Rating: NC-17 for m/m sex
Warnings/Notices: I use spoilers for all sorts of episodes, in my universe the series ended with "Flashback," and there's major hot Mountie love ahead.
Running his eyes automatically over the traffic and pedestrians of the Chicago thoroughfare, Benton Fraser, RCMP, kept his right hand from scratching at his side and listened closely to his friend's simple recitation.
"All right, what have we got here? A, uh, a tuna on white for Welsh, a turkey on wheat for Huey, and Elaine wanted the, uh pastrami on sourdough."
"Rye," Fraser corrected.
Ray Vecchio, Chicago PD, looked at him blankly "What?"
"Elaine wanted rye bread."
Ray shrugged. "Aw, what's the difference?"
Fraser managed to resist for less than a quarter-second.
"Well, Ray, actually the difference is considerable. For one thing -"
A woman in Muslim robes slammed into him, gazing at him over her sunglasses as he apologized. The moment passed, and he turned back to Ray.
"Sourdough requires much more preparation than rye bread and involves a most interesting chemical process known as making a 'starter,' in which the sour taste is germinated. Only a small amount of culture is needed for each loaf of bread, but the size of the culture a bakery would need to keep handy is considerable. In order to make the culture roughly four pounds " Fraser looked back, then into his friend's curious eyes. "Hang on a second. That woman looked straight at me."
"Well, Ray, for a Muslim woman to make direct eye contact with a strange man, it violates deep cultural traditions."
Ray shrugged, obviously wanting to get back with lunch. "Fraser, I don't think that's a violation under the Illinois Criminal Code."
A high alarm sounded.
"That is," Fraser pointed out as they began running back. It wasn't far to the jewelry store, and Ray burst in before him, gun drawn. Unfortunately, one gun wasn't nearly enough to deal with the multiple hostage situation that confronted them.
Ray gave it try anyway: "Police, drop your weapon!"
The woman evidently in charge was clearly not impressed. "You drop yours."
"That's not how it works," Ray warned, but he and Fraser both could see it was time to back off until they were out of the crowded store.
"We're walking out of here," the woman continued, "and if you try to stop us, I'll blow his head off. Drop your gun."
Ray's gun slowly lowered, giving the woman a display of her control, easing the situation. Jewels, after all, could be replaced. It occurred to Fraser that Ray's body might even seem relaxed to the thieves, as though he were dropping his guard. After working with the man for two years, Fraser knew better.
"Drop it!" the woman continued to order, unsatisfied with Ray's caution. "Drop it!"
"Nobody gets hurt," Ray soothed as his gun made it to the floor.
The women began edging out the door, taking one man with them.
"Stay back from the door," one woman urged. "Back. Stay back."
The man began speaking, his terror clear in both his voice and his scent. "Hey, listen, what are you? Some kind of terrorists? Listen, I'm not some kind of politician. I don't even follow politics."
The leader was evidently uninterested. "Shut up," she barked, then ordered the others to follow her.
Ray picked up his gun and commandeered a key, then it was a simple matter of chasing after the van. Fraser tried to leap on the rear bumper, but when he reached the corner the van was too far away. Ray took the longer, quicker way around the traffic and ran into the street, his gun drawn. He seemed to fall in front of the van.
Shocked by the cop's foolhardiness, Fraser knew a sharp moment of shame at his misunderstanding when he saw Ray again, a little boy in his arms, as he raced to the safety of the curb. A woman was screaming.
The van passed, obscuring the scene, and Fraser ran harder, shouting Ray's name.
The child was being held in his mother's arms when Fraser reached his friend's side. Ray had been clipped by the van, his body sprawled out on the pavement, twisted wickedly against the high curb. Fraser knelt in the gutter, heedless of his dress uniform.
"Ray? Ray? Are you all right?"
Ray's eyes were closed, always a mildly shocking sight to Fraser, though he wasn't sure why, other than the obvious change it made in Ray's appearance.
He looked up to see that the mother and her child were gone. The man below him moaned.
"Ray?" He put a careful hand on Vecchio's shoulder.
To the Mountie's endless relief, the closed eyes fluttered, then opened. Ray's expression, however, was curious.
"Are you all right?" Fraser asked.
"Why am I lying here?"
Fraser's tongue tied slightly at this simple question.
"You were knocked down by the van, Ray."
"Yeah?" The detective considered this, then took Fraser's outstretched hand and rose to his feet.
"Are you all right?"
"I guess." Vecchio looked around, then stepped up on the sidewalk, brushing the dirt from his suit. Fraser straightened his tunic and willed his heart to stop pounding.
"Did you get the license number of the van, Ray? I'm afraid it was too obscured by mud for me to make it out other than the first letter, 'R.'"
Ray looked at him, eyes still calm and still curious. "Who are you?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"If you don't mind me asking." Ray turned his head to look up and down the street. "And who am I?"
Fraser felt his heart speed up again, a strange word forcing itself up from his chest:
"It's a good thing your friend's got a hard head," the doctor, Michael Berbim by his nametag, noted.
Fraser braced himself for a caustic comment, but Ray remained silent.
Dr. Berbim continued, oblivious, "There doesn't seem to be any concussion, but the trauma of the impact seems to have induced a total loss of recall."
Fraser cleared his throat. "I appreciate that medical conditions such as this are somewhat unpredictable. However, there is a hostage whose life may rely on Detective Vecchio's ability to recall what he saw just prior to the accident. Is there anything I or someone else might do to help him remember?"
The doctor considered. "Well, exposing him to familiar things might jog his memory: friends, places, things you've done together." The doctor looked over at Vecchio one more time, then nodded at Fraser and left.
Ray sat with some contentment in his hospital gown, gazing at Fraser.
"How do you feel, Ray?"
"Yes, that's your name. Ray Vecchio of the Chicago Police Department."
"That's right. And I'm Benton Fraser."
Ray nodded. "And what's with the red suit? Not that you don't look good in it."
Fraser frowned, then cleared his face with effort. "It's the dress uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."
"We're in Canada?"
"No, we're in Chicago. I first came here on the trail of my father's killers and because that killer turned out to be himself a member of the RCMP, and because I had your friendship to rely on, I have remained here as liaison with the Canadian consulate."
"So we were friends when you were up in Canada?"
"No, you were the police officer here in Chicago who had been assigned to my father's case. I'm afraid our first meeting was somewhat less than auspicious. I ruined your attempt to entra -- arrest a dealer in stolen clothing and you took me aback by referring to my father's case as the 'dead Mountie thing."
"Ouch." Ray scowled. "Sounds pretty bad all right. But we still work together?"
"Oh, yes. In fact, you showed up at the Consulate not long after that and proved invaluable in helping me bring my father's killer to justice. In fact, when I was transferred back to Canada after you were almost killed helping me, you got out of your hospital bed, followed me to my father's cabin, and helped keep me alive while we caught, as you would say, 'all the bad guys and then some.'"
"I'd say that, huh?"
Ray thought this over, his eyes looking inward but seeing nothing. With a sigh, he obviously turned his thoughts elsewhere. "My hospital bed, huh?"
"Yes." Fraser nodded.
Fraser blinked. "Why?"
"Yeah, if we'd just met and I was all banged up and stuff, why'd I come up to Canada to help you?"
Fraser kept his face open and blank, not showing a trace of the strange, sharp pain those simple words caused. It was certainly a fair enough question. Doubtlessly, he was simply worried about Ray's mental state.
"It's just the sort of person you are," he managed at last.
Ray seemed to like that, flashing him a smile.
"Sounds like we bonded pretty good, anyway. And we're still friends?"
"Yes. The best."
Another smile, guileless as a child's, and Fraser realized his own mouth was turned up at the corners. Ray in this state was somewhat difficult to resist, very much like a child, actually. Suddenly, the thought scared him. Ray was simply too vulnerable in this state. The thought of what the other Chicago officers might do to him while he was like this actually made him shudder.
"Ray, it's most important that you regain your memory as soon as possible."
"Yes. You may hold the memory of a license plate of a van holding a man hostage."
Vecchio frowned in concentration. "You said that. The van hit me, huh? Wasn't looking where I was going. Am I usually so clumsy?"
"No, on the contrary, Ray. You're quite graceful by nature. You were hit by the van because you were rescuing a young boy who was in the middle of the street."
"Really? I do things like that?"
The Mountie was assaulted by memories. "Frequently, Ray."
Fraser looked into that wide-eyed smile, then turned to hand Ray his suit.
"You should get dressed. As the doctor said, exposure to familiar things may jog your memory."
Ray nodded and took the jacket. "Hey, that's nice material." He checked the label. "Armani! Expensive."
"I believe so, Ray. Your clothes are very important to you."
"Yeah? Kind of a dull color." Ray slipped out of his hospital gown as Fraser turned his back. When Ray made a little half-laugh, he had to restrain himself from looking back.
"If I hang out with you a lot, I bet I wear lots of grays so I don't compete with that uniform."
Fraser frowned. "I never considered that before, Ray. However, it is true that when I first knew you you wore brighter colors. After " The word "Victoria" simply would not come to his lips. " awhile, you did change your style."
"Is that when I shaved my head?"
"Hmmm. Maybe I'm in mourning for my hair."
There was silence for a bit, except for the rustle of cloth. Fraser found himself reliving scenes from the past several months. Ray's clothes had become much more subdued since he had met the detective, but surely his own red uniform hadn't been the cause.
"They do make me wear it a lot," he said.
"What?" Ray's voice was muffled.
"The dress uniform. I have to wear it often on duty here. They make me stand guard duty most days, and I'm expected to be in the dress uniform."
He turned and nodded, relieved that Ray looked like himself once more. Except for his eyes, one would have no idea anything was wrong.
"So how long we known each other, anyway?" Ray asked as he led the way out the door.
"Almost three years."
"That all?" Ray sounded quite surprised. "I would have thought it was longer than that, the way you put it." They reached the outer doors of the ward and Ray stopped to hold the glass door for an elderly lady. Fraser's eyebrows shot up, but he said nothing. Ray appeared distracted in any event. "Hey, do I got family?"
"Yes, Ray. Quite a large family, actually. Do you remember them?"
"Nah. Do you think we should visit them?"
Fraser thought about it, taking the lead once they were outside to guide Ray to the car he had retrieved while Ray was being examined. "Your mother and sisters will be quite upset. There is a strong possibility that your memory will return momentarily."
"No sense making 'em worry if I don't have to, then. Hey, now there's a set of wheels!"
Fraser couldn't help his smile and chuckle as Ray walked quickly to the long green car with its sweeping lines. Vecchio whistled. "Nice condition, too."
"I'm glad you like the car, Ray."
Something in his tone tipped Vecchio off. Large green eyes sparkled at him and Fraser felt the unwelcome wave of protectiveness once again. And it was much worse now that he recognized it. If Ray got so much as a whiff of it, he would never forgive him for it when he got his memory back.
"You tellin' me it's mine, Ben who names their kid 'Benton,' anyway?"
Ray smiled. "I call you that before?"
"Uh, you favored 'Benny,' actually."
Ray looked relieved. "Whew. But the car, it's mine?"
Fraser nodded and held out the keys.
Ray frowned, rubbing his head. "You better drive."
"You want me to drive your car?"
"You can't drive?"
"Yes, I can drive." Fraser felt his knees sweating. "It's just you're a very good driver, Ray, and the doctor said you should do familiar things."
Ray thought it over, then reached for the keys. "Okay, but if it's weird I'll pull over and let you do it, okay?"
"Fair enough, Ray."
But as Fraser thought, Ray was instantly comfortable behind the wheel and pointed the car towards the station at Fraser's directions. Meanwhile, Ray's car phone rang. Fumbling only slightly, he picked it up on speaker while Ray stopped at a yellow light.
"Benton?" Elaine's voice asked. "It's Elaine. I've got bad news. Nothing on the van."
"I thought that might be the case. I'm sure if there were anything to find, you would have found it, Elaine."
"Elaine?" Ray asked quietly.
"A civilian aide who works at your precinct," Fraser explained in the same tone, watching as Ray accelerated through the intersection. "Turn left here."
Ray clicked on his indicator and glided through the turn.
"Fraser, I think you should also know Welsh's temperature is rising by the minute. How you doing with Ray?"
Ray flashed him a happy smile.
