Clothes Make The Man

This story first appeared in the fanzine

"Hawk & Handsaw" Feb. 2004 and is still in print.

Clothes Make the Man



Main fanfic page
by Morgan Dawn  and Muriel Perun


Fraser paused at the squad room door and looked around cautiously.   The room, cluttered with desks and papers and permeated by a faint, musty, antiseptic smell, was inexplicably empty.  He stepped into the room, curious.  By the time all the arrests had been made, he and Ray had completed their undercover operation at a very early hour of the morning, but, still, that did not explain the emptiness.  Then he heard laughter down the hall and relaxed.  The squad was celebrating in one of the interrogation rooms. Probably a birthday.

He wove his way across the room with more confidence, picking the shortest path to Ray’s desk. The polyester pants chafed uncomfortably with each step and for the thousandth time since he had first put them on at Ray’s urging, he wondered why used car salesmen couldn’t sell used cars in something more comfortable.  And something less gaudy, he mentally added, looking down at the red-and-white-checkered polyester shirt. 

 He had asked Ray that very same question, only to be told that it was an American tradition, and if he was really serious about going undercover and if he had any hope of catching the car thieves and if he had any understanding that “partners” meant you really trusted your partner and didn’t constantly interrupt him, then he’d better shut up.  So Fraser had.

 But that left him sweating lightly, rummaging for the paper bag that held his spare Mountie uniform.  He knew Ray had put it somewhere when they had changed at the station before going undercover.  The evening had started out with Fraser in his standard-issue brown uniform, but after rescuing Ray from the lake, it had been soaked. After they had apprehended the car thieves, Ray had insisted that he change back into his “undercover” clothes rather than drip on the Riv’s seats while driving back to the station.  Ray hadn’t seemed to mind the dripping when Fraser had pulled him from the water, but it seemed easier to duck into the dealership men’s room and change than to have an argument.

 The interrogation room door swung open and voices came boiling out into the hall, through the swinging doors, and spread through the squad room.  It had been a birthday celebration, as evidenced by the officers and police aides filing back to their desks with small paper plates holding pieces of cake.  They wielded plastic forks that they waved erratically as they gestured and laughed.  Fraser wondered briefly what it would be like to have his own birthday cake.  His grandparents had always told him that pemmican pudding and a good book were more than enough to celebrate his entry into this world.  Now that he was grown, Fraser felt it would be somehow disrespectful to try to find out otherwise.

 Huey nodded in greeting across the room while taking a bite of the moist cake.  Eyes averted, Fraser pulled open another drawer and winced at the tangle of old socks, men’s toiletries and paper bags.  He plunged deeper into the drawer until he felt the contours of his lanyard and yanked on a bag. 

 Another burst of laughter pulled his attention back to where Huey and Dewey were talking to a red–headed officer.  The man said something and the group turned in unison to smile at Fraser.

 Fraser smiled back, stood up, and walked past them, carrying the bag of clothing.

 “Heading for the lockers?” Huey asked, still grinning.

 Politely, Fraser stopped. “Well, yes. I am going to change.  I understand that it is important to immediately re-establish your identity after an undercover assignment.”

 The red haired officer sniggered. “Christ, who dressed you? The girls on North Avenue?”

 Dewey nearly choked on the piece of cake he was eating.  

 “No, no,” Huey replied.  “Vecchio pulled together that particular ensemble.”

 “Ha, I hear he’s quite the clothes man.  Armani suits with shoulder pads a mile wide.  Like a three-headed Italian Stallion,” the unfamiliar officer offered, rolling his eyes.  This set off another round of laughter. 

 Fraser caught the gist behind the joke and hesitated.  While Ray’s clothing did border on the extreme from time to time, it wasn’t as bad as they were making it sound. Nevertheless, Fraser wasn’t sure that Ray would appreciate him defending his wardrobe.

 He nodded again politely and turned to leave, only to collide with something small, soft and indisputably Elaine. Her plate arced upwards and landed squarely against his chest.

 “Oh my God, Fraser!  Oh – my – God!  I am so sorry,” she squeaked.  “Let me, just let me – wait here.  Oh my God,” she said and ran off, leaving Fraser holding the plate and fork against his own chest. He could feel the icing oozing through the thin fabric.  He remained completely still, afraid that if he moved too quickly, it would slide even lower.

 Behind him, he could hear a loud coughing sound and then Huey gasped, “Oh my God, Fraser.  Did you —  did you see Elaine’s face?”

 “She nearly wet her pants,” Dewey replied in an awed and strangled voice.

 “Don’t move Fraser, she’d kill us if you weren’t here when she got back.  You’ve just made her day.”

“Hope she brings a towel.  Although the way she looked at him, she’d probably be happy to lick him clean.”  This set off another round of choking and gasping.

 Fraser turned bright red.  The conversation really wasn’t appropriate, although he had to admit that Elaine did have an odd look in her eye when she ran towards the ladies room.

 “Oh look, now he’s turning red. If Elaine doesn’t hurry, he’ll match that red suit he wears.”

 “Like a giant red lobster, from head to toe.”  More heads turned and the laughter increased, rippling across the squad room and down the hall.  Fraser stood frozen with embarrassment.

 “Don’t you guys have anything better to do than stand around gossiping like a bunch of fairies?”  Vecchio's voice rang down the hall.  He had been parking the car and had to circle the lot several times before finding an empty spot.  His glare grew exponentially as he approached the knot of laughing men…men who were suddenly sporting innocent expressions, but Vecchio was not fooled.  He ripped the plate out of Fraser’s hands and tossed it into a nearby waste bin. The fork clattered to the ground. Before Fraser could bend over to pick it up, Vecchio was steering him through the crowded hall towards the men’s locker room. 

 “Christ Fraser, why do you let them do that to you?”

 Fraser shook his head and then they were through the doors.  Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw Elaine trailing after them, clutching a wad of moistened paper towels.

 “Do what Ray?  I didn’t let them ‘do’ anything.  I think they were able to do ‘that’ quite well on their own.”  Fraser stood by as Ray reached the locker first and opened it with a few brusque twists of his hand. 

 “How can you expect to be taken seriously when you insist on wearing a red suit with baggy pants everywhere you go?  It’s not like it’s required.”

 “Well, it is when you are on guard duty, Ray,” he said, opening the paper bag and looking inside.  “And also for ceremonial visits from the Queen.  And –”

 Ray yanked the bag from Fraser’s grasp and tossed it on the bench. “Fraser, remember what we discussed before this assignment. Tell me you remember what we discussed.” 

