Ray contemplated the mess on his desk and rescued several files from the teetering pile in his pending box. "I'll be right back, Frase. Gotta talk to Welsh about these cases. Do not go wandering off while I'm gone."
"I'm sure you would find me if I did so, Ray." Fraser furtively brushed his fingers across his lover's hand.
Ray affectionately copied the Mountie's move before lifting his hand and rubbing his chin in a contemplative manner. A wicked grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. "Maybe I should tie you to the chair?"
Fraser moved closer to the blond-haired detective and pretended to remove a speck of lint from his jacket. "Maybe . . . maybe you should expedite your meeting with Lieutenant Welsh so that we can go home and you can tie me to the bed."
The files in Ray's hand hit the floor with a loud thud and Fraser hid his grin behind his hat when those standing nearby turned and looked in their direction. "I will be in the staff lounge if you need me, Ray. I overheard someone say it's Dewey's birthday next month and I would like to check the calendar on the bulletin board to make sure."
Muttering to himself about a certain Mountie who deserved to be spanked, Ray knelt and collected his files. On his way up, he slapped Fraser on the butt. "I'm so gonna nail your ass when we get home."
"Counting on it, Ray," Fraser threw over his shoulder as he walked away.
Entering the staff lounge, he acknowledged, with a nod of his head, the two policewomen sitting together on the couch. Fraser recognized the predatory look on both their faces and quickly moved to the bulletin board at the far end of the room. A brightly decorated piece of paper posted in the middle of the board caught his attention and he took a moment to examine it.
Happy Holidays, everyone! My name is Bettina Ribando, (Francesca's niece!!) and my school band has been selected to be in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's day. I am offering these personalized letters from Santa to the children in this community so that I can raise the funds needed for my trip to California. Your child's keepsake letter will contain personal information about him/her and will be printed on beautiful holiday paper. Best of all, it will be signed by SANTA! For $5.00, you can give your child a magical experience and help me make my dream come true. All letters will be mailed between the first and fifteenth of December. Oh yeah! This is a great gift for adults, too!
An idea immediately sprang to life and, forgetting all about checking the date of Dewey's birthday, Fraser turned smartly on his heel and went in search of Francesca. He found the woman working at her desk.
"Yes?" The civilian aid took one last look at her computer screen before glancing up. A familiar piece of paper was held out to her and she took it from the Mountie standing beside her desk. The Mountie that got away, to be correct. Francesca choked back the sigh that automatically rose to her lips. Her loss was Ray Kowalski's gain and she was determined to be happy for the two men, even if it killed her. "Is there something you need, Fraser?"
"This is your niece, correct?" Fraser smiled at the young woman he had come to regard as a friend and sister.
Francesca nodded. "Yeah. Her school's trying to raise money to go to the Rose Bowl Parade." She grinned when Fraser nervously shuffled his hat from hand to hand before brushing a thumb across his right eyebrow. "Are you interested in helping out?"
Fraser threw a wary glance over his shoulder before answering quietly, "Yes, but I will require your assistance."
"You need my help?" Francesca leaned back in her chair in an attempt to see who Fraser was searching for. Seeing no one, she handed the paper back to him. "Just fill in the blanks. Bettina will take care of the rest."
"I will do just that, Francesca." Fraser spared another glance over his shoulder.
"Then what's the problem?"
Fraser tucked his hat under his arm and took a seat in the chair next to Francesca's desk. Leaning close to her, he whispered, "It's for Ray."
Assuming the job of look-out, Francesca peered over Fraser's shoulder and verified the coast was clear before scooting her chair closer to him. "You're such a romantic, Fraser. Ray's gonna love getting a letter from Santa."
"I believe you are correct. Ray is, after all, just a big kid at heart."
Taking the paper back from the Mountie, Francesca picked up a pen and began filling in the blanks. "Name. You want it addressed with Ray's real name?" Fraser's large hand covered hers and she looked up. "What? You want me to put down his alias?"
"This is a special letter, Francesca."
