Rating: G
Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski pre-slash
Thanks: Many thanks to sage for beta
Notes: For the First Line challenge on ds_flashfiction. Prompt from llassah's wonderful threesome porn.

Variations on a Scene

by china_shop


"Christ, Kowalski, just—" Detective Garrick's voice rose in exasperation on the other side of the squadroom, and of all the heads swiveling to watch him tower over ASA Kowalski with his flabby chin jutting out, Ray's was by far the fastest.

Of course, that may simply have been because Kowalski was his name, too.

"Just what?" Stella snapped back at Garrick, ignoring their audience of police officers and detainees. "Let you undermine the defense by harassing Mr. Andreano until our case falls apart and he walks? Is that what you want?"

Garrick rolled his eyes. "Give it a fucking rest. So I was gathering evidence outside his house and so maybe he left his back door open—Andreano deserves everything he gets." He looked around the room for support. Fraser was pleased to note that almost all of the division's detectives immediately averted their eyes, most attending to the paperwork on their desks with unprecedented concentration.

Ray, of course, was the exception. He strode across the room before Fraser could stop him, stripped the glasses from his face and tucked them into his breast pocket, and then shoved Garrick against the bulletin board in one violent motion. "Funny guy." He narrowed his eyes. "No one ever teach you how to talk to a lady?"

Stella scowled. "Ray, I can handle this."

"I know you can, Stell," Ray said over his shoulder. "I'm just, you know—" His grip tighten on Garrick's collar, and Garrick tried and failed to break free, cuss words falling freely from his lips. "—promoting a higher standard of civility in the workplace." He turned back to Garrick and craned his head forward until the two of them were nose to nose. "It's this new thing we're trying, where we don't insult people for doing their jobs."

Francesca passed by with an armful of case files. "Yeah, that's a new plan," she said. "I sure haven't gotten a whole lot of respect for my contribution to keeping this station ticking over like a well-oiled—"

"Frannie, you make coffee and carry case files around." Ray glanced at her impatiently. "What's to respect?"

"Shut up, Ray," Stella told him. "You're being a jerk." She slid her briefcase off Garrick's desk and headed for the door, pausing only to say to Garrick, "Give Andreano some breathing space or we'll lose him."

"Stella," Ray called after her as the door swung shut. Fraser took the opportunity to intervene, forcing his hand between the two men and prizing Ray's fingers free of Garrick's clothing.

"Asswipe," said Garrick, his cheeks purple with outrage. "Fucking loser."

"Hey," Ray yelled in his face. "You want to get into something? Because I'm telling you, I can knock your teeth so far back in your head, you'll be eating soup till—"

"Ray," said Fraser, firmly. He murmured a few words of insincere apology to Garrick to dampen his fury and led Ray away, back to his desk, before the incident could flair into something more serious—something that might catch Lieutenant Welsh's attention.

It was disappointing that Ray was still so easily riled by a simple slur cast at his ex-wife, still unable to respect her obvious wishes that he keep his distance. If only he could cast his sights elsewhere—closer to home, perhaps.

"What a dickwad!" he said, looking to Fraser for agreement. "And you—I can't believe you apologized for me."

Fraser rubbed his eyebrow. "Well, you did assault the man, Ray. It was only prudent to—"

"Prudent, schmudent." Ray sidestepped a tweed-jacketed gentleman sitting beside Huey's desk and halted abruptly, seemingly lost in thought. He scratched the back of his neck and cast a sideways glance at Fraser. "Come on, let's blow this joint."

Fraser nodded, aware that after a run-in with Stella, Ray often claimed he needed liquid refreshments. So it took him complete off-balance when instead, as they strode through the main entranceway, Ray detoured to the reception desk and tore a page from the day's newspaper. He waved the newsprint in Fraser's direction. "Want to catch a movie?"

"I—" Fraser hesitated, then succumbed. "All right." He might be a substitute companion, but it was still the best offer he'd had in months.


b.

