Title: Questing

 

Rated: NC-17/R

 

Pairing: RayK/Fraser

 

Warnings: Post CotW. Character death (not Fraser or either Ray)

 

Word count: 12,625

 

Betas:

 

Author’s notes: Thanks to Shrew for holding my hand and occasionally hitting with a dead otter.

 

Recommend soundtrack Ben’s Song - Sarah McLachlan, This Is How a Heart Breaks - Rob Thomas, Street of Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen,

 

 

 

Corporal Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police currently stationed at Fort Good Hope, if pressed on the matter, would admit to being somewhat content with his lot in life.

 

It had been three years since he’d seen Muldoon brought to justice and set off on an ‘adventure’, as Ray put it. Ray afterwards had returned to Chicago. Though Fraser had been…disappointed to see him leave, he’d known it would happen.

 

 

Benton himself had taken a post in a small town in the Yukon and had, or at least hoped he had, been accepted by its residents.

 

He had Dief, a cabin, and while no one could replace either Ray as a best friend, he had made a few friends. They at least gave him someone to watch curling and hockey with since he didn’t own a TV.

 

Benton made his way through the snow back to his cabin, Dief at his heels. He had his sister Maggie, and the recent addition of a nephew, Sebastian Robert. Maggie had been up with the toddler just a few weeks before and he had to admit it was rather enjoyable being an uncle.

 

 

Benton was content, and the only one who would call him on his choice of words was in Chicago.

 

 

At his heels, Dief barked.

 

“No, I am not ordering you a pizza,” Benton told the wolf, as he entered the cabin. “We’ve been over several times the difficultly of getting pizza here.”

 

Dief made a low whine and then what sounded like a snort.

 

“Yes, I’m sure Ray would agree with you, but he is not here.” He chuckled slightly. Ray would certainly agree with Diefenbaker that pizza was much better than leftovers anytime.

 

It had been three months since Ray had visited, and Benton had to admit he missed Ray. He sometimes would come across some of Ray’s things and it made Benton miss Ray all the more. “Perhaps we should visit Ray this summer.”

 

Dief barked, saying he’d rather visit him now.

 

“You know we cannot do that Diefenbaker, we have obligations and duties here and,” Benton was cut off by a low growl from Dief. “Someone’s here?”

 

Moments later, there was a knock at the door. Benton pulled it open and saw Constable Monroe. The look on her face had Benton’s mind snapping instantly back to his duties. “Constable Monroe, hello. Has something happened?” Benton’s cell phone hadn’t rung once. His pager at been silent as well.

 

“No sir. I mean not here in town, but,” She stammered and displayed a nervousness unlike her. “I was finishing up paperwork when this came in over the fax. I thought…I thought you shouldn’t receive it from a stranger.” She held out the telegram. “It’s about Constable Mackenzie …”

 

 Benton hated faxes. He had hated them from the moment he’d read the words that his father was dead. “Thank you, Nancy.” He said softly taking the paper from her hands. Benton’s hands shook but he didn’t think he could make them stop.

 

Benton started to plan the trip south, first to Norman Wells then to Yellowknife and then on to Hay River, while he read.

 

 

 

 

************

 

Almost twenty hours after receiving the fax, Benton Fraser stood in Maggie’s hospital room at the H.H Williams Memorial Hospital in Hay River.  He’d half heard the doctors tell him she'd been shot in the chest at close range. Her chances of were survival slim.

 

Outside the room, a woman with two small children had apologized to him repeatedly. Maggie had taken her and her children in when she’d left her abusive husband. Maggie had been shot protecting them.

 

The smell of the room, chemicals and death, made Benton gag.

 

 

Benton inhaled sharply. Sebastian. He had forgotten. Benton turned on his heel and ran smack into Buck Frobisher. He had some vague awareness that his father’s old friend had arrived a little while ago. “Sebastian…”

 

“Sebastian is fine, son.” Buck reassured him.

 

“I should see to him. I…” Benton struggled for words. Coward that he was, he just wanted to flee his sister’s side.

 

“The boy’s in good hands and fast asleep at the moment. Sit down, Benton, before you fall over.”

 

Benton nodded numbly and let himself be pushed into a chair.

 

Maggie died without ever regaining consciousness. It took every scrap of control for Benton to keep himself from crying. His sister was dead and it felt like he’d barely had any time with her.

 

 

 

Benton wished he had gotten closer to Maggie sooner, instead of waiting for Maggie to reach out to him. He should have been there for her long before her short marriage grew rocky.

 

 

 

Benton blinked hard. He wouldn’t cry. He had a duty to his sister to perform.

 

*******

Benton sat in the tiny office that belonged to Maggie’s lawyer, a woman not much older than Maggie had been. She looked at him sadly. Maybe they’d been friends,  but Benton could bring himself to care.

 

 

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Benton said, holding Sebastian in his lap. “Maggie left me her son?”

 

The lawyer nodded. “She left guardianship to you, Corporal Fraser. I thought she’d discussed it with you.”

 

”She didn’t discus anything of the sort with me.” Benton stared the lawyer as if he gone mad. In fact, he was certain everyone else around was as unhinged as Ray often accused him of being. “What about his father? Shouldn’t custody go to him?”

 

“Under normal circumstances, yes, but Constable Roberts signed away his parental rights after his divorce from your sister.”

 

Benton felt the urge to, as Ray put it, ‘kick some heads in.’ Maggie's second marriage at lasted roughly four months. In Benton’s thinking it was four months too long.

 

 

In his lap, Sebastian babbled something and tugged at Benton’s uniform. He shook himself and looked down at his nephew, his new responsibility, and duty. “Yes, Sebastian?”

 

“Bottle,” Sebastian repeated patiently, looking at his uncle as if Benton was quite mad.

 

<i>You don’t know how right you are,</i> Benton thought, and pulled Sebastian’s bottle from the diaper bag. He was still amazed at just how many things Sebastian seemed to need on a regular basis. He really needed pick up some of those non-spillable cups, Sebastian was becoming far too old to have a bottle and…

 

“….Corporal Fraser?”

 

Benton realized the lawyer had been saying his name. “Ah, yes?”

 

“There are several very good family counselors in the areas if you need any…”

 

“Thank you kindly, but we’ll be fine. Are there any more papers I need to sign?” Benton said standing up with Sebastian on his hip.

 

“Not today. I am truly sorry about Maggie, Corporal. She was a good woman.”

 

“Thank you kindly, Ms. Jamison. She was, at that.” Benton slung the diaper bag over his shoulder. “Good day.”

 

***********

 

Benton sat on his bed in his hotel room, hands folded together and pressed to his lips as he watched Sebastian sleep on the other twin bed. Dief lay on the floor at the foot of Benton’s bed.

 

He didn’t think he could do this.

 

How the hell could he be a decent uncle…father…to Sebastian with his sister’s death eating an away at him, leaving him numb? Sebastian didn’t even seem notice his mother was gone.

 

<i> No, that wasn’t true. </i>  The toddler was quieter than he remembered, more watchful. Buck had said that he’d cried almost non-stop after they’d taken him from his mother’s side. Only Benton’s presence seemed to keep the boy calm.

 

He was familiar and safe for Sebastian, Fraser guessed.

 

Benton wanted to be someplace familiar and safe.

 

The RCMP had given him six weeks leave, an unusual amount, but he guessed they wanted to give him time to get Sebastian settled. He suspected Buck Frobisher and Meg Thatcher had pulled a few strings. Benton wanted to be with someone familiar and safe.

 

Sebastian, Dief and he would have to stay in town until after Maggie’s funeral but then they could go back home.

 

 

He wanted Chicago.

 

 

He wanted Ray.

 

 

 

 

********************************************************************

 

 

 

<i> This is heaven, </i> Ray thought as he picked up another nail. I’ve died and gone to heaven and it’s in Canada.

 

Ray glanced over at his best friend and partner. Fraser was busy hammering in the framing for the door. He looked happier than Ray had ever seen him.

 

 

As if he’d felt Ray’s eyes on him, Fraser looked up and grinned at Ray. Oh yeah, there was no place better than this to be.

 

Ray could see Fraser’s mouth as it moved, but he couldn’t hear him over the banging. “Frase, I can’t hear you. Stop hammering for a sec.”

 

The banging didn’t stop and Ray started to grow desperate to hear what Fraser was saying. He looked so earnest and hopeful, and wouldn’t the god-damn hammering stop…

 

With a start, Ray woke, his face plastered to his pillow case with drool. Fuck, just a dream. He was in his apartment in Chicago and Fraser was hundreds of miles away in Canada and…

 

And the banging wasn’t stopping.

 

Ray belatedly realized someone was knocking at the door and peered blearily at the clock. Four am. Two hours before I have  to be up. Someone is dead. Fucking dead. The building better be on fire for waking me from that dream, he thought irritably.

 

Ray grabbed for his glasses and then dragged himself out of bed. He snagged a pair of jeans and tugged them on before yanking open the door.

 

“This better be fucking good to wake me this…..” Ray trailed off.

