Thanks: Many thanks to SD Wolfpup, Sage and mergatrude for beta
Notes: For pixiecatfish in the Fraser/Vecchio ficcathon 2008
Ray unwound his green cashmere scarf as he walked up the immaculate Consulate staircase. He could hear Thatcher's sharp instructions from here, and they only got louder and more brisk as he bunched his hat and scarf in his hand and ran up the last flight of stairs.
Thatcher's office door was ajar, and Ray took in the scene in a second: Thatcher at her stiffest, sitting at her desk wearing a tailored gray suit, with a gold fountain pen in her hand and the Canadian flag displayed in all its glory on the wall behind her. And facing her desk, wearing his brown uniform and looking so bland and passive he might as well be dead, was Fraser.
"The Minister of Culture and Recreation has assured their parents they will have a tightly controlled, limited-fun tourist experience in Chicago, Constable, and your abysmal record with Ms. Nichols notwithstanding, you are the best candidate to—"
There was no time to lose. Ray went in with both guns blazing. "Thank God you're here," he told Fraser, ignoring Thatcher altogether. "We need you at the station."
"What is it, Ray?" Fraser snapped to life, his eyes alert.
"— the under-16 girls' gymnastics team from Calgary are arriving this afternoon and will be under your protection —" Thatcher continued, refusing to acknowledge Ray's presence.
Ray grabbed Fraser's arm and started leading him toward the door. "There's a guy threatening to blow up the United Center."
Thatcher's voice cut through Ray's haste. "I hardly see how that's any of our concern, detective."
Ray turned on her and pointed indignantly. "It's your concern because the bomber's a Canadian! I'll make a deal with you — you control your citizens, I won't requisition your Mounties. How does that sound?"
He hauled Fraser through the outer office before she could answer, and slapped his hand on the reception desk. "Yo, Dief. We're out of here."
Dief crawled out, yawned and shook himself, then bounded down the stairs with Ray and Fraser close behind. Fraser reached into the doorway of his downstairs office as they went past and collected his hat.
In the car, Fraser turned to Ray. "What do we know?"
Ray glanced at him and pulled out into the traffic. "About what?" In his peripheral vision, he could see Fraser's eyebrows climbing his forehead, but Ray refused to look. They were still too close to the Consulate — the elastic band of duty might prove too strong and force Fraser to leap from the car and run back to play punching bag for the Dragon Lady.
Ray turned onto the expressway and relaxed. Home free.
"Ray?" Fraser was still waiting for an answer.
Twelve years of Catholic school had taught Ray that a quick confession was better than a guilty conscience, especially once the deal was done, and that humor was more effective at deflecting blame than contrition. He winked at Fraser. "Listen, I called to see if you were free for lunch and Turnbull answered, and he told me about the hormone-laden teen gymnasts, so I thought it was time for a rescue mission and, what do you know—"
Fraser put his hand on Ray's knee, and they swerved out of their lane. A truck blasted its horn in Ray's ear, and Fraser grabbed the steering wheel and guided them back again. "Thank you, Ray."
Ray batted Fraser's hands off the wheel and shot him a stunned look. "You're not mad?"
"Not at all." Fraser lowered his gaze for a moment, apparently conducting a quick audit of his soul, and then gave Ray his warmest smile, tinged with mischief. "Just grateful, it seems. Frankly, the prospect of providing escort to a dozen young women away from home for the first time is more than a little daunting."
"Grateful, huh?" Ray leered. "I might have to take advantage of that." He headed off the expressway and turned toward Racine, adding, "Lunch break. I don't have to be back at work till one."
Dief snapped at the air in the backseat, and then sneezed.
Fraser turned and eyed him. "I can't imagine why you find this amusing."
"You know the wolf," said Ray, grinning. "A dozen teenage girls is his idea of heaven." He reached across the car and ran his finger around the back of Fraser's collar, where his skin was warm and a little sweaty. "Missed you, Benny."
"It's been less than twenty-four hours." The corner of Fraser's mouth curved up.
"So I'm a sap." Ray pulled into a parking space right outside Fraser's building. "So sue me."
Their lunch break didn't involve any kind of food, and afterward Ray had to leave in a hurry. He knew Fraser would probably go back to the Consulate to help Constable Lange with the gymnasts, but they never talked about it, and at least Fraser had let Ray give him a chance at escape — not to mention a damned good orgasm.
