Disclaimers: The due South characters belong to Alliance Atlantis. Written for pleasure, not profit. For adult readers only, please.

Many thanks to Aristide, Dawn P and Crysothemis for beta-reading and encouragement.

Comments are welcomed at JBonetoo@yahoo.com

Notes: This is the sixth story in the "Layers" series. This particular excursion isn't as explicit as some of the others; it explores more mind and less body. ;)

Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski

Rating: NC-17 for language and sexual content.

Spoilers: "Odds" and "A Likely Story"

Summary: What is it with these guys and their damsels in distress?


Layers, Part Six

by Bone


We're suckers.

Not in that good nasty way, either. I'm not talking about sucking like that, or even in the "you suck" Bart Simpson way. I'm talking about being taken in, being conned, being suckered. We're suckers.

Worse than that, we're saps. Got this damsel-in-distress button, both of us do. Show us a lady who looks like she might be in some trouble, looks like she could use a little rescuing, and -- wham, bam, after you, ma'am -- we're goners, down like ten pins. We haven't got a lick of sense between us.

I'm not gonna try to lie about it: I got my head turned by Luanne. She opened that door and I slid right on in. Boy, I can pick 'em, can't I? So she didn't do the Big Bad Thing I thought she'd done; she wasn't exactly 99.44 percent pure, either, now was she? I mean, who makes forty-eight grand a year reading books out loud? That's a good gig, right there. Maybe I could get me one of those jobs.

She snowed me good, got me all bunched up; yeah, she was a smooth one, all right. She was a con. A pro and a con. She was living on the edge, the fringe, taking what she could where she could get it. So what'd I do? Fringed right along with her. Fell for that dizzy thing she did and kissed her. I admit it, I admit it, I wasn't thinking too clearly. That happens, sometimes.

Now, I know I don't have any sense, but I expected better of Fraser.

I'm not sure what his excuse was. At least we had to do some digging to get the goods on Luanne. But Lady Shoes...no, Lady Shoes we knew was crooked from the get go. Queer as a three-dollar bill. That was the whole point -- she'd let us in on her crook and we'd get some bigger fish.

Yeah, well, the only thing she reeled in was Fraser.

Shit, yes, I was jealous. Had that little green man climbing right up my back. Wouldn't you? Walked in the Consulate and there she was, in his underwear. Hell, I hardly ever get to see him in those long-johns, let alone wear them. There they were, just the two of them, all by their lonesome, and he was peeled down to his undershirt, looking all flustered, and she was cool as a cucumber, looking like God made her for long-johns. I asked him if he knew what the hell he was doing. He played it all innocent, all, "What is it you think I'm doing?"

Do I look like a chump? Don't answer that.

He wanted to protect her, so, what the hell, I did my part. Tried to get him to cough up what was making his head spin so much he had to stick his face in cold water, but you know Fraser -- he's a clam when he wants to be. Oh, yeah, she got to him. Got to him good. Got to him north and south, I think.

He's got a thing for them. Women living on the wrong side of the law, I mean. We all know this isn't the first time he's put himself out for somebody who looks better in his jammies than he does. Not much point in trying to change his mind, though. Once he's gone and decided something, that's it, it's decided. About all I could do was damage control.

So that's how come I found myself outside the Big Game with the Fibbees and the SWATters, telling somebody to do something, sometime today, sometime this year already, and then having to go on and do it myself. Wait for those assholes and you'll be setting down roots and putting out fruit before they decide oh, okay boys, let's move 'em on out. Honestly. Makes me glad I don't get a federal paycheck.

Did I mention Fraser looks damn good in a tuxedo? All unlike his usual self. Slicked up, sharp. James Bond, only maybe not so smooth. (Cider? Yeah, right.) I like how he looks, no matter what he throws on. Looks good in the uniform. Looks good without it. But the tux... I've gotta say, the tux blew my hair right back.

I sort of get why he thought he had to go through with it. He had an in; he used it. I'd like to think it was that simple, but way down in the bottom of my lungs, I think he got a little hooked. I don't think it was all about the bust. I think he knew he was being suckered, but let it happen anyway.

Fraser's like that.

I think sometimes he enjoys it.

Not that he's got a... what do you call it... martyr complex or anything, but it's like he's got to give people all these benefits of the doubt, way beyond what most people would. Even Luanne. I'm there pitching a hissy over her record, and he's telling me that's what she was, that she might not be that now, even though I know I was pissing him off, getting tangled up with her like that, getting stupid over her.

