Romance is Romance
Author's Notes: This story would be nothing without Etben and Kalpuna, so I love them forever, and Dani, for being roped into beta duty on a fandom she's not in.again.
"So, are you ready to go back to being partners?"
"Did we stop?"
"I know, I know, I just meant Chicago cop partners instead of, you know, Arctic adventurer partners."
"Ah, I see. Well, in that case, yes, of course. I look forward to working beside you once again."
"Good. That's good."
Ray had to fight a groan when he saw Kowalski come into the bullpen, snarling at some perp. It wasn't Kowalski himself that caused the reaction, because even though his clothes made Ray cringe, he was a solid detective and Frannie and Fraser both had told him how he'd kept the Vecchio name clean for him. No, it was the brief look on Benny's face; he mooned for exactly half a second before his attention refocused on Ray or whoever else he was talking to. It'd been happening all week. The first couple of times it happened, Ray had hoped it was someone else in the room, or even an eye infection, but eventually he had to deal with the evidence presented to him.
Fraser seemed happiest when he was leaning over Kowalski's shoulder, helping him with something on the computer, or when the guy would throw an arm around his shoulders to steer him towards his desk, or into the interrogation room. Never mind the fact that whenever anyone else tried something similar, he'd straighten up, his posture more perfect than Ray would've thought possible. He brought the guy chocolate, for his coffee, maybe, but he got that little smile on his face when Kowalski looked at him like he was a gift from god.
It was almost embarrassing.
He wanted to call it infatuation, but Ray knew it wasn't very likely that Fraser was only infatuated after two years, part of which was spent only in the company of Kowalski and a bunch of sled dogs. He was pretty sure that at that point, you had to give it another name.
Ray wanted Benny to be happy. The man had been through enough shit in his life, and Ray figured he deserved happiness. He knew from the smile on his face, that Fraser had been happy to see him in that hotel room (nice timing by the way, buddy) and that Fraser was happy he'd returned. Of course, he wouldn't have had to be happy about Ray's return if Ray hadn't left in the first place.
But Ray going away was probably a good thing for Fraser. Two years ago, his best friend wanting to... do stuff with another guy would have been the end of the world. Vegas, though, Vegas gave Ray a whole new dictionary with which to describe the low life things he'd seen.
He knew that the half second of cow eyes was a huge deal for Fraser, though why he'd pick the Polack of all people was a mystery to Ray. Fraser could have anyone in the city of Chicago, and probably all of Canada, too, but he had to make things difficult for himself.
"Hey, Benny, you wanna go get lunch? I'm craving gyros."
"Actually, Ray, Ray and I were already planning on eating together, but if you'd like to come along, I'm sure he wouldn't mind."
Ray wasn't particularly interested in eating lunch with Kowalski, but he was curious to see him interact with Fraser. See, Ray wasn't thrilled about Benny doing things with Kowalski, but he didn't want his partner getting his heart broken by the guy, either.
Kowalski seemed to have finished doing his thing over on the other side of the bullpen because he came walking over. "Hey, Fraser, I thought I was going to pick you up at the consulate."
Benny smiled at him, the kind of smile that would have had Frannie clawing Kowalski's eyes out, a couple of years ago. But Kowalski wasn't swooning--seeing as he wasn't a chick--he was just looking surprised.
"Well, you see, Ray, I thought I'd go over the files from the Gomer case."
"Find anything?" he asked, scratching Dief behind the ears.
"Never mind, can it wait `til after lunch? I'm starving."
"Certainly. Ray was suggesting gyros," Fraser said, nodding towards him.
"He was, was he?" Kowalski shot him a look, but Ray just stared back. "Yeah, okay, I can do gyros. But I'm driving."
Fraser was off doing his Friendly Neighborhood Mountie shtick with the manager, while Ray and Kowalski took their lunches to one of the booths.
"So," Ray began.
Kowalski just raised an eyebrow, picking up his gyro.
