Disclaimer: You still need to ask? They belong to Alliance and
the Pauls - and to each other.|
Many thanks to Sihaya Black for endless encouragement, Kellie
Matthews for asking the right questions, and AuKestrel for
knowing the answers. I love you guys.
(This story is set post-CotW. Consider this a blanket spoiler
warning for the whole series)
Q & A
by Beth H.
(c) May 2002
Monday 3:45 p.m.
If the gleeful look on her face was anything to go by,
whatever Frannie had just read in the latest office memo couldn't
be a good thing. Ray tried to ignore her, but when she sat down
on top of the file he was working on with Fraser and started
fanning herself with the piece of paper, he gave up.
"You're not going to go away until I ask you what you've
got in your hand, are you?"
Frannie hopped off his desk. "I don't know what you mean,
"Oh, this?" She held the paper out at arm's length
and stared at it in exaggerated surprise. "You wouldn't be
interested in this, I'm sure."
"Fine, I wouldn't be interested." He hunched back
over the file, ignoring the fact that she was still standing
right next to him.
"Unless you had some plans for the weekend, that
Ray looked up, narrowing his eyes. "I've got the weekend
off. My plans involve sitting at a Cubs game with a beer in my
hand on Saturday followed by sitting at the lake with a beer in
my hand on Sunday while Fraser and Dief commune with some of
their local fish brethren."
"That's just what you think your plans are. Now they've
been changed to . . . well, you said you wouldn't be interested,
so I guess you won't mind waiting until Lieutenant Welsh talks to
all of you tomorrow morning."
"Come on, Frannie, come on. . . tell me what you got
there. You know you're dying to."
"Just a little directive from the Commissioner's Office
requiring all police officers to attend team building seminars,
and guess which lucky division they're starting with?"
"No. No way!" Ray smacked the top of his desk,
drawing the attention of Detectives Huey and Dewey.
"Yes, way." Frannie smirked again. "I only wish
I could be there to share the beautiful experience with the rest
of you, but it looks like the Commissioner decided that only you
real cop types need to attend. Seems they think locking you all
up in a room together will mysteriously get you to catch more bad
guys. I'll be thinking of you next weekend . . . while I'm out at
the ballpark enjoying the beautiful weather."
"What's up?" Huey asked.
Ray glared at the piece of paper in Frannie's hand.
"We're going to be tortured."
Fraser shook his head. "You know that's not an accurate
characterization, Ray. Apparently, Detective Huey, we're all
being invited to participate in a weekend seminar designed to
foster interpersonal communication skills between partners."
"This is dumb! I already know everything there is to know
about my partner!" As soon as the words were out, he could
almost see Fraser raising his eyebrows behind him; he turned to
face his partner. "What? You don't agree? Look at these dumb
He reached out and grabbed the paper from Frannie. She tried
to grab it back, but he raised his arm high over his head and
looked up, reading from the list of questions in his hand.
"Where did your partner go to school? Depot. What are
his/her parents' names? Bob and Caroline Fraser. Does he/she have
any siblings? One half-sister, Maggie." He glanced over at
Fraser. "You don't have any other sisters or brothers I
don't know about lurking in the woodwork, do you?"
"Not as far as I know, Ray."
"Okay. Any pets? Well, I guess Dief is close
From his spot on the floor under Ray's desk, Diefenbaker gave
an indignant yip, but the half a bagel Ray slipped him was
evidently enough to heal his wounded dignity, at least
temporarily, because he fell silent.
"Ray, we're not supposed to be looking at these questions
for another five days."
"Is that the point? No. The point is we don't need to do
any of this. Come on, Fraser. Your turn."
Fraser sighed. "Associates degree from Daley College, BA
in Criminal Justice from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Your parents' names are Barbara and Damian Kowalski. No siblings,
although I have heard you refer to Francesca as one might a
sister on a number of occasions. One pet, a box turtle named
Curtis. Would you like me to continue?"
"Nope, that'll do."
"Okay," Dewey said, grabbing the questions out of
Ray's hand. "Do me. Tell them . . . uh . . . tell them what
my favorite book is, Jack."
Frannie snorted. "I didn't know you could read,
"Anyone ever tell you you're a wit? Didn't think so. Come
on, Jack. Let's have the answer."
Huey looked lost for a moment, then snapped his fingers.
"John Grisham's book . . . um . . . what was that? The
"Nah, I didn't finish that one. You know, Jack. The one I
was reading last month."
"Red Storm Rising?"
Dewey shuffled his feet and looked down at the floor.
"Never finished that one either," he mumbled.
"I give up, then. What have you finished?"
"You know I've got a subscription to Sports
Ray snorted. "That's not a book, numbnuts. It's a
"Whatever. What's Fraser's? The RCMP Cadet Training
Frannie rolled her eyes. "You're such an idiot. Just
because you don't have any poetry in your soul doesn't mean
Fraser doesn't. Poetry, Dewey. Think poetry. By someone sensitive
and full of deep feelings like Rod McKuen, right, Fraser?"
He reached under the collar of his tunic and tugged the stiff
material away from the skin at his throat. "Well, not
precisely, Francesca . . . ."
"Marquez. 100 Years of Solitude."
Fraser turned toward his partner and nodded. "Correct,
Dewey frowned. "Lucky guess. What's next on the list,
She looked down at the sheet in Dewey's hand. "Favorite
food. Ha! That's easy. Ray's is M&M's."
