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Part 1: Proving the facts
The chaos theory says that something as insignificant as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world. This is especially true if the world is something as small as the 27th police department of Chicago and the little butterfly is something as powerful as a small piece of gossip.
But Ray never listened in school and he never got around to watching that movie and he is used to the fact that stuff that comes out of his mouth gets misinterpreted and for the most part he also just doesn’t care what people make of the bullshit he talks half of the time.
So, when Frannie is half mooning over a picture of Fraser again and half the female population of the bullpen joins in he’s just about had enough. Fraser is his buddy and Ray is pretty sure that friends don’t let friend’s pictures be drooled upon in their absence.
So when he stormed in between the female flock and snatched the picture gruffly out of Francesca’s hands and snapped something like “Yeah, yeah, we are all just that bit in love with him. Can you just get over it or do I have to write it on a wall?” and shoved the photo into his drawer he wasn’t really thinking that this might have repercussions – not beyond some seriously pissed off Mountie fans at least.
But that is the funny thing about chaos, you never know.
„…nah, this is bound for disaster. There’s a reason why you shouldn’t fall for your partner.” Dewey said. Huey nodded knowingly. “Yeah, you get stuff mixed up.”
Fraser walked past not even trying to puzzle over the newest gossip of the 2-7. He had long since understood that this was a past-time, it wasn’t necessarily based on truth and it mostly didn’t have any other purpose than to entertain.
Fraser didn’t even think again about Huey’s and Dewey’s conversation until two days later when he couldn’t help but overhear Francesca.
“Of course, he can’t say anything, really. So, it’s more like one of those tragic love stories. Don’t you think?” She was saying to Mrs. Domsdale from the archives downstairs.
“Oh, definitely; fall in love with your partner, bad stuff, but fall in love with your male partner, now that’s something else.”
“Exactly,” Francesca crowed.
Apparently Fraser had missed out on some major development between the colleagues of the 27th. He sighed. Couldn’t people spend their time on more appropriate things than gossip?
But with ears like Fraser’s he didn’t really have a choice but listen anyway and this newest piece of gossip seemed to consume the department in a full-time capacity.
A week later he accidentally overheard a discussion between the cleaning staff in the morgue.
“But one can really understand him, can’t you? Just look at that uniform, I mean, how can you not love a man in a uniform?”
“Absolutely! And come to think of it, I have always thought he was a bit queer. Should’ve guessed he had the hots for his partner… I tell you, the things you never know about people.”
Fraser couldn’t help but look down at his own red serge when they were talking about the uniform.
Things were definitely starting to appear strange.
The next time he happened to stumble upon such a conversation he was even more confused.
“… but this has probably been going on forever!” Danielle from dispatch informed Elaine.
“It might have, we don’t know that… Do you think Fraser suspects it at all?”
It wasn’t in his nature to look into other people’s business but this had to stop.
“Suspects what?” Fraser inquired. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing and while I try not to eavesdrop I couldn’t help but pick out my name.”
“Uhm…Hey, Fraser,” Elaine smiled, slowly turning red.
“Oh, nothing,” Danielle emphasized.
“Ah, I have to go talk to Lt. Welsh.” Elaine vanished and Danielle nodded a hasty goodbye and retreated as well.
Fraser was left standing alone completely bewildered.
It sounded as if… but this was ridiculous.
However, an hour later Fraser went to get a coffee for Ray and a sandwich for himself when he encountered Huey and Dewey in the break room.
“…he drove a motorcycle through a fucking window for him!” Dewey insisted.
Huey looked skeptical.
“That doesn’t prove anything.”
“Okay, and what about that time Vecchio left the feds standing dumbfounded in the surveillance room to jump through a skylight? Come on, he acts like a fucking lap dog, man. You can’t tell me that the Mountie could miss that?”
“You wanna bet on this?” Huey asked intrigued.
Dewey looked unsure for a second before he regained his composure.
“Sure. I bet a trip to Abuelo’s Mexican restaurant that he knows Vecchio fancies him. “
Huey looked impressed. “Okay, loser pays for food and margaritas.”
“Done,” they shook hands and Fraser leaned against the side of the vending machine with a stunned look on his face.
So he hadn’t imagined that they were talking about him when they were talking about the uniform.
And he wouldn’t have paid those kinds of rumors the slightest bit of attention if this had not been going on for weeks now. He had also heard fragments of it from a wide variety of people which lent the whole story some credibility.
Once Huey and Dewey were gone Fraser got the coffee and returned to Ray’s desk. Ray was sitting down and shuffling papers, a toothpick in the corner of his mouth and Fraser studied him intently, pondering this newest piece of information.
Ray looked up as if he had sensed him. “Oh, coffee… thanks, Fraser you’re a life savior.” He took the cup from Fraser’s hand, his fingers brushing softly against Fraser’s in the process and started blowing on the beverage.
Ray took a sip and focused on Fraser.
“Hey there, you ok? Where’s your sandwich, thought you wanted to grab a bite?”
“Ah. Yes, I’m fine. Thank you, no I was, ah, I’m not hungry anymore.”
Ray’s grin turned smug.
“Ha, you finally have to admit that Mike’s sandwiches taste like crap, right?”
