Thanks: Thanks to mergatrude for beta
Notes: For Brynn
"Get in there." Vecchio all but shoved Ray into Interview One and slammed the door after them. "Shut up," he said before Ray could get a word out. "Just shut up and sit down."
Ray scowled and went over to the window, leaned against the frame with his arms folded and glared at Vecchio. Behind him, rain pattered insistently on the panes. "What?"
Vecchio threw his hands up. "If you don't quit it," he said in a carefully measured tone, "I am gonna find the nearest tall roof and throw you off it, I swear to God."
Ray paused, toothpick halfway to his mouth. "Quit what?"
"Playing the asshole," said Vecchio immediately, like he'd been dying to say it for days.
Ray almost laughed. "I'm not playing, Vecchio. This is me. What you see is what you get."
Vecchio stared at him for a long moment, then deflated. "We have to talk about it, Kowalski. I can't keep doing this."
Ray's stomach lurched like he was in a freefalling elevator. He hid it by pointing the toothpick at Vecchio and glaring harder. "You have to. This was the deal. We forget about that and we keep working together. Do not fuck this up."
"It's a bit late for that, wouldn't you say?" Vecchio collapsed into one of the chairs and slumped over the wooden table.
"No!" said Ray. "Listen, I've been through half a dozen partners since Fraser left. You're the only one I can stand who can put up with me. Just ignore the elephant in the room, okay? There is no elephant."
"Kowalski, the whole point of that expression is that you can't ignore the elephant. And if you're too chicken to talk about it—"
"Hey, I'm not chicken. I never said I was afraid of elephants. I just— We can't work together if—" He lowered his voice and said fiercely, "I need this, okay? This is all I got. This is who I am. I need to work."
Vecchio lowered his forehead onto his arms, where they were folded on the table. "Yeah, well, what if I need the other thing?"
"If I don't have a partner, I'm gonna end up a desk jockey, and then I might as well be— Wait a minute. What did you say?"
Vecchio didn't move, didn't look at him. "What if I need the elephant?"
Ray's stomach lurched again. "Uh." He rubbed his face. Time for a shave. Looked at Vecchio again — really looked at him, folded over the table like a pile of expensive laundry. "There's other fish," he pointed out.
Vecchio snorted. "Have you been out there lately? The other fish are all piranha or guppies. And maybe I don't want fish." He raised his head and sighed. "Look, you don't want the elephant, that's your business, but I can't work around it anymore."
Ray chewed on his toothpick.
"I can't work with you."
"It was just the once," said Ray, telling Vecchio what he already knew. Ray shook himself like he was coming out of a trance, and hey, there was an idea. "Maybe we could hypnotize you to forget." But there was something wrong with that, even if he didn't remember what it was until Vecchio nailed the tail on the donkey.
"What if I don't want to forget?"
That was it. Ray scratched his neck and tried to think. "So, what? You want to work together and screw around? Because if anyone finds out— If Welsh—"
"Forget about Welsh." Vecchio sat up straight and looked at Ray head on, then got up and came over. Slow, careful, no sudden movements. Ray twitched. He wanted to jump out the window à la Mountie, but he stood his ground.
Vecchio stopped a couple of feet away. His eyes were clear and green, no shadows or doubt there. He had a slight twist to his mouth, but when he spoke he didn't sound like he was bitching Ray out, and that was different.
"Kowalski," he said quietly, "you want to come out to dinner with me?"
Ray bit down on the toothpick so hard it splintered. He took it out of his mouth. Dinner first, huh? That was different, too. "Yeah, okay."
"And maybe catch a movie?" said Vecchio.
Light dawned. "Wait, you want to date?" Ray didn't know what he'd been expecting but it sure as hell hadn't been that.
"Sure." Vecchio gave him a sweet smile. "Why not? Unless you're too scared."
"I told you, I'm not—" Ray dropped the toothpick altogether, his heart thumping double time, and the world around him shifted and reformed. No more elephants. It was like he could breathe again. "Okay," he said. "We can—"
Vecchio cut him off with a firm, sure kiss that made Ray forget everything — where they were, what year it was, which way was up. He clutched Vecchio's shoulders and kissed back, and it felt right, righter than anything had in months.
There was a loud knock on the door, and Vecchio didn't even jump. He just let Ray go, taking his time, and yelled, "Give us a minute."
"I need the room, Vecchio," Huey shouted back, but the door stayed shut, thank Christ.
Ray struggled to match Vecchio's cool, but all he had to fall back on was being an asshole. "I get to pick the movie," he said, even while his hand was sliding down Vecchio's arm, last point of contact to break.
And Vecchio honest to God laughed. "Anything, Kowalski. Whatever you want. Let's get out of here."
He looked so different from the guy who'd dragged Ray in here five minutes ago, so goddammed pleased with the world that Ray had to look away — at the empty room, one table, three chairs, one door with an impatient Huey on the other side. And finally, no elephant.