 Overbalanced by the heavy boots inside, the bag of clothes slid off the bench to land on the floor with a clunk.  Fraser winced.  That was no way to treat a dress uniform.  “We did discuss the value of listening to one’s partner’s assessment of clothing appropriate to a specific case,” he replied primly, “but that was while we were undercover, and in a milieu that you are admittedly more familiar with.  I don’t think you are an expert on the RCMP’s rules and regulations as they pertain to uniforms.”

 Ray stared at him steadily.   “My shirt is ruined.  Take it off.”

 “That was what I was planning on doing.”


 The silence hung awkwardly between them while Fraser retrieved the bag and pulled out his tunic.  It was like waving a red flag at a bull.

 “Dammit, Fraser,” Vecchio started up again.  “You know I’m right.  Why can’t you even try to fit in?  We’re here and this is Chicago.  Do you like them laughing at your taste in clothes?  Is that it?”

 Fraser looked down at the uniform and shook his head.  “Ray, they weren’t laughing at the suit exactly. They were laughing at…” and then he stopped.  How could he tell Vecchio that they had started off by laughing at an outfit that Ray had so carefully selected?  One that Fraser had now ruined?

 He looked up and saw Ray’s eyes soften, apparently misunderstanding what Fraser was trying not to say. “Oh hell, Fraser. I didn’t mean that.   They weren’t really laughing at you.  It’s just a guy thing, you know.”

 Ray’s words made Fraser feel even guiltier.  “I’ll pay for the cleaning bill” was all he could think of saying.

 “Forget the shirt, Fraser. I have dozens like that at home. Besides, it was too big for me anyway.”  He stood back and eyed his partner thoughtfully.

 “I know what’d cheer you up. Let’s get a few outfits for you.  Ones that won’t make you look so – baggy and bright.  There’s a men’s shop I go to that might have something that’d suit you.”

 “That’s not necessary, Ray, really.  You don’t have to do this.”

 “Oh, come on Fraser.  We’re friends, aren’t we?”

 Fraser nodded hesitantly.

 “And friends help each other. Tell each other truths, the kind of truths other people won’t tell you.  And I am telling you, as my partner, you gotta do something about the clothes.”

 Right now, Fraser doubted that he himself would qualify as a good friend. If he couldn’t tell Ray the truth about the squad room banter, how could he tell him he believed he was more effective in his own clothes, using his own methods, no matter where he might be situated?

 But the look in Ray’s eyes pulled him out of the station and into the Riv.  He did insist on putting on his uniform again, watching Ray eye him disapprovingly while retrieving his own suit from the locker.  

Ray parked in a red zone and got out of the car.

 “Uh, Ray?”  Fraser climbed out slowly, leaving the door open.

 “Yeah, Benny?”

 “I believe this is a no-parking zone.”

 “So it is, Benny.”

 “Aren’t you going to move your car?”

 Ray looked at him with raised eyebrows.  “Why should I do that, Benny?  I’m a cop.”

 “But, uh, Ray”—Fraser cleared his throat—“this isn’t exactly official business.”

 “Sure it is.  What could be more official than fixing your wardrobe problem?  If you don’t have the right clothes, Fraser, you can’t go undercover.  Look, I’m a plainclothes detective, right?  Right?”  He gestured outward with both palms up.

 “Yes,” Fraser answered with a long-suffering expression as he joined his hands behind his back.

 “Well, can you tell from my clothes that I’m a cop?  Well, can you?”  Ray gestured down the front of his coat with both hands.

 “Ray, that has nothing to do with parking your—”

 “Humor me, Fraser,  Can you tell?”

 “Well, aside from a few minor—  No, Ray,” Fraser answered reluctantly, “I can’t tell.  But—”

 “Well, Fraser, everyone can tell you’re a cop.  Everyone.  This is an emergency!  If you don’t get new clothes right now—Jesus, it could endanger the public, couldn’t it?  Are you with me?”

 “Ray, I seriously doubt that my uniform could endanger the public,” Fraser said indignantly.

 Ray shrugged.  “Hey, Benny, be that as it may, I’m the undercover expert, and I’m taking you shopping.  So this is official police business.  Anyway, the cops in this neighborhood know not to ticket my car.  I always shop here.”  With long strides, he headed for the front door of J.F. Logan’s Fine Men’s Wear, an attractive storefront a few steps from the corner.

 “Whatever you say, Ray,” Fraser replied, following him briskly.  As he reached the door he removed his hat and tucked it neatly under his arm.

 When the door closed behind them, all the sounds of the city faded away.  Gone were the sounds of rumbling tires and blaring horns.  The cold wind was stilled.  Inside, all was tranquil and warm.  The walls were paneled in walnut and a deep burgundy carpet muffled footfalls.  A distinguished man dressed in an immaculate gray suit approached Ray with a welcoming smile.

 “Mr. Vecchio, how nice to see you.  What can I help you with this afternoon?”

 “Well, you see, Frederick, it’s my friend.”  Ray indicated Fraser, just coming through the door.  “He needs everything, from the ground up.”  Frederick nodded sadly as if he understood the problem in just one glance.

 “Size 44 jacket, I believe.  If you would be so kind as to step over here,” he said, indicating a burgundy velvet curtain, “I shall bring you some selections.”

 Ray took Fraser’s arm to lead him into the dressing room while speaking confidingly into his ear.  “You see, Benny?  They know me here.  They’ll take good care of us.  You’ll see.”

 On the other side of the curtain they found a spacious dressing area with mirrors on three walls and a pair of brocade loveseats. 

 Ray sat in one and stretched his arm out along the back.  “So, Benny, you wanna get ready?”  Ray looked at him expectantly.

 “Ready for what, Ray?”

 “Ready to try on clothes.  Ready for Fred to bring you some stuff.  Come on, you know how this works, right?  The guy brings you the clothes, you try them on.  So you have to strip down first.”

 “I realize that, Ray, but I didn’t anticipate that I would have to remove my clothes in front of anyone.”

 “Just me.”  They looked at each other for a moment.

 Ray sighed dramatically and rose.  “I can’t believe you.  All right, Fraser, I’m gone.  Just make sure you come out and show me everything you try on, okay?”  He stood on the other side of the curtain, leaning against the wall with folded arms and a long-suffering expression on his face.

