Chapter 1: Implications/Awfully Fond of You (F/K)
Ray hated white sheets. They reminded him of morgues, of covered bodies waiting to be carved up. Of crimes committed, of tragic accidents, of families torn apart.
He’d never told Stella, and when they’d gotten some as a wedding gift, he’d smiled at her and pretended it didn’t bother him. But he never slept as well on them, and when he moved out, he made sure they didn’t get moved with him.
When Fraser moved in with Ray, he was worried he’d have to explain the whole thing to him. Which would make him feel dumb, because, hey, sheets were sheets. Ray knew that, knew they weren’t like, symbols or omens or anything.
But as it turned out, he didn’t have to say a word. Fraser had taken a look at the wide variety of sheets Ray had, and had suggested he give his to Goodwill, since Ray obviously had plenty. Plus, since Ray’s bed was bigger than Ben’s cot, they wouldn’t really be needing them.
But based on the look on Ben’s face, he’d probably have to come up with some explanation for the ones with rubber ducks all over them.
AWFULLY FOND OF YOU
(follow up request, not a snippet)
“Well. You certainly do have a wide assortment of sheets, Ray.” The amusement in Ben’s voice made Ray look up from under the bed, where he’d been trying to rescue a boot from a horde of dust bunnies.
When he saw what Ben was holding, he groaned and let his head thump on the bed. When he’d asked Ben to get more sheets out of the linen closet, he’d forgotten which ones had been on top.
The ducks. It had to be the ducks. And not just ducks – rubber ducks, bright and cheery and pretty much as ridiculous as Ray felt.
“Thank you kindly,” he replied, his voice muffled by the sheets.
Ben laughed, and Ray felt the mattress sag as he sat down. Ray looked back up, ready to glare, but the amusement in Ben’s eyes made them sparkle so brightly that Ray couldn’t even pretend to be mad. He got up off the floor to sit next to his lover.
“Did your mother buy you these, perhaps?” Leave it to Fraser to give him an out.
He shook his head, grinning ruefully. “Nah, can’t blame these on her. They were definitely a Ray Kowalski purchase.” He took a pillowcase from the stack in Ben’s hands and traced a duck.
“I saw them a year or so back when I was at the store and had to get them. Didn’t really think it through at the time, but once I got ‘em home I could see it.” He could feel the blush starting, but went on. “They reminded me of you, of us. Not that there was an us then, but the duet we had going. Made me think of our first case, coming out of the lake surrounded by rubber ducks.”
Ben put the sheets aside and took Ray’s hand in his. Ray looked at their fingers, intertwined, and smiled up at Ben. “You had me doing crazy things from Day One, so why not crazy sheets as a reminder?”
Ben leaned in and kissed Ray, slow and sweet and full of love. “Why not indeed?”
Chapter 2: I Suddenly Turn and See (F/K)
Prompt: I Get a Kick Out of You
Believe it or not, I have Mel Brooks to thank for Fraser and me finally getting together. I know, sounds weird, but hey, Fraser’s a freak and I’m no Joe Normal.
It was one of those midnight marathons; I hadn’t been to one in years, and Fraser never had, so when I heard about it – Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, and Blazing Saddles - I knew we had to go. We weren’t even working that weekend, which to me proved it was Meant To Be.
I convince Fraser, we go, and it’s great. Big crowd, all friendly; real happy to be there. Great movies. Plus, the theater has the best popcorn in Chicago, hands down.
Afterwards, I’m punchy, but I’m also in a great mood. Which means I’m dancing back to the car instead of walking, moving along to the song in my head. Fraser’s watching me, amused, and I don’t know what gets into me, but I grin and grab him, pulling him into the dance. He’s so startled he doesn’t even stiffen up, just goes with it, which makes me grin even bigger.
We do a few turns, and I figure, what the hell, and end with a dip, which he lets me do, both of us laughing. Then I look down at him. He looks up at me. Something sparks. I lean down as he moves up and that’s it – we’re kissing. It’s quick and awkward, but it’s enough to set my heart racing - his too, by the look on his face. I move us out of the dip, and hold out my hand.
He takes it, and we walk to the car. Fraser’s humming; I love that it’s the same song I was dancing to.
Porter definitely had it right. Champagne’s got nothing on this.
Chapter 3: A Small Percent of Me (Fraser)
Prompt: “All of You” by Cole Porter
Sometimes Fraser truly feels he’s a freak. That he should just run away and join the circus, or a sideshow. He’s already on display; why not make it official? Why not put himself in a place where anyone who wants to can stare and gawk and point and remark on his appearance with impunity.
He’s not sure, though, that the sideshow is where he’d be put. Yes, the stares are there; some of them looks of disdain, others of disbelief, even a few of disgust. He’s used to those, actually. They’re barely even worth noticing anymore. He’s been an outsider long enough to almost expect them. There’s a familiarity in them that is, in a way, comforting.
But beyond those are a kind of look he finds distinctly uncomfortable. Looks of interest, and not of the type he’d wish. Not interest in him, in his opinions, his ideas, his history. Just in his appearance, in the accident of his genetics. Since his arrival in Chicago, those seem to outweigh the other looks, and they’re the ones he finds hardest to take… the sidelong stares, the surreptitious glances, and the ogling that he sometimes swears he can feel crawling along his flesh.
Those looks would keep him out of the freak show. Those looks would make him an actual theme park attraction. He’s fairly sure if they hollowed him out and stood him there, an empty shell, most people would be none the wiser.
And so he uses that to his best advantage, making lemonade from decidedly sour lemons. Wears the uniform like armor; his commitment to duty becomes his shield.
And tries not to wonder if he’ll ever meet someone who can see past that small percent of who he is, to the whole of Benton Fraser.
Chapter 4: Affecting the Affect (RayK)
Prompt: echo, which led to this quote: You ever feel like you don't know who you are? Like if you weren't around somebody, or that someone wasn't around you, then you wouldn't be you, or at least not the you that you think. You ever think like that? RayK, Call of the Wild
After Stella, after the divorce, Ray had flung himself into his work, lost himself in as many ways as he possibly could. Did such a good job of it, in fact, that he got to the point where he had no idea where his undercover persona ended and Stanley Raymond Kowalski began.
Which was great, for awhile. But then it all changed, and he found himself wanting to be Ray Kowalski again. Of course, this not-so-helpful realization had to happen during an assignment. Was triggered by it, in fact. By being partnered with someone honest, someone who deserved more than deception. By Constable Benton Fraser, who wanted to see Ray for who he was, so how could Ray not try?
It was hard to find those pieces, to find ways to bring them out into the light of day after so long. The crazy parts, the ones that showed the worst of him, all seemed to find their way out first, which was just Ray’s luck. But they didn’t seem to be a deterrent, much to his surprise. Of course, they weren’t always endearing either, but they were part of what made Ray Ray, and Fraser seemed to accept that.
The good parts of Ray, those took longer to show. Not too surprising, considering how deep they’d been buried, how sheltered they’d been. But it was finally safe again, safe to trust, to care. And so he did, and it was, amazingly enough, a good thing. Life was finally cutting Ray a break.
Until Vecchio returned, bringing Muldoon with him. Shaking and shattering his cozy little world, and making him re-think everything he’d worked so hard to get back.
Making him wonder if those parts were really him, or were they just echoes of someone he wanted to be?
Chapter 5: Effect of the Effect (Fraser)
Prompts: flicker, echo, ticket, explode, drenched
Warmth. Comfort. Safety. Love. Home.
Fleeting glimpses - ephemeral shadows of what he wanted - ran through his thoughts. A wish, a yearning, a need would dart into the light of day, then swiftly back into hiding, barely seen and yet blinding in its intensity, like flashes on the water, or sparks from a burning log.
Warmth. Comfort. Safety. Love. Home.
Faded memories - reminders of possibility - kept hope alive. Forced him to acknowledge the existence of that elusive more, no matter how out of reach it might seem. Potential called to him, a siren song he felt deep within himself; he continued on, wanting, but not expecting, an answer to his heart’s cry.
Warmth. Comfort. Safety. Love. Home.
Misrepresentations. Misunderstandings. Misconceptions. Missteps. Disappointment and pain became his steadfast companions, hidden with deliberate care. The obvious choices that presented themselves were untenable; the desired ones seemed unattainable. Heart-sore, he wondered if it might be better to leave things unchanged, content himself with the parameters currently presented.
Warmth. Comfort. Safety. Love. Home.
His peaceful resolve was short-lived, the calm in the eye of a storm. He felt as if he was at war with himself and the world, with ideas and ideals and expectations. The need to speak - to act - was battered down by long-held fears. “Should” conflicted with “did,” the struggle leaving him unmoving, though not unmoved. But fears could be overcome, and inactivity never suited him.
Warmth. Comfort. Safety. Love. Home.
It moved through him, a mantra he could feel more than hear, pulsing in his veins. Pouring through his pores; he was drowning in sound and feeling, tossed and tumbled and soaked to the soul. In the end, for all his knowledge and travels and experience, everything he wanted came down to one word.
Chapter 6: At the Tone... (F/K)
Stanley, it’s your mother. Thank you for the note. Of course it isn’t the same as hearing your voice, but it was sweet of you. Call me, honey. Your father – well, you just surprised him. You didn’t give us much warning after all. But we love you, and of course we want you to be happy. So call.
Ray, it’s Stella. Barbara called me, and… I just wanted to check on you, I guess. See what’s really going on – you said some pretty crazy stuff to her. She’s worried, Ray. If you won’t call me, call her.
This is Welsh. You know, that Lieutenant you’re supposed to report to? Maybe call to let know if you’re not going to show up? Unless, of course, the rumors are true and you don’t want to work here anymore. In which case, maybe you should think about getting your ass in here and telling me officially.
Ray, this is Benton Fraser – well, of course you know that. Oh dear, this is awkward – I’d hoped to reach you, of course, not your machine. I got your letter, and your message. Well, obviously, as I’m returning it. And I agree. Accept. We can work out the finer points once we speak, but I just wanted you to know.
Please call me at your earliest convenience.
Mr. Kowalski, this is Thrapp’s Jewelers. The item you requested is ready, and may be picked up at any time.
Ray, it’s Frannie. Of course, I’ll keep the turtle – what’s one more mouth, right? At least it’s sturdy as far as pets go. And don’t let anyone get to you, ‘bro - go be happy.
Chapter 7: Dying of Waiting (pre-F/K)
Ray didn’t get delayed gratification. He wanted to know how the movie was gonna end, wanted to know what he was getting for Christmas or his birthday, just so he’d be prepared.
