Author's website: http://www.geocities.com/unhingedd/
Disclaimer: Not mine, but a girl can dream.
Story Notes: Written in response to Master Sam's March challenge on the Serge list.
The whole matter, ultimately, was Ray's fault. If I hadn't seen the picture of him from his college days...or perhaps if I hadn't leafed through the magazine...or if he hadn't said what he said in the park that afternoon...
Ray is the reason I find myself where I am now; in the back room of a tattoo/body-piercing emporium in Detroit run by a very pleasant young man named Crowbar. I'm fairly certain that's not his real name; even given parents penchant nowadays for naming their children odd things. And he really is quite personable, despite the purple Mohawk, the rather lurid tattoos covering both arms, and enough metal in his nose, eyebrows, lips and ears to make getting too close to a magnet a very real hazard.
Only for Ray would I be sitting here, minus my shirt and undershirt, contemplating the vast array of body jewelry Crowbar has to offer.
"You'll probably wanna keep it fairly simple to start," He says, his speech in no way impaired by the two studs in his tongue. "Once the original heals, you can always switch to something fancier."
"Is that common?" I ask, eyeing the large sterilized needle and disturbing-looking clamp device sitting on the tray next to me dubiously.
"Sure. Most of my clients have three or four different pieces. Something for every occasion, ya know." He chuckles and turns from the sink, where he's just finished scrubbing his hands. He dries them under an air-dryer, and then slips on a pair of surgical gloves. "So. You doin' this for yourself, or you got someone in mind?"
Absurdly, I find myself blushing. Crowbar has no idea who I am or my status in the RCMP, no knowledge of my relationship with Ray. I'm in Detroit only because I'm a scheduled speaker at tomorrow's joint Canadian-American Conference on International Law Enforcement and Cooperation. Ray, unable to get away from work at the 27th, awaits me in Chicago.
We returned from our search for Franklin's hand a month ago. And despite the changes at the 27th (and the Consulate as well), despite the absence of Ray Vecchio and Stella Kowalski, despite my new position as Inspector, I feel at home in a way I never did before. And though we've been lovers for barely eight weeks, Ray and I are forever. I know this as surely as I know my own name.
"Partially for my partner," I venture, blushing again when Crowbar grins. "We...he saw a man in the park with his nipple pierced and mentioned it looked hot. By hot, of course, he meant..."
"Sexy?" Crowbar finishes, and grins even wider. I nod. I was going to say erotic, but I suspect Ray would find Crowbar's description more to his liking.
"Okay, Benton," he takes an ice cube out of the small cup on the counter and hands it to me. "You hold this on whichever nipple you want done. Gotta get the little dude to perk up; otherwise it's a real bitch tryin' to get the ring through. You decided what you want yet?"
I'm flushing again; the ice against my right nipple is incredibly cold, despite the heat of the day and the lack of air-conditioning in Crowbar's shop. I distract myself by pointing at a small golden hoop in the middle of the display. He picks it out carefully, wiping it with an alcohol swab and sitting it on a small square of gauze next to the needle. "Nice and tight?"
I try not to dwell on what he just said and nod. "Hey, relax, man." He pats my arm. "Been doin' this for 10 years an' I haven't lost a customer yet."
I smile, resolving that I am NOT going to look at the needle. I'm just glad Diefenbacher isn't here. He'd no doubt have a great day to say about the irrationality of fools in love.
I call Ray from the hotel that evening. He answers on the third ring. "Kowalski."
"Hey, Benton-buddy." I can hear the smile in his voice. "How's the international cooperative going?"
"It's cooperation, Ray, and it's going quite well. Though I'm rather nervous about giving my presentation tomorrow; most of the speakers thus far have been excellent."
"Piece a cake. I've spent three years listening to you talking and I'm still not bored. Except by Inuit stories." His voice drops slightly. "Miss you, Ben."
I feel my throat tighten. "And I you."
"Bet ya do. At least I got Dief to sleep with."