“No, that’s not it, I just—“
“Yeah, save it for your book club. Okay, let’s get cracking; we still need a witness to this stabbing.”
And off they went and Fraser debated if asking Ray about the gossip he had heard might not be the easiest approach to this mystery.
Usually the best way to deal with gossip was to address it directly. In this particular case, however, he supposed that self-preservation and fear of the consequences would quite probably lead to outright denial no matter what Ray might really be feeling.
Ray had to be suffering. What kind of friend did that make Fraser that he had never noticed the true nature of Ray’s feelings for him? If, he amended, Ray did indeed harbor feelings of the romantic variety for him.
And even if he had known, what could he have possibly done? How could he be of any help when his own heart had never spoken very clearly to him?
It was irrelevant to ponder this issue at the present juncture. First, he needed some evidence and the quality of gossip was such that there was usually not more than a morsel of evidence to it.
It was also highly likely that this was another case in which gossip and truth had never met.
Suddenly Ray flung an arm over to brace Fraser and hit the brakes – hard.
“She lied to me. I can’t believe that old lady lied to me.”
Ray took his arm back to the steering wheel and executed and illegal u-turn with cars honking from literally all directions until Fraser finally found his voice again.
“RAY! You have violated at least a dozen traffic laws! Could you tell me what could possible validate provoking at least one serious car accident?”
Ray was waving him off as if he was wildly over-reacting.
“Remember yesterday? That old hag from the flat overlooking the alley I told you about? She said she didn’t see anything because she wasn’t wearing her glasses, right?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“But I just remembered… she got those imprints on the side of the nose, like, when you had been wearing glasses for a really long time, and I arrived at her flat – what? – 40 minutes after the crime? I mean, what are the chances?” Ray looked over at him in a mixture of annoyance that he hadn’t seen this piece of evidence earlier and clear triumph.
“That’s good work, Ray.”
“Thank you.” And Ray grinned at him, patted his arm and adjusted the volume on the radio another notch up.
That had been the third time Ray had touched him since he had come back from the break room. Now that he was looking for it, it seemed as if they were touching quite frequently without any real cause.
Well, one could consider this evidence of a kind. Fraser made a mental note of this for future reference; he could almost hear Ray putting the words into his head:
EVIDENCE #1 – NON-ITALIANS DON’T TOUCH QUITE SO MUCH
They arrived at the apartment of the elderly lady and Ray muttered, “Let’s roll,” before he rang the bell and they climbed the two flights of stairs to the apartment of Dolores M. Brody.
It was rather obvious that they were making Mrs. Brody uncomfortable, she appeared terribly flustered and unsure.
Ray stepped right in with all the bad boy attitude he could muster.
“Listen, Mrs. Brody. It’s illegal to lie to the police. And I know that you did see something in that alley. You wanna tell me and my partner what you saw?”
She paled and stammered. “No, I swear, I already told you everything.”
Fraser bit on his lower lip and Ray looked intently at him.
“Mrs. Brody, we are here to help finding the killer of Mr. Adams. It is extremely important that you tell us everything that might be of assistance to us.“
“Yeah… and you can face a few months in jail if you lie to us.” Ray threatened. Mrs. Brody was visible getting agitated.
“No, I- I can’t tell you anything. I mean, I didn’t see anything.”
“It’s alright M’am. No one will harm you. But we can’t help if we don’t know who needs our protection.”
“I-I…,” Mrs. Brody stammered, looking distressed and pale.
“If you’re lying for someone it will only make them look guilty. You’re only making things worse for them,” Ray added for effect and Mrs. Brody started weeping.
“It’s… oh, he didn’t mean to. He was threatened by them. You have to believe me.” She turned and cried into her hands. Fraser took a step over to comfort her.
“What did you see? We promise you that we will be able to prove his innocence if he is indeed not guilty of the accused crime.”
“Oh…my poor boy,” she sobbed. “It’s… oh god, have mercy. Fabio, my nephew… I saw him in the alley. But he would never do something like that. He’s such a nice boy. He wouldn’t hurt a fly you have to believe me.”
“We will talk to your nephew, Mrs. Brody. You were a great help. We assure you that we will find out what happened exactly.”
Mrs. Brody was still softly crying when they left her.
On their way down the stairs Ray grinned at him. “Bad cop, polite cop – works every time.” Fraser smiled back at him. “Is that what we were doing?” Ray opened his mouth to call him on it but then he just shook his head.
“Man, that innocent act works every time. Not with me, though. I can see through you, Frase. You’re not fooling me.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, Ray.” But he couldn’t keep the smile out of his voice and Ray heard it, too.
“Let’s pick up this nephew of hers. Maybe you can practice a bit more innocence on the guy.”
They parked around the corner of the flat and made their way to the apartment of Fabio Brody. While they walked Fraser could feel Ray’s arm brushing against his every so often. They were really walking unnecessarily close.
But now that he thought about it, they had always been in each other’s personal space. They were constantly jostling or stepping close to each other he just hadn’t noticed it before.
And he heard Ray in his head, declaring:
EVIDENCE #2 PERSONAL SPACE IS OVERRATED
Picking up the nephew was – as Ray had so colorfully put it – “a piece of cake”. Not only was the young man at home, he was also terribly upset and so close to tears that not even Ray bothered with any kind of posture.
