Author's Notes: Shamefully unbetaed as a whole; the bits and pieces I did get to bounce off other folks, including the lovely Lynnmonster way back when and my darling Dira Sudis quite a lot more recently, benefited from the ricochets. Significantly different in some ways from my usual NC-17 LTR PWP, as I was trying very hard to write something that would fit sort of tongue-and-groovily with Cherryice's oeuvre - a delightful challenge, even given how far short of it I suspect I fell. Thank you kindly, Mlle Cherryice, for the opportunity to try. May your holidays be the merriest and the coming year the best yet.
Ray's shirt is off, which it's nothing like warm enough for, but he knows Fraser likes it and he knows Fraser's watching and all of that works for him. So he's shirtless and hammering and singing around the roofing nails he's got stuck in his mouth (who has the oral fixation in this relationship again? Fraser licks, Ray sucks, right, it all works). The nails make mush of the words and Ray can't carry more than about a fifth of the tune. "IIII don't wanna stay...I just wanna bang on de drum all day ... IIII don't wanna work ... I just wanna bang on de drum all day ..." One of the nails slips out, ricocheting off the joist Ray's straddling on its way to join the rest of the crap that always gets dropped when they reach the roofing part of a job.
"You're demonstrably working, Ray, and there are no drums in sight. In fact, the entire framing structure appears to be remarkably percussion-free."
Ray spits the rest of the nails into his hand and squints down at Fraser through the space between the roof joists. "Fraser, my God, I hope that thermos is for me, because giving a cute guy a real good time made me too late for breakfast this morning and I could eat a frickin' polar bear right about now."
Fraser's raised eyebrow disappears under the hard hat sitting low on his forehead. "Surely not a polar bear, Ray. They are, after all, in imminent danger of extinction."
"News flash, Frase: `s why I picked `em. Long as you're gonna eat a bear, why not eat a rare one? Nice selective listening, by the way." Blown free of sawdust, Ray's pocketwatch is happy to tell him how far past time for lunch it is. Ray had the crew build a rough ladder into the wall when they started this project, but Fraser's eyes are on him, so he puts both hands on the wood of the joist and pushes off into space, swinging to get a little height for the jump.
"I'm delighted to hear that your logical faculties remain intact despite your extreme state of starvation." Fraser tips up the top of the basket he's carrying and slots the thermos back into place. "And I heard your entire remark quite clearly. I'm simply choosing to delay the remainder of my response until a more appropriate juncture."
Ray rolls his eyes and sticks the landing. Mary Lou whatshername's got nothing on him. "Never ceases to amaze me how many syllables it takes you to dance around `I'll blow you later, Ray, when you're not at work and I can tease the shit out of you before I let you come.' So much simpler just to cut to the chase."
"This is the chase, Ray." Fraser holds out a sandwich, bland look still firmly in place.
"Wooing me with food, you mean. `A loaf of bread, a jug of wine,' that kind of thing." Ray grabs for the sandwich and stuffs a quarter of it into his mouth, grinning through breadcrumbs.
"Indeed. Although since we're only halfway through our respective workdays, I fear the jug's contents may disappoint on that score."
"Coffee works for me, Frase. I'm easy; caffeinate me enough and I can go all day."
"Mm. So I hear." Fraser looks up from where he's setting out their lunch in the least sawdusty corner of the room, both brows raised this time, looking like the poster child for slightly undereducated innocence. Bullshit, Ray thinks. Easy, habitual bullshit. Of all the things Ray's learned about Fraser, maybe the hardest and least surprising one is how much of that butter-wouldn't-melt thing Fraser floats at most people is a big fat smooth-skinned act. That'd be all of it, pretty much, as Ray has by this time had more than one occasion to find out. Turns out there's a lot of damage behind that Mountie faade, a lot of twisted turns, a lot of space and scars and false starts. Turns out Fraser clamps down and bruises and needs pretty much like the next guy. If the next guy's Ray, that is--and Ray's got no intention of letting anyone else make the experiment, thank you very much. There will be no next next guy on Ray's watch.
This one? Is in the box marked done.
On the way to yet another crappy hotel for yet another police conference--Christ, as many of these things as they have it's a miracle the criminal element hasn't taken over the country--and Camden Yard five minutes away might as well be the moon for all Ray's gonna see of it. The motion of the shuttle keeps knocking Ray's head against the window he's crushed up against, Fraser warm all along his right side and three exposed rivets digging into the left one, plus he always forgets to leave the holster off when they have to fly. Whatever, it's a good rhythm, you could dance to it, and after a while Ray gets kind of into it, starts to sway into the motion as much as he can to make the impact bigger, tapping his free foot along with the small cold shocks of pain and feeling a little less like choking the shuttle driver. And then suddenly the window goes warm and soft, dulling the music and the ache both, and Ray comes back to himself and realizes that Fraser's somehow snaked his arm around behind them and worked his hand between Ray's head and the window.
