“See anything you like?”
Rafe glanced up from the jewelry case he had been perusing, let his eyes rake over Faraday's body, and gave him a wicked smile. “Where do I begin?”
Faraday's stern look was ruined by the flush staining his cheeks. “Rings, Vas,” he scolded. “I was talking about rings.”
“I wasn't,” Rafe replied with a wink, causing the young salesgirl standing behind the case to giggle.
The flush darkened as Faraday grumbled, “Yes, I got that. Is there one you want?”
Returning his attention to the collection of exquisite gold and diamond rings glittering in the showcase light, Rafe sadly shook his head. “Sorry, guero. Not this time. Maybe we'll get lucky at the next store.”
“We've already been to three stores today, and countless others these past few weeks,” Faraday whined. “We're running out of stores.”
“I doubt that.” Rafe turned his back on the display case and faced his frustrated fiancé. “Do you know how many jewelry stores there are in Southern California?”
“No, but I'm sure you do, and you're gonna drag me to every one of them, aren't you?”
“Not every one.”
Faraday just glared at him. “Not funny.”
“C'mon, don't be like that, mijo (hon). This is a very important decision.” Stepping forward, Rafe casually draped his arms around Faraday's neck. “I've got the perfect guy, and I want a ring just as perfect. Is that so wrong?” The salesgirl sighed at that.
Faraday shot her a look and she hurriedly pretended to be dusting off one of the pristine cases. Looking back at Rafe, he asked, “Well, what does this perfect ring look like? Maybe I can help you find it.”
“I have no idea, but I'll know it when I see it.”
Faraday was starting to wonder if that would ever happen. They had been looking since the day he had spontaneously proposed to Rafe in their kitchen, and so far, Rafe's finger was still ringless. Too clunky. Too delicate. Too plain. Too gaudy. Too expensive. Well, to be fair, Rafe hadn't used that excuse, but there had been a couple of occasions where he seemed very excited about a ring only to suddenly change his mind, and Faraday just KNEW it was because of the price-tag.
Fuck, he wished he was rich. He'd buy Rafe the world, anything he wanted, spoil him with more than just an occasional pastry. Rafael Vasquez deserved nothing less. But Faraday wasn't rich, and Rafe loved him in spite of that, and even though it was a blow to his ego, he was grateful that his beloved wasn't going to bankrupt him during the great ring hunt.
Still, he refused to let Rafe just 'settle' for something simply because it was in his price range.
“Are any of those other stores in this area?” Faraday was unsure he could handle more ring shopping but he was in a hurry for the search to come to an end.
“One or two, I think,” Rafe answered, “but it's getting late. We should pick up dinner and get home to the perritos (puppies). We can try again next weekend. There's no rush.”
“I know. It's just. . .” I want my mark on you sounded waaaaaay too creepy. “I want everyone to know you're mine,” Faraday mumbled instead, feeling his cheeks burning hot again.
“Aw, how sweet,” Rafe said, the expression on his face soft and doting. “But I know I'm yours, and that's all that matters.” He leaned in and brushed a kiss across Faraday's lips. “We could always get matching tattoos, if you want.”
Faraday gave a derisive snort. “You can't pick a ring. I'm gonna trust you to choose a tattoo?”
“How about a heart with the words 'Estoy con estúpido'? (I'm with stupid) ”
The salesgirl giggled, so Faraday knew he had just been insulted. Again. “No tattoos. Mama always told me never make it easy for the cops to identify you.”
Rafe let out a loud belly laugh. “And you had a need for that advice?”
That finally got a smile out of Faraday. “Perhaps, in my wild youth.”
“I can't wait to meet her. The stories she must have.”
“That's what I'm afraid of. Any ideas for dinner?”
Rafe thought about it for a moment before replying, “I could really go for some beef lo mein.”
“Chinese it is. Let's go.”
Rafe turned to the salesgirl. “Gracias por su ayuda, señorita. (thank you for your help, miss).”
“El placer fue mío. (the pleasure was mine)” Checking out Faraday as he left the store, she added a playful, “Bueno atrapada.” (nice catch)
Rafe flashed her a big grin and laughed, “Puedes mirar pero no tocar!” (you can look but not touch) as he waved good-bye.
+ + + + + + + + + +
Maria and Ethel greeted them at the front door with delighted barks as they entered the condo. Following their established routine, Rafe put the bag containing their dinner in the kitchen, then helped Faraday get the leashes on the dogs for their evening walk. It was a mild night, and the girls were excited to be out, so they made an extra trip around the block. When they returned home, they discovered a Fed-Ex box sitting on the front doorstep. Handing Ethel's leash to Faraday, Rafe picked up the package and exclaimed, “Oh good, they're here!”
“What's here?” Faraday asked, with a hint of dread.