 

 

Benton Fraser stood on his doorstep. Fraser was here, in Chicago, and Ray’s brain wasn’t making much sense of it all. “Fraser?”

 

“Ah, hello, Ray. I realize it is early but our plane only just arrived and though I don’t wish to impose but…” Fraser was blathering Ray realized and finally took a good look at his partner.

 

Our? Who else is with him…Ray’s eyes fell on the car seat in Fraser’s hand. Over his shoulder along with his pack, was a diaper bag. For a split second, Ray was going to ask who the lucky girl was then, not to mention congratulate Fraser on the very fast work--then he looked at the kid.

 

The blond-haired toddler, who Dief was nosing gently when he started to stir. He recognized the kid now, Fraser’s nephew--what’s his name--Sebastian. When he’d been up visiting Fraser in Canada, Fraser had been showing off the kid's pictures as if it was his own.

 

Where the hell was Maggie--his brain stalled for a moment before he started to add it up. Fraser was on his door step, nephew in tow with no sign of Maggie and Maggie didn’t seem the sort to let her toddler out of the country even if it was with Fraser. Add in the fact that Maggie was a Mountie. “Fraser, shit Fraser come in. You must be half d--exhausted.”

 

 

 

 “Thank you kindly, Ray.” Fraser said, stepping inside. “I should have called, but I’m afraid this I didn’t think this trip through fully.” He set down the carrier and the bags. “I can make hotel arrangements as soon as possible but if Diefenbaker could stay here I’d be...”

 

Ray stepped forward and pulled Fraser into a hug. “You, the kid, and the wolf can stay here as long as you want,” Ray promised recklessly.

 

After a moment, Fraser hugged Ray back before stepping away. “Thank you, Ray. I-I fear I didn’t think this trip through as fully as I thought.”

 

“Hey no stressin’ it. Let’s get the kid out of the carrier; you and he can lie down on the bed if you want to catch some Zs.” Ray bent down to unhook the straps, glad for the chance to hide his frown. Fraser was definitely frazzled, and that worried Ray.

 

 

He looked up to see Fraser watching him. “What?”

 

Fraser blushed. “It took me quite awhile to figure out all those straps.” He admitted.

 

Ray grinned. “After that uniform of yours? Nah, these things are hell on the first timer but I had to learn with my brother’s kids.”

 

Reaching down for Sebastian, Fraser took him easily from Ray. “Ray, Sebastian can lay on the couch and I can take the floor. I won’t force you out of your own bed.”

 

“Nah, had to be up soon for work anyways. You and the kid catch up on your sleep and I’ll come by later with lunch and…you have stuff for him?” he nodded towards the toddler.

 

“Stuff?”

 

“Yeah, you know diapers, wipes, sippy cups, and stuff.” Ray asked.

 

“Ah. Yes I do have some supplies for Sebastian but I fear I will need to purchase more diapers and wipes.” Fraser frowned, the center of his forehead creasing. “I think baby food also.”

 

“My sister-in-law let her kids eat table food once they had most of their baby teeth. He’ll be fine, Frase. Don’t worry about it, I’ll pick up some stuff and bring it by along with lunch. Now go get some rest before you fall over and drop the kid. You’re even making Dief nervous.”

 

Dief had been watching Fraser carefully since he’d picked up Sebastian.

 

Ray saw Fraser swallowed hard, and then he nodded. “All right Ray.”

 

 

 

*****

 

 

 

Ray checked in on Fraser and the kid, as he got ready to leave for work. You know, just to see if Fraser needs anything like pillows, sheets…, or more than a place to just crash. He wouldn’t let himself go there, not now when Fraser was obviously hurting.

 

To Ray’s relief, Fraser was fast asleep. Fraser had a arm curled protectively around the kid. Ray couldn’t understand why Sebastian’s father didn’t have him. Not that he thought Fraser couldn't hack it as a dad. The guy was good at everything he put his fucking mind to. But still, a kid should be with his dad.

 

And it’s not my fucking business, Ray told himself. He would not jump to conclusions until Fraser had told him what happened, with Sebastian that was. He’d call Buck, though, if he could find the number in his desk, and find out what happened to Maggie.

 

Ray hoped Maggie had died in an accident or something, anything that would keep Fraser from having another ‘quest’. Fraser had to bring his father’s and mother’s killers to justice. Fraser didn’t need to have to hunt down his sister’s killer too.

 

Finally, Ray tore himself from the view on his bed. It hurt too much to keep looking.

 

***************

 

A call to Buck and Ray had the details of Maggie’s death, and the knowledge that the man responsible was behind bars. He also found out that Fraser hadn’t told anyone before he took off for Chicago. That wasn’t like Fraser at all.

 

Then again, this same lunatic yelled, “turtle” and pushed me out of a fucking plane.

 

Ray glanced at the clock on the wall again then back to the pile of paperwork in front of him. Fuck, he hated paperwork, but if he didn’t get the stuff done for the Lamer case Stella would have his ass. Not that there was much paperwork too do. Open and shut case, really. The only thing lamer than the crook was his robbing a coffee shop full of off-duty cops.

 

He hadn’t told anyone at the 27th that Fraser was in town. He didn’t think the Mountie could take that many people telling him they were so sorry and shit. Fraser probably had high-tailed out of Canada to get away from that.

 

 

Yeah, it wasn’t as if Fraser had come down for support or anything from you, Ray. Ray Vecchio was more the guy you’d go to for that shit, especially with the kid in tow.

 

He, well he was just Fraser’s old partner, best friend ….what the fuck is wrong with me?

 

With a frustrated sigh, Ray pushed away from his desk. It was close enough to lunch and he had to spin by the store anyway. Maybe he’d even pick up Dief some donuts.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

 

A camera. Oh, his kingdom for a camera.

 

 

 

Ray was still doubled over with laughter as he watched Corporal Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police chasing a half naked eighteen month old through his apartment.

 

 

 

Fraser held a diaper in one hand as he chased the little boy. Sebastian was crawling across the floor, Dief close behind him carrying a pair of pants in his mouth. “A little help would be appreciated here, Ray.” Fraser called as he just missed the back of Sebastian’s shirt again. Now Ray knew why his sister-in law always strapped her kids down to the changing mat. Easier to catch that way.

 

 

 

Oh, this was priceless. Benton Fraser, Super Mountie couldn’t catch a toddler. “Hey ‘Bastian. You like smarties?” Ray pulled the bag from his pocket and showed the little boy.

 

 

 

Sebastian squealed and crawled over towards him. “Gotcha!” Ray scooped him up. “See Frase’, it’s all about the motivation.”

 

 

 

“I hardly think bribing him with candy was necessary,” Fraser said with a hint of disapproval. 

 

 

 

“And you were having better luck catching the rug rat?” Ray laughed.

 

 

 

Fraser frowned slightly. "I hardly think rat is appropriate name for my nephew, Ray."

 

 

 

"Freak, it’s another way of saying a kid. You know 'rug rat', crawling all over the rugs?"

 

 

 

"If you say so, Ray."

 

 

 

Between the two of them and a little help from Diefenbaker, a new diaper was put on Sebastian along with his pants. Who knew, Ray thought, that they were a damn good duet for bringing down bad-guys and changing diapers.

 

 

 

“Picked up the diapers and crap, some cold-cut sandwiches for us and this weird not-baby food this lady at the store said to get.” Ray picked the bags up from the entry of his apartment pulling out the small jars labeled Gerber Graduates, with little cut up hot dogs, and crap that cost way to much when it was going to be eaten by someone that probably would eat lint.

 

 

 

And he didn’t mean Fraser.

 

 

 

“Lady, Ray?”

 

 

 

Ray rolled his shoulders. “Well I mean she had ‘bout three kids in tow and I figured you know better get the right stuff for the kid and all.” It had been as embarrassing as hell, standing there in the baby aisle just staring at the kagillion different little jars.

 

 

 

“Thank you Ray. You didn’t have to go to so much trouble.”

 

 

 

“Hey we’re buddies right?” Ray gestured between them with his hands. “That means I have to look out for the kid too.”

 

 

 

Fraser's smile made the lost lunch hour, the fifty bucks at the store--and no way was he going to tell Fraser that part--worth it.

 

 

 

“Disposal diapers are not very environmentally friendly, Ray.” Fraser remarked as Ray and he ate their sandwiches.

 

Sebastian sat in his carrier a little hot dog piece in his hand. Ray grinned as the kid seemed to be in a very deep conversation with Dief who watched him--well, watched the hotdog. Not that Dief probably understood a word ‘Bastian was saying, because Ray sure as hell didn’t.

 

“Fraser, I love you like a brother, but I’m not washing cloth diapers for anything.” Ray snorted, taking another bite. It was better than the first sandwich he’d had with Fraser. Ray glanced back at the kid. “No offense, kiddo.”

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

A week into Fraser’s stay, Ray had come to some important conclusions.

 

 

 

One:  Fraser didn’t plan to talk about what had happened. At least not in the near future.

