Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Author's Notes: Set in the A Year (More or Less) in the Life universe. This bit will make more sense if you read that first.




He was going to kill Dewey. He was going to spread-eagle him and stake his worthless hide on the grass, cover him in catsup, and let the ants devour him.

Hotter than fuck, who in their right mind schedules an annual picnic in mid-July? In Chicago. Because Dewey didn't get his ass in gear and book, like, in January, they ended up at some park Ray had never even heard off, and he'd lived in Chicago all his life. There was one frigging tree, one, in the whole park. Scoping this out the second he pulled into the parking lot, he had thrown a bunch of his gear around the base of the trunk: his gym bag, tool box, jumper cables, anything he could find in the Goat. Because at ten a.m. it was seventy-five degrees and the humidity was already at ninety percent.

One of Frannie's kids lay on his lap, the other was in the port-a-crib, and the lieu had the third one. Everyone stayed away because Ray had on his, "You fuck with the kids' naptime and you are fucking toast," expression. Vecchio was manning the barbecue. Down to his wife beater, his fancy polo shirt tied up in some weird knot on his head to protect his bald spot, he was flipping burgers and turning the dogs. Vecchio in his wife beater, with big sweat stains under the arms, was usually enough to get Ray's crank really revved up and good to go, but he was surrounded by kids, there wasn't any place to sneak off to, plus Ray's desire to kill Dewey's ass for once took precedence over his desire to blow Vecchio, and man, that really sucked.

Frannie was taking the orders, which was a polite way of saying that she was ragging on people to tell her what they wanted because they were all about to die of heat stroke, so if you wanted to stuff your face then tell her what the fuck you wanted. Six months pregnant, again, she'd filled a plastic bag with ice, zippered it shut, and put it on top of her head. First you thought she looked ridiculous, and then you thought, hey, that's pretty smart, and went to find your own plastic bag. Fortunately, Elaine was in charge of the ice so there was plenty to go around.

Her piercing screech that they had four more minutes and then no more orders probably carried into Michigan it was so shrill.

"You want anything, lieu?"

Welsh shook his head. He didn't look so hot. Of course, none of them did, but in contrast to everyone else, who looked red and splotchy, the lieu looked gray. Which, even with Ray's admittedly limited medical knowledge, was not a good thing.

"You want me to take her? I can double them up." Ray nodded toward the latest Vecchio, Katy, a sweet-tempered child who was destined to be beat-up material for her entire childhood. Anthony, the first kid, the one in Ray's arms, was a bruiser, yeah, but it was that three-year old Angela, the one in the crib, who was a ball-breaker in training. The only person who could handle her was Ray; even Frannie threw up her hands. Course, he was something of an expert now in dealing with feisty Italians, and he'd done his earlier course work with impossible Canadians, so Ray basically had a Ph.D. in "stubborn."

The lieu shook his head again and looked down. He swiped a thumb over her sweating brow.

"Think she'll stop at four?" Ray wondered.

"God only knows," Welsh muttered and gave an amused grin half-hidden by the duck of his head.

Huh? Christ on a bicycle. No way! It couldn't be. Ray looked down at the kid in his lap, all Vecchio, down to the snozz and everything. Okay. Then he snuck a glance at Angela, whose mouth, even in sleep, had a set, determined line. The sort of determined look that he saw five days a week at the 2-7. Then there was Katy, not a bit of Italian in her, all Irish, and all Welsh.

How could he have been so fucking stupid! Ray jerked his head up, about to lose all the undercover cred he'd been building up for years, because if the lieu hadn't turned even a darker shade of gray, he'd have blurted out, "You're the one porking Frannie!"

What he did say was, "Lieu?" and didn't get an answer. That wasn't a color you wanted on anyone. He'd seen that color plenty of times, but on dead people. Jesus Christ, please no. He put Angela in the crib nestled up against her brother, didn't even ask, but picked Katy out of Welsh's arms and put her in the stroller.

He grabbed Welsh's wrist; he still had a pulse, but he was skipping beats like a motherfucker.

"Ray!" he shouted, hoping that Vecchio wouldn't give him the usual shit because now wasn't the time.

But like always, when the bad shit came down, Vecchio was there. He turned toward Ray's shout, and at Ray's jerk of the head toward the lieu, threw his spatula and tongs on the ground and came running. By now, Ray had out his cell and was punching 911 with one hand and keeping a thumb on Welsh's pulse with the other. Fucking Dewey. No coverage. Welsh was still missing beats and what was left of his pulse was fast.

"You call 911?" Vecchio barked when he made it to the tree.

"No fucking service."

"Get the Goat," he ordered. "Frannie!"

But Frannie had been on his heels and now winnowed her way in between Ray and Welsh. She began slapping Welsh lightly on the cheek whispering, "Harding, Harding?" Her eyes kept darting back and forth between Welsh and the kids.

