It happened the moment Kowalski's fist connected with his face. Pain blossomed behind Ray's eyes, but also behind his knuckles as if they were the ones that had made contact with bone. Kowalski reeled back, clutching his palm to his own cheek. The two of them stared at each other wide-eyed for a moment before Kowalski voiced what they were both thinking: “What the hell??"
Just like that, the fist-fight was over as soon as it began.
He and Kowalski made a point of avoiding even the most accidental touch for the rest of their respective shifts, but it was too late. When Ray's hip collided with his desk in a moment of distraction, Kowalski doubled over and started cursing him out. When Dief stuck his wet nose in Kowalski's ear, Ray yelped.
Ray sent up vain prayers all day to every saint he could remember that nobody would notice. If anyone up there was listening, however, they were in on the gigantic cosmic joke at his--their--expense. Huey started walking around with this smug smirk on his face and made kissy noises every time he saw them. Fraser's expression fluctuated between confused and worried, and that was even worse.
It was Welsh's fault, Ray decided. If he’d done the sensible thing and shipped Kowalski off to wherever he came from as soon as Ray came back from undercover, none of this would be happening. But no, he'd had to decide it would be good for them both to be reminded what it was like having a partner who wasn't a Mountie. Trouble was, at least on Ray's side, there was more than professional jealousy going on there. And Fraser didn't help matters any by sending those quietly pining looks in Kowalski's direction whenever he thought nobody was looking.
It wasn't like it was rational. Fraser was a grown-up (despite the occasional evidence to the contrary). He could pine after whomever he wanted. And Ray cared enough about him to want him to be happy, no matter what. It didn't stop him from hating that it was Kowalski getting those looks and not him.
Not that he blamed Fraser. It's not like Kowalski was bad looking. That wiry build was just muscular enough to make every inch of him, ass included, look hard as a rock, and his face had an almost irresistible belligerent quality to it even when he wasn't actually upset. Kowalski wasn't some sort of Greek statue brought to life like Fraser, but he was pretty okay. Under other circumstances, Ray might've considered himself lucky that the universe said he got to tap that. But these weren't other circumstances.
Somebody upstairs had a sick sense of humor.
They managed to avoid each other successfully for the rest of the day, anyway. By the time Ray pulled into the driveway at home, he'd almost gotten used to the weirdness of feeling his feet hit the gas or the ground in two different rhythms. Which meant maybe this was doable after all. All he and Kowalski had to do was just keep on ignoring each other and nobody ever had to know that they were giving God or the universe or whoever the metaphorical finger.
Until Ray woke up the next morning to the feeling of someone's hand on his dick. Okay, it wasn't like morning wood was anything new to him, and God knew he'd taken care of it this way more than a few times himself. But he'd never thought...Jesus...and apparently Kowalski hadn't either. That or he was the world's most obnoxious troll.
Ray made a strangled noise and just lay there in bed, paralyzed, as phantom fingers stroked him over and over. He was afraid to move, afraid to touch anything lest it suddenly make Kowalski realize what he was doing. (Worse--a small, annoying part of his mind suggested--it might make him stop.) Despite his best efforts, though, it was impossible to stay still for long. When Kowalski's pace picked up, Ray found himself bucking helplessly into that invisible touch. He came probably harder than he ever had in his life, and with a shout that would've woken the whole house if he'd still been living at home.
Jesus, who'd have thought he'd ever be grateful for the low noise tolerance he'd developed in Vegas?
He lay there still, spent and dazed, for several more minutes, not even able to drag himself out of bed long enough to clean up the mess. When Ray finally did drag himself out of bed, he stripped off the sticky pajamas and sheets and left them in a pile in the corner of the room. Then he padded naked into the bathroom and turned the shower on ice cold. He stood there, shivering, for several more minutes before finally stumbling out.
Toweling off, shaving, and getting dressed were accomplished by rote. His brain still felt too overloaded to function in anything resembling a rational way. In fact, he was halfway out the door, heading to work, when his first clear thought hit him.
Kowalski was at work.
Seized by sudden panic, Ray flew back inside, slamming and locking the door behind him. He hyperventilated all the way to the phone, then only just managed to control his voice long enough to inform the desk sergeant that he didn't feel well and would be taking a sick day without it cracking, and would she please inform Lieutenant Welsh? When he hung up the phone, his hand was still shaking, and his heart was pounding like he'd just chased Fraser clear across Chicago.
Ray groaned and dropped his head in his hands. Now what was he supposed to do? Hole up here for the rest of his life so he never had to look Kowalski in the eye and acknowledge what had just happened between them?
“Fuck you, Stanley," Ray said aloud, emphatically, to the empty apartment. Kowalski couldn't hear him, of course. The connection didn't work that way. Just as well. For all he knew, Kowalski might've taken it as an invitation.
He took several deep breaths to clear his head. Okay. Okay. Surely he had some unsolved cases he could work from here, at least for today. Then he could figure out the rest tomorrow. Rubbing his palms vigorously on his coat to get the sweat off, Ray stood up and marched over to the fancy new computer he'd bought with some of his hazard pay from Vegas. He couldn't access all the station's resources from here, but he should be able to do something, at least.
Ray was neck deep in a robbery homicide several hours later when there was a knock at the door. For a split second, he was terrified to answer it. Then he realized he hadn't felt wood under his knuckles a second ago, so it couldn't be Kowalski. Letting out a breath of relief, he rose and crossed to the door.
Fraser was standing in the hallway with an enormous soup tureen in his hands and Dief sniffing around his heels. Ray blinked twice. “What are you doing here?"
“Lieutenant Welsh said you called in sick."
“So you made me soup?" Steam was rising from the pot and the smell made Ray's mouth water.
Fraser shuffled sheepishly. “Ah, no. That is...well. Apparently when Francesca called home to inform your mother that you were unwell, she insisted on preparing this for you. Since I had mentioned a desire to drop by to see how you were doing..."
“You got pressed into delivery duty, got it." Ray eyed the soup dubiously. “Since when does Ma make chicken soup? We're Italian, not Jewish."
“I don't believe it is chicken,” Fraser said with a little tilt of the head, as if he were trying to peer beneath the lid. “She said something about meatballs?" Okay, so technically Ray could already tell that from the familiar aroma, he just hadn't been able to resist ribbing him a little. Fraser gave him a look then that was mildly pleading and asked plaintively, “May I come in?"
At his feet, Dief gave a whine of agreement, and he wasn't the one carrying God-only-knew-how-many pounds of boiling hot soup.
Suddenly remembering his manners, Ray flushed and stepped out of the doorway. “Yeah, yeah, of course. The kitchen's through there..." he waved vaguely behind him with one hand. “You can put the soup in there."
Fraser and Dief trotted by him and into the kitchen. He set the soup on the counter as directed, then immediately began opening cupboards and pulling out bowls and spoons. He served up two helpings of the soup and held one of them out to Ray. “I must say, Ray, you're looking remarkably hale for a man who was, by his own admission, too sick to come in to work today."
Ray glared at him. “Don't you start with me, Benny.” He stalked away and plopped almost aggressively into a seat at the counter. “I think I know a little bit more about the state of my health than you do."