He was too distraught to put a coherent sentence together, but he came quietly when they told them why they wanted to interview him.
They took him back to the station and had just put Fabio into interview two before Francesca intercepted them – or rather Fraser.
“Hey, Frasier,” she smiled invitingly.
“Francesca,” he answered as always.
“I was wondering, I’ve been taking these pottery lessons and I have a few difficulties with it, so I thought you could help me with it, maybe?” She eyed him hopefully but Ray stepped rudely between them to glare at Frannie.
“Don’t you have work to do? I don’t think they do much pottery in the frozen North so you might as well make yourself useful and get us the file on the murder from that back alley stabbing.”
“Gee… no need to get nasty… Bye, Frasier.”
“Ah, Francesca,” Fraser tried to loosen his collar.
Ray was always surprisingly impatient when it came to Francesca. Fraser wondered why that was. Ray wasn’t a very patient man by nature but with Francesca he seemed to be even less tolerant than with others.
Especially whenever she tried to… attract his attention would be putting it mildly. Now that he thought about it Ray tended to be uncharacteristically unkind to women in Fraser’s vicinity.
He had been anything but taken with Denny Scarpa and Fraser had initially thought that this was because he himself had kept Ray in the dark about his investigation.
But now that he considered it Ray had been more occupied with Fraser’s interest in her than in the actual case. His reaction when he was told about the kiss had been more than a little startled.
This was indeed a trifle odd since he had not professed any interest in her before.
And he was more than a little ungracious to Janet Morse even though he was more than willing to help when Fraser asked him; he even bargained his own price down in order to help.
Hadn’t he also been rather annoyed when he heard that she was married to the fugitive? He had even asked her, in fact, if she couldn’t have told him earlier that she was married… to what purpose? – If he had not simply been jealous.
EVIDENCE #3 JEALOUSY IS NOT THE MOST SECRETIVE COMPANION
He couldn’t help the warm feeling that spread through him. Was he perhaps pleased that Ray was jealous because of him? Fraser came out of his thoughts when Ray spoke.
“You want a coffee or something?” Ray rubbed the back of his neck with his right hand, the one with the bracelet that drew Fraser’s attention every time he saw it.
It was a sheepish gesture Ray usually reserved for apologizing when he had overstepped the line; Fraser was familiar with it whenever A.S.A Kowalski was at the station.
“Ah, no thank you, kindly. I’ll check the computer files of the Brody family in the meantime.”
Ray nodded and ambled towards the break room. Halfway there Francesca dumped the ordered files into his arms.
Ray simply stopped where he was and leafed through them. Fraser took the time to study his friend. He couldn’t deny that he felt drawn to him.
It was the power of Ray’s whirlwind, the manic energy and his quicksilver mind that called to Fraser and which almost forcefully pulled on his body to stay close.
Ray’s barely contained self was so different from Fraser’s own well calculated composure that it was quite addictive to Fraser. He craved it for it offered him some breathing room, it compensated his own restrictiveness.
Interesting, now that he thought about it – and from the vantage point where he sat – one could almost say that Ray’s body was still angled towards him even though he was halfway across the room. But that could be a coincidence.
Before Fraser had consciously thought about what he was going to do next he stood up and moved in the direction of the restrooms, the corridor led to the left a few feet ahead of the spot where Ray stood.
He glanced at Ray and – indeed, Ray subtly shifted his weight as if he knew that Fraser was walking to the left of him. Hm, Ray was probably unaware that his body language showed such an acute understanding of Fraser’s whereabouts.
Fraser went into the rest room to wash his hands and observed this fascinating revelation again on his way back. Ray did indeed appear to be especially…sensitive… to Fraser’s person.
EVIDENCE #4 ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
Ray finally made his way to the coffee machine and came back with a full cup before he gracefully slid into the seat opposite Fraser and sighed happily into his cup.
The tips of Fraser’s ears went red at the sound. He hoped that Ray wouldn’t notice but it was completely beyond his control. He tried to even his breathing to dissolve the increase of blood flow to that area but it was difficult when all he could think of was Ray’s body and the way in which he responded to him.
Another heat wave rolled through him; this sounded completely inappropriate. What he meant was that Ray’s body was especially sensitive to his own and… oh dear… he was only making things worse for himself.
And now Ray’s long, agile fingers were tracing the rim of his cup and he was – oh, Oh. He was looking straight at him with narrowed eyes.
“Ah…“ he didn’t know what to say. Should he confess that he knew? Ray would think him unhinged… again.
“You alright there Fraser? Reason I ask is you look kinda uncomfortable so whatever you read about the Brody’s cannot be good.”
“The Brody’s? Ah, I…“ Oh dear. He hadn’t even looked at the screen. His eyes snapped to the screen and he tried to take in as much information at one glance as possible.
“No, there appears to be no criminal record that would lead to any conclusions as to what Fabio Brody might have been doing in the alley.” Speaking helped, he could practically feel the blood drain from his ears and leave them again even tempered.
“It’s always the quiet ones, huh?”
Fraser felt another uncomfortable increase of heat to his ears.
