This is that monster.
Title: Grooving Up Slowly
Word Count: 3,204
When you’re young, five a.m. is like this invitation. It’s like you look out at the night, and you’re still up, and there’s all kinds of places to go, things to do, people to see, trouble to make – whatever. Five am is this beautiful fun thing that you’ve been looking forward to, except it turned around and found *you* and maybe even found you getting lucky in some frilly pink bedroom with a girl who smells nice and talks nice and fucks like an animal and then grows up to break your heart.
It’s not like that now, though, and it’s not just because Ray’s all alone in his hot, dark little apartment, though that doesn’t help much either. But he remembers five a.m. back before Stella left, and he remembers that it was just as ugly then as it is now. Maybe even uglier, on account of the fact that he saw a lot of it from the living room couch and pretty much all he could see from there was his ceiling or Mrs. Ackerman’s fat husband doing jumping jacks across the way.
No, Ray’s got it figured – five a.m. hates grown-ups, and Ray can’t remember when he became one of those, but he sure as hell did and now he’s sitting outside on his fire escape in the middle of the summer smoking cigarettes in his shorts. Five a.m. *hates* grown-ups, and that’s why it throws all kinds of life shattering, earth moving revelations at them when they’re innocently trying to sleep in their lonely, too-big beds, thinking that it’d be nice to roll over, have someone there.
Ray flicks his cigarette buts down into the pools of water that puddle underneath the runoff from some lucky stiff upstairs who’s got enough extra cash in his pocket to pay for air conditioning. They float there, one, two, three, and another as he smokes steadily through his whole pack.
Thing is, he’s not shocked to find out he’s bent. So what? People are people, and Ray likes people except for the ones he doesn’t, but they don’t count really. It’s not some big surprise, so it’s probably something he always knew, and he does remember (kind of) making out with Tony Segretto in high school, but it’s all behind this big vodka fog because it happened back when a good Saturday night was a Saturday night they could sneak into the liquor cabinet downstairs and drink themselves stupid and horny. Though they didn’t really need to drink to be horny, because they were seventeen. That’s not the point.
The point is that was back before becoming a cop and cops ain’t exactly waving the pride banner all around Chicago, and Ray isn’t exactly *Ray* and there are plenty of ways this whole thing is too damned messy to even think about. So he doesn’t think about it, or he hasn’t thought about it, up ‘til now, and now sucks. Now really, really sucks, Ray thinks, smacking his hand flat against the iron of the fire escape.
If Ray were young, maybe he’d put on his jeans, his boots, and walk until he found some squeaky clean, upstanding fellow to get him leaning against the wall of an alley with his pants down around his ankles and just be done with the whole business for the night. Thing is, Ray isn’t young. Ray’s a grown up – which is why this whole fucking thing is happening right now *anyway* and after five a.m. comes six a.m. and he’s got a job to do in the morning.
So he just sits there, and he keeps smoking and that’s that for right then. Nothing he can do.
Turns out four a.m. doesn’t like Ray too much better than five a.m., which he finds out the next night. And he’s tired enough that he should be sleeping, and he knows that, and it makes him all kinds of pissed off, but same old song. Nothing he can do about it. It is what it is, and it’s the story of his life, and he’s back on the fire escape with his Marlboro reds. And he’s thinking about Mountie reds and wondering what’s underneath them, or Christ, even what they’d look like on the floor next to his blue jeans.
That’s the thing of it, too – he’s having all kinds of wacko-Ray-and-Mountie-show type delusions over Fraser. Thinking the kind of things that he hasn’t thought about anybody but Stella. Like, wondering what kind of soap Fraser’d leave in the shower, and how it would be to see Fraser’s serious looking books next to his old record player and the stack of vinyls.
Fraser’d probably point out – like everybody does – that stacking them one on top of the other is bad for the records, and Ray’d explain his system, which is largely based on laziness. Fraser’d make little tsk tsk type noises, and Ray would bitch and moan and end up doing it Fraser’s way and probably his copy of Sticky Fingers would be playable until Ray was old and mean.
