*By GILDA LILY*
I was writing this as "BEYOND THE WALL" was posted, but I decided it was different enough to do my own posting. Please enjoy. I do not own these characters, unless you count morally (or immorally, as the case may be). I do not intend any infringement of copyright here. This is for pure pleasure: ours and the boys'! Rated ERR for Emotionally Ripping and Rendering and R for m/m sex of the graphic (best!) kind. :)
(c) December 19, 1996
It was cold in the cemetery, a damp, gray rawness that seeped into the bones. Benny shivered and pulled up the collar of his dark-blue RCMP coat.
*Strange, how I've been in far colder places, but this place has got me shivering.*
Then he saw Ray.
Standing by a bare, black oak tree, his slim body encased in his enormouse gray coat, a midnight-blue scarf swathing his neck. He wore no hat, and Benny hoped he wouldn't catch cold.
Benny shuddered, remembering the disastrous events that had brought them to this cemetery: Louis' death, his own gathering of evidence that freed Frank Zucco from the murder charge; Ray's fury at what he perceived as betrayal: men and women of the 27th Precinct freezing him out; Irene's accidental death; Ray's wild grief.
Ray had spoken to him briefly after Irene's death, accepting his comfort, but had broken off contact with him since. Benny decided to make the first move.
Ray's attention was on the funeral several yards distant. He didn't notice Benny's approach, or at least, Benny didn't think that he did.
He was wrong.
"What are you doing here, Fraser?"
The words dropped like chunks of a glacier hitting icy-cold water. Benny shivered, but he said firmly, "I came to pay my respects." He had that right.
"You have no rights."
Shocked at Ray's reading of his mind, Benny was speechless. Ray looked at him, emerald eyes glacial. Benny wished he could see *any* emotion in those eyes: anger, contempt, even hatred. Anything was better than this rock-solid wall of sheer ice.
"Then don't. It makes no difference to me. Nothing you do makes a difference to me anymore."
Benny felt his heart sink. He was close to tears but couldn't help himself.
*I've not only lost him as a friend, but all hopes of something more are gone forever.*
His heart began to break into little pieces, disappearing into the icy waters.
Ray turned back to the funeral. Again, Benny stood beside him, listening to the priest say the rites and watching him sprinkle water over the flower-bedecked coffin, and he knew that it was over.
He could no longer '*feel*' Ray beside him, their connection broken. Raw nerve endings dangled and he moaned softly, closing his eyes. A single tear trickled down his cheek. Wind blew, cutting into him as the priest droned on.
He could feel the emptiness close in on him again. Until he'd met Ray, he hadn't even been aware of the loneliness he'd felt. The vast, white expanses of the Territories had been beautiful, but it had been a glacial beauty. No warmth. No feeling. Merely existence.
He knew that women, and not a few men, considered him beautiful. It had shocked him to realize that he'd been like the landscape: beautiful but empty, pristine but without feeling, cool but not warm.
And then he had met Ray: hot-blooded, passionate, and beautiful. Long, elegant fingers that handled the Riv with loving care; slender legs that propelled Ray on his non-stop journey through life; exquisite green eyes that held so many emotions...until now.
Ray had welcomed him into his life, at first with outward prickliness, but Benny had seen through that. Ray needed a hard shell of cynicism to protect the caring, vulnerable man underneath.
Now that man was gone.
He didn't know exactly when he had fallen in love with his friend. Maybe it had been after Victoria. Shame flooded him. Ray must consider his actions in this latest affair a second betrayal.
He only knew for certain that he loved Ray in ways more than a brother. He loved him as the other half of his soul. He loved him as a playful, inventive partner who would pleasure him in bed, and he would do the same. He loved him as a brother and friend who was unceasingly loyal.
He loved him with all his heart.
Sharply drawing in his breath to stifle a sob, he opened his eyes and saw black, gray and brown as the March landscape howled in the wind. The remaining snow was a dirty brown, so unlike the snows of home.