"We're making progress. Elaine, would you mind asking the Leftenant if we might speak to him in private when we get to the station?"
"Yeah. Um, is everything all right?"
"Yes, thank you kindly, Elaine."
At the station, Fraser was able to get Ray into Welsh's office without too much interference, though Elaine tried to get a full briefing on the walk in. He could hardly blame her, considering that Ray had smiled, told her it was nice to meet her, and shook her hand when they met.
Fraser closed the door with a sense of relief that immediately disappeared when Ray said, "Hey, how ya doing?" to his lieutenant.
Welsh, however, did not come close to losing his usual calm.
"So, you've really lost your memory, Vecchio."
"Yeah. It's a little weird, I gotta tell ya."
Welsh met Fraser's eyes.
"So," Vecchio went on, "you're my boss?"
"So I am often reminded."
"I any good?" Ray looked around the office.
Welsh pursed his lips, and in the silence Ray was suddenly looking back at the lieutenant with sad eyes.
"That bad, huh?"
Welsh blinked, and Fraser was unashamedly relieved at the man's discomfiture.
"It's not something I would like to discuss, considering your current condition." Welsh looked at Fraser with a lurking reprimand. "In fact, you are off duty, and should be at home, having your family take care of you."
"Benny says I need to remember the license plate."
"Do you remember anything prior to your accident, Detective?"
Ray looked over at Fraser, then seemed to realize he was the "detective" in question, and looked back at Welsh.
"Not yet, but Benny's gonna help me. I'm sure it will all come back soon."
Welsh's lips were pursed again. "Considering that Constable Fraser is not a member of this precinct, I am not in a position to tell him what to do. However -"
"Yeah, I was wondering about that," Ray said. "I mean, he works for the Canadians, right? But everybody acts like he works here."
"Everybody?" Welsh's tone was ominous.
"Ray only means that the officers at the station have been eager to help me with Ray, sir."
But Welsh was finished. "Detective Vecchio, you are on medical leave, and this case has been assigned to Detective Huey."
"Huey?" Ray laughed. "Where's Lewey and Dewy?"
Fraser and Welsh both winced. Ray's eyes went round.
"I say something wrong?"
"Understood, sir." He turned to his friend. "Ray, we should go."
Fraser looked back, his back perfectly straight.
"The next time I see him, he'd better be able to rattle off his social security number and his mother's maiden name, you got me?"
Welsh nodded, and Fraser herded Ray out the door, closing it firmly behind them once again with no small sense of relief.
Ray's eyes, however, were mournful.
"I'm really a bad detective, Benny?"
Fraser looked around, but they were fortunately out of earshot of the detectives by Elaine's desk.
"Ray ." Fraser took his friend's arm and guided him up the hall, unhappy with the quiet willingness of the man to follow him, until they were at their closet. Inside, sitting in the dark, Fraser took a breath, and for a moment things felt normal. Then another moment passed without a single complaint from Ray, and the dread in Fraser's stomach was back.
"Ray, I consider you an exceptional detective. You have one of the best arrest records in the city, and were promoted to detective first-grade only a few months ago."
"But Welsh looked like he wanted to scrape me off his shoe."
"The Leftenant has little tolerance for non-traditional procedures, Ray, but he is greatly appreciative of success. While he usually frowns upon our methods, he is quite pleased with our results."
"Our? We work together a lot, then?"
"Yes, though usually only in an unofficial capacity."
"That's why everyone knows you?"
Fraser took a breath, held it, let it out. "Ray, my job at the consulate is somewhat limited."
"Yes, and delivering invitations, and retrieving dry cleaning."
"Cleaning out closets?"
"If the inspector believes my time would be spent profitably in such a fashion "
"So, you have never objected to my determination to help those around me, and since I have no jurisdiction in Chicago, you have also responded to my need for assistance when I needed it. I have also been more than happy to assist you when I could."
Ray thought about that one a minute. "So we work as partners and everyone just lets us get away with it because we get the job done?"
Ray's teeth were white in the dark. "Cool."
Fraser found himself nodding.
"Still doesn't explain the closet."
"The station is very loud and very busy. This is a place to sit and think in peace."
Fraser frowned at Ray's tone.
"We once traced kidnappers in here," Fraser found himself insisting.
"Same thing we're doing now, right?"
"Well, I ain't remembering anything, Fraser. You want we should try it someplace else?"
"All right, Ray. I suppose we should go to your house."
Ray stood up and opened the door. Fortunately, no one was in the hallway. Fraser led them out a side door.
"Nah," Ray said. "I don't wanna upset anybody if I don't have to. Besides, I bet I know your place."
Fraser found himself frowning again. What *was* that slight drawl supposed to signify?
"Indeed, Ray, you were with me when I first got it."
On the drive, he found himself relating the story of their first visit to his apartment, including Dennis' claims about being able to see Canada from his window.
Ray chuckled, but seemed preoccupied.
"Benny, what if I don't get my memory back?"
"You will." The alternative was simply not to be considered.
"But what if I don't? I mean, if I need you to tell me everything about myself, if I can't remember, you'll tell me, right? You wouldn't hold anything back?"
"I don't understand."
"If I don't remember stuff, and you know about it, you'll tell me."
"Ray, I'm certain that you will get your memory back. Completely. However, if you need me to tell you anything about yourself, I will do so."
Ray nodded in satisfaction. "Good."
They drove the last mile in silence, then Ray asked, "Uh, Fraser?"
"I hope you don't think this is rude, or nothing, but this isn't a great-looking neighborhood."
"So you have often told me, Ray."
"Really? Sorry about that."
Fraser winced just slightly. "It's quite all right, Ray. After all, when you told me I couldn't walk to work without backup, this turned out only to be your excuse for driving me every day."
"Really? Every day?" Ray's smile was full of suggestion, causing Fraser to blink in confusion again.
"Here, Ray. There's a space."
Ray pulled in smoothly, and they got out to stand together on the sidewalk.
Ray looked around, then followed Benny inside and up the stairs.
Ray puffed on the third level. "You'd think I'd remember those stairs."
Fraser nodded and opened his door, only then thinking to warn Ray -- but it was too late. White fur bounded towards them, bypassing Fraser altogether and rushing into Armani arms.
"Diefenbaker!" Fraser shouted, but Ray had already been knocked down.
Yet, even as he stared in horror, Fraser realized that Ray was actually crouching on the floor *on purpose,* and was rubbing behind Dief's ears with enthusiasm.
"What a good boy," Ray was crooning. "What a beautiful boy! What a good boy. Yes, you are!"
Dief seemed ready to pass out from ecstasy, licking Ray's face and wagging his tail so hard he seemed in danger of becoming airborne. He was whimpering, his front paws now on Ray's lapels, and when Ray reached under to rub his tummy, he howled.
"Aw, he's just happy to see me," Ray said with a grin, patting the wolf on the head as he stood up. Diefenbaker leaned into his legs, gazing up with worship and sniffing for chocolate. Ray, meanwhile, was looking around the apartment. Fraser braced himself.
"Nice place," Ray finally approved. "Makes me feel comfortable."
Fraser closed his jaw with a snap. "Do you mean that?"
Ray looked at him in surprise, his eyes a little hurt. "Of course I do."
Fraser rubbed his forehead, then his eyebrow, and stretched his tense neck.
"You okay?" Ray asked.
"Yes. It's just that this is proving a n unsettling day."
The hint of a drawl was suddenly in Ray's smile as he sidled closer. "Bet I know how to make it better." His soft, warm lips pressed lightly against Fraser's in a kiss.
Fraser fell back into the room, his hands warding off and his eyes horrified.
"Benny?" Ray blinked owlishly.
"Ray!" Fraser squeaked. "What are you doing?"
Sad eyes now, deeply sorrowful. "Don't you want me to?"
Ray frowned, puzzled now. "But I thought for sure. You mean we're not together?"
"Not like that, no!"
Ray stood there inside the door like a child whose balloon has slipped from his hand and floated away. Fraser wanted to say something to make the moment end, but his heart was only now slowing down. He hadn't been quite so unsettled quite so unpleasantly in quite some time.
"I thought for sure you were " Ray shook his head and looked up. For the first time since his accident, Ray was trying to hide his emotions. "Look, I'm sorry. I really am sorry. I didn't mean anything by it." He dropped to one knee and welcomed Dief again, petting him with determination.
"No, Ray. I'm sorry. Obviously, something I did gave you the wrong impression."
"It's just the memory loss," Ray mumbled. "I just don't know what I'm doing, I guess."
"Yes! Yes. That must be it."
Ray nodded. "I didn't, you know, mean anything by it. I mean, if we're friends, that's cool. That's perfect."
"Yes. Yes." Fraser forced himself silent. Took another breath. Held it. Let it out.
"I'm going to have some tea," he announced.
"That sounds good," Ray said with a tentative smile, looking up.
"You drink coffee." Fraser realized he'd made that sound accusatory.
Sure enough, the smile disappeared. "Okay."
"Would you like some?"
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble."
Fraser turned to the kitchen. "Of course it's no trouble. I'll get you some."
Ray sighed, quietly, but Fraser heard him, along with the murmured, "Thank you kindly."
A knock surprised both of them. Fraser set the kettle on the stove and walked to the door with a glance at Ray's open, curious face.
"Hey, ah, Fraser. I was wondering if maybe I could have my radio back. I have company tonight, and --"
"Of course, Mr. Mustafi," Fraser said, stepping back and turning for his bedroom. Only when he held the radio in his hands did he remember that Ray wouldn't remember to complain about the way Fraser had paid to have the radio fixed. The thought brought no sense of relief, however. He would gladly pay to have a dozen radios fixed to have Ray remember to complain about it.
"Nice to see you, there, Detective Vecchio," Fraser's neighbor was saying when he got back.
Ray nodded in a friendly way. "Nice to see you too, Mr. Mustafi."
Radio collected, the man left. The kettle was whistling. In a few moments, Fraser sat at the table across from Ray and blew on his tea, watching Ray sip his coffee.
"I drink it black?" Ray asked.
Ray nodded glumly and took another sip, then frowned.
Ray shook his head. "I think I think I'm remembering something." Ray looked up in pleasure, green eyes glowing. "Yes! I remember this guy. My dad! We were talking about you!" Ray thought some more. "Can't remember what we were saying really, but it was definitely you. We were out in the woods."
Fraser kept his face clear and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Ray, but that can't be a memory. Your father died five years before we met."
"Oh." Ray looked at his hands a long moment, then sipped at his coffee again.
"Perhaps it was a dream."
Fraser considered his options. His apartment and Ray's car hadn't done the trick, but then, it was entirely possible that they were failing because they were *too* intimate. After all, his intimacy with Ray had certainly given the man the wrong idea!
Fraser stared at the table as his lips flattened slightly. To be fair, the thought of Ray kissing him on the lips wasn't horrific. Men in various cultures kissed each other that way often as a sign of fellowship. No, it was the manner in which Ray had kissed him, that sly suggestion of so much more, that had unsettled him. At all costs, he needed to avoid giving Ray anymore such impressions, or opportunities. That path had been closed.
"What?" Ray looked up from scratching Diefenbaker under his chin.
Fraser frowned. "You do realize that when you've regained your memory he will continue to expect this sort of treatment?"
"How do I usually treat him?"
Ray looked down at his own hands as they worked through the fur. "If I don't get my memory back it won't matter, and I guess you're saying if I do get my memory back I won't care."
Dief whined and Ray switched to rubbing his ears. Fraser acutely felt his inability to interfere without causing a fuss.
"What about the Consulate?" Ray asked again.
"I was thinking that something with which you are familiar but not intimate would provide a new type of stimulus."
Ray sighed and let Dief go with a final rub. "You don't have to keep worrying about it. I got the message."
"What do you mean?"
For the first time since the accident, Ray's eyes reflected disillusion.
"Nothing." Ray drained his coffee and stood up to take his mug and Benny's to the sink. Before Fraser could protest, he had rinsed them out and was heading for the door.
Fraser went to order Diefenbaker to stay, only to see the wolf follow Ray out. With a sigh, he donned his Stetson and joined them.
They spoke little in the car, except for Fraser's directions and Ray's calm instructions to Dief not to breathe on his neck while he was driving. The wolf instead curled up on the backseat and feigned innocent sleep, one eye opening occasionally to peer up at the back of Ray's head.