I give an appropriately heart-broken sigh. "I'm that easily replaced, am I?"
"You kidding? Furball here hogs the blankets. And I think he's got fleas." I hear a yip in the background. "Yeah I'm talking about you. You wanna make something out of it?" He's answered by a grumble. "At least I didn't spend the whole night scratching myself."
"Ray, you're talking to Dief."
"I know that, ya freak. Comes from being around you too long. I'm lonely. This's the first time since we got back from the Great White North we've been separated for longer than eight hours. Think maybe I'm addicted to you."
"No moreso than I am to you, Ray. But it's only two more days."
"Still sucks." I smile at the petulance in his voice; he sounds like a small child deprived of his favorite blanket. "8:30 Saturday morning, right?"
"Correct. And Ray?"
"I have a surprise for you when I get home."
The remaining two days of the conference are nerve-wracking. Despite the acclaim that greets my presentation (I end up going nearly a half-hour over my allotted time due to questions from the audience), I'm terribly conscious of the unfamiliar presence on the right side of my chest. Crowbar assured me that such piercings do just fine when washed carefully several times a day with plain soap and water. I do, however, find it necessary to put a small gauze pad over it when I'm in uniform, as the amount of starch required to look presentable tends the skin. At night, I sleep naked and dream of Ray's reaction.
It was the picture of Ray in college that started me down this slippery slope. We'd already agreed before returning to Chicago that I would move in with him. To have not done so was inconceivable. We just spent the last six months living in each other's hip pocket. Neither of us could be comfortable without the other within touching distance.
Ray had sublet his apartment while we were gone and we had to spend a few days in a hotel while the leasee found somewhere else to live. His landlady was surprisingly nonchalant about him having acquired a roommate and only increased the rent by $150 a month. Ray said from her standpoint, having two cops living in the building probably looked like a selling point.
It was while we were moving my stuff in, going through drawers and cupboards and closets in search of space, that he found the photo album.
"I thought Stell took this when she left." He'd immediately abandoning our cleaning to sit on the floor and leaf through it. I joined him, thinking how terribly young he looked in most of the photos, listening as he struggled to recall names and told me the story related to each picture.
"Halloween 1979." I found myself face-to-face with a Ray Kowalski dressed entirely in denim and black leather-he bore an unsettling resemblance to James Dean, except for the bleached-blond hair. Stella was wearing some sort of off-the-shoulder black top and mini-skirt apparently kept in place by gravity and had on an orange fright wig. "We were punks."
"Why would you want to dress up as juvenile delinquents?"
He snorted. "Not those kind of punks, ya thick-headed Mountie. Punk music. Iggy and the Stooges. Lou Reed. The New York Dolls"
Something about the picture caught my eye and I leaned closer. "Ray, are you wearing an earring?"
"You had your ear pieced?"
"Had the whole counterculture rebellion thing going big-time. And Stella thought it looked sexy. They made me take it out when I started the Academy. Seemed such a fucking big deal, like I was selling out or something."
"I find you perfectly acceptable without it." I leaned forward and kissed the ear closest tome.
"The hole's still open, ya know." He looked at me and grinned. "I've worn an earring couple times when I was undercover. Wore it all the time when I was in Vice. It helped the mystique."
I was smiling. "You had a mystique?"
"Still do. Don't try'n tell me it wasn't the "Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know" Kowalski charm that suckered you in from the start."
"Actually, Ray, I don't recall that I was suckered in from the start."
"You talk too much, Frase." And he'd silenced me with a kiss.
The magazine photo and the man in the park occurred on the same day. Things at the Consulate had gotten off on the wrong foot (not for the first time, I found myself missing Turnbull), and by the time I managed to get away for lunch, Ray had evidently been waiting for some time, as he was leafing through a magazine.
"Hey." He grinned at me when I opened the car door. "Though I was gonna have to send in the cavalry to rescue you."
