This story features characters from Due South most notably Benton
Fraser & Ray Kowalski, as well as others. Characters property of Alliance,
everything else is MINE ALL MINE! This is the final installment in the "Fishing"series, and a direct a sequel to Hook, Line & Sinker."
Rated NC-17 for graphic sexuality (M/M).
If you're considered a minor in your community please do not read this.
If you're narrow-minded or easily offended, you may want to take a pass
as well. I'm also putting a strong 'diabetic coma' warning on this
story. It's sappy. I can't help it. Every once in a while just I have
this overwhelming need to pour maple syrup over my characters. . . is that a kink?. :-}
Timeline-wise this is set some four months or so after "The Call
of the Wild," the series finale of Due South. 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.
thanks to my beta readers, Marina Bailey, Debra Ann Fiorini, and Carol
c. 1999, Kellie Matthews
Benton Fraser sat on
the porch step of the cabin that had been rebuilt on his father's land.
It was good to be home again, to have a home again. He looked across
the yard to where Ray was occupied with feeding the dogs with sure and
practiced movements. Just a few months ago he would have been half-afraid
to go near them, now he was an old hand. Ben still had to smile at his
attire. Though the day was relatively warm, Ray was bundled into a heavy
fur parka that seemed about ready to consume him. Ben's half-sister,
Maggie stood beside him, watching the same man. She turned and looked
at Ben, at the warm smile curving his mouth, then punched him lightly
in the arm.
I knew he didn't really want me."
looked back at her, smiling slightly. "So it would appear."
She grinned. "He
just wanted me because I was a female you."
female ewe?" Fraser echoed artlessly. "Aren't ewes are always
hit him. He laughed, picked up a handful of snow and tossed it at her.
She scrabbled a snowball for herself and hit him square in the face.
Within seconds the battle had been joined and they were lobbing snow
at each other for all they were worth, until an indignant voice managed
to penetrate their laughter.
there nutballs! Truce 'til I get past, okay? I'm freezing! I gotta
get ins . . ."
protest cut off mid-word as they turned as one and hurled their frigid
ammunition at him instead. Apparently their target had been expecting
something of the sort, because he already had his parka-clad arm in front
of his face so they didn't get skin. Then, grinning, he popped each
of them one with the snowballs he'd been carrying. As they were wiping
snow off their faces he dashed past them and into the cabin, slamming
the door closed behind himself. Maggie finished first, laughing and
shaking her head.
he does," Fraser agreed, grinning. "It's part of his charm."
She looked from the cabin
door, back to her brother. "You seem happy," she said, but
her inflection went up at the end of the sentence so he knew it was a
question, not a statement. He nodded.
Maggie. I am."
is he?" She asked quietly.
considered that, and nodded, slowly. "I think so. We . . . fit."
"Good. I'm glad,"
she said warmly, putting her hand over his, patting lightly. Then she
looked away and let her hand drop away from his.
a change in her mood, his eyes searched her face carefully. "And
you, Maggie? Are you happy these days?"
shrugged. "As happy as I can be, all things considered."
She was thinking of Casey,
he was sure. He couldn't bring himself to utter a platitude about finding
someone else someday. He knew that might not happen. Instead he reached
out and touched her shoulder, a gesture of support and understanding.
"I'm sorry, Maggie.
It must be very difficult."
nodded. "It is. The other day I was cleaning out some old papers
and things, stuff I hadn't touched since, well, since he . . . was killed.
It kind of brought it all home again. There was so much we were going
to do, so many plans, and now, he's gone, and none of those things will
never know what the future holds."
shot him a slightly annoyed look. "Yes, I can. In some of this,
at least. I don't know that I could ever trust a man that much again.
I mean, I can trust you, but you're my brother. I can probably trust
Ray, because you two are together. But to trust some other man with
myself, with my heart. . . I don't think so. It hurts too much."
Ben closed his eyes briefly,
remembering those wounds, those feelings. He understood. Completely.
"Maggie, I've felt that way myself, twice. You can get through
it, it is possible, I promise you that."
not sure I want to, all things considered," she said softly. "Still,
sometimes I wish . . . ." her voice trailed off and she shook herself.
"Well, enough about that. I'm just glad you and Ray are doing well.
I have to say I was surprised when I realized that you were more than
just partners and friends. I mean, when I was in Chicago, there didn't
seem to be anything more between you."
wasn't, not then. It happened not long after you left, and frankly,
at first I was as surprised as you. It seemed so unlikely, yet as you
say we are doing well. Though sometimes I . . . well, never mind that."
She looked at him sharply.
"Do I sense a little hesitation there?"
sighed, and looked at her. There was something. He didn't like to think
about it, but it did sometimes concern him. "Perhaps," he
the things I can't give him. I think about those things, probably more
often than I should. You knew Ray was married for quite some time, right?"
At her nod, he continued. "Long before we became lovers, he talked
to me about his marriage and why it failed. There were many things of
course, there's rarely a single cause for something like that, but one
of the principal difficulties was apparently that she was an attorney
with a promising career and Ray wanted children."
Maggie said quietly after a moment. "I see."
became an insurmountable obstacle."
you worry that it might become one for you, as well?"
sighed. "He hasn't mentioned it since we've been together, but
I can't help but remember that it once meant a great deal to him."
Maggie nodded. "I
can understand that. It would be hard not to wonder, to worry."
he sighed. "I just have to trust that we can surmount that obstacle,
should it appear."
nodded solemnly, looking into his face. There was a slightly haunted
quality to her gaze that made him ache for her, and wish he could help,
but there was really no way to do so. Her pain would have to die a natural
door opened, and Ray stuck his head out. "You two done with the
Big Brother-Little Sister chat, yet? I was looking at the stew, and
I wondered if I should I put anise or ginger in it?"
and Ben looked at each other in dismay and both scrambled for the door.
It wasn't generally safe to leave Ray alone with food. Fraser had attempted
to teach him the rudiments of seasonings, but being on the trail with
little variety available to him he hadn't had much luck. Every time
he and Ray stopped somewhere with a real kitchen and more than four types
of herb or spice, he was inclined to . . . experiment. This particular
experiment needed to be nipped in the bud before he ruined a perfectly
* * *
Ray was feeling mellow.
He hadn't expected to take to life in the Great Northwest, but he found
himself more and more at home here, aside from being cold all the time.
Or at least that percentage of the time when Fraser wasn't wrapped around
him like a blanket. He smiled, flattening a hand across his still-full
stomach. It seemed like Fraser was always feeding him, trying to put
some insulation on his bones. So far it hadn't really worked. He was as
lanky as ever, though in better condition than he'd ever before achieved.
looked over at Fraser where he sat reading by the light of a kerosene
lantern, then shifted his gaze past his lover to Maggie, sitting at the
table writing a report. They both looked very 'at home' here too. Of
course they would, since it was home for them. The room was silent,
save for the sounds of the fire in the woodstove, the slight scratching
of pen against paper, and the occasional turn of a page. Strangely,
he felt quite at home, himself. When they'd first started out on their
search for the Hand of Franklin, Ray had figured he would go stark raving
nuts from boredom, but although they hadn't located the legendary explorer,
he actually had found an unexpected reservoir of inner peace, which was
probably a more useful thing to have found, anyway.
learned the distraction of physical exertion, the satisfaction of accomplishment,
and without the constant input of 'civilization' the frenetic flow of
his brain had actually slowed a little. He'd learned to enjoy silence,
and the blaze of uncountable stars against a black, not pinkish sky, and to stand rapt in awe at the neon sweep of the aurora across that same velvet darkness.
He let his gaze go back to Fraser's face, and wondered if he would ever
miss television again. Funny how the things you didn't think you could
do without were sometimes the things you missed the least. Now, good
Chinese food, that he missed. Somehow stir-fried venison with pine nuts
and field greens just wasn't quite the same.
was strangely reluctant to go back to the place he had called home for
most of his life, reluctant to leave this new home that felt more like
home than home ever had. He smiled at that convoluted thought. It would
be strange to feel asphalt under his feet instead of snow, and rock,
and earth. He would miss the unfettered sky, the clean air, the smell
of woodsmoke, the sound of wolves in the distance. All of it.
And then there was Fraser.
He was different here, too. Gentler. More innocent. More joyous.
He'd lost that hint of 'edge' he'd developed in Chicago. He was just
more . . . Fraser here. Ray wondered now how Ben had stood being out
of his element for so long. Now that he realized what it had cost his
partner to stay in Chicago when he could have transferred much closer
to home, Ray appreciated his staying all the more. To do that had taken
loyalty of a kind that even now Ray couldn't quite comprehend, especially
considering what a jerk he'd been half the time.
remembered something he'd heard once in church, not that he'd paid a
lot of attention in church, but at the time he'd been about fourteen
years old and already in love with Stella, and the words had just sounded
so right. "Whither thou goest, I go." Funny, at the time
he'd thought it was weird that a woman would say that to another woman.
Now he understood. He felt that way about Fraser.
if aware of his thoughts, Fraser closed his book and looked up at Ray,
a smile lighting his face. After all this time Ray still sometimes
had trouble believing that smile was for him. Every once in awhile
he found himself glancing over his shoulder to see who Fraser was looking
at. He felt a flare of desire, as he always did when he saw that smile, and
the warmth in those gorgeous, amazingly innocent blue eyes. How
the man could have done some of the things he had, see the things he'd
seen, yet still retain that sense of childlike wonder Ray didn't
know, but he wasn't going to question it, either. He was just going
to accept it and be thankful.
stood up, stretching, and Ray let his gaze slide down his body, knowing
what it looked like under that thermal henley, and those snug flannel-lined
jeans. His mouth watered.
looked up from her report. "Turning in?"
nodded. "I believe so. Ray?"
good to me," he rolled off the couch and joined Fraser by the door
to put on his boots, then pulled their parkas from the hooks beside the
door. Shrugging into his, he handed the other to Fraser. "G'night
Maggie. Sweet dreams."
looked at him for a long moment, with an odd, thoughtful expression on
her face, then she seemed to come back to herself and she smiled. "Good
night, Ray, Ben. Sleep well."
we will," Ray said, winking at her, amused to see her color slightly.
She was just as easy to embarrass as Ben.
wondered sometimes if she wasn't lonely. Then he remembered her husband,
and figured she was probably still getting over that. He felt bad for
her. She was Ben's sister, and that sort of made her his sister. Good
thing Casey the jerkface was already dead, he thought darkly, pulling
his parka closed as Fraser opened the door and the cold swirled into
this was the part he hated. He knew that the stove in the barn would
be going, and their bed would be warm once they got there, but getting
from here to there was a pain in the ass. But since the cabin essentially
had only two rooms they'd opted for the barn while Maggie was visiting.
Privacy was worth a walk in the cold. Especially since he and Ben both
tended to be rather . . . vocal.
* * *
Maggie sat for a long
time, staring at her report, not seeing the page, not writing. Ever
since her conversation with Ben that afternoon, she had been preoccupied,
worrying at the problem he had revealed to her. The more she'd thought
about it, the more she thought she might have an answer, and almost unconsciously
she'd begun to think about details, about what would have to be done
to make it work. The more she thought about it, the more determined
she got, and there was very little that a determined Maggie Mackenzie
couldn't accomplish. She went to the kitchen and started digging until
she found what she was looking for, then put on her boots and her parka,
and set off across the snow to the barn.
glowed from within so she knew they were still awake. Without really
thinking about it, she thumbed back the latch, and swung the inset door
open, then froze. Oh dear. She backed up quickly, closing the door
quietly, trying to pretend she hadn't just seen what she'd seen. Her
face felt like someone had poured boiling water on it. She fanned a
hand at her cheek, trying to stop blushing.
really shouldn't be surprised. After all, Ray had dropped hints that
only someone devoid of any social skills whatsoever could possibly have
missed. It was just that she had got the bit between her teeth and forgotten.