"Hey, who's the Mountie?" Ray asked as they pulled up to a stop in front of the Consulate.
"That's Constable Turnbull."
"He new?" Ray asked as he switched off the motor and ran an absent hand over the dash.
"He got a first name?"
Fraser watched as Ray got out of the car, then hurried after him.
Too late, Ray was standing squarely in front of Turnbull, smiling the inches up into blank blue eyes.
"Yeah, hey there, buddy. Yeesh. This has to be the most boring job in the world. Look, though, you're not blinking or anything."
"My apologies, Constable," Fraser put in as he caught up. "Detective Vecchio isn't feeling quite himself today." He kept his hand away from Ray's shoulder, but still managed to usher the man inside.
Once inside, he caught sight of Cooper and asked the constable to keep Ray company while he spoke to the inspector.
Upstairs, he knocked and waited outside her door for fourteen seconds.
She was without her glasses, peering at her laptop. Her suit was deep green and her hair was curling over her shoulders. He welcomed the strained attraction with the relief he usually reserved for easing out of tight shoes.
"I thought you had finished your shift for the day, Fraser."
"Yes, ma'am. However, Detective Vecchio has had an unfortunate accident and is suffering from a form of temporary amnesia. I was hoping that being here and perhaps, if you have the time, speaking with you might help to restore his memories."
She looked at him blankly. "Amnesia?"
Gently, she rested her head in her hands. "Moron" was spelled out in every line of her body. Outside, the bells chimed the end of the hour. Fraser found it easier than usual to wait.
She looked up. "Five minutes."
"Understood. Thank you, ma'am."
He left and went down the stairs, his steps slowing.
"So I think about home, the quiet expanse of white under the clear blue skies, or about duties I have for the rest of the day."
"But what about when your nose itches?" Ray asked.
"You endure. Also, when you get used to standing still like that, you stop suffering from psychosomatic symptoms of phantom aches and itches." Turnbull thought a moment more. "Besides, one's body is not truly still. One performs isometric exercises to keep the blood circulating."
"The Inspector will see you now, Ray," Fraser said loudly, watching Turnbull startle.
Ray smiled up at the Mountie and patted him on the shoulder, then turned to Cooper.
"Thanks for baby-sitting me."
"My pleasure, Detective," Cooper said with a broad smile. But then, Cooper was always smiling. "I hope your memory returns soon."
"Yes," Turnbull added with a smile of his own.
Ray nodded at them in friendly fashion, losing his own smile somewhat when he looked at Fraser, his eyes clouding with caution.
Fraser forced a smile. "She's upstairs." He backed up a few steps and Ray joined him. "Does any of this seem familiar to you?" he asked.
Ray was looking around. "Nope. Did I come here a lot?"
Fraser straightened his back and knocked on the inspector's door.
Ray went in first, looking around. By the time Fraser got into position at his side, Inspector Thatcher was looking Vecchio over from head to toe.
"Hello," Ray said.
"Detective." She stood up and came around her desk, walking to Ray with her hands clasped behind her back.
"Nice office," Ray said.
"Thank you." Her eyes narrowed, darted to Fraser, and looked back at Ray. "So, you remember nothing?"
Ray shrugged. "Complete blank."
"I was hoping you might be able to say something to Detective Vecchio about his work, something you might know from your interaction with his superior officer."
She regarded Ray closely. From this angle, Fraser couldn't see what she saw.
"My broach," she pronounced.
"Your broach?" Ray asked.
"Ah, your broach," Fraser sighed.
"And street urchins," she added.
Ray though it over, then shook his head. "Nope. Nothing. Thank you for trying."
She frowned. "What did the doctor say?"
"That I should try familiar things. But nothing seems familiar, and I keep worrying about the guy in the van."
She raised her eyebrows. "The van?"
"Yes, that's what happened to me. I got hit by a van and there was a hostage inside. I need to remember the license plate."
She shot Fraser a look of reproach. "You didn't see it?"
"It was partially obscured by mud."
Reproach turned to impatience. She turned back to Ray. "What places have you tried so far?"
"My car, the station house, Fraser's place, here."
"Not your family?"
"I don't wanna upset them."
Thatcher blinked, started to say something, let it go. "How about the train?"
"You jumped onto a moving train with a wolf and helped prevent a nuclear explosion. That strikes me as memorable."
Ray was silent for several moments, blinking. Fraser found himself blinking a few times as well when a smile played with the curve of the inspector's lips.
"Mounties," Ray said suddenly.
"What?" Thatcher asked.
"What?" Fraser asked.
She stabbed her subordinate a look.
Ray was shaking his head. "I'm seeing lots of Mounties on horseback."
Thatched nodded encouragingly, then made a moue of sympathy as Ray rubbed at his head in evident pain.
"Are you all right, Ray?" Fraser asked, putting a light hand on a slender shoulder.
"Yeah." Ray looked up, blinking. "I had something there, I thought. But it's gone."
Thatcher put a comforting hand on Vecchio's arm, pat it, then withdrew. "I'm sure it will all come back in time." She looked at Fraser. "Keep me apprised."
In the hallway, Fraser hesitated, nodded to a hovering Turnbull, then took Ray to his office. Diefenbaker looked up from his place by Fraser's desk and thumped his tail on the floor.
"Nice," Ray said.
"Do you really think so?"
Ray shrugged, obviously searching for something negative. "Kinda small."
Fraser stifled a frown.
"So what's something I did here?" Ray asked, leaning back against the wall by the window and looking out.
"Err. Once, when I was unavoidably detained, you donned my spare uniform and attended to the door during a diplomatic function. You changed in here."
"Where were you?"
"I was protecting a young woman who had gotten herself engaged to a dangerous man."
Ray looked at him blankly.
"Another time you were here while we were protecting the man who killed that is, we were keeping him from " Fraser rubbed at his eyebrow.
There was a tentative knock at the door.
"Yes, Constable?" Fraser asked.
Turnbull stuck his head through, then brought in a tray with coffee.
"I thought some refreshments might ah "
"Great!" Ray strode over to get the tray and helped Turnbull pour and hand out cups, sloshing a little cream in his own when he thought Fraser wasn't looking.
"So, how long ya been working here, Renfield?" Ray asked, right when Fraser was about to take a sip.
"Almost two years now. I was transferred here only a few months after Constable Fraser. That is to say almost two years. Though sometimes it seems longer."
Ray laughed, an open and friendly sound Fraser has never quite heard before. "Not a lot of quiet snowy fields under clear blue skies here, huh? Still, I'm sure the city's got its compensations."
"Indeed. I have been acquainting myself with many of Chicago's cultural points of interest."
"Yeah? Well, if I don't get my memory back, you can show me around."
"That would be most enjoyable. That is " Turnbull blushed under Ray's fascinated gaze. "That is I didn't mean to imply I wanted your memory that is " He appealed to Fraser.
"Detective Vecchio's memory is certain to return in time," Fraser told him.
"I got it, Renny," Ray said. "Don't sweat it."
Frightened, confused eyes fixed on Ray's, and then suddenly cleared while a smile stretched the narrow face quite far from its usual overly serious wedge. "All right."
Ray laughed again and drained his coffee. Fraser found himself looking into Turnbull's eyes himself, and in the next moment the constable was clearing up the cups and taking the tray from the room with a stuttered farewell. Ray watched in silence, then turned irritated eyes to Fraser.
"He wasn't hurting anybody," the detective grumbled, but when Fraser opened his mouth to defend himself, Ray just brushed at the air between them with his hand. "Yeah, yeah. When I get my memory back I'll regret something, right?" The hand came up to rub over Ray's head. "Or maybe I'm just this huge screw-up who doesn't like anybody and it's a good thing I forgot myself because now there's less dead weight in the world, you ever think of that?" Green eyes glared at him.
"No, Ray. I didn't."
Ray waited a moment, then shrugged and looked out the window again. "You got someplace else we can try? It's getting late."
"You're a fine police officer, Ray. One of the best I've ever worked with."
"You're also the best friend I've ever had."
"Yeah, such a good friend I'm usually rude to your dog and everybody in your life treats me like a stranger or a leper, except somebody you obviously can't stand."
Fraser objected to five things at once, but somehow the only one that came out of his mouth was: "Wolf."
Ray stared at him.
"Diefenbaker, he's a wolf. Not a dog."
Ray snorted and started walking to the door.
"Ray wait. Please."
Ray's slow, begrudging turn made him think for a dizzy second that his memory had returned, but the eyes were stark with pain and confusion.
"Ray, your usual manner is more brusque than what you've displayed since the accident, but that is only a question of personal style. You have a very carefully cultivated manner. You dress, walk, drive, talk, and interact with others with a flair that is both aggressive and somewhat err...flashy. That is to say, not flashy, but colorful. And emotionally honest in a way that I have always envied." He paused to get his bearings, but Ray said nothing.
"I have always known that you like Diefenbaker, that you had noticed and taken some measure of pity on Turnbull's social awkwardness, that you value your leftenant's respect, and that you care deeply about the people around you. Indeed, I don't believe I've ever met someone who could devote to people the level of emotional loyalty I've seen from you."
"Yeah?" But Ray shook his head.
"Ray, I have seen you stake your soul on a woman you hardly knew, and be right about her absolutely. You once worked nights for a week to help a young man deliver pizzas and keep the job that kept him out of the juvenile center. I've seen children adore you and manipulate you and elderly people terrify you and take advantage of you. And I have been overwhelmed repeatedly by your generosity towards me."
Ray looked ready to let this go, but Fraser found that, having started, he did not know exactly how to stop.
"You complain a lot, Ray, you fuss and you but that's just your way, a way I have known since right after we met that you use to protect yourself from people who would otherwise exploit your generous nature. The first time you took me home for dinner you told me that your family only attacks the ones they love. That's you, Ray. You attack life, and you love with all your heart, and I have been proud and I must admit flattered that you have focused your friendship's heart on me."
There, thank God. His tongue fell still in his mouth, evidently exhausted.
But it was all right. Ray was smiling.
"That all true, Benny?"
"Well that's all right, then."
Fraser nodded, unsure what would happen next.
"Time to go home, I think, Benny."
Though the thought of dealing with the entire Vecchio family on full alert still filled Fraser with dread, he focused with relief on an outlined course of action and looked out the window. The afternoon shadows were drawing long. "All right, Ray."
They moved towards the door and then on down the hall to the stairs.
"Does my mother cook, Benny?"
"Exceptionally well, Ray."
"Good. I'm starved." Ray laughed, open and cheerful once more, meeting Turnbull's eye as the man stood at his desk. "I can't remember the last time I ate."
Turnbull beamed back.
In the car, Ray followed his directions with ease and seemed to be thinking over what Fraser had said. Dief sat up in the backseat, peering ahead, tongue hanging out of what looked for all the world like a wolfish smile. Ray surreptitiously caught one golden eye in the rearview mirror and winked back.
The station wagon, however, was not in the driveway.
"Looks empty," Ray said, switching off the motor. He sat back in the seat, staring at the house.
"Feels weird, Benny." Ray kept staring. Dief whined and rubbed his nose into Ray's shoulder. Ray reached back and scratched behind his ears. "I know I've seen this place before. And I should be happy about that, but instead "
Fraser forced himself not to withdraw. Ray told him things about his past only occasionally, but he did tell him. For this, surely, he would be forgiven?
But now Ray had withdrawn, and Fraser was aware that a chance had slipped him by, perhaps a chance that would never come again.
"Benny, tell me about them."
"Well, your mother is very mothering and caring, and you maintain extremely close contact with her. You have two sisters, Francesca, who is divorced, and Maria, who is married to Tony, and they have five children. All of them live with you in this house, which belongs to you. Your father, as I said, died almost eight years ago, and left the house to you. Your also have an uncle on your mother's side who lives with you. And you have a brother, about whom, I'm afraid, I know nothing."
"I'm not married."
Ray's eyes flickered.
"You and Angela divorced some time ago. I'm afraid I don't know the particulars."
"Don't talk much about my past, then."
"No, though what you do tell is very revealing. I know, for example, that your relationship with your father was not very nurturing."
"Sheets," Ray said, his voice flat.
Ray stared at him. "Yes, what?"