"No way," Dewey interjected. "Pizza."
"Ham and pineapple," Huey added.
Ray leaned against his desk and folded his arms over his
chest. "Wrong and wrong and wrong again. Field it,
"Ah." Fraser tilted his head to the side and thought
for a moment. "Currently? Kielbasa from Dominic Zabriskie's
butcher shop. However, last week it was your mother's potato
kugel. And the week before that, I believe, it was orange
Dreamsicles, which I recall you characterized as 'nature's
Ray grabbed the questions back from Dewey and scowled.
"Yeah, okay, so I don't have one favorite food. I think I
made my point, though. We don't need to waste the weekend sitting
in a stuffy room learning 'interpersonal skills.'"
"Well, it's not like anyone cares what you
think," Frannie said. "Whether you think you need to or
not, you're going. You'd be going even if the two of you were
Ray rolled his eyes. "That's Siamese, Frannie. Siamese
"Siamese. Taiwanese. Vietnamese. Same neighborhood,"
"Actually, the preferred term is 'conjoined twins,'
"Really? Is that new? When did they decide that?"
"Oh, about the time they decided that routine was the
"Okay, here's an easy one," Dewey said, looking over
Ray's shoulder. "First airplane trip. Jack, you're not
scared of flying, are you?"
Frannie rolled her eyes. "Sheesh! If you don't even know
that, there's no way you're going to pass this thing."
"This sort of exercise isn't intended to be regarded as a
test that one passes or fails, Francesca, but rather as a means
of developing communication skills between people who work
Dewey glared at Frannie. "See? No passing or
"Yeah? Want to make a bet you'll be the first person in
the history of the exercise to fail? You lost your turn, dimwit.
Fraser, when was Ray's first airplane trip?"
Ray sat down on top of his desk. "Hmm . . . I wonder if
they mean first trip inside an airplane or first trip hanging off
Fraser glanced over at his partner and raised his eyebrows.
"That's . . . very funny, Ray."
Ray grinned. "I'm not just another pretty face, you
"What about this one, Ray," Huey said after reading
over the questions. "When did Fraser first drive a
"Perhaps you could ask him a different question,
Detective Huey?" Fraser suggested.
Dewey smirked. "Finally come up with something the former
Ray Vecchio can't answer?"
"Not precisely," Fraser said. "However, I'm
afraid Ray would say I've yet to actually master driving
Everyone laughed, all except Ray, who just frowned briefly as
he took the sheet of questions back from Huey. Then Lieutenant
Welsh's appearance in the squad room put an end to the laughter.
"Could somebody tell me if we're running a detective
division here or a comedy club. Detective Huey? Detective Dewey?
I seem to recall the two of you have some very limited expertise
in this area. Perhaps one of you would care to explain what's
brought so much mirth to my squad room that no one's interested
in solving crimes anymore."
"Sorry, sir," said Huey. "Just a little game
that got out of hand. We're getting back to work
"Good. Good. Because I'd hate to think everyone had
suddenly decided that the work we're paid to do here isn't
important." He glared at Huey and Dewey, who'd already
returned to their desks and were trying to look deeply engrossed
in their paperwork.
Frannie winked conspiratorially at Welsh, but he just raised
his eyebrows. "Miss Vecchio. I detect your hand in this
somewhere. Perhaps you'd like to accompany me to my office and
start in on some of the very comical filing that's been
accumulating on my desk for the past three weeks."
"No problem, Lieutenant," Frannie said quickly.
"Always happy to assist."
"Glad to hear that, Miss Vecchio. And as for the two of
you," he said, looking directly at Ray and Fraser,
"we've just had a call that the guy you like for the Garrett
B&E has been spotted down at Pat's Saloon. Perhaps you
wouldn't mind paying a visit, if it wouldn't conflict too much
with your afternoon amusements."
"No conflict, Lieu," said Ray, standing up instantly
and tucking the questionnaire into his jeans pocket. He grabbed
his jacket off the back of his chair while Fraser signaled for
Diefenbaker. "We're practically there already."
Within minutes, he and Fraser had left the station. As they
headed for the car, Ray called out, "Hey, Fraser!"
"Here . . . catch." Fraser opened his hand just in
time to catch the keys to the GTO. "You know where Pat's is,
right? Why don't you drive."
"Are you certain, Ray?" Fraser frowned, but looked
strangely pleased as well.
"Yeah, I'm sure."
Monday 10:53 p.m.
Will Bonny was, indeed, "their guy," if the arsenal
he had on him when he was finally chased down in the alley behind
the bar was any indication of guilt. The illegal weaponry he'd
been packing brought the total number of charges to eleven,
making the odds against having all of them dismissed
before or during the trial pretty much astronomical.
Welsh was pleased; he liked clean arrests. "The grapevine
tells me you've apparently learned the fine art of not drawing
your weapon, Kowalski."
Ray's scowled, trying not to grin. "Yeah, well, there
were a couple of stinky winos over by the dumpsters, and I don't
want to get a reputation for endangering the lives of innocent
stinky winos, do I?"
"Another lesson learned. You're beginning to amaze me,
Detective." Welsh started to head toward his office, then
turned back to face them. "Good work, gentlemen."
"Yes, thank you, Lieutenant."
"Forget about it. Go on . . . get out of here. Don't you
two have homes to go to?"
Tuesday 12:14 a.m.
"What's your partner's favorite eating implement?"
Ray asked, grinning. "A machete. Okay, what's mine?"