“You'll see,” Rafe said as he opened the door and put the box down on the entryway table before heading for his office.
Faraday took the leashes off the dogs and cleaned their paws with some wet-wipes before his curiosity got the best of him and he glanced at the label on the box: 'Posh Pups'. He groaned in pain. “Please tell me you didn't.”
Rafe grinned mischiviously as he returned with a pair of scissors, retrieved the box, and carried it into the living room. He placed it on the coffee table and carefully sliced open the top; reaching in, he pulled out two small white lace and satin pillows, causing Faraday to groan louder. “Oh, God, you did. I thought you were joking about the dogs.”
“Of course not! I'm not leaving our girls out of our special day. Mimi, come here, bomboncita (sweetie).”
At the sound of her name, Maria charged into the room, Ethel on her tail. Faraday shook his head in dismay as Rafe knelt down and strapped the ring-pillow around the beagle's torso. “This isn't gonna to work,” he insisted.
“We won't know until we try.”
Faraday watched as Ethel started nosing curiously at the pillow and whimpering, obviously looking for hers. “Surprisingly, this is one time I don't have to try something to know it won't work.”
“Stop being so negative,” Rafe chided lightly, as he strapped the other pillow around Ethel. “We've got plenty of time to train them what to do. And see how pretty they look!” Nuzzling Ethel's neck, he cooed, “Who's a linda pequeña (pretty little one)?”
Faraday was tempted to pull out his phone and take a picture, not because they girls looked pretty, but because Rafe looked so damn happy cuddling them. However, that would make it seem like he was admitting this was a good idea, and it really, really wasn't. “Do you know what they call a wedding ring that's been swallowed by a dog? A diamond in the ruff.”
Rafe groaned, even as a smile tugged at his lips. “Very funny. Let's test them out.”
Faraday grabbed the closest thing at hand. “What about this?” as he passed Rafe a shot glass.
Rafe rolled his eyes and sighed. “Will you be serious?”
“You tied a lace pillow to a dog's ass and you want ME to be serious?”
“Our dog,” Rafe corrected him. “And it's not on her ass. We need a ring.”
“Well, if you had picked one out today instead of flirting with that salesgirl, you'd have one to practice with.”
“Don't be jealous, guero.”
“Right. So you don't have a ring?”
“Who am I? Frodo? You think I have a pile of rings just lying. . .” Faraday paused his sarcastic rant before continuing in a normal, thoughtful voice, “Actually, hang on. I may have something,” and he disappeared into the master bedroom. Rafe heard a drawer open and close, then another, followed by some muttered swearing, another drawer opening, then an triumphant, “Bingo!”
A few moments later Faraday returned, only to discover that the dogs now also sported sequined pink bows around their necks. Jesus wept. “I think this wedding is making you loco, my friend.”
“What were you doing in the bedroom?” Rafe asked, as he stood up.
“Looking for this.” Faraday held out his hand, an odd-shaped ring resting in his palm. “Will that work?”
“What's this?” Rafe took the ring from Faraday and examined it. Bright silver in color, it had a pointed ridge and smooth angled sides, like a rooftop. Turning it over, looking at it from different angles, he noted that it was sleek and modern and definitely not Faraday's style at all. “I've never seen you wear it before.”
Faraday shrugged. “Not really a ring guy. And it doesn't fit me anyway.”
“Then why did you buy it? Or was it a gift from a not-so-secret admirer?”
“Neither. I won it in a poker game a few years ago. Got totally ripped off. I had nearly a grand in the pot and some guy who was outta chips tossed that cheap tin ring in to call.”
Rafe looked at the inside of the band and started to laugh. “You silly man! This isn't tin!”
“Fine. Silver. Whatever. Still not worth a grand. He's lucky I won the hand, or it could've gotten ugly. Last time I played with those cheating bastards.”
“You really don't know what this is?” Rafe gave the ring back to Faraday and pointed out the Pt900 mark stamped into the band.
“So. . .this ring is platinum,” Rafe patiently explained.
Faraday's brow furrowed. “That's good?”
“Si! Very good. Must be worth at least double what you bet.”
“Really?” That information surprised Faraday. All these years he had thought it was just a pretty piece of trash, which is the only reason he had held onto it. But suddenly, another thought occurred to him. Clasping Rafe's right hand, he slid the ring onto his third finger. It seemed a bit loose, so he took it off and tried the middle finger instead, where it sat snug and perfect. “It fits you,” he announced. “I mean, not just the size, but the style. It's very you. What do you think?”
“It's a nice ring,” Rafe agreed, holding his hand up, scrutinizing how it looked. “I'll have to see if any jewelry stores have something similar. . .”
“No need,” Faraday cut in. “It's yours.”