Good heavens. For such a slender guy, he was certainly . . . built.
All muscle. Thankfully Ben had been too tangled in blankets and Ray
to be very visible. She really did not want to know what her half-brother
looked like in the altogether.
several moments without either of them coming to the door, she realized
they must not have noticed her. Thank goodness. She quietly left the
barn and went back to the house. Now that she'd had a few minutes to
think about it, she realized it was just as well. Probably best to talk
to Ben about her idea in the morning, privately, rather than charging
in full-steam ahead as she usually did.
* * *
Ben stepped out of the
barn into the cold half-light of morning and started across to the cabin.
Then he stopped, looking down at the snow, frowning slightly. There
were his footprints in last night's dusting of fresh snow, and Ray's,
and . . . a third set. Smaller. Whoever it was had gone to the barn
using long, determined strides, but had left it less certainly. * * *
He knelt and checked
one of the prints. Not fresh. The snow had hardened around it, probably
several hours worth of glaze. Odd. He followed the smaller set, found
it led back to the cabin, and stood outside for a long moment, staring
at the door, frowning. Why would Maggie have come out to the barn last
night, and then gone back to the cabin without completing whatever errand
she had meant to accomplish?
took only a few seconds thought before the answer occurred to him. He
shook his head, feeling a slight flush in his face that had nothing to
do with the wind-chill. Well, that would certainly explain it. His
father's children might not be terribly swift when it came to interpersonal
relations, but they were very tactful. He moved up the stairs and quietly
let himself into the cabin.
fire in the woodstove had died to coals and he took a few moments to
build it up before turning to the pantry and taking out a bowl and the
flour. As he did, he noticed an item sitting on the counter that he
was sure they hadn't used last night. Nor were they likely to be using
it soon, as it wasn't the right season for goose or duck. Pushing it
to one side, he measured flour, powdered milk, salt, and soda into the
bowl, then added an egg from the icebox, and lukewarm water from the
kettle, stirring to make a batter. Setting the bowl aside, he got out
the griddle and set it on the stove.
Bro!" Maggie said cheerfully, coming from the bedroom into the
main cabin. She was wrapped warmly in a blanket-robe and sheepskin slippers.
"Thanks for stoking the fire. I guess I overslept. I was up a
little late last night."
voice seemed overly bright as she sidled toward the counter. He turned
to the stove and held a hand over the griddle to check the temperature.
Close. A few more degrees. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her
grab the basting syringe from the counter and slip it up her sleeve.
Odd. What on earth would she want with that?
was about to ask, when it dawned on him that her action had been rather
surreptitious. Even more odd. Suddenly something he'd once read on
an informational website for alternative lifestyles floated to the surface
of his mind, and his eyes widened. No. Not Maggie. She couldn't be
thinking of . . . could she?
was there something you wanted, last night?" he asked casually.
She stared at him, eyes
huge. "Um, why do you ask?"
turned and looked at her evenly. "I noticed your footprints in
the snow outside."
turned bright red. "Oh. I, ah, well, I was going to ask you guys
something, but then I realized you were. . . uh, probably, um. . . asleep."
He resisted the urge to chuckle and contented himself with a noncomittal "Ah."
He spooned two circles of batter onto the griddle. "So, what was
it you wanted to ask?" He hadn't planned to take this any further, but he couldn't
seem to help himself. "Might it have had something to do with preparing roast
at him. Her hands fisted on her hips, her eyes narrowed. "You
rat! You saw it, didn't you?"
grinned. "I could hardly miss it, Maggie."
made a growling noise and glared at him. "That was mean."
my sense of humor gets the best of me."
I see." Then she grinned, sheepishly. "I suppose this teasing
stuff is one of those brother-sister things we missed out on, not growing
nodded. "I suspect so." He studied her face intently. "But
honestly, what were you wanting to ask?"
sighed, and took a seat at the table. "I was thinking about what
you said yesterday."
waited. She wasn't forthcoming. He prodded. "I said a lot of
things yesterday, which one in particular were you thinking about?"
He was pretty sure he knew. After all, the baster was a dead giveaway.
Even he'd heard of that trick.
bit her lip, and drew a pattern on the table with a fingertip. "I,
well, about Ray wanting kids."
Dead on target. "And?"
well, I was thinking maybe, maybe I could help."
it was. He started to smile. Setting the bowl down, he went and took
her hands in his. "Maggie, that's incredibly generous of you, and
I appreciate the offer more than I can say, but it's really not necessary.
If, and when, it becomes an issue, we'll deal with it then."
She sighed and looked
into his eyes, revealing hints of familiar, though now-distant pain there.
"Ben, I thought about this all night," she confessed, her voice
a whisper. "I'd like to do this for you, I really would. You two
saved my life, my career, everything. Without you I'd most likely be
dead, or rotting in jail somewhere. Not only that, but you've invited
me into your life, both of you, without reservation. You're my family,
the family I always wanted to have, and this means so much to you, and
to him. And since I'm your sister, it would almost be like it was
you don't owe us anything," he said, concerned. "Please don't
feel you do."
no! I didn't mean it that way. I know I don't owe you, I was .just
trying to explain why I wanted to be able to do this for you, to give
something you might not otherwise ever have. It could work, you know
it could. If you requested a posting here, then you and Ray could be
here to help, to participate. . . Let me give you this, please?"
said gently. "Ray and I are going back to Chicago, you know that."
She sighed. "Yes,
I know. But, Ben, Ray seems happy here ."
is happy here," came a voice from the doorway. "But 'here' is probably gonna burn down if you don't get those whatever-they-are's
off the stove."
Ben turned first to see Ray in the door, then swivelled around to find
smoke rising in plumes from two carbonizing pancakes. He quickly grabbed
the spatula and removed them from the heat, flipping them neatly into
the sink and pouring water on them to stop the smoke. By the time he'd
finished dealing with the near-disaster, Ray had moved into the room,
and was looking from Ben to Maggie and back.
do I get the feeling I missed something important?" he asked.
Maggie stared at
him, then blushed even redder than she had when Ben had told her he'd
noticed her footprints, and jumped to her feet.
just go get dressed," she said in strangled tones as she dashed
back into the bedroom. A moment later her portable CD-player came on
loudly, playing something that sounded vaguely like a cross between Cajun
and Canadian Aboriginal music.
stared after her, frowning. "She get up on the wrong side of bed
this morning or what?"
what, I think." Ben said, sighing. "I'm afraid I may have
inadvertently precipitated a bit of a problem."
put on his 'surprised' face. "You? Benton Fraser, RCMP, cause
a problem? Never!"
sighed, exasperated. "Thank you for the vote of confidence."
"So, what'd you do?"
Uh oh. Ben was just
beginning to realize that he might be in trouble on two fronts here.
"I, um . . . ."
sighed. "Oh boy. I can tell it must involve me or you wouldn't
be 'umming' like that. Spit it out, Fraser. What'd you do?"
"Well, she asked
me if I was happy."
gaze grew wary. "And you said. . .?"
smiled. "I said I was."
bloomed in Ray's eyes, then his gaze narrowed again. "So far so good. So why
were you 'umming?'"
then she asked me if you were happy."
thought about that, and nodded. "Okay, so what was your answer
to that one?"
said I thought you were."
"I can hear it,
Frase. You said you 'thought I was, but. . . .' Didn't you?"
exactly," Ben hedged.
moved closer, looking into his eyes, worried. "What makes you think
I'm not happy? Have I done anything? Said anything? I need to know
'cause I can't fix it if I don't know."
shook his head. "No, you haven't. It was just something I remembered.
Something you once told me about why you and Stella divorced."
Ray frowned, thinking
back, then his eyes widened. "Geez, Fraser, you remember that?"
Ben couldn't quite meet
his gaze, and knew he was blushing. "I remember everything you
ever said to me."
was a moment of silence, then Ray leaned close to plant a swift kiss
on his mouth before pulling back. "I don't know what I did to deserve
you, Ben, but I'm not looking a gift-horse in the mouth. So. You told
her about me, and Stella, and why we split?"
So what's that got to do with the price of tea in . . . Oh." His
eyes went wide and startled, and he turned to look at the door through
which Maggie had fled, then back at Fraser. His jaw dropped. "Oh
yes. Rather." Fraser agreed, not even bothering with a perfunctory
admonishment about Ray's language. It never did any good anyway.
"You mean to tell
me she was, uh, volunteering?" Ray managed to ask.
so many words, yes," Ben confirmed.
closed his eyes, opened them, grabbed for one of the chairs and sat down.
"Well, uh. Wow. I mean why'd she want to go and do a thing
like that for?"
you're family, and she loves you guys."
both turned to find Maggie standing there, looking determined.
Ray paled, then blushed.
Ben could only imagine what his blood-pressure was doing.
. . . Hi, Maggie." Ray finally managed to stammer. "That's,
um, well . . . ." He ran a hand through his hair, looked desperately
at Fraser, then shot to his feet. "I, uh, I think I'll just go
see to the dogs."
took off like a bear was on his tail, the door banging closed behind
him. Fraser stared after him, trying not to smile. Maggie looked at
easily, doesn't he?"
certain conditions. Sometime's he's a bit uncomfortable with public expressions of affection. Give him a little time and he'll be fine."
sure? I mean, I don't want him running every time I walk into the room."
"I'm sure. After
all, he doesn't run away from me."
brightened. "True," she said, then her smile dimmed. "I'm
sorry, Ben. You know me. Sometimes I act before I think things through.
I didn't mean to cause problems."
did I. I think that must be a family trait. I didn't stop to think
how my concerns might affect you."
both sighed. Ben picked up the bowl of batter and spooned more of it
onto the griddle.
serious, you know," Maggie said.
know," Fraser agreed, watching bubbles rise in the batter.
could make it work," she said, hesitantly.
sighed. "We have plans, Maggie, plans that don't include staying
here. We're going back to Chicago. Ray needs that, he needs to be back
in his world again. I've kept him away from it long enough."
"Isn't this where
I came in before?" Ray asked, standing in the doorway, his arms
at him. Ray lifted his chin, which should have told Fraser not to argue,
but he did it anyway.
was just explaining that we're going back to Chicago. We won't be staying
so?" Ray said, his chin lifting even further. "What if I
want to stay?"
you don't need to argue just for the sake of argument."
not. I mean it, Frase. I was thinking about it last night. I like
it here. I like the way you are here, you're . . . freer. Happier.
More you. You know what's the only thing I miss from Chicago?"
Chinese food. Real Chinese food. Mandarin duck, kung pao chicken, mu
shu beef, fish in ginger sauce. I could care less about going back to
Chicago, except if you have to be there then I'd go and be happy about
it, but damn it, Frase, I don't want to drag you back there when I know
you hate it, and when it means absolutely nothing to me. And the pancakes
are burning again."
grinned as Ben tossed a second pair of pancakes into the sink and doused
them with a muttered curse. He was finally managing to corrupt the Mountie.
A little. After a moment Ben turned to look at Maggie.
you excuse us for a few moments?" he asked, ever polite.
nodded. "I'll go take care of the dogs. For real," she said
with a tiny smile in Ray's direction as she slipped quietly from the
room, leaving them alone.
stared at Fraser, his eyes lit with a slightly fractious determination.
"Were you planning
to mention this to me?" Ben asked, finally.
Ray said, defensively.
We're supposed to leave in two weeks."
sighed, and rubbed his nose. "Today, actually. I guess it hadn't
really hit me until last night. I just got to thinking about how much
I would miss the sky, and the stars, and the taste of snow on the wind.
Then I thought about you, and how different you are here. And I thought
about how different I am here, and I knew. I just knew. I don't want to
go back to being the Ray Kowalski I was in Chicago, Fraser. I was a
you weren't, Ray."
me in the eyes and say that," Ray challenged him.
tried, and failed. He grinned sheepishly. "Oh, very well, sometimes
you were a jerk, but not most of the time. You were just . . . ."
