A Passing Feeling
Disclaimer: This is a slash fic featuring Ray Kowalski and Benton Fraser from due South. They belong to Alliance etc. Not me, sadly. If you're a minor where you live, please go elsewhere.
Author's Notes: Huge thank you to Dayse for constant handholding. This story is finished because of her. Huge thanks also go out to Sarah, Kittie, and Spring for wonderful, encouraging beta jobs. They kick much ass. Also, this is the first story in a series titled Picture in a Frame. Look for more in the future.
Story Notes: This story contains minor character death, kid-fic, and friendly giraffes.
A Passing Feeling
The plane ride had sucked the will to live right out of Ray, not that he had much to start with. Two days of fighting with the kids about taking the dogs combined with the stress of seeing everyone all at once instead of spread out over a two week period was enough to make Ray want to eat the end of Fraser's gun. Not that he'd ever be allowed to because Fraser would figure out a way to reanimate him and kill him again for leaving him alone with an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old, not to mention three house dogs, two hares, and a surly fox Emma had brought home one day.
The heat was oppressive as soon as Ray stepped out of the terminal onto the street. He could hear Fraser reprimanding the children, his voice sounding as weary and short as Ray felt. Emma was whining and Ray knew without turning around that Gabriel was about thirty seconds from bursting into tears.
With a sigh, Ray flagged down a cab, shoved his duffel in the trunk and loaded up the rest of the luggage before Gabriel's crying reached its peak. Fraser had already picked the boy up and was rubbing his back gently. Ray ushered Emma into the backseat, holding her on his lap. Fraser was pressed up against him and Ray let out another heavy sigh, resting his head on Fraser's shoulder and closing his eyes.
Fraser spoke quietly to the driver before turning his head and briefly pressing his lips to Ray's forehead. Ray just squeezed his eyes shut tighter and worked on not crying in front of the children.
Ray sat down on the hotel bed, flopping backwards in exhaustion. "Am I dead yet?"
"Hardly," Fraser said from the bathroom. "You're not that lucky."
Ray closed his eyes and thought about dying. No children, no dogs, no hares, no surly foxes. A slow smile crossed his face. Maybe he could even haunt people like Fraser's father had.
"Oh no you don't."
Ray jumped as Fraser whacked him on the thigh. He opened his eyes and saw Fraser scowling down at him, his arms crossed over his chest.
"You are not allowed to die until the kids are done with college and the fox is long dead."
"We could hurry the fox along, you know," Ray reminded him, sitting up and wrapping his arms around Fraser's waist tightly. Fraser's hand stroked over his hair gently and Ray felt his throat tighten.
"And risk Emma turning us over to the authorities for killing her pet?"
"Fraser," Ray lifted his head to look at him, his eyes red and watery. "You are the authorities."
"I do hate having to reprimand myself. I never listen." Fraser smoothed his thumb over Ray's stubble and leaned over to kiss him. "Perhaps a shower would make you feel a little better?"
Ray nodded and pressed his face against Fraser's stomach again. Fraser's thumbs made slow, firm circles on the back of his neck until Ray finished crying and got into the shower.
Ray turned in his seat to look at the children, his expression serious. Emma looked back at him with wide, innocent eyes. Gabriel just picked his nose, watching Ray as well.
"Jeez, Gabe," Ray said, reaching out to remove Gabriel's finger from his nose. "We talked about that."
"What's wrong?" asked Fraser, looking in the rearview mirror.
"Eyes on the road, Benton," Ray said sternly. "This is Chicago, not Inuvik."
"I'm well aware of that, Stanley," Fraser said tersely. "What was he doing?"
"It's not important. And don't call me Stanley. I'm going to get enough of that from my aunts and uncles. I don't need it from you as well."
Fraser muttered under his breath and concentrated on merging. Ray looked back at the kids, tugging Gabriel's finger out of his nose again with a stern look.
"I want the two of you to be good for your Dad, okay. Try not to drive him nuts. You know how unattractive that vein in his forehead is."
Emma frowned. "Where are you going?"
"I have to go take care of a few things with your uncle and grandfather." Ray turned and began to rummage through the bag at his feet for a tissue. He leaned back over and pressed it against Gabriel's nose. "Blow."
Gabriel took a deep breath and blew into the tissue. Ray wiped his nose, looking briefly at the tissue and nodded. "Next time ask for a tissue."
"Was he picking his nose?" Fraser peered in the rearview mirror again. "We talked about that, Gabriel."
"I got it, Fraser," Ray said, putting the tissue into a little trash bag. "Emma, you got any tissues back there?"
Emma dug in her little pink purse that she insisted on carrying everywhere and came up with a handful of crumpled tissues, holding them up triumphantly. Ray nodded and chucked a thumb at Gabriel.
"You're on booger duty so Dad doesn't have a coronary while you're at the zoo."
Emma scowled at her little brother who just smiled back at her. "I hate booger duty."
"We all do," said Ray. "Which is why we have you to do it for him since we did it for you."
"Really, Ray. I can wipe his nose."
"So can Emma. Let it go, Fraser," Ray said calmly. He squeezed Fraser's thigh, looking back at the kids. "Okay, let's go over the Chicago rules."
"Daddy," Emma whined. "We know the Chicago rules. We're not babies."
"Rule number one," Ray said, ignoring her. "Do not talk to strangers even if Dad does."
"Ray! I hardly think - "
"Keep it shut, Fraser. Rule number two. Do not go anywhere without each other. Rule number three. Do not wander away no matter how cool and fun something looks. Wait for everyone to go over to see it. That goes for you as well, Fraser."
Fraser just grumbled and pulled off the exit for Skokie. Ray continued, his chest tightening a little as they got closer to his parents trailer. "Do not eat anything, and I mean anything, with pork in it. All three of you will get sick since we never eat it."
"Ray, I think you're reaching on the rules."
"Okay, okay. Bacon is allowed."
"I don't think we're going to be eating bacon at the zoo," Emma scoffed. "I'm allowed to spend my allowance, right?"
"Both of you get to pick one thing at the zoo. And Dad has veto power since he's paying for it. You get lunch as well and one snack. So choose wisely, my children," Ray said with a grin. "And I will see all three of you back at the hotel."
Fraser pulled into the driveway, turning off the car. "Do you want us to come in?"
Ray looked at the door for a long time before he shook his head. "No. I think it'll be easier if I do this alone for now."
Fraser leaned over and kissed him lightly, stroking Ray's cheek. "Call if you need us."
Ray leaned his forehead against Fraser's, taking comfort in him for as long as he could. He pulled back and got out of the car, ducking into the backseat to give both the kids hugs and kisses.
"You three have fun, eh."
Fraser smiled at him gently and reassuringly. He waved to Ray, pulling out of the driveway carefully. Ray waved back as the car drove away, leaving him to face his brother and his father.
Ray trudged up the driveway and knocked on the door. He opened it a moment later, sticking his head inside.
Ray headed into the small kitchen, following the sound of his brother's voice. James was sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee in front of him. He got up when Ray walked into the room.
"Hi, James." Ray stepped forward and slung an arm over James's shoulder, clapping him on the back. He held his breath, letting it out slowly when James returned his hug. They separated and James sat back down. "Where's Dad?"
"In the back," said James, motioning at the coffee pot. "Help yourself. I just made it for him. Doesn't even know how to make it."
"Mo - she always made it for him," Ray said quietly, pouring himself a cup. "How is he?"
"I can't get him to take a shower. And he doesn't know how to do laundry." James closed his eyes briefly. "She did everything for him."
Ray sat down at the table, the chipped coffee mug that said 'No. 1 Granddad!' on it in his hands. "I'll try to get him to shower."