Ray ran to the parking lot, said fuck you to curbs and whatever, and tore across the lawn at about seventy miles per hour. Fortunately, everyone there were cops or related to cops so the hysteria factor was non-existent. And Frannie was tough. After loading the lieu into the back seat, Vecchio grabbed the ice pack off of Frannie's head, plonked it down on Welsh's, and said to Ray, "You drive," and, christ, that's why he loved this man.

Before Ray hit the gas, he slapped on the portable flashers and yelled at Frannie, "Get the kids settled, then meet us at the hospital. Mercy's the closest." He got a faint "Oh" of recognition, but now wasn't the time to ask why in the holy fuck weren't they married when they had three kids and a fourth on the way.

Vecchio sat in the back seat, keeping a thumb on Welsh's pulse. Ray was poised to pull over if they had to do CPR, but Welsh seemed to be holding his own. He wasn't responding to questions, but he'd moved his mouth like he wanted to respond to questions. What should have been a forty-minute drive? Ray made it in ten. They got cell service back two minutes out. In between asking the lieu questions, Vecchio called the hospital and told them that a heart attack was coming in, and to have a gurney and a crash cart at the ER entrance.

They were on Welsh the second they pulled up. Got him on that gurney, shoved an I.V. up his arm, and wheeled him away, all in about twenty seconds.

Ray sat there shaking like a fucking leaf. His arms spasing out now that he'd let go of the wheel.

"Move over," Vecchio ordered.

Ray scooted over and rested his head against the dash. When he brought it back up, they were in the hospital parking lot, the engine off.

Bringing up a hand, Vecchio gave the spikes a little ruffle. "I will deny saying this to my dying day, but that was some fucking-a driving, Kowalski."

Ray flipped him the finger and let out an anguished laugh.

"Come on. Let's hit the waiting room. I want to be there before Frannie arrives."

Ray couldn't imagine the 2-7 without Welsh. He wasn't some power-hungry asshole who got to where he was by making the right power moves. He'd worked his way up the ranks and knew exactly what the rank and file were facing day after day. He was tough but fair. Never asking more than they could give, but seemed to know when the well had run dry. Ray'd never had a better supervisor, and he doubted Vecchio did either. They didn't make them like Welsh anymore.

"Asshole better pull through," Ray muttered.

"Yeah," agreed Vecchio.

There was a few more minutes of silence then he said, "My shirt. Paid an arm and a leg for that shirt."

Ray knew it was Vecchio searching for minutia to obsess on because obsessing on what was happening behind those double doors was a way to go crazy fast, but he couldn't help but roll his eyes and then cuff him one.

"Would you stop with the shirt? Someone will have picked it up."

Another few moments of silence and Ray couldn't help asking, "You know? About Frannie and the lieu?"

Now it was Vecchio's turn to roll his eyes.

"Of course I know, moron. Look at Angela. When she doesn't get her way, she gets that look on her face like she's going to kill you, just like the lieu when Dewey does something stupid."

"So?"

"So, Frannie's an adult. You can only take that Italian big brother thing so far."

He said it like he was real tired.

"Old man Hall is moving out to California to be with his son. He's putting the house on the market in a couple of weeks. We might be able to swing a deal." Ray left it at that. The house was over one block from them, had four bedrooms and a big yard. It might be too close for comfort, but with the new kid Frannie needed a bigger place and maybe she and Welsh… The kids spent half their time at their place anyway.

"Yeah, that might work," Vecchio sighed.

They hadn't been seated very long before Frannie marched in the door, gave Ray and Vecchio the briefest of glances, and muscled her way to the front of the line.

"My husband's in there. Harding Welsh. If you don't want me to have this kid right here and now, open the door and take me to him."

The clerk gave her some shit, told her to go to the back of the line, asked for I.D., but Ray knew from experience that when Vecchios have an agenda, you just give it up. It took the clerk a couple of minutes to get that, but Frannie was persistent, i.e., threatened to rip the plaster off the goddamn walls and if they called the cops she knew ninety-five percent of them personally so open the door, bitch.

"Kids are at Ma's," she said over her shoulder before they buzzed her in.

They sat in the waiting room for a couple of hours, shoulder to shoulder, drinking one bad cup of coffee after an another before Frannie reappeared, worn-out, her hairline damp from sweat, and an arm holding up her belly. At the sight of her, they both stood up.

"Ray, get me a priest."

His stomach dropped and at the same time a hand fell on his shoulder and gripped him hard. He wasn't sure whether Vecchio was keeping himself upright or stopping Ray from collapsing.

"Not that," she said impatiently, waving a tired hand. "He's okay. He's got a real bad case of heat exhaustion. But we need to… You know… Get married. The kids," she finished lamely.

"You don't have to," Vecchio told her.

