At the Old Ballgame

by Pollitt

Disclaimer: The characters are the creations of others, and therefore I have no ownership. The muses, however, are mine (though I do not own them, they stay with me of their own choosing)

Author's Notes: Anne - for the wonderful beta job; for spending hours talking with me, reading the lines, making sure it sounded just right, and for liking it. Beth - for your encouragement, support, and title help. Pam, Star and Barbara - for everything, e-mails, encouragement for me and the muses.

Story Notes: For the purpose of this fic, Ray insisted his birthday was September 14.
Also, previously considered titles included: Blue Skies and Baseball [Thank you to Beth for that one]; Perfect Day (aka Happy Birthday, Ray)

Ray grabbed the two cups - pinching the rims to carry them in one hand, shoving the change in his pocket with the other.

Friday afternoon in the middle of September and Ray had the day off. Blue skies, high in the upper 60's and the Cubs were having a winning season - life didn't get much better than this, he thought. Well, okay, it would be better if it didn't cost an arm and a leg just to buy two drinks. And if the Cubs were to win today he's be happy. Win the World Series and he'd be thrilled.

"Ray." Benton Fraser's voice called from somewhere just past the clump of blue- and white-faced Cub fans to Ray's left.

Okay, Ray amended, one more thing, Fraser was here at the game, with him, and Ray couldn't think of anything else, although it'd still be great if the Cubs were to win, that could make today better. That he could ask for.

Like the parting of the Red Sea, the fans parted and there was Fraser - blue t-shirt, jeans, brown leather jacket - waiting, hands clasped behind his back, smiling. The excitement that had been radiating off Ray in waves since that morning, when Fraser had presented him with two tickets to the Cubs game as a birthday present, was nothing if not contagious, and Fraser couldn't have wiped the smile off his face if he had tried. Nearly five years in the United States and he was finally learning to appreciate the game of baseball, to feel that rush of anticipation on game day, and, if he were to be truly honest, to crave a Chicago-style hot dog to enjoy as the game began. It would never take the place of curling. No, that was a rarified sport, but Fraser would have to admit baseball held it's own magic. The fact that the game, the Cubs specifically, meant so much to Ray, he knew, played no small part.

"Here," Ray said, lifting the cups for Fraser to grab, "I have to grab my sunglasses"

Turning, they began to walk towards the bleachers, Ray retrieving his sunglasses from his black leather jacket - an early birthday present from Frannie, who had lamented the loss of his previous one when he had been on the Henry Allen - and to carefully stashing his ticket in his wallet. Packrat that he was, Ray had every ticket to every Cubs game he's been to since that first one with his dad and his brother when he was eight. Every single Cubs ticket was stored in an old cigar box of his dad's that he kept in his dresser drawer - all except for one, that is.

"Here, let's head in there." Ray said, spotting an open space a few rows down, and as they walked down the stairs, started his story, knowing Fraser could hear him. "I haven't been to a game on my birthday since I was a kid -"

"Excuse me, thank you kindly. Oh, I am sorry sir." Fraser said as he slid down the aisle, careful not to spill their drinks or to step on any of the others who were already seated. "- the Mets game, correct, Ray?"

"Yeah, told you this already, haven't I?" Sitting, Ray tossed a hot dog wrapper off the bench before Fraser sat down.

"Yes, but I don't mind hearing it again." Fraser settled on the metallic seat, taking in the various painted faces and signs of - to use Ray's words - their fellow "bleacher bums" that surrounded them. Catching Ray's gaze and smiling as their hands touched just a moment longer than needed when he handed Ray his drink, he added. "After all, you listen to all of my stories so intently, it wouldn't be too polite not to return the favor."

"Hardy ha-ha-ha, Ben." Ray's thumb brushed over Fraser's as he took away his drink. "Funny Mountie. Anyhow, it was my birthday, and my dad took the day off to take me, just him and me. Our seats were right behind the Cubs dugout; we're talking prime seats and those babies aren't cheap. We had hot dogs and peanuts; damn it was the best!"

"The Mets were slaughtering the Cubbies, which wasn't great, but I was just flying on being there. And then, then, it was the bottom of the eighth, Mets 6, Cubs 3, and we had two outs, bases loaded. A rookie, Krukow, came up to bat. My dad said the manager must've felt sorry for the kid, so we shouldn't hope for much. Then pow - grand slam. I'm not kidding, I was on cloud nine for a week about that win."

"It's a wonderful memory, Ray."

"Yeah, it was damn near perfect." The crowd stood as the National Anthem began to play signaling the beginning of the game.

Sitting in the bleachers is like coming to a family reunion, Ray thought as the guy next to him offered him some nachos. Lots of people, most of them freaks. But no matter if you just met that day, the idea of "personal space" and "stranger" went right out the window. In any other circumstances, Ray might've gotten irritated, but it was the bleachers, it was the Cubs, it was tradition. Plus, it was a nice excuse to be pressed against Ben's side.

