Disclaimer: The Characters of Due South belong to Alliance Communications. No copyright infringement is intended.

This is so unreal. I've got two other stories I'm working on; so, what do I do? I start another one. Brilliant. However, I was looking for my vouchers yesterday and suddenly remembered that this was never resolved in the series and, having begun my Federal career with the Infernal Rev'nooers, I thought that I'd see where it went.

As always, the disclaimers still apply. I'm not the owner nor creator of any of the characters or premises of the series Due South, but I'm grateful to them for their creative endeavors and thank them for doing so...and for being so kind as to not sue me for my playing in their toy box.

I'm going to dedicate this to Jen R, for reminding me that DS is still alive and well, and that gen is holding its own. Rating? G...



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His accountant had been struggling for six weeks to get all his papers in order for this day. Then, at the last second, the man bailed on him. It didn't look good. He hadn't tried to cheat on his taxes, but had taken Arnie's advice on which deductions to take and how to file. He'd depended on him...only it now appeared that his faith had been sadly misplaced.

He tried hard not to squirm as the auditor worked through his tax returns for the past six years. He almost groaned out loud when the woman frowned and went back through his receipts again, for the third time. He was sweating and nervous. He had no desire to be like Capone and end his days in a Federal Pen somewhere for screwing up on his taxes. He knew he wouldn't last a month on the inside. Cops didn't fare well in prison.

She asked him a question, and had to repeat it. He fumbled his answer, but she seemed to understand and nodded, then went back to her calculations. He'd never seen anyone ten-key so fast; and she never had to look at the machine. Every time she frowned and went back to his files, he cringed inside and flinched outside. It definitely did not look good.

Four hours later, she made some more notes and leaned back in her chair. Finally, after gazing at him (he felt like a specimen on a lab slide) for several ageless minutes, she spoke.

"Whoever your accountant is, I advise you to get yourself a new one," she said.

He was going to kill him, that rat, Arnie. He was just going to have to kill him, that was all there was to it. He listened intently as she explained what was wrong with his returns. Oh, thank God, he wasn't going to have to go to prison after all.


He had to struggle with the boxes he was carrying. It was, fortunately, too early for any of his squad to be in. As he struggled with the door, he was surprised when it opened from the inside. It seemed that one**of his guys was an early-bird.

"Detective Vecchio. What brings you in so early, might I ask?"

"Uh. I wanted to get my reports done, and it's kinda hard for me when everyone's here, so I either come in early or stay late to do 'em. You know. When it's quiet."

"Very industrious of you, detective." That was the biggest difference between this version of Vecchio and the original. This one actually did pretty good on his paperwork. Not as far as how well written his reports were, but at least he did them and turned them in, relatively on time. And, he didn't try and trick the mountie into doing it for him.

"Can I give you a hand with that, lieutenant?" Ray offered.

Surprised, and grateful, he allowed the younger man to take the smaller boxes from his precarious grasp. "Thank you, detective. Put them on the table, if you please." He followed Ray over to the narrow table against the wall behind the Civilian Aide's desk. He set his own, larger burden down there, as well.

Ray looked curiously at the boxes. The pink ones he'd carried, well, he knew what they were, but not why. The bigger box... that was the curious one. He set his boxes on one end of the table and watched as the lieutenant set down his box. His eyes widened in amazement as Welsh unpacked it.

"Uh, sir?" Ray asked in confused uncertainty.

Welsh looked up at him. He smiled a bit ruefully as he finished unpacking the cappuccino machine. "Yes, Ray?"

"I thought you said we couldn't have one of those?"

"I changed my mind."

"Sure. Uh, why?" Ray was totally confused. Not that he minded, but still...

Welsh straightened up, looking somewhat embarrassed. "I had my IRS audit on Friday."

"Yeah, I know. You were kinda...tense all last week, y'know?" Ray said a bit diffidently.

"Yeah, sorry about that." He knew he'd been a regular bear the previous few weeks, getting more surly and snappish the closer it came time for his appointment with the auditor.

"So, how'd it go?" Ray couldn't help wondering.

"It went good, actually." He nodded as he plugged the machine in and finished setting it up. He'd even brought in bottled water for it, and whole-bean coffee and a grinder. Ray's eyes almost bugged out of his head as he watched the items come out of the box.

"Must have," Ray muttered.

"Although, I need to find a new accountant," Welsh admitted.

