Odds And Loose Ends

First published: Sept. 25th, 2005
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Benton Fraser/Ray Kowalski
Word Count: 6,279

Summary: There are certain cards that are best left hidden until they are absolutely needed.

Some days you think to yourself 'This is the day'.

You take a long look in the mirror and you tell yourself that today you're gonna tell him. You're gonna tell your straight, good-looking, oh-so-polite Canadian partner that you have the hots for him.

Then you're standing there, right in front of him, and you take a deep breath and... and... nothing!

Nadda....zip, zilch, zero. Words won't come out.

It's pressing down on me. I'm there, on the edge, on the brink of blurting it all out every fucking time I see him, but something always holds me back. Self-preservation or something. I dunno. I really can't explain my fucked up thought processes anymore. All I know is that I'm not your classic 'gay' guy. I've never had the hots for another man before the Mountie showed up in my life.

To begin with, I was pretty good at the denial thing. Used to fool even myself into thinking that the feelings were just guy stuff. Manly, guy-buddie-buddie bonding stuff.

Yeah... well bullshit, Kowalski, bullshit. Truth is, I'm a walking fucking hard-on when it comes to Benton Fraser and I know it. Can't do nothin' about it, so I don't do nothin'.

Just... sometimes I get tired of it all, you know? I just wanna tell him and have done with it. If he punches my lights out and walks away, then fine.

Fuck, that's not true. I don't want him to punch me, but I could live with it. It's the walking away I can't handle.


He's... kinda grown on me. There's more to it than just the rush though. There are... well there are feelings. Huge, scary rip-your-heart-out type feelings.

I'm scared, okay? I'm scared shitless and I can't go on like this. I know that, I do. Every time some dark-haired bimbo, with a record as long as your arm, sashays up to him, I feel like my head is gonna explode. There's this one vein at my temple, and I swear to god, one day that is gonna pop and then its 'Sayonara Stanley'.

And it's not like I've been a whatsit... a para... paragon of virtue myself. In the last three weeks I've been sniffing around anything in a skirt, for all the good that does me. If Fraser is the world's worst judge of women, then I come in a close second. I know, I can sure pick 'em. That's probably why I screwed up so badly with Luanne Russell. Figured she had to be one of the bad guys if she was attracted to me.

Yeah, I know! I'm an idiot! Still, it would never have worked out. What with me being in lo...I mean attracted to my partner. So it was all for the best. I moved on. I got back on the horse so to speak. I thought everything would be okay. I thought I might finally tell him. But I didn't have the balls, as usual.

The minute I see her, I know, I just feel it in my bones. Fraser is gonna flip over Denny Scarpa. She's drop dead gorgeous, you know? I may be unexpectedly gay at the moment, but I'm not dead. Even I can see the woman is a looker, and she's got brains too. But more importantly, she's a criminal, so Fraser is gonna topple like a tree. A Canadian tree - a Fraser Fir maybe.

Hey, what do I care? I'm not his keeper, not his mother, not his fucking boyfriend. All I can do is point out the danger and back off, right? Right? Yeah, right, so why does my heart do this flip-flop dance thing when I see them together? He has every right to want her. He's a red-blooded, heterosexual male-type guy. It's a no-brainer.

I'm watching her real close. She's good. She's gotta be cheating but I can't figure her angle. Not from way back here anyway. She has really nice hands. Long fingers, soft-looking skin, shiny nail polish. Kinda remind me of the Stella's hands and now I'm getting depressed on top of frustrated, so I prowl the room again. I take a look out of the window, check that the van is in place. Yup there it is. Greatness.

Gotta quit obsessing over Fraser and get my mind back on the job. She's sweeping the board and pissin' off the guys at the table. Guess they're too polite to face off with a woman. And maybe that's her angle? She bats those eyelashes, and wham, got them tripping over their fucking tongues. Nice work if you can get it, huh?

So I'm looking at this creepy picture hanging on the wall. Lots of dogs playing cards, which is kinda fitting I suppose, but it freaks me out. I have no idea why, but it's a good thing, cos I barely give it a second glance before I move away, and that probably saves my life. The explosion throws me clean across the room, but doesn't kill me.

