DueSouth Seekrit Santa Story


These Days

for Zillah

by A Kite

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 from Toronto."

"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."

Ray 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 unfinished business.

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 anyone else's.

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.

Ray was 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."

"Not traveling light this time, huh?" Ray smiled at his friend and continued, "No problemo, buddy. Pitter patter, let's get down there and get it."

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."

"No 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."

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."

Ray 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.

Their 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?"

"Indeed, 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."

Ray 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."

It took 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 me."

"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.

"Yes, 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 on Monday."

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 lunch.

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.

This reminded 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."

Leave 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.


The 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?"

"Yes, 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."

Keeping 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.

The 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."

Ray 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."


"With 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 Canadian Mountie."

Rescue 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 did.

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."

Ray 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.

"Keys, Ray."


"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.

Ray 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?"

Ray 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.

Fraser 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."

"Right 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 his neck.

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.

Ray 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."

There 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?"

"No, Ray."

"Good. 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.

Off 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 pass by.

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 noises.

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 them off.

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.

Not 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?"

Ray 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.

Twenty minutes 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 either."

"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?"

That 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 growing.

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?"

For 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 mean?

He 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 anything now!"

Fraser 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."

Ray 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.

To 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 nothing unusual.


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 long table.

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 morning.

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?"

Fraser 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."

Ray 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."

Mr. 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.

Ray 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."

Ok, 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?"

Fraser 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."

"What? 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.

Fraser 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 been lonely."

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."

Ray 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.

There 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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