"Afraid. I was
afraid, Ben. All the time. Afraid people would find out what loser
I was. Actually, I was pretty sure people already knew so I became a
jerk to keep people from rubbing my nose in it. You were the first person,
the only person, who ever treated me like I wasn't a loser, right from
the start. I don't want to go back there, to that, to being a loser."
Fraser stared at him,
clearly disbelieving. Ray stared back.
I don't know what to say," Ben finally managed.
'okay, we're staying.'"
we've planned for months to go back to Chicago. You planned to go back
to work for the department, and I at the Consulate. Why would you suddenly
change your mind?"
told you, I like it here. I like me here. I like you here."
"But, what would
you do here?"
dunno. Get a job, I guess. Security guard or something."
not quite that easy. You won't be able to work, not right away."
"Who cares? Have
I done a lick of work in four months?"
mean the kind someone would pay me for. Not stuff like helping with
the dogs, or working on the cabin, or making bad food. I got some money
saved, I can use that 'til I can get a work permit. With the exchange
rate, it'll amount to quite a bit."
no guarantee I can get a posting in the area."
not here, but somewhere near, I bet. You may be officially back in everybody's
good graces again after the Muldoon thing, but I bet they don't want
you anywhere near a city. You're too good a cop, Ben. You make everyone
else look bad."
looked at him, startled. "Why, thank you, Ray."
"You're welcome. But you know I'm right, don't you?"
considered, and nodded, slowly. "I suspect so. I know that my
style is considered rather unorthodox, and that not everyone is able
to deal with it in an equitable manner." He stopped, and frowned,
staring at Ray again. "Are you sure you really want to stay?"
Ray put his hands on
Fraser's shoulders and leaned close, nose to nose. "I. Really.
Want. To. Stay. Got it?"
nodded. "Yes, Ray. I've got it."
So, let's get at it."
at what, Ray?"
out whatever we've got to figure out so we can stay."
that," Ben nodded. "After breakfast, perhaps."
is good," Ray agreed, feeling his stomach rumble. "You think
Maggie brought up any bacon with her, or . . . oh, uh, Maggie."
Ray finished nervously, suddenly remembering what had precipitated their
Maggie." Fraser concurred, clearly feeling much the same sense
of awkwardness that Ray did.
blushed, again. "It's like, really sweet and all, but, I mean--
she's your sister!"
Ben corrected him. "Actually, she felt that would be a benefit.
Since she and I share half of the same genetic legacy, in a way a child
conceived by her, with you, would be mine as well."
hadn't thought of that," Ray said consideringly. "That's kinda
cool." Then he thought about it some more, and grimaced. "But,
Ben, I mean, her and me . . . isn't that a little . . . kinky?"
Fraser looked at him
evenly. "For that matter, Ray, I suspect many people would consider
what you and I do to be 'a little kinky.'"
chuckled. "There is that."
assume, based on that comment, that you're concerned that having a child
with Maggie might violate some sort of incest taboo?"
yeah. I guess that's it." As close as he could explain, in any
believe there is any taboo which applies in this particular case. At
least, I can think of none at the moment. The two of you are certainly
not blood relations, and surrogacy is becoming more and more common,
especially among family members. I've heard of similar cases in the
news, quite frequently. Instances where a mother carries a child for
a daughter who is unable to do so, or a sister for a sister. It's really
not all that uncommon."
considered that for a moment. "Yeah, now that you mention it, I
have heard of stuff like that, too. Guess it's not that weird."
"Not at all,"
Fraser assured him.
studied his face closely, frowning slightly. "So, are you saying
you wouldn't mind? Really?"
looked at him solemnly. "No, Ray. I wouldn't. Not if both you
and Maggie were sure it was the course you wished to pursue. I know
how much it means to you."
thought some more. He hadn't thought about kids in a long time. Hadn't
allowed himself to. When he'd fallen in love with Ben, he'd put that
dream aside, albeit a little wistfully. He'd grown up a lot after he'd
lost Stella, and found Ben, and realized that you couldn't force things
to happen a certain way no matter how much you wanted to. He'd resigned
himself to being childless. Having Fraser was enough.
after coming to terms with the fact that that particular dream was not
going to come true, this was a bolt out of the blue. A baby. His.
With Maggie, who was about as much like Ben as she could get and not
actually be Ben. A baby who would share some of Fraser's genes, sort
of like it was his, too. He found he was grinning like an idiot, and
looked over at Ben, needing to be absolutely certain.
really don't mind?"
put his hands on Ray's shoulders and leaned close. "I. Really.
Ray said, grinning at Ben's 'Ray' impression. "Cool."
"Is it what you
"Yeah. I think it is. I really do."
think it's a wonderful idea," Fraser said softly. "This way
you get the one thing you wanted which I could never give you."
Ray fretted, suddenly
worried that his desire for a child somehow might make Ben think he loved
him less. "Ben, you know you give me everything I need."
Ben smiled understandingly.
"I do, Ray, but not everything you want."
don't need this. I only need you."
I understand. I'm not hurt, I'm not offended. Actually, I like the
I do." His eyes met Ray's candidly. "I like the idea of having
a blood connection to you, however tenuous it might be."
felt tears stinging in his eyes, and reached out to hug the Mountie,
hiding that fact. He didn't want to worry him. "God, Frase. I
don't deserve you."
hugged him back. "Yes, you do. And more."
heard the front door open, and separated, slowly.
yet?" Maggie called from the front door. "I can find something
else to do if I need to."
Ray called. "C'mon in."
stepped inside, and they waited while she took off her coat and shoes,
and then moved hesitantly into the main cabin.
Things okay now?" she asked, biting her lip nervously, just like
Fraser always did. "I didn't mess things up, did I?"
Maggie, you didn't mess things up at all," Ray said. "We needed
to talk about some stuff, you just made it happen faster."
Okay. Good." She still looked nervous. Ray figured he knew why.
you like to have me and Ben hanging around in your hair all the time?"
She looked from him,
to Ben, and back, and started to smile. "Really? You're not joking?
You're going to stay here?"
we can't make any assumptions as to my posting," Fraser said, injecting
a little reality. "I can put in for a transfer, but we don't know
where I'll end up. It may not be anywhere near you."
can make sure it is, Ben. I'll just put my paperwork in first."
She looked at Ray, and her face went pink. "I mean, if. . . um,
Ben said softly.
"We liked your idea."
Her eyes lit with hope.
"You. . . you did? Really?"
nodded. Ray nodded too, avoiding looking at her. It was kind of embarrassing.
"Yes. There are
a great many details to be worked out, first, but provided we can do
so, we think it would be a. . . worthwhile undertaking."
grabbed a chair and sat down, abruptly. "Oh my. Oh my. I'm. . ."
She ran a hand through her hair, and shook her head. "Sorry, I'm
just a little overwhelmed. I didn't think you would. . . I mean, I was
sure you wouldn't. . . "
frowned, and Ray could guess what he was about to say. Apparently, so
I didn't mean it that way!" she exclaimed. "You get that
thought right out of your mind, Ben Fraser! Of course I meant it! Every
word. About my offer, I mean. Oh, drat it, I'm not making sense. What
I meant was that my offer was made in complete sincerity, and with full
intention of carrying through with it should you agree. I just, well,
I didn't dare let myself hope you would take me up on it. I figured
you would think I was nuts!"
grinned. "Why should you be different from the rest of us?"
she laughed, shaking her head.
expression went serious all the sudden, and he studied her intently.
"Maggie, are you sure you can do this? Have you really thought
about it? You will be giving up your child for us to raise, a child
you've carried in your body, sheltered, given life to. The mother-child
bond is a strong one, that won't be an easy thing to do."
sighed. "Yes, I have thought about that, Ben, and no, it won't
be easy. I suppose it will depend, in part, on how we handle it. Will
we be honest with him, or her? Will they know that I'm their mother,
or will that part be a secret?"
of course we'd tell them!" Ray said, sounding amazed. "Why
shrugged. "I don't know. I've heard of people who did something
similar and pretended the mother had died or something. I just wasn't
sure what you would want to do. Being honest makes it easier, because
I then wouldn't have to pretend. And we are family, after all. It's
not like we won't see each other." She bit her lip, and looked
worried. "I mean, we would see each other, right? I could still
Ray said firmly, looking at Ben, who nodded.
then, it should be okay," she said not sounding quite as decisive
as she probably meant to.
what if I were posted elsewhere, and Ray and I had to move? Or if you
were? Could you handle that? Will you be able to let us make all the
took a deep breath and let it out. "I think if I start right now,
from the very beginning, to think of this as your baby, not mine, that
I can do it."
if you can't? It could cause a rift between us, Maggie. I never had
a family growing up, and I don't want to lose the one I have now."
She got up and went to
him, putting her arms around him in a hug before drawing back to look
into his eyes. "I know that. I feel the same. And you won't,
I promise you." She turned to look at Ray, and held out a hand.
"Let's get clear on this right now. We're family, the best kind,
the kind you pick yourself. We won't let anything happen that would
change that, right?"
Ray echoed, letting her draw him in, making it a three-way embrace.
She looked at Ben,
eyebrows lifted. He nodded, slowly.
They stood, unspeaking
for a moment, then she let them go and stepped back. "So. Now what?"
"Now, I believe
we should have breakfast. We have plenty of time to start thinking about
* * *
"Okay, so Maggie
sends you to take her leave request to Frobisher, and then on the spot
you volunteer to take over for her until she's ready to come back, right?"
Ray asked, gesticulating with his fork for emphasis. When he finished
the sentence, he used the utensil for its intended purpose, picking up
the last bite of pancake off his plate and conveying it to his mouth.
Fraser forced himself
not to watch the muscles flexing in Ray's jaw as he chewed. Watching someone
eat wasn't supposed to be erotic. "It does seem a logical sequence,"
Ben said grudgingly. Maggie and Ray had refused to wait until after
breakfast, but he had to admit, they were coming up with good ideas.
"And Sergeant Frobisher
is more likely than many to approve such a request," Maggie put
in. "Since he was your, I mean, our father's friend and
you go," Ray said, grinning. "Networking. Good stuff. So,
then I have to apply for a green-card, or whatever it is you do here."
An idea came to Fraser
out of the blue and he looked at Ray thoughtfully. "Actually, Ray,
there is a more efficient way of obtaining citizenship for you,"
he said, before he really analyzed it. "You and Maggie could get
Ray and Maggie gasped in unison, shocked.
really quite logical," Ben explained earnestly. "Marriage
to a citizen would confer all attendant citizenship benefits on you,
and in addition it would mean there would be no question as to your having
equal custodial rights to the child."
frowned thoughtfully, but Ray just stared at him for a long time. Too
long a time. Ben was getting uncomfortable. Finally Ray shook his head,
stood up, and went to the door, stepping into his boots, pulling on his
Ben said, puzzled and worried, getting to his feet.
need some air, Frase," Ray said, his voice flat, unemotional, as
he stepped outside and closed the door, leaving Fraser standing there,
not sure if he should stay, or follow. He looked at Maggie, who was
looking nearly as poleaxed as Ray had.
Ben, that was a bit, sudden." Maggie said quietly. "It probably
would have been a good idea to speak to us on an individual basis before
you decided to spring that on us."
it's logical," Ben said again, at a loss. "I don't . . . why would
he . . . ." Fraser said, more to himself than to her. Then he knew.
Oh no. No, Ray wouldn't have thought that, would he? But he knew he
would. Ray, once his heart was engaged, committed himself completely, without reservation. No doubt to Ray the suggestion had been rather like proposing he commit bigamy. Or worse, Ray might have thought it meant that Ben was not as committed as he was.