Meaner, older, he amends, throwing his cigarette down forcefully. He’s plenty mean and old now.
When three a.m. rolls around the next night and Ray’s awake, he’s not surprised. He’s not even pissed off. He’s getting used to it, which should also piss him off, but three a.m.’s not about being pissed. Not like five.
Three a.m.’s about being so damned lonely that he’s thinking maybe he’ll get a cat, except that he hates cats and the cat would eat his turtle and Dief would eat the cat. And then Fraser would feel bad and do that thing where he sighs out through his nose, and looks down at his feet, and tightens his lips up.
And everything leads back to Fraser at three a.m., which it also does every other twenty-four hours of the day. If it was just an itch, Ray thinks, he’d be able to scratch it. Not with Fraser, though, because Fraser’s not an itch scratching kind of guy.
Fraser’s a ‘until death do us part’ kind of guy, and from what Ray’s read about Fraser’s last big romantic adventure, the death part is taken pretty literally with him.
But it’s not an itch – not an itch, or a crush, or any stupid thing like that. It’s fucking love, and Ray fucking hates love, because love’s this big hard sad *thing* in his throat that makes him think maybe he’s going to throw up or maybe he’s going to cry, or maybe he’s just going to stop breathing because he can’t have what he needs. Which is Fraser, of course.
And, also of course, Ray’s figuring this out by increments every sleepless morning this week, and it’s making him crazy at work and he keeps biting Fraser’s head off without any kind of explanation, but what the hell is he going to say to the guy? “Sorry, Frase, being totally nutso in love with you is making me a cranky son of a bitch?”
Then again, Fraser’s been pretty pissy too, lately, and what’s sick is that when it’s not making Ray want to bust his hand through a door or a wall or a Mountie, he thinks it’s cute sometimes. He did that with Stella, too. Thought everything about her was great, wonderful, perfect, even the way she’d cut him off without listening to him, or roll her eyes at his jokes in that way that said she was so much smarter than him. He was just a kid then, and he’s gotten old enough to know that even if it is kind of cute sometimes when Fraser gets snippy, it isn’t perfect. The guy isn’t perfect, and Ray gets that.
He just sometimes forgets it, and so when Fraser all of a sudden is just another guy – a prissy, arrogant, annoying *guy* it’s – it’s almost sweet. Well, not sweet, but refreshing. Nice – a reminder. And, yeah, a way of making him *Ray’s* because nobody else sees that. Just him.
See, with Ray, Fraser’s not a prince or a fantasy – though Ray’s got plenty of those with him *in* them all of a sudden – he’s a person, a person Ray loves, and it’s three in the morning and he’s barely slept for days. He scrubs a hand across his eyes, takes a deep, deep breath, and his knees bang against one another, and he’s just a skinny guy without anybody to come home to.
At two a.m. on Wednesday, Ray’s feeling rational. Well, maybe not rational, because he’s having a fake love affair with a real Canadian who’s got a kind of wolf, and it’s all happening in his head, but he’s thinking things out.
Making plans, which he probably won’t ever act on, seeing how Fraser’s Ray’s best friend, and Ray’s not in any kind of position to start making sudden drastic changes in his lifestyle seeing as how his lifestyle isn’t really technically *his* anymore.
But he’s thinking things like, “Maybe if I asked him out to dinner, maybe I touched his thigh under the table, saw what happened, and then went from there then maybe – ”
He’s thinking he’s probably used up his whole share of ‘maybe’ in the past hour and a half, and he knows that he sure as hell used up all the cigarettes in the house, but it’s okay, because Fraser’s going to make him quit when he moves in with Ray. Or at least, that’s the way Ray sees it going down.