James nodded and drank more of his coffee. Neither of them said anything for a long time until Ray got up to refill his coffee, pouring more for James.
"How's Ben and the kids?"
Ray smiled a little. "They're fine. He took them to the zoo." He sipped the hot coffee. "Thank you."
James furrowed his brow. "For what?"
James shook his head a little. "How old are they now?"
"8 and 4," said Ray. "How are yours?"
"Cranky and belligerent. Wait till they're teenagers, Ray. You'll be praying for the days of dirty diapers and colic again."
"We didn't get the colic luckily but did Mo ... she tell you about Gabriel?"
James shook, his hands clenching around the cup. "Not really. Tough infancy?"
Ray nodded and drank more coffee. "We couldn't put him down for the first four months. He wouldn't sleep alone at all and wanted to keep moving when he was awake. We've got pictures of him sleeping on Diefenbaker just because we couldn't take it any longer."
"Teenagers are still worse," James said with a bit of a chuckle. There was a shuffle behind them and they both turned to look at Damian standing in the doorway wearing a ratty bathrobe and slippers. "Ray's here, Dad."
"I can see," Damian said gruffly. He hovered in the doorway for a moment before shuffling off again.
Ray looked at James, his brow furrowed. James nodded a bit and gestured after their father with his head. Ray left his cup on the table and followed his father.
Damian stopped and looked over his shoulder. "Yeah?"
Ray walked over to him and put a hand on Damian's shoulder, squeezing. He caught a whiff of stale sweat, whiskey, and unwashed skin off his father, but leaned in and hugged him anyway. Damian stood stiffly in his arms, not responding, but not pulling away.
Damian nodded a bit when Ray pulled back, letting him go. He looked down at his slippers and shuffled over to his recliner, sitting down and staring at the blank TV. Ray followed him, sitting on the couch.
"You want to watch something, Dad?"
"I hate daytime TV."
"There's some good cartoons on," Ray offered. "We get Nickelodeon up north. I'm pretty sure it's almost time for the first round of SpongeBob SquarePants."
Damian snorted. "You need to get away from your kids."
"Hey." Ray smiled a little sadly. "He lives in a pineapple under the sea. That's quality shit there."
"You brought them, right?" asked Damian, finally looking at Ray for more than a brief glance. "And Ben?"
"Of course. I'm not allowed out of Canada without the husband and kids in tow. Just be glad the dogs didn't come along for the trip."
"That would have been a sight at the f ... funeral." Damian's voice broke slightly. "Three crazy wolf dogs running around wrecking things."
"Baby and Dumpling would have been fine," Ray protested half-heartedly. "It's Bronco that's a problem. He's got a lot of Dief in him."
"Ray," Damian said quietly. "I don't know what I'm gonna do now."
Ray leaned over and squeezed his father's forearm. "We gotcha, Dad. James and I, we gotcha."
Damian didn't say anything, but covered Ray's hand with his own, his eyes shining a little before he looked away again. Ray left his hand where it was.
Ray sat in the small living area of the hotel room, the television on low, the light flickering strangely in the darkness. He wasn't really paying attention to it as he stared at it, a beer in one hand and the remote in the other. Fraser and the kids were asleep, exhausted from a very exciting day at the zoo that included lions, tigers, and bears, not to mention a very friendly giraffe.
Dinner had been loud conversation and lots of acting out what the animals had done from Emma and Gabriel. Fraser looked exhausted, but relaxed, smiling when the kids had presented Ray with a stuffed turtle. Ray looked over at the turtle on the table, still feeling oddly jealous of their carefree day.
His had been anything but between his father and James. Damian seemed incapable of making any decision about the funeral and James just kept pushing until the two of them were fighting and Ray had to separate them.
But everything was ready for the funeral in three days. All Ray had to do tomorrow was get the trailer in Skokie ready for guests. It wasn't large enough for a proper wake, but Damian didn't want Ray and James to spend even more money on renting a place.
So Skokie it was, complete with a tent in the small backyard, a grill, and a whole lot of traditional Polish food. Ray had already called the best Polish deli in town to arrange for the food. None of them wanted to try and do it themselves.
Ray took another drink of his now-warm beer, wincing at the sour taste. He set it aside and began to flip through the channels, finally settling on a rerun of Trading Spaces. It was mindless enough to occupy him for awhile, make him stop thinking about it for an hour at least.
He had cried earlier, after dinner while the kids were watching one of the Harry Potter movies on HBO. Fraser had held onto him the whole time as Ray snotted all over Fraser's shirt and said stupid things about how he'd die too if Fraser did. Then, sobbing and dripping snot, Ray had given Fraser quite possibly the worst blowjob ever. But Fraser had come and kissed him afterwards, cuddled on the bed with him. Sometimes Ray didn't know what he did to deserve Fraser.
Ray knew he'd be doing a whole lot worse if Fraser wasn't there with him.
About halfway through the episode, Ray was startled by Gabriel's small hand on his arm. He looked down at the sleepy boy clutching a stuffed wolf in one arm.
"Hey, Gabe," Ray said softly. "Need something, buddy?"
Gabriel shook his head and clambered onto Ray's lap, all sleep-warm and pliant. Ray tucked Gabriel's head under his chin and closed his arms around him, taking comfort in his silent presence.
"Daddy?" Gabriel's voice was a sleepy whisper.
Ray nodded and pressed his cheek to Gabriel's hair. "I am, buddy. I miss Grandma."
Gabriel hugged him with small, chubby arms, all fierce and protective. "I love you, Daddy."
Ray hugged him back, pressing a kiss to the top of Gabriel's tousled head and smiled against it. "I love you too."
Ray stood by the car, leaning against the door while Fraser got out and walked over to stand next to him. He leaned against the car as well, following Ray's gaze. "Are we going inside?"
"In a minute," Ray sighed heavily. "You think the kids are okay?"
Fraser tangled his fingers with Ray's, squeezing comfortingly. "They love seeing Captain Welsh, Ray. They will be fine." He squeezed again. "Will you?"
"Not me I'm worried about," Ray said, looking over at him, squinting in the sunlight. "They do better just talking about you. It was Mom ..."
"I know, Ray," Fraser said gently. He pressed his shoulder against Ray's. "It's alright."
Ray exhaled slowly and nodded. "Then lets go. We've got a long day ahead of us."
Fraser pushed away from the car and turned, kissing Ray gently, just a brief press of lips and warm air. "I am not going anywhere."
Ray closed his eyes briefly. "I know."
Fraser ran a hand through Ray's hair before knocking him lightly on the chin with his knuckles. Ray grinned and let go of Fraser's hand, walking to the front door now. Like the day before, it was open and he let himself in, Fraser following.
There was no answer, so Ray went to the back, checking the bedroom. Damian was asleep in the bed, the blankets pulled over him and the pillows in disarray. Ray sighed and went back out to find Fraser looking at the pictures over the television. The pictures they sent down were displayed - unless Fraser was in them. There were pictures of the kids, of Ray, of Ray and kids, but none of Fraser or Fraser and the kids or Fraser and Ray.
"James isn't here," Ray said quietly. "Dad's still sleeping. Do you mind making some coffee while I get him up?"
Fraser's lips were tight, the lines around his mouth obvious. He nodded though and turned away from the pictures, going into the small kitchen. Ray's shoulders slumped slightly. He hadn't noticed the pictures yesterday. Every other time they had come to visit, the pictures were all displayed. He wondered if his mother took them out when she knew he was coming to see her, putting them away again when he left so their friends wouldn't know about their queer son.
Ray shook himself slightly to stop thinking that. His mother was dead for fuck's sake. It didn't matter what she might have done before.