Fraser paused, the slice of meat he'd speared with the tip of
his knife halfway to his mouth. "I'd hardly call this a
machete, which, as I'm sure you know, is typically ten inches
longer than this knife. In any case," he said, looking
steadily at his partner as Ray slowly and deliberately licked
barbecue sauce off each finger in turn, "I don't recall that
question being on the list you and Francesca were squabbling over
at the station this afternoon. However, if pressed for an answer
at the moment, I'd have to say 'your hands.'"
"We were not squabbling," Ray said, laughing.
"Anyway, those questions were boring. We know all that
stuff. Let's come up with some new ones in case they spring
something tricky on us this weekend."
"That's not really in keeping with the spirit of the
"Why not? I thought the whole idea was to get us to work
better together like . . . um . . . a well-oiled engine. Make us
a smoother running team, right?"
"Well, yes, it is."
"Okay, then. The more we know in advance, the better
we'll do. Proper preparation and all that stuff."
Fraser inclined his head. "You do have a point."
"All right. Shoot. Start with . . . um . . . my most
embarrassing moment or something."
"Yeah, really." Ray sat back on the couch,
stretching his legs out onto the coffee table and pushing their
dirty dinner plates to the side with his boots. "It's not a
trick question, Fraser. You don't need to spend so much time
thinking about it."
"Fine. Urinating in your pants at the bank when you were
"See? Easy, right? Okay, you ask something."
Fraser tilted his head and narrowed his eyes almost
imperceptibly. "What was my first arrest?"
He leaned back, looking smug, but Ray just grinned. "No
brainer. Parking violation. Middle of the reception after your
graduation in Regina, you go outside for some air, and there's
this Mercedes parked in front of a fire hydrant. You had the car
towed, then you go back inside. Twenty minutes later the North
West Region's Deputy Commissioner's ranting and raving that his
car's been stolen right from under the noses of a room full of
police and he wants to know if anyone's going to do anything
"Good Lord. You're right, but I don't remember telling
you about that."
"You didn't." Ray chuckled. "It came up in
conversation with Buck when we were returning the dogs."
"It just happened to come up in conversation? And you
remembered it all this time?"
"Kind of hard to forget, Fraser. Besides, I sort of did
the same thing for my first arrest."
"Ah, yes." Fraser smiled. "DWI. The Deputy
Mayor, if I recall correctly."
"And you do recall correctly, of course." Ray
grinned. "Kind of hard to believe we're still employed,
"We were just doing what the law . . . ."
"Fraser." Ray scowled at him.
"Oh, fine." Fraser rolled his eyes, then laughed.
"I suppose it is rather hard to believe, at that."
"Ah. Well," said Fraser, still chuckling,
"perhaps I'll ask you the same question you posed earlier;
what was my most embarrassing moment?"
Ray looked away briefly, then turned back. "Ask me
something else, okay?"
Fraser smiled. "Stumped, are you?"
Ray stared down at his hands. "Nah, I just don't want to
answer that one."
"Come on, Ray. Turnabout's fair play," he pressed.
"My most embarrassing moment. Unless you're conceding defeat
because you can't . . . ."
The words were spoken quietly, but it was nowhere near the
silence that followed.
Minutes passed without a word being spoken. Even Diefenbaker
lay perfectly still at their feet as if he could feel the
increasingly oppressive weight of the silence in the living room.
If Ray could've reset the clock, swallowed the words back down
and make it so they'd never been said, he would've. But he never
did seem to be able to not say stuff around Fraser. All
Fraser ever had to do was ask. God, this was always the problem.
Why couldn't he learn to just keep his mouth shut?
Finally, Ray turned toward Fraser. "Um . . . I didn't
mean . . . I didn't mean that Vecchio shooting you was
embarrassing, just . . . ." He held up his hands, then
dropped them helplessly to his sides.
Fraser took a deep breath, then nodded and said quietly,
"No, I understand, Ray. You were alluding to . . . all of
"Yeah." Ray shook his head. "I'm sorry. I
shouldn't have . . . I didn't mean . . . ."
"It's all right, Ray." Another long silence
followed, then Fraser sighed. "You're very astute."
Ray scrubbed at his face with the heels of his hands.
"This game sucks!"
"You know, I'm not certain it does . . . suck,"
Fraser said finally, rising to clear the dirty plates and clean
silverware from the coffee table. "There is an element of .
. . risk, one might say, but it does seem to be serving its
Ray responded with a grunt as he collected the sauce-stained
napkins from the table and followed Fraser into the kitchen.
"You're not pissed off with me, are you?"
Fraser turned to face Ray, who was leaning against the
counter, his arms crossed tightly over his chest. He took a deep
breath, then exhaled and shook his head. "No. No, of course
"You had enough of this?"
Fraser walked over to the window and looked out onto the dark
street. "Yes. Yes, I think so. For the time being,
"Okay, no problem."
Ray washed the dishes, and Fraser . . . well, he had to still
just be looking out the window. "Hey, Fraser? What do you
like better - chocolate or vanilla?"
Fraser turned around and looked unhappily at Ray. "I . .
. I thought we'd agreed to let this drop for the time
"Yeah, Fraser, we did," Ray said quietly. "This
isn't hypothetical. I'm asking you which ice cream you'd rather
have for dessert."
Fraser looked at the plastic baseball helmet bowls that Ray
had placed on the table.
"Oh," he said dully.