The coffin was lowered into the ground and the mourners left, the grief-stricken Frank Zucco among them. Benny was worried about his state of mind. He blamed Ray for Irene's death. What if he decided to exact revenge in the time-honored tradition of their shared heritage?
Ray was leaving. Benny reached out and snagged his sleeve, desperation making pride go out the window.
"Ray?" he ventured.
For a frozen moment, neither man moved, then Ray shook Benny's hand off and walked away, never looking back.
Tears stung Benny's eyes as he watched his beloved walk away. A cold rain fell. He couldn't say when it had started. Shivering, he began the long walk home.
He entered the apartment, greeted by Dief, and slowly took off his coat, made heavy by a thorough drenching. He shivered as he realized how cold it was in the room. Touching the radiator, he discovered it was frigid.
*No, heat. Oh, dear.*
He wearily sat down on the bed, unlacing his boots. It took awhile, as his fingers were nearly numb with cold. The gloves had only protected him part of the way home.
He stood up and slowly undressed, taking out his red flannels and drawing them over his body like a second skin. All the way home he had walked unseeing, the rain pelting down hard. A hollowness had settled itself in him and he wanted to cry his sorrow until nothing was left, but he feared that he was already empty.
A wave of dizziness washed over him and he sat down abruptly. Coughing, he lay down, pulling the thin blanket over his body. He couldn't stop shaking, and Dief padded over and poked his nose at him and whined.
"It's okay, Dief," he said softly as he patted the wolf's head. "I'll be fine."
Even if he wasn't, he really didn't care. The thought of the long, lonely years ahead depressed him, and he just wanted to sleep and forget the pain for a little while.
* * * * * * * * * *
*He should be cold. Why was he so hot? He moaned as movement brought pain. Fire raced along his limbs as he swirled in a whirlpool of confusion, darkness surrounding him as he trembled with the pain. Lords Above, this was a state of affairs.
He was wandering, lost and alone, a gnawing emptiness scorched by unbearable heat. He felt as if all his own bones had been bleached, and he aimlessly tracked endless sands, the sun burning into his body. His limbs trembled as he stopped, the sea of sand stretching out endlessly before him. He wrapped heated arms around himself, the loneliness almost more than he could bear. He dropped to his knees, tears falling down his cheeks.
Suddenly, he felt the need to lift his head. Blinking away tears, he was astounded to see a figure standing on a dune several yards away. The figure's back was to him, but he recognized who it was immediately.
"Ray!" he called, but his parched throat allowed only a whisper. He began to drag himself forward, fingers leaving a trail in the sand. The figure never turned around, clad only in T-shirt and jeans. Benny tried calling again, this time managing a weak cry, but still no response.
He felt as if he was melting, down, down, into the sand, drowning in a sea of dry, rasping crystals as his heart broke...
* * * * * * * * * *
He blinked. He was no longer in the heat of the desert. He was back in familiar territory, ice and snow his endless vista. Heartened by the change, he walked more quickly over the treacherous landscape, sure-footed after years of practice. The sun reflected off the glaciers, nearly blinding him with its intensity. He felt the loneliness again with a desperation as he pushed forward.
He *had* to find Ray. He *had* to make him understand. He loved him so much, his whole body ached with the need.
He stumbled and fell to his knees, the tears starting again.
Dragging an arm across his eyes, he wondered what his father would say of all the waterworks.
*Probably that I was a disgrace to the uniform.* He hiccuped slightly. *I don't care! I want Ray!*
He slogged along, wishing that Dief were by his side when he stopped short, nearly sliding on the ice.
Ahead of him, several yards away, stood a lone figure. Dressed in a long, gray coat, its folds whipping in the wind, Ray gazed out over the horizon. His back was to Benny, and Dief sat beside him. The wind blew mercilessly, and Benny worried that Ray would catch his death of cold in the coat. At least he had a scarf, its length dancing in the wind.
*He needs a parka and leggings, like the first time he came to see me at the cabin.*
He refrained from calling, fearing that it would drive Ray away. He began to walk faster, slipping and sliding, his hand outstretched. If he could just grab hold of him, he would *have* to listen...
