Pairings: Renny/Ray K., Benny/Ray V.
Categories: Holiday (Christmas), Romance, Drama.
This series continues in a slightly AU universe: Ray Vecchio never left his Benny to go undercover, and Ray Kowalski joined the 27th Precinct as himself and soon got involved with one Renfield Turnbull, to our delight. :)
This story focuses on the Kowalski/Turnbull pairing but guest stars Fraser/Vecchio.
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, Alliance does, more's the pity.
Comments welcome on or off-list. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 2, 2000
*Renny hummed softly as he put up the gold-and-silver garland in the staff lounge. He thought that the room was coming along nicely with its decorations. Fraser was hanging garland on the next wall, and Constables Cooper and Power were setting up the table with the red cloth and special candles and flower arrangements.
Renny's eyes shone as he took in the effect. It would be a lovely room, vibrant and full of laughter and music and good food and companionship. He was excited about the party and hoped that everyone would have a good time. Even the Inspector seemed to be looking forward to it.
He thought about how lucky he was. He had a considerate lover who had actually given him presents last year! And two men he hoped didn't mind if he considered them friends. Constable Fraser and Detective Vecchio had given him presents, too, and Renny was still a little awed by such generosity.
He had brought his homemade cookies in for his contribution to the food, and would help bringing out the abundant dishes as soon as he was finished with the garland. His own apartment was decorated for the season, a fact that Ray teased him about, but it was gentle teasing. Renny's heart swelled at the thought of his kind lover. Scruffy and bold and impatient at times, he was nonetheless possessor of a heart of gold that a lonely Mountie adored.
This was the first Christmas party that the Consulate had staged for the staff. In years past, preparations for official functions had superseded any staff efforts, but this year Inspector Thatcher had declared a party. Renny was curious to see how this particular staff would set things up.
"Ah, I see that the Secret Santa table is set up," Fraser said approvingly.
Renny looked over at the table that Cooper was busy decorating. "Yes, it looks really fine."
"I suppose you already have your Secret Santa gift here," Fraser said with a twinkle in his eye.
Renny's expression became uncertain. "I...um...I don't have a Secret Santa gift, sir." He felt a frisson of panic. Had he committed a faux pas?
Fraser frowned. "You're not taking part?"
"I...didn't receive a slip of paper, sir."
Fraser was still puzzled. "But Ovitz went around and made sure that everyone had a chance to pick a name out of the Stetson."
Renny swallowed. Oh, dear! He had done something wrong! He had just assumed...
"He must have missed me while I was at lunch, sir." Renny thought quickly. "I can run out and get something if it's not too late."
"But then you wouldn't receive a gift." Fraser shook his head. "I'm sorry for the oversight, Renfield."
"Quite all right, sir."
Renny went back to hanging up the garland, a bit puzzled himself. He had merely assumed that he was not to take part. He had past experience with grab gifts and other office rituals, and he did not find it unusual to be left out. He had always figured that people were reluctant to chance receiving a gift from him as they considered his taste questionable.
He finished his task and went out to his desk for a moment, glancing at the small Santa and snowman figurines on the blotter. He thought they were cute, but perhaps others thought they were silly? He just knew that he was not a stylesetter. He smiled faintly as he imagined what Ray would say about that.
He went to the kitchen and began carrying out the food that did not require any heating. The hot foods would be brought out closer to party time. There were cheeses and breads and wonderful cookies and a Christmas cake that Jasmine had baked. Cooper smiled at him and they arranged the plates on the table. Renny saw his own frosted cookies with the red-and-green sprinkles placed on the table and hoped that people would enjoy them.
He went back to his desk and heard excited whispers. He saw Jasmine and two of the secretaries from upstairs giggling at her desk. For a moment he felt uncomfortable, then relaxed as he reminded himself that Jasmine never laughed at him. They must be giggling about the party.
Jasmine and the two women went into the lounge, music starting to play from the CD player that Renny had brought in. He was proud to hear his Christmas CD as the first choice. With a smile he answered the telephone and helped the Canadian citizen with his questions.
As Renny talked, he observed the staff coming down the hall every few minutes and joining the fun. Laughter drifted out to the hall and Renny hung up, satisfied that he had answered the man's questions.
He smiled as he saw Ray Vecchio standing by his desk in all his Armani glory.
"Hello, Detective! How may I help you?"
"Oh, nothin'. I'm here to join the party."
"Oh, yes." Renny beamed. Detective Vecchio had been invited because he was 'practically a member of the staff' as Inspector Thatcher had sarcastically put it. He felt a little twinge of sadness that his Ray couldn't have come, too. He was out of town, otherwise he would have been invited for all his work with the Consulate.
"Go right on in, Detective!"
Ray walked with his easy grace into the lounge, the faint odor of Armani cologne tickling Renny's nostrils. He smiled. It was wonderful to see the Detective. Constable Fraser would be so happy!
