Thanks: Thanks to mergatrude for beta
Notes: For the Vecchio challenge on ds_flashfiction
Vecchio called in around four-thirty. "I've got a lead on the Burbank robbery I gotta follow up. Won't be back in the office. What're you doing tonight?"
"I dunno," said Ray, keeping his voice low, his eyes on the desk, on the thick black lines he was sketching on the paper in front of him. "What am I doing tonight?"
"I've got some ideas." There was a pause while they both thought about what those ideas might be. Finally Vecchio cleared his throat. "Meet you at your place?"
"Sure," said Ray. "I'll be home by seven." He hung up, and looked down at the report he was writing, where he'd doodled VEC in block letters, and drawn a border around them. He glanced around quickly, but no one had seen, thank god, so he sighed, and got a fresh sheet of paper, and started copying out the start of the report again.
Ray got held up discussing tactics on the Faderman scam with Welsh and Russell, and was an hour later than he'd meant to be. He couldn't call because Welsh and Russell were right there, leaning on his desk, talking about Faderman's obsession with purebred poodles and whether they could use that somehow.
He arrived home full of apologies and fully expecting Vecchio to give him shit about it, but Vecchio was in the hallway leaning against Ray's apartment door, head back, eyes closed, like he was sleeping standing up, or meditating. At his feet there was a bag of cold Chinese takeout. He looked so calm that for a second Ray didn't know what to do.
So he walked right up to him and kissed him. "Sorry," he said into Vecchio's mouth.
Vecchio wrapped his arms around him and pulled him close. "Whatever," he said, like it was no big deal, and he closed his teeth around Ray's earlobe and sucked.
Ray's dick got hard, but he tried to ignore it. "No, I mean it." He pushed back a little and looked at Vecchio. "I got held up. I'm sorry."
Vecchio shrugged. "It happens. You don't owe me anything, Kowalski." He stepped aside and waited while Ray unlocked the door, and then followed him in, shrugging off his coat and hanging it over a chair.
Ray got a couple of beers out of the fridge and handed one to Vecchio, and wondered briefly why he wasn't relieved that Vecchio was so cool with Ray being late. But then Vecchio put his beer on the counter, and dropped to his knees, sliding his hands down Ray's body to his belt buckle, and pretty soon Ray wasn't wondering about anything except Christ, how did Vecchio do that with his mouth? And how the hell were they going to get to the bedroom now that Ray's legs had turned to mush?
A week later, Ray pulled into the parking lot behind his apartment building, turned off the engine, and rested his head on the steering wheel a moment. He didn't want to haul his ass up three flights of stairs and wrangle the locks on his apartment door and undress and brush his teeth and go to bed. It was too hard. Maybe he'd sleep here in the GTO. That way he'd be good to go when he woke up in the morning.
He raised his head to yawn, and saw Vecchio's new Riv two cars over, hidden in the shadows. Oh shit.
Ray scrubbed his hands through his hair and rubbed his face, and stumbled out of the car and over to the Riv. Vecchio was asleep at the wheel. His head was tilted back and to the side, and his mouth was open, and Ray bet that if the window was down, he would've heard him snore.
Something thudded in Ray's chest, but he was too tired, too tired, so he went to the passenger door and knocked, bending down to see Vecchio jump awake. Vecchio's eyes blinked open, and he wiped a little trail of drool from his chin and looked over at Ray. He didn't smile or seem that pleased to see him, but, hell, it was four-thirty, and at that time of the morning no one's really pleased to see anyone. Anyway, Vecchio reached over to unlock the door, and Ray slid himself into the nice, spacious, comfy passenger seat, and blinked wearily at Vecchio. "Hey."
"Where you been?" Vecchio leaned his head back again, and looked straight ahead through the windshield. His eyelids drooped.
"Stakeout at the Faderman warehouse," said Ray. "Russell's kid was sick so she couldn't make it. Welsh asked me to fill in. I tried to call you."
Vecchio pulled his phone out and looked at it. There was no light coming from the little screen. "Battery's dead," said Vecchio, and flung it into the backseat. "Piece of junk." They sat there, quiet, for a minute.
Finally, Ray shifted. If he didn't get inside, he'd fall asleep here. "You coming in?"
"Nah," said Vecchio. "I should get home."
"C'mon, Vecchio." Ray put a hand on Vecchio's shoulder, stroked a line down his neck with his index finger. "Nice soft bed, naked me—How can you turn down an offer like that?"
Vecchio caught Ray's hand and sucked two fingers briefly into his hot mouth, sparking a low heat in Ray, even through his exhaustion. "Mmmaybe," Vecchio said. He looked at his watch. "Jesus, it's nearly morning!" He yawned again, and dropped Ray's hand. "I gotta go. Tomorrow, though."
"Yeah, okay." Ray couldn't summon the energy to argue. He leaned over and kissed Vecchio, rested his head on Vecchio's shoulder a moment. "Don't fall asleep at the wheel."
Vecchio's fingers tugged on his hair. "Get outta here."
The third time Ray was late (after Faderman set fire to the Yacht Club kitchen), Vecchio wasn't waiting when he got home. He wasn't in the parking lot, and he wasn't leaning on Ray's door. He wasn't anywhere.
It was too late to call, so Ray figured he'd apologize tomorrow. He drank a glass of water and brushed his teeth, and went to bed, feeling vaguely uneasy. He couldn't pin down what was wrong though. I'll deal with it tomorrow, he thought. Whatever it is.
By the next morning, he'd forgotten about it. He stopped off at Sancho Panza's Keez'n'Shooz on his way to work, then swung into the station, bright and chirpy, all set to say sorry and set things straight. Vecchio wasn't at his desk. Ray checked his messages, and read through the forensics report on the fire, and looked at Vecchio's empty seat a dozen times an hour.