Ray sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over, shaking his father's shoulder gently. "Dad? Time to get up."
Damian snuffled slightly, but turned to look at him, his eyes bleary and blood-shot. Ray could smell the stale whiskey on his breath when he started to cough, covering his mouth with his hand. A hangover wasn't going to make the morning easier for any of them.
"Didn't hear you come in," Damian said gruffly, sitting up in the bed. He reached for the cigarettes on the bedside table, lighting one. He held out the pack to Ray who just shook his head. "Ben here too?"
"He's making coffee. You want to get in the shower?"
Damian coughed around his cigarette and shook his head. "Just give me my bathrobe. Nothing he hasn't seen before."
"Yeah, Dad," Ray said, standing up and handing him the bathrobe. "I thought James was staying here."
"Got a hotel room. Place is too small for two grown men," Damian said as he shrugged into the bathrobe, his cigarette hanging perilously from his mouth. Ray knew from years of watching his dad smoke that it wasn't going anywhere. "'m fine on my own."
"I wasn't questioning that. I just thought he was staying here is all. Did he say when he was coming back?"
Damian tied the robe shut and shrugged a little. "Fuck if I know. His number is on the refrigerator. Does he make good coffee?"
Ray watched his dad slide the cigarette pack into his robe pocket. "Yeah. He's good at it."
"He make the coffee at your wedding?"
Ray straightened up and met his dad's gaze. "No. He was a little busy to make coffee."
"Good," Damian said, brushing past Ray. "That coffee was shit."
"Stella made it."
Damian paused and then nodded. "Her coffee always was shit."
Ray put his hand on his father's back, rubbing gently. "Let's go have breakfast. You want eggs or something?"
"I got bacon," Damian said, his shoulders slumping as he walked, stopping by the bathroom. "Make me that. I gotta piss."
Ray leaned his head against the wall when the bathroom door closed. He pushed away a moment later and went into the kitchen where Fraser was surveying the refrigerator's contents. Ray reached past him for the bacon and set it on the counter.
"We better make eggs as well," said Fraser, taking out the eggs and milk. "He should eat a balanced meal. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."
"Ears like a bat," Ray murmured, pouring three cups of coffee. "You want sugar in yours?"
Fraser shook his head and reached into his shirt pocket, pulling out a package of Smarties and handing it to Ray. He got to work on breakfast almost immediately, his back to the doorway as Ray stirred chocolate into his coffee.
"Still putting candy in your coffee?" Damian sat down at the table, accepting the coffee Ray handed to him. "Hi Ben."
Fraser turned to Ray's father and smiled at him warmly. "Hello, Damian."
"I like candy in my coffee," Ray said, distracting his father from Fraser. "So we're cleaning today, Dad. What needs to be done?"
Damian paled a little, fumbling for his cigarettes again. Ray could see Fraser's shoulders tense up when his father lit the cigarette. He let out a slow, steady breath and forced a pleasant smile on his face.
"I don't want anyone in the bedroom," Damian said forcefully, his hands shaking. "Nothing in there needs to be touched yet."
Ray's hands tightened around the mug and nodded. He didn't want to be the one to clean out his mother's closets and drawers anyway. He was just as sure that his dad and James didn't want to either. Maybe Stella would.
"So. Front room, I suppose. Dining area. Kitchen. Bathroom." Damian rubbed a tired hand over his face. "Out back. Stupid fucking tent."
"We don't have room unless we put people outside," Ray reminded him. "This was the solution we came up with."
"I know that," Damian said sharply. "Mow the lawn, will you."
"I can clean the kitchen and bathroom," Fraser said politely, the sound of bacon hissing and spitting on the stove filling the room. "It would probably be best if the two of you handled the front room and dining area."
"James can mow the lawn," Ray said. "Since he's not here to pick an assignment."
"Whatever," Damian said, looking at the stove. "You're not burning that, are you?"
"No," Fraser said, his shoulders still tense.
"He's good at cooking, Dad," Ray said, making his father turn his attention back to him again. "So we're going to do the front room together. Do you want us to pack stuff up?"
"Am I going somewhere?"
"Not that I know of. Why? You want to go somewhere?"
Damian stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray on the table. "Where am I going to go? Inuvik? Or Phoenix again? No thanks."
"You know you can come stay with us if you want to," Ray said even though they hadn't ever discussed this. "You did like it up in Inuvik."
Fraser set a plate down in front of Damian with eggs and decidedly not burned bacon. His mouth was in an even tighter line than before as he went back to the stove. Damian picked up a piece of bacon, crunching on it.
"We don't need to talk about it now anyway." Ray ran a hand through his hair. "I just thought since we were cleaning maybe we should pack some stuff you don't need up."
"I want her stuff here."
"I wasn't necessarily talking about Mom's stuff."
Damian pushed away from the table and grabbed his cigarettes and coffee. "I'm going out back. Don't fucking bother me for a little while."
Ray sighed heavily. "Sure, Dad."
Fraser turned to watch Damian stomp out of the room, a spatula in his hand. "Did you just tell your father he can come live with us?"
"Fuck, Fraser," Ray groaned, resting his head on the table. "Not now, okay."
"Of course, Ray," Fraser said sharply, his tone icy. "Because it's not my life you're volunteering to change too. Do you want eggs or not?"
"Sure," Ray said, his voice muffled by the tablecloth. "Eggs sound great."
Fraser ignored the shouting from the other room, the way Ray's voice cracked and broke when he yelled at his father. He just rinsed the sponge he was using and went back to scrubbing the stove even though it was already clean.
James came in the back door, stepping into the clean kitchen. Fraser straightened up and looked at Ray's brother, a man he had only met a handful of times over the last 10 years he and Ray had been together. He hadn't even come to the wedding last year.
James looked down at his muddy hands and dirty feet. "Guess I should wash up."
"You might as well do it here," Fraser said, stepping out of the way. "They've been at it for awhile."
"At least that hasn't changed," James muttered as he walked over to the sink and began to wash off.
Fraser set a glass of water next to James before going back to the stove, his eyes focused on a streak of grease. The water turned off and Fraser could feel James's eyes on him. He turned a little to look at him.
"I take it they did this often when Ray was younger?"
"They always fought. I think they actually like it now."
Fraser looked a little skeptical at that, but didn't push. He went back to scrubbing, hoping James would either start to talk or leave.
"I don't think he's ever left us alone before," James remarked, sitting down at the table. "Stop doing that, Ben. Sit down."
Fraser washed his hands off and sat down across from James. "He's never been entirely sure of my acceptance."
"That's because you were only accepted because mom wanted you to be." James stared at Fraser, his voice flat, his words blunt. "She thought you were good for Ray. A steadying influence. Of course, she also thought it was a phase he was going through and some time up North would make him realize that all he really wanted was a nice Polish girl to settle down with and give her grandkids."
Fraser shifted uncomfortably. "Ah."
"You gave her grandkids. Least you could do considering what you did to him."
Fraser stared at him, a little surprised at the disgust in James's eyes. "I haven't done anything except love him."
"Ray wasn't queer before you came around."
Fraser closed his eyes briefly and got to his feet. "I really don't want to have this conversation with you, James."
"Too fucking bad. I've been waiting ten years to have this conversation with you," James said sharply. "Sit back down."
Fraser rubbed his eyebrow and tried to think calming thoughts. He didn't want to get into a fight with Ray's brother, not when relations were so tense between the two of them. Ray didn't need Fraser's actions stacked against him as well. He sat back down slowly.
Fraser furrowed his brow. "Pardon?"
"Why you?" James repeated. "Why did Ray fall for you?"
Fraser licked his lower lip and tugged on his earlobe before brushing his eyebrow again. He looked down at the tablecloth for a moment before taking a deep breath and looking at James.
