Stanley Raymond Kowalski stood facing the counter in his kitchen and steadily dropped M&Ms into a steaming mug of coffee, smiling as he did so. If he closed his eyes, he could clearly imagine Fraser's disapproving frown and the lecture he would receive on proper eating habits. If anybody had told him when he first accepted this undercover assignment how much he would come to depend on the crazy comments made by his Mountie partner he would have quite likely laughed in their faces.
His bemused thoughts - he'd make more sense after the caffeine and chocolate - were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. Reaching out to grasp the receiver with one hand, he used the handle of a wooden spoon to stir his 'breakfast'.
"Yeah... Oh, hi Fraser... I'm just heading out of the door now. I should be at the Consulate in a little bit. You all ready to go? How'd Dief take the news that he's staying with Turnbull?"
Ray rolled his eyes as the Mountie talked. The Ice Queen had found another errand for him to run. What a surprise. It had been a truly beautiful moment on Tuesday when Fraser had asked for his vacation. Thatcher had been caught truly flat-footed by the request.
She couldn't in all conscience refuse the request - Fraser had so much vacation time lying that if he took it all at once the consulate would be short staffed for about three months. All he wanted was a week. It just so happened though, that this particular week, there was an RCMP inspection team due to arrive. Inspector Thatcher was less than thrilled about having to deal with them herself. Let's face it, Turnbull wasn't really a hell of a lot of use.
Any other time, Ray might actually of had some sympathy, after all, she was a decent officer. It just so happened though, that Fraser had taken the time off to be there for him. In the weeks since he had been injured, a slow healing process had begun within the Kowalski family. The Mountie had played a huge part in that healing and the entire family knew it.
That was why, when Jimmy had been asked to attend some meetings in Vancouver, he'd asked his little brother and his partner to accompany him. The meetings would only take a couple of days, the trip to Vancouver was going to be for a week; courtesy of the company Jimmy was negotiating with. He'd tentatively suggested that the pair might like to come along for a change of pace before Ray was scheduled to return to duty with the Chicago PD.
Shyly, the brothers Kowalski had put the idea to the Mountie. Fraser had been reluctant at first, he had been pushing every opportunity to get his partner and his big brother to bond. Spending time with James made Ray happy and that in turn made Fraser happy. He had opened his mouth to decline the offer but Ray and James had plumped for the biggest weapon in their arsenal. They turned the intently pleading gaze of two sets of piercing eyes against the Mountie. Fraser surrendered. He always found it hard to refuse that gaze when Ray used it. When James had used it too, he surrendered.
"Look, Fraser. Tell the Ice Queen to take a hike. Jimmy and I will be there soon. The flight leaves in three hours."
Ray placed the phone back down, a smile on his face. Fraser hadn't seen anything yet. When the Kowalski family got it in their mind to do something, they did it.
One Week Later
James 'Jimmy' Kowalski glanced at the two men sitting beside him and smiled quietly. Fraser was sitting there actually reading the safety guidelines provided by the airline. Ray was right, the Mountie was a freak. It was amazing how such a word could be a term of endearment, but, in this case, it was so appropriate. The Mountie was one of a kind.
It had taken almost the entire week, but he'd finally managed to get Fraser to stop calling him James. Ray had taken to calling him Jimmy again - God, how he'd missed that. The best that he'd been able to manage from Ben was 'Jim'. Ray had grinned in delight the first time Fraser had addressed his brother that way. That had been that; if it made Ray smile, then Fraser would do it.
Jimmy eyed his little brother fondly. This past week, Ray had been like a kid let loose in a toy shop the week before Christmas. It still made his heart weep to think of the wasted years and unfounded hurts that had been laid upon his little brother's shoulders. With all his heart, Jimmy Kowalski hoped that the old adage that 'time heals all wounds' was true. The healing that had begun had happened because of the Mountie's steadying influence; Jimmy knew that beyond a doubt.
