of its life.
It didn't take long for the sink to sparkle, but he could still hear Fraser's voice in his head saying, "I suppose the proper term would be 'bisexual'."
Maybe the oven could use some attention. He hauled out the Easy-Off and went to work.
And maybe it was the fumes, but he heard Fraser's voice again, this time saying, "I've seen the way you look at me sometimes." And now he was pretty sure there'd been something like hope in Fraser's tone. Like ... Fraser'd been maybe enjoying the looks. Maybe looking back, only Ray was too clueless to notice. Like with Stella, back in junior high.
His best friend Stevie Vaughn had to tell Ray how Stella'd been watching him in math class. Watching him when he walked by her locker. And once he noticed her looking, man, it wasn't long before he was leaning up against her locker instead of walking by. And not long after that before she kissed him, right there in the hall, with Mary Louise Prendergast and half the pep-squad standing there....
Laundry. Wasn't there laundry to fold?
Folding the sheets and towels didn't take much concentration, though, it just made him aware that the colors complemented each other... and was that another one of Fraser's Signs That Ray Is Gay, matching linens?
And what would Fraser know about it anyway? His sheets probably had "Property of the RCMP" stamped on them. Not that Ray was thinking about Fraser's sheets. Or Fraser sleeping on his sheets. How Fraser looked when he was sleeping—which Ray actually knew about, from actual experience. How Fraser's mouth kind of ... softened ... when he was out for the count. How much it looked like Stella's mouth had, right in that split-second before she'd kissed him that very first time.
He tried to imagine doing that with Fraser—because really, that's where they were headed, right? Well, probably not in the hallway with everybody watching (please God no, not that), but ... kissing. Kissing Fraser.
And once he started thinking about it, really thinking, it was hard to stop.
And then ... it was just hard.
And how wrong was that? Because no matter what Ray had heard, or thought he heard, Fraser hadn't said anything. And besides which, he wasn't a pin-up for Ray to think about when he was jerking off. Not that he was going to, of course.
So he took a cold shower, and stopped thinking so much. Freak occurrence, right? Finished putting his laundry away, and mopped the bathroom floor, and took out the trash. Normal Sunday stuff.
But Fraser smelled like aftershave when he got in the car, and then Ray almost got them in an accident pulling onto Lake Shore Drive because some little old lady too short to see over her dashboard hadn't come to a complete stop. By the time they got to Skokie, they were both tense.
Okay, so Ray knew the camper wasn't big. But his dad wasn't a small guy, and it had always seemed to fit him just fine. Which was why Ray couldn't explain how it seemed so small now that Fraser was there with him.
And the funny thing was, Fraser should be used to confined spaces. Hell, Fraser'd probably lived in igloos smaller than this. But no matter how he tried to keep a normal distance between them, it seemed like he and Fraser were bumping into each other, elbows and arms all over the place.
"Smells delicious, Mrs. Kowalski," Fraser said, all Eddie-Haskell-polite, taking off his hat and holding it in both hands.
His mom smiled so broadly Ray almost winced. "Oh, thank you, Benton," she said, reaching over to pat his arm twice. "You can call me Mom."
Ray stuffed his hands in his pockets, raised his shoulders up around his ears, and pretended he was somewhere else.
By the time they all wedged themselves into the bench seats around the dining table, Ray was sweating. If this wasn't the most uncomfortable dinner he'd been forced to endure since the night he and Stella had broken the news of their engagement to her folks, it had to be a close second.
His dad—Mr. "I don't judge people"—couldn't make eye contact with Fraser for even a second. When they'd walked in he'd mumbled something that might've been "hello," but it might also have been short for "Touch my kid and I'll rip off your hands, you funny-hat-wearing homo." Ray couldn't tell. And now he just sat without saying a word.
And his mom was practically twittering, she was so excited. She got up from the table twice to make sure everybody had paper napkins and glasses of water and enough gravy for the mashed potatoes before finally settling back down.
Then there was an awkward silence. And just as Ray thought he might opt to die right then and there, to spare himself the rest of the afternoon, his mom spoke up.
"Benton, would you like to say grace?"
Ray's dad was startled into actually looking up.
"Certainly," Fraser said, sounding a little surprised.
Out of habit, Ray bent his head and stared down at his plate. Roast beef, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts. Stella had hated Brussels sprouts. Ray hadn't even thought about making them in years. Which was stupid, because he really liked them.
Fraser cleared his throat. "God, we thank You for this food, and for the kindness and hospitality and hard work that led to its being placed on the table before us. Bless the Kowalskis and their home and all of their endeavors. Amen."
