© Nov. 2001 by Starfish
Pairing: F/K. No, really.
Disclaimer: Shyeah, right. So not mine. I'm looking into a rent-to-own program, though...
Notes: Post CotW. Please disregard the "tag" at the end of the episode, except for the part about Fraser and Ray going off together to search for Franklin's Hand. The rest of it was a campfire story Fraser invented to keep Ray from getting bored. That's my version, anyway...Thanks to Storm Haven, who posted an article that birthed the bunny that led to this...Sprinkled liberally with bits from BdtH, Eclipse, MotB, CotW, and (oddly enough) the Lerner & Loewe musical "My Fair Lady." You'll see.
Dedicated to my beloved Skinner Box, who was kind enough to introduce me to these two beautiful men.
The trouble all started with Ray's new assignment.
No, the real trouble started when Ray bet me I couldn't do it in a week.
Actually, I think the real trouble started when I fell in love...
We were back from Canada, 'colder but wiser,' as Ray said. Franklin's Hand was still reaching out, somewhere, but the adventure itself had refreshed us, me especially, and Chicago felt...good.
Ray Vecchio was also back. His stint as Armando Langoustini was over, with no one the wiser for the deception. It had been easy to put it about that 'The Bookman' had been killed by Muldoon in the firefight at the Ferris wheel. It was really the best resolution we could have hoped for. Except, of course, for the 'extra' Ray that the 27th suddenly had. Suddenly, his presence was dangerous, and he needed to be re-assigned rather quickly. The situation, as Ray put it, "sucked big rocks." I concurred.
You see, I had realized something while we were up north. My heart, so long guarded, was open again, and Ray was there. In my life, in my heart, in my tent...but not in my bed. Or bedroll. I hadn't quite lost enough of my marbles to tell him.
Our partnership, already close, had turned into something akin to symbiosis. He relied on me for so much; food, shelter, warmth; and yet I would never have been out there at all if not for him. I felt more alive in that month than I had in years. And so it was impossible for me to introduce my (possibly unwanted) sexual attraction to that mix. I could only imagine how badly it would go if he felt pity or worse, antagonism toward me. Poor Benton, always reaching for what he can't ever have.
And now that we were back on his 'home turf,' I still felt wary of revealing my feelings. It's a long-ingrained habit to keep what I feel deep inside myself. Just the opposite of either of the Rays, in fact. Neither of them holds anything back when it comes to emotional displays. Their being partnered while Ray filled Ray in on all the outstanding cases on their desk was a disaster in the making.
So when I walked into the bullpen and saw their faces that Monday morning, I knew that something had happened. Ray Vecchio was practically cackling with glee, while Ray Kowalski looked thunderously angry. Hoping to avert possible bloodshed, I hurried to the desk they were temporarily sharing.
"Fraser, you cannot believe this. You just cannot believe it. I've had some stupid freaking assignments before, but this one takes the cake, all the presents, and the pointy hats too."
Ray Vecchio stopped giggling long enough to put his two cents in. "Hey, Kowalski, it could be worse. At least you don't have to wear the Serge!" And then he was off again, laughing so hard I feared for his safety.
I took the opportunity to break up this dangerous tête-à-tête and dragged Ray Kowalski off to the supply closet. He was vibrating with anger and frustration, and as usual his command of the language suffered for it.
"He...you...I...just let me..."
"Ray. Ray. Ray...please. Calm down and tell me. How bad can it be?"
"They want me to be a Canadian , Fraser!"
It was out of my mouth before I could stop it. "Well, I believe Step One involves getting a big hat."
He gaped at me as if I'd suggested he do something improper with a dead otter, and then his face cleared. He grinned wickedly and said, "I refuse to lick stuff. They can't make me do that, can they? Can I get a special dispenser from the Prime Minister or somethin'?"
"Dispensation, Ray." I tried to look properly thoughtful. "And I believe that would have to come from the Queen Herself. I'll call Turnbull and see whether we have the correct forms on hand. A call to Ottawa may be in order."
His grin faded as he said, "I don't know if I can do this one, Frase. Yeah, I'm good, but I've always been mostly me , y'know? How'm I gonna be somebody ...uh ... specific?"
He had a point. When he was Ray Vecchio, he had only worn the name like a suit of clothes. Underneath it he was still the same abrasive yet charming man I knew now.
