Title: Nell' Amore Ancora
Pairing: Stella/Vecchio, with reference to Fraser/Kowalski.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, I don't own them, and believe me, Stella's a lawyer and she'd sue my kiester if I claimed ownership. I do however, house the muses, so...the story's mine.
Notes/Comments: This is a Stella POV, set some time after CotW but before Fraser and Kowalski set off on their adventure. I don't know where this Stella muse came from, but she started talking and this was the result. Sort-of spoilers for CotW and subtle references to others, but nothing I can think of. And this is perhaps a bit sappier than Stella would be, but it's a special day and she's in a particularly good mood. As I said, this is a nicer Stella than I would probably have seen her as, but blame my fever or my wanting to give her the benefit of the doubt. Yes, this is a happy world where amazingly family and friends can love and accept Stella and Vecchio getting married as well as, oh, that other little couple too. But this was for a lyric wheel so it's short and sweet (yes, that's a key word with me.)
Feedback: I'll accept constructive praise and criticism.
Oh, and the title is Italian for "in love again."
It's funny, really, when you wake up one day and realize that your life has changed - that you've fallen in love for the second time, even though you thought you didn't have time, or sometimes that you didn't have the heart to fall again. One day, you look up and find a dark-haired man with a smile and stunning eyes that you could easily lose yourself in and you know that fate has once again worked its magic. And this time, instead of the idealistic dreams that you had when you're 18 or 21 and the world is at your fingertips, there's a connection based on respect, personality, an outlook on life.
Not to say that young love can't last, it just couldn't last for me.
I had spent almost two decades as the center of one man's universe - it was a tiring job. I thought I was too independent to be needed like Ray needed me. It wasn't until later, when there was no one to revolve around me, did I realize what I truly had. Where Fridays used to mean flowers and perhaps a night out on the town, dancing until we thought we'd drop. Now, Friday night meant curling up alone with the latest legal brief. Or, on the rare occasion of an invitation from one recently divorced friend or another for a night on the town; instead of words of romance - "You look beautiful, Stell" or "I love the way you fit in my arms" - I was subjected to " Girl you make me tongue tied, tongue tied, whenever you are near me."
I was above all that, the idiotic come-hithers of men who would have problems forming a full sentence, but I was also above, beyond, and tired of hearing the endearments from the man who I had let go. I never really meant to hurt him, to be so harsh, as I kept pushing Ray away. I saw how his face fell, the hurt in his eyes - he was still the 13-year-old who followed me around like a puppy dog; the 17-year-old who blushed when he asked me to prom; and the 21-year-old who dropped to one knee on the day I started law school and looked up at me with tears in his eyes asking me to marry him. I saw that pain, and it hurt like a dull ache, but it had to be done - I was never the romantic Ray needed, and I realized that the life I wanted couldn't become a reality as Mrs. Stanley Raymond Kowalski. But before you judge me, let me say that I will forever love Ray - he was my best friend, my husband, and my lover for a good portion of my life. I was no longer in love with him - but I wanted him to be happy, he deserved to find someone who could fit the role of soul mate that I know I did not.
Constable Benton Fraser, for as much as the man can step on my last nerve...he is the one that Ray needs and deserves. You'd have to be blind not to see the connection there. I don't know when it was that I first noticed something had changed. When Ray stopped trying so hard to get my attention, when I noticed how seamlessly they interacted. It was one of those feelings I couldn't shake; I couldn't understand what was going on. And then one day, it just clicked - I walk into the precinct, ready to talk to Detectives Huey and Dewey about a car jacking case they were working on when I see Ray and of course, less than a step away, Fraser. And I see the accident before it happens, a witness who had been talking to one of the officers stands up and goes to leave, turning right into Ray, and as they collide, they fell to the floor. I don't know why, but I watched, I stared as Fraser extended his hand to help Ray up, and I can only imagine that my heart as well as my jaw fell to my knees as Ray stood up and didn't automatically drop his hand. No, I watched as he smiled a smile I used to think would only ever be given to me - but even then it was never that open - and squeezed his partner's hand before letting go.