You'd think they'd have more to talk about, seeing as Kowalski lived Ray's life for two years. "You seeing anyone?"
Ray wasn't sure what he wanted the answer to be, but he did feel a little relieved when Kowalski snapped, "No."
When it became obvious he wasn't going to follow Ray's lead and make conversation, Ray had to try again. "Uh. How'd you like Freezerland?"
"Uh, kinda cold, but Fraser kept me warm-" Ray wasn't going there. He was not going there. "-I liked the dogs, and the sledding wasn't so bad after a while."
"I'll take your word for it. What was the deal with all of that, anyway?"
"Deal with what?"
"Franklin's hand, sledding around Canada for weeks on end." Ray made a gesture to encompass all of that out doors stuff.
"It was an adventure. And I'd never done it before," Kowalski shrugged.
"Isn't experience usually, oh, I don't know, helpful when it comes to the Arctic?"
"Yeah, but I had Fraser, and I'm willing to try anything once."
Well, that was interesting. "Anything?" Ray repeated, giving him an appraising look.
Kowalski paused and stared back. "Are you flirting with me?" he asked suddenly, sounding surprised but not nearly as disgusted as Ray would have expected.
Ray sat up in his seat. "No! I'm not flirting with you."
Jeez, the people at the next table were giving him a funny look and shit, Benny's super hearing had picked it up, from across the room. That confused flash across his face made Ray cringe. He saw his lips tighten in that `no, I'm not wounded' way, that no one who knew him well would ever buy. Shit.
"Then what's with all the questions about..."
"I wasn't hitting on you," Ray hissed back. "Why would I--I'm sleeping with Stella."
"You're what?" Kowalski demanded.
That hadn't actually been how Ray or Stella planned on breaking the news to Stanley but shit, the cat was out of the bag.
"I swear to God, Vecchio, if you hurt a hair on her head, I'll-" Kowalski apparently ran out of words, and settled for a grunt and a threatening gesture.
Ray just brushed it off, "Sure, Kowalski. You think pretty highly of yourself, don't you? Like I'd ever throw Stella over for you."
"No, you'd probably set your sights on Fraser, just like Frannie. A Vecchio family tradition," he snorted.
"You were a Vecchio for a while yourself, Stanley."
Kowalski's head snapped up and he stared a Ray for a moment, his face completely unreadable. "...Don't call me Stanley."
"Ray? Ray? Is everything all right?" Fraser asked, as he set down his own lunch.
"Fine, Fraser." Kowalski flashed Fraser a quick grin before taking a bite of his gyro. Even Ray wasn't fooled, but Fraser's face was schooled in politeness. Dammit.
The way Ray saw it, Fraser had had two years to do something about the thing with Kowalski, including all that time out in the middle of nowhere. Fraser probably wouldn't know how to woo somebody unless the instructions came wrapped in an Inuit story, so he had to give his friend a hand, it was the least he could do.
Unfortunately, the issues of Cosmo that Frannie left lying around didn't have tips on gay romance, but romance was romance, right? And he was a Vecchio; he knew romance. So he figured he'd pull a few strings, give them a nudge in the right direction.
"Hey, Fraser," Ray called, summoning him from across the bullpen.
"Yes, Ray?" Fraser asked, taking a seat in the empty chair that lived next to Ray's desk.
"I was just thinking. See, I got these tickets to the ballet tonight at the Auditorium Theater, but Stella has to work late," he began casually. "Since we can't go, I thought maybe you and Kowalski might feel like it. It's one of those classy old places Adler and Sullivan designed, you two might have fun."
"That is very generous of you, Ray, but I'm afraid Ray and I already have plans."
Okay, so maybe he hadn't needed to call in that favor to score the tickets, but plans sounded promising. Maybe Ray didn't need work as hard at this as he thought. "Oh yeah? Doing what?"