 When Frederick returned, he was carrying a gray suit with a blue shirt, a black leather belt, and a tie with gunmetal gray and deep blue patches. 

 “Hey, nice,” Ray said appreciatively.  “No offense, but I think you have to hand these in.  My friend is a little shy.”

 “Modest, Ray,” came Fraser’s voice from the other side of the curtain.

 The clothes were handed in through the curtain, and a few moments later, Fraser emerged wearing them.  Ray gave a low whistle.  “Bingo.  Jesus, that looks good.  I can’t believe this, Benny, but I think we got it in one shot.  Now all you’ll need is a couple of jackets and some shirts and pants, maybe some turtlenecks.  You know, stuff you can wear for everyday.”  He stopped talking suddenly and looked closely at Fraser’s face.  “Uh-oh.  What’s the problem, Fraser?”

 In fact, Fraser was looking immensely uncomfortable.  “Uh, Ray, I don’t want to offend anyone.  These clothes are quite fine.  It’s just that…  Well, I…”

 Ray threw up his hands.  “You don’t like them.  Go ahead, just say it.”

 “I just don’t think they suit me.”

 “I have some other selections that might suit,” said Frederick with a reserved air.

 Ray watched him go.  “Look, you see?  You offended him.”

 “I’m sure he isn’t offended, Ray.  It’s impossible to be offended by someone’s personal taste.”

 “Let me tell you something, Fraser, I’m offended all the time by your personal taste,” Ray said angrily.

 “It offends you?”  Fraser looked surprised and hurt.

 “All the time.”

 “I find that most irrational, Ray.”

 “Now I’m irrational?” Ray asked, leaning forward aggressively so that his face advanced on Fraser’s.  “Are you calling me irrational?”

 “At times you are,” Fraser said stubbornly. 

 “Great.  I take you shopping, I try to improve your work performance—I heard how they laughed at your uniform in the precinct, don’t think I didn’t—and you call me irrational.  Someday you’ll thank me for this, Benny.”

 Frederick returned with a dark gray suit that was cut differently than the first.  There was a white shirt to go with it.  Then there was a brown and gray suit with a cream colored shirt, a navy blazer with gray slacks, and so many suits in different shades of gray and blue so that Ray started to lose count.

 “So, was it the brown you didn’t hate, or was it the blue silk and linen?”  He mopped his head with a handkerchief.

 “Strictly speaking, I don’t ‘hate’ any of them,” Fraser said.  “None of them feels…right.  It’s hard to describe.”

 After a few more tries, Frederick announced that the store’s supply of size 44 regular jackets and 34 slacks was exhausted.  He retired to allow them to hash it out between them.

 “Holy mother of god,” Ray said disgustedly.  “Who the hell are you, the princess and the fucking pea?” 

 “I’m sorry, Ray.  I just couldn’t…”  He paused.  “Actually, I have an idea.  We passed a store on the way here that might have something appropriate.”

 “Oh, yeah?” Ray asked suspiciously.  “You don’t mean Brooks Brothers, do you, because I don’t shop there.”

 “No, it was called Western Emporium, I believe.”

 Ray swung around to look at him incredulously.  “Tell me you didn’t just say that.  Tell me I didn’t just spend three hours helping you to find some decent clothes, and all the time you wanted to go to Western Emporium.”  Fraser started to speak but Ray cut him off.  “Because you know who shops at Western Emporium, don’t you Benny?  I’ll tell you who shops there.  Every blue collar guy in Chicago.  Every guy who wears jeans, boots, and flannel shirts to the construction site.  I can’t believe this.”

 “It’s simply a matter of preference, Ray,” Fraser said reasonably.  “You see, I don’t really care about clothes.  Animals don’t wear clothes at all, and I think—”

“You think we should all run around buck naked?” Ray snapped.  “Don’t say anything else.  Just get dressed.”  Ray stalked out towards the street.  “If you’re lucky, I’ll wait for you in the car.”

Fraser dressed quickly, leaving the clothes he had tried on hanging neatly on their hangers.  Before leaving the store, he sought out Frederick and said, “Thank you kindly,” supplemented by a grateful smile.  Somehow he got the impression that Frederick was not very pleased with his morning’s work.

 Ray was still sitting there in the Riv with the motor running, tapping impatiently at the steering wheel.  Before Fraser even closed the door he pulled away from the curb. 

 “Welsh is gonna kill me.  There’s a ton of shit I was supposed to take care of today, and one of them is the expense account for our little undercover job.  Dammit, I don’t think Welsh is gonna spring for the car.  I’ll be lucky if he doesn’t make me pay the city’s costs for hauling it out of the lake.”  He shook his head.  “Christ, I’ve been up all night and my brain is fried.”

 “Four hundred dollars is a bit excessive for an expense account, Ray, don’t you think?”  Fraser fiddled with his hat, turning it in his fingers.

 “Thanks a lot, Fraser.  That really helps.  You fucking egged me on.”  He made a turn that threw Fraser against the car door.

 “I’m sorry, Ray.  We did rid Chicago of a vicious car theft ring.”

 “Yes, we did, Benny,” Ray said moodily.  “And we spent too much doing it.”

 There was a brief silence.  “Ray?”

“What, Benny?”

“Aren’t we going to stop at the Western Emporium?”

Ray glared at him for three whole seconds and ran a traffic signal, making Fraser cringe.  “No, Benny, we are not going to stop at the Western Emporium.  I wouldn’t be caught dead at the fucking Western Emporium.  We are going to your apartment before I go home and declare this day a total loss and finally get some sleep.  Any more questions?”

“No, Ray, I think that’s quite clear.”

 An icy silence reigned between them for the remainder of the trip.

Fraser kept sneaking glances at Vecchio’s profile as he drove tensely through the streets.   They reached Fraser’s apartment and sat there for moment.  Fraser cleared his throat and reached for the door handle.

 “I need to use the john,” Ray announced and fell silent again.

 Fraser waited for more, but Vecchio stared stubbornly ahead.   “You’re welcome to use the one in our hall, Ray. And if it’s not working, I am certain the Sheltons on the lower landing will let you use theirs.”

 “I could use some coffee, too.” Ray added absently.

 Fraser did the only thing he could do.  He agreed.  “Yes, Ray, coffee would be good.”

Without another word, they opened the car doors and headed up the stairs.

 Luckily, the bathroom on Fraser's floor was working and it was unoccupied.  Fraser waited quietly in the kitchen, rotating his hat in his hands, twisting it round and round by the brim.

