The Adventures of Benton and Ray
Perils of the Bride-a-saurus
This story is an AU that is happening in a Canada that has legalized same sex marriages. While at this posting, it is something being considered by the Canadian government, it has not yet come to pass.
I asked Fraser to clue me in on what was going on in his head after he asked me The Question. That's a tall order on most days, but I really needed to know. My answer was obvious, but his reasons were important to me. Three days later, his journal was on the coffee table. It was the first day that I was allowed out of bed for more than just the bathroom. I wasn't ever that bad off in my opinion. It was that Fraser had nothing on Nurse Ratchet. But I wanted to go home and the doctor had his orders. I got to be home with my sheets that smelled of Fraser. I had my comforter and my fireplace. I had my nurse wrapped around me at night. So I behaved. I wasn't badly injured. I just needed to gain my strength. That was why Fraser didn't hover at home for more than the first two days.
Since my well being wasn't a huge concern, I couldn't figure out why Fraser left his journal out in the open. He couldn't be that distracted. Putting away his journal was an ingrained routine with him. It was the same as checking the locks on the doors and windows at night. I didn't get it. Why would he leave it out like that?
It stared at me from the coffee table for hours while I tried to ignore it. I wrote in my own journal about how I came to be laid up. I read. I watched TV. It still stared at me. Finally, that little voice in my head reasoned that Fraser left it out for me to read. I knew how hard it was to express his deepest feelings. And I knew his routines. Slowly, through the painkillers and the doubts I realized that he wanted me to read it. Fraser just didn't make that kind of mistake.
So, after lunch I picked it up. The booked opened to a page that was several from the last entry. That fact further supported that Fraser wanted me to see something. So I read:
Lars Jergens was the one who told me where Ray had gone. He found me just before I reached the detachment after returning from patrol. One of the Forsythe party had gone out into the bush looking to climb a glacier. He had done so despite all warnings to the contrary. The weather was too warm to tread on ice. And then there was the forecasted spring storm. Ray happened along just when Lars was about to go out to find the man. He volunteered to go. Aside from knowing where the hunting lodges were, he knew I would follow as soon as I was informed. Neither of us had figured on the speed of the storm. Thus, though I knew what he was up to as soon as I returned to town, the weather prevented my following for almost eight hours.
I put the journal down. It surprised me how thinking about the whole thing still made me a little antsy. Lady luck wasn't exactly smiling on me that day. For one thing, I hadn't counted on the fast change in the weather. All the reports said we had hours to get back. I wasn't worried at the time. I had enough rations for two for a couple of days if it came to that and I knew there was shelter near where Forsythe was heading. So when the wind kicked up and the sky turned black, my biggest concern was finding the thrill seeker before it hit. I picked up the journal again.
I was alarmed when I found out what Ray was doing. It wasn't that I didn't have faith in his abilities. I knew he would be well prepared. I was concerned about Daniel Forsythe. He was reckless and derisive of authority. I feared he wouldn't take Ray's warnings seriously and would press on in his adventure. Ray was too honorable a man to allow another to die without a fight. My fear was that he would wait too long trying to persuade Forsythe and miss his own chance to get to safety. I didn't sleep. I paced waiting for the first opportunity to head out. I dearly hoped that Forsythe would show more sense than he had during his tedious visit.
Fraser had that right. And I had been worried about Forsythe cooperating, too. That was the second problem with going out there. He was a rich jerk who thought he could push everyone around. When he did manage to really push the wrong buttons, he was convinced that enough cash could solve any problem. Fraser had been very close to arresting him and his two friends for breach of the peace on a couple of occasions. I was sure he was going to give me grief about spoiling his vacation. He was already pissed that the Arctic wilderness was too warm and had too many laws. What kind of Arctic or wilderness was that? Fraser tried to explain to him about how the Mounties had come out with the frontiersmen and that there had always been some sort of order in the wild, but those idiots weren't interested in learning anything. They were interested in getting their ya-yas off. Sort of reminded me of Hawaii Five-O villains traveling in an odd pack for no good reason and causing the weirdest kind of mayhem.
Daniel Forsythe surprised me that day. He got spooked by all that emptiness with no landmarks and the black sky. I didn't have much trouble getting him to follow me to one of the permafrost hunting lodges nearby. I was relieved. But Fraser had no idea how we were doing. I read on.
I was disheartened in the morning. There had been a lot of snow. Ironically, the weather Forsythe had been looking for on such an ill timed venture arrived with a frightening suddenness. If Ray had run into difficulty reaching shelter, tracking his movements would be very difficult. As it was late in the season, the snow would melt quickly, but not quickly enough to save them. Diefenbaker was confident and Lars was trying to be reassuring. Still, I brought extra medical supplies. I was hoping that my lupine friend and Lars were right. I was hoping that I'd find him in the lodge warm and dry and well save for irritation at his company. But I just couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right.
Fraser couldn't have been more right. Forsythe was trouble. We made it to shelter which I had warm and toasty in no time. After locking down, I broke out the self-heating rations. Once we had food in our guts, I figured we'd be sleep through the storm. This was good for two reasons. First, I didn't want to have to talk to him for longer than necessary. Second, I needed the food and the sleep. I was pretty beat when I started the search. Then, the trip out to the bush had me fighting that biting wind the whole way. Digging the idiot's snowmobile out of the snow didn't help. Neither did setting up the lodge on my own. I was the walking dead. I needed food, quiet and sleep. Forsythe, however, had other ideas. None of them involved keeping quiet.
"I thought you'd bring some brandy or something," he said.
I eyed him over my supper. "I ain't a St. Bernard. And drinking isn't good for you in this weather. Eat up."
"Why did you come out anyway? I paid Lars to be my guide," he huffed.
"Guiding is one thing. Search and rescue is another," I said. "I'm trained for it and I was the only one around. Okay?"
"Christ, I'll never hear the end of this from Bianca and Dylan," he muttered between bites. "Having to get rescued."
"What's to razz you about?" I asked. If he was going to talk, he needed to make sense. "Death can surprise you fast out here. Surviving takes a lot of skill and stones."
"Yeah, yeah," he said. I could feel him looking me over. "Well, maybe we don't have to tell them that you came out here to rescue me."
I frowned at him. "What else would I be doing out here in a blizzard?"
He licked his fork at me. "You could be out here to be with me alone."
I must have been tired. Otherwise I would have been rolling on the floor cackling. "Listen Forsythe and understand me. Not in a million years. I don't even want you joking about anything like that."
He got instantly pissed. "What the fuck is wrong with me?"
I didn't have the energy to say all the things I could think of to answer that question. "It's simple. You ain't the person I'm in love with," I said. "I accept no substitutions."
He scoffed at that. "Everybody likes a little on the side now and then. You can have great make up sex later."
"This conversation is over," I snapped.
I got out the sleeping bags. Luckily we were dry and the room was warm enough that I didn't have to think about shedding anything or sharing body heat. I didn't want to close my eyes on this guy, but I was wiped. I needed to get a few hours.
Forsythe musta sensed that. Predators always can spot when someone is weak. As soon as I was in my sleeping bag, he tried to pin me down and kiss me. I reacted violently. His wasn't the right body pressing me down. I sure as hell didn't want him kissing me. I head butted him and bucked him off me. I got out of the bag before he could react. That enraged Forsythe. He said no handyman was going to get away with treating him that way. We fought our way around that room. He had thirty pounds on me, but I was more pissed. I made it clear that he wasn't getting anything from me unless it was from my corpse. But it cost me. I know my lip was split. I was sure I had a black eye and bruised ribs or worse. I know I had badly twisted my left knee.
Suddenly, he backed off. Maybe he got a good look at his handiwork. I'm not sure. But he distanced himself from me then started to put the room back together. I watched him warily while trying to staunch the bleeding from the cuts on my face. My head was killing me and my ears were ringing. I rested my back against the wall across the room from him and curled in on myself while Forsythe put out the bedding near the fireplace where I had them. He looked at me then.
"You need to get in the sleeping bag and get some sleep," he said quietly.
I shook my head. I couldn't be anywhere near him.
"Look, I won't touch you anymore," he said. "You have to be okay or we won't get back."
"Fucker," I thought. I ignored him. My eyelids were getting heavy. I let go of the pain in favor of the darkness.
I was glad Fraser left out the journal. I had no real memory of what happened after that. It was all fuzzy and disjointed until I woke up at the hospital. I took a deep breath and read on.
My spirits lifted when I saw the smoke coming from the permafrost hunting lodge in the distance. I saw that Ray's and Forsythe's snowmobiles were put away in good order. These were good signs. But what I found in the cabin hit my chest like a sledgehammer. Forsythe leapt to his feet babbling about a misunderstanding. My Ray was in his sleeping bag. His beautiful face was badly bruised as were his hands and wrists. There was dried blood on his face. I could see from marks along the dusty floor that he had been dragged from a far corner of the room to the sleeping bag. That fact was the only thing that kept Forsythe alive. That act kept Ray from freezing. But this small kindness was minuscule against the brutality inflicted upon my Ray.
I couldn't hear that man's voice anymore. He made a comment about Ray not wearing a ring that incensed me to the point of violence. I told Lars to take him back to Inuvik. Once they left on the snowmobiles, I gathered Ray into my arms. His head came to rest on my shoulder and he whispered my name. I clutched him tight and carried him still wrapped in the sleeping bag to my ATV and radioed Constable Murphy to come out and document the scene. I talked to Ray the whole while we drove and while Dief whined. He murmured my name whenever I touched him. I tried to let him know that he was safe.
I was concerned about Ray not waking fully. He came to enough to say his name and the date. He knew who I was. He even smiled at me, but he couldn't stay awake for long. The doctor said he didn't have a head injury. Ray had taken more of a beating in the boxing ring. Thus, the doctor thought it was likely that he had spent all his reserves coping with the cold and then the fight depleted him further. He assured me that Ray would fully wake sometime that day. I had to photograph his injuries for the report. That was unpleasant but necessary. Of course, I stayed with him. He had been a crime victim. I needed his statement. And I couldn't leave him until I saw his eyes and heard his voice.
I watched Ray sleep. He believes I think him fragile. That isn't true. Ray's strength and resilience never cease to amaze and impress me. Forsythe was much bigger than Ray yet he fended him off. No, I could never consider my Ray fragile. But seeing him in such condition infuriated me. He moaned at one point in the afternoon. His eyelids fluttered. Ray would be waking up in pain. Yet, for some reason, he smiled as his eyes opened and unerringly met mine.
Yeah, I was hurting when I came to. Everywhere Forsythe touched me was a painful bruise. But I knew Fraser's touch. And I knew I wasn't dreaming it. I smiled because I wouldn't have to wake up fighting. He looked puzzled at my smile when I opened my eyes, but that didn't stop him from kissing me. My lips hurt but I didn't care. I needed him. The kiss felt really good. But my body caught up with my brain. I groaned with the pain as it ended. Fraser gently stroked my hair as I tried to breathe through it.
"The doctor wanted to wait until you woke before giving you painkillers," Fraser said quietly. He pushed the call button for the nurse. "But he did prescribe something. I want you to have it."
I nodded at him. I wasn't that macho. And I knew the drill. I needed to sleep to heal and get out of the hospital. I wouldn't sleep if I was in pain. I really hated Forsythe then. He was going to cost me another night with Fraser.
"Before you get your medication, I need you to give me a statement about last night," Fraser said.
Uh-oh. His eyes were solemn and he had his jaw set. I didn't want to fight him. But I was worried about how his filing a report against Forsythe would look. He read my mind.
"Constable Murphy is investigating the incident," Fraser said. "He will interview Forsythe. I'm just going to record your statement and have him pick it up."
I nodded. He was being very careful about following procedure. And he was making sure he kept from running into Forsythe. I took a moment to get things straight in my head, then I made my statement. I held Fraser hand to keep him calm and to anchor me. I saw the anger flare in his eyes as I talked about the attack. There was sadness about how I wouldn't go near the sleeping bag. I tried to explain but Fraser quieted me.
"Ray, Ray, Ray," he murmured kissing my forehead. "You were working on instinct. None of this is your fault."
"When can I go home?" I asked. The way I hurt, I wondered about how much damage was done. I didn't really care. I needed to be home where he could hold me.
The doctor arrived then with a nurse who had a pill tray. I was medicated then examined. I had a badly sprained knee, bruised ribs and all sorts of contusions. I was going to hurt a while, but I was okay. They wanted to observe me overnight then I could go home, but I had to stay off that knee. Not as bad as I thought. And the drugs were kicking in. I read on. I was grateful for this peek into my Mountie's head. He was hard to read during that time.
I did not step away from Ray when the doctor came in. He and the nurse came along one side. I stayed on the other. I also never let go of his hand. It was a conscious decision on my part. I just didn't pull away the way I typically would. Ray was still raw from giving me his statement. He was concerned about what the doctor would say. He needed the connection. We needed the connection. I suddenly resented the feeling that we had to hide. Ray was absolutely the best thing that had happened to my life yet I had to keep my feelings for him in the shadows of my public life. In keeping that connection with Ray then, I had turned a corner. I wanted Ray to come with me. When I didn't pull away upon the doctor's appearance, Ray glance up at me with curiosity. He mentally shrugged and gave me a small smile then relaxed.
Neither the doctor nor his nurse reacted even infinitesimally to my keeping Ray's hand. I shouldn't have been surprised. The whole staff was very kind to Ray after I was shot. In this instance, they treated us like spouses going over the nature of his injuries and giving instructions for care. I relaxed. It was better than relaxed. It felt good to take even that small step.
I wondered about the hand holding. Not that I wanted to let go. I never do. That big warm hand felt too good. There was a new vibe coming from Fraser. That's what made me look at him. My Mountie wasn't known for even subtle PDAs. Holding hands like that was huge. But he was okay, so I was okay. I knew the staff there was okay. So I held on and let the drugs take me away. I turned the next page on the journal and read on.
Ray appeared to be resting comfortably a little while later. His face looked serene despite the bruises. How peacefully he was resting was something I couldn't be sure of. I needed to hold him to know if he was sleeping well. I could then feel how his heart beat and how evenly he breathed. If Ray were having a nightmare, I would know instantly by any change in his body. He was too distant covered up in that narrow bed. I fussed with his blankets and petted his hair every once in a while to assess his condition. I expected him to sleep until supper time. I had no doubt about his fatigue. It had been evident in his eyes and in his voice during the brief time he was awake. After I contented myself that all was right with his blankets and his hair, I made myself comfortable with the morning paper. I was off duty but available to the detachment if necessary. I planned to wait and hour or two to make sure that Ray was not restless, then I would make arrangements to stay at Mrs. Thompson's, go home and pick up clothing and toiletries for us both and see to Diefenbaker.
No more than a half an hour passed when I heard someone cough to get my attention at the door. It was astonishing to see Bianca Simone standing in the doorway. She was a beautiful woman and she was all too aware of that. Forsythe must have been desperate. He knew very well that I was immune to her large amber eyes and her shapely figure. It was she who first pointed out that there were no rings involved in my relationship with Ray after shamelessly throwing herself at me. If it was possible to do so without causing myself extreme embarrassment, I would have arrested her for groping my groin in a public place. I'd never seen Ray so angry at a woman. I was never so rude to one. And yet there she stood at the door to my lover's hospital room no doubt to demand leniency her idiotic companion. Obviously they thought me a fool with no memory.
I rose and walked her down the hallway to a waiting room. Thankfully, it was empty. Ms. Simone immediately launched into her appeal for Forsythe. She didn't even inquire after Ray until I mentioned that he would recover from the attack. The archness of that statement didn't really reach her. From the vehemence of her plea, I reasoned that she was either the dear friend she claimed to be or that Forsythe was quite a meal ticket. It was an idle observation. I found that I didn't really care. I wanted to answer her questions quickly and get back to Ray. This was not easy. Ms. Simone was not fond of the truth. I told her that Ray's condition upon arrival at hospital would prompt an investigation whether I was involved or not. It was a requirement of the medical community. She became alarmed when I offered to have the Regional Inspector handle the matter and infuriated when I told her that dropping the investigation was out of the question at that moment. Once Ray was feeling better, it was likely that everything would be left up to him. It was foolish of me, but at the time my mind was unfocused on details. I ended our conversation without telling Ms. Simone that Ray was unlikely to press charges -- even if I wanted him to do otherwise. Ray would prefer to get the whole lot out of town than see them at endless hearings. But I didn't mention that. I left her fuming in the corridor.
Okay, that explained a few things. I didn't get Forsythe losing it completely. He musta been in a bar brawl or two during his life. He had to know that it wouldn't have amounted to much as far as the law was concerned. I'd been through worse on some of my lighter benders. And I wanted them gone. And that's the way it would have happened if Forsythe had had a grain of sense in his head.
I woke up because something wasn't right. I had to fight the drugs and shake the fog in my mind. Fraser wasn't there. Probably because I wasn't supposed to wake so soon. It sure wasn't easy focusing. There was a commotion down the hall at the nurse's station. Next thing I knew, Forsythe was in my room. I started involuntarily.
"Look, I don't want to hurt you," Forsythe said. "I want to talk."
Talk? I could barely keep my eyes open. "I can't..."
