Everybody Loves Benton
Disclaimer: None of them are mine despite repeated requests. Only the words are, so please ask before you borrow.
Author's Notes: Big thankyou hugs to Missapocalyptic, Number Six and Cimmie for speedy betas. If it's wrong - it's my fault for not listening! Massive thanks to Nicci who started me down this road to slashy DS heaven and also alpha read for me. This is for you Nic - you rock!
Story Notes: This is a little pre-slash, it's cute and it contains bad language and smug wolves.
Shit loads of bad fucking karma.
Backup is on its way - isn't it always? So close, but not quite close enough to stop this crap before it gets started - and once it starts, it won't take long.
I'm getting too old for this. There's not a single one of these wannabe gangsters that remembers vinyl. The stink of Clearasil is overpowering and suddenly I'm sick - sick of Chicago, sick of the druggies, sick of the squalor, and sick of this kind of situation going to hell in a heartbeat.
Ignore me. I always get pessimistic at this stage of a bust. That would be the stage where I have three guns pointed at my head and seven pointing at my unbelievably clean and highly visible freak of a partner.
Where the others are aiming is not high on my list of pressing problems right now. When I've finished with the ones aimed at Frase and me, I'll look into the others.
That would be stupid.
But that's what you get with this neighbourhood and its gangs of pubescent scumbags - rival factions, jostling for turf and action. And that's what we stumbled into: a nice little gang warfare with a side order of drug dealing. So basically what we are waiting for is for them to decide whether they want to kill each other or us first.
A stand off.
First one not to piss himself wins.
Must have looked really cool from above though. Like dominos falling or synchro-fucking-nised swimming. Or one of those crowd things they do at the Olympics where it looks like a bunch of choreographed losers in interestingly coloured t-shirts, but then the camera angle changes and suddenly you can see they make a star-spangled banner or a sunflower or some kind of slightly sinister looking mascot teddy bear.
Yeah, fourteen zit covered fuckwits, one stylish spiky-haired cop and a freak in a red jacket all coming to a sudden, skidding halt in a dead-end alley and pulling so much weaponry, the click of all those safety's coming off must have registered a 6 on the Richter scale somewhere - that must have looked pretty cool from the right angle.
I try not to pant as I hold the muzzle of my gun against the temple of one of the assholes threatening Frase. Hey, so the Mountie'll have six holes in him instead of seven - give me another option.
"Gentlemen," an all too familiar voice announces. I bite back the groan. If he starts this speech with "There's an Inuit tale that begins..." then I'm throwing my lot in with the Teen Angels here - I'll fucking shoot him MYSELF.
I quickly throw a look at Fraser, the only unarmed member of this little scene and, perversely, the one that looks the most collected. His eyes meet mine and instantly I'm watching for his signal. He knows something, he's seen something and any second I'm going to be in on the secret and ready to move.
"If I might suggest...we don't all need to die today," There is a ripple of agreement, possibly some relief at his words. They are keeping it tight, keeping it under control, but I don't think any of them would choose to bite it here and now. That's what they're all hearing. Me? I'm hearing something totally other. "We don't ALL need to die" he said, not "NONE of us need to die".
So who does and who doesn't?
When it finally comes, it's all over so fast I don't even have time to get it straight in my own head before Welsh is in my face and demanding answers. There are two body bags being lifted into the mortuary van, twelve scared looking kids being searched and cuffed, more police vehicles than can fit in this crap-hole alley and too much noise, too many flashing lights, too many questions.
And there's Ben, looking like the centre of a hurricane - still, quiet and grounded. His eyes find mine, over and over, as we fill in the blanks for the arresting officers.
Yes, I'm fine.
You still okay?
Is everything alright?
It's like that stuff that dolphins do. Echo... something, like sonar. He pings a signal - I bounce it back, again and again, so he knows where I am and I know where he is. I guess it's a partner thing; you get tight with your partner in this job - it's what keeps you alive. Me and Ben, we're like really, really good partners.
Fraser answers questions, providing what everyone needs and basically holds it all together. I need some of that. With a quick word to Welsh, I push off through the melee towards him. He sees me coming.
Nothing. I send back with a small, tired smile. I stand beside him while he finishes his explanations, smoke a cigarette, rub at my forehead with a thumb to squash the pressure growing there and take comfort from his calmness.
Finally the storm moves on, the cars start to leave, the last of the photos are taken, the forensics guys clear away their stuff and the poor bastard chosen to guard the crime-scene takes his place.
"Are we done here?" I ask, my head throbbing by now.
"Get some sleep, I want that report by lunchtime tomorrow," Welsh growls and dives into his waiting car.
"Ready?" I ask Fraser. He politely considers the question.
"I believe I am. Some rest would be most welcome."
He's full of shit. I KNOW how long he's been up because I was there with him. Ten on Tuesday night we got the call on this one and it's been a suck-fest ever since. It's now one thirty-six on Thursday morning, so we've been awake for...thirty...no...forty...fucking forever, it feels like.