We're saps and we're stupid.

The crazy thing is, none of it, neither of them, seemed to have anything to do with Fraser and me, and what we were doing when we weren't getting tongue-tied and rattled over these... women...

Tongue-tied, rattled, and this time around, we both managed to hurt ourselves. And for what? So Frannie could get a dog? So the Feds could get their hands on some guy I never even heard of before, and don't care about? So Fraser could get his Happy Helper merit badge for the day?

I'm over-simplifying. I know I am. I think Fraser's got some stuff lurking under that placid look he wears for company; some dark, weird stuff that makes him like he is, makes him do the things he does. If he wants to work out some demons on a shark in his underwear, that's fine with me. He kept me in the loop pretty much, this time, so I'm not whining. Not much, anyway. I must've landed wrong coming through that skylight, because Fraser and I've got matching sore backs. Same exact spot, too. I think I bonked mine on the card table. He's still nursing his from before. I'm just hoping the bad guys take the rest of the night off -- about all we're good for is playing cards.

Feels good, sitting here, nobody else around, playing poker with Fraser for air. We both know how much air's worth -- a lot, a whole lot, priceless you could even say. I'll honor my wager all right. I'll honor it all over his body, soon as I can move without feeling like somebody hit me with a brick.

Feels good, yammering about nothing, arguing like we do. It's good. It's good that people like Luanne and Denny Scarpa can wander onto our radar, get the periscope up, then just move on, ships in the night or whatever. It's not the periscope coming up that I've got a problem with. No, the periscope's not always responsible for what it comes up for, if you take my meaning. Sometimes the periscope just goes... up.

It's his head I worry about sometimes. What he gets into his head, and how crazy stubborn he can be about it. He knew she was messing with his head, had to know, but he just kept on keeping on.

Guess that's what makes Fraser Fraser. Guess I can either learn to live with it, or learn to live without him, and that's not going to happen, not while there's still air to share, so maybe I'll try peeking in that head of his, try peeling something besides the clothes off his body.

"You 'bout cleaned me out of air here, Fraser," I tell him. I can see how much he's squirming around in that chair, and my back's none too happy sitting, either. Nice as it is, calm and quiet like this, looks like we'd better pack it in, call it a night.

"Yes, I'm running a bit short myself," he says, stretching his arms over his head.

"How's the back?" I ask him.

"Sore. Yours?" He grimaces when he tries to stand up.

"Sore," I tell him, pushing myself up with a hand on the desk. I take hold of his biceps and give him a tug and he's up, close there in front of me, where I can smell the starch in his shirt, smell the cologne Huey gave him to put on. Under those strange, other-guy smells, though, I can still smell Fraser, good clean Fraser smell, like it comes straight off his skin. He steadies himself with his hands on my shoulders, and holds tight, his thumbs notched on my collarbone.

"Ray," he says, and he's leaning in.

Whoa, hey, whoa there, my friend. Not a good idea, not at the station. He knows that. He's just tired, and sore, and hurting a little on the inside, I think. I firm up my grip on his arms, turn him so I can get an arm around his shoulders. That'll look all right, if anyone's looking, which I don't think they are, but this is definitely a case of better safe than sorry.

"Let's go, Fraser," I tell him, rubbing my hand down his back where nobody can see, even if they were looking, which I keep telling myself they're not.

"I'm sorry, Ray. I didn't...I wasn't..." He's fumbling for words. Hey, better here and now than there and before. He was smooth as butter in there, trolling along, talking, talking, like he knew just where he was going and how to get there.

And he was counting on me to be there for him when it all went down. I'd have taken them on myself -- thought I was, when I dropped through the ceiling. Didn't matter. I'm not saying I didn't appreciate all that back-up in blue, but between me and Fraser and the old element of surprise, I think we could've taken them by ourselves.

Now we'd be lucky to land a good punch between us. We're moving like we're eighty. Couple of old men, leaning on each other. Dief and Ante follow without being told. Maybe she's a good influence on him. Or maybe they've had enough excitement for one day, too.

"Don't think you oughta be sleeping on a cot, Fraser," I tell him once we're settled in the GTO. Took an embarrassing amount of time to fold myself into the car. We should probably have kept moving around a little; we stiffened right up there playing cards.

