Ray Saved From Drowning
by Denise Raymond
(with apologies to Rene Fauchois)

Standard disclaimer - All Mounties and Chicago cops mentioned belong to Alliance, I claim nothing but a twisted head. Story is rated R for language, sorry, no sex yet. Fraser/Kowalski a little angsty but nothing you can't handle. Thanks to Audra and Chris, who beta't me once more. Advice, concerns, comments, and kicks in the head may be sent to rattlecatcher@yahoo.com.

1 – Diving in

I'm watching "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" last night, because I'm a Nick Nolte fan from way back, and I'm thinking, my life may suck, but at least I don't have to be grateful to some do-gooding asshole, you know?

Less than a week ago, I signed the papers giving Stella her freedom. I'm not free, but she is, and I've got this obsession with making her happy. I'm miserable, but at least my Stella's got what she wants. Good time to get a call for an undercover job. So, here's something new, something edgy, something… just some more fucking weirdness, when you get down to it. I'm undercover as a cop in a precinct where everyone knows who I'm pretending to be.

"Vecchio's deep undercover with the feds," the lieutenant says, sliding the file over to me. The picture on the front looks as much like me as the nun who taught me algebra in tenth grade. "They think if someone notices we're short one Italian, it's gonna be bad news."

He looks at me and I'm betting we're thinking the same thing.

"So… Kowalski's a northern Italian name, is that it?" I ask. Welsh snorts. He's a good guy. "Sir, no disrespect to you, but this is bogus."

"That's an accurate description of the situation, Detective. But there appears to be a dearth of qualified applicants in the CPD, and I won't put a fed in here. At least not any of the ones I've seen around," he says. He's right. The Chicago field office for the FBI seems to be where they put the lulus. Like they can't stir up too much shit in the middle of the goddamned country or something.

"So, I'm just going to sit at a desk and say 'Vecchio' when I pick up the phone?"

"That, and hang out with the Mountie," Welsh says. The phone rings and he puts his hand out to shut me up while he answers.

The Mountie?

I look through the file. A few reprimands, a contempt charge, some citations. A year older than me. Just made first grade three months ago. Which means the thrill wore off two months, three weeks and five days ago, if it lasted that long. And something from the Consulat de Cana -- oh, wait, it's in English, too.

Now, why would a Chicago cop need to know the hours the Canadian Consulate is open? And who are the people in the polaroids? I've already seen the pictures of the Vecchio clan. (I swear, they find the blindest guy they can to take these pictures, then hand 'em to the undercover guy and mutter, "Here's your new family. Get the names right or someone's gonna get suspicious and then you'll be dead.")

I turn the snapshot over. No names. Great. But it's with the Canada stuff.

"Any questions?"

I hold up the scratch paper with the maple leaf on the top.

"This have anything to do with the Mountie?" I ask.

"It's unofficial," he says. "It's also the only thing that's gonna make you not stand out when people call you Vecchio."

The people in the photo are Thatcher, who's a babe, if my eyes are good, and Turnbull, a Mountie, but not the right Mountie. Thatcher's a Mountie, too. But again, not the right Mountie.

Here's the FBI's ace in the hole for making people think Vecchio's still at the the 2-7: stand me next to a guy in a red suit, and no one will ever even look at me. Right. And not just any red suit, oh no. No street-corner Santa. Nope. No one else but Dudley Fucking Do-Right. Ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars at work.

Seems Vecchio and Benton Fraser (Oh, I've got enough already, I don't need to go near that one) work together a lot. No one knows why. Welsh can't even explain it, and he's in charge around here. But they get the job done, and that seems good enough. They spend a lot of time together. Hmm. I raise an eyebrow and Welsh shakes his head.

"Not to my knowledge. Though frankly, Detective, it would have made more sense if they were, you know?"

"Not really, sir, but I'll take your word—"

"That's enough," he growls, and I'm done for the day. Just gotta find an empty room and start studying Vecchio's case files. Fraser comes back from vacation in two days. Welsh is gonna clue him in, and then I'm on the clock, twenty-four-seven.

2 – Drowning

Holy Christ with lemon and garlic.

That's all I can think when I see him.

Yep, that's a red suit, all right. Can't get any redder than that without covering it with catsup. I'm taking my first official look at the Mountie.

Holy Christ.

They didn't give me any pictures of him. I don't know why. But then again, who needed one? You think the RCMP sends troops into Chicago? What other Mountie is gonna be coming into the 27th Precinct?