Ray's self-imposed isolation of recent years was slowly being peeled back, layer by layer. The courage and intelligence had always been there but now, under the gentle influence of Fraser, the exuberance, innocence and gentleness that he had previously hidden were being displayed without fear that they would be laughed at. In essence, Ray had learned to trust again. That trust was being shown clearly now for all to see. Ray had finally crashed after a frenetic week of fun that had ranged from sight-seeing to an over-night camping trip to watching an ice hockey match between the Canucks and the Blackhawks. Eyes closed, finally sleeping, Ray's head rested on his partner's shoulder, his spiky blond hair contrasted against the deep red shirt that the Mountie wore.
Ben closed the pamphlet that he was reading and turned to glance at his partner. Satisfied that he was all right, he met the steady gaze of Ray's brother and gave a quiet grin, echoed by the older man. Ray was healed. The week away had served its purpose.
It had served another purpose too. Ben and Jim had cemented the tenuous friendship that had been formed as they had battled to free Ray from his demons of doubt, and get him to accept that his brother loved him. They were still working on the relationship with his father. Damian Kowalski had taken the first steps towards healing the breaches that he had caused. Fraser still felt angry at times, the unthinking harm that Damian had caused to Ray pushed all of his 'protect your partner' buttons. It would not be as easy a reconciliation but it would happen. Jim and Ben were both determined to see that it did.
In the other man, Ben and Jim had found an ally. Someone that was as devoted to Ray as they themselves were. James Kowalski had no problems accepting that the Mountie was as much a brother to Ray as he was. Without Ben, it was unlikely if he would ever have been able to heal his own relationship with Ray. The Mountie had a big heart, he could easily have withheld his help and support in this family reconciliation. Considering the appalling behaviour that had been shown towards his partner by his own family it would have been understandable. Instead, secure in his own feelings, he'd done everything he could to help because he knew it was what his partner needed. Friendship like that comes along once in a lifetime.
Softly, Jimmy said, "Look after him. Please."
Just as quietly, Fraser replied, "With my life, if necessary."
Eyes closed, Ray Kowalski smiled. Silently, he thought, Love ya both, too.
Two Months Later
Laughing, Ray and Fraser walked down the street. It was a lovely sunny day and they had just reunited a tearful mother with her missing four year old daughter. Kidnappers arrested, family reunited, paperwork done - all was right with the world. They had decided to go pick up some lunch before heading back to the Consulate to pick up Dief. The wolf was currently 'grounded' for appropriating the Inspector's cinnamon danish.
Ray was looking the wrong way when it happened. They had just passed a toy shop and he had spotted something inside the window display that was absolutely perfect for Matt's upcoming ninth birthday. Fraser's attention had been caught by the sound of squealing tyres. He glanced round and saw a silver Mercedes careering out of control and skidding all over the road.
Suddenly, the car changed direction and began heading straight towards them. Ray hadn't seen it yet. There was no time. Acting on instinct, Fraser tuned and pushed his partner out of the way. Seeing that Ray was out of danger, Fraser smiled... he was still smiling as the car hit him. The force of the impact flung him through the toy store window, the glass shattering around him.
Ray looked on in horror as he saw the car hit his partner. Training taking over, he yanked out his cell-phone and dialled 911. "This is Detective Ray Vecchio, Chicago PD, I need an ambulance and squad cars at 3-15 Grant Street. Officer down! Say again, officer down!"
Scrambling to his feet, Ray made his way over to the crumpled form of his partner; heart in his mouth. He paled as he saw the unnatural angle of Fraser's left leg, swallowing convulsively as he realised that that was a huge shard of glass that was sticking out there. There was blood everywhere. Eyes terrified, he felt for a pulse. Nothing... no, wait... it was there! He was alive!
Turning his attention to the driver of the car, Ray made his way round to the driver's side of the vehicle. He had to yank at the door before it would open. As it did so, three empty vodka bottles fell out and smashed onto the sidewalk. Son of a bitch! Some fuckin' drunk had almost killed his partner! Containing his rage with difficulty, Ray stretched out a hand to take the guy's pulse. Nothing. Killed on impact.