"Bruises, Ray." There's a tinge of irritation in Fraser's voice, along with the affection and resignation and amusement Ray's used to and the something else big and wild that he's not gonna look directly at right now, thank you very kindly, move it along. Ray wonders when Fraser stopped hiding that from him, that human touch of almost-anger. Probably about the same time Fraser realized he didn't have to talk to Ray in complete paragraphs. Or sentences, even. Plus the sex maybe had something to do with it; Fraser fucks with his eyes open and his focus on Ray, and Ray's damned if he's gonna let the Mountie outperform him in yet another ring, so one way and another he knows an awful lot more about Fraser than he'd have imagined back when he was still drinking Vecchio's red wine.
Ray sticks his tongue out at Fraser's smile and turns his head a little more into that warm, sweaty palm, and Fraser has to wake him up at the door to the hotel.
Seven senseless meetings later, Ray's at the window of the bedroom (fuck the connecting-door bullshit and the Duck Brothers' quacking, this time they share, it's good for the bottom line, right?), rolling his hot face against the glass and looking out at the grey rainy nothingness the hotel calls a view. The halftime band on the TV behind him is playing some godawful medley, oompah oompah oom pah pah--gotta hope they're better at football or this game is gonna hurt to watch--and Ray thinks he's blocked it out until suddenly it's his shoulders feeling the cool damp of the window instead of his bruised forehead and he's face to stubbled face with Fraser, looking as tired as Ray feels.
"Bed, Ray. Or did you want to `rock out' for a while longer to this tuneful rendition of `Rocky Top' for tuba, snare drum, and a few bedraggled flutes?"
Fraser's mouth is wet and hot against Ray's jawline, his arms strong around Ray's back and his hands rubbing under the damned holster at the knots under Ray's shoulderblades. Ray feels his second wind coming up with a rush like drugs, like pain, like having what he knows he wants and being sober enough to see it for what it is. Bed. Yes. Now.
Ray is so angry--SO angry--that the risk of his breaking the next piece of glass he sees into a thousand sharp-edged pieces is very real, particularly if it'll hurt enough to take his mind off his rage. To stave off that destructive impulse, he runs with another one, taking the GTO out at 3 am, driving Chicago's circumferentials like the maniac he thinks he might be with the magnetic light perched precariously on top of the car, ready to turn it on if he so much as sees a patrol car so as to avoid the dangerous possibility of taking his rage out on a brother in the blues. He finds he's driving without the radio on or a CD in, which makes a lot of sense, since right now he couldn't find a soundtrack for this much anger if his--if Fraser's--life depended on it. He's driving with the front windows down all the way, and his leather jacket and tee-shirt might as well be naked skin for all the warmth they're giving him--he's fucking freezing here--and that feels right, so he puts the back windows down too and speeds up more. His hands tighten on the steering wheel, and he notices, with what he'd think was clinical detachment if he didn't know better, that his knuckles have gone even whiter than his cold, cold hands.
That's the last thing he remembers for a while.
The next thing he knows, he's parked outside the new Consulate building, on a side street under the window of one of the neighborhood's random warehouses. Now the stereo's on with a vengeance, loud enough that the bass is rattling the glass in the GTO's windows--which Ray no more remembers putting up than he does leaving the lakefront and making his way here like a fucking homing pigeon with a Canada complex. He thinks the bass is rattling him, too, from the bones on out, until he realizes that what's brought him back to whoever he is tonight is the fact that he's knocking his head rhythmically against the driver's-seat headrest, hard enough to hurt even through the cushion, in time with whatever piece-of-shit song's coming out of the goddamned stereo.
A walking, talking, teenaged-forty headbanger clich. Fucking fantastic.
Ray pulls himself out of the car and makes a run for the Consulate steps like there are fifty more and steeper, and he gets to the top and throws his fists up and Fraser opens the door before he has a chance to pound on it.