 Ray breezed past him and started opening cupboards. He pulled down two mugs, opened a few drawers and then started searching through the cupboards below the sink.

 “Fraser, where’s your coffee?”

 “I ran out. I haven’t had a chance to restock since we started on the assignment.”  Fraser had thought that they had been talking about the desirability of coffee in the abstract.  Now that he realized Ray actually expected to drink some, he knew there would be trouble.  He braced himself for Ray’s reaction.  

 “Well, then why did you invite me up for coffee when you don't have any?”  Vecchio was almost shouting.

 “Well I didn’t actually invite…” Fraser began and then fell silent. 

 “Don’t you start on me again, Fraser.  First you say you want to clothes shop, then you don’t.  Then you say, ‘Hey, come up for coffee,’ but you don’t even have any coffee.  I bet you don’t have any sugar either.”

Ray’s accusatory tone began to annoy Fraser.  It really wasn’t fair if Ray couldn’t be bothered to listen.

“No, I don’t have any sugar.  Can I interest you in some rooibos tea?” he asked with more force than he intended.

They stared at each other like strangers.  Ray muttered something under his breath. “Ya big red popsicle…”  Fraser could feel his face turn red, but this time it was anger, not embarrassment, that fueled his color.

Ray picked up the mugs and shoved them back into the cupboard. With his back turned, he picked up the thread of the argument again.

“The nearest grocery store is ten blocks away; you could at least keep some extra coffee on hand.”

“In the Yukon, you have to travel 20 miles to the nearest supply depot and hand-carry your supplies in.”

Ray turned precipitously.  “That’s the problem being around you, Fraser. You’re weird.  You’re always talking about life in the Yukon when you’re in the middle of the U.S.A., and now I can’t even take you clothes shopping.  I’ll never be able to shop at Logan’s again.”

Fraser stood up straighter to answer this injustice with simple logic.  “You’re exaggerating.  I’m certain that if you were to buy something, they’d be happy to sell it to you, Ray.”

“You just don’t get it.  It doesn’t matter; I’m still stuck with you and your weird clothing. Why can’t you just fit in?”

“I’m comfortable with my clothing. I have been fitting in. And I’ve been adjusting quite well to the Chicago environment.”  Fraser couldn't understand why Vecchio couldn’t see this. 

“Look at this.” Ray’s voice edged into sarcasm.  He walked over and grabbed the fabric of Fraser’s uniform.  “You have no idea how bad this looks.  You might as well wander around in your shorts, that’s how well you fit in.  Why don’t you just take it off?”

Fraser glanced down at Ray’s fist with a bland expression.  “It’s a uniform, Ray. It’s supposed to stand out.”

“Oh, give me a break, Fraser.  You don’t have to wear it every minute of the day.”

 “I don’t.”

“Prove it.  Why don't you take it off?  Do it now.”

“I don’t see the point of this.”

“It’s not about the point, it’s about the fact that you’re driving me crazy, you and your clothes.  I can’t look at you any more if you’re gonna wear that outfit.  If you were really my friend, you’d take it off.”

They both paused, struck by the weirdness of the conversation.  Then Fraser slowly nodded his head and Ray took a deep breath.  He hadn't realized he had stopped breathing.

“All right Ray, but I think to be fair you should do it too.”

 “Do what? Take off my clothes?  Now you’re being silly, Fraser.”

“Not any more silly than criticizing my clothing when your clothing...”  Fraser stopped, realizing he had said too much.  

Vecchio’s head snapped around and his eyes narrowed with suspicion.  “What do you mean? You have something to say about my clothing?” 

Fraser shook his head uncomfortably, hoping Ray would drop the subject. 

“What, has someone said something about my clothing?” Ray persisted.

Desperate to distract him, Fraser mutely began unbuttoning his jacket.

“Fraser, stop nodding your head and tell me what you’re not telling me.”

 Fraser couldn’t think of another way to delay the inevitable, short of lying.  “You were right about the officers not really meaning to insult me in the squad room.  A ‘guy thing,’ I think you called it.”

Vecchio grunted encouragingly. Fraser unbuttoned more of his jacket and plunged on.

“But it was not strictly my clothing they were discussing.  It was the outfit you had selected.”

Ray looked puzzled.  “Well, of course that outfit was meant to be sleazy. You were going undercover as a used car salesman, for Christ’s sake.”

“You are absolutely correct, Ray.  But—”  Fraser carefully folded his coat over the kitchen chair and began fiddling with his undershirt.


“I believe there was a mention of Armani suits. And something about shoulder pads and a three-headed Vecchio…” Fraser’s voice trailed off.

“And….”  Ray’s voice trembled with restraint.

“What I don’t quite understand is what an Italian stallion has to do with your clothing choices.”

The silence stretched into a painful, thin moment.  Fraser took advantage of the break to roll the suspenders off his shoulders.

“They are so full of shit!"  Ray exploded, clipping his words angrily.  “I have excellent taste in clothing. They wouldn’t know fine menswear if it jumped up and bit them in the ass.”  Ray’s voice edged into a full throated roar.  Fraser removed his shirt and placed it over the tunic.  He really didn’t know what to say.

Ray began pacing, crisscrossing the room, barely noticing that Fraser was fiddling with the buttons on his pants.  In fact, he seemed oblivious that Fraser was almost half undressed.

“ full of shit...” he kept muttering and then Ray turned around and ripped the patterned tie off his neck, thrusting the silk fabric towards Fraser.  Fraser hesitated, his hands caught between holding up his trousers and accepting the tie that Ray so desperately wanted him to have. In the end, the tie won and Fraser’s trousers fell to his knees.

  Ray stared a moment as if silently cataloging the color of his tie as it dangled against Fraser’s regulation white boxers.   Then he stepped closer to Fraser and fingered the tie, rolling it between his thumb and forefinger. 

“Look at this silk tie, for example.  The simple edged pattern offsets the grays in my suits.  How could anyone accuse me of having bad taste?  I take care choosing my clothes.  I—”

“Well, Ray, in some cultures ties are perfectly acceptable, but in Canada our police force prefers a lanyard, both as a decoration as well as for practical reasons.  And, frankly, Ray, ties are vestiges of an antiquated 19th century convention and serve no useful purpose.”

“What about this shirt?” Ray swiftly unbuttoned the shirt and slid it off his shoulders, his hand still entangled in the tie.  The garment was quickly thrust towards Fraser who refused, shaking his head.  “Look at this!  Feel it.  That’s Egyptian cotton, finest in the world.  And the buttons are hand-sewn.”  Ray stroked the fabric lovingly.