Ignoring the driver for the waste of space that he was, Ray returned to his partner's side. He was conscious! "Frase, stay with me. Do you hear me? Help's on the way." Ray watched as the Mountie's dazed and pain-filled eyes began to close and he grabbed at Fraser's right hand, it was one of the few places that didn't seem to be covered in blood.
"Stay with me, partner," pleaded Ray in a hoarse, emotion filled voice.
Hearing the fear in Ray's voice, Fraser fought the pain that threatened to overwhelm him, and, once again, his eyelids fluttered open.
"That's it," breathed a relieved Ray Kowalski, "Look at me, Fraser. Concentrate on me. Stay with me." His head shot up - sirens. "Do you hear that, Frase? Help's on the way. Hang on, just hang on."
Less than a minute later, Ray found himself relegated to one side, arms wrapped round his himself as he waited anxiously. Phrases like, internal injuries, massive blood loss and compound fracture filling him with a fear like nothing else he had ever known.
He never even heard the car that brought Lieutenant Welsh screeching on to the scene. The minute he had heard that one of his officers had called in a report of an officer down he had been out of the office and on his way to the scene. He stepped out of the car and came face to face with a sight that he had never hoped to see.
His favourite, and by far his most unorthodox team, ripped apart. Ray looked small, lost and absolutely terrified as he gazed at the still form of the Mountie surrounded by paramedics. The frenzied work of the paramedics told its own story and Welsh sent up a silent prayer to anybody that was listening that the Mountie would be okay. His precinct had never been the same since the day the Constable had first walked through its doors. All his detectives, but most particularly Vecchio and now Kowalski, had benefited from knowing the crazy Canadian cop.
Kowalski in particular had blossomed within the security of the friendship offered by the Mountie. He had worried at first about how the Constable would relate to the replacement of his friend Vecchio. To be honest, he'd expected that the Constable would just eventually drift out of their lives leaving the stranger to his own devices. Instead, Fraser had done it again. He formed an unbreakable friendship and unbeatable partnership with another oddball detective. In fact, to be honest, Welsh thought these two - as a pair - got into even more bizarre situations than the Constable and Vecchio had.
Approaching Kowalski, Welsh laid a firm hand on the slender shoulder of the younger man. Dazed, Ray looked round. "Go with him, detective. I'll deal with this and meet you at the hospital."
Ray moved to get into the ambulance after Fraser had been loaded. At first, the paramedics moved to stop him. Welsh's voice cut across the scene and settled the matter. "That's his partner that you've just loaded into that ambulance. He's going with you."
The paramedics offered no further objections and a silently terrified Ray Kowalski climbed into the ambulance, his gaze never leaving his partner's pale and unconscious form.
Thirty Minutes Later
Looking round the emergency room waiting room, he eventually spotted Kowalski hunched over in a chair in the corner. He strode forward, calling out, "Detective, how is he?" as he did so.
Ray Kowalski looked up at him, eyes full of fear. "His heart stopped on the way in. The paramedics got it started again. He's in emergency surgery now."
Welsh shut his eyes and took a deep breath. Shit. This was bad. His concerned gaze took in the still form of his detective. Ray was holding himself as still and quiet as possible. He looked like he had convinced himself that if he stayed quiet and didn't move that nothing else bad was going to happen.
Welsh excused himself and - out of Ray's earshot - placed a few calls. One to the Embassy to let Turnbull and the Inspector what was going on. They'd be there the next day. Inspector Thatcher had a dinner with visiting dignitaries that she couldn't get out of and that left Turnbull as the sole Mountie on duty at the Consulate. The second call was to his own precinct to brief his anxious staff impatiently waiting for word. The Mountie had become a fixture in their lives, more so than he probably knew. Calling the Vecchio house was hard, Vecchio's mother doted on the Mountie. As he hung up, he expected that she was already on her way to the chapel to say a prayer for her Raymond's friend.