 

 

 

Two: Sebastian needed a crib. A point brought home by the fact he was sitting on Ray’s chest bouncing and giggling.

 

 

 

Three: Life would have been so much easier had he jumped Fraser’s bones on their adventure when he had the chance. Or hell, if Ray had just taken Fraser up on the multitude of offers he always thought were lurking in Fraser’s eyes.

 

 

 

And four: ---“ ‘ay, ‘ay, ‘ay, ‘ay,” Sebastian babbled and patted his face.

 

 

 

Ray frowned slightly--and four--wait, was the kid saying his name?

 

 

 

 “All right, kid, I’m up, I’m up.” He placed the kid on the floor, which was a lot cleaner since Fraser had started staying here. After a moment, Ray swung his own feet to the floor. Ray rubbed his hand over his face and tried to restart his brain. 

 

 

 

Something smelled good, Ray decided after he stumbled to the bathroom. He stayed in his boxers and t-shirt because it wasn’t as if Fraser hadn’t seen him in them before. Plus, he’d bet good money that Fraser was responsible for the pint sized wake up call.

 

 

 

Ray wandered into the kitchen ruffling ‘Bastian’s hair and Dief’s fur. “You didn’t have to make breakfast, Fraser.”

 

 

 

Fraser turned his head slightly as he flipped another pancake. “Good morning, Ray. Did you sleep well?” Fraser’s tongue licked the corner of his mouth, and Ray had to tear his eyes away.

 

 

 

“Slept fine, but I think I preferred the wolf's wake up call.” Ray snorted, and then grinned. “Got any plans today? I can give you a ride; I mean I figure you’ve got people to see.”

 

 

 

Ray regretted asking, as Fraser’s back tensed and his head turned back to the stove.

 

 

 

“It would be rather short notice to be dropping in announced with a toddler and I would not wish to impose--” Fraser scratched his eyebrow.

 

 

 

“Screw--“

 

 

 

“Little ears, Ray.”

 

 

 

Ray rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah I hear you. We should at least see Frannie or Ma Vecchio if just to pick a crib, for the kid.”

 

 

 

“Crib?” Fraser echoed.

 

 

 

“Yeah, you know for, ‘Bastian.” Ray watched Fraser lick the corner of his mouth again. “Come on, Fraser like we both don’t know that you’re waking up every time the kid moves.” And like we both don’t know that I’ve been watching you sleep.

 

 

 

**********************

 

 

 

 

 

Ray always knew Fraser was a bit unhinged. They guy always talked to himself and gave empty air weird looks. It was one of those things Ray just come to accept.

 

It wasn’t until two weeks after Frannie had given them a crib, (a real nice oak one, and Ray still wasn’t buying that she just happened to have an extra one but there was no arguing with Frannie), that Ray actually really listened to Fraser as he talked to air. It was morning. It was way too early in Ray’s opinion. Fraser was already in the kitchen cooking breakfast when Ray stumbled out of his bedroom.

 

Fraser didn’t know Ray was awake. Ray was sure he’d have stopped arguing about group of six or whatnot otherwise

 

 

“Dad, we’ve had this discussion before.” Fraser said. Ray half expected him to start reciting Hamlet. Not that he wanted it to get around, but Ray hadn’t slept through all his Lit classes. He just hoped the Hamlet impression stuck to talking to dead fathers.

 

Ray made his presence known with a loud yawn and a sleepy-sounding “Morning, Fraser.” He pretended he hadn’t heard any of Fraser’s impersonation of Danish royalty.

 

Ray tried not to notice the way Fraser started. He also tried not to notice how Fraser stammered a bit in his morning greeting. Ray just made a note in his ‘things to shake out of Fraser when I finally kick him in the head’ file, picked up Sebastian to get the kid dressed, and asked Fraser what was for breakfast.

 

It was after Ray’s shift, when he’d met the Mountie, wolf, and kid--the newest Disney family classic coming to theaters soon--  at the park near the station, he decided that at least one question in the kick him in the head file needed to be brought up.

 

Ray almost didn’t. It was just so nice to be out there watching Sebastian in the swing with Fraser at his side. It felt like family and home. And fuck wasn’t that a hell of a thing?

 

“Benton-buddy,” Ray kept his tone light, like what he was going to ask was no big deal. “You didn’t…I mean, does Sebastian’s dad know you have him down here?”

 

Fraser turned his head slightly, wearing that infuriating ‘I’m not sure I understand’ look. “Well no Ray, I would expect he does not.”

 

Ray had to look down to make sure the ground hadn’t shifted, and then looked around for some sign he was in Bizzaro world here. Benton Fraser had not just admitted to kidnapping. No way, no how. Invalid entry. “Fra--Ben, look, we’ll call Stella. She doesn’t handle this sort of thing normally, but she’d know someone good that does. And---“

 

Fraser cracked his neck. “Ray,” he said carefully. He was using the same tone Ray had heard him use on all the crazies they used to deal with. “What exactly are you trying to say?”

 

“You taking Sebastian without his father’s say so. I know he’s Maggie’s kid and you two had gotten real tight. And you didn’t like the way her ex acted,” Ray started to babble.

 

 

“Oh.” Fraser said and looked away from Ray.

 

“Oh?” Ray echoed.

 

“Ah, I fear you have reached an incorrect conclusion, Ray. Sebastian’s father signed over his parental rights when he and Maggie divorced.” Fraser sounded odd. That odd closed up, ‘I’m very pissed off about this, but since I’m a Mountie I can’t show it’ voice,’ that had taken Ray almost two years to figure out.

 

 

Real smooth, Kowalski. Why didn’t I just kick him in the head? “Oh well yeah, different story then.” Ray felt what little he’d eaten that day try to climb up his throat.

 

 

 

The hand that Fraser’s placed on his shoulder was a shock. “Ray, it means a great deal to me that you would offer to help. Even if you’d believed I’d broken the law.”

 

Ray glanced over at his partner. For a bare moment, he caught Fraser’s eyes before they both looked away. The warmth that spread in his stomach was better than the first cup of coffee he’d had after being out on the ice with Fraser.

 

”Chinese for dinner?” Ray suggested after he watched Fraser for a time. Fraser gazed absently at Sebastian, his eyes not really on the boy. Ray followed his gaze. Dief pushed Sebastian in the swing with his nose. Sebastian looked a lot like this mother. Ray wondered if that’s what Fraser saw when he looked at Sebastian. “Frase? Dinner?”

 

 

 

Fraser blinked and looked back at Ray. “Ah, yes. Dinner would be nice, and I believe it’s my turn to pay.”

 

 

 

Ray rolled his eyes. “That’s what you said last time. I’ll pay.”

 

 

 

“Ray, I must insist. Sebastian and I eat enough of your food.” Fraser argued.

 

 

 

“Say yes Ray or I’ll pop you.” Ray told him good-naturedly.

 

 

 

“Honestly, Ray. I’d hoped you’d grown up some since the case with Levon.” Fraser said, his lips twitched.

 

 

 

Ray’s smile grew wider. “Say ‘yes’ or I’ll pop you.”

 

 

 

“Oh, well, gee, in that case, ‘Yes, Ray’.” Fraser rolled his eyes as he retrieved Sebastian.

 

 

 

“Thank you very much.” Ray said.

 

 

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

 

 

 

 

***************

 

 

 

Ray really didn’t have anything against Ray Vecchio. The guy was a decent cop. He was a good friend to Fraser. And even if it tore him up that his Stella was happier on that Ray’s arm, well he could live with it.

 

Vecchio had picked Fraser up at the apartment. Benny he called him like Fraser was six or something Ray didn’t really care what the hell they were doing or that Fraser looked more relaxed walking down the hall with Vecchio then he had in weeks.

 

Go on, Fraser, Ray had told Fraser the other day, I’ve got a day off, and I’ll watch the rug rat. You and Vecchio can catch up.

 

“You sure Kowalski can handle the kid alone?” Ray Vecchio said.

 

I’m right here fucker, Ray thought testily and shut the door hard. Fraser's sharp ears would have to pick that up Ray figured, as he leaned up against the door. He could hear Sebastian babble at the TV. The rug rat had a thing for Dr. Who and Ray sure as hell didn’t have a problem with that.

 

“Your whole family's unhinged ‘Bastian,” Ray told him, sprawling out on the couch beside the toddler.

 

“ ‘ay,” Sebastian said and climbed up onto Ray’s lap. “Ball.” He pointed at the screen.

 

Ray laughed. “Planet.”

 

“Ball.” Sebastian insisted.

 

“Hey I’m bigger than you here.” Ray scooped Sebastian up and held him upside down. A maneuver Fraser yelled at Ray about regularly. “Planet.”

 

“Ball,” Sebastian squealed and giggled.

 

“All right, all right, it’s a ball. Just because you got Fraser’s sharp eyes doesn’t mean you can ruin the special effects for us all,” Ray told him. He tried to keep a straight face as he put Sebastian back in his lap.

 

Sebastian just laughed and clapped his hands.