But the distance wasn't being covered. He walked and walked, and he was still just as far away as when he had started. The waterworks began again as the despair grew to be too much. He fell to his knees, letting out a howl of pain that would do Dief proud. The wolf turned and stared at him, honey-gold eyes never blinking. Ray reached out a hand and petted his head, and Dief turned away from Benny.
Benny fell to the ice, snow beginning to fall. It covered him with its relentless softness, and he knew that he was dying...
"I love you, Ray," he whispered.*
*"MORE THAN MY LIFE"*
*He felt a coolness caress his skin as he burned. He felt so dry, as if he were grains of sand that were blowing away in the wind. Dear heavens, was this all there was to death? He had thought from his father's visits that there was more. Perhaps his father had only been a figment of his fevered imagination after all, otherwise he would be here.
*Or perhaps not. He was never there when I needed him.*
He shuddered and cried out, a stab of pain raw and deep inside him. Coolness touched him again but he craved more than that. He wanted soft lips on his, a sweetness that was more delicious than any candy or other delectation. He reached out and grabbed something warm and solid, and sighed.*
* * * * * * * * *
It was the first thing that he heard when he drifted up from a strange limbo. Absence of noise. Absolute silence.
Then he heard it: the light breathing of Dief, a soft murmur, the tiny scrape of a chair on hard wood.
He opened his eyes.
Shock and joy mingled in celestial blue as he regarded his companion.
"Ray," he whispered, his voice a mere croak.
Ray was sitting in a chair by his bed, dressed in a black turtleneck and pants, his dark-gray coat still on. He was petting Dief's head as the wolf gazed solemnly at Benny.
For a split-second, Benny remembered his fevered dream and panic stabbed him. It couldn't be happening again! He clutched the blanket and bit back a whimper.
They stared at each other for a space of time, Ray's eyes closed off as they had been before, his expression unreadable. The ache in Benny's chest grew as he thought, *Nothing has changed.*
But if that was true, then why was Ray here? He needed some answers.
"Ray..." he began.
Ray leaned forward, eyes suddenly alight with something that Benny could not quite identify. He was still glacially calm, a thought that almost had Benny laughing out loud with hysteria.
"Do you really love me?"
"More than my life," Benny breathed, not daring to hope.
Ray kissed him, a sweet, delicate kiss that sent tingles through Benny's body. His eyes were wide as Ray pulled back, a slight smile curving his lips. Afraid that Ray would not continue because of his weakened condition, Benny reached out and grasped Ray's hand, pulling him forward again.
As always with them, they needed no words. Ray understood that while Benny could not engage in wild, passionate sex so soon after his illness, there was an opportunity here for gentle loving.
He kissed Benny again, pouring all his love into it, then stood up and shed his coat. He undressed with an erotic grace that had Benny's heart pounding as he watched. It seemed that once Ray had decided to go this route, he was going all the way.
Standing naked by the bed, he looked down at Benny, fists on hips, the epitome of male pride. Benny's heart swelled with an answering pride and he stretched his hand out. Ray took it and slid under the covers, Benny still dressed in his red longjohns. Ray helped him take them off and then they lay together, Benny damp from his illness but still beautiful.
Ray brushed the damp tendrils of hair from Benny's forehead, looking deeply into crystal-blue eyes. Still a bit touched from fever, they seemed to glow. He reached out a hand and touched the side of his friend's face.
Benny moved his head and kissed the palm of the caressing hand. Ray pulled his body close, their skin pressed together. Benny shuddered, his arm sliding around Ray's slim waist. He pressed trembling lips into the curve of Ray's shoulder, Ray's long legs entwining around his sturdier ones. He nearly sobbed with happiness.
*Oh, if this is a dream, please don't let me wake up!*
Ray's hand was caressing his arm, then his back, and his lips began a tentative exploration of his cheek as he gently pushed Benny's head back to get better access. He kissed him, tongue sliding in to taste the new flavors, then he began to rub his hips up and down, Benny gasping as the sensations tingled through his groin.
