This story features characters from Due South most notably Benton
Fraser, Ray Kowalski, and Ray Vecchio. It is the third story in my "Fishing"
series, and is a direct a sequel to The Catch. Oh, and although this series began as a DS/HL crossover, all the crossover aspects are basically gone by this point. (Is that confusing enough for you?).
Rated NC-17 for graphic sexuality (M/M).
If you're considered a minor in your community please do not read this
(do your parents know where you are, you young whippersnapper you!?).
If you're narrow-minded or easily offended, you may want to take a pass
as well. Characters property of Alliance, everything else is MINE ALL
Timeline-wise this is set during "The Call of the Wild," it basically fits between the capture of Muldoon, and the explanatory 'tag.' I just felt there was a lot left unsaid there that I wanted to know about. As before, please note this is not a 'fixit' story. If you're going to get upset by seeing Fraser with Ray K., then you probably want to skip this one.
A BIG Thank You to my Beta readers, Debra Ann Fiorini, Marina Bailey, & Carol Ann Liddiard. Thanks also to Caroline Alert for her reassurances regarding synchronicity
Hook, Line, and Sinker
© 1999, Kellie Matthews
It was funny, in the
sense of strange, not as in humorous, Fraser thought, how he could have
everything he wanted, and yet still have nothing at all. His father
was finally at rest, Ray Vecchio had returned, Muldoon was in custody,
his own reputation had been somewhat restored, and Ray Kowalski was back
home safe, despite a half-dozen close calls. And yet he felt . . . empty.
Fraser looked over to where Ray Vecchio sat on his mother's couch next
to Stella Kowalski, and sighed soundlessly.
come, as he had the last few nights, to the Vecchio's to celebrate Ray's
return, to reminisce, and simply to enjoy Ray's company, so long absent.
Yet, everything was different now. They were still friends, that much
hadn't changed, but there was a distance between them now that had never
been there before. At least, not mentally. Physical distance had separated
them for quite some time. The mental distance was much harder to deal
He hadn't realized
how difficult this would be. He had prepared himself, or so he'd thought,
for the change in their relationship, but now, well, now it was obvious
that he had not really done so at all. Perhaps it was Stella's presence
that brought home the changes so painfully. Ray was so focused on her,
on the courtship ritual, that even if he and Ray had merely been friends
before, it would have left him feeling cut out. It was clear that Ray
liked her. Very much. Perhaps as much as her . . . ex-husband had once.
No, like was not
strong enough a word for what Stanley Raymond Kowalski had felt, and
still felt for Stella. There was only one word for it. Love. Ben
thought about his other Ray, and felt guilty. He should be there. With
him. Not here. But he couldn't, not until he felt he'd atoned enough.
Guilt was a double-edged blade, cutting him no matter which way he turned.
"Hey, Benny, you
back up North again?" Ray teased. 'You're a million miles away!
I was just telling Stella here about the old days. She doesn't believe
you made me go wade around in a dumpster."
forced a smile, wondering why he felt resentful of Stella, when he never
had before. He was almost angry at her. He knew that her presence here
would be hurtful to Ray. (A tiny voice nagged at him 'And yours isn't?')
He cleared his throat.
did. Actually, a great deal of evidence may be found in trash receptacles.
Many criminals simply don't believe anyone would ever bother to look
in a trash bin, so they think nothing of disposing of incriminating evidence
chuckled. "I can tell you, that's one thing I haven't missed, Benny!
I lost count of the number of suits I ruined when we worked together!
Hey, that's one thing your new partner doesn't have to worry about!
With the way he dresses nobody would ever know if he'd been dumpster-diving."
Stella and Ray both laughed.
Ben didn't. It hadn't escaped his notice that Ray had begun to make
a habit of these small, but telling jabs at Ray Kowalski. Was it because
of Stella? Surely it had nothing to do with himself, since it was clear
Ray would have no reason to be jealous of Ray over Ben. No, it must
be Stella, he couldn't think of any other reason for it. Suddenly it
was too much. He couldn't let it go any more. He waited until most
of the others were distracted by a new topic, then leaned over toward
his former partner.
may I speak to you for a moment, alone?" he asked quietly.
looked at him, and the smile died on his face as he saw the seriousness
of Ben's expression. He hesitated a moment. Ben found that hesitation
actually, physically painful. It was clear that Ray didn't want to be
alone with him. Ben waited, unspeaking, and finally Ray nodded. "Sure,
Benny." He stood up "Ladies, Benny and I are going for a little
walk. Ma, don't put out the tiramisu until we get back, okay?"
Mrs. Vecchio laughed.
"As if I would!"
moved toward the door, and Ben followed him out to the far end of the
porch, away from the door. Ray stood staring out into the street, gripping
the porch-rail in both hands, clearly ill-at-ease.
what's up, Fraser?"
at me, please, Ray."
Ray turned, and faced him. "I'm here."
have something I need to ask you."
please, I . . ."
not about us, Ray. At least, not directly."
was instantaneous. "Oh. What then?"
would appreciate it if you could bring yourself to refrain from making
derogatory comments about Ray, I mean, Stanley Kowalski."
eyes widened. "What?"
not a difficult request, Ray."
it's not, I meant, it's just-- what difference does it make? It's not
like the guy's here to get his feelings hurt, and Stella doesn't mind."
She should, Ben thought.
She should have that much loyalty to him, even if they were no longer
married. He'd thought better of her.
doesn't matter if he's here or not, or if she minds or not, Ray. I care.
I mind. Very much. He's my friend. He's my partner. He's my . . .
" Ben hesitated, drew a shaky breath, and went on, though he was
terribly uncertain how his next words would be received. "He's
silence between them was sudden and deep. Ray's eyebrows shot up. He
blinked. "You, and . . . Kowalski?" he asked finally, incredulity
in the words.
nodded, bracing himself, prepared for anger, for pain, for jealousy.
What he wasn't prepared for was the flash of utter relief that lit Ray
Vecchio's gaze once the surprise had subsided. That hurt, a great deal,
although he really should have expected it. After all, hadn't he figured
out long ago that Ray Vecchio could not love him the way he needed to
be loved? Wasn't that what he'd told Ray? Had he lied, even to himself?
Yes. Apparently so. Self-delusion was apparently a large part of his
emotional makeup, at least where former loves were concerned.
man, I had no idea." Ray rubbed his forehead, a classic delaying
movement, then looked at him again, green eyes wide. "You, and
the Pola . . . uh, Kowalski. Wow. I, ah, wasn't expecting that."
He shook his head. "Sorry, Fraser. Geez, I guess, yeah, I coulda
been a little nicer. I mean, at first it was like, he stole my life.
But I guess he didn't. I kind of gave it to him. And then there was
you. You're my partner, my territory, he's got no business in it. Then,
well, you know how it is, there's Stella, and they used to . . . it's
just a guy thing."
didn't nod. He didn't understand, he didn't 'know how it was' and had
never been much good at 'guy things.' Ray looked at him for another
long moment, then shrugged.
Guess that explains why they're not together any more."
Ray, his sexuality had nothing to do with their divorce. They separated
long before we met."
eyebrows lifted. "You mean he never . . . before you?"
"You know I don't
discuss such things, Ray," Fraser said, blushing, wondering how
Ray had managed to discern that from such an innocuous statement.
"Yeah, that 'code
of chivalry' thing. Sorry." He rubbed the back of his neck and
studied Ben for a moment, then spoke again, a little awkwardly. "I,
um, maybe this is out of line, but if the two of you are, like, an item,
then how come you've been hanging around me all the time since you got
back? I mean, I was starting to wonder if maybe you thought. . . well,
tried not to flinch, but it was one thing to know a truth in your head,
and quite another to see it in your former lover's eyes, to hear it in
his voice. It was, as the saying went, the last nail in the coffin.