"Ray, I'll help in whatever capacity I am permitted to," I said. "And it's not so bad, you know. I've managed to survive being Canadian for quite a while now. You'll get through this just fine, and then you can go back to being you again."
"Hmm. Do I get another badge?"
"Only if you root for the Maple Leafs."
"Leafs suck, Frase."
"No badge for you, then."
I judged that Ray could now see the humour in the situation, and we returned to his desk. Ray Vecchio had become embroiled in a telephone call, of which I could only hear his side. It seemed to consist mainly of "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Ma'am," with the occasional "But I..." thrown in for garnish. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and said, "No way you can do this in a week, Benny. Bet me. Loser buys lunch for the squad." I shook my head and he went back to his call, nodding at me vigorously.
I heard my name and glanced around. Lieutenant Welsh beckoned me into his office.
"Ah, Constable, how are things at the Consulate these days? Are they keeping you busy?"
"No, sir, in fact it has been rather quiet."
"Good, good. 'Cause this thing they got Kowalski involved in -- seems like we could use your expertise here. So I took the liberty to disengage you from your duties. For the next week you're on special assignment as our Undercover Liaison."
Speechless could not have begun to cover it.
"Seems the Feds were so impressed with the job Kowalski did being Vecchio, they want him for another gig. Some document forgery thing. And for some reason we want to make the Feds happy. Plus, it gets him out of here 'til we can figure out a transfer situation. Good for everybody. So. Here's the files. Now go forth and prepare ye the Canadian. I don't want to see either of you again until he's ready."
I managed a "Yes, sir," and we left.
I had rented an apartment upon our return from the Territories, and we judged it the safest place to, as Ray put it, "hole up." After stops at the grocery store for supplies, Ray's apartment for his gear, and the Consulate and video store for research materials, we wound up on my sofa, the files between us and spread over the coffee table.
"Okay, so where's Regina, anyways?" I winced. Dear lord...
"It's pronounced Reg-eye-na, Ray. You probably should know that, first of all."
"Oh, God, you're kidding. What were they thinkin', Fraser? Naming a city to rhyme with -"
"Sorry. But Jeez..."
It went downhill from there.
We were saved, if you can call it that, by Ray Vecchio's appearance at my door. He had come bearing pizza and beer, evidently trying to make up for his earlier behaviour. He and Ray Kowalski had already come to a tentative agreement to not kill one another, but the jury was still out on whether they could be friends. I don't wish to sound egotistical, but I think a large part of their tension was jealousy over me. It was up to me to assure them that I valued both of them, not only as partners, but as friends. And if I hoped that one of them would be more than that, it was much better kept to myself.
"Hey, Benny, how's it goin'? Nice place, by the way. Mucho improved over the last one. Couch, chair, even a TV. Oh, hi, Stanley."
"Vecchio, you're not even the tiniest blip on my annoying-shit-o-meter right now, so save it."
"And after I got you pineapple on your half. I thought Canadians were supposed to be all courteous and stuff."
"Ray. Ray. Please stop. This is getting us nowhere. Ray, thank you kindly for the pizza. Please sit down. Ray, if you would be so kind as to get some plates and napkins from the kitchen, I would like a moment to talk to Ray."
Ray Kowalski did as he was asked and left the room, and Ray Vecchio sat, choosing the armchair next to the television. I sat back on my spot on the sofa. "Ray, please don't call him Stanley. You're not making things any easier. He's very nervous about this assignment. And I would think out of simple gratitude for his having covered for you, you could try to help him out here."
"Gratitude? He trashed the Riv!"
"No, that was Greta Garbo. I explained that already."
"He didn't have to drive it into the damn lake though."
"Actually, that was my idea."
"It was already on fire, Ray. The hood had blown off. I didn't really think it could be salvaged at that point, and innocent lives were at stake."
"Yeah, mine." Ray had rejoined us. "Day One, Fraser, and you're already endangering my life in a wildly bizarre way. I should'a known...." He smiled to take the sting out of his complaint, one I had heard almost daily on our quest. He resumed his seat beside me on the sofa, passed a plate to Ray Vecchio and helped himself to a piece of pizza. "Thanks for the pineapple, Vecchio. You wanna watch a movie with us? Let's see, we got a big choice here. 'Curling, Then and Now,' 'A Walking Tour of Historic Ottawa,' or...'My Fair Lady.' Uh, Frase? One of these things is not like the others."