"Oh? How come?" Ray was surprised.

"Because he really screwed up my tax returns."

"How bad?"

"Well, over the six years I was audited for, about $8,500.00."


"Nah," Welsh disagreed, "Actually, it's kind of a good thing."

"Huh?" Ray didn't understand.

"I don't got to pay them $8,500.00. They got to pay me, plus interest." Welsh smiled, a rare sight.

Ray gaped. "You...you got audited and you're gettin' money back?" He wasn't sure he'd heard right. He'd never heard of such a thing.

"Yeah." Welsh's smile grew bigger, which seemed impossible.

Ray just stared. He wracked his brain and could not, for the life of him, remember ever seeing the man smile before, never more than a smirk, at best; yet, here he was, a broad grin on his face. Of course, considering how the lieutenant been spazing over the whole audit thing practically since he got there three months earlier, well, it wasn't surprising that he hadn't had much to smile about.

He looked at the coffee machine and the boxes of donuts...this was a celebration, he realized. Welsh was rewarding his people for his successful bout with the IRS. He'd gone in a frightened, worried man, and somehow, by some miracle, had come back far more than just triumphant.

"So," Ray began cautiously, "You decided to use some of that money to celebrate, right?"

"Yeah," Welsh agreed, his smile dimming. "I figured that Francesca maybe had a good idea, about the coffee thing," he admitted, looking away.

"She'll be thrilled." Ray smiled. "You want me not to say anything about all this?"

Welsh looked at him in surprise. "Yeah, thanks. That'd be good."

"No problem, lieutenant. I'll keep your secret, if you'll keep mine."

Welsh stared at the younger man in surprise. "You don't want nobody knowin' you come in off-shift to do your paperwork?"

Ray blushed, "Hell, no. I'd never live it down. They all think I'm a total screw-up." There was a soft tone of hurt bitterness in his voice that he couldn't hide.

"Well," Welsh wasn't quiet sure what to say. He looked closely at his detective and saw a great deal more than he'd noticed before. The kid was tired. Of course, he'd had an enormous case-load left over from the 'real' Vecchio. He glanced past the slight man and noticed that although his desk was a mess, there were far fewer files on it than there had been... he'd gotten so used to the other Ray's mess and laziness that he'd actually expected this one to be just like him in work habits. The kid had been here three months, and he was just now realizing what a workhorse he was.

"Sure, kid. I'll keep your secret. You're doin' a good job, by the way." He was rewarded by Ray's face lighting up in pleasure, a shy smile gracing his features.


"Yeah. But don't let it go to your head. How much of Vecchio's backlog have you cleaned up, anyway?"

"I'm about a third of the way through them. Some are easy, just finish the reports, the rest require some research. I been tryin' to do two or three interviews every day, but it takes time."

"Yeah, and you've got the mountie just about every afternoon, plus your own cases. You keep doin' what you're doin', though. Work the fresh cases while they still are, and the cold ones as you have time." He turned towards his office, took a few steps and turned back, "Oh, and don't run yourself ragged over them. He put them in his 'try never to do' pile and stuck you with them." He turned back and made his way to his office to start his day.

"Ray?" Francesca Vecchio whispered to him at nine, right after she came in.

He looked up at her, frowning. "Yeah?" They sniped like real siblings, but in reality, he rather liked her, but assumed she didn't much care for him.

"Uh, did you see the cappuccino machine by my desk?" she asked, glancing nervously around.

"Yeah, and the donuts. Which reminds me," he rose and walked past her to go and get himself one. Opening up the lid of one of the pink baker's boxes, he looked at the selection and chose an apple fritter and a cinnamon roll. Placing them on a napkin, he turned back to his desk, nearly trampling Francesca in the process.

"Frannie! I'm sorry. I didn't see you there. Of course if you hadn't been right on my heels, I mighta had time to."

"Ray," she hissed, glancing nervously towards the lieutenant's office. "The cappuccino machine!" She gestured wildly towards the offending object. "Welsh made me get rid of it, but now it's back, only this is a bigger, fancier one. What am I gonna do? He'll see it and think I did this. He'll kill me!" She practically wailed in her fear and dismay.

"Nah. Don't worry about it. Why don't you show me how to work it, huh? I'd like some good coffee." He smiled at her worried expression. Leaning close, he whispered, "He knows all about it, and said it's OK."

She looked up at him. "You're kidding, right? Welsh said it was okay?" She narrowed her eyes and gave him a sharp look. "Why should I believe you?"