Finally, Lieutenant Welsh placed one last call. A distraught Francesca had held off her tears long enough to find the number for him.
"Mr. Kowalski, this is Lieutenant Welsh, Ray's boss. I met you a few months ago when you were visiting Chicago."
Fear in his tone, James Kowalski said, "Yes, Lieutenant. I remember you. Has something happened to Ray?" Unseen by the Lieutenant, Jimmy Kowalski held his phone in a white knuckled grip.
"No, Mr Kowalski, I didn't mean to worry you. Ray's not hurt. It's his partner. Fraser."
James Kowalski closed his eyes in pain. No! Not Ben. Ray couldn't handle that.
Welsh continued. "He's been very severely injured. To be frank, the situation doesn't look good. Ray is, well unsurprisingly, Ray is not handling it too well--"
A firm voice cut off the Lieutenant. "Tell Ray that I'll be there on the first available flight."
For the first time that afternoon, Lieutenant Welsh smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Kowalski. Contact the precinct with the number of your flight and I'll have a car waiting at the airport to pick you up."
Twenty Hours Later
Ray Kowalski sat at Fraser's bedside, slumped over in his chair, finally asleep. One hand still firmly grasping Fraser's. As he slept, the doctors words echoed over and over in his head. "Ruptured spleen causing internal bleeding in the abdominal cavity, compound fracture of the leg, shock, concussion, multiple lacerations. The next forty-eight hours will be critical..."
The ICU nurses had given up trying to move him from his friend's side. The last time one had been in to check on Fraser's vital signs, she'd brought a blanket and carefully placed it round the exhausted detective.
As soon as he'd been able to arrange a flight to Chicago, James Kowalski had arrived. Ray's lost expression had Jimmy pulling him into a hug before he even stopped to consider that Ray might not want to give the impression of being so emotional in front of strangers. Ray however, flung his arms round his big brother and held on to him in a stranglehold. Jimmy closed his eyes as he felt the first of Ray's tears soak through his shirt.
The room emptied as the brothers were left alone. Ray's broken cry of, "Why did he do it?! He pushed me out of the way of the car. If he hadn't have done that he would have been all right!"
Jimmy clasped Ray's head and forced him to meet his own tear-filled eyes. The sight of his friend lying hooked up to machines that were helping to keep him alive was hard - knowing that the injuries were caused saving his brother from a similar fate was even harder - but he had to be strong just now.
"Ray, would you have done any differently if the situation had been reversed? Ben did what he did out if instinct. To save his partner. To save his best friend. To save someone he loves like his own brother."
Ray sighed, pushing nervous hands through his tousled blond hair. "I know, Jimmy. My head knows that but my heart is another matter. Seeing him lying there... I've never been so scared. What if he--"
Jimmy interrupted. "No, what ifs, little brother. He's not going to leave us. We won't let him. We're going to sit here and stay with him and every time he even looks like he might be considering leaving us we are going to use the old Kowalski charm on him. Nobody gets away from us if we don't want them to. You know that."
The sound of his practical older brother spouting such emotional drivel actually managed to produce a small smile on Ray's face. That didn't mean that they weren't going to do it, it was just strange to hear the words coming out of Jimmy's mouth.
Another thought occurred to Ray. Dief! Ray looked at Jimmy, a pleading expression on his face. "Jimmy, can you got the Consulate and pick up Dief for me? He needs to be here too."
"I don't really think they allow wolves in ICU, Ray," said Jimmy.
Ray just gazed at his brother, not saying anything. James Kowalski sighed and pushed a hand through his hair. "I'll see what I can do."
An hour later, the ICU waiting area was subject to a bizarre sight. James Kowalski and Lieutenant Welsh stood and stared as Ray had a serious conversation with Dief and told him the latest news about Fraser.