“Of course, Ray." Fraser answered in that agreeable voice that meant he was doing anything but agreeing. He followed Ray to the counter and pulled up a stool beside him. “However, I also spoke to Detective Kowalski, and he reported feeling no ill effects." It was spoken casually, as if Fraser hadn't dropped a major bomb in the center of Ray's kitchen.
He knew. He'd figured it out. Of course he had. This was Fraser; the only time he missed something right in front of his nose like that was when it was someone throwing themselves at him.
Ray ducked his head, avoiding Fraser's eyes, and mumbled into his bowl, “Yeah, well, Kowalski's an asshole."
“That's not a very charitable way to speak about your soulmate," Fraser answered dryly.
Appetite suddenly gone, Ray threw the spoon back in the bowl with a little too much force. “He's not...it's not..." Ray grimaced. “It's not like that, me and him." Never mind that it had been exactly like that this morning and that was what had made him crawl back into his shell like an especially paranoid turtle.
“No, I don't imagine it would be yet," Fraser answered equably. “You've only just found out, and you've only known each other for a few weeks."
Dief whined and, on impulse, Ray bent down to place his bowl of soup on the floor. Even if that wasn't what the wolf had been asking for, he seemed willing to accept it. Fraser was another matter. “No, you don't understand. What I mean is, it's never gonna be like that. I don't care what anybody says."
Because I've seen the way you look at him, you big red dork. Because I'm not gonna take that away from you. And if I were, I'd take you away from him, not the other way around. “You've seen us together. We're chalk and cheese, Stanley and me. That would be the worst idea ever."
Fraser looked at him as though he were looking at a particularly recalcitrant pupil. How he’d mastered that trick without being a nun, Ray had no idea. “Ray, think about it. To have that kind of connection with someone--to have someone who literally feels what you feel--it's an incredible privilege."
“Yeah?" he shot back sharply. “And how'd that work out for you?"
Fraser visibly flinched and Ray immediately felt like the worst sort of shitheel. Of all the things, he had to bring up Victoria at a time like this. “Jesus, Benny, I'm sorry. That was a pretty rotten thing to say."
“Yes, it was," Fraser answered quietly, but there was no anger in his eyes like there would've been two years ago. “Look, Ray, you and I both know quite well that merely having a soulmate is no guarantee of a happy ending. The real world just doesn't work that way. But in this case...I genuinely believe you and Ray Kowalski could be happy together."
Ray shook his head, his voice just as quiet. “You don't get it, Benny. For the longest time, I figured if Irene wasn't my soulmate, then I didn't want one. I didn't think anybody could ever be as important to me as she was. And then you came along."
Fraser's eyes widened in surprise. “Ray--"
“And I knew it wasn't gonna be you, okay?" Ray cut him off before he could say something that would make them both feel even worse. He couldn't sit still for this, either, so he hopped up and started pacing the dining room. “I knew it long before you ever told me about Victoria, because by the time I figured out I wanted it to be you, I'd touched you dozens of times and nothing ever happened. But I still wanted it to be you. Even more than I'd ever wanted it to be Irene. So now I'm just supposed to, what? Give it all up and throw myself at the guy who took you away from me? Who took everything away from me?"
“Ray, I had no idea you felt that way."
Ray shrugged, pointedly not meeting the blue-eyed gaze that he could feel on his back. By this point, he'd circled all the way around to the other side of the counter. One hand landed restlessly beside his abandoned spoon. “Yeah, well, what would've been the point?"
He felt another hand come to rest over his own, but it took a moment to realize this was actually happening and not some carryover from Kowalski. Ray looked up in surprise and Fraser gave him a small smile and a sympathetic squeeze. There was regret there, regret that Ray maybe could've done something with if Fraser wasn't so determined to set him up with his soon-to-be-ex. A shiver passed through him that Ray wasn't sure was his own or not.
“You know...there are two schools of thought regarding the purpose of soulmates. For perhaps obvious reasons, I've always gravitated towards the idea that the connection is meant not to indicate with whom you're meant to spend your life, but rather the person for whom it is most necessary that you feel empathy. That most such relationships ultimately do end in at least some sort of romantic feeling is no more than a natural byproduct of experiencing such an intense...intimacy."
Intimacy. Oh yeah, what happened this morning had been pretty intimate, all right. “What are you saying, Benny?"
“Ray Kowalski is a good man, Ray. Everything he did...he did to protect you and the people you love. Surely that deserves your empathy, if nothing else?"
“And what about you?" Ray retorted. “Don't you deserve something too?"
Fraser gave him that pinched smile again. “I am happy merely to have the both of you as part of my life. I don't need any more than that."
Jesus, was Fraser just physically incapable of prioritizing the things he wanted over someone else? It was everything that drove Ray nuts about working with him...and also everything he loved about him. What fucking right did the universe have to say, 'Sorry, you can't have him. You have to take away the guy he wants instead'?
Ray didn't mean to kiss him. Bad enough Kowalski had almost certainly felt that earlier touch, this was a hundred times worse. But this was Fraser, and worse, it was Fraser practically admitting that he wanted them both but he was going to stand aside and let them have each other even if it killed him. Ray needed to show him--what? That he wasn't that noble? Something, anyway.
He expected any moment to feel like he'd just put his fist through drywall, or whatever else it was Kowalski usually did when he was upset. And he knew he'd deserve it. What Ray did not expect was to realize belatedly that the dick twitching in his pants was not actually his. Or rather, not just his. What the fuck, Kowalski?
Ray pulled back. There was an answer in that somewhere, but he was a bit too disoriented at the moment to figure out what it was.
Fraser flushed and began babbling. “I must apologize, Ray, that was most inappropriate of me--"
“Fraser, shut up." Ray grinned at him. Confused as hell though he was, Ray couldn't quite stop the slow well of happiness building up in him that Fraser'd kissed him back. “First off, you do not get to take credit for something that was my choice, okay? So stop that right now."
“Yes, Ray." Fraser looked properly contrite, and damned if that wasn't a good look on him. Of course, everything was a good look on him. The man was too beautiful to be real, as evidenced by the scores of women who draped themselves in his path like palm fronds on Palm Sunday.
“Second, if it makes you happy...I'll give Kowalski a chance." It made his heart squeeze to say it, but then he'd never been able to deny Benny anything.
Fraser beamed like the sun rising. “I knew you would understand."
“Yeah, I understand." Ray grabbed the back of his neck, forcing Fraser to meet his eyes. “That's why I want you to know, whatever happens...however things work out or don't, you're important too. We're not just gonna ride off into the sunset without you, Benny."
Even Ray wasn't quite sure what he meant by that. It was still formulating in his head long after Fraser'd finished his cold soup and disappeared into the night with Dief. Ray let it percolate while he heated up another bowl for himself in the microwave at suppertime.
The soup made him think about what Ma would think of this whole messed up business. He knew what she would say if he asked, of course. Ma was traditional. You married your soulmate because the touch thing was God's way of telling you this was who you were supposed to be with. That was why she'd married Pop. Why she'd stayed with him, in spite of everything.
Maybe the reason he'd been sour on the idea of soulmates long before he ever heard of Victoria Metcalfe was because he'd never quite forgiven God for that.
