Manna La Droit
Rating: NC-17 for m/m sex
Warnings/Notices: This is a sequel to "The Fan"
and “The Cabin.” I use spoilers for all sorts of episodes,
in my universe the series ended with "Flashback," and there's major hot Mountie
Benton Fraser walked the last half-mile back to the cabin with each step a display of utter contentment. He savored, but not desperately so. He and Ray still had three days left here, and time had taken on a strange, almost wondrous quality of passing without seeming to count towards anything. Later, they would feel the countdown of what they were losing, but right now there was only the enjoyment of experience.
Ben had never understood tourist’s preoccupation with cameras. They often seemed so busy preserving their vacations that they did not actually seem to experience them. He had a few photos of himself as a child, of his father, even a somewhat blurry print of his mother, so he did understand people’s need for pictures. But they seemed to him more valuable when they did not come by the hundreds. A good memory of a time fully experienced seemed more weighty to him than a videotape of his whole life.
But now as he walked over the crisp grass, lit to sparkles by the moon and stars, he knew he was taking a sort of mental photograph: half-image, half-poem.
*I am returning to my home, and Ray is there. Ray sleeps and waits for me.*
It wasn’t exactly like his vision back in Chicago. There was grass rather than snow on the ground. He wasn’t chilled with the cold, merely exhilarated by it.
But that was hardly of importance. The rest was startling accurate, as though he had dreamed the details into existence. The trees were dark lace against stars, the air so clean it carried every smell as though on a separate breeze, each star so bright he squinted as he looked up.
Too soon, almost, he was walking through the gate to his father’s…his own property, past the barn, to the cabin looking so newly made, its windows shut tight against the cold.
He climbed the stairs and opened the door, doffing his fleece hat and thinking briefly of his Stetson, not yet returned from the lab in Danes. But he banished the thought, and focused only on the bed half-illumined by firelight as he swung the door quietly shut behind him.
Laid out before the fireplace, Diefenbaker opened one eye, then closed it.
Ray stirred, and Benny felt his heart pump hard in the realization that his lover’s hands were seeking him in the bed. He stepped quickly to one of the room’s handmade chairs and began to shed his clothes: the jacket, the flannel shirt, the shoes, the socks, the undershirt, pants, boxers. What he could not drape over the chair back went to the floor.
The covers were warm in his hands as he pulled them back, then warm against his whole body as he slid deeply inside. He still gasped when Ray’s arms snaked around him, hot coils so generous with their heat, and then - he braced himself - the pure bonfire of Ray’s body against his, sweet honey so soft and strong. He let his eyes close and his mind whirl.
This was hardly the first time he had indulged himself in a midnight walk only so he could anticipate and then revel in the warmth of Ray’s bed. But never once had Ray complained. That first time, he’d yelped a bit, but Benny could only suppose his need, if not his desperation had been so obvious that after some initial squirming his lover had simply settled down to the business of getting him warm as quickly as possible.
Suddenly, Ray’s face was before him, the green eyes black in the firelight. White teeth flashed in an almost evil grin, and then Ray’s face was gone. He heard the sheets rustle, felt hot breath on his stomach, and then a sharp burn over his cock as he was engulfed in Ray’s mouth.
“Ray!” he screamed, almost a protest. But even in that first second the pain was burning off to incredible pleasure. He was almost instantly hard. Teeth scraped gently over the spot his foreskin had slid back to expose, Benny’s body bent back like a bow and he realized he was clawing the sheets to keep away from Ray’s back. He knew in a moment control would return, knew it while keeping himself from knowing the sorrow that that knowledge brought. But this second he would escape the control he imposed, flaunting him and yet his accomplice. Ray was there to catch him.
Hot, strong hands cupped his buttocks, and the mouth and throat around his erection convulsed, stroking him to another height of pleasure, breaking their own records, leading him into even more loss of control.
“Oh, God. It’s like fucking fire,” he groaned without knowing his own words. And then he felt not only out of control, but helpless. The sensation was terrifying, and he whimpered a protest against he knew not what.
A hand stroked over his belly, soothing him, calming fear, replacing it with the soft knowledge that he was loved, that Ray did this out of love, that Ray loved him.
“Ray,” he whispered.
Ray’s mouth slid up to his tip, and that now expert tongue worked at his slit. A hot hand lifted his balls. Then heat covered him again, but instead of fear he felt protected, sheltered. It was easy to come, and sweet, and as he felt Ray swallow he thought, somewhat incoherently, that Ray was taking a little part of him inside, to keep safe forever.
He tried to recover quickly, but Ray shushed him even as his lithe form slid up to nestle its burning length against Benny’s hip. A few thrusts, and it was over with a rush of Ray’s liquid flame and a contented moan.
Long, perfect, timeless minutes did not so much pass as wander around and by. At some point Ray reached for the still-wet cloth they had hung earlier over the bedpost and wiped them down. But mostly they simply lay entwined in their bed that felt soft and smelled of sex. Dief twitched and whined slightly in a dream, the fire popped and hissed as a log broke in half. It was dying. He should leave the bed and add more logs.
He knew he wouldn’t.
Only early morning light and Dief’s cold nose against his hand made Benny leave Ray’s side, though only after a great many how-did-you-sleep kisses. Ray rose as well, and was dressed by the time Fraser made it back.
“How do you want your beans?” Ray asked from the stove. “Burnt side up?”
They didn’t actually have beans for breakfast, though Benny wouldn’t have minded. Instead Ray served something like rice custard that he’d been working on for a week now.
“This gets better every day, Ray." It wasn’t an empty compliment. The rice, dried milk, dried eggs, raisins, water and seasonings made for a surprisingly nutritious and tasty meal. Cooking had turned out to be yet one more of Ray’s hidden talents.
“When Ange and me were married, she’d never let me cook,” Ray had groused about a week ago.
Benny smiled, warmed completely by Ray’s willingness to share all of his past now, not just parts of it, and told his partner his ex-wife hadn’t known what she was missing.
He’d never realized before their intimacy how little Ray had actually told him of his life. He knew many things, of course: that his father had hit him, that he was divorced, that he’d been mentored by very street-tough lieutenants and thus valued Welsh, that he supported his extended family without complaint. But there had been no coherent narrative before, nothing like the simple story line of Fraser’s own life. It was wonderful to have such pieces added, to know his friend so much better.
“I need to try it in a proper kitchen,” Ray mumbled around bites of the custard and gulps of scalding coffee. “Next time Ma’s visiting her sister, maybe."
“She doesn’t like you in the kitchen while she’s there, Ray?”
“Only as a visitor, Benny."
“How upset will she be when she knows we’re lovers, Ray?”
Ray stared at him, green eyes wide, his freshly shaven jaw a little slack. But Benny could not regret those words.
“When you want to get to the point, Fraser, you don’t waste time."
“We need to talk about it before we get back, Ray."
“We still have days."
“And we’ve had weeks. I wish we had years, frankly, but we don’t. I want us to be…prepared."
“Aw, geeze, Benny." Ray wiped a hand over his eyes. “How can we possibly be prepared for any of it? You can sandbag all you want. When the monsoon hits, you’re still gonna be flooded."
The Mountie nodded, a bit of window-light flashing in his eye to make Ray’s heart thud harder than a long jog after a double cappuccino. His words, however, were sobering enough.
“She’ll be very upset, then."
Ray sighed and stood up to clear the dishes and stack them in the sink. When he turned back around, Fraser had crossed his arms and was sitting back in the chair - rather impressive, considering how Spartan the chairs were - and was obviously in no mood to budge. Vecchio got another cup of coffee and brought it and himself back to the table, signing again when he sat down.
“She’s Italian, Benny. She’s Catholic. When Frannie got divorced she prayed for her family’s forgiveness for weeks. When I told her me and Ange were splitting up, I thought she was going to cry herself into the next century. Sometimes I think maybe she doesn’t even know what gay people are…except that it’s something the Pope says is wrong."
“Do you think it’s wrong, Ray?”
“We already had this talk, Benny."
“We didn’t finish it though, Ray."
Ray met his eyes squarely. Fraser didn’t know this was the easy part. “No, Benny. I don’t think loving you is wrong. I don’t see how it could be."
Fraser smiled and Ray smiled back.
“In case you were wondering, Ray, I do not believe it to be wrong in any way either…except that I do wish it wouldn’t cause you the…trouble it is bound to cause."
Ray shrugged. “I’ve never exactly been at peace with my fellow man, Benny. At least if someone’s got something to take me on about, it will be worth fighting over."
Fraser ducked his head to acknowledge the compliment, but looked distressed. “I don’t want you to have to fight over me."
Ray raised his eyebrows. “Well, we’re going to have to fight to be what we want, Fraser, and don’t forget it. Are you saying you’re not going to fight for me?”
Benny’s eyes warmed. “Of course not, Ray."
Ray harrumphed slightly and drained his coffee mug.
“Whom are you going to tell about us?”
Ray looked out the window as he thought it over. It was beautiful outside, if you liked that kind of thing.
“I don’t see why we have to tell anyone right away. Spreading it around officially at work will do more harm than just having people wonder. Besides, we’ve always been so tight, people might not really think anything’s changed."