That's about when the bust goes tits-up. Guy with gun comes in through the hole... kicks my gun out of my hand... hey, I'm dazed okay, or I would have shot the bastard already....makes Lady Shoes fill a bag with money...I tackle him but he elbows me in the ribs... ooph! Still, I get the mask off and get a fairly good look at his face.

By now, the Cavalry must be blocking his escape, so he dives out of the window. Man, that had to fucking hurt, I don't care how macho you think you are!

Just as I'm getting to my feet, Fraser and the rest of the PD barrel in through the door, and fuck, if Fraser doesn't follow the gunman out of the window. I don't know if he even heard my protest before he hit the ground hard! Oh he's fine, man has more lives than a cat. I take the safer option and go down the stairs, emptying my clip into the speeding getaway car. Then Dewey leads out our prisoner and I watch Fraser's face.

Yep, why do I have the urge to yell 'tiiiiiiiiimber!"

Denny Scarpa's creepy French Poodle leads us right to her apartment. Okay, so I would never have thought of that. I ain't had much experience with dogs. I only had Rags for a few months before he got hit by that car....

Anyway, surprise - Scarpa ain't alone. Fraser takes off after the guy like a bat out of hell. I follow him down the stairwell a couple of minutes later and out into the alley, right into the path of the getaway car!

It's one of those split second things. Your whole life flashes before your eyes, and damn if it's not the most boring show you've ever watched. The car is almost on top of me when I turn to run, knowing I ain't gonna make it, and wondering what it's gonna feel like to be mowed down in the street like that. Then something's got a hold of me by the neck, and weeee - I'm flying!

The car zooms under me and screeches away before I realise that the crazy Mountie has me by the collar. The revelation that he can't hold on comes a split second later when I hit the ground hard, and he lands right beside me.

"Dammit! Fraser, if you were gonna drop a guy, you gotta say something first like... Ray - I'm gonna drop ya!" I bitch, cuz, fuck, my heart is racing, the adrenalin is pumping and I gotta let it all out somehow.

"Well I'm sorry Ray, but with my back being the way it is... it was extremely difficult to hang on." Never heard him sound quite so whiney before. Guess his back really is hurting.

"Okay, I guess I'll let it go this time. Did'ya get a plate?"

"No I was otherwise occupied!" He struggles to get up.

I put my gun away in case I get the sudden urge to shoot him in the head for dropping my sorry ass. "I guess I gotta do everything?"

He's no closer to hauling his butt upright. I suppose I should feel more sympathetic, but these are my good clothes, and so far today I've been blown up, run down and dropped in a stinking alley. I'm not feelin' so magnama-whatsit right now.

"Oh, so you got the plate then?" he asks vindictively, still flopping about like an upturned turtle. So I help him up, offer him my hand by way of support.

"No, I did not get the plate, Fraser, but..." I spit back, almost landing on top of him when he falls back on his ass.

"Alright well... what did you get?" we both finally get to our feet.

So there we are standing in the alley, and I look up at the apartment and say, "I got the girl." Handcuffed her by the ankle to a table leg. Feeling smug, feeling good. That's when I realise that I'm still holding his hand. And that feels good too. Wonder how long it'll take him to notice?

There's a shop across the road that sells halfway decent coffee so I go grab a cup and wait for Fraser to bring down the prisoner. If it were up to me, I'd have hauled her ass down here already, but Fraser seems to think it would be more polite to let her get dressed first. I ain't got no patience when it comes to that sort of thing, so I let him handle it.

When they come out of the building, he's got her cuffed, which shouldn't really surprise me. He is a cop after all, funny red suit notwithstanding. He's also got his hand on her arm and it all looks very cosy. I have a really bad feeling about this. Really bad. There's just something about the way he looks at her, like Dief looks at a bag of doughnuts. Hungry, yeah that's it, hungry.

'Course it's none of by beeswax, but I feel I have to give him a friendly heads-up, cuz sometimes with Fraser, the guy can't see his nose in front of his face. So we get her squared away in the car and I'm still trying to keep cool. Can't show him how angry I am. Cuz I don't think I know how to explain that, not even to myself.

