Ray notices that Thatcher’s hot on second one of minute one of hour one of their first meeting. Because, yeah, sure, he’s still reeling from Stella, he’s not on his game, but he can still see.
He doesn’t even try to do anything about it, though. Because, number one, they’ve got too much ground to cover here for him to be wasting time--he’s doing all the prep for the Vecchio gig in under a week, and Thatcher’s got to catch him up on the whole Canadian-cop-partner part of it, because no matter how many times he reads over the prep notes he got he can’t make that make a damn bit of sense. Number two, he’s got to spend too much time this week learning everything else about Vecchio--he’s got to interview everybody down at the station and about three hundred and eighty-six Vecchio relatives. (All his undercover gigs before were as made-up people--he’s never stepped into the life of an actual guy before. At least Vecchio isn’t married, but he has the feeling that talking to Vecchio’s mother is going to be really, really weird.) And three, she’s his incoming-partner’s boss, and making any moves there would probably freak out said partner.
So Ray is Mister Professional, even when Thatcher pulls out a neatly labelled folder on Fraser and hands it to him and he notices that she’s already gone through and highlighted any references to Vecchio in the case notes.
Ray has a type. Always has, even before Stella, far back as he can remember. Any girl who was organized and confident and so smart Ray felt like he was working his ass off just to keep up? He was putty. Good looks were just extra.
Thatcher has a lot of extra. Ray sighs, and keeps his eyes on the case files, and focuses.
Working with Fraser is brain-meltingly strange and pedal-to-the-metal from the get-go and doesn’t ever, ever stop. Less “hitting the ground running” and more “hitting the ground unicycling and juggling chainsaws.” So for a while there Thatcher doesn’t really cross Ray’s mind except in the vague sort of “nice face to think about sometimes” way.
And then he walks into the Consulate one day after work hours and she’s still there, and she and Fraser are...throwing knives.
Throwing knives and arguing over balance and weight and throwing style, both of them thwacking right into the center of the office bulletin board over and over, and Thatcher’s laughing a little mixed in with telling Fraser that he’s deranged and clearly a heavier handle is better.
Ray just leans against the wall, watching them, and god. If she’s good at anything else in his immediate vicinity he’s going to come in his pants.
Fraser wraps up the game, laughing and, big surprise, not conceding the argument, and he grabs his coat and heads out with Ray for their usual diner-dinner.
“So, uh,” Ray says. “If I asked Thatcher out, would that be weird for you?”
Fraser hems and haws, and delays with a fable about ermine, and finally spills about a nuclear train and a kiss, which, wow, Ray did not see that coming. And with anyone else he’d call bullshit on the whole story, but since it’s Fraser it almost seems not weird enough. Like, he’s actually kind of surprised there wasn’t a chorus line of dancing beavers on top of the train too, or something.
“So,” Ray says, because he can’t tell, “is that a yes or a no?”
“Ah,” Fraser says. “While the kiss is undeniably a pleasant memory, Inspector Thatcher pointed out, quite rightly, that it would be an untenable relationship to sustain in daily life, since I am in her command line. And as of late she and I seem to be approaching friendship, which is...much more comfortable, in our case. So no. Not terribly weird, Ray, but I’m touched that you asked.”
Ray basks a little, because there is nothing like hearing Fraser say you did good, and then starts making plans.
He catches her at the end of her work shift one day, because that way she’s headed out the door anyway and if she says no there’s no awkward standing around. He holds the door for her and just jumps right in with “I’d like to take you out to dinner.”
He’s hoping for a yes but halfway expecting a “No,” or “I don’t date cops,” which yes, sometimes even other cops have that rule. But he’s totally thrown off when her answer is “Why?”
Her forehead is all frowncreased, like she is really worrying over that question, and Ray says, “Um, what?”
“Do you need more information? I really think I covered the case files pretty thoroughly. Is there some new--oh, god, did something happen to, ah--” she glances at the fairly-empty sidewalk around them, then leans close to his ear--”your...predecessor?”
“Oh! No no no! He’s fine! I mean, far as I know, they don’t tell me anything, but no news is great news in this kinda situation, right?”
“Oh good,” Thatcher says, and her face relaxes into a smile. “I’m glad. He was the kind of annoying that somehow...grows on you.”
“Why I got the job, ma’am,” Ray deadpans, and she actually laughs. Which is good, which is progress, since she’s not laughing at the actual date idea. Although maybe she still hasn’t figured out that it is a date idea.
“I want to take you out to dinner,” Ray says, “because I want to take you out to dinner.”
“Oh,” Thatcher says. She stops walking and just stares at him for a moment. Like, studies him. Ray feels like he’s being graded. He hopes she doesn’t take off points for slouching.
“Friday?” she says.
“Sure,” he says. There’s a boingy feeling in his chest and he hopes his smile doesn’t look completely stupid. “Fraser says you like Cuban?” and then wonders if that was a mistake, letting her know that Fraser was in on the plan, but she smiles back and says, “Love it.”
The first date is awkward and stiff and terrible for a while because Ray is stupidly trying to make General Polite Conversation, at which he sucks and has always sucked and will always suck. There are a lot of long uncomfortable silences, and half an hour in he’s almost resigned himself to a crash-and-burn when he suddenly remembers that she’s a fellow cop. He manages, just barely, to keep from smacking his forehead at his own dumbness, and launches into a story from his undercover days, involving this drug dealer who had a Rottweiler that was supposed to be all terrifying but fell in love with Ray because Ray started carrying beef jerky in his pockets. And she cracks up and comes back with one about chasing a perp into a movie shoot on a street in Toronto and suddenly being surrounded by pretty people with fake guns and having to fight the urge to draw her own weapon on all of them.