“I think we were discussing ties,” Fraser said, irritated at having his train of thought broken.  “Or lanyards, as the case may be.”

Ray continued to fondle his shirt without looking up.  “Will you stop it already about the damn lanyards?"

“Studies have shown that the lanyard has 358 unique uses in everyday situations.”

Distracted from his shirt, Ray met Fraser’s eyes.  “Name one.”  Ray carelessly tossed his shirt over Fraser’s neatly folded pile of clothing.

“The first, most obvious use is as a tourniquet in the field.  It can be used to bundle kindling together.  It can serve as a replacement boot lace….”

Ray glanced down at Fraser’s boots.  “Fraser, the holes are way too small.  A lanyard’s not gonna fit through there.”  He laughed meanly.  “Maybe you ought to do another study.” 

  Without pausing in his catalogue, Fraser reached lower and unlaced his boots.  As his list grew, Fraser fell into a rhythm and efficiently removed his boots one after another and slipped his trousers past his ankles.  These items were neatly deposited next to the chair and over the seat, respectively.

“…and let’s not forget its use as a snare in catching small game.  And should that prove unsuccessful, the leather itself has some nutritional value.”

“You’re gonna eat your lanyard, Fraser?  That’s disgusting,” Ray said.  He tugged a loafer free, holding it in one hand as he mimicked gagging himself with the other. 

“Unfortunately, silk is indigestible, Ray, so that, were you to find yourself in extremis while wearing your tie, I’m afraid you would starve to death.”

Ray flushed with fury.  “Yeah?  Well at least I’d be well dressed when they buried me.  Unlike you, with your red jacket—your, your yellow stripe down the pants…”  Ray stopped and took a breath, incoherent in his rage.  “So help me Fraser,” he said carefully, “if you don’t stop, I’ll…” he gestured vaguely with the fine Italian leather shoe. 

“Ah,” said Fraser, pointing at the ceiling in a gesture of surprise, “thank you, Ray, for reminding me.  The lanyard can also serve as a useful weapon in the form of a slingshot.”  He nimbly ducked as the shoe sailed past his head and slapped against the kitchen wall.  Ray kicked in Fraser’s general direction and the second shoe followed its mate.  He pulled off his socks and threw them, too, but they fluttered to the floor before reaching the Mountie.

“Of course, let’s not forget the symbolic use of a lanyard which I personally have witnessed in my dealings with certain Inuit ceremonies surrounding rites of passage.”

“Shut.  The.  Fuck.  Up.”  Ray made as if to cover his ears in horror.  “Do you seriously expect me to believe they wrap that leather wing-wang around their little ding-dongs?”

“No, Ray, that would be silly.  They actually use it to keep their hair in place.”  Fraser drew himself up in indignation at Ray’s insinuation.  He was wearing nothing but his boxers and socks, the latter held up by a pair of old-fashioned men’s garters.

Ray had already removed his pants, so it was a relatively easy matter to wad them up and throw them at Fraser.  Fraser caught them with one hand and deposited them precisely on the kitchen chair.  

“You know Ray, we haven’t even begun to touch on the possible law enforcement uses.  For example, should you misplace your handcuffs, the lanyard can temporarily immobilize a suspect if it is tied with a sturdy knot.”

Ray threw his arms in the air.  “Okay, hold it.  That’s it!  Just stop right there.  “Your list is bullshit, Fraser.  A lanyard is just a glorified leather rope.  And nobody wears lanyards, Fraser.  Nobody.”

Fraser frowned.  “Nobody?  Ray, are you sure you—”

“Yeah, Fraser, I’m sure.  Nobody who counts, anyway.  Old men wear lanyards, old men and little kids.  Boy Scouts wear lanyards, Benny.  Men wear ties.”

Fraser’s jaw was set and anger gleamed in his eyes.  “You know, Ray, some psychologists have suggested that the tie is a compensatory phallic symbol.”

 “A what?”

 “A symbol of the phallus—the male sex organ—that compensates those who feel—uh, let us say, inadequately endowed by nature.”

 When Vecchio opened his mouth no sound came out, so he tried again.  “I’m not—I mean—I—goddamn it!”  He swallowed and shook his head, starting over carefully.  “I am not inadequately endowed.  I am well endowed.  I’m very well endowed.”

 “As Freud observed nearly 90 years ago, insisting too much on a point often means that the speaker believes the opposite.”  Fraser fell silent and looked at him frankly.

 Ray stared back, wide-eyed.  “Goddamn, son of a bitch!” he exploded suddenly.  “Fuck it, Fraser, just fuck it.  You fucking—oh, shit!”  Panting heavily, Ray tugged his small black briefs down to his ankles and stepped away from them.  Fraser seemed frozen, startled.  They looked at each other, dazed, as if their minds had only just caught up with their bodies.

 Ray ran both hands over his face and shook his head once, hard.  He caught sight of Fraser’s feet and pointed.  “See that?  Nobody wears garters anymore.  Well, no one except for those guys standing on the streetcorners in Halstead.”

Fraser looked down, seeming to have forgotten the fact that Ray was naked and that they had been stripping in his kitchen.   He opened his mouth, only to shut it quickly.   A small, hurt expression crossed his face.

“I need them to hold up my socks.”  Fraser said quietly.

“Oh, man, I’m sorry, Benny.”  Ray suddenly felt as if he had just cursed out loud in church.  He stepped closer, wanting to make amends.  “Hey, Benny,” he said softly.  “Let me take them off you.  I bet your socks’ll still stand up without them.”  He knelt before Fraser could say no. 

 Working quickly, Ray removed Fraser’s garters.  He stood, and both men looked down at Fraser’s socks.

 “See, Fraser?  You don’t need those things.”  One sock slipped slowly down and pooled around Fraser’s ankle.

 “Are you sure, Ray?” he asked.

 They looked at each other for a moment, Fraser solemn, Ray wide-eyed.  “Oh, forget it,” Ray muttered.  Kneeling again, he pulled up the sock and began to replace the garter.

 “Don’t bother, Ray,” Fraser said, laying a hand on his head.  “They really aren’t very comfortable, and, after all, my boots can probably hold up my—”

 When Ray looked up at him, Fraser’s hand trailed over the back of his head.

 “What are you doing, Benny?”

 “I’m…  Ray, you’re naked.”