"I'm very sorry,
Maggie. I didn't mean that the way it came out. Look, I'll be back
when I've fixed things with Ray, however long it takes. And then I'll
fix things with you."
nodded, and Ben took off after Ray. It wasn't hard to find his trail.
The freshly made prints in the snow led north, into the woods. He headed
after Ray, moving as quickly as he could. After a few hundred yards
he realized he should go back for snowshoes, but didn't want to spare
the time. Besides, Ray hadn't taken any, so he wouldn't be moving very
fast, either, although he seemed to have covered a remarkable amount
distance for the few minutes lead he had.
stopped and studied the tracks again, frowning. Ray was running, crossing
the snow in long, ground-eating strides. Fraser started to be afraid.
This time of year the days were very short. If Ray went very far, he
could end up outside after dark. He knew Ray had learned a lot in the
last few months, but had he learned enough to survive alone, without
supplies, through a long sub-arctic night? He didn't want to have to
find out. He had to find him first. Make him safe. Make him understand.
If that was even possible.
couldn't believe he'd been so thoughtless. After promising he'd never
hurt him again, he did this? Damn it. Would he never learn? He'd done
quite a few incredibly stupid things in his life, but this had to take
the prize. It had been sheer idiocy to think out loud like that, without
stopping to analyze the potential implications and assumptions that his
words might provoke.
fear that he had just done something irrevocable was far greater than
his fear for Ray's safety. He knew he could find Ray before the night
was out, and make sure he was safe. But could he fix what he'd done?
Was there any way to fix things now? He stopped, eyes closed, the ache
in his chest paralyzing. No. Please, no. Don't let me have done that.
Don't let me have lost him. I can't lose him. He's part of me. I can't
lose him, I just can't. The words became a chant, a mantra against loss,
somehow it felt like if he said it enough, it could avert the potential,
remove it from the universe.
shiver shook him, he was surprisingly cold from about knees to upper-thighs.
With a start, Ben realized he had sunk to his knees in the snow. He
should get up, go on, keep looking. But the fear was so strong, stronger
than he was. He understood suddenly. He didn't fear for Ray's safety.
He'd taught him well, and he would be fine.
what he feared was having his soul ripped out of him again. It would
be far worse this time. This time he had been so sure, so completely
committed. There had been no doubt, no guilt, no hesitation at all between
them. Just love. He'd taken that for granted. He'd forgotten how fragile
Ray's trust was. And he might have just destroyed it, blundering around
like a bull moose. He hoped not. He hoped it was one of those volatile
Ray flare-ups that quickly faded, but he feared it might be more.
* * *
Ray walked aimlessly,
weaving around trees, not heading anyplace in particular. He'd just
had to get out of there. He couldn't be around Fraser right now. Or
Maggie. He stopped for a moment and took off his mittens, plunging
his hands into the snow for a moment, then pulling them free and placing
them over his eyes. The cold short-circuited the tears. Better. He could see now
leaned against a tree and stared up into its dark boughs, shaking his
head. God. To go so far up, and then get dropped so far down, both
in one day. How could Ben have suggested that? How could he have even
thought about it? Did he mean so little to Ben that he could just be
passed around like some kind of party favor?
back over the day, he started to wonder. Ben had resisted Ray's idea
of staying a lot more than Ray had expected. What if Ben hadn't planned
to stay in Chicago after he went back with him? What if he'd planned
to get Ray settled again, then go back home, without him? Maybe Fraser
was sick of him. Maybe he figured if he encouraged Ray to be with Maggie,
if they did the baby thing, he'd be able to get rid of him more easily,
no emotional fuss. Give the idiot a new toy to play with and he won't
notice when you leave. Geezus, he'd never have suspected Ben capable
of such perfidy.
He'd just used the word 'perfidy' in his own interior monologue. He
was infected with Mountie-ese. He had a feeling it was permanent, too.
It would always be there to remind him just how stupid he'd been. He
smacked his the back of his head into the tree, trying to knock some
sense into himself. The tree promptly dumped a shower of snow onto him
from its lower branches. He sputtered, and wiped snow of his face, and
as he did, reality hit him in the face just like the snow had. Wait
a minute. What he was thinking simply wasn't like Fraser. At all.
Ben would never do something like that. He didn't have it in him.
Okay, stop and think
about it. Was it possible that he'd misunderstood? Could he have overreacted?
Could it be that Ben wasn't trying to get rid of him, but that he really
had just been laying out what he felt to be a practical course of action?
Yes. It was possible.
All of it. Logic Boy was absolutely capable of such a gaffe. And God
knew he himself was certainly prone to overreacting, especially where his
sense of self-worth was concerned. Yep. The more he thought about it,
the more he realized exactly what had happened. Stupid, thickheaded
Mountie. If he wasn't so damned loveable, someone
would have killed him years ago out of sheer aggravation. Would he ever,
ever, learn to stop and think before he jumped off a cliff?
sighed, watching his breath steam out, giving substance to his sigh.
Fraser wasn't the only one with a habit of leaping before he looked.
Way to go, Ray. Getting a lot of exercise jumping to conclusions there.
All those maybes he'd been thinking. . . well, maybe it was him that was
the idiot. He turned and started to backtrack his own trail. Undoubtedly
he'd run into Fraser looking for him. He was sure Fraser would have
followed him. In fact, he was kind of surprised that Fraser hadn't already
sunlight and shadow patches were such a contrast that it sometimes made
it hard to see, but he stuck to his footprints and did okay. Following
his own tracks he rounded a tree whose girth his arms could never span,
and promptly tripped over something and fell on his face in the snow.
Irritated, he rolled over to see what he'd fallen over, and his breath
caught. What the hell was Fraser doing on his knees in the snow like
that? Fear flared. Was he hurt? Instantly he was scrambling over to
Fraser's side, pulling off his mittens so he could try to feel him through
the thick parka, looking for broken bones.
What the . . . you okay?"
nodded and turned away, getting to his feet. Ray saw that his jeans
were soaked through most of the way up his thighs. He
must've been on his knees for awhile, to get that wet. Why? Had he
turned an ankle or something? Frowning, Ray reached for him as he
started to walk away, grabbing him by the back of his parka.
pulled away, or tried to, actively struggling to get away. The parka's
hood slipped back, and he saw the gleam of moisture on Fraser's face.
Tears. Oh, shit. Not hurt. Not physically hurt, anyway. Fraser would
never cry over anything merely physical. You could shoot him, stab him,
or beat him and he'd never shed a tear; but he cried when he was hurt,
inside, when the pain was too much to hold in.
You suck, he berated himself. You're a complete and total shit. How
could you have possibly thought Ben would ever be as big a jerk as you
are? Ben is the kindest, most considerate person on the planet, and
after this long you ought to know better than to go flying off the handle
like that. Just because you're an insecure ass doesn't mean that you
get to hurt Fraser.
had stopped struggling. Obviously he hadn't wanted Ray to see him, but
once it was done, there was no point in further resistance. Ray let
go of his coat and stepped back, feeling awkward, not quite knowing what
to do with himself. Should he try for a hug, or give Fraser some space?
He opted for space.
"Look, Ben, I'm sorry. I just got a little weird there. You know I'm kinda flaky
that way. It just takes me awhile to get my head on straight. It's
okay. I understand now. It was just kind of, well, a surprise."
Fraser shook his head,
brushing a hand across his face, chasing tears before they froze. "No,
Ray. I should apologize to you. I spoke without thinking. It was my
it wasn't. I overreacted, like I always do. I was a jerk. See? I
told you I was a jerk. I'm sorry."
your reaction was perfectly understandable, especially to anyone who
knows you as I do. Had I stopped to consider what effect my statement
might have, I would not have said it."
Ben, it wasn't your fault! It was mine! Got it?"
got that mulish look around his mouth. "Ray, there's no need for
you to accept blame where none is deserved. I made an error in judgement
and accept the consequences of my actions."
felt a flush rising through him, irritation, anger, exasperation, all
combining to raise his blood pressure and his temperature. "Fraser,
I'm the one who's got a problem. Not you. Now quit trying ta make me
assure you, Ray, I had no intention of. . . "
stopped suddenly. Ray knew what had happened. He had intended to make
Ray feel better, and it was either lie about it or shut up.
I won!" Ray crowed with a grin.
wasn't a contest, Ray," Fraser said with a hint of exasperation.
good. Anything was better than Ben in pain. Ray reached out tentatively and put a hand on Fraser's shoulder. "We okay?"
gaze searched his face. "I don't know, Ray, you tell me."
Ray ducked his head,
embarrassed. "I was just being stupid. You know how I am."
"I should, but for
a moment, I forgot. And that was indeed my fault."
glared at him. "Don't start with that again!"
slight smile tugged at the corner of the Mountie's mouth. "Shall
we call it a draw, and agree that we were equally at fault?"
Ray considered that,
and finally sighed. "Yeah, okay. I guess. I'm sorry, Ben, I really
am. I was just . . . ." He paused, took a deep breath, and let it
out. "I was just scared."
know that, and I'm sorry too. I didn't stop to consider the emotional
ramifications of my words." He was silent for a moment, then he
caught Ben's hand in his own. "Ray, I love you. I would never
want to send you away. You do realize, I hope, that if the government
recognized same-sex marriages, I would have proposed that instead?"
Ray stared at him, stunned.
said, if the govern . . . ."
held up a hand. "Fraser, did you just ask me to marry you?"
Fraser blushed. "Ah,
yes, I suppose I did, after a fashion."
stared some more, shaking his head. "Me?" he finally asked,
you. I feel we are in a committed relationship, don't you?"
"I do. Though sometimes
I wonder if it's more like we ought to be committed," he
flashed a quick grin at his partner, who smiled back.
often seem to doubt your sanity, but I must say I've seen no sign of
mental disturbance in you."
chuckled. "That's 'cause you aren't inside my head. But, jokes
aside, you really would? If it was possible?" He tried to keep
the wistful note from his voice, but didn't quite manage it.
smiled, his eyes warm. "In a heartbeat, Ray."
warm glow spread through Ray, making the cold of the snow and air meaningless.
"God, Fraser. I love you."
not a god, Ray." Ben said, a little half-smile on his beautiful
"Yeah, you are, a love god. You've got the most impressive recovery time
of anybody I ever heard of. . . anyone who wasn't sixteen years old anyway. But that's not what I meant and you know it."
so." He was quiet for a moment, then he looked back at Ben, grinning.
"Just want you to know, if you'd asked me, I'd've said yes. But
don't ever suggest that other thing again, okay?"
nodded. "Frankly, I shouldn't have suggested it to begin with,
as it quite probably constitutes fraud against the Canadian government."
Ray widened his eyes,
feigning shock. "Fraud? You, Dudley Do-Right, suggested we commit
fraud? Okay, gimme your cuffs, this is a citizen's arrest. I'm taking
the barn, where I can get those cold, wet jeans off you and make you
hot and wet instead."
gaze warmed, his mouth curving. "I don't believe that's standard
protocol for any sort of arrest, Ray."
Well, you know me, I don't much believe in protocol. Besides, isn't
it against the Geneva Convention or something to let a prisoner get frostbite?"
* * *
Ray was as good as his
word. He dragged Fraser back to the barn, wrestled him out of his frozen
jeans, and set to work warming his chilled skin. With his hands. With
his mouth. Oh, God, with his mouth. That sulky, petulant mouth that
could give a stone statue an erection. Ray teased, licked, sucked,
and nibbled, and outright bit. Until Fraser was no longer cold, because
he was on fire and threatening to explode, volcanically.
to gain a little distance, Ben closed his eyes, so he could no longer
see the ardent heat in Ray's blue eyes, or the flex of muscles in his
jaw when he sucked, and the way his eyes half-closed in concentration
as his tongue stroked and swirled. It didn't help, because he could
still see all of it, in his mind's eye. The ache to be possessed grew
strong, the need to yield, to be filled and taken. He reached down,
put his fingers against Ray's cheek, feeling the roughness of morning
stubble. He hadn't shaved yet. Golden, on golden skin, it hardly showed.
please . . . I need. . . ." he gasped, unable to complete his thought,
as teeth nipped at him, then fingers closed firmly around that spot that
backed his desperation down a notch. Finally Ray let his mouth slide
up, then off, reluctantly releasing his prize.
okay, Ben, whatever you need, whatever you want, I'll give it to you,"
if he'd read Ben's mind, Ray put a hand on Ben's hip and rolled him over.