"No, I think you're right. The floor will suffice for tonight," he says.

The floor? I was wrong. He does have a martyr complex.

"How you gonna get up?" I ask him.

"Well, Constable Turnbull will be in at eight. I'm sure he won't mind giving me a hand," he says.

"What if you gotta go in the middle of the night?" Seems like a fair question.

"Where would I need to go, Ray?"

"Go, Fraser. What if you have to pee?" Geez louise, it's time the man got some sleep.

"Well..."

Aha. Gotcha there, Fraser.

"Just come home with me, okay? We can be the blind leading the blind or whatever, and if Thatcher has a conniption over you staying out all night, I'll get her off your back," I tell him.

Guess he really is tired, because he just puts his head back on the seat and says those three little words I love to hear:

"All right, Ray."


I give him some Advil and make him take a shower; tell him to just stand there and let the water hit him right where it hurts, and then I go into the kitchen and read the ingredients on all my soup cans to stop myself from picturing him there -- wet, naked, and maybe even bent over in my shower. He's probably leaning with his hands on the wall, and his legs spread, and... I'm not thinking about this. I'm not. Not. Not. Not. Not thinking about how good that water must feel, how his skin's probably turning red under it, how his ass...

Fuck. Soup cans or not, my dick's twitching and my fingers are itching, but I think we'd probably strain something important if we tried to do anything about it, and the last thing we need is a 911 call from the shower.

("I've screwed my partner, and I can't get up. I'm up, but I can't get... oh, hell, you know what I mean. Get over here. Bring a crane.")

I can control myself, and even if I couldn't, one experimental thrust toward the counter makes me see stars, so mostly I want him out of my shower, dry, and in bed, and then I can have my turn at the hot water miracle cure.

The water's still running when I head back to my room, so I go stand in the bathroom doorway and call out to him. "Need help?"

"No, thank you. I'll be out shortly," he says back.

Okay, fine. Probably better that way. Better if I just stay out here while he's in there. Less chance he'll slip and fall on my dick.

He looks a little ragged when he comes out. His skin's bright pink in splotches, like he ran the shower too hot. He's got a towel around his hips and he's leaning on the doorframe, like it hurts to move. Poor guy. He's not used to being anything less than a hundred percent. He's probably one of those guys who has to be delirious, with a fever of 106 or something, before he'll admit he's sick. Getting side-lined by a sore back probably pisses him off good.

"Stiffen up a little?" I ask him.

He flashes me this incredulous look and pulls the towel tighter around his waist.

Oops.

"I didn't mean it like that, Fraser," I say. "Geez, give me some credit, will you?"

He smiles a little at that, ducks his head, clears his throat. "I did, actually. But I think... that is, the spirit may be willing, but I fear the flesh is weak."

For those of you not versed in Fraserspeak, that means, yeah, he would if he could, but he can't, so he won't.

"Don't worry, Fraser. I couldn't jump you if I wanted to. Um... wait... I mean, I do want to, but I'm not going to," I stutter out at him. Look, you try being this close to an all-but-naked Mountie and see how you do.

He's still just hovering in the bathroom doorway, like he's not sure what to do next. Oh, yeah, we haven't really done this before, this sleeping over thing, not since the motel in Green Bay, and that was easy, that was just any old motel. This is my place, my room, my bed. Usually we do our horizontal mambo and then he heads back to the consulate. Sleeping over just to sleep... maybe that's got whole other meanings up in Canada, how would I know?

"You want something to sleep in?" I offer. "Boxers or something?"

"If you don't mind," he says.

I don't mind.

Fifteen minutes later -- I'd have stayed in the shower even longer, but, like Fraser, I was starting to stiffen up -- we're sacked out. Took some groans and a few false starts to get horizontal, but we managed it, and the bed feels better than I even imagined it would. We're staring up at the ceiling, and if he's like me, he can feel a pulse pounding away in every muscle in his body. It's the first time I've thought maybe I'm getting too old for this shit. Me and Murtaugh. Too old to be dropping through skylights. And Fraser's too old to be hopping out of windows without looking.

What was he thinking?

He'd probably already got his first look at Lady Shoes, wanted to impress her with his Mountie prowess or something.

Serves us both right to be here, all alone, under the sheets, and be too freaking sore to do anything more but paw at each other.

