Brad hasn’t been on the force for long, even now he’s living off of borrowed time because he’s not exactly the best case man Southern California has ever seen, not by a long shot. That’s precisely why he’s in the netherworld of Arson, with Lieutenant PTSD and no fucking partner because that’s how he likes it. Even the LAPD grant small mercies, surprisingly, because he’d rather swallow bullets than have to work with any rat the division has to offer.
Unsurprisingly, he still has to deal with the fucking department golden boy that is too good for any of this shit. Nate Fick, a Marine who served, just like Brad, but as an officer so that warrants him a pedestal. Brad wishes he could hate Nate, but the kid is too nice and honest, and a relatively bright penny so Brad leaves him be. He still replies to the hello he gets every morning from the choir boy, though, even if it is grumbling because Brad is jealous. He would never readily admit it, because Brad is the Iceman and that’s really the only explanation for it.
Nate is just a hiccup on Brad’s climb to Homicide, anyway.
Brad is looking over some ledger about the recent house fires when the Lieutenant steps near the podium, an officer scribbling addresses on the chalkboard behind him. Dave McGraw is his name, but what with his constant patriotically fueled paranoia he’s earned the nick name Captain America, which Brad supposes is good because then McGraw—in a way—gets to be the rank he always wanted. He starts spewing another lecture about how important Arson is, good Americans and civic duty and we would all be speaking Japanese blah blah.
Brad actually listens when he hears the call of “Colbert, got another case for you, time to prove your Marine heritage to me again.”
He vaguely hears a complaint over how he gets all of the good cases by some asshole in the back.
“House fire on Bryar Avenue, one victim, looks to be deliberate, probably some insurance scamming bastards if you ask me.” McGraw pats him on the shoulder on his way out.
The only thing that Brad is happy about with his job is his car. A 1939 thing of beauty, and with the siren on he can crank it up to almost 100 miles per hour. He climbs into the leather once again, savoring in its smell, same as the day he bought it.
The station’s door opens once again, resident Golden Boy taking another wave at Brad and a shouting a “good luck” over the purr of the engine.
Too fucking nice.
He reaches the pseudo-house, now a charred pile of rubble, with a crying lady and a patronizing patrolman attempting to assure her it’s alright because he’s there to protect her. Brad knows he’ll have to talk to her later, after leaning over the blackened remains of her teenage daughter. The medical examiner is there, a too-green doc with the jaw line of a Spartan, and Aryan attributes to match. He’s determined to prove his worth, though, so Brad thinks he’s alright.
He walks towards him, the victim laid out on a sheet in the front yard, only feet away from the foundation of the house. “What’ve we got Hasser?”
He looks up, blue eyes like a child’s, and coughs before giving his reply. “Well the girl was dead before the fire started. There are signs of blunt force trauma to the back of her head, and despite the state of her skin I can see some bruising from a possible struggle.”
If asked, Walt Hasser would probably say that Brad’s resulting expression was terrifying in that it was excited.
“Do you think the fire was connected? To try and get rid of the evidence?” Brad asks, masking his sudden irrevocable interest in the case.
“If it was, it definitely worked. You might want to take a look for yourself, though, I don’t know how much you trust the patrolmen’s work.” Walt goes back to the vic, covering her with a sheet. Brad hears a sob from across the lawn.
Brad doesn’t trust the patrolmen, but there’s a man across the street that has been staring at the scene since he got here. Usually that’s not uncommon, but this wiry, short boy, Brad amends, has a certain look about him.
Brad crosses the asphalt. The thin boy cranes his neck to look up at Brad. “Problem, officer?” He leans against the bricks behind him, cigarette dangling between his lips. “You got a light?” He asks before Brad has a chance to respond.
“It’s detective.” Brad says as he takes out his lighter, flicking it to flame and then lighting the cigarette. The boy smiles around his cancer stick, nodding thanks. “I came over to ask if you had any information on what happened here.”
“I don’t, detective, but I heard this one over the police radio and it sounded fucking impressive.” He says, as if enjoying fires and the sight of dead people is a normal occurrence. “Name’s Ray Person, if you wanted it for your police records, or some other shit.”
“You like fires, Ray?” Brad’s a little uneasy, a dangerous feat for him.
“Not enough to start them, homes. War fucks up everybody a little bit.” Ray grins. “Never got your name, there, detective.”
“Colbert. Brad.” He answers automatically, cursing himself.
“Well Detective Colbert, if you’re not gonna fucking arrest me, can I be on my way?”
And then Ray Person strolls away, Hawaiian shirt and slacks that clearly have the outline of a matchbox in the back pocket.
Brad solves the case, turns out the jealous ex boyfriend beat her to death with her own clock (purple, with butterfly appliqués) and then set her house on fire to cover it up. Brad loves people. And by that he means he vehemently hates most of the human race because what kind of idiot kills someone in the first place. Admittedly, Brad has thought about it, but only in passing, mostly inflicted towards the perps (few and far between that he gets), which he reasons is not a serious threat to his chance at adopted Jew heaven.
After he finished the paperwork he ran Ray’s name past R & I. He’s honestly surprised when the operator chirps out “one assault charge, one arson arrest, and a threat of dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps on suspicions of homosexuality.”