Down, Ray.

Relax, Kowalski, all you have to do now is be Vecchio for a little while. Answer his phone, hang out with the guy in the suit and the big hat. Be a part of his life. Not too hard, especially since Stella took most of your life already.

I'm divorced. Stella's gone. I'm hurting. This is nothing but a rebound reaction. This is just the same reaction I've had to everyone in a skirt; it's just human nature to want to hump someone when you're lonely.

OK, so usually the men's room has been a kind of Switzerland, sure, I mean, it's not like I want to fuck every guy I see. Any guy I see. Any guy on the planet.

Until this very moment.

Until I turn around and clap eyes on Constable Benton Fraser. Suddenly, I'm getting images of a very different sort than my usual set of dirty pictures that hold an hourly slide show in my head.

I know lots of guys with dark hair and blue eyes. Well, a few. Not one of them turns my crank. Oh, fuck. I think I'm gonna need a new way to say that. Anyway, I'm a big-time "Twin Peaks" fan, too, but it's not like Special Agent Dale Cooper got me feeling good. And I never once watched hockey and thought, mmmyeah, want me some of that Canadian. So why this guy?


I think I cover it OK. It gets easier as the day goes on. My thoughts of making this guy go cuckoo for cocoa-puffs go away as he feeds me putty sandwiches and gets ink all over my hand.

The man's a freak. But it turns out Welsh hasn't said word one to the guy, and you know, it really hasn't been Fraser's day either, what with the arson, and Vecchio being gone, and Jesus Christ he was just about feeling me up in the car.

Slide show… and I'm back. I still want someone to call out my name as we sweat up the sheets, but I seem to have my feelings under control. I only want any breathing female over the age of consent. Or the Mountie.


Yeah, that'd be good.

Damn it.

OK, take it easy. First thing I gotta do, is go through Vecchio's notes again. Go through his personal stuff, too. Don't want to ask Fraser. Not yet. Way too scary. But I need to know if there is any chance the Mountie would ever sleep with a guy.

I figure it's like an itch. Don't know where it came from, don't know what it means. But one good scratch, one good fuck, wham-bam-thank-you-kindly-sir, and that should do it.

I hope. I mean, he's a good guy. Decent. Hell, he thought I was gonna take a bullet for him. Hell, no, I'd just read the files. Standing next to someone dressed like a stop sign greatly increases your risk of lead poisoning. But still, he was scared for me. For me. He just about snapped Greta Garbo's head off with that noose thing he wears.

By the way, was Kevorkian a Mountie and I never heard about it? You can kill yourself at least seven different ways just from the uniform.

The Mountie's invited me out for dinner.

I know me. If he were a she, I'd be measuring his/her hand for ring sizes.

I like women. I'm straight, most of the time. He'd be a one-time thing, I'm pretty sure of it. No. I'm very sure of it. Yeah.


3 – Rescued

The last thing I can see is how clear everything looks under water, even though it's dark. And then it gets darker. I am going to die on a ship that son of a bitch had to convince me to get on in the first place.

My last thoughts are about how pissed off I am at Fraser, and how pissed off I am that I never fucked him.

My first thoughts are about his tongue. Stands to reason, right? I mean, you're dying, and then, without warning, there's a second tongue in your mouth, you're gonna notice the sudden change. And I can breathe! Well, not really, we're still under water. But I've got enough air to get to the next opening.

He says it's buddy breathing. Standard procedure. And it doesn't change anything between us. Oh, he's quick to reassure me on that point. If we weren't still in deep shit, I'd say, "Doesn't change anything? So, you've still got the god of logic up your ass?"

But I'm above that kind of behavior. And we are still in deep shit. And after everything else, if I can't get that quick fuck I'm still itching for, he's still my buddy, right?

Buddy breathing. They actually call it that? And mean it? With tongue?

He's got wide fingers. I remember how they feel, cupping my face. And he kisses good, even if he says it's buddy breathing. I'm his buddy, aren't I?

Besides, I'm not interesting in being naked with half the population any more. I'm getting fairly selective. Some women look good, some don't. Like it's supposed to be.

One Mountie looks good, absolutely every other Mountie does not.

So what do I do now?

Just keep breathing, Ray. You're still not out of the water.

4 – Safe and on dry land

We're good now. Buddies again. No one's transferring anywhere and we're a duet again. The spark is back, we're a team. Set'em up, knock'em down, Ray and Fraser are back in town.