 Ray stood quickly and looked down at himself as if he hadn’t realized.  “Yeah,” he said uneasily.  “Yeah, sorry about that.   I’ll just—”  His voice trailed off as he looked into Fraser’s eyes.  “I’ll go put on my—”

 Fraser’s hand touched his shoulder and moved up again into his hair.  “Your hair feels softer than it looks,” he remarked.  “I thought it would be somewhat spiky.”

 “I’m not a porcupine, Fraser,” Ray said curtly.  Seeming to think better of his remark, he glanced down, laughing sheepishly.  “Sorry.  Listen, Benny, it’s good to see you without your uniform.  Uh, actually, I mean, you really took it off.  How does it feel?”

 “You were right, Ray,” Fraser said seriously.

 “See?” Ray said, swiping a hand over his brow.  “You’d be happier if you wore some different clothes.  Doesn’t it feel good to get out of that red serge?  Is it getting hot in here?”

 “Not about the clothes,” Fraser said.  “About your…”

 “About my…?”

 Fraser breathed out sharply.  “About your endowments.”  He glanced down and then up at Ray’s face.  A red flush crept across his cheeks. 

 “Oh, those,” Ray said softly.  It suddenly seemed that they were standing very close together.

“It seems that, in your case at least, the wearing of a tie is in no way compensatory.”

“That’s good to know, Benny.”  Ray put out a tentative hand to trace the line of Fraser’s cheek.  “Benny, you told me you really didn’t care about clothes.”

 “That’s right, Ray,” Fraser said, licking his lips.

 “So prove it.”

 “Pardon me?”

 “I’m naked, but you’re still wearing your shorts.  If you didn’t care about clothes, then you might…  I mean, you’d take them off, wouldn’t you?  Like you said before, animals don’t wear clothes.”

 “Understood,” Fraser said.  He pushed the boxers down over his hips and let them drop to the floor.

 “Much better.”  Ray’s voice seemed huskier now as he brought his other hand up to caress the back of Fraser’s neck.  “You iron your boxers—you starch them, too—but you wear jeans and flannel shirts instead of something that might look good on you.  Benny, no one’s gonna see your boxers.  But when I saw you in that first gray suit, oh, man, Benny, it was…  And that blue silk and linen jacket…”

 As he spoke, Ray’s voice grew softer.  The fingers of one hand feathered down the nape of Fraser’s neck as the other hand brushed up his cheek and into his hair.  His lips were now so close to Fraser’s that the Mountie could feel Ray’s breath against his mouth.

 When their lips brushed together, Ray murmured in his throat, while Fraser’s breath made a sharp little sound that was almost a gasp.  Ray’s hands were at Fraser’s neck and shoulder, bringing him forward, holding him in place, while Fraser molded his hands around Ray’s waist.  

 Their kissing deepened, lengthened, and the succulent sound of it filled the room.  Fraser’s tongue pushed into his partner’s mouth, tracing the outline of Ray’s lips, lingering just a moment on the fullness of the lower lip before moving inside.  Ray sucked it, opening to Fraser’s touch.  Slipping his hands around Fraser’s back, Ray brought their bodies closer. 

 “I wish you wore jeans more often,” Fraser said softly, grasping at Ray’s ass with both hands.

 “Why?”  Stopping, Ray looked at him in mild surprise.

 “Because the shape of your derriere—pardon my French—would be revealed.  Your usual pants are so generously cut that one can’t really see the contours of your body.”

 “There’s a reason for that,” Ray replied ruefully.

 “What is it?”

 “Two reasons.  One, it’s stylish, and two, so that no one can really see the contours of my body.  I’m too thin, Fraser.”

 Fraser squeezed him hard.  “No,” he said, “you’re not.”

 “I mean, look at you,” Ray continued, running his hands down Fraser’s back to his ass and then up his flanks to the waist.  “You can wear that dopey uniform and still look spectacular.  I need expensive tailoring and the best fabric to look, you know, even halfway decent.”  He rubbed his face over Fraser’s chest.  Fraser shivered and pulled him close.

 “Ray,” Fraser said, pausing to lick Ray’s scalp, “your skin”—cupping Ray’s face with both hands, he kissed his lips deeply, firmly, so that Ray growled in his throat when the kiss ended—“is all the clothing you need.”

 “My skin?”  Ray mouthed Fraser’s muscular shoulder, licked along his collarbone and briefly sucked a brown nipple, making Fraser jolt forward.  “My skin is nothing like yours.  You’re like Michelangelo’s David.  You’re perfect.”

 “Then why are you trying to change me?”  Fraser sounded annoyed.

 Ray laughed as he licked the other nipple.  “You’re perfect, but your clothes ain’t.”

 Fraser held Ray at arm’s length and looked into his face, frowning.  “Ray, I’m not perfect.  I’m a human being with faults and foibles, just like anyone else.”

 Ray smiled and stroked his hair.  “Well, Benny, that might be true, but you’ve always been perfect enough for me.”

 Fraser’s frown cleared a little as he cocked his head to one side.  “I have?  Always?”

 “Yeah, always,” Ray said, chucking sheepishly.  “Listen, you don’t think I’d go clothes shopping with just any guy, do you?”  He hooked one hand around Fraser’s neck and brought him close, so that he was speaking against Fraser’s lips.

“I don’t know,” Fraser murmured.  He moved forward and kissed Ray gently. 

“I wouldn’t try to dress just anyone,” Ray continued, his voice low and intimate.  “You’re special…you’re not like anyone I ever met.  And I’ve wanted to kiss you for the longest time.”

Embracing Ray around the waist, Fraser held him tight.  Ray hummed appreciatively in his throat and swiveled his hips, making Fraser moan softly.

“How long?” Fraser whispered close to Ray’s ear.

“About as long as we’ve known each other.  What about you?”

“Since I opened the door of my father’s cabin and found you standing there.”

“Wow,” Ray said, amazed, “Is that what you were thinking?  I never would have guessed.  All this time, and you never—and I never—”  He shook his head.  “What were we waiting for, Benny?”  Pulling out of his friend’s embrace, Ray kissed his way down Fraser’s chest to his belly.

 “Ray, what are you doing?”

 “I gotta pull up that sock,” Ray said slyly.  “I left it all untidy.  I know you hate to be untidy.”  When he knelt his face was on a level with Fraser’s cock.  He licked a line slowly from the base to the tip.  Fraser’s body jerked as his hands cupped Ray’s sleek head.  “You’re uncut,” Ray said, taking Fraser’s cock into his hand and holding it steady so that he could run his mouth up the shaft to his fist and back again.  Fraser moaned his name.  “Now that kind of tailoring I like.”

