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