And for outright jump-out-of-your-skin anticipation, nothing beat that ‘edge of a cliff should-I-or-shouldn't-I jump’ feeling of a new relationship. Or a change in relationship. 'Cause he and Fraser had a thing already, a duet, like Ray called it that first day. Strangers to partners to best friends, which since he was undercover was pretty weird, but typical considering who was involved. He and Fraser were many things, but normal was not a word he’d ever heard aimed in their direction.
It was driving Ray crazy. It had been such a slow build he hadn't noticed at first, like a sound just below hearing range. It’d gotten louder though, from a low buzz to a steady drone to a pounding that he could feel, deep down, like his blood was pulsing out a message in some kind of Morse Code. Made him want to shake all over like a dog coming in from the rain, just to get that tingle out from under his skin. Ray sometimes wondered what would happen if he and Fraser actually touched - if it’d be like completing a circuit and fire them up, or overload, causing one hell of an explosion.
Ray was pretty sure Fraser felt it too, which made him crazier. Because pretty sure wasn’t one hundred percent sure, and he’d seen the ruins of enough pretty sures that he wasn’t ready to risk it. But with every day that went by, every conversation overflowing with undercurrent, it got harder not to dive right the hell off that cliff and just say something.
Ray was dying of waiting.
Chapter 8: Balancing Act (Fraser)
Time Frame: During “Eclipse”
Prompt: If I ask you a question
Are you going to lie to me?
Is that your question?
Because that one is easy
The Tragically Hip, “Pretend”
“Do you find me attractive?”
The question takes me off guard, unsettles me. Though I shouldn’t be surprised – my life has been anything but calm since Ray Kowalski entered it. I stall, trying to ascertain the reason behind the query. After all, how will I know how to answer if I don’t know why I was asked?
I find myself both relieved and annoyed that he’s chosen now to ask me this – in a tomb of all places, and in front of witnesses. While a somewhat helpful distraction, their presence makes me even more careful of just what to say.
He persists, and in the end, I answer honestly, in as succinct a manner as I can. His response is expectedly unexpected, the hopeful tone making me wonder again just why he asked, what he hoped to hear me say. I’ve a nearly overwhelming urge to turn the question around, regardless of who hears, but then Ray laughs, a harsh, bitter sound, and the chance is lost, the moment gone. I find myself filled with an odd combination of relief and disappointment. The contradictions he stirs in me are disconcerting, and I wonder how long I’ll be able to survive this new partnership if I have to keep walking so many fine lines.
Maintain the Right is the RCMP motto, a challenge and duty I’ve embraced, no matter the personal cost. With this new Ray, maintaining my balance seems now a more difficult task.
Chapter 9: Pretense and Prevarication (RayK)
Prompt: If I ask you a question
Are you going to lie to me?
Is that your question?
Because that one is easy
The Tragically Hip, “Pretend”
There he goes again. Lying to my face, and not a tell there to clue me in that it’s anything but gospel. But I lie for a living here – and I know a line of bull when I hear one. Still, Benton Fraser is hands down the smoothest liar I’ve ever met.
The man lies all the time, and I seem to be the only one who notices. I’ve figured out the how – between his good looks, politeness, and that impossible-to-miss uniform, he’s got some pretty good distractions. But what I still haven’t put my finger on is why he does it.
At first I thought it was retaliation for me taking Vecchio’s place – subtle, but fair I guess, though it isn’t my fault the guy got pulled like that. Except he doesn’t do it just with me, so there went that theory. Then I figured maybe it was a defense, which again I get. But now, I don’t know. ‘Cause the thing is, he knows I know he’s lying, and he does it anyhow. From the little throwaway stuff to shit nobody in their right mind would buy – he just dishes it out and expects whoever he’s talking to to go along. And the real kicker is, it works. Everyone else buys into it, but I just can’t. But until I know why he’s doing it I don’t want to call him on it either.
So I just let it slide, maybe shoot something back at him, just as outrageous, see if he calls me on it. He hasn’t yet, but I can wait. I’m not going anywhere, and neither is he. I’ll figure him out, ‘cause that’s what I do.
And that’s the truth.
Chapter 10: Perceptions (Huey)
Jack Huey had The Mountie pegged.
The first time Jack saw the red uniform, the whole “Dudley Do-Right” idea stuck, and that summed up the man for him. Two-dimensional comic relief, unprepared for the reality of Chicago.
Then Victoria happened.
Jack realized Fraser wasn’t a cartoon character; he was flawed, human, real. So Jack started paying attention. He saw that Fraser was pretty savvy for someone who’d grown up so far north they didn’t even have a real name for the place. Turned out Fraser was an okay guy, if a bit naïve.
Then Louis was killed.
Jack was shocked and angry and grieving, and wanted someone to blame. It wasn’t until he’d had time to mourn, to heal, to think, that Jack really understood what Fraser did, and why. He found himself respecting Constable Benton Fraser a hell of a lot more.
Then Vecchio left.
Jack figured Fraser would give “Ray Vecchio” a try for duty’s sake, then go back to doing whatever he did at the Consulate. But it didn’t go down like that. Somehow this new Ray was a better partner for Fraser than the old Ray had been. They bonded in a way Jack envied. He’d never had that, not with Louis, not with Tom, though to be fair the two of them got along pretty well. Jack thought the 2-7 was becoming a team. It felt good.
Then Vecchio came back.
Suddenly there were more Rays than the station could handle. Everyone wondered how things would turn out. Would Vecchio stay? Would Kowalski want to? Who was Fraser’s real partner? When Fraser and Kowalski decided to stay in Canada, Jack was a little sad, but not really surprised.
After all, he knew Fraser pretty well.
Chapter 11: Walking and Falling (RayV)
A/N: Title and endquote are from the Laurie Anderson performance piece, “Walking & Falling.”
Vegas was going to be tough.
That’s what he’d been told right from the get-go. There were endless facts to memorize, skills to learn, habits to pick up, an entire persona to take on, to put on like a new suit (Armani, they’re all Armani now) and make it look like he was born to wear it. All his old habits, preferences, prejudices had to be shed, and fast, like a cheap knockoff (to keep with the suit analogy) that made your skin itch.
He had to eat, drink, think, sleep, breathe the Bookman. Never a moment for Ray, never a second of down time. They’d explained it all when he’d crash-coursed for the assignment. They’d drilled it into him, along with everything else. This is for real, this is big time, this is life or death. And he’d still agreed, never mind how dangerous it was, how exhausting. How lonely. It was good work, it was important, and he was the best man for the job.
What he hadn’t expected was the feeling that came with being someone else. The freedom it gave him, especially since Languistini was a Person of Importance. He was respected, listened to, sought after. Feared. It was a heady feeling, getting those kind of responses from each and every person he encountered. A man could get used to it. And that was the thing that truly scared him, that had him waking in a cold sweat some nights.
Vegas could be frighteningly easy.
You’re walking. And you don’t always realize it, but you’re always falling.
With each step, you fall forward slightly, and then catch yourself from falling.
Over and over, you’re falling, and then catching yourself from falling.
And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.
Chapter 12: Close but no Cigar(ette) (K/F/V)
“What is this?” Ray asked, eyeing his plate suspiciously.
Vecchio stood by the kitchen entrance, arms crossed. “It’s dinner. You might find it hard to recognize, as it took more work than opening a can and pushing some buttons, but trust me, it’s food.”
Ray glared. “It’s vegetables. You’re hiding them under the cheese, but it’s vegetables. That’s Not Buddies, Vecchio.”
Fraser decided to intervene. “Ray, please. Ray worked hard to make this. The least you could do is try it.”
Ray pointed at Fraser. “You put him up to this, didn’t you?”
Fraser sat straighter in his chair. “Really, Ray. You’re overreacting.”
Vecchio slapped his hands on the table as he sat down. “It’s just a meal, for crissakes!“ He glared. “Some people around here insist on disgusting things like pineapple pizza, but do we complain?”
Ray grinned. “Hell, yeah, you do. And Fraser does his whole polite, “I hate this but it makes you happy so I sacrifice” routine. You two owe me.”
Vecchio shrugged. “Whatever. Eat it or don’t. I’m not your mom, Stanley.”
“I don’t know – apron looks good on you, Raimundo.”
“It really is quite delicious, Ray,” Fraser said heartily, taking another bite.
Both Rays looked at him blankly. Then, with a sigh, they started to eat.
“Sorry, Benny – guess I wasn’t thinking too good on this one. It’s just....”
“Just what, Ray?”
“I read somewhere that eggplant’s got the most nicotine of any edible plant. What with Kowalski quitting...” Fraser tried unsuccessfully to hide a small smile. “What?”
“While you’re correct, I believe it would take approximately twenty pounds of eggplant to equal the amount of nicotine found in one cigarette. Still, the gesture was quite thoughtful.”
Vecchio sighed. “Gesture shmesture – I was just hoping for a fight-free evening.”
Chapter 13: Natural Enemies (Dief and Turtle)
Prompt: growl, shell
Dief eyed Turtle suspiciously, the height difference making him uncomfortable. He’d braced his front paws against the wall, trying to gain some ground, but Turtle still had the advantage, and Dief was sure he knew it.
The staring match continued until Dief finally had to blink, uttering a low growl of contempt as he dropped back to the floor. Turtle closed his eyes then, in a way Dief just knew was mocking.
It was always that way with the hard-backed ones. They had this air of superiority about them, as if moving slowly through the world gave them better insight into How Things Worked. Dief was sure it was an act, and that they secretly yearned to run on longer legs, dart through trees, nip and jump at high branches. Who wouldn’t want those things?
Of course, Turtle didn’t have to work to earn his keep. No chasing or tracking or sitting and behaving for him. He just lazed around all day, waiting for food and water to come to him. It made him really, annoyingly smug.
But then, Turtle never got even a nibble of donut, so that evened things out quite a bit.
Dief made a show of pacing the room, smirking up at the glass box as he finally settled on the floor near the couch. He might have a tougher life, but it definitely had its advantages.
Chapter 14: Walls, Windows, Doors (K/V/F)
Prompt: wall, bag, window, door, jump, wait
In the end, it turned out Ray couldn’t take it. It was too hard, trying to get past The Mountie to find Benton Fraser. He’d thought it would be easier, now that he was Ray Kowalski again, and they were on Fraser’s home turf. It should have been easier – Fraser should have been more relaxed, more himself, right? Ray knew for a fact that there was way more to Fraser than the Mountie routine.
Only he never got to see the real Fraser at all. It was like the glimpses of the person he’d seen in Chicago had been buried deep in the snow. So after they finished the Adventure, Ray thanked Fraser kindly for it all, packed his bags and went home.