His hands shifted to cup the muscular curves of his buttocks, separating
them. Stubble rasped faintly, a startling contrast to the hot, silky
touch of tongue on acutely sensitive flesh. His tongue moved, circling,
flicking, probing until Ben was nearly weeping with need, his hips pushing
rhythmically into the bedding. Ray's strong hands kneaded his glutes,
then left him for a moment. He moaned, wanting them back, needing them
back. Then Ray finished with whatever had distracted him and one hand
shifted, long, lean fingers slid into him, slick-wet, and demanding,
pushing deep, finding.
moaned, and shuddered, so close, so close, only sheer determination kept
him from finishing then. He had to wait, had to wait, needed more, needed
Ray. Inside. Fisting his hands in the blankets, he pushed back onto
his hands and knees, lifting himself, spreading his thighs wider, pleading
with his body since his mouth could no longer form coherent words.
Fingers stroked one last
time, then withdrew. He whimpered, needy, empty, then Ray was there,
insistent and irresistible. Not that he wanted to resist, no, all he
wanted was to yield. And he did, his body opening to that insistence
easily now, after all this time together, although there was always that
moment of almost-pain there at the start. Then it eased, and he was
filled, and he lost contact with logic, and reality and just felt.
Ray moved in him, deep,
deeper, until he could go no deeper. Ben moaned. Ray's hands gripped
Ben's hips, holding him hard as he pulled back, then eased in again.
Ben put his forehead against the bedding and braced himself, knowing
Ray would read that in him, knowing he would understand what he wanted,
what he needed. Again. Again. Harder, faster now, so deep, so good.
Ray slipped one hand beneath him, finding the rigid length of his cock,
fingers wrapping around him, stroking hard, and fast, echoing the pounding
thrusts inside him.
the quiet of the barn their harsh, rapid gasps and panting moans sounded
loud, as did the little almost-grunts Ben made each time Ray went hilt-deep
inside him. He was dying, dying, every nerve screaming for release,
and then, finally, he was coming hard into Ray's hand, hot and slick,
the pleasure nearly excruciating; and Ray was coming too, whispering
his name over and over.
both spent, and limp with the catharsis of orgasm, Ray turned them onto
their sides and wrapped his arms around Ben, still in him, wrapped around
him like a blanket. He put his lips against Ben's neck, and kissed and
sucked the tangle of short, sweaty curls there, then sighed.
I love you Fraser."
smiled, reassured, and covered the hands on his midriff with his own.
"And I you, Ray."
We just have to remember that." He sighed, and a little shiver went
you cold?" Ben asked, reaching for a blanket.
not cold," Ray said, his hand covering Fraser's, stopping him from
drawing the woollen fabric higher.
Just leftovers, I think."
what?" Fraser asked, puzzled.
was a long moment of silence before Ray finally answered. "Fear.
God, when you said that, about me marrying Maggie, I was so scared.
I thought you didn't want me any more."
found Ray's hand, laced his fingers through slimmer ones. "Never.
I love you."
people who love you sometimes go away," Ray whispered.
how true that was. He still remembered that pain. Fraser nodded. "I
know. But I won't."
here," Ray said quietly.
was quiet for a while longer. Ben could feel a slight tension building
in him, and waited, knowing Ray was working up to speaking again, to
"Let's just forget
about the baby thing."
absorbed that, and it made no sense. He knew Ray wanted a child. Had
wanted one for a long time, badly. He'd been pleased and excited by
the prospect. Why change his mind now? Slowly he eased away, and turned
to look into his face. Ray was looking up at the ceiling, deliberately
avoiding Ben's eyes. Ben reached over, grabbed his chin, and turned
his face, forcing Ray to look at him. He read a lot in those eyes.
Love. Regret. Fear. Doubt.
reasons, Frase. Hell, what do I know about being a parent?"
Ben propped his head
on one hand, and studied Ray for a moment, choosing his words carefully.
"You have your parents as example, Ray. I know you've had your share of difficulties with your father, but you've put that behind you now. As far as that goes, in our line of work we both have seen many excellent examples
of how not to parent, and can, I believe, can reason out the proper course
from there. We would be at no greater disadvantage than any other new
parent ever is. So, is that your only reason?"
. . . I just don't want anything, or anyone, to maybe come between us."
Well. That was cryptic.
He mulled it over, and came up with too many options. "Are you
speaking of the child, Ray?"
baby. Maggie. Anyone."
worried that it might change things between us?"
nodded, looking worried.
no relationship is static. Relationships evolve on a daily, even moment-by-moment
basis. Things will inevitably change between us, no, wait," he
held up a hand, silencing Ray's protest. "I don't mean that we
would ever cease to care for one another. I don't believe that will
ever happen. But we agreed right from the start that we can still
feel love for others without it affecting our relationship."
Ray looked at him narrowly.
"You're talking Stella and Vecchio."
"Okay, yeah. You got a point."
Yeah. One thing."
ah, not sure I could do it. With Maggie, I mean. First off, it's,
like, well, cheating on you. And second off, It's just too weird. I
mean, she's your sister. You ought to be belting me for even thinking about
grinned, amused. He'd forgotten that Ray had missed out on certain key
elements that morning, and didn't realize that Maggie had a slightly
less traditional method in mind for conception. He couldn't resist teasing,
she's a grown woman, not an inexperienced child. She can do as she likes.
If she were to take up with someone clearly dangerous I might feel compelled
to intervene, but I could hardly object to her being with you, since
I know you would never hurt her. As for you being unfaithful, well,
since you have my permission, it hardly counts, does it?"
I guess not." He fidgeted for a moment, then sent Ben a slightly
panic-stricken look. "But jeez, Fraser, do you know how long it's
been since I was with a woman? What if I don't remember how?"
Ben couldn't help it.
He laughed. Laughed until tears came. Ray was starting to look annoyed
by the time he finally managed to control himself.
so funny?" Ray snapped.
Ray. You can do to me what you just did, and worry about technique?
I don't think you have anything to fret about. The method is pretty
much the same, just a slightly more, er, northerly destination. You
are an excellent lover, Ray. You believe strongly in reciprocity and
always take the time to make sure that your partner is pleasured, as
well as yourself. I don't believe anyone would ever come away unsatisfied
from making love with you."
went as red as Fraser's dress tunic and grinned sheepishly. "Way
to give a guy a complex, Frase."
was merely being truthful, Ray."
Enough! I mean, jeez, like I'm supposed to fit my head through the door
deliberately dropped his gaze downward. "It should fit as well
as ever, Ray."
groaned at the implied pun, rolling his eyes. Fraser debated telling
him about the basting syringe, and found himself thinking that it was
a terribly sterile way to conceive a child. Effective, perhaps, but
devoid of feeling. Would it not be better for a child to be conceived
in pleasure and caring, than through a clinical procedure? He knew it
was completely irrational, that many very-much-wanted children were conceived
through artificial means, but it just seemed so impersonal.
about it like that, he began to understand Ray's dilemma. The thought
of physical intimacy between Ray and Maggie engendered a strange mixture
of feelings in him, including an unexpectedly strong surge of jealousy.
He really didn't like the idea of sharing Ray. He had read that it was
rare for a woman to conceive on the first try. Sometimes it took months.
Could he do that?
Share Ray, not just once, but on an ongoing basis? Also, would it be
fair to Maggie? Might it not be cruel, in a way, to give her the illusion
of a relationship which had no possibility of continuation? For that
matter, there was a tiny edge of insecurity in him that worried it could
open a door they might not be able to close again. What if Ray and Maggie
came to care for each other? Where would that leave him?
he remembered the way Ray's face had lit up when he'd realized that he
really might be able to achieve that long-relinquished dream. Could
he take that away from him? No. He would do whatever it took to make
it happen. Whatever it took.
it would be Maggie's call as to how to proceed. She might have no interest
in all at doing things in a non-clinical fashion. It hadn't been all
that long since Casey's death, and she had loved him, even if he hadn't
been quite the man she thought he was. She should have options, though, no matter
which she chose.
too quiet, Fraser. What's up?"
was just thinking about Maggie," Ben confessed. "My ill-conceived
suggestion was as much of a shock to her as it was to you."
Ray agreed. "I saw her face. So you need to go talk to her, too?"
"I'm afraid I do,
and stretched. "Okay, I'm pretty wiped right now anyway,"
he yawned widely. "Go see her, I'll just take a little nap."
Fraser shook his head
in mock disgust. "Typically male, falling asleep right after sex."
"Hey, what do you want?
I am male! But if you want to go another round, I could prob'ly
wake up," Ray said, hopefully.
chuckled. "Go ahead and sleep. I'll be back in a little while,
food," Ray suggested, reaching for the blankets, pulling them up
around himself as he curled onto his side, head pillowed on his arm.
"Something other than pemmican. Stuff always gets stuck in my teeth."
Fraser found himself
wondering where the nearest Chinese restaurant was, and how long it would
take to get there. Ridiculous thought.
* * *
Maggie had cleaned up
the breakfast dishes and made fresh coffee while Ben was out looking
for Ray. Through the kitchen window she'd seen them return, and head
into the barn. It looked as if things were going well, since Ray had
been laughing, and half-carrying Ben, who had been walking like his knees
were frozen stiff. She wasn't sure she wanted to know why. That had
been some time ago. She supposed they were doing the 'kiss and make
up' thing. Her mouth curved in a smile, remembering similar sessions
between her, and Casey. She missed that. God did she. No, don't think
about it. It only makes you sad.
She was glad that
their fight hadn't been serious. It was clear that they were completely
committed to one another. She smiled. It was only right that Ben should have found someone to share his life with at last, someone to be family. It must have been hard being raised
by his stern grandparents after losing his mother so young, with his father far more absent than present. At
least she'd had her mum, through all the growing-up years, anyway. Her
death had been hard enough as an adult, but not so hard as it would have
been if she'd died when Maggie was just a kid.
She sipped her coffee,
and then stopped, looking into the cup with the odd realization that
if they did go through with this, she wouldn't be drinking coffee much
longer. She'd have to cut out all caffeine. No more beer, or wine
with dinner. She wondered if chocolate was safe. Surely just a little
knock at the door startled her momentarily, then she knew it must be
in!" She called, and the door opened to admit Ben, looking tousled,
his face, especially his mouth, a bit abraded. She had to stifle a grin.
Beard-burn. Definitely kiss-and-make-up. She pretended not to notice.
Diefenbaker trotted in behind Fraser just before he closed the door.
"Hi, Ben, everything
said, smiling in a way that made her blush.
looked away. Really, she shouldn't think about things like that. Especially
not when one of the parties was her brother. Half-brother to be sure,
and only recently discovered, but still. She thought back to her first
meeting with Ben, and shivered a little. Thank goodness Ben had figured
out their connection when he had.
I'm sorry about what I said before. It was ill thought-out, and quite
all right, Ben. I was a little surprised, but you know, you do have
a point. It would solve quite a few difficulties. However, I could
see that Ray wasn't too keen on the idea."
could say that," Ben said, ruefully.
wanted to talk to you about what would be . . . involved."
the project of which we spoke."
project?" Maggie frowned, puzzled. "What proj . . . Oh."
