Author's Notes: With many thanks to the wonderful Sprat for beta.
The GTO smelled of chocolate, and it was making Ray hungry. He pulled into the lot and glanced at Vecchio, who was perched in the passenger seat on a spread-out copy of yesterday's Tribune to protect the upholstery. He was covered in cocoa smears and burned sugar, and had cream splashed halfway up his pant leg. Ray didn't bother trying to hide his grin.* * * * *
Vecchio narrowed his eyes, but his lips twitched too. Ray knew they were both thinking it: the Jerry Monsoon smuggling ring was a classic Fraser case: double blinds, weird clues, and a shootout in a candy factory. The only things missing were the Mexican standoff and the inspirational lecture on tooth decay. And the Mountie.
Vecchio squelched out of the car and leaned against the hood, contemplating his ruined shoes even though it was eighty in the shade and the parking lot was cooking. "I'm gonna expense `em," he said.
"So long as you take them off before we go inside," said Ray, feeling smug that he'd managed to dodge the tide of cream when Jerry blew a hole in the side of the vat. "I don't think Welsh'll buy it, though."
Vecchio pulled off a loafer and examined it like it was a dead animal. Like a pet. "I loved these shoes."
"For Christ's sake, cheer up." Ray grabbed it off him and tossed it into the trash can by the back door of their apartment block. "We got Monsoon! We did good. I'll fucking buy you new shoes."
Vecchio threw the second shoe after the first, bundled up his socks and padded barefoot into the lobby. "You still owe me a new jacket from that brouhaha with the carthorse and the fountain."
"Yeah, yeah, and a new tie from the champagne at Christmas last year. Whatever." Ray hit the elevator button, and leaned on the wall waiting for it to clamber down to get them. "Let's not forget you owe me thirteen steak dinners, a blowjob, a trip to Hawaii, and your firstborn. You want we should settle our debts now?"
The elevator doors clunked open and Vecchio followed him inside, crowding against him as he punched the button for the sixth floor. "Maybe," said Vecchio, low in his ear. "Maybe some of them."
Ray laughed, and twisted his head to suck a smear of chocolate off the side of Vecchio's neck, just below his ear. "You ready to put your money where your mouth is?"
"I'll put my mouth where your cock is," Vecchio offered, as the doors opened at their floor.
"Promises, promises." Ray hooked his fingers around Vecchio's tie and backed out of the elevator, towing him toward their front door. But strong hands suddenly closed on his shoulders, stopping him. Ray yelped and spun around to come face to face with familiar blue eyes and a wry smile.
"Hello, Ray." Fraser was wearing non-regulation clothes, and he had a small rucksack and no wolf. He looked over Ray's shoulder at Vecchio. "Ray."
Ray's breath punched out of him. Forty-five sure as hell suited Fraser. Maybe Ray and Vecchio were getting a little craggy around the edges, a little worn and tired-looking, but Fraser just looked distinguished. There was a glint of silver in his hair, and his jaw was still firm. If anything, he was harder and fitter than he'd been eight years ago when he lived in Chicago. He looked good enough to eat. "Fraser!" He squeezed Fraser's shoulder. "Hey, man! What're you doing in Chicago?"
"Hey, Benny." Vecchio was all smiles, his shoes and suit forgotten, and probably the blowjob, too. He clapped them both on the shoulder, and then picked up the rucksack and unlocked the apartment door. "Come on in. You hungry? We've got--what've we got?"
"Leftovers." Ray dragged Fraser inside. "Here give me that." He all but yanked Fraser's jacket off him, and hung it on the hook by the door. "We gotta clean up. Had a high-speed collision with a Brazilian psycho-confectioner." He put his gun in the drawer and shrugged off his holster as he explained about Monsoon. "Turned out the guy had been smuggling kids into the States along with the cocoa."
Fraser looked from Ray to Vecchio. "I trust no one was hurt."