I've become accustomed to understanding only about one tenth of Ray's jokes, so I wasn't surprised when both Rays snickered at this obvious statement of fact.
"Well, no, Ray. Two of them are documentary films I borrowed from the Consulate. I thought they would help both with your accent and the local flavour and attitude that exemplifies Canada. The last one is a musical production based on the George Bernard Shaw play 'Pygmalion.' I thought the theme was appropriate to our endeavours here."
They looked at each other, for once in accord. "He is a freak."
"I've been tellin' you that."
"I tried to make him wear a sign once. It said 'I am mentally deficient.' "
"Wouldn't do it, would he?"
Sure, now they were getting along.
"Thank you both, that's quite enough. Ray, move these files, please. Ray, kindly start the movie. I don't want to hear another peep out of either one of you until Professor Higgins asks Eliza for his slippers. Is that clear?"
Ray Vecchio put the video into the VCR and moved over to stand in front of me, gesturing for me to move to one side. I slid to the middle and he sat, leaning forward to grab another beer for himself and one for his partner. As Covent Garden filled the screen, I felt Ray Kowalski shift in his seat. His sock-clad feet dragged the coffee table nearer, then he propped said feet on the corner of the table. His sideways look dared me to say something, so I didn't give him the satisfaction. Instead, I wriggled down a bit and put my own feet beside his. His response was to remove his socks. Slowly. Using just the toes of his other foot. And I was lost in a shameful, erotic haze, until well into the third scene of the movie. I have to say, I never knew I could find feet to be so...pleasing. I shook myself mentally, and focused on the screen instead.
As the movie ended, I came back to myself. I always become too engrossed when I watch it; I identify very strongly with Henry Higgins. I blinked slowly as the tape rewound. Ray Kowalski was asleep on my shoulder, and Ray Vecchio was putting on his coat.
"Hey, Benny, thanks for the movie," he said quietly. "You need any help with Sleeping Beauty there?"
"No, I'll be fine. Thank you for the pizza, Ray. Have a safe ride home."
"G'night, Professor. And good luck."
I waved good-bye as he closed the door behind himself. Carefully extricating myself from under Ray, I went to the closet for a pillow and blanket.
"Ray? Ray? Ray?"
"Get your own fucking slippers, Fraser."
I smiled. "Ray. Pillow. Blanket."
"Thank you kindly, Mister Mountie. Nighty-night."
"Good night." Not Sleeping Beauty. Not Eliza, either. Prince Charming? Maybe. I took myself off to bed.
Some time later, I was awakened by the mattress dipping under Ray's weight. I made an interrogatory sound, and he said, "Sorry, Frase, but your couch sucks."
I mumbled, "Understood," and pushed a pillow toward him. I was asleep again before he could take it.
An urgent need to urinate woke me again about two hours later. On my way back from the bathroom I passed Ray stumbling toward it.
"Great minds think alike, Fraser," he muttered.
I flopped back down onto the bed and tried to get comfortable. After over a year of my cot and then a month of sleeping on the snow, my king-sized bed still seemed alien to me. I settled on my side, facing the edge of the bed and the half-open window. Even dressed as I was in boxers, the night felt warm to me, and I dreaded the summer heat I knew would come.
Ray came back into the room and crawled into bed beside me again. It felt right to have him there. The tent we'd borrowed from Buck had been only slightly larger than my bed, in point of fact, and I had become used to hearing Ray's soft breath as I drifted off at night. Feeling his presence beside me as I slept.
"Just like old times, huh?"
His whispered question took me by surprise. I'd thought him asleep again. I craned my neck around to squint at him in the dim light as I considered my reply. Could I say what I felt? I could try, at least.
"Yes. I...missed this."
His head came up off the pillow abruptly. "No kidding?"
I smiled. "No kidding, Ray."
"Hunh. Cool. Good."
I went back to sleep pondering the meaning of those words.