"Sheets, Ray. Your mother's best sheets."
Ray frowned, then winced and rubbed his forehead. When he looked up, he only shook his head.
"Let's go inside," Fraser suggested.
Ray nodded and seemed to steel himself. Fraser stayed close at his side as they walked onto the porch and waited as Ray fumbled with his keys.
Inside, the house was quiet and still and just the slightest bit musty, though perhaps that last observation was fanciful.
"Looks like they're all out," Ray said, looking around.
"Does anything look familiar?"
"Everything looks familiar, but I don't " Ray walked to the television set and stared at it, then turned around, then left the room. Diefenbaker sniffed at the curtains and then padded after Ray.
When he found Ray again, the man was standing in front of the icebox, looking into shelves filled with Tupperware containers labeled with days of the week. As Fraser looked over Ray's shoulder, the man passed back a note which had evidently been stuck onto the front of the refrigerator door.
*Laundry service on Tuesdays. Don't eat the cannolli all at once. Love, Ma.*
Ray let the door close and turned around to look across the almost perfectly level distance to Fraser's eyes.
"Where do you think everybody went, Benny?"
Fraser became aware that he was shaking, just slightly. The unpleasant sensation of itching serge increased geometrically.
"A little over a year ago, your family left like this for Florida. Your mother has a sister there. She may be visiting again."
Ray's brow revealed that now-familiar frown, and something much worse than itching wool was glinting in his eyes. "Yeah?"
"We brought up the pool table from the basement, and you were going to invite friends over, but I I met someone I hadn't seen in years, someone to whom I owed a debt I could not repay, though trying to almost "
Ray's eyes had drifted down, staring a hole in Fraser's chest.
"Ray, we never speak of it. Even then, you simply understood that I had That it was my doing. I believe you understood all of it. But putting it in words, even of forgiveness "
Ray put out a hand, placed it on Fraser's shoulder, and tugged, as though he wished the man to turn around. Fraser clamped his own hand over Ray's and squeezed it hard, until Ray looked in his eyes again.
"It doesn't matter."
"Of course it matters, Fraser! It matters more than anything!"
"Not when you saved me right afterwards." He looked at Ray's shoulder. "In fact, you make a habit of saving me, Ray. I wonder sometimes if I'm getting spoiled."
"You're hardly spoiled, Fraser."
" I think I am, actually. It's like that time you came up behind Lou with your gun drawn just when he was going to shoot me, or that time at the Kit Kat Corral, when you disarmed Barry."
Ray was nodding, "Or like that time you tried to leap on that van, and then that kid got in the way."
Fraser frowned. "I don't remember "
"Yeah, you do. There was that white van, and it hit me!"
"And what was the license plate number?"
"The license plate? I almost get killed and you're worrying about the license plate?"
"Well, only because of the hostage, Ray."
Vecchio blinked at him. "Oh. Right." He stepped back from Fraser's hand and shook himself slightly, then reached for his cell phone.
"Elaine, Vecchio Yeah, of course I am. Look, I need you to run a plate number RCW-139. You got that? Yeah, yeah. Ha ha, I'm laughing." He put the phone across his chest. "You want to get us something to eat on the road? I really am starving."
"Certainly, Ray." Fraser opened the icebox and lifted out a square container of ravioli, which he placed in the microwave for two minutes on high. Right before it beeped, Ray had the phone back on his ear and was writing down an address.
"Got it, Elaine. Send back-up." He snapped the phone shut and headed for the car. Fraser grabbed two forks and three paper towels, then followed.
Ray had the engine going when he reached the car, and swung them out into the street while Fraser was snapping his seatbelt shut. Dief had assumed his station in the back.
"It's his own damn van," Ray muttered. "His wife's anyway." He grabbed his fork from Fraser's hand, stabbed it in a square of pasta and shoved it in his mouth before squealing around a left-hand turn.
They beat their back-up to the house, but Ray didn't wait, drawing his gun and heading around the back. They both spotted activity through the glass door and burst through together on a group of women surrounding Mr. Clifford, who was tied to a chair.
"All right ladies, drop the gun," Ray commanded.
"Thank God," Clifford said, sweating freely in his underwear.
"Drop the gun," Ray insisted, obviously remembering the orders he had been given at the jewelry store. The women watched him with caution as the gun was dropped to the floor, but there was an undercurrent of something more, especially with the woman still hanging on to her martini. "All right now," Ray went on, "we're going downtown and we're gonna get to the bottom of this, you understand?"
"Absolutely, Officer," the martini woman crooned. "We'd be happy to cooperate. We'll tell you everything, and about Nassau."
"Nassau?" Ray asked. "What about Nassau?"
But the word obviously had great meaning for the owner of the jewelry store. "Uh," he began, squirming in discomfort. "Listen uh. This was just a surprise."
"A surprise," Fraser echoed.
Clifford nodded. "Yeah, uh, for my birthday. Uh, this is my wife, Sheila, and these are her friends, and they came down to the store, and they wanted to surprise me." He tried a weak smile. "They got me and, uh..."
Fraser prodded, "And they tied you up."
Clifford nodded while Sheila played with his sweat-stiff hair. "For my birthday." He sort of smiled again. "What a surprise Whoopee."
Ray's voice was acidic, but he looked at the wife for confirmation. "Is this your story too?"
"Absolutely," she said with confidence. "Go ahead and fire the gun."
Ray picked it up, evidently felt the difference in its weight, pointed it at the ceiling in instinctive caution, and pulled the trigger. They all looked at the little "BOOM" flag silently. Clifford, despite his protestations, seemed surprised.
Fraser assumed his usual role with relief and a small hum. "You know, Ray, I think there's more to this than meets the eye. The bonds on Mr. Clifford's hands are tied for security, not as if they'd been playing a game. Although, you know, it does remind me of an Inuit ceremony I once witnessed in which the bridegroom was tied to the bride by means of a walrus pelt which the shaman had..."
He looked over at Ray, who was listening to him while keeping an eye on the crowd before them.
" bound around their wrists," he finished awkwardly.
Ray nodded, then pointed his gun at Clifford and his entourage. "All right, everybody, hands over your heads. You too, Cliffie."
Fraser caught Ray's attention and nodded to the toy in Ray's hand. Smoothly, he exchanged it for his real one. Clifford's hands went up as best they could.
Their back-up arrived after that, and they stood aside quietly while the entire assembly was led off in handcuffs. Ray stood there in his suit, doubtlessly getting used to his skin once more.
"So listen, Fraser," Ray said when they were alone
"You helped me through a lot of rough stuff back there, and I know it must have been really weird for ya, so I'd just like to say thanks."
"You're welcome, Ray."
"And it goes without saying that certain things --"
"It does indeed, Ray."
Ray nodded, and they began walking back over the expansive lawn to the car.
"So, you wanna tell me about that Eskimo walrus pelt thing?"
Fraser smiled to himself. "It's Inuit actually. The tribe I was speaking of they believe that two people who've been bound together will be more effective as a couple, more productive for their community, and more fertile."
"Sounds like a bargain," Ray said, jangling his keys as he took them out. "So, that ravioli didn't quite do it for me. You wanna pick up something to eat on the way back to the station?" Sitting now behind the wheel, he reached over and unlocked the passenger door.
"Sure, Ray," Fraser slipped into the car and hoped he would be forgiven for a small test. "Also, I believe I should sleep over at your house tonight."
Ray didn't so much as hesitate. "Yeah, head injury, right? You can have the guest bedroom, but no sleeping on the floor! Ma'd kill me."
"All right, Ray."
They got burgers, fries, and Cokes from Jake's G&B, walking in with the bags to a station going quiet for the evening shift.
"Hey, Vecchio, you remember that twenty you owe me yet?" Huey asked from behind the reports on his desk.
"You'd just blow it on another bad shirt," Ray tossed off, settling behind his own desk with a sigh and a flick of his arms to straighten his sleeves.
"How about that compliment you've owed me for three years?" Elaine called out.
Ray met her eyes with a little neck-bow. "You're looking lovely this evening."
Elaine blinked, met Huey's eyes, then narrowly regarded Ray. "I'm on my way home."
She hovered, her hand on her purse. "I mean it. I can't stay."
"Got a date?" Ray sank his teeth into his burger and rooted in the sack for a fry.
"Vecchio," Welsh said from the door, then went back inside his office.
Ray chewed hurriedly and rose, washing down a hard lump with a swig of Coke before heading for the office. To somewhat general surprise, Fraser went with him.
Welsh regarded the Mountie a moment, then looked over Vecchio.
"All better?" he asked at last.
Ray nodded. "Yes, sir. I'm starting my report now."
"Actually, the happy group confessed all in the squad cars, then called for their lawyers. Let Huey deal with the fallout, it's still your collar. I want the doctor to look you over."
Ray opened his mouth and raised his hands, then settled back down as Welsh raised his eyebrows.
"You got someone to stay with you tonight?"
"Fraser's got the guestroom."
Welsh nodded, looking at the Mountie. "And keep him away from vans."
"Bad cops in my station get transfers. Is that understood?"
Welsh nodded again, looking at the report in his hands, and they made their escape.
The doctor was pleased that Ray would have someone handy for the night, cautioned Ray about drinking, and let them loose. Fraser made use of his time in the waiting area to call the inspector with a report and was treated to a short lecture on the need for better caution when he was off duty and still wearing the uniform.
The Vecchio home was all peace and blessed silence when they returned, the slightly eerie quality from before lost now that the mystery of the missing family had been solved.
"So, how long will they be gone?" Fraser asked as they headed up the stairs. They had stopped by his apartment, and the backpack over his arm held a change of clothes and his toiletries. Diefenbaker walked up behind them.
"Another five days. It's been great to be alone, but I have to admit I'm wishing they were back. I must be nuts." Ray turned to the right and opened a door Fraser had never seen open before.
"How long have they been gone?"
"Four days." Ray checked that the bed sheets were fresh, opened the window with a wry look at Benny and checked that the lights were working okay.
"All right. Sorry it's small. We only made this a guestroom a couple months ago. Used to be storage. You know where everything is."
"Keep Dief off the bed. Ma'll freak if there're wolf hairs on the comforter."
Vecchio flashed him a sleepy smile. "I'm headed for the shower. See you in the morning."
Another nod, and Ray left. Fraser unpacked, then sat on the bed, relieved that the mattress was firm. Dief whined slightly, then padded with resignation to a spot under the window, turned around a few times, and went to sleep.
The last time Ray's family had left, Ray had made it an event. Fraser had known about it a month ahead of time, had heard nothing else except the news that Ray would be alone in the house for several days before it happened. They'd brought up the pool table and made plans
Plans that Fraser had ruined. And now, if it hadn't been for Ray's accident, Fraser wouldn't have known about the Vecchios' departure at all.
But perhaps Ray had simply made plans with someone else, someone more reliable.
Fraser stood up and stripped off his uniform, carefully hanging it up and scowling at his stupidity. He should have changed out of this long ago. It was actually quite restrictive, practically having to live in it all the time. Ray had been right about that.
He heard footsteps in the hall, then a moment later water was rushing through the pipes, and suddenly there was nothing for him to do. He hadn't remembered to put one of his father's journals in the backpack, nor his boot polish. And he couldn't very well go into the bathroom with Ray in the shower. Not now that Ray had kissed him.
Fraser sat on the bed. And yet now that there was nothing to do but think about that kiss, he had no idea what to think about that kiss.
Ray seemed to have forgotten about it. But Ray was good at pretending things like that when he wanted to be. There was no question but that if he never mentioned it again, neither would Ray.
Which should make the whole thing easy to deal with, except Ray should understand why it wasn't possible. Fraser had assumed before this that Ray did understand, and nothing really had changed now that Ray had his memory back, except
Except that Fraser only now realized there were so many other explanations. He'd latched on to the one that best suited him, but was it right? Was Ray's understanding of his feelings correct? Ray knew so much about the human heart that Fraser was often left nothing short of flabbergasted, but was that enough?
A direct approach was out of the question, Fraser decided at last. However, a more circumspect route would be more than adequate for his purposes. After all, Ray never objected to discussions of women.
Feeling better, Fraser got up for his own shower, Ray's footsteps in the hall having long since passed him by.