 Ray sucked it in again up to his fist and made some movements with his tongue that pulled a deep groan from Fraser, who stroked Ray’s head with both hands.  Looking up, Ray smiled for a second and then repeated his actions.

 “This is something else I always wanted to do,” Ray said thickly.  Opening his mouth, he pushed the tip of Fraser’s cock against the inside of his cheek and rubbed it there, nibbling on it gently with his teeth.  He released it, and Fraser swayed unsteadily on his feet.  “I used to think about it all the time, of seeing your face when I did this.”  Looking up at Fraser, he sucked hard, making Fraser cry out and grasp at his shoulders.

 “Oh, Ray,” Fraser said breathlessly, “There are some things I’ve always thought about, too.  Would you do something for me?  Something I’ve always wanted?”

 Ray looked up at him wonderingly.  “Sure, Benny.  What is it?”

 Fraser took hold of his shoulders and raised him up so that they were looking into each other’s eyes.  “Would you—I believe common parlance is—would you ‘fuck’ me?”

 Ray’s eyes widened and his mouth went slack. 

Fraser looked concerned.  “Ray, did I say something wrong?”

“Jesus, Benny, you want me to have a heart attack?  Warn me when you’re about to talk dirty.  When you’re asking me to…”  He swallowed hard.  “You’ve always wanted me to…is that what you said?”

 Fraser nodded. 

“Say it again.”

“Fuck me, Ray.” 

Ray smiled and kissed him hard, and in a second Fraser found himself being walked backwards towards the bed until his legs hit the frame and he fell back with Ray on top of him.  Ray pulled away from their kiss and smiled into Fraser’s face.  His eyes looked happy and excited. 

 “Hell, yes, Benny,” he said fervently, “I’ll fuck you.  I’ll fuck you into the middle of next week if you’ll let me.  Now, what have you got around here that’s slippery and won’t give me a rash?”

 Benny tried to think while Ray moved back to suck his cock.  “I have some herbal liniment.”

Ray shook his head.  “Oh, no, Benny, not that horrible-smelling stuff your grandma used to make.  What else you got?”

 “Boot wax?” Fraser suggested hopefully.

 “Try again,” Ray said curtly, licking him.

 “Vegetable shortening,” Fraser said.  “I suppose there’s that.”

 Ray bolted into the kitchen and returned in a moment with the small metal tub.  He was grinning broadly.  “This is the stuff, Benny.  It’s hell on fabric, but it works real good on skin.”

 “I believe it is not especially healthy as a foodstuff,” Fraser remarked.

 “I don’t care, Benny.  I’m not gonna eat it.”

 “It contains transfat, which was recently revealed to be a precursor to high cholesterol and—”

 “Benny, for god’s sakes, I don’t wanna hear about cholesterol right now,” Ray said angrily.  “Not just before we have sex.”

 “But Ray, I was just—”

 “Shut up, Fraser!”  Ray suddenly turned and snatched something off the floor behind him.  “Here we go,” he said.  “I just thought of a practical use for a silk tie.”  He wrapped it over Fraser’s mouth and tied it snugly at the side.  “There,” he said with satisfaction.”

 “Mmph bmph,” Fraser protested.

 “Yeah, I know.  And just to make sure that you don’t take it off—”  He picked up Fraser’s lanyard, removed the slide and neatly tied Fraser’s wrists together before pushing his bound hands over his head.  Fraser offered no resistance.  Ray looked at him for a minute, stroking his hands across Fraser’s chest, through his armpits and down to his cock.  “That looks good on you, Benny.  You’re probably the first guy in the world to wear a lanyard and a tie at the same time.  Now, if you don’t mind, maybe I can get back in the mood.”

 Beginning at Fraser’s thighs, Ray began touching and mouthing his fine skin.   He kissed his way up Fraser’s erection and took it into his mouth.  Fraser squirmed, but Ray held his hips back against the sheets.  Ray rubbed himself against the velvet of Fraser’s belly while Fraser tried to tell him something.

 “You like my tie?” Ray asked, grinning.  “It kind of keeps the bubbles in the champagne, doesn’t it?”  Taking the shortening container in one hand, he dug two fingers inside and pulled out a dollop that he smoothed over his erection.  “Of course, that’s not how I usually wear it, but on you, it looks good.”

 Kneeling between Fraser’s legs, Ray finger-fucked him, starting gently, and gradually increasing the pace until Fraser’s muffled moans never stopped and he was writhing with need and overflowing with stifled words.

 “Okay, Benny,” Ray said breathlessly, pushing Fraser’s knees to his chest.  “I hope you’re ready for me.”  Fraser nodded, his eyes eager.  Ray entered him slowly and Fraser moved to meet him, urging Ray on with his moans of impatience.  Ray cried out as he slid home, while Fraser whimpered, closing his eyes.  He wrapped his legs tightly around Ray’s shoulders.   “You like that?” Ray asked happily.  “You like that, Benny?”  Benny moaned indistinctly through the tie.  “Ah, hell,” Ray said.  “This just ain’t right.”  With a swift movement, he loosed the tie from Fraser’s mouth and the lanyard from his hands.  “Forget it,” he said, tossing them to the floor.  “I gotta hear what you say, and I want you to touch me. But if you even mention cholesterol again—”

 “Fuck me, Ray,” Fraser cried breathlessly.

 “That’s more like it,” said Ray, complying.

 As Ray began to move, Fraser made up for his former enforced silence with his passionate moans and appreciative comments about what Ray was doing to him. 

“Oh, Ray,” he said, “it’s so deep.  I want you, Ray.  Please, Ray.” 

Every word out of Fraser’s mouth excited Ray more, until he found a swift, hard rhythm that pleased them both.  Although Ray usually spoke few words during sex, and those in a low, masculine murmur, Fraser’s uninhibited cries encouraged his own, so that without realizing it he was nearly shouting his excitement. 

“Benny, you feel so good.  Oh, god, Benny, you’re…it’s so good, Benny.  I don’t know how long I can—” 

When one of Fraser’s neighbors banged on the ceiling with a broom handle, neither even heard it over the sounds of their lovemaking. 