And if he’d left his heart in the Territories, no one had to know that. Except somehow Vecchio did, bastard that he was. And he wouldn’t let Ray wallow or hide, not for long. Ray didn’t even bring up Stella, mostly to keep Vecchio from bringing up Fraser. And it worked, until it didn’t.
Ray’d been undercover long enough to know how to build walls of his own. And if they weren’t as tall as the ones Fraser had built, they still should have done the job. He just never figured on anyone actually wanting to climb over to find the Ray behind them.
Stella was the key to the whole thing, Vecchio knew. She was the way to get to Kowalski, but Ray waited to play that card. The Kowalski that came back from Canada was too suspicious, too guarded. But Ray had patience. He could wait.
Turned out that window of opportunity opened up sooner than expected, but Vegas had taught Ray how to roll with the punches, take what you were given and run with it. Hell, working with Benny had taught him that, come to think of it. Only this time, he had more control of how things could play out.
So he was careful, but thorough. Cruel to be kind and all that crap. He told Kowalski off and rightly took whatever was dished back at him. The important part was, Kowalski was giving as good as he got. And that it was real; not the smoke he’d been blowing since he’d returned.
It felt good, not holding back anymore. Ray was pretty sure he wasn’t the only one who thought so, if the sparkle in Kowalski’s eyes was any indication. And yeah, he was watching the guy’s eyes, so what? It wasn’t all he’d been watching, and he thought maybe he’d noticed a look back a time or two, quick and played off, but enough to make Ray wonder. And maybe hope, just a little.
Fraser stood there for the longest time, his bag slung over his shoulder, just staring at the door in front of him. His hesitancy had no foundation; he knew he was welcome, though his arrival now would be a surprise. He knew he was wanted. Both Rays had made that abundantly clear in the series of conversations they’d shared over letters, phone calls, and emails. And he wanted to be there; of this he had no doubt. There were specifics that needed to be dealt with, details sorted out, but that was better done in person.
And still he hesitated. It was strange; he’d thought he’d done the hardest part already, made the leap of faith, of love. Been painfully honest with himself and Ray and Ray. But there was one more hurdle to jump, it seemed. Being here would move their relationship from the theoretical to reality. Everything would change, in good ways and bad ways and ways none of them had even thought of yet, for all their talking.
He heard a muffled bit of talk from the other side of the door and while he couldn’t make out the words, the voices were familiar and beloved, bringing a smile to his face. Fraser’s hand moved of its own accord to knock for the first and last time on the door of his new home.
Chapter 15: The Living End (F/K)
Prompt: shamble, rot, moan, wail, brains, horde
“It’s official – Shaun of the Dead is the greatest zombie film ever! …what?”
“It was okay.”
“Okay? There was gore! And the shambling undead! And it was funny - come on, at least give me that.”
“I suppose so. But honestly, it wasn't particularly realistic.”
“How is a movie about the walking dead going to be realistic? They eat brains! They lose the ability to do anything but moan and wail and look for people to gnaw on.”
“I don't mean to disparage the film, Ray. As I said, it seemed a perfectly acceptable example of the genre. I just... it was no 28 Days Later, that's all.”
“You've seen 28 Days Later?”
“And its sequel, which in several ways I found to be superior to the original. The underlying psychology was fascinating. The family dynamic-”
“Fraser, zombie films aren't supposed to have 'underlying psychology' - they're supposed to be gorefests.”
“There's no reason they can't be more. Both of the films I've mentioned were fine cautionary tales as well as being 'gorefests' as you called them.”
“Only you would expect more from a horde of rotting corpses than mindless violence.”
“Understood. Ray, why are you looking at me like that?”
“Wanna go make like zombies? Flesh-eating and moans guaranteed.”
“That has to be the worst come on I've ever heard.”
“But it worked, right?”
Chapter 16: To Be Seen (RayV)
The first thing Ray did after graduation was throw out his school uniforms. They were dull and drab and when he wore them he felt like just another nobody in a sea of nobodies. A dark suit he could understand, something classic, something for serious occasions. But for everyday stuff, he went for as loud and colorful as he could get away with. Flashy patterns, lots of color… whatever caught his eye.
And if that made him a little different, made him sort of a joke to some people, Ray was okay with that. Because at least he was making an impression.
But then Benton Fraser came along, with his red suit and good looks and a presence that couldn’t be ignored, and it was like Ray was invisible again. Except then a funny thing happened. People started paying attention to Ray. Sometimes it was someone trying to get to Fraser through him, other times it was sympathy for him having to work with a partner people saw as a little crazy. Somewhere along the line, Ray stopped being a joke, and started being a person.
It gave Ray freedom he didn’t know he was missing. More than that, it gave him confidence to really be who he wanted to be, inside and out. The suits he once saw as drab now looked classy; the colors he wore were still there, but muted, subtle. The longer he was partnered with Fraser, the more he felt like Ray Vecchio.
And the nicest part was, he didn’t feel like he had to try so hard anymore to be seen.
Chapter 17: Looking Good (K/V)
“Don’t touch the tie!” Ray exclaimed, batting away Kowalski’s nimble fingers.
Kowalski moved back, arms crossed. “You don’t want to get all mussed up and wrinkled, you should know better than to look at me like that.”
Ray looked at him incredulously. “Wait, now I can’t even look at you without you jumping me? What are you, sixteen?”
“Didn’t hear you complaining last night, Vecchio,” he shot back.
“Last night I wasn’t getting ready for court. Last night I wasn’t in one of my best suits, needing to make a good impression.”
Kowalski grinned “Made a good impression on me. Besides, can I help it if that tie brings back good memories?”
Ray looked down and smiled, remembering. “Oh yeah. This is the one, isn’t it?” He peered at Kowalski. “So this is some Pavlovian response thing?”
Kowalski snorted. “It’s a ‘hey I remember how handy that tie came in’ thing. And a ‘Vecchio looks hot in that suit’ thing.” He moved forward and sank to his knees, one finger trailing up and down the zipper of Ray’s pants. “So, the tie the only thing I need to be careful with?”
Ray tipped his head back and swallowed. Kowalski was going to be the death of him, no doubt. “I don’t have time to iron, so can we at least try to go to work today not looking like we just had sex?”
“Not having to iron is the upside of not being a style pig,” he responded as he lowered Ray’s zipper slowly. “Besides, the look on your face will be a bigger giveaway than a crease in your pants.”
“Big talk,” Ray huffed, then speech left him as Kowalski found better things to do with his mouth.
What the hell. Clean lines were overrated, anyhow.
Chapter 18: Words Spoken and Unspoken (Stella)
“Hey Stell, it’s me.”
Oh god, Stella thought, pinching the bridge of her nose. She’d thought she was tired when she walked in the door, but hearing Ray’s voice on her machine added a new layer to her exhaustion.
She stopped the tape, considering. She should erase it, pretend she never knew he’d called. But she couldn’t, and he knew it. She hit the play button, sighing wearily.
“I was hoping to talk to you, not your machine, but I guess you’re out or something, working late, whatever.” And there was the accusatory tone that set her teeth on edge. Like he needed to know where she was? Like she couldn’t have a life without him?
“Anyhow,” he went on, voice shaky now, “I just… it was a bad one today, Stella. People died today that shouldn’t have. And it drove home that you just never know, y’know? Never know when that last goodbye is gonna be. And I couldn’t – I wanted you to know I still love you. I know it doesn’t change things, and I know I shouldn’t say it, but I have to. Because it hurts not to say it. And because you should know.”
There was a long pause, and then Ray’s voice, quiet and broken. “Love you, golden girl.”
The machine shut off and Stella sank to the couch. She knew what came next. In a few days he’d call and apologize, ask to be friends. She wished she could say yes. He’d been her best friend most of her life. She missed him. It hurt shutting him down again and again. But she couldn’t let him in, not until he could let go.
Stella stood and blinked the tears from her eyes, her fingers lingering over the button as she erased Ray’s message.
Chapter 19: A Ray by Any Other Name (Ma Vecchio)
He isn't her Raimundo.
Which goes without saying, really. He looks nothing like her boy, doesn't have his grandfather's nose or his mother's eyes. Doesn’t have his sense of style.
This man's life before, she’s sure, is nothing like the one he’s stepped into. He shares no history with her family, nothing in common with her son but a job, everything else apples and oranges. Except... the pain she sometimes sees in his eyes she's seen before, in Raimundo’s eyes, when he and Angelina parted ways… when poor Irene Zuko died. So maybe he’s not as different as he appears.
He doesn't carry himself the way her Raimundo does, doesn't attempt to fill the role of man of the house. He keeps himself apart, even though she can see his need for family, for a place to belong. He tries so very hard, tries to be there but not, to pretend to be her son without expecting her to treat him as such. It's a fine line they all walk, and she can see that it’s as hard on him as on any of them.
He brought her flowers the first time they met, and patted her hand, and swore he'd do his best. For that alone she found she could accept him.
He acknowledges her fears, her worries, the awkwardness of this dangerous game they all must play. For that she respects him.
His shy smile when she invites him to family dinners, the gratitude she sees, the careful way he treats her, trying not to be a reminder of what she could lose... for those things, she’s grown to love him as one of her own.
He isn't her Raimundo, and never will be. But he has become her Ray.
Chapter 20: My Melancholy Baby
The lilting notes coming from the other side of the closet door made him pause and look up from his paperwork. He tilted his head and focused on the sounds, trying to identify the tune.
That he could hear it at all shouldn’t be possible, but there it was. Sound just didn’t travel the way it should; the laws of physics and metaphysics diverged on this point, as on so many others associated with the Borderland.
More often than not, it was voices he heard, snatches of conversations. Every so often it was the radio. Classical and opera were the main staples, and now and again he’d found himself singing or humming along without realizing. Even more rarely, he realized he wasn’t the only one singing, and the thought warmed him, though he’d never share that.
After a few moments recognized the song, the woman’s voice clear and full of emotion. It was an old tune, one performed by many famous singers over the years. He sat back and just listened, almost sorry when it ended. Then, surprisingly, it started again. He wondered at that. Repeat listenings were out of character, and made him worry a bit.
He thought about getting up, about opening the door and seeing if there wasn’t something he could do, or say, to lighten the mood. But then he thought of the likely reaction he’d get to such an overture and, smiling sadly, went back to his work.
Chapter 21: Just Like Ginger Rogers (Ray K)
Benton Fraser can dance. Which is something not everyone knows, but then, I’m not everyone.
That man has the rhythm of a stick. Come on, Fraser. Do something. Move.