"Before you get all weird on me and him, he asked me about a bazillion times, but I was a little gun shy and kept saying no, okay?"

It's super-dee-dooper hard to come back from a good marriage. A bad marriage? Must be a million times harder. Ray knew what good times were. He and Stella had loads of those before things went bad. But from what Ray knew of Frannie's first marriage, it was real short on good times and real long on getting back-handed. A lot.

Vecchio didn't say anything. Ray knew him well enough that he guessed Vecchio was probably thinking, "You couldn't figure this out a couple of kids ago?" Ray poked him. "Yeah, okay." The "okay" sounded a little "not okay" but he was making an effort. "You sure? Me and Ray…"

"I'm sure, you idiot," she told him and thumped him for good measure.

"You got married in the church the first time, so…"

"Oh yeah, forgot. Good riddance to bad garbage. Get us a judge then. You guys know lots of judges." With that she turned around and screamed at the clerk, "Buzz me in," and was gone.

"Think Yamaguichi will come out?" Ray had worked with him on a number of cases and was a pretty good guy.

"On vacation. Saw the roster yesterday. Bowles?"

"Nah. Asshole. Tried to date Stella."

"Motherfucker," Vecchio hissed and then flipped open his phone. Ray saw the number light up on the speed dial and knew it was Stella's number. "It's me."

"Hey, I'm 'me,'" Ray complained.

Vecchio said out of the corner of his mouth, "Would you shut up? Not you. Your other ex-husband. Frannie and the lieu need to get married pronto. Like within the next hour. We're at Mercy General… No he's okay. Thought it was a heart attack. Turned out to be heat exhaustion, but it put the fear of God into both of them… Yeah, three kids in four years and another on the way… Tell me about it…"

Ray muttered, "While we're all still breathing, Vecchio."

"Your other ex-husband is reminding me to get a move on… Yeah, he's still a nerveball…"

At that Ray made the "kill" gesture across his throat, and Vecchio gave him a small smile.

"I know, so easy to wind up. It's almost like child abuse, except he's forty-three fucking years old. Okay, okay, Ray. Shit, stop that, it hurts. Any ideas… Yeah, Kowalski suggested him, but he's on vacation… Helmsburger? He'll do. You mind giving him a call? He'll trip over himself doing you the favor… Thanks, Stel… Yeah, I'll tell him."

Vecchio snapped his phone shut. "She says she loves you and she loves me and she's overjoyed that we found each other because we'd drive anyone else nuts."

Ray was going to make some sort of smart comeback when he saw Vecchio's face.

"You okay?" Vecchio had that tight look on his face he used to have in the beginning, when he wasn't sure where he stood with Ray.

Vecchio shrugged.

"Mondo weird about the two of them, yeah?" Ray pointed toward the doors Frannie had disappeared behind. "Never would have pegged the lieu as being so—"

"Watch it, that's my sister," growled Vecchio.

"Frisky. Just having a hard time seeing them together, and four kids worth of together?"

"People say that about us. That pool."

"The one where they take bets on who's gonna have a psychotic break first, you or me?"

"Not that one. Every New Year there's a pool to see if we're still together by the next New Year." Vecchio smiled his Bookman smile. "Elaine cleans up every year and Dewey loses his fucking shirt every year."

"Hey, psycho cops of a feather, fuck together." Ray gave Vecchio's arm a playful punch.

Even though Vecchio snapped back, "Would you grow up?" there was a smile lurking behind all that grousing, and the knots in Ray's stomach unraveled a bit.

"Not if it means no sex." He gave Vecchio the grin loaded with charm and "I'll do you now if you unzip your pants."

"Horn dog. You're gonna kill me." Vecchio sighed. Which was so much bullshit, because Vecchio wanted it just as much as he did, but right now he needed something to bitch about, because his sister had four kids by his boss and they were getting married and now the lieu was going to be family.

"Shut up. I keep you young. If it weren't for me, that dick of yours would atro, atro…"

"Atrophy?"

"Whatever. Just shrivel up and crawl back behind your balls. But for me you'd be playing Parcheesee six nights a week down at the parish hall, with all those old ladies asking for your help, and on the seventh night you'd be the Bingo maestro. Only have yourself to blame. If you weren't such a hell of a fuck…"

Ray gave Vecchio his nastiest leer and ran a tongue over his bottom lip.

But that didn't get the usual half-mast appraisal and unspoken promise of a couple of hours of killer sex when they got back home. Or at least a quicky in the Goat.

Vecchio was all Italian, so there were always lots of arms around shoulders and pats on the back, but he didn't do the PDA-I-am-gay thing in public much. Now, he grabbed Ray's hands and pulled both of them down into their seats.

Vecchio didn't say anything else for a long time, just held Ray's hands real tight, his head ducked so Ray couldn't see his face.

"Ray, what's up?"

Their eyes met and Vecchio's eyes were the greenest of the green.