"You can listen," he said. His voice was quiet, but it was like that in the cabin. I didn't move. "I'm not going up on trying to rape a dude. It's all up to you. We can forget about the whole thing right now. Me and my friends can move on. Maybe we can even make a contribution to your favorite charity."
I stared at him. I didn't know where to begin with the wrongness of that sentence. I found a way to work my dry throat and my sluggish brain. "I can't... I'm drugged. We... can't... have this conversation. You're gettin' in deeper..."
"I don't want hear that," he said. "You and that Mountie can't be playing that close to the rules and playing house. You can make this all go away by batting your eyes."
"That's not true," Fraser said from the doorway. He had his gun drawn. "And even if it were, the nurse you and your friend terrorized has changed everything. Hands against the wall, please."
Forsythe stepped away from me at least. Fraser's eyes were spitting fire. The rich boy had enough sense not to argue with him. He assumed the position in a way that told me he'd done it before. Fraser frisked him then cuffed him. I wondered where Phillips was.
His eyes softened a little when he looked at me. "Don't worry, Ray. Nurse Lennox kindly taped Dylan Phillips at the wrists and called Constable Murphy."
"Yes. Though being shoved about has raised her ire," he said. "I'll send her back."
"Frase!" I rasped. I hated hearing the need in my voice right then.
Fraser turned Forsythe away from me. He gave me his best smile. "I won't be long, Ray."
I nodded. Suck it up, for god's sake. I knew he would be back as soon as he handed Forsythe off. But I didn't like feeling so exposed. And I didn't like the look in Fraser's eyes. I was glad to find out exactly what was going on with him then. I read on.
I had been very pleased at how quickly my errands were accomplished. I had a small bag packed in moments while Diefenbaker saw to his needs outside. Mrs. Thompson agreed to feed him and look after him while I returned to Ray. I had been gone a little more than an hour. As Ray was sleeping deeply when I left, I was confident he would not know I had gone.
I was startled to hear Nurse Lennox giving someone a verbal thrashing. I heard enough of the tirade to know that she was under quite a bit of duress. My first thought was to call the detachment, but I sensed that the situation required immediate action. I drew my weapon and crept up upon the nurse's station. I found Dylan Phillips looming over Nurse Lennox. To a casual observer, all seemed fine. But I could tell from their body language that he was keeping her from leaving. I could see bruises forming on her wrists. I rounded the corner and leveled the gun at Phillips' forehead. I had to secure him for Murphy, but I was distracted. I knew Forsythe was with Ray. Fortunately, Nurse Lennox was very angry and that made her both aggressive and efficient. She waved me on even before fully taping Phillips' wrists.
I heard the menace in Forsythe's words as I approached the room. I also heard the fear in Ray's voice. I hated that our relationship was considered so lightly and luridly. I hated that he was anywhere near Ray. I went in with my gun high and murder in my eyes. Ray saw it. I honestly think he was afraid to let me leave the room with the man. He probably knows me better than anyone. But Forsythe saw my intent as well. That made him docile enough to make processing easy. Murphy had enough paperwork to finish to allow me escape long enough to tend to Ray. I knew my love wouldn't allow himself to be sedated again until he knew where I was and what I had done.
When I returned to Ray's room I found him behaving as expected fending off food and medication while waiting for me. As battered and weakened and tired as he was, Ray's only thoughts were of me and my well being. He had given up everything for me and found ways to give more every day. He accepted being shunted to the most private part of my public life then was made to suffer for that. Suddenly, I couldn't stand our situation. I wouldn't stand for it anymore.
I walked in and took the pills off Nurse Lennox's tray. I knew that Ray was on a dextrose drip to give him some calories. Food wasn't as much a priority. Resting was more important. Ray eyed me very carefully before accepting them. He wanted to make sure that I was all right before surrendering to sleep. After they were swallowed and we were alone, I sat next to him on his bed. His eyelids were growing heavy, so I had to act fast. I took his beautiful face in my hands and smiled at him. Then I asked him to marry me. For a terrifying moment, Ray blinked at me. Then his elegant hands wound around my wrists. He told me that he didn't know how to say no to me, so he wouldn't. But he did want to know what was in my head and he wanted to know when he was clear enough to hear it. Then, he told me to kiss him until he fell asleep. His voice was a mixture of high exasperation and deep affection. His eyes warmed as he gave me a small smile. Of course, I gladly complied. Ray's kiss was something that I needed often. The way his lips clung to mine both yielding and taking somehow fed my soul. I never got my fill of them. The kiss was a careful one but powerful nonetheless. I didn't have a definitive yes to my offering, but his kiss told me that he was willing. He was asleep moments later.
I wondered how I could tell him everything that lead me to my proposal as I watched him sleep. Sharing my feelings was far from a strong suit. I knew if I tried to tell him that I would get it wrong. This was too important to get wrong. I confess the answer eluded me until I took up my journal. My musings weren't as colorful as Ray's letters, but I tended to detail my thoughts as well as my actions. I decided that I would leave it out for Ray to read. Hopefully, he would understand. I would wait until he was well enough to be on his own to leave the journal where he was sure to find it.
There were only a few pages left to read, but I put the book down for a while. I wished Fraser was home. I needed him on that sofa with me. His entries were brief but they knocked me for a loop. I needed to let him know that I never felt pushed to a small part of his life. He always made me feel like the reason he got up in the morning just like he was mine. But I did know what he meant. We were legally hooked up so that no one could tear us apart, but we still had to be so careful in public. And we couldn't talk about each other to people the way spouses would. And I hated that strangers felt we were fair game. We knew that there was an alternative. We'd been keeping track of the situation since the Ontario decision. We never spoke about what it meant but we sure watched as the laws changed everywhere in Canada. We even knew we could register in Chicago. The proposal was a long time coming. I wanted what he wanted. I hoped that in my drugged state I was able to make him understand that. I was worried, but I read on.
Ray looked better in the morning. He was having breakfast when I arrived. The bruises were still prominent but the swelling had gone down somewhat. His eyes lit up when I walked in the room. His lips opened easily for my kiss. He tasted like oatmeal and brown sugar. He asked me to take him home. I helped him dress. We had to skip the long johns because of the wrappings on his knee. I bundled him in heavy sweat clothes and warmed up our vehicle before I brought him outside. Earlier, I had returned home to make sure it was warm before I went to the hospital. We thanked Nurse Lennox and the doctor then headed home.
I was concerned about getting Ray's leg propped up as soon as possible. He had other ideas. Ray wanted to shower. The smell of the hospital bothered him and he swore he could feel Forsythe's handprints on him. I could smell that man on him but hadn't wanted to pressure him into standing for a shower. But my Ray is clever. He used me as a crutch under the hot spray and let me wash him. I indulged my own needs during this privilege. Everything about that shower was wonderful. Ray leaned on me giving me his weight. He allowed me to clean away all the offending evidence of the attack. My touch was soothing. I wanted to take away the pain and the memory of it all. Ray sighed in contentment as I dried him. After carefully re-wrapping his knee, I put him naked in our bed and covered him. He drew me into a long sweet kiss. His long fingers wove into my hair as he pulled me over him. His strength surprised me. And his skin -- the warmth, the sweetness, his delicious scent after two long nights without him was intoxicating. I wanted to bury myself in him. It was difficult, but I pulled away. I had to.
Despite the promise in that moan that coursed through me weakening my resolve, I knew Ray was too exhausted for anything physical. He had not really rested in hospital with all that went on there. As much as I wanted to give Ray the ravishment he was courting, I just couldn't. His strength wouldn't last. After a half-hearted admonishment from me, Ray settled back into the covers with a smirk. I did not doubt his desire for me -- I knew his body well enough to discern that -- I also sensed from his smile that there was some payback being meted out from when our situations were reversed.
I smiled then. Damn straight it was pay back. Not that I didn't enjoy it. Having his weight on me was better than the pain pill. It had been two days since I felt him stretched over me. But I remembered how he drove me nuts after he was shot. Giving some of that back while getting a patented Fraser laying down kiss, was too good to pass up. I had a lot of plans of tormenting My Mountie. Of course, I should have known better. Fraser just never responded to things like a normal guy. So of course, he found a way to get around pay backs. And he used my own body against me to do it.
Oh, Fraser was subtle about it. The whole deal was wrapped up in my convalescence. But I knew it was all about him avoiding getting what he deserved. He fed me soup or stew with buttered biscuits. I was stuffed after each meal. And I was warm with the naked Mountie surrounding me. And he was petting me. Not arousing me. He was soothing me with fingers in my hair and warm hands running gently along my skin. And just as I would drift off to sleep, he would gently kiss me. I had no bad dreams. I woke up still being held by him. I felt stronger each time. Bastard. I whined only once about it.
"Ben, please..." I whispered. I was heavy lidded on the second night home. "I know you want to. I feel it. Why won't you just do me? I need it. You need it."
He sighed in my ear. "I'm very determined, Ray. I want you at full measure. I want your answer."
Then, he kissed me. And I got it. I had said that I needed to be clear to hear him. I needed to be free of pain and of fatigue and of drugs. That kiss told me what he needed to hear. I let it take me under.
Fraser went to work a couple of days after that. We showered and breakfasted and he wrapped my leg and gave me a lot of orders. I was taking the pills as needed and my head felt a lot more clear. And there was the journal. I read for hours savoring the words and how they made me feel. The final paragraph rocked my entire world.
I watched Ray sleep for a long time last night wondering if I could make him understand why I wanted to take this step. I am no militant. I do not relish the idea of our lives becoming a fish bowl even for a little while. But sometimes you must sacrifice for a greater good. I knew Ray would never leave me. I knew that I truly possess him. However, I believe we have the right to give each other rings and call each other a spouse. I am so proud of who we are and what we have. We have a right to live in full measure. I hope he reads these words and understands. I pray he agrees.
I closed the journal. Then I stared at the fire. The last pill I took -- late -- finally kicked in. The next thing I knew, Fraser was trying to wake me. He was kneeling beside me. His face was half lit by the firelight. He looked worried. My fingers tightened around his journal.
"Ray... are you all right?"
"Yeah... I zonked out after the pill. I'm good," I said.
Fraser started to stand up. But I stopped him putting the book to one side. I ran a hand through his hair then pulled him toward me. I kissed his parted lips and our tongues played together. He got me to moan for him easily. I wanted him for days now. But there was something more I had to say. I couldn't keep him waiting.
"Ben," I said against his lips. "I still think you're unhinged, but I get it. Let's get hitched."
Fraser pulled back to look at me. I smiled at him. He smiled back. My heart did a flip at that smile.
"Really?" He kissed me.
"Yeah," I said when my tongue was free. "Let's do it."
This time the kiss was longer and hotter. I started thinking about the honeymoon.
"When?" He demanded. "When, Ray?"
He wanted me to pick a date? I could barely remember my name. I took a deep breath. "Three months. It'll be warm but no midnight sun. Okay?"
"Yes, Ray. That's perfect." There was that smile again.
"Good," I said with a growl that surprised him. "Let's consummate this deal. Now."
He had the nerve to chuckle at me. "Ray, isn't that for the honeymoon?"
"Whose got the experience here?" I snapped while pulling his shirt out of his pants. "Now do me and seal this deal! It's been three days!"
He stilled my hands. For one crazy moment, I thought he would stop entirely. But he just pressed me back against the sofa then began to undress himself. From the speed and lack of neatness, I figured that Fraser was just as horny as I was. As soon as his pants and boxers flew across the room, I was sure. He was hard and leaking but still managed to be gentle when he pulled off my clothes.
"Do as I say, Ray," he whispered against my mouth before kissing me. "Let me do the work."
"Anything... I'll do anything..."
God, it felt so good to have him on me like this. I ran my hands along that beautiful, warm smooth skin while Fraser moved my legs so that they were supported against his thighs. He wasn't going for slow, seductive foreplay. He was going to take me. And judging from the intensity in his gaze, it was going to be as hard as he could without jarring me. I wanted that. Needed it. So I relaxed and let him prep me with his fingers. Then I let him set the pace pushing into me until I flush against his skin and fighting for breath. Fraser petted me until my breathing evened out. His hands were everywhere soothing me. Then he moved. God, he knew my body. I was rock hard for him and heading toward orgasm in no time flat. All the while, he watched my face.
"So beautiful... Ray..." he gasped before sagging onto the sofa .
The rest of that night was a blur. I know we had supper at some point because my tummy was full and happy as he held me in bed. He was still very careful of my knee, but we managed to get good and tangled up in each other. I was resting my head on his chest and watching the fire. Fraser was petting my head.
"Ray, may I ask you about your first wedding?" Fraser asked in a soft voice.
"Hmmmm? What do you want to know?"
"What was it like?" Fraser asked. "Was it small?"
I chuckled. "Hell, no. It was a big fat Catholic wedding with all the trimmings. Fancy clothes, big reception. Lots of pomp and even more circumstance."
"Did you enjoy it?"
"It was a very big day, Ben. One of the biggest," I said. "But I think this one will be even bigger."
"I'll make sure of it," Fraser murmured.
He was petting me again, so I went to sleep. It would be days before I figured out exactly what we were talking about.
I was back to work by day six with a cane and orders to not move around more than a few hours without rest. The doc would have preferred I stay put for a couple of weeks, but I couldn't do that. I was way behind in my repairs. My customers knew to expect that from time to time. It amazed me how often I get banged up since retirement. I had to put an asterisk on my contracts that warned of delays due to villainy and freaks of nature. But I couldn't have them waiting indefinitely. So I made a deal to take it way easy. The doctor also warned me against any late day rescues since I just can't store calories like a squirrel does nuts. Still don't know how Fraser does and has that nice tight ass.
Anyway, I was up and under my own steam again. I started thinking about the details of the wedding. With Stella, she went crazy after we set a date and all I had to do was show up for fittings and rehearsals and the big day. I've heard some women call it wedding psychosis. I liked the term bride-a-saurus that my brother used. It fit the dangerous glint in the eye when it was even remotely suggested that plans were getting out of hand. I didn't think we had that kind of situation.
We'd have to figure out what kind of things we needed to do to throw a wedding. Then we could split the work. During lunch, I looked up some stuff on the internet. I even found a gay wedding planner. All the planners started with a budget. I printed that out. The next thing was a guest list. Hmmmm. Guests. I knew that we had to have some people there, but with the meds I hadn't really thought about actually inviting anyone. Jeez, and I thought the Thanksgiving negotiations were fun.
Fraser didn't want me to come to town, but I really needed to talk to him. The Forsythe party finally left after being given a heavy fine and then escorted to the airport and forbidden from returning. So it wasn't like I had to deal with any of them anymore. I called Fraser to let him know I was coming, but I waited until I was on my way.
"Guests?" Fraser said over his sandwich. He looked as surprised and distressed as I did at the thought.
"Yeah I know, but if we don't tell them it'll really hurt them," I said.
"Yes, I suppose that wouldn't be very fair," Fraser said. "Who should we invite? What should we say?"
I'd been thinking about that. "This might not go down well with every one we know. I don't think we should be sending an invitation. I think we should make an announcement about what we're doing and why. Then, we leave it up to them to come or not."
Fraser looked at me levelly. "Are you afraid that certain people won't come?"
I laughed despite myself. "I don't know. I think I'm more afraid of them coming. We'll deal with it. The only important people at the ceremony are here right now."
"Very well," Fraser replied with a smile. "I'll leave the wording to you."
I pushed a pile of print outs at him. "I found all this on a site for... this kind of wedding. It gives a list of what we need to do. We should talk about it tonight."
Fraser looked very happy with me. He pocketed the papers then finished his lunch. Suddenly, it hit me how much I wanted this wedding. I wanted to kiss him goodbye right there. That expression deserved to be rewarded with a kiss. I wanted to taste him on my lips on my way home. I really wanted to run my fingers through that perfect hair -- didn't even have hat head -- and make it look like it does at home. Fraser seemed to read my mind. He flushed then gave me a wicked smile.
"Understood, Ray," he said. "We'll take this up at home."
His expression was a combination of innocence and heat that said 'Why yes. I would enjoy having you on the table top right now, Ray.'
I swallowed hard but gave him a look right back. "Right you are, Ben."
My look conveyed that I was very interested in sliding under the table and sucking him dry.
I left before we engaged in what Fraser would call a highly inappropriate and lengthy PDA.
On the way home I thought about what to say to the people who cared about us. The pretty words suggested in the wedding guides didn't work here. I had to be brutally honest. I had to tell them exactly how we felt about all this and still give them a way out. I wondered how many relationships we had outside of Inuvik would be left after I got the replies. I thought all the way home and then some. Before Fraser got home, I used everything I remembered from college to do a draft.Because our lives aren't interesting enough. Because we aren't getting any younger. Because we really like to overstate the obvious namely that we're it for each other:
Benton Fraser of the Inuvik Frasers is pleased to announce his upcoming wedding to Stanley Raymond Kowalski of the Chicago Kowalskis on the 15th of September, 2003 at 5pm the Inuvik Community Centre, Inuvik NWT Canada. The reception will follow.
We hope those who care about us will share in our happiness. We have thought long and hard about this step and feel our relationship deserves public recognition and legal sanction. We fully understand that this step may bring us a lot of unwanted attention. We understand that this step may impact our standing professionally and personally in the community. Please, do not give us advice we already have. We hope you want to attend. But keep in mind that it is a long way to Inuvik -- even starting out in Canada. And if there is a media circus, you'll be in the center ring with us. We do not want you to make this trip unless it is to join in our happiness. Whether you come or not, however, we expect a gift.
