Author's Notes: Thanks to Secret Garden for an extraordinary beta job. Also, the first of this story may seem familiar to you, I posted it on the Telephone Challenge on ds_flashfiction back in 2003, I think. So, yeah, finishing this story has taken a while. *g*
Ray lay on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. His apartment was so
quiet, he could hear the refrigerator all the way in the kitchen kick
on. The phone's sudden shrill ring by his head made him jump. Who the
hell would be calling him this late? Did it matter? It wasn't like he
was sleeping anyway.
"Ray? Did I wake you?"
"Fraser! Hey, buddy. Nah, I wasn't asleep. How are you these days?
"I'm fine, Ray. And you?"
The lie started to come out of his mouth. Then Ray thought what the
hell. "Not so good, Fraser, but I'll live."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Perhaps you can tell me about it tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? What? You get transferred somewhere that they have phone
service all the time?"
"Not exactly, Ray. It's the reason I'm calling. I wanted to see if
perhaps you could pick me up from the airport tomorrow."
"Here? You're coming here?" Oh my God, Fraser was coming.
"Yes, Ray. I'll be in Chicago at 10:52 AM tomorrow, United Flight 1105
"Hold on, let me find a pencil here, Frase. Ok, I got it Flight 1105 at
1l o'clock. I'll be there."
"Thank you kindly, Ray. I'll let you go now and see you tomorrow."
"Sure thing, bud. Tomorrow."
hung up the phone and laid back against the pillow. Damn. Fraser coming
back to Chicago after all this time. If he wasn't sure he was awake,
Ray would have pinched himself. After the pinch, he could have smacked
himself. He hadn't even asked why Fraser was coming. Did really
matter? The important thing is that he called me to pick him up. The
rest was, what's the word? Extraneous, that's it. The reasons didn't
need to be explored at this juncture. Heh, good one, Ray. And like it
or not, Fraser's staying here and not anywhere else. We've got
With that decision made, Ray was able
to drift off to sleep. He slept well for the first night in a long,
long time. He dreamt of the quest, and in his dream he had the courage
that he'd lacked in real life. In his dream, Ray hadn't run away. In
fairytale dreamland there were no such things as immigration laws, the
need for jobs and most importantly no homophobia - on his part or
Ray woke up smiling. He had the courage now.
That is if Fraser still wanted him. Ray was ready to turn in his badge
and move to Canada, if that's what it took. Two years being alone in
Chicago made him brave. He'd find out today. That thought got him up
and moving. Fraser was coming. Today!
The first thing he did was
call the station and leave a message on Lt. Welsh's voice mail that he
was taking a personal day. Coffee, secondly, then Ray cleaned his
apartment. When he was done he had just enough time to shower, dress
and get his bad self to the airport.
Ray stood just outside the
security area scanning the crowd of people as they streamed by. It
sucked that you couldn't meet someone at their gate anymore. Made it
much harder to spot your party, but he was pretty sure that spotting
Fraser wouldn't be a problem.
There he is! Couldn't miss that hat.
Corporal Benton Fraser, ever the boy scout, walked with a hugely
pregnant woman, helping her with a rather large carry on bag. Ray
waited until the lady finished introducing him to her family and
kissing his cheek in farewell. Fraser headed over to where Ray lounged
against the wall.
My, my, he is looking good. Ray took in
the changes that almost two years had wrought. Fraser's hair was - well
not long, but much longer than he'd ever worn it in Chicago. Still able
to wear the painted on jeans though. Hadn't gone to pot up there in the
Northwest Areas. Ray snorted to himself at that thought. As if Fraser
would. He pushed himself off the wall as Fraser approached, smiling ear
to ear. His own smile was just as big, Ray was sure.
almost shocked when Fraser dropped his rucksack on the floor at their
feet and enfolded him in a strong hug. He did have the presence of mind
to squeeze back just as hard as Fraser squeezed him. Maybe there was
hope yet that Fraser would want him - missed him.
After a long, long minute or two, Fraser let go and stepped back. "It's
good to see you, Ray. Thank you kindly for coming."
"Good to see you too, Benton-buddy. Like I'd let you walk from the
airport. You got a checked bag or is this it?"