And with that question he suddenly began to wonder exactly what he was
doing there. How long had it been since he'd been with Ray? How
long had it been since he'd touched him? The last time he'd touched
him, really touched him, had been the morning of the day he'd seen Ray
Vecchio at the Hotel California. Since then they'd been in proximity,
but without intimacy, and even that proximity had been severely limited.
During the case things
had been too crazy. He'd been eaten up with the anguish of learning
about his mother's death. Ray had tried to comfort him, but he hadn't
wanted that. He'd been too angry, with Muldoon for the action, and with
his father for not telling him. Then had come the pain of losing his
father, again. Of course, he could tell no one of that pain. No one
would understand. Only two people in the world knew about his father's
posthumous visitations, Maggie, and Amanda. Neither were readily available
for counseling. And there had been something else eating at him, too.
Something that still ate at him.
it came right down to it, he couldn't believe he'd dragged Ray along
with him, nearly gotten him killed, several times over. He could have
fallen from the aircraft's wing, been shot by one of Muldoon's men, could
have died of injuries after that idiotic shove out of the plane (Ray,
my friend, I'm going to endanger your life . . .), could have died of
hypothermia on the ledge or in that crevasse. Yet through it all Ray
had gone along, barely complaining, just occasionally asking for a slightly
slower pace, always flashing that self-deprecating grin and making sure
Fraser knew any problem Ray was having was his own fault, not Fraser's.
That first night
in the Territories, when Ray had lain by the fire and asked him if he
ever felt lost-- he'd known what Ray was asking then, and had deliberately
pretended he didn't, because his own emotions were a little too raw to
bear exposure. By the time he'd worked back around to answering the
question, Ray had fallen into an exhausted sleep. More memories came
. . . being pinned, so intimately, in that crevasse in the ice. He should
have leaned forward, it would have taken so little to kiss him, to respond
to the request in his gaze. But he hadn't done it because he was afraid
that Ray would be able to read his guilt and fear and pain in a kiss,
and then the opportunity was past.
they'd returned, things had been in an uproar at the Consulate, with
Inspector Thatcher preparing to leave. What little time he did get
to himself he had been spending primarily with Ray Vecchio, only half-conscious
of the fact that he was avoiding Ray because he felt guilty for almost
getting him killed. The same guilt he felt whenever he looked at Ray
Vecchio, whom he had also nearly gotten killed. How could he have risked
their lives like that? He'd thought nothing of exposing the two most
important people in his life to potentially lethal situations out of
sheer selfishness. Risking his own life, that was his choice. How dare
he risk theirs as well?
self-imposed punishment had been to deny himself Ray Kowalski, and to
make himself more miserable by daily facing the pain of Ray Vecchio's
gentle, but firm rejection of their former intimacy. Only now did it
occur to him that he hadn't just been punishing himself by those actions.
Unthinking, he had punished both of his friends as well. He had not
explained himself to either of them, just forced them to accept his actions.
How cruel. How unutterably cruel. He hadn't thought it was in him to
be so selfish. But there it was.
a memory from earlier in the day surfaced. Ray Kowalski, standing in
the hallway with Welsh and Huey, looking paler than usual, and rather
unwell. Huey had a hand on Ray's shoulder, an unheard of action, since
the two of them generally got along about as well as oil and water. He had wondered
about that for a moment, then he'd gotten distracted by a question from
Francesca and when he'd looked back, they were gone. He'd assumed Ray
had wandered off to the file room, or an interrogation room, but now
it hit him that he'd never come back. At all. And it had taken him
this long to realize it.
Hey, Fraser, you in there?"
blinked, coming back to the present to find Ray Vecchio looking at him
with a concern that belied his teasing tone.
Ray, I am here, and I shouldn't be. May I borrow your phone?"
Ray looked puzzled.
"Sure, but what do you mean you shouldn't be?"
that, Ray. I've been inconsiderate, to both of you, and I've only now
realized it. I'll be going soon. I'm sorry."
turned to go back into the house and use the phone, when Ray caught his
arm and stopped him.
wait! I didn't mean for you to think I don't want you around! I do!
You're the best, Fraser, you're my friend! But, well, it's just that
. . . things are different now."
Ben said, then wondered if that word was too cold for this context.
He had begun to be more careful with words lately, since Ray Kowalski
was far more sensitive to their effects than Ray Vecchio ever had been.
Guardedly keeping himself at arm's distance, he gentled his reply.
"Really, I do realize
that, I have for quite some time. Forgive me if I inadvertently led
you to believe I thought otherwise. This has nothing to do with that.
I just need to be elsewhere right now. I need to . . . fix something
I may have broken."
Ray seemed to understand. He'd looked into Ben's face, and nodded.
"Okay, Benny, I get it."
there is one thing. . ."
"I told you about my relationship with Ray in complete confidence. Please,
don't tell Stella. If, and when, she learns of this, it should be from
out and clasped his shoulder. "You got it. And, I'm glad. That
you've found someone, I mean. I felt bad."
Ray, I do understand. You can't fight your basic nature. That's something
I think I've finally learned."
you, Benny," Ray left his hand on Ben's shoulder a moment longer,
then he shook his head and reached out with both hands to pull him into
an embrace. "God, I don't know what's the matter with me these
days. Guess I spent so long being someone I'm not that I forgot how
to act. I missed you. And I do love you, you know."
hesitantly allowed his arms to go around Ray, fighting back tears. It
had been so long, so very long. He allowed himself to just absorb the
feel of Ray's lean body against his own. He knew this wasn't a
beginning, though. This was an ending. The goodbye he'd never gotten,
this was what should have replaced that cryptic phone call. After a
moment he knew it had gone on as long as it could, and he slowly drew
away, hoping his sadness wasn't too obvious. He let his hands rest lightly
on Ray's shoulders as he replied. "I know that, Ray. I love you
smiled, a slightly lopsided, self-mocking smile, a hint of apology in
his gaze as he saluted with two fingers. "Understood."
Ben smiled, trying to
put his forgiveness into his smile. Then one last painful question came
to him, and he looked at his former partner for a long moment. "Ray,
may I ask you something?"
course, Benny, anything."
I . . . I mean, was it my -- that is," he paused, shook his head,
impatient with his own inability to communicate. Spit it out, Fraser.
Stop beating around the bush. "What I'm wondering is, did discomfort
with our relationship contribute to your decision to go undercover?"
Ray's gaze softened,
and he shook his head. "No, of course not, Benny. Growing up here,
what I am, God, you get so tired of that association people make as soon
as they find out you're Italian-American, they figure you gotta be with
the Mob. Even when you're a cop, they figure you're dirty. I wanted
to do something to change that, I wanted to make a difference. You understand
that, right? You're the one who taught me I really could make
a difference." He sighed, then his eyes widened and he looked at
Ben, frowning. "Benny, have you been thinking that all this time?
That it was your fault?"
closed his eyes and nodded. It was that or lie, and he couldn't do that.
"Oh, Benny, I'm
sorry. I was an idiot. It never even occurred to me that you might
think that. All this time . . . God, I'm really sorry. If I'd realized,
I would have said something, left you a note. . . anything!"
"Thank you, Ray.
I had wondered. It's good to know."
reached out and pulled Ben in again for a quick, hard hug, then let him
go. There being nothing left to say, Ben excused himself and slipped
into the kitchen to use the phone, hurriedly dialing the Division. Dewey
answered the phone in the bullpen, and in response to his question told
him Huey had 'found Kowalski ralphing in the bathroom' and that Welsh
had sent him home. After ascertaining the definition of 'ralphing' Fraser
thanked him for the information and hung up, mechanically.
was ill, and he'd gone home, alone, without even stopping to let him
know. That told him more than he wanted to know. He tried Ray's number,
but there was no answer, nor did the machine pick up, which led him to
suspect that the phone was unplugged. After a moment of internal debate,
he did the unprecedented and phoned for a taxi. It would be far quicker
* * *
Ray slumped on his couch,
staring into his drink, seeing a face there. The Other Guy's face.