"I suppose because I didn't judge him for his actions," Fraser said quietly. "Because I just wanted to know him, to be near him. I loved him, respected him, and considered him my best friend. I didn't ask him to be anything other than himself. Until then he lived his life based on what other people wanted him to be. What your parents wanted him to be, what Stella wanted him to be, what his superiors wanted him to be. Maybe he wasn't gay before me, but maybe he was and pretended he wasn't because no one wanted that from him until I came along and just ... wanted him."
"So you really love him?"
Fraser looked at James calmly. "Do you love your wife?"
James looked taken aback. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"You don't have to justify whether or not you love her, yet you want me to justify that I truly love Ray because we're both men. Does that seem fair to you? I've made a commitment to Ray both spiritually and legally just as you have. I don't think you have any right to ask me if I really love him unless you are prepared to answer the same question."
James just stared at him for a moment before shaking his head. "You're ... something else."
"So I've been told," Fraser agreed. "Are we done this conversation now?"
"Yeah," James said with a nod. He got to his feet and put the glass in the sink. "I'm sorry I didn't come to the wedding."
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to," Fraser said evenly. "My disappointment was minimal seeing as I don't know you."
"Jesus Christ, Dad!" Ray shouted, stomping into the kitchen. "I'm donski. Out for the day. No more. Put it in a box marked done."
James looked over at him. "What'd he say this time?"
Ray rested his hands on Fraser's shoulders, leaning over to kiss him lightly on the lips. Fraser smiled softly and leaned his head against Ray's stomach, Ray's hands squeezing tightly.
"Nothing different," Ray said with a sigh. "Why'd you become a cop, why'd you divorce Stella, why'd you turn queer and disappoint your mother. His favourite three Ray-related topics."
Fraser covered Ray's hand with his own and squeezed. "Do you want to leave?"
Ray rested his head against Fraser's, his eyes closed. "Yes, but I can't. If I keep walking away when he starts in on me, this will never end."
James watched the two of them, a contemplative expression on his face. He'd never actually seen Ray touch Fraser before, take comfort in his presence like this. He patted Ray's back as he walked out of the kitchen, leaving them alone.
"Don't take it to heart," Fraser said softly. "He needs to be angry about something right now."
Ray straightened up a moment later, his hands still on Fraser's shoulders. "James wasn't too hard on you, was he?"
Fraser shook his head. "No. We're fine."
Fraser unbraided Emma's hair, his fingers working quickly and efficiently. She hummed and kicked her legs out, listening to the sounds of Ray and Gabriel in the bathroom, splashing in the tub.
"How come other girls don't have long hair?" asked Emma once Fraser finished with her braid.
Fraser began to brush out the tangles. "You'd have to ask the other girls. You're the only little girl I talk to on a regular basis."
"Mr. Welsh said that my hair is really long. His nieces have really short hair. He showed me pictures."
"Do you want short hair?" asked Fraser, pausing in his brushing.
Emma thought about it and then shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe. Just to see what it's like."
"Just say the word, darling," Fraser said, kissing the top of her head before going back to brushing. "It is up to you."
"What's up to her?" asked Ray, poking his head out of the bathroom, his shirt soaked through.
"Whether she cuts her hair or not."
"Oh yeah." Ray nodded, wiping his hands on his jeans. "Totally your decision."
Ray gestured with his thumb. "I'm being summoned. We're having a naval battle at the moment."
"Enjoy yourself. Remember the element of surprise," Fraser said, saluting Ray and thinking about the Henry Allen. "And stay away from fire extinguishers."
Ray snickered and saluted Fraser back, disappearing into the bathroom. Emma tilted her head back to look at Fraser. "What does that mean?"
"A long time ago when your Daddy was still a police officer and I was living in Chicago, he and I got trapped aboard a sinking ship," Fraser smiled a little softly, thinking about it. "We used fire extinguishers to escape the ship."
"Did you catch the bad guys?"
"Don't we always?" Fraser tweaked her nose lightly. "We saved the day."
Emma grinned and settled back against him. "You always do. And if you don't, Daddy does."
Fraser kissed the top of her head and wrapped his arms around her warmly. "He does."
"How are you going to save the day this time?" asked Emma softly.
Fraser sighed a little, listening to the sounds of Ray dive-bombing Gabriel with a toy boat. "I really don't know."
Ray walked next to his father, Gabriel holding onto his right hand. Fraser and Emma were off in the little girls section of the store to find a dress for her to wear. They'd decided it would just be easier to pick up something in Chicago then pack dress clothes for the funeral.
"I do have a suit," Damian muttered as he looked at the ties. "It's fine."
"Just let me buy you a new suit," Ray said, picking Gabriel up now. "Your suit is like, 20 years old. I think you wore it to both of my weddings."
"I did." Damian picked up a pink tie. "What kind of man wears a pink tie?"
"Daddy," Gabriel said, tugging on Ray's collar. "I have to potty."
"Ah," Ray said, looking around for the bathroom sign. "Dad, just look at the suits. We'll be back in a few minutes. And put down the pink tie. It's hideous."
"That was my point," Damian said, tweaking Gabriel's ear lightly, smiling at him. "I'll go look at the suits."
Gabriel waved to Damian over Ray's shoulder, grinning happily. Damian looked around for a moment before sticking his tongue out at Gabriel who just laughed and buried his face in Ray's shoulder.
"You alright up there, buddy?" asked Ray.
"Grandpa is silly," Gabriel said into Ray's neck.
Ray chuckled a little and patted Gabriel's back. "I suppose he is."
The bathrooms were easy enough to find and Ray stood guard while Gabriel sat on the toilet, swinging his legs and humming to himself. It was so much easier to take Gabriel to the bathroom than it had been with Emma. Luckily she was alright going in by herself now so all they had to do was wait by the bathroom door instead of sneaking her into the men's room and hoping it was somewhat clean for once.
"You done in there?" asked Ray curiously.
Ray raised an eyebrow and opened the door a bit. Gabriel looked at him innocently, entirely too much toilet paper bunched up in his hand. Ray stepped into the stall and shut the door behind him.
"Planning to do something with that?"
"No," Gabriel said, handing the toilet paper to Ray. "I'm done."
Ray handed him back about a quarter of the toilet paper so he could wipe himself. "I was your age once. I've pulled a few toilet paper gags in my time."
"Dad falls for it," Gabriel said a little grumpily as he wiped himself and hopped off the toilet, his shorts around his ankles. He flushed the toilet and pulled up his pants.
"Dad is a little more sheltered than I was," Ray said, helping him with the button. "Let's go wash your hands, buddy."
Gabriel followed him to the sink and let Ray pick him up so he could wash his hands properly. "What does sheltered mean?"
"Protected. But in a way that prevents someone from learning important stuff," said Ray, even though he wasn't quite sure how to explain it so a 4 year-old could understand. "He was raised in a different world than I was."
"Am I sheltered?" asked Gabriel, wiping his hands on a paper towel.
"Nope," Ray grinned at him. "You ready to go pick out a suit with Grandpa?"
"Do I have to get one?" Gabriel's voice took on a slight whine, his face wrinkling up at the idea of trying on a suit.
"Yes," Ray said, picking him up again. "The quicker we try it on and get it over with, the quicker we can go get secret ice cream in the food court and not tell Dad about it."
"Can I have sprinkles?"
"You bet. Is it really secret ice cream we don't tell Dad about without sprinkles?"
"Nope!" Gabriel giggled and pointed to Damian. "I found Grandpa. He won't tell about the ice cream either."
Ray headed over to Damian who was looking at a black suit. "That one is nice. Simple."
