"Dumb, dumb, dumbass dumb."
Ignoring the curious stares aimed in his direction, Ray paced up and down the hallway. He came to a halt in front of the door to Fraserís new apartment and raised his hand to knock. After a second he let it drop to his side and, with a frustrated sigh, punched the pillow heíd brought with him before resuming his back and forth trek.
"Stupid, fucking stupid." He stopped at the exit door leading to the roof and stared at his reflection in the square pane of glass that provided a view of the stairwell. "How could you be so fucking stupid, Kowalski? Fraser loves you. Loves you like nobodyís business. And if he says he was on a stakeout then he was on a GOD DAMN stakeout."
Ray turned and traversed the narrow hallway twice more before stopping again in front of the exit door. "He said he called and left a message with Huey." With a tight grin on his face he perfectly mimicked the Mountieís speech pattern. "Said he told Huey to ĎInform Detective Vecchio that my arrival will be notably delayed.í "
Staring at his reflection, Ray repeatedly stabbed a hand through his hair, thus disheveling his spiked hair even more so than usual. "Okay, he called. Left a message I *didnít* get. But the lipstick? What about the lipstick on his cheek?"
Ray argued with his doubting reflection. "Fraser said he helped an old lady locate her stray kitten. Said she was so happy when they found the little furball that she kissed him smack dab on the cheek."
His reflection retaliated, "Yeah, but what about that dreamy look on his face when he was telling you all this?"
Ray countered, "The old bat fed him fresh, out of the oven, homemade cherry pie. Of course, he was swooning. So there!" He jabbed a finger at his reflection and let loose a grin of victory. A second later the grin faded and was replaced by a look of pure misery.
"So why did I pretend I thought he was lyiní and kicked him out on his ass?"
Hugging his pillow, Ray turned his back on his reflection and leaned forlornly against the door. "Cause Iím scared. Fucking scared of screwing up the best thing in my life." His legs suddenly lost their ability to hold him upright, and he slowly slid down the surface of the door. It wasnít until his ass was planted on the threadbare carpet covering the floor of the poorly lit hallway that the control on his emotions evaporated. Hanging his head, he dashed a hand across his eyes and wiped away the tears threatening to spill down his cheeks. He remembered that night, remembered wanting to surprise his lover with the offer to move in -- to move in and live together.
"Now where in the world am I gonna put all that crap?" Ray stared at the piles of clothing on the bed. Most of the stuff was either old as the hills, out of style or didnít fit him. Didnít matter. It had to go, and the reason why would soon be walking through his door.
He and Fraser had been together as a bona fide couple for almost six months, and both were getting tired of going back and forth between apartments. Fraserís new digs were way too spartan and claustrophobic to suit him and, no matter how he tried, he just didnít like spending time there. On the other hand, he knew without a doubt that Fraser and Dief definitely preferred sleeping over at his place. Therefore, it only made sense for the two of them to move in together and make his apartment their permanent place of residence.
He planned to spring the idea on Fraser the moment he got home from the Consulate, and thus had spent his entire day off emptying out drawers and reorganizing his closet. Fraser didnít have much in the way of possessions, but he wanted to make sure there was plenty of room for whatever stuff the Mountie did own. Heíd even gone as far as digging out the backpack his lover kept stored beneath the bed and placing Fraserís collection of Ďin case of emergencyí items in one of the dresser drawers now designated as his.
Grabbing up the now empty backpack, Ray contemplated using it as a storage place for the piles of unwanted clothing. Fraser wouldnít mind, especially once he explained heíd return the backpack as soon as he hauled the stuff to Goodwill.
"Works for me."
Ray threw the backpack toward the bed and grimaced when it hit the floor instead. Walking across the room, he snatched up the bag and was caught by surprise when something fell out of it.
"Thought I got everything." He reached for the item but stopped in mid-motion the second he recognized what it was.
There on the floor, in all its innocence, was a black velvet jewelerís case.
Of course, curiosity got the best of him, and before he knew it, heíd collected the case and opened it. Inside was a gold wedding band, a *manís* gold wedding band.
"Shit, shit and triple shit." As if it were on fire, Ray dropped the case. When it hit the floor a second time, a folded piece of paper was jostled free of its hiding place within the lid.
"Whatís this?" For a mere second his conscious debated the rights and wrongs of sneaking a peek. "Oh hell, in for a penny, in for a, a . . . a dollar?" he muttered.
Carefully removing the paper as if it were a valuable piece of evidence, he smoothed it open and read the words Fraser had written.
My beloved Ray, the man I will love forever, the man I will proudly call my husband. These vows I speak today . . . .
Fraser wanted to marry him, wanted *him* to be his husband.
Ray fell to his knees and gasped for breath. The fear that he would screw up Fraserís life just like heíd screwed up Stellaís nearly strangled him to death. He knew deep down in his heart it would only be a matter of time before he did something stupid. Something stupid that would hurt Fraser and make him regret ever having said he loved him. Without a doubt he was living on borrowed time Ďcause eventually Fraser would leave him just like Stella did.