Ray's dad grunted what might have been an "amen" and picked up his fork and knife.
"Ohh ... I remember when Stanley used to say grace." Without even looking he could hear his mother beaming. Oh, Jesus.
"Yeah, but never that nice." Was that grudging approval for Fraser in his father's voice, or was his dad just taking advantage of the chance to give him a hard time?
"What, you didn't like 'Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub, yay God'?"
"Punk," his dad said, although he was laughing now.
Ray felt the tension in his shoulders easing a little. Maybe this wasn't going to be so god-awful after all.
"... so that was how I brought them in. They were ... indignant, of course, at their attire, but I still believe the tights prevented what would have been a most distressing case of frostbite."
Ray's dad was laughing so hard his face was turning red. His mom was chuckling. And Fraser looked calm and poised—except for his eyes, which revealed his relief. Jeez, how did he do it? He could talk a seal into buddying up with a polar bear.
And the best part was, he'd been so engrossed in his story-telling that he'd left his last three Brussels sprouts on his plate. Ray reached over with his fork.
"You're not gonna eat these, right?" The first one was halfway to his mouth before he asked.
Fraser smiled indulgently. "All yours, Ray."
By the time they'd moved on to coffee and pie—which no way was that normal, pie definitely meant this was some kind of occasion, no matter what his mom had said—Ray had relaxed enough to lean back and drape one arm over the back of the bench.
His dad got up, rummaged in a cabinet, and came back with a bottle of whiskey. "You boys want a bolt in your coffee?"
Fraser's "No, thank you kindly" was almost drowned out by Ray's loud "Shit, yeah."
"Stanley! Language!" His mother tightened her lips.
"Ma, gimme a break." Then Ray noticed Fraser, whose eyes also held a hint of ... something. Disapproval? "What?"
"I swear to God, Fraser, I will not be drunk after one Irish coffee." Fraser opened his mouth to say something else, but Ray beat him to it. "And if you're still nervous when we leave, you can have the keys."
He noticed his parents were exchanging glances.
But his dad poured the whiskey, and they all settled back into their seats, and Ray sipped his coffee and enjoyed not entirely listening to whatever Fraser was going on about now, probably another wacky Northwest Territories law enforcement tale.
A few minutes later it came to him.
His parents were exchanging glances because he and Fraser were acting married. Who ate food off each others' plates? Who did that kind of good-natured bickering about the car keys? Married people, that's who.
Jesus, they didn't just think he and Fraser were dating. They thought he and Fraser were married.
Fraser leaned back slightly, gesturing to sketch the shape of a glacier or iceberg or something, and his neck brushed Ray's outstretched arm. Ray heard the barely-present hitch in Fraser's voice, the way he almost broke out of his story but then caught himself. "Unfortunately for them, they'd piled their sled too high, and were short a lead dog ..."
Having Fraser lean on him felt pretty nice, actually. The way the hair on the back of his neck brushed against the inside of Ray's wrist felt really good. Like ... tingly-good. Like ....
Ray took another long pull of his coffee. Married. Huh. He wondered when he was going to start freaking out. After a couple minutes he forgot about freaking out and started really listening to Fraser's story, which was much more interesting.
They managed to get on the road by 4:45, carrying a bag full of leftovers ("Thank you kindly; I'm sure Diefenbaker will appreciate the courtesy"). Ray and his dad had exchanged their usual back-slaps, Fraser and his dad had shaken hands, his mom had hugged them both.
Fraser had even admitted that Ray was, in fact, sober enough to drive.
They didn't talk much in the car, but this time the silence felt ... decent. Normal. Like their usual not-talking, instead of like they were avoiding something.
"Mmm." Ray glanced left quickly, then made an illegal right turn at a red light.
"Ray, this isn't the way home."
"Huh? Sure it is."
"Not if you're taking me back to the Consulate."
Oh yeah. "Sorry, I guess I was on autopilot. You got anything else to do, or you wanna come watch more of your, whaddayacall, bone-whatever?"
Fraser grinned in that way he had when he knew Ray was yanking his chain. "You can call it a championship if you want; I know how you hate that you've become familiar with curling terms. And ... I'd be delighted, Ray."
After a detour to fetch Dief, who'd been alone all afternoon and was almost ridiculously glad to see them (though Ray was pretty sure it was the smell of the roast beef more than the prospect of company), they settled on Ray's couch for the end of the tournament. After a minute or two, Ray hopped up again to get himself a beer. Without asking, he poured Fraser a glass of water, then returned to the couch with the drinks. Fraser frowned a little when he saw the bottle in Ray's hand.
