Memory, Like Candy


"Aw, crud!" It was no good trying to keep his pressed trouser cuffs dry in this mess. Kowalski's landlord had shoveled last night, but it snowed again overnight and turned to freezing rain in the early morning. Now the whole sidewalk was a flithy river of slush. Just walking from his usual parking space to the building's front door would have soaked him right through, but every damn parking spot on Kowalski's street was occupied with either (a) a car or (b) a garbage can reserving a space betwen bunkers of blackened slush, and he'd had to park three blocks away.

When Kowalski opened the front door, Ray was leaning against the frame, sopping wet. Freezing rain was dripping over his hat and off the edge of his nose, and snow had soaked into the tops of his galoshes to drench his loafers. Between the puddles of slush he'd stepped in and the water dripping off the bottom of his overcoat, Ray's trousers were soaked from the ankle.

"Jesus," said Kowalski, opening the door wider and ushering him in. "What' d you do, go swimming in the lake they call Michigan?"

"Lake Michigan, you freak," said Ray, following Kowalski up the stairs to his apartment door.

"That's what I said, the lake they call Michigan," said Kowalski again, and laughed at some private joke. "Take those off before you come inside," he said, and vanished into the apartment.

Ray knelt creakily, the soaked legs of his trousers pulling uncomfortably against his skin as he bent his knees. "Yeah, because otherwise I might drip all over your pigsty of a floor," he muttered, but he carefully removed his galoshes and loafers and sopping socks before he stepped into the apartment. Almost as soon as he entered, Kowalski returned, arms full of towels. He pushed the apartment door shut and started stripping Ray out of his overcoat.

"Seriously, how'd you get so wet?" Kowalski said, pulling Ray's head down to drape a towel over it.

Ray took the towel away from Kowalski and scrubbed his face vigorously. God, it felt good to be getting dry. "Had to walk three blocks. Your oh-so-charming neighbors reserved all the shoveled-out spots."

Kowalski dropped to his knees and peeled Ray's trousers down his legs. Ray looked at him, bemusedly enjoying the feeling of dry terrycloth on his legs. Usually Kowalski on his knees was the precursor to another sort of physical pleasure, but right now he was too cold to be turned on. Kowalski looked up with a crooked grin, and Ray wondered if were thinking the same thing. "Why didn't you just move someone's shit and park in the space anyway?" Kowalski asked. He leaned in for a brief moment to nuzzle Ray through his briefs, then sat back on his heels and looked up at Ray wickedly.

"What, and have some jackass key the Riv in revenge? Not worth it," he said. He palmed Kowalski's cheek, and Kowalski leaned into it briefly then pulled back.

"Fuck, you're cold," said Kowalski and stood. "There's sweats in the bedroom." He turned to enter the kitchen.

When Ray came out of the bedroom, looking ridiculous but feeling warm in Kowalski's CPD sweats and sweatshirt, Kowalski met him with a steaming cup of coffee. "Sit," Kowalski said, as Ray wrapped his fingers around the mug and bent to inhale the steam. Ray collapsed on to Kowalski's ratty couch and wrapped himself in the afghan.

"You should ticket your landlord for failure to clean the walkways," he called after Kowalski.

"Eh," said Kowalski, returning with two bowls of chili. "He did the best he could. Everything's gonna suck in weather like this." He sat on the other end of the sofa and stuck his bare toes under the afghan, wriggling them against Ray's thigh. "How's life in the private dick business?"

Ray ate a couple of quick spoonsful of chili before answering, feeling the warmth burn down the back of his throat and spread through his belly. "In weather like this? Shitty. But I have a lead on Tatch, and Kosman finally paid his damn bill."

"About time," said Kowalski, through a mouthful of chili. "That's, what, sixty days late?"

"Ninety," Ray replied. "God, it's good to be warm."

"Good," said Kowalski, with a slow smile. He put his chili bowl on the coffee table and leaned forward to take Ray's away, too.

"Hey, I was eating that!" Ray complained, but Kowalski shimmied foward until he was straddling Ray and leaned forward for a lazy kiss.

"Tough," he said, pulling back for just a second, and then leaning right in again. He bit Ray's lip, holding it lightly then soothing the spot with his tongue. Ray moaned slightly and pushed into the kiss, grabbing Kowalski's ass to pull him forward. Kowalski inhaled sharply through his nose and licked into Ray's mouth.

"God," gasped Ray, pulling back to catch his breath, and Kowalski threaded his fingers through Ray's hair and pulled him back into the kiss.

"Gotta keep you warm," Kowalski murmured into Ray's mouth. "It's in my job description."

Ray huffed a laugh against Kowalski's cheek. "Detective for the Chicago PD?"

"Heh," said Kowalski, and started sucking on Ray's collarbone. He looked up as Ray tilted his head back to give him better access. "I don't think I want Welsh as my boss for this one. No," he continued, tracing his mouth across Ray's throat. "That's just my moonlighting job. My main whatsis -- my vacation, vacootion, whatever -- is fuckbuddy for Ray Vecchio."

"Fuckbuddy?"

"No?" Kowalski's breath ghosted across his skin, and clever fingers were lifting the hem of Ray's sweatshirt and exploring his chest, tracing burning patterns.

"Boyfriend," said Ray, firmly. Or as firmly as he could manage when Kowalski was sliding off Ray's thighs and dropping to the floor. For the second time tonight, Kowalski was kneeling at Ray's feet, but this time, Ray was warm and dry.

Kowalski looked up at him, his eyes glittering. "Okay," he said, his fingers digging into Ray's thighs. "Okay."

Ray shook his head, amused. Seriously, how could Kowalski not know that? More to the point, how could Kowalski not know that and still greet Ray with towels and warm clothes and hot food? "You idiot," he said, unable to stop the smile that took hold of his face.'

Kowalski closed his eyes and leaned his face against Ray's thigh. "Yeah," he said, and pressed a kiss to Ray's knee.

Ray rested his hand on Kowalski's head. The wind and sleet battered against the apartment windows, and Ray couldn't remember when he'd last felt so good.