Renny was ready to man his post as receptionist while the staff partied. A tiny part of him let out a small sigh, but that was the way of things. He had only his service to offer on this earth, and he would willingly give all he had to ensure that others would have the chance to enjoy this well-deserved break in routine.
Yes, it was all he had to offer...*
*Renny helped with the decorations and placed his plate of homemade sugar cookies on the red-clothed table. This first posting was at a small station in upper Ontario. Snow blanketed the area by the lake, the small town and the surrounding countryside containing enough citizens to keep six Mounties busy.
Renny was excited. He had never been to a staff party before. When he had been at Depot, the holiday festivities always found him on guard duty. He was nervous about this party since he had no experience at such things, but he would be extra careful and was grateful just to be given the chance to observe the event itself.
For the first week after his arrival at the post, he had been on Cloud Nine. People had talked to him and he hadn't done or said anything stupid. His heart started to heal a little from the relationships that had turned sour over the past few years. He wondered if he was finally going to be able to make a fresh start here.
Then he had made his first mistake.
When one of his colleagues had asked a question about Canadian history, he had begun to talk. With a sinking heart he saw the man's eyes glaze over and his hasty retreat, and ever since then he had heard the whispers and laughter, and now no one talked to him except in the line of duty. And he had begun to make clumsy mistakes, so now he patrolled alone instead of with a partner. No one wanted a klutz as their back-up.
Renny hoped that in the spirit of the season he would be forgiven for at least today. He didn't plan to enter into conversations or eat or drink much, fearful of spilling things, but he just wanted to be a part of the celebration, no matter how minuscule his presence would be.
He went out to the receptionist's desk at noon and began filling out reports as the party started. He had heard two of the constables talking and expected that he would be relieved in half an hour, as everyone took turns at the desk during the holiday party.
He enjoyed listening to the music and laughter from the party room, and the Sergeant's voice boomed out a funny story. The clock struck 12:30.
Renny looked up as he saw Constable Kerrigan exit from the party room, but he went down to the washroom. Renny waited patiently and sat up a little straighter when Kerrigan returned, but the Constable went back to the party.
The clock struck 1:30. Renny's stomach growled. The telephone rang and he forced himself to be cheerful as he answered the caller. After he returned the receiver to the hook, he looked at his Santa and snowman figurines and blinked. He took a deep breath and returned to his reports.
After the party was over, Renny went in to help with the clean-up. He frowned as he noticed his plate of cookies were missing. He looked all over the room and the kitchen but didn't find the plate. He even checked the garbage. Could they have thrown them out? He had tested a cookie and it had tasted all right to him.
He never did find the cookies. Worried that they were a poor offering, he resolved to bring something store-bought next year.*
Renny sighed as he remembered that his first posting had lasted less than a year. He had bumbled too many assignments, his Sergeant said with ill-disguised contempt, and he was transferring him out as soon as he could get the paperwork done.
Renny touched his ceramic snowman's carrot nose and his mind went back to his next posting...
*Renny was sent further West to Alberta. The post was larger, as the Mounties had to serve a large portion of the province. His reputation preceded him and he was ostracized from the first day. He heard the whispers of 'freak' and 'dork' and 'clumsy oaf'. He knew that his new colleagues had heard from his first posting's co-workers and the word 'screw-up' was also heard. Renny didn't disappoint their assessment as he dropped and broke things and stammered in his misery.
He hated letting his fellow Mounties down. He had struggled to be part of his class at Depot and had survived the physical training and his classes. He had known bliss as Chris's lover during those days, willing to stay within his roommate's strict rules as to the parameters of their relationship. In the end Chris had dumped him, anyway, and Renny had entered into a disastrous relationship with an older man, a professor who betrayed him with callous indifference.
His first posting had been a mess. Now he was at his second posting and he was already labeled a failure. There were 20 officers working out of this post and Renny did not have a partner. He patrolled alone, grateful to a higher power that he encountered no major problems.
He kept up the maintenance of the jeeps, patrol cars, and snowmobiles, desperate to contribute in some meaningful way, and he volunteered to work holidays and extra shifts. He only had a small room in the local boardinghouse but helped out with repairs and yardwork as much as he could for the elderly landlady.
He endured the mockery of his fellow Mounties as he doggedly continued to take the boring, unglamourous cases and wrote up endless reports. Inventory was a hated chore and he was assigned to it. Keeping the office clean was also his duty. When he was on day shift, he came in early to start the coffee, check on the vehicles, and do any snowblowing that the weather required, relieving the night staff before their scheduled hour. He listened to his co-workers' conversations and enjoyed their opinions and news of other RCMP events. He laughed quietly at jokes and refrained from any conversation of his own unless asked to comment on something duty-related.