"Christ, Kowalski, just—"

Ray jerked his head up. Kowalski? Had someone recognized him? It took a few seconds to realize it was only that moron, Garrick, and that he was talking to Stella. Giving her a hard time, from the sound of it. Not that she couldn't give back as good as she got, but it raised Ray's hackles. That farthead was such a jerk he didn't know class when it was glaring him in the face.

Stell started reading him the riot act, her eyes snapping just like the old days, and it looked like no big deal, a molehill of a drama, but Ray sauntered over anyway to see if he could help out. Because Stella might not want Ray anymore, but she was still part of his tribe, his pack. Dief would get it—it was Ray's mission to look out for her.

And then Garrick got smart and Ray got tunnel vision, and the sauntering flew out the window. Ray took off his glasses and tucked them away safely. He didn't need to check—he could feel Fraser following behind, maybe to support Ray or, more likely, to stop him. Either way, it was good to have him warm and solid at Ray's back.

"Give it a fucking rest," sneered Garrick.

Ray had him shoved up against the wall before he knew what'd happened and was growling at him on autopilot. "No one ever teach you how to talk to a lady?"

"Ray, I can handle this." Stella sounded pissed.

Shit. He hadn't meant to— "I know you can," Ray told her, twisting around to catch her eye in silent apology. "I'm just, you know, promoting a higher standard of civility in the workplace."

He half-expected Fraser to jump in with a commendation at that point but nothing doing. The corner of Stella's mouth twitched, though, and Ray winked, a tiny flicker just for her.

He rounded on Garrick, that squirming ratbag, and got right up in his face. "It's this new thing we're trying, where we don't give people shit for doing their jobs."

Garrick flinched his head away, scrunching up some of the Have You Seen This Man? posters on the wall behind him, and Ray followed along, eye to eye.

"Yeah, bro, that's a new plan," said Frannie, jumping in from out of nowhere and throwing Ray off his stride. "I sure as hell haven't gotten a whole lot of thanks for keeping this station running like clockwork—"

Ray jumped headfirst into older brother mode. "Frannie, you make coffee and dump case files on people's desks." He shot her a teasing grin. "What's to respect?"

"Shut up, Ray. You're being a jerk," said Stella, and jeez, he should've seen that coming. Stella had spent half her life fighting for respect for women on one battlefield or another. No question she'd side with Frannie on that one. Ray squashed down a twinge of guilt and made a face at Frannie instead.

"Give Andreano some breathing space or we'll lose him," said Stella crisply from the doorway before he'd even realized she was leaving. The set of her shoulders read mad, mad and madder.

Ray yelled after her but she was already gone, the door swinging in empty air behind her like in a cartoon. And then Fraser was next to him. He grabbed Ray's hand and dragged him free of Garrick's ugly shirt and his dirty mouth, but not before Garrick had sworn in both their faces.

That was not cool. No creepy too-big-for-his-ugly-boots detective was getting away with swearing at Fraser! Fraser was a nice guy—and those were not nice words Garrick was slurring. So what if they weren't aimed at Fraser, exactly. They were aimed near him. Ray klunked Garrick's head against the bulletin board again and yelled a couple of juicy threats in his face, and tried to ignore how his body was focused on Fraser. How he knew exactly where Fraser was standing, the look on his face.

"Ray," Fraser said in his ear, and Ray jumped and stepped back while Fraser said "he didn't mean anything by it" and "we're terribly sorry" and "oh, by the way, let me detail your car this weekend to make it up to you." Well, maybe not that last one. But it stung to have Fraser making nice with the asshole.

Like maybe he thought Ray was the asshole in this scenario. Which, jeez, was maybe one way you could look at it, seeing as how Ray'd shoved the guy and threatened his bridgework. But surely Fraser wouldn't take it like that. Ray let Fraser lead him back toward his desk, glanced at his face trying to read his expression, hoping Fraser understood. "What a dickwad!" he tried, testing the Fraser waters. Lake Fraser. "And you—I can't believe you apologized for me."