 

Ray grabbed his coffee and made a face at the first sip. Cold. Figured. “What am I going to do with you all day, Sebastian? Bet your da--uncle would have a fit if we watched TV all day.”

 

“Da?” Ray didn’t bother to correct him. Fraser would have to get used to being called dad sooner or later.

 

“He’ll be back later. What do you think we should do? Park? Movie? Nah, they’d never let me into a Disney movie. Zoo?” Ray grinned, liking his last idea. If Sebastian was anything like his uncle or mother, he’d love the Zoo. “Zoo, then? We’ll go look at the lions, tigers, and bears--bet they have some Dief’s there too.”

 

“Def?”

 

“Yeah, some of his cousins. Bet they don’t eat as good as our Dief huh?”

 

 

 

************

 

“Def! Def! Def!” Sebastian yelled excitedly. He pointed at the wolves in the enclosure. “ ‘ay, Def!”

 

“Yeah, I see them. Lots and lots of Diefs’.” Ray shifted Sebastian to his other side and leaned against one of the rails. This had been one of his better ideas. Sebastian thought it was greatness, and Ray had to agree with that. The place was very different from how it had been when he was a kid. Now, all the signs assured zoo-goers that these were state of the art enclosures so the animals would be all happy. Ray figured Fraser would like that part.

 

That, and it was sort of fun being mistaken for Sebastian’s dad.

 

“Your little boy sure loves the wolves.” A cute blonde with a camera said. She smiled prettily at Ray.

 

Ray smiled back. “We’ve got a wol--dog at home that looks like one. I keep telling him those out there wouldn’t put up with all the ear pulling he does.”

 

The woman laughed. “They probably wouldn’t. Hey, little guy, you liking the doggies?” She asked Sebastian.

 

Sebastian made a face at her. “Defs!”.

 

Ray and the young woman, who later said her name was Sue, laughed. They stood talking for a while. Ray couldn’t figure out why she looked at his left hand several times. When Ray begged off from the conversation--gotta check the kid-- he’d glanced at his hands.

 

Ray’s hands looked just the same as always to him. Ray frowned and headed into the bathroom with Sebastian. Thank god, the bathroom had a changing area. After a bit of a struggle with Sebastian, Ray got the clean diaper on him. Sebastian had decided lately that naked was good, a thing that had Fraser seriously freaked. Finally, they were ready to go eat the lunch Ray had packed.

 

 

Ray found a table that had a view of the flamingos. Bet Fraser could sleep standing up. Then made sure Sebastian was all settled with his sandwich and sippy cup. It was only then that it hit Ray right between the eyes.

 

I suck. Sue had flirted with him. Ray thumped his head against the table, making Sebastian laugh. “Bet even your uncle would have gotten her number.” Ray snorted.

 

Sebastian just grinned at him and managed to get peanut butter and jelly on his nose.

 

*****

 

It was just after four when Ray pulled up at his apartment building. Sebastian was asleep in the carseat in the back, his arms still wrapped around the stuffed wolf Ray had brought for him. The thing had cost him more than anyone should pay for a toy, but Ray hadn’t been able to say 'no' to those big blue eyes. It was weird watching the kid with the wolf and knowing he'd got it for him. Greatness, but weird.

 

 

Ray was pretty beat himself, but he felt good. Damn good, it was like he had been out dancing with Stella all night, back when they were young and in love. A million fucking years ago.

 

Sebastian settled back to sleep easily on Ray’s shoulder. Your father was nuts to give you up. Ray carried him upstairs fishing out the keys with his free hand.

 

The apartment was quiet, and it was weird not having the wolf underfoot, Ray decided. The answering machine wasn’t flashing, so Ray figured there was nothing to worry about. Fraser would be back at some point and it wasn’t like Ray didn’t know how to make dinner.

 

My turn to cook anyways, and Ray started to think about what to cook as he walked over to Sebastian's crib. Ray started to place Sebastian into the crib, but changed his mind as the toddler snuggled closer. Dinner could wait a few minutes, he decided sitting down on the coach.

 

Sebastian hugged the wolf closer, one little hand fisted in Ray’s shirt. Ray grinned and flipped on the TV.

 

Could heat up some of the chili I made last week, Ray thought as he stroked Sebastian hair. I could--

 

The remote slid out Ray’s hand, while the other one rested loosely on Sebastian’s fair head

 

 

 

**************

 

 

 

Sebastian was a slight weight on Ray’s chest and drooling judging from the damp spot. Ray smiled sleepily and stroked the short almost spiky blonde hair. This is nice.

 

Fraser wasn’t home yet, so it couldn’t hurt to close his eyes just a while longer.

 

He thought he heard Ray Vecchio’s voice in the hall but decided it couldn’t be.

 

 

“Benny, I don’t think you’ve thought this through.”

 

************

 

Ray dreamt of hands that stroked his hair and calloused fingertips touched his cheek. “Ben.”

 

 

 

Ray could only think of Benton Fraser as Ben in his dreams and Ben would only touch him this way, as if they were more than friends, in a dream.

 

The touch disappeared rather suddenly then something, someone tried to take Sebastian from his arms. Ray tightened his arm protectively, his eyes opened quickly. He grabbed the offending hand only to find Fraser staring at him. Shit.

 

“Ah, Ray. You're awake. I didn’t mean to wake you--what I mean to say is---,” Fraser ran his thumbnail over his eyebrow.

 

“S’okay, you didn’t mean to.” Ray yawned and let Fraser take Sebastian. The toddler fussed slightly then broke into a sleepy eyed grin at the sight of Fraser.

 

“Da,” Sebastian exclaimed happily.

 

Fraser entire face changed before Ray’s eyes, he looked--happy. Ray liked that look. Loved that look in fact, it was right up there with dancing, chocolate in his coffee, and kicking in heads on his ‘makes Ray happy’ list. A lot of Fraser stuff toped that list.

 

“Chili good with you?” Ray asked. He rolled to his feet and then stopped completely. “Fraser?”

 

Ray had seen that look before, the look that Fraser wore. He’d seen it in the mirror enough during his divorce. Fraser had rested his cheek on the top of Sebastian’s head and held him like he was never going to get to hold him again.

 

“Fraser?” Ray repeated. What the fuck have you done, Ray wanted to yell. “Ben?”

 

The ‘Ben’, got a neck crack and an odd look from Fraser. “Yes, Ray?”

 

Ray’s hand clenched with the urge to punch Fraser. That fucking patra-parto--humoring him tone, drove Ray nuts. Fraser used it to shut Ray out, and Ray wasn’t too bright but he wasn’t d-u-m dumb. So Ray just stared at him.

 

Fraser looked away first. “I don’t wish to speak of it, Ray.”

 

Dief whined looking back and forth between Fraser and Ray. Ray hoped the wolf told Fraser he was an idiot.

 

The stuffed wolf on the couch caught Ray’s eye and he scooped it up. It was that or he’d punch Fraser. Ray couldn't do that though, not while Fraser held Sebastian. “You didn’t have any troubles spilling your guts to Vecchio.”

 

“How--” Fraser looked at him sharply, trying to balance Sebastian on his hip. The toddler reached for the stuffed wolf. “It’s for the best Ray. It really is.”

 

“Bullshit. You look like your teeth have been kicked in.” Ray snapped.

 

Fraser’s hands shook as he placed Sebastian in the crib. Ray handed the toy over and almost smiled at how happy the kid looked.

 

“Sebastian will be happier in an environment where he has full access to a more traditional family. It is the best thing for him.” Fraser had folded his hands behind his back, like he was at military rest or something.

 

Ray frowned at him and stalked closer. “Try that in American? Use tiny words, so a moron like me can get it.” He poked at Fraser’s chest with a two-fingered gesture.

 

Fraser frowned right back at him, then licked the corner of his mouth. “You aren’t a moron, Ray. I wish you wouldn’t speak of yourself so.”

 

“You’re avoiding the question, Fraser.” Ray crossed his arms.

 

“Ah, so I am.” The ear-rub this time.

 

Ray grit his teeth. “Fraser--Ben, we’re supposed to be partners, friends.” Lovers. I wish I could say lovers. “Would you just tell me?”

 

Fraser wouldn’t meet Ray’s eyes and he seemed to hesitate. “I’ve asked Ray and Stella Vecchio to adopt Sebastian.”

 

The bottom fell out of Ray’s stomach. You can’t! He loves you, you fucking idiot. You're all he has left and you're going to dump him like your father did you? You god damn--“You’re unhinged.” How could you do this to me? Let me fall in love with him. Let me think I could have you both!

 

“Ray, please--“

 

“You trying to emu--emu--be your father or what Fraser?” Ray gestured angrily. “And how could you even ask something like that of Vecchio and Stella--how cruel are you?”

 

Fraser winced, then clenched his fist. “Ray, would you just listen?”

 

“No! You don’t get to do this to Sebastian. He loses his mother, gets taken from his home, and now the only family he has wants to dump him with strangers. You think that’s right? Maggie would kick you in the head. Hell, I think I’m going to kick you in the head.” Ray’s voice had gotten louder and louder.