"You need anything, you'll have to yell," I tell him. "I sleep deep."

"I'm sure I'll be fine," he says.

"'Night, Fraser," I say, patting his stomach, not because I planned it that way, but because that's where my hand fell when I threw it out.

"Good night, Ray," he says, putting his hand over mine, holding it there.

It's not quite like getting down and dirty, but it feels damn good just the same.


You'd think, after the last few days we've had, that we'd drop right off, wouldn't you? I know I'm wrecked, and I only took one kind of fall -- he took a whole bunch of different ones.

But he's not sleeping, either.

We're just lying here, staring up at the ceiling, watching the ceiling fan go around and around and around.

Staring and thinking, and yeah, he's still got my hand in his. Feels nice, holding hands. Now I'm not saying I'm ready to walk down Michigan Ave hand-in-hand, but here, in the dark, it feels... nice. He doesn't strike me as somebody who really needs someone to hold his hand, but if it makes him feel good, it makes me feel good, so I'm not making a peep.

Wish I had a light or something I could shine in his ear and read what he's thinking. Sometimes I figure it out. I ask the right questions and he feels honor bound to answer. But sometimes I just know I'm not getting the whole story, like today, and nothing I say or do can make him spill it.

I don't get him.

I know that's not news, but I'm really struggling with this one. I told him he takes people at face value, but that's not quite it. It's like he sees beyond the face, looking for the value, if that makes sense. He looks way deeper than most of us would, looking for something in there that's worth saving, worth putting himself out for.

With Lady Shoes, it was the brother thing. Whatever she lied about, whatever rotten stuff she'd done, she had something good in her, too, and that's what he sees, what he latches onto. I think sometimes that's all he sees, but maybe I'm not giving him enough credit.

Maybe it just doesn't matter to him. Maybe he can sift out the bad and just look at the good. It's a good trick, if he can do it.

Now that I think about it, he does the same thing with me, does it all the time. Did it almost from the start, once he got over making me chomp window putty or whatever that was. It's like he can't stand for me to think bad of myself. That day in the cemetery? I was about at the end of my rope, and he tied a knot for me to hang onto.

I wonder if it makes it better or worse for him, that seeing inside people thing he does. I guess most people probably disappoint him, eventually. Be kind of hard to live up to a Fraser standard, even if that's not what he'd call it. I'm sure I don't meet his expectations much, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to. He gets to you that way.

As much as she got to him, I wonder if he got to her. If she had any clue what it meant to have a Mountie in her corner. Wonder if she appreciated what he'd done, or if he was just one more stool pigeon in her cage. We'll probably never know. She's a pretty cool customer.

Forgive me if I'm just this little bit satisfied that she's cooling her heels in a holding cell somewhere, waiting for transfer, and I'm the one in bed with Fraser. Petty, you say? Hell, yes, and proud of it.

I can hear him breathing beside me. It's a good sound. I could get used to that sound. Probably better not to push it, though. We get away with enough as it is without moving in together. Sure would make mornings easy, though. No more driving by the Consulate to pick him up. No more late night trips back for him. Something to think about, when we're not so tired, not so sore. Nights like this, you sometimes say stuff you don't mean to, just because you're low and the walls are all down.

"Ray, can I ask you something?" he whispers.

See what I mean? He had all that time to talk to me, but he had to wind down first, had to get sleepy and unstrung a little.

"Sure," I whisper back.

He picks up my hand in his and fits our palms together, measures our fingers. Mine are longer, his are thicker, but we fit good.

"If I lie to a liar, am I any better than she is?"

Oh, shit, he's going philosophical on me.

"Um, Fraser, you're better than most people," I say, hoping it's good enough, but knowing it's probably not.

"I'm serious. How am I any different? She lied to protect herself, and because she wanted what she perceived as justice. My lies were less noble than that," he says, and I hear his voice wobble at the end.

God, I hate when it does that.

I gather my strength up and roll onto my side, facing him. He's got the covers pushed to his waist, and his skin's just a few shades darker than the sheets.

"You think it would've been better if she'd gone ahead and killed Farah? Then she'd be looking at murder one," I remind him.

He closes his eyes and shakes his head. "I just... thought she should have someone she could trust. I told her she could trust me."

"Fraser, Fraser, God, what's it take? In every way that counts, she could trust you. You didn't screw her over, you didn't let her mess up her life any more than it already was, you figured out what was going on, and you did the right thing. You can't ask for more than that," I say.