Was Ray talking about him? Had he been found out – if so, what exactly had been found out? He didn’t even know it himself. Was it because he had been staring? And Ray looked terribly disappointed. That wasn’t –
“I mean, you find a guy without a rap sheet and you think ‘Aces. At least there are some honest guys’, right? And then you get to pick him up for stabbing another guy. I don’t get it.”
Ah. Fraser silently released a sigh of relief. It wasn’t about him at all. Well… Ray would in all probability not even describe him as a ‘quiet one’ considering the multitude of words he was always trying to impart whether people wanted to listen or not.
“Ray, we might still discover that Mr. Brody is innocent.”
“Yeah… because that happens so often,” Ray sighed in disgust.
He wasn’t sure if Ray wanted a list of their cases in which it had turned out that the initial suspect was innocent but he supposed that this was one of Ray’s rhetorical questions.
“Come on, let’s get his story. I bet you’re right, he’s certainly going to tell us that he didn’t do it.”
That wasn’t exactly what happened then, though.
Fabio took one look at Ray’s ‘kick em in the head’ posture and started blubbering. Even Ray looked shocked. The hardest part was to understand any of it through the tears and the snot – Fraser politely handed him a handkerchief while Ray looked on disgusted.
“I didn’t mean to hurt him. It was… he had a gun and I thought he was going to shoot me, so I, I–“ The wailing rose up again and Ray was getting frustrated.
“A name, we need a name. Who was threatening you?”
“M-M-Marcel Adams… he, he… and I…,” Ray pinched the bridge of his nose praying for patience.
“No one is going to harm you, son.” Fraser said trying to calm him down. “Do you know why Mr. Adams was threatening you?”
More sobbing and snuffling followed much to Ray’s dislike.
“Because… because… because I—“
“Spit it out already!”
“Don’t hit me!!” Fabio wailed and Ray rocked from the balls of his feet back onto his heels.
“I took money, okay? … God, please don’t tell my boss. I took company money and— and Marcel knew and he was threatening me to go to my boss and I… I… paid him to keep quiet.”
“Do you know why he was aiming a gun at you then?”
“I-I said I wouldn’t pay anymore. That I didn’t care and then he… he… and I…,” he cried even harder than before.
“Ray, it would seem prudent that we continue this conversation at a later juncture.”
Ray nodded absentmindedly, his gaze still fixed upon Mr. Brody’s heart-wrenching display.
“Yeah… let’s get some dinner and then we can come up with a battle plan for tomorrow. Where’s the wolf?”
“Ah… I believe he’s still with officer McClarsky. He seems to be rather fixated on her.”
Ray looked mildly put out.
“What? The wolf found someone better to stare at?” He sounded affronted and Fraser had to smother a smile.
“I simply believe that she has more blonde hair than you do, Ray. I advise you not to take it personally.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. So you’ll go and get him and we meet outside in 5, alright?”
Fraser found Irene McClarsky near the break room with Diefenbaker sitting patiently next to her. She was deep in conversation with one of the civilian aids Fraser had never been introduced to before.
He didn’t want to interrupt them so he waited around the corner. However, his ears could not help but pick up a few sentences of the conversation.
“Irene isn’t that Constable Fraser’s dog?” the young brunette asked puzzled.
“Yes, and he’s half wolf or so I’ve heard. He’s been following me all day, can’t say that I blame him. The tension between Constable Fraser and Vecchio must be hard to take.”
The brunette looked shocked.
“So, it’s true? I heard rumors… but… well Vecchio has been in an extremely foul mood those last few weeks… I was wondering about that. God… he’s probably about ready to snap. Working with Fraser day in and day out must be hell on him.”
Fraser winced. That was exactly what he feared.
He couldn’t take any more of these speculations, though. He cleared his throat noisily and tried to be as obvious as he could about his approach.
He saw the two women exchange a guilty look when they saw him.
“Ah, Constable Fraser you’re probably looking for Diefenbaker.” Irene smiled sweetly at him.
“Indeed. Thank you for looking after him, I hope he behaved himself.”
“He’s adorable. You can count on me anytime you need someone to take care of him.”
Fraser was slightly annoyed that both women could behave as if they had not been talking about Ray’s feelings for him in such a belittling manner just seconds earlier.
“Yes, that won’t be necessary. I have to leave now. Dief, come. Excuse me,” he replied rather stiffly.
Fraser tried to take deep breaths to regain a modicum of composure after leaving the two women.
He knew that there was no harm intended in trading gossip. But hearing people talk in such a fashion about Ray… pitying him…as if Ray never even stood a chance.
No one was even thinking that Fraser might return his feelings. They were all feeling sorry for Ray, they had all given up on him as a lost cause. This was what rankled. It angered him that people could think so little of Ray.
Ray deserved better than him. He was such a wholehearted, kind and loving person… Fraser knew his own shortcomings well enough. He was too serious, too controlled. Odd, aloof, he sighed.
Ray should find someone equally loving, someone who shared his exuberant nature and his wicked humor, his passion and energy…a nice woman who could appreciate the soft lines around Ray’s mouth that only showed when he smiled that crooked smiled, the one he only used when he felt triumphant and —
The walk back to the parking lot wasn’t long enough for Fraser to ponder his own shortcomings any longer than he already had.