 

 

 

Fraser winced at the reference to Maggie.

 

A wail erupted from the crib. Sebastian stood crying, clutching the stuffed wolf. Ray swallowed hard, and wanted to kick himself in the head.

 

Fraser picked up the crying toddler to sooth him. “You think this is easy for me, Ray? I’m trying to do right by him. I want to give him the best life possible.”

 

Ray closed his eyes. “I know, Fraser. I know but you’re allowed to be happy too. You’re allowed to want things for yourself.”

 

The only sound was the sniffing whimpers from Sebastian. Slowly Fraser shook his head. “I have the habit,” Fraser said carefully. “, of wanting things I cannot have.” Ray thought he saw longing in Fraser’s eyes.

 

 

“Maybe you can have them.” Ray wet his lips and stepped closer to stroke Sebastian’s back. “You won’t know unless you take a chance.”

 

Fraser opened his mouth, but Ray pressed a finger over it. “I’ll heat up the chili. Then ‘Bastian and me will tell you all about our big day at the zoo.”

 

Ray watched Fraser’s eyes close and held his own breath. He felt, more than saw, Fraser’s small nod.

 

 

 

*************

 

 

 

Oh yeah, the Mountie’s tongue was sin, pure- go to hell, go directly to hell- sin. If Ray had known the first day when he first saw Fraser try to lick something that his tongue would feel, like this Ray would have gotten to know him up close and personal years ago. The sight of Fraser's tongue made him want to come in his jeans without any touch.

 

 

 

The edge of the counter was cutting into Ray’s back. If Fraser got any closer, Ray would be on the counter. That would be greatness, Ray thought.

 

 

 

Fraser rubbed against Ray, and that was greatness, too. Ray could feel Fraser, hard and hot through denim and cotton, and moaned into the kiss. The sound was cut off as Fraser sucked on Ray’s tongue.

 

 

 

Okay, so Fraser wants this quiet-like? Ray could do quiet. He moved his hips against Fraser’s, trying to find a rhythm, and--- yes--god yes-- that was it. Then Fraser’s hands were clenching on Ray’s hips and stopping his movement.

 

 

 

Ray made what he hoped was a disgruntled sound, because that just wasn’t buddies. Fraser's mouth was at his throat now, biting and licking. Ray felt like he should be sending thank you notes to whoever taught him how to do this.

 

 

 

“Shhh,” Fraser’s breath was unbearably hot against Ray’s skin. 

 

 

 

Fraser bit again, right at the jugular this time, and Ray’s head fell backwards offering his throat like Fraser was alpha wolf of this weird ass pack they had going. Fraser did it again, and Ray’s orgasm was suddenly right there.

 

 

 

Ray bit his own lip to keep from screaming, his hips jerking in the confines of Fraser’s hands. The world around him went hazy then black.

 

 

 

“Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray,” Fraser said. Ray opened his eyes.

 

 

 

When had the crack from the bedroom ceiling moved into the kitchen? 

 

 

 

Ray blinked. His foot was tangled in the sheets that had been kicked to the foot of the bed, right -- bedroom. Which made the whole Fraser making him come his brains out just another in a series of-- let’s give Ray a complex-- wet dreams.

 

 

 

 “Yeah, what Fraser?” Ray glanced at his door that was still shut.

 

 

 

There was a pause on the other side of the door. Ray bet he had the eyebrow scratching, tongue licking Mountie guilt thing going out there for waking him up. “Ah--I thought I heard you call my name.”

 

 

 

Oh, shit. “Must have been hearing things, Fraser.” Ray called back through the door.

 

 

 

“Oh. Well then, I’m sorry to have woken you. Good night, Ray.”

 

 

 

Ray let his head hit the bed with a thump. I suck.

 

 

 

********************

 

 

 

Stella had never been the type to wait around for anyone. She waited though for her new Ray. Ray Vecchio her new husband, not Ray Kowalski her ex-husband.

 

 

 

“I should have known better than to marry two men named Ray.” Stella told the mirror. Ray, her Ray, was to meet her at their townhouse for lunch. She’d finished up a big case that day and Ray had insisted he’d meet her at home for lunch. He wanted to be the first to congratulate her.

 

 

 

The doorbell rung and Stella went down to answer it. Maybe Ray had forgotten his keys, unlikely as that was.

 

 

 

There was a Ray on her door step, just the wrong Ray.

 

 

 

“Ray,” Stella started at him. Neither Ray was fond of the other. Stella blinked and realized Benny’s nephew was on Ray’s hip.

 

 

 

“Hey, Stella.” He looked a bit nervous. It was what he was like the first time they went on a real date. “Sorry to drop by unannounced and all but I was picking up the rug rat from Frannie’s and--“

 

 

 

That was right, Stella remembered, Francesca had been watching Sebastian for Benny, since he’d been asked to take over running the Canadian Consulate until a new Inspector was assigned. The last Inspector had, it seemed, become allergic to Chicago. More likely, it had been the fact that Inspector’s father was allergic to such a post for his only son. “Ray’s going to be home soon, but if you’d like to come in…”

 

 

 

Ray nodded. “Yeah, I kinda need to talk to him too. ‘Bout the kid and Fraser being out of his skull--“

 

 

 

Stella had figured as much. “Come on in, Ray.”

 

 

 

“Thanks, Sebastian is a bit heavy. Hey kiddo, say 'hi' to your Aunt Stella.” Ray grinned widely at the little boy.

 

 

 

Sebastian looked at Stella. “ ‘Ella.”

 

 

 

Stella had to smile slightly. “Close enough. “

 

 

 

Ray shrugged and followed Stella into the kitchen. “He’s picky about what he says right. Hey, Bastian, play on the floor with Def okay?” He sat the toddler down onto the cool ceramic tile floor.

 

 

 

Def must be the stuffed wolf Sebastian was holding, Stella figured. “You seem to be pretty good with him,” she said carefully, watching him lean back against the polished granite counter top.

 

 

 

Ray shrugged again. “You know I wanted kids, Stella.”

 

 

 

Stella knew that, but she hadn’t wanted them. She wasn’t sure if she wanted them now. “It wasn’t Ray’s idea.”

 

 

 

“Figured as much. Might not like him, but you wouldn’t have married a dick like that.” Ray fiddled with that horrid metal bracelet of his. Stella couldn’t help but hope his boots hadn’t scuffed the wood floor in the living room. “Don’t let him do it, Stella. Don’t take Sebastian. Fraser--Ben he isn’t going with all cylinders.”

 

 

 

“You can’t make decisions for Ray and me, and certainly not for Benny.” Stella pointed out sharply.

 

 

 

“Why do you call him that?”

 

 

 

Stella blinked, thrown for a second by the question. “Because Ray does, most likely.”

 

 

 

“I don’t call him anything but Fraser, mostly.” Ray sighed shoving his hands in his pockets. “I should call him Ben, it’s his name.”

 

 

 

“Ray,” Stella resisted the urge to smack him, because it never helped. “We’ve told him it isn’t something we can decide overnight. Ray say’s he wants to adopt Sebastian if it’s what Benny really wants.”

 

 

 

Ray sighed again. “This is so fu--messed up. Fraser adores the kid, the kid adores Fraser--“

 

 

 

“ ‘ay!” Sebastian tugged at Ray’s jeans leg.

 

 

 

“I think Sebastian is rather fond of you too.” Stella brushed some hair out of her eyes, and felt Ray’s eyes rest on her wedding band.

 

 

 

“Yeah, well, the kid’s unhinged too.” Ray seemed to watch her before he decided something. “You happy, Stella? I mean really happy, because if he hurts you I’ll kick him in the head for you.”

 

 

 

Oddly enough, that made Stella smile. “I’m happy Ray. Happier than…” She trailed off. “You know I love you. I’ll always love you, but I wasn’t happy.”

 

 

 

“I know and I’m sorry. I should have seen it and all.” Ray stroked Sebastian’s hair. “It’s okay if you’re happy with Vecchio. Hell, if he’s what you need, Stella, and makes you happy, I’ll join his freakin fan club.”

 

 

 

Stella leaned her head back against one of the cherry cabinets and laughed. “You would not.”

 

 

 

Ray grinned widely. “All right, all right. So I wouldn’t join his fan club, but I’d drop him off my list of people to kick in the head.”

 

 

 

“You’re such a romantic, Ray.”

 

 

 

**********************

 

 

 

Fraser was late.

 

 

 

Ray glanced at the clock again and wondered when he’d become a housewife. A housewife without the perks, like sex and some form of claim to the guy you were waiting on.

 

 

 

This also brought new insight into why his father had warned his brother to work on ducking, after his first child was born. Fraser was damn lucky Ray didn’t have some cast-iron pot to pitch at his head when he came in. Fraser was also lucky that getting any pot would involve putting Sebastian down.

 

 

 

Ray didn’t think the neighbors would like that, the kid bawled loud enough as it was.

