"If I am to be judged by those who come after me, let me be judged by the truth."



When Ray walked in the door after dropping off the kids for a play date at Frannie's, he could already hear Kowalski ranting. As usual.

"All I'm saying, Fraser, is that if Tanya was going to inherit nerdiness from somebody, it makes sense for it to have been you. You being a big Canadian nerd, and all."

"Ray," Fraser answered, patiently. "You know I don't actually share any genetic material with Tanya." It sounded like they were in the girls' bedroom. Ray wandered over and peered in the door. Fraser was still babbling on about genetics and whether or not there was a nerd gene or something weird and scientific, but Kowalski was ignoring him, peering at a couple of hardcover books on Tanya's night table. Those looked like -- oh, crap. Ray was so dead.

"-- and besides, while there is a substantial amount of research about whether personality originates from nature as opposed to nurture, I assure you that I never had any access to Dungeons and Dragons as a boy in the Territories. In fact, my grandparents would have been quite distressed at the cultural colonization and unspoken racism inherent in this --" Fraser paused, and flipped back to the cover of the book Kowalski was scowling at so ferociously. "-- Deities and Demigods."

"Whatever, Fraser. She certainly didn't get such dorktastic ideas from me, because me, cop. You," he said, jabbing a finger in Fraser's chest. "Nerd."

"I should remind you that I, also, am a police officer, Ray." Fraser sounded miffed. If it weren't for his imminent demise, Ray would have been enjoying watching Fraser get all huffy at Kowalski.

"Yeah, but a Canadian cop," said Kowalski, as if that proved his point. Which, Vecchio had to admit, it kinda did. "You're not going to catch an American cop making up this kind of crap about people. Next thing you know he'd be calling the perps goblins, and Welsh a wizard, and you a warrior or something. And where would that get you?"

"A paladin," said Ray, from the doorway. He should really have kept his mouth shut, but honestly, the truth would out eventually, and Kowalski was just so goddamn annoying sometimes.

"Excuse me, Ray?" asked Fraser, while Kowalski just shot him a confused look.

"Fraser," Ray explained. "His character class would be paladin. Not warrior, or fighter, which is what you meant when you said "warrior". It's a kind of holy knight, lawful good. You know, fighting for truth, justice, and the Canadian way. I'd like to say he'd be a paladin/ranger, but paladins can't multiclass."

"..."

"Whereas you would be more of a rogue character, Stanley, which is pretty funny in a cop." Ray let a slow smile spread across his face. Since his machismo was about to be permanently damaged, he might as well enjoy the fall. Kowalski's bug eyed bafflement was adorable, and even Fraser looked surprised. "I like to think of myself as falling into the spymaster prestige class," he said, buffing his fingernails on his shirt front.

"Vecchio." Kowalski seemed to be regaining his voice. "Explain to me exactly how an Italian Catholic kid from Chicago -- who's now a rising star in the Organized Crime Division -- ends up playing Dungeons and fucking Dragons?"

Ray shrugged. "I got into it at UIC. It was something to do." He walked forward to look more closely at the books Kowalski and Fraser were holding. Third edition, huh. He wondered where Tanya had picked up the books, since her allowance wasn't high enough to stretch to new hardcovers.

Fraser was looking at him with a small, calculating smile. Ray couldn't tell if Fraser were more amused by Kowalski's shock or by Ray's secret past as a geek, but honestly he didn't care. Fraser's tiny grin, like all of Fraser's facial expressions, made him look like hot sex on toast. On the other hand, Kowalski's nearsighted glare made him look like some kind of sexy breakfast food. Ray didn't know why he was so turned on by Kowalski getting angry, but he figured it was a pretty good thing, since Kowalski was irritable all the damn time. Like now, for example.

"Then can you explain to me," Kowalski was saying. "Exactly how the daughter who shares my genes has your nerdy taste in afterschool fun, but the daughter who shares your genes is the one with great taste in clothes --"

Ray raised an eyebrow at Kowalski's description of Maria's wardrobe. Fraser looked like he was trying not to crack up.

"-- and who likes to box?"

"Ray, I hardly think that Maria's tendency to punch her brothers in the nose counts as 'boxing'," said Fraser.

"Hey!" Vecchio wasn't sure if he should really be defending the kid's pugilistic streak, but what the hell, she wasn't around to hear it. "Are you saying she's just scrappy? Because she could be a boxer if she wants to be."

