A Goose Pimple or a Scar
Here is the secret to being in love: it's not that hard, really. It's not that different. It's nothing new.
You walk around all day with a hidden message in your heart. What does it change? You are still the same person you were, the day is still just as long and just as bright, there is still just the same amount of work to be done.
Being in love is easy. It's just like being sent away from your home.
Ray Vecchio likes women. This is true not only in its most basic interpretation -- that is, he is sexually attracted to the female sex -- but is true in other ways, as well, for Ray genuinely seems to enjoy female company of all kinds. Women are our sisters, of course, and Fraser treats all human beings equally, regardless of gender, but there is often an uncomfortable undertone with many of his conversations with women, causing him to give a sort of retreat that is less often necessary with men. But Ray has grown up with a mother, and sisters, and cousins, and girlfriends, and wives, and he knows the way they dress and smell and talk and all of their things. It is rather like a foreign language.
In the time Fraser has been in Chicago, Ray Vecchio has been involved in several different women. The women have differed in a variety of ways: short and tall, lean and voluptuous, both similar ethnic backgrounds to Ray's and much different. From what Fraser can tell, however, they have all been intelligent, opinionated, and quite sarcastic.
The last woman Ray was involved with was named Lisa; they went on more than one date, over a period of several weeks. Fraser met her once. She was small, brunette, and had a charming smile.
This is the sum total of all the information Fraser has on this relationship. Which means, of course, that Ray must have been rather serious about her. Most of his dates Ray talks and talks about, planning out every detail in advance, explaining to Fraser all the subtleties of modern courtship. But there are exceptions to this rule. Ray never spoke to Fraser about Irene Zuko until after her death. He still knows almost nothing about Ray's marriage, and most of what he does know came not from Ray but from his loud and expansive relatives over family dinners.
Ray is one of the most open, expansive, generous men Fraser has ever met, which is one of the reasons he is so proud to call Ray his friend. But there's something reassuring about Ray's relative silence on his most private matters. It's something Fraser can understand.
Ray drops him and Dief off at the apartment after a long day of liaising. He waves goodbye to Ray, knowing Ray can see him in the rear view mirror as he drives away. Dief runs up the stairs ahead of Fraser for each flight. He immediately heads for the bed as Fraser opens the door, and he lies there, watching with a thoughtful expression as Fraser prepares their spaghetti dinner.
Fraser feels distracted, somewhat, as he eats. Tomorrow, he thinks, he won't be able to join the Chicago police. He will be standing sentry, and sitting at his desk, filing and doing paperwork all day long. He can smell the stale air of his office now, even here in his home.
He decides on heading to bed early. He recommends Diefenbaker do the same, but Dief ignores him, gives him a cutting look and a dry remark and heads out, just as the sky begins to darken. Fraser keeps the window open and pulls on his union suit and climbs into bed. Chicago is noisy out there, but in the dark Fraser's apartment can seem clean, empty, almost barren. Everything is simple.
Being in love is something you carry with you all the time; you can't set it down for a moment. But the same is true of death, the loss of a mother, a father, a friend; the same is true of a betrayal; the same is true of a duty, a promise, a lie, a dream. It's all there, and you can reach out and feel it on your skin, as clearly as a goose pimple or scar. But it's not all equally important at every point in time.
Fraser and Ray play Monopoly. Ray insists on being the car, calling dibs on it even before the box is opened, and Fraser considers his options before settling on the thimble. In the beginning, Fraser is winning; he gets lucky dice over and over, and picks up properties. But as the game continues, he falls behind. Ray is a shrewd player, tight-fisted with his money, never missing a trick, while Fraser retains lingering doubts about how ethical the game can truly be said to be. (For but one small example: a Chance card gave him two hundred dollars, with the source of bank error; Fraser declines to accept the money, just as he would in real life.)
Fraser sells his railroads to Ray for what apparently is much too small a sum of money. Ray chuckles in victory, counting his money carefully. His eyes are bright and pleased, and Fraser finds that much more satisfying than any small pieces of green plastic could ever be.
Perhaps it is a matter of priorities.
When Ray kisses Fraser, it is in the middle of a heated argument.
The argument has been going on for quite a while by this point: it has lasted from the break room at the station, to the parking lot and the Riviera, all through the streets of Chicago, up the stairs to Fraser's apartment, removing his tunic, unlacing his boots, hanging up his hat, and feeding Dief.
Ray is continuing to explain to Fraser why his idea is both crazy and stupid and it's something Ray simply cannot do and it is unfair for Fraser to even ask or expect it of him.
Fraser interrupts at this juncture to point out, in a mild tone, that he has not asked Ray to join him on his search for Katie McNamara at all; in fact, when Ray initially refused, Fraser accepted his answer perfectly. we all must do what can, and that's all we can do.
This comment seems to raise Ray's anger higher. He bunches his hands in fists at approximately the level of his skull and begins several sentences without finishing any of them.
"You are so annoying, Fraser," Ray says. He is gesturing rather dramatically, but Fraser isn't sure it's not unintentional. Ray's body movements seem to grow in intensity at a pace parallel with his emotions. "You are so annoying I could scream, do you know that? Do you know what it is like being friends with you? Do you know what you have done to my life? I used to have it all figured out, Fraser, and then here you are, and suddenly everything has to be just like this, all irritating and Mountie and perfect and -- Christ."
Fraser's frown deepens at this, and he opened his mouth to respond, but Ray cuts him off with a waggled finger. "Shut up! Just shut up!"
It was at this point that Ray leaned forward and kissed him, a short kiss, full on the mouth, and not quite gentle.
"See that?" Ray says, glaring at him even as Fraser tries to process this. "That is exactly what I am talking about, Benny. You would not catch me dead doing something like that before you showed up."
It takes a few moments, but Fraser does, after a period of standing silently flabbergasted, manage to come up with an answer to this. Unfortunately, it is not much more profound than, "Oh."
"I didn't think you were really gay," Ray says afterwards. He is sitting cross-legged in Fraser's bed; Fraser is still lying down, looking up at him.
"I don't consider myself homosexual, Ray," Fraser says. Ray's hair is cropped close to his head, but there is still just enough around the edges to lie askew at an odd angle now; Fraser finds it painfully endearing.
Ray snorts. "Benny, I hate to break it to you, but we just spent the last hour doing some pretty clear-cut things."
"Bisexual, Ray," Fraser clarifies. "I've found myself attracted both men and women." Bank robbers, hockey players, fellow cub scouts, best friends. The human heart has neither rhyme nor reason.
There is a misconception common among nearly all the people Fraser has come across that an officer in RCMP uniform is somehow deafened by the same. Deafened, at least, to any comments or personal remarks they may wish to make at any time, on any subject. Fraser has heard filthy imaginings, and rude conjectures; he has been likened to a eunuch, an actor in pornography, and a paper doll.
The truth is much more complicated, as it always is. Benton Fraser is a Mountie, an officer of the law, and he pursues that justice as purely as he can make himself do. He is far from the places he loves, with no promise of ever returning. He was a motherless child, and an avenging son. Every day in Chicago, he finds more people he can help, more people to find, meet, learn. He has dear, dear friends, who have saved his life many times over. He is getting older, and someday his body, which he has always been able to count on, is going to let him down. He is alive, and happy, and if he is lonely sometimes, isn't everybody? He has wants, and needs, and today Ray Vecchio is in his bed, and his smile is wide.
This is the truth: there is no secret to being in love. None at all.
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