Please RSVP by August 30th.
Benton and Raymond
Okay, Emily Post it wasn't, but it got the message across. Fraser read it over for a long time before commenting on it. He smiled at me.
"I think this is perfect," he said.
"Really?" I asked. "I thought I coulda phrased it better."
"No," he replied. "It gets the point across clearly and it has the flavor you're your language."
"My language has flavor?" I asked.
That wicked smile was back. "Everything about you has flavor, Ray."
"Are you trying to distract me?"
"Of course not, Ray. It's the truth," he said.
I blinked at him. I really wanted to pursue this flavor thing. It had all sorts of possibilities, but we also had to get this guest thing on the road.
"Okay. Since you like it, I'll print up a bunch and we'll send them out," I said. "I need your guest list."
"Certainly," Fraser said. But he was looking concerned about something.
"It's just that... you were going to use a printer?"
"Frase, you just read my handwriting," I said. "What else would I use?"
"The planner suggested a calligrapher," he said. "And what about the paper."
I blinked at him again. He was serious. Okay, I could figure out where all this was coming from later. Just then, I wanted to get this settled then get some skin time.
"We could, but these aren't invitations, " I replied. "They're announcements. And we need to get them out as soon as possible. We have the postal services to deal with then the arguing that will come no matter what I say in the announcement. We could do something really nice, but we'd have to push the date back."
"No!" he said. His voice was urgent. "No, I don't want to wait. I'll leave the announcements to you."
Fraser looked agitated. I wasn't sure why, but I never liked seeing that. I made him put down all the paperwork and pulled him over to the sofa where he arranged me around him.
"Thanks," I said. "My knee needed a break. I think I overdid it."
Fraser grunted at that. He knew I was in pain. I nuzzled his neck and inhaled him. He was a little wackier than usual but he smelled great. He felt even better. The Mountie relaxed holding me. He scented my hair then sighed. Part of me wanted to know what was making him squirrelly over announcements, but most of me just wanted to enjoy where I was for a while. When Fraser tightened his arms around me, my decision was made. We dozed a while until supper. The rest of our night was like any other -- lazy and warm and perfect.
The next morning I had a hard time focusing. Fraser kissed me senseless before he left and refused to drag me out of bed. I think he had designs on finding me there at lunch. A tempting idea, but I wanted to get those announcements out before they became a really big issue. Apparently, My Mountie was ahead of me. I found Fraser's guest list on the desk. It was very short but it still managed to surprise me. Turnbull and the Ice Queen were on it. Murphy and the other constables were on it. Of course there were the Vecchios, Maggie and Frobisher. He also had an entry for towns people. I chuckled at that. Like I'd forget the Townies. I jotted their names down. I wondered if I could get that wagon away from Arvid long enough to put him in a tux. But I was getting ahead of myself. We didn't know how the locals would react. I wrote down my names then counted. There were just over 50. I didn't think they'd all come. I was surprised that we had that many people in our lives. Well, the postage wouldn't be all that bad. Most invites were local and I could drop them off. I called Fraser and told him I'd see him at supper. I was on a mission.
Before noon, I'd made some deliveries and picked up some nice stationary at the dry goods store. By late afternoon, I posted the ones I was mailing and gave out the rest. My heart was in my throat the whole time. By the same time tomorrow, we could be outcasts in our own town. I could live with that if I had to, but I was hit by that. By the time Fraser got home, I really needed him. I made sure that Dief's food was down and supper was warming. He barely got in the door when I was on him. I pressed him against the door and caught his gasp in my mouth as I kissed him.
"Is this to distract me from all the hands that have been on your body, Ray?" Fraser asked as he scented my skin.
"You think you own me, Mountie?" I asked. My heart was thudding hard in my chest.
"You know I do," He growled softly.
"Prove it." I growled back. Fraser bit me on my neck grinding against me.
Yeah, Fraser proved it. He showed me again just how well he owned my body. He knew how to lick me and suck me and stroke me to the edge over and over until I thought I'd lose what was left of my mind if I didn't come. Then, he kissed me and I came crying out his name against his mouth.
Okay, I was even less focused in the morning than I was the day before. But I was smiling. Really smiling. The smile got bigger as the phone calls came in. Mrs. Swenson was first. She offered all the bread for the reception and my pick of cobbler gratis. I was stunned. But I managed to ask to have Arvid for the ring bearer. She started crying. I almost started bawling. Then there was Mrs. Thompson who offered to halve the cost of rooms for our out of town guests. We got that same offer from the McKenzie. Eustace chimed in with a gift of a tool set I'd been eyeing. Next, I found out we wouldn't have to import a minister from Vancouver to do the ceremony. Fraser and I weren't exactly regular church goers but we worked a lot with the clergy at the community center. That felt great. I phoned Fraser about the calls.
"I'm very pleased and relieved frankly," he said. "I was uncertain of the reaction here."
"The Constables want to attend. They seemed to think it high time we were public," Fraser said. He was surprised by that.
"That's great," I said. I liked the detachment Mounties. They were laid back and very smart about people. Fraser fit there like a glove. I'm glad this would work out with them. "Let's get the license tomorrow."
I heard him sigh. "Yes, Ray. I was about to ask the same. Of course, this will mean the possibility of press."
"Yeah, but we expected that," I said.
"Yes. And we can handle it," he said. "I'll see you tonight."
I hung up then in time for more calls. My clients were all attending and they wanted to give food and all sorts of stuff. I spent the afternoon cataloguing it all. By the time Fraser got home, I had everything organized by type: food (prepared, pickled, jellied or dried), lodgings, hunting supplies, tools and sides of meat (must be butchered). I felt like what's-his-name from 'It's a Wonderful Life.' That's why I was surprised when Fraser's reaction was a frown.
"What's wrong, Frase?" I asked. "This is a huge haul."
"I appreciate that, Ray. But isn't appropriate to buy from an establishment where we've registered our preferences?" He asked.
Now, I was frowning. "Where are we going to register -- the dry goods store?"
"I was thinking of the Hudson Bay Company," Fraser replied. "I've looked up all the information on line."
"But the folks here would have to pay a lot to ship here and they've already offered the best stuff they do," I said. "I mean, that's the deal up here."
"True," he admitted but his jaw was set on stubborn. "And their gifts are heart felt and moving. But what of our friends and family in the States?"
It was about then that I realized Fraser might be heading for bride-a-saurus status. He had that look in his eye. But he was a guy, I thought. Maybe it's just nerves. I decided to let him have his way on that. Maybe it would calm him down.
"Okay," I said. "You set it up. I'll let 'em know about it when they RSVP."
That made him happy for the moment. We sat down for supper. After chewing over the regular events of the day, Fraser got back to the wedding.
"What do you think we should wear?" He asked.
Oh, I knew the answer to that. "I want you in the serge."
"Really?" Fraser looked curious.
"Oh, yeah," I said. "You look so good in it. I fell in love with you in it. I... I've wanted to have you in it forever."
My Mountie's eyes got dark then. And hungry. "As you wish, Ray."
"I'll wear a tux," I said. "Maybe we could rent something nice in Yellowknife."
Fraser gave me the 'are you unhinged' look.
"Or not," I said.
"I found a tailor in Vancouver that will fly up here and fit you for a tuxedo."
"Frase!" I said. This was a great big surprise from a man that takes a month to spend $20 Canadian.
Fraser pulled out some papers and spread them in front of me. "It's not that great a expense for the quality of the purchase. The tuxedo itself is reasonably priced. The only extravagance is the transportation and expenses for the tailor. We could both get a tuxedo and that makes the expense more sensible."
That would be logical if we were both James Bond and wore tuxedos all the time. But he had that dangerous glint in his eye. I remembered how Stella was and just nodded my head in agreement. "Just let me know what you want me to do and it'll get done. But we rent Arvid's. He's already dangerous enough without becoming an international man of mystery."
He gave me such a beautiful smile that I forgot about how hair brained the idea was and started thinking about having him in a tux whenever the mood struck. Well, that's how Stella got around me when I wasn't worried about her popping her gourd outright. We settled into our usual routine. It was too late to call the tailor or anyone else, so we ate then snuggled on the sofa.
Being off my feet reminded me that my knee wasn't 100 percent. It throbbed painfully. I over did it. All those calls jazzed me to the point that I couldn't sit still. Between the adrenalin and the pain pill, I didn't feel anything all afternoon. Lots of my orders got done, but I was really feeling it.
Fraser felt me stiffen. Then those big, warm hands were massaging and soothing me. I was purring under his touch in no time.
"I'll help you with your orders after work until you've caught up," Fraser murmured against my temple.
I nodded against his shoulder. We hardly ever nagged each other any more. We found a way around whatever the other was doing that wasn't good. Kept us both happy. Just then, all I wanted to do was drift until the throbbing stopped. He even knew when that happened. He kissed my forehead.
"Yeah. Much," I sighed. "Thanks."
We watched TV for a while. I realized looking back that wedding preparations cause a sort of frenzy. Fraser was getting a little psychotic around the edges, but he still wanted to slow down and curl up with me. Stella wouldn't stop moving until she fell over. Maybe a could deal with him being a bride-a-saurus if I could get him to settle like this every night. Not that I wanted to stop talking about it. I still wanted to hear about his list.
"So, you think Turnbull will come?"
"I believe so. I hope so," Fraser said. "I plan on asking him to be my best man."
I started a little at that. Fraser squeezed me. "What about Vecchio?"
Fraser kissed me along the hairline. "I'm not going to ask him to do that for me. We're repaired our relationship somewhat, but he still doesn't support us. If I asked and he said no, I couldn't even maintain what friendship we have."
"I'm sorry, Ben."
Fraser lowered his head to kiss me. "It was his choice, Ray. I'm not sure he'll even attend."
"I think he will. I'm going to ask Stella to be my best gal -- whatever," I said.
Fraser gave me a small smile. "Really?"
"Yeah. Next to you, she's been my best bud. We've been great since I came up here," I said. "I hope this doesn't make things awkward."
Fraser gave me a sideways look that made me laugh. "Right. A contortionist convention couldn't be more awkward."
"Quite right." He chuckled. "Will any of the visitors be staying with us?"
"Not with all that free and discounted lodging," I said. "I don't want to offend the innkeepers."
"Yes, I'm sure that was your primary consideration," he said drily.
Whoa, a zinger from the cuddly Mountie. "You'll thank me during the honeymoon."
"I'm grateful right now," Fraser said. "Where will we be taking our honeymoon?"
"Hadn't thought about it," I replied. "I don't want to do a long trip after the wedding. That's really hard."
"How about the next month? I'd like to go somewhere warm," Fraser said wistfully.
He squeezed me again. "I'd like for you to be naked most of the time. As much as I enjoy uncovering your skin, I would really enjoy just watching you. I would certainly enjoy feeling your sun warmed skin."
"Ben..." He was making it pretty warm in the room.
"I've never tasted your sun warmed skin," he said thoughtfully. "I wonder if it's saltier."
"Ben," I growled. God, I wanted to move. He was driving me crazy. I had to do something, but he had me hemmed up good. Then I realized his hand was moving along my abdomen.
"I'll bet your skin holds the heat," he whispered against my ear. Oh Lord, Ben was hard. I could feel him resting pressing along my cleft. He kept me still with one arm across my chest while his free hand reached into my pants and grasped my hardening erection. I let my head drop back against Ben's shoulder and let him jerk me off while he rocked against my butt. He was panting and moaning in my ear and that was almost hotter than what his hand was doing. Almost. He sped up the pace and changed his grasp and that did it. I came in my pants. He came in his. I couldn't wait to see what we'd be like on the actual honeymoon.
The tailor arrived a couple of weeks later. It took a while to convince him that we weren't in Antarctica and he didn't need an ice cutter to reach us. That didn't sound good, but I promised myself I would behave. Fraser wasn't doing anything to make me nervous lately. I figured the sooner I got this over with, the sooner I could take on the relatives about the wedding. The announcements would arrive in the States any day.
We had to see the tailor separately. Something about it being bad luck to see each other before the ceremony. Okay, I wasn't going into how that sounded. I just put on the prescribed underwear and made my way to the McKenzie where he was waiting. Troy of Troy's Couture was a piece of work. He had a very stylish haircut and even a bit of well placed stubble. He seemed low maintenance, but the hair was too perfect in it's casual state. And his stubble was on a face that was fresh from a spa. Then there was the manicure. Buffed nails, but very well done just the same. He had on a big angora sweater that was some sort of purple. That matched the huge purple parka with the white fur around the hood that was artfully thrown across the bed.
He was also wearing tight leather pants.
"Aren't you warm in all of that?" I asked. It was a balmy fifty degrees outside. Spring had sprung.
"Stifling," he replied. "But I paid a pile for this crap and I'm wearing it. I'm Troy."
"I'm Ray," I said. "How do we get started?"
"A man of action. I like that," Troy replied. "Get out of your outerwear and let's see you walk."
"Yes, just across the room. Don't do anything fancy. Just walk," He said.
Okay. This was weird, but I didn't see any cameras around. So I took off my jacket then strolled across the room. When I looked back, Troy was smiling.
"You've got a lot of grace for an ex-cop. Ever dance?" He asked.
I nodded. "Some ballroom. You want me to open a window. You're sweating."
"Please, I'm glowing," he said. "I suppose the fire wasn't such a good plan. But the room looks so cozy with it going. Ah well, sometimes you must suffer to look good."
"Not me," I said.
He sighed at me. "Some of us are just gifted. Strip down and let me measure you."
He unfurled a tape measure and waved it. "You know, neck, sleeve and waist?"
I shucked put of everything save for my skivvies. The room was so warm that the exposure was a relief. I didn't know how Troy was coping, but he was measuring away despite the sweat. And he never stopped talking.
"That's quite a love bite, Mr. Kowalski," he said as he measured my collar. "Who would have thought such a quiet, polite man would be so possessive."
I smiled at that. There was no way I could argue. And I didn't mind.
"Ah, I see," Troy said with a smile. "The Mountie has a handful with a twinkle in his eyes."
"I plead the fifth," I said as Troy circled my waist with the tape measure.
"Hmmmm," he smiled. "Yes, you're the problem. But you have a nice waistline and... very long legs. Oh, a hickey even down there."
"Hey!" I exclaimed. "No peaking."
He laughed. I found myself laughing as well. He was that kind of outrageous that was more funny than threatening. And his fingers never wandered away from the measuring tape. Troy did pat me on the ass before he got up, but by the time I whirled around he had pulled out some shirts for me to try on. He was all business then and he had a good idea of what I'd like wearing. The tux didn't make me look like a maitre d and it didn't make me look like some freaky actor. I liked it -- a lot. And Troy could tell. He looked kinda smug as I checked it out in the mirror.
"The fit will be even better once I make the alterations," he said. "I don't think you'll have to send it back to me once you try it on again, but there is time if you have to."
I smiled at him in the mirror. "This looks great."
"I know. I know. Now get out of it, so I can get ready for your beau," he said. His voice sounded labored.
"Just warm. I'll get some water in a bit," he said.
I no sooner got out of the tux and zipped it in the bag when I heard him drop to the floor. He was in a leather and angora heap in the middle of the floor. So I spring into action and start removing his clothes. His skin was warm clammy. The sweater was soaked. He probably had no liquid left in his body. I was trying to get the leather pants off. That was not easy because the sweat had built up some suction. I just got them over his hips when Fraser walked in.
"Ray, what are you doing?" Fraser asked. He had a tone that exasperated me.
"Well, Frase, I found that I can't resist a man in purple angora. So I knocked him out and was about to have my way with him," I said.
He colored then jutted his jaw out. "I was merely asking. This does look a little odd."
"He's roasted himself. Can you just put the fire out and open the windows?"
"Of course," Fraser said. He was really just getting it. "How long as he been unconscious?"
"Less than a minute when you came in," I said. Troy started moaning as soon as I got the pants off. "He's coming around already."
Fraser stripped the blankets off the bed not covered with bags. "I'll get him on the bed. Would you get some ice?"
"Sure thing," I said heading for the door.
"Ray," Fraser said as I grabbed the doorknob.
"I think trousers are in order," Fraser said. He did manage to smile a small smile.
A half an hour later, Troy was lucid enough to flirt with Fraser.
"Prince Charming," he murmured as he woke up. He tried to leverage himself up to kiss Frase.
"Freeze, Troy," I said holding him still by the shoulder. "You're not that delirious."
"Don't be so sure," he replied. I let him go. Fraser had blushed and moved away. "I feel like an idiot."
"I wouldn't be so harsh on yourself," Fraser said. "Overheating is a common problem among tourists. They think we're snowbound year round."
"You can come back up in the winter and wear all of this," I said. "Of course, you may get stuck here for several weeks."
"You two are charming, but that would be a bit too much rustic for me," he said. "I think I'll just have a Yukon themed party and crank up my AC at home."
I shot Fraser a look before he could inform Troy that we weren't in the Yukon. I've got to give the guy his props for stamina. A few glasses of water later and he was measuring My Mountie. I stayed to chaperone because both of them were in their underwear. Yeah, yeah pot kettle.
