Both Ray and Vecchio kept in contact with Fraser. In Vecchio’s case, it was by phone, and he was usually quick to tell Ray if he and Fraser had talked. Ray and Fraser didn’t talk so much. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to have a conversation with the guy, but phone calls were not a thing Ray was good at. Fraser understood, and instead wrote Ray regularly, which was no big surprise. The shocker was that Ray wrote back. It wasn’t nearly as wordy as what Fraser wrote, but he kept him up-to-date, and Fraser never seemed anything but pleased to hear from him.
So whenever he got a letter he let Vecchio know, occasionally bringing it in for Vecchio to read, but most of the time just verbally re-capping it as best as he could remember.
Fraser’s latest letter was in the mail when Ray got home. He went to grab a beer as he read, muttering a curse when he saw that all he had was the fancy kind Vecchio liked on those rare occasions he drank. He forgot all about it when he read Fraser’s news. It seemed Fraser had started seeing someone. Ray started to grin at the thought of Fraser’s version of a date, but the next sentence wiped the expression from his face.
“It isn’t anything like the relationship you and Ray have, of course,” Fraser had written. “But I’m hopeful that, given time, we’ll be as close as you two have become.”
And normally that would be Ray’s cue to laugh, because really, what was Fraser thinking? It was the kind of statement that should have Ray taking the letter to show Vecchio, saying, “Look at the crazy idea Fraser’s come up with this time.”
Except Ray wasn’t so sure it was crazy. He and Vecchio did spend a lot of time together, not just doing work-related stuff. They looked out for one another. Neither of them had gone on anything even resembling a date in all the time they’d worked together. And Ray only had Vecchio’s brand of beer in his fridge and what did that say about him? So while he really kind of did want to share the joke, he also didn’t, because part of him really didn’t think it was funny. In fact, Ray was kind of freaked out.
Not because Vecchio was a guy; gender had never been an issue for Ray. But this wasn’t just any guy – it was Vecchio. His partner. His former identity. His ex’s ex. His ex-partner’s ex-partner. Just thinking about all the things they were to each other without anything Fraser was implying made Ray’s head hurt.
So he put the letter aside and went to bed.
He slept fitfully, whatever dreams he’d had too elusive to remember. And then he went on to have one of the most awkward, fucked-up days of his life, which was really saying something. He couldn’t get the letter out of his head, kept going over what he’d written to Fraser previously that would make him think that Ray and Vecchio were dating. More than that – that they were in a relationship.
But maybe, he realized, maybe it wasn’t something he’d said. Maybe Vecchio was the one who’d given Fraser the idea. And if so, had he meant to? Did he want to date Ray?
Did Ray want to date him? He’d never really thought about it. But of course now, thanks to Benton Fraser, it was number one on his brain’s list of things to obsess over.
Which is where the fucked-uppedness came in, because he started watching Vecchio, trying to figure him out, look for clues on how the guy felt (because that was a lot better than figuring out his own feelings), all the while pretending things were business as usual. And Ray was good at undercover – hell, he was great at it – but this was too weird, too close to home, so all he ended up being was jittery and unable to form real sentences without really working at it.
Vecchio, being something of a decent detective himself, had noticed. At first he’d been amused, then annoyed, then just plain angry. Only then he went past angry and started getting concerned, which just made things worse and Ray snuck out early when Vecchio was in the john so he could go home and calm the fuck down.
Not that being home was any better, because there was the letter, staring at him from the coffee table, Fraser’s neat handwriting a sharp contrast to how chaotic Ray’s life suddenly felt. Frustrated, he started looking for Fraser’s number, thinking maybe he’d call the guy for once, get some explanations, or at least share his misery. A sharp knock on the door stopped him cold.
Ray moved to the door slowly, opening it to see Vecchio, of course, glaring at Ray with a look that was an equal mix of concern and annoyance.
“So, you going to tell me what the hell is going on with you?” he asked as he moved past Ray to enter the apartment. Ray just watched him as he shucked off his coat and hung it neatly in the hall closet. Vecchio went to sit on the couch, then got up to close the apartment door and pull Ray over to sit beside him.
“Hey,” Vecchio said, voice gentle now, like he was afraid Ray might break or something. “What is it? You’ve been jumpy all day, then you ditch me. I thought we were going to Emilio’s tonight.”
Oh. Yeah, they’d had plans. Dinner plans. Just the two of them, nice place Vecchio liked, said he thought Ray should try. Jesus. No wonder Fraser thought they were dating. Ray slumped forward to lean on his knees, rubbing one hand over the back of his head. “Sorry about that.”
“O-kay.” Apparently an apology wasn’t what Vecchio’d expected to hear. “So is that sorry as in I forgot and let me get my ratty jacket so we can go or is it more a sorry but I’m not going? Because right now, I cannot read you at all.”