Fraser looked at the table. “What about your family?”
“Benny, I don’t want to think about what’s right or what’s politically appropriate. I can’t lose my family over this. I can’t just toss away what I got there. I’m going to tell them that I can’t take you living in that neighborhood anymore and I’m moving in with you to get you out of there. Then after that, we’ll be able to just act, you know, regular when we’re at Ma’s for dinner and stuff. It may not be honest, but if she starts suspecting on her own and calls in the priest and takes to her bed and gets the house exorcised I’ll know what I’m dealing with." Ray scowled at his shoes, stared out the window, wanted to claw at his skin. “I’m not going up to Ma and saying, ‘I’m gay.’ I can’t. I won’t."
“All right, Ray."
Suspicious eyes flashed across the table. Fraser shrugged, his open hands palm-up.
“They’re your family, Ray. I’ll do whatever you want regarding them."
Ray let out a breath, though cautiously. “You’re not going to try to guilt me into anything, then?”
“Yeah, you know. Say ‘ah’ at me all the time, or anything like that."
Benny looked down at his own clasped hands. “I have no experience with the sort of family you have, Ray. I could never pretend to know what’s best regarding them."
Ray blinked. He needed to get Benny back in bed sometime soon. He wanted to cover him in kisses. They were supposed to work on the barn, but…
“You understand, however, Ray, that if we do not explain matters to your family, there is one matter that may become awkward."
Benny looked up, abruptly coy. “It wouldn’t be gentlemanly of me to mention -“
“Oh, God. Frannie." Ray buried his face in his hands. He’d thought about her before, of course, but it never got any easier. “Well, at least our place will have a lock on the door."
“Of course, she’ll also believe you’re sleeping in the next bedroom,” Benny said, straight-faced. “That may cool her…enthusiasm."
Ray made a face, then frowned. “I guess we’ll have to get two bedrooms, and two beds. When we fight, I guess we might even…” Ray trailed off and looked miserable.
“Don’t ever sleep in the other bed when we fight, Benny."
Fraser was up and walking toward him in an instant. Another instant, and they were in each other’s arms. They kissed, long and deep, then Benny ducked under his chin and kissed up and down his neck.
Soon, they were stumbling to the bed. It was hours before they thought of the work waiting in the barn.
They nailed the last of the shutters in place, checked through once more for anything they might have missed, including the complete draining of the tank, the absence of any food predators might sniff out, and one last approval of the work done by the Inuit. Then Fraser locked the door and they walked in silence to the jeep.
Diefenbaker hopped into the back, whined at the cabin, then set his head down and went to sleep.
The two men sat and looked at the place that had kept them safe for weeks. Benny found his left hand had gone to Ray’s hip. Ray seemed to realize this as well after a few minutes, as his own hands went to the one at his hip and raised it to his lips. A soft kiss was placed on each knuckle, then Ray put his own hands on either side of Benny’s and held it there, flat, for a long time.
Then he let go, Fraser returned his hand to his hip, and Ray started up the jeep.
Jane Davenport’s station at Axehandle was getting a new coat of paint as they pulled up to the small lot on the east side. Jane herself was sitting on the porch with a cat in her lap and a mug of coffee in her hand. Ray could tell she was working to keep from snickering at them, but she was looking pretty relaxed with the world herself, and the cup of coffee she offered him tasted an awful lot like the brew he’d gotten at Anna’s Café.
They were back on the road after Jane assured them she’d keep an eye on the place and Fraser got his update on Metcalf’s extradition to America. Ray made himself not think about having to deal with her trial and all that crap back home. They were still in Canada, and would be for several more hours.
Of course, the good news was that there was no way in hell he or Benny would actually be handling Victoria’s case. The bad news was that they were certainly going to have to testify.
Ray pulled the jeep over to the side of the road. It was well-paved here. They were only about thirty miles from the airport.
He turned and let himself drown a while in Benny’s eyes. He realized he was caressing a pale cheek with his right hand. Not a sign of stubble, the skin so firm and tight along the jaw line. He leaned forward and there were Benny’s kisses, one after the other, freely given, freely taken back from his own lips.
He was *never* going to be this relaxed again. These weeks of loving Benny for hours, for days at a time. He would never have this feeling of complete contentment again.
He didn’t want to give it up.
“Have I said yet today that I love you, Benny?”
Fraser smiled. Ray had yet to forget a day.
“Not yet, Ray."
“I love you, Benny. I’m always going to love you."
“Thank goodness, Ray."
Vecchio laughed and turned back to the wheel. Their plane was going to leave without them at this rate.
The airport was a little crowded with hunters. Ray figured it was caribou season, or something. He and Benny sat without needing to talk, watching the guys with new boots and big guns trying to get chummy with two men in mucklucks and weathered gear. In less than a half-hour, he and Benny and Dief were aboard the plane, and Ray found himself taking a nap.
The third plane of the day set them down in O’Hare. Ray didn’t actually start complaining until he thought one of his bags had been lost. It came down the chute eventually, but Ray filed a grievance anyway for the long mark down its side.
Benny felt something in his stomach relax. Ray’s quiet content had been lovely, but odd.
Tony picked them up in his Chevy, and Ray exploded.
“Good God! What the hell is that stench?”
“Frannie borrowed the car to do some selling,” Tony grumbled, scratching his ear as he pulled out into traffic. “Some bottle of perfume got broke back there."
“What, you can’t take it to the carwash?” Ray was frantically rolling the windows in the back down and gasping for air. “We’re dying back here."
“You two don’t smell like a dozen roses either, you know,” Tony groused.
“There’s no way you could smell us over the fumes if we were covered in moose dung. This is ruining my lungs!”
“Hey, I got a new job while you was gone."
“Doing what? Testing tear gas?”
“Nah, nah, Ray. Listen." As Tony described in some detail his new job delivering flowers, Fraser looked out the window at the familiar Chicago streets, listened to the familiar Tony-Ray by-play, felt the increasingly familiar love in his heart, and felt…
After thirty-five years, and during just a few short weeks, Benny’s whole world had narrowed from his relationship with his friends, his service in the RCMP, and his duties to his fellow man, to nothing more than loving Ray Vecchio.
“Nothing more than,” of course, wasn’t the point. Loving this man was more than the rest of it put together. That was the point. Loving this man might take more than he had, might prove more of a challenge than bringing any killer to justice, crossing any pass in the dead of winter.
It wasn’t that Ray required so much. God knew the man had given him so much already for the shallow offerings Benny himself had managed. It wasn’t that Fraser wasn’t willing, even eager to give Ray all he could.
It was that their love had existed so far so completely out of time and place. Without Canada and the cabin, without Ms Socks and being held hostage for each other, without all the things that had made the past month so separate from their normal lives, what was there between them now but a relationship Ray’s family would condemn and both their police forces would look upon askance?
“Tony, you can’t be telling the customers you’ll get there before you can make it. Doesn’t matter if they know you’re lying or not,” Ray was saying now, turning around in his front seat and hanging his left arm over the back so that his hand dangled near Benny’s knee. “You gotta be up-front about stuff like that to build customer trust."
“If I say I can’t make it as fast as the next guy, Ray, they’ll never give me a shot,” Tony complained, then launched into a story about his ill-fated cousin and the brownie concessions business.
Ray was waggling his fingers, and with a controlled start Benny realized what was wanted. He reached up and took Ray’s hand, hidden from view by the car seat, and for the seventeen and a half miles remaining in the trip to the Vecchio house, their hands remained entwined.
Their homecoming was so predictable it seemed choreographed. Ma Vecchio was all over them with food, Frannie and Marie were full of questions, and the children demanded to know what their presents were - Benny was astonished when Ray produced candy, snowglobes, and two tin Mounties from his pack as though he were some sort of male, modern Mary Poppins. Whenever had Ray purchased it all?
Tony helped carry in their bags, then collapsed in evident exhaustion in front of the TV. Ray made a general announcement that Benny *would* be staying for dinner, and for the night as well. Uncle Damon nodded dutifully at the news that he would be sharing his room, then looked openly relieved when Ray explained around mouthfuls of pasta that Benny would be more comfortable on the floor of his room.
Frannie, of course, offered up her room, and Ray shouted at her to behave.
Eventually, after both he and Benny had taken showers and changed into freshly laundered sweats - Benny’s clothes, even the clean ones, were spinning in the machine over his protests, so his current attire came courtesy of Tony and was somewhat baggy -- Ray joined Tony on the sofa, a bowl of popcorn in his lap, his hand wrapped around a Coke, and his eyes asking Benny to join him.
“Yes, go and sit down, please,” Mrs. Vecchio pleaded, pressing a cold can of Coke into Fraser's hand and shooing him towards the sofa. “Frannie, where are you going?”
They all turned, even Tony, in silent acknowledgment of the young woman’s latest outfit: a skin-tight black dress set off by glittering earrings and a plunging neckline.
“Got a date?” Ray said, and only Benny could hear the hopeful note in his otherwise super-casual voice.
“A girl can’t stay home every night and wait for her man to return,” Frannie said with a glance at Fraser. “Besides, he’s just a friend."