The Style-pig. Smarmy-looking jerk, with his thousand-dollar-plus suits
and that stupid Hitler moustache. The creep who'd hurt Ben. Who'd fucked
him, then left him with hardly a backward glance. Who'd never given
him the equality that lovers should have. Selfish bastard.
Fraser couldn't keep his eyes off him. Couldn't stay away from him.
Was on him all the time, like a dog on a bone. So was Stella. One or
the other he could have handled, maybe, but both? Christ, wasn't it
enough that the guy had come back and blown his life completely out of
the water? No, he had to have both Ben and Stella, too! The two people
in the universe he loved more than anyone else, and the Style-pig had
both of them. Emotionally, if not physically.
didn't think Vecchio was sleeping with Ben. He was good at body language,
and they weren't showing any of the non-verbal cues he would have expected
to see if they were. Though, he thought maybe Vecchio might be sleeping
with Stella. There were some cues there, those little glances, touches.
Funny, that didn't bother him nearly as much as him not sleeping
they were or weren't didn't seem to matter, though. All he knew was
that ever since they'd gotten back from the Frozen Wastes, Ben didn't
seem to want to sleep with Ray, or even just be with him any more. Ray-him,
not Ray-the-other-guy. God, he was even confusing himself. He'd always hated being called Stanley, but right now he was tempted to go back to it just so he wouldn't share a name with Vecchio. But he had gotten so used to Ray that he couldn't. Plus, Ray was what Ben had always called him. He didn't want to be Stanley because Stanley was a stranger to
Ben. Unlike Ray. And . . . Ray.
the hell did Ben see in the guy? Even after all this time, the first
thing he'd done to Ben was hurt him some more. When he'd yelled at him
for blowing his cover, Ray had seen hurt in Fraser's eyes and that
pain had cut him like a knife. He halfway wished he had gone ahead and
finished shredding the guy's cover. He'd love to have seen Muldoon blow
the bastard's brains out. Except that wouldn't have made the pain in
Ben's eyes go away. It would just have made it worse. Not to mention
the fact that he and Ben would now be very dead and while it didn't matter
much to him if he got dead, he didn't want Ben to be dead.
now Vecchio had his own life back, and a good percentage of Ray's life,
too. Well, there was one thing he wasn't getting back. Not if he, Ray
Kowalski had anything to say about it. Of course, he didn't have a say
in it. It wasn't up to him, much as he wished it was.
lately, when he looked at Ben and remembered the look on his face, the
open, shining delight when that hotel room door had opened and he'd seen
Vecchio, Ray thought he might throw up. Everyone was happy to see 'the
real Ray.' Everyone but him. He wanted to kill him. A dark, roiling
violence seethed beneath his surface, just waiting for a trigger. Now
he knew. Now he understood how someone could really want to kill another
But for all
that, he couldn't even sock the guy one, if for no other reason than
that he'd taken a bullet for Fraser. That counted for a lot. He'd tried,
he'd really tried to get along with him. For over a week now. The first
day or so, he'd thought it might be okay. After all, the guy was gonna
retire, take disability because of that slug.
that hadn't happened yet, and the guy was working his desk-jockey job
half-days, every day, and so Ray had to look at Vecchio all the time
and know that Ben wanted him. Loved him. Not to mention that half the
time Vecchio still looked at him like he was dirt. Less than dirt.
It brought back all his old uncertainties, the ones he'd finally, finally
begun to put aside.
top it all off, what little time Fraser did have away from the Consulate
these days, he seemed to spend hovering over Vecchio like a nurse in
a sickroom. When he was supposedly there to 'liaise' with Ray. Oh,
yeah, they were still partners, suuuure they were. 'If you'll have me.'
pretended not to see the vaguely guilty looks that Ben sometimes shot
in his direction, the apologetic glances. Finally he just couldn't take
it any more. The stress, the hurt, the anger, it all got too big. In
an act of self-humiliation that ranked right up there with peeing his
pants in a bank lobby, he really had lost his lunch, right in the Division
men's room, in front of God and Huey. Who went and got Welsh. Who
sent him home with 'the flu.'
He'd slunk out without saying a word to anyone. No one needed to know.
He'd gone home where he didn't have to try to pretend he didn't hurt,
that he didn't care. He'd gone home and gotten drunk, a real, full-bottle,
flat-out drunk. Hadn't done that in a long time.
after that, he had no idea what time it was, other than it was dark,
he heard someone at the door, and he ignored it. There was silence for
awhile, then he heard the sound of the door opening, and belatedly remembered
he hadn't locked it. Not that it mattered. He perked up a bit. Maybe
it was a criminal and they'd shoot him and put him out of his misery.
Whoever it was walked into the room. He pretended to be asleep to make
it easier. Shoot me, he thought. C'mon. Shoot me.
Fraser's voice sounded a little sad, a little disapproving.
Just what he needed. Fraser. "Yeah?"
he said, then remembered he was supposed to be asleep. Oh well. Too
been drinking," this time Fraser's voice was definitely disapproving.
that. Pretty fuckin' observant there, Cons'ble." he snarled belligerently.
He remembered the times he'd heard that voice say 'please', when it was
husky with desire. He flinched. Don't say please. Makes me think .
.. makes me remember. "Whadaya want?"
wanted to talk to you. But you know, Ray, you really shouldn't drink
if you're ill. The alcohol interferes with your immune system."
Ray looked up at him
blearily. "You come over for the first time in fer-fuckin-ever
just t'lecture me?"
was silent for a few moments, then he shook his head, not looking directly
at him. "No. I'm sorry. I didn't. I came because I was concerned
about you. Because I realized that I have not been completely forthcoming,
and that you might perhaps have misunderstood things."
snorted derisively. "Nope. Don' think so. Not stupid, y'know.
was a long moment of silence. He let himself hope Ben had gone. No
sorry, Ray. I didn't mean . . ."
that. Just go 'way."
Fraser's voice was firm now. Determined.
He'd never get rid of him now. "I mean it!" Ray said, lunging
unsteadily to his feet, fists clenched. "Get outta here!"
Ben caught him as he
staggered, and almost fell, gathering him against his broad, warm chest.
"Ray, stop it."
actually sounded aggravated. He shook him slightly. "Ray, listen
realize that. Do it anyway." Ben said, uncharacteristically insistent.
"Yes, I am pleased to see Ray. It has been a long time, and he
is still my friend. I've missed him.
Ray flinched. "Stop!"
"Ray! Ray, listen to me! I said he's my friend. That's all. He's my friend.
Nothing more. I thought you understood that."
so too," Ray said morosely. "'Til I saw how you look at him."
Fraser sighed. "Ray.
Ray, please. We've talked about this before."
fuck both of us?" Ray asked coarsely, almost wishing he would.
At least then he'd be here, sometimes. "Nice bonus. Two-fer-one.
Don' even have to 'member which one's which."
it, Ray!" Fraser's voice was hard, harsh, startling. Ray opened
his eyes and stared into his face. He was angry. Very angry. Good.
It was about time. Way too late, though.
"No. 'Nuff, Fraser. Get out. Go. Jus' get the hell out."
was a long silence. Ray raised his eyelids just enough to see Fraser
without making it obvious that he was looking. His friend's head was
down, his eyes closed, a tension around his mouth that belied the seeming
calm on his face. He lifted a hand, thumb stroking at his eyebrow in
an unconscious distress signal before moving down to flick quickly across
each eyelid as he drew in a long, shaky breath. The silence grew oppressive.
