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If he's grumpy and snapping at everyone, it's just that he's not getting enough sleep. If he's not getting enough sleep, it's because the damn cat next door kept meowing loudly. That's right, meowing, he says when Dewey calls him on it. Meowing. So what? Nothing to see, move it along, fucktard, or I'll knock your goddamn teeth in.

Dewey arches an eyebrow and tells Ray, Fuck, I liked you a whole shitload better when the damn Mountie was around.

Ray has no answer for that, just a one-fingered salute and a lump in his throat.

Maybe he's getting sick or something.


It's a Tuesday when Ray comes home to find Turtle dead in his tank. Ray stares for a long time before carefully picking the little body up, placing him in a shoe box just like he and his dad did with that dead bird they found when Ray was a kid, and plans on burying him somewhere nice. Cleans out the tank, and it feels weird to think that he's alone, truly alone, for the first time ever. Ray ends up just tossing Turtle in his shoebox in the trash, and when he goes to bed that evening and stares up at the ceiling, he doesn't even cry.


It's not until almost seven months later that Ray finally goes out and gets laid. He finds a fairly decent looking brunette, who's probably had about ten drinks too many, and fucks her up against a dumpster in an alley. She's warm and hot around him, and in the morning he'll feel bad about taking advantage, but when she moans drunkely and clenches around him, he can't bring himself to care. He tosses the condom on the alley foor and walks away without glancing back.

The next morning, hungover and feeling guilty for taking advantage, he asks Welsh for a transfer.


The transfer is granted, of course, Ray can do pretty much whatever he wants now, because Vecchio brought back good information from Vegas, and Ray did help Vecchio get that information. Kept him alive, anyway. Captain Cinetti at the 23rd is an absolute asshole, and the anger bubbling in Ray's chest feels just good enough. No more Dewey and no more Huey and no more fat, pregnant Frannie, and Ray thinks maybe he should take up boxing again, just to have something to hit on a regular basis.

Captain Cinetti partners him with a real old-timer. Detective Johnson is at least twice Ray's age, maybe even three times, and instantly begins lecturing Ray on how they do things around here, and, This is not Major Crimes, Squirt, this is Homicide, and we're not fucking around. Ray wants to deck the guy, thinks of frozen planes on the Canadian tundra, and wouldn't trade this for anything in the world. Not really.


For some reason, Ray's favorite green vest doesn't fit him anymore. It doesn't keep him warm when December rolls around, like it has before. He can pull both his arms into it, even after he's zipped it up. Pull his arms in, wrap them around himself, and be an armless shadow in the city. All his sweaters and t-shirts are doing the same thing. Ray tells himself there's something wrong with his washing machine, and thinks briefly about buying a new one, but decides he can't be assed about it.


Ray wonders if maybe he should start practising unsafe sex. Wonders how bad it could be, to get crabs or chlamydia or even HIV? Thinks he needs to get laid more often and wonders if he dies from HIV, how many would come to his funeral. Ray never wants to get buried as a cop. He loathes the thought of countless brothers in blue, perfect strangers, showing up to mourn him like he mattered to them. He thinks maybe Stella would come. Maybe.

One night he calls her up and asks her, asks her, Would you come to my funeral? If I died from HIV, would you come?

She's worried on the other end of the phone, whispers something to someone who's Ray, but not Ray, and asks if he's drunk.

No, Stella, he tells her. No. But he can hear in her voice that she doesn't believe him. He has to smile at that, because the distrust still stings after all this years, and he welcomes the pain like the sweetest homecoming. Hello, dear friend, how I've missed you.


The guy on the TV looks down at the bloodied face and says, I felt like destroying something beautiful.

Ray stares blankly, listens to a car honk its horn loudly on the street outside, and wishes for complete silence. Makes a mental note to stop by a pharmacy or someplace and get some ear plugs. Wonders if maybe he could wear them all the time, even to work? Not like Johnson doesn't think he's a nutcase already.

The wall between his windows looks clean and empty. He took his bike down months ago, tossed it out because he wasn't using it anyway, and how much of a statement was that? Hang a bike on your damn wall? No.

Ray looks at the wall, looks at the TV, and wishes for complete silence. Takes a black magic marker and goes to scribble on the wall, I felt like destroying something beautiful, and thinks maybe he's losing his mind. Wonders if he's supposed to know he's going crazy, if that's really what's happening to him. Welsh would have seen something months ago, if Ray had still been at the 27th. Probably ordered him to a shrink, too.

Cinetti sees nothing, and Ray doesn't need a shrink, he needs complete silence.

He scribbles that down too, and when the wall still looks empty, he just keeps on writing.


The latino by the bar is eyeing Ray in the most obvious manner, and doesn't even seem to care when Ray and Johnson both flip out their badges to the bartender. Ray goes through the motions of explaining and telling and questioning, but keeps one eye on Latino the whole time. Doesn't even care when Johnson notices and makes a comment, something with the word fag or queer or faggot--Ray isn't sure.

He thinks about punching people and camp fires and the feeling of getting punched, and wonders if maybe a bunch of the guys from the department will jump him one day, strike him until he's bleeding from the ears and then leave him to become another case number on some homicide detective's desk. Ray knows a lot of people who would do it if they thought they could get away with it. Thinks that some of them might even pack punches that would really hurt him, really. Then he shakes the thought away. It doesn't matter.


Latino speaks horrible English, and he's gentle.

It doesn't even hurt when his fingers slide into Ray, and Ray wiggles and twists and it burns a little, but it never hurts, not once. Ray pushes everything down, moves harshly back, tells the guy, Just fuck me, already, fuck me hard, but Latino won't budge an inch. Keeps saying shit like, Calm, calm, I wait for you, and other shit that just doesn't make any real sense, mixed in with Spanish in Ray's ear.