"You're a good guy Fraser, and one of the good things about you, is that you take people at face value. She's different. She is a card shark...!"

"Ray," he uses his 'be reasonable' voice, but I don't feel very reasonable, and I'm expecting to hear... I don't know what I expect actually, but what comes out of his mouth is so far from what I didn't know I was expecting that I don't hear anything after the first sentence. I zone out on his mouth, staring at his lips forming the words, and hear nothing.

When he finally shuts up, I say the first thing that comes into my mind. "Do not fall for her Fraser."

"We have to protect her."

I slip my sunglasses down my nose so that he can see how serious I am about this. "Do not fall for her!"

"I'm not." And he stares right back at me. Okay, great. Greatness. As far as Fraser is concerned, he's telling the truth, but what the fuck does he know? He can't see his nose in front of his face. He can't see that Frannie, and the Ice Queen and god only knows who else is head over heels in love with him. I gotta watch his back here. She needs protecting? Nah, its Fraser that needs protecting.

"Alright, what's the plan?" I say, leaving it at that for the moment and getting into the car.

The plan sucks by the way! He's gonna be all alone in the Consulate with Ms Scarpa and her fucking shoe fetish, while I have to go dig up a sketch artist. I don't think I've ever driven so fast to get back there in my life, taken corners on two wheels like Starsky and Hutch, run red lights like a man who's colour-blind....

Our resident sketch artist has got to be the weirdest son of a bitch on the planet. He's blind as a bat, and has this thing for wood. Get your mind out of the gutter... I mean tree-type wood! Most guys who had just been thrown about in the back of my car like that would have fallen out onto the sidewalk and thrown up. He just gets all orgasmic about the carved wooden plaque on the railing, so I leave him to drool and go up to the door.

I gotta take a moment to compose myself here. She's a great card shark, and she's clever, really clever, but by my watch, they've only been in the Consulate for about an hour. Nothing can have happened in that time. Can it? I mean, hell, if it was me... maybe. But this is Fraser we're talking about. I doubt he would recognise a genuine come on if she slapped him in the face with it.

So. I'm leaning my head against the door, trying to calm myself down a little so that I can go in there and be 'Mr Cool' when I hear it. I hear a moan. A deep, throaty, masculine moan!

I press my ear against the wood and strain to hear. I can hear talking, low and muffled through the wood. Letter box! The door has a letterbox and before I think it though, I'm pushing it open and peering in like some kind of psycho stalker pervert!


And I thought she couldn't move that fast? She's already got into his Long Johns and okay, yeah, she looks way better in them than Fraser ever did, but that is so not the point.

The groaning and moaning is coming from Fraser. Sounds like he's about to come from whatever she's doing to him - right out there in the hall of all places, at the front desk thank you very much! Bitch. Bitchbitchbitch. Lucky fucking bitch!

"Cherry wood! Nice...."

I nearly jump out of my skin. The lunatic sketch artist sneaked up on me. Now he's almost humping the door and I guess I better get with the program. I let the letterbox slam shut and start knocking... and knocking and knocking and I swear to God if he doesn't answer this door in the next two seconds I'm kicking it in... Cherry wood or not!

Tommy the tree-hugger shoves past me, I think he's trying to protect the door or something, when Fraser finally deigns to open it. I'm trying really hard to be cool here, but I'm quite literally choking in pheromones here. I can smell the arousal hanging in the air. Scarpa gets one of my coldest looks ever but she just sits there, and grins back at me. Smug bitch!

God, what the hell am I gonna do? Can Fraser really not see how manipulative she is? She's like this big spider, spinning a web, luring him in. Don't know what she wants from him yet, but it's more than just sex, though she clearly just loves that idea too. Tommy isn't the only person in this room that's as blind as a bat.

Once Tommy gets to work, I pull Fraser out into the hall. I gotta try again. What sort of a buddy would I be if I let her get her hooks right into him?

"Fraser? Uh, you know what the hell you're doing?"

"What is it you think I'm doing?"