See, two a.m.’s got Ray feeling kind of hopeful – and he knows that three and four and five’ll gang up on him until the hope dies a sorry death just in time for work with Fraser. And he’s thinking about all kinds of things, like the way Fraser sometimes just stares at him – and how maybe Fraser likes what he sees.
He’s thinking about the way Fraser stands *so close* and how his eyes don’t seem to want to leave Ray’s face too much. Maybe he’s making this all up, but right now, he doesn’t think so. Right now, Ray feels like this could happen, this could *really* happen, and he could maybe end up sometime soon with his face buried in the join of Fraser’s neck and shoulder, making all kinds of embarrassing noises as he comes and Fraser’s hands will be big and heavy on his back, and Fraser’s smile will be the kind of thing you’d have to see to believe.
He’s happy just thinking about it, but that’s just silly, because Ray’s not even sure – he’s not even sure Fraser swings that way. He’s not even sure Fraser swings at all anymore, maybe he had it shot out of him. Except that’s not right, because Ray remembers Fraser and that weirdo bounty hunter chick with the annoying kids. And thinking about that is what’s going to crush this whole good feeling two a.m.’s got him working on.
But right now, it just makes Ray think about the way Fraser only ever seems to show interest in women he can’t catch and maybe (maybemaybemaybe) that’s because Fraser wouldn’t know what to do with them if he caught them. Maybe Fraser doesn’t *want* to catch them. Maybe instead what he wants to catch is an armful of pissy Polack.
“Fat chance,” Ray mutters to himself, but he’s still smiling.
One a.m., and Ray’s not getting out of bed. He’s not going to do it. He’s not going to pace around his apartment like he’s done every night this week so far. What’s the fucking point? It just makes his downstairs neighbor hit the floor with the broom when he gets pissed off and kicks things.
If he can’t sleep, at least someone should.
Fraser’s probably sleeping. Fraser’s probably sleeping like a fucking baby, all snug in his damned bed in that damned Consulate, with the damned wolf snoring next to him, and not thinking any damned thing like what Ray’s thinking.
Or, if he is awake, he’s probably polishing fucking silver, and singing one of those sad, loud sailing songs he likes so much to that portrait of the Queen on the wall, and Ray hates the Queen. He hates how her face is all pasty and it looks like she’s constipated and he hates how Fraser loves her so much even though she doesn’t even know he exists at all and doesn’t love him back. Doesn’t even love him a little bit, but that’s okay, Ray thinks bitterly, because he’s got enough Fraser-love for ten people.
It’s not fair, and Ray hates how whiny that is, even when he thinks it, and hates himself, and he hates who he’s pretending to be, and Ray Vecchio, too. He hates Frannie and how she shakes her boobs in front of Fraser and makes him all uncomfortable, except Ray gets it because if he had boobs, he wouldn’t just be shaking them, he’d be flashing Fraser every time he saw him.
He hates Welsh, and how Welsh picked him to be Fraser’s partner because if that hadn’t happened he wouldn’t be going through all this in the first place. He wouldn’t have suddenly been best friends with the partner he’d inherited and he wouldn’t have accidentally fallen in love with him either.
Most of all, though, Ray hates Fraser. He hates how Fraser’s voice is all liquid and sexy. He hates how Fraser’s pants don’t even manage to look ridiculous on him, because they *should*, but they don’t. He hates how Fraser actually *cares* about people, and how he *cares* about Ray, and how he doesn’t love Ray.
He hates how there are these big dark smudges underneath Fraser’s eyes like maybe he isn’t sleeping either, but what the fuck does he have to stay up nights worrying about?
Ray wants Fraser to read his mind, and Fraser doesn’t, and that’s unforgivable. Fraser should *know* that Ray’s in love with him. He should know it, and he should *like* it, and he should love Ray back, and all of those things should start happening right this very second, except they won’t, because this is reality. And reality is, for Ray, the death of all good things like his marriage, and his hopes for any kind of chance with Fraser.