Fraser looked rather embarrassed and said, "I have a rather large bag
that I was required to check through."
traveling light this time, huh?" Ray smiled at his friend and
continued, "No problemo, buddy. Pitter patter, let's get down there and
Contrary to Ray's words, they took their time getting
to the baggage claim area. Staying out of the main ebb and flow of
bodies so that they could walk together, but not trying to talk - not
yet. It was a good strategy. The luggage from Fraser's flight was
coming up when they arrived at the carousel.
A few minutes
later Ray was settling Fraser's bag into the trunk of the GTO. They got
in the car, but before Ray started the engine he turned and asked, "You
ready to tell me why you're here?"
Fraser looked surprised and
answered, "Oh, I apologize, Ray. I truly wasn't trying to be
mysterious. My old neighbor from West Racine, Mr. Mustafi has passed
on. Evidently, he named me the executor of his estate. I'm sure the
whole business won't take but a day or two at the most, so if you could
drop me at -"
Ray interrupted, "Didn't I tell you? You're staying with me."
"That's not necessary, Ray. I've already put you to the trouble of
picking me up."
trouble and no arguing. You're staying with me." Ray gave him his best
'don't mess with me or I'll kick you in the head' look.
"As you wish," Fraser conceded. "Thank you kindly, Ray."
had really missed those thank you kindlies. He grinned and patted the
closest body part, which happened to be a knee, as Fraser was facing
slightly toward him. "No problem, buddy." Fraser simply smiled back and
turned to fasten his seatbelt.
The drive from the airport was
actually pretty nice. Ray didn't lose his temper or flip off other
drivers, as he was apt to do lately. He and Fraser made small talk. He
caught up on how Dief and Maggie were, and the fact that that wolf had
stayed up there in freezer land with Maggie, the indignity of
quarantine not worth the short trip that this was expected to be. The
wolf's words not his, according to Fraser.
Ray found himself
smiling almost the whole way home. He'd really missed his friend, and
if Fraser noticed that he was doing all the talking, he didn't call Ray
on it. Not yet anyway. Ray figured once they got settled he wouldn't be
able to deflect for long.
He tried to avoid the worried glances
that Fraser was giving him. Ray was almost manic, moving around the
apartment. Settling Fraser on the couch, making coffee and tea. As he
brought the mugs over and started to dart away to hang Fraser's jacket
up, Fraser snatched at his arm.
"Sit down a moment, Ray. Please. You're making me tired."
sat and took up his coffee. He sank back into the cushions and sighed.
He should have lied when Fraser called last night. Done the blah, blah,
yeah I'm fine routine.
Fraser didn't speak, however. He settled
back himself and sipped his tea. It wasn't an uncomfortable silence,
but rather like the evenings on their quest. Sitting around the fire,
soaking up its warmth and purely enjoying the company.
mugs were nearly empty before Fraser deigned to speak. "Ray, I wanted
to ask you, would you accompany me to Mr. Mustafi's wake this evening
and to the reading of the will tomorrow? I would greatly appreciate
your company for both events."
That peaked Ray's curiosity. "A Mustafi is having a wake?"
I thought it strange myself, but it seems that the gentleman in
question comes from curious stock: Lebanese father and an Irish mother."
Ray shrugged. He'd heard of odder combinations. "Sure, what the hell?
Might prove to be interesting, huh?"
Fraser turned to Ray and awarded him with another smile before
answering, "Certainly not boring, I should think."
rose from his cozy position on the sofa. "I'd better talk to the L-T if
I'm going to need another day off." He patted Fraser's knee in passing
on his way to the telephone.
"Hey, Frannie. How're the little
ones? Doing good? Heh, little Ray is just like me, huh? I hope that's
good. How's little Ben? A hellion you say? Don't surprise me a bit."
Ray looked over at Fraser and winked. "Yeah, yeah, we'll stop by
tomorrow, I promise." Ray rolled his eyes in Fraser's direction, and he
had no doubt that Francesca was speaking about him. Ray made a hand
gesture to let Fraser know that the woman was going on and on. "I said
we would, ok? Look, I need to talk to Lt. Welsh."
several seconds, and then Ray was connected with his superior. "Yes,
sir. Look, I need to take a few days here. Fraser's in town and needs
"Red? Red's back in town?"
"Where is he? Let me talk to him!"