Yeah yeah, I said that. And I was wrong, okay? Not afraid to admit it, ‘cause it does happen. But there’s more than one kind of dancing, and in Fraser’s case I don’t mean it in the literal way; it’s one of those metawhatsical things.
He’s like Kelly or Astaire or who’s that newer guy – Glover, yeah. All three all rolled into one, just moving from one to another’s style as the situation calls for it. Like his verbal tap dance… believe me he’s got that down to an art form. With Dewey or Huey or even Welsh, it’s all Gene Kelly – athletic, masculine, high energy stuff. All one-of-the-guys in what he says, even though it’s still filtered through that Canadian translator that polites everything up.
When it’s Frannie, or some other female he wants to avoid but can’t get himself to tell, he goes all Fred Astaire on them. Or maybe more Ginger Rogers, now that I think of it. Usually he’s backing away from them (still polite of course), a verbal backpedal that’s so shiny and nice and smooth that they don’t know he’s slipped away until it’s too late.
With me, it’s Savion Glover all the way. Tap again, and high energy, but there’s a give-and-take to it, old and new mixed together, all wrapped up in a way that makes it feel easy, natural. We move, we spar, we find a groove and use it, clash and come together in the best partnership I could ever have.
So yeah, Fraser can dance after all. Which is greatness, ‘cause I love to dance.
Chapter 22: The Future's Open Wide (Frannie/Turnull)
Frannie sighed contentedly and leaned in closer. She felt Rennie’s arm tighten around her just a little too much, and leaned back to look him in the eyes. He looked nervous, and that struck her as so sweet she couldn’t help but smile.
“Relax, Rennie,” she murmured, moving one hand from his shoulder to cup his cheek. “You’re a terrific dancer.”
He looked at her, doubt clouding his eyes, but she saw the moment he realized she meant it, and the smile he gave her made her melt inside, just a little. She squeezed the hand holding hers encouragingly, then moved in again.
And this time when he pulled her to him, it felt like an embrace.
Chapter 23: Good Time Tonight (F/K/V)
Prompt: success, satisfaction
Kowalski leaned back in his chair, grinning. “We caught the bad guys and are casualty-free. Don’t know about you, but I’m thinking we should celebrate.” The leer accompanying that statement made it clear just what kind of celebration he had in mind. Ray rolled his eyes and shook his head, but his smile was affectionate.
“You celebrate at the drop of a hat, Kowalski.”
“Depends on the hat, Vecchio,” Kowalski shot back as he winked at Fraser who, Ray noticed, didn’t blush. Guess he was finally getting used to all the innuendo. Fraser looked at him then, and Ray’s smile kicked up a notch. That made Benny blush, which made Ray inexplicably happy. He moved over and touched the brim of Fraser’s Stetson, never taking his eyes from Fraser’s. “Yeah, I see what you mean. Some hats, they drop and you just have to celebrate.”
Fraser quirked an eyebrow at that, looking from one Ray to the other. “But neither of you wear hats, Ray. Of course,” he continued, his voice lowering in that way that made Ray shivery, “I’m sure I can find something that makes a passable substitute.” Fraser deliberately looked each Ray up and down, heat in his gaze and the hint of a smile playing at the edges of his mouth.
That took Ray’s brain to places it really shouldn’t be going while they were still at work; he actually had to stop his hands from touching Fraser. Jeez. Kowalski took advantage of the sudden lull, sliding between him and Fraser and slinging an arm over each man’s shoulder.
“How about we take this party somewhere that isn’t gonna get us arrested for indecent exposure?”
“Private party sounds good to me,” Ray responded as they left. Because Kowalski had it right; they had plenty worth celebrating.
Chapter 24: Round and Round (K/V)
“The wheels on the bus go round and round…” Kowalski sang slightly off-key, fingers tapping a strange counter-beat on the steering wheel.
Ray turned and glared, Bookman-style. “Can you shut up with that song already?”
Kowalski, unfazed, glared right back. “Hey, I can’t help that it’s stuck in my head! Which it wouldn’t be if we hadn’t watched your nieces and nephews last night.”
“Yeah, but who was all, “No problem, Frannie, what are used-to-be brothers for?” when she asked?”
Kowalski snorted. “Like you would have said no?”
Ray crossed his arms. “Maybe I would have. Maybe I had plans for us last night.”
Kowalski visibly deflated at that, and his expression softened. “Yeah?”
“Maybe,” Ray responded, trying not to sound too petulant.
“What kind of plans?”
“The kind you don’t get to hear about now.” Ray grimaced; there went his last hope of being the mature person in this conversation.
“C’mon, Vecchio, don’t be like that.” Kowalski leaned over and placed a hand on Ray’s knee, a shade too high on his leg to be just a friendly gesture. “Tell me.”
“Eyes on the warehouse. We’re working, remember?”
Kowalski looked out but kept his hand where it was, making small circles with his thumb that Ray did his best to ignore. He held out for a full minute before sighing and placing his hand over Kowalski’s.
“It wasn’t anything too big, just dinner and dancing.” Which they both knew was seriously downplaying it, as that was a lot more publicly out than they’d been so far. Kowalski turned his hand over in Ray’s and laced their fingers together.
“We’ve never been dancing. That still a possibility?”
Ray looked over and smiled. “I think it can be arranged.”
Kowalski squeezed his hand. “Greatness.”
Yeah, Ray thought, it really was.
Chapter 25: You're So Square (RayK)
Prompt: I Don’t Care
Ray tilted his head to the side as he peered into the mirror, then added a little more gel and got that last wayward spike just so. He looked again and nodded to himself as he left the bathroom in search of his favorite boots. They were, like most of his clothes, worn and faded, and fit like a second skin. That was just how Ray liked it.
Police work was too down and dirty to go for the fancy stuff; give him comfort over flash any day. Never mind that he was wearing a different name these days, and the Ray he was supposed to be seemed to think high-class duds made you a better cop. He barked out a laugh at that as he shrugged on his shoulder holster, glad he didn’t have to try and work a suit jacket over it.
If Ray thought it really would’ve made a difference, he’d have gone the style pig route in a heartbeat. But he’d known from the start that how he looked wasn’t going to make or break this gig. So he did a sort-of slow switch from that Ray’s wardrobe to his, easing everybody into the undercover thing, and was unsurprised to find that nobody said boo about it.
Well, almost nobody, he corrected, grinning as he picked up his keys. Fraser had plenty to say, even though sometimes it was just pointed looks, and the talking could be so roundabout Ray wasn’t really sure what the point was.
Growing up with a name like Stanley Kowalski, he’d learned long ago not to sweat the outer stuff too much, and screw what anyone else thought. Stella had been the exception to that rule.
It was kind of a kick to have somebody like that around again.
Chapter 26: There's Gonna be Fireworks (K/V)
Kowalski winced at the flash of light. “I hate July 4th,” he grumbled, glaring at the night sky through the windshield.
“I hadn’t noticed,” Ray responded, his voice heavy with sarcasm. “So all the glaring and cursing and complaining you’ve been doing is different from any other day how, exactly?”
“Fuck you, Vecchio. I don’t see you waving a flag and spouting off patriotic crap.”
Ray shrugged. “What’s not to like? There’s parties, and food,” he narrowed his eyes against the glare of another burst of light, “and fireworks.”
“None of which we really get to enjoy, because we got put on this nowhere stake-out.”
Ray looked at him incredulously. “And that’s the holiday’s fault? You don’t think it had anything to do with your recent behavior?”
Kowalski pointed at him. “Our behavior, you mean.”
“Whatever.” Ray waved a hand dismissively. “I knew enough to not blow off at Welsh.”
Kowalski snorted. “Yeah, but not enough to get out of being here tonight.”
“You don’t think that I could‘ve had tonight off? Stuck you with Dewey, maybe? Who is also not on Welsh’s good side?”
“Shows what you know. Welsh asked, I said yes.”
Kowalski eyed him dubiously. “You volunteered to work tonight.”
“You have a problem with that, Kowalski?”
“No.” He shook his head, then nodded, scowling. “Yeah.”
“Which is it?”
“Depends on why you’re here.”
Ray started to smart off, but saw the look in Kowalski’s eyes, nervous and unsure and hopeful. Thank God. He leaned toward him slowly, watching those eyes widen. “This is why,” he answered, brushing his lips against Kowalski’s, then deepening the kiss when Kowalski responded.
When Ray moved back Kowalski moved forward to follow him, smiling. “Okay, maybe fireworks aren’t so bad.”
Leaning back in to meet him, Ray had to agree.
Chapter 27: Water Resistant (RayV)
Prompt: swimming pool
A/N: Takes place during “Letting Go”
Ray backed away from the doors, moving quickly down the hospital corridor. Once a safe distance away, he stopped and leaned back against a wall, rubbing his hands over his face. Wasn’t seeing Fraser supposed to be easier now? He was getting better, well on his way to walking again. And Ray had already seen Fraser at his worst… bleeding out, unconscious, maybe dying. That should have been the hard part.
But looking at Fraser through the glass, watching him in the therapy pool and looking as out of place as Ray had ever seen him, really got to him. It had hit Ray unexpectedly; he hadn’t been able to make himself just open the goddamn door and go in.
He didn’t think Fraser had seen him; he’d been pretty deep in conversation with the therapist, Jill. Ray thanked his lucky stars for that. If he’d been seen, he would have had to go in, and Ray knew that would have sent him over the edge. For whatever reason, this is what drove it home, what said, I did this. I put him here. I caused that look on his face. I fucking shot my best friend.
Ray pushed away from the wall with a heavy sigh. He should go back. What did it say about him that he didn’t want to? He didn’t expect anything between he and Fraser to be resolved any time soon; in truth he welcomed that tension. They’d both done some pretty screwed-up things these past few days, no way should everything just fall back into place.
But Ray looked back the way he’d came, and then turned to walk toward Fraser’s room. Having to work at regaining their partnership was like penance, and he’d gladly pay it. Just... not there.
Chapter 28: All Sane and Logical (pre-F/K)
We’re in the elevator when it happens. Ray’s talking animatedly about the suspect we’ve just interviewed; both his verbal and body language show just how little he believes the man’s statements. He smiles at me as he speaks, as he’s done countless times, and I’m hit with the desire to kiss him. I nearly stumble from the intensity of it, and force myself to look away, just for a moment. Luck is with me; he’s so involved in what he’s saying that he doesn’t notice my lapse.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way, and I know it won’t be the last. I’ve struggled to redirect these feelings, but every time I believe I’ve made some measure of progress, something happens to show just how insignificant the effort I’ve made is, like trying to build an igloo with an ice cube tray. I can go for weeks at a time just enjoying the ease of our partnership, not reading anything into a look or touch. But then Ray will smile or put an arm around my shoulder and I’m back to square one. I fight the urge to sigh in disappointment; all the hopeful guesswork I’ll once again have to fight is exhausting, and not at all productive.