No, no. He couldnít let Fraser propose, couldnít let such a good and decent man tie himself down to someone as fucked up as he was. Fraser deserved more, deserved better.
With the handwritten vows clenched in his hand, Ray headed for the living room. He sat on the couch and waited in the encroaching shadows for Fraser to get home. It was 2am before the Mountie and his wolf quietly let themselves into the apartment, and Ray lashed out the second Fraser finished explaining the reason for his late arrival.
"Pull the other leg, Frase. I called the Consulate. Spoke to Turnbull. Your shift was over six hours ago. Six. Hours. Ago." Ray stood up. "You lyiní son of a bitch." He got right up in Fraserís face. "Where in the hell have you been and whose lipstick is that on your cheek?"
"No, no. Stop it. I canít go there again."
Ray pounded his fists against his head over and over, hoping the pain would erase the memory of that day. Heíd known Fraser was telling the truth. His lover would never, never in a million years, lie to him. But the moment he saw the lipstick he knew he had exactly what he needed to send him away, to send him into the arms of someone who would give him the love and the life he so richly deserved.
His accusations of cheating had shocked Fraser and his loverís pain only tripled his own. Ray couldnít believe the words that spilled from his mouth but his fears kept spitting them out. It wasnít until Fraser was standing in the hallway that Ray finally ran out of steam. Heíd watched his lover stumble toward the elevator and his heart shattered when Fraser turned to look at him, his blue eyes swimming with unshed tears. His resolve nearly crumbled but the memory of Stellaís tear-stained face rose up to haunt him. Closing his ears to the broken sound of Fraser calling his name, heíd quietly retreated back into his apartment.
That was a week ago and the pain of losing Fraser still haunted him. He was now absolutely miserable. Couldnít eat, couldnít sleep. Hell, the past few days heíd started locking his gun in its safe, just in case.
Ray moaned. Fraser. Fraser. He needed Fraser. Needed him more than he needed his own life.
Minutes passed while his heart wrestled with his mind. And when it was all said and done, only one thought emerged.
It didnít matter that Fraser would eventually leave him -- that somehow heíd fuck things up and drive his lover away. What mattered was that he needed Fraser now, needed to feel his arms around him, holding him safe, even if it was only for a short period of time.
Grabbing his pillow and hugging it to his chest, Ray slowly got to his feet. He took one last look at his reflection then turned and walked toward Fraserís apartment. Taking a deep breath, he banged on the door and waited.
"Come on, Frase. Open the door and let me in." His heart had nearly pounded its way out of his chest by the time the door opened, and it was all he could do to keep from collapsing in relief at Fraserís feet.
"Ray? Is there----"
The query as to the reason for his presence was totally drowned out by the profuse apologies heíd practiced over and over for the past twenty-four hours.
"Iím sorry, Frase, so God damn sorry. And I know you didnít cheat on me Ďcause you love me and youíd never do that to me. It was all my fault. All I wanted was for you to move in with me, and when I found the ring and the vows youíd written, I got fucking scared Ďcause no way in hell did I want you screwiní up your life by marryiní me. As you well know I already screwed up one life, and I love you way too much to hurt you like I hurt Stella. But Frase, I canít live without you, and even if it means you leaviní me sometime down the road, at least Iíll have the memories of how you used to love me to keep me from eatiní my gun."
At this point Ray dropped to his knees and, with his heart in his hands, begged, "Please say youíll forgive me, Frase. Please say youíll let me love you until you just canít stand it no more. Please, Frase, please."
His eyes blinded by tears, Ray felt rather than saw Fraser kneel beside him, and he absolutely forgot how to breathe when his lover gently guided him to his feet and pulled him inside the apartment. There was so much more he needed to say but everything was forgotten when he and his pillow were trapped in a fierce hug. The following kisses and soothing caresses made him actually sob for joy, and with a whispered sigh of Fraserís name, he surrendered his body to hours of gentle loving.
The sun was barely edging the horizon when Ray wiggled onto his side and cursed the new lumps heíd discovered in Fraserís bedroll. "This damn thing is goiní in the basement the second you move in with me." The thought of what was to come had Ray grinning from ear to ear and for the next few moments he happily watched the light from outside play across his sleeping loverís face.
It was the glint of sunlight reflecting off his own glasses that drew his attention to the packing crate sitting next to the bed. Next to his glasses was a piece of paper covered in his loverís recognizable handwriting.
Ray looked out the window. "Well, it is almost morning and I did promise."
He shook his head. To put it mildly, Fraser had been pissed at him. More than pissed, which was why he now possessed a written summary he was to read aloud to himself every morning for the rest of his life.
He grabbed for his glasses and what he now called . . . THE LIST.
"Number One," he quoted. "Fraser loves me. Loves Stanley Ray Kowalski." Ray glanced down at his man and with a smile, added, "Loves me when Iím good and when Iím not so good."
