[fic: stranger danger, aisle four! -Due South/Durham County]
stranger danger, aisle four!
They were in the middle of the breakfast cereal aisle when the kid appeared.
"Do you really need two kinds of breakfast cereal, Kowalski?"
Ray, who was bored with grocery shopping the minute they walked into the store, gave the world's most petulant shrug and leaned against the cart like a teenager who'd been told he couldn't borrow the car. "Yeah."
Mike held up a box of Captain Crunch. "You need this and a box of Frosted Flakes?"
"Yeah, so? Why the fuck do you care? I thought you had a coupon," Ray said innocently, pushing off from the cart and walking up to Mike. "Mr. Coupon. That's like, minus sixty-four scary points."
Mike smiled that you are so going to fucking get it when we get home smile of his, which was definitely up there on Ray's list of favorite facial expressions Mike makes at me in public, and reached out, grabbing Ray's shirt and pulling him in closer. His voice went all soft and quiet. "You want me to earn more scary points, is that it?"
"Mmm," Ray said, eyes going wide like they always did, and how did Mike do this to him all the time, how--
"You're not my mama."
Blinking, Ray stepped back and looked over towards the small, squeaky voice that had interrupted his inappropriate grocery store make-out before it started. There was a very small child standing in the aisle, looking sad, with giant brown eyes and a mop of curly red hair that had something sticky and pink in it. Said giant brown eyes were suddenly overfilling with tears, Ray noticed, and the kid was definitely heading into I'm going to wail territory.
Ray looked desperately in his cart, wondering if they had anything which with to distract him--they just had the iced coffee Ray had purchased at the in-store Starbucks, which Mike had taken one look at and groaned, the fucker--before said wailing occurred. He was contemplating making the bag of potatoes do a little dance when Mike surprised him by stepping forward towards the kid.
Now, Ray was pretty sure that wasn't going to work. They had come to the store right after work, and Mike was dressed in his suit, looking all serious and scary with the hawklike eyes and the intimidating bone structure (that was Frannie's phrase, not Ray's). Ray, however, was in a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, hair sticking up, and fuck--he had something sticky in his hair, maybe, who knew.
But Mike just went down to kid-level, and said in an even voice, "You lost your mama, little guy?" in this voice Ray had never, ever heard Mike Sweeney use before.
The little boy nodded, then pointed at Mike. "Stranger danger!" he said, and okay, that was more like people's usual reaction to Mike.
Mike nodded, very solemn. "Yeah, you shouldn't talk to strangers. But you can talk to me, you want to know why?"
The kid looked briefly up at Ray--which Ray gave him an I don't really know where this is going, either, look --and then back at Mike. He nodded, sticking his thumb in his mouth.
"Okay," Mike said, and reached behind him, and Ray had a wild is he going for his gun? thought before Mike pulled out his badge. "I'm a cop. See?"
The kid's eyes brightened, but he said suspiciously, "I thought cops wore uniforms with hats," like maybe Mike was pulling one over on him. "Do you have a hat?"
Ray had to hide a laugh in a cough because the idea of Sweeney in his dress blues was both hilarious and kind of hot.
"I'm a different kind of cop than that," Mike explained. "Some cops wear uniforms, and some cops, like me and my partner here, don't. He's a cop, too."
Ray nodded. "Yup." He pulled his jacket aside, his badge clipped to his belt.
"He doesn't look like a cop," the kid said to Mike, pointing at Ray. "He kinda looks like my cousin Todd. He's older. He's eight."
Mike laughed, smiling at the kid in a way that made Ray's heart do a weird flip-flop thing. "Nah, he doesn't look like a cop, does he? But I promise, he is one. So, see? You can talk to us. We can help you find your mom, okay?"
There was a few seconds of silence before the little kid nodded and reached his hand out. "Okay. My name's Robbie."
"Hi, Robbie. I'm Officer Sweeney. This is Officer Kowalski." Mike stood up, the kid's hand in his, and Ray--all right, Jesus, this was doing bad, bad things to his equilibrium and making him feel like a girl, oh, Christ. "Let's go up to the front and have your mom paged. What's her name?"
Robbie thought about this, skipping along, his hand in Mike's. "Mama," he said at length, and Ray met Mike's eyes with a grin.
"Right, okay," Mike said, very serious, playing along. "Of course. Do you have anybody else in your house that lives with you?"
"Yes! My daddy."
"What does he call your mom?" Mike asked, moving slowly to the front of the store. It was hard because Robbie, apparently feeling safe with a couple of cops, was stopping every so often to look at things and ask Mike if he could have them. Ray resisted pointing out to Robbie only if you have a coupon, kid.