I woke on my back, sunlight streaming in the window. Ray was pressed up against my side, one foot under my ankle, head on my shoulder. I turned my head for a brief moment, pressing my face into his hair, breathing in the scent of it. How wonderful it would be, I thought, to wake like this every morning, to have the right to wake him with a kiss...or more. But I hadn't the right, and so I eased away slowly and stood, pulling on my shorts and T-shirt, preparatory to giving Dief his morning run.
I sat on the edge of the bed to put on my sneakers, and Ray stirred. One hand came out, searching, then his eyes opened. He blinked at me, and slowly smiled. "Mornin', Frase. Sorry I woke you last night."
I smiled back, captivated by the sight before me. "That's quite all right, Ray. I'm sorry my couch sucks."
He snorted with laughter. "Benton Fraser, I'm shocked. Shocked, I say."
I put on my most innocent look, and he laughed harder and sat up, leaning over to lightly smack his fist against my shoulder. "Jesus, Fraser, don't do that to me in the morning. Not 'til I've had coffee, understand?" I nodded, and he gripped the shoulder he had hit. "Okay. Start me some water boiling, would you? I'm gonna hit the shower. We got a day ahead of us I wanna be awake for."
I quickly tried to suppress my all-too-visible reaction to the thought of Ray in my shower and almost ran from the room. Filling the kettle while trying not to trip over Dief (who informed me he'd been very patient but now would be good) took my mind off my...problem. Finally, after some deep breathing, I felt ready to face the outside world without fear of embarrassing myself.
I returned breathless and sweaty after a long hard run, during which I'd given myself an equally long and hard talking-to. Ray needed my help, and I would continue to give him what he needed, and only that. Ray had always been a 'toucher,' from the first day I'd known him. There was no need to read anything more into it just because now I wanted there to be more.
Ray was seated at my kitchen table, going through the files and listening to NPR's "Morning Edition" while he read. I wouldn't have thought him to be a fan of public radio. He turned when I came in and got a Dief-lick on the cheek.
"Dammit, Dief, we talked about this. Not on the face. Nowhere above the neck, in fact. If it happens again, I'm withholding snacks until you learn." Dief whined and looked at me questioningly.
"Yes, I imagine he is serious. You should really take his wishes into account." I received an insolent sniff and a flip of the tail in reply as he stalked off to curl up under the window in the living room.
"I am sorry, Ray. He likes you. He has no other way of showing it."
"Nah, I shouldn't have snapped at him. I guess I'm just nervous. I can't get into this guy's head at all. We got no common ...whatsis ... frame of reference."
"Well, at least you won't have to fool anyone who actually knows him. That should help."
"Yeah, I guess. Hey, go take your shower. I'll have breakfast ready in fifteen. Scrambled okay?"
"No. I mean yes, scrambled is fine, but you don't have to cook. You're a -" He stopped me with that peculiar gesture of his which involves two of his fingers jabbing the air in the direction of my face.
"I hope you weren't gonna say I'm a guest, Frase. I'd like to think the two of us were beyond that by now. Or am I wrong?" He looked at me with a strange intensity I couldn't fathom. But he was right.
"Can I save the moment by claiming I was going to say you're a terrible cook?"
He snickered, obviously remembering the way I'd wolfed down his cooking on our quest. "Not hardly."
"Ah. Well, then, get busy. I'm hungry." I retreated to the bathroom, making a brief stop in my room for clean clothes. The thought of walking around clad in only a towel while Ray was there unnerved me terribly. I needed all the armour I could get.
The week passed slowly. Mornings were spent listening to public radio programs and occasionally watching suitable videos or television shows. Afternoons I drilled him on the contents of the files - faces and places he should know if he were to successfully pass for the man he would be impersonating.
We were both still sleeping in my bed, and I woke each morning to find Ray had moved over next to me in the night. I started taking cold showers. I was beginning to feel tense.
We weren't used to being cooped up inside all day, but I couldn't justify going outside, except to walk Dief, when there was so much Ray needed to learn. His grammar, his diction, and especially his accent were deeply rooted, and he was having trouble 'thinking Canadian.' He was also having trouble taking constructive criticism.
On Friday morning, after the sixth time I corrected his pronunciation of a word, he exploded.
"Jesus, Fraser, could'ja lay off for a minute? I'm tryin', I really am. But the guy's just not me . He's a college graduate, he's good-looking, he's got money...I can't do it. It's hopeless."