He awoke promptly, fumbling just a bit for the light switch in the dim room. Diefenbaker was no longer below the window and his bedroom door was slightly ajar.
Fearing the worst, he went to the bathroom to shave, noted Ray's open door and neatly made bed, then dressed quickly in his brown uniform, packed his bag and went downstairs.
In the kitchen, he found Ray at the coffee machine, pouring a second cup. Diefenbaker was polishing off a plate of sausage and toast. Everything was in order, and yet somehow both of them seemed to be exuding just a little too much innocence.
"Eggs and bacon or oatmeal and banana?" Ray asked over his shoulder.
Had he ever told Ray that story? No. He hadn't.
"Oatmeal and banana, please. Thank you, Ray."
Ray turned with a "No trouble" and Fraser saw a few wolf hairs on Ray's jacket. When Ray followed his eyes down, he made a noise of irritation and looked at Dief, who whined.
Fraser relaxed and asked for tea.
"No guard duty today, Fraser?" Ray asked when they were both sitting down to breakfast, Ray scooping eggs onto his fork with a wedge of toast and Benny portioning out his oatmeal so that there would be a thin banana slice in each bite.
"No, Ray. Constable Ovitz and I are going over the details of the British Ambassador's itinerary for his trip to Chicago next week. His security detail have asked for our input considering our knowledge of the city."
Ray seemed to find the notion of Fraser's Chicago expertise amusing, though he buried his smile in his coffee.
"Actually, Ray, I was hoping to call on your services regarding the matter before Constable Ovitz and I turn in our report. Perhaps tonight."
"Sure, I'm your man." Ray got up for his third cup. Fraser stared at his egg-flecked plate and unconsciously straightened his shoulders.
"I was wondering if I might call upon your patience for advice in another matter as well."
"Fraser, I'm not the king of Siam here. You got something on your mind, let's hear it."
"It's about Inspector Thatcher."
"I wish to make something clear to her, but I'm not quite sure how to go about it."
Ray's eyes were impassive and steady as he turned from the coffee pot. "A kiss while you've got her bent over the desk might give her a notion."
"Oh dear. No. In fact, that's the opposite of what I mean."
Ray sat, folded his arms and waited. Fraser realized he was rubbing his eyebrow and stopped, placing both hands firmly in his lap.
"I am very satisfied with my understanding with the inspector. I merely wish for her to know that I am satisfied, and that I wish for things to remain just as they are."
"With the two of you edgy with tension whenever you're in the room together and her torturing you whenever she gets a chance and the both of you just completely hopeless?"
"Yes." Fraser nodded emphatically.
Ray looked at him. "You're going to have explain that just a bit there, Frase."
The Mountie placed his hands flat on the table and focused his eyes on Ray's chin.
"Ray, I know that you think of me as being ignorant of my own feelings, and you have just cause for that, but I assure you, I do know what I feel."
Ray said nothing in the pause he provided.
"I have had much less experience with women than you in the ways that you would probably define 'experience,' but I have been in love often enough to understand what it does to me."
"This isn't necessary, Fraser."
"That's true. You've seen for yourself." He looked up finally, but Ray's eyes were in shadow. There was sympathy in the lines of his face, however, that allowed him to continue. "You've seen that I can't cope."
Ray went back to saying nothing.
"In many ways, though I know you will find this ludicrous, Inspector Thatcher is the perfect fixation for me. Even if we were ever to figure out all the difficulties of rank and ambition, she would impose upon me so many conditions and parameters that the more destructive elements of my emotions would be held in check."
Ray made an impatient movement, but said nothing. Certain now that Ray was remaining silent only to encourage him to say more, Fraser hurried on.
"I realize that she treats me with strict discipline precisely because there is so much room for misunderstanding. So I am hopeful that if she were to become certain that I know the boundaries she has established, that I respect them, that I have even come to rely on them, she might feel she could relax some of her vigilance. Our working relationship would then improve considerably."
Ray waited a moment, and Fraser took a sip of his cold tea to make it clear he was done.
"You really want my advice, Benny?"
"Yes, Ray. Absolutely."
"It's too weird. There's no way she'll ever get that with signals and signs. I don't even think you could get it across with waving your arms around."
"Ray, I don't --"
"I ain't finished, Fraser."
He took another sip of tea.
"So you'll have to stop dancing around. I know it takes the fun out of things, and there's a good chance you'll even hurt her feelings, and maybe yours too. But if you want her to relax because you know the score, you're gonna have to tell her that. You're gonna have to sit her down, just like you and me here, right? And you're gonna have to say, 'This is the line.'" Ray put his hand on the table, making a little barrier between them. "'And this line doesn't get crossed. You know it, I know it. We like it that way. And it's never gonna change.'"
Fraser stared at Ray's hand.
"Of course, it's a risk, Benny. Sometimes when you tell people things like that flat-out they get a little pissed off because they realize you think something happened that made talking so plain need to be done. Maybe they liked it better when things were just understood, when there was some trust there, maybe." Ray took his hand away and grabbed his own cup, tipping the last of his coffee into his mouth. Benny watched him swallow.
"But it's better having things clear," Ray said when he was done, standing up from the table. "Then everybody knows exactly where they stand."
Fraser got up with his cup and took it to the sink. "Inspector Thatcher would probably appreciate the direct approach, however. Thank you, Ray. I'll think it over."
"Yeah, you do that, Benny. You ready to go?"
Fraser nodded, and in short order found himself at work. Ovitz had drawn up a commendable amount of background material, and they went through it methodically during the course of the day, stopping only for tea and lunch and tea again. Not even the inspector interrupted them, as she had been called away to Ottawa for a week.
Fraser had a few routine chores to attend to after Ovitz went home, and was just finishing up when a tentative knock at his door made him call out, "Yes, Constable Turnbull?"
The long, anxious face appeared around the door.
"I was wondering if, that is, if you were going down to meet Detective Vecchio."
"Yes, in a few moments."
Turnbull bit his lip, then looked around for a moment. "Would you mind if I came out with you? I have a book on isometric exercises that I thought he might find interesting."
Fraser opened and then closed his mouth. "Certainly," he said next. Ray would have to deal with his own messes, amnesia or not.
Turnbull smiled happily while Dief took advantage of the open door to escape.
"I will go down in five minutes," he told the constable, who nodded and left, closing the door quietly. He turned back to his work.
When five minutes had passed, Fraser took up the files he wanted to show to Ray, turned out his lights, and left. Coming down the stairs, he heard something odd. Someone was laughing very quietly and Diefenbaker was panting hard. Then he heard the deep murmur of indistinct voices that fell silent as he reached the final step.
Walking into the foyer, he was somehow reminded of breakfast. Ray and Dief were so very free of all possible guilt. However, Turnbull was an addition.
"Have an okay day there, Fraser?"
"It was extremely productive, thank you, Ray."
"Rennie's loaning me a book on isometric stuff." Ray held it up and flashed Turnbull a grin. "Now I'll know all your secrets."
"I brought the files, Ray, if you're still in the mood to look at them."
Ray shrugged. "Sure, Benny. You in the mood to help me get rid of the some of the stuff in the 'fridge? It's all gotta be gone before they get back or Ma'll tie me down and shovel pasta in my mouth."
Turnbull laughed again, then ducked his head with a smile. "Fraser has said more than once that your mother is an excellent cook, Detective."
"It's Ray, all right? And he better say that, considering that she makes his favorites whenever he comes over."
"Does she?" Fraser asked, torn between ragged irritation and sudden warmth.
Ray laughed and turned to the door with a goodbye nod at Turnbull. "Of course. Come on, I'm hungry. Welsh made me stay at the damn desk all day doing reports. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff we found out about Cliffie and his harem."
"Harem, Ray?" Fraser asked as they made it outside. It was easy now to dismiss Turnbull from his mind, and indeed he did not think of the constable again until the next day, when Ray showed up at his apartment building to drive him to work with a container of manicoti in the backseat.
"You drool on that, you're walking it home," Ray growled at Dief, and got a long lick along his cheek for the trouble. "Gack!" he choked as Fraser hid a smile. "Now I smell like wolf!"
"I did warn you, Ray," Fraser pointed out.
"So you did, Fraser."
And that was the end of it, except that Fraser felt strange and uncomfortable all the way to the Consulate. Ray didn't even wipe his face off with his handkerchief or complain all the way to work. In fact, Ray didn't do much of anything but drive.
He did park, however, at the Consulate, and follow him in.
"Detective!" Turnbull said with a broad smile. "Constable Fraser," he added.
"Here, thought you should try it yourself. 'Course, it's been in the freezer, so it's not the real thing, but it's close enough."
"I'll have it for lunch," Turnbull said, taking the container as though it were made of crystal. He hefted the weight. "And dinner."
"Share with the other Mounties," Ray suggested, "if they want some."
"That's most considerate of you, Ray," Fraser noted.
"Ah, don't bother with Fraser," Ray confided to Turnbull. "He gets the fresh stuff so much, he's probably too spoiled for it."
"On the contrary --" Fraser shut his lips while Ray laughed at him, then refused to be baited further.
"Getting too fast for me, Benny," Ray called, moving towards the door, never still, never quiet, leaving him there with his well-marked files and Turnbull with a tray of his mother's pasta.
The next day, security for the ambassador sent their advance personnel, creating a great deal of work -- real work, Fraser couldn't help thinking -- for him and Ovitz. He saw Ray only in the mornings, as he spent most dinners working.
Ironically, his extra work ended when the ambassador actually arrived, and with the inspector back in her office, Fraser was busy now catching up on all the paperwork that had lain fallow during his busy period. When some of the paperwork turned out to contain licenses for an internationally sponsored half-marathon scheduled that very weekend, Fraser found himself working very late one Thursday night.
Ray had shown up around eight, and they had agreed that Fraser would take a cab home if Ray had dinner waiting for him at the apartment. Ray had work of his own lately, a murder case with no leads, and Fraser had agreed to go over what scant material was yet available with him that evening.
Feeling stiff from sitting at his desk all day, he decided to walk, and was delayed at one street corner by a young woman who needed help getting away from a persistent young man who, fortunately, was sufficiently intimidated by his uniform -- the brown one, thankfully -- that he left with only a few harsh words. Fraser then walked her to her door and hurried on home.
It really was quite late, and Fraser kept his steps soft in the hallway as he approached his door. So it was easy enough for him to pick up the sounds of soft "woofing" and delighted laughter coming from his apartment. There were other sounds: running feet and clicking paws, Ray saying something like, "You can't get it. No. No. You can't get it," and Diefenbaker mock-growling and both of them breathing hard.
He took another cautious step closer, and sudden quiet fell. Another minute, and it was pointless not to walk on in to his innocent-smiling friends.
"I hope you like your Chinese cold, Benny."
"Sorry I'm late, Ray."
Diefenbaker came over for a welcoming sniffing session, then went into the next room, hopped up on his bed and went to sleep.
"Already fed Dief."
"Thank you, Ray."
They pulled the Chinese out of the boxes and found it was still somewhat warm. Benny got them both bottles of water, plates and forks. Ray talked constantly about Welsh and Huey and "some new guy over at the 24th" who were all evidently overly interested in Ray's lack of progress with the case. When Fraser returned to the table with the napkins, Ray had spread out the files and was leaning over them, quietly brushing wolf hairs off his pants and pointing to a picture of the girl's purse, which had gone missing.
Fraser sat in his chair and touched the back of Ray's hand with a fingertip.
Green eyes jerked to his. "What?"
"Ray, I don't understand why you're hiding your improved relationship with Diefenbaker from me. Do you really think I would be anything other than pleased that the two of you have reached such a mutually satisfying understanding?"
"I don't know what you mean."
They both blinked in surprise at the sharp sound, which echoed faintly through the Spartan rooms.
Ray shrugged one shoulder. "Okay, yeah. So I've decided he's not so bad. You don't gotta make a big thing out of it."
"Then why were you hiding it?"
"Because you'd make a big thing out of it!"
"I wouldn't have if you hadn't hid it!"
Fraser sat in his chair, motionless, face blank. The fork in his hand hurt his palm.
"Look," Ray said. "I just had to work through the hair and slobber thing on my own, okay? Me and the wolf were just having a little fun. I've known him almost as long as I've known you, you know. I guess I was just making it private while we were still working it out. Okay?"