"There's a seminar on different methods of pre-twentieth century Inuit and Aleut snow shoe construction. There's even rumor that there may be hands on demonstrations," Fraser looked impossibly excited at that. "Though I doubt it will be with period accurate materials, as seal sinew is difficult to transport, and most species are on the endangered list."
Ray was forced to agree. "Of course."
Kowalski walked in towards the tail end of Fraser's speech. "Sinew? Isn't that like, their guts or something? I'm not touching seal guts, Fraser, even in the name of snow shoes. I liked those nice metal ones just fine."
Fraser glanced back, still smiling, and offered Kowalski his chair, but Kowalski just waved him off. "Actually, Ray, sinew is another word for the tendons between muscles. The Inuit aren't the only ones to take advantage of the elastic nature of the material before synthetic ones were developed. In fact, Europeans used them for-"
"Fraser, you're a freak," Kowalski pronounced, taking a sip of his coffee.
The freak comments had rankled when they first returned, but once Ray figured out Fraser didn't mind, he figured he should just let it go; and in this instance he was inclined to agree. If Fraser thought he was going to romance Kowalski at Snowshoe Making 101, he probably did have a hole in his bag of marbles.
"Remind me to get another cup of coffee before we leave."
"Ray, I'm quite certain you've consumed enough caffeine today, any more could be detrimental to your blood pressure and sleeping patterns," Fraser said, putting on his Stetson.
"If you don't want me to fall face first into seal guts-"
"-whatever, either way, I'm going to need more coffee."
They continued bickering on their way out of the bullpen, but Ray ignored them as he dialed the phone. "Hey, Stella, I've got tickets to the ballet tonight, great seats."
"Fraser, don't look so disappointed."
"I'm not, Ray."
"Yes you are, you're miffed that they didn't give you seal guts to play with."
"Really, Ray. I completely understand why they gave us fishing line instead; however, I feel it takes away from the authenticity of the construction."
"I must say though, you are doing a fine job with your knot work, very impressive."
"Yes. Your fingers are very, ah, dexterous, and suited for such fine work."
"Thanks, Fraser. You're not so bad yourself."
"Thank you kindly."
Ray decided to work the Kowalski angle this time, since Fraser might get a bit suspicious if he kept trying to send the two of them out on a date; he didn't want to get a reputation or anything.
So while they were going over the details of the murdered professor case, Ray casually started the conversation. "Can you believe Fraser's never been to Gibson's? Three, four years in Chicago and he'd never heard of the place."
Kowalski barely glanced up, "He eats lichen and whale blubber. You're surprised?"
"It's a shame is all," Ray shrugged. "That he's never had the London broil or the bone-in sirloin. Oh, and the baked potato." He was making himself hungry.
"They got good fries," Kowalski said, nodding.
"You get French fries with a forty dollar steak?"
"Don't knock it `til you've tried it," Kowalski insisted, tossing a folder across the desk.
"Yeah, well, do you think Benny'd think caribou steaks are better than Gibson's?"
Kowalski just grinned, reaching for a new file "Probably, but at least cows aren't an endangered species or anything."
"And this is the filet mingon, a classic cut; you can see the grain of the meat here."
"Sorry, Ray, it's just that I think I detect the scent of..."
"Sir, if you could refrain from handling the meat."
"And licking it, come on Fraser, if you're that hungry, order a salad."
"Ah, just as I suspected. Would you be so kind as to show me where this meat is stored?"
"Fraser, come on, sit down...Ah, jeez, at least slow down a little."
"Sir, I'm sorry, but you can't go in there."
"Hey! Get your hands off him, buddy."
"Sir. Guests are not allowed."
"Is there a problem here, gentlemen?"
"Tell them they aren't allowed into the kitchen."
"I'm sorry, but guests are not allowed in the staff only areas, if you have any problems, I'd be happy to help in anyway poss- Sir, violence isn't necessary."
"Then tell your goon to let go of my partner."