Fraser looked confused, in that faux-innocent way Ray had stopped falling for years ago. "I thought you were always trying to stop her from fighting, Ray. And trying to make her wear dresses. And stop stealing Charlie's dirtbike."

"She can be whatever she wants to be, Benny. I just want the girls to want to be girly, that's all."

"And nerdy," he thought he heard Kowlaski mutter, but when Ray looked over, Kowalski was standing there like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Though Ray bought his innocent act a lot less than he'd ever bought Fraser's.

"Look, you," he started, but then Kowalski interrupted him.

"So tell us about this paladin thing," he said.

"What do you mean? It's a character class."

Kowalski snorted. "Whatever that means. I mean, what're they like?" He put both hands on Fraser's shoulders and turned him back and forth in front of Ray. Fraser raised his eyebrows, but otherwise made no protest. "Holy warrior, you said? What's that mean, like King Arthur's knights or something? Armor?"

Ray eyed Kowalski. What was this about? "No, not all of Arthur's knights. Gawain, maybe; he was pretty pure. But Lancelot was an adulterer, so he couldn't be a paladin."

"Actually, Ray," said Fraser. "Lancelot was a later addition to the Arthur mythos. The French --"

"Shut it, Frase," said Kowalski, bouncing on his toes, and then he turned Fraser around for a kiss. It looked like it was supposed to be a quick shut-Fraser-up peck, but Fraser opened his lips, and Ray watched Kowalski melt. After an endless moment (and what the hell was Ray doing all the way over here?), Fraser slowly lifted his head, licking his way to the corner of Kowalski's mouth, then to his ear, until he finally pulled away.

"Uh... yeah." Kowalski shook his head as if to clear it. "Right. Not knights, then." He turned Fraser back around by the shoulders, so he couldn't see the sultry smile Fraser gave to Ray, or the way he raised his index finger to his full bottom lip and rubbed it softly back and forth. "So not armor. What, then?"

Fraser slipped his index finger in his mouth to the first knuckle and bit; Ray nearly groaned aloud. "Oh. Right, not knights. Um, Knights Templar, maybe. You know, the ones who went to take the holy land back from the Saracen? They wore these white tunics with big red crosses on the front." Ray couldn't hide his disappointment as Kowalski turned Fraser again, so those gorgeous lips faced Kowalski instead of Vecchio. But Kowalski wasn't looking at Fraser's face. Instead, he was eyeing him up and down, examining his chest speculatively.

"White tunic with a big red cross. Okay, we can work with that," Kowalski said, and oh my god, Ray was finally getting the picture, was finally seeing where Kowalski was going with this, and okay, the kids were at Frannie's all afternoon so technically they could... "And rogues, that's what you said, right? How about them?"

"Han Solo was a rogue," Ray's mouth said, on autopilot, all while his brain was freaking out, first because this was incredibly weird, and secondly because maybe he loved Kowalski so much it made him crazy sometimes but that didn't mean he should hand the guy such an incredible prize as comparing him to Han Solo, for fuck's sake. And yep, there went Kowalski's eyes lighting up.

"So what, like leather pants and a blaster pistol? And you can be my wookiee?"

Ray snarled, but before he could say anything about what Kowalski could do with his goddamn blaster, Fraser turned around in Kowalski's arms. There was a smoky look in his eyes. Fraser didn't usually get so involved in the games that Ray and Kowalski played, but something about his expression right now made Ray think maybe this one would be different.

"So tell us about spymasters, Ray," Fraser purred, and oh, yeah, apparently Fraser found this game interesting after all.

Ray met Fraser's eyes, then shifted his gaze to Kowalski. Stepping forward deliberately, he ran his knuckles up the side of Kowalski's neck, then opened his hand and twined his fingers through the blond spikes. "A spymaster," he said, tugging back sharply on his fistful of hair. "Specializes in gathering information and infiltration." Kowalski swallowed, and his breath came in short harsh gasps as Ray lowered his voice to a whisper and brought his lips close to Kowalski's ear. "He can be quite skilled at assassination, as well."

"That doesn't sound like the kind of person who would get along with a paladin," said Fraser, a little hoarsely, from right behind Ray's shoulder.

"Oh, I don't know," said Ray, turning to grin at Fraser without loosening his grip on Kowalski's hair. "I think they can get along just fine."