We put Mr. Troy on a plane home the next day. I got home in time to get the call from my mother. I stopped short when I heard her voice.
"Hey, Mum," I said. Since she was spending the bucks on a long distance call during peak daylight hours, I knew she got the announcement.
"Stanley, we just received your wonderful news," she said.
I wondered if it was some other mail she got, because one word in that sentence didn't make sense.
"Yeah, so... what do you think?" I sank into the nearest chair.
"I think it's wonderful, Stanley," she said with the same tone as when I was little and being dense. "Ben has been good for you."
"What about Dad?"
"He likes Ben, of course," She said. "But he worries about the publicity. There's been a lot here about those decisions and none of it's good."
"So... you aren't coming?" I asked. I had a huge lump in my throat.
"Don't be silly. Of course we're coming," she said. "Not your brother and his family. Just us. We just need the particulars. Your father seems to believe we need a dog sled."
"Not until January. And no angora," I said. I wanted to laugh out loud I felt so happy. It would be awkward as hell around Dad, but I was still jazzed that they wanted to be there.
"I'll make the reservations, Mum. They're a little tricky," I said. "I know you'll be paying your own way. But you have to pack light. There are a lot of connections and each one is with a smaller plane."
"But we have gifts and... things," she said.
"You can ship them ahead," I said. "We won't peak."
I told her about the new tux and about Mrs. Thompson. She was actually excited about seeing everything I'd been telling them about. Dad got on the phone and talked about my tool shed. He said he'd help me catch up so I could enjoy the 'proceedings.' He'd never be a member of PFLAG, but I was slap happy he could go this far. And he would have a good time. Most of my clients were cut from the same cloth. There would be a lot of chewing of the fat.
I was grinning from ear to ear when I hung up. I made the reservations right away. That was easy. Luckily all of that put in a good mood. Otherwise, the next phone call would have made me crazy.
"I am here and there is no suitable transportation," a tense voice I didn't recognize said.
"Who are you?"
There was an audible huff on the other end. "I'm the wedding planner for Fraser/Kowalski."
"I'm Kowalski and I don't have a clue as to what you're talking about," I snapped. Two could be snotty.
"Put Mr. Fraser on," he demanded.
"I'll let him know you called," I said hanging up. I dialed my crazy Mountie. He wasn't in the office. From the background noise I could tell he was at the airport.
"I just got some interesting calls," I said.
"Oh?" He sounded guilty.
"Yeah. Mum and Dad called," I said smiling despite myself. "They're actually coming."
"That's wonderful, Ray," he said. I could hear the smile in his voice, too. "I have a surprise for you."
"Yes, I just talked to him."
"Oh dear. I had hoped to surprise you."
"You did that. My question is, why this surprise?"
"I'd better let Falco explain. It's quite a presentation," Fraser said as if that string of words made sense.
"Yes, he's assured us that he can handle everything."
"What everything?" I demanded. How much 'everything' could there be with a short ceremony and a pot luck dinner. "When are you coming home?"
"I have to wait for the caterer," Fraser said. "Then, I thought we would all meet in town for dinner."
I didn't want a public scene, but I had to get to Fraser before he committed to something wrong. And Falco sounded as wrong as it gets.
"Caterer!" I yelled into the phone, but Fraser already hung up.
Before I could get out the cabin, the phone rang again. I snarled hello.
"Ray?" Came the uncertain reply. It was Frannie.
"Hey, Frannie." I chilled out right away. Might as well take my time and really talk to her. It would take a while for Fraser to get back to town.
"Sorry to snap at you."
"Is anything wrong?"
"Same ol' same ol'. Fraser is crazy and I need to throw a net over him," I said. "So, I guess you got the news."
"Well, what do you think?" I asked. I was back to the lump in my throat.
"I'm so green it's sickening," she said. "But I'm happy for you both."
"Are you the only one?" I asked. There was something in her tone that tipped me to trouble.
"Ma's happy. We all want to come up," she said.
"All? As in the herd as well?"
"We think they need some really fresh air," she said.
"Oh, God." I said. "You'll have to trank 'em."
Frannie laughed. "We'll cope somehow. Ma wants to bring a whole grocery store and her kitchen."
"She shouldn't be cooking at all," I said. "Guest means guest."
"You know Ma."
"Yeah. My Mum is making the same plans. I think she's shipping her stove," I said. "But kitchens we got. I don't know what kind of food they allow over the border."
"She's making me look it up. I still have the shipping instructions from Christmas," she said.
"You were warned when you became a Vecchio that it came with family."
"Yeah, yeah," I said. "How's everyone else taking the news?"
"Welsh wasn't surprised you're doing it just that you're doing it while Fraser's still a Mountie," she said. "He wants to come up, but has to find out how much heat the brass will give him over it."
"Makes sense," I said. It was cool that he wanted to come.
"Dewey is being a complete ass, but Huey wants to send a gift up with me," she said.
No surprises there from either of them.
"Ray is having a fit from what I can tell," she said.
"From what you can tell?"
"I hung up on him three times," she said. "He'll be calling Fraser next if he hasn't started already."
"Frase won't talk to him right now. He's busy being insane," I said. "But I don't want Vecchio to upset him. I really don't need him upset and insane."
"Just keep Fraser from talking to him until he calms down a little," Frannie said. "That should be about three weeks."
Somehow, I managed to laugh at that. I realized that I didn't want to upset Fraser either. I didn't want to yell at him. Whatever he was doing, there was some strange sweet reason for it. I felt better.
"So bro, " Frannie said. "You have to e-mail me all about how this happened and what you're wearing."
I chuckled. "I ain't wearin' a gown."
"Will there be a bachelor party? Can I come?"
"Only if you want to hear old Eustace wax poetic about his encounters with Margie, a woman of ill repute with a heart of gold during his days as a prospector," I said. "Things don't get more exciting than that."
"Ewww," she said.
"Will there be other Mounties?"
"Some very fine ones," I said. "I think they grow them big and good looking up here."
"Ooh, I'll have to buy some cute sweaters," she said.
"Don't overdress," I said. "I've already had one angora mishap."
"I'll e-mail you. I gotta find My Mountie," I said.
"Give him my love and ignore my brother."
"Done and donesky."
Even without Fraser sitting stiffly at the corner table in the restaurant, I would have known Falco. He had one of those unnaturally smooth faces of someone who had too many face lifts. He looked like Siegfried or Roy, I'm not sure which. He was dressed for the weather, I could give him that, but he looked at the rest of us like we'd come from a thrift store rummage sale. The caterer was more of the sort of know it all food channel types -- a little bit chunky but stylishly dressed with a permanent look of distaste on his mug. Both of them were looking at the restaurant like it was a sty. They gave me quite a once over as I crossed the room. Fraser looked relieved to see me. He actually relaxed his spine a quarter of an inch.
"Ray, this is Falco, Canada's premier wedding planner and Jacques Dauphine, Canada's premier caterer," he said carefully. "Gentlemen, Ray Kowalski."
"Thank God," Falco said. "A good looking couple for once. The same sex marriages I've been seeing on TV have been nothing but dogs. Who is doing your formal wear? It isn't... local is it?"
I liked Troy, but that was insulting. Fraser piped up as if he were pleased to have done something that would have Falco's approval.
"Troy is making Ray's tux," he said.
Falco was indeed impressed. "Excellent choice. That would have been mine. What are you wearing?"
"My dress uniform," Fraser said. "Ray likes me in it."
"I can understand that," Falco said and Jacques nodded in agreement. "You would cut a fine figure in it. Great. We have some raw material to work with. And no chance of pregnancies."
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"Pregnancies before the big day. Happens more than you'd think. One bride was wearing a hoop skirt in her eighth month," he said with a sigh. "All that hard work on the front of the church only to have her take out three free standing candelabras."
"I assure you that won't be a problem here," Fraser said with his usual seriousness. Falco found him very amusing. He laughed out loud.
"The camera will love him," Jacques said.
"Yes, we will have a triumph," he said. "But I must know, why do you need Falco for this wedding?"
This I needed to hear. In my opinion, there was never a need for Falco. Fraser blushed but put on his best brave face.
"This is not Ray's first wedding," Frase said quietly. "His first was a large and elaborate affaire organized by a woman of refined taste. Ray has described it as one of the biggest days of his life. I want our wedding to surpass that for him."
I blinked at him. He did it again. After years with him, he could still take my breath away. Then, I felt like an idiot. I should have been listening. In my own defense, I was on some good drugs. No one should operate heavy machinery or talk to Fraser while on drugs. I got lost for a moment staring into those deep blue eyes. Then Falco spoke up.
"I think these two can get me coverage in the US," Falco said to a grinning Jacques.
That broke the spell. I had to get those two out of town with as little fuss as possible. But first, I had to get through to Fraser. I caught the manager's eye and nodded my head toward one of the meeting rooms. He nodded in response.
"Frase, can we have a minute?" I asked. "I need to talk to you."
Fraser looked confused but something about my expression must have clued him in that it couldn't wait.
"Excuse us," Fraser said. "We won't be long."
I hustled him into the room, closed the door then pulled out a chair from one of the tables. I gently pushed him into it then I knelt between his legs ignoring my knee and took his face in both of my hands.
"Frase... Ben, listen to me carefully. I was very happy the day I married Stell, but I wasn't happy about the wedding itself," I said softly. "It was something I did for someone I wanted to be with. It was something I endured. I want this wedding to be different."
I waited while he absorbed what I was saying. He started to look alarmed.
"Ray..." he choked out.
"Hear me out, Frase. I'm not upset with you. I love you for what you were trying to do," I said making him hear that in my voice and see it in my eyes. "But I want us to have the same sort of shindig they have here for any other wedding. I want the homemade decorations and the pot luck. My Mum and Ma Vecchio are coming to cook for us. I want to show everyone our lives up here. I want them to see why I'm so happy."
He closed his eyes trying to regain his composure. "I'm so sorry Ray... the tuxedo..."
"I love the tux, Ben," I said. "But I would hate the Bopsy twins out there as would the rest of the town long before we said I do."
He took my hands in his then kissed my palms.
Fraser smiled. "They are a bit overbearing, I admit. They found the Community Center unacceptable. I was growing concerned about how this could all mesh without bruised feelings."
"No meshing necessary," I said. "Let's get 'em out of here."
"But how, Ray?" He asked. "The have become set on the publicity this would bring."
"Yes, but there is good publicity and bad publicity," I said with a grin. "You and I aren't known for good publicity."
Fraser thought a moment then smiled. "It would be only fair to inform them of the type of publicity we attract before they accept the job."
"That's my Mountie," I said. "God, I want to kiss you."
His eyes got very hot then. "And I you. But I want you off your knees more right now. You are near the end of your day."
"I got enough steam to get rid of Falco and company," I said. "Let's do it."
We were back in only a few moments. Both men seemed disappointed that we didn't look like we'd been making out. The room was fairly crowded with locals at that point. This was just what we needed.
"Frase and I think this gig would be great for you both publicity wise," I said. "If it's the right kind of publicity."
"I don't understand," Falco said.
"Ray and I feel we would be remiss if we didn't inform you that we tend to attract a rather flamboyant criminal element that, for whatever reason, seem to fixate on either one or both of us," Fraser said.
"What does that mean?" Jacques asked.
"It means that at the most inopportune moments, we could be subject to kidnapping, assaults..."
"Or explosions," Eustace chimed in. "The last one was an explosion."
"But that was after the kidnapping," Fraser said.
That prompted the usual bar room discussion of the villainy that afflicted our lives. There was the usual debate as to whether the Avro car was really a military invention or a UFO and whether or not Snidely would return. Our company was horrified.
"I thought you should know all this because we've been getting some strange inquiries about our whereabouts from Chicago," I said. "And this is the sort of event that our bad guys like to crash."
Fraser looked concerned. "I hadn't thought about that until now, Ray. My apologies gentlemen."
"That's all well and good, but this will never do," Falco said. "Falco doesn't want to reign over a calamity. I could end up kidnapped or exploded!"
"As could I," Jacques chimed in.
"No, we cannot work here. You ask too much," Falco declared. "Jacques, we shall return tomorrow."
"On the first sled out," he said.
I stopped Fraser from mentioning that the next sled wouldn't be for months. We paid for their rooms then paid Eustace to take them to the airport in the morning. I think he would have for free.
By then, my knee was throbbing. We left my vehicle in town. Fraser took me home in his. I wanted him. I wanted him badly. But by the time we showered and he finished massaging me, I was too heavy limbed to pull off a move. So I rested against him and drifted.
"Vecchio's not happy," I said.
"I know. How did you know?"
"Frannie," I said. "She and Ma Vecchio and the brood are coming."
"Oh dear," he chuckled. "That should be interesting."
"You talk to Vecchio?" I asked worried.
Fraser squeezed me. "Not directly. His messages were quite tense. I decided time was what he needed. I'll call him tomorrow."
"Don't' want you upset," I mumbled. "Kick his ass."
Fraser shushed me. "Don't worry... rest..."
I breathed him in and settled into his warmth. As I drifted off I hoped Vecchio could calm down that fast. I still had to have a big chat with Stella.
Fraser was much more relaxed the next day. I think the whole town was with Falco and company gone. He promised to let me know about Vecchio after they talked. I promised to take it easy for real. I was still favoring the injured knee. And it still bothered me at night. Since I wanted to dance at the reception, I needed to behave.
And I did. I didn't look in the shed all morning. Fraser had been helping me in the evenings like he promised, so I wasn't behind schedule. There was a lot to do around the cabin, but I found myself surfing the net looking at rings. Now, that was a racket. I couldn't believe the dough jewelers were getting for some narrow strips a metal. They got more expensive since my first wedding. I printed out photos of the more reasonable ones for Fraser to look at. I even called the dry goods store and asked if they could get in some bands for us to choose from. I was jotting down that request over my second cup of coffee when the phone rang.
"You still know how to stir things up," Stella said. She didn't sound mad. "Congratulations."
"Yes, Ray," she said. "I know how happy you are. And I know you would never take a trip back down the aisle if you weren't sure."
"Thanks, Stell," I said. Then I told her everything about how the Question came up. I told her about how the town reacted. I told her about the bride-a-saurus Fraser became. After she stopped laughing, Stella sighed.
"He really is a romantic man, isn't he?" She said. "And he really is in love."
"Yeah," I smiled. "So you comin'?"
"Of course," she said. "I never miss your weddings."
"Ha, ha Stell," I said. "I want to ask you a big favor, but don't say yes until you think about it."
"What is it?"
"I wanted you to stand up with me... be my best gal or whatever," I said in a rush. "But I don't want you to if it'll cause problems with you and Vecchio."
"Ray, that's the sweetest... you aren't wearing a gown are you?"
"No," I laughed. "Custom tux. I don't want to give Dad a heart attack."
"Okay, just checking," she laughed. "I'll have to think about it, Ray. Right now my Ray is a little on edge about all this. I think it will be fine once he really talks to Benton."
"I hope so," I said. I meant it.
After we hung up, I wished I could be a fly on the wall for that chat with Vecchio. I didn't want him to hurt Fraser. And I was a selfish bastard. I wanted everyone to be happy on my wedding day. But there was nothing I could do about it that wouldn't make matters worse, so I headed into town to snag Fraser for lunch.
He looked a little sad when he sat across from me.
"You talked to Vecchio," I said.
Fraser rubbed his brow. He hadn't done that in long time. "I did. He will be attending. I believe that Stella had something to do with that. Whatever she told him finally made him understand that I am in love with you."
It steamed me that Vecchio never could believe Fraser himself, but I let it go.
"But he won't be your best man."
"No," Fraser said. "He said he will come because he wants me to be happy, but he would be hypocritical if he stood as my best man."
"I'm sorry, Frase."
"It went better than I expected," he said. "I had been certain that the mere discussion of the wedding would end the friendship. I suppose I got my hopes up a little."
"I get that. But you still have Turnbull," I said.
He smiled a little. "He accepted the role with great glee. I nearly had to hang up on all the gushing."
"He's always looked up to you," I said.
"I suppose," he replied. I could tell that he wanted to push talk about himself aside. My Mountie was always modest. "I could tell from Ray that your talk with Stella went very well. I assume she agreed to your proposal."
"I don't know yet. She was going to talk it over with Vecchio," I said. "I have Arvid who will be by my side no matter what."
"Because it's the center of the action?" Fraser asked.
"You got that right," I chuckled. "I would've loved to see Troy try to fit him."
"I didn't forget you," I said. "Got your tie all picked out."
He was content with that and resumed his place dozing under the table.
We drifted back to the present and enjoyed our food together. I had to give him back to the Mounties soon. It was still weird that we spent less waking hours together here than in Chicago. I missed him during the day. So I looked at him. The sun was on his side of the window, so I could see how blue his eyes were and I could see all the colors of brown in his hair. He was looking at me in a shy way between bites of his sandwich. That meant he liked how I was staring at him but couldn't think of a proper way to respond. I was about to start teasing him when Murphy appeared at the table.
"Good afternoon, Ray... sir. Sorry to interrupt your meal," he said. "Inspector Frobisher will be here in the morning and wants to speak to you both about your upcoming nuptials. Congratulations, Ray if I may say so."
"Thanks, Murph. But what's this about?"
"I'm not sure. The Inspector can be difficult to understand at times," he replied. Are all Mounties prone to understatement? "He was muttering something about vulture reporters and forgive my language, 'tight-assed brass.'"