But Fraser's idea about it being all about empathy? That he could maybe do. Maybe the whole soulmate thing wasn't even aimed at Ma. Maybe someone up there had hoped that if sometimes when Pop hit somebody, he felt it too, then he'd stop doing it. Only Pop didn't work that way. He found a way to make it Ma's fault, just like he found ways to make everything someone else's fault.
Ray had promised himself years ago that he was never gonna be that guy. If learning to empathize with Kowalski was what it took not to be that guy, that's what he'd do. He'd promised Fraser he'd try, anyway, so he'd try. Breaking a promise to Fraser wasn't a smart thing to do. He had this look he got when he was disappointed in you. Ray had no defenses against that look.
Didn't mean he wasn't going to figure out few ways to make Kowalski squirm along the way, though. Fair was fair, after all.
Ray was almost cheerful when he walked into the 2-7 the next morning. No, no almost about it. Ray was definitely cheerful. If that made Kowalski give him the side-eye, all the better.
“Hey, Vecchio. Wasn't sure I'd see you today."
Ray grinned, too high to be brought low that easily. “What can I say? I needed a day to recover from that wake-up call you gave me. Taking things a little fast, aren't you, Stanley?” He slapped him heartily on the back and conveniently gave himself a nice non-metaphorical pat on the back at the same time.
Kowalski flushed from the roots of his equally red hair all the way down. For a minute, Ray thought he was gonna start stammering out some sort of apology, but he recovered quickly. Faster than Ray expected, truthfully. “Oh yeah? You enjoy that, Vecchio?" he asked with something resembling a leer.
“Yeah, it wasn't half bad. Still, you might think about warning me first next time?" He almost said 'asking me,' but figured that wasn't fair. A guy shouldn't need permission to take care of his own business when it wasn't his fault the universe decided to make it someone else's business too.
Kowalski's eyes narrowed. “And how exactly am I supposed to do that?"
Ray shrugged. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching then wrapped his hand around his finger and made a rude gesture. One that could be not only seen, but also felt.
Kowalski cracked a grin of his own and reached down to touch the affected finger on his own hand. “Yeah, I guess that would work. But only if you promise the same."
Ray saluted casually with three fingers. “On my honor as a Girl Scout."
Welsh chose that moment to stick his head out of his office and bellow, “Vecchio! Kowalski! In my office, now!"
They looked at each other. “Well, duty calls," Ray sighed. “I know the present situation is not exactly ideal for either one of us...but d'you think we can make this work? For Fraser’s sake."
Kowalski grimaced. Ray wondered if he was remembering the kiss from yesterday, but didn't dare ask. That was a conversation for later. Much later. “Yeah. For Fraser’s sake."
Welsh looked up suspiciously as they closed the door behind them. “Where's the Mountie?"
“I believe he's giving us space, Sir," Ray quipped.
“Space for what?" Welsh demanded before thinking better of it and raising a hand to prevent an answer. “Never mind. I don't want to know."
Kowalski snorted. “If Vecchio's right, no, you really don't." He shoved his hands in his back pockets and Ray only barely managed not to squeak in protest at the sudden sensation of rock hard Kowalski ass under his hands. Especially since he was pretty sure the bastard was doing it on purpose. “So why'd you call us in here? What'd Vecchio do this time?"
“Me?” Ray yelped. “Why can't it be something you did?"
Welsh looked from one to the other with a raised eyebrow before letting out a bone-deep sigh. “Gentlemen, if you're finished throwing each other under the bus--"
They both snapped to attention. Well, as much at attention as either of them ever got. Military discipline they had none of. “Sorry, Sir." “Sorry, Lieutenant."
“I called you in here because we got a tip on the Straczynski case. Do you think you boys can handle that, or should I make Huey and Dewey the lead on this one?"
Once again they spoke simultaneously: “We can handle it, Sir." “Yeah, we got it, no problem."
Welsh got a look in his eye that spoke of wistful dreams of Tylenol. “Good." He tossed the file across the desk at them. “Now get out of here before I decide the Mountie is the lesser evil and call him myself."
They took the GTO. It wasn't the Riv, but Ray hadn't yet found a replacement for the one that Fraser and Kowalski set on fire and drove into Lake Michigan. He'd come close--there'd been an ad for one in the papers just a few weeks ago. It was the perfect color and everything, but it was a ‘72, not a ‘71. And okay, so Pontiacs weren't his thing, but it was a darn sight better than toodling around in that wreck he'd temporarily acquired from the motor pool. And hey, at least Kowalski knew how to drive.
There was also something weirdly soothing about being in the passenger seat and yet still feeling the wheel under his hands. So much so that Ray completely forgot to do his usual back seat driving.
It all went straight to hell, of course. Ray had a vain hope that it wouldn't, what with Fraser mysteriously absent, but apparently the Mountie mojo was contagious. Which was how they wound up ducking behind different trash cans on opposite sides of the same alley while a would-be evil mastermind ranted at them about TNT and his five year plan for galactic domination in between bursts of automatic gunfire. Ray never did quite get clear on how the former was supposed to accomplish the latter--in his experience, high explosives lacked the finesse really required for a coup d'etat--but he was a little more concerned with not acquiring any bullet holes in his body or his expensive suit. Or in Kowalski's body, for that matter. He remembered all too vividly what had happened to Fraser when he'd shot Victoria, and had no desire to experience it personally.
Of course, it would help considerably towards the goal of neither of them dying if Kowalski could actually see. He'd already missed his way through half his clip, and at the rate he was going, he was gonna waste the other half in a minute. But try as Ray might, he couldn't get Kowalski's damned attention to point that out. At least, not without also attracting the attention of the guy trying to put holes in them.
Ray rubbed a frustrated hand over his face. Across the alley, Kowalski tried to swat it away. Ray blinked. Jesus, he'd been an idiot. This stupid connection might actually be good for something after all. Grimacing, he gave himself the smack to the back of the head that he wanted to give Kowalski.
It worked. Kowalski glared up at him with a what-the-hell-Vecchio expression, and what followed was a rapid and confusing exchange of gestures that almost certainly weren't in any sign language dictionary, and a few that were universal. By the time Kowalski finally took the hint and pulled his glasses out, the guy they were chasing had already disappeared out the other end of the alley.
“Damn it, Vecchio, what'd you let him get away for?" Kowalski growled as they met again in the middle.
“Says the guy who can't hit the broad side of a barn without his glasses," Ray retorted as they hurried to the end of the alley in pursuit.
“Exactly!" Kowalski shot back. “What's your excuse?"
This time Ray did slap him upside the back of the head and didn't even care if it meant giving himself a headache too.
Things might've escalated if a scream hadn't suddenly come from somewhere to their left. A scream which was more than likely caused by a guy running down the sidewalk with an automatic. Before they could both take off running Ray grabbed Kowalski's arm. “I'll go after him. You get the car and try to cut us off on 13th, got it?"
Kowalski nodded. “Got it."
The plan almost didn't work. It might not've if not for the fact that Vecchio quickly figured out that when the perp changed course, all he had to do was tug on the appropriate wrist to get Kowalski to turn left or right to course correct. That worked so well, in fact, that by the time they hauled the guy into the 2-7 less than an hour later, they were both in such a good mood that they were bantering like old friends.