So, we're good, right? We're OK. It's a long drive back to Chicago. He falls asleep, which is kind of cool, lets me know he feels safe. It also lets me drive in peace without getting bitched at for creative driving.

A Mountie sleeping in broad daylight. Is that allowed? He mumbles sometimes. Usually about Dief, but he sometimes he argues with his dad. Even asleep, he's got one of those growly voices that can give me a hard-on long distance.

You know, this car doesn't have a spacious back seat, but it's not like we couldn't fit–

"Ray! That truck!"

Damn it! "I thought you were asleep!"

"And I thought you were driving!" he snaps back. That just about does it for me.

I pull the car off the highway. Some open pasture land, some trees. My mom would love it, I know. But I really don't care.

"Get out," I say, and start walking towards the trees. He's good with orders. Of course, once we're there, officially in the woods, he just stands there looking at me, waiting and not giving anything away.

I need to pace. Getting really tired of his patience.

"I need to know what's going on here," I finally say, running my fingers through my hair. God, I want my own shower, I got good water pressure and great soap and this mint shampoo –

"In terms of what, Ray?"

"You. Me. Us. This. Whatever is going on between us."

"I thought we'd resolved the differences in our styles," he says, and I shake my head.

"I'm not talking style, Fraser. I'm talking us."

He's silent again. Shakes his head.

"No, damn it. We're gonna talk. I can't do this anymore," I say, "it's just too weird."

He still doesn't say a damn thing.

"You kissed me."

"That was buddy breathing, Ray, I explained –"

"It may have been buddy breathing, but it wasn't buddies, Fraser!" I'm kind of proud of that one, I have to admit.

"Would you prefer that I let you drown next time?" he asks, and there's that same irritation he was trying to pull in the car. Now, I got about ten percent of my usual patience at this point, and it is not gonna hold. I grab his shoulders and push him back into a tree.

"I would prefer that you admit that you kissed me," I say, six inches from his mouth, and when I drag my eyes up from his lips, I see that he's kind of zeroed in my mouth, too. "I would prefer that you admit we got some tension."

He swallows and licks his lips. I begin my final approach when he asks a question.

"And that's all we have between us, is it, Ray? Tension?"

"Of course not. We're buddies. Right?"

"This is not standard behavior for bud—"

"Every buddy is different, Fraser. And I think we'll work better without the tension."

"And I ask you again, is that all this is? Tension?" he asks.

"You got another word?" I ask back. I am so needing this. I'm close enough to smell him, and it's obvious he didn't like the shower on the boat, either. Ship. Whatever. He smells like himself, but more intense. It's good. He's good. He smells good, that's what I'm trying to say.

And that's a new turn-on, how he smells. Not gonna argue about it. Guys don't argue about turn-ons.

"Yes," he says. "Love."

And there's the turn-off. I let go, I back up, I shake my head.

"Not on that page, Fraser. Not even in that book."

"I think this is about love, Ray."

"Christ! Are you listening? Have you been around the past few days? This isn't love,
OK? It's – it's –"

"About desire."

"Yeah!" Oh, that was a close one. I'm feeling better.

"It's about desiring someone you trust. "

"Sure. I trust you, Fraser, you know that. Someday it's gonna kill me, I know it, but I'm always gonna trust you."

"It's about desiring someone you're good friends with, right, Ray? Buddies?" he asks. I nod like it's the newest dance.

"Yep. We're buddies, we trust each other, and we got desire going, right?"

"Yes," he says, nodding, and that's when I realize what we've been saying. Time to pace again.

"No." I say. "That's not what's going on here. OK, I admit it, I got this thing for you. And I keep getting the idea you got the same thing for me. But I'm fairly certain it's temporary. It's an itch, and I think we just need to scratch it. I like women, Fraser."

"So do I, Ray," he says, but hey, I'm learning – just because he's agreeing does not mean he's saying the same thing. "I happen to find several women attractive, though I've not been in love with a woman lately. And I find you attractive."

"But you're not in love –"

"Yes, Ray, I am. I'm in love with – "

"Christ! Don't say it!" I cover the last word by shouting.

"And I believe you –"

"I can't hear you," I say, loud, and I put my hands over my ears. He rolls his eyes and steps away from the trees. He's got a strong grip. Not that I'm trying to get away, not really. His hands slide up from my wrists and grab my shoulders. I'm not really trying to get away from his eyes, either.

"And we can't say or do anything more at this time."