Ray's left shoe was squeaking. He carried his coffee from the lunchroom to the squadroom, and the whole way it went eeeek, eeek, eeeek, driving him crazy.
"Ray?" Elaine looked up in the middle of a phone call, the handset still cradled between her shoulder and her ear.
"New shoes," he explained. "I'm breaking them in."
She raised her eyebrows at him. "There's a florist on the phone."
"I don't want roses, Elaine, I want the forensics report on Loxi Montgomery." Ray sat down at his desk, slurped his too-hot coffee and hung his head over the Zebulon case file. "And shoes that don't squeak."
Elaine put the call on hold, came over and leaned her hip against his desk. "She's making a complaint about a wolf."
Ray sat up and looked at her, standing there holding the power of life and Dief over him. "Put him through."
She smiled and twirled her pen around her thumb. "That's what I thought."
* * *
The flower shop was dim, and smelled of fertilizer and sickly orchids. There were rows of cheap buckets outside, crammed with wilting gladioli, yellow chrysanthemums and drooping irises. The bell over the door jingled when Ray pushed inside, and he squeaked his way across the worn linoleum.
A smiling, middle-aged woman with John Lennon glasses came out of the back, her arms full of posies. "Can I help you?" She heaped the flowers on the counter and tilted her head at him.
Ray put on his best serve-and-protect smile and showed his badge. "Detective Ray Vecchio. Are you Suzy Perkins?"
"We talked on the phone." Ray clipped his badge back on his belt, and let his smile melt into sympathetic sincerity. "You got a problem with a wolf?"
"Yes, Detective!" She dried her hands on her green apron and nodded vigorously. "It's been hanging around my store, terrifying my customers. I feel like the three little pigs — any moment he's going to blow and blow and blow my store down!"
Ray leaned his hands on the counter, mirroring her body language. "His name's Diefenbaker. He's a nuisance, but he's completely harmless. And he's the mascot of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Unfortunately that means he has diplomatic immunity."
The florist frowned. "I don't even like dogs, but a wolf? Just roaming the streets? There must be something you can do?"
"Nothing," Ray told her. "He has the full protection of the State of Illinois."
"Oh, fudge." She took off her glasses and wiped them on her apron. Without them she looked older, and nervous like some of his Ma's elderly friends from church.
"Okay, here's what I'll do," Ray kept his voice calm. "I'll talk to Canada, see if they can get him to keep his distance, all right? You have any more trouble with him, you call me personally, Detective Raymond Vecchio, at this number." He gave her his card. "I'll do what I can, ma'am."
Her face softened into relief. "Thank you, Detective."
"In the meantime—" Ray looked around the shop and picked the largest, most garish and overpriced bunch of flowers he could see. "—these are just what I'm looking for."
"The delphiniums are gorgeous, aren't they?" She rang up the sale, and Ray left her a ridiculous tip.
The cellophane around the bouquet crackled in Ray's hand. "Remember, if the wolf bothers you in any way, you call me."
* * *
Ray picked Fraser and Dief up after work. "Benny," he said, as soon as the car was in motion, "tell the wolf to stay away from the florist on Loomis Street. There's only so many delphiniums I can give Ma before she'll think something's wrong."
Fraser raised his eyebrows for a second, translating that, then twisted around and gave Dief a pointed look. "What have you been up to?"
Dief snapped at the air.
Fraser frowned. "You're well aware the United States' Constitution doesn't extend to wolves. Especially not Canadian ones."
Dief grumbled, and then flopped onto the seat and laid his head on his paws.
"It's the law, as you well know," Fraser told him. "If you can't keep yourself from irritating the good people of Chicago, I'll have to repair the catch on the kitchen window."
Dief snorted, and Fraser faced forward again and looked across the car. His smile was strained. "Dief says thank you kindly, Ray."
Ray patted his shoulder. Keeping a wild animal in an apartment block was no easy matter, even when the animal was Dief.
"Fraser!" Ray vaulted the brick wall of the Circle Garden, charged down a sloping bed of egg-yolk yellow daffodils, and knocked Fraser sideways so they went tumbling to the lawn in a tangle of limbs, just as the javelin landed with a sickening wet thump, jolting through both of them.
Ray braced himself for pain but it never arrived. Just an ache on his hip that would turn into a bruise. Then Fraser grunted, and Ray yanked his gun hand free and leaned over Fraser to aim for Wertheimer. Out of the corner of his eye, Ray could see blood glistening scarlet in the sunlight, and his heart was thumping hard enough to bruise a rib, but Fraser was still breathing and there was no way Ray was letting the spear-throwing asshole out of his sight until he had him cuffed and Miranda-ed. The arrest was going to be airtight, signed, sealed, delivered.
