Disclaimer: These characters are not mine, no money
is being made from this.
Warnings: This is a slash piece, with all implications, uh, implied.
Summary: An AU where Ray Kowalski meets and falls in love with Constable
Thank Yous: Thank you first and foremost to Denise Raymond, who has
in all ways except literally held my hand throughout the entire conception
and production of this piece. It was to her I first said, "Hey, I've
got an idea about an AU..." and it was she who read this piece ad nauseum
at every single step of the way from unrelated scenes to that which is
upon you. The credit for the image of the Ray-soaking-wet-in-the-kitchen-with-his-fists-clenched
belongs to her, as well as countless other tidbits. I can't imagine
writing this without her.
Thanks also to AuKestrel for an astounding beta job at a time of great
personal trial. Please accept my humble apologies for, obviously, knowing
nothing about commas. ;) You are a lady of true class and inner strength
and I'm honored that you were a part of this project.
Thank you to Kellie Matthews for insights and comments offered, as well.
Dedication: For Denise. There could be no other.
Feedback: Gratefully accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org
It was raining. The
crowd surrounding the gravesite was small: her parents, his parents,
a few friends and co-workers, his lieutenant. The rain sounded loud
on the hastily erected canopy. Katie shifted nervously; her small hand
in Ray's was sweaty. In his other arm, he held 18-month old Stevie,
who really didn't understand what was going on, but sat silently in Ray's
arm, as if he, too, were grieving. Maybe he was. The pastor spoke the
words, but Ray heard nothing. He looked at the casket, held their son
in his arms, their daughter's hand and felt nothing. The canopy above
his head was leaking, evidently, because all at once he saw nothing but
a blur. It was like looking at the gravesite underwater. Someone joggled
his arm, his dad maybe, and his temper flared. He just managed to keep
himself in check and not jab his elbow back. Instead, he gripped Katie's
hand a little tighter and moved forward so she could throw the flowers
she held onto her mother's casket.
moved back and the service concluded. His parents, Stella's parents
gathered around them speaking soothingly and holding out their arms for
Katie, for Stevie. Ray saw nothing, heard nothing and felt nothing.
And he did not let go of his children.
Two years later
At the sound of his name,
Ray Kowalski looked up from Ray Vecchio's desk to see a man he knew immediately
was Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. What
other guy who looked like something off a Christmas tree would walk into
the 27th calling Vecchio's name? When he met Constable Fraser's eyes,
the other man stopped in surprise and then continued to move, somewhat
uncertainly, to where Ray was standing behind the desk.
sorry. I was looking for Ray Vecchio." The startlingly blue eyes
of the Mountie registered confusion and maybe even a little distress.
"Yeah, I figured.
I'm Ray Kowalski." He put his hand out and Fraser shook it politely
but automatically. "Vecchio took an undercover gig while you
were on vacation and I'm here to take over his pending case load."
The Mountie looked stunned and, though Ray wouldn't have thought it possible,
actually lost color in his face. "Hey, there, ho, there. You need
to sit down?"
dropped the file he had been reading and came around the desk in a hurry.
He took the Mountie's arm and pulled him to the chair in front. Ray
pushed him into it and then moved his hand to the back of the Mountie's
neck to push his head down between his knees. He resisted.
uh, thank you. That's quite all right. I'm fine, I assure you."
That fast, he was up again, posture perfect and obviously embarrassed.
He bent to pick up his dropped bags and kept on bending. Ray realized
what was happening, caught his shoulders quickly and shoved him back
into the chair.
one hand on the Mountie's shoulder, Ray pointed with the fingers of his
other hand. "Now, are you gonna stay there this time, or do I have
to kick you in the head?"
closed his eyes. "That won't be necessary."
Okay, head, down." Ray put his hand on Fraser's head and pushed
on it. Fraser complied, dropping it into his hands. "Now, sit.
Stay. I'm gonna go get you some water. You move and I'll leave you
in a heap on the floor, you got that?"
"Okay, then. I'll
be right back." Ray gave Fraser's shoulder a squeeze and a quick
pat before leaving. He walked quickly down the hall to the lunchroom
and got a paper cup of water and, after thinking about it, dug fifty
cents out of his pocket and sprang for some M&Ms. So this was the Mountie
all Vecchio's cases mentioned. Didn't seem quite so much like Superman
this morning. Vecchio's gig had blindsided him, that was for sure.
Must not have told him. Ray didn't get it, but then it wasn't his place
to get it.
the Mountie was right where he'd left him--in the chair with his head
in his hands. A white dog that looked a lot like a wolf had suddenly
materialized next to him and seemed to be watching him with some concern.
As Ray came closer, Fraser dropped a hand from his head and buried it
in the dog's fur.
I got you some water and some candy to, you know, get your blood sugar
looked up and smiled, a little half-smile that didn't quite manage to
reach his eyes. "Thank you, Detective Kowalski. I appreciate your
concern." He took the offered water and drank it, but left the
just call me Ray. So, uh, you gonna be okay?"
of course. I'm sorry to have troubled you, it's been a....trying day.
Shortly before arriving here, I discovered that my apartment building
had burnt down."
a minute. Wait just a minute here, Fraser. Can I call you that? Your
apartment building burned? Recently? Why didn't you say so?" Ray
didn't mean to sound impatient but his ire was up and it came out sounding
just did, Detective and yes, Fraser is fine." Fraser's voice was
was anybody hurt? Do you suspect arson?" Ray started searching for
the proper forms for a report of suspected arson.
here somewhere, Fraser. Hang on a sec." Ray felt his body humming
like it did when he had a breakthrough in a case. Here was someone to
help, and by golly, Ray Kowalski was going to help him.
Detective. Ray!" Ray's head jerked up at the volume and tone of
Fraser?" he snapped, as if they had been working together for years.
"No one was
hurt. All the occupants of the building were either not there or got
out in plenty of time to be safe. Apparently the smoke alarms were
functional after all." Fraser scrubbed at his face tiredly. "I
have no reason to suspect anything other than, perhaps, old wiring."
Ray's energy dissolved.
So, no new case here. Damn. Some part of him was disappointed: this
meant the Mountie would leave in a few minutes and Ray probably wouldn't
see much of him after that. "Oh. So do you have any place to go?"
"It would appear
so. My superior officer has graciously consented to allow me to live
at the consulate for the time being. I must apologize for my," Fraser
shifted uncomfortably, "previous, er, lapse. What with one thing
or another I haven't actually eaten since this morning."
As Ray watched, Fraser
drank the rest of the water in one swallow and stood back up, back straight,
face closed in. "Well, I believe I will speak with Lieutenant Welsh
and then take my leave. It was a pleasure meeting you, Ray Kowalski."
Fraser." Ray took the Mountie's hand and shook it. "Take the
candy. Eat it. Don't want you passing out on the steps."
good point." Fraser picked up the M&M's. "Thank you kindly."
He gestured to the dog, picked up his bags and left Ray to go in search
of Lieutenant Welsh.
shook his head as he watched them leave and then went back to his paperwork.
Fraser straightened his
desk for the sixth time that morning and then attempted to find something
else to do. Finding nothing, he decided to ask Inspector Thatcher if
she had any tasks that needed completing. Perhaps her dry cleaning was
ready. At least that way he would get a walk outside. Refusing to contemplate
the state of mind that would lead him to consider picking up Inspector
Thatcher's dry cleaning with any sort of relish, Fraser stood, readjusted
his tunic and walked purposefully down the hall to the Inspector's office.
In response to his
knock, he heard the Inspector's voice. "Um, yes, just a moment,
Turnbull!" Following this he heard a series of thumps and groans
that would indicate the Inspector was having some difficulty reaching
Are you all right?" Fraser tried the door knob but found it locked.
He stepped back and raised a foot in preparation for kicking the door
Wait!" The Inspector's voice was almost a shriek. Fraser paused.
When the Inspector next spoke, her command voice seemed completely restored.
"I mean, wait there, Constable. Do not enter this office. I am
not in danger."
Very well, Inspector." Fraser put his hands behind his back and
waited at parade rest. In a few moments, the office door opened.
Fraser said, noting her disheveled hair and mis-buttoned blouse but politely
refraining from comment. "I have finished my required duties and
wondered if, perhaps, you might have additional duties I may assist you
are you here, Constable?" The Inspector's voice was sharper than
it ordinarily was.
sir, I ...work here." Fraser began to became concerned that perhaps
the Inspector had sustained a head injury while...doing whatever it was
she had been doing.
am aware of that, Fraser," she snapped. "What I meant was,
why are you here now, today? Isn't this the day you're supposed to be
liaising with the Chicago Police Department? Why aren't you there?"
"As I may have
mentioned, Detective Ray Vecchio is no longer with the 27th, having been
assigned to an extended undercover operation. Since that is the case,
I am unsure of my place at the 27th, or indeed if I even still have one."
Thatcher's eyes softened somewhat. "Very well. I will see what
additional duties I can come up with. Wait in your office, Constable,
I'll be with you shortly."
nodded, then turned smartly and retreated to his office. Dief looked
up from the cot and whined a question. "She's going to see what
she can come up with," Fraser replied. Rather than sit at his
pristine desk, Fraser stood with his hands behind his back, stared out
the window and thought of the ice fields of home. The phone rang and
he answered it. "Yes, sir." He put the phone down, grabbed
his hat, and motioned to Dief.
again, he knocked at the Inspector's door. "Come in, Fraser."
she called. She was seated behind her desk now, looking far more professional
and far less disheveled. "I have an urgent message for you to deliver."
She held out an envelope addressed to...Lieutenant Welsh.
looked askance at the envelope and made no move to take it. Raising
an eyebrow, he said, "Sir..."
"Take it, Fraser."
it, Fraser, or I'm going to pin it to your uniform and have Turnbull
put you in a cab."
sir." Moving forward, Fraser took the envelope. "Sir, may
Fraser. You may not. Your instructions are to take this envelope to
the 27th and deliver it personally to Lieutenant Welsh and wait for a
reply, either verbal or written. If, for some reason, he is not there,
you are to wait until he is. You may, of course, take time to get some
lunch since you will be out anyway."
thud and a muffled groan came from the Inspector's bathroom. Fraser's
head swiveled to the door. "Sir?"
of your business, Constable. Now, do you understand your instructions?"
the Inspector's face was pink, but her voice remained steely.
well. You are dismissed." Thatcher looked pointedly at the door.
"Oh, and Fraser, on your way back to the consulate, please pick
up my dry cleaning."
walk through the early fall air of Chicago was enjoyable. The air was
somewhat crisp (if polluted) and the leaves (and other matter) crackled
enjoyably underfoot. Dief raced ahead and ran back, keeping a counterpoint
rhythm to his own steady forward pace. All too soon the familiar facade
of the Division loomed before him. They entered and climbed the stairs
as if this was any other day.
I have an urgent message from the Canadian Consulate." Taking the
envelope from inside his tunic, Fraser held it out.
took the envelope from Fraser and spoke quickly into the phone still
in his hand. "Hold on just a moment, please." Then he motioned
Fraser closer. Confused, Fraser stepped closer to the desk and bent
down slightly. "Constable, I'm in the middle of a very important
phone call and will not be able to give this my concentrated attention
at this time." Welsh was practically whispering.
see. Would you like me to...wait?"
phone on Welsh's shoulder emitted a curious sound, rather like a sigh
followed by a trill. "Har-deeeing, are you still there?"
Fraser looked at the
Lieutenant, whose ruddy face grew redder as he motioned Fraser to the
door. "Yes, Fraser. I would like you to wait. Out there. Right
now. I'll find you when I need you."
of course. I'll just..wait then."
are welcome, sir, and may I say..."
you may not, Constable. You may leave."
Fraser left the office
and stood somewhat uncertainly by the door. Lunch would seem to be in
order, but he felt somewhat restrained by the 'urgent' nature of the
message. Perhaps he should remain available.
you're waiting to see Welsh, I think he's gone to lunch."
Fraser turned to see
Ray Kowalski standing nearby with a file folder in his hand.
Detective Kowalski. It's good to see you again."
hi. Fraser, right? You look a little better this time." Ray grinned.
"But I think Welsh has headed out to eat. You just missed him."
"Actually he is...otherwise
engaged and asked me to find a place to wait. Out here." Fraser
glanced around the squad room.
grinned even more broadly. "Oh, a Fifi call. That may take a while.
You're welcome to wait at my desk, if you want. I'm about to go to lunch
you kindly." They moved to Ray's desk. Fraser studied him as
they walked, attempting to accustom himself to this new Ray. This Ray
moved with a grace the old Ray did not possess. He walked up on the
balls of his feet, lightly, responsively, as if he was ready at any time
to suddenly change direction.
the desk, Ray dropped the folder on the flat surface and grabbed his
jacket off the back of the chair. "There you go."
took the chair that was offered and watched as Ray slid into his jacket
and patted the pocket for his keys.
hang on a sec." Suddenly, Ray was in Fraser's space, practically
in his lap, opening the desk drawer and pawing around inside. The scent
of Ray's hair, his leather jacket and a smell that could only be Ray
himself surrounded Fraser and he found himself closing his eyes as he
breathed it in. "Hey, you okay? Not gonna pass out on me again,
are you?" Fraser opened his eyes and saw this new Ray staring at
him in some consternation, his keys dangling from his hand.
Caught in a state of arousal he had no control over, an arousal that
surprised him with its intensity, an arousal he desperately wanted to
deny, Fraser felt the heat climbing his face. He took refuge in babble.
"No, no, uh, meditating actually. The Inuit believe that if a long
wait is necessary, as is often the case during the hunt, one can take
refuge in meditation and use the time to calm oneself internally in order
to better face the challenges that lie ahead."
looked unfazed by an explanation that would have had the other Ray in
a tizzy. "Yeah, whatever. You look hungry to me. You want to go
get something to eat with me?"
stared in astonishment. "Yes."
Come on." And, that quickly, Ray was up out of his space and waiting
impatiently for Fraser to follow. Lieutenant Welsh's door opened with
rather more force than was usual. "Constable? Detective? A moment,
stood and started toward the Lieutenant's office automatically, Ray following.
Lieutenant Welsh returned
to his seat. The envelope of the Urgent Message lay ripped open on the
desk in front of him. He held a piece of paper with a relatively small
amount of writing on it in his hand. The phone was still off the hook.
Fraser stood at attention and waited for the requested reply.
he said, his eyes still on the paper in front of him. "Are you aware
of the contents of this message?"
precisely, sir. No. However, if I may venture a guess..."
is my guess, sir, that Inspector Thatcher has written to request that
I be allowed to resume my liaison duties with the Chicago Police Department."
"It says, and I
quote, Constable, `Give this man something to do before I kill him and
cause an international incident," Welsh said in a long-suffering
Fraser shuffled his feet. "I was, in essence, correct."
Welsh stood and went to his office door. "Kowalski, you and the
Mountie. Consider yourselves partners. He'll help you with Vecchio's
pending and you'll keep his name out of the papers as a murder victim.
Any questions? No? Good. Now get out of here."
you kindly, Lieutenant." Welsh just shook his head and pointed
at the door, already picking up the phone.
things I do for international peace..." Fraser heard Welsh mutter
as he closed the door.
Fraser. You and me, partners."
you are, Ray."
"So, let's go to lunch. We'll see how this is gonna work."
Ray's gaze went to Dief. "That dog go everywhere with you? He
okay in cars?"
Ray. His name is Diefenbaker and, actually, he's a wolf. Well. Part
wolf. That's not important right now. If you like, I can recommend a
diner where he is welcome, or he can simply wait outside." Dief
protested. "Nonsense. It's not at all cold out. For God's sake,
remember your origin." Fraser spoke to Dief, as always, forgetting
that this Ray would not be accustomed to such behavior.
all right. Anything sounds good to me," Ray said casually, seemingly
taking Fraser's conversation with Dief in stride. He smiled at Fraser,
apparently a little embarrassed. "Forgot to eat this morning. Just
ran out of time."
is the most important meal of the day, Ray. Perhaps you should have
some easy breakfasts already prepared the evening before. It only takes
an extra minute to be healthy."
always like this?" Ray led the way out of the squad room presumably
to where his car was parked.
like a public service announcement?" They were walking through the
precinct halls now, close together, almost shoulder to shoulder.
Again, Fraser was aware
of Ray's scent, which made it difficult to keep up with his part of the
conversation. He paused, scratched his eyebrow and then said, "More
or less. It's probably a reaction to stress."
I'm stressing you?"
is a certain element of stress involved when meeting someone new ..."
"Yeah. Means you
like me, you want me to like you. We'll go to lunch, we'll see."
Fraser felt somewhat
off-balance. His natural reserve was being totally steamrolled by this
man who didn't seem to know about polite distances or keeping somebody
at arm's length. "See what?" he managed.
if we can be friends, Fraser."
Ray made a considering
motion with his head, halfway between a nod and shrug. "Odds are
good." He turned and winked. "If I'm stressing you already,
I think we're halfway there."
nodded once, nonplussed, and stopped talking.
the parking lot, Ray led the way to a green Ford Explorer. He opened
the passenger side first for Fraser and Dief. Fraser let Dief in the
back and got in himself. The car's interior was somewhat...cluttered,
a fact that Fraser registered immediately upon entering. The scope
and theme of the clutter took him aback. Still struggling with this
unlooked for revelation about his new partner, Fraser sat unseeing in
the front seat, his mind whirling. Almost absently, he reached beneath
himself to extract a small, furry, brightly colored stuffed ...monster
possessed of a large nose and round staring eyes. Bemused, he stared
back at it.
got in on his side, glanced over at Fraser, grinned and started the car.
"You want me to leave you two alone?"
Fraser looked at him, he winked. Fraser reddened but asked, "How
old are your children?"
shifted in his seat, put his arm along the seat to look over his shoulder
to back up the car then glanced at Fraser again. His grin was still
there but his eyes had gone challenging. Fraser shifted to more fully
face him feeling an answering bristle.
all say you're so good. You know, deductive reasoning and all. So,
you tell me. You got a carful of clues here. Put 'em all together."
"Is this a test?"
Fraser raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms.
Is that fear?" Ray waved his arm in a gesture that indicated Fraser's
not." Fraser's tone was exasperated but his heart was racing.
He had missed this--the give and take of conversation complete with the
elements of confrontation and challenge. There was a new element here
as well, one that he wasn't quite sure he wanted to define, but it had
the effect of making his heart race and his breathing shorten. He sucked
in a breath and began.
the evidence would seem to indicate that you have two children. There
are two car seats in the back seat and while theoretically there is enough
room between the two for a third older child to sit on the seat there
is no other evidence among the toys and paraphernalia to support that
one actually does.
eldest child is most likely a girl, due to the plethora of those kinds
of toys most commonly associated with girls--Barbies, small horses, small
items covered with pictures of rainbows--surrounding and adjacent to
the larger booster car seat directly behind me. The booster seat itself
would suggest that your daughter is no less than forty pounds, which
would be too small for such a seat, and no more than eighty pounds, which
would make her too large for such a seat. Judging from the indentation
that the car seat has left on the seat of the car, and the indentation
in the car seat left by the, uh, seat of your daughter, I would place
her weight at forty-eight to fifty pounds.
for her age, her size would seem to indicate a four to five year old
child. However, taking into account the complexity of the storybooks
around the seat and," Fraser ran his eyes over Ray assessingly,
"your own lithe rather than bulky physique, I would guess her age
is closer to six years.
second child is somewhat younger. Due to the fact that his car seat
is forward-facing rather than rear-facing, I would say he is over the
age of one and weighs more than twenty pounds. The toys around his car
seat are not the rattles and chewy toys one normally associates with
a child who is teething, so I assume that he has all his teeth. The
preponderance of trucks, dinosaurs and small cars, some with small moving
parts, all indicate a male child of slightly more than three years.
"Am I correct?"
Fraser ended with a note in his voice even he knew was challenging.
Ray just smiled
a breath-taking face-illuminating smile that did strange things to Fraser's
stomach. "Boy, they weren't kidding, were they? That's it in a
nutshell. Katie is six and Stevie's three and you, you're something
else. That how you think all the time?"
yes." Fraser felt his face turn red and ran his finger under his
collar. This simple but obviously heartfelt admiration was new to him.
The previous Ray had had respect for Fraser's ability to categorize and
process information but had found it profoundly irritating at the same
time. This Ray's reactions disarmed him.
I don't think like that--you know all see-all-the-little-pieces and put-together-the-puzzle-all-at-once.
Usually, I can't find all the little pieces. But sometimes," Ray
appeared to be thinking hard, "sometimes I can see only a few pieces
and know what the whole picture's gonna be."
Ray shifted uncomfortably. "Say you only have five or six pieces
of a puzzle that has twenty-five. Sometimes, I can look at the five
or six and know what the whole puzzle's going to look like. But you?
I'd bet you'd have an idea or two, but you wouldn't rest until you found
all twenty-five pieces and had it all put together, right?"
Fraser rubbed his eyebrow,
and said, "Well..."
not saying," Ray broke in "that it would take you any longer,
it might not because from what I've seen and heard about you, you're
really good at finding and putting all the pieces together, but what
I'm saying is sometimes I'll go ahead and make a leap to the whole picture
just on the basis of the five or six."
sounds very...courageous, but somewhat...risky. How do you know you're
not always. But I'll almost always make the leap. And I'm almost always
right. For instance, I already know a lot about you."
Fraser raised his eyebrows and looked askance at Ray, annoyed at the
other man's presumption.
Fraser waited, but
Ray didn't say anything more. Finally Fraser couldn't stand it. "And
what is it you think you know about me?"
you'd ask me that. Knew you couldn't just leave it alone." Ray
that your intention?" Fraser asked peevishly.
And you went for it."
you saying I can't resist a challenge?"
saying, show you a mountain, you'll climb it. Show you a criminal, you'll
track him down and make him pay. I bet you haven't met many challenges
you haven't bested, and if you didn't I'm betting you still beat yourself
up over it at night.
smart, you're good looking, you're a good person, pure and true of heart
and all that, and I bet you get stuck in that perfect image all the time.
People wanna put you in a box on the mantle and watch you appreciate
sat frozen, hardly breathing.
went on without pausing. "But, you're not perfect and I know something
you're not good at." Ray glanced over at Fraser and then back to
sat, pressed against the door, unable to move.
not good at people, Fraser. Making connections is hard for you."
"What makes you
think that?" Fraser asked quietly.
I don't have all the pieces yet but one piece I do have is the wolf."
Dief leaned in and licked Ray's ear. Ray batted him away. "This
wolf goes everywhere with you, you said it yourself. You talk to him
which is bad enough, but you even bicker with him like you're married
or something. And I know you think he's talking back. I bet there've
been times in your life that he's been the only other person--sorry,
Dief--you talk to in a non-job related manner. That wolf's not just
a wolf, he's you. And you talking to him is you talking to yourself.
He's like a whaddyacallit, a similar."
whatever, an animal or something that you put yourself into. It's like
looking in the mirror and talking to yourself. And if you have to do
that, you don't have a lot of other people to talk to.
piece I got is how you reacted when you heard Vecchio had gone undercover
without you, without telling you straight. He's your partner for two
years, you hung out and did things and I'm guessing you made a real connection
there. But, then, poof! he's gone. Anybody'd be pissed and someone
like you who doesn't make many connections you think you'd be even more
pissed. But you? You hear the news and it rocks you, almost makes you
pass out right there in the 27th. Then five minutes later you ram some
kind of stick up your" quick glance "uh, back and you're off
and gone, business as usual. Which tells me two things: 1) You didn't
like it that Vecchio went but B) for some reason, you must have expected
it. I may be wrong, but I don't think you can go from shock to acceptance
that fast unless you expected the shock all along."
have no response to that."
off base or too close to home?"
rubbed his eyebrow and pulled at his tunic. "Rather too close to
home, I believe. That's certainly a formidable talent. "
"But see, that's
good. We complement each other. We're a, whadyacallit, a duet. Logic
and Instinct. We go good together."
"I find it a little unsettling." Indeed, Fraser felt more
than unsettled, he felt shaken, even rearranged.
"Yeah, you would. We're connecting, you're not used to that. But
that's partners. You know me, I know you. That way we can depend on
each other." He looked over at Fraser and grinned. "Take
a deep breath. It'll get easier."
will?" Fraser was shocked at the plaintive note in his voice.
"Yeah, I get easier
to take the longer you know me. Right now, I'm hungry and we're here.
This diner the one you meant?"
How did you...?"
just grinned. "Instinct, what else?"
Over lunch, Fraser asked
Ray to tell him about Katie and Stevie.
there, Fraser. Next thing you know, I'll be bringing out the baby pictures."
Ray grinned at him over his grilled cheese sandwich.
love to see them."
You would." But Fraser could tell by his pink face and the speed
with which he produced a wallet full of photographs that Ray was indeed
pleased. While Ray finished eating, Fraser flipped through picture after
picture of two children who bore a remarkable resemblance to their father
"They are handsome
children." He indicated a picture of a blonde woman placed in the
first sleeve. "Their mother...?"
face became a study in lack of expression. "Died. Two years ago.
Drunk driver. "
very sorry, Ray." Fraser could feel Ray's pain like a third person
at the table.
Me, too." Ray played with his drinking glass running his fingers
through the condensation. "Mostly for the kids. I mean, I'd known
her since we were kids, but they won't remember her."
at least they have you and in time, you can share your memories of her
with them." Fraser's voice was low and intense. "When my
mother died, my father became remote. Unreachable, almost. It was...difficult...to
bear the loss of both parents at once. Fortunately, I had my grandparents,
but it wasn't really the same."
looked directly into Fraser's eyes. "So you know lonely."
Fraser found he could
not look away, nor could he prevaricate. "Yes, but you already
knew that. "
Fraser, I think we could be friends. If you want." Ray put his
hand on Fraser's forearm.
like that, Ray Kowalski."
It's a done deal." Ray squeezed his arm and then broke the connection
to signal for the check. "My treat today, you catch it next time,
you are, Ray." Inside his chest, Fraser's heart lifted and the gloom
that had enveloped him since Ray Vecchio's departure began to dissipate.
morning, a few days following Fraser's reassignment to the 27th, Fraser
and Dief went to the park. Ostensibly, they went for exercise, although
the fact that Constable Turnbull had arrived at the Consulate with a
brand new camera had also factored into the decision. After an hour
of posing for pictures, Fraser had had enough. Fortunately, Inspector
Thatcher had chosen that moment to come by for a forgotten file and Fraser
had taken advantage of Turnbull's distraction with a new subject to escape.
As the hour was
still quite early, they had the park mostly to themselves. Picking
up a suitable stick, Fraser threw it. To his surprise, Dief raced after
it. He returned triumphantly holding the stick in his mouth and tossing
so you've found it. And without a donut? I'm impressed." Fraser
took the stick and threw it again. Dief ran off after it.
won't help if you don't think about it, you know."
whirled around to see his father sitting on a nearby bench. "Ah,
good morning to you too, Dad."
know what I mean."
I have no idea what you mean, but as I am somewhat accustomed to that,
I'm not unduly concerned." Fraser threw the stick again, appreciating
the rhythm of the game.
Yank, son, what about the Yank?"
about him?" Dief brought the stick back and Fraser threw it again.
"You obviously have
some sort of feelings for him."
course I do, Dad. He's my partner, we get along well. I enjoy working
looked quickly over at his father and threw the stick again, grunting
with effort. "What's that mean?"
son. Simple acknowledgement that you enjoy the Yank."
cut his eyes back to the figure sitting on the bench, but his father
met his gaze serenely. "Yes, well, of course. We're partners,
and his energy and insightfulness, while somewhat alarming at times,
complement my own strengths rather well."
he smells good, too."
Fraser answered without thinking, then heard himself and flushed. He
grabbed the stick rather more roughly than necessary and threw it again.
"Which is completely irrelevant."
"What's that mean?"
stared at him. He was somewhat used to his father's apparent non-sequiturs
but this one seemed totally out of left field. He looked at Dief sitting
next to his father on the bench to see if he had some idea what his father
might mean. Wait...
thanks for exercising Napoleon. He should sleep for a week now."
A cheerful jogger with reddened cheeks came up out of nowhere and put
out his hand.
Fraser shook the hand and braced himself before he looked down. A black
and tan dachshund with a stick in his mouth smiled up at him, wiggling
happily. "You're, uh, welcome," he managed finally.
The man whistled and
ran off and the dog dropped the stick and scurried after.
sighed and dropped his head down. Taking the few steps necessary he
dropped down on the bench where his father had been sitting. Dief whined
I'm fine. Thank you for asking."
I do not think a soft pretzel with mustard will solve anything."
A wolf-sound indicating
a flat statement.
I'm aware that you do, sadly. That still doesn't mean we're going to
get one. That's just the way it goes sometimes." Dief let out
a gusty sigh and dropped his head onto his paws. "And if you're
going to sulk, we might as well go back."
Over the next few weeks,
it became apparent that he and Ray were indeed a duet. Their partnership
seemed to work. Their strengths were complementary. At times they seemed
at odds but they generally managed to work together rather than against
themselves. One case stood out in Fraser's mind in particular.
Angela Simmons, age seven,
had been raped and murdered, her body found in a refuse-filled vacant
lot miles away from her Gold Coast home. Her parents were understandably
devastated. The evidence was sketchy, the press demanding.
was a man possessed. Charged with finding the malfeasant, who had committed
this crime, he became engulfed by it. The light that was so much a part
of him was little in evidence during the two weeks he and Fraser worked
the case. Seven days into it, Ray made a breakthrough. While interviewing
the teenage brother again about his activities the day the girl had disappeared,
he mentioned a friend, someone named Scott Davenport, who had always
liked Angela and would really miss her. As Fraser watched, Ray's body
went completely still. With seeming casualness, he fished for more information
regarding this Scott Davenport. They learned that Scott was a computer
nerd, very familiar with programming, and was fond of setting up elaborate
computerized security systems around his basement bedroom. Although
he had a crush on an older cheerleader, Scott did not date and was not
had thanked the boy politely and escorted him out of the interview room.
When he returned, he was positively vibrating. "Fraser. This is
it. He's the guy."
brother?" said Fraser, stalling for time. He knew who Ray meant,
but hoped to hold off the headlong rush to arrest he was afraid would
no, the geek, the computer nerd, this Scott Davenport. He did it. I
know it. I know he did." Ray's eyes shone now, but with an eerie,
obsessed light unfamiliar to Fraser.
agree he is certainly worthy of further investigation."
did it, Fraser. I'm sure of it. I say we go pick him up, let me at
we need more information. We can't just..."
look, I got my five or six pieces. I can see how the whole thing went
know you think so, but..."
don't believe me." Ray's voice was flat.
sighed and rubbed his eyebrow, very aware of the observation window and
the opportunity for any and all of this conversation to be overheard.
"Come on." He moved to the door. Ray remained standing in
the middle of the room. "Ray, please. I can't talk about this
his mouth shut and clenched his fists but followed him. Fraser led the
way to the supply room, pushed Ray in, and closed and locked the door.
The dark surrounded them. Moving carefully, he nevertheless ran directly
into Ray's stiff and unyielding form standing under the light. In the
jumble of limbs that followed, Fraser reached out and grabbed Ray by
the elbows to keep them both from falling.
one hand on Ray, he reached up with the other to turn on the light.
The bright light was shocking but almost as disturbing was how close
he was standing to Ray. He had forgotten they were much of a height.
He breathed in Ray's scent and had a rush of arousal that mimicked the
one that had raced through his body almost two months ago at Ray's desk.
With great effort, he fought his body's reaction and tried to concentrate
on the matter at hand. Sublimate, sublimate...
his relief, Ray spoke first. "You don't believe me. You don't
trust me. Thought we were partners."
relief evaporated. "How can you say that? I do trust you. I
do believe you. But you know as well as I do that we can't just go in
there and bring him in with no evidence." Ray stared back silently,
but he seemed to be listening. Fraser took in a deep breath and moderated
his tone. "But now I ask you to trust me. You have to let me
go get the other twenty pieces of the puzzle so we can go pick him up
and we can KEEP him. That's my part. That's what I do."
moved restlessly, turning away from Fraser to stare at the shelves.
He sighed. "All right. You're right. Can't have a duet if I don't
let you play your part. It's just.." He closed his eyes and rolled
his head from side to side, the tendons in his neck standing out. "This
is killing me. This whole case. I look at those pictures and I see...Angela,...and
Katie...and any of Katie's friends, and it just....tears me up."
He folded in on himself, arms around his middle, head down, shoulders
know. But we're close." Fraser moved closer to Ray, raised his
hand to touch him and then dropped it. "We'll get him and we'll
do it so that he never gets away again."
Ray spun in place and sank to the floor, his back against the shelves,
his hands over his eyes. Unsure, Fraser waited. When Ray's shoulders
started to shake, he lowered himself next to Ray and put his arm around
him. Gratifyingly, Ray not only accepted the embrace but also leaned
into him. Fraser's heart leaped foolishly (as it was wont to) at the
chance to provide comfort to this man who had come to mean so much to
him. And so he sat there, holding Ray and unable to sublimate anything
at the moment.
days later, they arrested Scott Davenport for suspected murder. The
State's Attorney charged him with Murder in the First Degree and allowed
no bail to be posted.
evening of the arrest, Ray and Fraser celebrated with a quick dinner
at a nearby Chinese restaurant. After Ray had driven off to home and
children, Fraser and Dief walked back to Consulate slowly. As they passed
by the park, Fraser hesitatedit was getting late-- but entered.
While Dief investigated nearby bushes, Fraser sat on the bench where
his father had appeared just a few weeks ago. Remembering the dachshund
for whom he thrown the stick, Fraser felt himself blush and laughed ruefully.
He'd had it bad, as Ray would say. He rubbed the back of his neck.
The trouble was, he still had it bad.
stood up and called and motioned for Dief. Ray was his friend. A good
friend, a great partner. He was lucky to have Ray in his life at all.
Lucky that fate had seen fit to give him a partner with whom he could
work and on whom he could depend. He was foolish and greedy to want
more. Dief ambled up and they headed back to the Consulate.
