Notes: For eledhwenlin
Frannie was replacing the stack of Styrofoam cups by the water cooler when Kowalski came over. "Hey, Frannie."
She glanced around, but there was no red uniform in sight. "What do you want?"
"Nothing. I just—" He looked around furtively and beckoned her down the hall, and then dragged her into the supply closet, and shut the door.
Frannie pulled on the light cord straightaway, because this was Kowalski and she didn't want him pulling something where she couldn't keep an eye on him. "What?" she said. "I've got work to do, you know."
"I know." Kowalski leaned back on the toilet paper shelf and folded his arms. "I just wanted to—Do you, uh, do you miss your brother?"
Her heart started thumping, so she pressed her hand on her chest to stop it from breaking a rib. "What are you saying? Is something wrong?"
He winced, and made those irritating shushing gestures like she was a baby. "No, no, no! Everything's fine. Relax!"
"Christ, Ray," she said, a bit quieter. "You nearly gave me a nervous breakdown."
"Sorry." Kowalski ducked his head for a second, then looked at her but didn't look her in the eye. "Just—do you miss him? Do you miss having him around?"
"Of course I miss him," she told him, even though most of the time she didn't really think about it. "He's my brother."
"Well, yeah, but I mean, I dunno. I'm an only child." He shrugged. "I don't know what it's like. It must be kind of nice not having bad guys setting fire to your house all the time."
Frannie squinted at him suspiciously. "That happened after he left."
"Still—life with a cop." Kowalski shook his head. "It drove Stella crazy."
"Are you sure that wasn't life with you?" Frannie asked tartly.
Kowalski looked away. "Hey, I'm no picnic but I'm not the biggest freak in the fruit basket."
"What's your point, bro?" It was nearly lunchtime. Frannie could feel her tummy growling, but she felt a little guilty for the crack about Stella, so she didn't just walk out on him like she wanted to.
"I'm just saying," Kowalski said. "You ever really think what it'd be like to live with Fraser? To really live with him?" She opened her mouth to argue but he held up his hands and talked right over her. "I'm not just talking the five a.m. wake-up calls and the lack of any motorized transport—"
"Hey, he could—"
"—or the uniform, 'cause somebody's gotta keep that baby spick and span. You like the smell of Neats' Foot Oil? Me neither." Kowalski shoved his hands in his pockets. "But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about everywhere you go, people are shoving guns in your face, or his face, or he's making you jump off buildings and chase crazyass perps pumped full of crystal. You can't even go to a movie without him getting distracted by some petty thief. I mean, you know Fraser. It's not like he ever goes off duty."
"Yeah," said Frannie slowly. She bit her lip.
"Not that I'm saying it doesn't—uh, it wouldn't have its compensations, because I'm not saying that. But you gotta see the big picture, Frannie. You can't just hang your hat on a pretty face. Believe me, I done that. You gotta think it through, decide: is this what's right for me? And, you know, a Mountie? That's worse'n a cop. That's a dangerous proposition." Kowalski could talk the hind leg off a chicken, but he finally stopped.
"Hey, my brother's a cop," said Frannie, tilting her chin up and feeling tough. "I can handle myself."
"Oh, I have no doubt," said Kowalski, nodding seriously. "But think about this: do you want to have to handle yourself every day for the rest of your natural born life?"
Frannie scowled. "What's it to you, Ray?"
"To me?" Kowalski pursed his lips. "Nothing. Just thinking out loud. Just thinking out loud. I gotta go—I gotta go meet someone. See you later, Frannie." And with that, he slipped out the door like an eel, leaving her alone with the stationery and the old coffee machine from the break room.
Frannie slowly let her breath out and stared blindly at the shelves of legal pads and ballpoint pens, thinking about what he'd said. She could hear his whistling getting fainter and fainter as he walked away.