Ray didn't break it. He knew what would happen if he didn't. Finally
it did. Ben stood up and walked toward the door.
wanted to say something, to stop him, but forced himself not to do so.
It would be better this way. Let Fraser go out mad at him. Make it
easy for him to leave. That way he wouldn't feel guilty. Ray could
keep that treasure for himself. The guilt of knowing he'd hurt Ben.
Not that he wanted
to hurt Ben. That was the last thing he wanted, but sometimes you had
to hurt someone to help them, and he wanted Ben to be free to go back
to Vecchio without worrying about him. Funny. He really had managed
to affect Ben in one very basic way. Fraser had learned how to
lie. Ben had actually lied to him. He'd said that nothing would change
when the real Ray came back. But everything had. Everything. God.
The door opened
and closed. He heard the lock click into place. Funny, how Ben wouldn't
lock his own door but he'd lock Ray's. Ray waited, counting the seconds
in his head, knowing just how long it took to walk down the stairs, out
the door, into the night. When enough time had passed, he rolled off
the couch onto the floor, and pounded his fists into the sofa cushions,
wishing they were Vecchio's face.
that brought no relief he let loose the agony that was trying to strangle
him and wept, completely broken. God. God. God. He hadn't thought
it would hurt this much. He hadn't known until just this moment how
much more of his soul Fraser owned than Stella ever had.
felt hot tears on his face, heard the ugly, broken sounds, the moans
he made as he sobbed, mindlessly. God. It hurts. So bad. Hurts-hurts-hurts.
He wished he'd died in that ice crack. It would have hurt so much less
than this. He could have just gone to sleep and it would have all been
over. But he hadn't. He was alive, and hurting, dying.
wrapped his arms around himself and rocked. He looked over at where
he'd tossed his badge and gun, and his gaze locked on the metallic gleam
of the weapon. Since no criminal had obliged him, there was always the
do-it-yourself method. No one would even wonder why. No one ever did,
when you were a cop. You were just another statistic.
* * *
Ben stood on the sidewalk
in front of Ray's apartment building, feeling completely adrift without
Ray, who had, unknowing, become his lifeline. He couldn't blame Ray
for being hurt, for being angry. He was ashamed of himself. Ashamed
that he had risked two lives in the pursuit of revenge. Ashamed that
despite his promise to Ray that nothing would change, he had allowed
change to occur.
Ray, far more sensitive and perceptive than anyone other than Fraser
realized, had sensed that, and it had wounded him as surely as any gun
or knife. Ben knew that the ugly words Ray had spoken were just a reflection
of his pain. He understood that and he had gone, because he couldn't
bear to inflict any more pain on his already suffering lover.
turned slowly. A dark-haired woman in a shapeless housecoat was standing
on the front step of the building, a few feet away. He remembered her.
Ray's landlady. The one who lived below him.
309's friend, right?"
nodded. He was. Or at least, he used to be.
so. Um... maybe you wanta go back and check on him? I think he's hurt
He was hurt. Deeply. And I'm the one who hurt him, Fraser thought.
Then he realized that couldn't be what she meant. She couldn't know
he managed to ask.
I heard a noise, like maybe he fell, and a kind of whimpering sound."
Fear galvanized him.
Ray was very drunk. What if he had injured himself? He turned and ran
back to the building, nearly shoving the landlady aside in his haste.
need a key?" she asked as he brushed past her.
shook his head, not stopping. He had a key. With characteristically
impulsive generosity, Ray had given him a key almost a month ago, the
day after they'd first made love. A month. That was all. And of that
month a week had been taken by the case, and he had wasted another.
That left only two weeks of happiness, out of a month. Perhaps he really
was insane, as people often suggested. What else explained his behavior?
He suddenly wondered what on earth had possessed him to give up so easily.
Fight, damn it. Fight for him. He's worth fighting for. Even if it's
him you have to fight.
took the stairs two at a time, flew down the hallway and skidded to a
stop in front of Ray's apartment, almost slamming into the wall in his
haste. Fumbling with the key in the door he'd locked behind himself
when he left, he finally got the door open to find Ray lying in a fetal
curl on the floor next to the couch. Fraser was kneeling at his side
in seconds, hands moving anxiously over his body as he managed to puzzle
out that Ray was saying 'it hurts' over and over again. He could find
no sign of injury, though, no blood or bruises or swellings.
What's wrong? Where are you hurt?"
answer Ray merely curled more tightly in on himself, cupping his left
hand over his face, his right tight against his stomach, suddenly silent,
save for the gasping breaths he couldn't control. Could he have internal
injuries? An ulcer, perforated by the liquor he had consumed? Surely
not a heart attack. Ray was strong, healthy, fit, he had made it through
their wilderness trek unscathed. It couldn't be his heart. Then, as
Ben tried to think what else could be wrong, a hint of light runneled
along the object Ray held in his right hand, half hidden against his
shirt. Steel-blue, lethal metal.
heart froze within him. No. Not that. Oh God. Oh God. He had done
this to Ray, hurt him this badly. How could he not have realized what
he was doing? How could he not have known? This was so much worse than
he could have possibly imagined. Anguished, he eased down next to Ray
and pulled him into his arms, cradling him as he might a child, and put
his lips against the surprising softness of his spiky hair.
love you, Ray. I know I hurt you, but I love you. I won't let you do
this, and I won't let you push me away."
Fraser, lemme go!" Ray gasped, struggling in his arms, trying to
fight free, uncoordinated from liquor and strong emotions.
I won't let you go. Not ever."
the room, someone cleared their throat. Fraser looked up to see Ray's
landlady hovering on the threshold with a most peculiar look on her
face -- a combination of expressions that managed to be simultaneously
scandalized, titillated, and concerned. His face heated as
he realized she must have overheard him. It had been rather indiscreet
of him to leave the door open, but in his defense, he'd been too worried
about Ray to think clearly.
um, he okay?" she asked, finally.
afraid he's had rather too much to drink."
That's okay then. Well, guess I'll be goin'," she took a step away,
then looked back at them with a grin and a wink. "G'night, and
good luck. Cute, ain't he?"
was too stunned to think of anything to reply, but she didn't seem to
expect one. She just closed the door with a raspy chuckle, leaving them
hell," Ray groaned. "On top of everything else, now my landlady
knows I'm queer. If she jacks the rent you're paying the extra, Fraser."
The words were as beautiful
as any song. Fraser closed his eyes, fought back tears or relief, and
then looked down into Ray's face. He looked like hell, but there was
a faint gleam of humor in his red-rimmed eyes. Thank God. Thank God.
Maybe they could get past this. Just maybe. He smiled, hiding the ache
of his fear and self-disgust behind it.
would be happy to do so, Ray, however, I do feel that if I am to pay
part of your rent, I should have certain privileges here."
snorted. "Oh, right, like you don't already!" Then his jaw
hardened stubbornly, and he glared at Fraser. "An' I'm still pissed
at you, so don't go thinkin' thing's are okay."
sobered instantly. "I know that, Ray. You have every right to
be angry with me." He reached down, and eased the gun from Ray's
lax grasp, noting with relief that the safety was still on. At least
things hadn't gone that far. It was bad enough that he even had it in
his hand. Thankfully Ray gave it up without protest. Placing the weapon
on the coffee table, Ben clasped Ray's hands in his. "I hurt you,
and I'm sorry. But, if I may make a rather obvious point, I am
Not just for now. I told you before, that what I had with Ray Vecchio
is over. It can't be resurrected."
though you'd like to," Ray said, fighting free of Ben's arms to
sit with his back against the couch, his head in his hands.
considered his next words carefully. "No, Ray. I don't want to
resurrect it. What I have with you is far more than I ever had with
him, or ever could have with him. I realize I have been behaving strangely
. . ."
humorlessly. "You? Strange? Never."
sighed. He'd deserved that. "I can be as much a fool as the next
man, Ray," he said quietly, staring at their hands where they rested,
clasped, in his lap. "I'm only human."
was a long silence. Ben didn't dare look at Ray, too afraid it had been
the wrong thing to say. Everyone here seemed to think he was some sort
of superman. He supposed Ray probably did, too. He often found himself
trying to live up to that, but it was a hard thing. A very hard thing.