“Yeah, right,” Ray snorted.
Frannie rolled her eyes, and swayed her hips, before walking from the room. Not long afterwards, right as Benny managed to relax slowly enough on the sofa that no one but Ray seemed to notice they were touching at the knee, they could all hear a low voice at the front door.
“Great,” Ray muttered under his breath, though Benny was fairly certain Tony could hear as well, “another loser."
The front door closed, and suddenly as Fraser watched there fell about the living room a sort of hypnotic peace, where no one really spoke or noticed anything. The television was actually quite loud, providing a running commentary on a baseball game between, evidently, “two very evenly matched teams." There was also an endless stream of commercials on male-oriented products, including one for a cologne that would actually make someone “smell like a man,” whatever that meant. (Benny had olfactory visions of gym socks and yellowed undershirts.)
Perhaps it was the stillness of Tony and Ray in their seats, and the fact that his own body had grown just as motionless. Mrs. Vecchio herself seemed to take on the same statue-like quality when she came in from the kitchen and settled into an armchair with some sewing. True, her arms moved, and her eyes frequently wandered over her son’s form with a proud smile, yet they all seemed settled into a tableau, a frozen, secure, and incredibly comforting pose Fraser found he did not want to disturb even with a too-deep breath.
He knew any moment, however, it would end. He thought perhaps when Diefenbaker joined them, but no. Then when Tony went for a beer and Ray made a trip to the washroom, or perhaps when Mrs. Vecchio talked about needing bread and lettuce from the market the next day, he thought it again.
But then it was well after ten, and there wasn’t even baseball on the television and the tableau was unchanged.
Ray yawned, lolling his head against the back of the couch to catch Benny’s eye.
“You ready to hit the sack, Fraser?”
And in an instant, Benny understood his own thoughts. If the woman sitting to his right or the man to his far left understood the true meaning of Ray’s seemingly simple words, the tableau would be shattered. They would never know this simple ease again. The picture of domestic acceptance was…tainted by the best love he had ever known.
*I did this to Ray. I have taken the truth of being here, in his home, so well-known and understood by those he loves, and I can never return that truth. All I can ever offer these kind people for their generosity to me is a lie.*
“Yes, Ray. I’m quite tired."
Ray smiled. “Then let’s get upstairs before Tony’s snoring rattles down the house."
“Wha…I’m not ‘sleep."
“Right, there, Tony-my-man. Is that why we’re watching the Home Shopping Network?”
Fraser watched Tony struggle to punch the desired numbers into the remote until Ray stood up, distracting him completely with a long, slow stretch.
“Thank God we bought the tickets to come back two days before we actually have to go to work,” Ray said, walking over to his mother for a good-night kiss on her cheek. “I think I’ll sleep until noon."
Fraser cut off his remark about how they would need to walk Diefenbaker before then. He could walk his wolf alone. He had certainly done it often enough before. And perhaps after the walk, if Ray were still in bed…
“Goodnight, Mrs. Vecchio,” he said quietly to the woman as she nodded and smiled at him. When she reached up her arms, he almost jerked back, but managed to bend down for a quick, soft embrace.
“Sleep well, caro."
“Thank you kindly. You as well."
She let him go and he stood up, aware that his back was quite straight. He ended up looking directly into Ray’s eyes, and raised his eyebrows at the amusement glittering in them.
Ray turned and led the way out of the room and up the stairs, and then finally into his bedroom. Benny watched Ray lock the door, then watched him unlock and open it to let Diefenbaker inside, then lock it again with a sigh.
“He does realize he’s not sleeping on the bed,” Ray stated.
“I’m sure, Ray."
“My mother would have a fit." Ray turned to Diefenbaker, who was actually looking back at him. “You understand? The women who makes the lasagna will be mad if you so much as look at my bed."
Dief whined slightly, then sniffed around the dresser before settling under the window. Ray nodded, then looked to Benny.
Benny looked back.
“Those sweats don’t do anything for you, Benny."
“Really? Your sweats seem to do a great deal for you, Ray." Benny dropped to his knees and pressed a kiss to the cotton stretched over his lover’s groin. Ray hissed without pulling away, and long fingers wound themselves into Benny’s hair as he continued to nuzzle the warm flesh through the soft material.
But when Ray put a hand to his own waistband and began to tug down, Benny put up a hand to stop him.
“Would she think I was the Devil, Ray?”
Benny waited a moment, staring across the room at the closed curtains. Ray liked dark colors, and swirls of blue and green, and purple and green.
He looked up, and Ray’s eyes were dark with understanding.
“No, Benny. I don’t think so. Do you need me to go and tell her?”
“I need to know I’m not ruining your life."
“I wouldn’t care if you were."
Benny winced. “I’d care."
Ray sighed and closed his eyes. Fraser leaned into his warmth, kissing him again through the now somewhat damp material of his sweats.
“Benny,” Ray sighed. “We got so much we gotta work out. We’re going to go crazy if we can’t put it away from us when we’re alone." Fraser felt Ray’s hands on his face, framing the expression he turned up to his own. “Right now, it’s just us, okay?”
The kneeling man nodded, then turned his face down, pressing against the heat of Ray’s stomach. Ray’s hands stroked his hair, and Benny’s arms wound and wound around that lithesome waist until once again they had found a tableau: unbreakable, silent, and still.
Ray was right. This moment gathered up to them the strength to face the future. Without the cabin, they would have to create their own havens, stealing a world for themselves while the real world wasn’t looking.
“I love you, Ray,” he murmured into his lover’s warm belly.
Ray curled around him, stroking his hair so gently now. “I love you too, Benny. God, I love you."
Someone banged on the door, then twisted the knob.
"Go away, Frannie! We're trying to sleep here!"
"I left my purse in there while I was making up your bed!"
Ray and Benny's eyes met, one set embarrassed, one thoroughly irritated. Ray jerked his head towards the room and Benny stepped back. Ray saw the purse easily enough on the nightstand and grabbed it, then unlocked the door and thrust it through the crack. Frannie's eyes burned resentment at him, but she wasn't going to break through the door.
Ray shut them up tight again, locking them in, locking everything else out. he shed his sweats without looking at Benny, then crawled into bed. The mattress shifted with Fraser's considerable weight, and Ray couldn't help smiling. Nothing about making love to Benny was like being with a woman, especially the small things. An extra penis should have been the most telling difference, and in some ways it was, but it didn't make as much a change as the other things, all added up.
They moved easily together, Benny cradling him in his arms, leaning over him, his blue eyes shining in the soft white light of the bedside lamp as they regarded Ray's flat nut-brown nipples. Ray brought up a gentle hand to soothe through that thick brown hair, grown just a lit long now. The inspector would probably try fire him again.
Benny leaned in at last, just softly nuzzling his neck a while, then settling down, growing a little heavier as he neared sleep. Ray slowed the strokes of his hand and felt the day's weight being pressed out of him by the warm body half-on and thoroughly surrounding him. And everything was so quiet...
The sound was wrong: harsh and somehow cruel. A phone was ringing. It was too early for a phone to be ringing.
His arm had to arch over Benny's chest to reach the receiver.
"You're needed at the station." Welsh's tone made it clear Ray wasn't to mention that he was still on vacation. "Bring the Mountie."
For one hysterical moment Ray thought Welsh somehow knew exactly where Benny was.
"Yes, sir. I'll be right there, sir." He got the receiver back into the cradle with a little stretch, then turned to his partner. "Benny, we hmph."
Benny was kissing him, hard and sure, his hands stroking Ray's nape with such a gentle touch that the detective was lost, and they were simply two men waking the other with a kiss that became several kisses.
"Wonderful," Benny sighed when Ray finally pulled back.
"It looks like a busy one today, Benny, so I'm going to tell you I love you right off, all right?"
Soft blue eyes smiled. "All right, Ray."
They were in the Riv fifteen minutes later, coffee sloshing against toast in their stomachs, Ray in his dark gray suit with a blue silk shirt, Benny in jeans and flannel. If his Mountie uniform had been at the Vecchio house, Ray knew he'd be wearing it, off-duty or not.
The station was quiet, and Ray's heart started to feel squeezed. Elaine was peering into her computer screen, but looked up with a genuine smile when Ray and Benny entered the room.
"Hey there, Elaine."
"Good morning, Elaine."
"Ray." Elaine smiled a bit more deeply, though her eyes reflected concern. "Benton. Lieutenant Welsh wants to see you."
"That's right." Welsh stood in his office doorway with a cup of coffee in his hand that clearly wasn't his first. "If you please."
Carrimore from IA nodded to them as they entered. Welsh got behind his desk, set his coffee down, and opened a file from which he read.
"At approximately 11:34 last night, District State's Attorney St. Laurent was walking through the parking garage to her car. A man dressed in black and wearing a black ski mask, approximately five-seven in height and heavily built, probably Caucasian, reached out from between two minivans and dragged her into an open parking space. He attempted the forcible removal of her clothing and told her, 'I'm going to make you pay for what you did to me, you bitch. And then that cop.'
"At this point, St. Laurent was able to bite the attacker on the hand, drawing blood and distracting him while she retrieved a can of mace from her keychain. She sprayed the substance into his eyes, whereupon he fled the scene."
