On the House

Written for Pearl_O, who asked for approximately six months after A Funny Thing Happened.... (Set in the same universe as ...and this is what it's for... and (This Must Be) The Place.)

"So, any plans for the evening?"

"You're lookin' at 'em." Paula watched Ray take a sip of his beer and laughed, the glass in her hand nearly slipping out of her grasp.

"Awww. The Corporal not back yet?"

Ray plonked the bottle down on the counter and shook his head. "Nope. Not due back for another couple of days. Got bored at home."

"Aww." Paula couldn't help giggling when Ray levelled her with a stare. "Sorry, Ray. You're just all..."

"What?" He looked almost dangerous like that, but Paula knew better. She didn't fall for the 'hard cop from a dangerous city' schtick anymore, not after seeing him with those kids on the ice, holding court.

"Nothing, it's just -"

"If you say 'cute' one more time, I'm gonna pop you one," Ray warned. She burst out into actual laughter. He scowled into the beer.

"Sorry, Ray. Here, that one's on the house, all right?"

He made a show of rolling his eyes and sighing, but took a long pull, anyway, and Paula tried not to ogle him too much as he drank with his eyes closed, eyelashes casting deep shadows above his cheeks. It wasn't even because he was old enough to be her father (he most definitely wasn't), but she always felt creepy being attracted to married people.

The Corporal didn't go away all that often, and it was never for very long, but it always seemed to put Ray on edge, so she decided a change in topic was best.

"So, how was work today? The kids do all right?"

Ray, still swallowing his beer, nodded almost enthusiastically. "Yeah, they're gettin' there. Pat's becoming surer on his feet, even got the puck a few times today."

"Hey, good for him!" Her little bro was a pain in the ass, but he loved hockey, even if he was still kind of crap at it. "You teach him any new tricks?" She winked at Ray - out of habit - and tried not to laugh too hard when he rolled his eyes again.

"I'm just tryin' to get them on their feet for now, not teach 'em -"

A gust of cold air hit the bar as the front door flew open, and Paula barely had time to register the broad figure standing there when Ray changed right in front of her eyes. She tried to hide her smile as Ray's beer was quickly forgotten on the counter, and she herself became just another part of the background. Ray didn't get off the stool, and it was clear he was trying very hard to remain cool, but the look on the Corporal's face - equal parts love and that something that made naysayers back off faster than you could say 'crap' - spoke volumes for them both.

Paula watched as Corporal Fraser crossed the short distance between the door and Ray and only acknowledged her existence after he and Ray said their own hello's.

"Need a drink, Corporal?" she ventured.

"I'm quite all right, thank you, Paula. I believe I would like to go home, actually." He looked at Ray.

Ray shot out of the stool like it was on fire. "Sure thing, Ben. The Jeep's parked just outside."

"Yes," the Corporal frowned. "I saw that. Were you planning on driving under the influence, Ray?"

Ray's quick glance over at Paula was caged and panicked. He did something with his neck that made Paula think of a turtle more than anything else, and really, the man was just whipped. She covered her mouth with her hand and pretended to look serious.

"C'mon, Frase, it was one beer. I've driven under - uh. Right. You can drive." Ray tossed his keys to the Corporal, who caught them deftly and gave her a quick smile before taking his leave, Ray quick on his heels.

Before she was hit with another gust of cold air, Paula heard Ray point out again that it was just "one beer, I'm a big boy, Ben, and you're a buzz kill," and the Corporal's answer of, "oh, I'm aware, Ray. But I'm an officer of the law. I'm afraid it's in my nature to be a buzz kill."

Ray's clipped "Ha!" was soon cut off by the door shutting behind them.

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