"Ok, ok," Ray waved Fraser over to the phone. He gulped the last drop
of his tea, set the mug down and complied.
sir. Just a few days, sir. Yes, sir, I'll make certain of that. We'll
be by tomorrow, I'm sure. Thank you kindly. Yes, sir, Ray will be back
Ray wished he had Fraser's bat ears so that he could
hear what the lieutenant was saying, but he could only watch as Fraser
said his good-byes. Ray thought it was strange that Welsh gave in that
easily. It was only Thursday, but then again, he hadn't taken any time
off since he'd been back. It wasn't like he didn't have the time
coming. Ray shrugged off his suspicions and went to make them some
Comfort food. The tomato soup and grilled cheese
sandwiches tasted wonderful. Evidently, from the sigh Fraser made and
the smile Ray got, Fraser thought it was pretty good too. Not once
during the whole eating and cleaning up process did Fraser mention
their phone conversation from the night before. With the afternoon
stretched out before them, Ray was sure his friend would press him
about it, but it didn't happen.
As soon as lunch was done
Fraser asked him where he kept his iron and ironing board. Ray
scratched his head. Not really sure of the answer, but there was no way
he was calling his mum to find out. A look around the closets turned it
up. Ray put on some soft music and sat back to watch as the Mountie got
the Serge out of his bag and readied it for wear.
him of their adventure too. At the start, Ray tended the fire as Fraser
set up camp. Until he protested inactivity and rose one evening and
made Fraser sit while he set up the tent and settled and fed the dogs.
This time he was content to watch as Fraser pressed his uniform and
shined the tall boots. Listening as Fraser hummed as he went about the
work. The familiarity of it warmed him. Sometime during it all Ray
drifted into a doze.
A touch to his shoulder startled him back
to the land of the living. "I'm up." Ray gave himself a good, long
stretch before he opened his eyes. Fraser was standing above him.
Somehow he'd gone from sitting on the sofa to lying down. Fraser had a
look on his face that Ray had only seen when he used to talk about
home. A longing, wistful sort of look that had certainly never been
directed at him before. It passed very quickly and by the time Ray
cataloged where he'd seen the expression before, it was gone. Only the
polite, sorry to wake you face was left.
"Sorry about that. Some host I am. Guess I'd better get ready, huh?"
"Nonsense. A short nap was probably a good idea."
it to Fraser to turn falling asleep on a guest into a good thing. Ray
shrugged and got up, leaving the Mountie putting away the ironing board
and his shoe shine paraphernalia. He got his one really good suit out
of its dry cleaning bag and headed off to the shower. The bathroom had
a humid feel to it, and the still damp towel, neatly hung, told Ray
that his guest had made free use of the facilities. That was cool. It
made Ray feel better about falling asleep that Fraser had felt
comfortable enough to shower without asking permission first. Maybe
this would work out better than he'd thought.
wake was really strange. Two separate camps on each side of the room.
Irish relatives on one side and Lebanese on the other, with the middle
taken up with Mr. Mustafi's friends from the senior center in Fraser's
old neighborhood. Many of which greeted Fraser with much enthusiasm.
One old lady called Gladys was very disappointed that he hadn't brought
"Corky" with him.
When Fraser was able to disengage himself from the group to join Ray at
the bar, Ray had to ask, "Corky?"
unfortunately, Gladys is under the mistaken impression that
Diefenbaker's name is Corky. I've corrected her many times about it,
but she never listens."
"Yeah, old people are like that. Guess we'd better make the rounds
here. Mingle a bit."
one eye on Fraser, Ray joined the Irish half as Fraser worked his way
to the other side of the room. Tough crowd it was too. They didn't want
to like the stranger in their midst, he could tell, but Fraser charmed
their socks off, if they were wearing any. Ray couldn't tell from this
distance as he couldn't hear what Fraser said to the elders, knowing
Fraser it was probably a greeting in Arabic. Having been assigned to
the consulate, he'd think learning a traditional greeting in a bunch of
different languages as a part of his duty.
Ray's attention was taken by a hearty clap on the back, "You wouldn't
be an Irishman by chance, would you?"