"Say it again,"
Ray said suddenly.
only hum . . ."
other thing. What you said when you held me."
tiny rivulet of relief began to flow in his heart. "I love you,
Ray. I love you, and I won't let you go, I won't let you push me away."
"And what about
. . . him?"
love him too, but only as a friend. Not the way I love you."
Ray's blue eyes lifted
to his, then quickly lowered again, the wary, uncertain gaze of an animal
who'd been struck by someone he trusted. God, that stabbed him like
a knife. He'd seen that look in Ray's eyes before, thought it had been
banished forever. Now it was back, in spades.
wanted to close his eyes, to pretend he hadn't seen, but he couldn't.
This was his fault. He'd done that. He had to face the consequences.
Moving to kneel in front of Ray, he reached out to catch his chin in
his hand and lift his face until their eyes met.
sure, Ray. Very sure. I've been foolish, thoughtless and cruel.
I'm so very sorry for that. Can you forgive me?"
eyes misted, and he blinked and looked away. "Dumb question. How
can I not?
It's very difficult to forgive. Believe me, I know."
that self-deprecating smile again, the one Ben both loved and hated. "No, Fraser,
it's not hard. Not when it's you."
should it be different with me?"
don't know why, but it is. It just is."
won't hurt you again, Ray." Fraser promised, knowing he would do
everything in his power to make certain that was the truth this time.
No more blinders. No more self-indulgent guilt. "I love you."
Ray looked at him with
an expression simultaneously wary, and hopeful, and he sighed. "Okay."
Okay. What a great deal
of meaning that simple word carried. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Approval.
Okay. Fraser held the word to him, relishing it.
um, you gonna tell me why?" Ray asked quietly.
you've been avoiding me if you love me."
sighed. This was why Ray was a detective. Even drunk he had an uncanny
knack for knowing what questions to ask.
afraid I was punishing myself. I just wasn't thinking clearly enough
to realize that I was also punishing you and Ray Vecchio as well. Sometimes
I am not the most considerate of people."
stared at him, then sat up straighter, frowning. "Let me get clear
on this. You were punishing yourself by staying away from me?"
Ben nodded, knowing exactly
how stupid it sounded. How stupid it had been. There was no excuse
for it. None at all. There was a moment of silence as Ray processed
that information, then he spoke again.
explain to me how hanging out with Vecchio is a punishment."
"Well, I . . . "
"Never mind, I think I got it. You hang around him and since he doesn't want
you any more, that hurts too, right? Jesus, Fraser! An' I thought I was screwed-up!
What's wrong with you? What'd you do that was so rotten you got to fuck yourself
up that bad for?"
took Ben a second to puzzle out the meaning in that rather garbled sentence,
but when he did, he closed his eyes.
almost got you killed. Both of you," he whispered, finally.
There was another long
pause as Ray absorbed that information. Apparently the alcohol he had
ingested was slowing him down, he was usually much quicker than this.
Finally he spoke.
I look dead to you? And Vecchio, he's got it made! Gets to get paid
for doin' whatever he wants!"
fact remains, had I not been intent on revenge, Ray would not have been
shot, nor would you have been subjected to several potentially-fatal
sighed. "Ben, I love you, but you do know you're certifiable, right?"
Ben looked up to
find Ray gazing at him fondly, an odd expression to have while stating
that he was mentally deficient. Probably the alcohol at work again.
He waited, figuring Ray hadn't finished yet. He was right.
"Were you raised by gorillas or something?" Ray demanded incredulously.
"I mean, where'd you get this revenge crap? Yeah, so the guy killed your
mom! You were already on the case when you found that out. The Style-pi... er,
I mean Vecchio'd already gotten plugged by then, or almost. We were after a scumbag
arms dealer and a nutball buyer. None of that woulda changed if Muldoon hadn't
killed your mom. You caught the guy, you had him alone, if you'd wanted revenge
you could've capped him in that mineshaft. But no, you brought him out, and he's
going through the system. So where's the revenge?"
"Just because I
managed to control my impulses does not mean I didn't have them, Ray."
"Yeah, so? That
doesn't mean everything's your fault, either. I mean, I been wanting to
smash Vecchio's face in, but that don't mean it was my fault he got shot."
Fraser looked at him,
stunned. "What? Why would you want to hit Ray?"
partly because he treats me crappy, but mostly because he hurt you. He
hurt you and left you." Ray frowned suddenly. "Wait. Maybe
I oughta kiss him instead. If he hadn't hurt you and left you, then
you wouldn't be here now. Yeah. You know, I think I will kiss him."
"I'd really rather
you didn't, Ray," Fraser said, feeling most peculiar at the thought.
He didn't like that idea at all. The thought of Ray kissing Ray . .
. he blinked. "Please, don't."
looked at him, and a sensual smile curved his mouth. "Why not?"
"I . . ."
Fraser swallowed. "I'd just rather you didn't."
you on, does it? Got a taste for that threesome thing with Vecchio,
Fraser gasped. "Really!"
Ray's grin widened. "What's that thing they say about protesting too much?"
"I am not . . ." Fraser began, only to have
Ray reach out and plant a hand right smack between his legs. "Okay,
guess you're not lying," he said after a moment, lifting his hand.
"That's not a lie-detector,
Ray," Fraser said drily.
Watch." He put his hand back down. "Now, close your eyes,
and think about Vecchio giving you a long, slow, wet kiss, peeling open
those dress reds, unfastening that top button . . . ."
"Okay, okay. Now,
let's say it was me. See me coming up behind you, putting one hand up
under your shirt, the other one sliding down, into your pants . . . oh
yeah." He grinned. "See? Just like Pinnocchio's nose."
"That is simply
an autonomic reaction to the placement of your hand."
Sure." Ray chuckled, then sobered. "Ben, will you . . . can
looked at him. "If you'll have me," he said, deliberately.
Ray smiled, slowly, sweetly.
"Any way you want me to. But maybe, first, we could just um, be
together, just be, for awhile?"
smiled back, drawn in by the aching vulnerability he sensed, a vulnerability
that was echoed in himself. "Of course. I'd like that."
Ray closed his eyes,
and sighed. "God, I sound like a chick. I wanna cuddle."
"Cuddling is nice,
'Specially since I, uh, kinda had a little more to drink than I should've."
Fraser wrinkled his nose.
"I was aware of that, Ray."
saying I stink?"
in comparison to, say, a dead caribou."
Ray laughed. "I get the hint. Come on, help me so I don't fall down in the
shower and crack my head open."
should also drink as much water as you can, so you don't end up with
looked up, surprised. "Where'd you learn that trick?"
"At Depot," Ben said, grinning. "I was the designated driver."
stood up, and extended his hands to help Ray to his feet. As he did,
his gaze fell once more on Ray's police paraphernalia where they lay
on the coffee table. Cell phone, cuffs, badge, gun. He looked at Ray.
"Would you have?"
he asked quietly.
followed his gaze, and thought about it. "I don't know. I don't
think so. But . . . ."
looked him in the eyes. "If you had, I would have followed you."
Ray's eyes widened, then narrowed, sudden fury lighting them. "You do that
and I'll . . . um. . . "
voice trailed off. Ben figured he'd suddenly realized that if he'd already
killed himself there wouldn't be much he could do about it. He was quiet
for a moment, then he bit his lip and looked up at Ben through his eyelashes
in a heartwrenchingly endearing way.
pretty stupid, hunh?"
nodded. "Yes, but I understand. I have been in that place before,
myself. If you had done it, I'd be there now. And I'm sorry."