"Ray. It's not hopeless at all. I think you feel inferior somehow, and there's no need. You're a very intelligent man, Ray Kowalski. You're one of the finest men I've ever been partnered with. You can think well on your feet, you have wonderful instincts. You're smart and brave and...." I cleared my throat. "And considering that his high income is due to his trafficking in forged passports, I shouldn't think you'd care to compete in that area."
"You left one out, Frase."
Yes I had. "You don't seriously need me to tell you how attractive you are, do you?" Say no, please say no....
"Well, it has been a while...and as I remember you kind of weaseled out of it at the time. So -- you qualified to judge yet?"
Even as I prayed for something large to fall from the sky and hit me, I knew I had to answer his question. His own insecurity aside, I had begun to think he deserved to know how I felt. So I could start small, and work my way up gradually.
"Yes, what, Ben-ton?"
"I think you're extremely attractive." And I hoped he wouldn't remember, as I did, the exact wording of his question in the crypt.
I was saved by his sudden distraction. "Benton Fraser. What's my name?"
"Is this a trick question? Stanley Raymond Kowalski. You go by Ray."
He made an obnoxious buzzing noise in his throat. "Wrong. Would you like to try for the bonus question?"
"What's my name ?"
Oh. Good Lord, of course . "David. David Woodson."
"Correct." He was grinning like a maniac. The mood was infectious.
"What do I win?"
"We're going to watch the curling video again, and then we're going to go talk to Turnbull."
" That's your idea of a bonus prize?"
"If you're good, we can watch the Ottawa one, too."
In fact, Ray insisted on watching both of the documentaries while we ate lunch. Then he retired to the bathroom. I heard the shower run briefly, and when he came out, his hair was parted on the left and slicked over. It had grown out just enough to make the style possible, and I blinked in surprise. He grinned, and ducked into the bedroom, only to return a moment later wearing an unfamiliar dark blue polo shirt. Then I realized that it was familiar. I was just used to seeing it on myself.
He shrugged into his sport coat, crossed the room and held out his hand. "David Woodson. How do you do?"
Reflexively, I took his hand and shook it. "Benton Fraser. Nice to meet you." Even his walk was somehow different. Less bouncy, more...solid.
"It's a remarkable transformation."
He cocked his head to one side and said, "Let's go talk to Turnbull."
In the car, Ray displayed none of the nervous energy that was his usual wont. He changed the radio station to the same one my kitchen radio was set to, and we listened to Copland's "Appalachian Spring" as we drove to the Consulate.
We walked in the front doors together, as we had dozens of times before. Turnbull was seated at the desk, but he stood as we approached. "Constable Fraser, good afternoon. I'd understood that you were on a top-secret assignment, sir. Are you, in fact, here right now?"
"Yes, Turnbull, I'm here."
"Very good, sir."
Ray cleared his throat softly behind me. Turnbull's eyes went to him. "Oh, I'm sorry, sir. You have a guest."
Ray held out his hand as he had to me. "David Woodson. I'm a friend of Benton's from back home. He's showing me the city, and we thought we'd stop in so I could see where he spends his days."
His voice was changed too, now. It was deeper, no trace of the slight nasality I'd grown accustomed to. The accent wasn't quite right, but it certainly held no trace of Chicago. Turnbull was completely taken in.
"I'm very pleased to meet you, Mr. Woodson. I'm Constable Renfield Turnbull. Are you enjoying your stay so far?"
"Yes, I am. Chicago is a beautiful city. I'm having a wonderful time. This afternoon, Benton and I are going to the Field Museum. It's too bad you can't join us. Benton's told me so much about you. I'd so appreciate another knowledgeable guide."
Turnbull blushed and stammered, and we made our exit. Back in the car, I turned to face...Ray? David? I suddenly wasn't sure.
"I think perhaps we should stop by the 27th now, Benton. I'd really like to meet your friend Detective Vecchio."
It was downright eerie.
"And then perhaps dinner? I'm sure you could recommend somewhere...nice."
And he seemed to be flirting with me. I wasn't at all sure I liked it. Or him. I wanted my Ray back.
He continued to flirt over dinner, keeping me entertained with extremely witty and lively conversation. We talked about current events, and expanded on topics we'd heard discussed on one of the many public radio shows we'd listened to over the week. I was bored out of my mind.