Fraser still had the thing in his leg when the EMTs arrived at the Botanical Gardens five minutes later. He was on his side, the javelin sticking out on the ground next to him. It wasn't a full-sized one like in the Olympics, but it was at least four feet long — big enough to do serious damage. Fraser's lips were pale and he was breathing shallowly. Ray gripped his hand, and kept telling himself it could've been worse. It would have been worse if Ray hadn't made the move. He kept picturing Fraser with that very same spear protruding from his chest or his neck, tearing a gruesome hole and bleeding like a geyser. And okay, maybe Ray hadn't been fast enough to push Fraser far enough, but at least Wertheimer had only got his leg. His bad leg.
"I'm sorry, Benny," he said. "I should've shot the bastard before he even took aim. I could've mown him down and you'd be in one piece instead of—" He choked, and pushed his wadded-up charcoal linen jacket harder against the wound, making Fraser gasp.
"That's just silly, Ray," he said, hoarsely. "Mr. Wertheimer wasn't aiming for either of us — he was trying to hit the explosive device in the fountain. You know that since he's blind in one eye, he has very poor depth perception and is a terrible shot."
"Shut up." Ray cupped Fraser's cheek, forcing him to meet Ray's eye and see that this was serious. He accidentally smeared his jaw with blood in the process. "You could have died. Do you have any idea what that would do to me?" He blinked hard until his vision cleared.
"I know." Fraser's voice softened through the pain. "I'm fine. I'm okay." His hand found Ray's forearm and gripped it. "I'm here."
"You were extremely lucky, Constable." Dr. Helms at the hospital eyed Fraser over the top of her half-moon glasses. "A few inches to the right and your femur would have shattered."
Ray met Fraser's eye, a wordless exchange of irony, relief and gratitude. God, I love you, thought Ray. And then, God help me.
"I am feeling particularly lucky right now," said Fraser, as if he could hear what Ray was thinking.
Welsh turned up half an hour later with Fraser's Stetson, dirty and bloodied and squashed completely inside out, with sand embedded in the felt. "I don't know if even you can fix it," he said to Fraser. "I don't think hats are supposed to do this." He rested his hand on the metal bar at the foot of the bed. "We're all glad to hear you're going to be okay, Constable. Be sure to notify me if there's anything the CPD can do."
"Thank you, sir," said Fraser tiredly. "If someone could take care of Dief."
"Frannie's already on it." Ray took the hat from Welsh and rescued the folded pink bills and the Consulate key from its inner hatband. Then he curled it up and threw it in the trash, regardless of Welsh's quick gaze. "I'll get you another one." I'll get you a dozen.
"You know they have to be requisitioned from RCMP stores, Ray." The crinkles around Fraser's eyes deepened when Ray pointed a warning finger at him.
Dr. Helms kept Fraser overnight and Ray stayed, propped in the visitor's chair with one of Fraser's spare pillows and an itchy hospital blanket tucked around him. He was woken around two-thirty by Fraser moaning in his sleep, doped up on painkillers but still restless. Ray got up and brushed the hair off Fraser's forehead, and perched on the side of the bed, careful not to disturb him.
Fraser's hand twitched on the starched cotton sheet, and Ray covered it with his own.
He was discharged the next day, and Ray drove him home, with Fraser's prescription rattling in Ray's coat pocket. They stopped by Octavia Avenue to pick up a fretful Dief, and then Ray drove them all to Racine and helped Fraser make his way slowly up the stairs with his crutches, saying "Take it easy" every second step as Fraser pushed himself too hard, too fast, trying to keep up with Dief. "Are you trying to do yourself permanent damage? Jesus, do you want an honorable discharge so you can join Jerome and his cronies out on the street, is that it? You want to be a desk jockey? No? Well, slow the hell down then!"
Fraser face was gray by the time they made it to his floor, and his knee nearly buckled on the top step. Ray caught him. "Hey. I've got you. You need me to carry you?"
"I'm fine," said Fraser.
"Right," said Ray, "and I'm the leaning Tower of Pisa. Are you going to rest or do I have to throw you over my shoulder and distract you with The Mamas and the Papas again?"