As the months wore on, the practical jokes at his expense lessened and a few of the Mounties even occasionally said hello to him. After a marathon session of inventory, the Sergeant had told him to take a day off. He hoped that his situation was improving.
When the holiday season began, Renny carefully watched to see how the other Mounties decorated their desks. He noticed that decorations were allowed as long as they were not flamboyant, and so he brought in the two figurines. After making the coffee in the early mornings he turned on the radio and listened to Christmas carols, and no one objected as they started coming in to work.
There was a 'grab' for the party, and Renny signed up to bring a gift. He helped with the office decorations and volunteered to work Christmas Eve and Day to give the officers with families the time off. He also signed up to bring food to the party and decided it was better to buy something instead of making it this year.
The Inspector said that he would post the party day schedule and that the staff would work in shifts. Three officers would stay out at the reception area and then would be relieved, and so on. The party would last long enough so that everyone would get a chance to enjoy it. Renny was heartened by the news. Perhaps he would be going to his first Christmas party.
So on the day of the party he helped set it up, then went back to his desk. There were many calls to take as only three officers were manning the phones, and the party started.
A half hour later, two Mounties came out to the reception area and joked with the men they were relieving, then they took over the posts and started answering the persistent telephones. Renny neatened his desk and waited.
Ten minutes passed. He decided to check the schedule and see who was his relief. He walked over to the bulletin board with a springy step and read the schedule.
Five minutes later he returned to his desk, sitting down with a weary posture. He stared down at the report he had been working on and then swiveled his chair to face the typewriter and began typing.
The name on the sheet for the allotted hours of the party had been his own. He was not scheduled for any relief.
Renny continued working through the shift changes, painfully aware that no one was even whispering. Indifference was worse than mockery, he thought sadly. He wasn't even on the radar.
After the party the Inspector came over to his desk. "Better get in there and help clean up."
"Yes, sir!" Renny jumped up and banged his knee on the desk, stars pinwheeling in front of his eyes. He heard a snicker and blushed with shame. The Inspector looked at him with cool disdain and then walked to his office.
During the clean-up Renny noticed that the grab gift table was empty. He was relieved that at least his gift had been taken. He hoped that the person who had received it had liked it. Feeling a little better, he went into the kitchen and washed the dishes with another Constable, relieved again when he didn't break a single plate or cup, then he went back to work at his desk.
That night he walked home through the park as was his custom, and he sat on a cold bench and fed the pigeons. He usually did this on his lunch hour but he had not been able to take a lunch hour today.
He watched the birds peck at the corn and listened to the soft cooing. The wind blew and the stars began to twinkle as a single tear slid down his cheek.*
Renny blinked as his memories ended. He dashed away a tear and sat up straighter. There was no use crying like a baby! He had been disappointed but what of it? Did he really expect to be invited to these parties? What would he do at one, anyway? Spill his soda and food all over the floor? Entertain people with his sparkling wit, no, half-wit? He could offer nothing useful. It was just as well that he had never attended any office parties. He could serve best by doing the work of his colleagues and allowing them the pleasure of a party they would know how to enjoy.
Feeling silly, he resolutely returned to his work.
It was nice to listen to the laughter and music as he filled out the requisition forms. He hummed the tunes and smiled at his figurines. They certainly looked like they were enjoying the party! He laughed softly and then sat up straight as Constable Fraser approached.
"You may go in now, Constable."
"Wha...?" Renny swallowed. "Sir?"
"You may go to the party. Thank you for holding down the fort."
"But, sir!" Renny's heart pounded. "You shouldn't have to miss the party! Especially with Detective Vecchio in there!"
"He's coming out here to keep me company." Fraser's smile tingled Renny's toes.
"Oh." Renny suddenly felt nervous. Be careful what you wished for! "I...sir, I don't mind staying out here." He couldn't contribute anything to the party! And what would Inspector Thatcher think? She wouldn't want her 'idiot', as she often called him, to make a mess of things, would she?
Fraser's smile was infinitely gentle as he put his hand on his co-worker's shoulder. "Go ahead and have fun."
Slightly dazed, Renny walked toward the lounge. He stopped for a moment and half-turned, seeing Fraser nodding at him, and he turned back and went to the lounge's entrance.
He watched the celebrants for a few minutes, his heart pounding and his hands sweating.
With a deep breath, he walked in.
The decorations seemed to glitter with a special intensity. All the other times he had seen such decorations, he had been putting them up before or taking them down after a party. He had never seen red, green, gold or silver garlands and ornaments as a partygoer. They somehow seemed prettier.
Renny walked slowly toward the buffet table. He surveyed the hot food: cocktail franks, Swedish meatballs, steamed broccoli, broiled chicken, teriyaki stir-fry...the list was eclectic. There were tuna salad and egg salad rolls, mac 'n' cheese, and poutine. There was lasagna and pasta salad and pickles. There were the cheeses and breads and the dessert goodies. Nearly every one of his cookies was gone.