"Hey, Fraser. What
are you doing this weekend?" It was five o'clock on a Monday and
after an afternoon of paperwork, both men were more than ready to go
no particular plans, Ray. Dief and I usually spend a great deal of time
out of doors on the weekends, if there are no consular duties."
"Would you like
to come over and help me build a swing set? The kids have wanted one
forever. They helped me pick a design this weekend, I got one a'those
Do-It-Yourself Kits and we went yesterday to buy the lumber. The guy'll
deliver it by Friday. I might be able to do it myself, but it would
be a lot easier with some help. You could bring Dief and he could play
with the kids in the yard. Give them something to do, too, besides get
underfoot. I'll spring for pizza after or we'll clean up and take the
kids out somewhere nice, if you want."
be happy to help, Ray." Fraser let some of the happiness he felt
at being asked show in his smile.
great, greatness." Ray smiled back unreservedly, then his look turned
thoughtful. "Uh, you might wanna bring some work clothes and some
clothes to change into after, it's supposed to be hot on Saturday."
"Very well. I'll
see what I can come up with."
do you have shorts, Fraser?" Ray asked as if he expected the answer
to be no. Which it was.
actually," Fraser rubbed his fingers over his eyebrow. "I do
Ray grabbed his jacket and slid it on. "If you've got an old pair
of jeans or something you could cut them off and make shorts."
"An excellent idea,
Ray. I'll certainly see what I can do."
you know, I'd lend you some of mine, but they'd never fit you."
Fraser's eyes dropped
involuntarily to Ray's hips and he felt heat in his face. "Most
likely not, Ray. Are you ready?"
come on, I'll drop you at the consulate."
morning dawned bright and hot. Fraser stood outside the front door of
the Kowalski residence and shifted nervously. Was it too early? His
new partner did not strike him as a morning person, judging from observed
behavior, yet in Fraser's admittedly limited experience, children were
early risers. Fraser raised his hand to knock, then lowered it again,
turned around and studied the horizon.
whined a question from where he lay on the stoop.
I plan on knocking. I am merely attempting to ascertain if the hour
is too early. Perhaps another quick walk around the block."
Dief whuffed a negative
and put his head down on his outstretched paws.
use that tone with me. You could use another walk. In fact..."
"Does he talk back?"
The new voice was high pitched and Fraser whirled around to see a small
child with blonde hair and blue eyes that looked remarkably familiar.
She was wearing a white and pink nightie with a picture of a unicorn.
although much of what he says is not worth listening to. You must be
Katie." Fraser squatted in front of the child and put out his hand
for her to take.
child held his hand in her own. "Katie Kowalski. Actually, Kathryn
Marie Kowalski. But everyone calls me Katie."
very nice to meet you, Kathryn Marie Kowalski. I'm Benton Fraser."
"What do people
call you?" Katie tilted her head and studied him.
people call me Fraser."
For some reason,
Fraser felt his face get red. "I'm....not really sure, Katie.
I imagine that's what they're comfortable saying."
daddy calls me Katie. No one calls me Kowalski." The yuck! look
on her face indicated what she might think if anyone did. Then her expression
turned thoughtful. "What does your daddy call you?"
calls...called me Benton. He died two years ago."
mommy died. A drunk driver crashed into her car and killed her."
The child's face lost all expression and the words were mechanical.
"I'm very sorry.
My mother died when I was very young. I missed her very much."
"I miss my
mom, too. But I have Daddy and Mrs. Bryan. Who do you have?" Her
blue eyes, so much like Ray's, studied him from under her bangs.
Fraser stared at her
for a moment. Then he said, "I have Diefenbaker. Or, strictly speaking,
I believe he has me." Pleased at the mention, Dief rose from his
supine position and joined them at the door.
pretty!" squealed Katie. She grabbed Dief around the neck and hugged
him. Dief patiently submitted to the hug and allowed her to pet him.
She laughed delightedly when Dief licked her face, which brought footsteps
in the foyer.
face appeared around the door. "Katie Kowalski! What have I told
you about opening the front door without checking with a grown-up? Come
inside right now."
leaped up and entered the house, talking all the way. Ray backed up,
pulling the door with him and out of her way. "But Daddy, you said
look for the man with the hat and when I looked out, there he was! And
he was talking to his wolf, just like you said. So I knew it was the
held up his hand. "Wait, hold on there. I will talk to you in
one minute. Stand there." He pointed at the front hall and then
turned back to Fraser and motioned him in. "Hiya, Fraser. Thanks
for coming. Come on in."
his hat, Fraser stepped over the threshold and into Ray's home. Diefenbaker
followed, then went further into the house, sniffing curiously. Ray
closed the door and the reason he had been using it as a shield became
clear. He wore nothing but a pair of boxer briefs.
saw where Fraser was looking and flushed. "Yeah, sorry about this,
but it's standard early morning wear around here. Let me handle this
serious breach of security, here," he pointed at the door and Katie,
standing motionless in the corner, "and then I'll go get decent."
Fraser waved his hand.
"Please, Ray. Be comfortable. It's your own home."
it's getting a little drafty anyway, Fraser. Head down the hall and
turn right to find the kitchen. I got some muffins and the coffee pot's
on so help yourself."
I'll just go check to see if Dief has left anything for me."
As Fraser turned and
escaped the close confines of the foyer, he heard Ray say "Okay,
young lady, just what is the rule about opening doors in this house?"
Fraser entered a
large living area. Absently, he noted details. A sliding glass door
showed a good-sized backyard with a raised concrete porch where a wading
pool sat filled with water. Over the fireplace was a portrait of Ray
and the children. Judging by Katie's appearance, it had been taken fairly
recently. On the mantelpiece under the family portrait were two pictures,
one of Katie and one of a little boy, undoubtedly Ray's son. The furniture
looked comfortable with generously upholstered oversized cushions. The
well-used coffee table was large and square and obviously had been used
for coloring both with crayons and markers. Next to the TV was a cabinet
filled with what appeared to be the entire Walt Disney collection of
animated movies. He turned right and found the kitchen.
the kitchen, Fraser indeed found a plateful of what appeared to be homemade
muffins as well as a pot of coffee still under the coffeemaker. Dief
lay on the rug under the table sniffing at the muffins and looking hopeful.
Fraser ignored him and the coffee but took a muffin and sat down at the
table. In a moment, Ray breezed in and started fussing with his coffee.
Evidently he had
not yet found time to change or add clothing. Fraser found his eyes
lingering on curves he had not previously noticed on Ray before. His
heartbeat sped up noticeably. He admonished himself for staring, but
was unable to stop until a small sound near the doorway made him jerk
his eyes away, flushing.
at the kitchen archway was a miniature version of Ray Kowalski, complete
with hair that stuck out in every direction. The child sidled silently
into the kitchen, his finger in his mouth, staring at Fraser, and went
to lean against his father's leg. Fraser watched as Ray absently put
his hand on the boy's head and ruffled his hair. Finished preparing
his coffee, he squatted and gathered the boy in his arms, kissed him
and picked him up. "Good morning, Stevie. Didja sleep good?"
The boy nodded and
put his head down on Ray's shoulder. Ray carried him to the table along
with his coffee and sat down with the boy in his lap. "Slide me
those muffins, Fraser?"
did so and Ray took one and broke it into pieces, put the pieces on a
napkin and placed it near his son, then took one for himself.
muffins are very good, Ray."
thanks, Fraser. I can really do a box mix like nobody's business."
"You must have
been up early?"
you know me better than that. I made `em last night. Figured you'd
be early." Ray grinned around his mouthful and winked.
opened his mouth and closed it, feeling his cheeks turning red. "It
would appear you were right."
I am about some things." He looked down at the boy in his lap.
"Stevie, you doin' all right? You wanna sit in your own chair now?"
The boy shook his head. Ray looked back at Fraser. "Might take
him a minute here. He's like me when it comes to mornings."
"I have a certain
amount of experience with that." Fraser took another muffin. "Did
the lumber get delivered?"
it's out back with the kit and my tools and the instructions. I hope
we can finish today."
not, I can come back tomorrow, if you need me." Ray showed no
sign of hearing Fraser since his head was bent down to listen to something
that Stevie was saying in a whisper.
Say that again." Ray listened again. "Oh." He looked
up to meet Fraser's eyes. "He wants to know your name. I told him
already but he's forgotten now that he's face to face with you. Speaking
of which, what do you want them to call you? Mr. Fraser?"
shook his head in automatic denial. He'd never thought of himself as
Mr. Fraser, if anyone was Mr. Fraser, it had been his grandfather. "They
can call me Fraser," he answered slowly, almost...reluctantly.
"His name is
Benton. That's what we should call him. That's what his daddy called
him." Katie, dressed now in shorts and a shirt that almost matched,
twirled into the kitchen and sat in the chair next to Fraser's.
"Katie, Fraser can
choose. He might not want you to call him Benton," Ray admonished
fine," Fraser said quickly. "Actually, I think I'd like it.
It's been a long time since anyone has called me that." He stopped
himself talking by main force, afraid of revealing too much to this perceptive
child or to her father.
gave Fraser an odd look. "Okay, Benton it is. Now, time for action.
Katie, finish your breakfast and then go brush your teeth. Fraser, you
make sure Dief gets a muffin, then go put your feet up in the family
room, we'll be with you soon. Stevie, you come with me and we'll get
dressed, then it's time to work on the swing set." The children
in the Kowalski family room staring out the sliding glass door waiting
for Ray and his children to finish getting ready. Ray and his children.
Fraser shook his head. He'd known Ray had children, but somehow he hadn't
quite imagined what that really meant. This morning he'd found out it
meant rules and sleepwear and breakfast and brushing teeth and love and
care and...family. Ray had a family. And being here this morning, he'd
realized that the Ray he saw at work was an incomplete Ray. His persona
at work was not the real Ray at all. The real Ray was here in this house
with his children. At home.
Vecchio had had a home. Fraser leaned his head on the glass of the sliding
door and felt a grin tugging at his lips. A warm and caring home. And
a loud one, full of several emotional, opinionated and expressive adults
who despite their yelling and insults cared deeply for one another in
a way Fraser had never experienced. Ray and his family had attempted
to take Fraser in, to make him one of their own, but his natural reserve
had remained intact. The grin faded. Despite the allure, he had resisted
becoming a part of that family. The opportunity was there, through Francesca,
through Ray. Brother-in-law or brother, he could have become a part
of Ray Vecchio's family, but still, he had resisted. He just wouldn't
have...fit. The Vecchio family had no place for a misplaced Canadian
with a deaf half-wolf and a penchant for doing things his own way. And
he could not have learned to live the Vecchio way.
and family were almost foreign concepts to Fraser now. He'd had a home
once, and a family, but both had been taken away the day his mother had
died. His father had taken himself away, physically and emotionally.
His grandparents had provided a place to live and eat and sleep but they,
too, were remote--due to age, to unrealized expectations, to natural
reserve. He had not been unhappy. Well, not precisely.
he had been marked by his upbringing. Deep down he expected people to
leave. This new Ray had figured that out about him in a matter of minutes.
Ray Vecchio's departure had shaken him, but like Ray Kowalski had said,
it hadn't actually surprised him. The people in his life...left and
he remained. Alone.
the sound of approaching feet, Fraser straightened. He felt his face
assume a neutral, probably pleasant expression. Yet an undercurrent of
longing, previously unnoticed but centered somewhere in the vicinity
of his heart, remained.
his hands together and surveyed the situation. Okay, Katie dressed--clothes
didn't match, but she did it herself, so he was going to go with it.
Stevie--dressed, almost finished in the bathroom, and anxious to see
the white doggy. Ray--dressed, shaved, but not showered since he was
just going to get all sweaty anyway. "Okay, we're good to go."
He leaned back against
the bathroom door waiting for Stevie to finish up. From there he could
see Fraser in the living room looking out the sliding glass door. Actually,
Ray realized, he was leaning against the glass door. Ray found that
peculiar. Normally you could balance a book on Fraser's head. The oddness
of Fraser's posture made Ray look harder at his face.
Fraser looked lonely. Standing alone in his living room, staring out
at his back yard, Fraser seemed almost.... haunted. Snatches of conversation
floated back to him. "So you know lonely," he'd said in the
had answered, "Yes, but you already knew that."
been thinking about what that meant to him, Ray, that this new friend
would be able to understand the feeling that Ray had carried around with
him for the past two years. What he hadn't really thought about was
the fact that Fraser must carry that same loss, the same loneliness inside.
That Fraser knew lonely because he *was* lonely.
voice echoed in his head. "I've got Daddy and Mrs. Bryan. Who have
you got?" Fraser's silence echoed louder.
burst out of the bedroom and Stevie came out of the bathroom at the same
time in search of their new friend Benton and his cool white wolf. Ray
stood still and watched Fraser straighten up, put on his game face.
Ray shook his head and followed the children after throwing their pjs
in the hamper.
Fraser. We're all set. You ready to go? Dief, did he give you a muffin?"
Dief barked a yes, but Ray hardly heard since he was caught by Fraser's
expression. Pleasant and open, he looked perfectly normal, but, now
that he was looking for them, Ray could see the lines of strain around
set, Ray." Fraser looked up at him blandly.
right, then. Kids, find your backyard shoes and put them on and we're
out the door." Katie and Stevie grabbed their shoes from the shoe
stand by the back door and sat on the floor to put them on. Ray moved
to the door, unlocked the bar and the slide lock and slid it open. As
Fraser passed through, Ray asked, "You okay, Fraser?"
paused in the doorway and looked at him. "Yes, Ray. I'm looking
forward to the day." His voice was even and unconcerned, but Ray
still saw that haunted look around Fraser's eyes.
Greatness, Frase. Me, too," was all he said though. He'd keep
his eyes open for the next piece of the Fraser puzzle.
day had grown warmer already and Ray took a minute to check that the
wading pool was still mostly clean. The kids would need to cool off
Dief and the
children bounded out the door and Fraser unearthed a tennis ball from
somewhere for the children to throw for him. Then he came to look at
the lumber and kit.
Fraser. Does this look like something we can handle?"
Ray, I think we can handle anything."
probably true," Ray agreed.
and a half hours later, neither Ray nor Fraser was so sure they could
handle anything, together or apart, ever again. First, the temperature
had risen to an unseasonably hot 90 degrees. Second, Dief jumped the
backyard fence into an alley full of trashcans, causing mild hysteria
among the children and concern in their father who wondered what the
neighbors might say or do with a wolf running loose in the neighborhood.
The fact that he came back twenty minutes later looking extremely pleased
with himself and licking his lips didn't help the situation. Then
Katie had pushed Stevie down after a property dispute involving the now
well-used and extremely slimy tennis ball. Then Stevie had bitten his
older sister in retaliation. Ray's stock of patience was almost exhausted
and even Fraser was showing the strain.
Dief had rolled in something so smelly that even he took offense at it
and jumped into the wading pool to wash it off. Unfortunately, Stevie
and Katie, having just made friends again, had been playing quietly in
the pool at the time. The resulting cacophony was enough to make Ray,
who had been holding the top beam of the swing set at an essential angle
for Fraser to bolt it into place into the A-brace, turn to see what had
happened and, in doing so, drop the top beam directly onto Fraser's foot.
that's it. Everyone take a time out." Ray stalked over to the pool,
took both children out, gestured to Dief to vacate the premises, and
escorted his children indoors. Once inside, he helped each one into
dry clothes, made sure each one used the bathroom, installed Stevie
on the couch with his pillow and security blanket, Katie in the big chair
with her doll, and gave each a drink box , a cheese stick, and six crackers.
Then he put their favorite Disney movie into the VCR. "Now, sit,
stay and don't move until I come to get you." For the moment,
both seemed content to do as he said. Having settled them to his satisfaction,
he filled a Ziploc bag full of ice, grabbed a bottled water from the
fridge and a beer for himself and went out to check on Fraser.
With a sigh, Fraser extracted
his foot from beneath the beam and decided the solitary life might actually
have some benefits. He smiled ruefully and sat down on the patio with
his back against the house.
came out the patio door, and dropped down next to him. "How you
doing, Frase? I'm sorry about your foot." He held out the bag
of ice and the bottled water like peace offerings.
took both gratefully. "Thank you, Ray. I'm sure my foot will be
fine and I appreciate the water." He opened the water and drained
half of it. "It's hot." He leaned forward to place the ice
bag on his foot.
got that right." Ray lunged up again and stripped off his shirt
before sitting back down. He opened his beer and surveyed the unfinished
swing set morosely. "Doesn't look like we're going to get it done."
Fraser, who had
been finishing his water, shook his head and made noises. He swallowed
and said, "Actually, Ray, much of the hard work has been done.
The braces are assembled, the slide platform is built and the various
bolts and hooks have been pounded into the top beam. Once we attach
the top beam to the braces, we can stand it up and you'll see how close
right, pitter patter then. I figure we got about an hour and a half
before Laurel and Hardy in there start their routine again."
"Right you are,
Ray." Fraser stood up and swayed. Ray caught him by the arm.
"Hey, hey. What's
wrong?" Ray continued to hold him.
waited a moment until the world stopped spinning and then said. "I
must have gotten up too fast."
huh? And you're hot as blazes. I forget you're not used to this heat.
Let's quit for the day. We can finish another time." Ray tugged
Fraser toward the door to go inside.
Ray continued to pull at him. "Ray." No sign of change.
"RAY!" Fraser finally raised his voice in exasperation.
"What, Fraser? You're
am not. I'm fine. I simply rose from a supine position to a standing
one at too great a speed and my inner ear did not have time to adjust."
"Yeah, what's that
stood up too fast and I got dizzy, Ray."
you're okay, now?"
Ray." Ray's concern for him was evident and it made Fraser feel
okay, but uh, get your shirt off. I don't want you passing out on me
or anything, I'd never get you inside."
point, Ray." Fraser took off his T-shirt and tucked it into the
back pocket of his cut-offs. "Shall we finish?"
let's get at `er."
time the work went much more smoothly. Within the hour, the top beam
was attached to the supports and the whole structure was standing.
"Have you given
some thought to where you want this, Ray?"
Fraser." Ray moved backwards a few feet to stand in a shady area
that was clearly visible from the sliding glass door.
Good idea. I think we should move it there now, before we add any more
thinking, Fraser." Ray moved to one end of the structure and Fraser
stood at the other. "On three?"
Fraser bent his knees and braced himself and Ray followed suit.
they both said, and lifted at the same time. Moving carefully, they
inched over the grass to the selected area.
Fraser grunted as they set it down.
Thanks, Fraser! It's looking good now." Ray grinned at him with
all the stops out, obviously thrilled and wanting to share that with
back just as broadly. "Not too much left, Ray. Might I suggest
we attach the slide now and then let the children help us with the smaller
idea. I'll get it." He was back very quickly, obviously re-energized
by the near completion of the project.
slide proved tricky, however. Fraser found he could not both hold and
attach the slide at the same time. After three unsuccessful attempts
with Ray outside and Fraser under the slide platform, they were both
getting frustrated again. Finally Ray suggested a possible solution.
let me get under there with you. Then I should be able to hold it so
the holes line up."
hardly enough room for me, Ray." Fraser held the top of the platform
and leaned against his arms.
yeah, I know. But we can do it. Come on." The hopeful look in
his eyes was impossible to say no to.
slid in and stood behind Fraser. He reached around him and held the
slide on either side and with a wrench was able to line up the holes
on the slide with those on the platform. His arms shook with effort,
but he managed to hold it steady. Fraser moved to place the bolts in
position. Ray's chest was slick and hot against his back and their combined
scent was extremely powerful in the small space yet not unpleasant.
Fraser was disconcerted. He knew he should be moving faster but part
of him wanted to slow everything down and stay here in the moment, in
this place with Ray's arms around him.
he felt Ray nuzzle his hair. Surprised, he half-turned to meet Ray's
about that." Ray's face was red with heat and/or embarrassment.
"You know how it is. You get your hands full and suddenly your
nose starts to ...." His voice trailed off and he stopped. Time
seemed to stand still.
to what?" Fraser's voice was hardly above a whisper.
said Fraser, wondering what they were talking about. Their smell and
Ray's eyes and the feel of Ray's sweaty skin sliding against his own
you think you could..."
what, Ray?" Fraser felt very strange.
finish up here? My arms aren't going to last much longer."
"Oh. Right you are."
Fraser whipped back around, slid the last of the screws in and tightened
the bolts as much as possible. "All right, let go and let's see
if it holds."
did. The two men climbed out and surveyed their handiwork. "Great!
It looks great! Let's call the kids!" Ray's smile was breathtaking
the help of the children, they attached the swings and the gymnastic
rings and Ray and Fraser put up the family swing. After a test run,
they all went inside and Ray ordered pizza. After dinner, he promised,
they would have hot fudge sundaes to celebrate. When Fraser opened his
mouth to comment on the lack of nutritional value in such a meal, Ray
quelled him by the simple expedient of putting a piece of pizza in it.
Distracted by the unfamiliar but surprisingly tasty flavor of pineapple
on pizza, Fraser forgot what he was going to say.
darkness and silence descended on the back yard. Fraser sat in a swing
and looked up at the stars. He heard the sliding glass door open.
"Are they in bed?"
Fraser asked quietly.
sat on the swing next to him facing the opposite way. "Yeah. Asleep,
actually. They were pretty excited but as soon as heads hit pillows...snore."
Fraser smiled. "They
had a busy day."
have a wonderful children."
you." Ray ducked his head and watched his feet push his swing around
in circles, always in motion, even at rest. "They're everything
a good father."
snorted. "Not always. I try to do my best, but I can't be everything
know you love them. You show it in everything you do and that's the most
important thing any parent can do, I think." Fraser's voice shook,
despite his efforts to keep it steady. Out of the corner of his eye,
he saw Ray look up alertly, but Fraser refused to meet that penetrating
gaze. Instead, he leaned back against the chains and stared up at the
Fraser." Now Ray studied the stars, too. "Didja ever have
a swing set?"
The conditions weren't...feasible."
but primarily weather conditions."
Ray twisted in his swing, making himself bump into Fraser then move away.
that mean?" Fraser twisted in turn and they bumped together again.
Just an expression I've picked up." They tangled together and ricocheted
that one." Ray reached out and grabbed the chain of Fraser's swing,
hooking his arm through and making them swing in tandem. "Fraser?"
"Can I call
you Benton?" Ray waited silently but Fraser could feel he was been
watched. Finally, he looked up and met Ray's eyes.
you want to." In the dim light from the porch and the stars and
the moon, Fraser could see Ray studying him intently. Fraser wondered
if he was able to discern the sudden knife-like joy Fraser was experiencing
at his request.
was thinking maybe, around here, I could. Like the kids. If you want
to come again, that is." Ray's face reddened and his eyes dropped,
as if he was embarrassed.
Fraser hooked his arm through the chain on Ray's swing and pushed off
with his feet so they swung together more securely. "I'd like
to come again." He allowed himself to look into Ray's eyes and
let a little of his happiness show. Gratifyingly, the insecurity in
his eyes faded and Ray smiled brilliantly back.
then. How 'bout we check this baby out?"
Fraser unhooked his arm and used his feet to push himself off. "What
kind of test Ray?"
and durability. Any swing set that can hold the weight of two men swinging
in opposite directions should be safe enough for a couple of kids, I
imagine." Ray let go and pushed off too.
Ray, we should both go the same direction then. Three hundred fifty
pounds plus acceleration would provide a substantial pull on the set,
but as we are going opposite directions what we're primarily testing
Ray pumped his legs faster going higher.
Ray?" Fraser pulled back on the chains to increase his height and
Later, at the consulate,
Fraser showered, moving slowly, ridding himself of the grime of the day.
Getting out, he put on clean boxers and a T-shirt, deciding that the
September air did not warrant a change to the red long johns just yet.
The red long johns reminded him of Stevie, yawning in his sleeper pajamas
with feet and leaning on his father's leg. The image of Ray with his
hand on Stevie's head warmed him somehow.
yawned just thinking about them and lay in his bed, sleepy but not sleeping
yet. Dief, who had been asleep under the desk for the hour preceding
Fraser's own move toward bed, crawled out from beneath it and shook himself
before settling down again on the floor near Fraser. Hearing him, Fraser
shook his head over Dief's earlier foray into the pool and his subsequent
water-spraying shake, a reluctant grin tugging at his lips. The remembered
smell of wet wolf triggered a different scent memory of Ray's sweat mingled
with his own under the slide. He inhaled deeply as if to recapture it.
More memories of the
day drifted in, as Fraser slid closer to sleep. The shock of hearing
small voices calling him Benton still rang in his ears. It had been so
long since anyone called him that, only his father for years, and him
not often. Benton. Fraser wasn't sure he knew who Benton was anymore.
He'd existed for so long as Fraser it had almost become comfortable.
Almost. But not quite. A name that served for Constable Benton Fraser,
but not a name he wanted Ray's children to call him. So...Benton it was.
Perhaps he was looking back for some half-remembered intimacy. Looking
ahead for some increased intimacy, Benton thought, hardly awake.. Ray's
voice, "You're not good with people, Fraser." Making connections.
Ray's scent mingled with his own. Slick heat against his back. Ray.
Frase. It's me."
It's good to hear from you."
thanks, Frase. Hey, just wanted to tell you I won't be able to liaise
something come up?"
Mrs. Bryan had to go outta town suddenly. Her daughter in Wisconsin
broke her leg, and Mrs. B. has to go take care a'her and the grandkids.
She won't be able to pick up Stevie and Katie today, so I'm takin' the
you supposed to be interviewing witnesses in the Darnell case this afternoon?"
Welsh'll just have to deal. I got kids, what can he say?"
be happy to pick up the children and stay with them until you finish.
I had the afternoon free to liaise, and I'd like to help if you think
the children would be comfortable with me."
liaise with them, huh?"
you think it would be suitable."
like a plan. Thanks, Fraser. I'll call the school. You'd better come
by and get the car first. Stevie's seat is in it."
you are, Ray. What time do I get him?"
then Katie at 2:45. I'll write down how to get to their schools and
have it for you. Stevie'll need lunch. He gets a snack at preschool,
but he'll need to eat when you get him home."
It's 11:45 now and I am off duty at noon exactly. I'll see you shortly,
Frase. I'll be here."
put down the phone and finished up the Form 183 oblique stroke D form
still pending on his desk and then walked briskly down the hall to the
Inspector's office to place it in her in basket. That finished, he returned
to his office and changed quickly out of his uniform into jeans and a
t-shirt. He put on his leather jacket and motioned to Dief. "Diefenbaker.
Let's go see Ray."
looked up from his place on the bed, and yawned ostentatiously.
Diefenbaker. For God's sake, look at me when I'm talking to you. You
can't still be mad about the doughnut," Fraser said in exasperation
as the wolf put his head back down on the cot and turned away from him,
stating plainly that he clearly could. Fraser hung his head down and
sighed with exasperation. Dief glanced up to see how he was taking it.
Fraser continued. "All right. Have it your way. I'll just simply
have to tell Stevie and Katie that you were sulking and too bull-headed
to join us this afternoon." Without looking at Dief, Fraser turned
and strode out of the room. He was not altogether surprised to hear
the click of Dief's toenails behind him.
the station house, Fraser and Dief walked through the ever-present melee
with the ease of long practice and made their way without incident to
Ray's desk. Ray was on the phone when they arrived, so Dief went looking
for Francesca. Fraser stood in his customary place, waiting, and
listening once he determined that he was being discussed.
Benton Fraser. Ben-TON. B-e-n-t-o-n. Fraser. F-r-a-s-e-r. No, not like
the guy on TV. FRAY-ZER. He'll have I.D." Ray waited again, listening.
"Umm, he's tall, about five eleven, dark hair, blue eyes and he'll
be wearing a Stetson." There was a pause, during which Ray waved,
pointed at the receiver and then rolled his eyes at Fraser. "A Stetson,
kinda a flat cowboy hat. Stevie will know who he is. Yes. Please ask
Mrs. Barrow to tell him that Benton is coming. Okay. Okay. Okay, are
we good? Greatness." The phone landed back in the cradle with
a clatter. "Okay, Fraser. We're good with the school. They're
expecting you." He scrabbled at the papers on his desk.
cleared his throat. "Six feet tall, Ray."
looked up, clearly having gone on in his thoughts to the point where
Fraser's statement made absolutely no sense. "Whaddya talking about,
I'm six feet tall." Fraser shifted on his feet feeling slightly
ridiculous, yet determined to maintain accuracy.
hands stilled on the papers and his body stopped moving. "You are
I am. I assure you. They measure my height every year at the annual physical
and every year it's 183 centimetres, which corresponds most closely to
your measurement of six feet."
closely? That's American for Not Quite, Fraser. And that means you
are not quite six feet tall." Ray pointed his fingers at Fraser.
"And I can prove it."
seriously doubt that, Ray. This is not a medical office, I see no calibrated
height measurement device." Fraser swept his hands in a circle
taking in the whole of the room. Unless, perhaps, you'd like to adjourn
to the morgue. I imagine Mort..."
Fraser," Ray interrupted quickly. "I mean me. I'm your laminated
Ray." Fraser successfully controlled the twitching of his mouth.
I'm five foot ten and a half inches and we can measure you against me."
With that statement, Ray straightened and was around the desk far too
quickly for Fraser's comfort.
that's hardly an accurate measure..."
it is, Fraser." Ray pushed himself into Fraser's space, and stood
directly in front of him, taking up all the room, all the air it seemed
to Fraser who was suddenly having a difficult time keeping his breathing
even close to normal. He was suddenly reminded of being beneath the
slide platform. He shrank back fractionally. "Hey, what's up with
that? You just got shorter for some reason. Stand up straight, Fraser."
Ray was nothing if not observant, especially at this range, and Fraser
put the starch back in his spine and straightened himself, standing at
than staring at some unspecified spot on the horizon, however, Fraser
found himself staring at Ray's forehead, or rather his hair. Or, more
specifically at how Ray's hair grew out and up from his head. It was
thick. And it looked soft. Fraser had to repress a strong compulsion
to feel Ray's hair tangled in his fingers as he tilted Ray's head back
to press his mouth...
his will, Fraser started and jerked himself back to his surroundings.
"I'm sorry, Ray, I'm afraid I was woolgathering."
I kinda got that. Now pay attention." Ray's voice seemed casual
but Fraser noticed that Ray's eyes weren't quite meeting his anymore,
and as he watched, Ray bounced up on his toes and back down again.
"Yes, of course.
What did you say?"
said, check it out. You're only a little taller than me. I don't call
that six feet, no matter what they call it in Canadian."
looked. Ray's eyes were almost on level with his own. Their noses were
a scant centimetre apart and their mouths...Against his better judgment,
Fraser's gaze dropped to Ray's mouth, then he tore it away to meet Ray's
eyes again. But Ray wasn't looking back at him. Ray was looking at
Fraser's mouth. Ray's breathing had gotten louder in the small space
that separated them. Fraser watched as Ray's tongue moved restlessly
over his mouth and he wet his own lips in response. His heart rate sped
up until he could feel it pounding in his ears. This was madness, they
were in the middle of the squad room..... Just then he overheard Huey
saying something to his partner.
up with Kowalski and the Mountie?"
contest," Dewey said.
take the Mountie," Fraser heard Huey say, then his voice faded away.
His eyes still locked
on Ray's face, Fraser cleared his throat and then said, "Perhaps
you are taller than you think."
Ray shook his head briefly (in denial?) and backed up a bit. "I...don't
think I'm growing, Fraser. Maybe you're shrinking."
find that hard to believe, Ray. But... sometimes it is difficult to
see oneself clearly."
well you got that right." Ray backed up and away and the moment
was broken. Fraser looked down then up and let out a gusty sigh. The
bustle and noise of the squad room which had receded completely, came
back in a flash and the din seemed deafening. And Ray? Ray was back
behind his desk, removed and detached and proceeding as if nothing had
happened. Maybe nothing had.
Safe behind his desk,
Ray shuffled papers to hide his shaking hands. FuckFuckFuckFuck. What
was UP with him? Dumb question, he knew what was up. WHY was it up?
That was the question. What was going on in his brain that just being
in the Mountie's space, giving him the business suddenly made him want
to....actually give him the business?
those thoughts aside, Ray forced himself to concentrate on the matter
at hand. Fraser--his partner, his best friend--needed keys and information
to take care of his children. Thinking about Katie and Stevie cooled
Ray's jets and allowed him to reach the state of almost-normal that was
normal for him. "Okay, Fraser. These are the directions to Stevie's
preschool. It's not too far from the house, go there first and then
follow these directions to the church."
sure I can find it, Ray."
I'm sure, too, Fraser. But listen. Once you get to the church, do not
turn into the first entrance. Keep going and then take the second driveway
and get into the carpool line. If you go in the wrong way, all hell's
gonna break loose."
a preschool? Surely not, Ray." Fraser's voice was incredulous.
"You don't know
anything, Fraser. These people are serious about their carpool lines.
Here." Ray scrabbled in the kids' school file and handed Fraser
a photocopied sheet of paper. On it was a diagram of a church and arrows
indicating the proper flow of traffic. "Study this BEFORE you go
to the church."
I see. Well, I'll be certain to acquaint myself with it then."
Ray could hear a patronizing tone in Fraser's voice.
serious, Fraser. Don't make me look like an idiot." Ray glared
never do that, Ray." Fraser looked steadily back and Ray felt warm,
hot and bothered all at the same time. This was crazy. Think, Ray,
Stevie'll need to eat lunch and take a nap once you get him home. Make
sure he has bobby."
Fraser. Stevie's bobby is his blanket."
What about Katie?"
she'll get off the bus at 2:45. Meet her at the bus stop. Go out the
front door, turn left and wait on the corner. She'll get off there.
She'll need a snack. No sugar, Fraser. Just cheese or apple slices
or something. See what we've got in the fridge. Then she'll need to
do her homework. Read to you or math or something. Okay. I think that's
it. Anything else you need to know?"
hesitated, then said. "No, I don't think so. We'll call you if
there is a problem."
cool. Here are the keys." Ray put his hands in his pockets searching
for his keys. They weren't there. "Hey, Fraser. You seen my..."
Ray stopped because Fraser wasn't looking at his face. Fraser was looking
at his crotch, right where the material was pulled tight. "...keys?"
