Summary: Summer and cats. That's actually a literal summary.
Author Notes: Because it seemed like a good idea at a time. And because I have never met a fandom I didn't write a heat wave into. Ask anyone.
In theory, it should be a whole lot funnier than it is; Fraser, while never obviously smug about being mostly immune to Chicago winters (being Arctic bred and all), carried around a certain surprised amusement at the idea that several months of miserable cold and snow was really all that bad. So basically, when the heat wave hit, Ray can't say he wasn't looking forward to Fraser finally understanding that weather sucked.
Though it's not like Ray's been prying himself very far from the air conditioning either, but still.
Looking around the station, stuffed with bitter, overheated detectives and four fans doing jack shit other than moving hot air around, he's not sure he didn't have the right idea to quit, call Fraser, and ask (nicely) for a Yukon vacation. Granted, he's never been hot for tundra before, but right now, it's looking pretty damn good.
Speaking of Fraser--well, speaking of is easier than speaking to, as Fraser's ass isn't here suffering with the rest of them, and why is that?
Ray feels a faint sense of foreboding when he realizes he hasn't seen Fraser in two days. Not since one (1) argument about something that wasn't even a case, was like the epitome of not-a-case, and since it involved cats, Dief had been totally with him. Which in retrospect, bad idea to crow about that shit, because they'd been sixteen hours into plus one hundred degrees and Fraser's stoicism had slammed into the fact he wears three layers of clothes, and all bets were off. Ray can't remember exactly what was said, but cold day in hell may have been involved. And maybe leaving Fraser downtown when he (stoically) refused to get back in the car.
Picking up the phone, Ray shoots a glare at the sun hovering outside the station window and dials the consulate, because he can be the bigger man.
"He's returning the cats," Ray says, just to make sure he heard that correctly. Heat related dementia is always possible; he can't even say at this point, he's not hoping for it.
Not a case. Stray cats are not a case.
"Yes, sir," Turnbull says. Ray holds the phone away from his ear, staring at the receiver for a long second before pulling it back.
"So there were stolen cats."
"Not stolen, per se," Turnbull says, sounding abruptly wary. "Perhaps misappropriated is the more suitable term. If one has a suitable term for misappropriated cats, that is, which I suppose it could be. If you think of it less as something done by voluntary action and instead an unfortunate side effect of a greater--"
"Hold it, rewind, stop there." Ray leans an elbow on his desk, pinching the bridge of his nose. The thing is, Turnbull's probably the number one best barometer of the state of the Consulate, bar none. Thatcher's mercurial and Fraser's stoic, so they're like, practically useless to figure out anything; Turnbull's crazy, however, works like mercury in a thermometer. Mercury rising here, and fast. "So are we talking a cat-stealing ring--"
Ray stops himself there; he can't say it.
"I wouldn't say 'ring'," Turnbull answers stiffly. Ray closes his eyes and doesn't bang his head on his desk. "More an unaffiliated group of people who felt that there was an excess of feline presence in the greater Chicago area--"
"A cat-stealing ring," Ray says hopelessly.
"--and wished to lower the feral cat population in ways that they believed would be beneficial to the city at large--"
"A ring of people who steal cats--"
"--and were unaware their method would attract cats that were not, shall we say, unattached to human companions--"
"Ring of people who steal pet cats, just say it already."
"Their goal was idealistic and not incompatible with the law regarding unowned pets," Turnbull says stiffly, and jeez, Ray can hear Fraser saying that. "Unfortunately, the methodology they employed was not--"
"Got it." Translation: group trying to get rid of the stray cat population, got lots of pets, realized they were fucked. Ray looks up to see Welsh looking at him and reaches for a notebook like this is an actual case and not some kind of crazy, crazy hallucination. Which it has to be. "All right. How many cats are we talking about here?"
"In excess of five thousand."
Ray puts his head on the desk. "And Fraser's returning them all." To give it that personal, crazy touch. Ray scrawls a sentence and turns the notebook so Welsh can see it. "Right. So where is he?"
"E, I think?"
Welsh frowns, squinting at the page. Ray takes a deep breath. "E?"
"He is proceeding alphabetical by address."
Ray nods. Right. "Got it. Thanks, Turnbull." Hanging up the phone, Ray waits until Welsh grunts.
"Murder is still illegal in Chicago, Vecchio," Welsh says regretfully. Ray nods; it was really too much to hope for. "Cat heist?"
Ray winces. "Just--don't." Lifting his head, Ray searches out Frannie. "Frannie, I need you to look something up."
Frannie puts down her file and slow blinks her complete lack of interest. "Yeah?"
"I need--" God, he has to say it. "A list of every cat reported missing in the last month."
Frannie's face goes blank, then she smiles, slow and happy like it's Christmas and Ray figures he has ten minutes before everyone in the station knows that Ray's life officially sucks.