"Ah," Fraser said. He put down his sandwich. So did I. "Thank you, Constable. That will be all."
Murphy was gone. I didn't really watch him go. I was looking at Fraser. I was about to give him a way to back out of all this before we were in too deep. But his jaw set and his eye challenged mine. He was going to marry me -- even if he had to fight everyone including me to do it. I backed down from what I was going to say. We started eating and looking at each other again. I knew that Fraser would spend the evening reminding me why this wedding was a good idea while I spent a lot of time moaning and panting. Hopefully, we could both hold onto how that felt when Frobisher told us what I knew we didn't want to hear.
I was right about Fraser and I actually was still feeling the affects of his persuasion the next day as we sat across from the Inspector. Murphy was right, too. Most of what he was saying was really hard to follow -- even more so than usual. I got that the RCMP knew that men had needs and there were a lot of remote patrols and what happened in the bush stayed in the bush. I wanted to laugh but Fraser did not look comfortable with any of this. Who can blame him? I had images of Frobisher and Fraser's Dad that were giving me brain damage. He was sort of getting to the point when my eyes started crossing.
"So, what you're trying to say is that the powers that be in the RCMP might punish Frase for this," I said.
"Precisely." he replied. "I think that may be why they're being difficult about Constable McKenzie's leave to come to the wedding."
That blew. But I didn't know what else they could do. "How? Can him?"
"No, they would never be so overt," Frobisher said. "It wouldn't look right. They'd promote him to a post in Ottawa or Toronto then bury him where he couldn't be seen. It would look above board -- even magnanimous."
Fraser looked thoughtful. "I've always been willing to serve wherever needed, but I have made my feelings plain that I do not wish to leave the Territories. Nor will I. If such a situation presents itself, I will retire. Ray and I have discussed this before."
Frobisher nodded. He seemed satisfied with the answer.
"I had to make sure that you had thought this through, son," he said. "But you've always had a good head on your shoulders."
"Thank you, Sir."
"It will be a privilege to attend the ceremony," he said. "I'll try to keep any press at bay."
"We appreciate that, Sir."
And then he was gone promising to return for the bachelor party.
"That was a long trip for a short chat," I said. "He could have sent an e-mail."
"I suspect he needed to look us in the eyes to gauge our determination," Fraser said. "What bachelor party?"
"Beats me. I thought you knew."
Fraser sighed and rubbed his brow. "I have a feeling that Turnbull is the answer."
That was something to worry about, but there was no time. It seemed like the huge amount of time we thought we had went fast. Before we knew it, we were two weeks from the Big Day. Packages started arriving. Many heavy packages from my Mum and Ma Vecchio arrived every day for a week. The locals were fascinated. Fraser and I were getting scared. We hoped they weren't planning a permanent visit. The incoming guest lists hadn't really changed much. We still didn't know what Welsh was going to do. No one even knew if Thatcher received hers.
The media coverage started as the packages began arriving. We saw a segment on us as part of the general debate about the issue of same sex marriage. There were three people talking about how are wedding would impact the RCMP and the country. Not one of the three had ever met or even talked to us. After that story, we started hearing from newspapers and magazines. Fraser sent out a politely worded reply that said 'our reasons for marrying were not for public consumption and that we preferred keeping the matter private. Thank you, kindly.' Still, we found out that the CBC was sending a team as was the Associated Press. We knew them from the hydrated methane studies. They seemed okay, but we weren't willing to talk to them about the wedding. They stayed anyway.
Life got weirder for me than it usually was. I was going about my normal business, but there was this countdown going on all around me. Pundits -- what kind of word is that -- were talking and writing about our wedding. The e-mail was just crazy both pro and con. Anybody with a keyboard seemed to think they were entitled to comment on our lives. I was glad I was in a small town doing a simple job. In Chicago where it was hard to tell the good guys from the bad, it would be easy to get squirrelly over all of this. But with everything so real and so routine and comfortable, I was okay. The only real excitement was Arvid's tux fitting. Maybe it was the excitement of a larger city. Maybe it was all that chocolate and cola I was stupid enough to give him. All I was sure of was there's nothing faster than a pantless kid running through a mall. I was also sure that I didn't have to worry about Fraser missing out on being a daddy. I've never seen him more relieved to hand someone off in all our time together.
Suddenly, it was the week of the wedding. Lars' gift was the Permafrost van to pick up the guests. That was a great gift because I would be doing nothing but going back and fourth to the airport for days. Besides, the press was camped out there. And Lars and his staff were great at dealing with travelers who were tired and or queasy from the last plane ride. The first arrivals were Frannie, Ma Vecchio and the urchins. I had a special twist to that pick up. Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Swenson went along to help with the kids. I got the word when they were at the hotel. My local ladies helped clean and feed the kids and get them to bed while Frannie and Ma Vecchio freshened up. We figured they would catch a nap. Fraser and I were going to pop in on them for dinner.
I didn't expect to see anyone until the evening. That was why seeing Murphy's vehicle coming up the road surprised me. Seeing Frannie pop out of the passenger side surprised me even more.
"Ray!" She said then was on me in a big hug.
"Frannie," I said into her hair. "You're supposed to be catchin' z's."
"I couldn't wait to see you," she said. "Fraser was on patrol, but Constable Murphy offered to bring me up. He's very accommodating."
I gave Murphy the once over. He blushed, but he was smiling like I never saw before.
"Miss Vecchio is very persuasive," He said. "And it was my pleasure."
He was gone with a tip of his hat. Frannie watched him go with a big smile. "You're right, bro. They grow 'em big and good lookin' up here."
I gave her a sideways look. She hugged me again.
"You look great, Ray," Frannie he said. "And this cabin is cute!"
"It's not cute," I sighed. "It's rustic and manly. Let me give you the tour."
I showed her the grounds then the interior of the cabin. She was properly impressed. And she was tired. I could see that on her face. She could be as stubborn as her kids, I guess. She didn't want to miss anything. Frannie was too old to be ordered to nap, so I made her a cup of herbal tea and sat her on the comfy sofa. That did the trick. Her eyes got droopy before she could finish telling me about the flight. I stretched her out on the sofa then covered her with a guest blanket. Okay, I'm a selfish host. Our regular couch throw smelled like Fraser and I wasn't sharing that.
It was a little after noon when Frannie showed up. She slept until five. I was rustling up supper when she sat up.
"What hit me?" She asked. Her voice was still fuzzy from sleep.
"Your flight and that sofa," I said.
"I gotta check on the kids," she mumbled.
"Hold your horses, they're fine," I said. "The ladies took them to the Community Center to hang with the Intuit kids after their nap. Ma Vecchio's there scoping out the kitchen. We'll take you back after supper."
"Frase is on his way home," I said.
I stirred the stew while Frannie found the bathroom. The biscuits were ready in the pan.
"That smells great," Frannie said. "Did you make it?"
"No, stews are Fraser's thing. I'm the chili guy," I said.
She came up alongside me and watched me work.
"You're hands look pretty good for what you do. But your nails are a mess," she said. "Want a manicure?"
"A manicure, Frannie? Do I look like your brother?" I said.
"You'll be in a tux. Your hands should not look like claws," Frannie said. She snagged one to look at my fingers.
She was right. My hands did look rough. I never really thought about it. Fraser never complained.
"Maybe, but a manicure would mean you have to touch me," I said.
Frannie looked at me like I had three heads. "Yeah, Ray. I'd have to touch your hands. What about it?"
I felt my ears get red. "I'd have to see how Frase feels about that. He's kinda funny about people touching me."
She looked surprised. "We could make it a surprise."
"He would know," I said. "Then he'd wonder why I didn't tell him."
"Fraser can tell if someone touches you," she said. "Just with a hand."
"So if I do this..." Frannie said then was all over me hands under my shirts and along my arms. "He can tell?"
"Frannie!" I shouted. "Yeah, he'll know. He doesn't get mad, but he's very..."
"Yeah," I smiled. "He seems to think that everyone is after my bod and he has to protect me."
"That's sweet... deranged, but sweet."
"Hardy har har, Frannie."
By the time she set the table, I could hear Fraser pulling into the driveway. Dief nosed the door open then happily pounced on Frannie. She was laughing and trying to push him away. Fraser smiled as he came in. He pulled Dief away then hugged her.
"You look wonderful, Francesca," he murmured. "The children are lovely as well. Sophia is still in fine voice."
"How's your ears?" I asked.
"Still ringing," he said with a smile. "They are fitting in well with the children here. And there are a lot of sled puppies to keep them busy. Mrs. Vecchio is making herself at home."
"You look great, too Benton," she said.
"Thank you. Do you mind if I say a proper hello to Ray," he asked.
"Don't mind me," she said.
"Thank you kindly," he said rounding the table to press me against the kitchen sink.
"You smell like oatmeal cookies," I murmured as he held me close. "You been snackin', Mountie?"
"I'd never ruin my supper, Ray," he said. " Sophia was holding two when I picked her up. I believe a quarter of a cookie went under my collar and down my back."
I was going to answer that but he kissed me. It was a vintage haven't seen you all day long and clingy kiss. I moaned for him. I couldn't help it. He pulled out of the kiss but kept me close. He scented inside my collar. "What have you and Francesca been up to?"
"We-we were talking about manicures," I said.
He looked into my eyes. The expression was heat and humor. "That required some examination under your shirt?"
"Geez, Ray," Frannie said. "You weren't kidding."
Fraser let me go then turned to Frannie with curiosity. She blushed at how we looked.
"I-I didn't believe you would know I touched him," she said.
"Ah," he said. "Yes, I know when anyone touches Ray. I have to. People touch him a lot. And he is an incorrigible flirt."
"Hey!" I said.
Fraser turned on me again. He kissed me once more then excused himself to change. Frannie's eyes were big a s saucers.
"I want one of those," she sighed.
I chuckled. "Fraser is unique even among Mounties. Remember, the man is unhinged."
"Yeah," she said dreamily.
Fraser came out in his most comfy jeans and a t-shirt. "Francesca, Constable Murphy inquired as to whether you would need a lift back to town. I told him I would have you call."
"Really?" She smiled.
Fraser handed her his cell after dialing the number. Frannie took the call on the porch.
"Smooth move on Murph's part," I said.
"Yes, he's taken with her," Fraser said.
"Did you find the cookie?"
"Yes," Fraser said ruefully. "It was ground into my shirt. What's this about a manicure?"
"Frannie wants my hands to look and feel good for the ceremony."
He smiled at me. "Your hands always feel good, Ray."
Fraser sat at the table as if he wasn't starting anything. Frannie came in then.
"The Constable is going to pick me up. We're going to have dessert and coffee at the McKenzie," she said with a big smile.
"That's lovely, Francesca," Fraser said.
"Aren't you glad you had a nap?" I asked.
Frannie laughed as she sat down at the table. "You sound like Ma."
We caught up with the gossip in Chicago over the stew. Frannie still didn't know what Welsh was planning on doing. The wedding became verboten conversation after the media started nosing around the precinct. Dewey was threatened with having his lips stabled shut to keep him from giving his opinion. Huey sent a gift for us to open with the others. That meant it wasn't obscene. We didn't talk about Vecchio. When I showed her the tuxedo, Frannie brought up the manicure again.
"I can teach you how to them for each other, " she said. "A tux like that deserves manicured hands."
"Very well," Fraser said.
She rolled her eyes. "You two are a piece of work."
Murphy came for her a little while after we finished clearing the kitchen. I had expected a longer evening. I sure didn't think I'd be on the sofa getting fingerprints licked off my chest. Not that I was complaining. We had a long week ahead.
I went into town with Fraser early the next morning to have breakfast with our guests. We also hauled down the boxes Ma Vecchio shipped and took them to the hotel. I was staying in Inuvik for the day because my parents were due. Lars and I were going to pick them up. Of course, I was a wreck and making myself crazier.
At least the plane was on time. Neither of them looked green or upset, so the flight must have gone okay. Mum hugged me hard. Dad gave me the slamming on the back hugs before we loaded the bags in the van. Both my parents had heard of Lars and he heard stories about them. They started yakking with each other as soon as we strapped in the vehicle. Lars was very complimentary of me which was cool of him. I was actually relaxed by the time we got back to Inuvik. And I was really happy to see Fraser waiting to help with the bags at the inn.
The greeting was way more relaxed than the Thanksgiving trip. Fraser was smiling and Mum kept hugging. I was aware of the reporters nearby but they had the sense to stay away. I'm not sure what they were expecting the town to look like. I suspect igloos were part of the image, but they were pleased at the quaint buildings and friendly greetings. Fraser stayed with us through lunch before going back to work. We lingered over coffee and cobbler.
"So, what do you think of the town?" I asked.
"It's very nice, Stanley," Mum said. "People here certainly like you and Ben."
"You didn't tell me you were part of the Chamber of Commerce," Dad said. He was impressed.
"It's only six of us," I said. "It's more like a poker game than a chamber."
That really interested him. "You play up here?"
"Now and then. I figured you might want to sit in on one."
He smiled at that.
"Don't think you can take 'em, Dad," I chuckled. "These guys are cagier than they look."
"We'll see, son. We'll see."
They wanted to see a lot more, but the trip was catching up to them. They went up to their room late in the afternoon. I didn't expect to hear from them until morning. Mrs. Thompson slipped a note under the door offering late supper or a snack. I appreciated that. But it left me at loose ends until Fraser got off. Frannie was with Murphy who was on his day off. Mrs. Vecchio was doing lord knows what in the kitchen at the community center. There was only one thing to do. Whenever I was looking for trouble, I knew where to find it.
"I don't know when he did it, but it seems he's rerouted the pipes under the shop sink," Mrs. Swenson said in dismay. Arvid, as always, was staring up at us with big innocent blue eyes.
"I'm not a great plumber," I said. "But I'll have a look."
So, there I was under the sink with the perp at my side telling me in gleeful detail what he did.
"You ever think about military school, Arvid?" I asked. "'Cause it's gonna come up at some point."
I was just finished getting everything back in place when a pair of stylish boots appeared near my head.
It sounded like Stella, but she wasn't due for a couple of days. I slid out from under the sink and pulled the kid along with me so he couldn't re-do what I just un-done.
"Stell?" I asked. Yep, it was her. And there I was all grimy with a grimy squirmy five year old in my lap. "You're early."
She smiled at me. "Yeah. Ray wanted to spend some extra time with Benton."
"Yeah, I'll bet," I said. "Arvid, this my good friend, Stella. Why don't you show her how you can put away the tools."
He nodded with a big grin and got to work.
"This is your nemesis?" Stella laughed. "He's adorable."
"That works for a few days," I assured her. "He'll show his true colors when you least expect it. How long you been here?"
"About an hour. Lars was nice enough to change his schedule to get us," she said.
"He's been great about helping me with the guests. Ray find his Ma?"
"She was at the inn when we arrived," Stella said. "Don't worry, Ray. He won't make trouble. He just wants to see Benton and talk to him. This whole thing has left them out of sorts."
"I hope that's all it is."
"Would your best gal -- whatever, lie to the groom?"
I grinned at her. Then I hugged her. "Thanks, Stell. This means a lot to me."
"Me too," she said kissing me on the cheek. "Why don't you show me around town?"
So Arvid and I showed her the Inuvik hot spots... such that they were. We hung out at the Community Center to help with post nap cookie and juice patrol. The Inuit children were mixed with Frannie's big-eyed bunch. They all remembered me which was cool. They were also bonding with Arvid which was not good. I was afraid he'd form his own posse. Stella was amused at my seeing plots among children under six, but she hadn't been around my little blond mastermind long enough.
By late afternoon, Arvid was getting punchy. I carried him home then met Stella at McKenzie's. Fraser had called by then to say he and Ray were on their way to meet us there. He sounded okay, but I was still ticked about Ray sneaking into town.
"It'll be fine, Ray," Stella was saying. I guess my face gave me away. "Ray knows that he can't change anything and that he would lose Benton if he tried. It's just that he knows how crazy things get before a wedding. He wanted a little time to reconnect."
"He could have if he was best man," I mumbled.
"I know," she said. "I suppose I'm fated to attract stubborn men."
I finally smiled. "Putting a lid on that right now."
Frannie zipped through the restaurant when she potted us in the window.
"Ray, I can't stay. Hey Stella. The Constable asked me to dinner," she said breathlessly. "I'm having a great time."
"That's good. Tell Murph to mind his manners," I said.
"I will not," Frannie laughed. "It's all I can do to get him to loosen up. Speaking of which, you wanna see something funny, Stella?"
Franny kissed me on the neck then ran out the door.
"That was funny?" Stella asked.
"Frannie likes to play with dangerous toys," I said. "Here he comes now."
Fraser and Vecchio walked in still engaged in some lengthy discussion. But Fraser stopped talking when he saw me. Then he smiled. I stopped worrying about everything. He sat next to me. I know he wanted a proper greeting but we couldn't do that yet.
"Hello Ray," he said softly. "Hello Stella."
"Hello Benton," she said.
Fraser inclined his head toward my neck. Then he frowned.
"Frannie being funny," I said rolling my eyes.