"It's black. I don't like black suits."
"You're not going to like anything," Ray said easily. "So just pick something that isn't too ugly and is made of a light weave fabric. It's Chicago in July."
"Are you getting one?"
"Ben, Gabriel, and I are getting suits as well."
Damian frowned a little. "Ben's not wearing his uniform?"
"He didn't bring it with him," Ray said, shifting Gabriel to his other hip. "He thought it would be better to not stand out."
"Oh. Your mother always liked his uniform." Damian took Gabriel from him. "You pick something for me. We're going to go look at the toys."
"I'm coming to find you so you can try it on," Ray said firmly. "You can't get out of it, Dad. You either, Gabriel."
"Do they have cars here?" asked Gabriel excitedly, his arms around Damian's neck. "Grandpa, I like cars. 'specially black cars. That go faaaaast."
Damian turned a little to smile at Ray. "So it's not all dogsleds and snowshoes with him, is it?"
"If you show him how to change the oil on the GTO, he might just call you his best friend ever," Ray said easily. "Emma is much more interested in the dogs then he is."
Damian grinned and patted Gabriel's back. "That's my boy. Let's go find cars."
Ray watched them go before grabbing a suit off the rack and taking a good look at it. He rifled through the rack and grabbed one in his size and one in Fraser's size, tossing them over his arm before heading to another rack to get one for his father.
Ray held the suit jacket up to Fraser, looking at him critically. If it didn't fit, he'd have to return it in the morning and get the correct size. He was sure it would though; Fraser hated clothes shopping, so Ray just bought his clothes for him. It was easier than trying to get Fraser to pick something out.
"Our shirts are the same colour," Fraser said, pulling the trousers on. He zipped and buttoned them, holding his arms away from his body so Ray could make sure they fit. "Did you do that on purpose?"
"I did." Ray tugged at the waistband of Fraser's trousers before smacking him lightly on the ass. "Try the jacket on now."
"Your relatives are aware of my existence, right?" Fraser held the jacket, his expression uncertain.
"The ones who aren't will be in for a rude awakening," Ray said. "Please try the jacket on."
Fraser shrugged the jacket on and stood still for Ray's inspection. Ray's hands shook as he buttoned up the jacket, sliding his hand over the front. Fraser covered Ray's hand with his own, holding it tightly.
"It's a little tight in the shoulders," Fraser said quietly. "But it will do in a pinch."
"Jackets are always tight in the shoulders on you." Ray tugged on the cuffs of the jacket. "It's only for a few hours."
"I can take it off once the funeral is over."
"Dad asked why you weren't wearing your uniform," Ray said softly. "He said that Mom liked it."
Fraser hung the jacket back up. "I could borrow one from the Consulate if you wish."
"No," Ray said with a shake of his head, unzipping Fraser's trousers for him. "I think you should wear the suit. I don't want you to be the Mountie. I need you to be Benton Fraser tomorrow."
Fraser cupped Ray's jaw in his hand and leaned in to kiss him. "You're undressing me."
Ray slid his hands into the back of Fraser's trousers. "No I'm not."
"Oh, I beg to differ," Fraser said as Ray pushed the trousers down. "A moment ago, I had pants on. Now I seem to be standing here in boxers and an undershirt."
"No you're not." Ray pushed the boxers down as well. "It's all in your mind."
"So if I was to toss you in the bed and have my way with you, it would all be in my mind?"
Ray slid his hands over Fraser's ass, squeezing. "Perhaps."
Fraser chuckled and grabbed Ray around the waist, pulling him closer. Ray grinned at Fraser, his expression teasing as he licked his lips.
"I'm not made of stone," Fraser said, dragging Ray to the bed and tossing him on it. Ray laughed now and his eyes looked down at Fraser's crotch. "That is not stone either."
"Get in bed, Ben," Ray said, his voice warm. He pulled his shirt over his head, tossing it on the ground. "Now."
Fraser stopped, half-on the bed already. He groaned and dropped his head. "Remember when we used to have sex?"
Ray flopped onto the bed, sighing a little. "Whenever and wherever we wanted."
Fraser got off the bed and pulled on a pair of sweats. "Hold that thought. Maybe it's just a bad dream."
Ray nodded and pulled his pants off, tossing them on the ground as well. He curled under the covers to wait. Fraser leaned over and kissed him lightly before heading into the kids room.
"Dad," Emma said, scowling. Gabriel was in her bed, clinging to her. She had her arms around him in return despite the scowl. "He had another bad dream. And he won't go back into his bed."
"Okay," Fraser said, sitting on the bed and peeling Gabriel off Emma. "Hey, buddy. I'm here now."
Gabriel flung his arms around Fraser's neck and burrowed into his arms. Fraser reached out his free hand to smooth over Emma's hair. "Thanks for taking care of him."
Emma curled back under the covers and hugged her bear. "I want my own room."
"It's just for a few more days," Fraser said, leaning over to kiss her cheek, Gabriel still clinging like a limpet. "I'll take him in with us so you can get some sleep."
Emma sat back up immediately. "He's sleeping with you and Daddy?"
Fraser sighed and stood up, pulling her blankets back. "Very well. You can sleep with us too."
Emma hopped out of the bed and went running into the other bedroom. Fraser followed with Gabriel in his arms, only stopping long enough to pick up Gabriel's stuffed wolf.
Ray sighed a little when Emma came jumping into the bed. He grabbed her and tickled her lightly. "What are you doing in here, darling?"
"Dad said we could sleep in here since Gabriel had a bad dream and if he gets to sleep with you, I want to sleep with you as well."
Ray gave Fraser a rueful smile as he settled Emma under the covers. "Bad dream?"
"That is what it appears to be," Fraser said, sitting on the bed with Gabriel. "What happened, Gabriel?"
Gabriel buried his face in Fraser's shoulder and shook his head, his fingers clutching at Fraser tighter. "Okay," Fraser said soothingly, rubbing his back again. "We don't need to talk about it. Why don't we just try to go back to sleep?"
Ray shifted over a little more so there was enough room for all four of them. He reached over to ruffle Gabriel's hair comfortingly once Gabriel was within arms reach.
"Ah," Fraser said, settling in bed as well. "Just like home. Except without the dogs trying to get in bed as well."
Emma giggled and reached under the blankets to hold Gabriel's hand. Gabriel held on tightly, his face buried in his wolf and Fraser against his back. Ray kissed the top of Emma's head and looked at Fraser in the dim light. Fraser smiled softly and squeezed Ray's hand over top of the blankets and children. It was just like being at home again.
That comforted Ray as he lay in bed, thinking about the upcoming day.
Fraser finished with Gabriel's tie and buttoned up the little suit jacket. This was not the first time Gabriel had worn a suit; at their wedding, he'd worn a tuxedo. Of course, he'd taken off the jacket and pants about five minutes into the reception, but he was only three at the time.
Gabriel rubbed at his nose and pouted. "I don't like this, Dad."
"It's only for a few hours. We're going to bring clothes for you to change into after the funeral is over."
"What do I gotta do?"
"Have to do," Fraser corrected gently. "All you have to do is stand next to Daddy and myself and be very quiet."
Gabriel rubbed his socked feet against the carpet. "Who's gonna be there?"
"Going to be. Your Daddy's family mostly. Some friends of your grandmother's that you don't know. Ms. Stella and Mr. Ray. Captain Welsh."
"Can I bring Wolfie?" asked Gabriel, playing with the cuffs of his suit jacket.
"Of course Wolfie can come with you." Fraser handed Gabriel his shoes. "Put your shoes on for me."
Fraser got to his feet and poked his head into the bathroom where Ray was trying to do something with Emma's hair. She was sitting backwards on the counter, her hair hanging behind her as Ray fiddled with it.