"Nothing, I—nothing." He shook his head and turned the volume up a bit. Ray sighed and took a sip of beer. Whatever bug was up Fraser's ass this time, he could wait it out. Shouldn't be too long, anyway.
Sure enough, the next commercial Fraser hit the mute button and turned sideways a little so he was mostly facing Ray. "Does it bother you that I don't drink?"
And that was weird enough to stop the bottle halfway to Ray's mouth. "Um, no," he said. "Why? Is that what this is about? You think I drink too much?"
"No, not at all," Fraser said, and Ray could tell he meant it. "I just ... I hope I didn't embarrass you this afternoon. I was ... well, I was trying to make a good impression on your parents. Trying to fit in. But I —"
Ray put his bottle down on the table. "Don't worry about it. Listen, the whiskey thing—that was my dad trying to be sociable. It's the only way he knows how to do it." He shrugged. "I get kind of a kick out of it, to tell the truth. Like he's saying I'm a grown-up now, and not a kid. But it's not a big deal. Drink, don't drink. You didn't offend him or anything."
Ray looked at the television. "Game's back on."
"Thank you," said Fraser, and turned the sound back up. Ray picked up his beer again and while half his attention was on the screen, the other half was thinking again. Thinking about Fraser trying to impress his parents.
A few commercials later, Ray just had to ask. Tried to make the question casual. "So what'd you think of my folks?"
"They're lovely people, Ray." Fraser's voice was earnest. "I particularly enjoyed the chance to share some stories from—well, from what used to be home."
"Yeah, I noticed." Ray took a deep breath, and took the plunge. "And they totally think we're dating."
There was a long silence; the bottom of Ray's stomach was about to fall out with panic when Fraser finally said, "Yes, it's clear they do." His voice sounded carefully neutral, which meant he was working hard to sound normal, which for some reason made Ray feel better.
Another silence; Fraser opened his mouth, then paused, then spoke. "Is that ... okay with you, then?"
Ray exhaled. "Yeah," he breathed toward the end of it. There: he'd said it. And the world hadn't stopped spinning or anything. Go figure.
The commercial ended, and the screen switched abruptly back to a Canadian slider pushing off and gliding down the ice, and they both yelled at the television a little, and for a while it seemed like the conversation wasn't going to go any further.
And then Fraser spoke up again, midway through the end. While they were still playing, which for Fraser was pretty weird.
"It's been ... some time since I last dated."
"Tell me about it."
"Well, I believe you've heard me mention—"
"Figure of speech, Fraser," and Ray glanced over and saw the crinkles around Fraser's eyes and realized Fraser was pulling his leg. He snorted. "What I meant was, I haven't exactly what you'd call 'dated' since I was thirteen."
Fraser nodded. There was silence; he seemed to have been derailed. Suddenly Ray was hyper-aware of the space his body was taking up, of the mere inches that separated his shoulder and leg from Fraser's.
"Fraser, did you have a point?"
"It's just that I seem to recall there being certain ... perks ... to dating." Fraser was looking carefully ahead at the television, not over at Ray, which gave Ray the luxury of watching him talk.
Certain perks. Holy shit. Every sensation in Ray's body turned electric: the grin taking over his face, the denim at his crotch pulling slightly tighter.
"Perks, huh." Ray tried to sound like he didn't know what Fraser was talking about, but he figured he wasn't fooling anybody. Not even Dief, who gave a long-suffering whine and padded into the kitchen. "You mean like borrowing your boyfriend's letter jacket."
"Not exactly. After all, I have a leather jacket of my own, Ray."
—and Ray wasn't sure whether or not Fraser had intentionally mis-repeated what he'd said, but all of a sudden the image of Fraser in his leather jacket was a hell of an appealing image—those too-tight jeans and the leather jacket, and maybe nothing else --
—and before he could stop to think about why this was or wasn't a good idea, he was reaching over and sealing his mouth to Fraser's. After a split-second, he decided it had been a very good idea. He felt Fraser lean toward him, so he leaned back, putting one hand behind Fraser's neck so he'd follow, and ... hot damn. Long legs tangled with his. A broad chest pressed against his own. Fraser's lips—softer than he'd expected --- opening to his tongue. And maybe the best part of all: the tiny sounds Fraser was making. Little almost-gasps.
Ray was on fire.