"Enough. I got
that already. I'm sorry for scaring you."
* * *
Sometime in the blue-gray
hours of dawn, Ray woke up. For the first time since they'd returned
from Canada, he woke up slowly, lazily, without that panicked, loss-filled
lunge to awareness he'd endured every other time he'd woken since then.
He smiled, feeling the warm strength of his lover curled against him.
"Is everything all
right, Ray?" Fraser's voice asked, quiet, calm, faintly curious.
"Yeah, Ben. Everything's
great." It was funny how Ben always seemed to wake up as soon as
Ray did. Like he had some kind of internal wake-up radar or something.
Fraser stroked a hand
down his arm, finding his hand, intertwining their fingers. "You
should go back to sleep, it's still early, and you were up late."
"So were you. I,
um, I had a dream."
slight tension bloomed in Ben's body. "A bad dream?"
grinned. "No, just kind of a weird dream. I dreamed we were back
up there, up North. Out in the middle of nowhere, with a dogsled, and
Dief. We were, like, standing on a ridge looking down all this snow,
and trees. Everything was white, except for where stuff looked black
in contrast, like a picture by that photographer guy-- Grizzly Adams
or something like that."
Adams?" Ben asked, sounding amused.
"Yeah, him. Anyway, the only color was the sky, which was blue, except for
this one weird-looking cloud."
what way was it weird-looking?"
looked like a hand. A reaching-out hand."
was quiet for a moment, then he spoke. "Go on."
was about it. Except, I wasn't cold. Even though there was snow everywhere,
and I was just sitting there in jeans and a t-shirt, I was warm. In
the dream I was warm."
"What's that mean,
'hmmm'. An expression of interest, that's all."
what does the dream mean?"
tell me, Ray, it was your dream."
Ray smiled. "I think it means it's time to get out of this hellhole for a
while and go adventuring."
the back of his neck, he felt Ben's mouth curve in a smile. "I
think so too, Ray."
when are we leaving?"
have to apply for leave, as will you."
"I'll do it tomorrow. I have a lot of vacation saved up, seems like a good
time to use it."
too have a good deal of leave time coming to me."
What else do we have to do?"
have to make travel arrangements, get a team, a sled, supplies."
"You can do that,
Ray chuckled. "Good. Because that may be the only way you get any,"
he reached back and slid his hand down Ben's flank, eased it further back, to
fill his palm with the hard curve of Ben's buttock. "Sleep, that is. Because
I'm feeling deprived."
caught Ray's earlobe between his teeth for a moment, then put his lips
against his ear. "As am I, Ray," he said huskily, his hands
spreading out to cover Ray's chest, fingers brushing his always-sensitive
and pushed back into the cradle formed by Ben's body where it was curved
behind his own. He felt a slight stirring against his buttocks, and
began to rock, setting a cadence, until that stirring became an unmistakably
hard length. Ben's hands slipped forward to caress his stomach, hips
and thighs, and then moved lower to trail gentle fingers through the
rough thatch of pubic curls, finally coming to rest cupped over Ray's
hardening erection. After a moment, Ray pulled away a little, because
the way they were lying, he couldn't touch Ben, pushing and maneuvering
until they lay side-by-side.
Touch me," he breathed.
needing a second invitation, Ben reached for his cock and sheathed it
with his fingers, moving his other hand down to cup the hot, sweat-damp
flesh below it. Ray pushed into his hand, eyes half-closed with pleasure,
his own hands searching, finding. Ben gasped and shuddered as he was
enclosed by Ray's fingers, but didn't stop his ministrations. After a
few moments of that, Ray needed more. He had to have more.
down to gently remove Ben's hands from himself, Ray slid lower on the
bed, moving between Ben's thighs, and bent his head to drag his lips
lightly across his lover's abdomen, using just a flicker of tongue against
smooth, pale skin, now flushed with arousal. He loved how sleek Ben
was, how soft that seldom-exposed flesh was against his mouth, loved
the taste of him, the smell of him. Everything.
lower, he found Ben's cock and circled its base with one hand, then put
his lips to the side of his shaft, opening his teeth, biting gently.
A soft affirmative sound slid from Ben's mouth, and his fingers clutched
at Ray's shoulders. Ray smiled. Funny, how Ben always liked him to
use his teeth. Liked to live dangerously. He bit again, a little harder,
absorbed the shiver and gasp that followed, then moved lower, tongue
flickering along the soft, loose folds of skin beneath Ben's cock, his
free hand cupping, caressing. Against his fingers he could feel the
strong, fast beat of Ben's pulse, speeding up now, as was his breathing.
Enough play. Ray
shifted position slightly, opened his mouth and engulfed the pulsing
shaft, his taste-buds flooding with the sweet-salt-bitter musk of flesh
and sex. Ben moaned, shuddering. Yes, he wanted that moan, that shudder,
more. Wanted to make him come, to taste his pleasure, to bring him fully
home. He ran his tongue down the channel underneath, then back up to
ease the tip of his tongue beneath the foreskin, pushing it back, then
using his hand to keep it taut. Ben arched and sighed his name, his
body tight with need.
Ray grabbed the bottle of lubricant from the night-stand, flipped it
open and drenched his fingers, then dropped the bottle and reached lower
to find the small aperture and push two fingers inside. Ben gasped, buried
his fingers in Ray's hair and held on as he let go of his control and
thrust upward wildly. Ray let him do it, relaxing his jaw, tipping his
head back to make more room for each thrust, using his hand in the same
rhythm until Ben finally clutched his head in both hands, holding him
still as he arched upward with an inarticulate cry and spilled into his
mouth in pulsing waves, gasping with each spurt.
the hands holding him relaxed, and Ray lifted his head, grinning.
"God, I love to
make you come like that, loud and hard, like a wild thing. If the landlady
didn't already know, she would now."
sex-flush which had just begun to fade from Ben's creamy skin surged
back upward in a blush, and Ray's grin became a laugh.
you still blush like a schoolgirl when I talk even halfway dirty."
Ben braced himself on
his elbows and looked at Ray sheepishly. "I can't seem to help
"Don't even try. It's great." He sighed, and crawled back up until they
were once more face-to-face, and he rubbed his nose across Ben's nose in what
he'd been told as a kid was an 'Eskimo kiss.'
they really kiss like this up there?"
Ray, they kiss like this . . ." Fraser's mouth found his, almost
delicately, openmouthed, warm-tongued. After a moment he drew back.
"Since kissing is a European custom, it only stands to reason that
it would be similar in any Europeanized culture."
"Good point. Still, maybe you should show me again. I wanna make sure
I got it right."
eyes sparked with humor as he nodded with mock-solemnity, repeating the
caress. When he finished, Ray demonstrated his interpretation of the
lesson. A soft brush of dry lips across dry lips, a firmer touch, openmouthed
but still not full engagement, a tug of teeth on lower lip, then a quick
flicker of tongue against tongue, and then, only then, did he let his
mouth settle completely, sealing them together for a long, slow, sweetly
mutual exploration. Finally Ray drew back.
"I think maybe I got it," he breathed. "What do you think?"
hedged, dimples appearing around his mouth as he controlled a smile "One
can never have too much practice with a tricky custom like that."
I can do that. I'm good at practicing."
lowered his head and practiced some more. Until he found himself lying
over Ben, body straining against his, hips moving fluidly against hips,
the aching hardness of his erection against the smooth, silky skin of
Ben's abdomen, Ben's hands on his buttocks, urging him on. He stopped,
panting a little, and put his forehead against Ben's shoulder, trying
to catch his breath and slow down. He wanted this to last forever, and
at this rate it would maybe be two minutes. Ben moved his hands upwards,
stroking his back, his shoulders.