Rafe's lips curved up in amusement. “Are you giving me some strange man's ring for our engagement, guero?”
“Some strange man's TWO THOUSAND DOLLAR PLATINUM ring,” Faraday amended, proudly.
Rafe chuckled at that, but when Faraday didn't join in the merriment, he realized the offer wasn't a joke. “You're serious.”
“Very serious,” Faraday asserted, clasping Rafe's hands in his. “C'mon, babe, we both know I couldn't never afford to get you something this nice.”
“Oh, corazón (sweetheart),” Rafe murmured, fondly with a small shake of his head. “I don't care how much you spend. I'd wear a ring-pop, as long as it came from you.”
“But I want you to have the best!” Faraday insisted.
“I already have the best,” Rafe said, sincerely, leaning forward and brushing his lips over Faraday's cheek.
Damn this man, Faraday thought. How can he reduce me to a puddle of mush with just a few words? But he was right. Giving your fiancé a used ring was kind of tacky. Actually, it was REALLY tacky. But perhaps it could still be of use. “Okay, well, it's worth a lot of money, right? Maybe we could use it to barter for a ring you really want.”
“I don't think jewelry stores work like that.”
“Then we'll pawn it.”
“You wouldn't get anywhere near its true value.”
“How about if we melt it down and you can design your own ring.”
“Sounds like a lot of work, and that might be just as expensive as buying a new ring.”
Faraday gave an exasperated huff. “Well, there must be SOMETHING we can do with it!”
Rafe pulled his hand from Faraday's grasp, and admired the ring for a few moments. “It would be a shame for something this pretty go to waste.” He studied it for a few more moments, then said, “There's a lot of empty space. What if I got your initials engraved on one side, and the date you proposed on the other? That would make it more personal, yes?”
Faraday didn't reply right away, as his brain tried to process what Rafe had suggested. “You'd wear my initials?” he asked, his voice soft and disbelieving. That was even better than wearing his mark, which still sounded waaaaaay too creepy.
“I'd be proud to wear your initials,” Rafe told him, flashing one of his sun-bright smiles. “If that's okay with you?”
“Yeah. Yeah!” Faraday agreed, nodding enthusiastically. “I could do that!”
“Then I think I found my perfect ring.”
“FINALLY!” Faraday declared, sweeping Rafe up into a breathless kiss.
Naturally, Rafe had to ruin the moment by commenting, “Now all we have to do is pick out our wedding bands.”
“Dear God in heaven. . .”
“Unless you have a couple of other fancy trinkets hiding in your junk drawer?”
“No, but I did find some flavored condoms we could put to good use.”
A dirty grin crossed Rafe's face. “I like the way you think. You grab the lube, I'll grab the lo mein.”
“I'm sure that sounded better in your head. And get those ridiculous things off the dogs.”
“But we still haven't tried them out yet,” Rafe complained, even as he crouched down to dog-level. He was just reaching for Ethel's pillow when he stopped and pulled his phone out of his back pocket. “At least I can get a picture,” he said, handing it to Faraday as he posed with their cherished dogs.
“You're hopeless,” Faraday laughed, as pressed the button.
“Okay, now your turn,” Rafe announced, making room for Faraday on the floor.
Faraday pretended to hesitate for a moment, then huffed, “Just one,” as he knelt down and passed the phone back to Rafe. Wrapping his arms around the dogs, he added, “This better not end up on your Facebook page.”
“Oh, no. Definitely not,” Rafe assured him as he snapped the photo. “My Instagram account has many more followers.”
“También te amo. (love you, too.) Now move over!” Rafe demanded, as he slid between Faraday and Maria. “Family selfie!”
What is my life? Faraday thought, even as he pulled Rafe close and smiled.
+ + + + + + + + + +
Some time later, once the lo mein had been eaten, and the condoms had been utilized and thoroughly enjoyed, Rafe and Faraday lay snuggling together in bed. Rafe's hand was resting over Faraday's heart, the metal from his new ring warming the skin, and Faraday was happy. He'd be happier once they finally got the ring engraved, but for now he was content, knowing their search was over.
He'd worry about the wedding rings another day.
“You know what we didn't do?” Rafe whispered into the quiet room.
“Pretty sure we did everything that time,” Faraday murmured, “including some things that I didn't think were physically possible.”
“Not that, cabrón, (bastard)” Rafe laughed. “We forgot to open our fortune cookies.”
“We gotta do that now?” Even after two years together, Rafe still hadn't figured out that Faraday liked to go to sleep after sex. Especially good sex. And that had been exceptionally good sex.
“Of course! Can't risk any bad luck, right?”
And because Faraday was head over heels in love with this ridiculous man, he heaved a sigh and said, “Fine. Hand it over.”