He pulled away and fumbled under them for the remote control, switching the television dark. "That's it, it's bedtime." He was three steps towards the bedroom when Fraser's plaintive voice stopped him.
"But Ray—the bonspiel. They haven't yet gotten off all of their rocks."
Gotten all of their ... Jesus Christ, what kind of sport used terms like that? "You need another American lesson," Ray started, turning, but words failed him when he saw Fraser: mouth wet from kissing, shirt half-untucked, chest rising and falling—and a wicked glint in his eyes. He'd said it on purpose.
"You're fucking with me." Ray was laughing now. "You're nowhere near as straight-laced as you act, Fraser, you're fucking with me!"
Fast. Fraser was fast, Fraser was on his feet and right in Ray's space, half-pushing him through the bedroom door. "Not yet, I'm not," he murmured, and it was a good thing Ray was next to the bed now because something was wrong with his legs, which were going weak.
He sat down quick, then bounced back up again, almost colliding with Fraser, who was leaning over like he wanted to join him. Fraser looked pretty surprised at the interruption, too.
"Ray?" he said, and that was it, but Ray heard more. Ray heard I thought you wanted this and It was your idea to come in here and even, God help him, I never figured you for a coward, Ray.
"Yeah, I know, I know," said Ray, and he took a couple of deep breaths. Fraser just stood there, looking a little mussed and a lot lost. Ray closed his eyes for a second so he wouldn't have to see that face looking at him like that, but when he felt Fraser start to move away he opened them again. "Wait, wait, hang on," he said.
Fraser stopped moving and Ray put out his hand and just ... touched him. Starting behind his ear, skimming down to his throat, brushing over the skin lightly with just his fingertips. He saw goosebumps start to form almost immediately. "Ticklish?" he asked.
"Not usually," Fraser said, and then shivered. Ray smiled.
He moved in closer until he could feel the heat from Fraser's body and put both hands firmly on Fraser's shoulders. "We were going too fast before," he said softly. "That's all. Not that I didn't want it. Just—a little slower would be good. 'Til I get used to this guy-on-guy thing. Okay?"
"Good." And Ray tugged on Fraser's shoulders, tugged him forward until their chests were touching. "Is it okay if I, um, kiss you? I didn't ask before, I don't even know if guys are supposed to kiss, but I really liked it, so, um —" Fraser leaned forward the last few inches and put his mouth over Ray's. And this time it was different, it was better, it was ... oh, God, so hot and messy and wonderful. This was Fraser being in charge. This was Fraser really going to town with the whole kissing thing.
Fraser was making more little noises now, little hums and almost-growls. Ray felt arms wrap around him, hands rubbing up and down his back, resting on his waist, then moving lower, to cup his ass. Oh. Oh, God. That's what guys did. The ass-thing. And before he could stop himself, his whole body went stiff.
Fraser pulled his hands away like Ray was on fire, and for a minute there it looked like a disaster in the making. Fraser backed away, and since Ray had pretty much been leaning on him, Ray almost fell over before he got his feet back under himself. And Fraser was talking, babbling really.
"Sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that, it's just—I'm not—God, Ray —"
Ray crossed the three feet of empty floor that suddenly separated them and put his hand over Fraser's mouth. "Shh," he said. "It's okay." He moved his hand away and kissed Fraser quickly, trying to say that he was sorry, too. "I think we're both, um, kind of nervous here, yeah?"
Fraser gave him a small smile. "Yes. Anticipatory, but nervous."
"Anticipa - what? You saying you've been waiting for this?" And wasn't that something to wrap his brain around.
"Ray. You know very well what it means."
"Yeah, okay, just—how long?"
And Fraser blushed. "A while," he said.
Now here was something familiar—Fraser holding back. So Ray did what he always did. Ray pushed. "A long while, or a little while?"
"Since," and Fraser mumbled something.
"I can't he-e-e-ear you."
Fraser's eyes flickered with something that was maybe exasperation, maybe amusement. "Since you gave me that ... hug. In the bullpen," he said clearly.
"Wow," said Ray, completely overwhelmed. "Really?"
"Yeah," breathed Fraser, and moved closer again.
"Cool," was all Ray could think of to say before his mouth was full of Fraser's tongue again.
This time Ray was determined not to freak out, no matter where Fraser put his hands. In fact, maybe it was time he did a little more adventuring on his own. He moved his own hands from where they'd again been resting on Fraser's shoulders. One traveled up to the back of Fraser's neck and stroked his hair (soft, silky, like a cat, God that's nice), while the other meandered south-southwest to the front of Fraser's shirt. It threw Ray for just a second that the buttons were going the wrong way, but he compensated and undid the four he could reach in a matter of seconds.