Ray finished faintly, jerking his hands out of his pockets. Fraser's
head snapped up and his hand reached out. Ray felt his eyebrows climb
up his forehead in shock and...anticipation? He sucked in his breath
and waited, ...and then Fraser's hand reached its destination. Keys.
Right. They were on the desk. Okay. Okay. Get a grip, Ray. He sat
down in his chair with a thud and dropped his head to his hand.
"Ray, are you all
Frase. It's just a....headache." Go on, Fraser. Ask me which
I get you anything, before I go?"
thanks, Fraser. I'll be fine." Ray sighed but looked up to say
good-bye. "Thanks again, Fraser. I really appreciate it."
Ray." Fraser smiled that little smile that lit up his eyes. Ray
couldn't help but smile back.
see you later, then. I should be home around six. Maybe six-thirty."
"Right you are.
We'll see you then." Fraser collected Dief and left.
watched him go then dropped his head on the desk and began pounding it.
He'd moved around the desk to compare his height to Fraser's fully intending
to turn around and do it back to back, but then Fraser had breathed in
funny and moved back nervously and something in Ray had twitched. Some
bad angel sitting on his shoulder had wanted to make Fraser nervous.
So, he'd stayed face to face just to see the Mountie squirm. He'd called
him on backing off and told him to stand up straight. Which he had.
He'd rammed that stick back up his ass and stood straight up into Ray's
hoped to make Fraser uncomfortable, but hadn't counted on how he'd feel
himself. It had been a while. That's all. Except for the kids, he didn't
really get that close to anyone. He'd pointed out to Fraser that they
were about the same height, when he'd realized that Fraser hadn't been
paying attention. He'd been looking somewhere above Ray's forehead and
his eyes had looked sort of....hungry. For some reason, this had made
Ray's heartbeat speed up so he'd called Fraser on the whole not paying
attention thing, but the speeded up blood was zinging through his arteries
by then and he couldn't have stayed still if his life had depended on
Fraser looked him over, he'd caught himself looking at Fraser's mouth.
He hadn't actually paid much attention to it before, but once he'd gotten
all up close and personal with it, he'd found he couldn't look away.
Red lips, fuller than they looked from a polite distance. Ray had wondered
if they were as soft as they looked. His own mouth had dried out and
when he'd licked it, Fraser's tongue mirrored his. It had been too much.
Too many feelings he hadn't known what to do with washed over him and
he'd backed away. Backed up, backed off and gotten back behind the desk.
And he still hadn't been safe.
Perhaps you'd care to join us?" Welsh's voice, politeness veiling
a solid core of sarcasm, invited him back to reality. Ray took the invitation
and scrambled for Interview One.
seven-thirty, a tired Ray Kowalski unlocked the door of his house, waved
at the patrolman he'd hitched a ride with and entered the foyer. The
afternoon had been grueling. One of the "witnesses" in the
Darnell case had turned into a suspect and the rigmarole necessary to
re-interview all the other witnesses with regard to this new information
had taken more time than he wanted. But, he sighed hanging his jacket
on the coat tree behind the door, he was home now.
Stevie? Fraser? I'm home." Ray checked out the messy but empty
kitchen and the equally empty family room as he passed them and continued
on down the hall to his room. Once in his room, he could hear the sounds
of conversation and splashing water in the kids' bathroom.
at the idea of Fraser giving someone a bath, he quickly shed his shoulder
holster and emptied his gun. The gun went in the locked box on the shelf
in the back of his closet and the bullets went in the locked box in his
top dresser drawer. He shucked his jeans and slid into his sweats.
he left his room and opened the door to the kids' bathroom. Stevie was
in the tub, intent on some elaborate deployment of his fleet of floating
boat bath toys. Kneeling on the rug, hands in the water, just as intent,
he said, "Hi, guys!"
looked up, startled at having their game interrupted. Fraser recovered
first, and smiled. "Hi, Ray! Were you able to get anywhere with
the Darnell case? I left you a plate. "
Thanks and I'll tell you all about it later." When Fraser started
to get up, Ray waved him back down. "No, no, I didn't mean to stop
the game, I'll just go check in with Katie. Hiya, Stevie."
"Hi, Daddy. Benton
and me's playing a game." Stevie's blue eyes narrowed, as if he
thought Ray was going to end the game right then.
I see that, kiddo. Tell you what, you finish up with Benton here and
I'll go say hello to Katie. When I come back it will be time to get
out and get your pjs on. Got it?"
it." Stevie lost interest in his daddy and turned back to Fraser.
"Benton, your turn, move that tugboat over there." He pointed
to the far corner of the tub.
you are, Stevie." Fraser complied with the order and moved the
tugboat. Ray watched a few more minutes, noting distractedly that the
humidity in the small room seemed to be making Fraser's hair curl. Deciding
that thoughts like that meant it was time to move on, he pushed himself
off the door frame and went to see Katie.
found his daughter laying on her bed in her nightie reading a story.
Dief lay next to her. "Hiya, Katie!"
She looked up and smiled at him before leaping off the bed to run to
him and give him a hug.
sweetie. Did you have a good day?" Ray squatted to take his daughter
in his arms.
Daddy. Daddy, Benton's here! I didn't know Benton was going to be here
we didn't know either, honey. Mrs. Bryan's daughter.."
"Yeah, uh, Marjorie.
Anyway, Marjorie broke her leg and needed Mrs. Bryan to help take care
of her children...um..."
Mark and Amy."
is seven, Mark is five and a real handful, and Amy is two."
"ANYWAY, Mrs. Bryan
had to go up there and help out. So, she can't come to us for a while."
Big eyes. "Who's going to take care of us?"
honey, Daddy's working on that."
know. I know. Oh, Daddy, I have got a Really Great Idea."
and what's that?" Ray gave up the struggle to remain squatting
and sat on the floor, pulling his daughter down to sit in his lap.
"Why don't we ask
Benton to take care of us?" Katie rushed on obviously delighted
by her Really Great Idea. "Dad, do you know what?" She looked
at him with wide, serious eyes.
snickerdoodle?" Ray smiled at her.
made us macaroni and cheese tonight with REAL CHEESE. I showed him
the little packet of orange powder you're s'posed to use, but he said,
`It only takes an extra minute to be healthy.'"
he would." Ray grinned.
then he got out our block of cheese and cut it up really small and mixed
it with the noodles. And, Daddy," pause for dramatic effect, "it
bet it was, sweetie." Ray hugged her again. "Now, why don't
you hop back up in bed, pick out a story for us to read together and
I'll go get your brother settled and come back to read it." Ray
got up off the floor and picked Katie up and sat her back on her bed
then picked up Stevie's pajamas from the top bunk on the other side of
paused at the door, turned back. "Yeah, hon?"
you going to ask Benton?"
me think about it a little, Katie."
me what?" Ray jumped, startled. Fraser was standing in the hall,
wiping his arms with a bath towel.
nothing, Fr-Benton, I'll tell you in a minute." Ray felt himself
flush, and escaped to the bathroom. Stevie stood on the bath mat, wrapped
in a towel. His hair, obviously having been just toweled dry, stuck
out in every direction. Ray smiled in spite of himself, and got busy.
Later, after the children
were down and asleep, or least giving a good imitation, Fraser and Ray
sat in the kitchen. Ray was eating and Fraser was thinking about kitchens.
Try as he might, he could not remember his mother's kitchen. His grandmother's
came easily to mind. Although there had been several different kitchens
as they moved around the Territories, certain constants were maintained.
The braided rug under the table. The pictures on the walls. The towel
that hung on the oven door, which young Benton had learned at an early
age was merely decorative and not to be used to mop up spills or to dry
wet hands. And the kitchen table itself. Constant, unchanging. Big,
wider than Ray's, and longer, but much the same color--warm, honey brown.
He'd sat at that table for meals, for school, for family discussions
as he got older. His grandmother kneaded bread on it, deboned chickens
on it and canned preserves on it. His grandfather sat reading at it with
a cup of hot coffee and a plate of cookies just an arm's length away.
In many ways, that table had been home.
macaroni and cheese, Benton." Startled out of his reverie, Fraser
looked up and hesitated before replying to Ray's compliment.
was impressed." Ray winked at him over the top of his glass and
Fraser smiled and looked down. Ray grinned and continued eating.
Fraser toyed with the
fringe of a placemat and wondered if he should just go ahead and head
back....to the consulate. He sighed inwardly, but it was probably time
to go. He started to get up, then sat back down remembering something.
"Did you want to
ask me something?" He looked at Ray.
looked up, as if confused. "Huh?"
in the hall, Katie asked if you were going to ask me something?"
Ray looked down and toyed with his remaining food. "Well, the thing
is this. With Mrs. Bryan gone for who knows how long, I'm going to need
some help with the kids."
help," Fraser said eagerly and felt his cheeks get red. "I
mean, if you were asking for my help."
Ray stared at him a moment and then smiled gratefully. "Really?
Okay. Great. Now this week's not too bad, Mrs. Flynn two doors down,
she knows the kids and has helped me out before. She can get Stevie
any days you or I can't and will keep him and Katie until one of us can
can check my schedule, but I believe I had Wednesday and Thursday afternoon
free to liase, so I can certainly get Stevie on those days and stay until
you get home. The other days I should be able to complete my responsibilities
by four o'clock. Would it help you if I came to get the children then?"
That'd be good. Then you could have them home and comfortable and I
could bring dinner when I get off."
don't mind cooking, Ray."
we can work it out as we go." Ray cleaned his plate and stood to
put it in the dishwasher Fraser had loaded with the other dishes. After
closing the dishwasher, he turned and leaned against the counter. "Next
week gets tricky." His shoulders seemed to tense a little. "Next
week, I'm supposed to go on nights. Last time this happened, Mrs. Bryan
just came over when I got ready to go to work and stayed with the kids
until I got home. The time before that....Stella was still here."
has changed a great deal." Fraser stood and moved to stand in front
Yeah." Ray hesitated for a few moments and rubbed his nose with
the back of his hand. "Yeah. Anyway, is there any way you might
be able to stay here with the kids all next week? You could sleep on
the sofa bed, or take my room if you want. It'd just be...great, if
I knew you were here."
realized the gift he was be given. Trust. Ray trusted him to live in
his home and to care for his children. He reached out and put his hand
on Ray's shoulder. "I'd be honored to." He smiled into Ray's
a deep breath and said, "Thanks, Benton. I can't tell you how much
I appreciate it."
my pleasure, Ray. It's nice to have something...to do." Fraser
pulled his hand away and turned back to the table.
beats picking up the Ice Queen's dry cleaning, huh?"
Ray," Fraser chided, but didn't meet Ray's eyes. "Well, Dief
and I will be off then. I assume then, that you would like me to pick
up the children tomorrow at Mrs. Flynn's?"
That'd be great."
I shall, then." Fraser motioned to Dief and moved to the foyer
to collect his hat and jacket. Ray moved with him. At the door, Fraser
turned to say good-bye.
night, Ray. I'll see you tomorrow."
good night, Benton." Ray opened the door and held it. "And
thanks. You're a good friend. Best I've had in . . . in a while."
thank you. I feel the same about you, Ray." Their eyes met and
in Ray's, Fraser saw the same affection and warmth he felt sure his own
conveyed. And, deeper, a question. There was a question in Ray's eyes
that Fraser had just recently begun to ask himself. A question about
friendship and love and what happened when friendship became more. But
it was a question that wasn't going to get answered tonight. Fraser
jammed his hat on his head, nodded at Ray, and stepped outside, leaving
Ray's home for the solitude of the night.
pace moved him steadily forward, but his thoughts ran in increasingly
convoluted circles. Ray. Stevie. Katie. Himself. Dief. Pieces of
two puzzles. In one, the puzzle showed Ray, Katie and Stevie. Incomplete,
perhaps, leaving room for a new wife and mother. The other showed himself
and Dief. This, too, was incomplete, but the edges of the pieces were
getting torn and worn and weren't easily fit to any other pieces.
How did they all fit
together? Ray had said he did not make connections well, yet here he
was connecting. With Stevie, who loved boats and adventure and wanted
to sail off to find buried treasure. With Katie, who seemed to see right
through him to his buried heart and to love what she saw there.
With Ray. His partner,
his best friend, fitting with him in a way that even Ray Vecchio had
not. Instinct and Logic. Melody and Harmony. A duet. Without warning,
he was assailed by a memory of their combined scent under the slide,
a musky odor which, when combined with the remembrance of the hot, sweaty
slide of Ray's skin on his own, served to make him hard in seconds.
Walking became difficult. So did denial.
try as he might, he could not make the pieces into one picture instead
Fraser moved in on Sunday
evening. Of course, being Fraser, moving in didn't involve much more
than bringing two uniforms and a duffel bag. The kids were beside themselves
with joy. Later, working together with Fraser who seemed to know his
way around a bedtime routine, Ray had to admit that having another adult
in the house was something he had missed.
on Stevie's bed rubbing his back, part of their nightly ritual just before
sleep, Ray watched Fraser and Katie on her bed.
this is my September journal," Katie said.
you write in it every day?"
I draw a picture and then write underneath it."
a pile of leaves, and that's me and Stevie jumping in them."
"I can see that.
I like the colors of the leaves."
cause it's autumn, Benton. Leaves turn colors in autumn. Autumn,"
Katie turned to face Fraser and continued. "Autumn is the big word
Fraser intoned seriously. "I see. Now who is this?"
Daddy." Katie settled back against Fraser, and Ray could see him
shift a little to give her room, but not move away.
know, I thought it was him because of the yellow hair, and how it stands
up like that." Fraser flashed a smile at Ray, whose breath suddenly
deserted him, before turning his attention back to Katie. "What
does this one say?" he asked, turning a page.
says, 'Squirrels use their tails for parachutes to get around sometimes.'
We learned that in science, and you know, one time I saw a squirrel jump
from one tree to another one really far away. I hope his parachute worked
he land in the tree?"
think so." Katie looked up at Fraser.
his parachute must have worked."
right." Katie smiled brilliantly and snuggled closer.
I think we have time for one more picture. Which one do you want to
show me?" Fraser looked up at Ray, who nodded in affirmation.
Katie took the book and flipped rapidly to the back. "Here."
She held the book back where Fraser could see it.
didn't respond right away and his hand came up to rub his fingers across
his eyebrow. Ray leaned forward, puzzled about what would cause that
picked up on his hesitation, too and asked, "Don't you like it?"
really worried now, moved gently to avoid waking Stevie and climbed down
from the bed.
like it quite-quite a bit, Katie."
see you didn't forget the hat, didja, Katie?" Ray stood next to
the bed and looked over Fraser's shoulder. "And I like how you
drew Dief's bushy tail. See, Dief?" Ray nudged the wolf half under
the bed who obliged him with a bark. "What's it say underneath,
sweetie?" Ray put his hand on Fraser's shoulder.
is Benton. He is special. He lives in my heart," Katie read,
then pointed to the picture. "See, this is a big heart all around
him and Dief."
a wonderful picture, honey. But now it's time for sleep. School tomorrow."
Ray squeezed Fraser's shoulder and let go. Fraser seemed to come back
to himself and got up.
night, Daddy." Katie hugged and kissed him. "Good night,
Benton." Fraser bent down and let Katie hug him, too. He straightened
up but didn't move away. Gently, he put his hand on Katie's head.
"I really liked
your journal, Katie. Thank you for sharing it with me."
your picture, too?" Katie still wasn't quite sure.
my picture, too. Very much."
Katie sighed happily and snuggled down under her covers.
turned and left the room, brushing past Ray in the doorway.
snickerdoodle. Sleep good. See you in the morning." Ray turned
out the light.
After the kids were settled, Fraser disappeared. Ray, who had showered
and changed clothes, finally spotted him through the glass door sitting
on the family swing looking at the sky. Ray hesitated, but decided to
join him outside.
looked up as Ray stood uncertainly in front of the swing set.
Fraser. Mind if I join you?"
not at all. Please have a seat." Fraser gestured to the empty
half of the swing.
Ray sat and pushed off. They swung unevenly for a minute then hit a nice
rhythm. "Thanks for your help tonight. You were good at the routine."
"I was merely following
your lead, Ray."
well, it still helps to have two, you know?"
mean normally, I have to do zone, but with you there we can cover 'em
man-to-man." Ray heard Fraser's breath catch in a laugh.
"I'm glad I could
be of service."
you did good." They swung silently for a moment. Then Ray added,
"Katie liked showing you her journal."
liked seeing it."
got kinda flummoxed there at the end, that picture bother you?"
Ray figured the best way to find out was to be direct.
no, not at all." Ray waited. Sure enough, "Well, perhaps
a trifle." There was the honesty coming out. You just had to wait
suppose I'm not used to being thought of as...special." He looked
up at Ray. "You know, in a good way."
rest assured, Fraser, my friend, you ARE special--in a freak sort of
course, Ray." Fraser looked down again, but Ray could see he was
well, bedtime's when you find out all the good stuff."
you know, everything, what went down at school, who sat next to who,
what so-and-so said when that other kid said that, what went right and
what went wrong."
"Yeah, that's where
the goods are. Most important time of the day." Ray fidgeted on
the swing looking down at his hands on the slats. "Stella. She,
well, she wasn't always able to, you know, get real involved with the
her job was important to her and there always seemed to be a brief to
read, or notes to type up, or forms to fill out. You know, something."
Ray looked up quickly, but Fraser had his head back and was studying
well, I kinda think...I kinda think, she missed out, you know? And now,
there's no going back and changing it for her, you know. She just missed
it." To his fury, Ray's eyes started to fill and his voice dropped.
"And sometimes, I'm just so mad about that. Not that it does any
good, now. But it just bothers me that she didn't take the opportunity
that she had to...know them. To love them. Even if they were little.
She just fucking missed it." He leaned his head back and put his
arm over his eyes for a moment. "Anyway, so I make sure. I make
sure, you know, not to miss it. Not to be too busy. I don't want to
can understand that." Fraser's hand came to his shoulder hesitantly,
but then closed over it tightly, offering support.
gotta know. They gotta know that..." Ray sniffed furiously.
"What do they need
to know?" Fraser's hand stayed clasped on his shoulder.
gotta know that I'm going to be there." Ray's voice failed him.
"They do, Ray."
Fraser turned a little, bringing his knee up on the seat to face Ray.
"The only way
they can know is if I keep being there. So, I'm there. Every night.
Same routine. Keep it going. Keep them feeling safe.
tonight, you were there, too." Ray felt himself get red. "And
it was nice to share it. I've been doing it alone for so long, I didn't
know how it would be to share bedtime, to share them."
would never want to intrude, Ray."
see, but that's just it. You didn't. You were a part of it all. It
was... nice." Ray sat back up and looked at Fraser.
you, Ray. It's ...very nice to be here."
And, then. "Thanks."
swung in silence and watched the sky.
That night Ray lay in
bed, naked except for a pair of boxer briefs. Almost asleep, he shifted
slightly and pulled his arm up to rest on the pillow under his head.
Whew. Probably should have showered before bed, judging from the odor.
Bet Fraser, no, Benton he reminded himself, never smelled any way except...clean.
Even under the slide, after an afternoon of physical activity outside
he just smelled clean and...musky. But not dirty, not that, just like...a
man. A man who worked hard. The images in his mind slid into sleep
dream, they were under the slide platform again. He was holding the
slide with his arms on either side of Benton, and his naked chest against
Benton's sweaty back. Shifting weight and his grip on the slide, caused
him to rub up against Benton. He gasped at the feelings that touch evoked.
He heard Benton's breath catch, then he turned in Ray's arms and shockingly,
kissed him. His lips were soft and hot and Ray was surprised at how much
he liked being kissed by another man. Being kissed by Benton.
He moved his own hands
again to tangle in Benton's hair. Dimly, he heard the slide crash to
the ground. Soft, thick, this, too was a pleasure. Benton tore his
lips away from Ray's and moved his head back.
he gasped, wild-eyed and breathing hard.
Ray tightened his grip on Benton's head to keep him from bolting. "Shhh.
Benton, it's okay. It's okay."
panic in his partner's eyes seemed to fade at Ray's words. Then, that
hot mouth was back on his, stealing his breath away. Benton moved, sliding
his way over Ray's jawbone to neck and up to his ear.
wow, uh yeah, that feels...Jesus." Ray was incoherent. Benton moved
again, leaving a wet trail down his neck to his shoulder, teeth there
then the wetness moved again, nipples, God, who knew how good that would
feel? He did, now. Then stomach and a belly-button fuck. Ray opened
his eyes and the sight of Benton on his knees tonguing his navel almost
made him jump out of his skin. As Ray watched, Benton moved again and
nuzzled his cock open-mouthed through his shorts. Ray could feel the
heat of Benton's breath and thrust up into it.
looked up at him then and, without taking his eyes from Ray's, popped
the buttons on Ray's shorts one by one. Ray watched, almost breathless.
Was he going to...? His eyes closed and he groaned out loud, hands scrabbled
to hold onto something, anything as Benton's mouth closed around him.
So good. Big mouth, deep throat, incredible tongue. Gonna do it for
him, gonna do it for him, he could feel his balls tightening, the muscles
in his thighs started shaking, he could feel the wood slats of the swing
set biting into his hands, he wanted to make Benton feel like this.
Benton needed to feel what this was like.
fast, the images changed and now he was the one on his knees, Benton's
cock in his mouth, big and hot and salty, one hand around the base where
he was thicker than Ray and the other clamped onto the smooth muscles
of Benton's ass. He looked up, saw Benton looking down, saw his face
with no reserve, no walls, just suffused with pleasure and surprise.
Ray hollowed his cheeks and sucked hard and just like that Benton came.
In his mouth. On his chest when he couldn't swallow it all. And then
he was coming...
over his own hand and the bed. Ray woke, gasping and surprised. He
reared up and looked around. The dream came back to him and he flopped
back on the bed with his arm over his eyes. Great. Just great. Now
what was he going to do?
The next morning went
rather smoothly. Ray was there and still adjusted to the day shift and
was able to direct the morning activities, although he seemed somewhat
jumpy. He skittered away from the most casual contact and after observing
him for a few moments, Fraser gave him some space.
a certain efficiency, the children were dressed, fed and readied for
the day. There was a small bit of excitement when Katie absolutely refused
to wear her weather-appropriate sneakers in favor of a pair of flip-flops
of which she was extremely fond. Fraser merely suggested that she go
out with Dief in the backyard wearing the flip-flops before making up
her mind. No one commented when she stomped in only a few minutes later
and changed her shoes, but Ray gave Fraser the high-five in the kitchen
once she disappeared into her room.
drove Ray's car and successfully dropped Katie at her school shod appropriately
and on time. He was somewhat taken aback when she kissed him good-bye
as she got out, but not displeased.
Stevie's school, Fraser parked and got out, then turned to release Stevie
from his buckles. Holding Stevie's backpack, he waited while the boy
climbed down from his seat and got out of the car.
Dief!" Stevie waved at the wolf who remained in the car. "Come
took the hand that Stevie held up and they crossed the parking lot.
Once inside the church, Fraser let the boy lead the way across a wide
common area, through a set of double doors and down a hallway. Many
adults were coming and going down the hall as they dropped their own
children off and each one looked twice at the odd sight of a Mountie
in full dress uniform in their midst. Fraser nodded politely as necessary
and concentrated on keeping up his end of the conversation with Stevie.
Parks' class, those are big kids."
I see," said Fraser looking at a class full of four and five year
the water fountain. Can I get a drink?"
course." Fraser lifted Stevie and balanced him while he struggled
with the button on the fountain. "Do you need any help?"
"Nah, I'm good,"
Stevie said, his unconscious imitation of his father bringing a smile
to Fraser's face.
then off we go."
Benton." He got down and they proceeded without further incident
to Mrs. Barrow's class.
morning, Stevie!" Mrs. Barrow greeted them at the doorway looking
over Fraser with interest. "And who is this?"
said Stevie and tugged Fraser into the classroom.
Benton Fraser, ma'am. Of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police." Stevie
continued to pull and Fraser tried to maintain polite eye contact with
Mrs. Barrow while stepping over a truck, a pile of blocks and another
Benton. Here's my cubby." Stevie proudly pointed at a square hole
labeled with his name in a cabinet of square holes labeled with other
children's names. Fraser squatted down next to him.
And what goes in here? Is this where you sit?" Fraser gave Stevie
a wide-eyed stare.
Stevie giggled. "This is where I put my snack box and my folder."
Reaching into his backpack, he promptly did so.
what?" asked Fraser, very seriously.
hang up my jacket and my backpack on the hooks. See?" Stevie bent
and pointed underneath the cubby to two hooks.
Very efficient." Fraser hung up the backpack, and helped Stevie
out of his jacket. Then he hung that up, as well. "There. Is
said Stevie in a satisfied tone.
now what do we do?"
you kiss me good-bye and I go play."
well. Good-bye, Stevie. Have a very nice day. I'll pick you up at
Mrs. Flynn's after Katie gets home from school. Like last week."
Fraser hugged the boy, feeling just how small he was. Then, he kissed
Stevie on the cheek, stood and prepared to take his leave.
Mr. Fraser?" Mrs. Barrow caught his attention.
Fraser said automatically, turning to Mrs. Barrow.
sorry, of course, Constable Fraser. Will you be dropping off Stevie
that is the plan. His father is working third shift for the next two
weeks and I'm helping out with the children."
you're his father's....?"
We work together. As policemen. You see, I first came to Chicago on the
trail of the killers of my father and, for reasons that don't need exploring
at this juncture, I have remained, attached as liaison to the Canadian
I see. Well, how nice. It's so nice to see he has someone to help out."
She leaned forward confidentially. "Josephine Bryan is in my Circle,
so I am aware that she is helping out her daughter for a while. I'm
so glad Mr. Kowalski has a friend like you to look out for him. He's
such a nice boy."
Well, thank you very kindly." Fraser shifted his feet, ran his fingers
over his eyebrow and felt his face reddening.
beamed at him, then turned more business-like, "Oh, would you please
ask Mr. Kowalski if he would write a note explaining the situation so
that we may keep it in our files?"
course." Fraser said. "I imagine he'll take care of it this
afternoon. Oh, and let me give you my number at work. I have the car
today, so if anything comes up you'll need to get in touch with me."
He gave her the Consulate card. With a final look at Stevie, who had
joined a friend at the block box, he left for work.
Ray buzzed around his
house, fidgeting. Unused to inactivity during the day, his body could
not seem to settle. He tried reading in the living room, sleeping in
the bedroom but could not sustain either activity. He went on a cleaning
binge that, probably due to an evening and morning of Fraser influence,
just didn't seem to take up as much time as it normally did. Once the
house was in order, he was again left with nothing to do. He ended up
standing by the sliding glass door staring at the swing set and thinking
about Bentonno, Fraser. The Benton path had proved a little too
unsettling last night.
meant it last night when he'd said it was nice to have Fraser around
the house. Since Stella had died, he'd missed the companionship of
another parent to share the ups and downs and craziness of raising children.
Little by little, Fraser was becoming more and more involved with his
family. He knew things about the kids no one else would know, things
he and Ray could talk about as common experiences. The children responded
to his quiet ways, how he listened to what they had to say. They loved
their Benton, his wolf and the time they all spent together. And Fraser
loved them. Ray smiled a little, thinking of Fraser as the recipient
of the hugs, kisses, and affectionate tackles his children were prone
to. He was obviously unused to such cuddling and was slow to return
it but they were slowly breaking down his reserve.
his kids loved Fraser. Fraser loved them. That he knew. And he knew
how he felt about Fraser. Partners, sure. Friends, absolutely. Buddies,
certainly. What he didn't know, Ray now realized, was how he felt about
Benton. The Fraser part of Fraser was known and comfortable. The Benton
different. And there was more going on here than Ray
was completely comfortable with. Something that made his palms sweaty
when he was alone with Benton, something that made him want to get closer
to him, something that made him want to break down that reserve and see
what it was Benton wanted and ...needed. And Ray was desperately afraid
that that something wasn't friendship, at all.
rested his head against the cool glass of the door. The dream he'd had
last night hadn't been about friendship. No, it had been about sex,
plain and simple. Except it wasn't so plain and simple. Because the
hottest sex dream he'd ever had in his life, including the adolescent
fantasies of his teenage years, hadn't been about Stella. Or Francesca.
Or any even half-way hot babe he knew or didn't know.
this dream had been about Benton. Benton and him. Benton doing things
to him. Him doing things to Benton. Things that he'd never dreamed
of doing with another man. Things he'd never even done with Stella.
The images had jumped and changed, a kaleidoscope of chests, hot mouths
and cocks. Plural. As in two. Two cocks. His and Benton's. And,
then, the final image, the one that had sent him over the edge to wake
up gasping and wet with the evidence of his own arousal, was not one
of anything being done to him. Even now, he could feel the shape of Benton's
cock, the warmth that seared him and the taste of bitter salt that flooded
his tongue. And the look. The look of Benton Fraser with all his walls
down, his reserve gone, with all his want and need and love written plainly
on his face. That was the look that sent Ray over the edge.
under his breath, Ray rolled his head off the glass and moved into action
once again. The garage, the garage needed a good cleaning. Lord knew
he never had the time, and now, damnit, he had the time. Leaving the
living room and his uncomfortable thoughts behind, he headed out and
later, whatever impulse had led Ray to begin this insanity seemed buried
like last year's snow tires. But he kept at it, because by now he'd taken
so much out of the garage that to put it back in without rearranging
it would just make a bigger mess than he'd had when he started.
Katie's bike and Stevie's
trike and their fleet of push and ride vehicles were residing temporarily
on the driveway while he tackled the thornier problem of the stacked
and tumbled boxes behind them. The Stella boxes. Stuff that hadn't needed
to be dealt with immediately following her death, but had been too much
to deal with on top of everything else at the time.
was insane. He'd honestly forgotten what was in most of them. Some square,
some taller, more rectangular,their plain brown sides told him nothing
about what time bombs resided within. Damn Benton, anyway. This was all
his fault. If he hadn't been walking around naked and sweaty in Ray's
thoughts, Ray could have been lazing this day away instead of playing
hide and seek with a bunch of emotional landmines.
first box was lighter than it looked and the top had been merely folded
closed. Ray jerked it open, sighing in relief when he recognized the
contents immediately. Auto manuals, repair guides, repair receipts (when
the guides hadn't been enough), even, judging from the rattle, some spare
parts. The GTO stuff. He'd given the GTO back to his dad after Stella
had died. Two cars were too many, and, as a single father, he needed
the durability and convenience provided by the Explorer. It had been
difficult to give the GTO up, but it had been only one of many difficult
tasks at the time. He sighed a little, but the GTO-ache was mostly gone
now. His dad would like this stuff. He pushed it over by the steps to
next three boxes were full of books. Poetry. Math. Biology? Oh, not law
school. College. Ray hardly remembered college. Probably because he hadn't
actually been there very long before dropping out and joining the police
academy. He connected with very little here. Found it hard to imagine
that his Stella had ever liked T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare.
hadn't shared very much in those days when she was finishing college
and he... wasn't. Well, aside from sex. Ray felt his mouth quirk up.
The sex had always been great. Even when other things were shaky, the
sex had been mind-blowing. And that's not all she blew, either, his evil
mind put in. Even now, he could close his eyes and hear the sounds she'd
make when she went down on him. Man, those sounds used to do him in.
But....Ray opened his eyes and took stock. They didn't seem to be doing
him just now, not like they usually did. In fact, all he seemed to feel
was a sort of wistful nostalgia. Where was the heat, the throbbing pulse,
the rise to the occasion? He sat back on his haunches and considered.
Was he actually putting Stella behind him?
the images from his dream flashed across his mind. Benton down in front
of him, that clever tongue in his belly button, then that hot mouth around
his cock. He closed his eyes and groaned. Oh, sure. THIS did it for
him. NOW he was all hot and bothered. Ray started shaking. Boxes.
More boxes. Get busy, Ray.
faster now in an attempt to out-maneuver his own traitorous thoughts,
Ray closed the lids on the boxes of books and slid them over to the garage
door to load into the Explorer later. He'd take them to Goodwill. They
always wanted stuff.
next box he came to was tall and rectangular. A wardrobe box. Ray hesitated,
then steeled himself and opened it. Stella suits. At least ten. Various
colors and styles. Whatever was hot or powerful or hot and powerful.
Stella had believed the way you dressed said something about you. And
she'd wanted her clothes to say "I'm powerful. I'm hot. You can't
have me, but I'll have you for lunch." He'd never wanted to kiss
her when she wore these suits. He did, of course, but he'd never wanted
to. He much preferred the jeans and t-shirt Stella of the weekends, the
naked and sweaty Stella of their bed.
He ran his hand along the shoulders of the jackets, feeling the texture,
remembering how she'd looked wearing them. He let his hand linger on
each one, shifting the hangers slightly, dipping into the space between
each. Scratchy wool, smooth linen, cool rayon. Scratchy, smooth, cool.
Not a bad description of Stella at work, he thought, smiling ruefully.
Without warning, something bit him. He jerked his hand back in alarm.
Blood dripped from his middle finger. He looked at it in confusion,
then put in his mouth.
With the other hand, he slid the hangers further
apart to see what had scratched his finger. On a frosty blue suit, a
silver brooch shaped like a snowflake was still pinned. The clasp had
come undone, and the sharp pin lay exposed against the breast. He took
his finger out of his mouth and removed the pin carefully, holding it
in the palm of his hand. He remembered. He'd given this to Stella on
their first Christmas. He hadn't known she still had it. His fingers
closed around it tightly. Katie. Katie would want this. The suits
could all go to Goodwill or somewhere, but the pin was for Katie.
He placed the pin on
top of the box of GTO stuff by the kitchen steps. Going back, he checked
the other suits for jewelry but found no more. Then he closed the wardrobe
box and moved it over by the book boxes.
a box of knick-knacks, he found a lighthouse statue that was also a night-light.
