Pairing: Fraser, Kowalski (Fraser/Vecchio, implied)
Thanks: Many thanks to mergatrude for beta
Notes: For Sage for her birthday.
"You're gonna earn yourself a whole yin-yang of trouble if you don't help us out." Ray slapped his hands flat on the wooden interrogation room table and loomed over the witness. "So get yapping."
She flinched and her chair scraped back a few inches. Twin images of her prominent Roman nose were reflected in the lenses of Ray's sunglasses, dangling from the collar of his worn gray t-shirt.
Afternoon sunlight painted the room golden like a Renaissance work of art and made Ray's bracelet gleam. His hair — today a compromise between spiked up and combed flat — glowed and the light bleached the wooden tabletop, evoking in Fraser distant memories of school desks and chalk dust. Perhaps that should have lent the scene a wholesome nostalgic air, but the angle of Ray's attack cast sinister shadows across his face.
He was fierce, relentless. "You heard of obstruction charges?" he snarled. "Conspiracy? You could do time for that, you know. You want to help yourself, you help me. Tell me what you saw!"
"I— that's not fair! I didn't do anything!" The witness clasped her hands together, fingers pressing white circles into her skin. Her unnaturally long eyelashes trembled against her cheeks.
"That's life in the big city, bucko," Ray told her. He pushed off the table, his movements hard and impatient. "Let's take it one more time from the top. You heard a gunshot outside the club—"
She bent her head so her blonde synthetic hair swung forward, obscuring her adam's apple. She wasn't graceful or beautiful, but that had never mattered to Fraser. All he could see was Gloria in the same predicament, trapped in a police station with an unsympathetic interrogator. In this case, the interrogator was Fraser's own partner, wielding power over the witness, coercing her to cooperate when a sympathetic request would be kinder and probably more effective. Fraser's impulse to intervene was automatic and profound.
His breath made a faint halo on the one-way glass but he barely noticed, too focused on the scene before him and the overlapping memories that flooded his head: Ray Vecchio in this very room, panicked and angry; Lieutenant Welsh's dry disinterest when Fraser intervened on behalf of two suspects in drag so long ago; Gloria performing at the Pink Ladies', laughing with him, in his arms, under him.
He knew he wasn't viewing the current situation rationally, and he held back as long as he could, hoping that Ray would let up and treat the witness with the respect and patience he'd no doubt afford her were she a real woman.
He pressed his lips together, folded his arms tightly and leaned against the window frame, watching the witness' lipstick-red mouth as she recounted what she'd seen. Watching Ray's eyes narrow in suspicion and his muscles bunch under his t-shirt as he leaped in to pinpoint inconsistencies in her statement.
"That doesn't add up," Ray snapped, frustrated. "You said two-fifteen you heard the shot and you went outside. You trying to tell me it took you half an hour to walk down a flight of stairs?"
"I had a run in my stocking," the witness told him, "and new shoes. Lay off, already!" She tapped out a cigarette, tucked the pack into her purse and fiddled nervously with her lighter. The hard line of her profile was a lot like Gloria's.
Fraser rapped his knuckles on the glass, surprising himself as much as Ray, who stalked over and snatched up the phone. "Fraser, how many times do I have to tell you? Don't do that!"
"Sorry, Ray." Fraser tried to sound sincere. "Could I have a word?"
"I'm kinda in the middle of something."
Fraser remained silent, willing Ray to agree.
It worked. Ray sighed. "Okay, fine. Meet you in the hall in five."
Fraser swallowed his objections to the delay, telling himself Ray was simply doing his job — he was a good man, a good police officer and his cavalier treatment of the witness could as easily be put down to thoughtlessness as prejudice. Perhaps it was time for Fraser to confide in him, to open Ray's eyes to certain aspects of the world around him, but there was always the concern that such a confidence would be met with discomfort or disgust, which would not only jeopardize Ray Kowalski's cover, but in turn put Ray Vecchio's life at risk. It behooved Fraser to be discreet.
Ray left the interview room eight minutes later, had a quick word with one of the uniformed officers on duty and came over to meet Fraser with a neutral, open expression.
It hadn't occurred to Fraser to plan what to say and no inspiration struck, so he simply said, "How's the witness?"
"Cranky. I got Gordon to put him in a holding cell. Let him stew for an hour." Ray shifted his weight onto one hip. "What did you want to talk to me about?"
Fraser glanced along the hall, his spine stiffening despite himself. "In her current attire?" He rubbed his eyebrow automatically. "I believe it's customary to offer witnesses in her position a change of clothes."
Ray shrugged. "I offered. He didn't want to. Said he liked that dress and he didn't trust us to give it back to him."
"Her." But Fraser relaxed a fraction. Ray had offered — perhaps he wasn't as blind to her plight as he'd seemed.
He was squinting at Fraser now, though, with a quizzical expression. "Fraser, that wasn't a woman. You never seen a guy in a dress before?"
Fraser turned and started leading Ray to the break room. "Of course, Ray. In fact, I myself assumed the guise of a woman in the course of an investigation right here in Chicago, as you well—"
"Uh, right," Ray interrupted, clearly humoring him. "Her. I offered to let her change clothes, and she blew smoke in my face." He stood aside to let Fraser through the break room doorway first, and then followed him in and shrugged. "What you gonna do?"
His gaze was warm, and for a fleeting moment Fraser's loyalties wavered: Ray Kowalski was attentive, charming, and above all, he was here. He was also in love with his ex-wife, Fraser reminded himself, and Fraser was spoken for, too. Gloria's effects were no doubt packed away in Dee's storage room but her memory lingered in the air like perfume wherever Fraser went. He missed her desperately, especially during the stifling summer evenings, just as he longed for Ray Vecchio's brash good nature, his dry wit, his touch. But all Fraser could do to keep either of them safe was to play his part, to work with this new Ray as partners and to endure. Fraser would be here when Ray returned. He would be constant.
"What I would do," he said, belatedly answering Ray Kowalski's rhetorical question, "is be patient with her. Give her some time, Ray. I have no doubt she'll come around in time."