Ray Kowalski opened one eye. "Whuh?"
"Why? How come?"
"Why didn't you stick with Benny?"
"Do not call him 'Benny.' He's not a Benny."
"Just 'cause he won't let you call him that—"
"—Which I never would, because it's stupid—"
"—and just 'cause he liked it when I called him that—"
"—Because you're stupid."
"Hey! He was my friend first, and if I wanna call him—"
"Jesus! Why the hell does it matter? He's not here, anyhow." Kowalski punched his pillow. "And he's not Benny, he's Fraser," he muttered, sinking back down.
Silence. Kowalski felt the sleep wave taking him under again.
"You didn't answer me."
"Aw, jeez, can't a guy get some shuteye? Come on, Vecchio. I'm sleeping."
"You're not sleeping, Stanley, unless you're talking in your sleep."
Kowalski groaned. Oh, great; things always took a turn for the worse when Vecchio started playing the "Stanley" card. "Fine. What are you talking about? What didn't I answer?"
"Why you didn’t stay with Benny."
"Oh fer— Vecchio!"
"No, really." The voice was different, less flippant, and Kowalski was forced to open his eyes and confront the pair staring back at him. "Why?" Vecchio said, his voice dropping, "Why'd you choose me, when you could've had him? How come?"
"Maybe I am." Kowalski could hear the nerves behind Vecchio's defensiveness. "Why didn't you stay with him, Ray?" Vecchio persisted. "When you two were up there in Frozen Armpit Land, doing your Eskimo thing. You could've."
"Yeah, I could've." He thought a second. "No, no I couldn't."
"Ehh, you know me and ice and snow. Too cold. Couldn't stand it."
Vecchio snorted, which, given his nose, was an epic undertaking. "Yeah? I've seen you stay out on the ice playing hockey until you turn blue. So don't give me that 'too cold,' crap, because I don't believe it."
"You don't, huh?"
"Not for a minute." Vecchio shifted in the bed. "Look, Ray," Vecchio said softly, "I don't get it. Look at him. He's a good-looking guy, he's—"
"He's a fucking god, Vecchio."
"Yeah, that's my point. So?"
"Christ, Vecchio. Ray." Kowalski sighed deeply and rolled on top, his long legs settling between Vecchio's. He ran a finger along the prominent nose and cupped the dark-shadowed jaw. "What the hell's got into you? Other than me, I mean?"
"Shaddup. Just wondered."
"Yeah, you just wondered." He ran his hand over Vecchio's close shorn head, feeling ragged new growth. "You need a cut."
"Right there, see? Fraser has great hair, and me, I got no hair—"
"Hey, pal," Ray said, thoroughly exasperated. "I do the hair in this duet, remember?"
"And I do, what, body?"
"No way. Your body's worse than mine. You do lips."
"I do…I do?"
"Yeah, dope. I got the hair. You got the mouth. And the eyes."
"So you like my eyes."
"Holy fucking Christ, who's this needy freak in my bed? I thought I was supposed to be fucking the Italian Stallion, and here I got Wimpy Wooton. I want a refund."
"Kid in 7th grade who – never mind. Ray. Fraser's a great guy, the greatest, and I had a, a connection to him, okay? You felt it too, you said so. I mean, you had it when you and he were together, right?"
"When you say 'together,' what exactly are you implying?"
"'Implying.' Come on, Vecchio. You and Fraser, you know. Like you and me."
"Are you nuts?"
"What, you think I'll be jealous or something?"
"Jesus, Ray, Benny and I were buddies! We were never like, like you and me."
"Really? Jeez, I woulda sworn—"
"You really are an idiot." Vecchio poked Kowalski in the forehead. "Dummy. Sure, I love the guy, but not that way. Not like you did."
Kowalski shrugged. "Nah. I never—"
"Ho, really? It’s not like you have a poker face, Stanley."
"Quit calling me that, Raymond. Look, you big gavone." Kowalski shifted his hips, bringing their bodies in closer contact. "How many times I gotta tell you — Fraser's just…Fraser. He's weird. He's wonderful. He's — he's not you."
"So…it's different." Kowalski smiled. "Better."
"How, better?" Vecchio rolled his hips and Kowalski suppressed a groan. "Come on. Give me one thing you like better about me."
"Jesus. Stop doing that. I can't think. And don't tell me I never think, because I will beat you with my fists. Okay, here's one: I can't fight with him."
"You're with me because you want to fight?"
"No, no, that's not what I mean. I mean there's something we got I never had with him. You know. The 'oomph,' the 'unngghh,' the—"
"If you're gonna make monkey noises at me, Stanley, I swear to Jesus I'm gonna knee you in the nuts. What the fuck are you talking about?"
"What the fuck I'm talking about is whatever the fuck it is we got, whatever the fuck makes the air go zap between us. Don't tell me you don't feel it!"
"The 'zap,' huh'"
"Yeah, something like that."
"Are you on drugs?"
"Listen, asshat, you keep telling me you're the brains, so stop playing dumb. You do smart-ass, I do pretty."
"You're the biggest smart-ass I know. And what's that supposed to be — Kowalski's Rules? I do the brains, you do pretty, you do hair, I do lips—"
"Maybe I will."
"Cheap shot, pal."
"Yeah, but when the kielbasa fits…"
"Wanna see how it fits again?"
"You think you can get it up again?"
"Feel that, wiseguy."
"No more mob jokes, I told you…oohh, yeah, that's nice."
"You bet it is."
"Well, it's not too bad for a Polish sausage."
"Huh. So, wanna make a hero sandwich? You know, stuff an Italian loaf with a big Polish sausage?"
"So I'm the hero?"
"Yeah, right, you moron," whispered Kowalski, "you're my hero. So shut the fuck up and come here."