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Moment of Truth

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This story more
or less stands on his own, although it's a little easy to follow if you've
read "Absence of Reason" first. I really do like SRK, even though he
isn't portrayed as the nicest guy in the world here. I suppose this qualifies
as a fixit, in that everyone stays in Chicago except Inspector Thatcher.

Moment of Truth


Renfield Turnbull
quickly wiped his hands on a dishtowel and picked up the ringing phone.
"Hello?"

"Hey, it's me."

"Hello, Ray," Ren smiled into the phone.

"You busy?"

"No, not particularly. I was just finishing drying the dishes."

"I was wondering if you wanted to come over here."

"Where?"

An exasperated sigh. "My place."

"I'd like that, Ray. Shall I bring anything?"

"Nah, that's fine."

"I'll be over as soon as I'm finished here."

"Sure thing," Ray hung up.

Ren put the receiver back in the cradle with a thoughtful frown. He
took his time wiping the few dishes that were left, debating whether
he should call Ray back and cancel. Actually, he knew what he should
do, but he knew just as well that he wouldn't--he couldn't.

Deep in thought, Ren didn't manage to catch the glass that seemed to
jump from his fingers of it's own accord. He looked down at the shards
with a queer sense of resignation before stepping carefully around them
to get the broom and dustpan.

********

The walk to Ray's apartment was nearly two miles, but Ren preferred it to buses--it gave him time to try and sort out his feelings. Feelings which Stanley Raymond Kowalski most definitely did not share.

Ren tried unsuccessfully to pinpoint when his infatuation with the dishevelled detective had grown into love. As though figuring that out would help me stop loving him, he thought despondently.

When Ray had finally shown some interest in him, Ren had been overjoyed, hoping that if Ray got to know him better, the detective's physical attraction might develop into something more. After a month-and-a-half, though, it became obvious that was never going to happen. Ray apparently had no desire to know anything about him beyond his body and avoided anything but the most common conversations.

Then what to do? Keep seeing Ray in the hopes that his love miraculously wore itself out somehow? Break it off with Ray completely? Or try harder and hope against hope that Ray would eventually become interested in more than sex? Ren decided on the third option because the first was inconceivable and the second to painful to contemplate. Still, it was with a great deal of trepidation that he knocked finally on Ray's door.

Ray opened it immediately. "Hey."

"Hello, Ray."

"You took a little longer than I thought," Ray stepped aside to let him enter.

Ren couldn't help feeling pleasure at Ray's ungracious remark, wondering if it meant the detective had been anxiously waiting for him. "I'm sorry, Ray. As I was drying the dishes, I dropped a glass and had to sweep up the mess." He was a bit surprised that Ray let him finish his explanation, instead of cutting him off with a "Yeah, yeah, whatever," as he usually did.

Instead, Ray was regarding him with a sour expression. "He's back."

Ren blinked, puzzled. "Who?"

"Vecchio."

"Oh. Yes, I know. Constable Fraser mentioned it."

"He did, huh? I suppose he told you Vecchio'll be back on the job in two weeks."

"Well, no," Ren admitted. "But he made a rather sudden request for two weeks holidays to begin immediately, so I assumed..."

Ray moved to his couch and slouched onto it. "It's my desk he thinks he'll be back at," he growled.

Hesitantly, Ray sat down as well. "Well...technically, Ray--" he broke off when Ren favoured him with a dark glare.

"Welsh is making noises about partnering me with Vecchio. What the hell is that about?"

"Perhaps the lieutenant feels that--"

"It ain't gonna work. Frase and Vecchio are partners--in more ways than one, if you get my drift."

"Er...yes, Ray."

Ray regarded him with narrowed eyes. "What? Didn't you know?"

"Yes, I knew."

"Well, what the hell am I supposed to do? No way am I gonna play second fiddle or fifth wheel. That ain't my style."

Surprised that Ray would confide in him like this, Ren tried to think of something comforting to say. "Ray, I'm sure you'll find Detective Vecchio to be very--"

"Hey, don't tell me about Detective Vecchio, okay?" Ray exploded suddenly. "I've been Detective Vecchio for the last six months!" Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, Ray's anger vanished and his shoulders slumped. "Shit, I've done a better job with Ray Vecchio's life than with my own."

Ren didn't bother hoping that Ray included their relationship in that description. Right now all he wanted to do was ease Ray's pain. "I find that difficult to believe, Ray," he said, searching for the right words. "You were undercover and you...well, you obviously did an excellent job, since Detective Vecchio was successful in his assignment."

Ray involuntarily leaned towards the taller man, those words were just what he'd needed to hear.