There was a second's hesitation while Fraser scratched his eyebrow and Ray's stomach fell into his shoes. "Well, you did assault the man, Ray. It was only prudent to—"

"Prudent, schmudent." Ray flushed. Fraser did think Ray was a jerk. Fraser was making excuses for Garrick, that slimebag, and looked like he was gearing up to give Ray the kind of lecture he usually only gave Dief after a hard night's stealing pastries from the dumpster behind the donut store on Michigan Avenue. Fraser even opened his mouth to start, but Ray figured the best form of defense was a pre-emptive offense. "Come on, Fraser, let's blow this joint."

Fraser's mouth snapped shut and he nodded. He picked up his hat from the top of Ray's filing cabinet and they walked side-by-side out of the station—with a brief detour to the reception desk to steal the movie listings pages from the Tribune. Ray cracked his neck and said as casually as he could, "Want to catch a movie?"

Fraser blinked at him like he'd grown moose antlers, but he said yes, so Ray figured they were good. They were good to go. Maybe Ray had blown his chances for today, but in the end, no question, they were definitely gonna get there.


c.

"Christ, Kowalski, just—"

Frannie dropped the reports from Forensics in Dewey's in-tray and grabbed the case files from his out-tray, and then glanced across the room. Jeez, it was that new guy, Garrick, being a slob again. Gross! ASA Kowalski was standing up to him, though, despite being nearly a foot shorter than him even in those stylish Gucci pumps. Her pearl earrings glowed in the afternoon sun as she bit his neck off.

Maybe Frannie should get some pearl earrings. Maybe they'd catch someone's eye.

Speaking of someone, right on crew, Fraser followed Ray into the fray, like they couldn't stand for there to be a second of limelight without them being in it, and like Fraser was a puppy who couldn't stay more than three steps behind—

Oh no! Ray's lip was curled back like a dog's and his hands were coming up in fists and—

—and Ray might not be Frannie's real brother but even she could read the signs when they were practically in Braille, and when Ray shoved Garrick against the wall (not that that creep didn't deserve it—he always looked down her blouse when she brought his mail!) he shook him so hard Frannie could hear his molders rattling from all the way over here. She knew she had to step in.

Her very first day on the job, Harding had sat her down and explained real solemn and serious how while she was working here she was part of Ray's cover, and how Ray's cover was part of Ray's cover, and that Ray's cover was real important if Frannie didn't want to wake up an orphaned only child, with her Ma crying for the next six years over the memory of her dead brother, God rest his soul. So Frannie always made sure to be as sisterly as she could to Ray, especially when there were other people around.

Most of the time, Fraser kept Ray on trap, but there were times like now—with the squadroom teeming with perps and gang guys and creeps who didn't work here—when Frannie knew that she, better than anyone else, could remind Ray who he was supposed to be.

She grabbed the case files from Huey's and Catalano's desks, and headed over to join in the scene, just as Ray said, "It's this new thing we're trying where we don't dump on people for doing their jobs."

Frannie saw her chance and took it. "Yeah," she groused, "that is a new plan. I sure haven't gotten a lot of respect for keeping this station running like a clockwork mouse—"

Ray glanced at her, looking exactly as annoyed as a brother should with his little sister getting under his feet. "Frannie, you drink coffee and dump case files on people's desks. What's to respect?" He met her eye for a flash and she could tell he understood. Jeez, for half a second there, she could even imagine he really was Ray.

Fraser frowned like he was shocked Ray would be so rude. Yeah, check out the guy who grew up in a family of one! But it was sweet that he'd noticed and was taking her side for a change. ASA Kowalski looked like she wanted to ram some beef down Ray's throat, too, for that matter.

"Stop being a jerk!" ASA Kowalski told Ray.

Frannie looked at Ray again and bit back a conspiratorial grin. Instead, she pointed her chin in the air and flipped Ray the parrot, and then she "stormed out" and left the lot of them to their stupid gag show. She'd played her part.

She took her load of case files down to Records, putting a jaunty sway in her step, stopped off in the supply closet and said a couple of Our Fathers to keep Ray safe, and then figured she could stop in at Marshall Field's on her way to the butcher's to see if maybe they had some pearl earrings she could have them put aside until next payday. She deserved them.


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