Fraser's reaction to this was to draw back from kissing, which was not at all what Ray had planned on. "Hey," he said. "Come back here."
"In a minute," said Fraser. He licked his lip nervously. "Ray, do you mind if I —" He gestured to Ray's shirt-front.
Ray felt a thrill go through him. Not fear anymore, definitely arousal. He reached for Fraser's hands and guided them to his own chest. "Please do," he said, and his voice sounded strange in his ears.
Fraser's knuckles burned into Ray's skin all the way down. When the last button was released, Fraser pulled the sides of the shirt apart and just ... stared. Ray squirmed a little and broke the tension. "Your turn," he said hoarsely, and Fraser stepped back a half-step and yanked the tails of his shirt all the way out of his pants, undoing the last two buttons before pulling it off entirely. Ray watched it float down to the floor, awed by the hunger Fraser was showing him.
He took a deep breath and slowly pulled his own shirt off, tossing it on top of Fraser's in some kind of symbolic gesture. Then he moved closer again, until he felt the light brush of skin-on-skin. Faint wisps of hair around the nipples (God, Fraser has nipples) caught and pulled against his own as he leaned in. Fraser was staring again, this time at Ray's collarbone (or so it seemed), and suddenly Ray realized he could smell Fraser's ... what? Shampoo, soap, something. He moved his head so his nose was right up against Fraser's neck, just below his ear, and just ... inhaled. Mmmmm.
Goosebumps sprang up again, and Fraser ... squeaked.
"Can't help it, you smell good," mumbled Ray against the strong cords of Fraser's neck. "This okay, can I do this?" he asked, trailing his nose down to Fraser's shoulder and pressing it right in the hollow between the bones there.
"Uhhhh," was Fraser's contribution, and Ray smiled. This was good, this was really good, and maybe in a while ...
Another flash of insight. Fraser wouldn't do anything to hurt him, ever, that was a given. So what was he afraid of? Grow a fucking spine, Kowalski. What is your problem?
"We could move this to the bed, um, if you wanted," he offered, a little breathlessly.
And that was evidently all Fraser had been waiting for. Ray was being pushed towards the bed before he could blink, and he didn't know whether to laugh or scream when his knees hit the edge and he dropped backwards. Fraser dropped right beside him, landing on his side, missing Ray by about a molecule. This is your partner on hormones, Ray thought wildly, and this time he did laugh, just a little.
"What?" said Fraser, worrying up again.
"No, it's okay—I like you this way. It's good."
Fraser smiled, and Ray could see all the months of waiting in it. "It's okay," Ray said again, tugging Fraser's hand over to rest on his stomach. "C'mon."
It wasn't quite an engraved invitation, but it seemed Fraser wasn't waiting for one anyway. Ray felt Fraser's hand skate over his ribs, down to the waistband of his pants, across to the other side, and up again before taking a slightly different path and repeating the journey. Warm fingers brushed over his nipples, and he arched his back and hissed.
"Do that again," he said softly, and Fraser did. "God, that's—Oh!" he said when Fraser leaned down and put his mouth ... right ... there. And sucked.
"Holy Christ, Fraser, that's ... "
"Mmmm," said Fraser around Ray's nipple, and Ray shivered and arched again.
And suddenly Fraser's mouth was everywhere. And his hands ... his hands were everywhere his mouth wasn't, and for a while Ray was just lost in the sensations. He could barely breathe, and he was very aware of the pull and scrape of denim where his cock was begging to get out. "Pants," he gasped, and thank God Fraser'd majored in mind-reading or something, because pop went the button, and zzzzit went the zipper, and—oh—there was Fraser's hand on his dick. "Yeah," he sighed, and pushed up with his hips. Fraser's hand tightened and stroked, and Ray rocked along with it.
"Yours too," he managed after a minute. After all, fair was fair, right? He tried to move the arm Fraser was laying on, but all he could do was wiggle his hand a little. And then ... oh. There it was.
He could feel the bump of the zipper with the back of his hand, and underneath that was a bigger bump. A lot bigger. Fraser was hard as a fucking rock. Ray pressed in a little, then tried to twist his hand around. No luck, no dice, no way. Not without major tendon damage could he do that.
But Fraser seemed to appreciate his efforts, anyway. His breathing was speeding up, and he made a sound like Dief realizing he couldn't reach the leftovers. Fraser was seriously turned on, just from what he was doing to Ray. And talk about somebody rocking your world ...