"Of course, it's special. Any letter from Santa would be." Francesca bit her lip and, for a brief moment, enjoyed the pleasure of having Fraser hold her hand.
"No, Francesca, you don't understand. This is a very special letter." Fraser removed his hand and reached inside his jacket. "Before I show you the present I purchased for Ray, I must have your promise of absolute secrecy. Only you and I and Dief will know what Ray is getting for Christmas."
As curious as the nine-month-old kitten she had just adopted, Francesca raised her hand and crossed her heart. "Cross my heart and hope to die, Fraser."
"Your death will not be required, Francesca."
Francesca caught the twinkle in Fraser's eyes and laughed. "Good thing. Ma's got me making all the desserts for Christmas day and she might be a tad upset if I'm not around to do so."
Fraser took one last look around the unusually quiet department and a smile teased his lips as he watched Francesca mimic his actions. He quickly opened his jacket and allowed the younger woman to view the pocket that contained Ray's gift.
"Oh. Oh!" Francesca quickly shifted her gaze to the Mountie and saw the look of love reflected in his eyes. She immediately felt a twinge of jealousy because she knew without a doubt that look was reserved for only one person and it wasn't her and would never be her. She pasted a smile on her face and exclaimed, "Wow, Fraser! Ray must've been a really good boy this past year."
The civilian aid couldn't help but chuckle at the blush that brightened Fraser's cheeks. When the blush remained firmly fixed in place, Francesca decided to give the Canadian a moment to recover his composure and busied herself by filling in the information Bettina would need to write Ray's letter. Tapping the tip of her pen against her bottom lip, she slid a glance in Fraser's direction and, feeling it was safe to proceed, said, "I think maybe I should help you with this letter instead of my niece. Bettina's only thirteen and I know she's not going to understand the nature of your relationship with Ray." Francesca indicated the present that was safely hidden inside Fraser's jacket. "And she might start asking questions that her parents don't want to answer right now."
The Mountie shared an understanding smile with his friend. "You are most wise, Francesca." Fraser reached inside his hat and retrieved several Canadian bills. "But I insist on paying the required fee. It would be most unfortunate if Bettina's dream did not come true."
It was Francesca's turn to blush when she saw exactly how much money Fraser was giving her. Clearing her throat, she thanked the Mountie with a touch of her hand. "You're a good man, Fraser."
"I certainly hope Ray agrees with your assessment."
Francesca resumed filling in the blanks on the form. "He does, Fraser. There's no doubt in my mind that he does."
"That is the last fucking time I listen to anything that bastard says." Ray viciously stabbed a finger at the button that would call the elevator to their floor. "What happened to snitch loyalty?"
"I find it hard to understand why you would expect loyalty from a person who trades information for money." Fraser lightly gripped Ray's arm, preventing his partner from repeatedly punching the down button.
"It's the code, Frase, the code of the streets." Ray pulled his arm free and took out his anger by kicking the doors that were taking too long to open. "Dammit! Dammit it all to hell! This totally screws our case." Ray stomped inside the elevator the moment the doors opened and slammed his fist against the ground floor button, cursing loudly when all the buttons lit up. "Come on, Frase. Get the lead out. We gotta get back to the precinct and explain to Welsh why we didn't catch the bad guys."
Fraser took up his customary position beside his partner. "Tomorrow's another day. We'll get the bad guys tomorrow, Ray."
A tight smile briefly crossed Ray's face. "Not tomorrow, Frase. Tomorrow's Christmas and me and you are officially off duty. Somebody else can catch 'em."
Fraser slipped his hand beneath Ray's jacket and shirt and stroked the small of his lover's back. "We are still joining the Vecchio family for dinner tonight, correct?"
Before Ray could answer, the antiquated elevator jerked to a stop between floors and the Chicago detective stared in disbelief at the doors that now refused to open and let him out. Again, his frustration drove him kick the defenseless steel barrier in front of him. "Fuck! I can't believe this is happening to us." A gentle touch to the back of his neck cooled his anger and Ray stepped away from the door. Silently, he watched Fraser press the emergency button repeatedly. When no alarm sounded, Ray took a seat on the floor and banged his head dejectedly against the wall behind him. "Will this day never end?"