She blushed as she figured it out. "Well, First I suppose we'll
have to plan when to do it. Actually, it's probably too soon, but right
now would be ideal, I'm fairly sure I'm in the proper point in my cycle."
She cleared her throat and looked at Diefenbaker. "When Casey and
I were together . . . well, let's just say that for safety's sake I
familiarized myself with the indicators, and I've got them now."
Ben asked, puzzled.
the usual." She avoided his gaze some more. "Mood-swings,
cravings for high-fat foods, a change in the . . . um, there are other
signs. Physical ones."
I see. Well, that brings me to my point, I suppose." He cleared
his throat uncomfortably, and stared out the window. "Maggie,
I know you were planning to use a, shall we say, 'non-traditional' means
of conception, however, I thought I ought to tell you that I, I mean,
we, would understand and cooperate, should you prefer the, er, the more
conven. . . ." She thought about it for a moment, then her face went
rosy. "Ben! Are you telling me that . . . are you offering to
let me 'borrow' Ray?"
tugged nervously at the collar of his sweater. "I, well, yes, I
suppose that would be one way to put it."
he know you're doing this?"
no, not really. But since he doesn't know the full extent of your plans,
I'm afraid he's assuming that. . . and, well, I didn't tell him otherwise
yet, because I thought that it should at least be offered as an option,
since it is generally the, ah, preferred method."
She thought about it for a moment, weighing options, considering, then
she shook her head and sighed. "No. I really think we'd best stick
to my original plan. Anything else would probably be a bad idea. I
mean, he's a great guy, and I'm sure he's wonderful in . . . other ways,
too, but I know myself. I'm very territorial, I suspect you are too."
"Actually, I am
finding that I am. Surprisingly so, to be frank."
you see? I knew it!" She shook her head, giving him an affectionately
exasperated look. "You know, Ben, sometimes politeness can be taken
to extremes. Just because it's good manners to offer someone a bite
of your cake doesn't mean you have to do it. Sometimes it's perfectly
acceptable to be selfish."
I suppose it depends on the situation," Ben said, frowning slightly.
"For heaven's sake,
Ben! If someone, oh, say Sergeant Frobisher, asked if it was okay with
you if he slept with Ray would you say yes, just to be polite?"
Ben stared at her with
the oddest expression on his face, and gave a strangled laugh. "Good
God, no! And I'll thank you not to put images like that in my head!"
Maggie giggled. "Sorry,
it was the first name that came to mind. Would Inspector Thatcher have
been a better choice?" she asked with feigned innocence.
"All right, all
right, I'll stop. By the way, it's still your turn to cook."
"So it is. Would
you prefer lunch or dinner, considering the hour?"
don't care as long as it's food. I'm starving, and I can't believe Ray's
not in here sniffing around the icebox!"
being polite and giving us time to talk. We'll make a proper Canadian
of him yet. I'll start lunch. Would you mind going over and letting
him know? I was going to take him some food but this will be better."
"Not a problem,"
she said, smiling. "I'll go roust him."
* * *
"Ray? Wake up Ray."
Ray ignored the voice.
"Come on, Ray.
Time to get up."
Not yet. Just a little longer.
will be ready soon."
That was almost worth getting up for. He thought about it for a moment,
then drifted again, still pleasantly lethargic.
if you don't get up, I'll have to get you up."
oh. Threats. Well, they never had worked well. He made a noncommittal
noise and burrowed down deeper into the blankets. The next thing he
knew, there was something very cold and wet slithering down his neck
and over his shoulders to soak into the blankets.
With a growl he exploded out of his nest and reached for his tormentor.
He actually had them pinned by the time he got his mind around where
he was, and who he was pinning.
Maggie!" he said, staring down into her face. "What the hell
do you think you're doing?"
looked up at him calmly, despite the fact that they were nose-to-nose.
"I was attempting to get you out of bed."
couldn't just say 'Hey, Ray, time to get up?"
tried that. For twelve minutes. You were ignoring me rather spectacularly."
"Oh. Well, a guy's
gotta be good at something, right?" He grinned.
Ray, do you think you could . . . move?"
realizing he was lying on top of her, buck naked, he let go of her like
she was a hot poker, rolling away to grab damp blankets and wrap them
around himself. "Sorry," he muttered, blushing.
quite all right, Ray," she said, sitting up. "Sorry about
the snow," she grinned suddenly. "But it was rather effective,
you dare tell Fraser, or he'll take to doing that!"
eyed him speculatively. "What'll you give me to keep quiet?"
What d'you want?"
thought about that for a bit, and then smiled and shook her head. "Nothing
that would be a good idea."
looked at him interestedly. "That goes quite far down, doesn't
his blankets higher. "Maggie!"
laughed. "Relax, I'm not planning to check your teeth. Or anything
her suspiciously for a moment, then relaxed. Slightly. He knew she
was as good as her word, just like Ben, but sometimes they had a slightly
different interpretation of things than he did, so it never hurt to be
So, scat, and I'll get dressed and come over."
won't go back to sleep?"
that? You gotta be kidding me!"
making sure," she said blandly, rolling to her feet in that same
graceful way that Fraser did. Funny, he'd never thought that simple
physical grace might be hereditary, but he couldn't think of anything
else that explained it. They hadn't known each other as kids so they
couldn't have unconsciously picked up each other's mannerisms. Old Man
Fraser must have passed along some damned good genes, along with a few
that were pretty weird.
up, embarrassed to be caught woolgathering. "Yeah?"
said you thought I meant . . . well, anyway, I just wanted to reassure
you that I've no intention of . . . I mean, you don't have to, um, well,"
she blushed as pink as he had been moments earlier, then her chin lifted
stubbornly. "Oh, you know what I mean!"
stared back at her, trying to puzzle it out, and finally gave up. "Nope,
not a clue."
blush deepened. " I mean there are other methods. To use. You
do?" he asked, still confused. "Gimme a hint."
chewed her lip, looking distressed, then threw up her hands. "Oh,
just ask Ben. He'll explain!"
that she fled. Ray starred after her, utterly baffled. That must have
been the influence of the weird genes. Jeez, if the kid they were planning
ended up with both Ray's weird genes and all those Fraser weird
genes, then he, or she, would be in trouble. He wondered if there was
a way to make sure only the non-weird ones got passed on. Probably not,
not outside of a lab in Scotland somewhere, he thought, musing about
sheep and cloning.
lightbulb went on in his mental refrigerator. A lab in Scotland .
'Other methods. To use. You know.' Oooooh. So that was what
Maggie had been trying to say. So he was sometimes a bit slow when he
first woke up. Who wouldn't be? She could have come right out and said
'artificial insemination,' or 'in vitro.' He wasn't an idiot! He shook
his head, laughing. Okay, that made things easier. A lot easier.
He unwound his blankets
and got up, looking around for his clothes. Funny, he thought. Six
months ago if he'd wound up naked on top of Maggie, probably the last
thing he would have done was grab a blanket and let her go Strange how
much difference a few months could make.
* * *
Fraser walked into the
cabin, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand, starting to unfasten
his tunic with the other. He looked around, a little puzzled that the
room was empty, until the bedroom door opened a fraction of an inch,
then was pushed wider.
it's you," Ray said, stepping out, looking relieved.
did you think it was?" Fraser asked, amused.
ran a hand through his hair with a wry grimace. "I, ah, thought
it might be Maggie."
heard the trepidation in Ray's voice, and lifted his eyebrows. "And
that would be a bad thing?"
it would, fer sure. I finally decided I'd better just hole up and hope
she thought I'd gone to town or something."
"Well, lessee, she's
bored, she's gained fifty-six pounds, has a constant backache, fat ankles,
breasts like watermelons, and it's all my fault."
Fraser said, the light dawning. "I believe I understand."
"I reminded her
this was her idea in the first place, but she didn't want to hear that."
Ben chuckled. "No,
I would imagine not, whether or not it's true."
grinned. "Guess I can't blame her. She did get the hard part of
the job. All I had to do was let you . . . ." He saw the color starting
up Ben's face, and chuckled. "Anyhow, I'm glad you're home. Since
she can't blame things on you, you can deal with her."
a problem, Ray."
Man, she was on a roll today. I asked if she felt okay, and she about
took my head off. I figured I'd better not press my luck. Anyway,
enough about my day, how was yours?"
as usual. One arrest."
and disorderly?" Ray queried, grinning.
see you're already familiar with the standard arrest patterns here,"
Fraser said drily. "Well, you're close. This time it was 'public
nuisance.' You know, I almost hate to admit this, but we had much more
interesting and challenging cases in Chicago."
did, but then again we almost got killed on a regular basis in Chicago,
so I think it's a fair trade-off."
certainly true." Ben took off his tunic and moved into the bedroom
to hang it up.
followed him in, leaning against the door. "You wouldn't need a
file clerk or something would you? I'm going a little stir-crazy."
Ben smiled. "I
knew you couldn't stand it for long. Let me see what I can find for
you. You have previous law enforcement experience, that ought to count
for something. I'll check the regs and see what we could have you do,
although, in little under two weeks you'll have your hands full around
"Yeah, I did volunteer to be Mister Mom, didn't I?
sat down to take off his boots, and Ray knelt beside him to unlace one
while he finished the other. When he stood back up to unzip his trousers
and take them off so he could change, Ray remained on his knees, and
looked up with a wicked grin as he reached out to slide his hands down
Fraser's hips, under the wool of his trousers.
know what I want for dinner."
put out. "Why?"
need to check on Maggie, you said she was having a rough day."
Ray nodded, giving in
gracefully. "She is, and that's a good idea. I can wait for that.
See if she'll come over and eat. I don't think she had lunch."
Fraser pulled on jeans
and a sweater, slid his feet into a pair of mukluks, then left the cabin and walked the few feet to where they had moved Maggie's trailer up against the side of the cabin. He knocked
After a moment there was a respose. "Yeah, Ben. Come
on in. I'm decent. Or at least I'm dressed. I'm far from decent, as
I'm afraid poor Ray can testify."
did mention you were a little, ah, emotional today," he said, stepping
inside to find his sister sitting at her table, leaning forward with
her head on the table and both hands on her lower back. He frowned.
"Is something wrong?"
the usual. A backache that won't go away for love nor money."
"Would you like
me to . . . ."
you'd never ask," she said, smiling gratefully as she moved her
hands so he could massage her back for her. "I should have asked
Ray to do it, but I was too busy being crabby. I hope he won't hold
this against me."
think he understands, Maggie. I wouldn't worry about it."
So, how was work today?"
chuckled as he moved over to where she sat. "You and Ray, both.
You always ask. Neither of you can stand being out of the loop. Well,
let's see, today I had the vastly exciting duty of arresting Davy Robillard
for being a public nuisance."
smiled, arching her back against the careful pressure of his hands.
"Still courting Josie, is he?"
a one-man-band setup now," Fraser confirmed. "Of course, she
bailed him out. Why she doesn't just marry him I'll never know. It
would certainly cost her a lot less money."
but then she'd have to put up with him all the time, instead of just
a couple of times a week."
is that," Fraser confirmed, smiling. Beneath his hands he felt
the muscles of Maggie's back tighten, and she sucked in a breath, wincing.
she sighed. "Eleven days to go. I can't wait!"
smiled. "I would imagine so."
continued his massage, gently. After a few minutes she started to relax,
nice. It really does help."
she tensed again, and he frowned, fanning his fingers out to either side
of her spine, low, just above her tailbone, feeling the sudden tension
that had exploded across her lower back slowly begin to fade. He frowned.
That didn't feel like backache. That felt suspiciously like a contraction.
"How long have
you had this backache?" he asked casually.
long is all day?"
woke up with it, okay? What is this, you don't get to interrogate enough
suspects in town?"