Fucking infuriating... "Ah, you tell me! You're the one that's got a shark swimming around in your underwear." And I know this cuz I saw the 'shark's fin' in his pants when I walked through the door!

"It's purely a matter of practicality, Ray... her clothes were not particularly conducive to sleeping."

Oh yeah, Frase, hit me with your big fucking words. I've got your number. It's all about what you're not saying here, buddy. I cut the pack of cards she left on his desk and show him the two of hearts. "Oh, so you just had to take 'em off?"

"No, she managed that all by herself." He sighs, and I'm sure I can hear a tiny bit of regret there. Shit! That smarts, but why shouldn't he want her. She's a woman, she's beautiful, got all the right curves in all the right places...

"Look, Fraser, all I'm trying to say here is... this woman is a dangerous customer. I mean, she's covering angles... she's looking at the odds. She's looking for insurance. This is not the, you know... little girl from the igloo next door!

"You think she's protecting someone?"

Actually that hadn't occurred to me. It should have. I'm supposed to be a detective and if Fraser figured it out, I should have. Guess I was too busy getting all territorial. But now that he mentions it...

"Yeah, maybe...boyfriend..." I shrug. Could be something like that, sure, why not.

"But we have no proof of that," he points out reasonably. First he puts the idea in my head, then he tries to shoot it down in flames. What is up with him?

"Oh man is she reeling you in!" I know, I know, 'Mr Cool' has left the building. Can't help it. I can see it all as clear as day and I can't do a thing about it.

He looks a bit hurt. "And why do you say that?"

"Would you be so diplomatic if she wasn't such a beautiful woman?" Ha! - there you go Fraser! I've shown you my hand. Now you know what my concerns are. What have you got to beat that?

He lifts his eyebrows and stares back at me. "Certainly," he says and you know what? He means it. He really means it.

"Awful thing is I believe you." But is still doesn't make me feel any better

Okay, things have definitely taken a turn for the insane! Scarpa is willing to cooperate with the Feds on the condition that Fraser sits in on the table with her? Jesus H Christ, can he even play poker? And the feds are all for it? You ever have days you wish you never got out of bed? I've had a week like that.

So now we're all sitting around a table, giving Fraser the benefit of our wisdom, and playing for candy. He hasn't got a clue. Oh, he knows the rules, he has a great memory. But his poker face stinks. He wipes us out on the first game by being honest. In a game of deception, he told the truth. They are gonna eat him alive!

Once the duck brothers have left, and Welsh and me have polished off a half bottle of whiskey between us, I go looking for Fraser and find him in the can looking like shit. I know he's torn. Duty over desire, I know how that feels. His face is flushed and dripping with water. I know he's been down to the holding cells to see her. Had to come here and cool off I suppose. Fucking great!

I give up. I totally give up! Banging my head against a brick wall here. I can't stop him losing his heart for the card shark, and if I keep pushing him, he's gonna figure out there's something more to it than just a friendly concern for my buddy. But... damn it! I can't give up on him. I don't like the risks he's taking here. If it was just about his duty as an officer of the law, then I could deal, but even he isn't sure what his true motives are.

So I tell him the embarrassing story about me and that chick, Polly from Albany; the one who wiped me out at the racetrack when I was a kid. Try to show him that I understand. That I've been blinded by a nice rack and a shapely pair of legs too.

"There's a lot of things you can do with a woman like this, but trusting them isn't one of them." I tell him.

And he looks at me with those big blue eyes and he says, "Who says I trust her?"

God, Fraser. If only I could believe that! "You telling me everything?" I have to know. I need to know if he's really falling in love with the bitch. Because as much as I want him with me, I know that Fraser needs way more than the few moments of peace that my friendship can give him. He needs to be loved, and to be able to love back. He needs to be touched and worshipped and... God, I would give him all that if only he'd let me.

But he wont. He can't, because he isn't wired that way.

His head drops and he doesn't answer me. "You can back out you know." I tell him firmly.

"I can't do that," he replies just as firmly.

Okay then. Bring it on.