Cape Hatteras. For their honeymoon, they'd spent a week holed up in
a beach house in the Outer Banks. It'd rained four of the five days,
but they hadn't cared. They had found plenty to do inside. On the fifth
day, the sun had shone and they spent the day at the beach, then shopped
for souvenirs at a tacky roadside stand. The lighthouse had been purchased
He set it
aside for Stevie and then closed the box and slid it over to the kitchen
steps. This one could go in the attic. One rainy day, he'd get it down
and spend an hour or so telling the kids what it all was, where it had
come from and what it meant, let them get to know their mom.
he knew it, all the boxes had been marked for Goodwill or otherwise dealt
with. He swept out the resulting space, moved the fleet back in and
mounted the steps carrying the box for the attic and the items for Katie
and Stevie. The GTO box he left, knowing he'd get it later. His arms
ached and his eyes stung from dust and sweat, but his heart was in better
shape now than it had been in two long years.
That evening, Fraser
stood at the stove fixing dinner and listening to the buzz of activity
around him. Katie had finished her homework and was playing some sort
of game which involved walking Dief around on a jump rope which evidently
served as a leash. As they came through the kitchen, Fraser raised his
eyebrows at Dief for allowing this indignity, but Dief turned away,
refusing to be baited. Fraser snorted and reached for the bowl of chicken
that had been marinating. He added it to the sautéing vegetables
and stirred while it cooked.
supervising Katie's homework, Ray had disappeared to shower and dress
for work. Fraser's unruly mind skittered down the hall to the bathroom
to provide him with a sudden, shocking image of Ray naked. He dropped
the spoon he was holding.
looked up at the clatter. "Are you okay, Benton?"
Yes. Yes, the spoon slipped from my hand while I was" imagining
your father naked, "-ah, stirring, Katie. While I was stirring
the..." Fraser looked at the food in the pan and had no idea what
it was. "Food," he finished lamely.
okay." Katie tripped off, dragging a laughing wolf behind her.
out of you." Fraser mouthed but Dief just shook his head.
expecting his father to appear and starting talking about partners and
marriage, which would truly do him in, Fraser tried to gather himself
up. This was not his house, this was not his home, this was Ray's life,
these were his children and Fraser was just here to help out. Sublimate,
all sat down together to eat the stir-fried chicken and vegetables.
Both Katie and Stevie looked at the food on their plates skeptically.
Ray watched them, then met Fraser's eyes and smiled, raising his eyebrows
and tilting his head challengingly as if to say, 'Now what are you going
his throat. "Katie, Stevie, eat up. Whoever has a clean plate
can take Diefenbaker for a walk with me tonight."
that would seem to be the logical place."
the dark?" Stevie asked.
I'm sure the stars and the moon, not to mention the numerous street lamps,
will provide dim but adequate illumination."
Both children fell to enthusiastically.
watched, pleased for the moment then met Ray's eyes.
was grinning now, also pleased but knowing. "Very nice, Benton."
He leaned in closer and whispered, "But what are you going to do
sure I'll come up with something."
laughed delightedly and punched him on the shoulder. "Knowing you,
you probably will." Conversation at the table turned to Katie's
school day and then plans for the weekend: Katie had a soccer game on
finished with his meal, Ray was up and moving again, taking his plate
to the dishwasher and going back to the bedroom.
watched him, caught as always by the litheness of his form and the instinctive
grace of his movements. Once Ray had disappeared down the hall, Fraser
shook himself and continued eating finishing his own meal before clearing
the rest of the dishes.
he called, going into the hall as a thought struck him.
you need a lunch or something?"
I'm good, Benton. Thanks." There was a pause, then: "Well,
if you got any of that chicken stuff left you could throw that in a Tupperware
for me." Ray came out of the bedroom buckling his shoulder holster
over his black t-shirt.
you are. Just a minute." Fraser scraped the rest of the stir-fry
out of the pan into a plastic container. He heard Ray in the foyer.
I'm leaving. Come say good-bye!" As Fraser came around the corner
holding the food container, Ray was shrugging into a sport coat. A patter
of feet and clicking of toenails heralded the arrival of a girl, a boy
and a wolf.
Benton will be here. Be good, be safe and be sweet. You hear me? I'll
be home tomorrow morning before you go to school, I hope. But, if I'm
not, help Benton take care of things, okay?"
Daddy," they chorused.
bye-bye kisses." He stooped and kissed Katie, then Stevie.
"Don't forget Dief,
Daddy." Katie pushed Dief up.
a dog, sweetie."
he's not, he's a wolf and you might hurt his feelings. Kiss him, Daddy."
Katie was insistent.
is notoriously moody, Ray. You just don't know what kind of behavior
such a slight might provoke." Fraser bit the inside of his cheek
to keep from smiling.
Daddy!" Katie's voice was triumphant.
gave Fraser a look that could only be described as betrayed. "All
right, how 'bout I let him kiss me." No more immune than any father
to his daughter's charms, to Fraser's amusement Ray screwed up his face
and let Dief lick him. "All right. All done," he said to
Dief. "Shut up," he said to Fraser.
didn't say anything, Ray."
out loud, you didn't."
forget Benton, Daddy." As Katie's words sunk in, Fraser's amusement
faded and something like panic took its place.
no, um, no. Really that won't be necessary," Fraser stammered
feeling that tell-tale heat spreading across his face.
him, Daddy. Or you might hurt his feelings 'cause he'll be the only
one without a kiss."
right." Ray said grinning evilly with a look of someone who sees
that revenge is within his grasp. "We can't have him pining away,
now can we?"
Ray. I think that's above and beyond the call of ...mmph." The
kiss was quick and landed on his cheek just next to his lips. "Ah,
well, thank you, Ray."
eyes met his and Fraser watched Ray's tongue lick the feel of stubble
from his lips and felt his world reel. He wanted more. He crossed his
arms and clutched at his upper arm with one hand, and the Tupperware
container with the other, physically restraining himself from grabbing
Ray and pulling him up against his chest so he could explore that fascinating,
exasperating mouth more thoroughly.
teasing light had faded from Ray's eyes and he seemed to be having trouble
catching his breath. His eyes drifted down to Fraser's crossed arms
and then back up to meet Fraser's eyes again. He held out his hand for
the container of food and Fraser passed it to him. "Well, I guess
that should about do it." He looked down at Katie. "So, princess,
anyone else I need to kiss, or can I go now?" The smile was back
in his voice.
I guess you can go now. Bye, Daddy! Be good, be safe and be sweet!"
"I'll leave sweet
to you, sweetie. Bye, Stevie." He looked quickly at Fraser and
then just as quickly looked away. "Bye, Fr-Benton. Have a good
evening. Just call me if you have any questions."
Ray. We'll be fine. I have the number."
done deal then. I'll see you in the morning." And he was gone.
Fraser caught his breath and looked at the children.
you two. Go get your shoes on while I finish cleaning up the kitchen."
Outside, Ray bounced
down the steps, his heart beating unnaturally fast. Okay, okay, what
was that? What had possessed him? Sure, the urge to make Benton sweat
was always there, but it seemed to be getting more specific about what
kind of sweating he wanted Benton to do.
He'd used Katie's request as an excuse, but he knew that's all it was.
An excuse. An excuse to do something he'd wanted to but hadn't had the
guts to do himself. All he would have had to do, he thought sliding
into the car, was say something like, 'Men don't kiss each other' and
shaken Benton's hand or slapped him on the back or done some other socially
acceptable guy thing. But he hadn't. Ray rested his head on the steering
wheel and thought about that. Why hadn't he done that?
his head up, he stared unseeingly at the garage door. Part of the reason
was just wanting to make Benton uncomfortable by pushing his way inside
those rock walls of reserve. A seemingly natural guy urge to put your
buddy on the spot. Revenge for Benton's aiding and abetting in the Dief
But part of
it, and he made himself admit it, was him wanting to explore the energy
that existed between Benton and himself. An energy that Benton felt,
too. Because Benton wanted more. Ray knew that now. Knew it from the
way Benton had held himself back after the kiss. The way he'd gripped
himself so tightly his knuckles were white. Ray discovered that he
was not willing to put that fire out. Not yet, anyway. Maybe not ever.
What he didn't know was whether or not he was willing to let it burn.
Sighing at the can
of worms that he had opened, Ray started the car, put it in gear and
went to work.
That first day had pretty
much set a routine for the rest of the week. Well, aside from the whole
kiss-goodbye-at-the-door-thing. Before anybody knew it, it was the weekend.
Ray worked Friday night and slept most of the morning, but woke in time
to make it to Katie's soccer game.
felt weird to walk to the field carrying only one chair. Normally, he
had that and the cooler and often Stevie in his arms. But Stevie was
riding on Benton's shoulders and Benton was carrying the other chair
and the cooler, slung over one shoulder and seemed to be managing quite
handily. Katie had run on ahead to meet her team. Hmmm...maybe he could
get used to this.
Or not, he thought a little later, after introducing Fraser as his partner
and seeing the eyebrows climb, then switching it to "my friend"
and seeing them climb higher. Finally, he settled on "This is Benton
Fraser," and left any other conclusions for the listener to draw
for him/herself. Fraser himself seemed oblivious but Ray wondered if
he really was because he'd seen Fraser's ears turn red a time or two
after being introduced.
he brought it up once the kids were in bed and they were sitting again
on the bench swing of the swing set.
thought we were a couple, you know."
did?" Fraser drank some more of his water.
other parents. The people we met today."
Well. People will think what they will."
cocked his head and looked at Fraser until he looked up and met Ray's
eyes. "Doesn't it bother you?"
stared back, seemingly unfazed. "Not particularly. I could do much
worse." His eyes dropped. "In fact, I have done much worse."
Ray took a deep
breath and let it out again. "Constable Benton Fraser, in love?
didn't answer right away. Ray began to wonder if that meant he had trespassed
on forbidden territory, even between buddies, and started to apologize,
when Fraser made a sound that might have been a chuckle, if it had had
any scrap of humor in it.
was thinking," he said. "Of all the times that Ray Vecchio
asked me that question and never listened to the answer. Until it was
almost too late..." Fraser looked down at his hands and then back
up at the stars. Ray was just about to take back the question, when
Fraser breathed in and began. "She had robbed a bank. Or, technically,
she had driven the getaway car. The bank was in Alaska and she fled
into Canada. I was charged to track her down and bring her in."
Ray listened in growing
horror to the tale that Fraser told about Fortitude Pass, the storm and
the turning over of Victoria to the authorities upon reaching civilization.
With an increasing sense of dread, he heard of her reappearance in Chicago
and the events that had culminated in Ray Vecchio shooting Fraser-Benton!
in the back and Victoria's escape.
men were silent when Benton finished. Ray knew this was dangerous territory,
that Benton probably didn't talk about this to anyone. Except maybe
Dief. When he did speak, what came out of his mouth surprised even him.
"So, I guess you're
really lucky at cards, then?"
swing stuttered to a halt, as Benton turned to him, staring in surprise,
feet missing the beat they had established. Ray stared back wondering
if he was about to get punched. Then, Benton turned back, dropped his
head to his hand and started shaking.
man, I'm sorry." Ray brought his arm around Benton's heaving shoulders,
thinking for sure he'd pushed Benton too far. "I am so sorry."
But as he leaned down into a hug, he became aware that Benton wasn't
crying, he was....laughing?
an unexpected suddenness, Benton sat up, knocking Ray's arm down and
back He looked at Ray, tears of laughter still gleaming in the corners
of his eyes. "That's what you have to say? I lay out the whole
tragic story, a complete two-episode Shakespearean tragedy of a story
and you come out with, 'So I guess you're lucky at cards?'"
Ray looked warily at
him, still not sure that he wouldn't end up getting punched here, any
time, now, but said, "Well, are you?"
stared a few minutes longer and then said, "Actually, yes, I am."
For some reason, this struck them both as hilarious and they both burst
out laughing, leaning against each other weakly.
recovered and wiped his eyes. Then realized that although Benton was
still shaking against his shoulder, the shaking was different now. Head
down and arms crossed tightly, Benton was crying.
okay. Benton, it's okay, buddy. Shhhh..." He put his arm around
the stiff shoulders and rubbed the back of Benton's neck. "Geez,
shook his head.
I can't be sorry? Can't feel bad that you had such a bad time?"
Benton shook his head
you're unhinged, you know that? I'll feel sorry if I want to."
And Ray turned and pulled one leg up on the seat to face his partner.
He shoved at Benton's shoulder "Turn a little."
looked up confused.
a little, face me." Ray pushed on the shoulder nearest him and pulled
on Benton's belt loops at his far hip.
a little or I'm going to climb on your lap, Benton." Ray's voice
was gently exasperated. "Geez, you're no good at the comfort thing,
Benton turned his body toward Ray but kept his head down. Ray gathered
him up in his arms like he would Stevie or Katie and pushed Benton's
head down on his shoulder. "Haven't you ever talked about this?
shake. Body still held tight, not resisting the hug but not accepting
it either. "Come on, Benton. It's okay. I got you. You can let
go a little."
remained still, except for occasional gasps. Ray shifted getting a better
hold of Benton's shirt with one hand, sliding the other up to rest on
the back of Benton's neck and chuckled ruefully. "God, you remind
me of Katie."
turned his head a little, still saying nothing but acting as if he was
listening. "When she was four, about six months after Stella died,
she snuck into the bedroom and took a little figurine off Stella's part
of the dresser. It was a ceramic bird, I think, and she'd given it
to Stella for Mother's Day or something. Anyway, she'd been told by
me and my mom who stayed with us for a while there, that she wasn't to
touch those things. But she was missing Mommy and really wanted to hold
that bird, so she got off the dresser and held it.
heard someone coming, I think, and bolted outta our room and into hers.
She went to jump on her bed, but took the turn too fast and caught the
bird on the corner of her dresser. It broke. I think her heart broke,
too. She panicked and hid under the bed, still clutching all the pieces."
Ray wiped his eyes, then resumed his hold on Benton.
me an hour to talk her out from under there. I coulda just taken the
bed apart, but I thought it was important that she come out on her own.
I just lay there, with my hand on her elbow, and said some things, and
finally she came out. Little heart broken, little hand all cut up.
It about killed me. I pulled her into my arms and she was just like
you. All stiff, didn't think she deserved any comfort, I guess. But
I said those things again and again and after a while she felt better.
" Ray stopped.
Head moved, shoulders loosened. "What things?" Ray could
hardly hear him, but, good, Benton had asked.
okay." Ray moved his head a little and spoke directly into Benton's
ear. "I know you didn't mean to. I know you're sorry. I forgive
you. I love you."
shoulder grew warm and wet surprisingly quickly as Benton finally let
go of the pain inside him. He leaned heavily on Ray, hands releasing
their hold on his own arms and moving to lay loosely on Ray's sides,
breaths coming in great heaving sobs, still quiet for all their intensity.
Ray held him, crooning
soft nonsense words of comfort, of forgiveness. After a while, Benton
grew still. He sat up, suddenly, as if just realizing where he was.
After one look at Ray, he swung his leg down from the swing to put his
foot back on the ground and straightened his posture. Ray turned, too,
and settled next to Benton again, side by side but kept his arm on the
back of the swing just brushing Benton's shoulders. They swung in silence
for a moment.
at last, "Thank you." Benton's voice was husky.
you needed that." Ray spoke calmly. "Feel better?"
met Ray's eyes. "Better than I have in a long time."
held his eyes and answered, "Good. That's what partners are for."
Partners. That word
reverberated in Fraser's mind. Thursday night, after waking sweaty and
sticky from yet another dream about Ray, Fraser cleaned up quickly and
then, lay back in the sofa bed and thought about partners. He and Ray
were partners, cop-partners, that hadn't changed, but policemen seldom
cried on each other's shoulders. Seldom lived together and took care
of children. Seldom shared more than a friendly hug. Seldom dreamed
of the other in an alarmingly erotic fashion. After his unforgivable
lapse on the swing Saturday, he and Ray had been circling each other
with an edge of wariness that had not been present in their relationship
prior to that point.
knew he'd been attracted from the beginning. As he'd been to Mark Smithbauer
as a teenager, to Eric as a man. Something in Ray had called to that
buried side of himself from their first meeting. Ray's hair and his
litheness were physically appealing, add the insight about and interest
in one Benton Fraser and Fraser had been lost. He'd told himself there
was no chance, no way that anything could come of such an attraction,
attempted to sublimate his desire as he had so successfully in the past,
but whatever had worked before--distance, physical and emotional, reserve,
retreat to high ideals--simply didn't work here in this house, with this
man. Ray kept getting inside his walls. Getting closer. And some part
of Fraser, a foolish part no doubt, was beginning to think it was because
Ray wanted to.
two weeks passed quickly. Almost too quickly for Fraser's liking. He
found he enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Ray's home far more than he
might have thought possible. After all, he'd been alone most of his
adult life and even as a child, had had a solitary nature. Stevie and
Katie filled a hole in his heart that he hadn't even known existed.
They accepted him wholeheartedly as he was and, indeed, seemed delighted
that he was sharing their lives.
small world of preschool and elementary school and activities also made
room for him. He was no longer an odd sight at Stevie's preschool and
Mrs. Barrow, whatever she may have thought about his relationship with
Ray, had even taken to sharing details of Stevie's day with him. Katie
sat with him every evening and told him all the details of her day, monumental
and trivial. At her soccer game on Saturday, he found himself cheering
just as loudly as Ray. And when another child knocked Katie flat, he
was surprised to find himself suddenly on his feet with intent to do
harm. Ray, noticing, put his hand on his arm to hold him back with understanding
and laughter in his eyes and pointed out that Katie was up and running,
no worse for the wear.
morning of the second week, Katie rocked him by suddenly remembering
she needed to bring a treat to school that day. She found him in the
bedroom helping Stevie get dressed.
it's my day to bring snack. I'm s'posed to bring cookies or cupcakes
I see." Fraser had his hands full pulling a turtleneck over the
head of a squirming three-year-old. "Well, what's in the pantry?"
Irrationally, he had a brief hope that a package of twenty-four cupcakes
but cans of soup and spaghettios. I don't wanna bring spaghettios again,
Benton," Katie wailed.
momentarily by the thought of providing canned pasta and tomato sauce
for a class of first graders, (honestly, what had Ray been thinking?),
Fraser mentally scanned the kitchen while shoving sneakers on Stevie's
active feet. Wasn't there a box of brownie mix in the cupboard?
sit still. What time is it?"
Katie went out into the hall where she could see the living room clock.
"The big hand is on the three and the little hand is on the seven."
tied the shoelace (double knot) and got up. School started at a quarter
past eight. There should be just enough time. "You two. Come
and eat and get your backpacks ready. We've got to get busy."
Moving briskly, Fraser
turned on the oven to preheat and got the box of brownie mix. He added
oil, water and eggs and stirred it all together. He folded a paper towel
and swabbed it through the shortening and gave it to Katie with directions
to coat the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan. She did so and Fraser poured the
mix into the pan. At 7:25 he put the pan in the oven and set the timer
for 28 minutes.
the brownies cooked, he took Stevie to the bathroom, had both children
brush their hair and teeth under his supervision, and put Katie's hair
in a pony tail. At 7:53 the oven buzzer sounded and he took out the
brownie pan and placed it on a rack to cool.
got her lunch from the refrigerator, and Stevie got his snack box. At
8:00 exactly, Fraser had them in the front hall ready for inspection.
They stood with their hands behind their backs as he'd shown them.
"Are you ready for
Benton," they chorused.
"Lunch or snack?"
"Hair and teeth
"Very well. You
pass inspection. Gather your belongings and we will leave."
"But, Benton! Daddy's
not home yet."
Ray chose that moment to come in the front door. While he greeted the
children and said good-bye, Fraser grabbed the brownies from the cooling
rack with the oven mitts.
looked up as Fraser came back into the hall. He saw what Fraser was
holding and his face fell. "Oh, geez, snack day. I completely
forgot. Did you pull something together?"
Ray. We made brownies. Luckily you had a mix."
no spaghettios this time?" Ray's eyes danced and he laughed when
Katie said, "Daddy!" in a tone of profound exasperation.
"We're glad to see
you home, Ray, but we must be off. We're a little behind schedule as
right. Okay. Bye, little guys. I'll see you this afternoon. Remember
Grandma and Grandpa are coming to get you for Fall Break!" He bent
and gave kisses to each and sent them out the door, Dief following, and
then straightened up into Fraser's space.
Ray. Have a nice day." Fraser's watched Ray's mouth. Would he...?
"What, you want
a good-bye kiss?" Ray's voice started out teasing but ended up husky.
"What if I said
yes?" Fraser heard his own voice with amazement. What the hell
was he doing? But the words were out there and Ray hadn't left, hadn't
run, was still standing there. "Would you give me one?"
"Are you saying
yes?" Ray's voice was almost a whisper.
stomach clenched in anticipation. "Yes."
leaned forward, eyes open, headed for Fraser's cheek.
figuring in for a penny, in for a pound, turned his head and met Ray's
mouth with his own.
brief contact of lips on lips jolted through Fraser and his hands clutched
the brownie pan. When Ray moved back, Fraser moved with him, wanting
the contact to continue and the brownie pan, still fairly warm from the
oven, pressed between them. Ray was first to notice. "Hey, ow!"
he exclaimed, jerking his mouth from Fraser's. "You burned me."
His hand came up to rub his chest where the pan had burned him through
his thin t-shirt. His voice sounded a little off as his eyes met Fraser's,
Fraser who was still leaning towards him.
Fraser agreed dazedly. Then, came back to himself with a start. "I
mean, I'm sorry, Ray. Are you all right?"
"I have no idea, Fraser." Ray shook his head and backed toward
the kitchen doorway.
Fraser desperately wanted this conversation to continue and he just as
Fraser. I'm fine. You'd better hurry up or you're going to be late."
Ray stopped backing away but crossed his arms defensively.
Very well. Okay. I'll see you this afternoon, then." Fraser escaped
out the door.
the car, the children were buckled in and clamoring to go. Dief lay between
them and gave Fraser a look that could only be described as knowing.
Taking a deep breath in an effort to calm his jangling nerves, Fraser
vowed to concentrate only on their conversation for the length of the
trip. Even if it did involve Power Rangers.
Katie's school, he parked and they all got out to help Katie carry her
brownies to class. Luckily, her classroom was located in the front hall.
They arrived in a timely fashion and Katie introduced him to Mrs. Warren.
"Mrs. Warren, this is Benton. We brought snack today."
Mrs. Warren smiled at
Katie and said, "Thank you, dear. Do I need to go get some spoons?"
Mrs. Warren, we brought brownies." Fraser indicated the pan in his
how delightful. Are they already cut? Or should I..."
take care of that right now." Fraser drew his Bowie knife from
his belt and quickly and efficiently cut the panful of brownies into
twenty-eight squares. "Will this be sufficient?"
will be fine. Thank you very much..." Mrs. Warren's eyes, which
had widened at the sight of Fraser's knife, resumed their normal size
and an assessing look.
of course, Constable. Katie has told us so much about you." Her
eyes now had questions. The same questions Fraser had no answers for.
We'll be going now. Katie, have a good day." He leaned down and
under Mrs. Warren's gaze, received a kiss from Katie and kissed her in
Stevie's hand, Fraser left to take him to school. After dropping him
with Mrs. Barrow, Fraser sat behind the wheel of Ray's car and hesitated.
Making a decision, he started the car and backed out of the parking space.
At the driveway, he turned left instead of right toward the Consulate.
He was going back to finish that conversation.
Ray looked up from the
dishwasher at the sound of the front door opening. Standing up, he walked
catfoot through the kitchen to the foyer. Surprised, he saw Fraser.
Wasn't he supposed to go to work? Fraser, who as yet had not heard him
and seemed absorbed in the task of unbuckling and unbuttoning his tunic.
He finished and hung it up and turned, and saw Ray standing in the doorway
and hands braced on the door frame, watching.
Benton." Ray felt his heartbeat speed up. All at once he was very
aware that they were alone in the house.
forget something?" Ray tried for casual, but he was afraid he wasn't
pulling it off. The last thing he felt was casual.
although I have had cause to wonder about my mental stability lately."
"Yeah? What kind
of cause?" While he spoke, Benton advanced on him, moving in the
panther way he had when he was tracking.
things you have done, and my reaction to them, have caused me considerable
Ray said again. "Like what?" Uh-oh. Time to play the piper.
No, pay the piper, although, actually the other didn't sound too...The
sound of Benton's voice jerked him back.
my height face-to-face. Rubbing your nose in my hair under the slide.
Kissing me good-bye that first evening. Kissing me this morning."
Benton was directly in front of him now and his eyes were weird. The
black just about covered the blue, only a thin line of color remained.
"Asking to call me Benton."
so?" Ray tried again for indifference but he couldn't maintain
eye contact. "And you were involved this morning, buddy. You wanted
that kiss. You moved your head."
believe I said as much." Benton's face grew red, but he didn't
back off. "What I don't know is if it's a game for you, or if you
are really attracted to me."
don't like games." Ray said, with no clear reason why.
But...I do like you."
you're attracted to me?" Benton was so close, Ray could smell the
shaving cream he used, the faint scent of brownies. He'd thought Benton
wanted more, to hear him admit it was...arousing. Ray hadn't been wanted
by many people. "You sure?"
The whispered sibilant ghosted across Ray's cheek.
you want me to kiss you again?"
Benton answered confusingly but didn't back off an inch.
Ray winced at the plaintive note in his voice.
do you want then?"
And then Benton kissed him. It was nothing like the kiss of the morning.
It was like nothing he'd ever felt before.
and wet, Benton slid his tongue along Ray's bottom lip making Ray shiver
and open up with a moan. Then, Benton's hands came up on either side
of Ray's face, holding him in place as the kiss deepened.
put his own hands on Benton's wrists and held on, trying to keep up with
the sensual onslaught he was experiencing. He pushed his own tongue
into Benton's mouth without thinking, wanting more, needing to do some
tasting of his own, needing to get a little of his own back instead of
just standing here and taking it. The moan this action produced was
mouth welcomed Ray and when Benton closed his lips over Ray's tongue
and started to suck, Ray lost it. Overwhelmed with sensation he released
Benton's hands and scrabbled at his shoulders trying to get enough purchase.
Ah, there, got it. He pulled himself against Benton's body, his own
zinging with a chorus of 'gonna get some, gonna get some' that he had
countered by pushing Ray back against the door frame and grinding their
hips together. Oh, God. Ray could barely form a coherent thought.
He's hard. He's hard for me and, god, I'm hard because of him. This
was no casual flirtation. This was about to become very, very real.
And he wanted it. God, he wanted it. Hell, he was standing in his foyer
all but fucking another man.
that's when things started to go sour. It was one thing to think about
it, to fantasize about it, but it was quite another, Ray was discovering,
to make that fantasy a reality. The realness was overwhelming. Images
flashed through his brain, competing with the arousal still making his
body sing. Stella (and wouldn't she be rolling over about now), Katie,
Stevie, cops at the 27th, gay cops, soccer parents, teachers--And that
was it, that was all she'd written evidently. His body stopped singing
and started panicking. He tore his mouth from Benton's and pushed
wait. Stop. Ben-Fraser. I can't." His breath was coming in huge
gasps, his arousal only partly backed down.
leaned back against the other side of the doorway, panting, his lips
still shiny and wet. When he raised his hand to wipe at his mouth, Ray
could see it was shaking.
...you just..." Fraser pointed out.
yeah, I know, I know, but...I can't, Fraser. I just can't."
"Perhaps we could
just take things more slowly," Fraser's voice cracked on the last
word and his hand made its way to his eyebrow.
obviously wasn't going to make this easy.
don't think you can deny that there is a certain amount of...attraction
between us," Fraser continued.
I know, Fraser. I liked it, I did. But, I'm thinking of ram- ramif-
consequences here, Fraser. I can't see how this is going to work. How
can this work? I can't afford to have some kind of ...fuck-buddy thing
going on." Ray winced almost the same time Fraser did, but too
late to take the words back. "I got....kids, Fraser," Ray
knew he was pleading, but couldn't think clearly about what he was saying.
"Ah. I see. When
you put it that way, I can't help but see what you mean." Fraser
straightened and moved stiffly to the coat tree to retrieve his tunic.
Ray didn't know what he was feeling except the dread that he had just
ruined everything. But what else could he do? "Can we still be
buddies?" Way to be pathetic, Ray.
stopped and looked down at the floor. "There's a saying, Ray, that
once you've moved ahead, it is very difficult to go back in a relationship.
I," here Fraser's voice faltered and he resumed buttoning and buckling
finishing the task before speaking again. "I do not think we could
regain our former closeness without wanting more."
that's it, then?"
would appear so."
Ray spun and faced the kitchen trying to get his thoughts together.
Before he could turn around, he heard the front door open and close.
Spinning, he faced the closed door in shock. Then, he leaned back against
the door frame and slid down to the floor. The last few minutes had
simultaneously been the best and worst few minutes in his life. And
he had no idea what to do next.
Outside, Fraser stopped
and realized he really could no longer take Ray's car since he was not
coming back. He collected a snoozing Dief from the front seat and started
to walk. Dief yawned and whined a question.
we don't need the car." Another whine.
we're not coming back." At this Dief stopped on the sidewalk and
Just...come on." Fraser looked at Dief, and swiveled on his heel
to walk resolutely on. Thankfully, he soon felt the brush of Dief's
fur against his leg. Reaching down, he placed his hand on Dief's neck
and threaded the silky fur through his fingers. He didn't let go for
a long time.
at the Consulate, Fraser moved mechanically into the day's duties. He
made tea for the Inspector, filled out forms, and answered the phone.
He replied when spoken to by either Turnbull or the Inspector in what
he hoped was an appropriate manner, but he was never able to clearly
recall the day's events. If they looked at him strangely, he merely
noted it and moved on offering no explanation.
late afternoon his duties were completed and he moved to change out of
uniform into more casual clothes. Glancing at the clock, he realized
that Katie would be home from school by now. He shook his head, as if
he could physically dispel the thought and the pain it caused. The park.
He and Dief could go down the street to the park.
the closet, he stepped in and closed the door behind him.
he called. But there was no answer. He sighed and stepped back out
and resumed changing clothes and realized that he had left his pack at
Ray's. His shoulders slumped. Of course. But he needed the pack.
And the other uniform.
took a deep breath and picked up the phone.
After Benton left, Ray
went to bed. He set the alarm for 12:30 in order to wake up in time
to get Stevie. He lay down, head whirling, but the events of a busy
week and previous night served him well. He fell asleep almost immediately.
He awoke groggy
from too little sleep, but pulled himself up, anyway. Responsibilities.
The kids needed him. A quick shower and he was good to go. Ray paused
while pulling on his jeans, a thought striking him. How could he go?
Benton had the car. He pulled his jeans up all the way and just to be
sure, checked the driveway. The Explorer sat there, apparently unused.
the other parents in carpool line waiting impatiently to pull up into
the circle to get Stevie. Finally, it was his turn.
Barrow opened the back door. Ray turned and smiled at his son.
The pleasure in Stevie's voice warmed Ray. At least somebody still loved
Barrow." Ray greeted Stevie's teacher.
Mr. Kowalski. It's nice to see you. And how is Constable Fraser?"
She sat Stevie in his seat and pulled the buckles and straps around his
can do it now. Let me do it." Stevie spoke impatiently. Under Mrs.
Barrow's and Ray's watchful eyes the 3-year-old carefully snapped his
buckles together himself.
That's great, Stevie!" Ray felt a rush of pride. "I didn't
know he could do that!" he said to the teacher.
believe Constable Fraser worked with him one afternoon," Mrs. Barrow
replied. "And speaking of him, would you please remind him that
he agreed to come speak to Stevie's class one day following Fall Break?
We are really looking forward to it."
sure. I'll be sure to remind him."
you. He's such a nice man. And it's obvious that Stevie just adores
Ray answered slowly. "He's a good guy. Thanks, Mrs. Barrow."
Good-bye, Stevie. Have a nice break!"
Stevie waved as his teacher closed the door.
pulled away from the church slowly, watching for stray kids and/or parents.
"Is Benton at home?"
"No, hon, he
had to go to work. You'll see him again when you get back from Grandma
But I made a picture for you 'n' Benton."
did?" Ray smiled at Stevie in the rearview mirror.
with the Put-Together-People pictures." Stevie said referring to
Mrs. Barrow's collection of construction paper cut-outs of heads, shirts,
pants, hair, and shoes the children could use to make pictures of people.
I see it?"
Reaching into his backpack, Stevie carefully pulled out a large piece
of construction paper and handed it over the seat to Ray. Keeping his
eyes on the road, Ray set it on the seat next to him. At the next stop
light, he looked over.
a brilliant blue background stood two figures. One, with yellow hair,
a blue shirt and pants, he recognized as himself. The other wore a brown
shirt, blue pants and had black hair covered mostly by a brown hat.
Both figures were, perhaps, glued inexpertly, but there was no denying
that they were standing very close together. So close, in fact, that
their hands overlapped a bit.
took in a deep breath that shook just a little. "I like it, Stevie.
This is me and Benton, right?"
Stevie was delighted.
really like it, kiddo. But how come no red for Benton?"
made him in his jacket and his jeans, like he wears after work. There
wasn't enough red."
I get it." Ray smiled. "I like his hat."
Barrow helped me cut it out."
about we put this on the refrigerator? Then he'll see it first thing
when he comes over again."
thought that was a great plan.
At home, Ray and Stevie
ate lunch and then Stevie took a nap. Although sorely tempted to lie
down with him, Ray made himself clean up the kitchen and get out the
kids' suitcases in preparation for their trip. Moving quietly in their
room, he opened and shut drawers and rummaged in the closet for shirts,
jeans, underwear and pajamas. Let's see, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday,
something to ride home in Wednesday. Five outfits and one spare for
each child. Extra underwear, socks, and three pairs of pajamas. He
tried to make sure he put in the clothes he was sure they would wear,
so there were no conflicts with his parents. In short order the suitcases
got home shortly after Ray had finished packing.
she cried upon seeing him and gave him a big hug. "Where's Benton?"
"He's at work, hon.
How was your day?"
Speaking and moving quickly, Katie told him about her day, while hanging
up her backpack, taking off her shoes and getting a snack from the refrigerator.