"Only my shoes," Vecchio told him, disappearing into the kitchen.
"Yeah," Ray called after him. "One of these days I'm gonna get Frannie to invent a new police code: 10-110 Officer's Accessories Down. Send in the emergency medical haberdashers."
"You mock my pain," Vecchio grumbled, reappearing in the doorway with a damp cloth in his hand. He wiped the chocolate from his face, then turned back to Fraser. "What brings you south?"
Fraser leaned against the back of the couch and folded his arms. "I was attending Buck Frobisher's funeral a few days ago, and I decided that it had been far too long since I visited my very good friends in Chicago."
"And here you are," said Ray.
"Well, yes, Ray," Fraser agreed. "This happened to be on my way."
"Doof," said Vecchio, good-naturedly, clapping Fraser on the shoulder.
Ray eyed them. It was like magic, seeing Fraser again, like the air was shimmering around the three of them. They hadn't seen Fraser in nearly two years, not since the Corialis Inc. case had inadvertently sent Ray and Vecchio to Canada for some international co-operative policing in 2003. Since then Ray and Vecchio had admitted to each other they were both hot for the guy--in the abstract what-celebrity-would-you-fuck kind of way--and hell, they all loved each other, no question.
Vecchio interrupted Ray's train of thought, saying to Fraser, "Hey, you want I should get you anything? Water? Beer? You want a piece of genuine Chicago South Side garbage to taste?"
"Thank you, Ray. Water will suffice." Fraser caught Vecchio's arm before he could turn away, and leaned forward to sniff him. (If there was the slightest hint of licking, Ray was going to jump them both, then and there.) The line between Fraser's eyebrows deepened. "A Brazilian confectioner, did you say?" he asked Ray. "If I'm not mistaken, the chocolate on Ray's shirt is of Swiss origin."
Ray groaned. "No! No, Fraser. Do not do this. The case is finished. The case is watertight. We did not get the wrong guy, so don't you turn up out of nowhere and start pulling new evidence out of your ass now when it's late and we're both covered in--" He stopped. Fraser was grinning. Fraser was yanking his chain. "Nnrgh!" he growled, throwing up his hands. "I'm taking a shower."
"Me, too, before I curdle," said Vecchio. He fetched a glass of water. "Listen, Fraser, make yourself at home--music on the stereo, raid the fridge, nap on the couch, whatever takes your fancy. We'll be ten minutes, tops, and then I'll fix us all some food and we can catch up properly."
"Right you are, Ray." Fraser took the glass of water. "Thanks."
Ray jostled past Vecchio to get under the spray, and rinsed the conditioner out of his hair, murmuring as he passed, "He followed us home--can we keep him?"
When he wiped the water out of his eyes, Vecchio was giving him a warning glare. "Don't even think about it, Kowalski. Fraser's not into kinky stuff. He's probably not even queer--why do you think he and I never hooked up way back when?"
"Uh, because you were crammed so deep in the closet you couldn't even find your own ass?" Ray answered, and flipped the hot water off just as he stepped out of the shower.
Vecchio shrieked like a girl, then swore like a sailor. "I'm gonna get you for that, you little punk!" He turned off the water entirely, flung back the curtain and got serious. "No, I mean it. Don't screw around here, Kowalski. We've got things good, the three of us--"
"Fraser hasn't," Ray interrupted, "and now Frobisher's gone."
Vecchio wasn't listening. "--and okay, it'd be hot. It'd be a good time." Vecchio's eyes glazed briefly. "Jesus, that mouth." Ray smirked, and Vecchio smacked him with his towel, and added, "But only if we were all into it. And Fraser would never--"
"Trust me," said Ray, not promising anything.
* * * * *
While Vecchio was serving up the polenta, Ray put slow-beat sultry music on the stereo and reached for the candles. Vecchio stopped him. "What'd I tell you?" he hissed.
Ray winked and shrugged, and left them on the sideboard. Turned down the lighting instead. It was subtle, but it made the room more intimate. Ray'd learned that from Stella.