When we got back to my apartment, he said, "Excuse me for a moment, won't you?" and disappeared into the bathroom. Again I heard the shower running, and when he emerged, dressed only in his bracelet and a heart-stoppingly small towel, he was Ray again.
"So, how'd I do?"
I dragged my attention from the area of his...towel, and looked at his face. "If I say I was amazed, will that cover it?"
"Yeah, I think so. I was pretty surprised myself."
"What was the catalyst, if you don't mind me asking?"
"I dunno, something clicked when you were talking about me." He walked into the bedroom, still talking. " 'Cos I don't see me the same way you do, and then I realized nobody sees themselves the same way their friends do. So I could make something up, halfway between the profile and me, and who would know? I didn't have to be him , as long as I wasn't just me. " He emerged again, this time thankfully clad in boxers.
"Which is why you were suddenly calling me Benton."
"Yeah, it just...felt right somehow. Uh, do you mind?"
"Well, Ray, it is my name."
"Oh, yeah. Duh. Okay, um, I'm going to bed now. Can we, uh, do another museum tomorrow? You and David, I mean. I need more practice."
"Of course. I'll walk Dief and be right in."
"Cool. I'll be wait- nevermind. Uh, g'night, Frase."
Saturday morning dawned rainy and cold, a perfect day to spend inside a museum, or so Ray informed me at breakfast. He would be moved into a hotel on Sunday, becoming the David Woodson that his contacts would be waiting for, while the real one was whisked into custody. It would be our last day together until the 'take-down,' which was tentatively scheduled for Thursday. I hated to waste it with David, but my preferences hardly mattered. If Ray felt he needed 'practice,' so be it.
We visited not one but three small museums. David was once again witty, charming, and increasingly flirtatious. Ray was firmly hidden, as far as I could tell. Except - David was Ray. So did it follow that Ray was David? This wasn't a case of a split personality. How could I tell what was real?
That night in bed, I lay on my side as usual. Ray seemed very restless, shifting position every few minutes. Then I felt the brush of his foot against my leg.
He stretched, and moved closer. His hand reached for my shoulder, landed, and began to softly stroke a slow circle. "This okay?" he whispered, so soft I might not have heard it had all my senses not been suddenly magnified by his touch. I couldn't speak, but managed to nod; he shifted slightly closer.
I could feel his breath on my back now, and his hand traveled down my arm, stroking the muscles there briefly before continuing across my chest to splay across my heart. I didn't want to lose the contact, but I had to know something.
"Ray, are you..."
He shifted again, and I felt his mouth touch my shoulder blade. "Mmmmm," he said, and I felt him smile. "I am now. Go to sleep, Frase. We'll talk in the morning."
He was insane.
He was also...asleep.
We were woken by the shrill warble of Ray's telephone. I had no time to appreciate Ray's embrace as he all but leapt out of bed to answer it. Then I heard him say, "Shit!"
That got me sitting up.
"They're gonna be here in half an hour to pick me up, Fraser. Woodson came into town early, and they hafta set me up at the hotel now instead of this afternoon. Dammit! Uh, okay. Shower, packing...I can do this. Hey, can I borrow that blue shirt? For, y'know, luck?"
How could I refuse? "Of course, Ray. Take anything you want."
He gave me a sly look. "Yeah, we still hafta talk about that , too." I blushed, and he continued. "But we do not have time right now. Go, do the Dief thing, I gotta get ready."
I tried to hurry Diefenbaker along, but after the previous day's rain, he was enjoying the sun far too much to be rushed. We arrived back just in time to see a large dark sedan with tinted windows parking in front of my building. To my surprise, I recognised Agents White and Exley getting out. I devoutly hoped they were not in charge of the whole operation.
I raced Dief up the stairs and found Ray in the living room, dressed as David, zipping his bag. He looked up as I burst in.
"Okay, wish me luck."
"You don't need it."
"Wish me something , then."
"I wish you weren't going," I blurted out.
He looked at my face, and then, just like the day we met, he hugged me. "Me, too," he muttered into my shoulder. He drew back and took my face between his palms and kissed me hard, just once, before there was a knock at my door. "Dammit. We have the worst timing, you and I. I'll be in touch, okay?" And then he was gone.