Ray was leaning casually against the fender of the GTO. The late afternoon sun was pouring over him, catching the strands of his hair and contrasting nicely with the dark black of the leather jacket and the dark denim of Ray’s jeans. He was a sight to behold.
Fraser’s heart ached and he didn’t know if it did so for Ray or for his own poor soul.
Ray looked worried once Fraser was close enough for him to make out details.
“Frase, you’re kinda pale. Let’s get some food into you before you collapse.”
“What do you feel like?” Ray asked him once he had unlocked the passenger door.
“I… would it be alright if I didn’t join you at a restaurant tonight?”
He felt shaken and unsure and he needed to find even ground beneath his feet again and Ray wasn’t helping – had in fact never helped with letting him retreat. Ray was always pushing, always surprising, always there to catch him off guard.
Ray frowned for a moment before his forehead cleared again.
“Okay, no worries. I call Tony and we have pizza at my place.” He didn’t even wait for Fraser’s answer, he was already dialing while steering with his left arm and Fraser opened his mouth to complain that using the telephone whilst driving was illegal but decided against it at the last moment.
This was Ray’s way of trying to cheer him up and he felt grateful for it even though it wasn’t what he needed now.
And he didn’t want Ray to think that he was trying to shun him, not if anything he had heard was true – because if it was then Fraser didn’t want to make it any harder on his friend than he was already making it simply by existing.
They were sharing pizza on Ray’s couch when Ray came back to the topic of their case.
“Do you think Fabio told the truth? That someone else was threatening him?”
Fraser chewed thoughtfully.
“Well, given the state he was in I would assume that lying was beyond his abilities. He might be an excellent actor, though.”
“Nah, I found the blubbering real convincing, too. But that’s gonna be tough to prove. If this Marcel guy was the only one who knew that he took the money and he’s dead now… well, who’s going to back up the statement of the bawling guy?”
“I think we are overlooking something. We’ll have to take another look at the files tomorrow morning. I dimly recall some piece of information but at the moment it seems to elude my grasp.”
Ray was silent for a while before he said quietly, “You know, I would have done the same thing as the aunt.”
“Lie to protect someone?” Fraser asked carefully.
Ray nodded. “I mean, I know it’s not right and stuff but… I mean if I was friends or family with the guy… I don’t think I’d rat on him, you know?”
Fraser licked his lips but found that it wasn’t at all hard to answer Ray truthfully.
“I have always found your loyalty admirable. I don’t think this is a bad character trait, Ray.”
Ray sighed and let his head hang for a moment.
“Yeah, but… doesn’t that make me a bit of a hypochondriac?”
Fraser was confused for a second.
“Ah, you mean hypocrite, a person that doesn’t adhere to what he is preaching to others?”
Ray looked slightly annoyed.
“As a police officer you can’t grant the alleged criminal the possibility of a cover. I don’t think that individuals trying to protect their loved ones are wrong in what they are doing. Of course, it isn’t correct to make it harder for the police to administer justice but I think it is beyond expectations to expect people to become disloyal for our sake.”
Ray nodded thoughtfully.
“Okay… so you don’t think I’m a two-faced, lying bastard for leaning on Mrs. Brody?”
“Not at all, Ray. It is your job to discover the truth. And I think it speaks very much for you that you would still stand up for someone if your protection was required even though you know the consequences.”
Ray sagged a little in relief. “Did you know that I stole when I was in school? I mean, I was really young then. Around the time I met Stella or maybe even earlier…heh,” he laughed breathlessly.
It was apparently a memory of mixed feelings. “I always wanted to be the bad boy, you know? Tough as nails and cool as the devil. Instead I was the skinny Polack kid and I wasn’t tough but I was fast ‘cause running away from a fight really made damn sure you were,” he sighed a bit embarrassed.
“I think all of us want to prove something when we are young, Ray. But your career choice shows what was really important to you after your childhood was well behind you.”
Ray nodded sagely.
“Yeah, but I didn’t know it then. Back then I started boxing so that I wouldn’t have to run away and then I met Stella so I didn’t have to prove that I’m a real cool guy anymore… maybe it was to spite all those kids that I wanted to become a cop? Thinking that if I couldn’t beat them I’d at least make them pay? Stupid, huh?” There was the awkward gesture again where Ray scratched the back of his neck.
“Not in the least. I don’t think that your motives were quite that simple, Ray. You are an exceptionally fine policeman because you care. If it was just about the children back at school you wouldn’t have risked your life on multiple occasions to safe someone else. You received three citations for bravery, Ray. You didn’t earn them because you wanted to take revenge.”
Ray looked at Fraser as if he had never dared to hope just so much.
“You really think so?”
“I know it, Ray. I know you.” And he was surprised that this was true. It didn’t matter if this rumor was true or not, Ray was still the same person: His partner… and his friend.
Fraser was again surprised how much trust Ray showed him. He had been surprised when Ray had willingly told him about the estrangement from his father or when he had let him see the extent to which he was suffering from his divorce.
Fraser wondered if this was another part of the parcel Ray had termed ‘partners’ or if there was something about him, Benton Fraser, specifically?