"Have you finished?"
Ray startled and dropped the hair brush causing Emma to giggle. "Ah. No."
Emma looked over at Fraser. "He can't braid right."
"Are you just braiding it?" asked Fraser, stepping into the bathroom. "I thought you were going to leave it down."
"I am," Ray said. "I just thought it would look nice if I made little braids and pulled them back. But it's hard to make little braids."
Fraser took the hairbrush and brushed out Emma's hair. He took a barrette and clipped back the front and sides of her hair so she'd be able to run about without it falling in her face. He stepped back and looked at Ray.
Ray glared at him for a moment before slamming the hair ties on the counter and stalking out. "You always have to be so fucking perfect, don't you, Ben!"
Fraser's jaw tightened a little and he set the hair brush down, helped Emma off the counter and went after Ray.
"Ray," Fraser said firmly, grabbing him by the arm. Ray stopped and his shoulders slumped as Fraser pulled him into his arms and held him tightly as he cried into Fraser's shirt.
Emma moved closer to Gabriel, chewing on her lip. Gabriel clutched Wolfie in his arms and looked on as Ray continued to cry into Fraser's chest.
James opened the door this time, his expression drawn. Ray could hear people talking inside, most likely James's wife and kids. Ray barely knew them and Fraser had only met them once years before. Emma had only been a year old at the time.
Ray shifted Gabriel on his hip. "So it's going that well?"
"He says he's not going to the funeral, he's not wearing that suit, and we all need to leave him alone," James said, nodding a little at Fraser as they all walked inside, Emma holding Fraser's hand. "It's been a great morning so far."
"I guess it's my turn to try," Ray said, setting Gabriel on the ground. He smiled at James's wife. "Hi Faith. You remember Ben, right?"
Faith, a petite brunette with a pinched expression on her face, rose to her feet to greet them. "Yes. I believe we met once."
"Yeah," Ray said uncomfortably. Fraser moved closer to Ray. "These are our kids, Emma and Gabriel. This is your Aunt Faith, guys."
"Hello," Emma said politely, smoothing down her pink and black dress before holding out her hand.
Gabriel just hid his face in Ray's leg. Ray rested a hand on the top of his head. "He's a little shy."
Faith shook Emma's hand. "Do you remember Michael and Jenna, Ray?"
"They were a lot smaller the last time I saw them," Ray said with a smile, leaning forward to hug Jenna and shake Michael's hand, Gabriel still clinging to his leg. "I'm glad you guys could all make it."
"We loved Barbara too," Faith said, her voice tight.
Ray transferred Gabriel to Fraser's leg. "We should go get Dad ready, James."
James followed him, looking back at the living room briefly. "You think it's a good idea to leave them alone?"
"Right now, we have to worry about Dad. Faith and Ben are adults. They'll deal."
James shrugged a little and opened the bedroom door. Damian looked up sharply, wearing his robe. His hair was wet though, so Ray was pretty sure he'd showered this morning. That was a start.
"Can't a guy get some time alone?" Damian growled and reached for his cigarettes. "Get the fuck out."
"Dad," Ray said calmly, sitting on the bed. "We have to get to the funeral home."
"I already told your brother that I wasn't going. I don't need this." Damian lit his cigarette and turned his shoulder to Ray.
"It's just a few hours. As soon as we get back to the house, you can ignore everyone," Ray said to him. "Just do this for Mom. One last thing for her."
"This is not for your mother!" Damian shouted at him, pushing Ray away. "She is dead, Stanley! The funeral is for her sister and Mr. Appleby down the street. Maybe even you and James. It's not for her and it's not for me!"
"Alright, Dad," James said quietly. "We'll go without you."
"No," Ray said immediately. "We're not fucking doing this without him. We're a family, dammit and we're going to stand next to the fucking grave as a family. So put your damn suit on, Dad, and get moving."
"You can't talk to me like that!" Damian stubbed out his cigarette.
"I just did," Ray said coldly. "You're not flaking out on us now. Get. Dressed."
James stared at the two of them, surprised that Ray was pushing so hard. Ray and Damian were staring at each other, gazes locked as they both scowled, not blinking. James felt like they were kids again and Dad had found out Ray had used his tools or something.
"You little shit," Damian said as he struggled to his feet, his face crumpled. He sat back down heavily, hiding his face in his hands as he sobbed silently.
Ray put his arms around Damian, pressing his face to his shoulder. James moved, sitting on the bed and holding his father as well.
This was hell, Ray decided a few hours later. It was sweltering under the hot sun in the cemetery. The sun beat down on all of them, Gabriel squirming and pulling at his coat jacket as soon as he stepped out of the limousine. Fraser had relented when Ray gave him a little nod and he'd kneeled down in the dirt to take Gabriel's jacket and tie off, rolling up the sleeves of his little white shirt so he would be more comfortable.
Emma was leaning against Ray's leg, holding onto his hand tightly. She was quiet and unsure of all the people around her. Those she'd met before, she didn't remember because she'd been so young. Only Ray's parents, the Vecchio's, and Welsh knew Gabriel.
Fraser had Gabriel on his hip, sweat shining on his forehead. Ray looked at him for a long time before looking back at the priest delivering the eulogy. Fraser shifted Gabriel slightly and put his hand on Ray's shoulder, pulling him a little closer. Ray moved a little and rested his head on Fraser's shoulder.
Ray looked across the open grave to where Stella was standing with Vecchio. She was wearing all black, a little veil of black tulle hiding her eyes. Vecchio's hand was on her back, his bald head gleaming in the sun. Ray was glad they were here and he knew his father was as well. He'd always loved Stella.
James and Faith were standing next to his father who was standing next to Emma, his hand heavy on her shoulder. Emma didn't complain though as she leaned into Ray and took the weight of her grandfather's pain. Michael and Jenna were on the other side of their parents. Ray couldn't see them from where he was standing.
The rest of the family though, Ray could do without. His aunts and uncles and cousins were all quietly disapproving of him - some less quiet than others. He knew they were looking at him and Fraser even though there was a funeral going on.
Ray spoke the prayers he knew from his childhood, echoed the priest's amen's. Emma whispered along when Fraser added in his amen's. The children weren't being raised with any particular religion though Ray knew that had disappointed his mother. The Catholic Church didn't approve of his lifestyle and Ray refused to expose his children to yet another disapproving voice.
The priest finished his prayers and Damian stepped forward, taking Emma's hand. She moved with him and watched as he tossed dirt onto the coffin. She looked up at him and rested her head against his hip. Damian touched the top of her head and moved back to where he was standing.
Ray and James stepped forward next, repeating the unfamiliar act of tossing dirt onto a coffin. Ray looked down at the smooth cherry coffin and tried not to think about the fact his mother was in there. He stepped back and looked around the cemetery, remembering tossing a dream catcher through the air and confronting Ellery so many years before.
Fraser's hand squeezed his own tightly and Ray closed his eyes as he leaned his head on Fraser's shoulder. He could feel the rest of the crowd move towards the grave to toss dirt in, but he didn't open his eyes, just struggled not to cry. Gabriel was on the ground again, his arms wrapped around Ray's legs.
The next time he opened his eyes, it was all over. Aunt Mary was hugging his father, her eyes wet with tears even as she looked disapprovingly at Ray. But she hugged him as well and shook Fraser's hand. She hugged Emma and patted Gabriel's head before moving on.
"Benny," Vecchio said softly before hugging Fraser tightly. Ray watched them, noting that Vecchio looked very old out in the sun like this. His face was creased with lines, tanned from his life in Florida. The little hair he had was grey and baby-fine. He looked away.
