Getting this happy takes practice by belmanoir

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Title: Getting this happy takes practice
For: Jen
Pairing/Characters: Frannie/Kowalski
Warnings: brief references to domestic violence
Vidder's/Author's/Artist's Notes:
  Thank you to all the people (including brainstormers, a music consultant, and my darling beta) who helped this fic come together! 

"Oh, you wanna pull my hair again, huh?" Ray holds Angelina up so she can grab onto his hair with her fat little fists. She gurgles happily. Clearly she knows a good thing when she sees it. "You're lucky you're the prettiest girl in the world or you would not be getting away with this."

"Stop giving her bad habits, Kowalski," Frannie says, appearing in the doorway. "Soon she's going to be able to pull a lot harder and we'll all be really sorry."

Ray grins at her around Angelina's stomach, which is currently blocking most of his line of sight. "That's the beauty of just being the babysitter."

"Very funny." Frannie comes closer. "I need to ask you for a favor."

She sounds serious. Ray tugs his head away from Angelina. Sometimes it doesn't work, but today she lets go without a fuss and he settles her on his hip. "Tell me what it is first," he says suspiciously.

"You're the soul of chivalry, Kowalski," she says, fussing with the cuff of her blouse. "Look, I need a date to my fifteen-year high school reunion."

Ray double-takes. "You're asking me on a date?"

Frannie glares at him. "No, I'm not asking you on a date. Well. I'm asking you on an imaginary date. I can't go by myself. I'll look pathetic."

Ray gets that. He went to his ten-year reunion with Stella. He's never going to another one. "What's in it for me?"

Frannie crosses her arms. "I don't tell the precinct you've read my entire collection of romance novels."

"I just read those for the sex," Ray mutters.

***

"Sorry, angel, not tonight," he tells Angelina, bouncing her up and down in apology as she waves her hands indignantly in the direction of his hair. "I'm taking your mom out on the town and I gotta look my best." She grabs at the lapels of his suit, wrinkling them, but hey, Fraser notwithstanding, there's no such thing as perfection.

"All right, hand her over, Kowalski," Vecchio says.

As always, Ray feels a little pang when Angelina's warm, small weight leaves his arms. "You and Fraser all set?"

Vecchio rolls his eyes. "Are you kidding? Benny's been planning for this all day."

"Proper preparation prevents poor performance."

"Yeah," Vecchio says. "That, and he's got baby envy. This is just Phase One of his master plan to talk me into adopting. He thinks he's subtle, but I'm onto him."

"You want kids, Vecchio?"

Vecchio shrugs. "I'm resigned to my fate." But his voice is warm. "Oh, what are you looking at?" he asks his niece, who giggles and squeezes the end of his nose.

Ray suddenly feels like punching something. But Vecchio's holding the baby, and Ray can't muss up his suit, and anyway Fraser would kill him if he punched Vecchio. So instead of punching anything, he just doesn't go talk to Fraser like he normally would. He hits the front hall just as Frannie's coming down the stairs.

Holy fuck.

She's in a skintight, bright blue number with two big holes on either side of her waist, right where he'd put his hands if they were dancing. Two round gleaming circles of olive skin, just taunting him. The dress stops at her knees, and blue glittery heels make her legs in their black pantyhose go on forever. Blue glittery jewelry dangles from her ears.

"I, uh. Hi," he says brilliantly.

"Hi," she says uncertainly. "How do I look?"

He coughs. "Great. You look great."

"I'm up here," she says, pointing at her face, but she doesn't sound too pissed. "You look good too. Ready to go?"

"Yeah." The door slips out of his hand while he's holding it open for her and almost smacks her in the face.

***

"We should get our story straight," he says when they're parked in the high school parking lot. "How long have we been dating, how serious is it, dumb nicknames, all that."

"Oh. Okay. Um. Six months, very serious. I don't like nicknames. That reminds me, call me Francesca while we're there. Nobody but Ray calls me Frannie. I mean, I let you, because you were Ray, but--"

"You don't like 'Frannie'?"

"Not a lot, no."

That makes Ray feel worse than he would have thought it would. "Okay. Francesca." It sounds weird. Weird and--kinda sexy. Like the two of them are in a Sophia Loren movie.

Frannie--Francesca--blushes. She takes a deep breath. "Once more onto the beach," she says, and opens the car door. She should have waited for him to open it for her. If she's not careful, she'll blow their cover.

"It's 'once more onto the breach.'"

"No it's not. It's a D-Day thing."

He blinks. "No way."

She grabs her purse and gets out of the car. "Are you coming?"

***

As undercover gigs go, this one is pretty painless. It's more like visiting Stella's family than anything else. He always pretended that was undercover work, too, that he was trying to fit in with these people so he could infiltrate them. It helped him stay alert and charming and not start any fights. "Angel's a great kid," he tells Connie, Francesca's one-time best friend in the whole world, and her husband Gio. "You wanna see a picture?" He pulls out his wallet and shows her a shot of Angelina glaring at the camera. He stole it out of Frannie's purse on the way into the building. The devil's in the details.