"Not quite. Polish. Ray Kowalski," Ray introduced himself and held out
his hand to the man.
man shook his hand enthusiastically, "Polish, Irish, both live on
potatoes and cabbage, right? Sean O'Leary. You'll be wantin' a drink
then." He didn't wait for an answer. Mr. O'Leary took him by the
shoulder and lead Ray to the bar. "Two whiskeys here, Miles."
sipped his slowly as Sean O'Leary introduced him around. Not all the
O'Leary relatives were as eager to be friendly. One old lady, Bridget
O'Leary, gave him a hard look. "You're here with the Scotsman then. The
one that'll be holding the purse strings come tomorrow."
him," the woman pointed across the room to Fraser. "Dennis was a good
lad, but wanting a Scotsman to administer his leavings? Bah!"
Ray looked at the lady with surprise, "Fraser's not a Scotsman. He's a
came in the form of one of the senior citizen's group, a Mr. Colling,
tapping on the side of his glass. "Charge your glasses, please." To the
Lebanese group he nodded and said, "With the beverage of your choosing,
of course." To the crowd in general he announced, "I'd like to make a
toast. To Dennis Mustafi. I'd finally gotten him to the point of giving
me a good game of chess. I'll miss him."
Everyone drank, but the
old gentleman didn't sit down, not quite yet. "To Constable-" someone
tugged Mr. Colling's arm and whispered in his ear, "excuse me, to Corporal
Benton Fraser, who helped so many of us, including Mustafi, relocate
and stay together when our building burned down." This toast was a bit
more grudgingly drank to than the first by some, but drink everyone
In the end the whiskey got to Ray - and not a few of the
others. There had been more toasts and more remembrances, even Fraser
hadn't been able to wriggle out of taking a token drink or two. He
hadn't wanted to offend anyone, his explanation. Which was just fine
with Ray. Everything was just fine to Ray by this point. He hummed Abba
songs in the taxi on the way home and his head seemed to want to rest
against Fraser's shoulder.
Fraser paid the driver and extracted
his friend from the back of the cab. While not drunk, Ray was certainly
tipsy. He had moved on from Abba into Elton John by this time, and the
humming became singing. The arm Fraser threw around his waist was
misinterpreted as an invitation to dance.
"Not on the sidewalk, please Ray."
"Ok, Benton-buddy. Not on the sidewalk. Inside? You'll dance with me
when we get inside?"
Fraser agreed. "Yes, Ray. Come along now."
leaned into Fraser and let him lead them into the building and up the
stairs. Ray gave the door a puzzled look when they reached it, as if he
couldn't understand that a key was needed to unlock it first.
"I need your keys, Ray."
"'K. Keys, keys..." Ray patted himself down in areas that were nearly
impossible to carry keys.
"Pants pocket, Ray. Front right." It was said with such fondness and
amusement that Ray could not take offense.
put his hand in his right pants pocket and sure enough there were his
keys. He pulled them out and stared at the keys a moment then at his
friend. He handed them over and asked, "How'd you do that?"
"Do what, Ray?" Fraser asked back as he unlocked the door.
"How'd you know what pocket they were in?"
turned from closing and locking the door behind them and saw the blush
on Fraser's cheeks. Why he was blushing, Ray didn't have a clue.
cleared his throat, blushed redder and tried to answer, "You -uh- dress
to the left, naturally you'd put your keys in your right pocket."
Fraser's eyes were moving around the room trying to focus anywhere but
to the spot he was speaking of, Ray's crotch.
Still it made
Ray's heart do a little flip. Fraser had checked him out. Knew where he
kept his dick. Maybe, maybe he would be able to tell him, but first
things first. "Hey, come on, Benton-buddy. You promised me a dance."
Ray walked over to the stereo and flipped through his CDs. "What do you
think, Fraser, fast or slow?"
Fraser's tongue flicked his bottom
lip, and he tilted his head slightly, considering. "I think that slow
would be more prudent at this juncture, don't you?"
Ray had to smile. Man, he'd missed that. More prudent at this
juncture? Hell, no, but he wasn't going to argue. "Slow it is. Now
off with the jacket, Frase. You can't dance all buttoned up and buckled
down in that thing."
you are, Ray." Fraser didn't argue either. He loosed his lanyard and
pulled it over his head first, then swiftly pulled the velcro tab at
Ray jerked his head around at the sound. He thought
for a second there that it was a zipper, but no, there were Fraser's
fingers flying down the buttons. Heaven only knows what he'd done if
Fraser had been unzipping his fly. He was too mellow to run. He
returned to his search for just the right music, and found it. A local
recording, Music From the Starlight Ballroom, it was perfect.
put the CD in and moved the coffee table out of the way. The strains of
the first song started, and he straightened up to find Fraser standing
beside him. "Ready?"