"Where is she now?" Ray wanted to know.
"Home, though they wanted to keep her for observation. She's coming in later today for a full interview. She has requested that all possible targets of the attacker be informed of the attack and the threat against the police officer evidently involved in this man's arrest and/or incarceration."
"When is she scheduled to come in?" Ray asked.
"Come on, Fraser. We can look over the scene before then."
"Leftenant, has Ms St. Laurent no idea of the man's identity or of the incident to which he alluded?"
"She's drawn a blank so far." Welsh met Ray's eyes. "I'm calling in everyone on this. Being unable to protect a state's attorney isn't the image I want for this precinct."
There wasn't a lot to look at in the parking garage. Inside the yellow tape they saw the spots of blood, samples of which had already been sent off for testing. License plates were being checked on the videos for all the exits.
They met up with Huey as he was interviewing attendants and helped him in time for them all to get back to the station before St. Laurent arrived.
She came in quietly, her face bruised but her shoulders back and the *click click* of her heels undaunted. Ray felt a swell of pride as she walked past, acknowledging the respect in his gaze. She was a tough, smart woman who'd proven to be fun and classy on a date. They'd gone out three times before they both knew it wasn't going any place special, and they'd stopped dating on the most amiable of terms, for all that they still enjoyed crossing swords over cases.
He felt his hands balling into fists that wanted to fly at the man who'd hurt her, but he'd never sully her professionalism with his own blind rage. They'd find the guy and put him away, and that would be it: as classy and efficient as the woman herself.
Ray, Huey and Fraser ended up watching her being interviewed from behind the glass, though it was obvious St. Laurent knew they were there. Welsh led her through a detailed description of the attack and got her to sign the statement.
A call came in for Huey and then Ray and Benny were unexpectedly alone, looking through the glass at Welsh and St. Laurent as he talked with her about the next steps in the case.
"Is it very difficult for you, Ray?"
"Just the same way it's difficult for you, Benny. I guess it's the guy thing. You know. Seeing a woman hurt makes me sick."
"Do you feel you should comfort her, Ray? I could return home and --"
"No, no, Benny. I hear she's dating some lawyer with a Yale degree. And if she wants to talk to me, she's got my number."
Huey stuck his head back through the door. "One of the plates came through. Car's registered to Nick Keaton. St. Laurent put him away two years ago and he got out last week, good behavior."
"Keaton?" Ray echoed. "That's one of Gardino's cases." There was a pause while no one pointed out that Louis was safe enough from any further threats. When Huey spoke again, his voice had gone sad, but nothing showed on his face as they all left the room and headed back to the squad room.
"Keaton's supposed to be staying at the placement center, but they haven't seen him in two days, which makes for parole violation, so we can drag him in if we see him."
"We'll find him," Ray said quietly. "And besides, I'm guessing he'll have a pretty incriminating bite mark on his hand."
They spent the next several hours tracking Keaton's whereabouts and managed to get absolutely nowhere. When the city started to shut down and all of them were openly exhausted -- except for Benny, who simply looked somewhat tired -- Huey suggested they call it a night.
"We'll come at it fresh in the morning," Ray agreed, still wanting to charge into the streets and drag Keaton to the station by his hair.
"I'm afraid I have duties at the Consulate," Fraser said with regret. "But it will be off-duty at five o'clock, and hope to be of assistance then."
"I'd be stunned if you said anything else, Constable," Huey said with a touch of superior humor that did nothing to mask the shadow of his eyes.
"Hey, Jack. Celebrate our return to civilization, huh? Let's get some Chinese. You ain't seen nothing until you seen Fraser order in the native tongue."
"He does that?" Huey turned curious eyes on the Mountie and fell into step with them as they walked back to the Riv. His own car was parked nearby.
"Yeah. Of course, he's also going to lecture us on everything that goes into the food, but it beats Inuit stories."
"Now, Ray. I must point out for Detective Huey that I have no intention of monopolizing the conversation as you suggest. However, Mandarin Chinese cuisine rightly prides itself on a long and rich history. Several of the ingredients are, of course, substituted in local restaurants with American versions, and thus some might consider the food to be less authentic than that found in the Orient. However..."
Ray met Huey's eyes with irritation not quite covering his amusement, and Huey found himself smirking slightly back.
They were certainly an odd couple, Fraser and Vecchio. Back when they'd first started being together all the time -- which, as far as Huey could remember, was pretty much from the first moment they met -- the Mountie had just been one more strange thing Vecchio did. The red coat with legs and wolf seemed to him another ornament on Ray's then-overly colorful wardrobe, another reason Ray annoyed him and Louis so much that they were often...less than professional in their conduct towards Vecchio and his sidekick.
Huey regretted those days, although it was nice to know he'd learned a few things over the years. When Vecchio's arrest record had started climbing, he and Louis had braced themselves for an endless parade of self-aggrandizing comments and arrogant behavior. Instead, Vecchio had actually mellowed out and been a hell of a lot easier to get along with. He and Louis had started liking the guy before they'd even realized it, and suddenly they stopped plotting ways to make Vecchio and Fraser look bad and started talking about more cooperative ways to cash in on the guys' many successes.
Vecchio and Fraser had cemented things by never mentioning the earlier, bad days, and they were all pretty solid and tight just in time for that one lousy night...
Huey missed his partner. Gardino hadn't been Super-Cop, but he'd been all right. He'd never let him down.
"Jack, please, I'm dying here."
Huey shook off his thoughts and reviewed the situation. Despite Ray's pleas, or perhaps because of them, Fraser was in the middle of another Inuit legend.
"Vecchio, you mind being in charge of this case?"
Ray's eyes looked at him in astonishment. Huey thought he might even have surprised the Mountie.
"Louis' connection makes me suspect. I don't want some technicality letting him get away."
"Good thinking. Let's talk strategy over moo-shoo."
"Who's driving which car?" Huey asked.
Ray's phone rang.
"Vecchio. What? You're kidding. No, we'll be there." He hung up and shoved the phone back into his coat pocket. "You wanna come with us, Jack? Metcalf's supposedly gotten a death threat."
Huey noticed the way Ray's eyes were staying away from Fraser. Yeah, the guy was probably still hurting over that one. The 27th had heard about the arrest and the extradition, of course. They knew none of the details, and Huey was as curious as the next guy.
"Sure. I'll follow." Huey headed for his own car and Ray watched him get out of earshot before asking his partner quietly:
"You don't mind, do you, Benny?"
"Of course not, Ray. Like Detective Huey, I'm glad for the company."
"We don't have to see her, just the supervisor."
Ray Vecchio felt tired down to his bones and all the way out to his almost not-there hair: a compilation of overworked muscles and overtaxed brain. Hours ago and without even a twinge of guilt, he'd called his mother to say he would be working so late he'd sack out at Benny's. At the time, a few libidinous thoughts had crossed his then-clear mind, but now, as he actually drove the Riv through almost-deserted streets to Fraser's rat-trap, he was afraid a simple round of heavy petting would be enough to finish him off.
Victoria's "death threat" had proven to be an "anonymous" note, doubtlessly written by Metcalf herself, threatening her with harm for killing Jolly. It was a pathetic attempt, and one that not even Fraser was interested in being fooled by. They'd still been talking to the supervisor when the call came in that Keaton had been spotted hanging out at Digger's, a dive on the west side. The task force had converged for the arrest, and soon proved itself an example of over-kill. Keaton had practically been scooped up with a butterfly net.
Now the preliminary reports were in, and Huey had gone home, and he and Benny could enjoy a few hours together before they both had to report back to work.
"Another day, another scumbag back in the joint," he muttered.
"Ray?" Fraser asked, concerned more because of his friend's tone than his words.
"Times like these, it all feels a little pointless, you know, Benny?"
"We put a dangerous criminal behind bars, Ray."
"Yeah, and how long will he stay there this time? Good behavior. The guy was a menace and they shouldn't have let him out."
"The system can only do so much, Ray. You support the law. I'm sure Ms. St. Laurent appreciates it."
At the thought of Louise, Ray felt a flash of anger again, and then satisfaction. It was worth something to be able to know she knew they'd gotten the guy so quickly. He'd have to make sure he talked with her about it. Perhaps he should check out the lawyer guy, make sure he was all right for her.
The Riv seemed to find a space in front of Fraser's building all by itself, and it was a toss-up whether the door or his bones creaked more as he got himself out of the Buick. God, so many damn stairs.
Benny gave him towels and he bathed quickly in the semi-hot water of the communal tub before returning to the apartment, briefly kissing Fraser on his way out to the same tub, and then climbing into the narrow bag of lumps and bumps a sadist might laughingly call a bed.
He felt warmth and smelled soap sometime later, pretty much asleep and not even bothering to try to move over. He'd just land on the floor. Benny's legs tangled with his, and with a contented sigh he did turn around a bit to cozy better in his lover's satin-smooth arms. He ended up with his head resting on Benny's chest, feeling long, slow, soft caresses up and down his back from warm, knowing hands.
"God, Benny. That's heaven."