"They would not have been unappreciated, Ray." I let Dief into the back seat, then slid in and fastened my seatbelt. "Surely Turnbull and I were never that..."
"Young?" I glared at him. "Fraser, Davies and Carpenter are barely old enough to cross the street without their mommies."
"By the time I was there age, Ray, I'd already been posted three times."
"Yeah, as far away from the Mothership as they could send you." He reached over and squeezed my hand. "Cut'em some slack, huh?"
He was right of course. Simply because I'd been held to impossibly high standards by the RCMP and my father (and myself) was no excuse to expect the same of my subordinates. "Thank you, Ray."
He just grinned wider and started the car, pulling smoothly into traffic.
I picked up the magazine. "The International Male Catalog?"
"Got some clothes in there you'd look good in. Try page 14."
I turned to page 14 and found myself confronted with a somewhat overdeveloped young man wearing obscenely tight black underwear. "Sizzling Swimwear?" I read the caption under the picture. "I rather suspect swimwear of that sort would get him kicked off most public beaches, Ray. And he doesn't look anything like me. He's blond. He also has a ring in his left nipple." I glanced at Ray. "You'd prefer a blond with a nipple ring?"
He cackled. "I'd prefer you in the swimwear. The nipple ring's optional."
"Unfortunately Ray, RCMP regulations forbid such things. I can't get a tattoo, either."
"Good thing I got mine while I was still in high school." He stopped for a light. "So who has dibs on your body? Me or the RCMP?"
I regarded him seriously. "Well the RCMP had it first, but I much prefer your style of management."
We ended up getting sandwiches from Pulaski's Deli and eating them in the park. It was one of those warm, early-Spring days that compel people to leave their houses, like hibernating animals poking their noses out of the burrow after a long, cold winter.
Dief was hiding under the bench we sat on, in retreat from the inordinate number of small children who wanted to 'pet the nice doggy.'
Ray gave him a piece of his sandwich. "Poor guy. The majestic Arctic half-wolf forced to ground."
"It's his own fault." I countered. "If he's going to beg shamelessly, he'd best be aware there are repercussions." There was a woof from below. "No, she was 'not' offering to let you lick her lollipop. So you needn't complain about her crying. Anyway, you're supposed to be deaf."
"Maybe he picks up sympathetic vibrations?" Ray offered through a mouthful of pastrami on rye.
"Maybe he doesn't want to deal with the consequences of his own greediness." I finished my sandwich and crumpled the wrapper into a neat ball.
"Five bucks says you can't make it."
I eyed the trashcan across the sidewalk and raised my hand.
"He shoots. He scores. The crowd goes wild!" The wrapper bounced off the side of a man jogging along the path.
I was on my feet immediately. "I'm terribly sorry, sir."
"No big deal." Despite having stopped, he continued to jog in place. "Where'd you get the sandwiches?"
"Sounds good." He jogged off
I sat back down. "Isn't it a little early in the season to be jogging wearing nothing but shorts and sneakers?"
"Hey, if you've got it." Ray raised an eyebrow at my look. "Notice the nipple ring?"
"Ray, are you trying to tell me something?"
"Frase, the RCMP doesn't own your body, okay? They're just leasing it." He grinned. "And I think they're hot."
"Then why don't you get one?" I challenged.
"Tried to. Hurt like a sonofabitch and they couldn't get the ring in. Guy doin' it said my tits were too small. You, on the other hand, are built just right."
I closed my eyes, knowing I'd have to spend the remainder of the day with 'that' particular imagine stuck in my head. "Stanley Raymond Kowalski, you are an evil, evil human being."
"And you're just the man to appreciate me," he'd replied, bumping his shoulder against mine. "Let's get you back to the Consulate before you spontaneously combust."
By the time the plane landed in Chicago Saturday morning, I'd become fairly well acclimated to my new acquisition. The swelling was completely gone, and truth to tell, I was eager to see Ray's reaction to what I 'd come to view as my own rebellion against authority.