What a speech, huh. But I mean every word of it.

"Look," I tell him. "I know she got to you, okay? You'd have to be dead for a chick like that not to get to you."

"She didn't get to you," he points out. "You saw through her right away."

"Yeah, well...I know her type," I say, turning my hand over so I can rub his chest. That makes him turn to look at me. "And I know you."

"You're not upset," he says, just a fact, not a question.

"About you losing your head a little for Ante's mom? Nah. I saw that one coming a mile away."

"Am I so predictable?" he asks.

"Pretty much," I tell him.

He frowns at me, and I swear, his lower lip pooks out. Fraser, pouting? That's a new one.

"It's not a bad thing, Fraser," I say, patting him. "It's just one of those... things you do, like licking stuff and holding doors open and telling weird stories."

He says, "Pull," and when I do, he uses our linked hands for leverage and rolls onto his side. Now we're like we were on the blanket out there by the lake that first night, only we've come a long, long way since then. For example, I've got nothing on, and he's wearing my boxer shorts, and we're sort of holding hands, in a guy kind of way.

"And you can just accept that? About me, that is?" he asks.

That surprises him? Yeah, that surprises him.

"Come on, Fraser. I know I do stuff that bugs you. I swear a lot, and beat up people sometimes, and I'm not smart like you, don't know stuff like you do, but you're not pushing me out of bed for it, are you?"

"Well, no, Ray, of course not," he says, like he can't even imagine people who would do that. Like Stella, for example.

"All right then. So, why would I?"

I watch him thinking that over, running it through his brain, seeing if it computes.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," he finally says.

"Huh?" Okay, that's not the most coherent thing I ever said, but it's late, and I'm tired, and it sounds like maybe we're just getting started.

"I have a tendency," he starts, then stops. "No, more than a tendency. Perhaps habit would be a better word. I have a habit -"

"-- of taking too damn long to say everything," I finish for him. "Just say it, Fraser."

"It's really more of a flaw, a weakness," he says, and he's so earnest it makes my heart kick.

Fraser, flawed? Then God help us all. I wasn't kidding before, wasn't trying to blow sunshine up his ass. He is better than most of us. Doesn't mean he's got to be perfect, though. I know what he's going to say. He's thinking of that evil witch, what was her name again? Victoria. Victoria Metcalf.

She makes Miz Shoes look like Mary Poppins. Hell, I'd have been happy to send him off with Denny Scarpa if it would've meant he hadn't had to deal with that psycho.

"Fraser, you don't have to... I mean, I know about that Victoria bit... person. I read it when I was learning Vecchio," I tell him, and I shake my hand loose from his, move it to his back and trace the scar.

The Scar.

The scar where the real Ray Vecchio aimed for the crazy chick and shot Fraser instead. If he loved Fraser even half how much I love Fraser, he probably felt like emptying the next chamber into his own head when he did that.

I would.

"It's a weak man who doesn't learn from his mistakes," he says, arching into my hand.

"You're not weak." I can't believe he needs me to tell him that, but maybe he does. "You're just like the rest of us -- every once in a while your heart heads out without talking to your brain first, that's all."

I keep rubbing his back, sliding my fingers up and down the dent in the middle of his spine. I can feel the ridge of scar there, raised up under my fingers. He never talks about it. Never. I wonder if he thinks about it much.

He's got his eyes closed, and his hand's resting on my side now, the fingers flexing there, kneading, like a cat making biscuits. I'd like to fix him all up, just by touching him, just by talking to him. I would if I could. I'd make it all right for him, inside and out.

"Hey, Fraser," I say, quiet, in case he's thinking about dozing off.

"Hmmm?" he answers.

"How come you're so easy on other people, and so hard on yourself?" I ask him.

His eyes open wide. Even though it's pretty dark, I can see I surprised him with that one. Good. Maybe I'll jolt something out of him. He's quiet for a minute, then he wets his lips and says, "I don't know."

"Something you might think about, okay?" I say, spreading my hand wide on his back, bringing us closer together. "Next time that Mountie mind of yours is looking around for something to work on, work on that."

He stretches his legs out, lets me come right up against him. He smells like himself again, and his skin's still a little damp from all the hot water.

"All right, Ray," he says, nuzzling under my chin, licking my Adam's apple.