"Because he's tellin' the truth, Miss Vecchio?" Welsh's voice spoke softly from behind her.

She nearly jumped out of her skin. She did leap forward and into Ray's arms, which were all that kept her from bouncing off his chest. Turning to face their superior, she glared at him.

"That's right, scare me to death, why don't you?" Then what he said registered. "Wait, you mean, we can keep it?"

"Yeah. So, if you'd be so kind, why don't you show us how one of these things work, okay?" Welsh asked, his tone the usual one he had when dealing with his civilian aide, tempered, for once to only mild exasperation.

"Sure. No problem. It's easy, see?" She looked around and called out, "Come on everybody, look. We got a new cappuccino machine. Come over and I'll show you how it works."

By lunch time, the donuts were gone, and everyone was seriously coffee-logged. They were also light-hearted and even jovial in some instances. When Fraser arrived, Francesca met him at the door with a fresh latte and the last of the cinnamon rolls.

Looking puzzled, he took the cup and napkin, "Thank you kindly, Francesca." She just smiled at him and sashayed away. Frowning, he headed for his partner's desk. Not seeing him, he set his coffee and roll down, removed his stetson and settled himself to wait. Diefenbaker sat at his feet, his gaze oscillating between the man and the cinnamon roll.

"You are hardly in need of a sweet. You're a wolf, not a child." Dief huffed in denial. "You are not getting anything with that attitude, mister." Fraser chastised, annoyed. He took a sip from the cup. Then, apparently just to annoy his companion, he took a bite of his roll. By the time Ray returned, Fraser had not only finished his coffee, but most of the roll, as well. The final bite, with a quick glance around, he slipped to his wolf, who swallowed it without tasting.

"I saw that, Frase," Ray teased as he slumped down in his chair. Diefenbaker came around the desk and lay his head in Ray's lap, demanding attention, nudging his ice-cold nose under Ray's hand. "Yeah, yeah. I know, Dief. He doesn't give you enough treats." Ray ruffled the animal's face fur and scratched his ears. Then, with an uncertain look at his partner, he opened a desk drawer and pulled out a silver bag.

Fraser frowned, wondering what sort of junk food Ray was planning on giving his wolf. They had been working as partners for nearly three months, and he was still unsure of him, despite some very promising interaction between them. Ray's uncertain body language tweaked his curiosity. Craning his neck, he attempted to see what it was that Ray had.

Ray, seeing Fraser's expression, blushed slightly and showed him the label. Fraser's eyes widened and his jaw dropped slightly in shock. Ray took out a small, half-inch piece from the bag and offered it to Diefenbaker.

"Here, buddy, try one of these."

Dief sniffed the morsel. His eyes brightened and he delicately took it from Ray's fingers. Fraser watched in total surprise as the animal slowly chewed and swallowed, very different from the way he'd snapped down the piece of cinnamon roll.

"What are those, Ray?"

"Uh," Ray looked down at the begging face of the wolf. He took a second piece from the bag and gave it to him, then handed the bag to Fraser. Turning his attention to the files on his desk, he didn't look at his partner.

Fraser looked at the label. "Dog treats, Ray?"

Well, yeah. He's part dog, isn't he?" He looked up from under lowered brows, uncertain.

"Thank you, Ray. Yes. And, he seems to like them." Both men turned their attention to Dief, who was staring at the bag, his tail wagging hopefully.

"Yeah. I asked at the pet store and they said that these were real good, and good for them." He glanced up, "I got a couple of different kinds. They even had a venison one. But I thought I'd try these, first."

Fraser was pleased. He'd tried for two unsuccessful years to get Ray, the other Ray, to not give Diefenbaker junk food. Yet this Ray had gone out of his way to find healthy treats for the wolf.

"Thank you kindly, Ray." Dief woofed his own thanks.

"What are we working on today, Ray?"

"I got some victims to interview if you want to come along."

"Certainly." Fraser looked around and leaned forward, "How did the lieutenant's audit go on Friday? Do you know?"

Ray grinned. He leaned forward to whisper, "He got money back." Then he sat back to watch the shock on his partner's face.

"You're joking."

Ray shook his head, smiling and trying to keep from laughing out loud. "He snuck in early and brought the donuts and the cappuccino machine."

Fraser frowned, "How did you find out?"

"I beat him in."