When she turned around with a Ziploc bag of cheese sticks and apple slices,
Ray looked at her in confusion.
did you get that?" he asked.
and me made them after school on Monday, so I could always get my own
good idea." So, Mr. Efficiency strikes again. Ray rolled his eyes
at the thought. Katie finished her snack and went out to swing. His
parents were due any time now. Ray moved restlessly into the living
room and flopped down on the couch. Wolf hair. There was wolf hair on
his couch. Wolf hair meant...Benton. Ray kept trying not to think
about Benton, but his efforts were sabotaged at every turn. Benton'd
left his mark everywhere. On the kids, on his home, even the preschool
teacher. Ray sighed.
looked at it, somehow knowing who it was. It rang again. He picked it
Fraser. What's up?"
my other uniform and my pack at your house, I was wondering if..."
"You need your stuff?"
Ray was feeling perverse and didn't feel like making anything easy.
"Yes, I do."
"Well, come on by
then. The kids have been asking for you anyway, and they'd like to say
good-bye before they go to my parents' house."
Fraser. Just come by, okay? The kids want to see you and you can get
your uniforms and whatever and then you're free and clear of us, all
-" Fraser started.
come by, Fraser."
I realize that I have made you uncomfortable and I assure you I wouldn't
be pressing the issue needlessly."
closed his eyes in defeat, and took a deep breath. "Just come by,
Fraser. The kids really want to see you."
on the other end. Then, "All right. I'll be over shortly."
And he hung up.
listened to the silence and then the dial tone. When the recording came
on he hung up and still lay there staring at the ceiling. Stevie came
and stood by the couch silently.
Stevie. Didja sleep good?" Ray brushed his son's hair back from
his forehead. Stevie nodded and climbed up next to Ray for some cuddling.
The next twenty minutes were as comforting to Ray as he hoped they were
to Stevie but then they were interrupted by the doorbell.
and Grandpa!" The blur that raced in from the backyard was Katie.
Ray got up, still holding
Stevie. Sure enough, his parents had arrived.
His mother enveloped him in a big hug and, as she pulled back, took
Stevie for his own hug.
Mom. It's good to see you."
His dad's handshake was warm.
Dad. You sure you guys are up to this?"
Ray. Of course we are. We've been looking forward to it." His
mother snuggled Stevie, then put him down. "So, how have you been?"
Really good. Come on in and sit down, we'll have a cup of coffee before
you have to go again."
Stanley. Could use some of that." His dad moved past Ray and into
the living room. "Hey, what's that I see?"
Stevie, why don't you guys show Grandpa the new swing set?" Ray
on, Grandpa!" Both Stevie and Katie took a hand and dragged his
dad out back. His mom laughed and moved toward the kitchen. Just then
the doorbell rang again.
ahead, Ray. I'll just make myself at home." Ray nodded and moved
toward the door, feet dragging and heart pounding.
With a certain sense
of deja-vu, Fraser stood at the door of Ray's house. Footsteps inside
told him the doorbell had been heard and that someone was coming. Too
heavy for Katie, which meant...
Fraser winced inwardly, knowing the use of his last name was deliberate.
"Come on in. The folks are here."
I surmised as such when I saw the other car." He followed Ray into
the kitchen. Ray's mother was there, looking at Stevie's artwork on
this is Benton Fraser. He's my...partner." The hesitation was
slight, but it hurt anyway. Fraser moved forward and held out his hand.
"How do you
do, ma'am? Ray tells me you'll be keeping Katie and Stevie over fall
we've so looked forward to it. And it is so nice to meet you. Ray's
told us so much about you and we're glad you've been able to help out
what with Mrs. Bryan gone and all." She sipped her coffee and looked
at the two of them, her eyes going back and forth.
looked a question at Ray, who answered. "Phone calls. During the
Fraser jerked his head up in acknowledgement. "Yes, Mrs. Kowalski,
I was happy to be able to help. I enjoyed getting to know Katie and
think they must have enjoyed you, too. I like this picture." Mrs.
Kowalski moved away from the refrigerator and pointed to Stevie's artwork.
Fraser looked and could not stop a smile from spreading across his face
at the sight of the two figures. He turned to met Ray's eyes and found
an answering smile there. For a moment, they just stood there, sharing
an apparently mutual happiness, but then memory evidently returned and
Ray's smile faltered. Fraser looked away and met the insightful gaze
of Mrs. Kowalski.
to look at her any longer, Fraser began backing out of the kitchen. "Well,
Ray, I'll just collect my things and be on my way."
Frase. I'll call the kids." Both men left the kitchen.
Barbara Kowalski was
intrigued. Her son was acting strangely. She turned thoughtfully back
to the picture on the fridge. The two figures were undoubtedly Ray and
his partner. She noted that they seemed to be holding hands and wondered
whether this was deliberate on Stevie's part or not. Hmmm....she thought
and moved to put the milk away that she had used in her coffee. In the
refrigerator, she noted several small Ziploc bags of cheese and apple
slices. Snack bags. Interesting. Not her son's doing, of that she
was sure. Benton's influence.
shared smile. It had been years, no...now that she thought about it,
Barbara knew she had never seen that particular smile on her nervous,
energetic son's face before. It was not a Stella smile. Her brow knit
as she remembered the ache to please that had colored Ray's smile for
Stella during their marriage. While she had loved Stella dearly, she
was aware that Stella made Ray work hard for any sign of approval from
That smile hadn't lasted long. Both men had been undeniably nervous
in each other's presence. Ready to escape quickly to different places,
which didn't seem to match up to the easy relationship she'd heard about
from Ray the few afternoons she called.
heard Benton move through the hallway and living room and then heard
the back door slide open. She moved to the living room and stood by
the sliding glass door watching the group in the backyard.
children ran to Benton as soon as they saw him. He knelt to greet them,
taking each one in his arms for a quick hug. He got up quickly to be
introduced to Damian, taking Stevie up with him as he stood. Katie hung
on his leg, evidently delighted to show him off to her grandpa.
Stevie evidently said
something, because they all bent toward him to hear it. When he finished,
they all laughed and Damian stepped back. But Ray leaned in closer to
bump heads with Stevie and then he looked up to share whatever he'd said
with Fraser, both men laughed. Barbara nodded thoughtfully and went
to get her camera.
Fraser closed the sliding
glass door behind him. Katie and Stevie looked up at the sound. "Benton!"
they yelled at the same time and ran to him.
heart warmed and he stooped to hug them both. Ray and his father approached.
Holding Stevie, who had yet to release him, Fraser stood, shifted Stevie
to his left arm and stuck out his hand to shake Damian Kowalski's.
"It's a pleasure
to meet you, sir."
said the elder Kowalski, shaking Fraser's hand. "His mother and
I appreciate you taking the time to help Ray out."
enjoyed getting to know the children, sir." He dropped his hand
and placed it on Katie's head.
it would appear they enjoyed getting to know you."
Daddy and Benton builded the swing set, Grandpa! And Benton didn't even
say bad words when Daddy dropped the big piece of wood on his foot!"
Fraser felt his ears heat up at Stevie's words, but couldn't help laughing.
Ray and his dad laughed, too.
moved nearer, causing Fraser's heart rate to speed up. Bumping heads
with Stevie, he spoke to his son. "Yeah, Stevie, but good thing
you didn't hear what he was saying in his head!" And then he looked
up at Fraser automatically to share the joke.
he met Ray's dancing eyes, Fraser couldn't help but smile and laugh with
him, but his heart was breaking. Against his will his body responded
to Ray's nearness, the intimacy of a shared joke and, oh, dear. Ray
didn't want this. Ray didn't want THIS. Fraser's smile faltered.
Ray's eyes slid away. It was time to go.
"What we need is a
picture!" Barbara Kowalski slid the sliding glass door shut behind
her and advanced on group.
Ray groaned theatrically.
son, you know your mother's fondness for capturing the moment,"
Ray's dad clapped him on the shoulder. "Where do you want them,
the swing set, of course." Still holding Stevie, Fraser found himself
pushed and prodded with the others.
there you go Stevie," he said heartily while depositing the boy
on the bench swing next to his father and attempted to back away, but
Barbara was too quick for him.
no, Benton, I must insist. It is my understanding that a large part
of this is due to your fine work." Laughing but determined Barbara
pushed him onto the seat.
up all his practiced good manners, Fraser smiled at the appropriate times
and attempted to look pleasant as Barbara took several pictures. He
was very aware of Ray. Of his scent, of his arm resting casually on the
back of the seat. He could feel the small of his back sweating.
Then Ray's mother asked
them to slide together closer and had the children sit on their laps.
Torture. Fraser could feel Ray's thigh warm against his own and had
to work to keep his body from responding.
golly, Barbara! Aren't you finished, yet?" Stevie's piping voice
using, obviously, Damien's words and tone caught them all unaware. Silence
reigned for a few seconds. Then, Ray started chuckling, his body shaking
against Fraser's shoulder. Damien put his hands over his face and then
came forward to cup Stevie's face and shake his head before moving away
again and laughing. Fraser, responding to his own tension, was unable
to keep himself still and soon was laughing as hard as Ray. Ray caught
his eye and they both laughed harder. At some point, Barbara finally
snapped the picture and joined in the hilarity but with a very self-satisified
look on her face.
All too soon the respite ended, however, and again Fraser found himself
outside Ray's home, leaving. This time, however, the departure was permanent.
He had transgressed; moved beyond a point in their relationship where
Ray felt comfortable. As usual, his heart wanted too much. Ray was
not at fault. He did not deserve censure. He deserved an apology.
Benton sighed. His posture slumped as he trod wearily on, overnight
bag over his shoulder, uniforms over his back just hanging on to his
fingers. Tomorrow. Tomorrow he would apologize. Tonight he simply
didn't have the energy or the wherewithal. Surely, tomorrow would be
soon enough. Or, perhaps, all too soon.
Late Saturday afternoon,
Ray stood in his kitchen soaking wet with his eyes closed and his fists
clenched. Nothing was working. Absence hadn't worked. If anything it
made his heart, or something, grow fonder. Trying not to think about
it hadn't helped. The run in the park cut short by a sudden thunderstorm
hadn't helped either.
brain continued the whole fucking play by play. Fraser, no Benton, it
was Benton leaning into him. Those soft lips brushing against his, then
pressing firmly, Benton's tongue licking against his own lips. Ray hesitating,
then opening his mouth. The absolute fire consuming him then. His hands
settling shakily on Benton's shoulders. Benton's arms coming around
him tentatively at first, but then tightening, pulling Ray up against
his chest. Benton's tongue slicking against his own, encouraging Ray's
to explore, too. Sliding his tongue into Benton's mouth only to have
Benton close his lips around it and suck.
his hips against Benton's searching for ....something but he didn't know
what. Then feeling Benton's cock. Hard..for him. Because of him. And
realizing he was hard, too. Hard..for Benton.
groaned and slid down against the cabinets and dropped his head into
his hands. Dully he watched the puddle of water around him grow bigger
across the vinyl floor. He noticed one of Stevie's sippy cups under the
edge of the cabinet and automatically reached to pick it up.
looked at the sippy cup in his hand and felt his misery retreat a little.
He pushed himself back up the counter, rinsed the cup and put it in the
dishwasher. He leaned on the counter in front of the sink and looked
out at the rain. Wondered what Benton was doing. Shook his head and moved
into action. He stripped off his wet clothes in the kitchen and padded
naked over to the laundry nook to throw them into the washer. While he
was there he grabbed the mop and came back to the kitchen to get the
worst of the
puddle up off the floor before it spread to the living
room carpet. That done, he went to his room to get some clothes.
The navy sweats were
old, soft and comfortable. Warm, too. Rainy day in Chicago in October,
he appreciated the warmth. After dressing, he took a look in the kids'
room. Beds unmade, clothes that didn't fit in their suitcase still out
on the dresser. Taking a deep breath, he tidied and straightened and
put away until their room was in the state it would maintain until the
kids were home. He turned off the light as he left the room.
in the living room, he turned on the baseball game and went to grab a
beer from the fridge. Distraction, that's what he needed. Something to
take his mind off the fact that he'd probably just made the worst mistake
of his life. Just then another distraction knocked on the door. Girl
Scouts? Oooh. Thin Mints. He opened the door and....stared.
shifted his feet and stared back. "Ray."
Uh, come in." Ray stepped back and opened the door further.
"No. That won't
be necessary. I'm soaked, as you can see." And Ray could see he
was. His thick hair was pressed to his skull, his leather jacket was
dripping as he lifted his hand to his eyebrow and shifted his feet again.
His jeans were molded to his thighs and crotch. Inexorably Ray's eyes
were drawn there and yet another goddamn thought about Fraser naked burned
through his mind. Jesus H. Christ, what was with him?
came to apologize. I'm sorry, Ray. I don't know what came over me. Well,
actually, yes I do know WHAT came over me, I just didn't mean to LET
it come over me, if you see what I'm saying...." Fraser's voice
kind of trailed off.
jerked his gaze back up from Fraser's crotch once he realized the flow
of words had abated. When his eyes met Fraser's, he could feel the back
of his neck get red. Any hope that Fraser hadn't noticed where his eyes
were was dashed as he watched Fraser's face turn red as well. Great,
thought Ray bitterly, caught checking out my partner after I jumped all
over him for . . .
continued. "I really hope we can still be friends, Ray." Fraser
shifted his feet again, ran his fingers over his eyebrow and waited.
"No, Frase. Not
friends." Ray's voice was soft.
well. There you are then. I can't say I blame you. I'm....sorry. I'll--I'm
sorry." Fraser turned away to go.
reached out and grabbed the other man's arm before he could complete
the turn. "Frase, Benton...wait."
really think I should go, Ray. Tell the children I said goodbye."
Benton's voice was soft and low and his eyes seemed to be fixed on Ray's
hand on his arm.
Frase. I don't know what to do." Ray let go of Benton and ran
his hands through his hair. "I can't figure out what I'm feeling,
thinking, and I got no one to talk to about it. `Cause the only person
I talk to over the age of six is you. But it's you I can't figure out,
you and me and Stella and the fact that I'm a thirty-seven year old cop
widower with two children which is hard enough, and now...now I got the
hots for my partner, my guy partner and...and..I don't know what to do
about it. I'm not a fag, Benton. And I want you. And I don't know what
to do about it all." Ray's voice dropped to a whisper.
any warning, he turned and slammed his fist into the door frame. As
he drew back to do it again, Benton moved and grabbed his hand out of
the air and wrapped his arms around Ray from behind. Ray struggled.
Benton. Leggo. Get off me."
Ray. I will not let you hurt yourself further." Benton held on.
Ray kicked backwards catching Benton in the shin, but Benton just widened
his stance and continued holding him despite his struggles.
off me, Benton. Get off me." Ray could feel himself losing it.
Grunting with effort, he twisted and tried to slide out from under Benton's
arms. Benton's arms tightened until breathing became a challenge.
"Ray, Ray ....Ray!
Stop it. Settle down and I'll release you." Benton's arms were
like steel bands around Ray's torso and try as he might, he could not
free his own.
Ray quieted. Benton's arms loosened fractionally, but did not let go.
Breathing hard, Ray became suddenly aware of the intimacy of their position.
He could feel Benton's wet chest against his back, feel Benton's labored
breathing on the back of his neck, his thicker, stronger legs around
his own slighter ones.
they stood, silent except for their ragged breathing, Benton's arms loosened
again and his fists uncurled until his hands lay flat against Ray. One
lay on his chest just over his right nipple, one clutched his shirt
lower on his stomach. Underneath those hands, Ray's skin burned. He
could feel Benton's soaked crotch against his ass, feel Benton's erection
growing against his right cheek. Benton shifted slightly and his little
finger grazed Ray's nipple. Ray sucked in his breath and dropped his
head back on Benton's shoulder. His skin itched in a thousand different
places. God, his body wanted this, wanted to be held, wanted ....Benton.
his voice came out as a anguished whisper. "I don't know what to
Whatever else I am or...want...to be to you, I am your friend. You can
talk to me about this." Benton's voice in his ear was no more steady
or strong than his own. Ray felt him shiver. "Please talk to me."
Ray rolled his head restlessly
on Benton's shoulder. Watched drops of moisture drip from the back of
his hair and slide down his neck. Sweat or rain? "Yeah, all right.
Come in. I got some dry clothes you can borrow."
released him and they moved into the house a little awkwardly.
"Here, you can,
uh, drip here and I'll go get you some clothes." Ray left Benton
standing in the kitchen and moved down the hall to his bedroom. He rifled
through the clothes on the shelves in his closet to find his baggy gray
sweatsuit. Baggy on him, anyway. He could only hope it was big enough
for Benton. He padded back to the kitchen and stopped at the door, catching
his breath at the sight before him.
tousled-haired, barefoot and wearing only his jeans stood at the laundry
nook with his back to the door. While Ray stood transfixed, Benton bent,
putting Ray's clothes into the dryer. When he stood back up, his wet
jeans slid down to the curve of his ass. Ray was unable to look away.
God, he did want
Benton. Wanted to have sex, wanted to feel those hands on his body,
wanted to get to know that ass up close and personal. Thirty-seven years
of straightness, two kids, and a promotion to detective and it was just
now that he'd figured this out about himself. Or maybe it was Benton.
He leaned against the door frame and considered that. Benton, who reached
inside him and hit buttons of need, want, desire and
he hadn't even known he'd had. Benton who needed him in ways no one,
not even Stella, had ever needed Stanley Raymond Kowalski.
gathered his own shirt, socks and the kitchen towel he'd used on his
hair and dropped them into the washer. When he finished, he turned suddenly
to see Ray standing motionless at the door.
"Uh, yeah, Frase."
Ray's voice came out breathy and higher pitched than normal. "I
got you some...uh..sweats." As Ray moved closer, he noticed that
Benton's jeans were undone. He felt his heart rate pick up and that
panicked voice inside him packed up and left town. He stopped directly
in front of Benton and reached around him to put the sweats down on
the dryer behind him.
yes, well, thank you, Ray." Benton reached for the sweats automatically
but his voice sounded funny. As Ray leaned him, Benton inhaled sharply
through his nose. Ray straightened up but didn't back off. Benton's
eyes were closed.
probably, you know, talk or something."
we probably should."
moved fractionally closer and hooked his hand in Benton's already opened
jeans. "Uh, Frase?"
eyes were still closed but his head was leaning in, searching for Ray's
mouth. He stopped just short of his goal. "Yes, Ray?" ghosted
across Ray's lips.
vote for the something."
you say." And for some reason that Ray promised himself he'd figure
out later, Benton's mouth just felt like home.
At first the kiss was just sweet. Sweet like the rain falling softly
outside now in the aftermath of the storm. Benton slid his lips over
Ray's back and forth, learning the shape and texture of Ray's mouth.
Ray could feel the sandpaper texture of Benton's stubble and the new
sensation started an unexpected burn in his belly. Then, Benton started
small, light kisses along Ray's top lip that pulled gently, separating
it from the lower one. Ray braced his left hand on Benton's bare shoulder
and tugged on Benton's jeans with his right. He pushed his tongue out
to lick Benton's lips lightly. Benton shuddered and started to shake.
Ray pulled his mouth away.
Benton? Is that okay?" Benton's eyes were closed and he was still
The word came out in a breathy rush and Benton seemed to sway back in
to Ray. "Please do it again."
mouth came back up against Ray's. Ray licked him again and Benton moaned
and pushed his hips up against Ray's hip. Ray stretched his fingers of
his right hand down, searching for and finding the hot, wet, hard length
in Benton's boxers. He brushed his fingers across the top and Benton
moaned and released his mouth to pant in Ray's ear.
what do I do?"
you saying you don't have enough puzzle pieces?" Benton put his
forehead on Ray's shoulder and continued to thrust gently against Ray's
I've got 'em. I'm just not sure....how to fit them together." A
little nonplussed at being put in charge Ray hesitated, but decided to
go with the notion that if he liked it, Benton probably would too. And
what he wanted was to move this out of the kitchen and down the hall
to the bedroom. He tugged on Benton's jeans and pulled him along with
as he moved backward out of the kitchen. When they got out in the hall,
Ray turned to walk forward but kept his hand in Benton's jeans. Benton
followed without a word.
stood with Benton just inside his bedroom a little awkwardly, even though
his fingers were still hooked in Benton's jeans. They'd had a groove
going in the kitchen and he'd been swept along with it. This move to
the bedroom made it hard to get started again.
He moved his fingers
against Benton's warm skin and looked up at him and just as quickly looked
away. He felt burned by the fire he could see in Benton's eyes. That
fire excited him but it also made him nervous. He'd seen Benton passionate.
He'd seen Benton focused. Now he was seeing a passionate Benton focused
on himbreathe, Ray, remember to breathe.
kept his eyes on Benton's belly and concentrated on breathing. In and
out. In and out. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Benton's hand
rise slowly, then he felt it warm on the side of his throat, felt fingers
easing through the short hair at his hair line. Felt a gentle pressure
easing him forward into Benton's embrace. Ray wrapped his free arm around
Benton's back and let his head rest on Benton's shoulder.
.good. He could hear Benton's heartbeat, feel every breath
he took. This embrace felt strangely familiar, and therefore comforting,
even though he had never hugged Benton quite like this before.
"Are you all right?"
"Do you still want
this? Do you still want..me?" The question was calm, the hesitation
only slight, but Ray felt Benton's heartbeat speed up and heard his breath
shorten and felt the muscles of his stomach clench. He smiled a little.
Benton was nervous, too. Somehow, that made it easier.
Benton. I do. It's a hell of thing, but I do want this. So much.
I just got kind of
stuck, for a second." Ray spoke into Benton's
neck, feeling the silky skin against his lips. Without thinking, he
used his tongue to see if Benton tasted as good as he felt. He did.
Emboldened by Benton's moan, Ray tried it again and again until he was
licking, kissing and mouthing his way over, around and finally up Benton's
neck back to that mouth that drove him crazy.
took over then. First, by clasping Ray's face on either side and tilting
it for a better angle, then by spreading his legs apart and bringing
Ray in close by sliding his hands down Ray's back to his ass and pulling
first real kiss, the feel of Benton's arousal against his own had set
Ray panicking. This time that very same hardness served only to excite
him along with the realization of just how much he liked having Benton's
hands on his ass. Big, strong, wide hands pulling, kneading, spreading
him apart and pushing him back together. Hypnotic. Hot as hell. Ray
had never considered his ass as an erogenous zone before, but Benton
was teaching him to think a whole new way.
Ray managed to get a word out around the extra tongue in his mouth. Benton
backed off a little.
sorry?" His mouth was swollen, his chest was heaving and his eyes
were hot with desire. Benton had never looked better.
It's good. We're good." One syllable words were all he could manage.
He hoped Benton got the general idea, which seemed to be "good."
Benton's eyes lit up.
"Good," he growled and backed up still holding on to Ray and
closed the bedroom door behind him. Once it was latched, he spun them
around and pushed Ray (almost gently) against the flat surface. Then,
he leaned in.
body contact. Ray closed his eyes at the overwhelming feeling of being
chest-to-chest, groin-to-groin, thigh-to-thigh with Benton Fraser. All
his air seemed to leave his lungs in a rush. Solid. Strong. He felt
almost dwarfed by Benton, yet it felt good too. All that bulk to hang
on to. No worries about holding too tightly or clutching too hard, as
he'd had with Stella.
clutched at Benton's shoulder and buried his nose in Benton's collarbone
and sucked air and Benton-scent back into his lungs. Benton rubbed their
hips together. Wow. That felt really good. Somehow, his dick seemed
to fit into some sort of groove on Benton, between Benton's dick and
his hip. He could only assume that the same was true for Benton, judging
from the grunts and groans he was hearing.
Ray. Ray," Benton groaned with each thrust of his hips. "Are
you still sure?"
opened his eyes and lifted his head and looked at Benton. Benton's head
was on his shoulder turned toward him but with his eyes closed. He was
flushed and panting and totally hot and obviously close to coming, but
he had held back, held off, stopped just to make sure that Ray was still
good with this. And Ray knew, he knew if he said no, if he said he wasn't
sure, Benton would stop, would back away unfinished, undone, and would
never hold it against him.
waited until Benton opened his eyes, then he said, "Yeah, Benton.
I'm sure. I want it. Go ahead, do it. Go for it."
fused their mouths together for a brief, blinding second then dropped
his head back to Ray's shoulder and began thrusting for real. Ray finally
yanked his hand out of Benton's jeans and clutched Benton's ass. Even
through the wet denim, he could feel the nice rounded muscle of Benton's
cheek. It fit his hand nicely and provided a solid place to hang on.
His other still clutched Benton's shoulder.
was getting a ride. No, he was the ride. It was all he could do to
hang on as Benton thrust, shifted, thrust again, kicked Ray's legs apart,
thrust again and then it was perfect. Perfect, perfect, Ray hadn't known
sex could feel this good, this great, God, this absolutely fucking fantastic.
And then he was coming hard and long and it was so good.
his hand he felt Benton's ass clenching and unclenching and then holding
tight as he, too, exploded in climax. The hot spot between them got
hotter and Benton's solid bulk shivered. Benton's head hung heavily
on his shoulder, and Ray was glad of the door behind him that provided
much more reliable support than his shaking knees.
few moments passed. Ray floated in the sensation of post-orgasm euphoria
reveling in the feeling of being this close to another person. He could
feel Benton's heartbeat where their chests were pressed together, felt
it slowing as his was until they were very much in sync. Finally, Benton
lifted his head slightly, still breathing hard.
felt the move, but just smiled and buried his head further against the
warm body in his arms. "Next time, Benton," he gasped, trembling
against Benton's shoulder, "we lose the pants."
Ray." Benton's voice sounded just as unsteady. Together they stumbled
over to the bed and fell.
first, they were just an awkward jumble of arms and legs. Then Benton
pulled himself together, got up from the bed and went to the bathroom.
Ray heard water running. Then he was back, naked now, with a warm washcloth.
He tugged the sweatpants off Ray's legs and matter-of factly began
to clean Ray's belly and groin. Which was nice. And weird. Stella'd
and this was Benton and Benton was a *guy*
Ray suddenly found himself in the grip of some sort of post-orgasm panic
attack and was shaking too hard to move. Ben paused with his hand flat
on Ray's belly, then threw the washcloth through the open bathroom door
to hit the tile floor and swiftly spooned himself around Ray. He rubbed
Ray's arms and shoulders gently and made soothing noises.
Benton.." Ray could hardly speak through his chattering teeth.
Couldn't manage to say anything except Benton's name.
Ray. It's all right. You're all right."
...not...I..can't stop shaking." Ray gritted out each word.
"It's okay, Ray.
It's adrenaline. It's the flight or fight response. Your body is having
an instinctive response to.... unsettling stimuli." His voice sounded
calm and soothing, but the one part of Ray that wasn't shaking wondered
how it might feel to make love to someone and then watch him completely
Ray's teeth were chattering so hard he nearly bit his tongue.
Ray, don't try to talk. It's all right."
like you." It was important to get that
out. Because, Ray realized, it was true. No matter how much of a mental
adjustment it was to want Benton, to desire him, the simple fact that
he liked Benton very much remained the same. The fear was real, too,
but could, perhaps be overcome. Ray felt Benton's arms tighten around
him and felt Benton's face nuzzle down into his shoulders. Then..
"Thank you...I like
nodded, too weary to attempt speech again. Gradually, he felt the tremors
subsiding and fatigue settling in. He shifted back against Benton, into
his astonishing and comforting warmth. Benton pulled him closer and
moved his arm so it was under Ray's head. Moving just his feet, Benton
snagged the blanket at the foot of the bed and was able to pull it over
them. Held, comforted and taken care of, Ray felt himself sliding into
a hell of a thing, Benton," he whispered.
know, Ray." Ray felt a kiss on his shoulder as the darkness claimed
Heavy. Warm. Ray's impressions upon waking a while later all involved
Benton. He had turned over during sleep and they were all tangled together
like lovers. Which they were now, Ray guessed. He tested that thought
carefully, but found none of the panic Benton's Mr. Clean act had inspired
before. Instead, he realized with some amazement, that he was comfortable.
In fact, he felt downright
snuggly. His lips twitched and he rolled
his eyes at himself.
Benton's left leg
was between Ray's legs. Ray's right leg rode high on Benton's quadriceps.
Their groins were just brushing and Ray sucked in his breath at the realization.
He could feel the hot brush of Benton's erection against his own whenever
he shifted slightly. It was
arousing. He wondered what Benton was
dreaming. He felt branded by the warm hand that lay possessively on
his ribs. Ray's head lay pillowed on Benton's right arm and he could
feel the latent strength of the bicep under the side of his face. Again,
the feeling of being home came over him. This felt...right.
had asked him if he had enough pieces to put the puzzle together. He'd
thought that having sex with Benton, being attracted to him went against
his instincts, but maybe...maybe he hadn't been listening to what his
body, what his heart had been trying to tell him. So what pieces of
the puzzle did he have? Attraction. He could no longer deny that he
was attracted to Benton and he felt so good right now, he didn't want
were comfortable together, comfortable enough to fall to pieces and know
the other would understand. Comfortable to give and comfortable to receive.
knew he was steadied by Benton's logical and organized way of dealing
with the world, and knew, too, that only he could see inside Benton deep
enough to determine what Benton needed.
led to Need. Ray knew he needed Benton. With Benton as his partner,
Ray felt he could focus all energy that flowed through him to actually
accomplish more than he could alone. And he thought Benton needed him,
too. Benton needed Ray to make him remember he had a heart and that
it was okay to take care of it.
Benton needed his instinct. Sometimes, it was up to Ray to make the
leap over the river and Benton to go back and build the bridge. And
sometimes, Benton built the platform from which Ray needed to jump.
A team. A duet. A partnership.
Ray,' he thought, 'you've got your five or six pieces. What's the whole
picture?' Instinct. Logic. Comfort. Attraction. Need. Ray considered
it all. With sudden clarity he figured it out:
He was falling in love.
Distracted by the oddity
of being sexually attracted to a man, Ray had missed what the puzzle
pieces had been showing him. The comfort, the support, the caring.
He relished those things about Benton as much as the heat, the fire,
the spark, they seemed to generate. Why else would he open his home,
share his children in a way he shared with no one else?
maybe his instincts had been telling him it was Benton for him all along.
And Benton, he'd known? hoped? that Ray would figure it out. Ray wasn't
sure. Of the two of them, Benton was certainly more in tune with his
animal side, but he'd spent most of his life suppressing his wants and
desires. He might have hoped, but probably not known, that Ray would
come around. In fact, he might never have even expected it.
eased closer to Benton, turning his head in and inhaling Benton's scent.
The small movement woke Benton, who opened his eyes and looked right
still here," Benton said, with a little smile that lit his eyes
my bed, Benton. Were you expecting me to leave? " Ray smiled back
but Fra-No, Benton's fearful, almost haunted, expression made something
click in his mind. Benton probably did expect him to leave. Benton
expected everyone to leave.
I know it's your bed, Ray, but given your earlier reaction I wasn't sure...I
didn't know how or if you wanted this to work." Benton's eyes slid
mean, the shaking thing?" Ray slid his hands into Benton's hair.
It would seem you are still ....conflicted about...about ...our physical
relationship." Benton's eyes met Ray's briefly then dropped.
"I probably was.
But that was before I knew." Ray held Benton's head still and kissed
what, Ray?" Benton's eyes again met Ray's but his voice was a whisper.
"What the puzzle
pieces were telling me." Ray gazed steadily back and let the warmth
and affection he felt for this man to show on his face.
that would be?" Benton whispered.
pushed his forehead against Benton's and said, "Get off your ass
and go get the Mountie's." He lunged forward and licked his way
into Benton's mouth determined to get to know each and every one of Benton's
teeth personally. Benton didn't move for an instant, but then slid the
hand that had branded Ray's ribs down to Ray's ass and pulled their hips
and pushed back into those hands, then thrust forward against Benton's
cock. Back and forth, sensation built quickly but it wasn't enough this
time. He wanted to hold off for awhile, wanted to see and explore the
strangely familiar mystery that was Benton's body. He tore his mouth
away from Benton's and pushed him back onto the bed. "Stay there,"
he warned when Benton reached for him, placing his hand on the middle
of that smooth chest. "I want to
I want to see what I'm dealing
with here." Benton's eyes darkened but he acquiesced.
take too long," Benton shifted restlessly, "I'm
own arousal was humming along in high gear as it was, hearing about Benton's
was almost too much. He bent to lick Benton's nearest collarbone, pausing
only to whisper, "Don't worry, I haven't got it in me."
Shocked, Ray whipped his head up and stared at Benton. Benton's eyes
were closed, but the barest hint of a grin fluttered on those lips.
Ray's heart pounded in his chest and he dropped his head to Benton's
and rested it there momentarily.
Benton, give a guy some warning. You just about gave me a heart attack."
Benton shifted under him and Ray moved his head so he could see Benton's
face from where he lay.
that good or bad, Ray?" Benton's eyes were open now staring at him
and his hand traced lines up and down Ray's shoulder. Ray gazed back
and said clearly, "Oh, definitely the good kind, Benton" and
while Benton's eyes were still on him, licked his way over to Benton's
right nipple and sucked on it.
Benton's gasp ended in a groan and his hips thrust vainly up into the
okay, I'm moving, I'm moving." Ray grinned at Benton's uninhibited
response and trailed his tongue further down his bumpy stomach. He spent
a few minutes tracing the smooth rise and fall of Benton's abs, which
made Benton groan again and clutch at the sheet, before leaning back
to take a look at what had brought him here.
cock was wider than his but about the same length. Unbidden, the thought
of using a ruler to determine who was longer came to mind and he snorted
slightly. He reached out a finger to touch and felt the hard muscle
and the hot soft skin. He looked up at Benton's moan and found him watching.
Without taking his eyes away from Benton's, he wrapped his hand around
Benton's cock and started a slow pumping motion. Benton's mouth opened,
his breathing harshened, and his already flushed face got redder. Ray
could see him fighting to keep his eyes open, to keep his eyes on Ray.
"Ray," Benton gasped. "Ray, wait, let me show you
come back up here." He pulled at Ray's shoulders.
released him and climbed back up Benton's body to meet him mouth-to-mouth
and cock-to-cock. He thrust automatically, looking for that same spot
that Benton had found last night, but Benton's arms tightened and he
spoke again, "Wait, something else."
want to do something else?"