Even though he had no means by which to ascertain if Ray had shared these hurtful experiences with previous partners somehow he couldn’t quite picture it.
Maybe Fraser was special to Ray Kowalski.
Innocent until proven guilty, so Fraser decided that it would not harm his observation to take a note of this thought for the time being and he heard Ray whispering:
EVIDENCE #5 TRUST ME TO TRUST YOU
Ray seemed relaxed and started to settle on something to watch on TV and Fraser tried his best to appear as if he was watching, too. Never had he felt Ray’s presence so utterly intense than he had at this moment.
He acutely noticed the warmth Ray’s body radiated and the few inches that separated them. It eased something deep inside of him at the same time that it terrified him.
Allowing himself to feel, and to feel so deeply, for someone else… it was the height of follies. How could he risk everything he held dear, all that defined him for something as elusive as love?
Ray’s posture next to him was comfortable, a deep slouch against the couch cushions whereas his own spine was stiff with tension and concentration and no matter how much he wanted to feel soothed by Ray’s quiet presence he could not unclench his muscles.
He could not go there again. He would not. There was a darkness in him that he could not face. Love, and the feeble relief, the comfort that touch brought, the trust that could console you at anytime, it wasn’t worth the despair, the grief, the… ache… Fraser swallowed as quietly as he could around a dry throat.
Ray glanced sideways at him and got up in one smooth movement. A second later Fraser could hear the soft gurgling of water. Only a minute later Ray was back and placed a glass of water in front of him before he let himself drop back onto the sofa.
Fraser was touched and suddenly he felt like crying. It was too much. He wasn’t ready to face Ray’s feelings for him and he had been a fool to think that it was simply a question of mind over matter.
No one knew as well as Fraser did that loneliness was more than a state of mind; it was a physical ache, it chocked you with its corporality and blinded you towards reason.
He would not lose against it a second time.
“Hey…” Ray nudged him with his shoulder. “I just thought of it… uhm… maybe we should get out of the city some time? There’s this holiday coming up so we got a long weekend. We could, dunno, maybe drive up to the lakefront do some, uh, fishing or something? Betcha Diefenbaker would love it.”
Fraser looked at Ray and couldn’t quite hide his surprise. He could not imagine that Ray would enjoy fishing very much. The simple suggestion of Ray sitting still for any extended period of time was ludicrous.
Ray flushed slightly. “It’s just, uh, I thought you could use a bit time away from the city stink, is all…” he trailed off, unsure.
Fraser felt a deep flush of gratitude for his partner. “I would like that very much, Ray.” He couldn’t help the smile that pulled at the corner of his mouth.
It was such a relief to feel this simple moment of happiness, to escape his mind for a small amount of time.
Ray grinned at Fraser’s obvious pleasure at the idea.
And finally Fraser managed to tune his fears and his doubts out for the remainder of the evening. He tried to soak up Ray’s companionship and just not to worry about his own motives or Ray’s.
Fraser didn’t indulge often but he saw no need to deprive himself further of taking simple pleasure in Ray’s company. Furthermore, it wasn’t Ray’s fault if he had feelings for Fraser.
Ray was obviously doing his utmost not to hurt him so there was no reason to be afraid.
All he had to do was stop thinking so much.
When Fraser arrived at the station at noon the next day Ray was pouring over the case notes, chewing on an already rather abused looking pencil.
Ray had a rather distracting oral fixation. Fraser guessed that Ray might even have smoked in earlier years; the picture came to him so readily.
It was strange how Ray always complained about his habit of tasting things when Ray was constantly putting things in his own mouth, pens, sticks of gum, tooth picks, licking his fingers after a meal… Fraser had no objections to this method of keeping focused he simply wished it was less distracting.
“Good morning, Ray,” Fraser said and tried not to stare too hard as the end of the pencil vanished between Ray’s lips.
“Morning. Here,” Ray thrust the folder at him. “I’m missing something. Go, do your Mountie thing and tell me what the hell I’m not seeing.”
“Ah, certainly, I’ll try.” Fraser scanned the notes again.
When he came to the witness’s statement he remembered what had been bothering him yesterday.
“Ray. Was the gun found?”
Ray smacked himself with his palm. “Fraser, I could kiss you. I knew something was off. Nada, they didn’t find squat at the crime scene.”
Fraser was shocked into another discovery. Because he remembered how Ray had been saying similar things to him right from the start and at the beginning he had wondered if it was some kind of Freudian slip and now this thought came back with a vengeance.
Moments in which Ray said that he loved him and his peculiar reaction to Fraser’s word association and the word ‘closet’ flashed before his eyes.
EVIDENCE #6 FROM YOUR LIPS TO GOD’S EAR
He struggled to return to the matter at hand but Ray had thrown him for a loop so all he managed was an unintelligent “Hm.”
“Is that a good ‘hm’ or a bad ‘hm’?” Ray asked puzzled.
“It’s just a sound, Ray. It has no moral content.”
“It so has. With you, it can also probably speak three languages and six dialects. So, good news or bad news?”
“Well, seeing that we both agreed that Mr. Brody’s statement is in accordance with the truth it might follow that someone else was in that alley and took care of all incriminating evidence.”
Ray was nodding along with him.