He glanced around and saw that no one was paying attention to him. He began to reach out for a dish and jumped at a hand clapping his shoulder.
"Hey, I'm sorry, Ren." Green eyes looked at him with concern. "You okay? I didn't mean to startle you."
"Oh, I'm fine, Detective." Renny smiled sheepishly.
"Hey, it's Ray." A dazzling smile muddled Renny's thoughts. "If Stanley complains about you callin' me that, tell him to see me."
Ray chuckled and gave Renny's shoulder a gentle squeeze, then he efficiently scooped up food on two plates and balanced them with two glasses of soda. He walked out of the lounge, whistling Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Holly.
Renny watched him go, then turned back to the buffet. His mouth suddenly dry, he decided to get something to drink first. He poured himself a ginger ale (Canadian, of course) and brought the cup up to his lip with a shaking hand. He drank it down in one gulp and poured another, this time leaving it on the table as he picked up a plate and put a little pasta salad on it.
Looking at the forlorn plate, he decided to add some poutine and a few pickles. When he finished he decided not to tempt fate and add anything else. He picked up his cup and looked around for a chair.
He found one by a potted fern in the corner. There was even a small table that he could put his plate and cup on. He carefully started eating, watching as Ovitz and a file clerk began to dance to Jingle Bell Rock.
He noticed the Inspector talking animatedly with Jasmine and smiled. He was glad that she was having such a good time. The Inspector needed to laugh more.
Renny couldn't quite believe he was here. This was his first Christmas party. Oh, heavens, it was his first any party. He loved watching everyone have a good time and listened to some stories told a few feet away. He finished eating but decided against a second trip to the buffet. Why tempt fate that this time he might spill something? He was content to watch his co-workers enjoying themselves.
When the time came to open the Secret Santa gifts, Renny wondered if he should volunteer to hand out the gifts but preferred to remain unnoticed. Cooper took on that task and performed it admirably in Renny's opinion.
There was laughter and joking as the gifts were opened, Renny craning his neck to see what Jasmine had received when a voice by his ear said, "You Canadians party kinda sedate-like, dontcha?"
"Ray!" Renny nearly leaped out of his chair at the wonderful sight of his lover, then he lowered his voice and blushed as he realized that if anyone saw him, they would instantly know the nature of his relationship with the American. "I thought you were out of town on business?"
"I was. I got back early. The perp is now sittin' pretty in the 27th's jail."
"Let me get you something to eat." Renny nearly tripped in his eagerness but Ray put a hand on his arm.
"I can serve myself. You sit down and I'll be right back." He snatched Renny's plate and glass.
Renny watched with dazed delight as Ray walked to the buffet table, his ass encased in skintight jeans a definite perk to the holiday season. Renny swallowed and crossed his legs. He would have to get that lovely image out of his mind! Otherwise he was going to embarrass himself at his first party.
Ray returned with two heaping plates of food and two cups. Renny jumped up to help and nearly knocked one plate out of Ray's hand.
"Oh, dear! I'm so sorry, Ray!"
"No sweat." Ray placed the plates and cups down on the small table. "Sit down, Renny. Let's eat."
Ashamed of his clumsiness, Renny's stomach churned but eventually settled down. He felt happy as he sat next to Ray and watched the opening of the gifts. Ray looked around.
"Where's yours, Renny?"
"I, uh, they missed me when the names went around, Ray."
"Oh." Ray frowned slightly but then smiled at an anxious Renny, who relaxed again.
After the gifts were opened Ray jumped up and got them both dessert.
"Hey, these cookies are really great! Who brought these?"
"I did, Ray."
"Wow! Great stuff!"
Renny ducked his head shyly at the compliment, then looked up as Ray stood.
"C'mon, let's go mingle."
It turned out to be more Ray mingling and Renny staying on the fringes listening, but Ray seemed satisfied with that. Even the Inspector was laughing at the jokes the American was telling. Renny felt a burst of pride that his lover was so charming.
He glanced at the clock and noticed that all the staff was here except Fraser, who was still out at the desk. He should be relieved. He went over to the door, intending to ask his superior whom he would like to be sent out when he saw Ray lean over and kiss his Benny gently on the lips. Fraser responded, then Ray grinned as they broke the kiss and he fed his lover a Swedish meatball.
"Jeez, Benny, these aren't like Ma's Italian meatballs, but they taste good." Ray kissed the tip of Fraser's nose. "Like you."
Fraser laughed and kissed Ray again. Renny quietly backed away.
He would not bother the two men out at the desk. They were happy to be alone with each other, enjoying their own little party. It was what they needed.
And in here, Ray needed him to be part of the festivities and he wanted to be here with Ray at his first party.
All was well, and to all a good night.*