Rafe pushed himself up in the bed, and reached over to the nightstand. He moved aside the empty Chinese containers, grabbed one of the sealed treats then passed it to Faraday. “Remember, you have to read it out loud.”
Removing the wrapper and snapping it in half, Faraday took out the slip of paper and handed the cookie parts to Rafe, who was the only person he had even known that actually ATE the cookie parts. “The greatest danger could be your stupidity,” Faraday recited, causing Rafe to burst into laughter. “It's not that funny.”
“It really is.”
“Whatever. What does yours say?”
Rafe cracked his open, and popped a piece of cookie in his mouth. “Good things come to those who wait,” he mumbled as he chewed.
Faraday rolled his eyes. “Wow. So original.”
“But true. I waited for you, and I waited for this ring, and they were both worth it. Which reminds me.” He turned back to his nightstand, opened the drawer, and pulled out a small square box. “I picked this up a while ago, but I was waiting until I found my ring to give it to you. Nothing extravagant, because I know you think I spend too much money on gifts, but it didn't seem fair I was the only one to have a symbol of our engagement, so. . .” And with that, he passed the box over to Faraday.
Lifting the cover revealed an Archimede Klassik watch, understated and elegant, with a silver face and a brown leather band. It was a stunning watch, and Faraday hoped it hadn't been as expensive as it looked, but knowing Rafe, that was a fool's hope. As the seconds dragged on with no comment, Rafe jumped in to break the silence. “I know you don't wear jewelry, so it seemed like a good compromise. There's an inscription, too.”
Faraday carefully removed the watch from the box and turned it over, but he couldn't read the inscription as it was in Spanish. Of course. “What does it say?”
“Mía a través del tiempo.”
“Which means. . .?”
“Mine through time.”
Faraday sat quietly, digesting that. He really wanted to say something witty or even half-way coherent, but could barely swallow over the lump in his throat, let alone speak. How did I ever get so lucky? he thought for the thousandth time since he had met this wonderful man. “That's. . .um. . .that's nice. Thank you,” he finally managed. “But you shouldn't have.”
“Yeah, I should have. Here. Let me.” Rafe took the watch and wrapped it around Faraday's wrist. Once it was fastened, he asked, “How does that feel?”
“It feels great. I love it.” And he did. It was special and thoughtful and so very, very Rafe. It was also the exact opposite of the ring that he had flippantly handed over as a token of his love. What the hell had he been thinking? God, he was such an idiot. “You know, babe, I was just thinking. . .”
“I've told you not to do that, mijo,” Rafe joked.
Faraday ignored the jest and continued, “Maybe we should keep shopping for a ring after all.”
“What?!” Rafe cried out, clearly upset. “Why?”
“Well, I mean. . .you got me this beautiful watch and the nice inscription and I just gave you some old thing that was collecting dust in the back of my sock drawer that belonged to someone else and. . .”
Rafe held his right hand close to his chest, covering it with his left, preventing Faraday from getting to the ring. “Cariño (darling), don't think like that.”
“But. . .”
“You put this ring on my hand, and I'm never taking it off,” Rafe stated, emphatically. “Well, except to have it engraved. But then it's going back on that finger for good.”
“Are you sure?”
“I'm very sure, guero. This is the only ring I want. Forever.”
Threading his fingers through Rafe's hair, Faraday pulled him in for a long, lingering kiss. When they finally came up for air, he pointed to his watch, and asked, “How do you say it again?”
With a smile, Rafe carefully pronounced the words one more time, and Faraday did his best to repeat it. “Mee-a tra-veses de tempo. Is that right?”
Rafe nodded, even as he bit his lip to keep from laughing. “Close enough.”
“Wait, what did I say?”
The laughter couldn't be contained any longer. “You are a fat clock.”
Rafe just smirked. “Am I?”
“Yeah, well, I meant every word.”
“Me, too, querido (darling),” and leaned in for a kiss. Then another. Faraday tried for a third, but Rafe had other ideas, as he got out of the bed and announced, “This calls for a celebration. Chubby Hubby or Phish Food?”
Faraday sighed. He should have known a couple of fortune cookies wouldn't qualify as dessert in Rafe's book. Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? “What the hell? Bring them both.”
“And. . .?” Rafe asked, with big eyes and a hopeful expression.
Knowing what Rafe was requesting, Faraday sighed again. He could never say 'no' to that stupidly handsome face—except when it came to tattoos. He was so whipped. “Yes, the girls can sleep in here tonight,” he agreed, reluctantly. “But I want waffles tomorrow morning.”
Rafe gave him a big smile “Deal.” He grabbed Faraday's robe from a nearby chair and dashed off.
Once he was gone, Faraday inspected his watch, mumbling the phrase under his breath, “Mine through time.”
Sounds like a damn fine plan to me, he thought with a smile.