Benton rolled them to their sides facing each other and trailed his hand
down to wrap around Ray, then he scooched in closer and stretched out
his fingers and soon held both of them in his hand.
felt his eyes roll back at the feel of Benton against him held in the
clasp of that big, wide hand. He shivered. He thrust hard against all
that heat, it was almost enough
But suddenly, the sensation was
gone and Benton was tugging at his right arm. "You
looked at him. "Me?"
are longer. Please?" Benton's eyes pleaded with
him. He wanted this. Ray took a deep breath.
don't we both do it?" he breathed and brought Benton's hand with
his to their straining erections. At the first touch of their joined
hands on their cocks, Ray knew the battle was mostly lost. "Mmmmm
big breath, hard thrust into their warm clasp, his eyes closed but he
wrenched them open. Connection, he'd wanted it, now he had it and he
wasn't going to let it go. He pushed his forehead against Benton's and
kept their eyes locked. Hands, cocks, eyes, feet tangled, stay together,
eyes open, getting closer, Benton was fighting it too, he could tell,
but their hands kept moving in tandem, they were thrusting in the same
rhythm and finally, Ray could no longer hold on. He closed his eyes,
thrust hard and came, feeling the warm splatters of his own release,
just seconds before Benton.
lay together, hands still clasped, breathing hard. Ray could feel Benton's
cock softening against his own and it just felt
eyes opened and they regarded one another. Benton brought his hand up
shakily to Ray's cheek and just touched it. Ray turned his head and
nuzzled that hand, inhaling their combined scent, feeling, amazingly,
a slight resurgence of desire. Benton moved his hand to the back of
Ray's neck and turned on his back, bringing Ray with him to snuggle against
his chest and shoulder.
This felt like home,
when Benton wrapped his arms around him, the feeling intensified.
Later, Ray woke feeling
Benton warm behind him and looked at the clock: 8:13. His stomach growled.
Ha. Not too surprising, considering his run and the not one, but two
rounds of mind-blowing sex he'd experienced this afternoon. He rolled
over and found Benton, tousled-haired and sleepy, gazing back at him.
Ray said, settling in close, almost nose to nose.
thought we'd dealt with that rather nicely." Benton's mouth pulled
up into what on anyone else would be called a smirk.
that kind of hungry." Ray bumped Benton's forehead lightly. "Sex
is not ALL I think about."
Now the smile was a smirk, even on Benton.
smart boy, I also think about food."
So in this case then you are hungry for food?"
Benton. I am not hungry for just any kind of food. I'm hungry for a
specific kind of food."
that would be?"
Pizza with pineapple."
then perhaps we should look into ways to obtain one."
Benton. I don't have to look into ways to obtain one. I know how to
by all means, Ray: sally forth."
an astronaut chick got to do with us getting pizza, Benton?" Ray
reached for the phone and dialed.
Ray called from the foyer. Fraser came out of the bedroom feeling somewhat
underdressed wearing only his borrowed sweatpants. He fully intended
to ask Ray if he could borrow a shirt, but the sight of Ray, also shirtless,
drove that thought from his mind. He stopped in the hall and stared,
watching the long lines of Ray's back as he placed the pizza on the table
and then moved into the kitchen to reach up to the cabinet that held
the supply of paper plates.
turned with paper plates in his hands and caught Fraser staring. Ray
grinned a little, his ears pink, but still managed to tease. "You
ready to eat? You look kind of hungry, there, Ben-buddy."
Fraser felt his own face
heat, and moved into the dining area and stood at the foot of the table,
his customary place for the past two weeks. Ray brought out the plates,
a carton of milk and a beer. He looked where Fraser was standing and
very deliberately put one plate and the milk in front of one the side
chairs directly next to head of the table, Katie's chair, then put his
own plate and beer at the head. Without looking at Fraser, who had remained
standing, he sat down.
considered briefly, then moved and sat next to Ray. As soon as he was
settled, Ray looked up from his plate, smiled brilliantly at him and
slid his bare feet over Fraser's feet, tangling them together.
Fraser's breath caught,
both because his feet were ticklish and because the combined scent of
the savory pizza and Ray was remarkably seductive. To distract himself,
he picked his own slice of pizza and opened the milk and searched for
a topic of conversation.
was halfway through his first slice already and paused to open his beer.
Fraser watched his shoulders and arms as Ray twisted the bottle cap off
and drank. When Ray picked up his pizza again, Fraser cleared his throat
and began, "What are your plans for the next few days, Ray? I notice
you've taken Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off from work."
a mouthful of pizza Ray answered, "Painting. The kids' room has
needed new paint for about a year now. Plus I want to get into the study.
If I've got time, I'll do the hall."
about the unused bedroom?"
we're not in there much, so the original paint is fine. That'll be Katie's
room when she's ready. Right now, she's happy to share with Stevie,
but it won't be long, I figure, until she wants a room of her own."
Fraser nodded, then asked,
"Do you have the paint?"
I'd planned to get that today but," a wink, "I got sidetracked."
Fraser felt his
face heat. "You know, we haven't really talked." He didn't
look up at Ray as he said it; instead he fiddled with his placemat.
"Yeah. I know."
Ray put his third piece down on the plate and took a long swallow of
beer. Fraser looked up and watched the movement of his throat, his long
fingers slick on the glass of the bottle, felt his own groin heat in
response. "Kind of freaky, isn't it?"
let the chill of Ray's words settle on him. "What is?"
"You and me. I
thought it would be so...weird, you know, freaky. But the weird thing
is, it's not. It's not freaky, at all. It's...nice. And comfortable."
This wasn't what
Fraser had been expecting. "You're comfortable with...what we did?"
"Yeah, I am
Fraser." Ray looked directly into Fraser's eyes. "Who knew?
I didn't. But it's true. And," Ray leaned close and brushed his
pizza-slick lips against Fraser's, "I'd like to do it again. And
more." A deeper kiss. Fraser's hands came up involuntarily to
slide through Ray's hair. Fraser closed his eyes and let himself get
lost in the sensation of Ray's lips on his. If this was going to be
taken away, he'd do well to enjoy it while he could.
he gasped breathlessly, before Ray kissed him again.
Ray murmured against Fraser's mouth, hitching his chair closer and flicking
his fingers against Fraser's nipples.
Ray. But what about the painting?" Fraser asked incoherently.
"Not gonna paint
tonight, Fraser. At least, I'm not gonna paint the walls." He
moved his head closer and down and licked his way across Fraser's chest.
His tongue replaced his fingers at Fraser's nipple, flicking lightly
like the thinnest of paint brushes. Fraser closed his eyes and threaded
his fingers through Ray's hair. Now the motion had changed and Ray was
using the whole flat, breadth of his tongue, painting in broad stokes
from bottom to top, bottom to top, again and again. He moved to the
other nipple and repeated himself. Feather light flicks of his tongue
shooting tiny jolts directly to Fraser's groin segued into hot, broad
strokes that set him on fire. He felt a howl building in him and wondered
if this was how Diefenbaker felt when he bayed at the moon. Dief. God.
Wait. His hands reversed motion and now pulled Ray's head back and away
from his chest. He had to think.
Benton! You're pulling my hair. Cut it out."
sorry, Ray. But we have to stop." Fraser spoke harshly.
Okay. We'll stop." Ray put his hands up placatingly as if faced
with an unpredictable and shaken perp even though his lips still shone
from his previous efforts. "You mind telling me why?"
completely forgot." He stood up, mind racing. Clothes? Where
the hell were his clothes? He couldn't jog to the Consulate in Ray's
old sweats and no shirt. Dryer. Right. He moved away from the table
toward the laundry area. "Thank you for the pizza, Ray."
He opened the door to the laundry nook. "And the, uh...."
he paused to crack his neck, " the uh,...."
Ray had remained seated and now stared at him thoughtfully.
Fraser stared back, feeling his ears get red and his temper rise. He
stopped sliding Ray's sweats off in mid-motion.
Roll in the hay? After-nooner?"
The sweats were off and Fraser turned and yanked open the dryer. "At
no time would I think of what we did in those terms." Fraser's
voice was snappish, he knew that, but he didn't stop pulling on his now
dry jeans. Which evidently had shrunk in the wash, because they were
hardly fitting over his thighs. This was ridiculous, these were his jeans,
of course they would fit. Fraser stubbornly pulled harder.
what terms would you use? Cause from where I sit, you're the one who's
wham, bam, thank you, man-ing here." Ray's voice was mild, but
his words made Fraser pause in his fight with the jeans. He stood upright,
jeans at mid-thigh and looked at Ray.
still sat, slouched against the back of his chair, one arm resting on
the table. His gaze was curious and penetrating, and his head was cocked
as if he were listening to some message only he could hear.
flushed. He had the distinct feeling he was broadcasting far more about
his emotional state than he cared to. "I assure you Ray, I do not
think of ...our time together...in such casual terms. It meant...a great
deal to me."
I know that. You're not a casual guy, but... something's up. You gonna
tell me?" Ray asked.
"I should have taken Dief for a run over two hours ago. He's my
responsibility and there's no excuse for me forgetting that again."
Ray's eyes narrowed and he cocked his head to the other side now. Fraser
rushed on. "It's not you. It's me." He turned away from Ray's
too-knowing eyes, and jerked at the damn jeans again. Ray's lips on
his shoulder brought him upright again with a gasp. He hadn't even heard
Ray get up.
You might want to slow down a little there." Ray's arms came around
him and he rested his hands on Fraser's stomach. Rubbed him gently,
as if to soothe him.
sighed and melted back into Ray involuntarily. Wait. Dief. No. He attempted
to straighten. Resisting the calming motion of Ray's hands and embrace
made Fraser's voice rough again. "No, Ray, I assure you I do NOT
want to slow down-" Ray's hands slid lower, effectively cutting
Fraser off and bringing him to a surprising realization.
As you have now realized, you are not wearing any underwear. And while
that turns me on like nobody's business, I seriously doubt you'll be
comfortable wearing jeans without any underwear. Especially since..."
Ray pulled on Fraser's hips and turned him around putting them nose to
nose. Then he grinned and finished, "those are my jeans."
Fraser had a brief moment of Ray's lips on his, a blinding second of
Ray's groin against his, and then he was released to watch Ray saunter
out of the kitchen. "Get some underwear, freak, and wear my sweats
and we'll go get Dief together."
stood still, aroused and panting, wanting nothing more than to go after
Ray and get to know the saunter of those hips in a far more personal
way. He clenched his fists and struggled for control. Dief. He'd forgotten
about Dief. About his responsibilities. He held himself as tight as
he could for as long as he could until his arousal backed down and his
conscience kicked in. Then, he unclenched his fists, let his shoulders
slump and his head hang. He shouldn't have forgotten Dief, no matter
how strong the provocation. Not again. He would not lose himself again.
Victoria was gone. And so, too, was the Benton Fraser that had loved
He bent to
pry Ray's jeans off his legs. They stuck over his knees, as if they were
reluctant to leave his body. He sat on the vinyl floor and pulled harder.
Finally, the jeans were off and lay on the floor inside out. Fraser
made no immediate move to get dressed. Instead he sat naked on Ray's
kitchen floor, pulled his knees up and rested his head against them.
Ray was strictly temporary. He could not afford to lose his head over
it, even if his heart was already lost. With Victoria, he had lost both
head and heart and no good had come of it. There had been only pain.
The pain of losing Victoria. The pain caused by the pain he'd caused
those closest to him. In the pursuit of something he'd thought was
love, he fallen apart and lost the pieces of himself which were most
important. He could not afford to have that happen again. Not for a
temporary liaison. And how could this be anything more?
Ray's bed Fraser had lain awake long after Ray had slept. His right
arm under Ray's head had gone numb, lying motionless and somehow separate
from the rest of his body. Disconnected. Unattached. Perhaps it would
be best to view this time spent here in Ray's house as separate: from
the rest of his life, from reality.
the reality was that this would never work. There was no place for him
in Ray's life aside from what he already was: Ray's partner and his best
friend. It didn't matter that he was unable to keep himself from wanting
more. Needing more. Or that when Ray had offered more he'd been unable
to say no, even though, rationally, he knew it could only end in heartache.
He could only hope
his heart would be numb by then.
his heart could not be convinced. It fought his head for what it wanted.
Ray said he wanted more, it stubbornly pointed out. Fraser shook his
head against his knees. That didn't matter. He glanced at the clock
on the stove. Five hours ago, Ray had whispered he wasn't a 'fag,'
didn't want to be one.
meant it was only four hours and thirty minutes ago that Ray had changed
his mind and whispered, "It's a hell of a thing, but yes. I want
you," and ignited in his arms. Logically, Ray could change his
mind again and decide that the attraction was merely physical, making
what had happened between them nothing more than a, what was the phrase?
Oh, yes, a buddy-fuck.
admitted it was MORE than attraction, his relentless heart countered.
On the strength of that, they had made love, connected in a way that
Fraser had never connected with anyone. Pressed up against the door,
in each other's arms, hips moving in unison, thrusting, leaning on each
other in mutual support. For a few minutes, it had been wonderful.
But then Ray had suffered some sort of belated reaction and had lain
in his arms shaking and conflicted, until sleep had claimed him. Holding
him, Fraser had wanted to comfort him, to soothe him, and keep away the
hurt. The problem was that he was pretty sure that he was the source
of Ray's pain.
hours ago, when Ray woke up, he still wanted you, his evidently irrepressible
heart kept up the argument. Their second effort at lovemaking had had
a deeper meaning than the first. It seemed significant that Ray had
initiated the experience. Had explored his body with his hands and his
tongue. That Ray's hand had joined his in pleasuring the two of them.
Even now, Fraser shivered at the feeling.
Ray had said he'd come to some sort of conclusion. That he felt he now
knew what the puzzle pieces had been showing him. Afterward, he had
snuggled into Fraser's embrace as if he were truly comfortable. As if
he belonged there. Fraser sighed, remembering the feeling of being wrapped
around Ray, legs entwined comfortably, fitting together. No. Fraser
squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head again, needing the physical
reminder that he didn't fit here. This house, this family had no place
to himself that he was simply too weak to say no to whatever intimacy
Ray could offer him, even if it was just for the weekend while the children
were away. But the children would be home on Wednesday. Lord knew he
might be too weak not to take whatever Ray could give him, but he had
to keep his head. Had to look out for himself, his responsibilities.
Had to keep some piece of himself separate from what happened in this
house. Because soon that piece would be all that he had left.
In the darkened
interior of the car, Fraser held himself still and concentrated on getting
to Dief. Once he'd gotten Dief, maybe he could actually relax again
and enjoy the time he had with Ray. The abrupt suddenness of Ray's hand
on his thigh startled him so badly he jumped involuntarily.
skittish, there, Fraser."
use of his last name alerted Fraser that Ray was aware that not all was
well between them.
Ray. I'm afraid--" I was woolgathering, was what he intended to
say, but Ray cut him off.
it, isn't it?" Ray's voice was challenging. "You're afraid."
Fraser had been so busy
shoring up his defenses against an inward attack, he found he was completely
unprepared for aggression from the outside. His best defense was automatic
and, unfortunately, untrue. "I am not."
you are. You're afraid and you're too chicken-shit to admit it."
Ray's voice was flat.
unerring accuracy about his mental state only served to make Fraser angry
and with anger came coldness. "I assure you, Ray, I am most certainly
not afraid of you."
you're afraid of yourself. Me, you just don't trust."
couldn't stop the involuntary gasp of surprise. A shot in the dark?
How did Ray know these things?
what all this is about, isn't it? Us rushing over to the consulate in
the dark, getting Dief? You got some and you forgot about him. I had
you and now I'll leave. Isn't that what you think? Just like before.
frozen with an almost absurd sense of deja vu. Once again, Ray was skewering
him with a pointed analysis. He felt like a bug on a specimen tray.
He was unable to formulate a response for a long, awkward moment and
think I'm like her?" Ray's voice was sharp.
The instinctive response this time was nothing but the truth. "It's
not that....Ray....God, no."
Good. Then why think you'll be like you were then?"
did not want to talk, he wanted to get back to the consulate where it
was dark and familiar and there was no one who expected him to talk about
his feelings. Where there was no one. No one at all. "I get so...carried
away...I lose my...perspective, my center....I can't think, I just...want..."
The tone of Ray's voice made Fraser whip his head up from his hands to
look at his partner. "You feel that way about me? You want me
like that?" Ray glanced from the road and smiled at Fraser, so transparently
delighted that his whole face seemed to glow in the glare of passed streetlights.
Deep inside, Fraser
felt his heart respond to Ray's smile and his obvious delight at making
Fraser feel so...flummoxed. He felt an answering smile start to tug
at his own lips. He looked back down at his hands, but a humming had
started deep in his stomach right where just minutes ago there had only
been despair. Only Ray. Only Ray could have made him smile at a time
like this. "Yes, Ray. You make me feel like that."
it's yourself you don't trust. You think that you'll get so wrapped
up in me that you won't stay true to yourself, is that it?"
Fraser looked at his
hands in his lap, feeling his eyes fill.
trust me at work? Going into dangerous situations? You trust me to
watch your back? And your front, since you don't carry a gun?"
the same thing, Frase. I look after you all the time. You think I'm
not going look after you here?"
"No, Benton. No
ifs, ands or buts. I trust you all the time. I trust you right now,
in this, with us. This time you got to trust me." Ray was silent
for a few more minutes. "We're here."
looked up from his lap and saw they were indeed pulling up in front of
the consulate. He started to shift his weight to get out, turning to
Ray to say good-bye but Ray forestalled him by grabbing his arm.
we got here. It's a beginning. And the thing about beginnings is you
don't always know how they're going to end up. It's like putting together
a puzzle without the box to look at. You just gotta keep fitting the
pieces together and eventually you figure out the picture."
"I know what the
picture is going to look like." Fraser saw the family portrait over
the fireplace in Ray's house. Saw a portrait of himself alone.
"Yeah, I know you
think you do, but you don't know. Not really. Remember, you're the put
ALL the pieces together guy here. And, Benton, you don't have all the
pieces yet. Neither of us does. And just 'cause you think you know
how the puzzle might look, that's not enough reason to throw it all away
before you even get started on it good.
home with me. Come back and stay with me. In my house. In my bed.
Help me paint the walls. Help me move furniture. Just come back with
me and let's work on this together. Trust me that much. You trust me
all the time at work, with your life. Now, try to trust me with your
. . .heart."
turned to meet Ray's eyes. There was no way this relationship could
work. Surely Ray knew that. But that wasn't what Ray was saying. He
wanted Fraser to give them a chance. He wanted Fraser to give it a try.
He wanted Fraser to trust him. He wanted...Fraser.
as Fraser stared back at him, Ray leaned in close and against Fraser's
mouth, breathed one final word that did Fraser in. "Please."
Fraser groaned and
lifted his hands to the back of Ray's head to hold him in position before
pressing his lips to Ray's. So good, so right. He could no more resist
this than he could voluntarily stop his heart from beating. "Please."
Ray whispered again. Another kiss. "Please." Tongues tangling
now, Ray was out of the driver's seat and kneeling awkwardly between
the two front seats, trying to get closer. "Please." He moved
his head in again, but Fraser stopped him by placing a hand on his chest
and leaning his forehead against Ray's.
come back? You'll try?" Ray was smart enough to push for clarification.
"I'll do my
ask for more than that." Ray rolled his head off Fraser's and pushed
back into his seat. "Okay," he said with a deep breath. "Let's
go get Dief and go home."
can get him, Ray."
way, Benton. You get in there alone, and I'll have to create a public
nuisance on the front stoop to get you out. We go together."
"As you wish."
Fraser was too weary from fighting himself to continue to fight with
Ray. If Ray wanted to come, so be it.
some clothes, too, Benton. I think we've established that my clothes
won't fit you." Ray winked and got out of the car first. Fraser
shook his head; at himself, at Ray and followed.
Consulate was dark and empty. Dief greeted them with a surprising lack
of antipathy, although he paid more attention to Ray than Fraser, at
first. Thankfully, there were no messes to clean up. Perhaps his belated
worry had been premature after all.
another short argument, Ray agreed that Dief could do with a walk. After
working through his first negative reaction, Ray seemed to understand
Fraser's need to do this but remained unwilling to simply go home and
wait. He seemed afraid that if he let Fraser out of his sight that Fraser
might simply bolt. "And I'd hate to have to come all the up to
Canada just to extradite your ass, Benton. There might be other things
I'd like to do to it," he said and waggled those eyebrows outrageously.
Just down the street
from the Consulate, one of the smaller city parks in Chicago lay silent
and still at this time of night. The trees were far apart, there was
no playground equipment, but an asphalt path twisted and turned through
the trees and provided a place for both joggers and bikers. Fraser and
Dief were in the habit of visiting it several times a day, and when he
left the Consulate, Fraser's footsteps took him there automatically.
Behind him, Ray
yanked his bike out of the back of the Explorer and soon caught up with
him to ride slowly alongside. Fraser felt Ray glance at him several
times, but did not meet his partner's eyes. At the park, Dief took off
to do whatever he needed to do, and Ray left him, too. Speeding up,
he rode in swoops and circles around and back. Now ahead of Fraser,
now behind. Fraser plodded on, walking as if he had a destination in
mind. He had no such goal. He just walked, turning over the day's events
in his mind, analyzing his own behavior and that of...
not-so-gentle thump on the back of his head interrupted his train of
thought and knocked his hat askew. He stopped, startled, and straightened
his hat. He looked for Ray who was by now some distance ahead. A somewhat
insincere "Sorry!" floated back to him from that general direction.
Dief brushed by him and headed across the path to the trees on the other
said Fraser and resumed walking. He couldn't help wishing that circumstances
were different. That he could love and be loved with no thought to consequences.
He sighed heavily, but sternly wrenched his thoughts away from that line
of thinking. It made no difference what he wished, reality was what
it was and no amount of wishing would change that. Even if he....
This time Ray's hand
smacked Fraser sharply on the right buttock. Fraser stumbled but caught
himself quickly. Again Ray had whizzed ahead and again he called "Sorry!"
in a decidedly unconvincing tone. Fraser waved back as if to say "No
problem!" and continued walking at the same pace.
senses were heightened now. He kept his eyes on the ground, but was
minutely aware of Ray's location on the bike at all times. The absence
of any other people in the park made this simpler. Using his peripheral
vision, Fraser tracked the seemingly idle loops and swoops his partner
made on the bike. Further introspection proved impossible, since tracking
Ray's erratic path without seeming to required all of Fraser's concentration.
Within minutes, Ray casually rode toward Fraser backtracking along the
Fraser and braced himself. This time, though, the attack was not upon
Fraser's person but was directed, instead, at his hat. In one swift,
deft move, Ray rode close and snatched Fraser's hat from his head.
Ray attempted to flee with his prize but he had evidently not counted
on an alert Fraser's lightning fast reflexes. Like a shot, Fraser grabbed
the bike and wrenched it to a stop. Ray, not expecting this, fell off
in a heap of arms and legs and hat.
hard, Fraser cast the bike aside and advanced on Ray. Quicker than Fraser
might have thought possible, Ray regained his feet and began backing
away. He raised his hands placatingly, hat in the right one.
Benton, hold on there..."
insulted the uniform, Ray." Dief appeared out of nowhere to move
at his side.
not technically true, Benton, you're not actually IN uniform just now."
"The hat is part
of the uniform, Ray."
doesn't look insulted to me, Benton. It looks perfectly fine. In fact,..."
Ray stopped talking and with twinkling eyes, placed the Stetson on his
head. "I think I'll wear it." Hat on, he took off.
a roar, Fraser took off after him. Dief barked and joined him.
was a short race. Fraser was highly motivated and Ray was laughing too
hard to run effectively. When Fraser tackled him, Ray went down easily.
They slid to a stop with Fraser stretched out full-length on top of Ray,
who continued to laugh. Luckily, the hat seemed undamaged. While Dief
licked Ray enthusiastically in the face, Fraser yanked it off Ray's head
and sat up, still straddling Ray's hips. Ray sputtered and pushed ineffectively
at Dief while Fraser inspected the hat minutely and placed it carefully
to the side.
he put his hands on the ground on either side of Ray's head, leaned forward
and looked Ray directly in the eye. "You took my hat, Ray."
Dief, sensing a mood change, backed off and lay down a short distance
So, whaddya gonna do about it Mountie?" Ray's tone was challenging,
daring Fraser to act. Underneath his own pelvis, Fraser could feel Ray's
legs opening, adjusting, making room for Fraser between his thighs.
Ray's hands reached up and locked around Fraser's wrists, as if Fraser
were the one who had been captured.
action would seem to be in order." Fraser's voice was rough, possibly
because Ray's thumbs had started stroking the sensitive skin of his wrists.
Well, you were being moody. Moody, moody, moody." Ray's voice
was somewhat breathless but still mocking. Feeling his command of the
situation slipping, Fraser took action.
lifted his weight off his hands and sat back into the cradle of Ray's
pelvis. Ray sucked in air, as if breathing had become difficult, and
his eyes closed. Fraser was pleased. He took a quick look around and
determined with satisfaction that the park was still deserted and that
they were alone. He shifted his weight deliberately, feeling the hard
ridge of Ray's penis under his buttocks. Ray's hands lay limply over
his shoulders and his chest heaved.
forward again, Fraser captured Ray's wrists and stretched out full length
on top of Ray to hold them against the ground over Ray's head.
what are you going to do, Mountie? Still gonna mope?" Ray's voice
was only a whisper.
let his body answer for him. Transferring his hold on Ray's wrists to
his left hand, Fraser used his right to trace a trail down Ray's cheek
and neck and chest to one nipple which he rubbed and rolled through Ray's
shirt. He kept shifting his hips ever so slightly until his own erection
was lined up just so with Ray's. Then he rocked against Ray gently.
He moved forward and
licked Ray's top lip, licked him again on his bottom lip and then licked
a wet trail along Ray's stubble to his ear. He pushed his hips, flicked
his fingers and said on a sigh into Ray's ear, "Do you still want
to know what I'm going to do to you?"
God, Benton....anything....just do it."
not going to do anything, Ray. As I'm sure you'll recall, I have no
jurisdiction here. I'll just have to leave things as they are."
And Fraser got up, motioned to Dief and walked slowly back toward the
consulate grinning to himself.
heard an agonized groan behind him, accompanied by muttered profanity
as Ray got to his feet. Fraser felt his grin become wider and didn't
even try to stop it. He began to whistle.
yeah? Well, that's one hell of a gun you're carrying there, Mountie.
You got a permit for that? Maybe I'd better come pat you down."
Ray may have been down but he certainly wasn't out. Soon he was pushing
his bike and walking alongside Fraser. Fraser glanced over at him.
I'm always happy to cooperate with the police. If you'll just accompany
me back to the Consulate, I'll be happy to show you the appropriate paper
good, Mountie, but I'll probably need to inspect that gun, too, you know."
"I certainly hope
after an extremely pleasant interlude in Fraser's office involving his
desk chair, they lay together in Ray's bed, Dief snoring on the floor
at the foot. Fraser lay on his back with Ray tucked up along his side,
all warmth and prickles. Fraser had one hand behind his head and with
the other traced a line up and down Ray's bicep. The hand beneath his
head was starting to get that pins and needles feeling indicating a lack
of proper circulation. Fraser noted the sensation but did not move his
hand. He sighed and pulled Ray closer.
needn't have feared that he would run. No, he was much too weak for that.
He wasn't going anywhere. At least, not until he had to. And until
then, he'd given Ray his promise that he'd do his best to...try to enjoy
their time together. A promise he would do his absolute best to keep.
Fraser turned his head on his now lifeless hand and closed his eyes.
Sunday morning started
at Home Depot. Well, it hadn't actually started there. It had started
in bed with an amorous, aroused Mountie and a up-for-it Ray, but the
Home Depot was the public start to the day.
Ray and Benton moved through the crowds with their customary ease, seldom
more than a hand's breadth apart. It felt familiar. Ray recognized
that this was how they had always walked. Shoulder to shoulder, steps
usually in cadence. He shook his head ruefully. Blind, he'd been blind
to what his body had been telling him. Well, his eyes were open now.
He nudged Benton with his shoulder making the other man turn to meet
his gaze. Ray didn't speak but allowed his eyes to show the joy he was
feeling, the ridiculous pitter-pat of his heart. Benton just stared
for a moment, then smiled back full bore with no stops, turned his face
forward and nudged Ray back.
the paint counter, they selected the paint and supplies quickly and headed
back to Ray's house. After unloading into the kitchen, they went to
work on the furniture. Shoving and lifting, they moved the bunk bed and
the twin bed out of the kids' room and into the unused bedroom. Katie's
dresser was moved to the middle of the room.
moving the dresser, Ray left to get a dropcloth to cover it and a sheet
to cover the attached mirror. When he returned he found Benton staring
bemusedly at a piece of cardboard in his hand.
walked over next to him and looked at the puzzle pieces glued to the
front of the cardboard. "Oh, that's Katie's puzzle. It must have
slipped behind the dresser." He took it from Benton and looked at
it in delight.
has no edge pieces." Benton leaned in close, so close that Ray
could smell the wintergreen stuff he'd shaved with, and traced a finger
around the puzzle's border. "But all the other pieces are put together
I know." Ray shifted his weight, brushed up against Benton's side,
and felt the beginnings of a low hum of arousal. "She was about
four and a half, I guess, a little after Stella died and she was working
on this puzzle. She loved it." He ran his fingers over the picture,
"The puppies, the kittens, the cookie jar, all her faves, you know?"
Benton met his eyes with a smile of shared understanding.
after she got all twenty-five pieces together, she just stared at it
with a frown right here." Ray poked Benton in the forehead. "Kinda
where you get one."
reached up and took Ray's hand away from his forehead, giving it a squeeze
before returning it to him. "Please continue."
caught his breath and went on. "Yeah, well, I say, 'Katie, what's
wrong? You did a great job putting it together.'
she says, 'But, Daddy, now it's all closed.'"
tilted his head and looked at him quizzically. Ray resisted the urge
to kiss him and gamely kept on. "I know. I didn't get it either.
But remember, she was only four years old. So, I say 'Closed? What do
she ran her finger all around the edges and said, 'It's all shut. I
can't get in.'
I'm like, okay, I get it, I can go with this and I took all the edge
pieces off one at a time and put them to the side."
that made her happy?" Benton held out his hand asking mutely to
hold the piece of cardboard.
it did," Ray answered, handing it over.
studied the puzzle again, leaning against the wall. "Why do you
think it did?"
looked at his expression to determine if this was one of those questions
Benton already knew the answer to but was asking in order to make a point,
or to make Ray realize something, but saw only confusion there. Puzzlement,
Ray thought with a inner smile. "I thought about, you know. After
that. It sorta kept making me wonder. Especially after we glued it
together and mounted it and all. I even asked our family therapist."
"What did you determine?"
moved to begin spreading the dropcloth over the dresser. "What
we figured is that Katie liked to think she could be a part of that picture,
get down there and play with the puppies and the kittens and eat the
cookies. Somehow, she could fit herself into the picture. Once the edges
were on, she couldn't seem to do that anymore."
there was no place for any more pieces to fit in."
I guess so."
Benton nodded once, then put the puzzle carefully on the dresser under
the dropcloth. "Let's get started."
was pleased with how fast the work went. They had two brushes good for
cutting in around windows, doors and the ceiling and two rollers. They'd
hit a good rhythm early on where both would cut in until one wall was
ready, then one would roll and the other would continue to cut in. When
all the cutting in was down, then both would roll.
in the late morning, Ray found himself in the kids' closet cutting in
around the door and trying to maneuver around Benton who was laying on
the floor doing the same around the baseboard. There really wasn't room
for both men to be in there, but Ray didn't want to leave.
Benton, quit kicking me."
sorry, Ray. It's essential that I hold the brush at just the right angle
to do this properly."
that involves kicking me?"
no, not as such. You just happened to have your feet and legs in the
same place I need to put my feet in order to achieve the appropriate
stayed where he was working his way up slowly along the closet door frame.
In a few moments, Benton rose from the floor and stood up, stretching
somewhat gingerly in the cramped space.
stayed still and tried to concentrate on what he was painting, which
was difficult since every atom of his body was screaming with awareness
of every atom of Benton's body just inches away. Surely, Benton wasn't
going let this opportunity go to waste......
grinned to himself when he felt Benton's arms slide around him from behind
and felt Benton's lips nuzzle just under his ear. "You missed a
spot," that voice purred silkily.
I didn't, Benton."
you did." Now that mouth was licking long slow stripes across the
back of his neck.
yeah? Where?" Ray attempted a challenging voice but he was afraid
the breathy quality of his voice kind of gave him away.
With that Benton turned him and brought their mouths together. The hum
of arousal Ray had been feeling all day suddenly morphed into a full-fledged
opera. He dropped his brush, not caring what became of it and threaded
his hands through Benton's hair.
moved against him, trying to get him up against the wall. Mindful of
wet paint, Ray tore his mouth from Benton's and gasped, "Paint!"
Benton grunted and spun
them to push Ray against the as yet unpainted back wall. Ray groaned
in relief, then moaned when Benton's lips moved down his jawbone back
toward his ear.
Ray. Ray." Benton's repeated use of his name matched the timing
of their thrusts. "I need...I need...taste you. Ray, can I..."
Benton moved his head to Ray's shoulder and thrust harder.
almost lost control right there, but with a monumental effort he clamped
down. "Yeah, God, yeah. Whatever. Go for it."
more hot, wet, open meeting of mouths and then Benton was bending, reaching,
pulling Ray's t-shirt off. Then that mouth was on his shoulder, his
chest, oh, God, on his right nipple. Benton licked it almost lazily with
broad swipes, and then maddening tiny ones around, on, over and, god,
finally that warm mouth was clamped on and sucking. Ray's knees went
rubbery and he began to slide down the wall, slipping down until Benton's
knee between his thighs stopped him. Moaning now, Ray thrust against
that knee weakly, wracked with sensation.
turned his attention to the other nipple now, same process: broad licks,
tiny feather light ones, sucking. Ray's thrusting grew more frantic.