Oh man, I'm turning into a crazed stalker. I've been following him around all day. Frannie must think I've got a ... what is it that Fraser says... 'hole in my bag of marbles'. I'm demanding to know what was on the piece of paper I saw Fraser hand her. Can't help it. I'm on edge, jumpy, short tempered. Not helped by the fact that I'm sure the janitor has it in for me. If he tries to knock my legs out from under me one more time, I swear I'll kick him in the head.

And there's something queer with Frannie, too. She's pre-menstrual or something, I dunno. I was married for 12 years so I know when I woman is acting stranger than usual. But I'm still too preoccupied with the piece of paper and avoiding the janitor's broom. Man, the Canadians would love him - they make a freaking sport out of being that deadly with a broom.

I'm speechless. Absolutely fucking speechless. Crammed into a tiny hotel room with Welsh, Dewey and Huey and Fraser...in a tuxedo.

Fraser....in a tux! Oh. My. God!

No-one had better ask me to speak cuz I doubt I could form a sentence, and no-one had better ask me to get up and walk, cuz this boner I got is seriously throwing off my balance! He looks like James freaking Bond or something. Jesus, I never knew I had a thing for tuxedos.

And it's not just the tux. He's wearing aftershave, probably borrowed from Huey and he's got his hair slicked back. I have the strongest urge to stick my hands in there and muss it all up. Make him look rumpled, and messy as if he's just been fucked... and God, I have to get my head out of my shorts and start thinking with it. This is a serious mission here. People could get hurt, or killed, if we fuck this up.

Welsh and me get into position in a room full of cloned Feds and watch the monitor hooked into the game room. The Feds are filling us in on each player as they arrive. Then the door opens and Fraser walks in and I feel my damned traitorous cock trying to get out of my pants for a better look. It likes the tux too, it seems. But he does look damned hot in it. Would look even hotter half out of it... shit! Concentrate, Ray, concentrate.

Stiff apples? Is he for real? I got a bad, bad feeling. He's up to something. He does this way too often... gets a feeling, runs with something without filling in his partner first. I just gotta be there to back him up when he goes for it, but it drives me crazy! What the hell has he got up that tuxedoed sleeve of his this time?

He's winning! He's actually winning which is kinda cool, but so not the plan. Ferra has to take a pot so that the Feds can swoop in and take him down on a gambling charge. But that ain't gonna happen so long as Fraser is pulling this winning streak. I'm getting really punchy now. I just wanna go in there and get him the hell out, cuz I can smell the shit flying towards the fan.

He's talking up a storm and I feel my hair stand up on end. He's showing his hand, but the Feds won't move. The more he talks, the higher the tension level in the room cranks up. Any minute now, things are gonna go pear shaped and I need to be there to back up my partner. Then I see it. I see that weird girly finger-nail again and everything comes into sharp focus.

"That's him. That's the guy from the take-down"

"What are you talking about?" One of the Feds asks.

"It's a set-up, ya morons!" I yell, fear clutching in my gut. Fraser knows and he was trying to tip us off. We have got to get him out of there, NOW!

"Packard was her brother. Denny is here to take out Ferra and Joey is the triggerman. Let's move, now!"

"We sit tight!" the head-Fed tries to look tough, but I grab him and shove him outta the way. "We move NOW!" Fuck this. If I have to go alone, I'm going in. And as I storm out of the room, I hear that dick telling his men to hold their positions. Fine! They couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery anyway.

I go out onto the roof, make it to a skylight and look down, trying to get a bead on the situation. The window is right over the table and if I strain real hard, I can just about make out what they're saying. Things are getting ugly, and I'm just one guy on the roof! One guy with a gun against a room full of bad buys and a lady in red.

Fraser... God bless his eagle eyes... catches a glimpse of me in the reflection from a drinks tray and thumbs his nose to let me know he sees me. I return the signal, hoping like fuck that Welsh can get those dick-wad Feds to come back us up. Cuz I really don't relish crashing this party alone.

The minute a gun gets pulled, I'm in there, falling through the window, feet first. Element of surprise and all that. The table shatters just as the door flies open and in come the Feds. There's money flying about all over the place but the only person in the room I give a fuck about is Fraser. Fraser, who has Ferra slammed up against a wall and he's got a big old grin on his face.