It isn’t Ray’s fault. He’s done nothing to encourage me, to show he’d welcome an advance; it’s all just wishful thinking on my part. I know that intellectually, but emotionally it doesn’t seem to matter. And I know that there are so many reasons against pursuing a relationship beyond what we have that I shouldn’t even consider anything else. So I don’t let myself.
What we have is more than enough.
Chapter 29: Gonna Leave This World for Awhile (RayK)
Ray dreams of flying. Not like Superman, all on a mission, super-fast and impossible. He dreams he’s a bird, wings flapping, coasting on thermals, buffeted around by strong winds, mist-dampened as he passes through a low-hanging cloud.
He likes the dreams. Flying is cool, and the dreams are relaxing for the most part, but even when they get wild, they’re fun. Wind through his feathers, sun at his back, nowhere to be, just swooping and diving and gliding. Twisting his tiny body trying to dodge raindrops, chirping a laugh when one nails him right on the beak.
Ray doesn’t question why he has these dreams. Doesn’t try to analyze them, hell, he doesn’t even try to figure out what kind of bird he is. He doesn’t want to lose them, and maybe it’s stupid, but he figures why risk it by looking too deep? They aren’t violent dreams, and it isn’t like he thinks they’re some secret message telling him to do terrible things, so why overthink?
On the really bad nights, when a case has ended horribly, or he’s so deep undercover he can’t even risk thinking about his old life, or when being him is the last thing he wants, those nights the only thing that gets him to even try to sleep are hopes that he’ll have a bird dream. Soaring free and easy over buildings or trees, over green grass or snow-covered fields. Putting on an aerial show for the sheer joy of it, with only the elements as witness.
Ray dreams of flying. And tries not to be disappointed when he wakes up, earthbound.
Chapter 30: Unthinkable (F/K/V)
Prompt: “I’m so happy I can hardly contain myself”
“Oh God.” The gloom in Vecchio’s voice made Ray look up from his paperwork.
“What? Somebody we know die? Frannie wanting to cook us dinner again? What?”
Vecchio just turned the computer screen so Ray could read it.
Oh fuck. “Oh fuck. It’s shipped.”
“It’s shipped,” Vecchio repeated, resigned. “Which means we have a day, two tops to prepare ourselves. You know Fraser’s gonna make us participate, right?” Vecchio glared at Ray.
“You blaming me for this?”
Vecchio rolled his eyes at that. “Only because it’s your fault. If you hadn’t told him about it, he’d never know.”
Ray threw up his hands in exasperation. “Come on, Vecchio, I had to convince him somehow. The whole ‘get into shape at home’ idea wasn’t cutting it. Neither was the ‘keeps the mind sharp, the reflexes good’ angle.”
“Yeah, I know,” he replied wearily.
“I swear, it was my last resort. The big guns. You know that.”
“I still blame you.”
Ray waved a hand dismissively. “Whatever. It’ll be fine. He’ll get tired of our half-assed tries soon enough, find somebody from the Consulate that’s been drooling over it, we’ll be off the hook.” Ray rubbed the back of his neck, thinking. “Have to figure out a schedule, though, or we’ll never get a turn again.”
“Fraser can make it. That way it’ll be fair. Besides, he gets off on that shit.”
Ray shrugged. “Works for me.”
Vecchio gave the computer a speculative glance. “You think he’s seen the email?”
“We’d have heard,” Ray replied, shaking his head. “He’d be all ‘I’m so happy I can hardly contain myself, Ray’.”
Vecchio chuckled at that. “Who’d have thought Benny’d ever be seduced to the technological dark side?”
“Who’d have thought they’d ever make a curling game for the Wii?”
Chapter 31: Wanting (pre-F/K)
Prompt: (blink and you’ll miss it) morning
It was some ungodly hour of the morning, after a useless stakeout, so the supermarket was pretty deserted. They were wiped, but Ray needed coffee, so they stopped before crashing at his apartment. Fraser went in while he parked and when Ray found him, Fraser was standing there, looking at something with such want that Ray stopped, speechless. He followed Fraser’s gaze, wondering what could’ve caused such a reaction.
Nothing and no one, as far as Ray could tell. It was a pretty typical produce section, nothing too fancy or out there. Just the basics: fruits, vegetables, dried pineapple and trail mix by the scale. So why the look?
It suddenly hit Ray that to Fraser, a guy used to ice fields and blizzards and fuck-all else, the fresh produce section was like a goddamned candy store. Not that they didn't have fruits and veggies up North, but he’d bet they didn’t have this kind of easy access, comparatively low-cost smorgasbord.
Ray’d just assumed Fraser bringing fruit on stakeouts and ordering vegetables “you just have to try, Ray” were attempts to get Ray to eat healthier - he was pretty sure that was part of it, 'cause his eating habits weren’t the best. But now… He was sure Fraser convinced himself that’s all it was. Because to have something just because he wanted it… Ray wasn't positive, but he thought that actually admitting he was doing something for himself would cause some kind of short circuit in Fraser's brain, like that Star Trek episode where Spock stopped a whole robot army with a bizarre truth/lie loop.
Ray stood there watching Fraser, and realized that whatever it was, Ray wanted to make sure he got it. Wanted it bad.
And didn’t let himself think too hard about what that really meant.
Chapter 32: A Veritable Smorgasbord (F/K/V)
Prompt: cotton candy
"How does he do that?" Ray asked, nudging Vecchio with an elbow.
"Ow! Watch it – that hurt!"
"You rather I grab you?" Ray responded, waggling fingers still cotton-candy sticky.
Vecchio shied away. "I'd rather you talked to me like a civilized human being instead of shoving me."
Ray grinned. "I'm a touchy-feely kind of guy, what can I say? And touching you like I'd like is usually not fit for public consumption, so I have to submarine it."
Ray rolled his eyes. "Whatever. You didn't answer my question." He nodded toward Fraser.
"You've known Benny how long and you still have to ask how he can do something?"
"Give me a break, Vecchio. This isn’t your normal super-mountie stuff. All carnival games are rigged – it’s like a law or something - and he's still winning."
"It was just a matter of readjusting my aim to compensate for the inferior quality of the weapon," Fraser explained as he rejoined the Rays, stuffed turtle in hand.
"Gimme!" Ray exclaimed, grabbing the toy.
Ray shook his head in disgust. "I told you we shouldn't have let him have that pink crap. He’s worse than Dief."
"Now Ray, Ray's a grown man. He should be able to decide his sugar intake."
"I’m thinking after the funnel cake and lemon shake-ups his judgment was impaired."
Fraser watched Ray tango around the two of them with the turtle. "Perhaps it was ill-advised."
"He's gonna be buzzing all night, Benny. I call the couch."
"Do that," Ray said, leaning back as the plush animal 'dipped' him, "and you'll miss out on the upside of me and excess energy."
"He does have a point, Ray.”
Vecchio considered that. “So, you want an elephant ear for the road?”
Chapter 33: Pixie Dust Not Included (F/K)
It was the third night of the stake out, and Ray was antsy. He knew Bowdler was guilty, but the guy wasn’t doing his part and showing up to get caught.
“What’s it gonna take,” he groused. “Magic? Clapping my hands and shouting that I believe in fairies?”
Fraser looked him over. “While I do see a passing physical resemblance to Mr. Barrie’s character, I don’t know how that would help. And I refuse to be Wendy,” he added.
Ray shot Fraser a sideways glance, but he wasn’t giving anything away. Game on, then. Cool. “Why not - you have that whole stick-in-the-mud vibe she had.” He grinned wickedly as Fraser’s brow furrowed. “Nah, if I was fairy-taling you, you’d be Red Riding Hood.”
Fraser quirked an eyebrow, probably because the connection was too easy, even with Fraser in civvies instead of serge. “Really? Would that make you Grandmother? Or perhaps the wood-cutter?”
“Hell no," Ray laughed, loving that Fraser was playing along. “I’m Big Bad Wolf all the way.”
“Is this the part where I say, ‘My, what big eyes you have’?” Fraser leaned in as he spoke, his voice hitting that pitch that made Ray shiver.
“Could be,” he responded, moving until they were almost touching. “Or you could skip to the good part and ask about my mouth.”
Fraser’s gaze focused on the anatomy in question. “Don’t you mean teeth, Ray?”
“More than my teeth want in on that action, Benton-buddy.” He leaned closer, but Fraser turned his head and Ray nearly fell face first into his lap.
“I believe Mr. Bowdler has finally arrived,” Fraser explained apologetically.
“Of course he has,” Ray muttered.
“Maybe next time you should reference a different story,” Fraser suggested.
“Click your heels together and wish we were home.”
Chapter 34: Still of the Night (RayK)
Ray sat at the table, smoke curling up from his cigarette, following the wisps of gray as they dissipated. His attention turned to the light of the table reflecting off his bracelet, sparkling silver as he moved his wrist. He watched the swirl of alcohol in his glass, amber liquid lit to gold, leaving bright droplets on the table as he put it down with too much force.
The cigarette was ash in his fingers and he stubbed it out. Out of habit, he twisted the ring on his finger, its shine long faded. Ray looked at the band, so dull and lifeless, then picked the glass back up, draining it in one swallow.
And waited for Stella to come home and tell him it was over.
Chapter 35: Fraught (K/V)
“The pursuit was fraught with peril?” Ray looked up disbelievingly from the letter in his hands. “Who writes like that?”
Ray rolled his eyes. “Benny, apparently. You need me to get the dictionary for you, Stanley?” Kowalski flipped him off at that, and Ray smirked.
“Fraught you, Vecchio,” Kowalski replied as he went back to reading. Ray moved to read over his shoulder, and Kowalski twisted his body to keep Ray from seeing the letter. “Nuh uh, you mock me, you can wait your turn to read it.”
Ray raised an eyebrow. “Very mature, Kowalski.”
Kowalski moved to lean against the wall, still reading. “So I’m the Peter Pan of Chicago. Deal with it.”
Ray snorted at that. “You really want to compare yourself to a guy in green tights that hangs around with fairies?”
“I’m secure in who I am,” Kowalski replied with an offhand wave. “What does it say about you, you being my boyfriend and all?”
Ray sighed. “That I did something very, very wrong in a past life and am now atoning for it.” He held out a hand. “May I please have Benny’s letter now?”