Stella's eyes got really big. She looked at Fraser in amazement. My Mountie looked back with what was almost a smirk. We chit chatted about our day. Fraser and Vecchio told us about theirs. It was all very civil but not entirely relaxed -- sort of like a highbrow British sitcom. I was impressed with my sophistication.
"The bomb box arrived," Fraser said.
"Good." I replied.
"Bomb box?" Stella asked.
"Our wedding will get a rise out of all sorts of people that hate us," I said. "The Chicago list takes up two CD-roms."
"The box is for dangerous gifts," Fraser said. "We've advised locals not to accept any packages being forwarded to us. Everything unusual goes into the box."
"I wonder what Seymour will send," I said.
"I think the worst will come from Mr. Canasta," Fraser said.
"How are you planning on dealing with the crazies that are usually after you?" Vecchio asked. "They may come in person."
"We have planned for that. We'll be moving into town tomorrow," Fraser said. "That way we won't be isolated. Inspector Frobisher will be bringing in reinforcements to fortify the area and replace the Constables attending the wedding."
"And the locals are armed," I said.
"Kevlar?" Vecchio persisted.
"Yes," Fraser said. "We've borrowed vests that can be worn underneath clothing."
"It's great to be popular," I said with a weak smile.
"Well, it won't be dull," Stella said. "Let's celebrate."
She gave Ray a look that kept him from grousing. I suppose he found something to celebrate even if it wasn't the wedding. We all managed to have a good time.
Later that night, we were in bed not sleeping. We weren't even doing what we usually did when we weren't sleeping.
"The next time we're in this bed, we'll be married," I said.
"Yes, we will," Fraser murmured. He held me closer. "Are you nervous?"
"No more than usual when we're facing possible mayhem and the media and the family," I replied. "I'm my usual wreck."
"I must confess to some trepidation as well," Fraser said.
I looked up at him. "You still want to, don't you?"
He kissed the top of my hear. "Of course, Ray. More than ever. I just find that it would have been easier if we could have done it at city hall."
"That's what we get for having loved ones," I sighed.
Fraser must have been restless, because I didn't sleep well. I had a dream about being kidnapped and trussed up for a gang bang with Snidely and Canasta. I woke with a start and felt like I hadn't slept at all. My heart was racing almost painfully in my chest. Jesus. I had jitters before but nothing like this. Fraser was awake and making breakfast when I got out of bed. He seemed preoccupied. We packed up and shut down the cabin in silence. I thought he was upset with me until we were in front of the cabin packing the truck. Then I was plastered against the truck.
"Remember that I love you, Ray," Fraser said against my ear. "Everything -- everyone will be vying for our attention in the next few days. I don't want us to lose sight of each other."
"It happens so easily. I wanted so much to call you yesterday but there wasn't a moment," he said. "I was hoping you would call."
"I wanted to," I said remembering how many times I had the phone in my hand. "But there was Stell and I didn't want to interrupt you and Vecchio..."
"It will be more hectic once we get to town."
I nodded. "What do we do? I'm gettin' a little crazy around the edges here."
Okay, I was getting a lot crazy here. Eloping was looking really good just then.
Fraser would never be that rash. He would, however, press me against the truck and kiss me until my knees went weak.
"Call me. And I'll call you. Don't let yourself get lost. Don't let me get lost," he said kissing me.
"I'll call you. I swear," I said. "God, Ben. I need you when I'm crazy like this."
"I need you, Ray. Always."
We were both getting crazy. Somehow, that made me feel better.
Fraser left me at the inn and headed in for his last day of work until after the ceremony. He didn't want to leave me. I could tell by the look on his face. The feeling was mutual. Very mutual. I braced myself for a day of juggling relatives and friends without him. I had two big surprises when I got to the inn. The second biggest surprise was that everyone in town for the wedding had found something to do that didn't involve me. There were several notes at the front desk. Dad was chatting up my clients about a poker game. Mum and Ma Vecchio were back at the kitchens in the Community Center working on their menus for the reception. Stella and Vecchio were on one of the Permafrost scenic tours. Frannie and the kids were also at the Community Center doing arts and crafts. That was great. I hadn't figured out how I was going divide myself between all those people. The biggest surprise was finding Turnbull sitting on our bed in the suite.
He was smiling that happy Turnbull smile, but it looked weird with him wearing a suit. It was a nice suit, but I wasn't used to seeing him in anything except for the serge.
"Turnbull, why are you on my bed?" That's a sentence I didn't want to say again.
He stood immediately. I noticed the snappy cane he was leaning on for the first time.
"Mrs. Thompson said I could wait. I determined that I wouldn't miss you if I waited here," he replied. "You look well, Detective."
"Ray. It's just Ray," I said. "You look good, too. I like the suit."
"Thank you. New uniform of the office," he said. "I'm remarkably well, considering."
"You do look good for a man hit by a bus," I said. No sense in dancing around it. "Thanks for comin' out."
His smile got bigger. "I was honored at the invitation and the designation of Best Man."
I smiled at him. Fraser was right. It was good to pick someone that would be into the gig. "Let me take you to Frase."
Turnbull was all for that. "I've been looking forward to seeing the detachment."
"It's chock full of excitement," I said.
Fraser looked puzzled but pleased to see me poke my head into the office. Then Turnbull stepped inside with his face lit up like a Christmas tree.
"Renfield!" Fraser smiled. He gave the man a back slapping hug while Dief danced around them.
"Benton," Turnbull said as if pleased to say the name. "You look well."
"As do you. Are you settled in?"
"Yes," Turnbull said finally giving Dief an enthusiastic ear scratching. "I got in very early."
"Hey, why don't you give him a tour?" I suggested. "See the beat, meet the locals."
"Splendid idea," Turnbull said. "I need to familiarize myself with the establishments here to organize a bachelor party."
Fraser and I looked at him as if he was nuts.
"Renfield, Inuvik isn't know for it's nightlife," Fraser said.
"That may be, but we men are always up for a rollicking good time," he said.
I suddenly had a perverse need to see what Turnbull considered a rollicking good time. He was a politician, after all. Maybe he had changed.
"Do any of the establishments here have a karoke machine?" he asked.
I didn't want to know so much anymore. "I'm going to the Community Center. I'm sure one of my Moms needs somethin' peeled or chopped. You boys have fun."
Fraser gave me a glare as I left. I wasn't sorry. It was every man for himself when it came to karoke. Besides, I really did want to hang out with the Moms in my life. I had very little time with them. Besides, they were making things that I knew smelled and tasted really good. It was the right move. They were very glad to see me make my way across the barely controlled mayhem of the daycare center into the kitchen. After I got the stuffing almost hugged out of me, they put an apron on me and put me to work. I listened to them talk about Chicago and the people they met here. It made me feel all warm and happy inside like I would hanging in Mum's kitchen at Christmas. I worried about them working so hard. But then they pointed out that there was someone making up their room everyday. And Ma Vecchio had plenty of people wanting to entertain her grandkids. Besides, they were enjoying themselves. It tickled the ladies to see me there looking so content peeling and chopping onions and carrots. Frannie even gave me a big 'isn't he adorable' smile as she chased an urchin covered in fingerpaint through the room.
Stella found me there hours later. I graduated from onions and carrots and moved onto potatoes. By that time, I was covered in tiny, brightly colored hand prints from various children intent on showing me their artwork. She chuckled at me.
"You've become a softie," she said.
I gave her a sideways glance. "Like you haven't."
Since she was a new set of eyes in the room, Stella was soon surrounded by budding artistes and soon covered in tiny hand prints. The gal I knew in Chicago woulda freaked at all the paint, but she just laughed. Then she picked up a vegetable peeler.
"It's funny how you think you're doing what you want in life, then someone comes along who teaches you to stop and enjoy a sip of buttermilk," she said. "Or caribou stew."
I smiled at that.
"Or the hundred shades of blue in the sky," I said.
"Or whiling the time away talking to eighty year old ladies who've bowled for longer than I've been alive," she said.
"Suddenly, you discover that you've learned how to live not just be what others want you to be," I said.
"Yes, makes you appreciate all sorts of things you've missed somehow," she said. "In everything."
"And everyone," I said. "Give me a minute?"
Stella nodded. I pulled out my phone and sent a photo to Fraser. Then I called him.
"You're not to get on the hotel room comforter without a shower," Fraser said chuckling. "Are you having a good time."
"Yeah, Great time. You?"
He sighed. "Renfield hasn't changed. That's comforting in some way."
"It's gonna make for one whacked bachelor party," I said. Though I had to admit, I wasn't up for what I would have once called a great bachelor party in Chicago. I mean, what would I want with strippers or working girls?
"Indeed. I'll see you soon," he said.
"Did I hear the words bachelor party?" Frannie asked.
"Don't get excited. Turnbull is planning it," I said.
"Never mind," Frannie said. "I still get you both for manicures."
"Really?" Stella said. "I'd like to see that."
"Why not?" Frannie said.
"Hey," I said.
"What about facials?" Stella said. "I give a great facial."
Frannie laughed. "It could be like a bridal shower."
"Hey!" I said again and got shushed because the paint covered urchins were napping.
"Okay, we'll call it a bachelor party, too," Frannie said.
I glared at her, but they were not moved. I wasn't winning this without backup, so I gave in.
"Okay, but no polish and no waxing -- by anyone."
"Okay. No waxing," Frannie said. "Oh, I forgot. Did you see your gift table?"
"No, I didn't know there was one," I said. I didn't expect much, because all the locals had pledged their goods. I was surprised to see a six foot folding table with a nice pile of colorfully wrapped boxes.
"Wow," I said. "Who are they from?"
"All sorts of people from everywhere," Frannie said. "You two made news. You have well wishers."
I looked at her sideways. "There were other packages, too. No-so-well wishers."
"Yeah," Frannie sighed. "Liam went through everything. The nutjobs got put in the bomb box. He wrote down return addresses. Some of these upstanding citizens need a straight jacket."
I didn't doubt that. And I was glad Murphy got rid of them. We didn't need to see any of that crap.
Frannie actually blushed. "I can't keep calling him Constable Murphy. Quit teasing."
I smirked. "Wait until Vecchio hears about Liam."
Frannie said something smart in return before she ran after one of the kids, but I was distracted. One of the gifts was a strange looking pewter vase. There was a wrapped package with it that looked like a book. That vase bothered me. There was something familiar about it. I picked it up. It was heavy for its size. There was a note card taped to the bottom. The vase was for Fraser. The book was for me. Suddenly, it hit me.
"This is an urn!" I hissed.
Frannie stopped in her tacks. "Like for someone's ashes?"
"Yeah," I muttered opening the wrapping on the book. It was a catalogue called Manacle Mania. And there was a note. "Once your Benton is in his final resting place, you will be bound to me. I'll give you a chance to choose how. – SW"
Seymour. Okay. I couldn't panic in the Center. I didn't want to upset anyone. As far as I knew, Seymour was in a maximum security prison. But I was under the same impression when he walked into the McKenzie. I had a bigger concern. Fraser. This was the first time Wabash directly threatened him. And if he wasn't out of prison, he may have someone here to do the deed. I had to find Fraser.
A big hand on my shoulder nearly sent me out of my skin. I turned to find Fraser with a very serious look on his face.
"I'm sorry to startle you, Ray," he said softly.
"S'okay," I said. I took a deep breath trying to get my heart to stop hammering. "I was just going to look for you. Snidely..."
"I know about the urn," he said. "Constable Murphy showed me the log of gifts."
I handed Fraser the catalogue. He looked grim.
"It should not have been possible for him to do this," Fraser said. "I've spoken to Inspector Frobisher who will relay our extreme dissatisfaction."
Whoa. That was Mountie for being really pissed. But I was still worried.
"Is he still in prison?"
"Yes. I spoke to the warden myself," Fraser said. "There is another questionable gift. It's the size of a shoe box and addressed to me."
We gave the table the once over. Fraser spotted it. The gift had been unwrapped and inspected, so the paper was just tacked in place. Fraser carefully opened the box. There were two homemade dolls wrapped in tissue. One had black hair and the other had yellow.
"They look like voodoo dolls," I said. "Of you and me."
Fraser took out the note on the bottom of the box under the dolls. "I believe that's what they are. The note is from Lawson Lamster and he predicts we will have many days living in agony."
"I guess he doesn't know that he's supposed to keep the dolls," I said rolling my eyes.
"Apparently not," Fraser replied.
I started laughing. I was so relieved that my knees felt wobbly. Fraser smiled when he realized that I was okay. He looked like he wanted to hold me anyway. I wanted that, but we'd have to wait.
"He and Ray are off trying to arrange some sort of bachelor party," Fraser said. He rubbed his brow a little. I was with him on that. We didn't need one last night of freedom. We were already living like a married couple.
"You don't want a bachelor party," I said.
"Er... ah.... no," Fraser said. "I've always found them embarrassing. And given our unusual circumstances..."
"Yeah. My best gal wouldn't be able to join us," I said.
"Why don't you guys join us?" Frannie said from the doorway.
And basically that's how, Fraser, Turnbull and me ended up in sweat clothes and bare feet lounging around Stella's suite with our fingers soaking in warm, sudsy water. We had a nice spread of cold snacks and beer, so that was sort of like a bachelor party. Meanwhile, Vecchio was with my Dad and the Chamber of Commerce playing five card draw. I was surprised at how enthusiastic Turnbull was about these spa related things.
"Inspector Thatcher often had me accompany her to such establishments," he said. "That way I could repair a nail or do a mud mask in a pinch."
I gave Frase a look. That sounded like something the Ice Queen would liked to have Fraser do.
"I declined," Fraser said drily.
"Boy, that broad was a piece of work," Frannie muttered.
Stella nodded but she smiled. "I can't say that I blame her. Attractive men under your absolute command so far from home..."
Turnbull smiled. "Thank you kindly, Mrs. Vecchio."
"I never thought of Turnbull as a boy toy," I said quietly to Fraser who shook his head.
The conversations were easy and fun. Turnbull's political adventures interested Stella. He seemed to know what he was doing -- the bus thing aside. Frannie caught him up on Chicago doings. I was amazed at the weird mix of people that family can make. Never in my wildest dreams could I see Turnbull engaged in any kind of conversation with Stella let alone yakking back and fourth and laughing. It was really strange. But it wasn't as strange as the thought of Eustace and Turnbull singing 'Rhinestone Cowboy'.
To keep things from getting too weird for Fraser, Stella did his nails and Frannie did mine. My Mountie paid keen attention to the process and how much I was enjoying it. I wasn't sure how he felt about it. Frase wasn't much for luxuries. He might enjoy it more if I was the one doing it.
Frannie read my mind. "I'll send you a kit so you can do Benton's hands and he can do yours."
Fraser had been anxious about all the hand holding. I didn't think he would go for something as up close and personal as a facial on himself. I know he wouldn't go for it done to me. So I made a clever move.
"Stell, why don't you show us how to do the facial on Turnbull?"
Stella and Frannie knew just what I was doing. But she was a good sport.
"That's a great idea, "Stella said. "You boys pay close attention."
And we did. Not only did it look liked it felt great, I really liked the thought of doing that for Fraser or having him do it for me. From the expression on Fraser's face, he felt the same. Stella finished by giving Turnbull a very close shave.
"Renfield, you look gorgeous!" Frannie laughed.
"Every man looks great after a facial," Stella said.
"I don't think it would help Welsh," I said.
Frannie laughed out loud nearly spewing her beer. "Oh God. Now I have an image of him in a pink bathrobe and a mud mask."
"Thanks for sharing," Stella said.
I swigged my beer trying to get that image out of my head. Fraser just shook his head over his tea.
"So what do we tell Welsh and Frobisher when they ask about the bachelor party?" I asked.
"We tell them the truth," Fraser said.
"They'll never believe us," I said. "And they'll make something up on their own. Welsh will anyway. Probably think that we had a musk ox in a tutu."
Turnbull looked confused. "Why on Earth would one put a musk ox in such a garment?"
"Drink more beer, Renfield," I said.
We stayed until Vecchio turned up. We were all decent but kinda giggly. Before I could point out that he was the one spending the evening in a room full of smelly guys, Fraser said our goodnights.
My parents' room was already dark when we passed by. I really hadn't seen much of Dad. I had to make sure to take him out to the cabin tomorrow so he could check out the tool shed. The rehearsal dinner wasn't until six. We'd have the time. I was about to mention the idea to Fraser. Then I noticed that he was locking the door. He leaned against it staring at me intently.
"I would like to feel your hands, Ray."
He swallowed. "Everywhere."
"Let's see some skin then, Mountie," I said softy.
Fraser blushed but his eye were all heat as he slowly pulled off his sweat shirt. I tried to keep calm. It wasn't often that he asked me to touch him. Usually, I had to pounce him and tie him down. But tonight I had six feet of naked Mountie in front of me.
I reached up and framed his face with my hands. The look on his face told me that the hands felt really good. I wondered what his would feel like on me.
"Touch me, Ben," I said pressing against him. He ran his hands along my back as I steered us toward the bed. I was moving my hands along as much skin as I could reach. His warm, smooth skin felt even better under my manicured hands. This was a habit I could get into. I got that Fraser was getting into the feeling too from the little sounds he was making. We tumbled onto the bed still everywhere we could reach. Eventually, our mouths found each other. I wrapped my hand around him swallowing the half moan half growl from him. He got a hold of me as well. We kept kissing while working each other until we came all over our well groomed hands. Not exactly what our manicurists had in mind, but we enjoyed the practical application. And I was sure we had incentive to continue having our hands done.