Vecchio was still giving him the evil eye, but there was nothing he could do about it with Fraser sitting at the table, all pretty and relaxed.
"How is everyone?" Fraser asked, after he'd refused Ray's offer of wine. "Tell me all the gossip."
So they did. They told him how Elaine had made detective a couple of months ago. "Her partner's a smartass from New York City," said Vecchio, disapprovingly. "We're keeping an eye on him."
"Frannie's eldest is in school now," Ray said. "Connie."
"Constanza," said Fraser.
"Yeah," Vecchio agreed. "Smart kid. She came second in the third grade regional spelling bee in March."
"That's highly impressive." Fraser smiled, and pushed his polenta around his plate with his fork. "And Captain Welsh? Has he recovered from his heart attack?"
"Yeah," said Ray. "Full recovery. He lost a lot of weight while he was sick but, hey, he met this chick in rehab--she was there with a broken ankle, was it?" Vecchio nodded. "Yeah, Patty. They've been dating for nearly a year now."
"They're in loo-oove," Vecchio cooed. "I keep expecting them to tie the knot."
"Oh my," said Fraser, and squinted into the middle distance a moment, like he was trying to imagine Welsh being romantic.
"Plus she's an accountant," added Ray, "so he's saving a fortune. Oh, and Huey and Dewey have closed the club. Now they're trying to sell their screenplay to Hollywood."
"A film script?" Fraser glanced up. "What's it about?"
Vecchio grinned. "Huey wouldn't say, so I bought Dewey a couple of beers and he spilled the beans. It's something about a Canadian in Chicago."
Fraser laughed out loud, and Ray felt a warm glow. This was right. This was how it should always be. "Don't forget Jacqueline," Ray prompted.
Vecchio took a sip of wine. "Who?"
"Huey's supermodel, remember?" Ray leaned back in his chair, his arms resting on the table. "He had like three dates with this French supermodel, and now he can't talk about anyone else. It's sickening."
"I just tune him out," said Vecchio. "Selective deafness."
"You probably caught that from the wolf," said Ray. "How is Dief?"
Fraser nodded. "He's well for his age. Not as keen to travel as he once was. He finds the prospect of quarantine demeaning, so he decided not to accompany me this time."
"Fair enough," said Ray, indignant on Dief's behalf. "No reason why he should be shut up in a cage when us two-legged animals can come and go as we like."
"It's the law," said Fraser, but even he didn't sound convinced.
Ray helped himself to more chicken scarpariello. "Have we forgotten anyone?"
"How's Stella?" asked Fraser, catching his gaze and raising an eyebrow.
Ray just smiled, and let Vecchio answer.
"Our ex-wife is traveling through India in search of inner peace," he announced. "Last we heard, she was staying at an ashram in Rishikesh, but that was a couple of months ago."
Ray piped up. "Before she left, she said she was thinking of getting into entertainment law. Said she knew so many gays, she already had connections to half of Hollywood."
Fraser bent his head, but his lips curved in amusement.
"And you, Benny?" asked Vecchio. "How are you really?"
Fraser's smile faded. There was a long pause, and then the song on the stereo came to a mournful end, and Ray could hear his own heartbeat thudding in his ears. He wanted to reach out to Fraser, to touch him. To cheer him the fuck up. But maybe Vecchio was right. Maybe Fraser wouldn't want that. He gripped the stem of his wineglass and held himself in check, but couldn't stop his leg from jittering restlessly.
Finally Fraser sighed. "It's been a harsh winter. We lost three explorers and a local child, Jimmy Tait, to a blizzard. Maggie and Nathan moved to Winnipeg last fall, of course, to start a family, so I see them very rarely now, and well, to be honest, I've been thinking a lot about my father. Even though he was so much away from home, he had Buck Frobisher, and the bond between the two of them--"
Fraser looked from Ray to Vecchio, his eyes big and sad in the low light. All of a sudden, this wasn't a game anymore. Ray felt bad, having even thought of seducing Fraser like it was a sport. This was Fraser. He needed them. And it looked like maybe, just maybe, he'd finally realised that.