Fraser nodded and pulled Ray into his arms.
There was no formal stance. Ray moved in and rested his cheek against
his friend's and sighed. "Indeed," Fraser said quietly in his ear.
"I love you," Ray said back just as softly.
That got him a squeeze, "And I you, Ray."
was no need for either of them to lead because they weren't going any
place. Just two of them holding one another and swaying to the time of
the music. They stayed there until the strains of the last song drifted
away. Ray started to pull away to turn the CD player off, but Fraser
held him tight for a second and kissed the side of his face. He
loosened his grip. Ray didn't use the opportunity to slip away.
Instead, he turned his head and kissed Fraser's lips - slowly, gently.
Ray eased his head back and said, "Why was I so scared of that when it
feels so right?"
"Shhhh..." Fraser replied. "I was frightened too."
"And you're not now?"
Let's go to bed then," he hesitated and amended, "I mean, let's go to
sleep. We don't have to do nothing. That is -uh-," he stammered into
silence and prayed that Fraser got what he meant. The CD had started
playing the first track and flustered, Ray did pull away this time to
shut it off.
He nervously put the CD back in its case and stood
there trying to get the courage to move. A warm hand in the middle of
his back solved that problem. "It's all right, Ray. We don't have to do
anything that you're uncomfortable with. I dare say neither of us is in
any shape to do much anyway." The last said with such wryness that Ray
had to laugh.
With that laughter, the tension went out of Ray's
body. "You're probably right. Long day, the whiskey, let's get some
rest. Sleep with me, Fraser?"
Lying in a bed that was about the
same size as the tent they used on their adventure, two men tried to
sleep. Ray tried to imagine that there again was a sleeping bag
cocooning him away from his partner. It didn't work. He could feel the
heat from Fraser's body - feel the air stir against his neck as Fraser
breathed. His arms ached to hold. His lips ached to kiss. His groin
ached to -.
Again, as Ray hesitated Fraser acted. Strong arms
pulled Ray close. Back to front, spooned together, the evidence that
Fraser was in the same state poked Ray in the small of his back. No,
he decided, if we're going to do this, it has to be face to face.
No hiding. He moved back and rolled over.
came the tight briefs Ray had kept on as a barrier, no more hiding. He
reached to do the same for Fraser. There was no protest. Fraser raised
his hips so the underwear could be slipped down. A shaft of light from
the inadequately drawn curtains fell across Fraser's body. For the
first time Ray saw what was hidden under all those layers - layers of
clothing, layers of politeness that were used to keep people from
getting too close. Other people, not him. Fraser let him in. He always
had and now was the chance to get closer. Ray wasn't going to let it
Ray let his eyes wander up the length of Fraser's body
and suddenly felt shy when he got to the face and found Fraser looking
back at him.
He looked away. Fraser rose up on one arm and asked,
"What's wrong, Ray? Have you changed your mind? It's all right if you
have. I can go -."
Ray lunged forward and buried his head in
Fraser's neck, "No. I didn't change my mind. It's just - just, I ain't
ever done this before. You know, with a guy. Don't know what you want -
what you like."
Fraser answered, "That's the easiest part, Ray.
I want you. What I like? I want you to kiss me again; I want you to
touch me. Please touch me, Ray."
It was said with such need and
certainty that Ray gasped. He was all over that and all over Fraser.
Kissing and touching, tentatively at first then bolder. Then touching
with his hands wasn't enough. Fraser seemed to understand that and
pulled him over to lie atop. Now this was touching. All over - skin to
skin and cock to cock. They moved together making quiet, pleasured
It didn't last nearly long enough for Ray. Two years
of pent up longing did that to a guy even if he was looking forty in
the face. And looking Benton Fraser in the face, well shit, it made him
feel sixteen again. Only difference was he couldn't roll over and do it
all again. The spirit was willing, but the body was tired. It took all
his stamina to reach over and grab his t-shirt off the floor to mop
Something about two guys coming all over each other
made the awkwardness disappear. They had no trouble snuggling together
after Ray pitched the t-shirt toward his laundry basket. Sleep came
easily, and if Ray dreamed at all he didn't remember the next morning.
that he had time to reflect on dreams anyway. Ray opened one eye and
strained to see the clock. The same shaft of light that so enticingly
fell across Fraser's body now reflected off the face of the clock
making it impossible to read the time. Which meant the sun was up - up
far enough to come in the window. Oops! Which meant he hadn't thought
of setting the alarm.
