Zippo // One, Two, Three

Ever wondered why Ray had a Zippo in BDtH?

With those same thanks to that same Brooklinegirl for her beta and for her everything else, too.

For various reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, this is for Maya Tawi.

Ray lit his cigarette, shut the Zippo with a snick of cold metal, and leaned against the brick wall of the station. Inhaling felt good. The slow burn traveled down this throat and into his lungs and he thought he even heard that slight roasting sound that tobacco made as it burned against the paper. He let the pleasure of it settle all around him, wrapping him in comfort.

With his eyes closed against the smoke he could pretend like he was alone, and nobody was milling about, busy with life and work and pretending. He could pretend like he wasn’t busy with life and work and pretending, either, and just enjoy the moment. It was probably going to be his last cigarette for a good long while.

According to Welsh, the Mountie was due in today. Vecchio was meant to be picking him up at the airport, but seeing as how Vecchio was indisposed in Vegas, and Ray was filling in his Italian leather shoes, the man was just going to have to get to the city by himself. Ray had thought about starting the charade a bit early and doing the deed himself, but pretty quickly caught on to why that wasn’t such a hot idea. So, he settled for waiting at the station.

He inhaled, then waited a beat, and let the smoke out through his teeth, his tongue nearly curling at the pleasure of it.

Vecchio didn’t smoke. Technically, he’d been Vecchio for a week or so already, sneaking smokes in between being social, but now the real test was coming, and he wasn’t about to do a thing halfway.

Blond or not, Polish or not, real or not, he was going to become Vecchio, head-first. Sit at his desk, sift through his notes, make pals with his partner.

His partner. The Mountie. Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Ray shook his head. Canadian. Christ, how did that even happen? Oh, sure, he knew the reasons – he’d seen the files, heard the tales, danced the dance. But what he couldn’t do, for the life of him, was picture the man that he’d be risking his life for until Vecchio nailed the Sin City’s bad guys.

Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Six foot tall, short dark hair, bright red uniform, picture perfect posture. The most stunning blue eyes Frannie had ever seen. Yeah, there was a character witness and a half. If Ray had to hear about the broad-shouldered, strapping guy with a polite streak one more time, he was going to puke.

And yet even with all of Frannie’s breathy explanations, and all of Huey’s sarcastic grunts, and Welsh’s gusty sighs, Ray could not do it. He was going into this thing half-cocked and half-blind, just like with everything else in his life.

Blind, blind as a fucking bat. He could barely remember the reasons he’d agreed to this in the first place, but he was reminded of them every time he walked into his apartment and faced the turtle and the TV and the half-empty fridge.

He had told himself, you need a change in scenery, Ray, my friend, and, something’s gotta change or there’s a bullet in your gun with your name on it, and fuck it, why the hell not?

Those did not good reasons make, but they were the only ones he could come up with, and what choice did he have now, anyway? He was Vecchio. Raymond Vecchio – brother, son, friend, enemy – all to people Ray hadn’t known even two weeks ago, half of whom now resented the hell out of him.

And now, he was going to face the biggest obstacle to them all. Why did it feel like that? He’d faced Frannie, for God’s sake. Hell, he’d faced Vecchio’s mother. How could he fear a Canadian Mountie when there was an Italian family to consider?

But Vecchio didn’t spend the good part of his days with his family, and he didn’t chase down bad guys with them, and it probably wasn’t them he sat down for beer with, celebrating a bust well done. He didn’t have their back, he didn’t trust them with his life, not like that.

Ray had heard how tight Vecchio had been with the Mountie. How would it have felt for him to have his best buddy replaced just like that, with no warning at all?

Real shitty, that was how. Like a rug pulled out from under his feet.

Imagine that, he thought. Imagine that.

Imagine coming home to Stella and finding a dark-haired, short librarian in her place.

“Hi, honey, you’re home! Made you dinner!”

Even imagining it made Ray feel like he’d been kicked in the gut. Even no Stella was better than fake Stella. And no Stella sucked more than he could ever fully explain.

So here he was, Stanley Raymond Kowalski, a cop of fifteen years, recently divorced, nearly friendless, and about to kick a guy he’d never even met before right in the gut.

He sucked on the butt of his cigarette, took in more smoke than his lungs could handle and came up coughing, like a teenager with a bong. He checked the pack, but he’d already known it was empty.

He watched the stub burn between his fingers for a second, then threw it in the gutter. It rolled, smoking, until it hit the wet by the wall and fizzled out. He crumpled the pack in his fist, aimed, and shot it into the nearest trash can.

His break was over. It was time to pull his shit together once and for all, and start this thing. He had no idea how long it would last, and he had no idea what was coming to him. He had done exactly two things to prepare for this new assignment: he had made sure he had at least one cigarette left before lunch, and he’d put on a Kevlar.

The rest, he knew, was up to the future. All he had to was talk the talk, walk the walk, and be a pro about the whole thing. He could do that. He would have to.

He bounced the Zippo on his palm, fingered a small smudge that wouldn’t come off on the side, and slipped it into his coat pocket. Its weight bumped against his leg as he walked, and held him steady as he opened the door to the station house.

A red-wrapped back walked away from him, in the direction of the break room. Ray slipped into the bull pen and took up his post.




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