Ray got up, resting his hand on Fraser's shoulder in passing, and went to change the CD.
When he came back, Vecchio was leaning over the table, clasping Fraser's forearm. Ray looked at them both for a moment, the warmth of that touch, and then the music started pulsing and he steeled himself. "Hey, Vecchio. C'mon, I have to dance to this one. Come and dance with me."
He dragged Vecchio toward the cleared space by the bookshelves, and led him in a slow rumba, holding him close. At first it was awkward, putting on a show for Fraser, but it only took a couple of turns before Ray was into it, he was grooving. He opened his eyes and looked over Vecchio's shoulder at Fraser, who was fiddling with the ceramic camel salt and pepper shakers. After a moment, Fraser glanced up, something lost and wistful in his gaze. Regrets. Ray met his eyes and smiled slowly, as certainty flared inside him. They were gonna do this. This was right. He looked at Fraser's full lips, thought about the way Vecchio had spoken about him in the shower, the look on Vecchio's face. Ray lost the beat and stumbled.
At once Vecchio pulled back, looked at him narrowly. "You're toasted. I'll put the coffee on."
"Yeah," Ray patted his shoulder as he sashayed off to the kitchen. There was a beat, and then another. The music throbbed through Ray, but it took him a moment to work up the balls. He couldn't fumble this one. It had to be smooth and sure. He went over to stand in front of Fraser, his old friend and partner. "Stop sitting on the sidelines, Frase."
Fraser looked at him uncertainly. "Ray?"
"It's okay." He drew Fraser up into his arms, and they slow danced, careful and gentle, their hands light on each other, like a memory of an embrace. Ray struggled to keep his breathing even, and tightened his grip on Fraser's waist, turning him and pulling him close all at once.
Fraser let out a long shuddering sigh, and rested his head on Ray's shoulder. Ray felt dizzy. He was holding Fraser. They were dancing.
Dimly he was aware that Fraser was moving well, he was fluid, keeping time to the music, his body relaxed in Ray's arms. Ray rubbed circles between Fraser's shoulder blades, turning the dance into even more of an embrace. When he looked up, Vecchio was standing in the kitchen doorway, watching. His face shuttered.
Ray held Vecchio's gaze as he slowly and deliberately licked his lips, then cocked an eyebrow.
Vecchio looked away. Ray could see him thinking, weighing the risks. When he turned his attention back to Ray, he nodded, a faint reckless give-it-your-best-shot curve to his lips.
Ray shot him a grateful smile, closed his eyes, and let his hands circle lower and lower on Fraser's back.
Ray and Fraser danced to a halt, and pulled back to look at each other, both of them breathing heavily. Ray swallowed hard.
Then Vecchio was at their shoulder. He put a hand on Fraser's cheek and turned his head so he could kiss him softly on the lips. "We got you, Benny."
Ray still had his arms around Fraser, felt him start to shake.
"Ray--" Fraser looked foggy and unsure.
Ray watched carefully, knowing this could go either way, and that they couldn't--they could not fuck this up. This was the last chance to turn back. They could step back into reality, turn the lights up and be friends, just friends, the best of friends. Pretend they'd never wanted more.
"Whatever you want, Frase," Ray said softly. "You know we love you, right? You know that. So here's what I'm saying." He pressed his lips against Fraser's cheek, the corner of his mouth. Tasted him for the first time. "You say the word and it's forgotten, and we will always be here for you. You know that. But right now--whatever you want."