Stella pushed up the little black veil and Ray looked into her pale blue eyes rimmed with red from crying. She had little lines around her eyes and mouth that were deeply etched right now.
"Hey Stella," Ray said, his voice hoarse. He cleared his throat. "Thanks for being here."
"She was my family too," Stella said softly, hugging him now. Ray tilted his head towards her neck, breathing in the familiar scent of her perfume - Eternity. He'd bought her a bottle every Christmas when they were married. "How are you holding up?"
"Well enough," Ray said softly. He pulled back and looked over at Fraser and Vecchio who were talking quietly. "You?"
"About the same," Stella admitted softly. "I should have come to visit her more."
"You and me both." Ray's voice was full of regret and he felt tears prick at his eyes. "Twice a year was all we could manage."
"It's okay, Ray," Stella said, squeezing his arm right above his wrist. "She understood."
Ray nodded quickly and looked over at Emma now who was still with his father. Damian hadn't let go of her small hand since he'd walked to the grave with her. Stella looked as well, her expression sad.
"It's going to be hard when you and James leave," Stella said quietly. "For him."
"I want him to come with us," Ray said just as quietly. He'd only mentioned it the one time, but since then the idea had grown until he knew it was the only thing that would work. "But that's still up in the air."
Stella looked at him for a moment and then at Fraser. "Good luck."
Ray gave a wry smile and nodded. "Thanks. I'll need it."
Stella hugged him once more before going over to Damian and Emma. Vecchio tapped him on the shoulder and Ray looked over at him.
"I'm sorry, man," Vecchio said quietly before giving him a quick hug. "It hurts like hell for awhile. Did for me after Ma died."
Ray patted Vecchio's back before letting him go. "Thanks, Vecchio."
Vecchio went off to join Stella, leaving Ray alone with Fraser and Gabriel again. Ray wiped his hand over his brow and pushed his glasses up his nose. Gabriel looked up at him, his eyes squinty.
"What's up, buddy?" asked Ray softly.
"How is Grandma going to breathe in that box?"
Ray looked down at him for a long time before turning to bury his face in Fraser's shoulder to hide his tears. Fraser wrapped his arms around Ray tightly and just held him.
Ray held his beer between two fingers, the bottle dangling between his legs as he leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. Almost everyone was gone and the sun was hidden by clouds for the first time all day. His jacket was long gone, the tie loosened and his sleeves pushed up his arms.
He felt numb and broken. Too many people staring at himself and Fraser. Too many whispered comments that weren't whispered quietly enough. His mother's death hadn't even spared him from being the gossip for a few hours.
Damian had gone into the bedroom a few hours ago, leaving Ray and James to take care of everything. Fraser had put Gabriel down in the bedroom for a nap, curled up against his grandfather's side.
James and Faith had left to go back to the hotel with their kids. Ray wasn't sad to see them go. The longer the day went on, the more unlikable Faith became. He had managed to forget that over the years since he'd last seen her.
When Ray headed outside, Fraser had been stretched out on the couch with Emma asleep on his chest, talking to Vecchio who was sitting in the recliner with Stella on the arm. He'd kissed Fraser lightly and gestured to the back, getting a nod from Fraser while he continued his story.
Ray lifted his beer and took a drink, the cold liquid refreshing in the heat. He looked up to see Stella making her way across the back yard to where Ray was sitting under one of the tents. She had a beer in her hand as well and she'd lost the heels at some point, her bare feet making impressions in the dirt.
Stella sat down next to him and twisted the cap off her beer, tossing it onto the table. She took a long drink before setting it on the table. Ray watched her, his expression tired.
"When are you going back?" asked Stella softly, lighting a cigarette and handing it to him before lighting one for herself.
"Tuesday," said Ray, taking the cigarette. "Fraser's gotta get back to work and I've got a dog that's due to whelp anytime now."
"You're still breeding dogs then?" Stella leaned back on the bench, her elbows on the table behind them.
"Yeah. I'm small time though. Just two litters a year," Ray said, exhaling a cloud of smoke. "Why? You want a dog?"
"It wouldn't be fair to take a sled dog to Florida," Stella said. "Remember how bad it was for Diefenbaker the one time you brought him along?"
"It was bad for Diefenbaker in Chicago." Ray took another drink of his beer, looking over at her. "You good?"
"With Ray? For the most part. I like Florida and so does he," said Stella. "It's ... easy being married to him."
"Not like being married to me then," Ray said a little darkly. He knew that she felt that way. She'd never been shy about telling him that.
"No, not like being married to you. I'm sure Ben would agree that you aren't easy to be married too."
"We're good. I'm not the same guy I was when we were married."
Stella chuckled a little. "Obviously. You're gay now."
Ray sighed and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees again. "I don't have the energy for this, Stella.
"Energy for what?" asked Stella. "It wasn't a jab."
"Stell," Ray said tiredly, turning his head to look at her. "You got any idea how much it takes out of me to come here every six months?"
Stella shook her head and drank some of her beer before looking away. Ray took that to mean she was listening. She used to do that when they were married and she knew it was going to be a serious talk.
"They love me. I know that. If they didn't, I wouldn't be sitting in their backyard right now," Ray said quietly. "They love the kids too. It's like the kids are a balm or something like that. Soothes their ruffled feathers. Because they don't love Fraser. Don't even like him very much really. He's too alien for them to recognize.
"So they put on this faade and pretend it's all okay. Except this time Mom's gone and Dad's never been good at hiding anything without her there to cover for him. And James is an ass and can't seem to look past the fact I'm suddenly gay and we shared a room together growing up. So it's like this fight I gotta referee the entire time I'm here and now it's even worse because Mom's not here to help."
Stella's hand touched his wrist lightly and Ray stared at it, at the rounded tips of her fake nails. Her wedding ring, a huge diamond thing that was so unlike the tiny diamond chip he gave her when they got married, caught his gaze momentarily before falling to rest on his own wedding ring.
"I'm not going to stop though," Ray said softly, his voice steady. "Because Fraser is the best thing that ever happened to me and I'll fight tooth and nail for him if I gotta."
Stella leaned forward and pressed her lips to his temple. "I know, Ray. And so does he."
Ray watched her get to her feet before he stood up himself. "You heading out?"
Stella nodded and started to walk back inside, Ray at her side. "We're not leaving until Monday. If you want to get together."
"Maybe," Ray said with a bit of a shrug. He stopped at the back door. "If he went to Florida, would you check up on him?"
"Of course," Stella said and walked inside. She headed over to where Vecchio was sitting. "You ready to go, honey?"
Vecchio rested his hand on Stella's hip and nodded. "Ready when you are."
Ray lifted Emma from Fraser's chest, cradling her in his arms as she pressed her face against his shoulder sleepily. He kissed the top of her head and set her on the couch again once Fraser was on his feet, watching as she curled up and fell back into a deep sleep.
"Ray," Fraser said warmly, clasping Vecchio's forearms in his hands. Vecchio's hands wrapped around Fraser's in return. "It was good to see you despite the circumstances."
"You too, Benny." Vecchio pulled Fraser into a tight hug. Fraser clapped Vecchio's back briefly before letting go. Vecchio turned to Ray, giving him a long look. "It'll be better when you're back home."
Ray nodded. "Yeah. I figured as much."
Vecchio didn't hug him this time, just punched him in the arm. Ray returned the punch with a grateful nod. He could only take so much hugging from Vecchio. He still didn't really like the guy all that much, but he could tolerate him for Fraser's sake.
Stella had slipped on her heels, pressing her lips to Fraser's cheek and accepting his quick hug. They had the sort of relationship he had with Vecchio, mutual tolerance for the sake of their spouses.