The symphony was singing now, a new tune, 'gonna do it for me, gonna
do it for me.' Ray's thighs and buttocks were tightening and releasing
in preparation as he humped Benton's leg, but without warning, Benton
his hands in Benton's hair clenching and unclenching, "God, Benton,
let me..." 'catch my breath,' he tried to say, but it was like talking
to Dief. Single-minded and just as deaf, Benton held Ray hard at the
hips with his hands and dropped to his knees, putting him eye-to-eye
with Ray's denim-covered erection.
God, it was like the dream but so much better. Benton rubbed his head
against Ray's stomach in a caress then looked up to meet Ray's eyes.
Without looking away, Benton opened each button on Ray's fly with a tantalizingly
slow pace. Ray's breathing speeded up as the anticipation built and
he couldn't, didn't want to, look away.
the last button slid free and Benton looked down to ease Ray's pants
and boxer-briefs off. He captured Ray's eyes again just as he opened
his mouth.....and took Ray in.
eyes closed and he lifted his hands, bracing them on either side of the
door frame, head down and leaning over Benton as Benton got down to the
business of sucking, with little or no preliminaries. It was hot, wet,
overwhelmingly erotic. Benton's mouth was wide, his tongue, wow, his
tongue was everywhere, the occasional graze of teeth sending Ray's senses
real effort, Ray opened his eyes again, and looked down his naked body,
saw his cock in Benton's mouth. Saw that dark head bobbing and moving
as Benton sucked and licked and blew everything up to and including Ray's
mind. Too good, too good, his mind said, but his body said not enough,
backed off with his mouth and growled, then moved in with his hand, holding
the base of Ray's cock and pumping while he licked underneath and slid
down lower, that talented tongue now nuzzling and licking his balls,
behind his balls. Ray moaned and thrust into Benton's hand. This was
good, this was great, but he wanted that wet heat back. Wanted to feel
his cock sliding down Benton's throat.
it good, Ray?" Had Benton's voice always been that husky?
damn, ...Benton,...could you... with your mouth again....please?"
yes,...you taste so good....yes." Benton interrupted himself, opened
his mouth wide and took Ray all the way in. As in ALL the way. It took
a split second for Ray to realize what had happened and once he did,
he groaned and thrust harder. God, they fit. His cock in Benton's mouth,
a perfect fit. Stella had never done this, never wanted to or could
or God, who cared, this was hot, this was great, this was it. He clenched
his hands around the door frame and with one final hard thrust, came,
shooting deep into Benton's throat, feeling those hands still warm on
finished, all the way wiped out, Ray released the door frame and slid
down the wall bonelessly to a more or less sitting position. He reached
for Benton and kissed him sloppily and pulled him into a hard embrace.
"I think I'm going to have to owe you one, buddy, seeing as how
I'm going to have a nap right here on the floor."
quite all right, Ray. Things managed to...take care of themselves."
Benton's face was red. Ray looked down and saw a tell-tale wet spot
on the front of Benton's jeans.
wow, that good, huh?" He pulled back a little, trying to see Benton's
buried his head in Ray's shoulder, refusing to meet his eyes. The heat
from his blush warmed Ray's skin and, goofily enough, his heart. Benton's
voice was just this side of mortified. "I - I was enjoying myself."
"So was I,
buddy. So was I." Ray brought his hand up to the back of Benton's
head and pulled him even closer, then kissed his hair. "And next
time I'll make sure you enjoy yourself even more."
believe we still have the hall closet to do," Benton said still
into his shoulder, but with a sly chuckle. Ray laughed weakly along
After a brief nap
in Ray's bed, they actually got back to work. Evidently, Ray was determined
to actually finish the painting despite his obvious desire to stay in
bed with Fraser indefinitely. Fraser could only feel flattered at the
difficulty with which Ray pulled himself out of Fraser's arms and out
hall and the study, Benton. We've got to finish the hall and the study."
He bent and pulled on his jeans providing Fraser with a very nice view
of his backside. Ray turned suddenly as he straightened and caught him
staring. Fraser flushed red, but Ray just laughed, came back to the
bed and kissed him hard. Fraser reached for him, intending to pull
him back into bed, but Ray danced away. "Painting, Benton. I mean
it. And," he pointed his index and little fingers at Benton's face,
"we're doing the hall closet LAST." And he was gone. Fraser
followed moments later, duty winning out over lasciviousness.... for
the time being.
cut in and Ray rolled and the job went fairly quickly. At the closet,
Fraser cocked his head and lifted his eyebrows inquiringly but Ray sternly
shoved him into the study. Moving the bookcases into the center of
the room took a while, but once that was done the work progressed at
a good pace. By late afternoon, the painting in the study was finished.
Ray dropped the
roller back into the pan and stretched. "Man, I'm beat. You mind
if I take Dief for a walk? Feel like I could use the fresh air."
"That sounds fine,
Ray. I'll just tidy up here."
good." Ray loped into the hall and Fraser heard him invite Dief
to join him. Judging from the sound of toenails on vinyl flooring, Fraser
assumed Dief had taken him up on the proffered invitation. Rolling the
strain out of his own shoulders, he bent to the task of cleaning up.
After he finished
the study, Fraser turned his attention to the hall closet. Opening the
door, he was faced with a plethora of winter coats on hangers, and hats,
gloves, scarves and mittens flung in a heap on the floor, and children's
games on the shelf. He started with the coats, gathering an armful at
a time and moving them to the living room couch. Then he stacked the
games neatly on the kitchen table.
was sitting on the hall floor sorting hats and mittens when he heard
the front door open. His heart started to pound in anticipation. Closets
as an erogenous zone? The joke rose unbidden. He was definitely unhinged.
Suddenly, sorting mittens seemed pointless. He gathered up the winter
wear helter-skelter into a pile and got to his feet. A red mitten slipped
out of the pile and Fraser bent to retrieve it.
now, you think I'm going to be able to ignore that?" Ray's voice
was followed by Ray's hands on his hips and Ray's groin against his buttocks.
Fraser felt his own arousal skyrocket. He straightened, mittens, hats,
gloves forgotten. Ray's hands migrated forward and grasped him through
his jeans. Fraser moaned and lifted his hands to grasp the closet bar.
Ray's voice rasped in his ear, "You know, I owe you one, Benton.
Did it taste good when you went down on me? I can't wait to find out
what it's like."
words in combination with his hands moved Fraser to a state of speechlessness.
He dropped his head back on Ray's shoulder and thrust up against Ray's
hands which were now unbuttoning his jeans. The words continued, "Haven't
done this before, Benton. Maybe you could walk me through it? Let's
see, first, I slide down on my knees, right and get all up close and
personal, right, B-buddy?" The button was undone, and Ray was now
sliding the zipper ever so slowly down.
Fraser managed to gasp, thrusting harder wanting the talking to stop
and the action to start.
take that as a yes." Ray smiled against the back of Fraser's neck,
hands still busy sliding Fraser's zipper down at a maddening pace. "Then
what should I do? Open wide and just take you in? Or maybe lick you
all over? Which sounds good, Benton?"
Fraser was getting desperate. The images Ray was painting were almost
painfully arousing. He rolled his head on Ray's shoulder and licked Ray's
it's hard to choose, isn't it?" Ray ignored Fraser's plea and stayed
where he was, finally finished with the zipper, and now pulling out Fraser's
achingly hard penis. Fraser bucked uncontrollably and bit down gently
on Ray's neck to keep from climaxing all too soon.
easy there, Benton. I got you."
Ray, god, Ray,....please..."
you're hot, Benton. And so slick. I can't wait any more, I've got to
taste you." With those breathy words, Ray pushed around him to
stand in front of him. One hard, hot kiss, and then Ray was sliding
down, down to his knees. Fraser spread his legs and bent at the waist,
hanging over Ray, holding the closet rod in a death grip.
dealt speedily with Fraser's jeans and briefs, pulling them down to his
calves and out of the way. Then he sat back on his haunches in rapt
contemplation. Fraser sucked in his breath to say he knew not what when
Ray looked up and met his eyes. Fraser's words died on his tongue at
the look on Ray's face. Warmth, arousal, some humor (at himself, perhaps),
and another emotion that Fraser would not let himself name.
could never do this for anybody else, you know." Ray grinned impudently,
but his voice was only a husky whisper.
you do." Ray leaned forward, pushed Fraser's flannel shirt up and
out of the way, rested his cheek on Fraser's belly and wrapped his arms
around Fraser's waist. A hug. Fraser felt tears spring to his eyes.
"You know everything." Ray pulled back and wiped his nose with
got him another hug, and a "Huh." Fraser let one hand drop
from the closet bar and rested it on Ray's head. Ray tilted his head
back and grinned. "Well, here's one thing you're going to know
about." He twitched his head under Fraser's hand, "Better put
that back and hang on." Then he licked a path across Fraser's belly
and down until he was nuzzling Fraser's hip. Fraser held his breath
as Ray worked his way over and ....took Fraser's penis into his mouth.
He felt all the air leave his lungs hard on the heels of a deep groan.
His eyes closed. His hands clamped down on the closet rod and his hips
thrust deep. Ray rode it out and kept his mouth moving, licking, nuzzling
felt Ray everywhere: Ray's hands kneading his buttocks, Ray's hair brushing
against his belly, Ray's body between his thighs... Ray's mouth, the
mouth that seemed a perfect fit. Fraser opened his eyes and looked down
to see Ray's eyes closed, cheeks hollowed to suck, one hand holding the
base of his penis, the other between his own legs holding his own. Ray
was receiving pleasure from this. It was too much, Fraser's eyes closed
and he climaxed into Ray's mouth. Ray swallowed what he could then continued
to suck gently, adding a final peak to Fraser's pleasure.
let go of the closet rod and dropped to his knees. He leaned heavily
on Ray and panted. "Ray. Ray. Ray."
Benton. I got you."
you. Did you....?"
But I'm good, Benton. Good grief, I'm too pooped to pop."
This struck Fraser as
incredibly amusing. He felt laughter bubbling through him like champagne
and was incapable of preventing it from escaping. He laughed softly
in fits and starts and lost control when Ray joined in.
that's funny, do you?" Ray gasped between bouts.
Evidently." Fraser was no better off.
Always knew you were unhinged."
think you should trust your instincts, Ray," Fraser lay down, still
laughing, on the hall floor bringing Ray with him.
Monday morning, Ray slept
late, settling down for a good snooze after Benton had kissed him good-bye
and gone to work. His dreams, for once, did not wake him in a sticky
mess. When he did wake, it was almost 11:00 and he stretched and groaned
self-satisfied feeling lasted all the way through his shower and almost
through breakfast. As he was finishing the last of his toast, the longing
to see Benton hit him all at once. Ray sighed in exasperation. The
honeymoon period. How could he have forgotten? Together as much as
possible, waiting it out in agony when you were separated. He put his
head down on the table and laughed at himself. He wanted to tell Benton....wait,
just because you can't see him, doesn't mean you can't tell him. Ray
was up and at the phone, toast crust still in his hand.
this is Ray. Connect me to Fraser." Ray was too impatient for
course, Detective Kowalski. I believe he is available."
heard a brief moment of the Canadian National Anthem before he finally
is Constable Ben-"
know who you are, Mountie, and I know what I'd like to do to you."
Ray voice dropped to a growl.
I see. And this would be?"
"Hello, Ray. Are you sure you should be up? After all, it's still
couldn't sleep. I was...lonely." Ray put some purr in it.
Ray could hear Benton swallow. "Well, that is an interesting development."
"No, it isn't, Benton.
What is interesting is what I'm going to do with you when you get home."
"I can't wait
to see what comes up...then."
laughed. "Was that innuendo, Constable Fraser? At work? Is that
strictly. No." Benton's voice seemed strained.
time are you off work, Mountie?" Ray growled.
time is it now, Ray?"
your ass over here, Benton." Ray heard Benton slam the phone down.
Far too quickly
to believe, Ray heard the front door open. Skidding in from the living
room, he pounced, pulling Benton into the house and slamming the door
behind him. He plastered himself to Benton's mouth and groaned, "You
changed." The jacket hit the floor with a thud. Ray undid the buttons
of Benton's flannel shirt and pushed it down his arms, while Benton toed
off his unlaced boots.
it would be easier," Benton panted as he pulled his henley over
his head to land on top of the jacket.
yanked off his own t-shirt and threw himself against Benton's chest and
licked his way up to Benton's jaw bone. Benton braced himself against
the door, dipped his head and kissed him. Ray met him with an open mouth
and it was just like before. Fire. Ray's whole body seemed to ignite.
He pressed closer to Benton, tilted his head for a better angle and slid
his tongue against the roof of Benton's mouth. Benton captured his tongue
and started to suck.
cock came to full hardness in a big rush. He moaned into Benton's mouth
and slammed his hips against him. There, right there, under the denim
and who knew what other layers the Mountie might be wearing was a hardness
to answer his own. Without taking his mouth from Benton's, Ray got them
lined up and moving. Benton's arms went around him like steel bands,
reminding Ray forcibly of their last little episode at this door,
then slid lower to cup the curves of Ray's ass. Ray dug his knee in between
Benton's and really started moving. Benton tore his mouth from Ray's
and bit down tight on his shoulder. His thrusts went short and ragged
and his hands tightened on Ray's ass. Then he slammed his hips against
Ray's almost hard enough to take Ray up off the floor and came. The rush
of that triggered Ray's own orgasm and he lost himself in the nothingness.
When Ray came back to
himself, they were in heap of arms and legs on the
foyer floor. Benton's
hands were moving gently across his back. He lifted
his head and
met Benton's eyes.
"It's possible that
it might feel even better if we were in bed and I weren't sitting on
kind of like you sitting on my lap."
Ray said getting to his feet slowly and extending a hand down to the
Mountie. "We'll have to be sure to try that again later, then."
"As you say, Ray."
"Whadyou tell the
told her something had come up and I needed to go liaise with you."
Ray stopped in the hall
and looked at Benton. "No, you didn't."
I couldn't lie, Ray." Benton glanced back over his shoulder, eyes
Weren't we..." Benton turned at the bedroom door and pointed vaguely
within and pulled on his ear.
yeah. Okay, Benton. I'm coming." Had he really told Inspector
Suddenly Benton was in front of him.
wasn't there. I merely told Turnbull I needed to be out. And as today
is my normal day to liaise, he thought nothing of it. I was just...pulling
your cord." Benton shifted uncertainly.
felt the blood flowing through his veins again. "Yanking my chain."
Yanking your chain."
were yanking my chain!" Ray's voice rose. "That's it. Get
in that bed. You want to yank something, I got something for you to
yank. You got that?"
Benton turned and beat a hasty retreat back down the hall.
and Ray spent the afternoon moving all the furniture back where it belonged.
They kept the windows open to let the paint smell dissipate. The chill
in the air encouraged Ray to keep moving and curbed his desire to get
naked with the Mountie, for the moment anyway.
was almost 5:00 when they finished. The kids' room, the hall and the
study not only were painted but the furniture was back in place. Even
the now dust-free bookcases in the study were pushed back, and the books
reshelved neatly, thanks to one Benton Fraser. Glancing around the study,
Ray decided that Benton deserved more than just a pizza for dinner.
They both did.
You finished in there?" Ray called into the kids' room.
finished, Ray." Benton came through the doorway into the hall looking
way too masculine to be carrying a dustcloth and a can of Pledge.
"Clean up and I'll
take you out for a steak dinner."
not necessary, Ray."
that, Frase. I want to," Ray lifted an eyebrow and looked Benton
in the eye.
well, then. Thank you very much." Benton flushed. "Steak
my friend, are welcome to the steak, and anything else you might like."
Ray waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
the restaurant? Really, Ray. A little discretion is always wise."
Benton shook his head and clucked his tongue as he moved away to put
the cleaning supplies back in the laundry room.
stared after him, delighted.
was a line at the restaurant, but for once Ray didn't mind waiting.
What had started out as a quick shower had turned into a sensual gonna-make-Ray-come-if-it's-the-last-thing-I-do
experience headed up by one determined Mountie who'd been so focused
on Ray, he'd completely forgotten to close the frosted shower door behind
imagining you in the shower, Ray," Benton had growled just after
climbing in with him. Just before he'd turned Ray and pushed him up against
the cool tile. Ray had watched with amazement in the mirror over the
sink while Benton'd licked up his nipples and down his belly and sucked
him in. The combination of hot water, hot mouth and then, that hot finger
up his ass had proven to be nearly lethal. Ray had come so hard, he
wasn't completely sure he hadn't actually passed out. Boy, the things
you could learn about your prostate with a motivated Mountie....
Ray shifted next to Benton
on the bench in the waiting area and blinked sleepily. Out of habit,
he scanned the other dinner hopefuls. Being a cop just followed you
around sometimes. He was sure Benton was doing the same thing.
Three couples, two guys
and a group of four women. The two couples sharing the bench with him
and Benton had marriage written all over them. The older couple sat
close together in a comfortable silence that spoke of many years together,
conversing in muted tones only sporadically.
younger couple sat silently, as well, but it was the silence of two exhausted
young parents who hadn't quite remembered how to talk to each other without
the kids around. Ray watched them nostalgically, remembering the young
parents he and Stella had been. Sighing, he moved his gaze across the
room to the other bench.
other couple was obviously dating. Neither wore a visible ring and they
sat some distance apart, painfully aware of the other's physical space.
When either one spoke, it seemed too loud and a little awkward and overconsidered.
Next to the dating
couple, the two men sat fairly close together, yet did not touch. They
seemed to be ignoring each other, but watching them out of the corner
of his eye, Ray caught a nudge or a word here and there that led him
to believe they were, in fact, very aware of each other. Brothers?
Maybe. Lovers? Possibly. Ray wondered suddenly what he and Benton
four women sat together and from the snatches of conversation he could
hear, Ray could tell they'd all been friends a long time. Theirs was
the only steady noise of conversation in the room, punctuated often by
their laughter. Two blondes, a redhead and one dark-haired woman who
seemed to be talking the most. Ray shook his head thinking that by now,
Benton could probably tell him all four women's names and how each one
met the other, although he probably wouldn't since sharing information
gained by inadvertently overhearing it would be gossiping or not chivalrous
then, Benton turned to catch his eye--his attention caught, perhaps,
by the movement of Ray's head. Ray cocked his head at the four women
and smiled, sharing the joke. Somehow, Benton got it and grinned back.
For a moment, it was as if they were in their own world and Ray had to
clamp down hard on his impulse to cover that smile with his own. Connection.
He'd craved it. They had it.
arrival of a very pregnant woman interrupted their moment. Before Ray
could move, Benton was up on his feet, hat in hand offering his seat
to the woman. She accepted and allowed Benton to assist her onto the
bench. As Benton bent to ease her onto the seat, every eye in the place
male and female alike was drawn to his ass like he was a refrigerator
and they were all magnets. Ray shifted and crossed his arms, his smile
you so much," the woman said gratefully.
welcome," Benton replied and smiled at her.
next to her, Ray could hear her indrawn gasp and see her face flush.
He could empathize: Canadian courtesy accompanied by a full-fledged
Benton smile was a very powerful combination.
he'd satisfied himself that the woman was settled, Benton moved to the
far corner of the waiting area and stood, hands behind his back. The
refrigerator magnets went with him. Ray felt his ears get hot. *MINE,*
he thought surprising himself with the intensity of his possessiveness.
But it was more than that, too. These people had no idea what Benton
was like. No concept of his hopes, his dreams, his pain, his sorrow.
Benton seemed oblivious
to the stares, but knowing how observant Benton was Ray doubted that
was true. Watching him, Ray noted that Benton met no one's eyes and
instead stared directly at the restaurant's oversized menu on the wall
as if reading every word.
now to the charged atmosphere of the room, Ray noticed when the dark
haired woman nudged the redhead and murmured, almost low enough not to
be heard, "I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers."
Luckily, this comment
coincided with the announcement of "Kowalski, party of two,"
over the loud speaker, so Ray's sudden rise to his feet was attributed
to that and not to any misguided attempt to defend Benton's honor. Raising
his hand and pointing his index and little fingers emphatically, Ray
opened his mouth to let the chick have it when Benton clapped his hand
hard on Ray's shoulder and said, "That's us, Ray."
a sec, Benton. I've got something to say here," Ray started and
looked at the woman.
Ray, we shouldn't keep the staff waiting." Benton gave Ray a push
toward the door, but Ray held firm.
he got to say to me?" The dark-haired woman looked shocked.
Ray sucked in his breath
to begin, but Benton beat him to it. "I believe, ma'am, that he
thinks you should make your own cracker crumbs and leave me out of it."
The woman's face
blanched and then turned red. Ray looked at Benton. Benton rolled his
eyes exaggeratedly, and motioned to the door significantly.
nodded his head once with satisfaction and graciously allowed himself
to be moved on. Behind him he heard Benton muttering, something about
"pay and pay and pay."
followed the hostess to their table in silence. On the way, Ray fell
off the peak of self-satisfaction and slid a good ways into the valley
of doubt. He cringed a little over the waiting room events. Way to
go, Kowalski. Jealous and possessive and ready to out the whole relationship
because of one comment. But Benton deserved better than ogling and smart
comments. It wasn't like he was a TV character or something. He was
a whole person. A whole person likely to be pretty embarrassed just
They sat down
at the table and Ray ordered a beer. "Sorry about that, Benton.
I didn't mean to...cause a scene," he apologized and wondered just
how mad Benton was.
first Benton didn't even look up from his menu and Ray's heart sank.
But then he met Ray's eyes and what Ray saw there lifted his hopes, caught
his breath and made his heart race. "It's perfectly all right,
Ray. You were undoubtedly just reminding her of her Shakespeare."
"Of course, you
were--'A man is more than just the sum of his parts.' I believe that
is the quotation you were hoping to recall to her mind."
felt relief wash through him. Oh, yeah. There it was again, that connection,
and tonight it was obviously a two-way street. Even though he knew his
face must be showing everything in his heart, he couldn't resist a little
Ray, parts," Benton answered with twinkling eyes. Ray let himself
twinkle right back and it was good. It was great. Hell, it was greatness.
Greatness. One of Ray's
favorite descriptors of happiness, the word lingered in Fraser's head
later that evening in bed. He shifted lower on the bed, his tongue moving
to Ray's stomach. He could feel the rumble in Ray's abdomen when he
groaned, but Fraser did not let that distract him.
was greatness. Greatness to be here, in Ray's bed, moving over, around
and under his naked body, receiving and giving pleasure which evidently
knew no bounds. Or rather, the bounds of which he had not yet reached.
He licked and nuzzled
his way further down, tracing lightly against Ray's hip which he had
discovered was extremely ticklish. Ray's body jerked convulsively and
he raised a weakly made fist as a reminder to get moving. Fraser smiled
against the soft skin.
were intended to."
it, Mountie, or you'll be up a creek without a paddle here."
"Good thing I've
got one of my own. Proper preparation..."
shook with laughter and tousled Fraser's hair. "I can't believe
you said that. I must be doing something right to get that kind of smart-ass
comment out of you."
obviously been spending too much time with you."
to see I'm rubbing off."
not exactly what I had in mind just now..." Fraser licked a broad
stripe across Ray's lower stomach, just at the hair line, opened up,
loosened his jaw and took Ray in. Ray jerked and thrust, coming up off
the bed and holding tight to Fraser's head. The moan he produced satisfied
some deep, primal part of Fraser he hadn't even known existed prior to
this week. That same part had also been pleased when Ray had moved (unnecessarily)
to defend him at the restaurant. And now, that part of him wanted to
leave his scent, mark his territory and make Ray his in every way.
He sucked gently at first,
using his tongue to explore again the fascinating texture and flavor
that seemed to be uniquely Ray. Swallowing hard, he took Ray all the
way in and then hummed. Again, Ray's buttocks lifted off the bed and
his hands tightened in Fraser's hair. Ray was close, very close to orgasm.
Fraser backed off,
went back to licking and playing, holding and stroking Ray with his hand.
you're going kill me...don't leave me hanging...god, please.
worry, Ray. I've got a handle on things."
going to kill you...as soon as you...Benton, please." Ray's sweat-soaked
writhing body was incredibly beautiful to Fraser. His own arousal was
almost to the point of pain, but he fought for control. A plan. He
had a plan. Right. Okay.
moved his mouth back to Ray's groin and licked his way down to Ray's
testicles. Down here Ray's scent was almost overpowering. Fraser closed
his eyes and breathed the very essence of Ray into his nose, his lungs,
and his heart. His tongue made cautious forays in and around Ray's testicles,
while his hand kept stroking. But Fraser wanted more.
his weight to his elbows, he got his hands under Ray and tilted Ray's
hips up, letting Ray's legs fall to either side. Then he nuzzled the
area just behind Ray's testicles and let his tongue explore the small
puckered opening beneath.
Ray's exclamation seemed equal parts gasp and aroused moan.
Ray?" Fraser leaned back.
yes." Fraser was unable to prevaricate.
good." Ray's chest heaved. "Do it some more."
you wish." Fraser was breathing hard himself. He continued licking--top
to bottom, bottom to top, around in circles. Experimentally he fluttered
his tongue against Ray. Ray's hips bucked weakly under his arm and his
groan was tortured. Unforgettable. He wanted this to be unforgettable,
wanted to leave his mark on Ray in such a manner that Ray would always
remember this night. Wanted to etch this in his own memory to bring
out to play again and again those nights he would be alone. Finally,
finally, ever so slowly he began to push his tongue in. Ray groaned
and clamped his legs over Fraser's shoulders.
he breached the small opening with his tongue, Ray's legs started shaking
and his penis leaked fluid in spurts and sputters. Fraser's own arousal
was at a fever pitch. He knew no one had ever done this to Ray before
and he felt triumphantly jubilant at being the first. Mine, he thought,
mine. He may not be able to keep him, but for this one moment Ray belonged
to Fraser body and soul.
Ray's voice was husky.
Fraser's voice matched.
fuck me, Benton."
heart leapt and he nearly exploded just from the thought, but he hung
on by his fingernails. "Ray, are you sure? Have you ever? You've
got to be sure, Ray."
I sure? Fraser, you got me spread out here like the salad bar in the
restaurant tonight. Would I be doing that if I wasn't sure?" Ray's
voice shook with arousal, with emotion, but he sounded confident.
"I don't want to
hurt you, Ray...." Fraser's voice shook, too and he trembled, perilously
near tears. He looked down and away from Ray.
Ray's voice was gentle and his fingers ran lightly through Fraser's hair
in a sweet caress. "I trust you. I know that. But, this is just
so...hot and I want to know about that, too. I want more. And,"
here Ray paused and trailed his fingers down to Fraser's cheek. "I
want you to give it to me. I want to feel you inside my body like you
are in my heart." Ray's face went red. "Chick talk, I know."
Fraser, for his
part, was speechless. To be given such a gift... Without any conscious
decision, he climbed up Ray's body, pulled him into a rough embrace and
buried his head on Ray's shoulder. Ray held him hard. When they pulled
back, Fraser knew his face was wet, but didn't try to hide it. Ray's
eyes were wet, too. In lieu of a kiss, Fraser pressed their foreheads
together. "Thank you."
welcome. Any time. Any place. You and me. Got that? You and me.
We're partners. " Partners, that did say it all. Ray's response
you are, Ray."
let's get busy, Mountie. Have you done this before?" Ray pulled
back to look Fraser in the eye.
as such, Ray. But I have read a great deal--"
doubted you for a minute, B-Buddy. What do we do for proper preparation
and all that?"
would be helpful, stretching prior to...uh, penetration..."Fraser
felt his arousal skyrocket just from saying the words. "Then moving
slowly so the necessary adjustments can be made..."
I'm so turned on." Fraser risked a quick glance for confirmation.
Ah, yes, a comfortable amount of evidence supported that claim. "How
do you do that?" Ray's face showed both his arousal and his bewilderment.
"I bet you could make the telephone book sound sexy. Lube, I've
got that. Hang on." Ray was up and out of bed and in the bathroom.
In a moment, he was back with a tube of water-based lubricant, which
he handed to Fraser. "Okay, you want me like this, right?"
Ray crawled onto the bed on all fours and looked back over his shoulder
attention was caught by the tube of lubricant Ray had handed him. Where
had Ray gotten it? Why had he gotten it? A thin layer of dust covered
the label making it feel gritty. Obviously, it had not been used recently.
Perhaps a leftover from his days with Stella.
looked up to ask, but seeing Ray up on all fours
brought all that was primal, dark and hungry inside him to the surface.
With a growl, he was up on his knees behind Ray. He rubbed himself against
Ray's buttocks, holding him hard at the hips. Almost uncontrollably,
he bucked up against the cleft between Ray's cheeks.
even that feels good, Benton." Ray's hand came up to hold his own
penis, but Fraser batted it away and held Ray himself, bending over that
long, lean back and feeling Ray's...ass up against him. Fraser moaned
and started rocking rhythmically. His mind clouded by arousal, he almost
forgot what they intended to do. It was the tube of lubricant in his
hand, cool and being crushed, that reminded him forcibly of what was
going to happen next.
shaking, he let go of Ray and opened the tube. He slicked up three fingers
and dropped the tube nearby on the bed. He lay over Ray again, one hand
reaching around front to hold and the other smoothing, rubbing, and teasing
behind. Gradually, he worked one finger in. Ray stiffened but then
yes, good, like in the shower. Easier this time." Ray's sentence
structure was suffering, but his meaning was clear.
wiggled and moved his finger until he felt a slight loosening. Stroking
Ray harder, in attempt to distract him, Fraser added his second finger.
Ray moaned and, unbelievably, pushed back against him. Fraser stretched
in deeper and hit the spot he'd been looking for. Ray shouted and bucked
fucking good," he panted. "More, do it, do me, come on, Benton.
I want it."
was too soon, but Fraser could not resist. A red haze covered his vision,
as he moved, grabbed the lube and slicked himself up. By increments,
he pushed himself in. Ray guided him with words and motions. Sooner
than he thought possible, Fraser was all the way in.
They fit. God, they fit. Perfectly. If he were to lose the pieces
of himself, maybe at least he could salvage this one exquisite connection
that made he and Ray one.
Tight. Rippled inside. Hard to imagine such a small place could expand
to hold him entirely within its grasp, but he had ample proof that it
could. The small of his back broke out in a sweat, his thighs shook
against Ray's, his hand was clasped around Ray in a poor imitation of
how he was being held by Ray. Bent almost double, Fraser rested against
Ray's smooth back and bit and licked him gently on the shoulder, fighting
the urge to move until Ray gave him some sign it was all right.
"So good. Benton.
God, it's so good..." Ray spoke into the bedspread, having collapsed
so somewhere during the slow penetration. Ah. Finally, a sign. Fraser
reached under Ray's torso and lifted him back up so they were pressed
together chest to back. He wrapped one hand around Ray's hips and the
other under his arm and over his chest. Then he began to thrust.
Ray screamed and came
held on for two more thrusts, then he climaxed hard and long with a roar
that rang in his ears. He sank back weakly onto his heels then prodded
and shifted a nearly comatose Ray until they fell on their sides on the
bed, still spooned up together.
a while, neither spoke. Then Ray stretched and groaned a little, then
rolled to face him.
"Was it good for
you?" Ray's eyes were bright. Caught unaware, not expecting playfulness
at this juncture, Fraser was unable to suppress his laughter. Ray chortled
weakly along with him.
yes. I felt sure you would have noticed," Fraser gasped out finally.
"I think I went
deaf there at the end, so I might have missed it."
believe that was it, Ray."
I get it, now."
I think to be accurate, Ray, you should say that you GOT it."
Where've you been hiding him all this time?"
been waiting for you." Fraser felt the laughter leave him and hauled
Ray in tight.
got it, Benton." Ray's voice was soft and comforting and his arms
felt so right. "I love you, too."
"The kids come home
Tuesday night and Fraser lay on his side in Ray's bed with his head resting
on his hand. With his other hand, he gently traced a line along Ray's
side from hip to underarm and back. He'd spent the day at work in a
daze, filled with memories of what they had done last night, how they'd
connected. He'd relished the memories. Played them back again and again,
perfecting them in his mind so that they would remain with him forever.
"We need to
decide what to do."
"You think you're
gonna get hurt here."
do you say that?"
"Can we stop talking
do you want to talk about then?"
Ray's sentence was cut off by Fraser's mouth. Fraser pulled Ray to him,
hungrily, passionately. Showing Ray with his body what he could never
seem to put into words-- 'I love you, I need you, I want you. Please....'
but he wouldn't let himself think any further and soon he lost himself
in the pleasure of Ray in his arms.
Ray asked, "So, Benton, what do you expect?"
Fraser kept his eyes closed.
prior experience. Did you ever think you still might not have all the
pieces of the puzzle, here?"
"Wh-what does that
mean, Ray?" Without meaning to, Fraser raised his head and opened
his eyes to meet Ray's.
an expression, Benton. Go to sleep." Ray closed his eyes face serious,
but his hand on Fraser's stomach was soothing.
you wish, Ray." Fraser put his head back down on the pillow and,
after a moment, closed his eyes.
The next morning, Ray
stood at the sliding glass door again looking out at the swing set.
It was early. The dawn sky was still gray and just beginning to show
streaks of color. Ray sipped his coffee and leaned against the door
frame. The swing set stood silent, one swing moving slightly in some
shivered slightly at the cool air radiating from the glass and sipped
his coffee again, as much for warmth as for the caffeine kick. He should
probably go get a shirt, his sweat pants were riding low on his hips
and weren't much protection from the October air behind the glass. But
his shirts were in the bedroom. Where Benton still slept. And Ray did
not want to disturb him yet. Not yet.
until he figured out how to show Benton he was making assumptions, again.
Assumptions about Ray, about the children, about the outcome of their
relationship. Taking over, making a decision that was so final, in his
mind, there was no need to discuss it. Benton thought he was putting
together the same kind of puzzle he'd put together before. A family
portrait. A wanted poster. A Chicago PD ID badge. Pictures of the
important people in Benton's life, but pictures with no place for Benton.
So all the pieces that held Benton's image ended up just not fitting.
And they lay, discarded on the table, on the floor, in a jumble. Until
Benton himself swept them up and put them in his pocket and moved on.
But this picture didn't
have to be like that. Ray knew there was room for Benton in the frame.