He felt lightheaded as Ray continued exploring his mouth while rubbing against him, and he barely managed to caress Ray's back while taking in the wonderful new sensations. Electricity seemed to shoot down his veins, centering in his groin. He squirmed and moaned, the room beginning to spin crazily as the electrical pulses built up between his legs, and he cried out as he came, not certain if he heard the whisper, "Caro," in his ear.
* * * * * * * * * *
Slowly he became aware of warm skin next to him and heard Ray's light breathing. He opened his eyes, confusion showing on his face.
"Welcome back, Benny."
*He called me Benny!
Heart nearly bursting with joy, he impulsively gave Ray a kiss on the lips. He drew back, suddenly frightened. Had he dreamed what had happened after all? Or was he being too much too fast?
"Relax, caro," Ray said as he stroked his shoulder. "I'm not going anywhere."
Benny nearly passed out again from relief. He realized that he must have fainted after that orgasm. He still felt shaky.
"You do a man's ego good, Benny," teased Ray as he smoothed strands of hair from his forehead. "I guess that's what they mean by swooning, huh?"
Benny blushed. "Sorry, Ray. Guess I was weaker than I thought."
"'S'okay." Ray idly stroked his hip next under the blanket.
Benny would have loved to stay quietly ensconced in Ray's arms for hours, but his curiousity was burning up inside him.
"Ray, why were you here? After the cemetery, I thought..."
He stopped, unable to continue. Ray patted his hip and then continued stroking.
"I'm sorry, Benny. I know I've been a bastard this past week."
"I understand, Ray. Grief can be a powerful emotion. And...I deserved it."
"Deserved it?" Ray's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"
"The...ostracism. Your anger. I *did* provoke it. I am sorry that you felt as if I'd betrayed you again."
"Again...?" Comprehension dawned on Ray's face. "Listen, Benny, you did *not* deserve the treatment you received. You did what a police officer is supposed to do: get the facts. Because of you, Louis's real killer is paying. *I* should apologize to *you*. I let my hatred and rivalry with Frank get in the way. Very unprofessional. And to throw you to those wolves in the precinct...sorry, Dief," he apologized at the animal's growl.
"Please, Ray, don't be so hard on yourself." Benny caressed the beloved face.
"All right, only if you promise to do the same."
Benny nodded. Ray continued his story.
"Mr. Mustafi called me and said that you weren't answering your door. He'd seen you go in and as far as he knew, you hadn't gone out again. He could have easily gone in but I rationalized it as checking to see if Dief was okay. I didn't want the wolf to starve." He grinned at Dief's bark of approval. "Anyway, I kept telling myself it was only to take care of Dief that I was coming all the way over here. I felt rotten about what had happened at the funeral, and everyone steered clear of me at home. I'd gone for a drive, trying to clear my head, but nothing seemed to work. When I got back home, I got his call."
Ray briefly closed his eyes, then looked at Benny. "I was so torn up over Irene, Benny, that I kept you walled off. I *was* hurt by what you'd done, but when I finally let my head do the thinking for me instead of my emotions, I knew you'd done the right thing. The pain was so bad that I couldn't feel anything. I didn't dare.
"Then I heard you moan and saw that tear trickle down your cheek, and it was like..."
"A chunk of glacier breaking off?"
Ray smiled slightly. "Yeah, that was it." His voice reflected his fond amusement. "An apt metaphor. Well, I got here and walked right in, since a certain somebody never replaced his stolen locks (Benny smiled at the old complaint) and Dief was practically jumping on me. I followed him in here and saw you on the bed." He began stroking up Benny's ribs. "I knew that I couldn't leave you. Oh, the part of me that didn't want to be hurt again wanted to turn around and leave, but I couldn't. And so I stayed." Silent for a moment, Ray then said, "I heard your nightmare, Benny. I heard you say that you loved me. I knew then that I could never leave."
"Please don't, Ray. Not ever."
And Benny kissed him, forgiveness and love in his lips, and Ray could feel the final shards of the glacier that had grown around his heart break away, disappearing into the icy waters of sorrow as he and Benny turned their faces toward the sunlight, and a new beginning.