Even when he's in, Latino moves slowly, carefully, like Ray is a delicate vase and about to crack into a thousand pieces. There is rage, red-hot and searing in his chest, and before Ray even knows what he's doing, he's twisting away, and that gives a satisfying twinge in his ass, and then Ray is punching Latino, punching him hard and spinning him clear down off the bed, and, What the fuck is wrong with you, is it so goddamn hard to just fuck me when I ask for it?

Ignoring the hurt look, the shock, the anger, and not even flinching when Latino starts to say, I call the-- and then realizes, remembers, Ray is the cops. Dresses without a word and gets out quickly, leaving Latino still sitting on his bedroom floor.

The floor was light, Ray realizes as he walks down the street. Polished and bright linoleum, nothing at all like the rough wooden floors of a cabin in the Northwest Territories, and Ray wishes he'd thought to spit on them before he left. Thinks if he ever sees floors like that again, he'll slam his head against the wall until his mouth fills with blood, and then spit it all over the pristine, disgusting surface.


Ray would never really consider giving his life for an old fart like Johnson, not anymore, not since everything, but he still finds himself leaping, firing, and the pain and the darkness is a blessing.


Captain Cinetti gives him three whole months extra off work, because he has a lot of sick days he's never used, and Cinetti is fucking tired of him. Johnson didn't even say thank you, and Ray loves it, loves it every time the stupid hospital door opens and Johnson stands there with a gruff look on his face and a slightly guilty twitch of his lips, and the bitter amusement is just enough to give him strength to face IAB. They're not letting it go, and Ray finds himself unable to even pretend to care. Let them take his badge, he thinks. Fuck.

Ray wonders how lame it is to start smoking at 41, but then decides what the hell, and after he signs himself out from the hospital against medical advice, he makes the cab stop at a little Indian corner store and buys a pack of Lucky Strikes. The irony of it doesn't escape him, and he laughs himself drunkely through that whole first cigarette, the booze and the gunshot wound in his shoulder and the burn of smoke in his lungs just painful enough for it to feel good.

IAB doesn't take his badge completely away; they suspend him for two months without pay, and Cinetti calls Ray into his office for his badge and gun, and says, You're one lucky fucker, Kowalski, they coulda taken your job.

Ray hands in his badge and gun, and wonders who coined the term Suicide by Perp. It's catchy, he thinks. No wonder it stuck.

Get the fuck out of my office, Cinetti orders.


Fraser's thirty letters sit unopened and untouched in Ray's kitchen drawer. His fifty-six messages on Ray's answering machines are all saved on tiny, little tapes, tucked into a plastic bag next to the worn envelopes.

It has been four and a half months since Ray last heard from Fraser, and he figured it was only a matter of time before even the clueless Mountie got with the program. And that's kinda wrong too, because Ray knows, Ray knows the clueless act was really that; an act. And he hasn't ever known anyone as smart as Fraser. Wonders if he's managed to hurt Fraser, and thinks absurdly that at least he finally did something right.

Thinks maybe that shrink isn't such a bad idea after all.

His mom has called too, but Ray hasn't saved a single one of her messages.


It's a Thursday evening when Ray stares hard at the knife in his hand and at the half prepared peanut butter sandwich on the kitchen counter that was supposed to be his dinner, and realizes that fuck--he's actually going to do it! He's done thinking about it, done not thinking about it, wanting it, subconsciously or consciously, and he's gonna stop fucking pretending and be real for once, for the first time in weeks, months years, maybe since before he became Vecchio, who knows?

Ray doesn't.

He hurls the knife into the kitchen sink, so hard that it bounces back up and nearly takes his eye out. Quickly jerks his head back in reflex, and that makes him feel somewhat relieved. Doesn't even pack, just steps into his boots, grabs his jacket and heads out without locking the door, because it doesn't matter. None of it. Doesn't matter, doesn't matter.

Uses the siren to get to the airport fast, and pays nearly five times what he'd normally pay, to be on a flight that leaves soon, now, yesterday, and actually has to show his badge to make them believe he's not a runaway from the cops, some axe murderer or psychopath cannibal. Ray doesn't think he breathes at all, until he's in his seat and the gravity is pulling him back and down, as the plane angles up, and Chicago becomes a gray network of streets and buildings fading underneath the clouds.



Ray shivers in the cold, watches as he puts one foot before the other, and makes deep grooves in the snow. His jacket isn't made for this weather, and everyone has looked at him oddly, but he doesn't care. Wraps his arms tighter around his body and wonders if he's always been able to feel his ribs through his clothes. Pushes the thought away, because he was going to do it, but he'll never do it, and it's only a few more steps, five more steps, four more steps, three more steps--

The cabin looks as if on a postcard, and when Ray reaches the front porch, sets a foot down on the step, the wood creaks under his feet. It's surreal. It's insane. He's almost freezing to death, and somehow there is something melting inside him, like rivulets of water running under the ice in the spring.

Inside, there is barking, and then the door opens and he's there.

A long moment of shocked silence, and Ray can't take his eyes off Fraser's face.

Then Fraser is pulling him inside, muttering, stuttering, pulling Ray's jacket off and tucking a blanket around him, and My God, he says, My God, Ray. The cabin is warm and dim in the fading light of day. There's a fire in the fireplace, and Ray smiles, because he thinks of fires and campfires and nothing but snowy planes and silence and utter serenity inside him, and then he's sinking down even as Fraser keeps piling blankets over him. The couch is soft and warm against his body, and Fraser's thigh is strong under his head, and Ray buries his face in worn jeans and wool blankets.

In a cabin in the Northwest Territories, Ray crumbles and breaks, and finally cries.