Kowalski looked at the letter for a few more seconds, then handed it to Ray with a grin. “Since you asked so nicely. Enjoy.”
“Something very, very, very wrong,” Ray muttered to himself as he went to read about Benny’s latest adventure.
Chapter 36: We All Stumble, Every One of Us (RayK/Stella)
Stella shifted onto her side and propped her head on one hand, the other moving to gently ruffle Ray’s already disheveled hair. It was getting long, and the tips were blonder than she’d seen it in awhile. Sleep gave his face back some of his youth, and while he couldn’t be called boyish, he certainly didn’t look his 35+ years. It amazed her that someone so full of manic energy could be so still in sleep.
As if she’d tempted fate with the thought, Ray shifted and frowned. Whatever dream he was having must be unpleasant. Stella let her fingers tangle briefly in his hair, then gently brushed his cheek with the back of her hand. He settled almost instantly, face smooth, body totally relaxed once again. The implied trust that showed both touched and saddened her.
Stella sank back on her side of the bed with a sigh. This had been a bad idea. Not that that was news; they’d both known it, but knowing hadn’t made a difference. It never did. Every time, she swore to herself she wouldn’t do this again, and she kept her resolve, until she didn’t. Until he was too charming or asked at just the right time, or she was too lonely or overwhelmed by the need to feel needed.
So, wrong as this was, she took the temporary solace of being in Ray’s arms, of the familiarity of his touch. Hoped that he understood that this was a revisit of their past, not a start to a new future together. And knew that come morning, she’d be the one to have to separate their lives once again.
Chapter 37: What's the Story, Morning Glory? (F/K/V)
Prompt: post, chime
“Letter for you,” Ray handed the envelope to Fraser as he leaned in to kiss him, tossing the rest of the mail haphazardly on the table.
“Looks like it’s from Maggie,” Ray commented as he went to the fridge and pulled out a Coke. “Think she’s forgiven us yet for high-tailing it back here?”
“There was nothing for her to forgive, Ray. It isn’t as if we’d promised to remain in Canada forever.”
“Maybe not, but it was kind of sudden.”
Fraser acknowledged that with a nod, his concentration split between their conversation and Maggie’s letter. His brow furrowed, and Ray moved to read over Fraser’s shoulder. “Ha, I knew it!” he exclaimed, pointing. “I told you we should’ve told her.”
“What was I supposed to say, Ray? She accepted our relationship, but-”
“But telling her we added another Ray to the mix might’ve been too much. Yeah, we talked about it. I still think she needs to know.”
“Who needs to know what?” Vecchio chimed in as he came out of the bedroom.
“Maggie,” Ray answered. “She wrote asking why we moved to Chicago.” He winked at Vecchio. “Ooh, can we say we came back on the trail of the killer of our monogamy?”
Fraser glared at Ray, who just grinned and hello-kissed Vecchio. “Hey, we told Frannie. And Stella. How much harder could this be?”
“He’s got a point, Benny.”
“Frannie and Stella aren’t marksmen,” Fraser pointed out.
“No, but Frannie’s local and Stella has connections, so it was still dangerous,” Ray countered.
Fraser sighed. “This isn’t the kind of news you send in the post.”
“So call her. We’ll talk to her too, right?”
“Absolutely,” Vecchio agreed, reaching for the phone. “What’s her number?”
Fraser kissed each Ray, then took the phone. “I’ll make the call.”
Chapter 38: That Won't Get You Into His Heart (pre-F/K)
Ray doesn’t know what to do. He’s not one-hundred percent sure there’s anything to do, that he isn’t just projecting what he wants onto what’s really going on. He catches Fraser looking at him for no reason, then quickly turning away. And there are lingering touches on his back, his shoulder. It’s all subtle stuff, though, so who could blame him for not being sure anything really happened? Maybe a look was just a look, maybe the hand on his back wasn’t there just a little bit too long.
But it keeps happening, and it’s starting to make him crazy. Worse, it’s starting to make him hope. Because he’s been wanting Fraser since Day One, since that first hug. But he’s kept it to himself because hey, undercover. Plus, he’s heard nothing about Fraser leaning that way, and you better believe he’s been listening for any hint that his partner might be anything but straight.
He’s even actively worked on convincing himself friends is enough, and thank you kindly Stella for giving him experience in that. The kicker is that he was just about there. Until now. Until the touching and the looking and the hoping. And now he’s starting to take it out on Fraser, pushing and arguing even when he agrees with the guy. It’s wrong, but somehow seems right, like he’s balancing things out, crazy-making for crazy-making.
But something’s gotta change, and soon. One way or another, this has to be finished. Ray can’t take much more.
Chapter 39: Companion Piece (can be read as pre-F/K)
Prompt: give, turn
Ray turned the small box over in his hands. It hadn’t been on his desk when he went for coffee, but now here it was, and here was Fraser, looking vaguely uncomfortable and not quite meeting Ray’s eyes. He looked at Fraser questioningly, and waited.
“It’s a birthday present. A very belated birthday present.” Fraser finally said, giving Ray a painfully pointed look. And yeah, Ray got it – he was Vecchio, and Vecchio’s birthday was awhile ago. Only Fraser had done the digging, so he knew that today was Ray’s real birthday. Ray had almost forgotten – wasn’t like he was gonna be able to celebrate it. But Fraser’d figured out a way to mark the day.
Ray smiled warmly. “Thanks, Fraser. You want I should open it now?”
“That’s entirely up to you. It’s your gift. To be more precise, it’s a companion piece for a previous birthday gift.”
Now unbelievably curious, Ray untied the ribbon and removed the lid. Inside was a dreamcatcher, very different from the one he’d gotten before.
It was bigger, for one thing. Small, brightly colored circles dotted the outer ring, and a chili pepper hung down instead of a feather. Thin silver wire radiated out from the middle like spokes on a bicycle. And woven into the center was a tiny rubber duck.
Ray traced the edges of it, stunned silent. This was more than a gift, it was some crazy, gaudy signal from Fraser, telling him he got who Ray really was.
Ray looked up with a shaky grin. “Companion piece?”
“I thought this made for a more complete representation,” Fraser replied, and Ray barked out a laugh.
“This has got to be the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Fraser smiled. “You’re very welcome, Ray.”
And Ray knew that he was.
Chapter 40: Just a Passing Fad (Fraser)
Prompt: "He's a good man, but he's not quite right in the head."
"He's a good man, but he's not quite right in the head."
Fraser looked at his father incredulously. Fraser Sr. just shrugged. “You can’t honestly tell me you don’t think the same thing sometimes, son.”
“Given who I’m talking to just now, I don’t think I have any right to make that kind of judgment call, Dad,” Fraser whispered through clenched teeth. Ray turned to look at him right at that moment, and Fraser tried to turn his frustrated grimace into a smile. He could tell by Ray’s puzzled look he hadn’t quite succeeded, but luckily for Fraser, Ray turned his attention back toward the suspect he was questioning.
“Nonsense,” Fraser Sr. huffed. “Being able to talk to the dead is a gift. The Yank’s just unhinged.” He walked toward Ray, shaking his head and continuing to make comments that Fraser was sure he was doing solely to provoke some sort of reaction for who knows what reason.
Fraser wanted to debate just how much of a gift being haunted was, especially considering his father’s penchant for offering non-advice and making erroneous proclamations. But Robert Fraser was very good at choosing times to appear that worked to his advantage, using circumstance to keep his son’s responses to a bare minimum.
Fraser swallowed a sigh and focused on Ray’s interrogation, hoping his father would, for once, take the hint and leave.
Chapter 41: Three of a Kind (F/K/V)
Prompt: kind (in the title – is that cheating?)
Warning: minor character death
Something was going on with Kowalski. Ray and Fraser couldn’t figure out what it was, so Ray decided to just ask. When Kowalski came in from the garage stomping and swearing under his breath, Ray followed him to the kitchen.
“What’s going on, Stanley?” he asked as he leaned against the counter, arms crossed over his chest.
Kowalski gave him a wary look. “You’ll think I’m crazy.”
Ray smirked. “Nothing new there.”
The look morphed into an angry glare, then Kowalski sighed deeply, slumping back against the counter. “I think I’m crazy,” he finally said, eyes fixed on the door to the garage. “I keep seeing my dad’s ghost when I’m working on the car.”
“Is that all?” Ray chuckled as Kowalski turned to stare at him.
“You’re fucking with me. I do not need that, Vecchio.”
Ray waved a hand dismissively. “Pop haunted me for years. And Benny’s dad – you mean you never noticed him talking to air when you two were partnered up?” Kowalski’s eyes widened. “Yep. Now it’s your turn.”
“You’re serious.” Ray nodded. “Why have I never heard about this before?”
Ray shrugged. “Because it stopped, I guess. Fraser’s dad left at the end of the Muldoon thing. And Pop… let’s just say we had a disagreement over my current choice of lifestyle, and I haven’t seen him since. No big loss.” Ray turned serious. “Yours giving you grief?”
“Other than making me question my sanity and my ability to fix a car? Not really.” Kowalski smiled softly. “Maybe having him around won’t be so bad, now that I know he’s real.”
“Yeah, I can see that. Damien was a good guy. Just set your boundaries early.”
Kowalski gave him a puzzled look, and Ray grimaced. “How do you think Pop knew about my lifestyle?”
Chapter 42: Calm, Bright (F/K)
Prompt: starlight, flash
Starlight twinkled in the clear December skies, its soft glow mixing on the snow-covered ground with the merry flashes of the red and green Christmas lights strung around the kitchen window. The juxtaposition of nature's beauty with technology's garishness would have been jarring once upon a time. But like the howling of the dogs outdoors interspersed with the wail of a saxophone from the CD player inside, or the hum of a motor that signaled Ray’s return from town breaking the silence of the landscape, it was a comfort, a sign of home and belonging.
The door opened behind Fraser, light spilling out onto the porch to add to the mix, followed by the soft strains of a holiday song. He half-turned to find Ray holding two mugs. Fraser took the one offered to him, the steam brushing his cheeks as he breathed in the tea’s earthy scent. Ray softly shut the door and they stood there together, silently surveying the land they called home, and Fraser was warm, despite the chill in the air.
Chapter 43: To Shop (or Not to Shop) (F/K/V)
Prompt: crowd, traffic
“I will never again go to the mall with Benny during the holidays,” Vecchio announced as he walked in.
Ray twisted on the couch to face Vecchio. “Did he have to stop a mobster from roughing up some kid?”
“Did he witness a murder?”
Ray shrugged and turned back toward the TV. “Then you got away easy.”
“That happened with you?”