“It’s a sorry, I forgot, but I don’t think we should go kind of thing,” he said, trying not to look too long at Vecchio. When had he lost the ability to tell when he was looking versus staring?
“Ah, door number three, of course.” He gave Ray a thoughtful look. “You know, normally I’d say okay, no problem, then be pissy with you for a few days for blowing me off. But this feels weird, Kowalski. And I don’t like weird. Not this kind, anyhow,” he added at Ray’s skeptical huff.
Oh hell, why not just go ahead and tell the guy. Or better yet, get Vecchio to tell him what was going on. “So, you talk to Fraser lately?”
Vecchio frowned at the change of subject, but he answered, “Yeah, last night, actually. Which I would have told you about if you hadn’t been such a spaz all day. Why? He call you or something?”
Ray shrugged. “Or something.”
Vecchio’s eyes narrowed. “This is about him seeing somebody, isn’t it?” He glared and pushed himself off the couch. “I knew it! You’re jealous.”
“What?” Ray asked, but Vecchio kept going on.
“You told me that you and Benny were just buddies, and Fraser told me too, but that’s only because you didn’t tell him, right? How you feel about him? And now it’s too late and you’re all freaked about it.” He pointed at Ray. “Go ahead – tell me I’m wrong.”
Ray stood up and glared back at Vecchio. “You’re wrong.” Vecchio snorted in disbelief and Ray stalked over to the table to pick up the letter.
“Why should I be jealous of Fraser when I have you?” He shoved the letter into Vecchio’s hands. “Here, read for yourself. Apparently, we’re in the running for Queer Couple of the Year, as far as he’s concerned.”
Vecchio read quickly, then looked up at Ray, expression unreadable. “What have you been telling him?”
“Me?” Ray shot back. “I’m not the only one he talks to.”
Vecchio just nodded as he read the letter again. He held it out to Ray, a wary look on his face. “So you aren’t pissed about Fraser dating?”
“What’s to be pissed about?” Ray asked as he took the letter back, folding it and tossing it on the table behind him. Well, that was his intention, anyhow; he was a little shy of the mark, and it fluttered to the ground.
“But you are mad he thinks you and I have a thing,” Vecchio said as Ray squatted down to grab the letter.
“He thinks we’re a couple!” He pointed a finger as he stood back up. “And don’t say a couple of what. I am in no mood.”
“Wouldn’t take a detective to figure that one out,” Vecchio muttered as he moved to the closet.
“Where are you going?” Ray asked, frowning.
“To Emilio’s,” Vecchio said as he shrugged on his coat. “Apparently by myself. Unless you’re still hungry after your big gay freak out.”
“I am not having a gay freak out,” Ray corrected. “I got that out of the way back in high school.” At Vecchio’s shocked look, he added, “Ask Stella if you don’t believe me.”
“You aren’t gay,” Vecchio told him.
“Right now, I’m not anything,” he said. “Well, I guess I could be considered celibate, but that’s a lifestyle choice, not a sexual preference. And if you need to be all labely about it, I’m bi.”
Vecchio still look doubtful. “You’re bi.”
“Yep. And before you ask, yes Fraser knows. He figured it out a long time ago, had no problem with it.” He narrowed his eyes. “Are you gonna have a problem with it?”
Vecchio gave Ray a look like he was an idiot for even asking. “So why were you so weird at work today? And mad about the letter?”
“I told you why. Because Fraser thinks we’re a couple and we aren’t.” He reached over to grab his not-at-all ratty jacket and pushed past Vecchio to grab the doorknob. “We going to eat or not?”
A gleam lit Vecchio’s eyes as he wrapped his hand around Ray’s arm, stopping him. “Sure, just one thing first,” he said, then pulled Ray in for a quick kiss.
When Vecchio pulled away Ray just stood there, blinking in confusion. He barely resisted the urge to reach up and touch his lips. “Why did you do that?” he asked, wincing inwardly at how breathy his voice was; he’d meant to sound gruff or intimidating or anything that wasn’t a fourteen year old girl.
Vecchio sighed deeply. “So you’ll stop being weird, and we can get to the restaurant before we lose our reservation.” He flashed a quick grin. “Besides, what kind of world would this be if Fraser was wrong about something?”
Ray couldn’t help but grin back. “Okay,” he said, slinging an arm over Vecchio’s shoulder as they started toward the elevator. “But don’t think that I’m gonna put out or anything after just one date. I'm a lot of things, but easy ain't one of them.”
“Trust me, Stanley, nothing with you is ever easy,” Vecchio grumbled good-naturedly. “And we can figure out exactly what date this is while we eat.”