"Thank you Ray," he says.

"No problem, Fraser," I reply, knowing I've got a goofy grin on my own face, but you know what? I don't give a fuck. Fraser is fine. And his hair ain't even mussed up. Go figure. Then I feel my back twinge and I drag my eyes off Fraser. I guess both of us are gonna be laid up for a few days. When I look back round, the elusive Mountie is gone.

I don't know what makes me look out of the window, when I get out into the corridor. Maybe it's the flash of red? Whatever, I stick my head out and there he is, holding her by the wrist as she dangles over the ledge. She must have been trying to escape and slipped. She should thank her stars that Fraser was there to catch her. I watch as she dangles and wonder why he isn't pulling her up.

"You play a dangerous game," he says and his voice sounds strange to me. Must be the strain of holding her.

"Ferra killed my brother," she says, voice quavering with fear. He still isn't pulling her up. Fuck, looks like he's actually enjoying this?

"And so you ordered Joey to kill Ferra." Not a question. His voice is cold. I feel a shiver go through me.

She sounds kinda defeated. "I was just trying to even out the game."

"Using me in the process." Fuck! He is really, really pissed. But the strange thing is, I don't think he's hurt. I think he had her number from the beginning. He's just pissed off that she thought she could use him like that. My God, he's been playing her right from the start!

"You could have let me go," she says, desperately clinging to his hand.

And this is the point where my dick really sits up and takes notice. Cuz he looks down at her coolly and he says ... get this... "Who says I won't let you go now?"

She looks up at him. I can't see her face from this angle, but from the tone of her voice, Denny Scarpa is fucking terrified. Ha! - ice water in her veins my ass. "You're bluffing," she says.

"I never bluff."

And he does it.

He lets her go.

Jesus fuck, he lets her go with one hand and catches her with the other.

Fucking-A Fraser! Fucking-A!!!!

She lets out this scream, and she's still dangling and Fraser... Fraser looks really fucking pleased with himself. And I just wanna go out there and grab him, haul him into the nearest unoccupied room and throw him onto the bed and...

"I thought you said you never bluff."

"I'm learning."

You said it Frase! You said it. I haul myself back in before he sees me and slide down the wall. The Mountie has a dark side. I find I like that.

I like it a lot.

It's got to be close to dawn. Everything is squared away, and apart from the lunatic janitor, me and Frase are alone in the bullpen. Neither of us have been able to wind down from the night's excitement. So we're sitting here playing cards. How cracked is that?

He's explaining to me what tipped him off that Ms. Scarpa was lying.

"What's the ante?" he asks, and the sound of his innocent voice talking 'dirty' gambling talk makes my dick jump.

"I dunno, we'll uh, we'll play for air." He's still wearing the bowtie. Took the tux jacket off a while back, but the white shirt and suspenders are really turning my crank. I got no business being this horny after the night we've just had. But then, he's got no business looking so fucking sexy after a night like the one we just had.

He swipes a handful of air. "Alright, the ante is in." He takes a deep breath. "In addition, when she was kissing me..."

"Wait a minute. You kissed her?" He kissed her. When? When the fuck did that happen? I stalked him every step of the way.

"Well no, she kissed me."


Okay, that's... that's okay then. She kissed him. "What was it like?"

"The kiss? Delightful." He's looking mighty uncomfortable. If that were me, and a fox like Denny Scarpa bumped noses with me, for any reason, I would be telling it to the whole fucking world. He just doesn't look so happy about it. Maybe he really didn't like being used, even knowing it was happening and playing it from his end. Maybe this is a song he's sung before?

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"That the kiss was delightful?" he hedges.

"Not the kiss, not the kiss. That you suspected her?" I don't need to hear any more about the kiss. I wanna know why he kept it all so close to his chest. I got my suspicions. There was a case he and Vecchio worked. Reading between the lines, the broad did a number on Fraser and I get the feeling that one left scars.

"Ah, well I wasn't sure. And as you had instructed me - there are certain cards that are best left hidden until they are absolutely needed." And he looks at me intently, like he's waiting for me to say something deep.

"So you were bluffing?"







"Bluffing" he finally admits.