Fraser frowned in consternation. "Why?"

"Paperwork. I can get more done in two hours than I can all day, once everyone's in," he admitted.

Fraser was astonished. He had been of the opinion that Ray did no more paperwork than absolutely necessary. "I don't understand."

Ray sighed. "I can't concentrate when everyone's here. I come in early, or I stay late to get the paperwork done. It's just me, okay?"

"I see." Fraser looked over the files that covered his partner's desk, realizing that although the mess was unending, the files themselves had changed, indicating progress. "Which case are we taking statements on today?"

"One of the old ones. Burglary. Over by the house."

Fraser frowned, "When did that happen?"

"Uh, four months ago. I'm tryin' to connect it to some other burglaries in the area."

Four months? That was before... "Ah, I see."

Just then, the lieutenant's office door opened and Welsh stepped out. Looking over the bullpen, his gaze fell upon Ray and Fraser. Catching their attention, he motioned for them to come. Ray stood and headed for the office before Welsh had to yell; and, as busy as the place was, he would have had to yell pretty loudly.

"What were you working on, Detective?" Welsh asked as soon as they'd closed the door behind them.

"I was going to go and do some interviews on a couple of old burglaries."

Welsh nodded. "That's good. You got any ideas on them?"

"Well, from what I've been able to figure, they may be related to a bunch of similar burglaries over in the two-four and the one-nine. I got a feeling," Ray said.

"Good, that's good." He glanced at Fraser. "Something, Constable?"

"Yes. No, well, perhaps. I was wondering what the possible connection could be."

Welsh turned to Ray, "Well?"

"Every one of the burglaries took place during the day. Every one of the burglaries occurred while the victim was at a meeting. Every one of the burglaries took place while the victims were at the IRS, getting audited."

Welsh sat up straight, "Oh? Same auditor, by any chance?"

Ray sighed. "Nah, that's where it breaks down. Except that they all went to the same office, but there's a dozen auditors there, and about a hundred other people working there. The only real connection is the audits."

Welsh's eyes narrowed as he thought, "Let me make a call." He pulled out his wallet and extracted a business card. He pulled his phone over and punched in the number. He waited for a moment while the phone rang. "Yeah, I'd like to speak to Ms Jefferson, please. Thank you." While on hold, he explained. "Most likely, it's not the auditors, but it could well be someone on their staff." He turned his attention back to the phone.

"Ms Jefferson? Yeah, Harding Welsh. Yes, from Friday." He chuckled, "Yeah, I think I'm over the shock, thanks. Well, actually, I'm calling on business. No, not your business, mine. Right. Yes. Well, we have a little situation here that I could use your help with..."

It turned out to be a simple case, once they had gotten the connection. One of the clerks had taken the information on taxpayers audits and passed it on to her accomplices, who chose the ones most likely to provide an big score. They had been running their scam for several years, being careful to spread their hits over the entire city to avoid detection. Unfortunately, Ray had managed to put the pieces together and he had four very unhappy and subdued suspects being booked downstairs into holding.

When he had finished booking his suspects, Ray and Fraser returned upstairs to the office. Ray had managed to pick out their inside man, (or, in this case, woman) and intimidated her into telling them where her accomplices could be found and, after turning her over to a patrol unit for transport, called for backup and headed out to nail the rest of the gang.

Luckily, the burglars were pulling a job in their district. Ray would have been hard pressed to turn this one over to someone else. He'd figured out the puzzle and he wanted the collar for himself. The way the police department was set up, whoever made the arrest got the credit, no matter who actually solved the case. It wasn't necessarily the best system, but it was the one they lived with. The competition could be brutal and sometimes caused more problems than it should have.

Welsh was waiting for them when they arrived. He'd heard about Ray's foot race with one of the burglars. There was a livid bruise on one side of Ray's face, his eye was swollen nearly closed and his lip had been split. He was also limping and his right hand was held against his chest as though injured. However, he seemed to be in an excellent mood, practically dancing despite his limp. He was followed by the, as usual, pristine mountie and the wolf, whose head was down and looked like he'd been severely chastised.

"Welcome back, Detective, Constable. My office, if you please?"

Once settled in the office, Welsh looked them over more closely. "What's wrong with your arm?"

"Uh," Ray squirmed in his chair. "It's okay, just sprained a little, is all."

Welsh glanced at Fraser and noticed the grim set of his mouth. "Constable? Do you have something to say?"