Ray frowned, then pushed Fraser down onto one of the kitchen
chairs, squeezing his shoulder gently. "I think it's a two
ice cream flavor night. What do you think?"
"I . . . . Thank you, Ray."
Wednesday 5:17 p.m.
Ray turned the key and started the engine, then pulled out of
the parking lot behind the station house. "Perfect score on
the shooting range. Not bad for a blind guy."
"Your accuracy and response ratings were really quite
phenomenal," Fraser said curtly. "One might even say,
Ray snorted. "Heh. You think you could sound any more
insultingly surprised, Mister Only 98.4 Percent?"
"Are you suggesting I'm envious of your results? You
couldn't be more wrong. And in the interests of accuracy, I'd
like to remind you that my score was actually 98.5 percent."
Ray laughed. "Competitive much, Fraser? Listen, let me
bask in my glory for a couple seconds. You think I don't know
what those marksmanship patches on your uniform are for? This
might be the only time I'll ever beat you in this . . . or
anything else, for that matter."
Fraser squeezed his temples between his thumb and forefinger.
"I'm sorry, Ray. I'm behaving . . . badly. I must be more
tired than I thought."
"Yeah, well, I'll give you a free pass this time, seeing
as how you usually do such a good job at pretending you don't
have a petty bone in your body."
Fraser opened his mouth, then closed it again when Ray looked
over at him and grinned. They drove in comfortable silence for a
mile, until they neared the turnoff for the Consulate.
"Hey, Fraser, you want to go pick up Dief and bring him
back to the apartment for some dinner?"
"I'm sure he'd like that, Ray. He was displeased when we
left him behind this morning, but he really couldn't come
"Nah, 'course not. A shooting range is no place for
kids." Out of the corner of his eye, Ray could see Fraser
turn his head toward him sharply. "What? I mean, it's no
place for wolves. You know that's what I meant, right?"
"Whatever you say, Ray," said Fraser, clearly trying
not to laugh.
"Smart ass." Ray said. "You know, Dief's
probably a better shot than some of those guys down at the range
Fraser sighed. "I'm afraid I have to agree. One can only
hope they were among the 95 percent of police officers who never
have occasion to fire their guns over the course of their
Ray grunted. "I wonder about the shooting thing
sometimes. I mean, I've probably fired my weapon over a hundred
times since I've been on the job. Never killed anyone, but I've
come close. I just wonder how many times I didn't really need to
shoot, you know?"
He pulled the car into an open spot in front of the Consulate.
Fraser unbuckled his seatbelt and put his hand on the door handle
before asking "When was the first time you fired your weapon
in the line of duty?"
Ray glanced over at Fraser in surprise. "Are we back to
team-building question time, here?"
"If you like," Fraser said, inclining his head.
Okay, this was good. Back to Twenty Questions, which maybe
meant he wasn't still upset about the whole foot-in-mouth
Victoria thing from the other night.
"Yeah, so, firing my weapon, right? It didn't happen
until I'd been a cop for about two years, I think. A kid was
being held hostage in a warehouse over by the lake. After about
ten minutes of me trying to talk him into letting this kid go,
the kid starts screaming, the guy gets antsy, and he starts
shooting in my direction. I shot back. I was trying to wing him,
but I was a little off target. Ended up shooting the gun straight
out of his hand."
"For which you received a citation."
"For which I received a citation, yeah. Dumb luck, huh?
What about you? You carried up in Canada, didn't you?"
"Of course, Ray. Standard issue Smith & Wesson 9mm
"So . . . first time you fired?"
"It was also during a hostage situation. The gunman had
already shot and wounded three officers. We'd finally succeeded
in calming him down when two patrol cars arrived simultaneously
with their lightbars flashing and their sirens turned up to
"So the guy started getting nervous again?"
"Yeah." Fraser nodded. "The negotiator was
still speaking with him, but from where I was positioned, I had
an unobstructed view, and I could see him throw the phone across
the room, then aim his gun in the direction of one of the
hostages. I drew my weapon, intending to - how did you put it? -
to wing him, but my shot also went slightly off the mark."
"No. I killed him."
The words were said calmly - almost mechanically - but then
Ray noticed the quick brush of Fraser's thumb over his eyebrow,
and he knew there was no way Fraser was as calm as he sounded.
"The paramedics had yet to arrive, but it wouldn't have
made any difference if they had been on the scene. The medical
examiner informed me later that the gunman had died instantly.
I'm not sure whether I really understood he had died, though,
until I felt a hand on my shoulder and the voice of my superior
saying 'Good work, son.' The . . . he was pleased with my actions
that day . . . ."
Fraser left his thought unfinished, but Ray had a sneaking
feeling he knew what had been running through his partner's head.
"But you've been wondering all this time whether you
could've done something that didn't involve firing your
No wonder he kept coming up with feeble excuses not to get a
carry permit here where it wasn't mandatory. How long had this
monkey been on his back?
"Fraser? How old were you when this happened?"
"I was 21, Ray. The same age as the man I killed."
Fraser took a deep breath. "Well, I suppose I'd better go
Ray watched as Fraser walked briskly toward the front doors of
Thursday 3:38 p.m.
Ray was sitting on the reception desk in the front hall,
Consulate telephone tucked under his chin, when Fraser returned
from his office.
" . . . yes, ma'am. We do handle emigration requests here
on . . . um . . . Mondays and Wednesdays between the hours of
eleven and four."