Fraser turned to Ray, serious and dark-eyed. Ray could feel Fraser's chest heaving, could feel him wanting it. And then the world blurred and tilted, and Fraser was kissing him, kissing him hot and passionate, his tongue sweeping into Ray's mouth like it belonged there. Fraser's mouth was urgent and sweet. He shifted his grip, his hands on Ray's hips, pulling Ray hard against him, and Ray gasped in the back of his throat. And right then, he felt Vecchio's hand hot on his neck. With them. Holding them.
* * * * *
Fraser and Vecchio lay fully dressed on the bed, lost in a world of kisses, while Ray sat beside them, stroking Fraser's thick hair, running his hands warm down Vecchio's arm. The room was mostly dim and shadowed, with a band of golden light from the hallway spilling over the foot of the bed. Music pumped through the speakers in the bedroom like a drug, making Ray heavy and floaty.
He lay down behind Vecchio, and pressed forward, pushing his cock against Vecchio's ass through jeans and pants. It felt great, but it wasn't enough: he wanted to watch. He propped himself up on his elbow, and leaned over. Their eyes were shut. Their wet lips glinted in the half-light as they kissed each other hungrily. Ray saw a flicker of tongue, saw Fraser nipping Vecchio's full lower lip between his white teeth, and his own mouth went dry. Their breath was soft and quick, their hands tight on each other. Ray inhaled, smelling their heat and need.
Ray pressed his lips first to Vecchio's cheek, then to Fraser's hand where it gripped Vecchio's shoulder, licking Fraser's fingers, sucking them into his mouth. Fraser groaned and stroked Ray's tongue, then slid his fingers from Ray's mouth and curved his hot spit-wet hand around Ray's neck, pulling him down. Fraser broke off the kiss with Vecchio to lick his way into Ray's mouth. Then he brought Ray's mouth to Vecchio's, and let them kiss each other.
Jesus. Ray flopped back on the bed, stunned and achingly hard. He ran his hands up and down Vecchio's back, then pressed his lips against the vertebrae at the base of Vecchio's neck, and reached around to fumble with the fastenings of Vecchio's blue linen shirt. Hot hands tangled with Ray's--Fraser helping Ray ease the small buttons through the soft fabric. Brushes of wiry hair and hard chest when the fabric parted. Vecchio's shoulders flexing as he began to work on Fraser's shirt.
Ray shimmied down the bed, and pushed Vecchio's shirt out of the way so he could lick up Vecchio's spine. Vecchio writhed back against him, his skin damp with sweat. The air was scored with the harsh sound of them all panting, with the low moans Fraser couldn't seem to stop.
Ray pressed a last kiss to Vecchio's spine, just above his belt, and curved around to see Vecchio's fingers stroke lightly over Fraser's face and bare chest, exploring. Ray joined in, too, touching Fraser, letting his hand roam. It felt incredible.
Fraser closed his eyes. His lips were swollen, his cheeks pink. His hand pillowed Vecchio's cheek. Ray tugged his own t-shirt over his head, then moved to lie behind Fraser. He pushed Fraser's shirt out of the way and held him tight, reveling in the feel of skin against skin, and the way Fraser smelled of the outdoors even now. Fraser snuggled back against him, still kissing Vecchio, and Ray stretched to hold them all together for a moment, his arm tight around Vecchio's waist. It felt so good, he couldn't help groaning in Fraser's ear, couldn't stop the spill of words: fuck, Fraser, yeah, Vecchio, oh, oh jesus.
A hand touched his face. Ray swiped it with his tongue, tasting the silver ring on the fourth finger. Vecchio. Vecchio's thumb sweeping over Ray's lips. Vecchio's long fingers threading through Ray's hair.
Somehow Ray managed to loosen his hold so he could slip his hand between their stomachs, and down, further, to cup Fraser through his jeans. Fraser groaned beautifully, and thrust forward, at the same time reaching behind with his free hand to pull Ray hard against him. "Ray," said Fraser, breathlessly. "Ray, are you sure about this?"
Ray didn't know if he was talking to himself or Vecchio, but it didn't matter.