Ray breaks the silence with a punch--what the hell, he's got the fists, might as well use `em for something--and Fraser puts up a hand and catches it, absorbs all the force and stops it cold. Ray lets the other fist fly, and Fraser's got a hand up for that one as well and the jolt rocks Ray back on his heels. Okay, if it's gonna be like that, if Fraser wants to stand in his own doorway and be a six-foot flannel-wearing heavy bag, Ray can go there. Ray can play that game, blow after blow after blow with a growl hurting his throat and the ache of steady impact spreading down into his forearms. Until the bright sharp pain of a direct hit breaks him out of the groove and he sees Fraser again, sees him with his hands braced to hold himself steady in the doorway and his eyes on Ray's and the smallest possible cut opened up high along one cheekbone.
Ray feints towards Fraser, a one-two jab with a trick twist Levon taught him, but Fraser doesn't move; even his eyes stay steady. The second time through the combination both punches connect with Fraser's chest. Nothing: the stare and the readiness are all. Ray lets his arms drop--Christ on the cross, he's tired--wipes sweat out of his eyes and looks back at Fraser, and back, and back. When the slow small trickle of blood reaches Fraser's mouth, Ray reaches out, hands shaking like they used to the morning after, and wipes it away.
Fraser's eyes close.
"I won't be angry, Ray," he says, and he drops his own arms and turns, walking away along the Consulate's front hall, head up and back straight, leaving the door wide open behind him.
Ray feels like he's falling forward, like Fraser's braced arms were the only thing holding either of them up. The frame of the door scrapes the side of his fist, swollen from the punches, and for a few seconds he thinks about just giving it up right there, sinking to his knees and sleeping propped on the concrete like the homeless guy he's thought about being. Then--fuck that, fuck it--he's running, running after Fraser down the corridor, he's ten steps behind and five and three and he's there, amped and wired and ready to go down for the count. Fraser's arms close around him like a vise, and Ray may never need to breathe again.
The door's unlocked when Turnbull's replacement comes in the next morning, and Ray doesn't leave for three days.
Ray's bed squeaks.
Usually that drives Ray nuts, triggers his inner Tool Time guy, makes him want to get out the WD-40 and just go medieval on the bed's ass. Usually by the time he's dragged himself out of bed at whatever-the-fuck-o'clock and searched all the way to the bottom of the thing drawer in the kitchen--the one where he keeps random household shit he needs, like, once a year--he's awake enough to remember he's out of WD-40. Which means usually he winds up crashing on the foldout to avoid the squeak from hell and wakes up with the back from hell and yet another mental note to fucking buy WD-40 already.
Usually, however, he's alone when he hears the squeak. Usually the squeak is caused by his tossing and turning, which you'd think after one of his average days he wouldn't have that much trouble falling asleep, let alone staying that way, but you'd be wrong. Usually the squeak is not caused by Fraser fucking him through the mattress, with neither of them giving even one flying fuck about the way the hard chipping smack of the headboard against the cheap plaster walls is leaving dark marks that won't come out with soap or bleach. Marks they'll spend more than one Saturday afternoon covering with the white paint Fraser "finds" somewhere in the depths of the Consulate and eventually just leaves a pail of at the back of Ray's closet for next time, glaring Ray into temporary submission when Ray needles him about how he's ripping off the Queen.
Usually things are different. And usually Ray's okay with that.
Frannie's latest boyfriend has a sheet going right straight back to his eighteenth birthday and a ring with a cutting edge on one of his right-hand fingers.
Ray watches her coming toward him, tilted and hipshot on the heels she feels like she has to wear to be a girl in the middle of all these guys. The curve of her hip where it flows around to the front makes the tips of his fingers itch, and he knows from experience that even that much Aquanet still works its way out of her soft hair by the end of at least some days. And this thing she's always had underneath the tough talk of turning the other cheek and coming back for more used to do it for him just fine, used to be just what the doctor ordered. Nothing to promise, no pressure to stay, just show up at work in the morning, drink her coffee and give her whatever you've got that might pass for a smile in dim light, and you're good until next time, whenever it might be.
But that's him, that's him and Frannie, that's Frannie's thing with him. It's not ... he's not jealous, per se (and thank you, Fraser, for that verbal tic), because him and Frannie aren't like that; what they do is good because it feels good, but it's more about comfort in the in-between times than anything else. Whereas with this guy, this asshole przest?pca with the hot eyes and the hairtrigger fists ... well: whatever this guy has is not something Frannie should feel like she has to come back to.
Ray sticks a foot out into Frannie's path while she's far enough away from him to see it, give her time to slow down and talk to him for a minute. By the time she's done rolling her eyes at him, she's there and waiting, tapping a toe he can't figure out how she moves in shoes that pointy. "What, Ray, what already, huh?"
