Oh, The Places You'll Go

No Sure Thing

Notes: Written for the inaugural love-in over at ds_raysquared from the prompt 'certainties'. Yay, Ray/Ray! Beta by the delicious slidellra. Prologue to my Lost and Found 'verse.

Ray's life used to be full of certainties. Things he could rely on, like fish on Fridays, the smooth lines of a tailored suit, or Sammy Sosa hitting a home run. There were other certainties too, less pleasant, by which Ray could measure his life. The phoenix-like qualities of the mob, the fact that Tony would lose a minimum of one job a year, the insidious decline of Ray's hairline.

The world changed, sure, it just never changed that much. Even when Benny had come into Ray's life he'd just added new certainties to the old ones. Inuit stories would be told with comforting regularity. Ray's life would be endangered with similar frequency, though far less comfortingly. Ray's love for Benny — take it however you wanted — that was the biggest certainty of all.

But now it's years later, Benny is striding across the snows of the North and Ray's had to fight every inch of the way to regain the certainties he lost the second he'd put on Armando Langoustini's skin. He'd thought he had it figured out with Stella, but they'd been some kind of half-way house for each other: an answer, but not a solution. So here's Ray, returning to familiar turf: old job, old home, old friends. Everything back the way it was and it's solid and dependable, just the way he likes it. And he tries to be solid and dependable too. It takes work.

That's before a scruffy, blown-fuse of a cop shows up looking like Death's long lost half-brother. Still, Ray thinks he knows how it's going to go. Welsh will shove them together, part because he's got a sick sense of humor, part because he hopes there's still some lingering Mountie shine on them both that'll reflect in their solve rate. Ray's almost looking forward to it — the push and pull of it. The bouncing things off each other — ideas, arguments, random office supplies.

It doesn't happen like that. Welsh sticks Kowalski on desk duty for three months. Kowalski thinks it's a punishment, complaining loudly to anyone who'll listen (louder to anyone who won't). Ray sees the truth. It's mercy, though he's not sure if it's mercy for Kowalski or the criminals who would surely be pounded into dust if the dumb bastard was allowed out onto the street. Ray would like nothing better than to stay away from Kowalski, far away, but the clockwork-regular calls from Benny leave him a little broken-hearted (he's never sure for whom) and turn him into a reluctant babysitter.

"Get away from me," snarls Kowalski, the first time Ray tries to exchange more than a nod. And the second time.

And the third.

The fourth time, Ray doesn't even open his mouth, just puts down a cup of coffee and leaves before Kowalski has a chance to throw it back in his face, preferably metaphorically rather than literally. He starts doing it every day. Arrive at work. Make coffee. Receive scowl. It becomes part of the rhythm of his life, weirdly soothing in its regularity.

Work, coffee, scowl.

Work, coffee, scowl.

Work, coffee, scowl.

Work, coffee, smile.

Ray isn't ready for change. He isn't prepared. At least, that's the excuse he serves himself for unexpectedly shaking knees, a cheesy grin and a "You're welcome," in response to the never spoken thanks. Kowalski motions to the chair opposite and Ray takes it.

"Make yourself useful," says Kowalski and tosses a file across to Ray. "I need to know if Salazar contacted Bridger before or after the 25th. Got it?"

Ray bites down the urge to tell him where to shove his file.

"Sure," he says, and starts flipping through phone records.

A few minutes later, Kowalski mumbles something that may or may not be, "Good coffee," and that's the exact moment Ray starts to fall.

Strange how little it takes to turn your life from something you recognize to something entirely new. Because now instead of certainties, Ray's life is full of questions. Will Kowalski be in the precinct when Ray gets there, or will he spend the first half-hour there like a nodding dog, looking up every time the door opens? Will Kowalski ask Ray to join him over coffee or will he be in the hollow-eyed state that signposts the walking dead? Will today be the day that Welsh allows Kowalski back on active duty and will he be partnered with Ray? What the hell is Ray thinking?

No, seriously — what the hell? Kowalski is broken into a million pieces and Ray has no way of knowing if that's trash-broken or Crazy Glue-broken. He doesn't think Kowalski knows either. So what's Ray supposed to do? Wait around on the off chance that Kowalski fixes himself and the smaller chance that he notices an ageing Italian cop with issues? Some days Ray thinks he can't stand it, wants to drag the uncertainties kicking and screaming out from his skull and beat them to death with an extremely blunt object. Some days, though. Some days Ray looks at Kowalski — mercurial, messed-up Kowalski — and he might be yelling or shut-down or, on rare and wonderful occasions, laughing, and he thinks that a little uncertainty might be worth living with after all.

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