Things go great after that, and when he walks her to her door later that night he feels pretty confident about leaning in for a light kiss, just a little peck on the lips. When he stands back up straight she gives him one of those long considering looks again, and then, hell yeah, reaches up and grips him firmly by the back of the neck and pulls him in for another kiss, longer, mouth slightly open.
It’s been a long time for Ray, and she tastes like wine and ropa vieja and coffee, and he just barely manages not to moan.
When she pulls away she smiles up at him, a smile he hasn’t seen from her in the consulate, and says, “Well, I’ve enjoyed myself. Have you, Detective?”
Ray nods like a bobblehead doll. YEP YEP YEP.
The next Friday they go dancing, and he discovers that Thatcher with a couple drinks in her actually giggles sometimes.
The Friday after that, they go to a movie, and he discovers, to his surprise, that if you ask Thatcher what kind of movie she’d like to see, she says, “One with explosions.”
“Nothing, ah, French?” he says, because he’s sat through subtitles before for the sake of romance and he’d do it again.
“You know, I’ve tried,” she says. “I have really tried to be high-culture about that kind of thing. But. I love opera, and I love the ballet, but somehow with movies--I just don’t want to watch starving peasants digging potatoes in the rain for two hours.”
“Amen,” Ray says, gratefully, and they go watch things blow up and share a bucket of popcorn. He puts his arm over the back of her seat, and she leans her head against him, and he feels about twelve and it’s pretty great.
The Friday after that is more dancing. The first time out they’d danced a couple of slow numbers, then Ray asked her if she was up for a fast one and she was game--she clearly hadn’t had had the training and practice he’d had, she wasn’t smooth, but she paid attention and followed his lead well and learned quickly. And she seemed so delighted with her new skill--and Ray was having such a good time watching her be delighted, watching her be flushed and sweaty and grinning--that he stuck with the fast ones and led them off the floor for rest breaks and drinks when the slow ones played.
This time he’s in the mood for slow dancing, and she seems to be too. But when he’s got his arms full of her and his nose in her hair and she’s swaying with him, he gets--he can’t help getting hard.
He tries to angle his hips away from her a little bit, because he’s trying to take it slow, here, trying not to fuck this up. And she takes her hand off the back of his neck, drops it to his hip and pulls him sharply back up against her.
“Oh,” he says softly into her hair.
“Mmmmm-hmmm,” she says.
That Friday night she comes home with him, and he learns a lot of new things about her.
They’re all good.
Ray is stunned at how great the next few months are. They don’t manage to see each other as much as they’d both like, because he’s got work things and she’s got work things and sometimes even when they’ve tried to juggle schedules and plans the work things don’t cooperate. But every time they do get together, it’s...it’s good.
And Fraser keeps giving him a delighted grin and a thumbs-up whenever Thatcher’s not looking, so apparently whatever he’s hearing about it is good too.
It is a little weird that they’re having sex and still not on a first-name basis. He tried to call her “Meg” a couple dates in, and it just…”That sounded weird somehow,” he said.
“It did,” she said. “And I like the way your voice sounds when you say Thatcher. I--just like the way your voice sounds, really.”
“Really, Thatcher,” he said.
“Really, Detective,” she said, and he didn’t even try for “Ray,” because unlike the way “Detective” came out of everybody else’s mouth, when she said it it was really fucking hot.
When he’d been dating Stella this long he had it all planned out: they were gonna get married and have four children and four dogs and maybe a monkey. Of course, when he’d been dating Stella this long he was in junior high.
He’s not gonna be that way now, though, he is a grown man and he is going to take things slow and sensibly and not spook her. And then one morning they’re in bed and she’s lying with her head on his chest. He’s petting her damp hair, and they’re both sweaty and sticky and satisfied, and he’s thinking about how when she’s in uniform you never notice how small she is, just a really little person here in his arms. And something in his chest shifts or loosens and he blurts out, “We should move in together.”
She raises her head and looks him in the eyes, and he makes himself not flinch or laugh it off or take it back.
“I can’t move in to your place,” she says, and Ray blinks. A little panicked whisper of of course she can’t, it’s a shitty little cop-salary apartment, what the fuck were you thinking, she is so out of your league starts up in his head.
“Most of the time I do official entertaining at the Consulate, but occasionally I do have to host large dinner parties at my apartment, so it has to be fairly big,”:she says, and okay, yeah. No way they would fit seventeen Canadian mayors in Ray’s place, it’d be a Marx Brothers movie, only more polite.
“So,” she says. “You want to move in here?”
Fuck slow and sensible, Ray thinks, and says, “Yeah.”
it’s still not easy to find enough time together. But now in addition to all the date nights they can manage, there are mornings. Mornings when Ray stumbles out of bed and follows the smell of coffee to the kitchen, because Thatcher is always up before him and is somehow able to work the coffeemaker even before she’s had coffee, which is magic.
He gets a couple of cups in him and then he’s human enough to talk, to pour himself some cereal and rub his feet against hers under the breakfast table. Her feet are always cold and he figures footwarming is a fair trade for coffee.
He bitches about his job a little, and she bitches about her job a little, and sometimes she looks over at him and grins--he gets that slightly-drunk grin from her now even when she’s sober, and he’s pretty sure nobody else does.
She gives him that particular smile, and sometimes she runs her cold toes up his shins under his pajamas, and he yelps. But sometimes she smiles and says, “I want to take you out to dinner,” and he says, “WHY?” and they crack up.