|Hour of the Wolf
||[Nov. 22nd, 2006|05:36 am]
Title: Hour of the Wolf
Pairing:F/V, but Fraser's really not here
Word Count: 1918
Prompt: I stay unseen by the light, I stay untold by the truth
I am sold by a lie
By this I am able in all of my travels
To make these memories quit
But tonight I clearly recall every little bit
--Patty Griffin - Every Little Bit
Notes: Thanks to patchfire for the quick beta, and for staying up and being all encouraging. Thanks also to Paul Haggis for creating Ray Vecchio, and to David Marciano for making me love him.
The table was an antique, and very expensive. 19th century mahogany, the finest of its kind. Armando Langoustini would have no less.
He took his breakfast there every morning: Two eggs, over medium. Four slices crisp bacon. Three pancakes, just the right shade of golden brown, topped with a generous amount of 100% maple syrup. Grade B, of course. Grade A was thinner and lighter, didn't have anywhere near as much flavor. Too much processing often made for a poorer, blander product. Fraser had told him that once, a long time ago. Sometimes a thing's complexity is in its simplicity. He'd said that, too.
Coffee, grapefruit juice, and the morning paper. Life was good for the Bookman. That is, if you didn't dwell upon the insignifigant fact that the Bookman, a.k.a. Armando Langoustini, had been dead for months. Not that anyone noticed; his replacement had shown up before he was even missed, and damned if the new guy didn't look just like him. Looked and sounded enough like Langoustini to fool almost everyone. The ones who weren't fooled simply disappeared.
Ray Vecchio (Detective First Grade, Chicago PD) never let himself think about what might have happened to them. This was his job, now. His life, for a time. He'd chosen it, he'd have to go with what the job called for (What it entailed, Benny would say. Ray wasn't thinking about Benny).
He'd managed to shape his native Chicago accent into one that was close enough to Langoustini's North Jersey to fool the right people. No complaints so far, and no suspicious looks coming his way. But then, he'd never been asked to kill anyone before. This time, he figured, was it. This was the test. Do it or they'll do you. Vecchio wasn't sure how it'd all turn out. He did know one sure thing, though: Langoustini wouldn't hesitate. If Ray wanted to keep breathing, neither would he. One hesitation, one tiny false start and they'd make him.
So he shot his first man. His first as Armando Langoustini, that is, and he stashed away the memory like his men stashed the body: deep and hidden so it couldn't be dug up by mistake. After that, nobody questioned him, and he didn't offer any answers.
It got easier; he learned pretty fast how to turn Vecchio off. After a few weeks it was like flipping a switch. Forgetting wasn't hard if he wasn't there for the experience in the first place. Ray Vecchio wore Armando Langoustini like armour. Not much got through. He came away easy, usually, because he was the Bookman, and the Bookman kept his hands clean. Armando Langoustini delegated.
Ray didn't hear much from the FBI. They watched him long enough to be sure he was set up okay and knew what he was doing, then left him on his own. Safer that way, and easier for Ray. Feds made him nervous, even back before he became a Vegas crime boss. It was easier to be himself. Or not himself, whatever, without someone looking over his shoulder. Every week an unnamed agent sent an encrypted email, usually with a list of names that needed faces or the other way around. He sent one back with his own list. That was it as far as it went, emails only, for months.
The job of being Armando Langoustini became almost routine. Ray was even starting to like it. What's not to like about expensive clothes, five-star restaurants and people who do whatever you tell them to? The other business, well. That was the Bookman's department, and Ray let the Bookman take care of it. He began to think of Chicago as someone else's life. He hoped the guy who was living it was doing a good job. He didn't think of Chicago much, anyway, except on some nights when he couldn't sleep. It was those times he let himself miss Chicago, because, hey, everyone gets a little depressed and unguarded right before the sun comes up, right? What was it that they called it, the hour of the wolf? (He didn't think about wolves, either, unless he was bone-tired and couldn't stop himself).
Everything went along just fine until he got a phone call--a fucking phone call from his FBI contact with a new assignment for the Bookman. They wanted him to play Mob rep and broker a deal between a Canuck arms dealer called Holloway Muldoon--what was it about Canadians always having two last names, anyway?-- and some mystery buyer. Sure, Ray told her. No problem, he'd dealt with arms dealers in Chicago. Small-time mob and gang stuff, but hey, how much weaponry could some guy from Canada be holding? Quite a bit, he found out, and if the Feds were lucky, they'd be able to collar Muldoon and the buyer both in one sting and no firepower would ever hit the streets. They'd have to move fast, he was told. Muldoon doesn't wait for anyone.