Welsh drops the notebook on the desk with something horribly like satisfaction. "You go get 'em, tiger."
Two hours of hideously hot searching of the streets of Chicago and four increasingly weird phone calls to Turnbull and Frannie respectively, Ray figures he has a working idea of how this went down. Basically, it's just as crazy as Fraser thought.
A. People get tired of stray cats and decide to get rid of them. Sure, it's crazy. But there's logic there if you squint.
B. People gather in a group and decide how to get the cats. It's unclear on method, but Ray thinks tuna and wandering the Chicago streets in black clothing may have been involved. He's kind of scared to find out more.
C. People end up with a lot of cats with collars and a sudden flurry of missing-cat reports flooding the department and are shocked, shocked that five thousand (Jesus. Ray puts his head down on the steering wheel and hates the world) five thousand missing cats are reported.
D. People panic.
F. Fraser is returning the cats in one hundred and two degree heat wearing three layers of red uniform.
Ray can't even pretend he's surprised. The only thing about this situation that makes any sort of sense is Fraser needing to make this into a personal pet crusade.
Turnbull hadn't been exactly forthcoming--a lot of words were used Ray's not convinced weren't made up on the spot to screw with him--but Ray figures he's got the gist. The people are regretful and turning in their cat-eradication badges. It was all a terrible mistake.
"You got names?" Ray had asked, just to see what Turnbull will come up with.
"I'm afraid I'm not authorized to provide that information," Turnbull says with dignity, and Ray hangs up in disgust.
The problem's this--he and Fraser don't argue like normal people. It's zero to DEFCON 10 or whatever, and Ray's continually surprised by people who talk about how nice Fraser is, because he's like, a veteran of the long term campaign, digging trenches and fortifying borders and dragging out inspirational speeches for deployment into the war zone. Landmines everywhere you looked.
Ray's learning though; a frontal assault can be fun, but sneaky works better. Ray watches through sweat-glazed, narrowed eyes as Fraser comes out of a rickety tenement with that look of satisfaction in a job well done combined with heat-induced dementia--at least, that's the only thing that makes sense. Scratching his chin, Ray idly wonders how many cats are left. They're on G. He thinks.
Getting out, Ray carefully avoids stealthy--that's like waving a red banner, Fraser's got a sense for that shit--and casually joins up with the other overheated Chicago natives on the sidewalk, keeping bright red serge ahead, checking the sheet on the next cat.
Ten minutes have Ray thinking the clever plan isn't going to get done; Fraser looks like shit. Granted, Fraser looking like shit is like normal people looking amazing, so most people wouldn't notice, but the pale skin's too flushed and there's a suspiciously glassy look going on that Ray's not too fond of. As Fraser stop, cat carrier clutched in one hand, Ray settles one block back and waits until Fraser goes into the building before spotting the van that been following along, the source of rescued cats and the entire reason for Ray's current headache and two entire Fraser-less days.
And Ray's not forgetting that anytime soon, which is why he shoves his badge through the open window into the sweaty face of the driver. "Chicago PD," Ray says, showing all his teeth. "Let's talk."
Fraser comes out and actually pauses beneath the edge of the roof, looking at the sunlit streets with a kind of resigned martyrdom. It probably says something that Ray's two feet away, leaning into crumbling brick, and Fraser doesn't see him on first take.
Does on second, though. "Ray?"
Up close, Ray can see the sweat-dark hair clinging to his forehead, the sheen of dampness on his skin. This, Ray thinks contentedly, is intervention-time. "So, catnappers?"
Fraser hesitates, eyes narrowing, though it could be all the sun in his face. "Excuse me?"
"Nabbers of stray cats. Feline snatchers." Pushing off the building, Ray gets in his face. "That you forgot to mention."
Fraser straightens, pulling another inch from somewhere; Ray wonders how he does that. Keep it in his hat, maybe? "I did say that I found it suspicious--"
"You did. I was wrong." Ray'll give him that. He can be the bigger man here. "Weird thing. Why are they not enjoying an air conditioned cell?"
Fraser hesitates. "It was an accident," he says finally. "They had no intention of--"
"Really?" Ray shuffles back a step, and Fraser follows, ready to defend the integrity of his cat ring to the death. "Cause from what I heard, they stole people's cats, then tried to make a run for it."
"They were misguided," Fraser says firmly, following along. Ray keeps an eye on him and keeps him moving, not liking that Fraser's moving slower than usual. He's also not asking about the van, which maybe he should have noticed first thing.
Maybe should have noticed sane people don't hand-deliver cats in plus hundred degree heat, either, but that's why Ray's around, to remind him of these kinds of things. Which he has not done for two days, and look at the result. Overheated, cranky, cat-delivering Mountie. Not greatness.