Ren felt the warmth of Ray's body at his side and automatically wrapped his arms around the wiry form. "For you to have been chosen for this assignment...it--it shows that you were an exceptional police officer before."

Ray rested his head against the broad chest. "I've been Ray Vecchio for so long," he sighed. "I'm not sure I remember how to be Ray Kowalski anymore."

Instinctively, Ren tightened his hold. "Ray, you were never anyone else. Not really." His big hands cradled the blond head to his chest.

Ray closed his eyes, revelling in the soothing hands and the praise. For a split-second he considered what it would be like to have Turnbull here everyday; to cuddle up next to the big body after a rough day and let that soft voice banish all his worries. The thought immediately set of a cacophony of warning bells in his mind and he pulled out of the embrace.

Ren released him, obviously surprised by the abrupt movement. "Ray?"

Doggedly, Ray reminded himself that there was only one reason he had invited Turnbull to his apartment, and it wasn't for a heart-to-heart.

"Ray?" Ren put a hand on his shoulder. "What's the m--"

Ray cut him off by covering the questioning lips with his own. He twined his fingers in the short sandy hair and moved so that he was straddling the well-developed thighs.

Ren could sense the fury coursing through his lover and ran his hands slowly up and down Ray's back in an attempt to soothe him. When Ray began unbuttoning his shirt and his mouth trailed down the column of the pale throat, his kisses hard enough to leave bruises, Ren whispered gently, "It'll be all right, Ray."

Ray pulled back with an accusing glare. "Don't talk," he snarled, annunciating each word painfully.

Swallowing hard, Ren searched Ray's blue-green eyes for any sign of desire. There was none, only anger. "Ray..."

"Shut. Up." Ray's mouth descended again, hot and demanding.

Ren didn't find the situation the least bit arousing, although the hardness pressing against his stomach indicated Ray definitely did. His shirt had been pulled off his shoulders and Ray's mouth was on his chest, biting at his skin with deliberate viciousness.

This had nothing to do with him, Ren realized. Ray didn't care what he wanted, only for his own satisfaction. The feeling was uncomfortably familiar and Ren was tempted to allow Ray to continue in the hope that the brutality of Ray's desire would somehow lessen his feeling for the detective.

Ray's hands were unfastening his jeans, either not noticing or not caring that Ren wasn't responding. He knelt on the floor to drag the jeans down, his action so violent that he pulled Ren onto the floor as well.

That's when Ren knew with certainty that Ray was going to go through with this whether he participated or not. Let him, his heart told him. You love him and he's hurting. Let him do what he has to, but every other instinct told him he couldn't let this happen.

Instinct was stronger and he managed to push Ray off and scramble to his feet.

Ray stood as well. "What the hell's wrong with you?" he rasped.

Ren held up his hands placatingly. "Ray, I know you're upset. Maybe if we could just talk abou--"

"Talk?!" Ray spat as if the word tasted bad. "I don't spend time with you to talk."

Ren had known that all along, but the words still knocked the breath out of him. He felt like he'd been kicked in the stomach. With shaking hands, he hauled his jeans back up. "I'm all too aware of that, Ray."

For the briefest moment, some other expression flitted across Ray's face, but it disappeared immediately. "So you're saying no?"

"Yes, Ray. You're upset. Maybe if we--"

"Look, if we're not going to get down to it, you can get out right now."

To Ray's utter astonishment, that's exactly what Ren did.

*********

By the time Ren was back in his own bedroom, he'd managed to get his breathing under control and he no longer felt as though he would choke on the lump in his throat. It had taken every ounce of will-power he possessed not to turn around and walk straight back to Ray's apartment, no matter what the outcome.

Three times he picked up the telephone receiver to call Ray and three times he hung it back up without dialling. Finally, he stretched out on his bed as he tried to sort out what exactly about Detective Vecchio's return so upset Ray. Obviously, it had much to do with Ray's fear of losing Constable Fraser's friendship. Or was there more to it than that? Ren's stomach knotted. It could very well be that he'd been little more than a replacement for Fraser all along.

If that was the case, then it was best that he'd made a clean break of it, Ren decided as he rolled onto his stomach and buried his face in the pillow. Even better that he'd been the one to walk out, because that let him some semblance of pride.

Pride. Ren smiled bitterly. What pride? He knew that if Ray called, he'd be there in an instant, even knowing what would happen. He fell into a fitful sleep, wondering what sort of masochistic streak in him kept him in love with a man who had little use for anything besides his body.