The day before the wedding we slept in until all of eight a.m. We managed to snag my parents for breakfast before they got away from us. Ma Vecchio even sat down and someone feed her. Murphy had already picked up Frannie and the kids to eat at the Community Center's breakfast. I made a note to talk to Murphy about Frannie. This seemed to be getting serious.
After breakfast, Ma Vecchio went to work on her monster cooking project. Mum decided to check out the cabin with Dad before joining her. Things weren't nearly as awkward as I thought they would be. Dad actually won at poker. He even beat Vecchio. That put him in a great mood. Fraser was mellow from last night's activities. I was the only one that was nervous.
I shouldn't have worried. The shed was tool heaven and I kept them just the way Dad taught me. I showed him my repair logs. He really grinned at that.
"I didn't know you could fix all this," he said.
"Me neither," I said. "I studied the manuals on-line and took my time."
"That's good. Really good," he said. "You've got a nice business up here."
That felt great to hear. If he liked the tool shed, I was really interested in what he thought about the addition. We found Mum and Fraser in the kitchen. Dief was attentively waiting for a post breakfast snack.
"You boys have a nice home," she said with a big smile. "It's so warm and inviting."
"Ray built the extension for the bedroom," Fraser said.
"And this is the fireplace that gave you all the trouble," Dad chuckled.
"Yeah, well, I was impatient, I guess," I said. "Once I settled down, everything was smooth sailing."
"It looks great," Dad said.
"The addition had held to the harshest of weather. It matched the original structure," Fraser said. He was so proud of me. Jeez, all of this attention was making me blush. Dad even invited me to help out on repair projects the next time we were in Chicago. That made my eyes get prickly. That was a real honor.
The rest of the day went fast, but we didn't really do much of anything. We picked up the rings after getting back to town. We had lunch with Buck Frobisher. He brought us up to speed on the media attention. It was heating up because of my being from the States. Someone also found out about our colorful case files there.
The reporters in town had been behaving. There were talking to whoever would give them the time of day, but they weren't pushing. At least not yet. Frobisher was sure there would be more of them from the US. He was annoyed that they preferred talking to us because we have more 'sizzle.' That sounded too much like Falco for me. I didn't want anyone interested in our sizzle. Fraser drowned but didn't get agitated. We didn't have to talk to them, so we wouldn't. To him, everything else was out of our hands. He even convinced Frobisher that he had sizzle enough for the press. And he was serious. Sizzle must truly be in the eye of the beholder. The only big downer was Maggie. Frobisher tried his best, but he wasn't able to get them to budge about her leave.
After lunch we had hours before the rehearsal. I had nothing planned and none of our guests were in sight.
"So Frase, we got a few hours to kill," I said as we strolled down the main drag. "Where should we make ourselves useful?"
"I think we should take a nap," he said after some thought.
I stared at him. That was the last thing I expected to hear.
"Everyone has assigned tasks. We would be in the way of that," he said. "We would be safe from misadventures and we would be rested for the rehearsal."
Those were some really good reasons. And they were well reasoned and mature despite the little smirk on his face. I didn't really need any reason. We made our way to the inn. Dief decided on spending time with Mrs. Thompson. We only stripped to our underwear. Even with the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door, we had to expect company at any time.
Fraser spooned up behind me and held me like he would when we're on our sofa. We turned on the TV to catch up on the news. Turned out we were the news. Not the top of the news, but in the top five stories. I started to flip the channel but Fraser stopped me.
"We might as well know how this is being viewed," he murmured in my hair.
It wasn't as bad as I thought. The CBC guy seemed to have a clue that we were liked and well respected in the community. Inspectors Frobisher and Fenwick talked about what good cops we were and how we were always professional. Each saw the wedding as a strictly personal matter. The pundits had a hard time getting negative commentary from the locals. They wanted to know how are wedding would change the course of society. The Toronto based big brains had no answers.
This made the Canadians look tolerant by and large. Things got harsher in Chicago. There were cops that didn't enjoy working around the weirdness that Frase and I attracted. I recognized one guy -- a big jerk. Another was from Fraser and Vecchio's days. That part of the report made it sound like I left the force because of discrimination. Personally, I didn't give a damn what people thought. But that slant on the facts made Welsh look bad. I didn't like that because it was unfair and nowhere near true. Welsh didn't like it either.
They got him outside the precinct. He was going to ignore then questions then stalked inside. But when asked if Fraser and I were forced out by homophobic cops, our Lieu exploded.
"You got one hell of a nerve asking that. You don't know what you're talking about. Ray Kowalski and Benton Fraser are among the finest men and the best cops I've ever worked with. I wouldn't allow them to feel like they had to quit."
"So you support their decision?" the reporter asked.
He held up a glossy envelope, "I got my plane tickets right here. Put that in your pipe and smoke it."
"Right on, Lieu!" I chuckled.
Fraser squeezed me. "It will be nice to have the Leftenant here."
The report concluded with the usual lunacy from the radical right and the radical left. I couldn't wait for all of it to be over so we could be left alone. Fraser nuzzled my neck pulling me out of dark thoughts. I turned off the television and snuggled back into his arms. Know it all, Mountie. I didn't think I was tired, but once in his arms sleep was a great idea.
The Rehearsal. It was just our family and guests minus the urchins who were sleeping at the inn with Mrs. Thompson, the minister, Mrs. Swenson, Arvid, Frobisher and Murphy. I was still nervous for some reason. My heart was pounding hard as we approached the Community Center. Fraser asked me what was wrong. I told him that it was the media wigging me a little. That's what I thought it was.
But it wasn't. As I watched Stella supervising the arrangement of the chairs and the minister, a deep seated cold fear snaked in my stomach that had nothing to do with the reporters outside. I watched My Mountie looking so serene and happy. Then I looked at Stella. I didn't know what it was, but I was afraid.
Before anyone could catch me freaking out, I slipped out of the Center to the little area where the teens smoked and sat on a stump. My heart was thudding painfully in my chest. Jesus, what was wrong with me? I can't be about to screw this up.
"It wasn't your fault, Ray," Stella said from behind me.
"W-what?" How did she find me. What the hell was she talking about?
Stella was kneeling in front of me making me look into her eyes.
"Ray, Listen to me. You didn't screw up our marriage. No one did," she said. "We were kids when we met. We grew up and apart."
I stared at her.
"You're a fully formed, mature man. This will last," she said.
"Stell, I wasn't..."
"Oh, yes you were. I know a Ray Kowalski panic when I see one," she said. "You're shouldering everything that isn't yours to bear."
"Yes. and I'm sorry I never let you off the hook about us," she said. "It just made me feel less guilty to let you take the blame."
"What do you mean?"
"You didn't drive me away. I drifted on my own. Benton will never drift. You two are for life," she said.
I looked into her eyes and saw that she wasn't shining me on. My heart was beating normally after a couple of deep breaths. I nodded.
"Pitter patter, Ray," she smiled.
I followed her inside. Fraser was waiting just past the door for our cue to assemble. He looked at me quietly before taking both my hands into his.
"She's right. I would never drift," he said softly. "And I'm afraid that I could never let you go, Ray. My possessiveness is unforgivable, but I can't help it."
I swallowed at the intensity in his eyes. "Nothing to forgive. Just keep me close until this craziness is over."
"It'll be my pleasure."
Stella had us approach the center of the room from opposites sides of the room. Dief walked in with Turnbull and I walked in with Arvid. I had to hold the little scamp by the collar to keep him from running off to the food table.
"It will all be painless," Reverend Ferguson said. "I'll say some brilliant and moving things. You'll agree with me. Then we'll do the vows. You'll kiss and then we eat. Do you have any questions?"
Fraser and I looked at each other. We shook our heads. The Reverend chuckled. "Ray Kowlaski, I've never seen you this quiet. Corporal, I know you're a man of few words, but I have heard some come out of your mouth."
Our audience chuckled, too.
"We get you, Reverend," I said. It came out squeakier than I liked.
"Indeed," Fraser said. He wasn't much better.
He waited for a little more, but that was the best we could do.
"Okay, that's it until tomorrow," the Reverend said. "Arvid is about to run out of his clothes and you two look like you're going to keel over. Our lovely guests have prepared a great treat. Let's enjoy it."
"Can I join you? Do I smell pierogies?"
We looked up to see Welsh in the door grinning from ear to ear. That report must have been from yesterday.
"Lieu!" Vecchio exclaimed.
Fraser and I thanked the Reverend then made our way to the Lieutenant who was making his way across the room.
Welsh hugged us both hard. "You crazy bastards -- excuse my language Reverend. You're never dull."
"We regret the disruption this has caused at the precinct," Fraser said.
"When haven't you two caused a disruption? Made it feel like you were back," Welsh said. "Did someone say something about food?"
"Everything is on the table," Ma Vecchio announced. "Help yourself."
I almost started bawling when I saw that spread. It was like the Holidays in Chicago. There was Lasagna and pierogies, egg plant parmesan, sausage and peppers. Then there were the baked goodies from Mrs. Swenson.
"Brajole!" I almost shouted. "And stuffed peppers!"
I kissed Mum and Ma Vecchio then grabbed some plates. I piled on as much as I could for me and Frase then sat in the middle of the long table next to him. Ma even brewed us a pot of tea. She kissed me on the top of the head then bustled off. Stella and Vecchio ended up across from us with Welsh. Turnbull was next to Fraser. There wasn't much talking at first. The food was too good. When we got to the second plates, the conversation got a little easier.
"Nice town," Welsh said. "Reminds me of where my brother lives."
"Yes, sir. I thought so as well," Fraser said.
"How do you two manage to find so much action up here?" He chuckled.
"Ray thinks it's our karma," Fraser sighed.
"It isn't the same since you left," Welsh said.
"You want us back?" I asked.
"No, I'm too close to retirement," Welsh said quickly.
By 8:30, everything was winding down. The food was largely put away and Arvid was out like a light. In that small group where the conversations were easy, it was more noticeable that Vecchio and I didn't talk to each other. There hadn't been any hostility. We just didn't interact. I was leaving it up to him. I figured why get in his face? He managed to get here, that was enough of a gesture for me. We didn't need to be pals. But it did get obvious in that small group even to Vecchio. I probably didn't help him any by not kicking about it.
We were at one end of the table out of the way of the women cleaning up. Fraser and Turnbull tried to help more than once, but they were told to sit down in no uncertain terms. Dad was helping to shuttle trash out to the dumpster. Frobisher had to leave to check on the detachment. So the guys were sitting nursing after dinner coffee, tea or beer. I was trying to figure out if there were snacks I could take to the room that would keep without a fridge or how to keep said snacks from Dief. Fraser's arm was discreetly draped across the back of my chair, but he was clearly keeping me close. Vecchio was chafing. Welsh was full of good food and Canadian beer. And he never was shy.
"Vecchio, can you stop being a jerk?" Welsh said quietly. "You ain't ever gonna see me at a parade, but you these guys backed you up when you're ass was on the line."
"Lieu..." I said.
"Don't tell me it's alright, Kowalski, 'cause it's not," Welsh said.
Fraser said nothing. He was looking intently at Vecchio who was staring back. Then, Vecchio looked at me.
"He's happy. Happier than I've ever seen him. I appreciate that," Vecchio said. "I won't be objecting or anything like that."
I thought about that for a minute. "Stell's happy. I appreciate that, too."
We raised our beer bottles to each other. That was about as good as it would get.
I didn't think I would sleep that night, but I was out before Fraser finished pulling the blankets up around us. Had to be the food. In any event, I woke up to bright sunshine and dark blue eyes.
"Good morning, Ray," Fraser murmured before kissing me. I didn't get a chance to get my arms around him before he pulled back. "I think we should have those facials."
"Can we have some coffee?"
"Francesca is bringing us breakfast," Fraser said. "It seems that there is a lot of media presence in town. Everyone thinks it's best for us to stay in the hotel until we have to get to the Center. Inspector Frobisher and Constable Murphy will escort us there."
"How did I miss all this conversation?"
Fraser smiled. "You were deeply asleep. There was no need to wake you."
He was still leaning over me. I knew he couldn't decide whether to let me up or have a different kind of morning snack. Either way worked for me. I smiled up at him.
The knock at the door decided things. Fraser got out of bed to answer it. He was in sweat pants and an undershirt. It was Frannie. She carried a tray inside catching me grinning at her.
"Don't get used to it, and I expect the same on my wedding day," she said. "There's a coffee pot on the table in the hall."
Fraser took the tray then set it down then he retrieved the coffee pot.
"Wanna join us, Frannie?"
She shook her head. "No, I've got to get the troops ready and then pull myself together."
She looked like she wanted to say something but didn't know how to say it.
"What's up, Frannie?" I asked.
"I-I really don't want to leave Liam," she said. "I know it's sudden, but I can't help it."
Fraser nodded his head. "Liam Murphy is a fine man, Francesca. Do you know if he feels the same way?"
"I can't tell. I don't speak Mountie," she said with frustration. "He's said some things about seeing Chicago and he did mention his next vacation. But I don't know. Why don't you guys come to the point?"
Fraser blushed. He started pouring my coffee.
"They do, Frannie. You have to learn to really listen and hear what he's saying," I said. "And don't think he's just being polite. They ain't that polite. If you want, we'll ask him before you leave."
"Thanks, Ray." She said kissing me on the cheek. She kissed Fraser as well then was out the door with Dief in tow.
Fraser handed me the coffee then went to snag the breakfast plates. "Do you think we should intervene? I would feel awkward as Constable Murphy's superior officer."
"I'll butt in," I said. "You don't want her wasting two years wondering."
"Yes. And she wouldn't have the pleasure of his daily company as a friend," Fraser said. "I was fortunate in that. I was allowed to get to know you."
"Me too," I said. "It was all worth it for us to feel this right together now."
I got that beautiful smile then. We grinned our way through breakfast. We were really smiling through the shower. I knew Fraser wouldn't let me shower alone. Too many people were touching me from the night before. I wasn't complaining. We were laughing and chasing suds across each other in the steamy water. This was different from my first wedding. There was not a whole lot of smiling before that. I sure wasn't naked with Stella anytime before the vows. The first time I saw her was when she marched down the aisle. I liked this better.
Fraser and I got mostly dried off and into robes. Fraser steered me to an easy chair and put my feet up on the ottoman.
"Rest your head on the back of the chair and close your eyes," Fraser said quietly.
I did as I was told. And oh man, who knew that a facial could feel so good. There was warmth and his fingers moving over my skin. The stuff he smoothed on at each stage was all different. It was cool and kind of rough, then in was smooth and warm. It all smelled good but not perfumy. Somehow it was revving me up and calming me down. Keeping my eyes closed helped me stay calm. Fraser's eyes were banked heat. It wouldn't take much for us to get very carried away before the I dos. And even though we've been doing it since we got together, I wanted to save myself until that night. I sat quietly as he gently worked over my skin. All the while, I felt his face near mine. I could feel him watching me. He'd found a new way to torture me. The facial finished with a slow, close shave then a warm towel.
"All done," Fraser said softly.
I sat straight then pulled the towel away. Fraser was staring at me. The heat wasn't banked anymore.
"How do I look?" I asked.
"Just wonderful," he whispered. "I want to touch you so much."
"Why don't you?"
He smiled then. "I wouldn't stop."
I swallowed at that. Then I nodded. "Okay, you're next."
I hoped my hands wouldn't shake too much, but they were steady as I started. It surprised me that feeling the goop in my hands felt as good as it did on my face. I sort of zoned spreading the different textures across his beautiful face. Fraser wasn't smiling, but it look like he was about to the whole time. I could tell he was really getting into it. Okay, I was getting off on giving a facial. So I was officially gay. I still knew how to use a razor. Fraser was very still as I slowly moved over his stubble. My hand was very steady then. I didn't come close to nicking him. And oh man, when he took away the final warm towel. He looked so young and so sexy. I wanted to lick his entire face. Then I wanted to lick the rest of him for a comparison. Fraser read my mind and smiled.
"We should get dressed, Ray." He wanted to.
A tuxedo is just a suit, but somehow it takes a long time to get everything in place. It didn't take long when Troy was there, but they always go on easier when your not going to a fancy shindig. Watching Fraser didn't help me focus. I had never seen him put on the serge. His very careful movements were almost hypnotizing. Everything had to be just so.
Fraser was dressing very carefully. He did everyday, but the serge was different to him. That was something I had to keep in mind. I had grand plans of defiling him in it, but his reverence made me decide on a different approach. Meanwhile, my groom looked like something out of a fairy tale and he was grinning at me.
“I was wondering if you were taking a page from young Arvid,” he replied.
That’s when I felt a slight breeze down below. Pants would be good. Didn’t want the press to get that kind of show.
“Not at all,” he said. “Your legs are delightful, but I don’t want to share them with anyone.”
I put the rest of the tux on and let Fraser do the tie. Of course, he was great at that. Soon we were staring at each other in the mirror.
“You nervous?” I asked.
He shook his head. His eyes held mine.
“I’m ready,” I said softly. “Let’s do it.”
Turnbull was waiting in the lobby of the inn. I was surprised to see him looking sharp in a Troy tuxedo.
“Hey, nice threads,” I said.