 

 

 

“C’mon Sebastian, work with me here. I know you want your da, he’ll be here soon, promise.” Ray pleaded, as he sat down on the couch to keep from dropping the flailing child.

 

 

 

“Want da, want da!” Sebastian flung his small body backwards, arms and legs going every which way. Ray held on doggedly to keep Sebastian from hurting himself. He’d given up on wiping the tears and snot,  a while ago.

 

 

 

Stella would never be able to handle this shit, Ray thought thinking back to his visit with his ex earlier that day. Fuck, he wondered if that visit and the later talk with Vecchio was why Fraser was a no show.

 

 

 

Fuck-fuck, he wouldn’t just…dump the kid with me would he?

 

 

 

Ray bounced Sebastian a bit. A tight, panicky knot was forming in his stomach. “Please stop crying ‘Bastian, aw, please.”  He shifted on the couch, trying to get comfortable. Something was digging into his hip.

 

 

 

Ray reached under his hip and pulled out a leather-bound journal that had been wedged between the cushion. He recognized it as one of Bob Fraser’s journals. Fraser always seemed to have one on hand, though Ray didn’t remember one being on the couch earlier.

 

 

 

Sebastian let out another wail. Ray was sure someone was going to call the cops on him for killing the kid, or worse. “Hey, hey its okay, c’mon, I'll read to you. You like stories, right?” Ray shifted Sebastian, trying to get his attention. “Let’s read about your granddad.”

 

 

 

“Gran-da?”

 

 

 

Ray plastered on a huge smile and nodded. He mentally chanted, please don’t start screaming again, please don’t start screaming again, to himself. When it seemed like the screaming wouldn’t start right back up, Ray flipped open the journal. He scanned through and picked a spot to start at random.

 

 

 

“…Caroline went into town to visit a friend yesterday. I told her Ben and I would be just fine. I’m a fully trained member of the R.C.M.P, I said, of course I could deal with a two year old. Two hours later Ben starts screaming for his mother, and god help me if I can figure out what to do.” Ray could feel Sebastian slowly relax against him as he read.

 

 

 

Ray was towards the end of the entry, when he heard Fraser come in.

 

 

 

Ray glanced up briefly at Fraser, but didn’t dare stop reading.  Sebastian was almost asleep. “…and I just started to laugh. Ben just looked at me for a moment, like he thought his father had plum lost his mind then he started to laugh with me. He finally let me put him to bed after that.

 

 

 

“What are you reading?” Fraser’s voice was shaky and harsh.

 

 

 

Ray shrugged. “One of your dad’s journals. It calmed ‘Bastian down.” The little boy in Ray’s arms looked up sleepily at Fraser.

 

 

 

“Da,” Sebastian held his arms up for Fraser.

 

 

 

Ray watched as Fraser opened his mouth, his jaw working, but nothing came. “You put the rug-rat to bed. You’re the one he’s been screaming for all night.” It was a not so subtle dig at Fraser being M.I.A all night. 

 

 

 

Fraser picked up Sebastian and carried him into the bathroom for the bed time ritual.

 

 

 

 Ray rubbed his eyes then put the journal on the coffee table. He listened to Fraser’s muted voice and the soft laughter of Sebastian.

 

 

 

“Makes it all worth it, doesn’t it son?”

 

 

 

Ray jerked his head up and looked around in puzzlement for the voice. “Shit, I must be more tried than I thought.” He muttered and rested his head back against the back of the couch.

 

 

 

He was asleep by the time Fraser came back out.

 

 

 

 

 

***************************

 

 

 

“So you really want to give all of this up, do you son?” Bob Fraser had his hands folded behind his back. He watched Benton put Sebastian to bed.

 

 

 

Benton let out a slow controlled breath. “Dad, we’ve talked about this. You agreed that…”

 

 

 

“I didn’t agree to anything. I simply listened while you were being fatalistic and sulked.” Bob snorted. “Come on, son, the Yank’s good for you and for Sebastian.”

 

 

 

“I don’t sulk, and Sebastian will be able to visit with Ray a lot growing up with Ray and Stella Vecchio.” Benton reasoned and winced as he straightened from the crib. His back had been in a great deal of pain lately, though he was sure it was mostly in his head.

 

 

 

Psychological pain from stress was surely the explanation.

 

 

 

“You know son, you don’t have to be sleeping on that lumpy sofa bed--“

 

 

 

Benton’s head came up and he stood up a little too straight, a litte too quickly. “I don’t know what you think your insinuating, dad, but kindly keep your--“ Benton put a hand out to catch himself on the crib as his back threatened to give out. A pain stabbed sharply through his back.

 

 

 

Dief whimpered at his feet. Benton’s father was nowhere to be seen.

 

 

 

“No, we cannot share Ray’s bed. There isn’t enough room for two grown men and a wolf,” Benton grumbled. He made his way to the couch where Ray was sound asleep. “Besides it is hardly appropriate for Ray and I to share a---“

 

 

 

Ray shifted in his sleep and slid closer to Benton. Dief whined softly. The half-wolf nudged Ben’s leg.

 

 

 

“That is hardly the point.” Benton closed his eyes. He should wake Ray up so they both could go to their respective beds. “Mating is not as simple for humans--“

 

 

 

“Can be,” Ray murmured into Fraser’s henley.

 

 

 

Benton froze, pain radiated in pulses from the bullet in his back. “Ray?” he whispered. Benton’s tongue darted out quickly.

 

 

 

Ray yawned and buried his head in Benton’s side.

 

 

 

The spiky blonde hair was under his fingers before Benton knew what he was doing. His eyes slid closed for a moment. “Ray.”

 

 

 

“Hmmm---Ben, what?” Ray sounded sleepily.

 

 

 

Benton’s eyes opened quickly as his spine tensed at that name. He looked down guilty at his half-awake friend. “You feel asleep, Ray. I think it would be advisable for you to move to your bed.”

 

 

 

Ray yawned again and sat up. “Bed, yeah. Good idea.” He rubbed his eyes. “C’mon, Ben.”

 

 

 

 Don’t call me that. Benton wondered why of all names Ray choice ‘Ben’ and why it had to remind him of Her. “Ray?”

 

 

 

“Your back hurts. Couch bed's lumpy. C’mon.” Ray gestured blindly towards the bedroom his eyes closed. “Buddies share.”

 

 

 

Benton closed his eyes for a moment, trying to find the will to refuse. The sharp pain in his back decided for him as Ray caught his hand. He glanced back at Sebastian as Ray tugged him along towards the bedroom.

 

 

 

Two more days. I’ll tell Ray in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

*************

 

 

 

“You fucking son of a bitch.” Ray snarled into the phone. His fist clenched at his side while he tried not to punch a hole in the kitchen wall.

 

 

 

“Hello, to you too, Kowalski.” Ray Vecchio didn’t sound surprised to hear from him. “Benny told you, then?”

 

 

 

Ray started to pace. He had too much energy and the call wouldn’t last long if he chunked the phone down the garbage disposal. “Don’t fucking hello me, Vecchio. Fraser’s not thinking right. You can’t do this. He fucking loves the kid.” I fucking love the kid.

 

 

 

“When the hell is Benny ever thinking right?” Vecchio demanded. “Fuck, Kowalski, you think Stella and me doing this to, what? Hurt him? Think you’d know Stella better than that.”

 

 

 

“Fuck you, I know Stella better than you ever will, Style pig.” Ray imagined how it would feel to break Vecchio’s nose. Good, he bet.

 

 

 

Vecchio snorted over the phone. “If you knew her oh so well, why’s she married to me, Pollack?”

 

 

 

“Fuck you.”

 

 

 

“No thanks, I’ll leave that to Benny.” Vecchio spat out.

 

 

 

Ray frozen mid-pace. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

 

 

 

“Please, you two rode off into the fucking sunset together. You don’t want Fraser giving up the kid? Then maybe you should work it from your angle a bit more. Ever think of that, Kowalski?” Vecchio went on.

 

 

 

“Fraser and I aren’t like that and you’re damn lucky he’s not around to hear that kinda crap.” Ray yelled into the phone. He winced at the sound of his own voice. He sounded bitter, even to himself. “And I’ve tried talking to him, but it’s kinda hard when the man won’t talk about it.”

 

 

 

“Shit, Kowalski.” Vecchio sounded incredulous. Ray couldn’t blame him, after all when did Fraser actually shut up.

 

 

 

“Hard-head son of bitch. I think they breed them like that up there.” Ray half babbled.

 

 

 

“I thought you abandoned him up in Canada.” Vecchio’s voice cut through.

 

 

 

“What?” Ray leaned against the fridge door, his knees suddenly weak. “That why you’ve been riding my ass since I got back? Fuck, I thought it was ‘cause of Stella.”

 

 

 

“I’m not that big an asshole, Kowalski,” Vecchio told him.

 

 

 

“So you won’t take Sebastian?” Ray hated how small his voice sounded.

 

 

 

Vecchio’s sigh was audible down the phone line. “I owe Benny, Stan. I can’t say no to him on this.”

