Notes: For Mal
It was Ray's thirty-fifth birthday, and if there was one thing he was determined to do to celebrate, it was to hit on Fraser.
No, wait. Scratch that.
If there was one thing he was three hundred percent determined to do, it was to hit on Fraser so that Fraser noticed. That might sound stupid, but it was nowhere near as easy as it sounded. Ray had spun Fraser lines twice already. The first time, by the time Ray got the words out, Fraser was standing in the middle of the street holding up traffic so that a bunch of school kids could safely cross the road. The second time, he was climbing a crane to see which way a pickpocket had run.
So Ray knew what he needed to do to make it get through this time. He needed to grab Fraser by his uniform string and hang on!
Still, it was kinda scary thinking about it, so mostly Ray shoved it to the back of his head and off to the side, along with his mental shopping list and the fact that he had to change the oil in the GTO soon and make a dentist appointment.
It was only because it was his birthday that he took extra care with his hair and wore his lucky t-shirt.
* * *
Ray poked his head around the door and peered into the dark warehouse. It smelled of stale tacos and gunpowder. Somewhere in there, Wickett was using one of Ray's snitches, Corduroy Rhodes, as a pawn in a hostage situation, and if Ray and Fraser didn't go Check and Mate pretty soon, Cord was going to wind up in the lake with a 35mm hole in his skull.
Ray jerked his head so Fraser would follow, and they snuck around back and picked off the inevitable goons, one by one, until one of them squealed, and then Ray dove behind a crate of Genuine Mexican Taco Shells Made in Milwaukee and started shooting.
Wickett and his guys opened fire too, and then bullets were pinging off every surface and the reports echoed deafeningly around the bare wooden walls and the concrete floor.
Meanwhile Dief had slunk behind some boxes and made his way over to Cord, who was tied to a chair and trying to duck to safety despite not having any cover. Dief jumped up and knocked the chair over so Cord was on the ground in relative safety. One of the chair legs had broken, but from what Ray could glimpse, Cord was panicking too much to free himself.
Fraser disappeared for a couple of rounds and then crawled back with a brick of cocaine in one hand. He handed Ray his glasses and Ray put them on and shot the guns out of the remaining goons' hands, bam, bam, bam, and then hit Wickett in the arm.
Fraser clapped Ray on the shoulder — "Good work." — and they went to cuff the bad guys and free the snitch.
"Been hanging out with the wrong crowd, Cord? " Ray gave up on the knots and borrowed Fraser's knife to cut through the ropes instead. "You okay?"
"I'm hungry like the wolf," growled Cord scratching fiercely at his grizzled old beard. "Who do you think you are?"
"Who do you think I am?" Ray got in his face and shook him a little. "You know me, right?"
A sly look crossed Cord's face. "Watching the detectives. Sin of the city."
Fraser raised his eyebrows and Ray pulled him aside. "He, uh, got whacked on the head with a lawn trimmer a couple of years back and his brains got scrambled. Now he only speaks in Duran Duran song titles."
"I see," said Fraser, sounding baffled, like he wasn't full of anecdotes about weird-ass freaks from the Great Far North. Chicago had its share of nutcases — of which Ray may or may not have been one — and Fraser should be used to that by now.
"Yeah, it sucks but he gets by. You get used to it." Ray dug in his pocket, found a candy bar and handed it to Cord, who broke it in half and gave one piece to Dief.
"So what happened?" asked Ray.
"Lake Shore driving," said Cord. "All along the water."
"Okay." Ray nodded. "Was it one of these guys who grabbed you?"
Cord shook his head. "Friends of mine. So misled."
"Ambush?" said Fraser.
Ray nodded. "Anything else you can tell us?"
"The chauffeur," said Cord. "Shotgun."
Fraser was watching him closely, like he was fascinated by this nifty new code and trying to crack it. "Did you see it coming?"
Cord nodded bitterly.
"Why didn't you call me, then? Or call 911?" demanded Ray.
"911 is a joke," growled Cord, shrugging off Fraser's helping hands and stomping to the door. "I'm looking for cracks in the pavement."
"You're a head case is what you are," Ray shouted after him. "If you don't call me, I can't protect you."
"Save a prayer," said Cord, and by the time they got to the door, he'd disappeared.
"Shit," said Ray, leaning against the warm brick wall of the warehouse and squinting into the sun. Behind him, Wickett and his goons were swearing at each other, and in the distance there was the reassuring wail of sirens getting closer.
Fraser appeared at Ray's elbow and Ray figured it was time. No pickpocketers, no one shooting at them. The perfect window of opportunity. He grabbed Fraser by the lanyard, only the string wasn't there 'cause Ray had run out of cuffs, so he tried again and got Fraser's sleeve in a firm grip. "Hey," he said. "I wanna take you higher."
Fraser blinked at him in confusion. "Ray?"
"Read my lips," said Ray. "Shit. That Duran thing is contagious. What I meant was—"
"It's your birthday," blurted Fraser like he'd been sitting on that all morning.
"Yeah, I know." Ray sighed and hauled Fraser properly outside where the perps couldn't see them. "So what I'm thinking is — you want to help me celebrate?"
"I'd be honored," said Fraser gravely. "But are you sure you wouldn't rather spend the time with your ex—?"
"Yeah," said Ray, quietly. "I got a new religion."
Fraser's gaze sharpened and maybe that was enough, right there. Fraser was sharp as a skewer when he wanted to be, and when his gaze shifted to Ray's mouth, his tongue slid along his bottom lip leaving it glossy and irresistible. Ray wondered how he could have been so blind, how he could have missed that kind of reaction from Fraser until now, but there'd be time to figure that out later. "Happy birthday to me," he said now and leaned in slowly, inch by inch, and kissed Fraser. Just kissed him.
Fraser caught his arm and held him there, didn't push him away, and Ray's blood felt like the sky on the fourth of July.
It was over quick 'cause the sirens were getting close.
"Still breathing?" asked Fraser softly.
Ray nodded, his face hot, his body primed and hungry. Fraser right in front of him looking dazed and hopeful, kisser and kissee both. "It's a perfect day," said Ray. "Come on, let's go get Dief and track down Cord and clean up this town. This—" He poked Fraser in the chest and then had to force himself to move back, away from temptation. "This can wait." He met Fraser's gaze. "Right?"
The tips of Fraser's ears were pink. "Right you are."
Ray manfully swallowed the references to Union of the Snake that were trying to work their way onto his tongue, and they strode off, perfectly in step, into the ordinary world.