Benny responded only by continuing his feather-light touches, skimming between the hot skin and the cool but warming covers. Ray's breathing steadied but did not slow. The heat was deepening, a flush of desire Benny knew in this soft dark as he knew his own heart, as he was coming to know his own body.
Ray was right. It was heaven to lie here with Ray, to think of their future while not surrounded by the family he was hurting with lies and Catholic sin. Their time at the cabin was precious, more precious than anything in Benny's life.
And yet it had only been a beginning, a promise itself of what could be true between them.
Sometimes, when they'd been making love, Fraser had been surprised and even uncomfortable with some of his own thoughts. Erotic images and scenarios had flashed in his mind, inflaming him not only with thoughts of Ray's eyes and hands and body, but also with half-formed, half-glimpsed fantasies he was stunned to review upon calm reflection. He had made many promises to himself not to share such potentially revolting thoughts with Ray, but now...laying here like this, he could almost envision a place and time when he might be able to say the words. Perhaps just one scenario, just one odd desire, properly described and couched in the most...diffused words: perhaps Ray would respond positively to that.
Benny pressed just a little more insistently along the low curve of Ray's lower back, then smiled in the dark as his lover shifted above him. Ray really was sensitive all along his body: the perfect lover, responsive and giving.
Ray was seeking, even now, to give. He felt the man's hands smooth over his chest. He placed his own hands on those nimble fingers, stilling them.
"Let me give this to you, Ray. Just...relax."
Ray rumbled a laugh, vibrating the sounds though his ribs. "Kinky, Benny."
*Not this time, Ray.*
He resumed his stroking, though now with more overt intent. Ray's buttocks were exactly hand-sized, the only place on the man's body that wasn't just muscle and bone. Ray was particularly sensitive right at the crease where his backside met his legs, and as Benny teased the area Ray's breath caught on the breathy outline of his name.
Given nothing but what Benny wanted right now, Ray would be spread out along the blankets and bedroll on the floor, his legs parted, being gently taken over and over and over until...until the world came looking for them.
But this would be almost as good, and would allow them some of the rest they needed for their duties tomorrow. Ray's hard length was pressed against his leg now, with Ray thrusting softly, needing to ease the pressure there. Carefully, Benny turned them on the narrow mattress, as he had once done, he realized, on another narrow, cold mattress in a brightly lit room.
"Benny. Please. God. Please don't stop."
Were those words spoken now, in this room? Or were they only in memory? He couldn't tell, didn't care, wouldn't bother to confirm. They were Ray's words, and he wouldn't stop. Not for the world. Not for family or duty. Not for blood.
Ray's skin was so sweet against his tongue, and the hot perspiration seemed to fizzle slightly even as he licked, seeking to give pleasure along each curve of Ray's chest. Now he could lap and suckle at those nipples he so admired -- not so flat now, the peaks hard as diamonds to his lips, the pleasure diamond-bright.
"I love you, Benny."
He bit, not meaning to, not able to stop nibbling, wanting to consume. He sought then to soothe the small hurt, smiling against skin when Ray moaned and asked for more.
Inevitably, he traveled down, over that almost concave stomach, kissing along the impertinent swell of Ray's small belly. Then his lips were following the soft hair line, down, down to the nest of curls from which rose, pleading, a part of Ray that was now for him alone.
Of course, it was far from proper to nuzzle Ray's cock with the word *Mine* repeating in his head. But he could not be blamed for the intoxication of the moment he still approached as a miracle.
He wanted to ask Ray to repeat those words that had first brought true fire to his body, words whispered among desperation yet full of desire, words that had blocked out the world like blaring, visceral music. But this was for Ray. He licked at the tissue-soft sac and lifted up the heavy weight of the words' memory in his mind.
"Please, Benny. I want it so much."
Those words had been spoken here and now. Fraser's resolve broke.
"What do you want, Ray? Please."
"Suck me, Benny. God. Suck me."
The chime rang down through his body, all along his nerves, releasing the shout of triumph in the dark, empty, private room with its white blinds drawn down tight. Then, closing his eyes even to the anonymous silhouettes of his second-hand furniture, Benny slid his lips down and around, feeling almost that he was blanketing his lover's whole body with his own, protecting him with the vessel of his mouth.
Ray's cries signaled the end's approach. He was too tired to resist, too eager for the climax that would bring sleep in its wake. Benny felt hands in his hair as his head bobbed in steady, urgent rhythm. Ray's hips bucked, Ray's whispers again and again took his name, and then a cry without words and hot, bitter, sweet...thick on his tongue, down his throat. Gone, then, and yet in its place the prize of Ray's lax body, heaving breaths, completely open to him.
Ray's love, like the man himself, knew no limitations of generosity. If Ray owned the world, he would give it to Benny, and Benny knew it. There was nothing more love could give than his knowing that.
Ray's hands were fumbling for him, but he patted them gently, pressing his non-erection into Ray's thigh.
"This was for you. Next time can be for me, remember?"
Ray's head lolled as Benny slid around him, their arms anchoring them for a night to be spent among the currents of dreams.
And yet right before they both drifted, Benny heard the words that let him know Ray did, indeed, remember:
"Whatever you say, Benny."
The dread in Ray's stomach made him think of trained seals. One ring from the cell phone, and his guts were doing back-flips.
Benny's eyes opened to see Diefenbaker glaring at him from the floor.
"Do you need to go out?" he mouthed at his wolf.
"After I find out what's wrong with Ray," Fraser told him, for the body beside him was tense.
Ray hung up the phone and got out of bed. The face that looked over Ray's shoulder was blank and hard.
"Huey's been shot. He's going to be okay, but he's at the hospital. Lost a lot of blood."
Fraser got out of bed and reached for his pants. Ray's warm hand suddenly covered his own. He looked up into regretful green eyes.
"Have you forgotten, Benny? You've got to go back to work today."
Fraser blinked in surprise. He had forgotten. His back straightened in unconscious indignation, and Ray was laughing softly before leaning down to place a kiss on his lips.
"Don't know when I'll be seeing you again today, so I better say it now, okay?"
Fraser smiled and drew Ray back down for another quick kiss.
"I love you, Benny."
"Love you, Ray."
After dropping Fraser off at the Consulate, Ray took the quick way to County: the way with his foot down hard on the pedal. Elaine and Welsh were both in Huey's room before him. Huey himself was arguing about how he wasn't really hurt.
"Vecchio, you've been shot in the shoulder," Huey said as Ray came through the door, his voice a little slurred with painkillers. "Tell 'em it ain't so bad."
"It hurts like hell and you need to stay in bed."
"Well said, Detective," Welsh approved.
"Traitor," Huey mumbled.
"So, they caught the guy already, huh?" Ray asked.
"Patrol car picked him up when he ran out of the building," Elaine said. "We've even got him running with the gun on the security video."
"Not the sharpest tack in the box," Ray suggested.
Huey tried to shrug and winced instead. "I arrested the idiot the first time around after he left his wallet at the scene of the crime."
"So why did he come after you?" Ray wanted to know.
Huey's eyebrows raised up. "He didn't come after me. It was a mugging. Guy didn't even know who I was until I turned around. Then he fires and runs." Ray scowled.
"Something wrong, Detective?" Welsh asked.
"So soon after the thing with Gardino's guy? Too many coincidences, Lou."
"Agreed." Welsh considered the world for a moment. "We got the guy, James Conner, in holding. You go down and see if you can make out what's happening in his apparently unenlightened mind. I'm going to talk about getting some security here."
"Sir, I really don't think --" Huey began. Welsh cut him off with a look.
"Can I bum a ride, Ray?" Elaine asked.
"Sure." Ray met Jack's slightly glazed eyes. "I'll be back later."
Huey yawned discreetly. "I'll be here."
"So where's Fraser?" Elaine asked as they came out into the morning's cloudy sunlight and walked towards the Riv.
"He's at the Consulate."
"Did the two of you have a nice time up in Canada?"
Ray eyed her. "Yeah."
"You get the cabin rebuilt?"
Ray reached out an unlocked the passenger door, then opened it. When Elaine didn't move, however, he went ahead and met her eyes, his own showing nothing.
She sighed. "Ray, I *know.* Don't you want to talk about it?"
"Not really, no."
Her mouth firmed and she slid into the front seat. They said little more on the way to the station.
Benton Fraser contemplated the steps up to his apartment and, for the first time ever, regretted moving into the building. They were so steep, and there were so many of them. And each one took him a little further from Ray Vecchio.
It was ridiculous, really, he told himself as he began the climb. Ray was miles away. A few more steps couldn't matter.
But they did.
It had been a week now that they had returned from Canada. Those first two nights being together had faded with the passing of four nights apart. And now the fifth loomed before him.
Inspector Thatcher seemed to have left every duty possible undone during his absence. Ray had finished the work on Detective Huey's case only to be presented with a triple homicide at Olympo's diner. As the restaurant was a "cop hangout," there was extreme pressure being applied to his lover to resolve the case quickly. Fraser had been frustrated not only in his own inability to see his friend, but also to help in the case. He'd been putting in double shifts for everything except guard duty: a sign that his services in other areas were, in fact, needed.