Fraser raised his eyebrows and started to reach for the phone,
but Ray waved him away with his free hand. "You're very
welcome, and we look forward to meeting with you next week. Good
afternoon." He hung up the phone and grinned. "Think I
might have a future in telecommunications?"
"Quite impressive, Ray," said Fraser, with a smile.
"If ever you decide to moonlight as a switchboard operator,
I'll be happy to write a recommendation for you."
"Thank you kindly. So how's Turnbull?"
Fraser glanced back toward his office. "I convinced him
to rest quietly on my cot for a bit, but he doesn't appear to
have suffered any permanent damage as a result of his
"Good." Ray nodded. "What the hell happened to
him? He just dropped like a ton of bricks out there."
"Yes, well, apparently he believed a murder of crows was
. . . ."
"Murder of crows?"
"That's the term when one's speaking of crows as a
"Like a school of fish?"
"In any case, he believed this horde of crows . . .
"Sorry," Fraser said with a wholly unrepentant grin.
"He believed this big old bunch of crows . . . ."
"Yeah, that's better," Ray said, grinning.
" . . . was looking at him with malicious intent, and
when one alighted on his Stetson, well, I'm afraid he fainted.
Something to do with a traumatic episode from his childhood
involving Alfred Hitchcock's classic film The Birds.
"Jesus." Ray shook his head. "You got anything
that scares you that much? Nah. What am I saying? Nothing really
scares you, does it?"
Fraser frowned. "On the contrary, Ray. A number of things
"Yeah? Name one . . . because from where I'm sitting it
looks like nothing scares you, not even when it's something you should
be afraid of, like a maniac coming after you with a gun.
"I know I give that impression on occasion, but it's not
"Okay, then. What scares you the most?"
Fraser eyes flickered away, his wide-eyed gaze taking in a
point somewhere just beyond Ray's shoulder. For a second, Ray
wondered if by some freak chance, one of those hard-to-imagine
things that scared Fraser was maybe sneaking up behind him.
Then Fraser opened his mouth to speak, but only succeeded in
muttering, "No, that's not it, precisely," before
closing his mouth again and sitting on the desk beside Ray.
Ray nudged his partner with his elbow. "Come on, buddy.
You know you can tell me anything, right?"
"Of course, Ray," Fraser said. "It's just . . .
." He swallowed hard.
Ray sighed. Either Fraser had just been bullshitting about
being scared of anything, or he really, really didn't
want to talk about it. He got that. No way was Ray going to say
any of what really scared him.
"Nothing, right? I figured." He patted Fraser's knee
comfortingly. "That's okay, because . . . ."
"No, Ray. I'm just finding it difficult to articulate . .
. well, perhaps it's the fear that I'm unable, on occasion, to
assess whether what I'm seeing is real or if I just think I'm
Ray frowned. "You mean like . . . seeing ghosts?"
"No, nothing so simple as ghosts, I'm afraid,"
Fraser said, somehow looking sad while he was trying to smile,
which only made Ray more confused.
"Because, I'd get the ghost thing. Me, it's always been .
. . um . . . mummies," he said, pulling the first freaky
thing he could think of out of thin air. "You know, with the
smelly bandages and the way they never stop following you, and .
. . .brrr." He shivered.
"You're afraid of mummies?"
"What? You don't like that answer?" Ray asked.
"'Cause I could come up with a whole list of things that
scare me if you've got long enough."
"No, that's . . . ."
"Never mind," Ray said, grabbing the chance to let
the subject drop before he dug himself a hole he couldn't get out
of. "Why don't you go check on Turnbull, okay?"
"Yes, perhaps I . . . should."
"Go on. I'll stay here and . . . um, keep the place safe
from . . . mummies and ghosts and things."
"Thank you kindly, Ray."
Friday 7:26 p.m.
"I told you, we are not watching that movie. For
one thing, Leonardo DiCaprio sucks. For another thing, Romeo
and Juliet sucks. Even Dief wouldn't come over here tonight
because he didn't want to be subjected to that movie."
"Romeo and Juliet has long been acknowledged one
of the classic tales of young love," Fraser said, launching
into English teacher mode. "I don't know why you - "
"Young love sucks, that's why."
"But you and Stella . . . . "
"You just made my point for me, Fraser. Young love's
"Ah, but what about the joy of discovery, the memory of
your first kiss . . . . "
"My first kiss," Ray cackled. "Oh yeah. There's
a memory that'll keep me warm in my twilight years."
"Were you and Stella not, well . . . were you . . . .
"Oooh. Benton Fraser's asking a personal question - film
at eleven! Nah, my first kiss wasn't with Stella. I was thirteen
. . . almost fourteen. Me and Stella were in Stella's cousin's
basement one night playing spin the bottle, and . . . ."
Fraser raised his eyebrows, but said nothing. "What? What's
that look for? Don't tell me you never played, uh, spin the moose
antler or whatever when you were a kid."
"I believe your story's still incomplete, Ray."
"Yeah, yeah, okay. So the spin lands on Chris Symons, and
no one will let me have a do-over."
"Was there something about her you didn't like,
"Apart from the fact that I was thirteen and Chris was an
eleven year old boy? Nah. Apart from that, everything
Fraser smiled. "Did you enjoy the kiss, Ray?"
"It sucked. He was all clammy and wet. And he was a mouth
"I see. So you'd actually had prior experience with buddy
breathing before our time on the Henry Allen."
"Ha. Ha. Ha." Ray picked up a pillow from the couch
and smacked it into Fraser's chest. "Anyway," he said
with a grin, "you were way better than Chris."