Fraser was waiting at Ray's desk when they walked into the squad room. He stood out as always: a bright splash of color against the muted almost-hospital green, with Dief a blur of white at his feet. When he saw them, he immediately rose, a slow smile like a sunrise breaking over his face. “Ray, Ray. I must apologize for my tardiness. I was unavoidably detained at the Consulate."
“No problem, Benny," Ray answered at the same moment Kowalski came out with, “It's cool, Frase." Damn it, that was getting annoying. Ray was pretty sure this whole talking together thing wasn't supposed to be part of the deal.
Fraser's eyes widened almost imperceptibly in surprise. It might've been just Ray's imagination, but for a second he almost thought Fraser's smile tightened a little at the same time. “You both seem to be in remarkably good spirits," he observed in a carefully measured tone. “Should I assume the day has been a success thus far?"
“You bet it's been a success,'' Kowalski grinned in triumph. He gave Fraser a hearty slap on the back. “We got Straczynski." Even that moment of remote contact with red serge tingled under Ray's fingertips, sending ribbons of warmth inward from his extremities. Jesus. It took a concerted effort not to let his thoughts follow that reaction to its logical conclusion; that if he reacted like that to Kowalski just patting Fraser on the back, what the hell would a more intimate touch be like translated through the link?
Fraser's voice snapped him out of his reverie, even though it wasn't directed at him. Or at least not just at him. “Ray, that's wonderful!"
Ray couldn't help but glance at Kowalski to see if he'd noticed the whole serge-reaction thing. If he did, he didn't show it, just kept grinning like a maniac as he started describing the shoot-out and subsequent chase. His enthusiasm was contagious. “Yeah, turns out we don't make a half bad team after all," Ray found himself chipping in almost proudly.
“I could have told you that," Fraser admonished. His smile flared brighter for a brief second before slowly trickling away. “Actually, as it just happens, I believe I did." Not many people could manage to sound smug and disappointed at the same time. Fraser did.
Ray's chest constricted a little. Jesus, Benny. Even after I practically pointed it out, you really didn't think about what pushing us together would mean for you, did you? “Yeah, you did."
Kowalski obviously heard the same thing in Fraser's voice that Ray had, because he went from hyper to subdued between breaths. “Yeah, so, uh, anyway...you shoulda been there," he finished lamely.
“I wish I had,' Fraser added almost wistfully. “It sounds like quite the adventure."
“Trust me, Benny, we didn't have nearly as much fun without you," Ray answered wryly. Of course, by 'fun' he meant life-threatening chaos, but Fraser didn't need to know that. Kowalski gave him a sharp, skeptical look, but relaxed when Fraser's smile came back.
“I'm sure that's not true, but I do appreciate the thought."
Dief let out a snort and laid down at Fraser's feet, dropping his head on his paws. Even after four years, Ray didn't speak wolf, but he could tell that Diefenbaker was in one of his particularly blunt moods because Fraser turned as red as his uniform.
Somehow they made it through the rest of the day. Somehow because afterwards Ray could never say how. Fraser, in typical Fraser fashion, fixated on the fact that they'd been able to communicate through the link. He immediately started concocting an elaborate plan to take advantage of that fact. Ray didn't have the heart to tell him he and Kowalski had already discussed the possibility on the drive back to the 2-7, and apparently neither did Kowalski.
Turned out that wasn't the only thing they had in common.
Well, okay, so frankly they had a little too much in common for Ray's taste--either of their tastes, probably--most of the time, but still, he wasn't surprised when Kowalski pulled him aside after a couple of hours of listening to Fraser basically trying to set them up.
“I can't do it," he blurted out.
Ray didn't even need to ask what he meant. “Yeah, me neither."
“I mean, I know you said we should try to make it work for Fraser, but that's just messed up. I don't care what Fraser says he wants, I'm not doing that to him. I mean, you know he's always been--" Kowalski stopped suddenly, his ears finally seeming to catch up with his mouth. “Wait, what?"
“I promised I'd try," Ray answered simply. “I tried." Only for a few hours, granted, but sometimes that was all it took. “Look, I got nothing against you, Stanley--" It didn't even surprise him that he meant it, which said a lot about how far they'd come since two days ago. “--and I get that this touch thing is something we're gonna have to learn to live with, but if you think I can watch Fraser break his own heart trying to make us happy any more than you can, you're an idiot."
Kowalski stuck his hands in his pockets. His front ones this time, thank God. Although that brought its own set of problems. Ray wasn't about to lose his resolve when he'd just found it, though, so he pointedly ignored the thought of just how close those hands were to certain other parts of Kowalski's anatomy.
“So what now?" Kowalski asked uncertainly.
Ray hesitated a long moment before answering. “Well, Fraser's right about one thing; like we already worked out, this thing could come in handy on the job. So, on the job, we use it. Off the job, we ignore it." Easier said than done, naturally, but he'd done crazier things for Fraser and he didn't doubt for a minute that Kowalski had too. The Mountie (and yes, in Ray's head, he definitely meant the definitive article) had that effect on people.
“Yeah, okay, only one problem. Ignoring it's gonna be a lot easier to do in some circumstances than others." Boy, didn't Ray know it. Yesterday's wake up call was still burned indelibly into his brain. His cheeks heated, and the intensity of Kowalski's stare didn't help. “What are we supposed to do? Never jerk off again?"
“If you can actually manage that, be my guest," Ray snorted. “As for me...if I could ignore my sister and her husband going at it in the next room, I'm pretty sure I can learn to ignore you." Kowalski gave him a horrified look. Ray waved it off. “Perils of sharing a house with your whole extended family. Trust me, you don't wanna know. Just think of me as an upstairs neighbor with noisy springs or something."
Kowalski nodded uncertainly, but just then Dief came running over to them with Fraser not far behind, so the conversation ended anyway.
Over the next few weeks, they worked out a system of signals for on-the-job use. A slap on the wrist meant I need your attention. One tap with a finger meant one bad guy, two taps meant two bad guys, and so on. A hand on the forehead meant, Oh God, the Mountie just did something crazy, remember me fondly when I'm gone. (Fraser had gotten huffy about that one for about a second and a half before they'd managed to force him to admit it was accurate.) And a finger on the bridge of the nose meant put on your damn glasses and stop wasting bullets, Stanley, or I might just shoot you myself.
Ray would've liked to be able to say they figured out the off-the-job part too, but that would be mortal sin levels of lying. Even forgetting the masturbation problem--which oh, boy, he was not gonna forget that any time soon--he'd underestimated how utterly distracting little touches could become. Especially if the person Kowalski was touching was him or Fraser. A handshake. An accidental brush of shoulders in the squad room. It got to a point where he and Kowalski were avoiding each other nearly as much as that first day. Only worse, both of them were apparently afraid to touch Fraser too, even though Ray had basically given Kowalski his blessing. Which didn't exactly help with the whole “not hurting the Mountie” plan. He walked around with a dazed, wounded expression on his face almost constantly, and Ray was miserable because he didn't know how to fix it.
Plus, he just started noticing things about the way Kowalski touched people. A gentle hand on the shoulder of a victim or witness. The way he'd jerk a perp's hands behind their back to cuff 'em like they'd done him a personal injury just by existing. The way he always knew whether to greet somebody with a handshake or a fistbump or something Ray didn't even have a name for. Even the way he drove all that bottled up anger into the punching bag on the rare nights he got off work early enough to go to the gym. All of it told Ray more than he'd ever wanted to know about Stanley Raymond Kowalski.