Why he hadn't thought of it swept
through Ray's mind. Nope, it was real all right. Fraser was there right
behind him. Waking up and stretching. Yawning and sitting up. "Oh,
dear! Is that the time?"
"Don't know. What time is it?" Ray
asked as he did a stretch of his own. Ray opened his eyes and found
Fraser staring at him. "Frase?"
"Late enough that we don't have time to do what I'd really like to,"
Fraser answered with true regret. "Shower with me?"
actually considered it for a moment then shook his head. "Nah, I get in
there with you, we'll never get out this apartment. You'd better go
ahead. I need coffee anyway."
Reluctantly, Fraser agreed and
they parted ways. Fraser headed for the bathroom while Ray grabbed his
shorts and went to the kitchen. He got two mugs from the cabinet and
put a teabag in one and a heaping spoonful of instant coffee in the
other. Putting water on to boil, he heard the shower start in the
bathroom and wished like hell he was in there.
and two cups of coffee later, Fraser stepped out of the bedroom looking
big, red and gorgeous. He had the Serge on again. Damn, Ray guessed
that meant he had to drag a suit out, but Fraser assured him that it
didn't. Besides if Ray went to the station in a suit people might
faint. Whereas they'd be disappointed if Fraser wore anything less than
the full rig.
Ray got out of the kitchen, pronto, before he did
something to desecrate the uniform. He grabbed his shower and found a
decent pair of slacks and an ironed shirt to wear. He'd have to
remember to thank his mum for that.
They stopped for
breakfast at Dot's Diner, an old favorite of theirs. Dot herself came
out from the kitchen to greet them after Nancy took their order. The
usually surly Nancy had practically simpered at Fraser, and she looked
sharply at Ray and said, "We haven't seen you in here in a while
"Been busy," Ray mumbled back in reply. It had been a
while, not because the food was bad. There were too many memories of
meals past for Ray to eat here. He tried a couple of times when he
first got back then quit coming, gave up even trying to eat breakfast
most of the time.
The squeal Frannie made when they entered the
squad room could have stopped traffic three blocks away. Once hugs had
been issued, she inevitably asked as she patted her hair back into
place, "So Frase, you seeing anyone special up there?"
A tug at his collar betrayed how uncomfortable that question made him,
but he answered, "No Francesca, not as such."
Before Frannie could ask what that meant, Ray interrupted, "Frannie,
you got any pictures you want to show Fraser?"
sidetracked her in a hurry. "Oh, you have to see!" She ran behind her
desk and grabbed a thick envelope. "I got these back this morning."
Proudly, she showed off the pictures of the two baby boys she adopted
the year before and had named Raymond and Benton. She babbled on about
professional photographers costing a little more and how fast they were
Ray had heard it all before, ad nauseum. He slipped
away toward his desk. He didn't quite make a clean get away; Lt. Welsh
beckoned him from the doorway to his office.
"How's everything going, Kowalski? Fraser doing all right?"
some reason that question made Ray blush. The lieutenant looked at him
sharply but didn't comment. He nodded like it confirmed something in
his head and leaned in to quietly say, "I'm glad you two are getting
things worked out between you." He pulled back and back in his normal
voice said, "I'd better rescue the corporal."
Ray shook his head
to check if maybe something in there rattled. He did not want to
speculate on what that had been about and walked on back to his desk.
He put his head down on it for a couple of minutes. My boss didn't
say what I thought he just said, did he? And if he had, what did it
raised his head just in time to watch Fraser make his way through the
maze of people and desks toward him. Stopping along the way to greet
his former co-workers and meet the new people, leaving the latter
staring in his wake. Yeah, Fraser had smiled at them, shook their
hands, but the smile on his face as he approached Ray's desk was
different. Less polite and more heartfelt, Ray could tell. He couldn't
help but smile back. Sheesh, he'd done more smiling in the last two
days than he'd done in two years.
