Disclaimer: Completely and utterly the property of Alliance.
Summary: To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream.
Notes: This was, when I began it, a sequel to The Death of Raymond Vecchio. Looking at it now that it's written, there's no particular reason for it to be a sequel to anything, but it still is. (Why? Just because.)
Gratitude: To anne, for (eventally) whipping my rambling sentences into shape.
Ray paced uneasily around his living room. Everything was packed and ready to go, ready for the Feds to get him the hell out of this haunted place. Clear off the last of the bills and other such paperwork with the guy who'd been him -- been Ray Vecchio -- for the last year of his life, and he'd be free to go. So where the hell was that guy? Ray drummed his fingers against the phone. Should he call? Or maybe he should call the other Kowalski just to say...something. Stella Kowalski had been strong and aggressive and right there with him when he had needed someone to be there; he ought to thank her for it now while he still had time. Ray Kowalski, on the other hand, had taken his strength and aggression north, chasing the man who had shot Ray Vecchio and leaving Ray Vecchio himself behind. He should call Stella, Ray decided.
He jumped when the telephone rang under his fingers, but he scooped up the receiver quickly. "Hello?"
"Ray? It's Stella."
He smiled foolishly. "Hi, Stella."
He heard her take a deep breath. "I'd like to make you a proposition," she said. "Would you care to meet me tomorrow morning? I'd like to do this in person."
"You mean like a breakfast date?" he asked.
"Yes," Stella said.
"That sounds lovely."
She sighed, sounding relieved. "I'll pick you up at eight, then," she told him.
"Here," Ray said to Ray. "Happy birthday."
Ray opened his mouth to ask how this guy knew that it was his birthday, but realized in time how stupid that would be. Instead he turned the...thing over in his hands. It looked like a tiny leather butterfly net with a feather for a handle. He frowned at the giver. "What the hell is this?"
"A dreamcatcher." The other Ray leaned forward on the sofa and circled one finger over the net part. "It catches bad dreams here. You hang it up in your bedroom and it, uh, catches them."
Ray didn't know what to say, although he thought that suggesting a drug test might be a good start.
"And, right, then you can let them go. See here, that's an eagle feather for good dreams. You know how hard it is to get real eagle feathers? They have to come from, um, some place in Colorado that I forget the name of, but people use them for doctoring too so you can't just go and get one any time."
That was more than a little scary. "God, you sound just like Benny," Ray said.
"It's from him. I mean, it was. From Fraser."
"Oh," Ray said, flicking the dangling feather with one finger. "He couldn't give it to me himself?"
"He did. It was your birthday present last year, not for this year." The other man rubbed the back of his neck and looked apologetic. "It was a great party, too. Traditional Canadian stuff."
"How could you have a birthday party for me without me?" Ray demanded.
His double shrugged. "You were there," he said. "You drew the line at bobbing for trout, but the cake was nice."
Ray held out the dreamcatcher. "Here," he said, "you can keep it."
"No, it's yours."
Ray had seen how the other man's hands had lingered on the curve of the hoop and the braided leather holding the feather. "Keep it," he insisted. "Fraser gave it to you."
"It already caught my dreams." He looked so earnest sitting there on Ray's living room couch, elbows on his knees and frown on his face, that Ray half-believed he was serious. "Besides, I'll be travelling light for a while. Fraser can make me another one that's for me later."
"I heard you were moving to Canada," Ray said.
"Yeah, me and Fraser, we're going to go have adventures. Frobisher's got a sled team we can buy and we'll be looking for Franklin. You know about Franklin?"
Ray held up a hand. "Don't tell me, okay? I've had enough Inuit stories for one life."
"Actually he's not -- uh. Right. Nevermind." He looked disappointed, but shuffled through the cardboard box at his feet for the next item from Ray Vecchio's estate.
Ray picked up the dreamcatcher and turned it over in his hands again. It looked like the sort of thing Fraser would make for a birthday present; apparently that year Fraser had gotten lucky with a Ray Vecchio who'd appreciated getting it. He held it up against the light. It must have hung in Ray's window all year, casting spider-web shadows across his bed from the streetlamp outside. With a shrug, Ray dropped it into the trashcan beside his dresser.
He turned off the light and eased himself down into the bed, wincing as he bent over the wound in his chest. It was good to have the last of that business done, with witness protection in T minus two days. No more Raymond Vecchio here, just one half going north and the other going south, never the twain to meet again.
The pain pills ought to be kicking in to let him sleep now.
Ray rolled over again.
He sat up. "Shut up, Benny," he muttered, and went to fish the dreamcatcher out of the trash. He hung it in his window; it cast its shadow onto the wall, but he figured that was good enough and got back into bed.
The ex-Ray Vecchio pulled the covers up and tried to imagine that the beautiful, kind-hearted, silk-and-steel ex-Mrs. Kowalski was climbing into bed with him and wrapping him up in her warm arms. He put his head down on her shoulder and closed his eyes.
"Everything's going to be okay," she whispered to him, and Ray smiled behind his closed eyes. Maybe this was one of Ray Vecchio's sweet dreams, sliding down that eagle feather to him.
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