 

 

 

Ray slid down the fridge door until his ass hit the floor. “I know.” He closed his eyes and thumped his head back. “I’d take him. I’d give it a shot.”

 

 

 

“Stan--“

 

 

 

“I would. Give the single dad thing a go. It can’t be much different than what I’m doing now.” Ray’s voice cracked. “I’d take that desk job.”

 

 

 

Vecchio was silent on the other end for a moment. “You’d hate a desk job.”

 

 

 

“I love the kid.”

 

 

 

“Yeah, I know you do.”

 

 

 

Ray hung up the phone and pushed it away. He watched it slide across the floor.

 

 

 

 ***********

 

 

 

Ray couldn’t be there when Fraser was supposed to take Sebastian over to the Vecchios’. No, he wouldn’t be there. To hell with feeling like he was abandoning Ben and Sebastian. To hell with it all.

 

 

 

He couldn’t--wouldn’t--stand by and watch.  He’d hurt something. He’d break something. Like my hand on Ben’s face.

 

 

 

So Ray pulled a double shift. He made sure that he wouldn’t have to watch Fraser walk out with Sebastian. Hell, he wasn’t sure he could even look at Fraser again.

 

 

 

The fact Fraser was due back at his post in Canada the next week, was a good thing. He and Fraser wouldn’t have enough time to ruin things more than they already had. They could pretend, for that short time that things weren’t worse off than before the Henry Mackenzie--or whatever the hell the ship was called.

 

 

 

Ray dragged himself up the three flights, though to his knees it felt like twenty, of stairs to his apartment. He leaned his head against the door and fished for his keys with clumsy fingers. Ray didn’t want to go inside.

 

 

 

Don’t be such a fucking coward, Kowalski.

 

 

 

Ray unlocked the door and pushed it open. He almost stumbled over Fraser as he walked inside. Ray’s keys dangled from his hand as he stared down at Fraser.

 

 

 

Fraser was bent over himself as he held a sleepily eyed Sebastian, his dark head touching Sebastian light one. Sebastian's bags--the diaper bag, a bag of toys, and a bag of clothing--sat beside Fraser. Dief lay a few feet away watching.

 

 

 

“You’re not supposed to be here.” Were the first words out of Ray’s mouth and he cursed himself for them.

 

 

 

Dief stood up and nosed Ray’s hand. Ray bent down to scratch Dief’s ears, and tried to catch Fraser’s eyes.

 

 

 

“ ‘ay?” Sebastian looked at him with confused blue eyes.

 

 

 

“Hey rug-rat.” Ray whispered. “Fraser?”

 

 

 

Fraser wouldn’t look at him, just kept his tight grip on the small boy in his arms. Dief whimpered.

 

 

 

“Yeah, I get it Dief.” Ray said softly and then reached out to take Sebastian from Fraser’s arms. Fraser's almost growl shook Ray a bit. “Fraser, let me have Sebastian.”

 

 

 

The large arms wrapped tighter around the toddler. “No.” It sounded like a whimper. Sebastian whimpered right along and tried to wiggle free.

 

 

 

“Ben, I’m just going to put him in the crib. He’s scared, Ben.” Ray said softly, still crouched in front of Ben.

 

 

 

Ray heard Ben’s neck crack but his arms relaxed. Ray found himself with an armful of Sebastian. The little boy wrapped his arms tightly around Ray’s shoulders.

 

 

 

 “’ay,” Sebastian said sleepily and patted Ray’s face.

 

 

 

“Ben, I’ll be right back okay? I’m only taking Sebastian to his crib.” Ray reassured his partner. He hated the lost look in Fraser’s eyes.

 

 

 

Sebastian was asleep by the time Ray walked across the room to the crib. He woke slightly as Ray put him down. “ ‘ay?”

 

 

 

“I’m here ‘Bastian. You go nite-nite.” Ray whispered and kissed his forehead.  Ray stood slowly and made his way back over to Fraser. “Frase?”

 

 

 

There was no response.

 

 

 

Ray sat down beside him so their arms touched. “Ben, you okay?”

 

 

 

“I want him to be happy.” Ben’s voice was distant. “I want him to have a family.”

 

 

 

Ray rested his head on the wall. “And you don’t think you can give him that? A family? Love?”

 

 

 

“Children need mothers and fathers.” Ben said as he started at an empty space near the hall closet door. “They need parents who can be there.”

 

 

 

“Like your parents weren’t there for you?” Ray looked at Ben from the corner of his eyes. “Your mother died and your father…,”

 

 

 

“My father’s duty came first. I understood that.”

 

 

 

Ray frowned as he turned to look at Fraser. “Bullshit.”

 

 

 

Fraser finally looked at him. “Excuse me?”

 

 

 

“I said bullshit, Fraser. Your father’s first duty was to you, and he failed it miserably.” Ray wished Fraser’s father was there. He had a thing or two to tell Robert Fraser.

 

 

 

“That’s not true, he was a fine man, a fine Mountie and,” Fraser cut off.

 

 

 

“And?” Ray promoted.

 

 

 

Ben frowned at that piece of empty space. “And a horrible father,” he finished in a whisper as if he was worried that his father might hear. Ray figured Fraser for the type not to speak ill of the dead.

 

 

 

Ray brought his hand up to Ben’s shoulder. He rubbed in what he hoped was a comforting way for Ben. He could feel Ben’s warmth through the leather jacket and wondered if the position hurt Ben’s back.

 

 

 

“I’d be a miserable father, Ray. Sebastian needs a father that won’t disappear for days, even weeks, at a time and he needs children his own age.” Ben’s voice held the echoes of old hurts.

 

 

 

“And you think putting Vecchio in the same position is fair? That ain’t buddies, Frase.” Ray told him, still rubbing his shoulder. “I was him remember? The man’s father was an abusive asshole. You don’t think he isn’t scared to death of being a rotten father, too? Least yours never knocked you around.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Ray,” Ben did that little tongue thing that drove Ray wild. If things had been a little different Fraser would be getting Ray’s version of buddy breathing.

 

 

 

“C’mon, let move to the couch. I think our knees and backs are too old for this floor crap.” Ray gave Ben an easy smile and got to his feet.  Ray’s knees popped as he did. “I’ll make you some of that dirt tea.”

 

 

 

Fraser smiled a little. “Bark tea, Ray.”

 

 

 

“Yeah, yeah. Dirt, bark, same thing.” Ray shrugged and gestured to Dief. “C’mon wolf I think I’ve got a doughnut stashed in the kitchen”.

 

 

 

******************

 

 

 

Ray stroked the back of Sebastian’s blonde hair as he held the toddler. His eyes were only wet because he had pressed them closed too tightly. Ray wasn’t crying. He wasn’t. If you said he was, Ray would kick you in the head. “You take care of your dad, rug-rat. He’ll sulk if you let him.” Ray said softly.

 

 

 

“ ‘Ay,” Sebastian patted his face. “ Da, Def go Canada.” The toddler pointed out the big airport window at the jet. Fraser stood a few feet away deep in conversation with the gate agent. Ray figured Ben had started to argue over taking the car seat onto the plane. Dief had been sent up a few days before, so at least Ben didn’t have that to fight with airline officials over.

 

 

 

“Yeah, ‘Bastian you’re going on the plane with Ben to Canada. Back home.” He ruffled the little boy’s hair.

 

 

 

Sebastian frowned and tugged at Ray’s shirt with one hand, his other clutched the stuffed wolf, Def. Def had recently gained a stuffed Mountie friend that, of course, Turnbull had nothing to do with. “ ‘ay come?”

 

 

 

Ray shook his head. “Nah, gotta stay here, and help your Uncle Vecchio knock down all the bad guys.” He gave Sebastian another long hug. This wasn’t the last time he’d ever see the rug-rat. Ray would visit Ben. Ben had promised to visit too. So what if it was going to hurt like a bitch every time Ray went home to an apartment that didn’t have them in it?

 

 

 

“We’ll be boarding soon.” Ben said as he rejoined them.

 

 

 

“Done harassing the poor gate agent?” Ray asked and reluctantly handed Sebastian over to his father.

 

 

 

Ben rubbed his eyebrow. “I was merely making sure Sebastian would be safe in his seat.”

 

 

 

“Sure you were, buddy.” Ray grinned. His hand found its way to Ben’s back. “You’ll call when you get in safe?”

 

 

 

“Well, Ray, while the town I am posted in is a good deal less isolated that some of my past posts---” Ben cut off as Ray frowned. “I’ll endeavor to contact you as soon as I reach a phone, Ray.”

 

 

 

Ray nodded satisfied. “Good.” He hadn’t moved his hand and stepped forward to turn the touch into a hug. “Frase---Ben, you know I love you.”

 

 

 

There was a slight neck crack then, “And I you, Ray.”

 

 

 

No, not like that. Not like buddies. I love you, want you, need you, Ray wanted to say, instead he just gave Ben a tight but careful hug. “I’ll see you, Benton-buddy.”

 

 

 

Ben smiled. “Take care, Ray.”