I saw it, but I didn't believe it, and damn it all, I would have to have as my confidante the mother of my ex-husband. It's kind of hard to bitch about how mad you are at someone when the object of your anger is the listener's much beloved son. I didn't know what to feel, what to think, what to do as I brooded in my apartment - pick your emotion, and I had it. Mostly I was mad. Mad that Ray had fallen in love again when he had been so smitten with me. Mad that he had fallen for a man, and not just any man, a polite, proper, and annoying man such as Benton Fraser. Mad, and yes, jealous. Jealous that he had found someone, that he could get over me, that he was happier than I had ever seen him. For that fact, the memory of the look of utter love that played on their faces, no matter how upset I was, I had to be happy for Ray. Because life goes on, and two decades with a die-hard romantic makes you sometimes believe that there's always a chance for true love.
It's amazing the clarity that can come after a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream and a phone call to your ex-mother-in-law that began as a somewhat childish idea to "tell" on Ray and ended with me in tears and Barbara assuring me that it's usually when we're looking in one direction that true love comes and knocks us flat on our ass. And it's amazing how prophetic her words would prove to be...
"Stella? Hey, beautiful, you coming? We've got a reception hall full of guests waiting for us." Ray, my new husband, my new Ray, pokes his head through the open doorway as I sit here, fixing my make-up before we proceed to the reception hall.
I nod, stand, and walk over to him, taking his hand.
"You look amazing." He says, and I could get lost in the look he has in his eyes forever - I promised him forever today, and this time, I know that it will happen. We walk towards the hall, where the wedding guests wait.
A lifetime ago, although it's been only a few months, I walked into an interrogation room with my life consisting of only my work, my defining trait being my role as Assistant District Attorney. As I started to walk out the door, towards another day, another case, that door closed and I when it was once again opened, my definition, my life, was changed. A phrase, an introduction, "Ray Vecchio, the real Ray Vecchio" and a smile that could make my knees melt. Hollywood and Harlequin have made trillions on selling the concept of lightning bolts flashing across the sky as two soulmates meet, and I was always one to scoff, but life never ceases to amaze me. Because in that moment, when Ray Vecchio took my hand, I knew I would marry him, and dammit if we didn't sit sipping drinks and finding out that our flirting techniques were more than a little rusty, if Francesca and Lt. Welsh's groans and eyerolls were anything to go by. His charm, his style, his warmth, and his practicality all served to draw me in. And wouldn't you know, I got a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, like I was a young girl with her first crush. I don't know that whirlwind would exactly the right word to describe our romance - it was more a wine and roses seduction that I was a more than willing participant in - but whatever it was it was love.
He proposed over dinner - the diamond, he said, had once belonged to his grandmother, and she had brought the ring with her from Italy. The colors were wine red and gold, my bouquet was a cluster of long stem roses, and Ray Kowalski walked me proudly down the aisle. It seemed fitting that he would be the one to give me away. And to round off our tableau, Benton Fraser stood as best man. I had to laugh when Lt. Welsh commented in his exasperated, and yet gruffly affectionate way, as he looked at the four of us, that he wondered if the 27th Precinct would become known for its matchmaking capabilities. As we enter the hall now, I see our friends and family smiling and clapping as we enter the room. Ray gives my hand a gentle squeeze and brushes aside some of my hair to kiss my cheek, and we share a kiss to the sounds of glasses clinking. Looking around, I see Ma Vecchio sitting in a chair, smiling - her family now near complete, she says. Frannie is arguing with Lt. Welsh about something or another. Damien and Barbara Kowalski are standing close to Ray and Fraser, both couples, much like Ray's and my own, hands are clasped.
At this moment, there are so many things I feel I have to do. I have to remember to tell Ma that I'm honored to be a part of her family. I should sit down with Frannie sometime soon; we are, after all, now sisters. I have to thank Barbara for her years of listening to me, knowing when to give advice and when to let me rant, and for knowing that I could fall in love again. I have to thank Ray Kowalski for being my friend and my husband, for loving me and for letting me go. And to Benton Fraser, I owe my gratitude for helping make Ray Vecchio the man that he is, for standing beside him today at our wedding as his friend, and, most of all, for being the person I was not - for making Ray Kowalski complete.
But most of all, I have to love my husband with all my heart. Who knows where the future will take us, be it a bowling alley in Florida, the State's Attorney's office in Springfield, or on politico row in Washington D.C. - despite the odds I stacked against myself, love found me again. And this time, it's for keeps.