"Anything you want, Fraser," Vecchio said hoarsely.
Ray echoed him. "Anything."
* * * * *
Ray kicked his jeans and underwear onto the floor, and pressed up behind Fraser again, the denim of Fraser's jeans rough against Ray's cock. Jesus Christ, Ray wanted to fuck him. He wanted to push into him and lose himself there, like in a dark hot fantasy world, like magic. But this was maybe Fraser's first time, and through the lust haze, Ray knew he was too turned on to be careful. His hands were clumsy and shaking as he tried to get Fraser's jeans unfastened, pushed down over Fraser's firm ass and thighs and--Ray was shaking all over now. He'd thought he could keep control. He'd been around the block once or twice. He and Vecchio had done it every way they could think of over the years, and he'd expected to handle anything. All of it. But this was naked Fraser pressed up against his skin, sweating and moaning, and thrusting forward and back. This was both the guys he loved, together. Nothing could've prepared him for this.
Fraser held Vecchio's hips, grinding into him rhythmically. Ray slid his cock along the cleft of Fraser's ass, thrusting hard, up and down. Jesus fucking--Ray stopped and rolled onto his back, groping in the nightstand drawer for lube. Sexy as this was, it was also chafing, which took a lot of the fun out.
By the time he rolled back, all slicked up, Fraser and Vecchio were deep into each other, kissing and humping. Ray ran his slippery hand up Vecchio's side, over Fraser's fingers. Ray's forearm traced Fraser's outline. Vecchio grabbed Ray's hand and sucked two fingers into his mouth--lube and all. Ray knew what that meant. His cock ached at the thought of it. But he wanted to stay here, body to body with Fraser, all of them somehow even. Fucking could wait. So Ray cupped Vecchio's cheek a moment, and pushed forward against Fraser again. Jesus. Fraser's ass was muscular and Ray's cock was slippery with lube. The combination was mind-blowing. Ray groaned and sped up helplessly, and then Fraser groaned, too, and pushed back, like he was hoping--like he wanted Ray to fuck him.
Ray shut his eyes tight and focused on his breath. Fraser's shoulder tasted of sweat and heat and skin. Christ.
Ray fumbled behind him for the lube bottle, and squirted slick into his own hand. Then he pulled Fraser hard against him--the increased pressure making his vision blur. Before Vecchio could follow, Ray slipped his hand between them and found both their cocks, and wrapped his slippery fingers around them as far as he could, holding them hot and tight and heavy in his hand. Fraser stiffened a moment, panting harshly, and Ray closed his eyes, held his breath, thinking Fraser was gonna lose it then and there, but he didn't. He shuddered and held on, and muttered something Ray couldn't hear. Just the deep rumble of his voice, though, and Vecchio's moans were enough to make Ray breathless. He bit his lip, desperate to save it, to keep going. And then Fraser's fingers tangled with Ray's, guiding Ray's hand up and down in an urgent rhythm. Ray tried to match the thrust of his hips to their hands, but he was so fucking close to coming, so turned on. And then there was another big hand--Vecchio, too--and that was it, that was perfect, that was how Ray came, shoving his cock along the sweaty cleft of Fraser's ass, smearing him with come. And gripping the others tightly, all of their fingers together. All for one and one for all, like fucking musketeers.
Ray buried his face in Fraser's hair, in the back of his neck, and felt the other two tense and build, their grunts and moans ragged and urgent. Then Vecchio came, broken curses falling from his lips, hips stuttering as he let fly.
"Oh God," gasped Fraser. The tendons in his calves tightened, his whole body strung with pleasure and release. And then Fraser's come on their hands, on Fraser and Vecchio's chests. All of them tangled and sweaty and fucked out. Ray's heart was pounding in his ears. He was overwhelmed with a wave of emotion. He and Vecchio had done this for Fraser. With Fraser. They'd given him this.