Ray had to look away. Good
thing he was already sitting down - that smile made him weak in the
knees. Ray looked down at the mess on his desk, only it wasn't.
Somebody had been organizing. Gone one day and somebody had sat down
here and alphabetized all the files on his desk.
His groan brought the Mountie immediately to his side.
"What's wrong, Ray?"
"Look at this! Do you see this? I'm never going to be able to find
looked at the tidy desk and back up to Ray's face. "Now Ray, it's not
that bad," he consoled. He patted Ray's shoulder.
"I'm gonna find who did this and kick 'em in the head."
started to get up, but Fraser's hand on his shoulder suddenly gripped
tight. "Sorry, Ray. No time for head kicking right now. We need to go
if we're going to be on time."
"Ok, all right. I'll kick heads Monday." The pressure eased from his
shoulder and Ray got up.
"Right you are, Ray," Fraser agreed as he settled his hat on his head.
the general population of the squad room, Ray announced, "There will be
retribution for this." They shook their heads in dismay. Kowalski. They
had no idea what he was on about now, but universal threats were
If the wake had been strange, the
reading of the will was surreal. All the main players were there. Sean
and Bridget O'Leary represented that side of the family. The oldsters,
Mr. Colling and Gladys were there as were several stone-faced members
of the Mustafi family. Ray hadn't gotten any of their names. They bowed
their heads to Fraser and took their places on the opposite side of the
The lawyer, a Mr. Peterson, began to speak. "We're
here today to read the last will and testament of Dennis Mustafi." He
droned on with all the sound mind opening part, and Ray stopped paying
close attention. It wasn't like the old guy had left him anything
anyway. He was there for Fraser. He let his mind drift back to the
night before and wished there had been more time for them to talk this
A jab in the ribs brought Ray back to the present. He
jumped and looked around at the old lady, Gladys, who was sitting next
to him. She smiled at him innocently, but nodded toward the head of the
table where Mr. Peterson sat. He was still reading the will of course.
"...aside from the other bequests herein, I leave the bulk of my estate
to the West Racine Senior Center." The lawyer looked up from the will
and said, "At the close of business yesterday the various investments
were worth an estimated 5 million dollars." That got a gasp out of most
of the people in the room.
Peterson ignored them and went back
to the will. "Under the provision that my executor, Benton Fraser,
becomes administrator of the Center. If my executor is unable or
unwilling to administer the said West Racine Senior Center, an
administrator of his choice shall be appointed."
Ok, that was a
surprise, but if he was surprised, what was Fraser's reaction? Ray
looked at his partner and understood the meaning of the word, poleaxed.
Ray was sure Fraser never heard the remaining bequests or the babble of
voices around him as the others made their way to leave. He only came
back to himself when Ray put a hand on his shoulder.
"Hey Benton-buddy, you all right?"
opened his mouth. His lips moved into the configuration of the word,
fine, but it was never uttered. Fraser shook his head. Ray wasn't sure
if that meant no, he wasn't all right or if he was trying to clear his
head. Fraser put his hands flat on the table and used them to lever
himself out of the chair. Once up, he turned to Ray and said, "Let's go
home, Ray. Will you take me home?"
The desperation in Fraser's voice galvanized Ray. "You bet. Just hold
on a sec."
hurried over to the lawyer. "Uh, he'll have to get back to you. I got
no idea what he's going to do - so, he'll be in touch."
Peterson smiled up at Ray. "I understand. It's a big responsibility and
a big decision. I need to know something as soon as possible. The
center's current director is very anxious to retire himself. Try to get
back to me on Monday, will you?"
Ray nodded but made no
promises. He had to rouse Fraser to get him moving. Ray wasn't sure
just what home that Fraser wanted to be taken. On one hand, he was
elated that Fraser considered his place home. On the other, he totally
got that maybe Fraser wanted to run back up to the Northwest
Territories and never be seen again. If that were case, though, Ray
didn't think Fraser would be asking Ray to take him there. Those
thoughts chased themselves around Ray's head the whole way home. That
and a couple of cautious glances at Fraser, who stared out the
windshield and said nothing. It kind of scared Ray, and he wasn't sure
whether to go on home or take Fraser to the nearest emergency room to
be treated for shock. Home won out.