"Number Two. Fraser wants *me* to be his husband. Wants to marry me so that we can share our lives forever." Ray paused to savor the memory of the brief loving that followed the writing of reason number two. ĎYou are mine, Ray Kowalski,í his beloved Mountie had declared between passionate kisses, "and the sooner we make it official, the better.í
A sense of shame washed over him when he came to the next reason. Nevertheless, he read it out loud as he had promised to do.
"Number Three. Fraser will never cheat on me. Not now, not ever, and I will be paddled thoroughly should I ever entertain such thoughts again." Rubbing his chastised behind, Ray chuckled softly. God he loved it when Fraser took the upper hand.
"Moving on." He leaned over and pressed a feather-soft kiss to Fraserís bare shoulder before reading the final reason his lover had hammered home both with words and with actions.
"And lastly, Number Four. Fraser will never leave me. Not in this lifetime. Not while he is still breathing." Ray removed his glasses. Placing them and THE LIST back on the crate, he continued, "The angels will have to tear Fraser from my side to get him up to heaven and, maybe not even then will he leave *me* -- the man he loves above all others."
Finally free of the fears that had been torturing him for so long, Ray snuggled closer to Fraser and laid his head on his chest. The steady beat of his loverís caring heart lulled him to sleep, and it was several hours before he woke again. Once he convinced his near-sighted eyes to focus, he found Fraser sitting on the side of the bed fully dressed. No doubt, his ever vigilant Mountie had risen at some ungodly hour and . . . Ray sniffed the air. Yep, there be donuts nearby. Fraser had obviously gone out and gotten breakfast for the two of them.
"Hey," he said while rubbing the sleep from his eyes. With a yawn that threatened to split his face in two, he sat up and wrapped his arms around Fraserís broad shoulders. He took the time to nuzzle the Mountieís neck before whispering, "Love you, Frase."
Fraser tenderly butted heads with him before echoing the sentiment, "As I love you, Ray."
Ray watched in confusion as Fraser bent down and collected a pillow from the floor. He instantly recognized it as the pillow heíd brought with him from home. "Thatís mine," he explained.
Nodding, Fraser turned the pillow over and over in his hands.
After a moment of total silence, Ray frowned. Maybe the damn thing wasnít up to Mountie standards, he thought. The possibility that *he* would never be up to Mountie standards hit him squarely in the heart but it was swiftly squashed by the resounding echo of Reason Number One. After silently repeating the reason several times, Ray calmed his breathing and concentrated his attention on savoring the area behind Fraserís left ear. He was so totally focused on the task at hand that he completely missed the question posed to him.
"Ray, please stop licking my ear and pay attention."
"I am paying attention, Fraser. Paying attention to this . . ." Ray nipped an ear lobe. "And this." He took a lazy swipe of a jaw. "And Iím definitely paying attention to these babies." Ray chuckled at the gasp of breath that escaped the lips heíd captured with a kiss. "What else would you like me to pay attention to, my very sexy Canadian Studmuffin?"
Fraser blushed. "Ray, one moment please. Answer my question, and I will be more than happy to assist you in your current endeavor."
Ray ceased his devouring of one puckered nipple. "Okay. Shoot."
Fraser indicated the item he held in his hands. "Why did you bring your pillow with you? Iíve been thinking about this for quite some time, and I cannot comprehend how its presence applies to the matter we were discussing earlier."
"Gotícha stumped, huh?"
"I believe I just said that."
First capturing a quick kiss, Ray then took his pillow and exchanged it for the one lying on the bed. The extra pillow was tossed aside and quickly claimed by Dief. Ray gave his canine pal a Ďthumbís up.í
"Itís all yours, Buddy."
"Ray, that pillow cost me---"
Ray placed a finger to Fraserís lips. "Iíll reimburse you, okay?"
"Mmmíkay," his frugal Mountie mumbled.
With another smile spreading across his face, Ray encouraged Fraser to remove his clothes. Once his lover was naked and lying flat on the bed, he made absolutely sure Fraserís head rested squarely on the pillow. He even went as far as to encourage him to rub his head back and forth across its cotton surface.
"There. A couple more nights of that and itíll be perfect." Ray patted the pillowís edge before crawling on top of his loverís nude body. Without hesitation he redirected his attention to the hardening nipple on Fraserís left pec. "You know something? This is perfect, too. Perfectly delish."
Undaunted yet somewhat breathless, Fraser asked again, "Ray? The pillow?"
Ray buried his face in the hollow of Fraserís neck and huskily confessed, "I couldnít smell you no more, Frase. Your scent was gone and that scared the hell out of me more than anything. I missed it, missed it so bad that I knew I had to get it back. Knew I had to get *you* back."
Arms that were trembling as hard if not harder than his own held him tight, and soon Ray fell into a peaceful sleep, secure in the knowledge that Fraser would be at his side when he awoke.
Disclaimer: This work is not intended as an infringement upon the rights of those that own these characters and is meant solely for non-profit entertainment purposes only.