"--and they were genuinely contrite," Fraser finishes after two blocks, while Ray nods and turns to pull open a door. The cool air hits them both at the same time, and Fraser actually pauses, which is like proof right there. Reaching for his sleeve, Ray pulls him inside as Fraser starts to look around, air conditioning having woken him up. "Ray, wait--"
"Talked to your catnappers," he says, waving a hello at the chick at the front desk who nods significantly and waves him left. Fraser breaks off to look at her, then Ray, and maybe setting those boots would work on any normal day, but Ray's got a mission. "They were crazy, Frase. Gotta tell you."
"Misguided--Ray, where are--"
"They're taking the cats back like good little crazy citizens. Until they get another idea." Ray tries not to think about the man's dark mention of stray dogs. Not going there. "You are off-duty."
Ray pushes the swinging door open and double checks--no classes. Pulling, Ray sees Fraser frown at the smell of chlorine, but it's way too late. Ray pivots, gets two handfuls of Mountie jacket, and sends them both into the water.
Intervention complete. Ray's just glad Fraser taught him to swim.
Fraser's hat surfaces first; being a good partner, Ray takes it and sets it up on the side of the pool to dry, watching as Fraser comes up with a sputter, flushed and pissy and staring at Ray like he'd lost his mind.
It's a familiar look. "Feel better?"
"Feel better? I'm soaked." Fraser's hair is plastered to his head in a smooth, dark cap, he's still flushed but Ray figures it's more anger than anything, and the blue eyes are narrowed from both irritation and chlorine. "My uniform--"
"You got more. Be fine." Leaning back against the edge, Ray pushes himself up on the side and pulls up a foot, getting his boot off. "Cooler, right?"
"I--" Fraser stops, and Ray notes this down for future satisfaction; Fraser's speechless. Getting the second boot, he dumps them both of water and watches as Fraser goes a deliberate five feet away before pulling himself out. "That was--" Fraser shakes his head, reaching down to study one boot with a distressed expression. "Why would you do that?"
Ray'd blame poor impulse control--which would be true--but it's kind of a lie. "Catnappers."
Fraser pulls off his boot, deliberately dumping the water, then shaking it before he looks at Ray again. "This was childish."
"So was cutting me out of a case." Ray leans back on both arms as Fraser takes off the other boot, then slowly peels back his socks. And yes, has to put his feet back in the water while he wrings them out, not because it feels good, no sir. When Fraser looks up, Ray raises both hands. "Fine, I was an asshole and you were petty. We're even."
"You pushed me in a pool," Fraser says, but he sure isn't moving his feet out. In fact, if Ray squints, he'd say those ankle laces might be unlaced.
"Hey, I jumped too. Better than Lake Michigan." Ray glances back and waves at the receptionist through the window; it's all good, don't need to call someone to identify Ray's body. "Now, we got two hours before the next class," he says, reaching for the button of his jeans. "So let's use it." Rolling back onto the tile, Ray eases the wet jeans off, tossing them behind him and reaching for his shirt. From the corner of his eye, he notices Fraser hasn't looked away. Interesting.
"Ray--" Fraser says, sounding torn: duty or fun. Which for Fraser is a no-brainer, yeah, but that's why Ray's around. To fix that sort of freaky thinking. "The cats--"
"Being delivered with apologies or they get the cell with the broken AC," Ray says cheerfully, peeling his shirt up and over his head. Tossing it behind him, he slides back in, sucking in a breath at the feel of the cool water. "Not too bright, were they?"
"Not particularly, no," Fraser admits with a sigh. Ray notices he's twisting a sock between his hands. Duty, meet heat wave. Watch 'em fight it out; Ray knows which one will win. He's got a plan. "Ray--"
"Two hours playtime. Then we go back, write up a report that doesn't sound crazy, and get something to eat." Ray paddles toward Fraser. "What, got some exciting filing you gotta get back to?"
Fraser hesitates, and Ray stops a foot away, dropping his feet. "Lose the tunic."
For a second, he's fifty-fifty on odds; then Fraser sighs, reaching up to remove the string and unbutton the tunic with an almost visible sigh. "Itchy?"
"You cannot imagine." Fraser pauses again, then shakes himself; if Ray's managed nothing else, he can be proud of this. Fraser's playing hooky. As the tunic comes open, Ray grins. "Ray--"
So maybe it's time for a frontal assault. Paddling toward him, Ray braces his hands on soaked red thighs and pushes himself up, looking into startled blue eyes for a moment before leaning forward and licking between Fraser's lips, taking the words before he can say them. Salt, chlorine, and Fraser: Ray kisses him until there's nothing but Fraser left, and then for a while after.
His arms are shaky when he pulls back, and it's not because of the strain, neither. "Wanna play?"
Fraser nods slowly, tongue flickering over reddening lips. Grinning, Ray drops back down into the water and reaches for the fastenings of the pants to help Fraser along. They gotta go, like, now. "Yes, I do."