"I just don't like the idea that you think I would mind, Ray."
"Yeah, well, I didn't really. And now I know better anyway. So can we eat or what?"
Fraser took a careful scoop of his fried rice and chewed it down. After a few moments, they were looking over the case, and after a few moments more everything was all right again.
A little after midnight, Ray's yawn more than revealed his tonsils, and with a glance at his watch he stood up to clear away the meal and pick up the files.
"You wanna shoot some hoops on Saturday?" Ray asked as he was getting his coat.
"I have volunteered for a shift at the soup kitchen on Maple, Ray, where Garret is working."
"The lunch shift."
"We could hit the court early. Work up an appetite for meatless chili and stale bread."
Ray nodded. "Too bad about the game tomorrow night. Still, next time, huh?"
"Oh, about that, Ray." Fraser walked him to the door. "I stayed late enough tonight that I won't have to do it tomorrow, if you still have a ticket for me."
Ray's face squeezed close. "Oh, I you said you'd be busy, so I got someone else. I mean, I didn't want to waste a Bulls ticket, you know?"
Something in Fraser's stomach was already warning him. "Of course, not, Ray. So whom did you find?"
"Well, Rennie said he wasn't doing anything, so it seemed a natch. I can't believe he's never been to a basketball game. Doesn't he know you Canadians invented it? See ya in the morning."
And Ray breezed out, never still, never quiet.
Fraser cleaned up the dishes, wiped down the table, polished his boots, changed into his long johns, and walked to the bed. Dief took one look at him and got onto the floor. He felt the difference in the cold/warm mattress where the wolf had been. The ceiling was striped with the lights from the street.
Through the night, in his dreams, in the morning, at work, that evening, that night, this name formed the center of his thoughts. Ray was taking Turnbull to the game, which meant that he and Turnbull had been talking when Fraser wasn't around. Perhaps Ray had come to the Consulate to talk with Fraser, and, upon finding Fraser busy, had talked with Turnbull instead. Perhaps they had eaten lunch or dinner together. Perhaps they had gone for a walk or two, and, seeing young boys playing basketball together, Ray had mentioned the game, the extra ticket.
Had he taken Turnbull home to his family yet? Did he know that Turnbull broke things on a regular basis? That he was incapable of forming coherent thoughts for more than three minutes in a row? That was spent his days cleaning and was generally regarded as a moron?
No, Fraser cautioned himself. No, he was not generally regarded as a moron. Fraser was the moron. Turnbull was just a smiling idiot.
But Ray had made the truth all too clear. His generous heart had taken a liking to the social misfit working at the Consulate, just as it had targeted Fraser for that honor almost three years ago. After revealing his loneliness in a cold diner one night to a stranger, Fraser had basked in the good fortune of Ray's kindness without a single competitor for that glorious favor.
No, that wasn't true. Susan Chapin had known some of that brilliance, and Irene Zuko had known some of that desperation Ray could give off just as brilliantly. He had seen Ray climbing up the vine into the woman's room, had seen the love and terror in Ray's eyes as Irene was hurt, had lived through the agony of knowing what was lost and wasn't coming back.
Turnbull couldn't do that.
But then, Turnbull wouldn't leave Ray without warning to hole up in bed with a woman who would then try to destroy them both. Turnbull wouldn't skip bail and get shot in the back by someone who was only trying to protect him. Turnbull probably wouldn't be dragging Ray through sewers and garbage and ruining his suits. Turnbull wouldn't have Francesca showing up in his room in the middle of the night or be stupid enough to confess it two weeks later when he couldn't then go on to explain that nothing had happened.
Surely Ray could tell Turnbull's awkwardness went far beyond simple awkwardness? Surely that *level* of incompetence would ultimately turn him off?
Turn him off.
Twenty-four hours of brooding had finally gotten Fraser to the central question: was Turnbull gay?
And then there was no way to stop the onslaught. Ray bent over backwards by Turnbull's height as they kissed. Turbull's large hands easily covering Ray's butt. Ray's face pressed to Turnbull's chest, sucking at his nipple, licking at his pectorals, moaning "Rennie" as though it weren't a completely ridiculous nickname that didn't suit the man at all.
Then it got worse: Ray naked and pressing soft kisses to Turnbull's lips, the sort of kisses a man gave another man when it wasn't just sex, but love. And Fraser knew that kiss, didn't he? But now they all belonged to Turnbull, who would do much better than push Ray Vecchio away and force the man to drink coffee.
And those hands would take him, touch him, bring him pleasure, explore his body and obey his whispered commands. Ray would be so small against him, the incredibly vulnerable line of his shorn head and nape would be mauled by those paw-like hands.
When Benny saw Ray on his elbows and knees with Turnbull on top of him, he got out of bed and polished every scrap of leather he had, cleaned his kitchen from top to bottom, and brushed Dief's coat until the wolf growled at him and hid under the bed. But it was dawn by then, and he managed two hours of deep, stiff sleep. A bath and a shave, and he was waiting when Ray came to his door, whistling something from the radio.
"Heya, Benny," he smiled when Fraser opened the door. His green eyes were bright, but there was a trace of happy exhaustion in his eyes, something softened about his lips, something a little extra-clean about his jeans and sweatshirt.
"Good morning, Ray." He stood back, let Ray in, closed the door.
"You missed a hell of a game last night, Benny. And I'm sorry as hell about it. So guess what?" Ray reached into his jacket and pulled out two tickets. "Got us seats for the next home game on the floor! I mean, usually someone has to die for someone else to get these tickets, but I managed it!" Ray's eyes looked suddenly coy. "Well, actually, Rennie managed it, since he felt bad about you missing out, and I'm giving one of these beauties to you! So, tell me. Is it a date?"
"You tell me, Ray."
The hand holding the tickets started to sink, the offense of his beautiful eyes intensified with concern. "You okay, Benny?" Then he looked down at the hand clamped to the front of his jacket.
Fraser looked too. A capable, callused hand that had worked with horses and carpentry tools, a hand that had helped children to their feet when they fell on the sidewalk, a hand that had earned him recognition as a marksman with both pistols and rifles, a hand that had not since childhood been lifted in anger, a hand that had once lifted up a snowglobe and dashed its miniature village to the floor of a house ransacked and held ransom by his own unworthy faithfulness.
There were two such hands on Ray's jacket now, pulling the dark gray cloth tight and straining the seams. Had Turnbull's hands been on this jacket?
Ray's own hands came up now, pulling away. "Fraser. Either tell me what's going on or --"
"Shut up!" He pushed back, and Ray stumbled away, falling against the dividing wall. Dief barked, keeping to his corner, ears down and tail between his legs.
"Fraser! What the hell?"
"What did you do?"
"What?" Rays eyes were wild with confusion, but no fear, refusing to be frightened. If that shadow on Ray's neck were a love bite, he would
He would what? As Ray continued to stare at him, shame rose up, and he seemed to hear the words Ray did not say. *How could you? How could you do this to us?*
He moaned in the heat of it, feeling each bead of sweat rise on his skin, shaking. Ray was away from the wall, holding his arm, shaking him, asking if he were all right. Why wasn't he frightened? Ray should know to be frightened.
Fraser slammed upright, grabbing Ray's arms now with hands that weren't going to let go this time.
"I can smell him."
"What? Benny, what the *hell* --"
"I can smell him on you."
There. Ray looked almost frightened now. But then it dissolved.
"Is this some sort of joke?"
Ray was heavy in his arms, hard to control, yelling at him to put him down. Long arms and legs flailed, but did not hurt him even as the voice gained volume. The bed almost broke with the impact of Ray's body, and the firm mattress almost bounced him off.
"Are you out of your mind?" Ray tried to scramble off, but Fraser's body was there now, holding him in place.
Fraser considered the question while Ray froze, staring up at him in concern and confusion. Where was the man's fear? Fraser was terrified. It wasn't right that Ray should be brave when he was so terrified.
But it was easier to be terrified than endure the pain of thinking about what scared him. He shoved Ray's head to the side, looking over his neck. No shadow, no bruise, no bite marks. His own fear was blocking out smells. But he was certain he had smelled Turnbull's cheap cologne.
"Benny," Ray said softly, his hands soothing him, holding his arms, refusing to push or strain. "Shhh. It's all right. Whatever it is, it's okay. Shhh."
"It's okay, all right? Whatever's got you so worked up, it's okay." Ray stretched a bit, shifting gently away. "Why don't we get up and you can make some tea? We'll talk about it."
The heat in him was rising again, his fingers gripping down on Ray's shoulders while luminescent eyes searched his.
"Come on, Benny. You know whatever it is I'll help. Is it Victoria? Is she --"
"Victoria was nothing."
Ray considered this, eyes getting wider somehow. "O kay. Well, that's a place to --"
Benny clamped his eyes shut. How could Ray still not understand? Did he have to rape him to get through?
"What did you do?"
Ray heaved a sigh of frustration, strained slightly away, gave it up. "When?"
That got his eyes open, and finally it was simply rage: pure, identifiable, enactable. Ray's face was only an inch from his own. He could smell coffee and strawberry jam on his breath.
"At the basketball game?" Anger sparked. "Wait. You asking me if I'm doing Renfield Turnbull? That puppy dog?"
His deep, fast breaths were rocking the bed. Something else was filling him now, forcing rage aside: something darker, something that had once chased after a train, uncaring of the ruination of his life, the end of his duty, the end of everything.
"Damnit, Benny. Talk to me."
"You have to go now, Ray. Please go."
"I'm not going anywhere."
"I need you to go."
Ray twisted his lips. "Benny, I think if you really wanted me to go you would have gotten off me by now."
"You're not safe here."
"Yeah, I figured that when Dief fainted."
"This isn't a joke!"
"Then what is it, Fraser? What do you want from me? 'Cause I'm damned if I can figure it out."
The thought that Ray was lying to him made the rage threaten to return, but Fraser's perception jumped back, mocking him with the sight of a man holding down another man on a bed as though they were fighting, as though this were just some contest of will. Perhaps Ray thought he had chosen the bed because the floor had just been scrubbed.
No. He knew Ray couldn't think that, but there he was now, trying to pull away again, and Fraser realized neither of them was hard, neither was even touching along their bodies except for the angled press of his stomach to Ray's. Ray must be finding it difficult to breathe. Turnbull's technique was doubtlessly more considerate.
"Look, Fraser. Rennie and me --"
There. That had done it. No more talk of Turnbull now.
Ray's mouth taste of coffee and jam too: warm and silky and a little rough, like velvet rubbed the wrong way, but better than all that. His teeth were flat to the point of Benny's tongue, unlike his own sharp canines. The smooth walls of his cheeks weren't ridged by points from his molars, either. His jaw bone was ridged in that back, however. Ray had had his wisdom teeth removed.
A pause for breath, and Ray got out, "What are you," before Fraser was back, taking and offering, urging and tasting and knowing that mouth, that tongue, the full lips molded to his own.
"Kiss me back, Ray."
"I don't --"
"You kissed me before."
"I didn't know who I was. I didn't know who you were."
"You knew us enough to want me." Benny pushed his hips against Ray, exploiting the belated response of his body.
"I'm not fucking Turnbull!"
"Don't say his name anymore."
More kisses, endless, hot, and now finally Ray was responding. Confusion and reluctance, indecision and awkwardness: but they were still kisses.
"Touch me, Ray. Put your hands behind my back. Hold me against you." He demonstrated.
"We need to talk."
"Talk later." He leaned down for another kiss, but Ray avoided him.
"If we don't talk, you're gonna freak out after."
He licked Ray's neck: a cartoon-like lick, so long it dried his tongue, scraping on sweat and soap. Ray shivered below him, and all rage was gone, taking his strength with it. He was need: helpless and grasping. Despicable. His eyes burned with it and he bit down on sweet, soft flesh, fending off starvation.
"Oh God." Ray's hips bucked.
Fraser dragged up the jacket and T-shirt beneath, raking hot skin with his tongue and teeth. "Did he touch you like this?"
"I didn't even shake his hand!"
"I don't believe you." Ray's pants were buttoned and zipped.
"Give it up, Benny," Ray panted, hands trying to push him away even as he arched into the touch of Fraser's mouth. "You're not angry anymore."
"Tell me what to be. Tell me what will get me this."