He started to understand what Fraser saw in him. Problem was, that only compounded the other problem. You know, the one where his dick really liked the way Kowalski handled it by proxy.
In spite of what they'd agreed on, he and Kowalski had both tried the living like a monk thing for about a week. By the end of it, they’d both been so ready to burst that it had been almost a relief to give in.
Ray knew he'd been lying to himself when he'd said it couldn't be any worse than being forced to listen to Tony and Maria. What he hadn't counted on was that the more it happened, the harder it became to ignore the nagging voice at the back of his head: the one that said, if it felt this good when Kowalski was just touching himself, how absolutely mind blowing would it be if they were touching each other? Sometimes the mere thought of that potential feedback loop was enough to finish him off.
God help him, but he wanted it. And for the first time in his life, he really understood why Fraser hadn't been able to let Victoria go, even knowing how bad she was for him.
“Ray." Ray almost jumped out of his skin at the touch on his shoulder. He usually stopped by the family residence for dinner on his way home nights--because Ma still made the best baked mostaccioli this side of the Alps, which meant it was the best in the western hemisphere--but he wasn't ashamed to admit that there had been a fair amount of fleeing the scene involved this time. It was a relief to realize that the hand on his shoulder was an actual touch, and better yet, that it was only Frannie. Even so, it took a few seconds to make his heart stop thudding.
“Geez, Frannie, you wanna warn a guy before you sneak up on him?" Ray almost snarled.
Frannie's eyes widened for a minute before narrowing. The skin between her eyebrows creased and her lips pinched into a frown. “I was just gonna say Ma's got dinner on. What's gotten into you all of a sudden?"
All of a sudden? Ray almost laughed. Thank God Frannie's courses at the Academy kept her busy enough that she wasn't around the station much these days. At home, she might know he was acting weird, but she wouldn't be able to identify Kowalski as the source of it. Especially not if he only saw her for about an hour a day. “Nothing. I'm fine. I'm not hungry."
Frannie snorted. “Since when? You haven't turned down one of Ma's meals since you got back from Vegas."
“Yeah, well maybe I just don't have much of an appetite tonight. That a problem?"
She stared at him for another minute, then a muscle clenched in her jaw and she positioned herself between him and the door, arms folded defiantly across her chest. “Yeah, that's a problem. You've been acting weird for weeks, and now you turn down dinner for no reason? Something's off and I wanna know what."
Shit, so she had noticed before. Ray squared his shoulders and glared back at her. “Frannie, nothing--"
Just then, Kowalski stubbed his toe on something. Something hard. Ray doubled over, cursing inventively, both at the pain shooting through his foot and the damnable as always timing of it. Forget fucking him. Right now, Ray was right back to wanting to shoot Kowalski, regardless of the consequences to himself.
Frannie stared at him mystified for another minute, then a light went on and her face exploded into a brilliant smile. “Oh my God! I know what's going on. You met your soulmate!" She threw her arms around him, which made Ray let out a squawk of protest. “Ray, that's fantastic! Who is it? Is it somebody I know?"
Ray pushed her away with a little more force than was strictly necessary. It was on the tip of his tongue to demand how she could still have any faith left in the concept considering Ma and Pop, but then he and Maria had always shielded Frannie from the worst of it. Still... “Fuck soulmates," he growled. “I never needed one before, I don't need it now."
As if to prove it, he punched the wall of his bedroom, hard. Kowalski wanted to give him a limp for an hour? He could have some sore knuckles for a few minutes in exchange.
Frannie grabbed his arm before he could throw another one. She held him back with surprising strength, but not nearly as surprising as the stormy look that he found on her face when he turned to her to protest. “What. The. Hell is wrong with you?" she demanded in a cold voice. “You got somebody on the other end of that now, remember? What, did you think it was a good day to channel Pop or something?"
Ray went cold all over so fast he almost shivered. Okay, so Frannie wasn't as ignorant as he'd hoped. And God, was that really what he looked like to her? Like Pop? It wasn't the same--it wasn't--but how was she supposed to know that? “I didn't mean it like that, Frannie, I swear. I just...this whole thing is so fucked up, I don't even know..." He pulled back, backing away from her until his knees hit the bed in his old room and he sank down on it, dropping his face in his hands.
Somewhere on the other side of town, gentle hands took a break from carefully inspecting Kowalski's toe to cradling his fist, which must still be stinging just like Ray's was. Ray held his breath for a minute. Maybe this was it. Maybe this was finally it.
Frannie plopped down beside him. “Ray, tell me what the hell is going on before I decide to bring Ma in as backoff."
“Backup," Ray corrected automatically. He felt Kowalski pull his hand out of Fraser's--it had to be Fraser's, no one else would be so tender with him as someone who loved him, forbidden or no. And the hands he'd felt had been too big to be Kowalski's ex.
“Whatever." Frannie forced Ray's chin up and frowned at whatever expression she saw in his face. “Ray, who could possibly so bad that you'd hate having them for a soulmate so mu--?" She stopped on the verge of finishing the thought, her mouth dropping open and a hand flying to cover it. “Oh my God. Oh my God. It's Kowalski, isn't it?"
Ray gave her a look that used to cow her into backing off. But Frannie'd gained a lot of confidence in the year he'd been gone--no thanks to him--and she only started to smile behind her hand. “It is, isn't it?" The smile turned into a laugh. “Ray, that's brilliant."
“It's no such thing!" Ray insisted. He didn't bother denying that she'd hit the nail on the head. She'd be watching them closely now to prove him wrong if he did, and it wouldn't take long. “It's terrible!"
“Ray, he's not a bad guy--"
“I never said he was!" Ray exploded. It was one thing to have Fraser singing Kowalski's praises. He didn't think he could take it from Frannie too. “But he's not..." He's not mine to take. He's Fraser's. Just like I would be if the universe weren't so fucked up.
Frannie squeezed his hand and the two of them sat there in silence for a minute. A minute in which, despite Ray's hopes to the contrary, Kowalski and Fraser did not make up and start fucking. “Have you talked about this? I know that's a long shot, but believe it or not, verbal communication is still gonna be a lot more effective than just...hoping he reads your body language or whatever it is you're doing."
“Believe it or not, yes," Ray answered wearily. “And we both arrived at the same conclusion; that it would be a terrible idea and it's not gonna happen."
Another disbelieving snort. Frannie patted his hand and stood. “C'mon."
Ray narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously. “Where?"
“Kowalski's. Clearly you two can’t be trusted to actually behave like adults about this, so I'm going to sit you both down and make you."
If it had been anyone other than his baby sister, Ray might've told 'em that trust him, adult behavior was not the problem here. Or...well, so okay, it was definitely part of the problem, but definitely not in the sense she meant.
Then the rest of what Frannie said registered. “Oh, hell no. We are not going to Kowalski's. Not now!"
That seemed to take her aback a little bit. “What do you mean, 'not now?'"
Ray struggled to find an excuse, any excuse, other than the truth, but the way Frannie was looking at him wasn't the expression of a naive younger sister who'd take anything her big brother said as gospel. He tried to pull the wool over her eyes at this point, and she'd see right through him. “Fraser's there. I am not having the kinda conversation you seem to want me to have in front of Fraser."