Ray turned back, eyes wide in mock-shock. “What – you mean you didn’t read all your case files when you got back from Vegas?”
Vecchio rolled his eyes as he sat down next to Ray. “Forgive me for not knowing everything that happened to me as played by you.” He nudged Ray with his shoulder. “That’s why you didn’t want to come?”
“Mostly. Plus the part where I didn’t feel like doing the Carlton routine.” He gave Vecchio a look. “Was that what got you so ticked?”
“Nah,” Vecchio replied. “I expected the doorman thing – that’s old news. But the entry was so crowded that he started trying to play traffic cop. And I don’t care how nice or gorgeous you are – this time of year it counts for squat in the face of missing out on a sale. It was not a pretty sight. Made the trip a waste of time.”
“Did you just leave him there?”
“Yeah, because I’m like that,” Vecchio snorted. “Benny wanted to go for a walk – said he needed a little time alone. The crowd really got to him.”
Ray scooted closer, leering. “Think he’ll think three’s a crowd when he gets back?”
“Did you spend the whole time we were gone surfing porn again?”
Ray grinned. “No. I also ordered Dief’s meds.”
Vecchio moved in for a kiss. “At least one of us got some shopping done.”
Chapter 44: It's All in How You Say It (hmmm, I’d thought FKV, but really, it works as that, or FV or KV or FK or gen – take your pick!)
Vecchio shook his head and sighed as Kowalski recounted the conversation. “What have we told you, Fraser?” he asked, shaking his head sadly. “Slang does not fall trippingly from your lips.”
Kowalski grinned. “More like it trips and falls with a thud. You should have heard him. Do not presume to talk that jive with me – that’s a direct quote.”
Vecchio groaned and Fraser just watched them recount his various failed attempts at trying out the local vernacular, a raised eyebrow his only show of annoyance.
The conversation stopped when Lt. Welsh approached them. “Ah, Corporal, detectives. Good work getting that witness to come in.”
Ray and Ray looked at each other, confused. “Witness, sir?” Kowalski finally asked.
“For the Manero case? The one you’re supposed to be working on? Ring any bells?”
Vecchio interrupted before Kowalski could respond. “Of course we know the case, sir. Been out all morning canvassing the neighborhood. That’s probably why we missed the witness coming in.”
“Well, you might want to take a peek into Room #3 then, because he’s here and ready to talk. He said, and I quote, ‘if Red’s man enough to try what he did, I should do the same, right?’” Welsh gave Fraser a piercing look. “Is this something I should be concerned about, Corporal?”
“No sir,” Fraser replied. “All I did was speak with him, appeal to his better nature.”
“Glad to hear it. You two,” he glared at both Rays, “should take a lesson from him.” Welsh nodded at the two of them. “Gentlemen.” He stopped next to Fraser before leaving. “You might want to wait until you’ve left to rock on with your bad self, Corporal. Morale and all that,” he said softly.
“Understood,” Fraser replied, and allowed himself the tiniest hint of a smile.
Chapter 45: Things That Go Bump in the Night (Fraser)
Prompt: transform (it’s really a conceptual stretch, but it’s there)
It’s the arguing that wakes him. Until now, Fraser’s only ever heard one voice from behind the closet door.
“I’m telling you, this isn’t the place!” one hisses.
“How do you know until you open it and see,” another rumbles, voice low and deep.
There’s silence, lasting long enough that Fraser’s about to pass it off as a dream-induced hallucination. Then the first voice speaks again. “Fine, I’ll open it, and you’ll see I’m right.”
Fraser sits up, fully conscious and alert. Neither voice was his father’s; perhaps other relatives have decided to pay him a visit.
The door creaks open slowly, light streaming from behind it to backlight two figures. One is huge, wearing some kind of long fur coat. The other is short and oddly shaped, almost spherical.
Fraser holds up a hand to shield his eyes. The movement apparently startles his visitors; they both freeze in place.
“Can I help you?”
“Is this Timmy Brightman’s room?” the tall one asks, his growling voice filled with caution.
“I’m afraid not. This is the Canadian Consulate in Chicago.”
The shorter of the two smacks an astonishingly thin arm against his companion’s leg. “Told you so, Sully,” he grumbles.
As Fraser moves to get up, the two take a step back in the doorway.
“Okay, so wrong door, sorry to bother you,” the larger one says quickly, holding up one huge hand and tugging at his companion with the other.
They slide into the closet and close the door, leaving Fraser in darkness. When he opens it, it’s dark and empty; not even his father’s cabin inside. Going back to his cot, he shakes his head and opts again for it being a dream.
And actively ignores the tuft of blue fur he finds on the floor the next day.
Chapter 46: Preventing Poor Performance (F/K/V)
“Kill me now,” Vecchio said as he entered the room. He made a beeline for the couch and sat down, slumping back and resting his head against the back cushion.
Ray had to work to force his gaze away from the tempting expanse of Vecchio’s exposed throat to ask, ”What’s he doing now?”
Ray covered his eyes with one arm as he answered. “Polishing Nana V’s silver. Again. We aren’t even going to use it, for crying out loud.”
“It’s a big deal, Maggie coming here,” Ray said. He shifted closer to Vecchio, who moved his arm just enough to look at Ray. “You know that.”
“I know that,” Vecchio agreed with a sigh. “But Benny has got to slow down on all this stuff, or else he’ll be too tired to enjoy his sister’s visit.”
The or we’ll be in jail for murdering a Mountie was unspoken, but completely understood. “So we’ll just have to find constructive ways to burn off his excessive anticipatory energy.”
“Ooh, breaking out the big words,” Vecchio teased.
Ray flipped him off. “At least one of us actually uses the word a day calendar he gave us. Okay, so we need to fuck him through the mattress – that better?”
Vecchio laughed. “Sounds good to me any way you put it. But say it that first way in front of Benny and he won’t be the one getting fucked.”
Ray stood up, winking at Vecchio. “Then maybe Fraser’s not the only one needing to do some proper preparation.” He started walking toward the bedroom. “Want to help?”
Vecchio was off the couch and at Ray’s side before he even finished the question.
Chapter 47: A Place for Everything (K/V)
Ray dug through the cluttered drawer with a scowl. "Were you a squirrel in a past life?" he groused, shifting aside stacks of post-it notes, pens and stray paper clips. “Because I don’t think we need to hoard office supplies to get us through the winter.”
"You don’t like my system, fix it yourself," Kowalski grinned from the kitchen entryway, dishtowel and still-dripping plate in hand. "Better yet, have Fraser do it. Then everything’ll be organized and alphabetized with some kind of spreadsheet listing locations and amount in inventory."
"At least then I could find the staples," Ray muttered, then drew back his hand with a hiss. He carefully reached back in, pulling out a thumbtack.
"Don't tell me, let me guess," he said, holding it up. "These are scattered around as some crazy kind of theft deterrent." Ray dropped the tack on the desk and reached for a kleenex. Shaking his head, he wrapped the tissue around his finger, putting pressure on it to stop the bleeding.
"Let me see that," Kowalski said. Ray blinked in surprise; he hadn't heard Kowalski walk up. Kowalski snorted and reached out, pulling Ray’s hand to him and unwrapping his finger.
He cradled Ray's hand in his, rubbing soft circles into his palm. "Think you're gonna live, Vecchio," he said with a wink. When their eyes met, Kowalski slowly raised Ray's hand to his lips, softly kissing the injured finger.
"Better?" he asked. Ray shivered at the feel of Kowalski's lips ghosting over his still upraised hand. Kowalski smiled knowingly as he bestowed another kiss, this time flicking the tip of his tongue over the pad of Ray’s finger.
Ray pulled his hand free, sliding it to Kowalski’s neck to pull him in for a kiss.
He could find the staples later.
Chapter 48: Just Fish (Fraser)
A/N: Takes place during “Burning Down the House” – the first line of dialogue is from that ep.
When Fraser emerged from the burning house the imposter was watching him, eyes wide with disbelief. “You went into a burning building for fish?”
Fraser looked down at the aquarium in his hands. He couldn’t explain it. Honestly, he hadn’t been thinking when he’d re-entered the house. All he’d known was that he had to go back in. Once there he saw the tank, and he couldn’t leave it.
If Ray had been here, the real Ray, his Ray, he’d have been much more vocal in his displeasure than the pretender in front of him. Fraser could hear him: “Benny, what the hell were you thinking? They’re fish for crying out loud! We have to replace them every few weeks anyhow.” He’d have huffed and complained, pacing and shaking his head until finally, he would have stopped in front of Fraser, affection and exasperation warring for dominance as he asked, “You know you’re a hell of a lot harder to replace than a fish, right?”
Fraser carefully placed the tank on the porch, suddenly unsure he’d be able to keep it in his grasp.
That evening Fraser sat back on his bunk, looking around his Consulate office-cum-makeshift-bedroom as he thought back on the day. Perhaps Diefenbaker had been right to eat the fish, removing an element Fraser had focused on in an unhealthy manner. Saving them wouldn’t help Ray; keeping them safe had no effect on his well-being. And it wasn’t as if he’d expect to see them upon his return, or thank Fraser for their safety.
After all, they were just fish. And they were easy to replace.
Chapter 49: Ray's Inner Poet (pre-F/K)
Prompt: air, surface, crevasse, "woke up this morning at four, when I heard him slamming my door," depth, photo prompt
A/N: Bits of Part Two of CotW. In haiku form, because Ray Kowalski has an inner poet (IDEK guys).
This isn't flying at all!
I am NOT a bird.
Your smile tells me more
Then a thousand speeches could.
You're found. I am lost.
If we died today,
Part of me would be content
Holding you at last.
Woke up this morning at four, when I heard him slamming my door
Voices call to me.
Red ships, green ships, death and life.
Which do I follow?
Frozen through to bone
Fearing that I'll fly apart
Shattered when you leave
Off in the distance
You see a new adventure.
Whither thou goest.
Chapter 50: Connecting Flight (F/K)
A/N: Doesn’t everyone need a post-CotW snippet?
Ray was barely off the plane before he heard the page.
“Passenger Kowalski, please pick up the white courtesy phone.”
He found the phone and picked it up with a gruff, “Yeah?”
“Should have known it was you when they called it a courtesy phone,” he said bitterly.
“It only takes a second to be courteous,” Fraser replied.
Ray started to bite back his response, then decided, fuck it.
“You know what would be courteous? If you asked your partner if when he stayed in Canada, was it for more than lessons in avoiding frostbite. If you’d asked that partner, who was also supposed to be your goddamned friend, if he had anything to go back to, instead of just assuming I’d want to get on a plane to go back to a life I don’t have any more.”