I filled the day doing laundry, going grocery shopping, and cleaning the apartment. None of these took more than the tiniest portion of my mind, however, and I relived that kiss again and again. While I was changing my sheets I found Ray's bracelet under his pillow. I wound it around my wrist with a foolish smile on my face, and decided not to change his pillowcase when I noticed he had taken mine. Two of a kind, we were. In every way that mattered.
My chores were done by dinnertime, and after I'd eaten and washed the dishes, I gravitated to the sofa. I sat in 'my' spot and tried to pretend Ray was sitting beside me, but it wouldn't work. Dief noticed the empty space and jumped up to lick my face. It seemed that everything would remind me of Ray.
I found nothing on television that engaged my interest, which was hardly surprising, and was debating watching the Ottawa video once again when the telephone rang.
I knew who I wanted it to be, and wasn't disappointed when a soft "Hi, Frase," came over the line in response to my "Hello."
"Hi, yourself. How's the hotel?"
"Lonely. The bed's too big."
"You're in bed already? It's barely nine o'clock."
"Nothin' else to do."
"Is this where I ask what you're wearing?"
He laughed. "Nah, that's later."
"What was that thing you did?"
"That thing you did with your mouth."
"Oh." I could hear his smile. "That was a kiss, Fraser. It's...standard procedure."
"Does it change anything?"
"God, I hope so."
"Do you find me attractive?"
"Very much so. Yes."
"Yeah, I kinda got that, Frase."
"When did I figure it out that you were warm for my form?"
"Well, you know I been workin' it since day one..."
"Okay, okay. I knew for sure Monday night."
"Fraser, you were getting all hot and bothered watching me take off my socks, for Christ's sake. Pretty big clue, there, buddy."
"So why in God's name did you wait?"
"Yeah, well, I figured once I really got you into bed there was no way you were getting back out...and we had work to do."
"I honestly don't know whether to feel flattered or insulted."
"It's...oh. Is it?"
"So. What are you wearing?"
"Boxer briefs. Grey."
"Is that all?"
"Aren't you afraid you'll get...cold?"
"Yeah, you're right. Sure wish I had me a nice warm Mountie to cuddle up to."
"Patience, my friend."
He made a rude noise and I laughed.
"So, Frase, what about you? What are you wearing?"
"Ah, you found it. Good detective work there, Constable. What else?"
"A smile." I let that sink in for a moment, heard him groan when he got it.
"Jesus, Fraser, I will pay for your cab, I will pay for a wolf sitter, whatever you want, just please, please, get your ass here ."
"We can't blow your cover, Ray. It's only a few days, after all."
"Fuck my cover, Fraser."
"Oh, I think I can do better than that , Ray."
"Stop it stop it stop it. Time out. Foul. No fair. I'm hanging up now, Fraser. I'm hanging up and then I'm going to have to decide between jerking off and taking a cold shower. Or maybe both."
"Oh God. Now who's not playing fair?"
"Yes, I concede this round. Call me tomorrow?"
"You got it. You can tell me what Vecchio bought everyone for lunch."
"Oh, I doubt it very much, Frase. But thanks for the thought. Night."
I honestly don't know how I made it to Thursday without losing my job. Luckily Inspector Thatcher's replacement, Inspector Morris, is much more easy-going than she was, and Turnbull covered for me quite a bit as well. I'm not sure if he understood why I was so distracted, but I thanked him for his help several times.
I had asked Lieutenant Welsh to notify me when things were about to happen, as I wanted to be as close to Ray as I could get. I realized that if anything did go wrong there was nothing I could really do to help, but I needed to be there just the same. Thursday afternoon at 16:40 I got the call.
The meet was taking place in an old warehouse on the docks, of course. Chicago seems to have an endless supply of them. Ray had warned me not to show up in the Serge, and Lieutenant Welsh seemed to think that some sort of disguise might be in order, so I improvised. I smiled to think what Ray's reaction would be to my outfit.
I was wearing my tightest jeans, which were worn to near nothingness in several spots. Ray had mentioned in one of our telephone conversations how much he liked them..."really, really, a lot, Frase." I combined the jeans with a T-shirt of Ray's I had found under the bed when I cleaned. It was black, and far too tight for me. Over the T-shirt I wore my battered leather jacket, and I had used some of Ray's styling gel in my hair. Unfortunately I couldn't quite manage beard stubble, but I felt I looked sufficiently disreputable to pass muster. The cigarette was the finishing touch, but even for Ray I couldn't bring myself to light it.