"Humor me. Have you had any Braxton-Hicks contractions?"
laughed. "I've been having those for weeks now. Why should today
you sit up please?"
sat up, and looked over her shoulder at him. "Sure. Why?"
"May I?" He
asked, his hands moving forward to hover above the tight, hard curve
of her distended belly.
frowned, then shrugged and nodded. "I guess."
spread his hands over the lower curve, fingers gently searching, probing.
nodded, but didn't stop, just lightened his touch a little. Down very
low in the pelvic cradle he could feel a small hard curve. The baby
was definitely engaged. He started to lift his hands, then stopped,
stunned as he found what felt like . . . No. It couldn't be. Surely
the midwife would have noticed long before this. He ventured higher,
frowned; moved lower, frowned some more. As he explored, he felt her
muscles go tight again, and she winced, reaching to rub her lower back
again. Finally he lifted his hands and looked into her face, his gaze
is there something you haven't told us?"
stared at him warily, and licked her lips. "Um, what do you mean?"
"What I mean is
that unless I'm very much mistaken, you're carrying twins."
he repeated, stunned. "Good God, Maggie! Didn't you think we should
bit her lip, and avoided his eyes. "Of course I did, but I knew
you'd find out in the long run, and also I knew you two would be absolutely
unbearable if I told you, and I didn't want to spend my entire pregnancy
smothered in cotton wool! I'm healthy as a horse, I'm not high risk,
and Mary Lightfoot has delivered a goodly number of twins over her thirty
years in practice! So you can just forget about making me go to the
hospital on the twenty-third! I want my babies born here, damn it! "
She finished her diatribe
with a glare that was hot enough to scorch. He lifted his hands placatingly.
Ray and I would have respected your wishes."
you would have, after you managed to talk me into doing whatever you
thought would be best. But like I said, you can forget about it. I'm
having these babies right here."
it would appear so," Fraser said. "So if you'll excuse me
I'm going to ask Ray to drive out to get Mary and bring her back."
Maggie stared at him
in labor, Maggie. Probably have been all day."
rolled her eyes. "Don't be silly! I think I would know if I was
in labor, Ben."
delivered a baby before, Maggie, and it's clear to me that the lower
baby's head is firmly engaged, and you appear to be having regular contractions."
"Regular con. .
. I am not!"
nodded. "You are. Four and a half minutes apart, by my estimate.
Perhaps a bit more."
thought about it, and shook her head, frowning. "I'm not in labor,
I just have a backache."
believe that you're experiencing what they call 'back labor.'"
"My water hasn't
I recall from my reading, it doesn't always break before labor is well
established. Look, Maggie, even if you're not in labor, it won't hurt
to have Mary come out and take a look at you, right? Perhaps she might
be able to recommend something for your back."
. . . I guess so. But can't Ray stay? I-- I mean, well, if you're
right, he should be here."
should, but under the circumstances he needs to be the one to go
for Mary, since I've delivered a baby before and he hasn't."
She sighed. "Do
you always have to be right? It's very annoying."
Ray often tells me," he said, grinning. "Sorry, it's not something
I have a lot of control over. Don't worry, he'll be back before you
know it. Actually, why don't you come with me over to the main cabin?
That's where all our supplies are, it will be less trouble to do things
nodded, and he helped her to her feet, supporting her as they walked
back over to the cabin. Ben tried not to let his concern show. She
was nearly two weeks early, and delivering twins. He wasn't at all prepared
for this, but he couldn't let her see that. She needed him now, and
he would be there.
* * *
Ray stirred the soup
on the stove and glanced at the door again. He'd figured Ben would be
back by now. Must be having a heart-to-heart. Maggie probably needed
someone to talk to that she wasn't mad at. Finally he heard footsteps
on the porch, and had started to relax when a startled yelp from outside
brought him alert. That was Maggie's voice.
dashed across the room to throw open the door and find Ben there supporting
Maggie, who was standing in a puddle and looking like she was about to
pass out. Ben looked up and saw him, and went into action.
the door, Ray," he said, picking Maggie up and carrying her inside,
through the living room, and into the bedroom. He started to settle
her on the bed, but she protested.
Ben, don't! I'm all wet!"
wasn't until that moment that Ray understood. He and Ben had gone to
all the classes with Maggie. He knew what this was. Her water had just
broken. Oh. Shit. He stood there, frozen in place, trying to breathe.
"Ray, get her something
to wear," Ben ordered.
broken, Ray pawed through the closet and found one of Ben's flannel shirts.
That would do. Grabbing it, he turned to find Ben stripping off the
sheets so he could put down the oilcloth pad Mary had recommended using
to protest the mattress. Maggie was nowhere in sight.
toward the bathroom they'd added to the cabin a few months earlier "In
there. Hand her that, and then we're going to need you go drive out
to Mary's and bring her back. I would go, but since I've had at least
a little experience with birthing, I think I need to stay."
"But, it's not the
twenty-third," Ray said, nonsensically. "We've still got eleven
yes. In actuality, no. Maggie's in labor, now, I think she has been
felt a little dizzy. "All day? Why didn't she say something?
Was she that mad at me?"
Ray, she just didn't realize it."
That didn't make a lot of sense to him, how could she not have known?
But it was better than thinking she had deliberately not told him. "What
should I tell Mary?"
her the contractions have been going on most of the day and are between
five and four minutes apart and that Maggie's water broke at six-fifty
still dazed, trying to wrap his mind around the reality of what was happening.
Maggie was in labor. She was having the baby. Now. And he was supposed
to drive somewhere? How? He shook himself. Ben and Maggie need you
functional. Get yourself in gear, Kowalski. He went to the bathroom
door and knocked.
Got a shirt for you," he said.
Ray. Toss it in?"
opened the door a bit and did so. As he started to close it again, she
caught the edge of the door, stopping him. Holding the shirt closed,
she spoke without meeting his eyes.
I'm sorry I was a bitch today," she said, sounding very un-Maggie.
For a moment he was startled,
then he grinned. She was speaking 'Ray,' to make sure he understood.
"Not a problem, Mags, I probably deserved it."
worry about it. If I was you, I'd have probably been a lot worse. I'm
gonna go get Mary now, don't get in a hurry, okay? I want to be here,
blue-gray eyes met his at last. "I know. I'll do my best."
"It's a sure thing,
then. You Canadian's never go back on your word. It wouldn't be polite."
She smiled. "No,
we don't. Drive safely, Ray."
do," he said smiling back at her. "Remember, if you feel like
smacking some guy around, don't hit Ben, 'cuz you need him. Wait until
I get back and hit me instead. This is all my fault, anyway, remember?"
She laughed. "That's
right. I'll try to remember."
turned and looked at Ben, who was re-making the bed with perfect, hospital
corners. He shook his head. Only Ben would bother at a time like this.
"In the ignition."
Ray sighed, shaking his
head. "Fraser, one of these days someone's going to steal that
thing and then where will you be? Never mind, don't answer that. I'll
be back as soon as I can."
* * *
Maggie paced the cabin,
knowing that it would be best in the long run for her to do so, though
her body was starting to demand, loudly, that she get off her feet.
Ben was pacing with her, which was getting irritating, and she was already
annoyed with him for being right. It was embarrassing to have to have
someone else tell you that you were in labor. She should have figured
that out for herself. It just hadn't felt like what she'd been expecting!
In addition to Ben, nearly
everything was starting to be irritating, from the temperature in the
room, to the placement of the furniture, to the color of the shirt Ray
had given her to replace her wet dress. Funny, now that she knew she
was in labor, it hurt worse. Was it all in her head, or was it because
her water had finally broken and the process was accelerating? She stopped
pacing for a moment and turned to look at Ben.
nodded. "Of course."
am I up to?"
minutes. How are you feeling?"
do you think I feel? I hurt!" At his sympathetic expression, some
of her irritation eased, and she sighed. "I feel . . . weird. My
knees keep trying to give out."
don't have to walk, you know."
said it was best to walk as long as I could. So I will."
seem to recall she mentioned squatting as an acceptable alternative."
She shook her head. "No,
I don't want to do that yet."
nodded, letting her make the decision.
long has Ray been gone?" Maggie asked, fretting. She did want
to push. The urge was starting to be nearly irresistible, though she
wasn't going to tell Ben that. But she couldn't push yet. Ray wasn't
back, and she'd promised she would do all she could to wait.
bit over forty minutes."
both knew the trip to Mary's and back would take another twenty minutes
or so, even at Ray's usual speeds. And Mary would have had to load some
things into the vehicle, so that would mean a little longer still.
Another contraction tightened down, and she stopped, breathing deeply,
holding on to the back of a chair until it passed. Hurry, Ray. Hurry.
"Turn the lamp
down, Ben. The light hurts my eyes."
nodded, and turned to comply.
open the window, it's too hot in here."
shot her a look, finished turning down the lamp, then moved to the window
where he hesitated. "Maggie, I realize you probably feel hot due
to the hormonal surges of . . . ."
say it," she growled. "Don't even think it, or I won't be
responsible for my actions. Just open the damned window!"
He studied her face,
then wisely opened the window a scant inch. It was enough. Cool air
trickled into the room, and she breathed it in, relieved. A moment later
his hands were lifting the sweaty weight of her hair, letting the air
reach her neck.
you like me to put up your hair?" Ben asked, calmly.
nodded, still standing there clutching the back of the chair, afraid
to let go, because her knees were shaking so hard they wouldn't hold
her without support. Ben went away for a few moments. She was too busy
staring at the woodgrain in the table to notice until he returned with
her brush, a scrunchy, and a wet washcloth. She snatched the latter
item out of his hands and buried her face in its cool, rough wetness.
She nodded. "Much."
He drew the brush
through her hair until it was free of tangles, then twisted it up and
secured it with the hair-tie. It felt wonderful, such a relief. It
occurred to her then that putting up long hair was a strange skill for
a man to know, especially one as habitually short-haired as Ben.
"Where'd you learn
to do that?"
smiled. "You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Try me. I could
use the distraction."
was in Chicago, while I was still partnered with Ray Vecchio. A friend
of his at a Catholic girl's school was having trouble with one of her
pupils, she had run away. Ray was trying to help, and he needed someone
to go into the school, undercover, as a teacher. To respect both his
friend's wishes and the needs of the job, it couldn't be a Chicago police
officer, and it needed to be a woman. He was having trouble finding
someone, so I . . . helped."
found someone for him?"
a manner of speaking," he gentled his voice, remembering the modulations
of tone he had used. "I simply became 'Miss Fraser' for a few days,
until we solved the case."
lifted her head, staring at him in surprise. "You dressed as a
"It was an interesting experience. And, among the many things I
learned was how to use a 'scritchie.'"
smiled. "Scrunchie, Ben, not scritchie."
you are, scrunchie."
stared at him some more, and shook her head. "I'm having trouble
visualizing you in a dress."
was a medium blue, slightly fitted, double-breasted shirt-dress,"
he said helpfully. "With a floral scarf, as the structure of the
throat is quite distinctive between male and female. Ray said I made
a not-unattractive woman."
studied him a moment longer. "I would imagine so. I suspect you
would have looked a bit like the pictures I've seen of your mother."
I didn't. If you'd like to see it, I have a photograph which was taken
at the school dance that Sister Anne sent to me."
like tha . . . oh!" A very strong contraction gripped her, stealing
her breath, her thoughts. She rode it, breathing hard, trying not to
push, trying not to push. Finally it left her, and she found herself
on her knees, gasping for breath, the chair-back still clamped in white-knuckled
up the washcloth and gently wiped the back of her neck, and then her
face. "A strong one?"
nodded. "Biggest yet."
you sure you're not feeling the urge to push?"
laughed shakily, and stopped trying to deny it. "I think you can
safely assume we've gotten to that point now."
thought as much." He frowned, and looked past her, clearly uncomfortable.