He smiled at that. “Thank you. Benton recommended a most colorful tailor.”
“You wear it well,” Fraser said. “Shall we?”
Frobisher and Murphy were waiting outside. They were in their serge as well. Fraser saluted his Inspector as the flashbulb brigade did their thing. Their numbers had grown. Great.
“Parasites,” Frobisher muttered. “We’ll flank you. Just keep a brisk pace and don’t answer their questions.”
That suited me fine. We fell in and strolled toward the Community Center. Just before we reached the entrance, a Permafrost van pulled up. Lars had on a suit and a long suffering look. I thought that was caused by the suit. Then I got a look at one of his passengers. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Fraser froze in his tracks as Thatcher herself descended from the vehicle. She was all decked out in a white suit and a sable trimmed coat.
Fraser snapped to attention and saluted as did Murphy. Turnbull almost did, too.
“Sir, that you for attending,” he said. His voice even caught. “And for sending Ray to me.”
She smiled a sad sort of smile. “Thank you both for including me. I have another surprise for you.”
Thatcher signaled to the other passenger in the van. Maggie McKenzie jumped out and bounded into Fraser’s arms.
“Maggie!” He exclaimed. “How can this be?”
“We tried everything,” I said.
“I put in a call to Superintendent Thatcher,” Frobisher said. “I had heard rumors of how much influence she can have in the Department.”
“Thank you, sir,” Fraser said. He was downright misty.
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re all right.”
She nodded at that then turned her attention to Turnbull. “Renfield, you look wonderful. You simply must tell me about your Riding during the reception. If I might have your good right arm.”
“I’d be delighted Sir,” he said.
They swept inside. We followed quickly to get away from the flashbulbs. Stella was waiting just inside the doors to usher us into an office off the main hall. I took a quick look at the crowd before following. Wow, it looked like the whole town was there. It wasn’t until we were in the office that I got a good look at Stella. Troy struck again. She had the whole Dietrich thing working with her tux and the pinned up hair.
“Wow, Stell!” I said. “You look great.”
“So do you,” she said.
“Fraser sent you to Troy, too?”
“Yes, it was a great idea,” she said. “You look wonderful, Benton. Only you could make that uniform look good.”
“Thank you,” Fraser said. “You look lovely as well.”
Dief barked then. He was decked out in a snappy tie.
“You look lovely, too. We’re all lovely,” I said. “Wait a minute. Where’s Arvid?”
“He’s supposed to be in the bathroom,” Stella said.
“Hmmmm. I’d better check on him. He may have a wrench in there,” I said.
The plumbing was fine. There was nothing gushing and the pipes were in tact. Arvid shot past me heading for the door to the assembled. I grabbed him by reflex knowing without seeing that there were no clothes between his waist and his patent leather shoes.
“Who partner,” I said as I snagged him. I could hear Stella giggling. “Look I know you like that free feeling, but you can’t be showing your pieces parts to girls until you can at least buy them dinner.”
Arvid nodded but he was grinning at Stella. I got his pants back on. “See, now you’re looking sharp. Just remember to pull everything back up after you go to the bathroom.”
He nodded again but I wasn’t sure how much was getting through. The minister stuck his head in to let us know it was time to get into position. I took my mini-best man to Stella.
“Arvid, isn’t she pretty?”
He nodded and grinned.
“Good taste. You stay with the pretty lady and take care of her.”
Arvid offered her his hand. Stella winked at me and lead him out of the room. Fraser smiled at me. Dief followed on his own.
“It’s time, Ray.”
I couldn’t make anyone out in the crowd. My focus was on Fraser and the minister. My Mountie’s eyes were so intense that I wanted to get down on my knees in front of him. I reached out and took his hand. That hadn’t been in the rehearsal, but it felt right.
Reverend Ferguson was as laid back as any Townie. He talked about the odds of finding someone to share life with and the odds that that relationship will be strong enough to survive. In our case, he mentioned our resilience in the face of buzz saws and explosions. He called what we had a cause to celebrate. With that, we recited our vows. Fraser was first to pledge himself and all he had to me. His voice was strong, but anyone who knew him could hear the emotion in it. I was grateful that my voice didn’t crack. I didn’t waiver as I repeated the words that bound me to Fraser for life.
We were smiling by the time the rings were exchanged. Arvid had yet to give up the fake rings that came on the ring bearer’s pillow, so the grownups had the real ones. I slid Fraser’s on first. My hands weren’t trembling like I thought they would. It slid on easily.
Fraser’s hands were warm on mine. The ring felt warm as he slipped it on my finger. I looked at in on my hand for a moment. Never thought I’d wear a wedding ring again. I looked up at Fraser. God his eyes were lit up from inside. There was joy in is eyes.
Reverend Ferguson declared that we were spouses and invited us to kiss. I let Fraser take the lead figuring that he knew how he wanted to do this. He did. Fraser gently pulled me against him as I tilted my face up. The kiss was gentle but possessive somehow. It rocked me to the core but wasn’t long enough to freak anyone out. Little Sophia clapped as we parted and that caused some laughter in the assembly. We turned to our guests and declared the buffet and bar open.
We didn’t do the normal reception things. There was no cake. We had a big buffet of desserts instead. So we didn’t have to do the cake cutting thing. There were no garters or bouquets to worry about. The reception wasn’t about scheduled events. It was about eating, drinking and laughing. Mostly at us. The locals were really enjoying the stories our Chicago loved ones had about us. Welsh had the best ones and he told them in that cop drinking a beer style. Vecchio told one after a couple cocktails. That surprised me. I thought he would be in permanent shock after the kiss. Even Turnbull and Thatcher had one. I didn’t know how much attention they had paid to us. We didn’t really mind. It was all in good fun. And it saved us from going through a lot of goofy toasts.
Frannie started the music over dessert. I asked my Mum to dance while Fraser asked Ma Vecchio. That got almost everyone on the dance floor. Stella danced with Arvid who had been glued to her side through most of the reception. Turnbull danced with Thatcher. He was pretty good and she was ginning at him like a Cheshire cat. I didn’t think she’d had that much to drink. Must be the power thing. Turnbull had a small political office, but with the right guidance -- like from a dragon lady -- Canada could end up with a really interesting Prime Minister.
As the festivities went on, I noticed that Vecchio wasn’t having a good time. It had nothing to do with me and Fraser though. Arvid was not happy that another man was dancing and laughing with his pretty lady. I saw him get shooed away twice. Later, I noticed that Vecchio’s suit was getting really messy. I never thought of him as eating like a slob. Finally, I saw the source of the problem. Arvid was sending little Vecchios fresh from the dessert table to their uncle. When he finally went to clean up, Arvid was on the dance floor with Stella.
By that time, Fraser was escorting Thatcher back to her seat. It was the first time we were free at the same time. I opened my arms and smiled at him. We started to dance. Fraser was having trouble keeping up. He was busy scenting me.
“I can’t count how many hands have been on you today,” he murmured in my ear.
I shivered at his tone. “You can make your claim later, Mountie. But I get to take that uniform off you.”
“Understood,” he said softly. “Ray, did you tell Arvid to torture Ray?”
“Nah, he’s just protecting his lady,” I said. “What did Thatcher have to say?”
“Ah... she said that we were a better match than she and I would have been,” he replied. “She said she would not have responded well to my possessiveness.”
Yeah, sure. More like she was trying to talk herself out of feeling like an idiot for losing him. I squeezed him closer. “You hold onto me just right, Ben.”
Fraser sighed. “I’m having a lovely time, Ray.”
“How long does protocol require our presence?”
I looked around. People were full and getting tired. The finery was beginning to wilt.
“We’ve done our duty,” I said. “I’ll tell Mum we’re leaving. You can get your hat. I think we should take the back route to the inn,” I said.
Dief was still enjoying himself, so he stayed put. Mum hugged us then sent us on our way. We slipped out the back and made out way down the main road behind the buildings to the inn. As we crept to the front door, we could see the pack of reporters huddled across from the Center. They didn’t notice us as we went inside.
The room was clean and neat with fresh towels in the bathroom. The bedside lamp was on and the bed was turned down. The table had a fresh pitcher of water and an ice bucket with an expensive bottle of champagne in it. The note said it was from Thatcher. There were other recently added amenities. An electric kettle and two tea cups and a cooler had appeared since we left. The cooler had soft drinks and snacks in Tupperware containers.
Fraser locked the door then looked at me with curiosity.
“Do I leave on my hat?”
“Oh, yes,” I said. Don’t touch anything.”
I walked over to him and slid my hands slowly up his chest enjoying the feel of him against the fabric. By the time my hands reached his neck, Fraser was tilting his head down. His lips covered mine. I slipped the hat off with one hand and slid the other into the softness of his hair as he pulled me closer against him. Oh yeah. He got me to moan this time. That kiss made me want to let him tear off my clothes and have me anyway he wanted.
I pulled back with difficulty. “Don’t distract me.”
“I’m sorry, Ray,” he said. He was not sorry.
I disarmed him and put then gun away. Then I took off the Sam Browne and put that on a table.
“Sit on the bed,” I said.
I knelt in front of Fraser and began to unlace his boots. I knew that once things got heated, everything would stop to deal with those boots. While my brain was still working, they had to go.
I pulled each one off carefully then placed them under the table. The next part was a little tougher. Fraser’s face was closer to mine as I worked on the lanyard and collar. It was hard not to kiss him. He surprised me by talking.
“How long have you wanted to do this?” He asked me in a soft voice.
I couldn’t believe that I blushed. “Why do you think I punched you?”
“Ah,” Fraser said as I finished opening the collar and started on the buttons.
“Stand up,” I said.
I slid the tunic off his shoulders and placed in on the back of a nearby chair. Then I took off the Kevlar vest. Even that was sexy. The shirt was very distracting. It was soft and it held the warm from his skin. I ran my hands up his arms while my cheek rubbed against his chest. Fraser’s breath hitched. When I looked up at him, he caught my mouth in a demanding kiss. My hands were still on that wonderful undershirt while he was kissing the hell out of me. Fraser’s hands were clutching at my arms very lightly. I could break free at any time. Trouble was that it wasn’t easy to think of a good reason to stop what his tongue was doing to my mouth. But then I realized that there was still a lot of cloth between me and the hardness poking my pelvis.
I pulled away and swallowed hard. Fraser kept his eyes closed. He was very close to overwhelming me. I could feel him fighting for control. Stopping was not an option though. I pulled the shirt out of his pants and got him to help me get it off. The pants weren’t easy. But I managed to unfasten them rather than knot him in more securely. Fraser kept very still was I lowered the trousers down his legs ignoring the stiffy in his crisp white shorts. For his part, Fraser cooperated by raising his foot so I could finally free him.
Fraser was on me as soon as he was down to his skivvies. My tie, jacket, shirt, vest and undies were off in seconds it seemed and I was on my back in bed.
“Was this part of the fantasy?” Fraser demanded as he straddled me.
“God, yeah,” I said as his mouth covered mine.
Fraser had me by my wrists but I wasn’t struggling. I gave it up for him that night. He had to reclaim by skinny self from all those people that touched me during the day. And he had to claim me for his spouse. This was going to be slow.
Fraser drugged me with kisses. His mouth made love to mine until I was rocking against him. Fraser still straddled me but he wasn't allowing much contact. He spread kisses along my hairline and my eyes. He was loving my face.
"My Ray," he sighed.
Fraser's mouth was everywhere sucking my nipple, nipping my abdomen, ghosting along my thighs. I lost track of his mouth and his hands. My skin was so sensitive that his breath along it made me beg for relief. When he finally went down on me, I wanted to shout for joy. But Fraser was only saying hello. After some quick slurps, he was reaching for the lube.
Fraser gently caressed me while I caught my breath and relaxed. He watched my face the whole time he stretched me. I was splayed open wide for him -- completely vulnerable. No one had ever seen me or had me the way he did. I could see that he knew that as he pushed into me.
"Oh. God. Ben. Move."
He moved still watching me with an expression that was pure sin. He pumped in me while stroking me. All the while those wicked eyes were watching my face as he jolted me over and over.
"Come for me, Ray," he demanded when I couldn't stand it anymore. The next jolt sent me over. I came hard. Don't know how I kept from screaming. Fraser inhaled sharply then sagged onto the bed.
My superhuman Mountie got us into the shower after a long while. He kissed me now and then as we soaped each other. I felt so happy that I wanted to laugh or to sing.
"I love you," I said.
"And I you. So very much."
Mrs. Thompson was on the ball leaving us those snacks. We picked at our dinner at the reception. We were too distracted trying to talk to everyone. By the time we finished showering, we were starving. Fraser lit some candles and turned off the lamps. I popped the champagne Thatcher left. Fraser bent his usual rule about drinking so we could have champagne in tea cups.
“Must be true about the expensive stuff,” I said. “This is nice.”
“Indeed,” Fraser said. He swooped down for a quick kiss. “Tastes great on you.”
We settled into the sandwiches.
“I’m sorry you won’t get to spend more time with Maggie,” I said.
He shrugged. “I’m glad she got to come at all. We did talk and dance. That was quite a nice surprise.”
“Let’s go see her,” I said. “We can help her with wood and her larder for the winter.”
“That’s a thoughtful idea, Ray,” Fraser said.
“I save them for special occasions,” I replied. “So back to selfish. When do we go on a honeymoon?”
Fraser finished a finger sandwich while thinking. “A month to five weeks. Everyone should be back from their vacations by then.”
“That’ll give me time to find this naked place,” I said giving him a sidelong glance.
“I suggest a private resort in Hawaii. I've done some checking,” He said kissing me again. “You do taste good.”
I wondered what he tasted like with champagne. I dipped a couple of fingers in my cup and painted his nipple with it. He inhaled sharply as I licked then sucked the nipple. I looked up at him. His eyes were nearly black. I took his cup from him and pushed him back against the pillows. He reached back and grabbed the headboard. Oh yeah, he was going to let me go to town on him. I painted a line down his chest to his navel then followed with a slow swipe of my tongue. Fraser was moaning and fighting hard not to thrash. The champagne welled a little bit in his belly button. He gasped when I slurped him.
"God Ben. You just get hotter and hotter."
I painted him from tip to root then tried to swallow him whole. I almost wished I didn't know how good he tasted like this. That champagne would be one expensive topping. I lapped him up like an ice cream cone while ignoring the really sexy gasping and moaning coming from he top of the bed. I had to suck him. I needed to hear him lose it. So I worked him with my mouth until Fraser roared. He got me by the hair then used my mouth until he exploded down my throat.
It took me a while to pull myself up to look at Fraser. His eyes were closed. His face was blissed out. I stroked his damp hair. He smiled.
"Seems like you own my body as well," he rasped out with his eyes still closed.
"Don't you forget it," I said. I knocked back the rest of the champagne in my cup then leaned down to kiss him. His arm lazily looped around my neck. He kissed me slowly. He wasn't even trying and he almost got me going again. But we were both done. I cleaned us up and put away the snacks. Fraser was drifting off when I pulled the covers over us, but he pulled me against him.
"Thank you, Ray," he murmured from the edge of sleep.
He always knew how to undo me. I pressed closer to him and kissed his temple.
"My pleasure, Ben."
Two days later, everyone was gone. Even though I was tired and ready to get back to routine, it was hard to let them go. We promised we’d be back for Thanksgiving in the states. Mum and Dad made reservations to come back in the spring. Frannie was going to see Liam Murphy in Chicago in October. She was beside herself with giddiness. We even managed to part company with the Vecchios on a friendly invitation to visit them in Florida. Thatcher left with Turnbull. That made my head spin.
Once everyone was back home, we were back to what we called normal. I got back to work. Fraser took back the detachment. Fall was rolling toward winter. Nothing had changed for us here. The press had their field day over the wedding. The wedding photos we sent to Troy to use for publicity made all the papers and TV. I only minded a little. It was an amazing photo of Fraser, me, Stella and Turnbull. All the attention died down after a few weeks.
Two weeks after the wedding, I was waiting for Fraser at the McKenzie Inn for dinner. The place was jumping because of a gaggle of developers checking out methane gas sites. The engineers were fine. They were quiet. The wheeler dealers were getting on my nerves. They talked too loud and seemed to suck the air out of a room. One of them, a hard bodied gal named Lenora was checking me out hard from the bar across the room. She was around my age and undoubtedly spent a lot of time at gyms or in spas. She was good looking and well maintained. I figured she was sophisticated but wanted a little rustic action. I made sure my ring was visible as I held my beer. She wasn’t discouraged. I guess she was really sophisticated.
“I hear you were a cop in the states,” she said leaning on the chair across from me. That way I could see her well defined abs.
“Yep. That was me.”
“Cops have the best stories,” she said. “I’d love to hear one. Mind if I sit?”
“Yes, I would,” I said. “I’m waiting for someone.”
“Oh, she won’t mind.”
“He would,” I said.
“And he does,” Fraser said “Hello, Ray.”
He gave me his 'nice to see you after a long day' smile. Then, he leaned in and kissed me right there in the restaurant. The locals didn’t react, but Lenore the sophisticated slunk off.
I heard her companions whisper about us being on TV. Then all I could see was Fraser who was smiling smugly across from me. We held my hand as we looked at the menu. He was right, as always. It was great to be out in the open. Now everywhere we went felt the same way as when we were home.