Okay, so Ray was on-board with the gay thing. Obviously this was something he could get behind. A lifestyle choice he could embrace. But at the moment, they were both wearing way too many clothes.
"Fraser. Fraser. Fraserfraserfraserfraser—mmmphm."
When Fraser finally released Ray's mouth, he was grinning. "Having fun?"
"Honest to God, Fraser, if you say 'I told you so'—"
"I wouldn't dream of it."
"Okay. Just so I know, is there a point when we'll both be naked?"
And that seemed to be some kind of a challenge—Speed Stripping, maybe?—but it took Fraser about half a second to get rid of the rest of his clothes and, after a raised eyebrow for confirmation, Ray's as well.
Ray had barely a glimpse of Naked Fraser, though, before he was back on the bed, in the position he'd just left. And now it was better; now it was Fraser's hand on Ray's cock with no boxers in the way, just warm skin and friction. Now it was Ray's hand, groping for (and finding) Fraser's cock.
And he wasn't freaking out, not freaking out at all, just ... it was so warm. Hot, actually, with more skin than he'd expected (so that's what a foreskin feels like). Ray still didn't have much in the way of mobility, he was still flat on his back with Fraser ... doing things to him ... but he managed to grasp the head of Fraser's cock and give it a gentle squeeze-and-pull, pushing the foreskin down a little at the same time.
Fraser just wriggled. And moaned. Loud.
"You like that?" Ray whispered.
"Mmmm," said Fraser, and Ray did it again, a longer stroke, a slightly harder squeeze.
Ray did a little wriggling of his own, until he was on his side facing Fraser. Now he could reach with his other hand, and he took advantage of it. Push-pull, stroke-squeeze, and Fraser was totally distracted. He'd obviously forgotten all about what he'd been doing to Ray—and wow, that was really cool.
Ray looked at the line of the neck Fraser was baring to him and just dove in. Stopped just short of giving him a hickey (because really, how could they explain that?) and moved down inch by inch. Fraser tasted good, kind of salty and sweet at the same time, and Ray could feel the noises Fraser was making vibrating under his mouth.
And suddenly Fraser was pulling him closer, pulling him on top, and after a second Ray understood why. Their cocks were lined up side-by-side, and Ray gave an experimental thrust and holy shit that felt good. He pushed again, and then it was like some inner sex-demon took over, he couldn't stop, wouldn't stop, until ... until ...
Fraser came first, by about thirty seconds, but Ray hardly noticed until it was over. God. He'd just—they'd just—God. He put his head down on Fraser's shoulder and sighed in contentment. Perfect. Everything was perfect. And ... sticky.
He rolled off Fraser, dragged him up so they were in a more usual position for being-in-bed, and grabbed the Kleenex box off the nightstand. After they'd mopped up and wrestled themselves under the covers, Ray wrapped himself around Fraser.
"Where'd you learn all that?" Ray asked, when he could form thoughts again.
Fraser smiled. And blushed.
Ray leaned up on one elbow, very curious now. "Come on, I doubt you have some secret past as a rent-boy, so spill it."
"I had some ... practical experience ... when I was younger. And of course, there are some very fine books on the subject."
"Get out. Really?"
Fraser nodded. "I found The Gay Kama Sutra slightly intimidating, but The Joy of Gay Sex was ... interesting reading."
"I bet. How'd you get ahold of books like that, though?"
Fraser looked confused at the question. "I went to a bookstore, Ray. Waldenbooks, if I recall correctly."
And the image of Constable Fraser walking through the mall carrying gay sex manuals ... Ray shook his head. "I guess I still got some work to do with my tendency to underestimate you."
Fraser smiled. "We have time, Ray," he said. "No one gets everything right all at once."
Ray kissed him and settled back down onto his half of the pillow. "I guess one advantage this time around is no in-law problems, right? I mean, Stella's dad couldn't stand me, but ..."
Fraser made a weird noise, halfway between a giggle and choking-on-a-fishbone.
Up went the thumb to the eyebrow. No neck-crack, though, so not too serious.
"It can wait. Believe me, now is not the time."
Ray shook his head and burrowed closer. "You are so weird."
Fraser chuckled. "It runs in the family," he said.
"I guess my family's a little nuts too."
And then it occurred to Ray that hey, if this thing worked out (which he couldn't think of any reason why it wouldn't), Fraser was his family now.
Seemed like his parents had misunderstood almost everything important about him, if not from day one then at least from the time he was twelve. For once, their not-getting-it had turned into something good.
Something really, really good.