"Talk to me! At least explain why suddenly you want me when you didn't before."
"I always wanted you." He got the button undone, tangling his fingers in Ray's.
"That's not true."
"I've wanted you since I saw you."
"That's not --"
"I didn't love you." There. Now Ray was still. He looked up, saw Ray's face straining down to see him. "I didn't want to love you like this. Like her."
Ray lifted a shaking hand to his hair, gentle fingers against his scalp so soothing Fraser felt his legs go dead with it.
"Then not like this, Benny." Ray smiled, shaky but with light. "Come on up here and let's talk and work it out." He managed a sort of shrug. "You said you needed boundaries, right?"
Fraser felt something new now, something gentle. And right behind it came something he knew would terrify him again. He looked down, looked not an inch from his face at the contour of material below the unbuttoned pants: Ray's cock, tentatively swollen with arousal for him.
He looked back up, locked his eyes with Ray's, and opened his mouth to engulf him, pants, zipper, and all.
Ray groaned, rolling his head back against the pillows, thrusting his hips up and up. "Oh my God! Oh my *God!*"
His workman's hands found Ray's perfect ass, cupping and kneading, as his mouth was robbed of all moisture by thick-woven cotton, and his tongue scraped raw metal.
Ray's fingers scrabbled, forcing him back, but only to slide the tab down and push his pants away. Pale lengths, like eight long little cocks, brought down black briefs and pushed aside denim and then there it was: swollen and dusky brown, naked and curled at the head, wet at the tip. He brought back his own hands to remove the jeans completely, exposing curly black hair, the nest for soft, round balls drawn up tight and needy.
He bent his head down to explore, but never made it past that cock itself. The tip leaked against his tongue, inviting laps, but he merely swallowed everything again, forcing himself not to gag, forcing his throat to relax, instinctively closing off his own airway, filling himself with Ray's sex as his hands filled themselves again with his ass. The cup into his palm was perfect, the feel against his tongue was perfect. He pressed harder, touching the cock with his pointed teeth.
Ray screamed, his hips pumping without coordination, his body writhing. He was trying to speak, but Fraser wasn't going to hear it. Ray had taken off his own pants. That was enough. He worked his arms to keep Ray pumping, refusing to allow the tempo to falter, and Ray came down his gullet, hot and bitter and sweet and so much of it that it oozed from his lips and dripped down his chin. And at the feel and thought of eating Ray's cum he knew his own release right in his RCMP sweats, rubbing himself against the creaking bed.
Time passed, and there was nothing more in it than heavy breathing and sort of extraordinary relief. He was startled when Ray's hands touched his face, but they only stroked his cheeks, tenderly, and cradled him. Feeling suddenly alone, he shoved himself up on the bed until he could reach Ray's shoulder and rest there. He never, ever wanted to move again. When Ray's hands moved to his waistband, he shoved them away, mumbling, "Came already. Leave it."
Ray's hands moved away. He could feel Ray's body tensing.
"Hold me, Ray."
Ray nodded and drew him into warm, perfect arms. In one breath, he was asleep, deep and dark.
And short. Ray was moving away.
"Ray!" His eyes snapped open.
Ray chuckled and patted his shoulder. "Steady, Benny. Just gotta take a leak, okay? It's almost ten o'clock."
Fraser nodded and got up to follow, eyes devouring the incredible sight of Ray with no clothes on. Ray looked back with a toothy leer, muttered something about people who slept in their clothes while their buddies were naked, and tolerated being followed until he was at the small bathroom's door.
"I'll be right out, Fraser."
Fraser stood there.
"What? I'm getting the Big-Eyed Mountie Look over this? You wanna come in with me?"
He felt warm and shivered. Ray rolled his eyes and walked on in, saying nothing as Benny leaned against him and held him in his arms, burying his face in Ray's neck.
Ray sighed, and there was a somewhat lengthy expectant pause. Then the sound of urine in the bowl lasted a long time. Ray bent to flush, dislodging him. While Ray washed his hands, Fraser took his turn, feeling abruptly filthy with dried semen. When he was done, he stripped and rolled his sweats into a ball.
"Whoa there, Benny. Here in the bathroom?"
Fraser turned, aware he was more than a little hard despite the circumstances. "Would you if I asked, Ray?"
Ray took one look at the hard, cold floor and fled.
Benny caught him one foot from the mattress.
"Please, Benny. Beds are so nice!"
He pulled Ray to him completely, reveling in skin against skin, pressing Ray's chest up tight against his own, nibbling on a shoulder, smoothing his hands down his back.
"We really need to talk," Ray protested faintly.
"You had your chance." He reached down for a nipple and sucked gently, then hard, listening to Ray cry out. He continued until he felt Ray slumping against him, then turned them both and landed on the bed.
"Thank God," Ray gasped.
Benny nodding, seeking the sensations he needed in Ray's body. Fumbling, drunk and crazed, he drank from Ray's mouth, learned every curve of Ray's body that he could reach without leaving that mouth, and committed to memory each sound Ray made as he was kissed and touched.
Wisely, Ray attempted little himself other than to hang on for the ride. All too soon, however, he had pressed the ache in his body to Ray's hot, wet length and was pumping against him, lost but seeking home. Ray held him tight, kissed his ear, wrapped his legs around his waist, and he came and was caught and held close.
Sometime later, he stirred, listening to Ray chuckle.
"You not been getting your beauty rest, there, Fraser?"
Guilt shot through him. Ray was soft against his hip, and while there was a good bit of semen everywhere, it all smelled like his own.
"Ray, I'm so " He slid down to take Ray in his mouth.
Ray avoided him. "Later, Benny."
"We'll talk afterwards," Fraser promised, reaching for him again.
Ray got out of the bed and looked down sternly. "We'll talk after we go to the soup kitchen. Remember?"
Fraser rolled over on his back. He was getting hard again. But then, Ray was naked and standing right there.
"So we won't go. Get back here."
"Not go? Who am I talking to here?" Ray threw out his hands and walked back to the bathroom.
"Where are you going?" Benny demanded, sitting up.
"To wash up." Ray frowned at him, his eyes uncertain. "Benny, you know we gotta go."
"Why? Mr. Duty and Honor is asking me why? Because you said you'd go." Ray walked back over to the bed, his eyes softening at what he saw in Fraser's. "Come on, Benny. How long's the shift?"
"Four hours," Fraser accused.
"So we'll get some chow and do the rounds and come back here and make love and call for pizza." Ray smiled. "And talk."
Fraser put out a hand to stroke Ray's long, lean thigh, awakening his nerves with the tickle of soft hair. He'd never really looked at the scar next to his knee. It tasted slightly salty to his tongue.
"God Benny We need --"
A tug at Ray's arm brought him back down to the bed. An hour later, the man reached with exhaustion for his phone, and then for hours and hours, they slept.
Benny awoke to the sound of skin slithering on cotton sheets. His eyes opened to catch Ray almost completely out of the bed. His head shot up. Ray met his eyes.
"I'm just getting something to eat, Benny. I'm starving!"
"Kiss me before you go."
"It's just to the kitchen!"
Fraser dropped back down, defeated, and closed his eyes.
"Awww. Fraser " Ray's breath fanned his check, then lips as warm as sunlight touched his own. Benny smiled and looked up, reaching, but Ray backed away.
"No. I am *starving,* Fraser. I gotta eat or I'm gonna faint." And Fraser was watching a backside of pure muscle make its way around the wall to his kitchenette. The voice continued. "Whatchya got in here, anyway? Let's see pasta, that's good. What's this? Sauce in a jar? Where's the stuff I hmmm, it has been a while, huh? That's what happens when we both get busy with work. I'll bring some over next time. Okay, I see oregano and I see dried basil. Where's the uh "
*Don't say "cilantro," Ray.*
"Ah! Here, ya got some ham. Doesn't smell too bad either. All right, so we're having ham in sauce on noodles. And to drink water."
"Sounds good," Benny managed.
Pots banged for a moment, and he heard the "whoosh" of the stove being lit. Then Ray came out and walked towards his pants.
"No, please, Ray."
Ray looked at him. "No what, Benny?"
"Don't get dressed, please."
"Fraser, it's kind of cold in here. Can ruin a man's reputation."
"I know better, though." Fraser smiled at him. "Besides, you could just turn up the heat."
Ray picked up the jeans, then walked over to the closet to hang them up. "If I splatter something important, you're gonna answer for it."
Ray continued to putter around the room, sending Benny the occasional sly smile as he picked up all their clothes and muttered something about being a maid. Then something was boiling in the kitchen and Ray disappeared for a while. Benny thought about going into the kitchen to watch, but wound up on his back, eyes closed, translating those noises into images of Ray naked and juggling pots. He thought of the way Ray's back muscles, so long and clean, would be moving when he lifted the heavy pot of water to drain the noodles over the sink. He thought of Ray's cock swinging gently, perhaps becoming slightly aroused as he stood there sniffing at his sauce. He thought of covering Ray with sauce and licking it off every inch of olive skin until Ray came in his mouth.
Hot, he tossed off the sheet and fingered his hard cock. Perhaps if he began, Ray would join in.
"Okay! I got us a plate of Fraser!"
He looked down over his slowly moving hand to see Ray standing near the bed holding a plate of pasta and sauce, along with a fork and a towel. His own sly comment, however, was cut short when the smell from the plate reached his nose. His stomach roared.
"Ha! That'll teach ya!" Ray pronounced with a sniff, finishing the trip to the bed. Fraser realized Dief was crunching food in the kitchen and wondered how much ham had been added into his kibble for about five seconds. Because then Ray got on the bed, straddled his hips, and sat back on his thighs.
"Ray," he said, meaning nothing more than a name, and yet meaning that name completely.
"Hmm." Ray settled in, putting the hand towel over Benny's chest before setting down the plate. Then he stabbed the fork into the pile of pasta and meat and sauce, twirled it around, and shoved a bite into his own mouth, smiling around the food. "Mmmm." He raised his eyebrows at Benny, who opened his mouth.
Ray twirled up a bit more, then leaned forward, rubbing their cocks together just a little, as he fed the Mountie his bite.
"Delicious," Fraser said around the food, meaning everything.
"One of the first things that went wrong in my marriage, Fraser: I'm a better cook than Ange."
When Fraser laughed, Ray fed him more, dealing out the bites between them, moving his body just a little to the front, to the back, soothing him and arousing him and soothing him again. When they finally had nothing left but a bit of sauce, Benny was full and sleepy and completely turned on. Ray set the plate to the side, then deftly caught the hands that reached for him, pressing them back to the sheets.
"Just relax there, Benny. Okay?"
Fraser nodded, trying to let his muscles stay unclenched even though Ray's eyes were considering something wicked, if he were any judge of that sharp glint.
Ray was nodding approval now, however, and dipped a finger into the remaining sauce. With a smile, he anointed Benny's left nipple with it, then another dip to the plate, and the right nipple. Then he slid down and seemed to consider his options.
"Ray, may I ask you a personal question?"
Vecchio rolled his eyes. "Yeah, Benny."
"Well, I realize we are engaged in a highly personal activity, Ray. However, I don't want to presume --"
"Benny, why don't you ask me and I'll decide if I want to answer it, okay? In fact," Ray beamed, "if I do answer it, I'll start with the left one, and if I don't, I'll start with the right one."
Ray continued to smile.
"Have you had many male lovers?"
Ray looked surprised, then oddly flattered.
"I seem experienced in this to you?"
Fraser indicated the plate and his nipples with his eyes.
Ray shrugged. "So the last time I did the sauce thing it was a girl. And it was chocolate sauce and it was her idea. I can adapt." Ray leaned in a long, delicious time, and when he raised back up again, Benny's left breast was completely clean of sauce, and the nub was puckered tight and slightly, sweetly sore.
"How about you, Benny?"
"You're my first man."
"Was Victoria your first woman?"
"Not in the strict physical sense, no."
"Shit." Ray shook his head and looked outraged. "You deserved better for your first love, Benny."
"Was yours Irene?"
"So did you."
Ray shook his head. "She was the best."
"That's not what I meant."
"I know." Ray leaned in and kissed him, rocking back against the erection Benny had never quite lost. "But to answer your real question, I guess I thought you were gorgeous from the moment we met, and sometimes, especially after that whole Ms Fraser deal, I thought about you, about there maybe being an us. But it was never something I would have acted on."