"The thing is, Ray, that could be you or me in there, you know? And the other would have to be out here because we don't have no frigging right to be in there."

Ray had been through enough medical disasters with Fraser to know that that was true.

"Yeah," he agreed and it had sucked six different kinds of ass.

"Cause we might be partners but the fucking government will let us fuck but we can't be legal about it. So, that's bullshit. I want to be there for you, and I sure as hell want your skinny ass to be there for me."

"They could try to keep me out."

That got a chuckle. "You'd make Frannie look like Mr. Rogers, but I don't think you could pull off the pregnant card. It'd probably take five guys, and in the end you wouldn't get in and you'd have a broken jaw, so we got to do this differently. Do an end run around the homophobic bastards."

Then Vecchio did something unheard of in public. He brought Ray's hands up to his mouth and kissed them.

"We get leave and go to Canada and get married. We probably can't do it until Welsh is cleared for duty, but that shouldn't be long as it was only heat—"

"Wait a fucking minute. Slow down the mule train. Married?"

Ray shouldn't have been that surprised. Vecchio's middle name was "traditional." Aside from the fact he liked to suck dick and get his ass pounded, he was pretty much mom and apple pie all the way.

"Benny can be our best man. He'll be tickled pink. Probably have the whole RCMP regiment toasting us."

They'd been living together for three years. A good three years. The sex was still primo. Bought that house they'd talked about. Vecchio had put in a garden. Ray had built bunk beds for Frannie's kids. Mitch was master of his domain. It was all good. Sure, Vecchio had too many ties and enough shoes to outfit a small African nation, but Ray wasn't exactly a peach to live with. Still tended to leave towels on the bathroom floor and wash dishes and conveniently forget the soap. But he couldn't imagine life without Vecchio. He really couldn't. And it might have taken Welsh passing out at a picnic to bring this to a head, but maybe they'd been moving toward this all along and just needed a push.

Ray pulled and twisted his hands a little so that he could reach Vecchio's thumb and kissed it. "Greatness. We gonna do the rings and everything?"

"Of course, asshole. We do it, we're going to do it right. Nice rings, too. I'm picking them out. No rings with skulls or shit on them."

"Christ, I wouldn't choose a wedding ring with a skull on it."

"Yeah, right. Remember the last Christmas party? Invitation said black tie. You turned up in a clip-on bowtie wearing tee-shirt that said, 'Admitting You're an Asshole Is the First Step.' Half the precinct asked me if we were breaking up."

Ray didn't mean it to be a commentary on their relationship; he just thought it was funny. This was the first time that Vecchio had said anything about it, but maybe it really bothered him.

See, Vecchio still had this weird-ass thing about Fraser. Like if Fraser appeared and said that he'd made a terrible mistake, Ray would leap up and drive off in the Goat, leaving Vecchio with a mortgage and that espresso machine. First of all, if Ray had any intention of leaving Vecchio, the espresso machine was going to be tucked under his arm as he walked out the door, and, second, he had no intention of leaving Ray, even for Fraser.

It took him a long time to realize that it was because precisely because Fraser was so fucking perfect that it never would have worked between them, even if Fraser had moved Ray up a few notches, at least ahead of the snowmobile repair guy. He and Vecchio were both edgy people with a lot of baggage—Vecchio had shitty father and Vegas baggage, Ray had distant father and nursing an inferiority complex the size of Lake Michigan baggage—but apparently their baggage was different enough—or similar enough, Ray was never quite sure—that Ray could carry Vecchio's and Vecchio could carry his, and neither one of them got hernias. Fraser was all about carrying all the baggage and relationships don't work like that. It's sort of a mutual baggage thing. With Stella, she didn't want to carry Ray's baggage anymore, and when she let go, Ray's suitcases fell on the ground and all his shit tumbled out onto the floor; there was only him to pick it up. Vecchio? He carted Ray's baggage around and when the locks occasionally slipped and shit fell out, he was right there helping Ray to pick up whatever. Ray did the same back, and it worked.

"Hey, so let's get married. I want to be there for you. In there, at home, in the precinct. You know, where ever."

That must have been the right thing to say because it got him one of Vecchio's really sloppy, dirty kisses that went right to his dick every single frigging time. Vecchio pulled away just enough to mumble against his lips, "Number one, baby."

To which Ray tried to say, "Not a chick here," but was smothered under that Vecchio kissing greatness.

If five years ago someone had told him that he was going to be getting married again, he would have told them to go to hell. If someone had told him he'd be marring a cop, an undercover cop, who was the guy whose identity he assumed for two years, who used to be married to his ex-wife, who happened to be best buds with his best bud, who also happened to be his former lover, he would have bust a gut laughing. And if they'd said it was Vecchio, he would have radioed in a 5150.

Wonder if Stel would be his best man.




Fin