With an uncertain glance at his partner, he spoke. "No, sir." He refused to meet the lieutenant's eyes, but kept glancing over at Ray.

Ray was also looking down, but glancing over at the mountie, as well. With a sigh, he looked up at Welsh and began. "We...I**almost lost one of our perps. There were two patrol cars outside when we went in. We had two perps cornered and cuffed, when I saw the third one run past the window, out the back. I told Fraser to watch the two and went after the rabbit. He was in the back yard and went over the fence, me right behind him. He was fast, but I caught up and tackled him."

Fraser snorted, but still refused to look at anyone directly.

"Yeah, we both went down, and he started struggling. I'd been yelling that I was a cop and for him to stop, but he wasn't listening. When I got him, he tried to get away."

Fraser couldn't remain silent any longer, "He almost killed you, Ray."

"But he didn't. Nothing's broken, Fraser. I'm fine."

"You don't look fine, Detective. Did anyone look at your arm? Did anyone check you for a concussion?" Welsh asked pointedly.

Ray hung his head. "No, sir."

"Then I suggest you get yourself over to the hospital and checked out," Welsh insisted.

Ray hung his head, "Yes, sir." He stood up, his face grimacing in pain as he did so. Both Fraser and Welsh stood up as well.

"Constable, would you be so kind as to drive him? I don't think he can use his clutch with that bum leg, or steer and shift with a bum arm."

"Yes, sir." Fraser concurred, pulling the keys to Ray's car from his pocket. Obviously, he'd already been driving the injured Ray back from the scene of the arrest.

Welsh escorted them both to the door and then followed them out, at least as far as Francesca's desk. She looked up at him, uncertainly.

"Lieutenant?" she asked, softly.

"Yes, Miss Vecchio?"

"Uh, you had a call a few minutes ago, from a Ms Jefferson?"

"Oh? What was the message?" Welsh asked.

"Uh, she said that she'd like you go give her a call. It's about your audit." Francesca handed him the message.

"Thank you," Welsh replied, smiling down at the note.

Back in his office, Welsh called the number on the message. He was not surprised to find it rang directly to Ms Jefferson's desk. They spoke and he informed her of how his people had managed to arrest the entire gang of burglars. She apologized for the clerk who had been the insider providing the information needed, but Welsh reassured her that it wasn't anyone's fault except their perp and not to worry. He considered asking her out for a drink, but decided that it wouldn't be proper. Too bad. However, he did feel as though he had made a friend. Maybe in a few months, after his audit files were refiled and forgotten, maybe then, he could call and ask her out. Yeah, that was a good idea. After talking to the lovely Ms Jefferson, he hung up and leaned back in his chair.

Gazing through the windows of his office, he watched as his people bustled about on their tasks. He saw Francesca make a fresh batch of cappuccino and the way she glanced towards him while she did. He was somewhat surprised when she brought him a cup. He thanked her and she smiled at him, somewhat bashfully, then returned to her desk and her filing. Satisfied that everything was working the way it was supposed to be, he turned his attention back to his own work and started going through the reports that had been completed and turned in.

Four hours later, after everyone else on the squad had gone home, he looked up to see that Ray had returned. Frowning, he went to the door of his office and silently watched as the detective limped to his desk. Sitting down, he pulled out a report form and began to laboriously fill it out. Ray's face was still swollen, and his eye was now almost completely closed. His right hand was wrapped up, and he suspected that the kid's knee and ankle were probably both wrapped as well. He was surprised to see him back, but remembered their talk that morning about him needing the quiet to be able to work on his reports.

Unnoticed by the younger man, Welsh headed over to the cappuccino machine and brewed a new batch. Knowing how Ray liked chocolate flavored coffee, he added chocolate syrup and milk to a large styrofoam cup, then carried it over and set it by the kid's hand.

Ray looked up in surprise. "I figured you'd have gone home, sir."

He could hear the exhaustion in the younger man's voice. "You should go home yourself, Detective. Why are you back here?"

"Report, sir. I wanted to get it done while it's still fresh, you know?"

Yeah. He knew. "All right, but when you're done, I want you to go home and take however many hours you worked over today off tomorrow. What time did you come in this morning? I got in just after six, and you were already hard at work."

"I, uh, got in just a few minutes before you did, sir." Ray didn't look at him when he said it, though, so Welsh knew he was lying.

"Did you go home at all last night, Ray?"