I was also, to my dismay, what Ray once referred to as 'locked and loaded.' A natural enough reaction from a body that had, over a lifetime, acclimated itself to famine and now suddenly found itself presented with a daily banquet. Obviously, my libido wasn't as easily distracted at is had been pre-Ray.
It wasn't helped any by the glimpse of Ray waiting at the end of the corridor, wearing faded jeans and a light blue T-shirt that hugged his lean body. He had on his mirrored sunglasses, his recently lightened hair standing up in spikes that looked stiff as porcupine quills, but which I knew from first-hand experience would be incredibly soft.
I don't know what induced me to wear my serge on the return trip, but not for the first time I was glad for the length of the tunic and its ability to hide a multitude of sins.
"Ray." I stopped a foot or so away, unable to keep back the goofy smile I knew was on my face.
"Frase." He grinned in return, then stepped forward and pulled me into a full-body hug. "Hey," he whispered in my ear, "is that an otter in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"
He broke loose and stepped back, giving me the once over. "What say we take this party somewhere more private?"
I was blushing fiercely, but unable to get the stupid smile off my face. "I think that would be most fortuitous, Ray."
"Ooh, $40 words." He took my pack and turned, heading for baggage claim and (I might add) providing me with a most inspirational view.
"Where's Dief?" I loosened my collar, mildly appalled at my lack of control.
"At home sulking. I tried to explain why they don't let wolves in the terminal, but he wasn't interested in hearing it."
It takes only a few minutes to get my luggage (one of the advantages of traveling light), and then I'm following Ray through the crowded parking lot to where the GTO waits. He loads my suitcase and pack into the trunk, unlocks the door, and I slid into the passenger's seat with an audible sigh."
I nod. "I just hadn't realized how much I missed home."
He grins and backs the car out. "So. What's this 'surprise' you were telling me about?"
"Well if I told you what it was, Ray, it wouldn't be a surprise anymore."
His forehead furrows and he considers this a moment. "Something personal?"
"You might say that."
"Okay." We pull up at a stoplight, his finger drumming nervously on the steering wheel. "But it's a good surprise, right?"
"I like to think so."
We could go on like this all day, and apparently Ray knows it. Consequently, we spend the remainder of the drive to the apartment discussing what occurred on both ends during my three-day absence.
I later realize Ray caved in far too easily. Or perhaps all the blood in my brain really has gone south. We barely make it into the apartment and close the door behind us before Ray drops my bags on the floor, turns, and pushes me up against the kitchen wall, kissing me until I'm dizzy.
We finally break apart, gasping for breath. "Rule #1, Ben. Never tease a horny Kowalski."
"I'll remember that." I latch onto his jacket and pull him back in for another kiss. Thankfully, Ray enjoys kissing as much as I do. We spent so much time outdoors during our adventure, under weather conditions that made doing anything 'besides' kissing and what Ray laughingly referred to as 'groping each other like a couple a teenagers in the back seat' the only realistic outlet for our mutual desire, we'd both developed what almost amounted to a kissing fetish by the time we came back to civilization.
Our sexual horizons have since broadened, but kissing remains one of our favorite activities.
By unspoken agreement, we start working on each other's clothes. Ray's become as adept at getting the uniform off as me, but I'm wearing more layers, so he's already shirtless and barefoot while I'm still in my Henley.
He shucks the Henley, and my undershirt, up together, and I raise my arms to accommodate him. "So this surprise...Holy shit!" His eyes widen, and I can't help smiling foolishly. He reaches out a finger to touch the ring. "Sonofabitch. You actually did it."
I nod, blushing, which makes him laugh. "I considered what you said about the RCMP having my body on loan and decided you were right."
"You actually got it pierced cause I wanted you to?"
"Well, that and I felt I was a bit overdue for my teenage rebellion."
"Greatness." His voice is hushed, almost reverential. He runs a fingertip experimentally along the edge of the metal loop, and I find myself shivering. "Still kinda sensitive?"