"Frannie. Honey. I looked at his sheet, that guy you're--and that guy, he's not a good guy, Frannie, he's got a mile-long record and a lot of bad-news friends, and--"
"And?" Ray never realizes Frannie smiles all the time until he notices she's not. "So he's not perfect, Ray. Not like that's news--or a new thing to me, y'know, all things considered. What with the prize guys I've ... hung out with before."
Ray's up and balancing on the balls of his feet before he knows it, crowding Frannie back against the desk behind her. "Jesus, Frannie, that's not buddies. You know--you know we're not like that. Dammit, I'm a cop, and you're a friend, a good girl, woman, whatever, I know, and we're not like--we don't do the serious thing, we don't--it's different, Frannie, this guy's bad news, he's--"
Frannie tilts up her chin and firms the tremble out of her fresh-red mouth, hardly lopsided at all unless you know where to look. "And what about Fraser, huh, Ray? You warn him off all the bad guys, too?"
Ray's lost; he's silenced, he's got nothing. Frannie nods, like she knew it all along and just didn't feel like telling him. "Just because you take your jacket off sometimes and there's a badge under there doesn't make you not one of them, Ray."
After she walks away Ray drinks what it finally dawns on him must be somebody else's coffee--no sugar whatsoever, cream out the fucking wazoo, and he never gives Frannie an order anyway, just picks up a cup when he happens to swing by her corner of the world. He doesn't notice until the cup's empty and his mouth still tastes like ashes and blood.
He hopes they know what they missed, because he doesn't have a fucking clue.
The thing about drinking, Ray realizes, is that if he loses that he might also lose himself.
Not Ray Vecchio, CPD, here's my badge and there's my partner and what are you lookin' at anyway, I got a warrant here says you're the bad guy, so spread `em and shut it and here's your rights, what's your hurry. He's lost that guy a couple of times already, and it mostly happened when he meant it to and the times it didn't it was dark enough that he thinks probably nobody else noticed.
But it's Ray K--Stanley Raymond Kowalski, if you want to be precise, and Ray likes precision when he's drunk off his ass, it helps keep him grounded in what passes for his reality--it's Ray K that he's maybe gonna lose if he quits with the drinking, with the beers and the shots and the stuff the alcoholic armor lets him do without him having to actually look right at it except for when something scars.
See, Ray likes...well, likes is maybe not the word of choice here. You like your buddies, you like your dog, you maybe if you're lucky like your view. This--Ray gets off (yeah) on this, this thing he does, this thing where it's always easy to be someone else even when he's not getting paid for the privilege. He sets up the outside, the cage, the frame, and he lets someone else tell him what should be prowling around inside there and he picks up their clothes and car and bottle and he's good to go.
And that's who he is.
Except it's not: it's who someone else is, who Ray's borrowing. And if Ray drinking isn't Vecchio, or Sammy Johanssen with the thing for black-and-tans, or the married guy before that who was in Witness Protection and drank rye from the back of the bottom shelf--if Ray's not these guys even when he drinks what they do, or what he's handed by someone else who wants to rattle the bars, then that stuff he's not looking at might be all there is of him.
Ray leaves a ten on the counter to pay for the broken bottle next to it and is out the door before the stain can spread enough to drip.
Ray throws a plate at Stella--one of the cow ones, the ones he likes, the ones she didn't buy--because he wants so much to hit her but he's not in the mood to imagine how she'll explain the bruise to the office paralegal. But his glasses are on the table, where he put them earlier when he still thought the headache was from not enough coffee early in the day, and he misses and the plate hits carpet with a dull thud and doesn't even have the grace to break.
"Nice one, sharpshooter," Stella says, deadpan. Zing, pow, zap--Ray's the central figure in a full-page panel from one of his old dogeared Marvel comics (Stella's always hated that lowbrow crap), and the part of the page where he's not falling, gut-shot, is full of well-aimed bullets and the singed cartoon trails of pain on the move.
God, he wants to hit her, so much, so much. He can feel the ache in his knuckles already, like he's paying the price before the fact, like it hurts here so it won't later, which never works but he's not in the mood to know that right now. And it's not like they haven't gone there before, not like they don't blow up and burn out at each other six times a week and twice on Sundays, especially since Sunday started being a work day and stopped being church and then brunch and then maybe, maybe some kind of sex.
So he puts his fist through the wall instead--he likes those plates a lot, and the paralegal looks at him funny already, and the wall's cracked anyway--and Stella sighs, and the door slams, and Ray rolls around until his back's to the wall and sucks on the place where the edge of the plaster split one finger open to the bone and wonders if the place around the corner's still delivering.
End Banging by Queue
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