I want you to make love to me," he whispered, his breath a warm
caress against Ray's ear.
chuckled. "Thought I was."
I mean . . ." Fraser's voice trailed off.
lifted his head so he could look into Ben's face. Ben was biting his
lip and blushing fiercely as he looked helplessly up at Ray. A slow grin
spread across Ray's face. He knew what tongue-tied Mountie meant, at
least with his Mountie. Oooh, this was fun. He loved this part. "You
mean you want me to fuck you?"
eyes closed, his blush deepened, and he nodded. "Yes, Ray."
"You mean, you want
me inside you?"
Rayhadn't thought it was possible for someone to blush that dark and still remain
"Yes," Frasersaid in a strangled-sounding whisper.
rolled to one side and slid a hand down Ben's body, starting at his shoulder,
letting his fingertips re-chart the familiar territory of chest, ribs,
belly, hip, thigh, all the way down to his knee, where he hooked a hand
beneath it, pushing it up until it bent, then higher, until Ben's foot
was flat on the bed, his knee raised, giving Ray the access he needed.
He stroked his hand back down along the soft skin of Ben's groin, lower,
lower. There. Ben caught his breath. He was still slick with lubricant,
and Ray's fingers met with barely any resistance as they slipped inside.
"Ray, Ray please,"
Fraser breathed, his eyes dark with need.
let his fingers slip free and slid into place beside Ben, then pulled
him forward, urged Ben's thigh over his hip, pulling it high so it rested
in the curve of his waist.
gotcha, Ben. I gotcha."
slid his thumb across the tip of his own cock, spreading the slick pre-ejaculate
around, then used one hand to guide himself and the other to carefully
shift Ben's important bits slightly upward and out of the way as he curved
his hips forward, found, and slipped inside that first little bit. Ben
let out a single sob, a sound Ray knew from experience didn't indicate
distress. He slid deeper, letting go of himself so he could push all
the way in, flattening his hand against Ben's beautiful backside to help
him keep his hips at the right angle. Face to face was always more difficult,
unless you were into gymnastics, but this was a moment to be close, to
be intimate, not acrobatic.
the soft cock trapped beneath his hand, knowing it would feel good, even
if Ben didn't get hard again this soon, Ray leaned in to place nibbling
kisses along his lovers jaw, enjoying the faint rasp of stubble against
his skin, to brush his lips across his closed eyelids with their twin
fans of thick, dark lashes. He let his tongue slip out to taste a bead
of sweat that trickled down Ben's temple, and rocked softly into the
confining heat that surrounded him, strangely content, feeling no urgency
to bring the moment to completion. This was so right, so damned right.
Ben's eyes drifted open, dreamy, smoky with arousal.
missed you, Ray."
you too, Frase, too much, way too much. Next time you want to be punished,
ask me, I can probably come up with something better."
would never work, Ray," Ben said, sighing as Ray shifted his hips
a little, searching for just the right angle.
one isn't supposed to enjoy punish . . . Oh God, Ray!"
smiled. Found it. Under his hand, Ben's soft cock began to fill. His
eyes were closed again, his tongue flickering out across his lower lip
in an unconsciously sensual movement. Ray leaned forward and touched
his own tongue to the same place, then captured Ben's mouth again for
a long, deep kiss, all the while rocking into him, touching that sensitive
little spot with his cock over and over again, feeling Ben's penis twitch
and harden with each stroke.
people might disagree," Ray whispered, after finally lifting his
his eyes, looking bewildered, lost in the moment. "Ah, what were
we . . .?"
mind, just hang on."
tightened his hand around the rigid length that was pulsing against his
belly, and started to stroke harder with both hand and body. Ben moaned,
bucking upward into his hand, into his thrusts. Ray's own pulse was
pounding now, his contentment gone, need driving him. He put his mouth
against that spot where Ben's shoulder and neck flowed together, and
bit, then licked. Ben groaned, turning his head to one side to make
it easier for Ray to reach him. Ray bit and licked, bit and licked again,
never hard enough to break the skin, just enough to be a little wild.
Ben started to tremble, and the tremors spread into Ray.
it to me Ben, give it to me, let me feel you come," Ray whispered
That did it. Ben's face went slack and incandescent with pleasure as a cry broke from his lips. "Ray!"
sound of his name, the sudden spread of wet heat against his belly, the
rhythmic shivers, all combined to send him over the edge himself. He
buried himself hilt-deep in his lover's body and let the waves wash him
* * *
Everything was going
to be all right. That knowledge brought Ben as much pleasure as the
purely physical release he'd just experienced. Yes, there were still
problems, issues that would need dealing with, but from what he'd seen,
that was normal for any couple. They were past the big hurdle though,
the one raised by his own stubborn insistence on doing some sort of penance
to redress his feelings of guilt. It suddenly struck him as rather odd
that he had such Catholic ideas about guilt and penitence for someone
raised Protestant. He couldn't believe how close he'd come to losing
Ray over what amounted to baseless guilt.
pulled Ray closer, reveling in the hard, living warmth of him, breathing
his scent deeply, putting his mouth against his skin so he could taste
him, reassure himself that he was here, and real, not a dream. Ray responded
sleepily, stroking Ben's hair, wedging himself more tightly against him,
if that were possible. Sweat beaded between their bodies, mingling with
the still-warm wetness of semen where their stomachs touched. It would
probably be good to get up, and go clean off, perhaps bring back a warm
washcloth to do the same for Ray, but he didn't want to move. Being
here like this, feeling that slight discomfort helped reassure him that
yes, this was real. Very real, very earthy, completely human.
He felt grounded, firmly
attached to the Earth for the first time in ages. Ray did that for him.
When he started to lose that sense of connection, which he often did
here in the city, Ray brought it back for him. Without him, Ben didn't
feel whole any more.
"I love you, Ray Kowalski," he said, suddenly realizing he hadn't said
that since that first time, weeks ago. That was far too long to let it go unspoken,
even it if was hard for him to do so.
Ray stirred, nuzzling
against his neck. "Love you, Ben. Benton Fraser. Hey, you got
a middle name? Shouldn't I know that about you by now?"
smiled. It was so very Ray, to go off on a tangent, even at the most
serious of moments. "Yes, Ray, I have a middle name. Actually,
I have two, which is why I don't use them. People find it confusing."
"I'm not that easy
to confuse. What are they?"
father's first name, and my mother's maiden name."
Robert Pinsent," Ray said sleepily. "Good. Thanks."
Ben lay there for a moment,
trying to figure out how Ray knew that. Robert was easy enough, but
he didn't recall ever having mentioned his mother's name to him. He
had to know.
how did you . . ."
if reading his mind, Ray replied before he'd even finished posing the
question. "The file on the NAFTA case. Remember? I had to read
every damned case file you an' the . . . er . . . Vecchio worked on."
to be Ray Vecchio's new title these days. Ben smiled a little, touched
that Ray would understand that no matter his own clearly mixed feelings
toward the man, that he was Ben's friend and so he wouldn't badmouth
him. But Ray's explanation was far from complete.
"Why would you remember such an insignificant detail?"
"Promise you won't
"I remembered because when Muldoon told you about your mom, I went and looked
up the file so I could do some checking and see what I could find about her for
you. I never got a chance to do it, but I remembered her name. Caroline Pinsent.
Pretty name, Caroline."
it is," Ben said, remembering the way she'd looked as she had come
for his father, as she'd put her insubstantial hands against his face.