“Wait, how do you know Fraser's there?" Frannie's eyes about bugged out of her head. “Are he and Kowalski--?"
“No!" Ray blurted, perhaps a little too urgently. “Look, Frannie, you want me to talk to Kowalski? Fine, I'll talk to him. Tomorrow at the station. Okay?"
If before had been like a light coming on in Frannie's face, this was more like a nuclear explosion. He could see the moment she got it. “That's what this is all about, isn't it? It's Fraser. You're both hung up on him, that's why you don't want to get involved with each other. Oh my God, Ray. Why didn't you ever tell me?"
“C'mon, Frannie." Ray smiled feebly at her. “The way you were all over him? When was ever gonna be a good time to tell you, 'Hey, I really wish you wouldn't look at my partner that way 'cause only I get to do that'? I knew how much you liked him."
“Lust is not quite the same thing as liking," Frannie grinned. “I mean, in case you haven't noticed--which apparently you have--Fraser is pretty nearly a perfect specimen. I wasn't looking for a soulmate, I just...well, who wouldn't want a chance to melt that particular block of ice?"
Ray groaned. “Frannie, it is gonna make me sick to my stomach if I have to sit here one more minute discussing sex with Fraser with my sister, so can we please change the subject?"
Frannie grinned. “Okay. But you promise me you'll talk to Kowalski at work tomorrow? Because if I drop by for lunch and find out you haven't--"
Ray squeezed her hand gratefully. “I promise."
Ray really had to stop making promises. The last thing he wanted to do when he spotted Kowalski across the squad room the next morning was pull him aside for an intimate little chat. Especially not when Kowalski seemed to be already having a nice intimate little chat with Fraser. Much as he hated to admit it, though, Frannie was right about one thing. They had to talk this out, figure out a better solution.
So, Ray squared his shoulders, stuck his chin out, and marched up to the desk. He turned to Fraser first, relieved to discover he didn't have to force a smile. “Hey, Benny. Have a good time at Kowalski's last night?"
There was no snide undercurrent to the question, but Kowalski still turned an interesting shade of purple.
Fraser, bless him, at least took the question at face value. “Yes, as a matter of fact. We had a pleasant if not entirely healthy dinner, and a good talk." He gave Kowalski a look that Ray couldn't read.
He nodded. “Good. I'm glad. Only now I need to have a little talk with him. You mind?"
Fraser shook his head. “No, of course not. Be my guest."
Kowalski's face took on a more belligerent cast than normal as he stood and followed Ray into the hallway. He was headed for the bathroom, but Ray managed to redirect them into what had once been his favorite supply closet, not the least because of all the time spent in close--if chaste--quarters with Fraser in there.
“You woulda felt it if we'd done anything," Kowalski blurted out as soon as they were out of earshot. His arms crossed defensively.
Ray pulled the chain to switch the light on, then turned to stare at him, bewildered. “Jesus. You're killing me here, Kowalski."
Defensive mutated into openly angry. “Hey, you said you could handle it! And besides, it's not like you've been doing such a great job on the not-jerking-off thing either."
Oh, for God’s sake. “That's not what I'm talking about," Ray corrected him with deliberate calm. Hey, if Fraser could keep it cool through this whole mess, so could he.
Kowalski blinked. “Okay, then what are you talking about?"
“We agreed to this little non-arrangement because of Fraser, right?"
Now it was Ray's turn to cross his arms. “So why the hell aren"t you with Fraser?"
“Because you dragged me into a closet," Kowalski retorted.
“No, Stanley; I mean, why aren"t you with Fraser?"
Kowalski's jaw hit the floor. “Wait, you mean, with with Fraser?"
Ray made an expansive gesture with both hands that hopefully conveyed 'what did you think I meant?' well enough to get it through Kowalski's thick skull.
Kowalski spluttered a moment, then came back with, “Why aren't you with Fraser?"
“Cause I'm not the one that goes around looking like a kicked puppy if Fraser doesn't look at me for five minutes."
Kowalski let out a snort. “I'm sorry, have you seen yourself lately?" He shook his head as if trying to make some sort of sense of what he'd just heard. “Wait, you want me to hook up with Fraser?"
“Was that or was that not basically what we agreed upon three weeks ago?" Ray demanded, exasperated.
“No, we agreed that there was no way we could possibly hook up with each other because Fraser was lying like a rug about wanting us to." The same exasperation was starting to creep into Kowalski's voice. “I thought you wanted him. Unless you go around kissing all your plutonic friends like that?"
Ray felt the blush start at the tips of his ears and the middle of his bald spot, then work its way inward. “I think you mean 'platonic.' And yeah, of course I want him. Who wouldn't?" Literally. The whole world seemed to think Fraser was, as Frannie'd so eloquently put it, a perfect specimen. “But it's not about what I want. Fraser wants you. He'll never say it, because he's determined to push this whole soulmate thing with us, but I've seen the way he looks at you."
“Yeah, well, you're forgetting I felt the way he kissed you."
Ah, hell. Ray grimaced. “Ah, yeah, sorry about that."
“Um, actually..." Ray watched the red of Kowalski's hair leech into his face again and tried not to think about how it was actually kind of a good look on him. “I didn't mind so much. It was kinda hot."
Ray suddenly remembered the reaction he'd gotten from Kowalski, the one that had confused him so much it had probably stopped things going any farther. And then Kowalski wasn't the only one turning the color of stewed beets.
They stared at each other awkwardly for a minute. Then Kowalski ventured, “Do you ever wonder about it? I mean...what it would be like with both of us?"
The rush of heat moved quickly southward, and if Ray's next question came out sounding a little dumb, it was only because most of his blood was headed away from his brain. “Both of us kissing Fraser?"
Kowalski's pupils almost swallowed up his irises and Ray could feel the way both of their pants were becoming a little uncomfortably tight. They may not be able to share mental images, but apparently Kowalski had a doozy of one of his own. “No. I mean...Jesus, yeah, that would be hot too...but I meant you and me. With each other."
Ah, fuck. They kept talking like this and Ray was gonna have to do something about it. In the closet. With Kowalski not only feeling it but watching. His throat was so dry that his voice came out hoarse. “I thought we decided that was a no-no on account of Fraser."
Kowalski shrugged. He was giving Ray a look now that almost suggested blow jobs might be in their immediate future. “Yeah, well, we both pretty much know that Fraser wants us both." The heat in his eyes faded a little into hesitation. “What if, uh...what if I maybe want that too?"
God, yes. It was probably stupid to give any other answer than that out loud, since his body language was making it pretty obvious. But this was Fraser, the last bastion of propriety. “Are you seriously suggesting we invite Fraser to join us in a menage a trois?"
Kowalski's eyes pinched in confusion. Or possibly frustration. Maybe both. This was rapidly becoming an increasingly frustrating conversation, in the explicitly sexual sense. “I don't speak Italian, Vecchio, but if that means threesome, then yeah. That's exactly what I'm suggesting."
Ray rolled his eyes, but managed to refrain from pointing out that it was French. “What if he says no?"
Kowalski smirked. “I dunno, I think between the two of us we can probably convince him."