"Huh?" I flunked debate in high school.

"I said," he says, and repeats himself. Not quite what I was expecting, I'll be honest. And so I inquire as to the nature of that statement.

"What the fuck does that mean?"

He stares at me, then looks around.

"As long as you are in danger, Ray Vecchio," he says, and I think I get it, "we won't do anything that might attract attention to our unofficial partnership."

OK, well, that just makes me laugh.

"Oh, yeah, we'll just stalk two or three more ghost ships. I'm sure you've got some other jaunty tunes you can sing while I go look for clues."

"I'll amend my statement. We won't do anything that might alert others to a sudden change in our partnership."

Takes me a pace or two to get that one through my head. And I gotta say, I respect the Mountie for that. Vecchio's got a good friend here. And I know I do, too, even if he's talking more freak stuff than usual. Fraser would do the same thing for Ray Kowalski as he'd do for Ray Vecchio.

"But I'm not talking about love."

He nods. "True. However, whether you are looking to scratch an itch or explore what you have with someone you trust and desire, this is the last conversation we will have until you, Detective Vecchio –"

"Yeah, I get it, Fraser."

"—are out of danger."

"I said I get it."

And then I get it. Nothing's gonna happen today. Nothing's gonna happen until Vecchio's back in town. And, apparently, nothing's gonna happen until I admit – I mean, until I say I'm on the same wavelength as the Mountie, emotion-wise.

"I want to be with a woman, Fraser." Kind of a weak argument, when you consider I was this close to reading his molars by braille.

"I realize that."

"And that doesn't bother you," I say. Oh, now I'm concerned? Sure. I'm always concerned about Fraser. He's my buddy. He's decent. Sure, I love him, love him like a brother. Except for that whole naked and sweaty slide show that's been playing pretty much non-stop since I first saw him.


Which is not going to happen today. The itch will not be scratched.

"Whether I'm bothered or not is irrelevant to the choices you make in your life, Ray. I'll always be your friend. And, as we are not going to discuss this particular aspect of our partnership until certain other events occur, you needn't worry."

"Needn't. Do you hear other people saying 'needn't' in the States, Frase?" I'm snapping, since my dick is not even gonna get a simple hand job.

He doesn't answer, just turns away, and his back is like an ironing board, he's that rigid.

"Benton," he says finally. "My name is Benton. It's what I want to hear you say. Not Fraser or Frase or Benton Buddy. Just Benton."

I blow out a sigh. Damn, that's gonna be a tough one. "OK, Benton, if –"

"Not now. Don't call me that now."

"You've got the confusion part down, you wanna try the enlightenment part?"

He drops his head, and even from the back, I can tell he's scratching his eyebrow. Then he turns to nail me with fthose eyes. And that stare he learned from watching the wolf track a doughnut.

"When everyone is safe," he says, "if you want to continue this conversation, call me Benton. Until such time, I'm fine with what you and everyone else calls me, Ray."

He turns around again and heads to the car. Doesn't say another goddamned thing.

"Yeah, well, you can stop calling me Ray Vecchio then, too," I shout, but it's weak, even to me. I have to call it like it is, a piss-poor comeback. And of course, he doesn't answer, just keeps walking to the car. Man, I didn't realize how far we'd walked to get to these trees. That's what I do when I'm mad, I guess. Fraser just likes walking. Freak.




I get rescued by a kiss, and now he leaves me high and dry.


And what if he's right? What if this is –

Oh, like the Mountie's wrong on a regular basis. They wouldn't fucking let him on Jeopardy!

But it's my decision. My life. My bed. I get to say who's there and for how long.

I hate it when he's right.

I walk back, get in the car, drive. We don't say another word about it.

Even as time passes, and I notice a skirt here and there, he never says a word. And he notices the odd female, adjective intended, which pisses me off for reasons I refuse to think about.

I want to be with a woman. That skirt is important. But it's gotta be damn important, if it's gonna beat out a guy who'd give you a life to hold onto when your own is going down for the third time.

We're good now. Buddies again. We don't talk about it. Not until everyone's out of danger.

We're OK.

Oh, yeah – wrap up the story, Ray. Get to the point.

So, back in that car, in the non-fucking front seat, I just say one more thing while we drive back to Chicago.

"Thanks for saving my life, Fraser."

"You would have done the same for me, Ray."

"Damn right. We're buddies," I say, and settle into the drive. He goes back to sleep.

We're OK.