Every day except today, he and Ray had managed to find some time to be together, though it had always been in public. Usually it was a quick lunch, or rides for Benny to or from work. But today there had been no chance. Fraser had been at the Consulate to greet the labor group from Alberta at dawn, then worked until almost midnight. Ray had been working his case. They hadn't even talked on the phone.
There, he had reached the top of the stairs, and watched Diefenbaker trot to the door before sitting down to regard his approach. The wolf seemed both amused and sympathetic.
"Does it show so much?" Fraser asked softly.
Dief whined softly back.
Fraser reached for the door and felt something just slightly off. Had the door been ajar?
His heart pounded as a possibility occurred to him, and in two quick strides he was inside the room, looking to the bed.
Which was empty. The apartment held no sign of Ray.
His instantaneous erection, however, refused to subside.
Fraser took off his Stetson and set it in the hatblock. The need in his body was both painful and pleasant. He ached, but he felt so *alive* with that ache. His hands rested on the sides of the hatblock, and he found he was savoring the drama even of his disappointment.
He had been alone for so long. He had been nothing inside for so long. Even being able to wish for someone real, someone specific was a blessing.
Oh, but it was difficult to appreciate that blessing when his body needed release, needed comfort. He was starting to shake inside with the power of it.
Dief growled at him from beside the table. Looking over at him, Fraser saw the note for the first time. Ray's unmistakable handwriting had put his name on the folded piece of paper.
He was at the table's side before he knew he'd moved. The note in his hands was brief, to-the-point, and as dependable as the man himself:
*I love you.*
Fraser brought the paper to his nose, searching for Ray's scent. Quite without conscious intent he brought the note next to his lips, pressing a kiss on the dry surface.
He set the note down and undressed from his uniform, sat on his bed and contemplated Dief, then took the note back into his hands. It would have to be almost one in the morning now. He needed to go to sleep.
But he was dressed soon anyway in jeans and his leather jacket. Dief declined to accompany him, curling up on the bed. The night was brisk and clear, the perfect night for a walk. But time was important here, so Benny caught the first cab he could find on the somewhat deserted streets.
The house was dark and quiet. The gate creaked when he pushed it gently open, and he was glad Ray's family didn't have a dog. The grass was getting a little wet, making tracks around his feet as he walked into the backyard. It was very quiet, and despite the lights of the city the sky was filled with stars.
He gathered a handful of pebbles. His first throw was spot-on, tapping against the second-story window frame. His second and third found the same place, and he was about to throw the fourth when the curtains twitched. The glass was pulled up, and Ray's head appeared.
Neither of them spoke. Ray's head disappeared after a moment, and Benny waited. The still night was accentuated by a rattling automobile engine that passed by and died away completely, leaving just the stars and the wet grass.
The back door opened quietly, and Ray slipped out, dressed in brown pants and a sweater for the chill of the air. Fraser did not move forward, watching as Ray approached him over the grass. The combination of star, moon, and street light blurred the curves of his face, and for an odd moment Ray seemed like a child, sneaking out of the house. But perhaps that was also due to the soft smile on his face.
"Couldn't sleep, Benny?"
Fraser shivered as that quiet voice reached him and held out his hands to grasp his lover's. The neighbor's windows looked down on the backyard, but they both took the risk, enclosing each other in eager arms and leaning into a kiss defined by simple gravity.
The kiss turned into another, and then another. Everything was still and bright with the moon.
"Ray." Such a perfect name to whisper.
"Wanna go for a drive, Benny?"
Fraser thought it over as though there were a choice, answered as though the alternative were the wild world itself. "Yes."
They were quiet getting into the Riv, and when the motor roared to life its familiar purr did not mar their calm. Ray drove expertly through nearly deserted streets, and Benny found himself watching his pale lover's hands move against the backdrop of dark night.
With a smile Fraser didn't quite understand, Ray turned up a lane over a hill, then went past what seemed an abandoned strip mall into a little-used avenue that dead-ended on the crest of the hill over-looking the lights of the suburb.
Ray looked around carefully, then shut off the motor.
"Good. No company."
"Prime make-out spot, Fraser. Trust me on this." Ray took Benny's left hand and held it flat between his own.
"Did you used to bring women here, Ray?" He shivered as Ray kissed each of his fingertips, one by one.
"Girls, more like, Benny. Of course, back then the 7/11 was open."
"Is it all right that I came to the house, Ray? I know it would have been unfortunate if one of your family had --"
"Shhhh. It's more than all right, Fraser, okay? Besides, if you hadn't come by, you couldn't kiss me right now."
Rather than join in any sort of banter, Fraser simply made Ray's wish real, as Ray made his wishes real, and soon they were kissing, gloriously, deliciously, even a little deliriously. Fraser allowed himself the fantasy that they were just as harmless to the world as any two teenagers in a car, "necking" and exploring love. Ray's lips were always so *worth* kissing, worth anything, in fact, to kiss.
Fraser drew Ray close, bending that supple back into the arch of his own body, seeking inside his sweet mouth for the feel of those hard, sharp teeth, that velvet tongue, the curve of his pallet. It was amazing that this was Ray's mouth. Ray talked, smiled, ate, yawned with this mouth, and it was all his to explore now. Amazing. A miracle.
His hands were no more still than his mouth. Ray's back, his shoulders, his hips, his chest, his arms…it made Fraser dizzy, and he groaned his breath between his lover's lips.
"God, Benny, you're turning me on," Ray groaned back.
If they were anywhere more opportune than the front seats of Ray's car, Benny would simply have pushed Ray on his back, spread those colt-like legs and put himself inside the heat of his lover's body, thrusting inside again and again until they both possibly passed out from the pleasure of it.
But instead, he found himself unable to determine a course of action. The logistics were perhaps not so impossible, but his mind was not up to any task that required more than two coherent thoughts in a row. He simply kissed Ray more and more, growling deep in his throat, needing to breathe him in now, absently noting that the windows had fogged up, closing off the universe to just this stolen time.
And then Ray's warm hand covered the bulge in his pants, and his body went rigid with need.
"Shhh. It's all right, Benny. Here…just move over…there, I got ya."
Another miracle. Ray had found a way for his legs to open, his fly to come undone, and his erection to grow long and full from the coaxing of those clever fingers. Benny gasped in delight, then reached for Ray, opening his clothes just enough to bring out the elegant length and swollen head, cupping it in his hands, stroking it just as he had learned Ray liked.
And then he looked up, and Ray's eyes were brilliant in the fog-diffused light of a distant street lamp, his kiss-swollen lips stretched wide into an approving smile.
"Race ya!" he chuckled, then made good on the promise, stroking Benny hard and fast.
"Ray!" Benny shouted again, just because he could, then got busy with his own hands, pumping his lover over and over even as the white tide of his own pleasure was breaking, breaking and then that heavy, hot rush out into Ray's waiting hands. He faltered in his own pace only for a moment, then stroked Ray into the same fleeting bliss, cupping his hands to protect the car's upholstery and earning himself an extra-long kiss for that.
They cleaned up with his own handkerchief, then simply sat there, leaning together, their arms around each other.
Finally, Ray spoke. "We gotta get that apartment, Benny."
"Yes, Ray." His answer, Fraser supposed, would have been the same had his partner suggested that they needed to move to Switzerland.
"I've already told Ma twice how much I hate where you're living."
"Yeah. I told her about that mugging on West Jefferson, and how everybody knows you don't have locks on your doors, and how I can't stand the danger you're in. She made the suggestion that you come stay with us for awhile, so I figure the next time I bring it up I'll say I'm moving in with you to get you to move, right?"
"Yes, Ray." But he felt a twinge, now.
Ray tensed. "What, Benny?"
"Nothing important, Ray."
His lover simply waited. Nothing gave Ray patience like recent sex.
"I…I will miss my home, Ray."
To his distress, Ray moved out of his arms, then looked at him across the distance of the car's seats.
"Home, Benny? You think of that place as home? Not the Yukon?"
Benny blinked. He hadn't really thought of it like that. "Canada will always be my home, Ray, but here in Chicago, with your help…yes, my apartment, my neighbors, the difference they've made in the building…the difference that they've made in my life."
"Difference in *your* life?" Ray's tone was mystified.
"Yes," Fraser stated definitively. "It's because of you that I've survived Chicago, Ray. But without the community I've found there, I don't know that I would be…proud to have survived."
"Aw…geeze, Benny…" Ray closed his eyes, and Fraser instantly missed their brightness. His hand went to Ray's cheek and stroked it, and the green shine returned. "If I live in that rat-trap with you, I can't ever have anything nice there. The reason you get by without locks is because you got nothing there worth stealing. And even if we did have a lock, people would just bust it in. I don’t wanna live like an Eskimo with a backpack and camping plates for the rest of my life!"
"What if it's not for the rest of your life?" Fraser ventured.
Ray scowled. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Fraser felt his eyes widen, and spoke quickly. "Only that if you move in with me, we don't have to stay there forever. Perhaps if we lived there for a time, you could see….what I see there, so that when we look for our permanent residence, we'll have a better understanding of what the other wants."
Ray sniffed. "That will show me what *you* want. What about showing you what *I* want?"