Something in Ray snapped. Suddenly he had Kowalski shoved up against one of the shelves, not caring that he could feel the metal digging into his own back as well. Then he was kissing him for all he was worth.
It was just as weird as he'd expected. There were moments when he even forgot which tongue was his and made the mistake of trying to move the wrong one, which made things even more awkward and fumbling than your normal first kiss. But it was also one of the hottest things he'd ever experienced without actual genitalia being involved.
When they finally came up for air, Kowalski ground against him, laughing breathlessly. “Need some help with that, Vecchio?" he asked.
The feel of their erections brushing against each other, even through four layers of fabric, was more than Ray could take. Especially feeling it from both sides. He groaned. “Fuck you, Kowalski."
Kowalski's grin turned into a leer again. “Okay, if you insist."
Then he was down on his knees, unzipping Ray's pants and easing him out. A heartbeat later, Ray had a mouthful of his own dick, but he didn't even care because what Kowalski was doing to it...Jesus, and he'd thought the man was good with his hands.
They came at the same time--the one small remaining sliver of Ray's brain that could still form thoughts briefly wondered if that was going to happen all the time now--and then both slumped down to the floor and just stared at each other.
Operation talk-Fraser-into-a-threesome went into effect sometime after they both managed to pull themselves together, clean up, and go back to actually talking. They decided it would be best to do it at Vecchio's place, since Fraser might get suspicious if Kowalski invited him over two nights in a row, and not in the right way.
Fraser had seemed genuinely pleased to accept the invitation, even if his eyes had been tight and his smile forced as he looked between them. Fraser's always been a little too observant where other people were concerned, and the fact that he had a sense of smell only slightly less well-honed than Dief's didn't help.
Speaking of Dief; the wolf had taken one look at them and let out a snort that Ray almost understood in spite of himself. Then he'd laid his head back down on his paws and proceeded to ignore them both for the rest of the conversation.
They made a point of not leaving the station at the same time. Ray left first, as soon as Welsh okayed it, since he was the one with the most preparation to do. His apartment was not exactly what you'd call clean, after all. And if he was even vaguely hoping to have sex tonight? With either one or both of his partners? He was damned well going to at least change the sheets.
He ended up doing a lot more than that, and probably a lot faster than he'd ever done it before in his life. So fast that he nearly slammed his fingers in the drawer when he was putting away the silverware.
Damn it. He shouldn't be this nervous. For Christ's sake, he'd already kissed them both and basically screwed Kowalski. But apparently the part of him that had asked, “What if Fraser says no?" wasn't entirely convinced by Kowalski's reassurances. So, here he was taking it out on his apartment.
Kowalski arrived next, pizza in hand as they'd agreed. Okay, so it wasn't the most romantic meal for a planned seduction, but it was them in a way that anything fancier just wasn't. Fancy was more just Ray, and that wasn't what they were offering.
It helped that Ray wasn't the only one who was nervous. Kowalski kept up a pretty much constant rhythm with his foot on the floor whenever he was standing still, which wasn't often or for very long. It was driving Ray nuts. He finally had to step on Kowalski's foot to get him to stop. “Keep that up and by the time Fraser gets here, I might be a lot less enthusiastic about this plan," he warned him.
“Yeah, right," Kowalski retorted with that leering grin that Ray was starting to fall in love with maybe a little bit. He pulled a tray of ice out of the freezer and started dropping cubes into the glasses he'd set out. “Like you haven't been thinking about what you wanna do to me since the minute I walked in the door."
“Never said I wasn't," Ray acknowledged dryly. “But if you keep that up, it's gonna involve a lot less sex and a lot more violence."
Kowalski's grin just got bigger. “Sweet. Never knew you were into the kinky stuff."
Ray hit him with a dishtowel. Kowalski retaliated by dropping an ice cube down his neck. He yelled, “Worth it!" as Ray yelped and chased him out of the kitchen. It succeeded in breaking the tension, but had the unfortunate side effect that they forgot completely about dinner and were wrestling on the couch, each trying to get the upper hand--and remember which hands were theirs--when Fraser finally knocked on the door.
They sprang apart, looking at each other apprehensively.
Fraser knocked again, a little more uncertainly this time, and Ray swallowed hard. “Well, here goes nothing." Disentangling himself from Kowalski, he made a vain attempt to smooth down the front of his shirt and stumbled to the door.
For a split second, he was almost disappointed to see that Fraser had taken the time to change into his civvies, even though he and Kowalski'd done the same. If there was one thing he'd known for years he wanted, it was messing up that uniform. Even before he knew he wanted to do it in quite this context. But that leather jacket looked pretty damned good on him too, and the jeans hugged Fraser's ass in a way the uniform pants weren't designed to do, so he wasn't gonna complain. If things went well, there'd be time for the other later.
He really hoped things went well.
An easy smile slipped onto Ray's face. “Hey, Benny. Right on time as usual. Come on in."
Fraser entered, eyes widening in surprise when he spotted Kowalski. “Ray! What a pleasant surprise," Fraser greeted him, before turning back to Ray. “I wasn't aware that you had invited Ray as well."
“Yeah, well, that's kinda the thing,” Kowalski interjected. “Me and Vecchio, we got something we wanna talk to you about."
How Fraser could exude pure panic and yet at the same time say, “Yes of course, Ray," in a voice that was completely even, Ray didn't know, but then Fraser'd always been good at hiding.
“After we eat," Ray interjected. Not because he wanted to prolong Fraser's misery, not by a long shot. But if they started that conversation first and things went the way they wanted them too, Ray knew they weren't likely to get around to eating at all.
Kowalski tore his eyes away from Fraser and nodded. “Right. Food first."
Okay, so maybe it would've been the better idea to just go ahead and let the pizza get cold. Because dinner was, quite frankly, torture. Fraser made politely pleasant conversation, but his eyes died a little bit every time Ray and Kowalski reached for a slice of pizza at the same time, or spoke to each other, or looked at each other. The tension thickened as the evening wore on and their appetites waned, as much from the former as from satiation. It got almost dense enough to force all the air out of the room by the time Kowalski finally broke.
He set down his half-eaten slice with a little too much force and blurted, “Look, Fraser, it's not what you think."
Fraser looked at him, and Ray could almost see the ruler he was using to measure his words. “Oh? Do you mean that you and Ray are not together?"
Oh, this was gonna be fun. Kowalski looked at him, the memory of their earlier encounter burning hot in his face and in parts lower. Ray smiled back sweetly and folded his hands in his lap. “No..." Kowalski half-stammered. “I mean...we are--sort of. But..."
Ray took pity on him and interjected. “What Stanley is trying so eloquently to say, Benny, is that while you may be right, it's possible we could be good together, we're never gonna be great. Not without you."
Fraser frowned. “Ray, I never had any intention of failing to continue on as your partner--"
This time it was Kowalski's turn to interrupt. “Not our police partner, Fraser. We want you to be our partner partner."
Fraser looked from one to the other, bewildered. Ray could tell he still wasn't quite getting it. “You said it yourself, Benny. Having a soulmate is no guarantee you're gonna be happy. But the three of us...I think we could make each other happy. If you'd let us. God knows we've both been in love with you probably as long as we've known you."