I leaned against the side of the building next to the warehouse and kept an eye on the entrances. I knew there were numerous undercover agents spotted around the area, and they had been informed that I was there as well. And now all we could do was wait.
After about a half an hour, there was a sudden flurry of activity in the alley on the opposite side of the warehouse, and I heard someone shout, "Federal Agents -- freeze!" I wanted to rush over but didn't dare for fear of endangering Ray in some way. I had no way of knowing who they had caught, and if all the miscreants had not taken that exit, they would be looking for other egress, perhaps using one of the doors I could see. So I waited.
My patience was rewarded in very short order, as the door closest to me slowly opened, and a head poked out. A man I recognized from the pictures we had studied as Louie "The Trigger" Gambado slowly stepped out, then turned and looked back inside. "Woodson, come on. What the hell are you waiting for? Let's go, this way's clear." He gestured with the gun he held in his right hand, and Ray came through the door. I could tell when he saw me, because his eyes widened a bit. He said nothing, but his thumb went to the side of his nose. I nodded, and started forward.
"Either of you gentleman got a light?" I asked, trying very hard to sound like I imagined a male prostitute would sound. I may or may not have been successful in this; it was hard to tell from Ray's reaction. But it was enough to draw the attention of "The Trigger" away from Ray, and for the first time in our partnership I actually saw Ray try to kick someone in the head. Mr. Gambado is quite a tall man, however, and Ray's foot only succeeded in hitting his elbow. This did have the desired effect of making Mr. Gambado drop his gun, and I immediately dove onto him, taking him off his feet and away from his weapon, which Ray quickly scooped up.
"Chicago PD, don't move an inch. You have the right to remain silent, which I would personally recommend you do. You have the right to an attorney, which I'm sure you know several of. If you cannot afford an attorney, which I find highly unlikely, one will be appointed to your sorry ass. Do you understand these rights you scumbag. Good. Okay, Frase, I need some cuffs. You wanna go find some back-up?"
"No need for that, Ray. I came fully equipped for a night on the town with you." I pulled a set of handcuffs from the inside pocket of my jacket and jingled them. His eyes widened again, and he laughed.
"You are in need of some re-education, my friend. It's a good thing Frannie's not here, she'd have fainted by now." He grabbed the cuffs from me and used them on Mr. Gambado, then hauled him to his feet. We made our way around to where the action was, on the other side of the building.
"So what's with the get-up? You wear that for me?"
"Oh, you like the outfit?"
"You might say that. Hey -- is that my T-shirt?"
"I'd rather not say in front of the criminal."
"Alleged criminal, if you don't mind," our prisoner interrupted.
"Shut up," we said in unison.
By the time we got back to my apartment, it was nearly midnight. Dief had stayed with Turnbull, and I was very glad, because I intended to sleep extremely late in the morning. Ray had insisted on giving a full statement, so that he would not be needed until closer to the trial, and the Lieutenant had kindly offered to call my Inspector in the morning and explain why he would not be seeing me until Monday morning. Well, perhaps not precisely why...
As I opened the door to my building, Ray had crowded close behind me. "Come on, come on, let's go, Frase."
"Just a moment, Ray. I see Mrs. Gustafson coming up the street with her hands full. I really should wait here and hold the door for her."
"Ah, jeez, you're kidding, right?"
"Honestly, Ray, it only takes an extra second -"
"To be courteous. Leave it to you to endanger my life in a way I can't argue with."
"You've lost me there, Ray. How am I endangering your life?"
" 'Cause if I don't get you upstairs and naked in like no time at all, I may very well explode, Fraser. Then you'll be sorry. Oh, sure, you'll have done the right thing and all, but I'll be lyin' here, exploded, and they'll all say, 'What a shame. If only someone had seen this coming. If only someone could have prevented this terrible tragedy.' That's what they'll say, Frase."
"I was mistaken. It wasn't Mrs. Gustafson. It was her sister, who lives in the building next door."
"Then get that ass upstairs, Mountie. I want my shirt back."
"I'm also wearing your underwear."
"Oh, you are so dead. Upstairs. Now."