Ray got Fraser inside and
removed the tunic from Fraser's unresisting body. He deposited said
body on the couch as he went to the kitchen. He started to open the
refrigerator and get a couple beers out, but this was too big for beer.
They needed something stronger. Ray opened the cabinet and got down the
bourbon and two glasses. He poured a double shot into each glass.
handed Fraser a glass, which he took without protest. He didn't even
look at the contents before he drank. He threw back the whiskey and
handed the glass back to Ray. Ray didn't know what to do. He shrugged
and switched the glasses in Fraser's hand, giving his friend his shot
too. It wasn't like he didn't have more in the kitchen.
Fraser drank that one too. A little more slowly this time, but when he
was done he actually spoke, "Another, please Ray."
this was too weird. It freaked Ray out. Fraser? The man who only drank
obligatory toasts to the Queen, tossing back bourbon like it was milk?
Ray asked, "You sure? Last time I checked, it wasn't the Queen's
birthday or a wake."
It made Ray feel better when Fraser
laughed. "No, it's not the Queen's birthday, but I've had the occasion
lately to drink more alcohol than I usually allow myself." Fraser's
expression sobered, "Despite our Scottish heritage, my grandparents
taught me to scorn the loss of control that alcohol brings to some, but
I've found that it helps sometimes. Whether to think better or to
forget, I suppose, depends upon the circumstance."
Ray had no
reply for that. He knew as well as anyone the benefits and the
drawbacks of drinking alcohol. Ray went back to the kitchen and poured
two more shots; downed one quickly and refilled his glass. Couldn't let
Fraser get ahead of him, could he?
Ray sat down beside Fraser on
the couch. They each sipped their whiskey. Fraser spoke, "I suppose in
a way this could be considered a wake."
Ray's glass froze
halfway to his mouth. He sat the glass down with a thump. "Figures. I
blew it, didn't I? I should have kept my mouth shut." Ray slumped
forward and rested his head in his hands.
"Us. This is a wake for us, isn't it?" He didn't look at Fraser as he
spoke. "What was last night then - a pity fuck?"
took his friend's shoulder and turned Ray to face him. "No! Absolutely,
not. Not a wake for us, and certainly nothing last night had anything
to do with pity; at least not on my part. I love you, Ray." The last
was said with Fraser's lips barely touching Ray's mouth. He moved that
last bit closer and sealed their lips together. It was rather chaste as
kisses go. No tongues, but Ray could feel Fraser putting his heart into
it. He was still confused, but he returned the kiss with equal fervor.
When the kiss was over, Ray asked, "So, who's this wake for?"
"Not a who, exactly, more of what; my career as a member of the RCMP.
I've decided to take the position at the senior center."
Fraser, are you sure? This is one of those big, you know," Ray waved
his hands in the air to emphasize his point, "Life-changing decisions."
Ray fought the urge to get up and pace. Instead he stayed seated,
waiting for Fraser to explain.
Fraser nodded. "I know, Ray, and not one I make lightly. Do you
remember our telephone conversation Wednesday evening?"
Ray groaned. He knew Fraser would bring that up soon or later. "Yeah, I
remember," he admitted reluctantly.
patted Ray on the back. "It's all right, Ray. I wouldn't speak of it
now except I've been feeling much the same way. I thought being home
again was what I wanted, but the work has been a bit less than
challenging." Ray could tell by his tone of voice that Fraser was
understating the case, but he didn't interrupt. "And I'll confess, it's
Ray understood lonely. Boy, did he understand
lonely. Living back in Chicago was what he thought he wanted too, but
even in a city teeming with people, Ray had been alone, and if he'd
felt alone, how about Fraser? Up there in all that white empty with no
one except Dief, and Maggie when he could see her. It made Ray's
loneliness seem like a pity party.
Ray didn't voice any of those
thoughts, instead, he nodded at his friend and said, "Well, you take
this job and you won't have to worry about being challenged."
Fraser laughed, "I'm sure that will be too true, but those challenges
we can face together."
was surprised. He had meant working with all those old people, but
Fraser's interpretation gave him a warm glow inside that had nothing to
do with the whiskey he drank. "Yeah, together," he agreed.
were a million and one things to be settled and decided, but they could
wait. All Ray wanted right now was to take Fraser to bed. He stood up
and held his hand out. There was no hesitation as Fraser put his hand
in Ray's and followed him into the bedroom.
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