The wolf whimpered, growled, thumped his tail and barked at various intervals. Ray seemed to understand what these 'noises' signified. Welsh sighed. Apparently he now had two detectives that were fluent in wolf. None of this had ever been covered when he was made Lieutenant. How had he been so lucky as to be the only Lieutenant in the entire Chicago PD to end up with a brilliant erratic detective undercover with the mob and another brilliantly erratic detective taking his place to protect his cover? Not to mention, the Mountie that was partner and best friend to them both, and, oh yeah, let's not forget the deaf wolf!
One of the ICU staff interrupted them then and said that Fraser's vital signs were improving. The relieved smile on Kowalski's face was answer enough. Cops and their partners. They needed each other - no matter how mismatched they might seem to be.
By early the next afternoon, Fraser was showing further signs of improvement. Jimmy was just returning from the hospital cafeteria where he and Lieutenant Welsh had been having a coffee break. They got as far as the doorway and stopped. Ray was sitting on the edge of Fraser's bed. One of his hands placed over the Mountie's heart, the other absently wiping away a tear that was making its way down his cheek.
Jimmy and the Lieutenant retreated to the corridor to give Ray some privacy. Jimmy scrubbed at his face with tired hands and mumbled something. Welsh looked at him curiously and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."
Jimmy looked at him and quietly said, "It's from a poem I did in an English Lit class at high school.
"Am I not yours for weal or woe?
How else can friends prove true?
Tell me what breaks and brings you low,
And let me stand - with you!"
Lieutenant Welsh fell silent. Once again, his mind turned to the subject of partners. Pairings arbitrarily assigned that sometimes, just sometimes, transcended all expected bonds and created friendships so strong that the friends became family.
Several Hours Later
Constable Benton Fraser opened his eyes and blinked against the bright light. Warily, his eyes travelled round the room. Seeing medical equipment, he remembered. The car! Ray!! He opened a dry mouth to whisper the question uppermost in his mind when, suddenly, a shadow fell in front of his eyes.
He looked into the exhausted eyes of his partner and read the fear and worry there. It was a language that he had learned almost effortlessly. He tried to speak but no sounds emerged. Instead, he let his eyes express his feelings. Relief that Ray was uninjured, his sorrow that he had caused such worry, the fact that he would do the same again if he had too...
Ray smiled softly at his partner. He had learned to read his partner's emotions too.
"It's OK, Frase. You rest now. We'll talk more when you're better."
He reached out and placed a gentle hand on the Mountie's cheek and leaned forward to say softly, "Thank you, partner. I love you too." A smile on his face, Fraser fell asleep once again.
Ray looked up into the smiling face of his brother Jimmy. "So, Jimmy, exactly how bad is the coffee in the cafeteria?"
Throwing an arm over his brother's shoulders as he steered him out of the hospital room, Jimmy said, "Well, little brother. Do you remember the first time you tried to make filter coffee?"
Ray mock growled at his brother. Half way down the corridor he stopped dead in his tracks. "I need to call the Consulate and let Dief know that Fraser's awake."
Jimmy smiled, thinking, You're a freak too, little brother. Do you even realise that you just said that you are going to call a deaf wolf and let him know that his friend is all right?!
Shaking his head fondly, James Kowalski fell into step with his brother. Ray once again had a bounce in his step now that his partner had woken up and was on the road to recovery.
The poem that the quote is taken from is called 'Friend o' Mine'. It was written by Fred E. Weatherley.
When you are happy, friend o' mine,
And all your skies are blue,
Tell me your luck, your fortune fine,
And let me laugh with you.
Tell me the hopes that spur you on,
The deeds you mean to do,
The gold you've struck, the fame you've won,
And let me joy - with you!
When you are sad and heart a-cold,
And all your skies are dark,
Tell me the dreams that mock'd your hold,
The shafts that miss'd the mark.
Am I not yours for weal or woe?
How else can friends prove true?
Tell me what breaks and brings you low,
And let me stand - with you!
So, when the night falls tremulous,
When the last lamp burns low,
And one of us or both of us
The long, lone road must go,
Look with your dear old eyes in mine,
Give me a handshake true;
Whatever fate out souls await
Let me be there - with you!