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Wise Guy

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Tom heard loud voices coming from the entrance to the squad room and swiveled in his seat with a grin. The Ray and Ray show were here. After Fraser and Kowalski had traveled by dogsled for a couple weeks, Fraser had been reassigned north. Without the Mountie, Kowalski had wandered around the squad room like a ghost until Vecchio and Stella's marriage had fallen apart and Vecchio had ended up back at the 2-7 and was partnered to Kowalski by Welsh. Then Kowalski came to life as he and Vecchio argued and picked on one another like middle school sweethearts.

Finally, with a blast of winter Chicago air, Ray Vecchio and Ray Kowalski came trooping into the room dripping snow all over the place and dragging a tall and skinny suspect between them. The suspect was in a sharp suit under his coat and had on a fedora. Tom was guessing pimp or a drug dealer looking to move up in life.

Ray Kowalski, in an obvious continuation of his argument with Ray Vecchio, said, "I don't care how much your suit costs, we share dumpster diving for evidence. I did it this time and last time, that means it’s your turn next."

"You're being unreasonable." Ray Vecchio pushed the suspect into the chair by his desk and took out his handcuff keys to move one of the handcuff loops from the suspect's wrist to the chair arm.

"You're being a style pig."

"You can't trot that out every time we disagree. It's old and played out." Tom only just contained his snort of amusement at the look on Vecchio's face. It was long-suffering but indulgent, if you knew where to look. Tom could see the crinkles around Vecchio's eyes that were hiding his smile.

The suspect said, "I gotta admit, it would be a shame to ruin that suit."

Vecchio said, "See!"

As he settled into his chair and pulled his keyboard towards himself, Kowalski pointed two fingers at the suspect and said, "Shut up. Nobody asked you."

Tom said, "You dived for evidence the last two times, Kowalski? You going soft?" He knew his double meaning would fly right over Kowalski's head, but he thought Vecchio might be twigging onto him. As ever Kowalski was too busy trying to figure himself out to notice what other people were implying. But Vecchio had come back from Vegas much more perceptive if the penetrating look he shot Tom was any indication. Tom made sure to keep his usual goofy grin on his face. Lulling Vecchio into a false sense of security was half the fun nowadays.

"And you too! I'm as hard as ever."

Just then the Lieutenant came into the squad room and rolled his eyes. With a quick glance of commiseration at Tom, he said, "I don't care how hard Vecchio makes you, Kowalski, keep it in your pants."

Kowalski sputtered and Vecchio threw up his hands and waved them like a damsel in distress in a horror film. Laughing, Tom was impressed. Welsh didn't often join in his ribbing of Kowalski and Vecchio, but on the few occasions he did, he always had a zinger ready. Tom wasn't surprised that Welsh saw the sparks between Vecchio and Kowalski and interpreted them as attraction just like Tom had. And it was always funnier when Welsh delivered the punchline instead of Tom. They could ignore Tom because they thought he was joking like always, but Welsh was respected by everyone and his words would at least make Kowalski stay up nights.

What they didn't realize was that Tom was funny because he understood the paramount thing about ribbing someone. There had to be a kernel of truth to it in order to make it funny. Sure he more often than not cracked silly jokes instead of cutting into someone, he wasn't a mean-spirited person, but it was worth it with Vecchio and Kowalski. They could take it and they were seemingly oblivious to how married they were. They were irresistible for teasing.

Welsh, never one to let his people indulge, said, “I’d like that report on my desk before the new millennium, Detective Dewey.”

“Yes sir.” Dewey swiveled back to his desk and began ostentatiously typing. Of course it was random keys and garbage was coming out, but none of the others could see his screen from where they were, so it was all good. Welsh dropped some papers off on Vecchio’s desk and strode out of the room.

The squad room was quiet for a couple of seconds, suspiciously so, so Tom swiveled back around. Vecchio and Kowalski were still staring after Welsh until his footsteps faded and then exploded into hand gestures and words. At first they overlapped too much to be understood, but then Vecchio won out over Kowalski and Tom could understand him finally. “See! I told you that you were ruining my rep!”

Kowalski was leaning forward over his desk and his finger was pointing at Vecchio. “You have no rep. You live with your mother.”

“She lives with me!”

“Same difference.”

Welsh bellowed from his office, “Enough!”

Kowalski and Vecchio sheepishly settled into their seats, or at least Tom thought it was sheepish until Kowalski darkly murmured, “This isn’t over.”

Veccio replied, “Damn right it’s not. And leave my mother out of it.”

Huey was just entering the squad room-- he had gone down to records to check something out for their case-- and he raised his eyebrows at Tom.

Tom got up and sauntered over to Huey and asked, “Coffee?” Huey nodded and as one they turned and headed for the break room.

Tom said, “What’s the number one sign you married a cop?”

Huey shrugged. “I don’t know. What is the number one sign you married a cop?”

“When an argument starts he calls for back up.”

Huey made punchline drum noises and then said, “I though the number one sign you had married a cop was that he stopped you during lovemaking to ask if you knew how fast you were going.”

Tom grinned. “Speaking of which, let me tell you about what Welsh said to Kowalski.” Huey raised his eyebrows and then smiled evilly. He always did know when Tom had a good story to share and ever since the Ray and Ray show had started up, Tom always had the best stories.