Frannie went past with a stack of files.
"Where's Vecchio?" Ray asked her.
"What am I, his zookeeper?" she asked. "How should I know? Sign this." It was a card for some chick in processing who was going on maternity leave. Ray scrawled meaningless best wishes, and glanced up at Vecchio's empty chair again.
At ten to eleven, the door to Welsh's office opened, and Vecchio and Welsh came out. Ray tried to catch Vecchio's eye, but they were still talking. "Five minutes," said Welsh.
"Yeah, I'll just get a cup of coffee," Vecchio replied. "You want one?" He walked through the bullpen without looking at Ray.
Ray got up and followed him. "Hey," he said, running to catch up. "About last night—"
Vecchio led the way into the lunchroom and poured two cups of coffee. "Yeah, sorry about that," he said, spooning sugar into one of the cups. "I couldn't make it. Family stuff."
"Oh," said Ray. "Uh, okay." He shoved his hands in his pockets and felt the rough edges of new keys. "You, uh, you wanna get something to eat?"
"Can't," said Vecchio. "The Lieu and me are working out a strategy to keep the Feds off our back over the double homicide on South Cicero last week. They think it's mob-related, but I've got a snitch that says the girlfriend did it." He stopped still for a moment and looked at Ray's mouth. "Maybe later."
"Yeah," said Ray, shrugging. "Whatever." He followed Vecchio back to the bullpen, trying to keep cool, but feeling tight and edgy, like he was one step away from losing it and putting his fist through a drywall without knowing why. He dropped into his seat and watched Vecchio disappear back into Welsh's office with a cup of coffee in each hand. Welsh started to close the door, but before he could, Frannie swung past, and poked her head into the office.
"Ray, Ma wants to know if you'll be home for dinner one of these days," said Frannie, her voice carrying clear as a bell across the bullpen. "Said it's been so long she can't remember what her only son looks like."
"Pardon me for interrupting, Miss Vecchio," said Welsh. "But we're slightly preoccupied here with trying to stop the mother of all mob wars. Might I suggest you do your job, and talk to your brother on your own time." He shut the door in her face.
"Jeez, who popped his balloon?" grouched Frannie to the room at large.
Ray picked up his pen and bent over his desk and pretended to work, while he tried to figure out what had just happened. Vecchio had said family stuff and Frannie had said his mom hadn't seen him in living memory. So either Vecchio was talking about some other family, or Vecchio was lying. And if Vecchio was lying, then either he was lying about the family stuff (maybe he was seeing someone else, thought Ray, with an uncomfortable pang) or lying about whether he'd come over. Maybe he had dropped by, but hadn't wanted to hang around till past midnight this time, waiting to see if Ray would show.
Once the hypothetical jealousy had faded, Ray decided he had a hunch about this, and maybe things were okay after all. And besides, what did he have to lose?
So when Vecchio made his way out of Welsh's office at three-thirty, looking worn to a shadow, Ray cornered him by his desk. Ray glanced around to make sure no one was listening, and then he said to Vecchio, "You sure you didn't come by last night?"
Vecchio sat down and pulled a file open, flicking through the paper. "Yeah, I'm sure, Kowalski. I think I remember what I did less than twenty-four hours ago. How about you?"
"Okay." Ray nodded, and took a deep breath. Vecchio smelled of dust and sweat and bad coffee, and Ray suddenly wanted him so bad he had to swallow before he could speak again. He pulled the new keys out of his pocket and tossed them onto Vecchio's desk, right onto the rap sheet he was reading. "I just wondered. I, uh, I found these. Figured they might be yours."
For a long moment, Vecchio didn't move. He stared down at the keys, one blue and one green, their sharp fresh-cut edges glinting under the fluorescent light. A flush spread across the back of his neck. "Yeah," he said at last. He picked them up and held them in the palm of his hand. "That's—Yeah, they're mine. Thanks."
Ray's heart started beating again, and his face got hot. "Cool. Well, uh—"
Frannie came over with a box of stuffed toys. "Raffle ticket?" she asked.
"No, I gotta—" said Ray, backing away.
"I'll see you later," said Vecchio without looking at him, and turned to Frannie. "How much?"
Three days later Ray crawled home at eleven. The lights were on in his apartment, the TV blaring. Vecchio was sprawled on the couch, his tie loosened and the top button of his shirt undone, a beer bottle on the coffee table in front of him. He was watching the golf championships through half-closed eyes. He looked up when Ray walked in the door. "Where have you been?" he said. "You couldn't have called? What, it's too much trouble to pick up the phone and say I'll be late?"
Ray stared at him. "We got Faderman," he said, stupidly.
"I heard. That was hours ago." Vecchio frowned. "What did you do, stop off for a three course meal on the way home? Did it even occur to you—?"
"I took Faderman's statement, and the florist's statement, and a statement from the crazy guy at the hotdog stand," said Ray, ticking them off on his fingers. "And I processed them. It took some time. And then I had to explain to the poodle lady why her dog is stained green." He tried to sound pissed, but he could feel a stupid grin spreading across his face.
Vecchio shifted around to look at him. "And you couldn't find five seconds in your busy schedule to let me—"
"What's the matter, Vecchio?" said Ray, putting his gun in the drawer and shrugging out of his shoulder holster. "You miss me?"
Vecchio snorted, and turned back to the TV. "I been waiting."
"I know," said Ray. He sat down next to him, and reached for the remote and muted the stupid golf commentary. Then he leaned over and curled his fingers around Vecchio's tie, and pulled him into a kiss. "I know," he repeated. "Let me make it up to you."