"Thank you kindly, Ray."
Jesus. What was it about this stupid game that kept making him
say things he didn't mean to say out loud?
"What about you? Who was your first kiss? And don't tell
me it wouldn't be chivalrous to discuss it because you already
heard mine. Chivalry's dead. Cough up the goods."
Fraser took the pillow Ray had hit him with and put it behind
his head. "My first kiss was shared with a childhood friend
"You talking about short-haired, couldn't-boil-water
Ray laughed. "Your first kiss was with a Boy Scout?"
Fraser raised his eyebrows. "I hardly think you're in any
position to pass judgement on that, Ray."
"Yeah, I guess you've got a point." Ray waited a
second, then grinned. "It wasn't really Innusiq, was
"Of course not, Ray!" Fraser said indignantly, then
paused. "He was the second person I kissed."
Ray's eyes widened in surprise. He'd kissed Innusiq?
Fraser nodded solemnly, then started to giggle. "No. Not
"Too bad," Ray murmured. Of course he'd been joking
- just like he thought Ray had been joking before - and all Ray's
wanting it to mean something else wasn't going to change
anything. "Too damned bad."
Nope. Nope. Nope. No way he could keep sitting beside Fraser
here on the couch when his partner switched on that sincere 'tell
me what's wrong?' voice. He pushed himself off the couch,
cracking his shin on the edge of the coffee table as he stood up.
"Shit! Okay," he said, heading for the kitchen,
"I'm going to get a drink. You want a drink or
"No, not at the moment," Fraser said. "Ray, are
you all right?"
"Why wouldn't I be all right?"
Answer a question with a question. It might work if he could
just get the hell out of the room.
"Well, your leg, for one. That sounded painful."
"My leg's fine, Fraser," he snapped.
"Then is . . . ."
Shut up, Ray.
"You lied about your leg?"
"No. Yesterday. I lied yesterday," Ray mumbled,
looking away from his partner. Too late. Too freaking late to go
into hiding. Maybe he could just develop a quick case of
"Ah. Do you . . . um . . .want to tell me what it was you
lied about yesterday," asked Fraser hesitantly.
"Not really," said Ray, flopping down onto the chair
Fraser moved forward on the couch. He clasped his hands in
front of him, elbows resting on his thighs. "Please tell me,
And that was that. The worried voice. The sincere look. The
concern. The 'please.' He was a goner.
"Okay." Ray took a deep breath. "I'm not afraid
Confusion creased Fraser's brow. "And . . . yesterday you
said you were afraid of them because . . . ?"
"Because I didn't want to tell you what really scared
me," he said quietly.
Fraser nodded slowly. "Then as you said to me
the other day, I hope you know you can tell me anything."
"Yeah?" Ray said, disbelief clear in his voice.
"Well, I'm not sure about that this time."
"You're not ill, are you?"
Great, now he was freaking Fraser out.
He shook his head. "No. No, I'm not ill. It's nothing
like that. It's not even really about me. Or maybe it is. Okay,
it's about us."
"Do you . . . do you no longer want to work with
me?" Fraser asked worriedly.
"God, no." Ray laughed, a little bitterly. "I
almost wish that were it because it would be a hell of a lot
easier to say."
It was like a light was switched on in Fraser's face or
something. One minute, total cluelessness. The next, gears were
turning and bells were ringing, and with all that action going on
in his head, what were the odds that Fraser would just let this
Not a chance.
Maybe he'd lied to Fraser twice now - the second time, when he
said he wasn't ill. Just thinking about having to answer was
definitely making him feel a little sick.
He looked up. Okay. Fraser didn't look worried anymore and he
was . . . he was almost smiling. Thought this was funny, did he?
All right, maybe this wouldn't be too bad.
"In keeping with the official instructions for the
exercise, would you like me to see if I can answer your question
Why the hell not? No matter how Fraser said it, it couldn't be
any worse than having to say the words himself.
"Knock yourself out." He slumped down a little lower
in the chair, then waved the fingers of his right hand a few
times. "Go on. Give it a shot."
He could deal with this.
And then Fraser's tongue darted out to lick his bottom lip,
and Ray choked. If Fraser didn't freaking well say
something in the next two seconds, he was going to call Turnbull
over at the Consulate and ask for tips on how to pass out.
"Ray," Fraser said, "if what you were scared to
say has to do with our partnership - our friendship - you don't
have to be worried. I can assure you that I feel the same
Oh hell. Ray could feel his face drop. Back to cluelessness,
because if Fraser really did feel the same way he did, there was
no way he could be sitting there all casually and talking calm
and easy like he was. And really, Ray was willing to just let it
all just rest like that. It was near enough to the truth. But
Fraser had obviously already seen something in his face that said
'close, but no cigar,' because that worry line between his
eyebrows was back.
"Let's put it this way, Fraser. If we were curling, you'd
be somewhere in the house, but not, um . . . ."
"Ah," he said, nodding slowly, "I see. I'd be
on one of the outer circles. To extend your curling metaphor, how
much harder would I have to push to land on the button?"
Ray narrowed his eyes. Did he get it or didn't he get it? What
the hell was going on here?
"I don't know, Fraser. How far does it look from where
Fraser looked away for a second, then shook his head.
"No, I think this time you're going to have to tell me, Ray.