Ray leaned back, sighing and letting his fingers trail over Benny's full stomach.
"You were attracted to Ms Fraser?"
Ray shook his head, then smiled. "Maybe for a second before I knew who you were. Then you were just Fraser in a dress and I thought any second someone was going to ask me what you thought you were doing. But when you went back to being you, I just kept thinking about how it could be possible for you to be you and me to be me and still somehow we could be, you know, us, but together."
"And when you lost your memory?"
"Then it was easy. It just seemed obvious that we were together. I really thought, when I kissed you, that you'd be relieved you didn't have to hide it from me. Then, when I remembered why you were hands-off and why I shouldn't want you in the first place " Ray thought about it for a minute, grinning as he painted up Benny's left nipple again.
"Dief was my first experiment."
"Yeah. I mean, at first when I came back, I'm thinking, 'Oh God. He's gonna slobber all over me.' But then I'm thinking, so what? Was it really so bad? And he's you know, a friend. I thought all he wanted from me was donuts. So I tried it. And then I tried being nice to Elaine again, and less weasly with Welsh, and more stand-up with Huey and even less bitchy with Frannie. Not much, just a little." Ray shook his head. "Didn't rock the world, but it's a bit less work in the long run, you know? Kinda like when I finally stopped wearing bright colors all the time and just let myself relax with the dark stuff when I feel like it."
Ray took a breath and looked at him squarely.
"Ray, kiss --"
"In a minute, Benny." Ray laid a finger over Benny's lips, shivering when Benny licked it, but holding firm. "About Turnbull -- Don't look at me like that! He's a sweet kid and needs to get out more. And if you want him to stop being such a dufus you need to be a little softer with him."
Benny knew he was glaring, but couldn't stop.
"Benny, if anything I feel paternal towards him. Besides, he's totally straight."
"And you know this how?"
"Well, for starters, when you get a beer in him he's kinda crude, and for another I think he's got a thing for the Dragonlady."
Benny felt his eyes widen, and narrowed them. "I have a 'thing' for Inspector Thatcher, Ray. It doesn't stop me from --"
"Had. You *had* a thing for her."
"No." Ray leaned down again, kissing softly as he spoke. "I trust you. I know you're not going to do things behind my back. I know that when you're friendly to people you mean just that and nothing more."
Fraser accepted the sting of Ray's reproach, then moaned as pain turned sweet and Ray raked teeth over his left nipple, scraping off sauce. A gentle lave of his tongue soothed, and then his right, long-neglected pectoral was given more than its share of attention.
Ray smiled down at him, licking his lips, and then reached for the plate again, saucing up two fingers before bringing them down, and then further down. Benny felt his genitals touched, his cock stroked, and then Ray had disappeared from sight and was lapping at the sauce with his tongue, sucking it off with his lips, and generally driving Benny insane.
"So you didn't sleep with Turnbull last night?"
Ray grunted and took him in his mouth, sucking at the head, cupping and rolling his balls in his nimble fingers. This was the first time, he realized somewhat foggily, that Ray was taking the lead like this, and it was difficult to spread his legs, to expose himself so completely. He found himself worrying about how he must look and feel, smell and taste and sound -- what *were* those ridiculous noises coming from his mouth?
Ray's nose was rubbing at his or was that his thumb? A tongue was running along his slit, and pretty much everything else was just "sensation." He groaned and thrust and felt dizzy. Then there was pressure *there* and he came, all bright light, heat, and addiction momentarily sated.
This time, however, he made sure to stay conscious, and in a moment or so had Ray on his back with his naked cock sheathed in his hand. How did Ray's eyes get so soft, anyway?
"Do you know how beautiful you are, Ray?"
Of course Vecchio made a face. "Don't be saying things like that, Benny. It ain't natural."
"Besides, I'm not the one every woman in Chicago chases after."
"You would be if they could see you now."
"Well, take a picture and I'll pass it around at the next office party. Oh. Oh. Yeah. Right there."
"Right there?" Ray moaned. "Or right there?" Ray moaned a little louder. "Or how about there?"
"You're killing me."
Daring, he reached in with his second hand and rolled the balls as Ray had done, then let a finger press against that tiny opening.
"We'll work up to that, okay, Fraser?"
Fraser felt his mouth go dry. "You'd let me, Ray?"
Ray bat his eyelashes. "Maybe, but you'll have to buy me dinner first."
"It's a date."
Ray laughed, and a moment later he came, as easy as that, smiling the whole time.
Night, inevitably, fell. He watched it come down through the window as Ray slept and felt the fist of it around his heart.
Eventually, Ray sat up, kissed his shoulder, and looked out the window with him. Fraser refused to turn his head, did not want to hear Ray's words about needing to get home. Ray tugged on his shoulders, and short of fighting him there was little do to but end up reclined back against him, watching Ray's hand splay over his stomach, feeling Ray's cock press against the small of his back.
He heard Ray's phone open, and the dance of touch-tone.
"Ma? Well, is it my fault you sound more like Ma every day? No, I don't .Look, I'm just calling to say I'm not going to be home tonight .Yeah, it so happens I did get lucky, and if you want to tell Ma that, you're more than welcome .Same to you, and kiss your worthless kids for me."
Benny waited for the phone to be closed, heard the sound of it landing on the floor.
"That's the plan, unless you got a problem with it."
"Could we sleep like this? Are you comfortable enough?"
Ray nodded against his neck, which made Benny think about Ray's neck, which meant despite their mutual exhaustion they didn't stay long in that position after all.
Then morning, inevitably, came. He watched it come up through the window as Ray slept and felt now almost nothing at all. He made himself sleep, and when he awoke, Ray was gone.
He tried to think it through and wound up on his back, staring again at the ceiling. He had had three days with Victoria. But he and Ray had managed to cram more "sessions" into just one. That last time, had Ray tasted each goodbye he had put into every kiss? Had he felt the words they weren't allowed to say? Ray expressed love in action, and though they had not progressed to intercourse after all, Fraser had put all the love he could into every touch, had opened himself completely, had offered Ray everything he had, even though he knew, of course he knew, he would wake up alone.
Suddenly he was standing at the platform, watching the train pull away. But now it was Ray standing there, offering him escape, a life only for each other, a life the world could not touch.
The door slamming open cracked like gunfire.
"You're still in bed? I don't believe it!"
Benny sat up. Ray was walking in with two paper sacks in his arms and Dief dancing around his feet, tongue handing half-way to the floor. Fraser smelled cheese and fruit danish and roasted chicken.
"Got stuff for dinner too," Ray said, flashing his best smile, the one that showed his teeth and wrinkled up his nose. "I'll even make you tea, but you gotta hurry."
"Who's got amnesia now? Church, Benny. You sing in the choir, remember? Tenor section, which is just you, but who cares?" Ray laughed, then wagged a finger at him. "Get dressed! You show up in church looking like that, we'll have to pry Frannie off you with a crowbar and the rest of the sopranos, too!"
"Come back to bed, Ray."
Vecchio regarded him narrowly, hands on his hips. "No, Benny. I let you off the hook for the soup kitchen thing 'cause I could tell them they'd get two willing slaves next Saturday, but no *way* are we missing church when the whole family knows I got the day off. Now get up!"
Fraser stayed where he was, knuckles showing white where he gripped the sheet at his waist.
Ray advanced, and for the first time Benny consciously noted Ray was wearing the back-up suit he kept at Fraser's for emergencies. He was wearing brand-new shoes, however, and Fraser couldn't help wondering where he'd found an open store on Sunday morning. Perhaps yet another cousin or thankful civilian had opened up specially for him.
Ray's hand grabbed the sheet and tugged to little effect.
"Please come back to bed." Benny lifted his chin, let Ray see straight into his eyes. "I'd like you inside me."
Ray bit his lip and dropped the sheet. "Church. Singing. A little time in the real world."
The fist around his heart squeezed mercilessly.
"It's just a few hours, Benny. Then back here for the day and the night. And then, unless you got a major objection, the rest of our lives."
"Ray, don't be --" He turned away, burying his face in his hands.
"Don't be what? Aw, the hell with it!"
Fraser curled in on himself, reaching for the pillow, needing something cool for his head, which had begun to ache fiercely. But instead he wound up with his head in Ray's lap, and cool hands stroked through his hair. It felt so heavenly, he wasn't sure, but he thought he whimpered, and would have hated himself, had it not taken quite so much effort.
"I'm not going to pretend I don't know what this is, Fraser. I thought that if I just kept us moving forward it would work out. But you just can't seem to get it through your thick Canadian head that I'm not Victoria, that we're not doomed, that this isn't something that will end the second sunlight hits it."
"You're a Catholic in a homophobic profession and I belong two thousand miles due north."
"Ahh." Another sweet pass over his brow, cooling strokes back towards his nape. Had his mother touched him like this, perhaps, when he was ill? Certainly no one had since. Strange that something so unfamiliar could become necessary in an instant.
"So that's how this works," Ray was saying. "We can't possibly make it work, is that it?"
"The odds would seem against it."
"Well, you know, growing up with my old man, I'm not much of a gambler. And marriage ain't no horse race, you know. I'm speaking here as someone who's had a failed one, so listen to me, Mr. It's Impossible. You know why my marriage didn't work out? You know why anyone's marriage doesn't work out? It's not money or kids or personalities or sex or arguing over the remote. It's that people stop working at it.
"Now, maybe they got reason to stop. Maybe they don't love each other anymore, or maybe the bastard beats her and she should stop, maybe she sleeps around and he has to stop because it's killing him. But whatever the cause, that's what kills it. Ange and I decided it was too hard, it wasn't worth the effort, and we stopped. End of story.
"But you know, Fraser, if I had her now I'd never make that choice. I'm not some idiot kid anymore who thinks love and something better are waiting for him around the corner. Now if we were still married and Ange came to me and wanted to give up I'd make it easier for her to stay and give her every motivation I could to keep her working on it with me.
"'Course, takes two for that. She'd have to wanna keep me too. Which is why, I gotta admit, I'm glad it's you instead of her. 'Cause even though it's gonna be a lot harder for us than it ever was for me and Ange, I know you're almost the most stubborn guy on the planet, second only to yours truly. I've seen you track dog piddle across the city, seen you save lives from a piece of gray thread, seen you throw away your whole life for a woman who treated you like garbage because you wanted her, seen you put up with my moods and my stupidity almost every day for three years just to be my friend. If you told me you could fly, I'd believe you, Fraser.
"So now all you gotta do is tell me you'll work on it, on you and me, and that's it. I figure we'll be together for the rest of our lives. I got no idea how. I got no idea where we're gonna live, or what I'm even going to say to Ma, or how I'll survive after Frannie gets her hands on me. But I know we're more than this, I know we got it beat, because there's nothing in the world can stand up to the two of us for long, Fraser. You ever notice that?"
"We do have a rather impressive success ratio, Ray."
"Damn right we do. So we just keep it going. Like you told me before, people don't much care about our methods as long as we get the job done."
"Then you do love me, Ray?"
"Aw, you know that, Benny."
"Do we gotta get all sloppy here?"
He felt Ray sigh. "You know, Benny, you never really asked me how come I was so calm all that time when I didn't have my memory."
Fraser waited, then asked, "Why were you so calm, Ray?"
"Because there I was, standing in the street, and the only thing I knew was the only thing I needed to know: that you were with me. I didn't really know you at all more than a few seconds, I guess I already loved you then. Even then."
Ray murmured the last words in his ear, then kissed him, warm and gentle, a good-morning kiss, a new lover's kiss.
Fraser looked up at Ray. From this angle, he was all nose. He laughed, and it hurt just a little bit.
"It still seems impossible, Ray."
"It'll be hard, Benny, that's for sure. The hardest thing ever."
Fraser nodded, found Ray's hand and held on tight.
"And the first challenge for today is: you get your clothes on, eat the danish I brought you from my favorite coffee shop, and then go sing in front of God and Ma and everybody while I sit there with a soapy grin on my face. Add that with being out all night, and you know we're going to be called to confession."
"We're starting at the top, then, Ray?"
"Where else, Benny? Where else?"
And with only a few more kisses to promise him his whole life's future, Fraser managed to get out of bed.
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