Eat a late supper, they said. Be at the airport in two hours, bring a couple of your boys, pick up your tickets at the counter. No private jets for you tonight, too much fanfare. Stow the guns. Good luck.
Four hours later, Armando Langoustini, a.k.a. the Bookman, a.k.a. Raimondo Vecchio, Detective First Grade, CPD, was on a redeye bound for Chicago.
Ray could never sleep on a plane, not even when he was twelve and flew to Philly for great-uncle Paolo's wake. Couldn't sleep last night for some reason, either, and tonight would be more of the same. Pushing his seat back, he leaned his head against the cabin wall and looked out the window into the darkness.
He was tired, so fucking tired, and that was bad. When he was this wiped, he started to think too much about things best left alone, like what he had to do to keep his cover, and yeah, it was Ray Vecchio, not Armando Langoustini, that did all that, because the Bookman was dead. About Chicago, and Ma, and how he missed her, like a little kid he missed her. About why he took the damn gig in the first place.
He managed to push away the first few thoughts that came trickling in, but the wash of memory behind them was like a fucking tidal wave, and dammit, he was so tired and tomorrow was gonna be a long, long day. Closing his eyes, he let his head drop back against the seat and gave himself up to the wolf.
Four-year-old Ray, sitting in the big kitchen, stirring chocolate ice cream with a spoon until it looks like cold brown soup. His mother is looking on, and smiling.
His sister Frannie, her makeup smeared and her face streaked with tears, struggling against Guy Rankin, kicking and screaming and scratching like a scared, beautiful spitfire.
Angie in her wedding dress, gorgeous and laughing and his.
Ray in a jail cell yelling and ranting at a guy who looks like a boy scout on steroids. It was the first time it happened, but definitely not the last.
His niece Carmella, one day old. Her wide, clear eyes are the deep gray-blue of a storm at sea. She seems somehow centuries old, like maybe she knows everything there is to know and is just waiting for someone to ask the right question. Ray rocks her, and she sleeps. He thinks he might like to have kids someday.
He can't move. He's frozen, still in his regulation isoceles stance. Benny's on the pavement, so, so still. It's like a dream, it's like a goddamn dream, not real, not at all real. The air smells like sulphur, and the sound of the gunshot reechoes around him.
Diving between Fraser and a bullet. Even Steven, says Fraser. Ray lets him think he agrees.
Standing on a staircase with Irene Zuko in his arms and her blood all over him.
It's late. They've been talking for hours about everything and nothing. Cheerleaders, horseshoes, Canada, anything that comes to mind. They're both tired, and the conversation slows to a sleepy crawl. Ray's eyes catch Fraser's and he notices that they're as wide and storm-blue as Carmella's. And it seems so natural, so very easy to lean in and catch Fraser's mouth as well. Fraser pulls Ray closer, his arms tightening around him when Ray threads his fingers into Fraser's hair. They kiss for an hour, or a century, and Fraser's mouth is so soft, and each maps the other with tongue and breath and gentle touches.
When it's over and they break apart breathless, Ray is suddenly awkward and embarrassed. He mutters something about Ma being worried and leaves without another word being said. Ray thinks he hears Fraser call after him, but he's in his car and on his way home before it registers.
Fraser's vacation starts the next day, no time to talk or even say goodbye. There's a message on Ray's machine, but Ray erases it without playing it. He's offered the Vegas job a few days later, and he takes it. He doesn't see Fraser again.
The voice of the pilot over the speaker is what finally dragged Ray back to the present. They'd be landing at O'Hare in about fifteen minutes, she told them. Ray felt drained, squeezed dry, his face wet. He checked to see if anyone noticed, but his men were still asleep and nobody else looked like they much cared. Mopping his face with a handkerchief, he began to pull himself together. The memory storm had stopped, thank Christ. When this gig with Muldoon is finished he was definitely talking to a doctor about his insomnia, because he sure couldn't let this shit keep happening. There was too much the Bookman had to do to worry about Ray Vecchio much. Sure he was lying to himself, but that was how undercover works. If you're lying to the whole world, you have to lie to yourself, too, or go crazy.
Ray was good to go by the time the landing gear hit the runway. The memories were tucked safely back in their hidden boxes where they belonged, so he let his thoughts wander, just for a few seconds. He wondered offhand how Ma was doing, and if Frannie was dating anybody. He thought about Fraser, and the other Vecchio. Hopefully this other guy was treating him okay.
It was gonna be strange to be in Chicago and not see Benny. He might even admit that he missed him, but that road was too dangerous to take right now. He reeled his thoughts back in and got in line with the others as the plane arrived at the gate. If everything went the way he'd planned, he'd be able to catch a few hours sleep. He hoped so; there was a deal to broker and he wanted to be rested up for it.