I seem to have reached a point where I'm no longer certain of my
ability to judge whether what I think I'm seeing is really there
Which was exactly what Fraser had said he was frightened of
yesterday. Was this what he was talking about? Not knowing how
Ray felt about him? But he knew they were good partners.
Knew they were friends. What was it he thought he saw? Maybe he .
. . okay, just say it, Kowalski.
"You don't want to answer that one, I've got some
different questions for you. Maybe these will be easier. One -
Apart from, um, Chris Symons, has your partner ever kissed anyone
of the same sex?"
Okay, Fraser was looking right at him . . . .
"Two - If not, do you think your partner would like
. . . and tilting his head . . . .
"Three - Does your partner want to be kissing you?"
. . . and, oh man, that tongue was on his bottom lip again . .
"Four - If so, when would your partner like to start this
It was weird, but the more Ray talked, the easier it was to
talk. To say what he'd been wanting to say. But would it kill the
guy to say something back instead of just sitting there politely
and wearing the 'listening face' that Ray's second grade teacher
made all the kids use when someone was talking?
"Um, Fraser? Feel free to jump in with an answer
Fraser nodded, way too slowly, and then he started to smile.
"Would it be acceptable if I answered the last question
Ray would've answered. Would've said 'yeah, go ahead.' But
there wasn't enough time to say anything before Fraser knelt
beside the chair, slid a hand around his head to pull him forward
. . . and started kissing him.
Somewhere in the back of Ray's mind were a couple more
questions, like 'how long have you been wanting to do this?' and
'why didn't you say anything earlier?' and 'God, where did you
learn how to do that with your tongue?" but the
desire for answers was pushed further and further back with each
thrust of Fraser's tongue into his mouth, each stroke of Fraser's
hands along his back, each press of Fraser's lips against his
chin, his neck, his collar bone.
And when Fraser tugged at his shoulders, Ray - following the
pull of that hot, wet mouth sucking at his skin - slid off the
chair and down to the floor, dragging a seat cushion along with
him. He didn't need another 'tuck in on the floor, I hurt my
back" badge - already had one of those. The cushion was just
a little insurance policy that nothing was going to make them
move, 'cause he really, really didn't plan on getting up off the
floor any time soon - not while Fraser was lying there, arms
open, waiting for him.
Ray stretched himself out on the floor, half on top of Fraser.
One hip on the rug, a forearm under Fraser's head, fingers curled
in Fraser's thick soft hair. He bent his right knee slightly,
tucked it up tight between Fraser's legs, then moved inside
Fraser's warm embrace - just a little - until he could feel the
evidence of his partner's arousal pushing against his right
thigh, could feel himself begin to get hard.
Stop, or don't stop? The question was asked in the way Ray
moved back briefly, just a half inch, and looked into his
partner's eyes, and answered in the way Fraser kissed him hard on
the mouth, clung to him, pulled him closer than he'd just been.
Closer than they'd ever been.
The few times that Ray had allowed himself to imagine what it
might be like to be with Fraser - be with him like this, all
sweaty and panting and clutching at each other - he'd thought it
would take a while to get things going. Thought it might be a
little tentative. A little awkward. A little . . . scary.
But before he could even think about whether they should
maybe slow down, that maybe it should be a little scary (and . .
. why wasn't it?), they'd both tugged their shirts off and Fraser
had already reached down and unbuttoned Ray's fly and he'd done
the same with Fraser's and both of them were sliding their jeans
down as far as they could before the need to press up against
each other, touch each other's skin, slide against each other -
cock against cock - became a hell of a lot more important than
getting their jeans off.
And, yeah, so maybe now it was a little awkward with both of
them trying to crawl up, around, into each other with
their jeans down around their knees. But god, his cock didn't
know it was awkward, no, his cock was just so damned happy to be
rubbing up against Fraser and so was Ray, and Fraser . . . well,
Fraser was sucking on his tongue and clutching at his ass and
panting "oh god, oh god, Ray, oh god, I . . . oh fuck!"
in his ear, and when Fraser came, hot and thick and so damned good
all over his stomach, he sure as hell looked like a happy man . .
. about as happy as Ray was a second later when Fraser
reached down and wrapped his hand around Ray's cock, and stroked
once, twice, three times - and Ray screwed his eyes shut tight,
then came so hard he fucking saw lights, before he collapsed on
Fraser's sweaty, sated body.
Two minutes later . . . well, five minutes . . . okay, maybe a
short nap later, Ray decided that floors were pretty overrated as
a bed-substitute, at least for a couple of guys pushing forty.
But he had no complaints about the guy who was currently sharing
floor space with him.
He lifted his head off Fraser's chest, then propped himself up
on one elbow and scrubbed the sleep out of his eyes with his free
hand. Fraser's eyes were still closed, but as Ray watched him, a
smile began to bloom on his face.
"Hi," Fraser said sleepily. Happily.
"Hi, yourself," said Ray, then took a minute to
nuzzle the still-warm spot at Fraser's collarbone where his cheek
had been resting.
He pushed himself up onto his knees and stretched, then leaned
over and kissed Fraser once on the mouth. "Come on, buddy.
Time to get yourself up off the floor."
Fraser smiled. "Would you think less of me if I told you
I don't think I can move?"
"Nah. I'd just take it as a compliment." He reached
down and took Fraser's hands in his own, then tugged at him until
they were both sitting up on the floor. "Well, that's a
start. I figure I'll have you up and walking by sometime near the
end of next month."
"What if . . . what if I don't want to go anywhere?"