“Great. Let’s have another talk with this Fabio… let’s hope he keeps the snot to himself this time.” He made a disgusted face.
“Oy, Francesca!” Ray hollered and Fraser winced slightly.
Francesca came up to them with a surprisingly winning smile.
“Can you get us Fabio Brody into one of the interrogation rooms? I think interview one’s free at the moment.”
“Sure, will do Bro. Say… Ray…”
Fraser had the uncomfortable feeling that Francesca had a motive for being so friendly to Ray.
“Frannie?” Ray said but his voice was guarded, so he had also picked up on Francesca’s uncharacteristic obligingness.
“See, I have this date,” and she turned to Fraser to gauge his reaction and he tried his utmost to school his features into an encouraging smile at this piece of information. “And he is totally into classic cars and I—“
“No. Just no, Frannie,” Ray was already walking away but Francesca kept right behind him.
“Ray! Why not? Come on, it’s only for one evening. I’ll promise not to hurt your Sheep.”
“Goat. It’s Goat, Frannie. If you can’t even name it properly you definitely have no business driving it.”
“Goat, sheep, mutton, fine. Please? Frank would be so impressed.” At the mention of the name she chanced another look at Fraser who felt as if his smile was forever etched into the corners of his mouth.
“Never. Over my dead body. No one but me drives the Goat.”
Francesca stomped her small feet with astounding force.
Fraser opened his mouth to object.
“No, Fraser. Do not tell me that I got to give her the car. I do not and this has nothing to do with protecting your fellow moose or the Canadian way of life so you do not get to be an expert on car rental. This is America and here I do not have to give my car away so that Frannie can spray perfume all over it and leave lipstick traces all over the leather seats.”
“Actually, Ray, I only wanted to remind you that it isn’t correct that no one but you has driven the GTO.”
Ray looked at him in confusion.
“Yeah, so? My dad has every right to drive it he worked on it and—“
“I meant myself, Ray. I have driven your car on prior occasions.”
“In what sense?” Fraser asked bemused.
“You’re you. It’s different.” Ray shrugged clearly unfazed by the contradiction.
So, this would be:
EVIDENCE #6 APPARENTLY, FRASER IS SPECIAL
Ray grilled Mr. Brody again but the young man was too occupied with his own horror to have noticed the whereabouts of the gun.
According to him they were also completely alone in the alley at the time of the crime.
Ray was pulling on his hair in frustration.
“What do you think –“ Ray started to say but was interrupted by Dewey.
“Oh, I think you’re shirt is ugly as hell.”
Ray raised his fist in what Fraser hoped was an empty threat.
“Fuck off, Dewey. When was the last time you took a look in a mirror? And no one asked you, I’ve asked Fraser.”
Dewey raised his middle finger in answer and walked on.
And Fraser remembered the day in the crypt and Ray’s urgent question Do you find me attractive and that everyone had tried to answer for him until Ray had told all of them to be quiet and explained that it was Fraser whose answer he wanted.
Why had Ray wanted to know an answer to this question? And the intriguing part: Why was it Fraser’s answer that mattered so much? Wouldn’t the answer of a stranger have been more truthful?
Why was it important that Fraser should find him attractive, for this had clearly been the answer Ray had been looking for?
EVIDENCE #7 ATTRACTION IS A KEY FACTOR
“So, what do you think, where do we find our accomplice?” Ray called Fraser out of his trip down memory lane.
“Ray, who did you say called the murder in?”
“Uhm… someone, Parks something or other.”
And they both strode back to Ray’s desk to take a look at the report of the crime. There it was. A Mr. David Parks had called it in.
Fraser checked the name on the computer.
“Apparently, Mr. Parks is a colleague of Mr. Adams.”
“No kidding?” Ray said in disbelief.
On the way to SecureLocks Inc. for a short interview with Mr. Parks Fraser tried to survey his situation so far.
It seemed as if enough evidence existed to proclaim the gossip as truthful. And even though Fraser wasn’t absolutely convinced at this point he recognized the strong possibility and the accompanying need to find a solution.
Ray was a wonderful person. He moved him, he entertained him, and he made him laugh… he made him feel as if he belonged… Ray made Fraser feel wanted.
But wasn’t this friendship better than anything else they could have?
Romance was an illusion and it complicated everything. How could he guarantee that their partnership would continue as before? How could Fraser swear that there wouldn’t be betrayal, or hurt, or complications that would leave them broken beyond repair?
He could not risk losing Ray’s friendship. Fraser could not give up on what they had. And love changed things. You did things you were not prepared to give, you made yourself vulnerable, you sacrificed too much… it cost too much.
“Fraser?” Ray sounded unsure.
“You alright? Ain’t no reason to look quite so…” he made a vague gesture, “lost.” Ray looked at him, trying to place his mood, trying to reassure him, maybe.
“I’m fine, Ray. Thank you.”
Ray looked doubtful but let it slide. Thankfully, they arrived at the building of the company that had employed Mr. Adams.
They made their way inside the building and even though it was already nearing 5 o’clock they managed to encounter the boss.
After a short explanation for whom they were looking, the boss, Mr. Thomas, explained that Mr. Parks had called in sick yesterday and had not appeared at work so far.