"I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Ray was across the street from the steakhouse, treating himself to a cup of the good coffee, the kind of coffeehe hadn't had since returning fromLas Vegas, since you could buy the entire bullpen a round of the stuff cops normally drank for the same price. But he was doing a good deed here, and good deeds should be rewarded. So he flicked back the cuffs of his shirt and picked up his copy of the Trib.
He was only half done with his cup when he caught sight of was that-- Kowalski? And Fraser....They should've been having their starter course about now, not being-- yes; he recognized that posture-- escorted off the premises. Kowalski looked like he was going to hit something and Fraser just looked concerned.
Christ, didn't Benny understand what Ray was trying to do? Romantic evenings out, successful romantic evenings out should not be cut short by...whatever they did to piss off the manager. Apparently, he really didn't understand, because now he was laughing, and then Kowalski started, too. They looked like a couple of drunks, trying to hold each other up as they walked in a crooked line down the sidewalk.
Ray was going to need another cup of coffee, while he figured out what to do next.
It was possible that Ray didn't know as much about romance as he thought, or the queer thing was a bigger hurdle than he'd originally planned for. Apparently, it wasn't as simple putting Fraser in his shoes, Kowalski in a metaphorical dress and treating it like a normal relationship. So he spent some time regrouping, calibrating a new game plan. What he had was exactly bupkis.
So a few days after the incident on Rush, he decided it would just be easier to throw in the towel on the nudging thing, and just tell Benny to give it a shot. He had a speech planned and everything.
Naturally, that morning he walked into the bullpen to find Kowalski and Fraser on their way out.
"We got a lead on the Gomer case, come on," Kowalski said, jerking his head toward the door.
"It was a comment his TA made, during the initial round of interviews," Fraser explained as he climbed into the back seat with Dief, leaving the passenger's seat for Ray.
"He killed him. I knew something was weird about that kid," Kowalski cut in, spinning the car out of the lot.
"That skinny little twerp? Isn't he a math major or something like that?" Ray asked.
"Well, yes, I have several theories as to the motive for the crime, but we ought to wait until we have Mr. Haberstroff in custody."
"Sure, Fraser. Do we know where he is?"
"According to the file, he's got an apartment a couple blocks off campus, but he interns at a financial company in the Loop, too."
Ray relaxed back into his seat. This would be a simple one: no impromptu thermonuclear devices, no voodoo, no performance arsonists, just a college kid who got pissed off at his professor. They'd pick him up, bring him in and get the confession, and Ray would talk with Benny over lunch.
It was almost midnight before Ray finally pulled into his driveway at home. So maybe it hadn't been as easy as he'd hoped, spending most of the day chasing the kid from Lincoln Park to Northbrook and then out to the west side before finally bringing him in, with the bloody protractor bagged and tagged. And then, even with the murder weapon, the kid refused to own up even when faced with different combinations of good cop-bad cop-Mountie. Still, the physical evidence would be enough to put the kid away, if the district attorney had anything to do with it.
Ray arrived at the consulate shortly after it opened, hoping to catch Fraser before the tourists got to him.
"Ray!" He looked startled to find his partner standing on Canada's doorstep at eight in the morning on a Saturday. "Ah, what are you--That is, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"See, Fraser. Here's the thing. I'm your friend right?"
"Most certainly," Fraser agreed, still standing in the door way.
"Do friends get asked inside?"
"Ah. Yes, of course, terribly sorry." He apologized, but didn't actually move 'til Ray gave him a pointed look. "Of course, do come in."
"So like I was saying, we're friends, which means I want you to be happy. It's what friends do."
Fraser nodded, but looked confused.
"I think Kowalski likes you, too. I mean, look at you, how could he not? You'd be the best thing to ever happen to him, Benny, so I think you should-" Ray cut off when he heard the sound of the tea pot whistling in the kitchen, before someone removed it from the stove.
Someone who wasn't Fraser, since Fraser was standing right in front of him, in his RCMP issue sweatpants and fighting a losing battle against the blush that had spread across his entire face.
"Ah, yes, Ray. I'm inclined to agree."