Ray hugged her tightly though, his eyes closed. Her nails dug into his back briefly before she let him go with a quick kiss on his lips. Ray leaned against Fraser heavily and watched them go, the small trailer silent except for the soft drip of the faucet from the kitchen.
"We should clean up," Fraser said softly. He put his arms around Ray's waist, pulling him a little closer. "How are you?"
Ray twisted his head to look at Fraser sadly. "I want to go home."
Ray wiped his hands on a dirty rag, shoving it in the back pocket of his jeans. He squinted in the sunlight, watching his father and Gabriel lean over to look at the engine of the GTO. They had finished changing the oil and now Damian was patiently pointing out all of the parts of an engine to a very excited Gabriel.
Emma was in the kitchen when Ray walked inside through the back door. Her arms were buried in a big bowl of flour and she was smiling happily.
"Hi, Daddy. I'm making Grandpa cookies."
Ray kissed the top of her head. "I'm sure he'll appreciate it. Where's Dad at?"
"Living room," Emma said before she started to hum again, reaching for eggs with floury hands.
Ray left her to it and went to find Fraser who was looking at the pictures on the wall. He rested a hand on Fraser's back and looked as well.
"What kind of cookies is she making?" asked Ray after a moment.
"Sugar," Fraser said, leaning back against Ray's hand. "I thought it would be a nice treat for him to have fresh-baked cookies around the house."
"Fraser," Ray said quietly. "Thank you."
"I quite like your father." Fraser's eyes went to the wall again before moving away to look out the front window at Damian and Gabriel. "I thought he liked me as well."
"It's not a good time for him. For any of us really."
"Do you really want him to come live with us?" Fraser looked over at Ray, his expression blank.
Ray hated when he looked at him like that and he scowled in return. "Yeah. I do."
Fraser looked out the window again. "If you could make him aware that the offer is extended by both of us, I would appreciate it."
"Do you mean it, Ben?" Ray held his breath.
Fraser crossed his arms over his chest, his hands gripping his biceps. He continued to look out the window. Ray could hear Gabriel laughing happily. Emma was humming to herself in the kitchen. It was almost like being home.
"I do, Ray. It would be nice for the children to have their grandfather around and it would be nice for you to have him closer as well."
Ray walked over to him, pressing his forehead to Fraser's shoulder. He could feel the tension there and he rested his hands over Fraser's, slowly loosening his grip on his biceps. Fraser leaned back against him, letting Ray take his weight.
There was a crash from the kitchen and Emma uttered a low uh-oh. Fraser smiled softly and turned his head to kiss Ray's forehead.
"Go talk to your father. I'll police the kitchen."
Ray stepped out the front door, watching as his father carefully set Gabriel on the ground and began to wipe off his hands for him. Gabriel was smiling brightly, a smear of grease on his face.
"Daddy! I got to touch the engine!"
Ray smiled at him warmly. "I told Grandpa you liked cars. Good to know I didn't lie to him."
"He's a smart kid," Damian said, finished with Gabriel's hands. He straightened up, looking at Ray. "Reminds me of you at his age."
"I have to pee, Daddy," Gabriel said, tugging on Ray's t-shirt. "I can go myself."
"Okay, buddy," Ray said. "Go ahead. Dad's inside if you need help."
Gabriel ran into the house, slamming the door behind him. Ray winced a little. "Can't seem to break him of that habit."
"That door's been slammed for years without coming off its hinges," Damian assured him. He closed the hood of the GTO. "So your flight is at 9?"
Ray nodded. "We have to get an early start. It's a long trip back home."
Damian leaned against the hood and lit a cigarette, holding out the pack to Ray as an offering. Ray hesitated, but took one, leaning on the hood next to his father.
"It's about a week's drive," said Ray after a few moments of silence. "To Inuvik."
"That so." Damian chewed on the end of the filter. "Think a GTO could make it?"
"If it's in top shape." Ray tapped his cigarette lightly to get rid of the ash. "Like this one."
"It's really fucking uncomfortable going to live with your kid," Damian said to him. "10 years we did it with James and we always felt like we were inconveniencing him. And that was with a trailer."
"There's an apartment attached to the kennel," Ray said. "I use it when a dog is ready to whelp so I'm close by. One bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen. The works."
"I don't want to create any problems."
Ray dropped his cigarette on the ground, stepping it out. "You're not. The offer comes from Ben as well. We want you to live with us, Dad. It's up to you whether you want to live with us. We're not going to hide our lives if you're there."
"Wouldn't have asked you to," Damian said gruffly. "He's a good guy and he's good for you. You're happy. Good enough for me."
"Think you could tell him that?" Ray asked softly. "The picture thing. Really fucking hurts him but he won't say anything to you."
"What picture thing?"
"There's no pictures of him up," Ray said quietly. "Every other time we've been here, the pictures of him are up as well. This time. Nothing."
Damian lit another cigarette for himself, smoking half of it before saying anything else. His voice was thick when he finally spoke again,
"Your mother was getting them re-framed. The ones of you and him and the kids. Said they needed to be in nicer frames. The wedding photo too." Damian wiped at his eyes briefly. "She was in the middle of changing up that whole wall. Lots of pictures are missing. They're in her dresser except for the ones at the shop."
Ray pressed his shoulder to Damian's, his head lowered. "Oh."
"I should pick 'em up," Damian said quietly. "Slipped my mind."
"Dad," Ray said softly, his voice trailing off. He took another cigarette and continued to lean against his father and the GTO as they smoked in silence, the sun shining down on them.
"She was so proud of you. Told everyone about the nuclear sub and your adventure searching for Franklin's Hand. Talked about the kids and your dogs and how her son-in-law was a Mountie."
"Then why was it always so hard when we came to visit?" Ray asked softly. "I always felt like you two were just waiting for me to come to my senses."
"Cause we never knew the man you became. We didn't see each other for ten fucking years, Ray. Phone calls aren't the same. Then when we came back here, you moved to Canada. The gay thing didn't bother us, but we realized we had no clue who you were. We knew who you were with Stella, but not you alone. And not you with Ben."
"I don't know you either," Ray admitted. "I expected the worst reaction so I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I had no idea what you really thought about me."
"We loved you. Still do." Damian put his cigarettes in his pocket again. "Like to get to know you now. A week you say?"
"A week. Give or take."
"Give me some time here," Damian said, squinting in the sun. "To grieve."
"Dad, you have all the time you need. I'm not going anywhere."
Damian smiled at him and pushed away from the car. "I know. Took me long enough to realize it, but I know."
The plane ride had sucked the will to live right out of Ray, not that he had much to start with. The kids were just as weary, clinging to himself or Fraser pretty much since they left Chicago.
But they were home in Inuvik, the kids were sleeping buckled in the back of the truck and Fraser was at the wheel. Ray leaned his head against the window, staring at the familiar terrain, the long, low tree line and green grasses, the small, colorful houses.
They passed the RCMP headquarters where Fraser spent most of his time when he wasn't on patrol of the Invuik region. Not far from the headquarters was the town council building. Ray had spent a lot of time there the past few months, arguing for another traffic light alongside of his neighbors.
Jenny Goodheart, their usual house sitter, was standing on the front porch, the dogs by her side. Baby and Dumpling were already turning fast circles, their tails wagging excitedly. They knew better than to run for the truck. Bronco, who had entirely too much Dief in him for his own good, was being held back by Jenny.
Fraser put the truck in park and looked over at Ray. "We're home."
Ray gave him a soft smile, reaching over to squeeze his hand. "I wonder if the fox is still alive."
Fraser laughed and squeezed back. "We're not that lucky, Ray. We're not that lucky."
End A Passing Feeling by zillah
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