Ray grumbled all the way back to the car. It was obvious that looking for David Parks did not count as quality time for Ray.
But they weren’t in a rush and Fraser still had to do some paperwork at the consulate so Ray wasn’t too disappointed that the search would have to wait till the next day.
David Parks wasn’t half as cooperative as Mr. Brody had been. They saw movement in the apartment long before they ever knocked on the door but the moment they identified themselves everything went eerily quiet.
When Ray threatened to kick the door in Fraser could make out the quiet sliding of a window opening. “Fire escape,” he mouthed to Ray who nodded.
They ran to the back of the building to find Mr. Parks trying to fend off an enraged half-wolf.
“Get him off me!” David Parks was screaming and Ray really took an unhealthy amount of pleasure in watching him squirm. He pocketed his gun again and leaned against the house wall until Fraser intervened and called Dief back.
All the way back to the station Mr. Parks was trying to be as uncooperative as possible. It was obvious that it took all of Ray’s control not to knock Mr. Parks’ head against the doorframe of the car when he tried to wrestle him into the GTO.
Getting him out again at the station wasn’t any easier and Ray was in a sour mood after Mr. Parks managed to land a kick to Ray’s thigh. He pulled him out a little more roughly than necessary and Mr. Parks started screaming about abuse which was at least a change from his constant repetition that he would not say a thing and that they would have to use force if they wanted information.
Ray was shoving the suspect into the bullpen and managed to push him into the first free interrogation room he found. They found someone to guard the door and judging from the murderous look and Ray’s face Fraser deemed it safer to hand the interrogation over to the Detectives Huey and Dewey.
Fraser and Ray were in the middle of a short break when Huey came up to them, a scowl on his face. Ray raised his eyebrows and parked his hip on his desk. Fraser looked up from the notes and frowned.
“Vecchio… what did you do to the guy? He’s raising all hell in there, screaming about police brutality and whatnot.” Jack did not seem happy about the attitude of his suspect.
Ray grinned cheekily.
“Hey, he did say he wanted it rough,” he winked at Fraser before he turned to Huey again. “Honestly, first he’s ranting about keeping his trap shut until someone hurt him and now he’s complaining that we ain’t gentle enough? I don’t have much sympathy.”
Huey sighed. “Yeah, only now I have to deal with him,” he muttered and made his way back to the interrogation room.
And Fraser was still puzzling over Ray’s behavior. Was he… Fraser must be deranged… when Ray had winked at him he had thought that, well, that Ray had been flirting with him.
A flood of images assaulted Fraser. Ray smiling at him over dinner, winking at him while he was on the phone, the smell of warm leather when Ray had leaned over to whisper in his ear, Ray dancing around him and throwing mock punches at non-existent shadows, touching, always touching and smiling that crooked smile and the smell of leather and hair gel and the warmth of the metal beads of his bracelet…
A never ending cascade of memories that had been about partnership, comfort, trust but that might have meant so much more, might have meant ‘look at me’ or ‘I can’t stay away from you’ or maybe even ‘touch me’… ‘I want you’… ‘I love you’.
Saying it all without words.
EVIDENCE #8 FLIRTING IS ANOTHER WORD FOR SUBTEXT
Fraser felt panic rise in him, nausea at the monumental lapse in his observations, how should he —no, how could he —, what was the proper conduct here?
All of this didn’t take more than a couple of seconds and Fraser could see how Ray’s face fell as if from very far away and he wanted to say ‘it’s alright’ but he wasn’t sure if that was the truth and Ray was so far away he would have to shout and he didn’t have enough air for that and—
Ray wasn’t far away at all; was in fact right in front of him, touching his arm and flicking a worried gaze at Fraser’s face.
“Uh… you’re not going to stroke out on me, are you? Is it your back again? What did you have for breakfast? Whatever it was maybe you shouldn’t have eaten it… wait, did you even have any breakfast? Don’t tell me that the ice queen didn’t even give you time to eat something before she abused you for color coordinating the paperclips?”
“It was color coordinating the supply forms instead of arranging them alphabetically,” Fraser corrected automatically and Ray huffed out a breath of laughter.
“Okay buddy, whatever you say. Pitter patter, it’s past 5 anyway. How about Thai takeout and then we throw a coin to see who gets control over the remote control. Sounds like a plan to you?”
Fraser went along if only because he didn’t know what he was supposed to do now. Ray handed him the takeout and turned the car around.
Fraser couldn’t even think of the last time he had spent an evening alone. Today it was Thai takeout, yesterday it had been pizza, on Sunday they had watched Baseball, the night before was spent working late and Friday Ray had persuaded him to accompany him to another boxing match.
They were together all the time. They had the same rhythm. They worked together and they spent their free time together. The only thing in fact which they didn’t share was the bed.
He concentrated on the smell wafting up to him from the small cardboard containers but it wasn’t suitable as a distraction. Pad Thai had a very particular smell and he would recognize Ray’s Tom Yam soup everywhere.
EVIDENCE #9 TIME SPENT TOGETHER DEFINES A RELATIONSHIP
Really, how much more evidence did he need? Ray Kowalski was in love with him.
And Benton Fraser was terrified for the first time in his life.