Benton Fraser was always one of the most beautiful men God ever created. But when he smiled--genuinely and helplessly like all the strait-laced Mountie training in the world couldn't hold it back--he was quite possibly the most beautiful thing God had ever created. “You want me to be part of your relationship?" he asked like he couldn't quite believe it.
Kowalski just nodded, swallowing hard.
“Would you like that, Benny?" Ray managed to ask gently.
Fraser floundered happily. “Well, I...I would…this is highly unconventional, Ray."
“Forget conventional," Kowalski snapped. “Do you want us? Would that make you happy?"
“Yes." Ray could tell it slipped out, but Fraser had never sounded more sure of anything in his life. He looked at them both, and God, there it was. That look of pure adoration that Ray'd envied so much when he’d seen it directed at Kowalski. Only this time it was pointed at both of them and he didn't care if they saw him. Better yet, there was hope for the first time that Ray'd ever seen. “I can't imagine anything that would make me happier. But are you sure about this?"
Kowalski jumped up from the table like someone'd installed a spring under his ass. Circling around to Fraser, he grabbed his face in both hands and kissed him like his life depended on it.
Ray closed his eyes and let out a low groan of satisfaction. It was every bit as good as he'd ever imagined it could be.
When they pulled apart, Kowalski demanded, "That feel sure to you?"
Fraser nodded wordlessly, then looked at Ray. His eyes were so dark the blue had almost vanished, and his breath was as ragged as if he'd just chased a purse snatcher clear across Chicago. “You felt that too, didn't you?" he asked in that breathless tone. Okay, so it was stating the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needed to be stated.
Ray could only nod, his throat too dry and his body too turned on to form words right now.
Fraser drew a long, deep, shuddering breath. “That must be...I can only imagine." It took a second for Ray to clue in what he meant by that, but finally he got it. Fraser'd done the soulmate-on-soulmate thing, sure. And he'd probably felt Victoria kiss a few other guys--although maybe not so much while she was in prison--but he hadn't wanted those guys just as bad as he'd wanted Victoria. In fact, it had probably hurt like hell.
An idea hit Ray so hard it turned his dick to rock in about five seconds. Kowalski's head snapped around to look at him. “Vecchio?" he asked warily.
Ray drew a shuddering breath, then grinned at him before turning that grin on Fraser. “You wanna feel what we're feeling? I think we can make that happen."
Fraser swallowed. “How--?"
Ray gave him his best Kowalski leer. “Simple. Everything you do to one of us, the other'll do it to you. How does that sound?"
Fraser made a noise that sounded like a strangled gurgle and Ray's grin just got wider. Kowalski smirked back at him. “I think that's a yes, Vecchio. What do you think?"
Ray pushed back from the table so hard, his chair fell over. “Bed," he managed to rasp out. Walking the few feet to the bedroom was not gonna be fun in his condition, but he was not about to do this on the dining room floor. Maybe in the future, but not this time.
Fraser made an eager nose and pushed back his own chair to comply. Ray was never sure afterwards how the hell they made it to the bedroom, but within seconds they were falling onto the bed together with Fraser in the middle. Clothes went flying, neither Ray nor Kowalski really caring where they landed. Fraser was a bit more meticulous, but that meant he was still working on his buttons by the time the other two were down to nothing.
Ray looked at Kowalski, and without a word or a touch they both went to work on Fraser, Ray stripping his shirt and his undershirt over his head while Kowalski eased down the zipper on his jeans and stuck his hand inside.
Both Fraser and Ray moaned at the same time. Kowalski grinned. “You like that?" Then he let go to finish stripping Fraser's jeans off. The minute Fraser was freed from his pants, he rolled over on his side and swiftly applied his mouth to Kowalski's neck. Ray bit back another noise of his own and kept his promise, spooning himself against Fraser's back and nipping at his neck in as close to the same spot as he could get.
Fraser shuddered between them, visibly struggling to hold it together. His hands flailed out, grasping onto Kowalski's hips as if they were the only thing keeping him from floating away. Ray dug his own hands into Fraser's hips for pretty much the exact same reason, promise or no promise.
They were all hard by now, and Ray was quite possibly in the best place he'd never even imagined being. He could feel Kowalski's dick rubbing against his--or rubbing against Fraser's rather--even as he rubbed his own against Fraser's perfect ass.
Kowalski's eyes rolled back in his head. “Fuck me," he breathed.
Ray made a noise of agreement and Kowalski grunted in frustration. “No...I mean...want you to fuck me."
Fraser apparently figured out that fucking Kowalski meant getting fucked by Ray at the same time, because suddenly he was trying to press into both of them at the same time. “God, yes," he consented fervently.
It took a little bit of rearranging--if they were gonna give Fraser the full being-Kowalski experience, then he was gonna have to take him from behind for symmetry--and at one point Ray had to get up to grab the lube (also thoughtfully provided by Kowalski, who'd picked it up on the way to pick up the pizza), but soon they were back down and Fraser was carefully easing one slick finger into Kowalski while Kowalski squirmed against him. It took all of the brain power Ray had left to imitate the gesture, so caught up was in the feeling of Fraser gently easing Kowalski open.
Fraser threw his head back with an awed, “Oh!" and almost forgot to continue. He pulled himself together with an effort; enough to add a second finger, then a third, gasping each time as Ray copied him.
Kowalski threw his head back so hard it was a wonder he didn't crack Fraser's nose and kill the mood in the process. “Oh, God, Frase, please..."
It was no wonder he was on the edge, considering he was essentially getting finger-fucked by two guys instead of one, and with a lot less awkwardness than that sort of thing probably usually took.
Fraser took the hint. He also took the lube and applied it liberally to his dick before handing it back to a so-turned-on-he-was-nearly-numb-with-it Ray. Only when Ray touched a slick finger to his back to indicate that he was ready did he finally push into Kowalski at the same moment as Ray pushed into him. Kowalski arched like someone had just put 20,000 volts through his body.
Normally Ray figured it would've probably taken them a little while to figure out a rhythm. But he could feel the rhythm Fraser was setting up as he pumped into and out of Kowalski, so it was the easiest thing in the world to fall into it. Just like it was the easiest thing in the world for both of them to follow Kowalski over the edge when he finally just couldn't take it anymore. The world whited out for an unbelievably long time and then they all collapsed in a messy pile all over Ray's freshly-ruined sheets.
He'd heard afterglow described as being blitzed out before, but never had that metaphor seemed so appropriate. For those first few moments, there was nothing left of Ray Vecchio. He'd been completely subsumed in Fraser and Kowalski and he didn't even care. Tomorrow, maybe, he'd go back to finding them the most annoying people on the planet, but for now he just wanted to lie there: head pillowed on Fraser's right shoulder staring into Kowalski's eyes where he lay on the left, feeling both their arms around him.
Kowalski smiled at them, and for once it wasn't a grin or a leer, but a genuine, affectionate smile. “Hey, Frase," he managed in a lazy voice, and Ray felt it rumble through Kowalski and Fraser both. “Still think the conventional way is better, or you maybe want to try our way for a while?"
Fraser closed his eyes and smiled. He was too close to look at them, so he tightened the arm that was curled around each of their backs instead. “For as long as you'll have me," he vowed.
Ray grinned and closed his eyes. Maybe this soulmate thing wasn't such a bad deal after all.