Connie laughs. "She's a Vecchio all right."

He grins. "Yeah."

"So how did you two meet?"

Frannie laughs nervously. He can tell she's about to go into some elaborate story that will sound totally fake. Rookie. "That's classified," he says, winking at Connie. "But then we ended up working together."

Connie's eyes glow. "Ooh, an office romance!"

"Well, not anymore," Francesca says. "He's at a different precinct now. I might apply there when I'm done with night school, though."

Ray puts an arm around her. Frannie shivers when his fingers close on bare skin, and he swallows. "One of our parole officers is retiring next year," he explains to Connie. The two women keep talking about Frannie's career change and Connie and her husband's deli over in Detroit and the economy and blah blah blah, but Ray's having trouble focusing. "Atlantic City" starts playing. He remembers when that song came out. He'd just graduated from the Academy, and the mob trials were just starting in New York. It was an exciting time to train for undercover.

Well they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night
Yeah, they blew up his house too


"Hey Fran--cesca, you wanna dance?"

Francesca rolls her eyes at Connie. "This is his idea of a slow song." But she lets Ray lead her onto the dance floor. He puts his hands on her waist--on her skin--and she links her arms behind his neck. He and Stella used to do the two-step to this song, back in the day. Frannie's not Stella, so they're closer to classic high-school-dance swaying. But her hips move like a perfectly tuned engine, and on every fourth beat she grinds against him a little. "You're good at this," she says.

"I took lessons."

She laughs. "Not dancing. Being a, you know, fake boyfriend. You should do this professionally."

He frowns, puzzled. "I do do this professionally." Undercover is undercover.

She laughs again, her dark eyes crinkling at the corners, and he pulls her closer. Her breasts are even bigger than they were when he met her--she's still nursing Angelina--and he can't believe how perfect and soft they feel against his chest. "Do you do happy endings?" she asks.

"What?"

"That's what they call it, right? Like, when you want to know if an escort will really--"

He chokes. "I, uh--" He turns them around on the harmonica solo and she freezes, looking at something over his shoulder. "What is it?"

"My ex-husband," she says grimly.

He gets his game face on. This is what she brought him for, right? "You wanna make him jealous?"

But she says, "Just--let's just get out of here," and drags him out of the gym and down the hallway to a bright fluorescent-lit stairwell. On the landing she stops, leans against the wall. Her face is tight.

Ray is suddenly furious. "You're afraid of that scumsucker? What did he do to you?" He should know. Why the hell doesn't he know? Was it in the file, and he just didn't pay attention because Frannie wasn't that important?

She waves a hand. "I'm not afraid of him. I mean, yeah, he hit me--"

"I'm gonna kick him in the head." Ray's feet stutter back and forth. "It's in character, right? If I were your boyfriend I would kick him in the head."

"If you were my boyfriend, Kowalski," she snaps, "you would listen to what I'm saying."

"How about I listen after I kill him?"

"He hit me twice," she says. "And then I got a restraining order and a divorce."

"Two times too many."

"You sound like Ray." She grimaces, and rubs at her arms. Ray doesn't know what to do. He takes his jacket off and hands it to her, and she smiles at him and drapes it across her shoulders. "He isn't the point. I'm the point. I just--I told myself I'd never, ever, go out with anyone like Pop. And Johnny seemed like such a sweet guy and then as soon as the ring was on my finger it was like they were twins. It's like whatchamacallit, Freud. I'm doomed. I might as well resign myself to dying alone right now, because any guy I pick is going to be an asshole."

Ray frowns. "What about Fraser? I mean, he's with your brother, so uh, out of bounds now. But you picked him."

She gives him a incredulous look. "Fraser is so not my type."

"Wh--what?" Did he just imagine that year at the 2-7? Did he imagine the midriff sweater and the makeup and the soulful looks and the lying across the top of her desk? If so, he's got a good imagination.

She waves her hands and then grabs at his jacket so it doesn't slip off her shoulders. "Oh, please. I mean, you said it yourself, right? He's a nice guy. And I thought--I thought he'd be nice to me. Nice to my kids. Besides, it's like in that self-help book Maria loaned me, unattainable goals are comforting because they preserve the status quo. Which in this case is being single. Let's face it, I don't like nice guys and nice guys don't like me. You know the last person who really wanted to go out with me, Kowalski? The dead guy in the wall! And Turnbull, but I didn't want Turnbull, because he's nice!"

Ray's suspected for a while that Turnbull might be Angelina's dad. So he feels good about his detective skills, and Frannie looks like she might cry, or punch something. That makes him feel brave, for a second. He coughs. "I, uh. False."

She blinks at him. "What?"

"I mean, I'm not a nice guy. But."

"You mean--you?" She laughs. "Yeah, right. Thanks for trying to make me feel better, but I had to blackmail you into coming tonight, remember?"

He shoves his hands into his pockets and stares at the floor.

"Yeah, that's what I thought."