"Maggie, at this point you should probably be examined to see if
you're fully dilated and if it's safe to begin active pushing, but .
. . well . . . you understand my dilemma, I'm sure."
nodded. "You're my brother, and on top of that you're shy. I understand."
He reddened. "Ah,
well, yes, that too, though I was primarily concerned with the fact that
I have rather large hands."
thought about that and winced. "Ouch. Yes, you do. But you don't
have to do anything, now, we can wait until Ray gets back with Mary,
since I promised him I would wait."
well then, that's what we will do," he said firmly. "Is there
anything I can do to help you not push?"
frowned. "Sing what?"
so long as I know it too. Nursery songs, folk songs, anything."
He thought for a moment,
then started to sing. She joined in, between contractions, as best she
* * *
Driving out to Mary Lightfoot's
place and then back to the cabin had felt like the longest eternity of Ray's entire life. He'd flipped on the light-bar to increase his visibility,
put it in fifth and redlined the tach most of the way. He'd been glad
there was no traffic to speak of and for once, no moose on the road.
Pulling up outside Mary's cabin, he'd left the engine running as he leaped
out and run to her door. The heavyset Native woman had opened the door,
listened to his somewhat frantic demands and explanations, then had calmly
told him to get her things and they would go.
wanted to just throw the stuff unceremoniously into the back of the Rover,
but she had stopped him, pointing out, reasonably, that her equipment
and supplies would be of little use in pieces. That sank in and he stowed
things more carefully. Mary got in and had barely fastened her safety-belt
when he'd pulled out again. Most of the way there Mary sat tranquilly
in the passenger seat, looking for all the world as if he weren't driving
like a fiend from hell but as they drew closer to the cabin she had looked
over at him with a slightly odd expression on her face, and he noticed
he snapped, slowing down marginally.
was just thinking that you seem to be awfully nervous for a prospective
he questioned, confused.
smiled. "Raymond, everyone around here knows you're Ben's partner,
not Maggie's. I'm not sure why you felt you had to pretend otherwise
felt his face heat. "You know?"
nodded. "We know."
Well, uh, we thought you might think it was a little weird. What we're
doing, I mean."
shook her head sadly. "I'm a midwife, Raymond, not a bigot. Anyone
with eyes can see there is enough love among you to share with a child,
or two. Maggie should have known me well enough to know that I would
have no difficulty with this. However, it would be best if she put the
actual father's name on the birth certificate, since there are sometimes
reasons later on in life for children to need to know their genetic heritage."
"Real fath. . . ."
Ray took his eyes off the road for a moment to look at her, consternated.
"What's that supposed to mean? I am the real father."
looked at him, and he was almost pleased to see she was a little surprised.
"You're the father?"
nodded, grinning a little. "Yeah."
see," she smiled sheepishly. "That will teach me to make assumptions.
I thought Maggie must have become pregnant, either accidentally or deliberately,
by a stranger when she went to Toronto just before the three of you moved
her trailer up to the cabin. I thought you and Ben were simply helping
her out with this because you're her family."
She went to Toronto to see her boss, and to get some stuff she wanted
that's hard to find here. See, I always wanted kids, and Ben and I can't,
for obvious reasons, but then Mags had this idea that she could help."
She considered that,
and nodded thoughtfully. "True. Well, that certainly explains
some of the questions Maggie was asking me awhile back."
shot her a look. "Questions? What kinda questions?"
smiled. "I don't believe you need to know that."
c'mon!" Ray protested, his curiosity piqued. "You can't just
leave it there! What?"
was simply asking about alternative methods of conception and what things
could be done to assure a positive outcome. I should have realized she
wasn't just asking idle questions." She smiled broadly. "It
would appear that my advice was successful."
He steered onto the dirt cutoff that would take them to the cabin and then looked at her, worried about her earlier comment. "You
really think everyone knows about me and Ben? I mean, we've been pretty
careful, 'cause it could be a real problem, especially work-wise."
She laughed softly.
"Oh, Ray. Yes, you have been very careful, but we do know. You
may not touch each other, but it's in your eyes, your voices, your bodies.
No one here minds, and no one here will tell anyone to whom it might
matter. We're just happy that Ben has someone at last. He was always
such a lonely boy. His grandparents meant well, but what they did was
to raise him out of his time so he never quite fit in anywhere, growing
up with a foot in both worlds, the present and the past. He never really
connected with anyone here, he was waiting for you, I think. He chose
again. "Um, thanks, I think. So how long have you known?"
"Since you arrived,
Raymond. I'm surprised you thought otherwise. We're a small community,
close-knit, very observant, and we have little to occupy our time."
She smiled. "You were a subject of quite a few conversations at
first, but now everyone just knows and things just are, and everything
That would take some getting used to. The thought that everyone knew
he and Ben were lovers was more than a little disconcerting, but if people had known for months and no one had made a stink about it he supposed it
was okay. It was just odd. To his relief, he came over the rise that
blocked the cabin from view and there it was. They were home.
He slid to a stop in
the gravel out front and leaped out, running for the door, praying he
hadn't missed it. He wanted to be there. This was probably the only
time he would ever get to do this. Slamming the door open, he skidded
to a stop, seeing Maggie kneeling in front one of the kitchen chairs,
clutching the back with both hands, Ben at her side. They were singing.
Singing. Though they stopped, looking startled, when he burst into the
room. Singing? This really was a weird family.
I miss it?" Ray gasped out, then realized it was a silly question,
because Maggie was clearly the same size she had been an hour earlier.
"No! I waited!"
Maggie said, breathing hard. "I waited. Mary, can I push? Please,
let me push now. I really have to push."
see, Maggie. Come with me, I'll check." She helped Maggie to her
feet and guided her into the bedroom. She closed the door, then a moment
later it opened and Mary looked out again. "Get my things, please."
Ray nodded, and she closed
the door again. He found he couldn't move just yet, he was frozen to
the spot with relief. Ben got to his feet and came over to him. "Ray,
are you all right?"
Fine. We have to get Mary's stuff." He still couldn't move.
Ben smiled. "I'll
get it. Why don't you stay here and catch your breath?"
nodded. "Breath is good"
softly, Ben left to go get Mary's supplies. A soft canine whimper made
Ray turn, and he found Diefenbaker standing by the closed bedroom door,
looking concerned. He must have just come in from outside. He always
had been extremely protective of Maggie, and he didn't like not having
access to her now when he could probably smell her stress and sense her
okay, Dief. She's just having a baby. That's kinda like having puppies,"
Ray said, trying to reassure the wolf.
more accurate than you know," Fraser said from the doorway, carrying
Mary's medical bag in one hand, her supplies bag in the other. "I
have something important to tell you. You may want to sit down,"
he said, moving toward the bedroom with his burden.
imaginings began to fill Ray's head, and he groped for the chair Maggie
had just been hanging onto a moment earlier, sinking into it, gaze fixed
on Ben's face. "What? She's not gonna die is she?"
put down the bags in front of the bedroom door and quickly moved to Ray's
side, taking his hands. "No, no, Ray. I'm sure Maggie will be
wrong with the baby then?"
Ray, nothing's wrong, per se. It's just that Maggie kept something
it out, Fraser! I can't take much more of this!"
what you said about having puppies?" Ben asked.
stared at him. "You can't be trying to tell me she's having puppies.
It doesn't work that way."
of course not, Ray. Sorry, I should just tell you."
you shou . . . ."
"Maggie's carrying twins," Fraser said in a rush. "She didn't tell
us earlier because she didn't want us to become overly concerned."
Ray stared at him. Puppies.
No, twins. Not puppies. Get it right Twins. He wondered what it felt
like to faint. It seemed like a good time to find out, but it didn't
seem to be happening. He was still conscious. Just in shock. Finally
he found his voice. It squeaked.
She's having twins?"
Ray. Right now."
Twins." It wasn't sinking in. He knew what the words meant but
he couldn't quite get them to make sense.
nodded again. "I know. It was a surprise to me as well."
Maggie would like you to come help her now."
both turned to see Mary standing in the now-open bedroom doorway. Ray
shot to his feet and wobbled, Ben steadied him. Mary smiled.
remember what to do?"
nodded. "Yeah. The breathing thing. This is really happening,
right? I'm not dreaming?"
really happening, Ray. You're not dreaming."
You sure? Twins?"
sure." Ben said.
felt the surge of an adrenalin rush starting to kick in. He could do
this. They'd practiced for ages. He took a deep breath. "Well,
come on, we better get in there before she gets mad."
* * *
Caroline Amanda was born
a little over an hour later. It took four more hours before Robert Benton
made his debut. It was another two hours by the time everyone and everything
was cleaned up and settled, and the house was quiet again. Mary had
gone to Maggie's trailer to catch a few hours of sleep before she went
home. Maggie was asleep in the main bedroom within easy reach of the
twins, who were safely ensconced the cradle that she had bought in Toronto
as soon as she'd found out she had conceived. Ben and Ray were sharing
a bedroll on the floor near the woodstove. After a full day of work
and then most of a night assisting with the births, Ben was half asleep.
Ray, on the other hand, was completely wired.
Ben, they're so little. I never really thought about how little babies
are. When I held them, I was scared I might hurt them, by accident."
"You won't hurt
them, Ray. You know that."
I do, but it's still there, that scared feeling."
adrenalin," Ben told him, trying not to smile.
that's part of it, yeah, but there's more. I mean, there's something
incredibly frightening about holding a baby in your hands, they're so
. . . fragile, and they need you so much. Then on top of that scary feeling,
there's also that huge 'what if I screw up' kind of fear there."
"I think the very
fact that you have those fears and are willing to admit them shows that
you'll be a good father, Ray. I'm sure you will."
Ben. Not me, we."
smiled, feeling a rush of warmth that made his chest ache a little.
"Yes, we will."
was incredible," Ray said, for at least the fortieth time.
"Go to sleep, Ray,
you're going to need it," Ben encouraged, hoping to get a least
a little bit of sleep himself.
know, Ben, but, it was just so . . . so . . . ." his voice trailed
off. "I can't describe it. I mean, it was kinda disgusting, but
was there, Ray."
know, but it's just . . . ."
know, Ray. It was."
laughed. "Sorry, Ben. I'm keeping you awake, aren't I?"
Ben agreed evenly, but with amusement.
"You said that already."
"Sorry. I mean.
Oh hell, I don't know what I mean. I'm just off my head, you know."
"I do indeed,"
Ben said, grinning despite himself. "It's quite clear."
"I just can't believe
suspect belief will set in shortly following the first diaper change."
Ray chuckled. "Oh
yeah. I think you may be right about that." He suddenly clutched
Ben's arm. "Ben? Diapers! We got diapers?"
Ray," Ben reassured him. "We have everything we need."
Ray was quiet for a moment,
then he reached out and put his arms around Ben, hugging him fiercely.
"Yeah, I do. Thank you, for giving me this."
wasn't my gift, Ray. It was Maggie's."
was yours too. You let me have this. You gave me permission."
"You didn't need
I did. If it hadn't been all right with you, I couldn't have gone ahead
with it. I needed it to be okay with you. I couldn't do this alone."
"You won't be alone,
Ray. I promise you that."
sighed, and curled closer against him. "You won't either,"
he said as if he knew that deep inside, Ben had all the same fears that
he did. He just was better at hiding them.
smiled and tightened his arms around Ray, knowing he would read in that
as much answer as he needed. In the silence that followed, a tiny, mousy
cry sounded, and they both sat up, listening intently. It wasn't repeated.
The hiss and crackle of the fire in the woodstove was once more the only
sound in the quiet. Slowly they both relaxed, and Ray chuckled.
"That's gonna take
some getting used to."
suspect, Ray, that is quite likely to be an understatement."
"I think you're
right. Better hang onto your Stetson, 'cause I think we're in for a hell
of a ride."
* * * Finis * * *
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