"Very beautiful. Like she was."
got her looks, hunh?"
felt a flush run through him. "Ray, I'm not . . . ."
shut it, Fraser," Ray said with mock irritability. " You know
damned well you are. So take the compliment already!"
blushing, Ben cleared his throat. "Thank you, Ray."
better," Ray said smugly, as he tucked his head back down against
Ben's shoulder and gave a deep sigh which turned into a yawn halfway
through. "'Night, Ben."
was still an hour or two before they had to get up. Fraser tightened
his arms around Ray, and settled back to rest, though he was fairly certain
he wouldn't sleep again, himself. He thought of Ray's dream, and felt
a certain sense of wonder that Ray was not only willing, but apparently
eager to take on the challenge of what to him was a totally alien environment.
Ray, who hated being cold with a passion, and who by his own account
broke out in a rash when away from the city, was willing to go with Ben
to a place few people would even consider visiting for a few days, let
alone the weeks or months they would be there. It was the first time
anyone had ever offered to do something like that for him. For once,
he wasn't the only one willing to give.
They were going home. He felt a rising sense of excitement at the prospect.
Ray had said he felt warm in his dream, even without protection from
the elements, which seemed almost to say he had already accepted that
his place was there, that it was home not just for Ben, but for Ray,
too. He hoped so, he really did. While he knew if it were needed, he
would come back to Chicago for no other reason than to remain with Ray,
there was a small corner of his soul that hoped they might find another
path to walk together. One that would let him stay where he belonged,
in that cold, clean emptiness that he knew best. Home.
* * *
Out of the corner of
his eye, Ray Vecchio noted that the Pol . . . or rather, Kowalski had
come into the bullpen. No more jibes, he told himself firmly, Benny
doesn't like it. Kowalski stood in the doorway for a moment, looking
around, then sauntered over to his own desk-- well, table-- and slouched down in his
chair, opening a drawer, digging in it, finally taking out some kind
of form which he put on top of a stack of files on his desk and started
had to force himself not to stare at the other man. After last night,
he was having a little trouble with that, because whenever he looked
at the guy he found himself trying to imagine him with Benny, and failing.
The Mountie, and that? It was like Snow White getting it on with
an extra from The Road Warrior. Obviously there was something
about the guy he was missing.
still couldn't get over the weird fact that he was dating Stella, and
the Mountie was with her ex. It was like some kind of cosmic connection
thing. He forced himself to pay attention to the case file he was updating,
and after a couple of minutes Kowalski got up and took himself and his
form into Welsh's office. There was a short, somewhat heated discussion,
then Welsh threw up his hands and waved the other man out of his office.
Apparently he must
have agreed to whatever Kowalski had proposed, because the Pole was wearing
a huge grin as he exited the room. It was the first time Ray had seen
a smile from the guy that wasn't more of a baring of teeth. He was surprised
to note that he had a very attractive smile. Okay, so there was one
of those factors he'd missed.
stopped by his desk, picked up a stack of folders, and wandered over
to where Frannie was sitting. They joked together for a moment, Frannie
clearly amused by whatever he'd said. He put down his folders on her
desk and leaned over her to do something on her keyboard, his chin resting
on the top of her head, arms framing her. Ray waited for her to belt
the guy one, but strangely, she didn't seem to mind. Okay. So Frannie
liked him too. And, he had to admit, the guy did have a pretty nice
ass-- if a bit on the skinny side. Not that he noticed such things.
Benny would, though. Ray grinned. Yeah, he'd notice, and then he'd
couple of minutes Kowalski left Frannie and disappeared into the lunchroom,
emerging a few minutes later with a coffee cup in one hand and a bag
of M&M's in the other. Going back to his desk, he proceeded to drop
half a dozen candies into the cup, which he then stirred and drank, with
every evidence of satisfaction. Ray shuddered. Okay, so his culinary
skills were less than ideal. That made him a pretty good match for Fraser,
who, though he was capable of appreciating good food, seemed quite content
to subsist on the opposite. Still sipping his mutant mochacchino, the
other man picked up a file, leaned back in his chair, and propped his
feet on the desk.
Kowalski's attention was on the file he held, Ray took a moment to study
him closely. His boots looked like something one would wear to a mosh
pit and his olive-green twill slacks clearly hadn't seen an iron since
leaving the factory. With them he wore a too-small brownish t-shirt,
and a leather jacket that would have been more at home on a street thug.
As usual, his hair was gelled into wild spikes, and he also hadn't shaved
since yesterday, at least; blondish-brown stubble outlined his jaw and
mouth, with its rather petulant lower lip. Grudgingly Ray admitted to
himself that all in all, the guy looked like he'd just stepped off the
cover of 'Details.' It might not be his idea of style, but it
was a style, for all that.
Kowalski looked up and their eyes met. Knowing he'd just gotten caught
staring, Ray braced for the baring of teeth he'd come to expect, and
to his surprise, didn't get it. Instead, Kowalski straightened, looked
around the bullpen, then put down his coffee, and stood up, moving purposefully
toward his desk. Uh oh. Was he finally going to give in to the urge
to plant a fist in Ray's face? He did kind of deserve it, he had been
being a shit to the guy.
quick glance around the room told him he and Kowalski were the only people
present at the moment, so no one would come to his rescue. Warily Ray
pushed his chair back a few inches to give himself room to leap to his
feet if it were necessary, but Kowalski just planted his butt on the
corner of the desk and . . . smiled. A real smile. A little diffident,
a little sweet, openly friendly. The expression transformed his face
completely, and stunned, Ray finally understood what Fraser saw in him.
Kowalski," Ray returned noncommittally, avoiding the contentious
'Stanley' and wondering what the hell was up.
um, I was wondering if you might want to have lunch sometime? Either just
us, or with Ben-- maybe even Stella too. I mean, it's kinda stupid
for us to sit around here growling at each other like a couple of junkyard
dogs. Yeah, he used to be yours but he's mine now, and Stella used to be
mine, but she's not any more. So, like, we just have to learn to be okay with those things, right?"
chuckled in spite of himself. "Yeah, that'd probably be a good
thought so," Kowalski said proudly. "And Fraser didn't even
put me up to it. In fact, he told me not to."
told you not to talk to me?" Ray asked, surprised. Why would Fraser
have done that?
shook he head. "Nah, he told me not to kiss you."
shoved his chair back a few more inches and looked around the room nervously.
"What? Why the hell would you want to do that anyway?"
A big grin spread across
Kowalski's expressive face. "I thought it would be nice to say
see, if you hadn't done the love-em an' leave-em thing, then I'd never
have met Ben, and I don't think I'd want to be the person I'd be if I
it took Ray a minute, but he finally figured out the sentence. He smiled.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. He kind of has that effect on people."
"He does. So, truce?"
He held out his hand.
took it, and shook it firmly. "Truce, Ray."
Kowalski laughed. "How about you stick to Kowalski and I'll stick to Vecchio
so it doesn't get confusing around here?"
"Oh, and Vecchio?"
I? When he's around? Just to see the look on his face?"
one on you. No tongues or anything, I promise."
laughed out loud, shaking his head. "You're a freak."
Kowalski grinned. "Yeah.
about it, about the expression Fraser would no doubt assume, and he chuckled.
"Okay, yeah. Just once. And not in public."
got it." Kowalski grinned evilly. "This is gonna be fun.
You know, Vecchio, you're okay."
grinned back at him. "You know, Kowalski, you're okay too."
* * *
From the doorway to the bullpen, Fraser stood watching the byplay between Ray
and Ray. He couldn't hear what they were saying, but it was clear to him that
they were far more at ease than they had been up until now. He didn't know exactly
what had happened, nor did it matter. What did matter was that they had apparently
decided not to dislike each other. He smiled, feeling a warm glow somewhere
in the center of his chest, which was silly because the heart was not the seat
of emotion, it was simply a blood-pump made of muscles and nerves. Still, there
it was. Not only was he going home, if only for awhile, but he'd gotten this
unexpected gift as well. Finally something was going right in his world. Finally.
* * * Finis * * *
kellie at mrks.org