"I just," he mutters. "You were off-limits. You were Vecchio's sister. I couldn't break cover. I--look, if you don't believe me, ask Fraser. Ask him what I said when you started working at the 2-7." It's a reason that should have stopped being a reason a long time ago, but the Vecchio gig's been a hard job to surface from. Too much stuff from that year is still around. Is still the most important stuff in his life.

There's a long, long silence. Ray starts to feel sick. Yeah, he wanted to make Francesca feel better, but. He never fucking thinks things through. "Don't--if it's weird now--don't make me stop babysitting, okay?"

"It's not weird," she says. "Okay, it's a little weird."

"You want me to drive you home?"

Her shoulders shrug inside his jacket. "I don't know what I want. I thought I wanted to make Johnny jealous, and it turns out I just never want to see the donkey fedora again. But I haven't seen Connie and Jenny and Lucia in years. And now I've told them a bunch of dumb lies." She sighs. "I don't want to be rose-spleened."

He has to think about that one. "You mean yellow-livered."

"I mean a coward, Kowalski," she says flatly.

"You are not a coward," he insists. "You're one of the toughest girls I know. We'll just stay here a little longer, and then you can decide what you want. I'll--if you want to blow the popsicle stand, I will drive you to Detroit to visit Connie. Next weekend. If you want."

Her mouth twists consideringly. "I think maybe I want you to kiss me." It twists the other way. "Well, I know I want you to kiss me, but I think I might actually want you to kiss me."

"What?" He should probably just kiss her. That part seems unambiguous enough. But he--well, he wants to be a nice guy. He wants to listen to what she's saying.

"If we want to pretend it never happened later, we can just pretend it was part of the pantomime."

The thing about Frannie is that the details are never clear, but the gist is usually crystal. He slides his hands inside his jacket and settles them on the bare skin of her waist, and it's like he's floating. Like they're in slow motion, and he dips his head. She comes into brief, beautiful, perfect focus, her lips parted, and then she's fuzzy again.

Then his eyes are closed and he's kissing her. She's kissing him. She smells like way too much flowery perfume, mostly, but underneath there's--okay, underneath there's baby powder. He shifts his hands, brushing his thumbs over the edge of her stomach, and she moans. "Francesca."

"Ray," she breathes, and pulls him back down for another kiss.

He loves kissing her. He loves touching her. He wants--he can't keep his mind on the kiss because he knows what he wants and he doesn't know if she wants it. "Are we, uh--is this part of the pantomime?"

Her eyes open. "I don't know yet, Kowalski."

She called him Kowalski. He thinks that's a good sign. "I, uh, I do happy endings."

"I don't think I believe in happy endings."

"It's a euphoria."

"A euphemism?"

"Yeah, that. It means going down on you in the back of the GTO."

Her eyes darken. "Oh. I, uh, I guess that's okay then."

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5 Comments

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEee.

Oh, mystery writer agent, you are awesome. I love this so much. My face is honestly like :D :D :D right now, okay. They are just so cute, and hot, and also hilarious.

Frannie crosses her arms. "I don't tell the precinct you've read my entire collection of romance novels."
How did you know that I love Ray-that-reads-romance-novels?! :D :D :D

"Yeah," Vecchio says. "That, and he's got baby envy. This is just Phase One of his master plan to talk me into adopting. He thinks he's subtle, but I'm onto him."

"Do you do happy endings?" she asks.
The million dollar question, Frannie. This made me LOL for real, as did Ray's reaction.

It's a reason that should have stopped being a reason a long time ago, but the Vecchio gig's been a hard job to surface from. Too much stuff from that year is still around. Is still the most important stuff in his life.
RAAAAAAAAAAAY. And also he still wants to babysit! RAY.

EEEEe, and they are so very cute and precious and I REALLY REALLY LOVE THIS OKAY. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

*explodes with joy*

Sonia Author Profile Page said:

I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. They just have the same sort of thing going! The adorable hot wonderful ridiculous THING that they both have and it glows through this fic. The running word correction, but not quite thing was perfect. So was the F/V babysitting interlude featuring hilariously unsubtle baby-wanting Fraser. And just love! WEIRDOS. HOT WEIRDOS BEING CUTE WITH BABIES AND LATER KISSING IN SEXY OUTFITS.

omens Author Profile Page said:

Ray/Frannie!!! :D I love how they're always JUST missing what each other is saying, but that it doesn't matter anyway because they get each other. The thing about Frannie is that the details are never clear, but the gist is usually crystal. EXACTLY!!

I had no idea I wanted a Frannie/RayK story until I read this one.

He loves kissing her. He loves touching her. He wants--he can't keep his mind on the kiss because he knows what he wants and he doesn't know if she wants it. "Are we, uh--is this part of the pantomime?"

Hee. Such love!

exbex said:

I can't believe I forgot to comment on this one. Frannie/Kowalski is tricky, but you nailed it, and I loved all the other details, with Fraser/Vecchio and Kowalski being a little jealous, and wanting to have kids and the kiss and the hope at the end. :D

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This page contains a single entry by agent201 published on December 22, 2009 5:09 PM.

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Neither Expose Nor Extinguish by VerushkaKowalski is the next entry in this blog.

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