"Thank you."

Dief whines and I look over to where he's sitting with the creepy French Poodle. "What do you think the odds are that, in this universe, Francesca'll take to that dog?"

He grins, leaning his head back "Oooo, difficult to compute. But Ante needs a good home and Francesca has a good heart so..."

Yeah, I figure the poodle will find a home with the Vecchios all right. "How many cards?"

"I'll take... none, thank you."

"None," I repeat. He'll take none? So, is he putting that newfound ability to bluff to use here, or is he just being plain old honest Fraser? Damned if I know. And the fact that I can't tell excites me more than it should.

"None," he confirms.

"Okay, two can play that game, I'll take none too." I think he's bluffing. "Bet?"

"A hundred."


"A hundred of air." And he swipes up a handful and throws it into the pot.

"Okay, I'll see your hundred," I give him a quick glance but he ain't giving nothin' away. "and I raise you fifty."

"All right, I will see that fifty, and I'll call."

He'll call? Okay fine, he calls. "What'daya have?"

"Once again... a crowded home." He lays the cards down and I feel my jaw go slack. He wasn't bluffing. And by not bluffing, when I expected him to be bluffing, he was double bluffing and... my head hurts.

"House," I correct.

"Crowded house!" he exclaims apologetically.

"Full House."

"Full house, full house!" he covers his face with his hands, but he's not fucking fooling me. I know he did it on purpose, I know it! "I'll take that air now," he crows.

"I'm all tapped out."

"I'll accept an IOU"

"An IOU on air?"

He gets slowly to his feet and leans down. "Absolutely. You already owe me a couple of lungfulls from that time on the Henry Allen."

He's so close that I can feel his breath against my lips, which have gone very dry. My dick is trying to push my zipper down all by itself. "You want that... uh, you want that air back?" I croak, unable to think of a single scenario where that would be possible without me actually kissing his face off. And he can't mean that....

"Time to collect." He leans closer, voice gone low and gravely and for a split second time freezes. My heart is beating so damned loud that I can feel it right out to my fingertips. And then he's doing it. He's kissing me. Benton Fraser is... kissing...me!

But before I can make my brain to get with the program and kiss him back, he pulls away. I guess I look stunned or confused or something cuz he smiles.

"Consider that one of the 'cards' I've kept hidden until it was absolutely needed."

I sit there gaping up at him for a moment, trying to figure out what happened. "And it was needed now why?" I stumble over the words in my understandable shock. Kept it hidden? Understatement of the year. Buried more like, buried so deep Sigmund Freud couldn't find it.

"Well, I've had my suspicions regarding your feelings towards me for a long time, but I was never absolutely sure. You have an excellent game face, Ray."

"Game face... sure. Thanks Frase." Babbling, I'm fucking babbling now. Need to get my brain to start working here.

"Then tonight, the way you looked at me when you found Ms. Scarpa wearing my underwear.... Well, let's just say that I decided it was time to lay my cards on the table. " He holds out his hand and I take it, letting him pull me to my feet. "Ray, would you mind terribly if I asked you to take me back to your apartment? I would prefer a modicum of privacy in which to conclude our game."

"You're bluffing right?" I blurt, still unable to believe that this is really happening.

"I never bluff." He practically growls.

I smile and reach out, sticking my fingers into his hair and mussing it up, and then I drag his head down, mash out lips together for a little while, blow some air into his mouth. Not exactly a lungful, more of a sample, a small preview of the goods on offer.

I'll pay it all back in full... later.... with interest.

Then I catch a movement out of the corner of my eye and over his shoulder I see the psycho janitor leaning on his 'killer broom of death' with a huge smirk on his face. Before I even think about freaking, the guy nods approvingly.

"Hey Vecchio, now that you finally see what's right in front of ya, maybe you'll stop walking into my broom, huh?"

And off he goes, shoulders shaking with barely contained laughter. Yeah, funny guy, very funny.

I grab Fraser by the suspenders and haul his ass towards the door before any more of my co-workers can come in and catch us at it. As we stumble through the double doors, I swear I hear the janitor snigger... "All bets are off."

The End




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