They were both sweaty and panting with need, and Ray’s cock was so hard it almost hurt.  Still he held on because Fraser was so perfect with his messed-up hair and the sweat sheen on his chest and forehead, the flush on his cheekbones, and his neglected cock so stiff that Ray knew a couple of good pulls would bring them both over the edge.

Ray put his hand between them and started stroking Fraser’s hardness.  “I’ve always wanted to see you like this,” he gasped.  “Oh, Benny.  Benny, I’m gonna make you come.”

“Ray, Ray, Ray…” Fraser answered.

 And then they started to fall, and they both knew it was coming, so Ray moved faster and Fraser grabbed Ray’s ass in both hands.  With their mouths an inch apart, they cried out in chorus, coming so hard that neither spoke for minutes afterward.

 The afternoon noises resumed around them: the sounds of traffic, of water moving through pipes and people calling out and climbing up the stairs.  The broom handle banged again, four raps in quick succession followed by one angry thump.

 Ray still lay on top of Fraser with his face pressed against the Mountie’s neck.  “This building must be haunted,” he chuckled softly, nuzzling Fraser’s cheek.


 “Yes, Benny?”

 “Do you think we were too loud?”

 Ray snorted.  “Honestly?”

 “Yes, Ray.”

 “Your whole apartment building knows we did it.”


 “Yeah, and maybe the people across the street, too.”

 There was a pause.  “Oh, dear.”

 It was quiet for a long time, but this was not the icy silence from the aftermath of their shopping trip.  This silence was companionable, punctuated by the sounds of lips against lips and soft sighs of contentment.  Finally, Ray stretched, glanced at the window and sighed.

 “It’s getting late.  I told Ma I’d be home for dinner.  Why don’t you come with me, Benny?”

 “Won’t she mind?”

 “Nah, my family loves you.  Maybe a little too much, if you get my meaning.  God, Frannie’s gonna kill me if she ever finds out.  So, will you come?”

 “Yes, Ray.  Thank you kindly.”

 With a last kiss and a caress of his lips down Fraser’s chest, Ray got up and went to the sink, returning with a wet towel.  They cleaned themselves up as best they could.

 “This vegetable shortening is remarkably persistent,” Fraser remarked.  “And very unhealthy.”

Ray chuckled, shaking his head.  “You just couldn’t let that go, huh, Benny?” he said, patting his friend’s chest affectionately.  Rising, he began to sort out the heap of clothing on the floor.  “So, why do you have vegetable shortening in your house, anyway, if it’s so unhealthy?  You been baking pies or something?  Or were you planning to have sex?”  He threw Fraser an evil grin.

“No, Ray, the thought never crossed my mind.  I borrowed it from Mrs. Martinez to grease the door hinge.”

Ray picked up the container and looked at it.  The trail of his hasty fingers through the white gunk was clearly visible.  “You mean you have to return this?”

“Yes, of course.”

Ray took it into the kitchen and put it down on the counter.  “I think you better buy her a new one.”

 “Do you think, so, Ray?”

 “Well, yeah.  We used it for sex, Benny.  What if she wants to cook with it?  Yuck.”

 “Sex is a bodily function, just like eating,” Fraser said stubbornly.

 Ray came out and started sorting clothes again.  “You win, Benny.  I’m sure not in the mood for a fight.”  He laughed and held out Benny’s shorts.  “So, Benny?”

 “Yes, Ray?”  Joining Ray in the center of the room, Fraser took the proffered shorts and pulled them on.  He picked up Ray’s silk briefs and felt the texture for a second before handing them to his partner.

 Ray smiled as he took them.  “Do you know you’re the most irritating man in the world?”

 “I don’t know why you say that, Ray.  I merely wanted clothing I could be comfortable in.” 

Ray knelt to put on Fraser’s socks and garters as Fraser held up each foot in turn.  He stood to look at his handiwork.  “Hey, I wouldn’t wear what you wear, but I guess your clothes ain’t so bad.  You’d look good in anything.”

 “Your clothes suit you as well.  They complement your physique.”   Picking up the lanyard and the tie, Fraser held one in each hand and considered them carefully.

 Ray snorted.  “My physique.  Such as it is.”  He pulled on his briefs and socks and untangled his shirt from the pile on the floor. 

 Fraser looped the tie around Ray’s waist and pulled him close.  “You sell yourself short,” he said seriously.  “I’ve always enjoyed looking at you.”

 Ray smiled and cupped his hand against Fraser’s face.  “Is that so?”  They kissed until Fraser released Ray and handed him the tie.  Ray looked at it ruefully.  “This was a nice tie.  I think it’s ruined.”

 Fraser held out his hand.  “You see, the lanyard isn’t damaged at all.”

Ray looked annoyed.  “Don’t gloat, Fraser.  It’s unbecoming.”

“I’d like to buy you a new tie, Ray.”  Fraser tucked his shirt into his pants and started lacing up his boots.

“Hey, I’d like that, Benny.  Anytime you want to go shopping again, count me in.  Just as long as it ends like this.”  Fully dressed, Ray watched Fraser buckle on his Sam Browne.  “Maybe it would be better if we didn’t try to buy you any clothes for a while though, Benny.  I just don’t think you’re ever gonna see it my way.”

“Understood.  There is, however, one more thing I’d like to try on.”  He stood and looked at Ray searchingly.

 “Wow, Benny, you’re kidding.  You mean there was something you liked?  Which suit was it?  I bet it was that blue silk and linen.  Or was it the brown one?  That cream shirt was nice.”

“No, Ray, I’m afraid it wasn’t any of those,” Fraser said, approaching Ray and taking hold of his waist under his jacket.

“What was it, then?”  Ray looked puzzled.

“It was you,” Fraser said softly.  “I’d like to try you on.”

Ray’s grin was dazzling.  “You’re on, Benny.  How about tonight?  After dinner?  We’ll come back here.”

“I don’t have any pressing engagements.”  They held each other and kissed deeply.

 Ray shook his head.  “That uniform gets in my way.  The belt is so damn uncomfortable.  How can you stand it?  If we didn’t have to go, I’d rip it off you right now.”

 “Later, Ray.”  Fraser smiled.

 “You have to admit I found a good use for a tie.  Didn’t I?” Ray said smugly.  “You didn’t think I could do it.”

 “You’re right, Ray,” said Fraser.  “It will never rival the lanyard, but I can think of one or two other uses for it.  I’ll show you tonight.”

 The door closed behind them as they walked through the hall and down the stairs, still laughing.   


The End


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