*********

He'd been partnered with Vecchio for nearly two weeks before Kowalski finally decided that it wasn't the worst possible situation in the world. Surprisingly, their only actual argument during that time had been on the subject of their shared name. Finally, he'd conceded that it was confusing and he agreed to answer to "Stan" on the condition that no one ever refer to him as "Stanley." During those two weeks, Fraser had worked with them very little, although he still spent most of his off-duty hours with Vecchio. Fraser told Stan that Inspector Thatcher's replacement was keeping the entire Consulate staff busy as he made his authority felt.

Stan found that easy enough to believe, although he suspected that Fraser also wanted he and Vecchio to get used to working together. Sometimes, though, Stan would catch Fraser studying him with an expression more inscrutable that usual and he would panic, thinking that perhaps Fraser knew about Turnbull.

Quite often, Stan found wondering whether Turnbull missed him. He didn't miss the klutz, Ray told himself firmly, although he did miss the great sex. So what if Turnbull was the only person who had ever tried so hard to make him happy? Where was the challenge in that?

Stan looked up as Fraser and Vecchio walked into the bullpen. Vecchio, as usual, was gesturing wildly. "Whaddya mean you'll send Turnbull with the files? Where are you gonna be?"

"At the Consulate," Fraser replied calmly. "There a new software program to be installed, several files to be updated on the new system and then refiled."

"I thought you said Turnbull didn't do so bad on the computer," Vecchio countered.

"He doesn't--usually. But Inspector LeClair had rather little patience with Turnbull. That, in turn, makes Turnbull more nervous and prone to mistakes that usual. It's something of a vicious cycle. I thought it would be best if I remained at the Consulate."

"Okay," Vecchio conceded surprisingly quickly. He sat down across from Stan, wondering why the blond detective was trying so hard to appear uninterested. "But give me a call as soon as you get finished."

"I will, Ray."

Stan glanced up and saw Fraser giving him a speculative look. "Catch you later, Fraser," he said a little too casually.

"Of course, Stan. Good luck with the case." As Fraser turned go, he touched Vecchio's hand briefly. No one in the bullpen would have noticed--Stan barely saw it himself. It was nothing overt, just a small touch that demonstrated the deep connection the two men shared. Stan felt a pang at the sight of it. Not jealously--not exactly, but envy that they had something he wanted. Something he'd never had, not even with Stella. Quickly on its heels came anger. Anger at himself for turning down the chance he'd been given by Turnbull, anger at Turnbull for being that chance, even anger at Fraser and Vecchio for having something he wanted desperately.

Vecchio turned back just in time to catch Stan's expression. "Problem?"

Stan looked up into icy green eyes. Shit. He didn't need this right now. "No. No problem."

"If there is, you'd better tell me now."

Stan could hear many other questions in Vecchio's voice. "Look, there's no problem here, okay? I swear."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Vecchio seemed satisfied with that and much to Stan's relief, he let the subject drop.

After a brief trip out to check out a lead that went nowhere, both men were back at their desks, doing paperwork in relatively companionable silence. Stan spotted the flash of red in the badly lit bullpen first, and immediately became completely engrossed in the file before him. Vecchio, who sat with his back to the door, didn't notice Turnbull until the Mountie spoke.

"Here are the files you needed, Detective Vecchio."

Vecchio stopped reading to take them. "Thanks, Turnbull. How's that computer update thing going?"

Turnbull flushed. "I...I'm afraid we--that is, Constable Fraser--had to begin again. There was a...that is, I--I hit delete instead of enter and--"

"Screwed the whole thing up," Stan finished coldly.

Vecchio turned to his partner in surprise, and missed the way Turnbull flinched at his words. The Italian detective noticed that the cruel words seemed painful for Stan to say and decided to talk to Fraser and find out what exactly was going on between the two of them.

Turnbull's stutter was getting worse as he tried to pass on the rest of the message. "Constable Fraser, asked me to tell you...that is, pass on the message that he would be late, after all. I offered to stay and finish, but...well, Constable Fraser decided that he would do it himself."

"Who can blame him?" Stan muttered.

Vecchio had never bothered much with Turnbull before, but he suddenly felt sorry for him. He'd always loathed bullies and that was what Kowalski was coming across as right now. Any disappointment at not seeing Fraser right after his shift disappeared and he tried to make light of the situation. "Hell, stuff like that happens with those damn computers all the time. Tell Benny that if I were him I'd just trash the whole thing."

Some of the tension emanating from Turnbull eased. "Thank you, Detective Vecchio," he said quietly before he fled from the precinct.

Vecchio turned back to his partner to find Stan scowling at him. "Don't say a word," he hissed savagely.

Vecchio decided to let it go.

For now.

Disclaimer: They aren't mine, yadda, yadda, yadda, I'm just borrowing them for awhile. Please don't sue me.

Victoria Bishop
July 1998
bishop@mb.sympatico.ca