But Benton didn't see it. It had simply never occurred to him to take
those pieces of himself out of his pocket and try to fit them into this
puzzle. After all, they had never fit his puzzles before, why should
they now? Ray stared at the swing set, unseeing.
matter how hard he was trying, Benton didn't trust him yet. Didn't trust
Ray to look out for him, to watch his back. Benton believed that Ray
was going to hurt him by stopping this relationship, by calling it quits
because the kids were due home. Ray shook his head. He understood where
Benton was coming from, after all everyone Benton had loved had hurt
him. Intentionally, unintentionally, it didn't matter. Each one had
caused Benton pain. But knowing this didn't help Ray. It still stung
that Benton didn't see that Ray would no more hurt Benton than he would
Katie or Stevie. He sighed and looked again at the swing set that he
and Benton had built. Together.
he needed to do was show Benton that he didn't have all the pieces to
make the Kowalski Family Portrait(the Kowalski-Benton Family Picture?
The Benton-Rays?) yet. Show Benton that the pieces of himself were needed,
wanted and necessary. Thinking further, he knew what to do. Finishing
his coffee, he got busy. He felt a sudden burst of energy that had nothing
to do with the coffee and everything to do with the rest of his life.
Fraser woke slowly and
later than usual. He was surprised to find he was alone in the bed,
the bedroom and maybe even, he cocked his head to listen, the house.
He let his head fall back on the pillow. Lifting a hand, he ran his
fingers over his eyebrow and then let his arm fall, covering his eyes
and shutting out the morning brightness. He lay that way for some time.
Finally he pulled
himself together enough to get out of bed. Standing up, he stretched,
then padded naked to the bathroom. He used the toilet, brushed his teeth
and started the shower. Pulling the curtain, he stepped in and stood
motionless. His heavy heart seemed to be affecting his limbs. The effort
it would require to clean himself was hardly worth it. He would be leaving
today. Leaving this house and Ray and Ray's children who, without warning,
had become entrenched inside his protective barriers.
He had no place here. Ray needed a new wife, the children a new mother--
not some superfluous other male parent with no clear name or place.
Their father's lover. What kind of life would that make for them? For
Ray? No life, nothing they would want. If he cared about them at all,
he should just take himself away quietly and without a fuss. Which he
would do. Any time now. As soon as he got out of this shower.
When he did manage to
get out of the bathroom, Fraser had to force his reluctant limbs to move
quickly in order to get to work by 9:00. He dressed mechanically, taking
minimal comfort in the familiar patterns of buttoning and buckling the
the living room, all was quiet. Ray, indeed, was absent. Ah. Perhaps
he felt, like Fraser, that his absence would make it easier for Fraser
to leave. Fraser's eyes traveled around the room and settled on the
sliding glass door through which he could see Dief sunning himself on
the grass in the backyard and where, oddly, a piece of paper was taped
to the glass. A note. He went closer and recognized Ray's signature
at the bottom. A note from Ray.
the door, he untaped the note from the glass and read:
Fraser shivered at how
well this man knew him and read on.
No, I'm not trying to make it easier for you to leave by not being here.
Underneath he'd signed
I just remembered that I have several errands
that I have to do today, before I go back to work tomorrow. They are
very important to me and, I hope, to you. Kids are getting home around
2:00. We're going to come see you after, maybe around 4:00. Make sure
you're there, it's very important. Trust me.
was baffled. Errands? What errands? He stared at the note a while
longer but no answer was forthcoming. He shook his head in puzzlement
and opened the sliding glass door and motioned to Dief.
not that bad, for a Yank, you know."
whirled around and saw his father standing by the couch. "Yes, I
know, Dad." His mind still in a whirl, he answered only distractedly,
closing the sliding glass door and locking it.
"Maybe there's a
place for you here, son." His father's face was impassive, but
his eyes took Fraser aback. They were kind, sympathetic even. He'd
never seen his father look quite like that. At least, not about him.
"Don't start, Dad."
Fraser walked around to the other side of the couch.
You know and I know you want to be here." His father followed close
also know, Dad, that I seldom get..." Fraser couldn't finish.
"Oh, don't start
with the self-pity, son. Your life wasn't so bad...was it?"
"No, Dad, you're
right. It wasn't that bad. I had food, clothing, shelter. People who
cared about me. It wasn't that bad. I'm sure any loneliness I felt was
simply a misunderstanding on my part. Dief!" He opened the front
what's the problem?"
there wasn't one." And with that Fraser left the house, closing
the door between him and his father.
The front door opened
and, *finally* the kids were home. Ray walked quickly from the living
room where he'd been wearing a hole in the rug.
Katie and Stevie yelled and threw themselves at him. He opened his arms
and knelt down and they all landed on the foyer floor.
guys! Boy! I missed you! Did you have a good time?"
had such a good time, Daddy! We went to a Fair! And rode a Ferris wheel!"
up high!" Stevie added.
we petted a llama!" Katie went on.
same llama that nearly carried Stevie away by his hair," his mom
added coming in the door with Stevie's suitcase.
got up and took the bag and bent to drop a kiss on his mom's cheek. "Hi,
Mom. How did it go?"
it was lovely. We had such a nice time."
with the llama?"
so," his mom grinned. "And you? How was your vacation?"
she looked about, as if looking for someone.
was saved from answering by his father's entrance. "Well, it wouldn't
have gotten far with him, anyway," his dad said, coming in the door
with Katie's suitcase and a shopping bag of what looked like souvenirs
and new toys. "The petting zoo was all fenced in."
to hear that, Dad." Ray set Stevie's bag down on the foyer floor
and took Katie's from his father to set beside it.
Benton here, Daddy?" Katie asked from where she and Stevie were
going through the souvenir bag.
he's at work. But we're going by to see him in just a little while."
"Good. Cause we
got a present for him and for you, too." Katie went back to digging
in the bag. In a moment, she extracted two flat packages and handed
one to Ray. "Open it, Daddy."
took the package and ripped open the paper, carefully keeping the small
square of paper with "Daddy" painstakingly printed by a six-year-old
hand. Inside, he found an Illinois State Fair T-shirt, tan with a picture
of a huge Ferris Wheel.
picked it myself!" Katie said proudly.
love it," said Ray bringing her in for a hug and kiss. "Thank
you both," he said reaching for Stevie, too. "I'm going to
put it on, right now." Ray stood and pulled it over his head.
"We've got one for
Benton, too," Stevie put in.
We'll give it to him when we go see him. Can you guys go put it on the
kitchen table? There're some snacks there, too."
They were off.
Dad? You got a minute? Want some coffee?"
we're hoping to beat the evening traffic, Ray, but a cup of coffee does
sound good," his father answered.
got everyone settled at the kitchen table and then began to pace. His
heart pounded in his chest. He watched the coffee dripping into the
pot. As it finished, he poured two cups and brought them to the table.
Carefully, he set one in front of each of his parents.
now I've got some news." They all looked up expectantly. Ray rushed
on. "Well, actually, I've got a question for the kids, first."
He knelt down between their chairs. "Katie, Stevie, I want to ask
Benton to come here and live with us."
mean until Mrs. Bryan is back?" Katie asked.
I mean, for always. I want him stay here with us all the time. If that's
okay with you." Ray held her eyes steadily. "He would help
take care of you and we could--
care of him." Katie interrupted. "Oh, Daddy. That would
be really great. I would really like it. I think he needs us to take
care of him."
felt his eyes water and cleared his throat. "Yeah, I think he does.
And, I think we need him, too. That's why I want him to live here."
"Would he play
boats with me?" Stevie asked suddenly.
laughed and wiped at his nose. "Yeah, I'm sure he would Stevie.
He liked it, didn't he?"
Stevie went back to his cookies.
it's okay if I ask him then?" Ray wanted to be sure.
both children answered at once.
we'll go this afternoon." Ray stood up and looked at his parents.
"Kids, why don't you go swing a few minutes while I talk to Grandma
and Grandpa, okay?"
Daddy." Each one grabbed a few more cookies and went out the sliding
glass door. Ray waited until it closed behind them.
what do you think?" he asked a little warily.
Ray. Actually, I'm happy for you. He's such a nice boy," his mother
stood and gathered him into her arms.
laughed weakly against her shoulder and agreed. "Yeah, Mom, he is."
"And the children
just love him. All weekend, it was 'Benton this' and 'Benton that.'
He's already so much a part of their lives. Now you can all be together."
"So, is this
a best friend's roommate thing, or something else?" His dad's question
had an edge to it. His mom moved to the coffee pot, adding cream and
sugar, letting his dad have his say.
be honest, Dad. We may decide to use the roommate line, but it's more
of the something else you're probably thinking. I don't know exactly
what to say except I didn't expect this." Ray met his dad's eyes
squarely and didn't let himself look away. "But it feels right.
I love him, Dad." Number one on the list of things no guy ever
wants to say to his dad.
going to be easy. You're in for a lot of crap, you know." His dad's
voice was gruff. "He gonna sleep in your room? What about the
but held on to his temper. These were reasonable questions. "I
thought we'd clean out the study, let him have that for his room. He's
kind of a loner, he'll need some space for himself. As for what we'll
tell the kids, that's for him and me to decide. But you can be sure,
we'll do it with their best interests at heart."
you've thought about it," his dad said.
I'm thirty-seven years old, a widower, a father and a cop. What else
you think I've been thinking about?" Despite his best efforts,
Ray's tone sharpened.
about that cop thing? Hear cops aren't nice to gay cops. This going
to put you in danger?"
I hope not. I'll work to avoid it. Don't have a lot of interaction
with work people outside of work. They're used to Benton spending a
lot of time here, probably perceptions won't change all that much. If
they do, I'll deal with it."
about the Mountie? What's he got to say to all this?"
name is Benton, Dad. He's going to be living here, I hope. Get used
to saying it." Ray crossed his arms and held himself steady. "And
right now, he thinks he's about to be dumped. He would never ask me
to let him stay. So I'm going to ask him."
been pretty lonely, huh?" his dad asked pointedly.
Dad. I missed Stella. I loved her, too, you know. But I made a life
for myself without her. You know that." Ray looked down at the
floor and grinned. "And now, I've been lucky enough to find someone
else to share that life with. It may not have been the kind of person
I expected, but I think I came out ahead." He looked up again and
smiled right at his dad, trying to share that happiness with his father.
His dad's mouth twitched
but doubts still remained in his eyes. "I am glad that you've found
a best friend, Ray. I'm glad you didn't feel the need to lie about what
was going on, but my concerns are still for you and the children. If
you ask this man to live here, there will be repercussions. You've thought
of a lot, but still, I worry."
know, Dad." Ray moved around the table and stood next to his father's
chair. "But this is what I want. And, it will make Stevie and Katie
happy. I know there will be a certain amount of crap and I'll do my best
to protect them from all of it. But I don't see how they can be harmed
because they are loved by two adults who love each other."
a family," his mom said suddenly. "I could see it last week.
I knew then that Benton belonged here."
went to hug her. "Thanks, Mom," he mumbled into her shoulder.
be here to help, however we can." His mom pushed back from the hug
and reached up to wipe his eyes.
good." He choked a little, fighting back tears, keeping the tension
now it is time for us to go. Come along, Damian, or we'll get caught
in rush hour traffic, and you know how you hate that," his mom moved
briskly to the sliding glass door and called to the children. "Stevie!
Katie! We're leaving!"
wiped his nose on his sleeve and turned to look at his dad. Damian Kowalski
drained his coffee mug and stood up. "Well, son. As usual, you've
picked the hardest path to follow that you could possibly find."
"But I'm not going
let another ten years of silence fall between us because of it. I wish
you the best." He pulled an astonished Ray to him in a brisk hug
and left the kitchen. Ray heard him call to his mom out the back door.
"Barbara, time to go!"
mom came in and hugged him again, and he saw them both to the door, still
in a daze. When the door had closed behind them, Katie asked, "Can
we go see Benton now?"
sure. Just let me go..."Ray looked around, "to the bathroom.
And we'll head out." And he escaped to his room. He leaned against
the bedroom door and concentrated on breathing. Okay, Ray. Hang on.
Kids told. Folks told. Just got to tell-no, ask--just got to ask Benton
now. You want this. You think he wants it. You can do this.
took one more deep breath and his eyes fell on the manila folder on his
dresser. His closed his eyes for a brief second, then grabbed the folder
and went to get the kids.
he'd taken the kids to the bathroom, found Stevie's shoes (under the
slide) and crammed them back on his feet and been convinced by Katie
that she really did need to wear the frou-frou ballet skirt from her
dress-up box over her jeans ( 'because it's a special occasion, Daddy!'),
he was feeling a little calmer.
the wheel of the Explorer, just before pulling out of the driveway for
the second time (they'd forgotten Benton's present the first time), Ray
decided a little subterfuge might be in order.
"Okay, Katie and Stevie, listen. Do not tell Benton what we're
there to ask him, okay? Let Daddy do it. You go in, see him, see Dief,
give him his present and watch him open it. Then, Constable Turnbull'll
take you around and show you the Consulate, okay? Let Daddy ask. You
hear me? Let Daddy ask Benton."
turned in his seat and saw that Katie was looking out the window and
Stevie was scraping something off his shoe. Panic started to rise in
his throat. "Hey!" he said loudly. "What did I just say?"
"About what, Daddy?"
Katie's voice asked innocently.
Benton, what did I say?"
Let Daddy ask. Right?" Katie replied.
Ray settled back against the seat.
Daddy, I want to ask him!"
I do," chimed in Stevie.
YOU! ME!" Katie yelled furiously at her brother.
I'M going to ask!" Stevie's voice wobbled dangerously close to crying.
Ray's voice was loudest, and for the moment subdued the occupants of
the back seat. Ray took two deep breaths, trying to get a grip before
speaking again. "All right," he started, sounding incredibly
calm even to himself. "All right. We will ALL ask him. Together."
Both children started to talk. Ray held up his hand. "BUT! BUT,
then, you will go tour the consulate with Turnbull and Benton and I will
talk. END of discussion."
reigned for all of four minutes.
"Are you going to
kiss Benton?" Startled, Ray looked in the rearview mirror. Katie
was looking in the mirror back at him.
do you ask?" Ray hedged.
just wondered. If you kiss him, it'll be like having two daddies. Like
when Mommy was here." Katie turned her head to look out the side
window at the scenery passing by.
I kinda see what you mean," Ray answered and decided that Benton
would want him to be honest. "Yeah, Katie, I will kiss him. And
he'll kiss me. And I'll kiss you and Stevie. And he'll kiss you and
Stevie. And you can kiss him if you want to. That's what families do.
That's what I want us to be. That's what we're going to ask Benton,
if he wants to be a part of our family."
be nice with two grown-ups." Katie said softly, echoing something
she'd said before. "But what about...Mommy?"
Ray pulled off into the parking lot of a dental office and stopped the
car. Unbuckling his seat belt, he reached around and unbuckled Katie's.
"Come here." He pulled her onto his lap, ballet skirt rustling.
"Katie. Mommy didn't want to leave us, but she did. She's in heaven
now and she's watching over us all, just like an angel. And she wants
us to be happy. Benton makes me happy. And I think he makes you and
Stevie happy, too. Right?"
nodded against his shoulder.
Benton to be in our family and loving him doesn't mean that we forget
Mommy. It just means that we get to have someone else to love, too.
Your heart has lots of room to love people. And you'll always love
Mommy. Even if you start to love Benton. And, you said it earlier,
I think Benton needs us. I think he needs us to be happy, just like
we need him. We need to take care of him, right?"
Daddy. And Dief, too." Katie wiped her nose on her sleeve and sat
too." Ray smiled back and hugged her again. He let Katie get back
in her seat, and looked at Stevie. "You okay there, buddy? Do
you need a hug, too?"
okay, Daddy. Can we go get Benton now?"
patter, let's get at 'er." Ray buckled his seat belt and started
the car again.
they pulled up and stopped again, this time in front of the Canadian
Consulate. Ray turned around and looked at his children. "Are
Daddy." Katie said and Stevie nodded.
greatness. Katie, you get the present and I'll get this." He grabbed
the folder from the front seat and got out. Opening the back door, he
helped the children out and together, they entered the building.
Turnbull sat at the front
desk. "Ah, Detective Kowalski. Welcome to Canada. And who might
these fine young people be?"
Uh, hi, Turnbull. This is Katie and this is Stevie. Is he here?"
"Yes, of course,
he's in his office."
Greatness. Hey, Turnbull, in a minute, maybe, could you take the kids
and show them around or something? They want to see B-, uh, Fraser,
but then I need to talk to him. Would that be all right?"
course, Detective. I'd be honored to."
Katie's hand in one hand and Stevie's in the other, Ray walked down the
hall to Benton's office. The door was closed.
Daddy! Knock!" Katie whispered impatiently.
The knock on the door
made Fraser jerk his head up off his desk in surprise and Dief whuff
happily from the foot of the cot. Who could it be? The Inspector wouldn't
knock. It didn't sound like Turnbull. He glanced at the clock. 3:55.
Ray. Ray was here.
pushed his chair back and stood. Ray was here and he'd been wallowing.
Wallowing when he should have been preparing. Preparing himself to stand
his ground, to protect Ray and the children, to ignore the sorrow in
his own heart to maintain what was right. Well, he'd just have to do
all that without preparation. He opened the door.
stood there holding his two children by the hand. The children looked
excited but he found he could not read Ray at all, except for a slight
up a smile and crouched to hug Katie and Stevie. "Hello, Katie.
Hi, Stevie. Did you have a good time at your grandparents' house?"
Dief came over and nosed both children in greeting.
Benton! And we went to the fair!" Katie started.
we went way up high on a Ferris wheel!" Stevie added.
brought you a present!" Katie said and thrust a wrapped package
into his hands.
did? Well, thank you very kindly." He shook it experimentally
but it made no sound.
it!" said Stevie.
right, then." Fraser carefully untaped and unfolded each end before
sliding the gift out. He glanced up at Ray and caught him rolling his
eyes. Ah, obviously Ray was a tear and rip sort of opener.
tan shirt fell into his hands bearing the words Illinois State Fair and
a picture of a large Ferris wheel. Similar, no identical, in fact,
to the shirt that Ray was wearing. "We match," he said looking
trying to tell you that," said Ray conspiratorially, leaning down
toward him with his arms crossed. Fraser stared at him in bemusement.
"Do you like
it? Do you like it?" Katie's voice in his ear snapped him out
of it and he tore his eyes away from Ray's.
Katie. Thank you very much. I'll wear it tonight after I get out of
uniform." He hugged her again and kissed her on the cheek. She
pulled back and smiled at him with her eyes positively dancing. "What?"
he asked, smiling back but puzzled.
got something to ask you!" Her voice was shrill with excitement.
Fraser felt a sense
of foreboding, but tried not to let it affect his expression. "And
what would that be?"
knelt down next to Katie and pulled Stevie against him. "We all
have something to ask you."
shifted nervously and ran his fingers over his eyebrow. Ray grabbed
his hand and held it. "Benton Fraser, we would like to know if
you would like to live with us."
the time," said Stevie.
would like for you to be part of our family. We want you to help take
care of us and we want to take care of you." Ray's thumb moved
distractingly over the back of Fraser's hand.
Dief, too!" Katie added.
was speechless. He sat silent, his head and stomach whirling.
Ray said quickly. "Don't answer yet."
didn't think he was capable of answering.
some more to show you." Ray stood and walked the children to the
door. "Okay," he heard Ray whisper, "this is where Daddy
talks and you tour. Remember, Daddy talks and you tour."
Daddy! He doesn't look like he's happy!" Katie whisper-wailed.
doesn't know what to think just yet. Hang on, let me talk to him and
then we'll give him some time. It's a big decision for him, you know.
We gotta let him think about it." Ray opened the door, then went
on. "Go find Turnbull, he'll show you around now. Watch your brother.
And take Dief with you." He motioned to Dief who obediently followed
the children. "Watch them, Dief. Don't let them break anything,"
and then to the children, "and I'll talk to Benton." The door
and sat on the floor in front of him, now holding a manila folder. "Hey,
you all right in there? Need a little mouth to mouth, maybe?"
And action followed to suit words. Hot,wet mouth on his, tongue sliding
in and out in a hurry. Fraser closed his eyes and reached for Ray's
shoulders without thinking. "Mmmmm," Ray said against his
mouth, and pulled him closer, threading his hands through Fraser's hair.
Fraser gave himself
up to the kiss. Nothing was making a great deal of sense, but this made
sense, this felt good. But then Ray pulled back. "Whew. Almost
made me forget why I'm here, but not quite. First, let's move. Too
much longer down here and my feet are going to go to sleep." He
was up and standing before he finished the sentence. He reached a hand
down to help Fraser up.
grasped the hand and rose. Ray held on and pulled him over to sit on
the cot. "Okay. You've got the basics. We, all of us, want you
to live with us. Permanently. Forever. We want you in our family.
Following so far?"
Fraser forced the word out around the disappointment in his throat.
Ray was behaving foolishly and they were both going to get hurt. "But,
Ray...have you thought of what you are asking? What it will mean?"
"Knew you were going
to say that. So, stay with me here. Got more to tell you. Yes, Benton
Fraser. I know what I'm asking. I'm asking my best friend, my partner
to move in with me and help me take care of my children. That's part
of it. But there's another part. I love you." Fraser felt his
eyes widen incredulously but Ray's gaze remained steady. "I love
you. I want you. And I'm asking if you...love me and want me, too.
Cause you can have me."
Ray, the children...your neighbors....their teachers...the soccer parents...My
God, you are a police officer!" Fraser managed in a somewhat mangled
fashion. "This will never work!"
that's why I'm not asking all of them to move in. Just you."
"You are being flippant."
Fraser knew his voice sounded cold.
acknowledged the truth of his statement with a nod. "I know. But
hear me out." He held Fraser's hands in both of his own. "You're
thinking you've got all the pieces for your puzzle. The one that leaves
you out of the picture. But I got some more pieces you don't have yet.
And I'm gonna show them to you. First piece: The children. They love
you. They want you to live there."
what? An uncle? A friend? Their father's lover?" Fraser made his
voice harsh, steeling himself against the pain.
part of their family." In contrast to his, Ray's voice was calm.
"They already know I'm going to kiss you. They know you'll kiss
me. And that that's what families do. Katie thinks it will be nice
with two grown-ups. Stevie just wants you to play boats with him. We
may have to decide what else to tell them about what we do, but we can
decide that together later. Right now they're happy to have you there.
"Which brings me
to the folder." Ray opened the folder and extracted an official-looking
document. "And puzzle piece two: This is a copy of my will. I
amended it today to read that in the event of my death, that Benton Fraser
should receive full custody of my children, Kathryn Marie and Steven
Raymond Kowalski. I should also say that my lawyer is looking into legal
ways for you to share custody with me right now, as a stepfather, or
something." He handed the will to Fraser.
Fraser's voice broke. "I don't know what to say. I'm honored."
be. But it's an honor for them as well. And it'll be an honor for all
of us, if you'll come home with us."
Still need convincing? Okay. Next piece of the puzzle." Another
form was extracted. "This is a Health Care Proxy Form. I got two
actually. It gives you the power of attorney if I need health care decisions
made for me. And I'll fill one out for you. Gay couples need these
to look out for each other. May get crap anyway, but we'll definitely
get crap if we don't have them. So we got 'em." He handed these
to Fraser, too.
looked down at the papers in his lap. "You've been...busy."
do right by you, Benton. That's what families do." Ray leaned
in and kissed him again, not for long, but with a sweetness that brought
tears to Fraser's eyes. "Okay, not done yet. Figured out your
next objection?" Ray waited expectantly.
Fraser swiped at his eyes. "Where will I...sleep?"
"Ah, good question. Been thinking about that. You can sleep with
me. Any time, all the time, or when you want." Ray put up a hand
to forestall possible objections. "However, you being a loner-type
and maybe reserved what with kids in the house, I took a few minutes
this morning to come up with this. Puzzle piece number four."
And he drew another piece of paper out of the folder. On this one, however,
there was a drawing. Fraser recognized it as a scale sketch of the little-used
study in Ray's house.
it's the study now, but you and I both know how much I study." Ray
gave Fraser a significant look. Fraser smiled back and then dropped his
gaze to study the drawing again. "I figure we could clean it out,
get you some furniture, a bed, a desk, night stand maybe." Eyebrow
waggle. "There's already plenty of bookshelves, and you could have
that as your room."
see there's a door that leads into the master bedroom," Fraser pointed
I noticed that myself. Gives you access to the master bath."
"And the master
of the house?" Fraser's voice dropped.
yeah. You know it." The husk in Ray's voice did Fraser in. He dropped
the paper and took Ray's mouth with his own. Despite the objections
in his head, his heart was beginning to pound in anticipation. And he
could not seem to stop it.
wrenched his mouth away and stood up. "Okay. Now I'm leaving."
Fraser looked up, bereft.
at me like that, Benton Fraser. I'll just say this. You know where
I am. You know what I'm offering. Put it together, Benton Fraser. You
belong with us. Oh," he opened the manila folder one more time.
"Here." Ray handed Fraser a sealed business-sized envelope.
One more maddening kiss and he was gone.
fell back against the wall behind the cot and tried to catch his breath.
He is a good man." His father stood by the desk.
know that, Dad."
wouldn't make him wait too long, son. Don't let past disappointments
blind you to your own chance at happiness." Fraser looked in surprise
at his father, who looked, if it could be possible, somewhat shamefaced.
mother's death, my...absence, your grandparent's reserve...among others.
Put the puzzle together, son." His father gestured at the envelope.
"And this time, put your own pieces in."
looked down at the envelope in his lap and when he looked up again, his
father was gone.
slid his fingers under the flap of the envelope too flummoxed to rise
and walk the short distance to his desk for the letter opener. The envelope
tore raggedly and its contents slipped out face down.
the look of it, Ray had traced pieces from one of the children's puzzles
to make new pieces for this puzzle. Curious, he turned the pieces over.
His breath caught.
His fingers stilled.
The swing set. The house.
fingers that were shaking now, he gathered them up and moved to his desk
for a flat surface. Carefully, he began sliding them into place. Cut
somewhat inexpertly, the pieces fit together somewhat dubiously, but
enough of the pattern was there and soon he had a collage of the important
people in his life. There were no edge pieces.
than his fingers shook now. The images in front of him were shaking
and blurring, too. His heart was near to bursting with emotion long
held in, long denied, and for so long not believed in. As he raised
trembling hands to his face and felt the wetness there, his father's
words rang in his ears. 'And this time, put your own pieces in.'
Suddenly, his mind was
working furiously. Photos, photos...where the hell were any pictures
of him? Who would have some? Turnbull. Turnbull would have some. He
was up and out of his office and down to the front desk in a matter of
Those pictures. Those pictures you took a few weeks ago of me and Dief
and whoever," he flapped his hand, " with your new camera,
do you still have them?" Articulate speech appeared to have deserted
yes, of course, Constable Fraser. In fact, I took the liberty of having
copies made for you just in case you should ever ask for them. They
turned out quite well, you know."
I mean, that is to say...go get them. If - if you please. Please."
Fraser knew he was speaking impatiently, but was helpless to prevent
it in the face of his driving determination to finish Ray's puzzle.
"Right away, sir."
Turnbull rose immediately, but being Turnbull continued talking. "And
may I say, sir, I so enjoyed meeting and speaking with Detective Kowalski's
children today? They are quite the little sweethearts, now, aren't they?"
Fraser felt an unaccustomed
surge of pride that seemed almost parental. "Yes. They are wonderful,
aren't they?" He grinned at Turnbull, for once in almost perfect
accord with the taller Constable.
busied himself at the file cabinet behind his desk and extracted a folder.
From it he pulled a photo envelope of what appeared to be several reprints.
"Here you are, sir."
you, Constable. Thank you very much." Fraser spoke sincerely and
made sure to meet the other man's eyes.
flushed and replied, "You're very welcome, sir. And...may I offer
my congratulations?" He kept his eyes on Fraser's and smiled broadly.
"Ah, yes, of
course. Thank you very kindly." Fraser wondered, as he turned
away, just what was written on his face for Turnbull to be able to determine
that congratulations were in order, but didn't linger to discuss it.
Later that evening,
Fraser once again stood on Ray's front porch with Dief. "Stay,"
he said and motioned the command for good measure. He adjusted the flat
package attached to Dief's harness. Then Constable Benton Fraser, Royal
Canadian Mounted Police rang Ray's doorbell and before it could be answered,
pelted off the porch and headed for the backyard. Dimly, as he opened
the gate, he heard the front door open and Katie squeal with delight
but he did not slow down. He thought he caught a snatch of Ray's voice
as he re-latched the back gate but he wasn't sure.
quickly, Fraser reached the swing set undetected and sat down on the
family swing. He kicked off immediately, too nervous to sit still.
He blew out clouds of vapor into the air in an attempt to moderate his
breathing and calm his racing heart. Which was useless, moments later
when the backyard floodlights blazed on and the sliding glass door opened
and Ray came out.
your shoes on first. And your coats," he called back into the house,
presumably to the children. He closed the door and approached the swing
"The swing set."
This is where it all started."
built this together."
nuzzled my hair under the slide platform."
wanted me even then." Ray's teeth flashed in the floodlights.
"You asked to call
told me about Stella."
cried in my arms."
was given and received."
Ray did not reply but
stepped closer. "I noticed you finished the puzzle with pictures
of you and Dief."
And you didn't put any edge pieces on."
needed to know you could fit here. You figure that out yet?"
"I know what I want,
and what's that?" Ray's eyes gave nothing of his feelings away and
his arms stayed crossed but he took another step closer. Behind him,
Stevie and Katie came tumbling out of the house to stand behind their
He looked directly into Ray's eyes, then down at Katie and Stevie. "All
of you. I want us to be....a family."
sure?" Ray's voice was challenging, but a glow started to warm his
eyes. "Strange family, you know, two guys, two kids and a wolf.
Sounds like a TV show."
it were I'd buy a TV, Ray."
you home, then?"
you'll have me."
Fraser, haven't you figured it out, yet? Put all the pieces together.
We want you, we need you, we love you. We'll have you anywhere, any
time and always."
closed the remaining distance between them to stand in front of him,
then bent and hooked his arm around Fraser's neck and pulled him up and
into a kiss. The children each grabbed one of his legs and he reached
down awkwardly to pat their backs and tousle their hair. Ray released
his mouth and embraced him. Laughing, Fraser reached around until he
had everyone in his arms at once. Laughing, maybe even crying, he held
on tight and realized they were all holding just as tightly to him.
"Come inside, Benton.
Come inside! It's cold out here." Katie shivered in her nightie
and shoes. Fraser allowed himself to be tugged through the yard and
into the house.
get down," he said automatically seeing Dief on the couch.
Ray came in the door
and stood near the fireplace.
looked at him and smiled, then looked above his head and felt his smile
slip. Staring back at him, where the portrait of Ray, Katie and Stevie
had once been, was a new portrait. Carefully framed in walnut and centered
precisely over the mantle, this one was a candid shot and caught so accurately
the smiling expressions of Ray, Katie, Stevie
Dief and himself on
the swing set that his eyes filled with tears. Just under the portrait,
the collage he'd finished with pictures of himself and Dief stood on
the mantle leaning slightly on the wall. He clutched his arms around
his middle, unsure of what to do with himself. But then Ray was there.
Just like always, Ray was there.
to get a new family portrait, Benton."
nodded into Ray's shoulder.
all the pieces of your puzzle now?"
got them, Ray." Fraser found his voice at last.
the picture look like you thought it would?" Ray pulled back, nudged
Benton's head with his shoulder. Reluctantly, Fraser leaned back from
that warm shoulder and met Ray's eyes.
never let myself think it could like that."
everything I've ever wanted." And Fraser buried his head back in
Ray's shoulder with a muffled sob, felt Ray's arms tight around him.
A tug on his jeans, made him lift his head up hurriedly to see Katie
contemplating them curiously.
you going to live with us now, Benton?" Katie asked.
swiped a hand over his eyes and squatted, holding her hands in his.
too?" She bent to hug Dief, who sat near her feet.
gave a sniff and a watery chuckle. "Yes, Dief, too."
narrowed her eyes. "Do you love me?"
It wasn't difficult to say.
you love Stevie?"
you love Daddy?"
felt his ears get warmer and his eyes slid away from Katie's penetrating
gaze to meet Ray's dancing eyes.
you tell? We've been practicing interrogation techniques, B-buddy.
It's one of those things we do."
of those little things?" Fraser's voice was husky and tears threatened
again, the warmth and affection he felt for this man welling up inside
him, all felt, never said.
you love Daddy?" Katie persisted, jerking on Fraser's hands to
get his attention back. Fraser turned back to her.
I love him, too." Fraser was surprised at how easily
the words flowed out of him, after all.
That means we can be a family." She kissed him on the cheek.
"I'd be honored,
moved past them, Fraser felt the brush of Ray's fingers through his hair,
and went down the hall calling, "Bedtime! Come on, Katie, Stevie!
School tomorrow, you know."
a final hug for Katie, Fraser stood and they moved into the bedtime routine.
A little later,
he sat up in the sofa bed, holding their collage in his hands, running
his fingers over the pieces. Dief lay on the floor next to the bed.
Benton." His father, in red serge, sat next to him on the bed looking
up at the family portrait.
yes. Thank you, Dad."
glad to see you've finally gotten me some grandchildren."
chuckled. "Well, that was, of course, my primary motivation here."
"Good, good. As
it should be. A son should strive at all times to please his father."
Bob Fraser cut his eyes back at his son. "I'm truly happy for you,
looked up surprised. "Thank you, Dad. I'm
if I ever see your mother, I'll be sure to let her know."
Ray called from the back of the house.
Ray?" Fraser called back.
talking to yourself?" Dressed in boxer briefs and a t-shirt, Ray
slid into bed next to him, taking the spot his father had vacated.
"In a manner of
speaking." Fraser leaned into Ray and kissed him.
other little quirks I should know about?" Ray settled back against
the couch back and put his hands behind his head.
think you know most of them, Ray."
we'll see. Won't we?" Ray's eyes moved to the collage, Fraser still
held. "It turned out nicely, didn't it?"
the pieces fit."
smiled and took the picture from him and set it on the end table next
to him. He turned back and put his arms around Fraser and held him.
"Welcome home, Benton."
you kindly, Ray. Thank you kindly."