God, I really do love those three words. Wonder what else I could ask him for, now that he's feeling all compliant?

Under his (my) boxers, I can feel him starting to stir, and his hand's moving down my side, over my hip, down in between us, where I'm starting to stir a little myself.

"What happened to 'the flesh is weak'?" I ask.

"I seem to have experienced a remarkable recovery," he says, then blows it by trying to push me on my back. I can feel his back muscles protesting under my hand even before he flinches.

"All that means is you're thinking with the wrong head," I tell him, guiding him over onto his back again. He's worse off than me, but I think we can make this work.

"You may be right," he says, grimacing, but he's making quite a little pup-tent in those boxers anyhow.

I prop myself up on one elbow, looking down on him. "You really want to...?" and he nods. Uh-oh. Looks like he's going to get embarrassed if I don't do something quick.

"Okay, okay, just... don't move. Let me do it," I tell him, and going with the idea that fast and painful is better than slow and painful, I lever myself over and drop down on him, trying not to mash him.

"That hurt?" I ask him, when I think I'm where I need to be.

"No, you feel... you feel good," he says, and he's got both arms around me now, pulling me down the last couple of inches until we're stuck together, shoulders to toes.

I can feel him, trapped under the boxers, rubbing against me. I line us up, wishing I'd thought ahead enough to take them off him, but it's too late now. He's already moving me on him, and since he's rocking me from side to side instead of back to front, it doesn't hurt a bit. Damn, he's a smart guy. He's got his hands on my hips, sliding me back and forth and we're starting to get the cotton damp, starting to sweat each other up a little.

I get his face in my hands and lay one on him, deep and hard. He's ready, open, taking me in, licking the roof of my mouth and under my tongue. We've gotten really good at this. Should have; we've practiced enough. I'm sure somewhere there are people who like to kiss with their mouths closed, who don't like getting the corners of their mouths licked, but I'm not one, and Fraser's not one. Maybe we went about this the whole wrong way -- who needs Advil when you can kiss it and make it better?

He's making those noises I like under his breath, up into my mouth, and his hands are holding stronger on my hips, making me do what he wants, move how he wants. It's not like we need to drag this out, so I let him rub as hard as he wants, let go of his mouth so he can breathe, and then he's groaning, and between us, I can feel him soaking his boxers. While he's still jerking, I go for it, lunge on him enough to make my own back protest, but I don't care, and then I'm adding to the mess we're making on his stomach.

The whole thing probably took about two minutes. I'm starting to think there are some real advantages to being with another guy. You want to get off? You get off. No fuss, no muss. No foreplay? No problem.

I push myself off him, drop back beside him, and he reaches out, puts his hand on my chest. Touch is good. We can keep doing touch. I grab the edge of the sheet and wipe him off. So we'll do laundry tomorrow. I'm not getting up again tonight.

He sighs next to me; takes a deep breath and lets it out.

"Didn't hurt you, did I?" I ask. It always seems like a good idea before you do it, what with all those dolphins running around in your system, but sometimes afterward, you go, 'What were we thinking?'

He smiles, this great, drowsy smile, and says, "No, not a bit."

Well, good. Wouldn't want to add to his woes.

I'm back to staring at the ceiling again, but it feels better this time. Given how relaxed he is beside me, I think he's feeling better, too.

He deserves it. He really put himself out there today, for somebody who didn't care much about anybody but herself. Most of us are like that, most of the time, but not Fraser. Of course, Fraser's not like most of us. Fraser's the exception to most rules.

Yeah, he's my exception. I'll bend over, twist up, and break for him, if he wants. I'll jump through windows, drop through ceilings and hang the moon for him if he wants. I'm sure he knows that, I think he does, but I guess it doesn't hurt to hear it more than once.

"You still awake?" I whisper.

"Mmmm hmmm," he rumbles.

"I've got just one more thing to say," I tell him, moving so my head's next to his on the pillow.

"What's that?" he says, sliding his arm around my shoulders.

"I love you, Fraser," I say, whisper it in his ear. Feels good saying it, easy. Easier than I thought it might be.

"And I you, Ray," he says right back.

I feel the last tidbit of green man jealousy melt away. We did our duty. Helped the damsel in distress, got the bad guy, and came out of it okay. Banged up a little, maybe, but we're together, here, and happy.

Maybe now we can get some sleep.


The end.