He’s at another house fire the next time he sees Ray Person across the street, unlit cigarette in his mouth and a beckoning hand for Brad to come over. It goes against every principle Brad has ever had drilled into his head during his lifetime, but he’s walking over to Ray yet again.
“Miss me, Detective Colbert? Can I call you Brad?” Ray hums. “Ya know, Brad, I think you should arrest me. What if I confessed to this?”
“I know what you’ve done, Ray, and I don’t think this is your work.”
Ray lays his hands on Brad’s suit jacket, spreading his fingers out along the lapels. Brad is kind of glad there is no one around. “Checking up on me, Brad? Couldn’t resist solving a mystery, I guess. It’s all the same with you police stiffs, never want to venture into the fucking unknown. You’re right, though, I didn’t do it. I think you should break away from the pack, Brad. Dare to be fucking different, homes. I’ll even give you the opportunity because I consider us old pals.” Ray tucks a sheet of folded paper into Brad’s pocket on the inside of his jacket.
Brad knows what this is. He can’t decide whether or not he wants to act upon it. “Ray, I don’t know who you think you are but—“
“Cut the bullshit. I’ll see you around.” Brad watches dumbly as Ray saunters back down the alley he came, head lolling around as if he knows Brad will succumb eventually. Smug fucker.
Brad runs into Nate later that day, chatting with Walt in the morgue about another homicide victim. He turns and smiles brightly when Brad wanders in. “You up for getting some drinks with Walt and I and some of the other guys later?”
The paper in his pocket feels like it weighs a thousand pounds. The Iceman may or may not start sweating, Ray doesn’t even know what he’s turned Brad into. “I can’t, sorry, prior engagements.”
“Sounds like you’ve got a date tonight Detective.” Walt says from behind Nate, leaning out to chuckle a little. “Lucky lady.”
“Have fun, Brad.” Nate says and Brad accepts that as a goodbye because he doesn’t answer and just runs out to get to the safety of his car.
He looks at the note again, messy handwriting scrawling out an address and “meet me here at seven, Iceman.” It’s almost that time and Brad has morals but he can’t help wanting to know what makes Ray tick. Can’t resist a good mystery, as Ray said.
He spends the entire drive wondering how Ray knew about his nick name and why did that even matter because he’s accepting a proposition for God knows what at a seedy hotel in downtown Los Angeles what the fuck. Once he gets there he spends a good ten minutes arguing with himself over his admission to that fluffy land in the clouds, before storming from his car and marching to room 203 because he is a lot of things but he is not a fucking coward.
He knocks on the door, and there’s a pause when he almost darts out of the whole situation, but then Ray opens it and Brad breathes out the breath he has been holding because God what did he expect? Lace and garter belts?
Ray just looks like he had earlier, tacky shirt and thin frame. “Glad you came, Brad. Thought you would fucking stand me up for a second there.” He moves out of the doorway and gestures for Brad to come in.
Brad frowns because this room looks like they’re still in the 1800’s. The bed looks like it could break any second, and jesus why is he thinking about the bed.
“Look, okay, I don’t know what you think this is…” He trails off.
“It’s whatever you want it to be, homes. I was gonna give you some leads on your case first, but then my evening is free to spend however you’d fucking like.” Ray slumps into the floral armchair in the corner.
“You’re going to help me with that house fire?” Brad’s incredulous. Ray is certainly a wild card.
“I got connections to people, sure. I fix radios, people talk while I fix them. Says this one goes a lot deeper than just the insurance. Even thinks the insurance company is in on it, something about underhanded investments in the dope market around here, a hired fire starter to threaten the mob.” Ray shrugs offhandedly.
“This could really help me, Ray.” Brad says from his perch leaning against the wardrobe. “Is there anything else that you can tell?”
“That comes at a price, unfortunately.”
Brad can see through Ray’s expression. He crosses the room, feet sinking into the cheap carpet with each step, heaves Ray up by his shoulders, puts both hands on Ray’s face and kisses him. It’s barely a brush, Ray’s stubble irritating his skin, before Ray responds and wraps his arms loosely around Brad’s neck and licks into Brad’s mouth.
“Knew you would taste so good, Brad. Knew from the moment I saw you.” Ray whispers raggedly. Brad represses a shudder he never imagined would happen.
They kiss for a few more minutes, Brad stopping Ray’s advances each time he snakes his hand towards Brad’s belt. It’s not bad, Brad thinks, kissing a man is not bad, but it’s different. It’s refreshing. The rub of rough skin on his cheek is oddly welcomed, as is Ray’s scent of cigarette smoke and machine oil. He tastes like nicotine and war.
Ray’s overly vocal, soft moans and curses slip past his lips. Brad dares even to say it’s attractive.
Ray pulls away and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, “If you want the full story, you’re gonna have to lose the pants.” The cocky grin remains on his face.
“Not tonight, Ray. I’m keeping something a mystery.” Brad goes so far as to pull the corner of his lips up in an answering smirk.
“Using my own words against me, fuck you Iceman.”
“Where did you find that out, anyway? The Iceman thing.”
“I think your medical examiner took a liking to me, Detective.” Ray laughs just like he does everything else, half wise assed and half charming.