"Yeah, I got home about eight last night. I'm okay, lieutenant."

"I'm sure you are, Ray, but there isn't any overtime authorized. You won't get paid for this."

"I know. I just have a hard time writing when there are a lot of people around."

"Okay, just take it easy. In fact, if you finish this report, take tomorrow off to recover, why don't you?"

Ray looked up at him in surprise. "That tax refund go to your head, boss?" he quipped.

"Nah, Just keeping the manpower people and the union off my case, is all. You be careful. Are you sure you're okay to drive?" He watched the younger man closely.

"Yeah. I'm good. Just banged up a little, is all."

"Uh-huh. You should go get some ice from the break room for that eye, though. Where's Fraser?"

"I dropped him off at the consulate. He was a little upset with me."

"Because you went after the one trying to escape instead of him?"

Ray grinned up at him. "I think so. Usually, he's the one who gets to chase down the rabbits. I had already cuffed the two and was looking the right way when the third one took off."

Welsh chuckled, picturing the scenario. "Yeah, I guess he would. What about the wolf?"

Ray ducked his head as he chuckled, as well. "The door hit him in the face as I went out. Fraser had to stay and turn them over to the uniforms, so he was a couple of minutes behind me."

"What happened? You look like you got hit by a car, kid." Welsh was watching and saw the Ray flinch. "You got hit by a car?"

"Sort of. Not really. I tackled the guy and we both went down. He got up first and when I went for him again, he caught me just right and swung me around and bounced me off a parked car. I was holding on to him, so he couldn't get away. He hit me a couple of times and I went down. He started to run, and I grabbed one of his feet and held on. He went down, head first into that parked car." He looked up at his lieutenant and grinned, "No, there was no damage done to the car. I checked. Anyway, he was kinda dazed and I got him, just about the time Fraser and Dief arrived and helped me with him. I thought I was okay, until we were headed back and I slipped on some wet grass. That's when I wrenched my knee and sprained my wrist."

Welsh stared at him. "So, all the perp did to you was the black eye?"

"Yeah, and a few other bruises." He smirked as he looked up and met Welsh's eyes, "Just my usual luck, you know?"

"Yeah, I'm starting to." Welsh looked at his watch. "Look, it's late. Tell you what, come on and I'll buy you supper. You can either take the forms home with you and do 'em there, or just come in late tomorrow to do them. I'll even drive you."

Ray stared in surprise. "Uh, that's okay, sir..."

"Look, you've had a tough day, so let me do this, all right? Just because I want to." He waited, his expression showing nothing.

Ray considered the offer. He really did ache, and he really was hungry, he realized. All he'd had that day was the donuts and coffee. Slowly, he nodded. Okay, thanks." He stood up and grabbed his jacket, slipping it on. He picked up the forms and turned off his desk lamp. Looking around, he picked up the fresh cup of coffee and downed it in several gulps. Looking up, he smiled shyly, "I wouldn't want to waste it," he said.

Welsh laughed. "You're a nut, kid. Come on. I'm in the mood for a steak, and at the moment, I can definitely afford it." They stopped by his office for him to get his own jacket and turn off the lights, then paused by Francesca's desk to turn off the cappuccino machine.

He watched the kid carefully. Definitely too thin, and he was well aware that Ray'd probably had nothing to eat but donuts and coffee; and only a couple of donuts, at that. He was pleasantly surprised to discover how dedicated Ray really was, and the idea that he could give the kid a little unofficial bonus for his stick-to-itiveness, well, that wouldn't hurt. Besides, he was feeling generous and Ray hadn't snitched on him about the cappuccino machine.

"So, Ray," Welsh said, throwing one arm across the smaller man's shoulders, mindful of his injuries, "How are you managing with this assignment? Workin' with the mountie and everything?"

Ray looked up at him in puzzlement, then shrugged. The arm across his shoulders was a bit heavy, but warm and he was willing to accept it. "Well, he's a freak. But he's a pretty good guy." He shook his head, "But man, some times...."

Tuesday morning.

"I can't believe this. This is crazy, you know?" Thomas Dewey ranted to his partner as they walked through the bullpen towards their desks.

"Gentlemen!" Welsh called from his office door. "How nice of you to grace us with your presence." He turned away, having made his point. Catching Ray's eyes on him, he smirked at him and went back in his office, closing his door.