Fraser smiled. "I imagine you want something rather like your home, Ray."
"Yeah, and if I move into your hellhole after I've talked about it with Ma like this, she'll probably have you staying over with us more often then not, anyway."
"Then you'll think about it, Ray?"
The detective looked out the window, only then seeming to notice that the windows couldn't actually be seen through anymore. He smiled, and Fraser felt his heart melt.
"If you did, Ray, we could spend tomorrow night in bed together."
Ray's head slumped forward, and a warm, slim hand slid over the top of Benny's leg.
Fraser found himself half in Ray's lap, pressing kisses to his face. "Thank you, Ray. Thank you. Thank you." A kiss to his nose, his eyes, his lips, his cheeks, and Ray was laughing now, and pushing him away.
"Aw, geeze, Benny. You been hanging around Dief too long." He sighed, looked at the clock, and then started the Riv's motor. "I gotta get back before the others wake up. I'll tell Ma at breakfast, all right? I'll tell her it's temporary, until we get someplace better."
"Thank you, Ray." A final kiss to Ray's ear, then Benny settled into place for the ride home. Ray sighed heavily when his apartment building came into view.
"Most unfashionable neighborhood in the universe, Benny, unless we're counting fall-out shelters."
"We'll look for a new place together. I'm sure we'll find something."
"Yeah, right." But Ray gave him a kiss and called out before speeding away, "Be back to pick you up in a couple of hours."
*How do I let him do this to me?* Ray wondered all the way home. "I can't believe I'm checking into that roach motel. I can't believe I'm going to live in a flea pit without locks. I can't believe…*
But the problem was that he could believe it. Where Benny was concerned, he could believe anything.
He took care going up the steps to his room to make no noise. He figured another hour in bed would get him ready for the day, and would feel pretty damn good too. He ran a hand over his head as he made it to the landing, and inadvertently breathed in the smell of Benny.
He smiled into the dark house and walked lightly into his room.
He did not see the shadowed figure at the end of the hall, or the eyes that watched him, nor hear the hard, hateful beat of a heart that knew what to look for in a man in love.
Francesca Vecchio had been waiting her entire life for some man, a handsome, romantic man, to wake her up one night with the soft tap of pebbles against her bedroom window.
That was not to say that this was her sole romantic fantasy. She'd had the usual assortment as a child: white horses, castles, moonlit walks on the beach. As she grew these dreams matured, becoming those of nice cars, good jobs…and moonlit walks on the beach.
She'd married her first husband because he claimed to write poems: soft, beautiful, haunting verses he'd left for her in her high school locker. She'd wondered sometimes if she would have stayed with him longer, dragged out that horrible mistake perhaps a year or two more, if she hadn't stumbled across that discount copy of Ezra Pound's *Cantos* in her husband's closet.
The tap of the stone against glass had been so faint, the echo of a sound from a dream. Yet her heart had raced and roused her. She had actually leapt from her bed, even as the second rap against the window pane was altering her that something was wrong. The sound was too faint. It was not her window.
And so it was with most unwelcome caution that Frannie went to the curtain and peered out into the moonlit night.
It was Benton! And yet even as she watched he lightly tossed up another pebble to bounce off Ray's window. For a moment she was frozen by the force of various realizations.
Benton was here to see Ray.
And it was doubtlessly without a thought for the romantic overtones; Benton was just trying to wake her brother up for yet another tear through the city on one of their cases. Benny stopped throwing the rocks, and Frannie could only assume that Ray had signaled him from the window. Hating herself wistfully, she watched Fraser standing there in the moonlight, easily imagining his features transformed into the bliss of a waiting lover…
Wait a minute. It *was* all too easy to imagine his face that way. In fact, she didn't have to imagine it at all. Even from this height she could see the shine in Benton's eyes, the soft, hopeful set of his mouth, the tension through his body. A sort of icy ooze began to push through her guts: disgusting, sucking all the heat from her body, dangerous and cruel.
Ray appeared in the backyard, and Frannie didn't turn away, not even when they started kissing.
They left together, and for hours she waited for Ray to return, yet when he floated up the stairs and into his bedroom she did nothing but watch, surprising herself, leaving no place for the words in her heart to go.
She made it back to her bed eventually. At least, most of her did. She felt curiously fragmented, as though a part of her would stand forever at that window, watching the man she loved…
Loved? It was a question she could ask herself now, or ask one part of herself. She had adored Benton Fraser. She had wanted him sexually, fiercely. But she'd hadn't had the chance to love him.
Francesca Vecchio knew enough to know when a man wasn't interested in her. She had just thought she could change Benton's mind with time and patience and care and just the right dress.
And now? Now she knew it wasn't the dress, it was what was *under* her dress…
The crude thought bothered her. Besides, there had been all that with Victoria Metcalf. Frannie thought another part of her was smirking into the darkness of her room. Did either man know how much she knew about Victoria?
Ray shot Benton in the back then, and they'd stayed friends regardless. Just what had Ray been protecting?
But no. Throwing pebbles at a window was something new lovers did. Ray's happiness, Ray's sickening in-your-face bliss was a new thing too. Perhaps it had started when she and Ma and Maria were in Florida. Ray and Benny had scampered up north so quickly. Had that been some sort of honeymoon?
Frannie felt herself shiver at the thought. Catholic doctrine whispered at her, and thoughts of Ange drifted around like snow. Ray was gay. Had he been gay before?
And Benton. Benton was gay.
Well, at least she could blame that for his lack of interest in her.
Frannie shook her head and turned over. This wasn't something she could --
A man was standing by her closet.
Ray snapped awake and had his gun in his hand before the scream stopped. He got the gun loaded even as he was running to the door, and in three seconds he was inside Frannie's room, hitting the light as his heart stomped down through his chest, his eyes wide and his body ready for anything.
Frannie stared at him from the bed. Otherwise, there was nothing.
"There was a man," Frannie whispered.
Ray looked around the room again. He even walked over and swung the closet door open, lifting his gun and checking inside. Then he looked out the closed window. It was only about an hour until dawn.
The detective turned around to smile reassuringly at his mother as she sat on the bed and wrapped her arms around his sister.
"It's nothing, Ma. Frannie had a nightmare."
Tony was standing in the doorway now. Ray knew Maria would be checking on the kids.
"That right, Frannie?" Tony wanted to know, and Ray heard the softness in his voice that meant he was talking to family in the middle of the night.
"Yeah," Frannie said, laughing at herself to let everyone know she was embarrassed. "I guess. Sorry, Tony."
The big man shrugged. "It happens. Most excitement we've had here all week, huh, Ray?"
Ray nodded and Frannie smiled somewhat tremulously. Tony nodded and padded back to his room.
Ma stroked her daughter's hair. "You stay here with Ray, caro. I'll make you some cocoa, all right? I think I have some marshmallows left, if Little Tony hasn't eaten them all."
The older woman nodded and placed a gentle kiss on her youngest child's forehead, then gave a "protect your sister" look to her oldest child and left the room.
Ray stood there by the window and looked into his sister's dark eyes. Thank God she was sleeping in some big T-shirt and not her usual something from Prostitute's Secret.
"You okay, Frannie?"
He was tall, the woman thought, seeing her brother with new eyes: this man who as a boy had tormented her and teased her and loved her. Tall and thin even in that big loose robe, but strong, and with eyes green even in the dim light, and pretty. Without that nose, Ray could have gone drag with those eyes.
But then Ray's form was lost to her, for instead she was looking into the long hall of the future, a hallway carefully future plotted out before her brother, exact to the last detail. She had already heard his recent over-numerous complaints about Benton's apartment. He would move in, or have Benny move out, and under the cover of being "roommates" they would share a bed and a half-life of lies. Eventually, Ma would figure things out in her own way, and turn the same blind eye to it that she had turned to Ray's bruises after one of Pop's drinking binges. Maria and Tony would be oblivious. Benton had no family to worry about.
And at work? Frannie supposed any gay-bashers there already had their suspicions about Ray and Benton, but as long as neither cop made it too obvious, they'd be all right.
And when Fraser went back to Canada? Ray would go with him, somehow. And by then everyone would have figured it out and it would be too late. The lies would run so deep that even if Ray confessed everything, no one would adjust. It would be easier just to stiff-arm hug him goodbye and breathe a little sigh of relief when he went north.
And after that? Christmas most every year, sometimes with Benton, sometimes not, and Ray would come in time to be "company," the incredibly nice brother who actually owned the house they all lived in but never mentioned it even when he curled up under the Christmas tree and watched them open strange Eskimo gifts or when he played with Frannie's kids and told them wolf stories.
God, she could see it: the tree, Ma's food overloading the tables, all of them stumbling around while Ray's eyes were just a little empty.
"And why didn't your friend come down this year, Raymondo?" Ma would ask. "He's such a nice boy."
And Ray would tell her, "Aw, Benny pulled duty this year, you know. Did you like that crystal necklace he made you?"
"Oh, it's lovely. You must try to get him to come next year."
"Sure, Ma." And Ray's voice would be hollow, and they would all know why, and none of them would say a word about it. Ever.
"Frannie? You okay?"