Fraser asked in a quiet voice.
"Then you stay." Ray leaned back against the base of
the chair and pulled Fraser a little until he was sitting inside
the circle of his arms. "You okay?"
"I'm . . . okay," Fraser said, rolling the words
around in his mouth as if he was a little surprised to discover
they were true. "Better than okay. Much, much more than
okay. So much more than okay, in fact, that . . . ."
"Yeah, Fraser," laughed Ray. "I get it. But . .
. okay, what else is going on in that head of yours? I know
"Of course you do." Fraser said, nodding slowly.
"Ray, I'm not certain how obvious it's been, but you
should know that this . . . exercise has been, well, quite
disconcerting for me . . . from, well, from the very start."
"But you didn't have any trouble answering any of the
questions," Ray said, frowning a little. "Not even when
I started asking personal stuff."
Fraser leaned back against Ray's chest, drawing Ray's arm more
tightly around him. "I . . . it's not that I had any real
difficulty formulating responses to your questions, but rather
that the questions themselves came as a surprise."
"Why? You know I'm a snoop. Got the badge and
everything." He really, really hoped Fraser wasn't going to
say that the questions had seemed too pushy, that he'd been upset
about answering them, that . . . .
"Because, Ray," Fraser said, "every time you
asked another question, I was struck anew with the shock of
realizing you truly didn't know the answer. That we weren't
actually the same person."
Fraser turned slightly in Ray's arms and kissed his cheek.
"You know me as well as anybody ever has, I'd imagine. Do
you honestly believe I'd have answered most of those questions so
readily if they had been posed by anyone else?"
Ray tried to imagine Frannie 'broiling' Fraser about his
kissing history and sighed. No, he'd have run a mile before
revealing anything serious - or maybe changed the subject to
Tsimshian spiritual beliefs or something. "Okay, you got a
"This week came as something of a revelation," he
said, settling back again. "Answering those questions was
easy for me - or at least as easy as it would have been if I'd
asked myself the same questions. And yet I know myself well
enough to recognize that this isn't precisely normal for me. I've
always been rather . . . ."
"Shy?" Ray asked, running his fingers through his
partner's thick silky hair.
"I was going to say 'reticent,' but I suppose 'shy' is
more accurate, at least where personal matters are concerned. For
the first time in, well, possibly in my entire life, it was
actually fine - nice, even - to allow someone to see all of me,
even the . . . imperfect parts."
"The sad bits, yeah? And the angry bits?" Fraser
nodded, and Ray hugged him tightly. "I feel the same way,
"So I realized tonight."
"Why tonight? Just 'cause I let you know I wanted you
kissing me? Come on, Fraser . . . that could have just been a
casual thing, couldn't it?"
"Not for you, Ray. And certainly not if it was, as you
said, the subject that scared you most in the world to raise. You
see," Fraser said, smiling a little, "I know you."
And that, he thought, was really at the heart of it all.
Fraser knew him. He knew Fraser. And, god, wasn't that
just a wonderful and freaking rare thing to stumble across in
this world. "Hey, Fraser? I've got one more question for
"What side of the bed do you like to sleep on?"
Saturday 10:02 a.m.
"Ray!" Fraser whispered sharply. "We should be
listening to Ms. Robbins."
Ray grinned, then continued, unobserved by the other seminar
participants, to slide his sock-clad feet slowly up the inside of
Fraser's legs under the table. "I can multi-task, Mountie.
How about you?" he whispered back.
Fraser narrowed his eyes at his partner, then turned slightly
and brought his booted feet together, trapping both of Ray's feet
between his own and effectively stopping their progress. "Is
it impossible for you to do her the courtesy of paying attention
to what she's saying?" he hissed, although a hint of
laughter was audible beneath the surface.
"You got a kink for this kind of thing, don't you,
Fraser?" Ray whispered, as he tried unsuccessfully to free
his feet. "You want me to give you my cuffs, too?"
"You wouldn't happen to have a muzzle, would you?"
Fraser muttered under his breath.
"Excuse me . . . Constable Fraser, is it?" Annette
Robbins called brightly across the conference table. "Is
there something you'd like to share with the group?"
A flush started at the base of Fraser's neck. "No, ma'am.
I apologize for the disruption."
"Quite all right, Constable. I'm sure we're all eager to
get things underway," she said, beaming. "Now, as I was
saying, these factors - trust, communication, openness,
understanding - are the very cornerstones of a successful
partnership. In fact, it has often been said that a good
partnership is like a marriage, and - "
Fraser squeaked. There really wasn't any other way to describe
it. Ray turned to look, and - god - the guy was practically
choking, he was trying so hard to keep from laughing. What the
heck was so funny? Ray raised his eyebrows, but Fraser just
clamped his lips together and lowered his head, like if he looked
back at Ray for one more second, he was going to lose it
"- it is our hope," Ms. Robbins continued, sounding
more and more like an infomercial every minute, "and the
hope of your Commissioner's Office, that this seminar will
provide a first step toward developing a richer, deeper, and more
Ray smiled to himself. He slid the weekend workshop schedule
off the table until it covered his hand, then - slowly - reached
over and took his partner's hand in his own. He heard Fraser
sigh, felt Fraser's thumb brush tenderly over his palm.
A 'more intimate partnership?' Yeah, he could go with that.
"So," Ms Robbins chirped, " . . . any
* * * * *
Chit chat, Critiques, Gratuitous Praise:
beth-h @ mrks.org
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