If Fraser had never believed it before, Ray's words - that a Cubs game experienced from the bleachers was like a whole different world - rang true. It wasn't curling. And Fraser couldn't recall ever having or hearing of a fellow spectator, a complete stranger, at a curling match drunkenly throw her arms around his neck when their team scored. He didn't miss the smirk on Ray's face, and Ray's arm wrapping around Fraser's waist a moment later was not lost on the woman, who turned back to her engrossed-in-the-game companion. But the game was more enjoyable than he'd've imagined, especially with Ray at his side. It was, however, the perfect opportunity to go through with what he'd wanted to give Ray for months now. More than once he had reached into the pocket of his leather jacket, to reaffirm that the gift, the real gift for Ray, was safely in its place. He'd searched all over for it, following a few false leads, until he had finally found Mr. Lankowski's shop, and in the display case, exactly what he had been looking for.

Ray's favorite part of the game, the seventh inning, arrived as the whole stadium stood to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in their usual off-key reverence. Fraser's voice, combined with the fact that he knew every word, made Ray's toes curl and a smile quirk across his face. Then Ben turned, mid-lyric, and met Ray's eyes with a smile that, judging by the laughter in his eyes, had less-than-honorable intentions. Ray wished that they were at home. Jumping Bogart on a damn sexy Mountie for less than pure reasons, not that the Mountie would mind, usually works better within the privacy of one's home, and not surrounded by 40,000 baseball fans.

"That wasn't buddies, Ben," Ray said, one out and three on-base later, his arm thrown companionably over Fraser's shoulder, his lips close to Fraser's ear.

"Understood," Fraser answered, a flush spreading up his neck when Ray's lips brushed against his ear. Nodding towards the field, Fraser said the one thing that could take Ray's mind, momentarily, off of the Mountie next to him. "Ray, Sosa's up to bat."

As it turned out, it was something not to be missed, as the cracking sound, and corresponding visual indicated that the ball was now somewhere on Waveland Avenue. Four Cubs crossed the home plate, and the Cubs had won the game.

"Damn, guess this is a lucky day," Ray boasted as they walked back towards the GTO, some ten blocks away.

"A perfect day?" Fraser asked, looking at the man who walked beside him.

"Almost perfect," Ray stopped and turned to face Fraser, a mischievous and romantic smile spreading across his face as he stepped closer to Fraser.

"Ray, wait. I have one more gift for you." Reaching into his pocket, Fraser could feel the smooth edges of the box in his hand. "I've been wanting to get this for you, I mean..."

"Ray heard the barely noticeable waver in Fraser's voice and, combined with the thumb across the eyebrow, he knew this wasn't just a cheesy "one step closer to over the hill" present like the 2-7 had given him.

"Ben, you got tickets to a sold out Cubs game on my birthday. Not to mention the Cubs won. I don't need anything more..."

The box was rectangular, smooth-edged and had a hinged opening, it was too big for... but Ben wouldn't... Taking a deep breath, Ray took the box and slowly opened it. And promptly felt one of the biggest and most likely goofiest smiles just plaster across his face.

And it was that sight which killed the last niggling bit of worry that had stayed with Fraser, who had been hoping Ray would like it. It being a mint condition, baseball card of Mike Krukow, autographed, and a ticket stub for a seat in the second row, just behind the Cubs' dugout. Dated the September 14th of Ray's 12th birthday.

"Ben, this is, oh my god, how'd you get these? How'd you know?"

"Well, you'd mentioned once that was the only ticket you were without. And after conducting a quick search, combining the Cubs' schedule for September 14 and their games playing the Mets, I came across three possible dates to choose from. So..."

"So you called my dad."

"And he confirmed which was the correct one. As for the card, well, I found a wonderfully entertaining baseball card collector who happened to have one of the few remaining cards for Mr. Krukow."

"It was autographed?"

"No, no I found Mr. Krukow in the phone directory and contacted him and told him that I was in need of his autograph for a birthday present, and he was more than happy to oblige."

"I can't believe this. Wow..."

"So it's adequate?"

"Ya idiot." Ray shook his head and pulled Fraser into a hug, not caring that they were standing at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on the sidewalk in front of the old brownstones. "Of course it is, I love it."

"I'm glad." Ben rubbed his hands over the small of Ray's back and kissed Ray's ear. "I love you."

"Freak." Ray pulled away for a second to put his present in his jacket pocket.


"I love you."

"Happy Birthday, Ray." Ben grabbed Ray's belt loops and pulled him forward, letting his arms wrap around Ray's waist under the leather jacket.

"This," Ray said as his arms wrapped around Fraser's waist and that always thrilling first press of a kiss was shared, "- is what makes it a perfect day."


End At the Old Ballgame by Pollitt:

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