"Oh. Is that... I mean."
Fraser tugged at his ear. "Yes. I- Thank you, for being so understanding, Ray. I admit to being a little surprised but-"
Ray just shook his head. "Like I said, I'm your friend, Benny. I just want you to be happy."
"I am, Ray. Very much so." Ray hadn't seen Fraser smile like that in years.
"Then I'll just be going," Ray said, pointing at the door. "Enjoy, uh, breakfast."
"Thank you, Ray."
"Who was that?"
"What'd he want?"
"He seemed to be encouraging me to pursue you in a romantic fashion."
"Vecchio said that?"
"Well, he was in the process of doing so, but..."
"So much for keeping this below the radar. Nine hours and someone's already on to us."
"I don't think we have to worry about Ray."
"Yeah, but he could accidentally-"
Fraser cut him off with a kiss, pushing him back into the counter, the cold tile pressing against Ray's bare back, just above the waist of yesterday's jeans.
"Don't worry," Fraser repeated.
"About what?" Ray asked, his lips chasing Fraser's as he pulled away.
That just made Fraser smile, and rest his forehead against Ray's. Ray liked that smile, liked dragging his knuckles slowly down the line of Fraser's cheek, feeling the exact moment when the soft skin gave way to rough morning stubble.
Fraser leaned his cheek against Ray's hand, turning his head slightly to brush his lips over Ray's knuckle. "I think Ray is something of a closet romantic. And, unconventional though ours may be, I think he's happy for us."
"Yeah? Is that what we've got going here, a `romance'?" Ray asked with smile, pressing his hips against Fraser's lewdly.
"That is, ah, one word for it."
"What are the others?" Ray asked, pressing a kiss to quickening pulse in Fraser's neck as he dropped to his knees, slowly dragging Fraser's sweatpants down with him.
"An affair," he began, watching as Ray moved the obstructing clothing.
Fraser sucked in a breath, as Ray ran his fingers down the length of his cock, he held it in anticipation of his next action.
Ray just looked up, "That's the only one you've got?"
"Pardon?" Fraser asked, thoroughly befuddled.
"Romance, affair," he listed, punctuating each word by squeezing his hand.
"Ah, no. Amour, court-courtship" Fraser stuttered, as Ray took him in his mouth, almost immediately after he began speaking again.
He moved his mouth leisurely down the length of Fraser's cock, slowly enveloping more of it in the wet heat. Fraser had to fight the instinct to thrust into it, instead racking his memory for other synonyms. "A flirtation, a passion."
He groaned as Ray pulled back, using his tongue to tease the head, "A fling, a liaison."
That one made Ray laugh, and the vibration against his skin made Fraser jerk upwards, but Ray didn't seem to mind, even as Fraser's hands grabbed at his hair, his fingertips stroking the tips of Ray's ears.
"A relationship, an adventure."
Ray made another approving noise, as a hand moved to toy with Fraser's balls, thus rendering his vocabulary obsolete.
"Ray. Ray. Oh." The words came in a stuttering gasp as Ray's hand ventured further back, pressing against the skin behind his balls.
His hands clenched in Ray's hair and he tensed. "Ray, I'm-"
Ray backed off a bit, but kept his lips wrapped around the head of his cock. He waited for Ray to remove his mouth entirely but oh. Fraser caught Ray's eye, they were bright and his lips were beginning to look red and swollen. There were many, many nights that Fraser had spent thinking about that mouth.
He came with a grunt, one hand letting go of Ray, so he could latch on to the counter and remain up right, as Ray swallowed, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "You okay up there?"
"I-" Fraser began, taking a deep breath, "wonderful."
Ray's face lit up, and Fraser had to lift him back on to his feet, soothing those red lips with his own and licking his way into Ray's mouth to find the taste of himself, mingled with Ray's.
He paused to take a breath. "I'm simply not used to so much activity before breakfast."
"Not yet, anyway," Ray grinned.
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