He hates that he’s met Fraser *now* and not before Stella, when maybe he’d have been cocky enough to just hit on the guy the way he wants to. If he’d met Fraser when he was a kid, then maybe he would have made out with Fraser instead of Tony Segretto and Fraser wouldn’t have let him forget it the next morning, either. Maybe he and Fraser would just be a couple of old fruits who’d been together forever and ever somewhere, with all kinds of stupid shit they’d bought together on vacation. Except that didn’t happen, and it sucks that it didn’t, and it probably wouldn’t have either. And that sucks, too.
What probably would have happened is that Fraser would have freaked out and hit Ray when they were drunk, and then the whole school would have known that Ray was kind of queer and he would have been picked on even worse than he was, and he’s still got enough trauma from high school. He was better off with Tony Segretto in the end.
He hates that Stella left him, because if she hadn’t, maybe this wouldn’t matter. It’d be like back when he’d been attracted to Janice, Stella’s roommate, and it hadn’t been a big deal, because he’d had Stella, so who the hell cared if Janice had legs up to *here* and could tie a cherry stem into a knot with her tongue?
It sucks. It all sucks, and Ray’s just tired, for fuck’s sake. He’s tired of all of this. He’s tired of living inside of his own head, where all of these thoughts are on repeat – just, over and over, and over, all the time, until he’s surprised that he can get out, “Good morning, Frase” over all the “I love you” and “I want you” and “Fuck you for being straight or not wanting me or whatever the hell is keeping you where I can’t touch you”.
He wants out. He wants out of this whole *deal* – his head, his life, everything. He wants to stop being Ray Vecchio, and Ray Kowalski, and the idiot who falls in love every now and then with the most untouchable person he knows.
He wants to sleep.
Midnight, and it’s Friday, and Ray’s just gotten home, which is the only reason he hasn’t opened the bottle of Johnny Walker Red he’s got sitting on the table. He’s sore all over from falling off a roof, and that’s too familiar a sensation these days. He’s felt it every night this week, except tonight he actually did it *literally*.
No work tomorrow, and so Ray’s got plans to drink himself to sleep before he starts thinking too hard, except that it’s like he never really stops anymore. But that doesn’t matter because in a little while, he’s going to be feeling fine if his friend Johnny’s got anything to say about it, Ray thinks as he gets out a glass and turns on the television and switches channels until he finds a movie with explosions and scantily clad women.
He’s basically indifferent to the women, but the explosions are pretty fun. Woosh! Bang! Fire!
He pops the top on the bottle, pours himself a drink, and kicks his feet up. He stares at nothing for a while, and almost jumps when there’s a knock at the door.
Fraser’s standing on the other side, hands clasped behind his back, and Ray’s pretty shocked. He sees his plans to drink himself into a good night’s sleep going Woosh! and Bang!
He doesn’t mind so much. Not when Fraser’s face has this weird gleam he’s maybe seen before, and maybe he hasn’t, but it looks kind of hopeful. Kind of like the expression Ray finds on his own face at two in the morning lately.
“What’s up, Frase?” he asks, waving him in, and Fraser just stands there for a minute, shifting his weight from foot to foot, licking his lower lip.
“It’s rather difficult to – ” Fraser breaks off, shaking his head, and then he looks up and his eyes are this blue that’s dark and strange and new, and Ray’s starting to feel a fizz in his veins, like electricity, like something starting, like a hundred tiny little explosions all over.
He nods, encouraging, says, “Just say whatever comes to your mind.”
Fraser’s eyes lock with his, and there’s fire – there’s fire sweeping all over Ray and it’s coming from Fraser, and there’s a big grin spread out over his face, and he can’t seem to stop it, and he doesn’t even know why.
“Ray,” Fraser says slowly, taking a step closer to him, so close that his chest brushes against Ray’s when he breathes. And then Fraser leans in and his lips are right over Ray’s, and he asks, “Ray, do you ever have trouble sleeping?”