* * * * *
Bleep, bleep. The alarm clock blared like it was any other morning. Ray grumbled into the pillow and thwacked it with the flat of his hand to shut it the hell up, then burrowed into the warm rumpled sheets. Christ, the night before hand been--He tensed. The night before had been Fraser, and now Ray was alone in the bed. Where the fuck--? It hadn't been a dream. It hadn't. The lube on the nightstand stood testament to the fact that something had gone down.
He shoved himself upright and plucked his glasses from the crap on the nightstand. Seven a.m. Fuck, he had to go to Court this morning. Okay--shower, coffee, clothes. Where the fuck were Vecchio and Fraser?
He dragged on yesterday's t-shirt and boxers, and stumbled into the hallway.
"What the hell's happened to you, Fraser?" Vecchio's voice, amused and affectionate, coming from the kitchen. Ray stopped dead and listened. "You never used to be this easy. I'm pretty sure I'd've noticed."
Fraser sounded like he was smiling, too. "Easy, Ray?" There was a pause, then he added thoughtfully, "I'm ageing, I suppose."
"Forty-five," said Vecchio. "And there's not much use for a sports car on the tundra. Yeah, I get it. I'll be your midlife crisis. I can live with that."
Ray rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and was about to interrupt this cozy little conversation when Vecchio added, "So we just have to tell him."
"Ray, the last thing I want is to come between you, and if he doesn't--I can't--"
Ray froze. Tension and sleepiness churned in his stomach, making him feel sick. They wouldn't--
"Shhhh," Vecchio murmured to Fraser. "I got you."
Ray struggled to the kitchen doorway like he was walking into a gale force wind. He leaned there and regarded them warily. Vecchio had his arms around Fraser, and they were standing forehead to forehead, intent on each other.
He swallowed, and tried not to think the worst, but his voice was a croak when he asked, "What's going on?"
Fraser glanced up, startled. Vecchio let his arms drop, and stepped back, smugness in every line of his stupid Italian face. "Turns out this apartment ain't big enough for the three of us," he said.
"Four of us, Ray," Fraser corrected him. "Don't forget Diefenbaker."
Ray didn't care about the math. He got the message. All of a sudden, three was a crowd. He squinted at Fraser, trying to stay calm. "You're staying?"
Fraser at least had the grace to look nervous. "I hope so. For the winters, at least. I'll have to talk to Inspector Churchill and Captain Welsh, of course, but if you'll--"
"So you two just decided this." Ray was having trouble breathing. "What about me?"
"We thought you'd be pleased." Vecchio had that alert look, like he thought Ray was about to do something brainless.
Ray hated that look. He scowled. "Pleased." That made no sense. He shook his head, trying to clear it, trying to unjumble the conversation, but he could only think one thing. "I'm not moving out."
"Ray, I assure you, I have no intention of disrupting your life without your consent." Fraser sounded worried. "I thought you--"
Vecchio shrugged and interrupted Fraser, his focus on Ray. "Then we'll stay here, but--"
"We'll stay here." We. The relief hit Ray hard. He would've fallen if he hadn't been leaning on the doorpost. "You're not--"
Vecchio blinked and his gaze sharpened, but his tone was mild. "Don't be a moron, Kowalski. I meant we should all maybe look for a bigger place. Together. You owe me a new wardrobe, including shoes. You think I'd just walk away from that? Do I look stupid to you?"
"Maybe." Ray felt like an idiot.
"Ray, surely you didn't think we'd exclude you," said Fraser.
Vecchio turned to the counter, and said to Fraser, "Don't mind him. He's always an ass till he's had coffee." He turned and offered Ray a steaming mug.
Fraser's eyes crinkled around the corners. "I remember."
"Shut up and give me that," growled Ray, reaching for the coffee. But he couldn't help the grin that spread across his face. Maybe he was an idiot, but they loved him anyway. He knew that now. "You're staying," he told Fraser, and this time it was a promise. "We're all in this together."
End Soft Arithmetic by china_shop
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