"A little. I have to keep it covered when I'm in uniform."
"No, the starch irritates it."
That makes him laugh again, and then he abruptly sobers. "Did you know Stella had one?"
"A nipple ring?" He nods. "Forgive me for saying so, but that seems somewhat at odds with the image she presented."
"She had it done in college, same time I got my ear pierced. Then she got on the Law School fast rack and decided it was 'childish. She wanted me to have laser surgery and get my tat removed. Said it gave people the wrong impression."
I pull him closer to luxuriate in our combined warmth. Despite the length of time we've known each other, I'm only gradually coming to understand the thoroughness with which Stella Kowalski, unwittingly or no, undermined Ray's self-esteem in the name of 'turning him into a better person.'
"Looks better on you than it did on her." His voice tickles my ear. I give an audible groan, which makes him laugh. "Bed. Now."
I still have my boots to unlace (Ray and I having discovered, via trial and error, that it is impossible to remove the uniform trousers while wearing the boots), and I'm very aware of how naked Ray is, sitting in the middle of our bed with a slight smile on his lips as he watches me. The simple weight of his gaze is enough to undo me, and I briefly consider getting out my pocketknife and slicing the laces apart.
"You're enjoying yourself far too much." I say.
The smile turns into a smirk. "You're not the one who's spent the last three days sleeping with a mangy half-wolf." An aggrieved bark comes from the other side of the bedroom door. "You and what army?"
The second boot comes off, and I manage to get my trousers and underwear down in one move. "You gave him a flea bath?" I get out before he grabs me and pulls me onto the bed.
"Discussion later," he manages, before zeroing in on my mouth again; an excellent idea if ever I heard one.
There is no time for finesse, no time for long, drawn-out seduction. Three days apart has left us both stretched to the limit. Like the first time, this initial bout will be fast and rough and noisy. And neither of us would have it otherwise; we need to reconnect physically 'now,' to remember how and why we came together, to remind each other that the last six months wasn't all a pleasant dream.
Here and now, it is enough that we are together, our bodies moving as one, Ray whispering obscenities in my ear, describing in obsessive detail what it means to him that I actually got my nipple pierced solely because he asked me to. Ray is not a man who remains silent during sex; he never hesitates to tell me what he wants, how he wants it, where he wants it...a seemingly endless erotic litany that counterbalances my own tendency towards saying no more than is necessary. Ray claims he'll make a screamer out of me yet, and I don't for one moment doubt he will. Ray could make a statue scream if he put his mind to it.
Afterwards, we lie in a boneless heap. I really should move myself off him, but can't seem to summon the necessary energy to do so. And it's not as if he's complaining.
"You ever stop to think what a turn-on it's gonna be to have that ring and nobody knows it but you and me?" The question is typically Ray, seeing erotic potential in something as mundane as a secret.
"Does this mean you're going to be making obscene phone calls from the Precinct house again?"
"Depends. Do you want me to?"
I consider it. "Wait a week until I get back into the swing of things. Lord alone knows what Davies and Carpenter have gotten into while I was gone."
"I told you to hire a baby-sitter." One fingertip is running slowly along the edge of the gold hoop; it's an extremely odd sensation, almost like a mild electric shock, but in no way unpleasant." Like that, huh?"
My body seems intent on betraying me today. "I'd tell you no, but you'd know I was lying."
He laughs and arches up against me, letting me feel the evidence of his arousal as well. Both of us are still too dazed to seriously think about doing anything more strenuous than kissing, but the edge is gone now, which means the next time will last longer.
"This' what I missed the most while you were gone." Ray's voice is soft and a bit drowsy. He doesn't have to say what 'this' is; I know it's the same thing I missed lying alone in the hotel room at night. Not just the sex, but also the being together afterwards.
When Ray finally drifts off, his fingertip is still pressed against the edge of the ring. I put my hand over it and hold it there, then let myself follow him into the land of dreams.
End Pierced by MR: firstname.lastname@example.org
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