 

 

 

Fraser and Sebastian boarded the plane. Ray stood in front of the large window and watched the plane taxi from the gate and roll away. When it started to disappear from sight, Ray closed his eyes. Maybe when he opened them he’d be back at his apartment. He’d listen to the sounds of Ben cooking and arguing with Dief. While Sebastian sat in Ray’s lap and watched Dr. Who with him.

 

 

 

Ray had closed his eyes too tightly. That was why his cheeks were wet.

 

 

 

*************

 

 

 

“He killed my baby! The son of bitch killed my baby!” The woman’s anguished cry rose above the sounds of sirens and car engines.  A female unformed officer pulled her away from a balding man in cuffs. He had bloody scratch marks down his face.

 

 

 

Ray hated domestic calls. He got the impression they weren’t Vecchio’s favorite either. Too many bad memories probably, so he could hardly blame the guy. “You want to talk to the mother, Vecchio? I’ll take the babysitter and take a look at the scene.”

 

 

 

The babysitter sat in the back of the ambulance, her young face tear streaked. She looked incredibly young and pale in the flashing lights. Poor kid couldn’t have been more than sixteen.

 

 

 

As Ray got closer, he could see the bruises on her face and her hands were bandaged.  “How you feeling, Mary?” He asked as he crouched down near her. “They taking good care of you?”

 

 

 

She nodded numbly. “I’m sorry.” Mary whispered. “I was supposed to protect him. I couldn’t.”

 

 

 

 “You didn’t do anything wrong, Mary. You were braver than most kids your age would have been.” Ray assured her. “I know this is hard right now, but I need you to tell me what happened.”

 

 

 

“They already asked that.”

 

 

 

“I know they did, Mary. I’m not going to lie to you. You’re going to be asked to tell what happened a whole lot. Not because we don’t believe you, but so that the guy that did this goes away for a very long time.” Ray told her.

 

 

 

Mary nodded then she started to talk.

 

 

 

Even after listening to Mary, Ray wasn’t prepared for the scene. The room was on the second floor, right next to what he assumed was the master bedroom. Ray ducked under the police tape and stepped inside.

 

 

 

The room was baseball themed. Even the bedding on the crib had baseballs and mitts on it. He saw the body.

 

 

 

Ray just saw the boy’s head at first, with its short cut blonde hair. One little hand hung limply out of the crib and the other was clinging to a stuffed toy.

 

 

 

One of the forensics team snapped pictures of the body. Another carefully bagged a small baseball shaped pillow. The man met his eyes and shook his head. “Smothered him with it. Then slashed the kid’s throat, near as we can tell.”

 

 

 

Ray knew he shouldn’t look back at the small body. He should walk out of the room and outside to get some air. He looked at the boy.

 

 

 

It was a toddler, about Sebastian’s age and Sebastian’s size. Bile climbed up Ray’s throat and his knees started to give. No, not Sebastian. Sebastian was safe with Fraser. Sebastian was in Canada and…

 

 

 

Ray was on the floor and Vecchio had him by the shoulders. “Kowalski, get a hold of yourself.” Vecchio shook him enough to jar his head.

 

 

 

“‘Bastian.” Ray croaked out and wondered why his voice was weak. He was a cop dam-it. He couldn’t fall apart like this,

 

 

 

Vecchio looked at him with worried green eyes. Ray vaguely knew that that was wrong, Vecchio never worried about him. “Stan, that wasn’t Sebastian, you know that. Sebastian is with Benny.”

 

 

 

Ray nodded. Yeah, he knew that. He knew that.

 

 

 

“I’m taking you home, Stanley.” Vecchio voice broached no argument. “Stella and Benny would kill me if I let you pass out in front of a camera crew.”

 

 

 

It wasn’t Sebastian. Ray’s hands shook.

 

 

 

 

 

***************

 

 

 

Ray listened to the phone ring. Pick up Ben. Please, Ben, pick up. He squeezed his eyes shut then opened them again quickly as the images started to play out again. His stomach rebelled but there was nothing left to come up so he simply gagged.

 

 

 

“---Corporal Benton Fraser speaking, how may I assist you?” Ray suddenly heard in his ear and wondered how long he’d been out of it.

 

 

 

“Ben?” Ray asked his voice raw from beer that had seen both ways of his throat.

 

 

 

There was a pause. “Ray?” Fraser sounded surprised and shaken. “Are you all right? You sound--“

 

 

 

Ray shook his head even though Ben couldn’t see him. “’Bastian? Is Sebastian all right? Did something--please tell me he’s okay---”

 

 

 

“Ray--”

 

 

 

“Because I keep seeing him, but it’s not him, it’s that kid, but it’s ‘Bastian and he’s dead. Oh fuck he’s dead and there’s blood all over--- Ben, please tell me he’s okay.” Ray voice sounded like a sob.

 

 

 

“Ray, Sebastian is fine.” Ben sounded--peculiar. “I promise. He’s only about three meters away playing with Dief.”

 

 

 

Ray drew in a shuddered breath. His free hand unclenched from the mattress. “He’s good?”

 

 

 

“Yes, Ray, he is.” Ben reassured him. “Ray? What happened?”

 

 

 

“A case. The dad had lost custody so he---he---,” Ray shuddered and closed his eyes. “He put a pillow over his head then slit the little boy’s throat. The kid he, he was the same age as Sebastian. He had all this baseball stuff in his room and---” Ray face was wet again.

 

 

 

“Ray, have you slept at all since you returned from the scene?” Ben asked, he sounded worried. Ray couldn’t blame him.

 

 

 

“Can’t. Every time I close my eyes--I see him, Ben. But it’s Sebastian.” Ray curled up on his side with the phone.

 

 

 

“You should try to sleep.”

 

 

 

“I know.” Ray closed his eyes. “Sing to me?”

 

 

 

Ray could almost see the look of shock on Ben’s face. “You wnat me to sing to you?”

 

 

 

“Yes. Please.” It was an old wish of his.

 

 

 

“Just--something--anything. Please.” Ray begged. “Something you’d sing to Sebastian. The one about the bat.”

 

 

 

Ray could hear Ben take a deep breath. “Are you sure?”

 

 

 

“Please.”

 

 

 

There was silence and Ray had a moment of fear that Ben had hung up, leaving him alone in his dark room.

 

 

 

“ ‘ I said the little leatherwing bat. I'll tell to you the reason that the reason that I fly by night is because I've lost my heart's delight,’ “ Ben started to sing.

 

 

 

Ray fell asleep to the sound of Ben’s voice.

 

 

 

********************

 

 

 

Corporal Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was fairly happy. In fact he was happier than he could remember being since the hazy time before his mother’s death.

 

 

 

“Da,” Sebastian called from the floor as he held up what was either a crayon drawing of Dief or a Yeti. “It Def.”

 

 

 

Well that answered the Yeti or Dief question. Benton smiled widely at the little boy and set aside his journal. “It’s wonderful, Sebastian. Should we put it on the wall?”

 

 

 

Sebastian nodded then clambered up and over Dief on his way to Benton. Benton scooped Sebastian up and the two of them went over to what was fast becoming the ‘art wall’ to hang Sebastian’s newest masterpiece. Those crayons were the best things Benton had ever bought in his life.

 

 

 

“Is that the wolf or a caribou?” Bob Fraser asked as he looked over his son and grandson’s shoulder.

 

 

 

“It’s Diefenbaker.” Benton confirmed.

 

 

 

Bob nodded then examined it from all angles. “You should draw one for your grandmother, Sebastian.” He suggested to the little boy, who grinned widely at his dead grandfather. “The boy’s got the makings of a great artist, better than the group of six.”

 

 

 

Benton resisted rolling his eyes. “Dad, it’s the group of seven.”

 

 

 

“No, no I’m quite sure it was the group of six. Even your mother says so.” Bob told him adamantly.

 

 

 

“The fact still remains that--” Before Benton could finish his reply to his father a knock at the door interrupt him. He almost groaned, he’d been looking forward to a nice quiet evening but duty was duty.

 

 

 

Sebastian still on his hip, Benton yanked open the door. “Can I help----Ray?” He was certain he had truly become unhinged because Ray couldn’t be there. Ray was back in Chicago, and he certainly hadn’t mentioned coming to Canada. Granted their last conversation four nights ago consisted mainly of Ray babbling something about Sebastian being dead then Ray had begged to be sung to sleep.

 

 

 

“ ‘Ay!” Sebastian squealed. Dief wiggled between Benton's legs to jump and lick at Ray. Ray stumbled inside, pushing past Benton to close to door against the wind.

 

 

 

“Hey rug-rat, hey wolf.” Ray reached out to ruffle Sebastian’s hair, and then leaned down to give Dief a scratch behind his ears.

 

 

 

“Ray?” Benton repeated feeling as if he’d just missed something very important.

 

 

 

Ray’s grin transformed his tired face. There were more lines around Ray’s eyes, and dark shadows underneath. He looked worn and jet-lagged but so very good to Benton. “Hey, Ben. Heard any good Inuit stories lately?”