Ray shuffled closer to Fraser once he sat down beside him and let loose a sigh of appreciation when the larger man pulled him into a comforting embrace. Taking a moment to soak up the peacefulness that radiated from his lover, Ray hid his face in the folds of Fraser's heavy coat. Another sigh, this one of resignation, escaped him as he pulled slightly away and dug out his cellphone. "Unless we plan on waiting for Santa and his reindeer to break us outta here, I guess I better call for help."
Sensing their accidental incarceration as being the opportune moment to present Ray with his letter, Fraser removed a bright red envelope from the inside of his hat. He smoothed out the bent corners as he waited patiently for his partner to finish his call and, the instant Ray tucked his phone back in his jacket, Fraser handed over the card. "Speaking of Santa . . ." The Mountie cleared his throat nervously. "This came special delivery for you today."
"For me?" Ray checked the return address and a grin as bright as the sun broke out across his face. "A letter from Santa? For me?"
"Your name is on the envelope, Ray. Therefore, I'm assuming it's for you." A hard punch landed on his arm and Fraser chuckled. "Maybe you should open it and see for yourself."
Fraser held his breath when Ray happily ripped the envelope open and, as the Mountie had predicted, totally ignored the enclosed document, going, instead, straight for the card. With some trepidation, he watched Ray mouth the words of Santa's personal message and knew the moment his lover reached the part that would decide their future.
Ray glanced up at Fraser as he read out loud, "And since your behavior has been quite exemplary . . . . That means good, right?"
"Very good, Ray."
Ray lifted Fraser's arm and slipped it around his shoulders so that he could snuggle closer to his lover. "Santa seems to enjoy using big words. Kinda like you do, Frase? Damn coincidence, if you ask me."
"So it would seem." Fraser welcomed the friendly jab from Ray's elbow with a smile. "What else does Santa have to say?"
Ray slid his hand along the top of Fraser's thigh, giving it a gentle squeeze before continuing. "And since your behavior has been quite good this year, I have a large number of gifts for you. Unfortunately, I am unsure of where to deliver them. Should I guide my reindeer to your apartment or to the address on the enclosed form? Please direct your reply to the email address listed below on or before December 24th."
Offering his partner a confused look, Ray tucked the card between his teeth and opened the folded piece of paper that had fallen out of the envelope.
"Shit!" Santa's card joined the torn envelope that lay in Ray's lap. "Shit!"
Afraid to look at his partner, Fraser glanced up at the ceiling and swiped his thumb across his eyebrow. "Is that a good shit or bad shit, Ray?" Several minutes passed and finally Fraser forced himself to glance at the man sitting beside him on the floor. He found Ray turning the piece of paper over and over, his hands slightly unsteady. Looking closer, he saw the tears that were spilling down Ray's cheeks.
"A house. You bought us a house, Frase," Ray whispered huskily. "And put both our names on the deed. Do you know what that means? Of course you do, you're the one who . . . a house! Oh dear god. A house."
Ray slipped his hand in Fraser's and gripped tight. "Am I dreaming?" he asked, his voice thick with emotion. "Is this what I think it is? Are you . . . I mean . . . do you really . . . a house means commitment, Frase. Big time commitment. Such as . . . will you marry me and live with me for the rest of your life?"
Fraser cupped the side of Ray's face with his free hand and pressed the gentlest of all kisses to his lips. "Yes, Ray. I say yes." He drew back and asked softly, "What do you say, love of my heart?"
Ray dropped the document he was holding and wrapped both arms around Fraser, pulling him into a fierce embrace. He spent several seconds nuzzling the sensitive area behind his lover's ear, using the brief moment to get a handle on the feelings that were about to overwhelm him. Finally, he eased far enough back for Fraser to see the ecstatic grin on his face and whispered his answer.
"I say we bust our way outta here and find the nearest computer. Gotta email Santa my new address."