“Ray -” Fraser started, but Ray bulldozed over whatever bullshit Fraser was going to spout.
“So really, Fraser, the courteous thing to do here is let me leave without dragging this out. Rip the bandage off hard and fast, don’t worry about the damage and thank you fucking kindly.”
Silence then, the only sound their breathing, Ray’s harsh, Fraser’s barely audible.
Then, quietly, “If that’s how you feel.”
“Then why did you get on that plane?”
Ray gaped at the phone. “What?” He brought the receiver back to repeat himself. “What?”
“Stay. With me, if you’d like, until you find a place.”
“And if I found a place already?”
“Then just stay.” Fraser’s voice was warm. “Please. Come home.”
Ray felt something tight in his chest loosen. For the first time since Fraser knocked on that hotel room door in Chicago, it felt like they were on the same page again.
“I’ll be on the next plane back.”
Chapter 51: Holding (F/K)
The security guard gestured past the gate. “Would you come with me, please?”
Fraser suppressed a sigh, nodding as he gathered his things. He could, of course, pull out his RCMP credentials and avoid this entirely, but that would be unfair. Besides, as he’d arrived at the airport hours early, it wasn’t as if the delay would cost him his flight.
He was escorted to a small windowless room, where the guard left him with a nod, saying, “Someone will be with you shortly.”
Fraser frowned at the closed door for a moment, then dropped his bag to the floor and turned a chair around from the table, sitting down to put his boots back on. He was nearly done re-tying them when the door opened. Fraser raised an eyebrow when he saw who walked in.
“This is an abuse of your authority, Ray.”
Ray looked exhausted; he must’ve come directly from his stake-out. But he grinned unrepentantly as he answered. “What’s the fun of having power if you don’t get to use it?” Ray leaned down, arms bracketing Fraser. “You got a problem with that?”
“I don’t believe I do,” Fraser admitted, pushing up for a hard, fast kiss.
Ray’s eyes were wide when they parted. “Benton Fraser, have I finally found a way to corrupt you?”
“Seems only fitting, since I made an honest man out of you,” Fraser replied with a warm smile. “You know, I’m only going to be at the conference for a week.”
“Yeah,” Ray sighed. “But…”
Ray straightened and scratched a hand through his hair, cheeks red. “First time we’ll be apart since we made it official,” he mumbled.
Fraser stood, reaching over to grasp Ray’s hand in his, their matching bands still shiny and new and altogether wondrous.
Chapter 52: Buckle Up, Knuckle Down (pre-K/V)
There had to be an in. Everyone had one, so that had to include Vecchio, right? A way to get to him, to get him. Ray just had to find it.
You'd think it'd be easy. After all, he pretty much was the guy for years. But Ray knows from experience that everything they tell you, the stuff in personnel files and family histories, that never gives the full picture. It can’t - humans beings are just too damn complicated.
So yeah, Ray knows a lot about that incomplete version of Vecchio, but zip about how to get the guy's attention now. It's a problem, because that's all Ray has wanted pretty much from the moment the guy pulled off the cheesy fake mustache and took back his name. But post-Vegas Vecchio, he was worlds away from the one Ray had been pretending to be.
The man he'd met in the hotel room was confident, almost arrogant, self-assured in a way that got Ray's engine revving like nothing else. Which should have meant he'd have been after Fraser from Day One. Fraser had that darker edge, sure, but the problem was he fought it, tried to rise above it. Ray was looking for someone who was willing to not only face that inner darkness, but embrace it.
Post-Bookman Vecchio fit the bill perfectly. Ray just had to find a way to convince the guy he'd be as good (or bad) for him as he'd be for Ray. But hey, Ray was, no matter what name he bore, a good detective. And a patient man. So he'd watch. And wait. And once he caught Vecchio’s attention, he'd grab it, no holds barred, no hesitation.
Because playing with fire? Another thing Ray liked. Especially when he got a little burned.
Chapter 53: Got Me Tied in (Half-Windsor) Knots (K/V)
"Looking good, Kowalski."
Ray flicked his gaze up briefly as Kowalski entered the bullpen, then looked at his partner again because whoever had said it had been right. Kowalski’d had an early court appearance that morning, so he'd left before Ray had barely stirred, a kiss on his shoulder that was half love-bite the only thing he remembered from the morning.
And now here Kowalski was, looking damn fine in what he liked to call "bondage wear" because it was "too fucking restrictive" but what normal people would call a suit. It was charcoal gray, understated in a way Kowalski never was otherwise, matched with a crisp white shirt and a tie that brought out the blue in the man's eyes.
Ray's eyes narrowed as he recognized the tie. Kowalski caught his gaze and damn him for knowing exactly where Ray was looking; he shot a quick wink and a smirk Ray's way before sauntering to the break room. Ray waited a beat before casually standing up to follow. When he got there Kowalski handed him a cup, heavily dosed with creamer to make the office sludge more palatable.
Ray took a drink as Kowalski finished putting together his god-awful mix of coffee and hot chocolate. "You're done early."
"Didn't need me for much," Kowalski answered with a shrug. "Case was cut and dried." He looked down. "Or maybe my lucky tie got me out of a long, boring day."
Ray snorted and Kowalski raised an eyebrow, his eyes darkening as they met Ray's. "You gonna dispute that?"
Ray reached out and smoothed his hand over the blue silk, then used it to pull Kowalski in for a brief, hard kiss.
Considering the uses that tie had survived, and Ray's plans for it later that night, he really couldn't disagree
Chapter 54: With the Taste of Your Lips (I'm on a Ride) (pre-F/K)
Prompt: I am a poison and I am fun
A/N: This post-MotB ficlet is actually an offshoot of the prompt, because seeing it made me think of my kids’ current fave song, “Toxic” by Britney Spears. So if you recognize the title (or last line), that would be why.
Ray blinked at his name, trying his best to hide the fact that his attention had been more on Fraser's mouth forming words than the words themselves.
When Fraser didn't go on, Ray met Fraser's eyes and winced apologetically. "You wanna repeat that, Fraser? Spaced out there for a second."
Fraser's look turned concerned. "Still having trouble sleeping?"
Ray shrugged, like Fraser hadn’t hit that nail right on the head. Ray’d been sleeping like for shit for weeks, but no way was he telling Fraser that. Because while he still had nightmares about nearly drowning on the Henry Allen, lately the focus of the dreams had shifted to buddy breathing. So yeah, some nights Ray woke sweating and shaking and gasping for breath like he hadn't had access to air in decades, but more often his heavy breathing was for an altogether different reason.
Of course trying not to think about Fraser's lips on his, warm and firm and gone all too soon, meant it was all he could focus on. And he couldn't distance himself; now that they agreed to keep the partnership going, apparently Fraser wanted to cement that by being around Ray all the freaking time. Parts of Ray were totally on board with that. Ray's bigger brain, the one that was supposed to be in charge, knew better.
Partners, sure. Buddies, even. But nothing else. He didn't have the luxury of seeing if it could be more, if maybe Fraser had been thinking about that not-a-kiss too. Because right here, right now, he wasn't Ray Kowalski, and he couldn’t go there as someone else. So he'd get past this; he had to.
Just would have been easier if he'd known ahead of time how addictive Fraser was. Guy like that should wear a warning.
Chapter 55: You Say Bark, I Say Bite (pre-K/V)
“What the hell was that?” Ray asked, storming out of the interrogation room.
“Good cop, bad cop,” Kowalski answered. “Ever heard of it?”
“That was not good cop, bad cop,” Ray shot back. “That was you siding with the perp to the point where I thought I’d be brought up on charges if I said anything else.”
Kowalski just shrugged, the bastard, like he hadn’t done anything wrong. “Seriously,” Ray added, “it was like having Fraser back, only without the good looks and Boy Scout sincerity to pull it off.”
Kowalski’s face went blank. “You don’t like the way I play it, get another partner.”
He stomped off before Ray could respond. Not that he had any idea what to say; they'd been off for weeks now, bickering or worse each time they were together.
A smack on his arm shook Ray out of his thoughts. “Ow!” He winced, rubbing his arm and glaring at Frannie. “What was that for?”
“What did you say to Ray?” she asked, matching his dark look with one of her own.
“What do you care?”
“He’s kind of my brother, too. Or brother-in-law, since the two of you are together, but whatever.”
Ray gaped, then shook his head vehemently. “We are not together.”
She rolled her eyes. ”Well, that would explain it. You two not going at it like bunnies makes you go at it like cats and dogs.”
“He doesn’t want – I don’t want-” Ray sputtered.
“Please,” Frannie snorted. “I have eyes, and I know you. Totally your type.” Her look softened. “He’s a good guy, Ray. You could do a lot worse.” She patted his arm. “Think about it, huh?”
Despite himself, Ray did, and the thing was, it explained a lot. Ray sighed; he hated when his little sister was right.
Chapter 56: All My Shadows Filled up With Doubt (pre K/V)
Prompt: “You are wrong in all the right ways”
Author’s Note: Companion piece to Buckle Up, Knuckle Down (chapter 52) . Title from Jace Everett’s “Bad Things”
Ray ducked into the men's room, needing a minute. Kowalski started to follow, but stopped at Ray’s sharp glare. Ray was surprised and more than a little turned on to see his partner acquiesce so easily. Therein lay Ray’s problem. The more time they spent together, the harder it was to keep from acting on that attraction. But getting involved with Stanley Raymond Kowalski - definitely a bad idea.
Ray snorted at the understatement. Because bad meant hey, maybe you shouldn't go there. The places Ray’s brain went just looking at Kowalski, they ranked up there with pushing the shiny red button in the mad scientist's lab, or going down into the dark, creepy basement alone. Basically, anything both possibly fatal and irresistible. That was Kowalski in a nutshell, and he hit Ray's hot spots without even fucking trying.
Ray ran a hand over his face as he pictured Kowalski hovering just outside of Ray's personal space, pretending apathy while watching Ray like a hawk. He wondered what that focus would feel like if it was acknowledged, accepted. Welcomed. A shiver ran down his spine at the thought of those eyes on him as he stalked up to Kowalski, or better yet, Kowalski looking up at him from the floor, where he knelt waiting for Ray to give the word.
Ray had no idea how he’d caught Kowalski’s attention. Was he trying to fit the Ray he'd been pretending to be into the man Ray was now? Looking for similarities between them, or cataloguing the enormous number of differences? Seriously, he couldn't imagine a worse possible replacement. Somebody made a bad decision. Then again, Ray thought, look at where his last so-called good decision had landed him.
Maybe it was time to see where making the wrong choice took him.