Fraser leaned against the wall and caught his breath. He touched Ray's arm. "You're being extraordinarily patient with me, Ray, and I greatly appreciate it."
"Shut up," said Ray. "This is what I do. Being patient with the Mountie. It's my hobby. Besides, if I'd been quicker, if I'd done something different, you wouldn't be—" A lump rose in his throat, stopping him from finishing the thought. "I'm just glad you're going to be okay."
The color was coming back to Fraser's cheeks, and Ray figured it was time to get him lying down again. "Come on. Fifteen more feet and I can get you on your back. And then you get to choose — prescription meds or natural endorphins." He winked, and Fraser responded with a smile that was half grimace.
One of the doors opened. "Hello, Ms. Krezjapolov," said Fraser, reaching up to tip his hat, before realizing he wasn't wearing one.
"Constable," she said stiffly, pulling her housecoat tighter around her buxom frame. Her dyed black hair was in rollers. "Are you okay?"
"He'll be fine," said Ray, moving Fraser along. "He just needs some rest."
"If there's anything I can do to help," said Ms. Krezjapolov, as they finally made it to Fraser's door.
"Maybe later," said Ray.
"Thank you kindly," Fraser added, and they staggered inside together.
Ray caught Fraser before he could fall over, and guided him to the bed. "I do not want to have to pick you up off the floor. Here, here's a nice bed just waiting for you."
Fraser collapsed down on it, wincing. "I'm not sure I'll be up for anything romantic, I'm afraid. Would you mind feeding Dief before you go? I don't think I can manage it, though of course I'll be all right in general."
Ray blinked, then stood up straight, put his hands on his hips and glared down at him. "Before I go?"
"Well, yes, Ray. Your family—" Fraser licked his lip and tried to straighten his leg on the bed. "And as I said—"
Ray arranged him gently but firmly, and then leaned over him, with one hand on the headboard and one on the pillow by Fraser's bed. "I'm not going anywhere. Are you crazy? Wait, why am I even asking that? Of course you're crazy. But—" He shook his head and sat down suddenly on the few inches of bed next to Fraser's waist. "Don't you know? This is what love is, you dumbass. I take care of you."
Fraser's eyes clouded, and Ray snorted and went to get him a glass of water and his pills, and then bullied him into taking the recommended dose.
Ray put the glass on the nightstand, went back to the kitchen and filled Dief's bowl with kibble, and came to sit on the edge of the bed again. "Benny, you have a double standard the size of Canada. You take responsibility for the cares and woes of every lost soul you trip over on the sidewalk between here and Timbuktu, but God forbid anyone should want to take responsibility for you, no matter how much they care about you." He poked Fraser in the chest with his finger. "Well, you know what? Screw that. I'm your boyfriend, I got the right to look after you. Someone's got to stay here in this dump of an apartment with you and make sure you can get to the can in the middle of the night, and cook you breakfast, and take the wolf out and do all those little things. And you know what? That someone is me. If you don't like it, that's just tough, because you're on twenty-four-hour bed-rest, so there isn't a damned thing you can do to get rid of me."
"Ray." Fraser's eyes had closed, and Ray didn't know if it was the painkillers kicking in or a reaction to his outburst.
Ray bent down and kissed him, venting the last of his frustration in passion, and then pulled up a bit and hovered over him, back in control of himself. "Yeah?"
Fraser opened his eyes. "I'm not completely helpless, you know, despite my current incapacity." Ray tensed, all set to go another round if he had to, but Fraser pulled him down to lie next to him on the narrow bed, and added softly, "But they do say breakfast is the most important meal of the day."
Ray curled his arm around Fraser's waist and held him. "That's right." He felt a sudden wave of tiredness as the tension and worry of the last day caught up with him. "They say that. You'll want eggs."
"I prefer oatmeal." Fraser sounded half asleep, too. His heartbeat thudded steadily beneath Ray's arm.
"I'm not making oatmeal," murmured Ray into the hair behind Fraser's ear. "You need protein — anyone knows that."
"All right, then." Fraser smiled against Ray's cheek. "Eggs. Thanks, Ray."
"Shut up, Benny." Ray kicked off his shoes and let them thump to the floor.
Dief woofed from the corner by the radiator, and Ray waved a casual hand in his direction. "Gimme a few minutes." The window was half open anyway. Dief could take himself out if he had to. Ray shut his eyes, let out a deep, heartfelt sigh, and listened to Fraser's regular breathing until they were both asleep.