"Great, Dewey, now we're gonna get docked for being late. Next time you want a ride, call a cab." Huey turned away to get some coffee from the cappuccino machine. He wasn't sure how Francesca had managed it, but he was grateful, and told her so. She smiled and said to thank Ray, 'cause she knew that he'd somehow managed to get the lieutenant to relent. Jack just shook his head and continued on to his desk.

Dewey passed Ray's desk, still grumbling. Ray looked up and couldn't help himself. "What the hell's wrong with you?" he snapped. He'd gone home the night before, intending to work on his report, but he was so full and relaxed from the wine he'd had with dinner, that he had had no more energy than to just go to bed. He'd slept well and awakened before his alarm, so he'd come in early. Considering his injuries, he was feeling pretty good.

"I got a notice from the IRS in yesterday's mail. They're auditing me!" Dewey snarled. "Why me?" he continued, whining. "I mean, they already nailed the lieutenant, so why go after me?" He glared at Ray as though he felt that it was all the blond detective's fault. Huey came up behind his partner, trying to signal Ray not to 'go there'.

"Maybe because you're a schmuck?" Ray asked innocently.

"Ha ha. Very funny. You won't be laughing when I tell them that your taxes need to be audited, too."

"I got audited last year." Ray announced, smirking.

"Oh, yeah?" Huey asked. "How was it?"

"Scary. But it turned out to be a big nothing. I didn't owe, and I didn't get anything back. Easy. So," he turned his attention to the sulking Dewey, "You try an' sic 'em on me, and I'll pulverize your ass, got me?"

"Yeah, yeah. Hey, how'd you manage to get off?"

"I don't cheat on my taxes." Ray saw Dewey's face fall in dismay as he turned back to his report. He looked up at Jack and winked. Jack gaped at him for a second, then burst into laughter.

"Come on, Tom. Surely you didn't claim fourteen children, right?" At the look on his partner's face, Jack stared, then looked towards the ceiling, praying for strength. "Maybe Welsh's accountant can help you."

Francesca looked over at the man pretending to be her brother. Sauntering over with a fresh cup of Mocha for him, she settled one hip on the edge of his desk. When he looked up, she smiled and offered the cup. He returned her smile and took the cup.

"Thanks, Frannie. What's up?"

"Did you really get audited last year?"

"Yeah." Ray took a sip.

"So, how was it, really?"

"No problem. At all."

"Really?" Francesca was surprised, remembering a number of years earlier when her real brother had been audited. He'd had to make payments for several years to pay off his tax debt.

"Yeah. But then, I don't own anything, and I use a 1040A for my taxes. Simple. No money, zero deductions on my W-4, easy." Ray grinned. "Dewey's such a putz, though, I figured if I could make him sweat, that might be a good thing."

Frannie smiled. "Every once in a while, you do something just like Ray would do. Thanks." She slid off the desk and leaned over to gently kiss him on his bruised cheek before turning and sashaying back to her own desk.

Ray smiled after her. Too bad she was supposed to be his sister. Every now and again she'd do or say something that hinted that she didn't really dislike him as much as she pretended to.

Welsh watched his crew from his office. Dewey was a squirrel, but he could do good work when he put his pea-brain to it. Jack Huey was a good man, too bad he'd had to saddle him with Dewey, but he was making it work. His eyes settled on Ray, and he smiled. He'd gotten lucky when this was the guy the higher ups had chosen to take Vecchio's place. Even Francesca was fitting in. He took a sip of his espresso and sighed happily. Yeah, the cappuccino machine was a good idea. Looking down on his desk, he noticed that Ray had come in early again. There, right in the middle of his blotter, was Ray's report on the previous day's bust. Neatly filled out, complete, and signed. He smiled and took another sip of coffee. He realized he'd been smiling a lot since Friday. Most of the squad...hell, most of the district house was nervous and worried. After all, he wasn't known for his joviality, after all. He looked at Ray again. For some reason, he felt he had an ally, and maybe even a friend out there. It had been a long time, and it made him feel...good.

His phone chose that moment to ring, breaking off his reverie. "Welsh." He listened and smiled again, leaning back in his chair. "Why, good morning, Ms Jefferson. What a pleasant surprise to hear from you." He took another sip of his coffee. "Dewey? Yeah, he works for me..."

Hanging up, he smiled again. She'd called, ostensibly to ask about Dewey, but somehow, they had ended up with a dinner date. Hmmm. Maybe he should get audited more often?

The End

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