Ray's real voice made the holiday scene break apart, and it was an odd feeling. It was nowhere near Christmas, actually.
But it was all there anyway, in Ray's body, the super-cautious way he was looking at her. He'd been eyeing her window too, and the way you could see the whole yard from here.
"I'm fine, Ray. I'm sorry I woke ya."
He nodded and relaxed a bit, but didn't leave. He wouldn't until Ma came back with the cocoa.
"Sit down," she said, moving her legs back under the covers, and he sort of looked at her funny before sitting down as ordered and looking around the room with stiff shoulders.
What had she said to him once? That he was afraid to follow his dreams. She'd seen him do it with Ange -- she counted it as a point of intimacy between her and Ray that they both had walked into doomed marriages. She'd married a looser, and Ray had married a woman who thought he was a looser.
Well, now he'd reached for the gold ring, hadn't he? And Benton had reached back. Only problem was, this was the sort of lottery people kill you over…quite literally, she realized with a sinking stomach. A gay cop was…in danger. Even she knew that one.
It was odd, she thought, sitting there in the semi-dark with the man who'd stolen the man of her dreams because they were his dreams too, odd that she didn't hate him anymore. She could only think all those hours of hating him last night had sort of burned it out of her.
And the really funny thing was, now that she was able to think about it, the thing that Ray hadn't understood with his "guys like him never marry girls like you" comments was that she hadn't wanted Benton to marry her.
Well, she had, of course. But she'd known that wasn't going to happen. But just sleeping with him, having him be "hers" for a while, that would have been more than enough. The boost to her ego alone would have set her up right for a long, long time. If it had led to marriage, well, hooray for the home team, but if not, she could have gone on. Frankly, part of her had already begun to suspect that it would be irritating to be around someone all the time who knew everything and would tell it to you at the drop of that hat. She was beginning to wonder how Ray stood it.
"Here you go, bambina," Ma said from the door as she bustled in with cocoa and buttered toast. Ray was off the bed like a shot and half-out the door, dodging another bullet like the street-smart cop he wanted so much to be.
Frannie took the cocoa with cold hands and looked into her mother's loving eyes.
Already in the hall, her brother turned around, stuck his head back through the door. "Yeah?"
She kissed her mother on the cheek. "I gotta talk to Ray, Ma. Okay?"
A loving kiss back, and not even a question about it. Ma was leaving them alone with another kiss on Ray's cheek. She even closed the door, and Frannie turned on the bedside lamp as she patted the bed.
"Come back here and talk to me, Ray."
"What's going on?" Ray stayed where he was.
"You're so frightened, you're scarring me too, and I'm not going to have it," she stated, settling herself against her headboard with her cocoa cradled in her hands and her eyes glinting with determination. "Now come over here and sit down."
"What did you see tonight, Frannie?"
She let herself smile the cruel smile still inside her. "Prince Charming kissing Sonny Crocket."
And it washed away the last of her cruelty when Ray went pale behind his wide, luminous eyes. And then she saw he was actually shaking, and that was quite enough of that.
"Ray…" She risked letting the cocoa rest against her thigh and spread her hands. "I'm happy for you, all right?"
He just stared at her until she shook her head in frustration. "Okay, so I hate you a little too, and I will for a while, but this is the nineties, you know. I'm not going to go run out in the street and scream that I've got cooties because my brother is gay."
"Sit." She made the word a sentence, then added another one: "Down."
He made it to the bed and stared at her some more.
"It's all right," she told him.
"No, it ain't."
"Why'd you do it, then?"
And finally Ray got some sparkle back into his eyes, just a glimmer, and she let him she her relax with it. "You know why."
She laughed, and now he let his body unstiffen a bit. But it was going to be a long time before it would really be *there* between them, and she knew it. Didn't mean they had to wait to get to the important stuff, though.
But Ray cut her off at the pass. "So what's with the mystery man? You decide a scream's the best way to arrange a private chat?"
She blinked at him angrily. "I saw someone." He just looked at her. She shrugged. "Maybe it was a vision."
"Yeah, maybe you been dreaming through the whole night."
She twisted her mouth until he dropped his eyes.
"So what were you thinking, anyway? " she asked. "You gonna go through your whole life and never talk about it with anyone?"
Ray fidgeted. Frannie put her hands back around her cocoa mug. "Benny and I talk," he surrendered finally.
She snorted. A family-sized Vecchio snort.
"I bet you two hardly ever come up for air."
Ray glared at her, and she knew she was right.
"Ma's going to be difficult," she offered.
"You tell Ma and I'll kill you," Ray said calmly.
"I'm not going to tell Ma. You are."
"Leave it alone, Frannie."
"I don't mean right now, but you gotta tell her, Ray. You got me? If you leave it to her to figure out, she never will, even when she's figured it out."
Ray shrugged, but his eyes were fast. "Kinda counting on that one, Frannie."
She considered sharing her vision, but if Ray were really this far gone, he'd only see the peace of it and never be able to tell it was the kind of peace one found in a cemetery.
"So, you just expect me to keep it inside me?" Frannie said, testing the boundaries and barriers of it. "Isn't there anybody who knows besides you and Benton?"
"No." Ray was obviously lying.
"You tell Lieutenant Welsh?"
"No, she don't."
Frannie thought that one over. She and Elaine were going to have a little talk.
Ray's hands were over her wrists. The cocoa mug was jostled and almost spilled. "Don't, Frannie. Don't go making plans. Benny and I have a life we're making and it don't need you in it!"
He shook her, and his hands on her wrists were just this side of painful. "You make one of your harebrained schemes and it comes apart and our lives are ruined, you got that? *Ruined,* Frannie. It don't matter if you didn't mean it. Neither of us can be cops if people know. Can you possibly understand that?"
"You need something from me, Ray?"
"I need you to promise, like a vow you never took before kind of promise, you won't talk to anyone about this, you won't tell." His fingers tightened, but she could feel the fear in him now and it almost broke her heart.
The worst part of it was he had a right to be frightened of her. It was odd the way brothers and sisters grew up and stopped knowing each other because the memories from when they were kids never went away. Ray wasn't a big strong cop to her, he was a big brother who sometimes came home after getting his ass kicked by the bigger, stronger kids. Sometimes when she'd seen him carry that gun around she'd had to smile like it was a toy, even though she knew it wasn't fair. Ray was grown up now and doing his best, and his best was pretty good. He'd even been right about the lottery ticket -- however stupid he'd been to lose it to chickens in the end.
And now Ray didn't know her either. He didn't know she was no longer the little girl who finked on him and hated him for killing her hamster. And how could he know her? All he could do was ask her not to tell on him, not to get him in trouble.
"I won't talk about it with anyone until you say it's okay," she said, and she knew she meant those more than she'd meant her marriage vows, using all the sincerity of her gained years.
Ray let go of her, and she picked up the damn mug and put it on the night table. Then she said the rest of it:
"I want something back."
Ray looked ready to say something mean, but they both knew he had no idea what she could want now that Benton was no longer public property.
"I want my life to stop being so dumb."
Ray blinked at her, and she smiled.
"I can't wait around for Mr. Wonderful anymore. I want a job, and you're gonna help me get one."
"Where?" His eyes shone with suspicion.
There. She'd thrown him for a loop on that one.
"You don't just get to talk up and be a cop, Frannie. They don't hand out badges at the door."
"Then how'd --" But she bit back the insult. She almost bit her tongue too, but she managed it in the end. "I don't want to be a cop. But I want a job that means something, and the only person in this house doing anything important is you." She waited while Ray looked stunned at the compliment, however indirect, and then went on. It was odd how the words were coming out so easily. She didn't even know what she was thinking, but when she heard herself, she knew she was telling the truth.
"They need help with civilians down there. I've heard you say so often enough. It could be part-time, even volunteer at first, until everyone realizes how good I am. And then I could get the training to be better. I could fit in, and you're gonna help me."
"Or what?" Ray's face was cynicism warmed over, twice.
"Or nothing." She shrugged. "This isn't a bargain. I'm giving you what I want whether you help me or not, but this is what I want."
"You sure about that?"
"I've hung around the station before. Let's see if people can just hold off on arresting me this time."
Ray actually smiled, though it looked like it cost him. "No more solicitation without a license."
She shrugged. "I got a car. I can make deliveries. Help with filing, Xeroxing, something like that."
"You're just trying to get next to Elaine so you can gossip with her."
"I do want permission to talk about it with Elaine, but if I wanted to do that I could just pick up the phone. Women don't need fancy reasons to talk. I could just show up and take her out to lunch and that would be that."
Ray closed his eyes and sighed. "I swear, if I find out this is some sort of nutty scheme…"
"If this is some sort of scheme of any kind --"
"It's not! For Pete's sakes, Ray. I'm in my thirties and I'm tired of selling make-up!"
Ray shushed her with his hands. "All right. All right. I'll talk to Welsh about it, all right?"
"All right." She sniffed slightly. "I'll help you with Ma at breakfast when you tell her you want to move in with Benton to protect him from the crime in his neighborhood."
Ray almost choked, and it took another ten minutes of talking before he believed she hadn't been listening in on his phone calls before she got him out of the room.
Continue to Part 2
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