"Sweetie," Robbie said seriously, and then stopped to pick up a box of crackers. "Or sometimes...Anna. Can I have these?"
"Anna it is," Mike said, while Ray hid another laugh in a cough. "Why don't you ride up here, and tell me if you see your mom on the way to the front, okay?" Mike swung the kid up on his shoulders, which made Robbie squeal with glee and forget about the crackers.
"Yay! It's funny that you don't have any hair," Robbie told Mike. "Did it all fall out?"
"Yup," Ray said in answer, grinning up at the kid. "Isn't that sad?"
Mike gave him a glare and mouthed something not-kid-friendly, which made Ray laugh again. They made their way to the front of the store, and Mike told the girl at the Customer Service desk that they had a lost kid up front named Robbie, whose mother's name was Anna. Robbie sat happily on Mike's shoulders and told him all about being four, having a puppy, and wanting to go to kindergarten but having to have more birthdays first. Then he wanted to know if Mike had any kids, could Robbie meet them, and what was Canada and why were his kids there?
A few minutes later, a harried, worried looking woman came rushing up to the counter. She looked relieved when she saw Robbie. "Robbie!"
"Mama!" Robbie beamed. "That's my mama!"
Mike removed the kid from his shoulders and put him down. He ran to his mom, and promptly burst into tears. She soothed him and looked at Mike and Ray. "Thank you. I swear, I turned my back for a second--"
"Hey, it happens," Mike said, a hint of something unhappy and tight in his voice. Ray reached out lightly and rubbed his hand over Mike's back and he didn't give a damn who saw it or not.
"I tell him not to talk to strangers--"
"Mama, mama, they're cops! The kind that don't wear hats," Robbie said wisely, perking up now that he was assured he was safe. "Is that what happened to all your hair, Officer Sweeney?"
"Robbie!" His mother said, blushing furiously. "I'm so sorry, he usually has much better manners! And are you really both cops, though? If so, wow, lucky for me and Robbie both."
"It's okay, he's used to the bald jokes," Ray told her. "And yeah. We showed him our badges and everything. Smart kid you got there. Otherwise, he was just gonna point at my partner here and keep saying stranger danger over and over."
"Oh, goodness, that's what they teach on Blues Clues. Thank you so much." She patted Robbie on the head. "Tell the officers thank you, Robbie."
"Thank you," Robbie said, then dashed out of his mom's arms and ran over to hug Mike exuberantly around the knees. "Maybe I'll be a cop when I grow up, just like you. But I want to be the kind with a hat. And I don't want my hair to fall out."
Ray missed whatever happened after that, because he was laughing too hard to hear.
They walked back to the grocery cart to finish shopping, and Ray said, "Hey, you were really good back there."
Mike looked at him, going right back to his list and, Ray noticed, trying to skip adding the Frosted Flakes. (Ray helpfully tossed them in the cart.)
"I like kids, Kowalski. I have two, remember? They were little, once."
"Sadie would have had the entire store assembled to do her bidding at that age, if she were lost. And I just meant, you know, you scare everyone over the age of six," Ray pointed out. "S'funny how much kids like you and grown-ups are afraid of you. Here, wait, can I get this Mac-N-Cheese or do you got a coupon for some other kind, Grocery Nazi?"
Mike sighed. "Don't call me a Nazi, it makes people nervous 'cause I have a shaved head. And Kraft Dinner? Really? This is your idea of a meal?"
"By itself? No. With hotdogs in it? Definitely."
"Jesus." Mike shook his head. Then he laughed. "You know, maybe this is why I don't scare you, Kowalski. You've got crazy hair, no attention span, you're easily distracted by things that are shiny, and you eat Kraft Dinner--"
"Mac-and-Cheese, you freak Canadian."
"--and Captain Crunch, Jesus. It's like you really are six. Mystery fucking explained. Hand me that box of Rice-a-Roni."
Ray handed him the box. "If I'm really a six year old, then I gotta arrest you. And way to prove the crazy right-wing nutjobs right that guys who like cock want to bang little kids."
A woman came around the aisle right when Ray said that, stopping short and blinking.
"I meant that theogorically," Ray told her hastily, but she just grabbed a box of Tuna Helper and got the hell out of there. He glared hard at Mike, who was leaning against the cart and laughing. "Fuck you. I'll be in the ice cream aisle."
"We have a coupon for the Drumsticks with the caramel in them," Mike called after him.
Ray flipped him off as he stomped towards the frozen foods section. When Mike appeared a few minutes later, Ray pointed at him and said, "Stranger danger!" over and over, until Mike threw a bag of frozen peas at him and told him to shut up.
Ray was hoping maybe this would get him out of grocery shopping for forever, but he really didn't think he'd get that lucky.