Thanks: Many thanks to mergatrude for beta
Notes: For meresy
Kowalski paused by Ray's desk and poked curiously at the Borders bag lying half-hidden under some case files. "Tell me you didn't."
"Didn't what?" Ray refused to rise to the bait. He kept his eyes fixed on the ballistics report in front of him and casually shifted the case files so they covered the bag. "Don't you have work to do?"
Kowalski shrugged. "Just closed the Whistleton case." He leaned his hip casually against Ray's desk. "Turns out the butler did it."
"Yeah." Kowalski grinned. "It was the mother-in-law. Who knew?" He angled his head and shot Ray a private smile. "You busy tonight?"
"Sandy's prepping me for Oprah." Ray sat back and stretched his neck out. The ballistics didn't match up. He needed a break to clear his head. "How about tomorrow?"
"Daily Show, remember?" Kowalski rolled his shoulders nervously. "Flying out lunchtime."
"Oh, right." Ray kicked his ankle gently. "You'll be fine. Say hi to the make-up girl from me, and don't wear that stupid moose sweater."
Kowalski snorted, sneaked his hand under the files and pulled out the Borders bag, stepped away to evade Ray's attempt to grab it back off him. He looked inside and shook his head, amusement lighting his face. "I can't believe you paid money for that."
"Frannie gave it to me for my birthday," lied Ray, without a second's hesitation.
Kowalski raised his eyebrows. "I don't think so. A) your birthday's in September, and 2) I cannot see Frannie giving you your present ungiftwrapped, still in its store bag." He fished into the bag and took out the book and a slip of paper. "With its receipt." He looked at the slip and pulled a face. "Jeez, you paid full price?"
"You bought mine," said Ray defensively. "It was quid pro quo."
"I don't need your charity, Vecchio. I'm doing fine." Kowalski advanced on him and dropped the book onto Ray's desk with a thump. The embossed title, Ten Ways to Freeze to Death by R. Kowalski, glinted under the bullpen's fluorescent lights. "In case it's escaped your notice, I'm doing better than you."
"Not on the New York Times list." Ray dug through his in-tray and handed him the literary supplement, folded open at the Top Ten Non-Fiction Titles. "I've been way ahead of you for weeks. And I haven't noticed any phone messages from Oprah with your name on them. Anyway." He raised his chin. "You bought mine."
"That was before," Kowalski said seriously. "It was closure."
Ray narrowed his eyes. "Closure for what?"
"Not that," Kowalski said, quickly. "Not the thing with Fraser. I mean, sure I wanted to check out if—" He glanced around, and then lowered his voice. "—the, uh, writing style was the same. I mean, jeez, I had no idea how he was going to write my book, let alone yours. And if he made us sound the same, that'd be—"
"A problem," supplied Ray.
"Weird," said Kowalski, nodding. "But he didn't, you know. He made us us. Different. So yeah, okay, I wanted to read The Desert Donnie Brasco 'cause Fraser wrote it." He dropped his gaze for a moment, and Ray tried to ignore the twinge of jealousy in his chest. Then Kowalski locked gazes with him, his eyes blue and warm. "But it was about you, too. It was, uh, closure for being undercover as you. Seeing what kind of hijinks you got up to in Vegas, what kind of danger you were in. It, uh—"
"It validated you wasting a year of your life making nice with my family, huh?" Ray knew his expression was softening, but he couldn't help himself. Kowalski always got him where he lived.
"Wasn't a waste," said Kowalski, giving him attitude. "It got me here. Got a Canadian best friend. Famous ex-undercover-with-the-mob boyfriend. I did okay."
"The middle of a media whirlwind." Ray slouched a little further back and let his gaze slide down Kowalski's lean body. "Shame our schedules are so damned tight."
"Vecchio!" yelled Welsh from the door of his office.
Ray scrambled to sit up straight. "Yes, sir?"
Kowalski pushed off and headed back to his own desk before he got caught in the crossfire.
"How're you going on the Cheeseman case?" Welsh came and towered over Ray's desk. "I've got the brass yanking my chain on this one, Vecchio, and I want to give them some good news. News they can tell their brass. You with me?"
"Yes, sir." Ray gestured at the ballistics report. "I'm on it."
"That's eminently reassuring." Welsh scowled at Kowalski's book, lying right there on top of all the official police paperwork, and then glared a warning at Ray. "Remember our agreement, Detective. You two can have your fun with the talkshows and whatnot only so long as it doesn't interfere with your real work."
Welsh rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. "You want a partner on this one?"
"No, sir." Ray pushed his chair back and stood up so they were eye to eye, man to man. "I've got it under control." A partner who wasn't Fraser or Kowalski would only slow him down, and he and Kowalski weren't allowed to work together anymore now they were dating, even if said dating was unofficial and off the record.
"Okay," said Welsh. "All right. But if things start looking hairy, if there's any sign of trouble, I want you to take backup."
Ray agreed and waited until Welsh had disappeared back into his office, rattling the venetian blinds as he banged the door shut. Then Ray grabbed his coat and went over to where Kowalski had his feet up on his desk and was squeezing a yellow stress ball while he made notes for his case file.
"Lunch?" asked Ray. It was twenty to twelve. No one would miss them if they skipped out for an hour.
"You mean lunch, or you mean lunch?" Kowalski looked up through his eyelashes.
Ray shook his head and pretended he wasn't thinking exactly the same thing. "Come on, let's get out of here. I need a break to focus my mind."
"Oh, I'll help focus your mind," offered Kowalski, with a smirk. "I know just the thing." He took his leather jacket from the coatstand and they walked down the hall together, perfectly in step. A mix of satisfaction and anticipation brightened the air around them, and Ray couldn't keep from giving Kowalski a stupid big grin when Kowalski held the front door open for him.
"You know," Kowalski said thoughtfully, as Ray passed him and emerged into the brisk winter's day, "if we took our relationship public on top of everything else, I bet we could get on Jerry Springer."