"I'll drive you...back," I mumble. I almost said home, but something stopped me. Cos it's not his home, I guess. If Chicago were his home, he'd look more relaxed about it, more part of the scenery. Even when he's not wearing that fucking stupid uniform, he stands out like an oak tree in a field of wheat.
"Thank you kindly, Ray," he accepts and we walk back in exhausted silence to where we abandoned the car and poor Dief. His boots make an eerie click on the damp streets as we pass from pool to pool of dirty fluorescent light. We keep pace, shoulder-to-shoulder without conscious effort; I think maybe it's so if one of us should fall asleep, the other one would be there to brace and keep the rhythm of our feet.
"How do you do it, Frase?" I ask him when I'm back on the familiar route downtown to the consulate. There's little traffic at this time of night and I'm talking because the thrum of the engine and the bright-dark-bright-dark from the street lighting is lulling me towards sleep.
"Do what, Ray?" I knew he wouldn't be sleeping even though he's been still since he dropped into the seat.
"It. The whole superhero, one hundred and ten percent, give it all you've got, then get up tomorrow and do it all again thing?"
Why am I asking him this stuff? Is it just so he forces me to stay awake?
"You know how, Ray. You do exactly the same thing. We just execute our duties to the best of our ability. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we get our man...or woman."
"And what do you get?" I slow down as I ask the question so I can watch his reaction. I'm not disappointed.
He looks at me sharply, the dark leeching the colour from his eyes and making his skin look like paper. Yeah, Frase, Kowalski's asking the insightful questions. Worried much?
"Justice," he says after a moment's consideration.
"And that's satisfaction?"
"Of a sort." He looks away again, out of the window. Not to study the quiet streets or the dark businesses we're passing, but to avoid my eyes.
That little chat is over, then.
Lying by omission.
Half an hour and one silent ride home later, my gritty eyes and heavy limbs are screaming for rest, but my mind is humming. My cheap, nasty alarm clock continues its relentless countdown to dawn and no matter how hard I try to stop it, my head is full of red serge, half smiles and the things he's never said.
I kick at the sheets twisted around my legs, batter my pillow for the thirty-eighth time tonight and try to find a position that will let me sleep before I reach the conclusion to this dilemma - if there is one.
Why does he do this?
I mean, I'm a guy who believes in job satisfaction. Scumbags go to prison - I get job satisfaction. But it's not all I've got. I have family, I have friends, and these days I have Vecchio's family and friends too, which is...well... just weird. I have... I had Stella. I have music, my car, my turtle, my shitty little apartment, I love to dance - all things that enrich my soul, round me out into a real person. What I'm saying is that in the balance of my life, I have stuff on the other side, not just the job and its badge.
But Fraser? Ben? He has Dief - a wolf he doesn't even claim to own and a list of personal stories that were all over a long time ago.
That's never gonna be enough to balance against that uniform.
No man is an island - I read that somewhere - back of a cereal pack I think. Each of us has dreams and aspirations, or else what's the point? Even Fraser in his buttoned up, self-sufficient, Tupperware existence must want something...NEED something.
So why does he DO this?
I mean everybody loves Benton, right? What's not to love? He's bravery, strength, loyalty, intelligence and compassion all wrapped up in one gorgeous, six foot, blue-eyed, dark haired - did I mention gorgeous - package. You don't have to be a chick to see that.
But he's also remote, awkward, unapproachable and odd. He's like one of those saints whose images used to scare the crap out of me when I was a kid - a beautiful, shining, perfect soul that usually ended up karking it in some gruesome and totally NOT happy-ever-after story. Choosing to give up earthly pleasure for their heavenly reward. Is that what Ben wants? To deny himself love now for some future purpose?
Or is it just that he doesn't know how to do it?
The love thing.
So everybody loves Benton - but who or what does Benton love?
Ben loves, I know he does. He loves truth, justice, his country, order, reason, art, sheet music and Marcel fucking Proust. I'm sure he loved his mother and his grandparents in that quiet, contained way he has. Even his father and that girl - the one Vecchio was trying to shoot when Ben stepped in the way. I suspect he loved them or thought he did. But it's all so...abstract...so distant...so one way. Until you've loved and been loved in return, how would you recognise it or its absence?
Two hours sleep and I'm back at the two-seven. I'm positive that if I can just get enough caffeine in me, everything will become clear. It has to be caffeine - the break room doesn't stretch to crack or Glenmorangie.
When Frase walks in at ten, my report is already gracing Welsh's desk and I'm so wired from coffee and lack of sleep that I'm almost trembling. There's a little impromptu hero's welcome - and weirdly enough, I'm fine with that.
One of the guys who spun off last night was Paulo De Tiberina, a guy we've been looking to question over a string of date rape cases. What Frase noticed was that one of the other guys in our little happy band last night was one of his victim's brothers. They both fired at the same instant, and our proximity meant it all got a little messy. Messy enough that all the other asswipes who were pretty low down the pecking order, shit themselves, giving Frase and I the opportunity to relieve them of their weapons and get them all lined up nice for when the promised backup finally arrived.
"Good work, Constable," and "Well done, Fraser" and "What do you do for an encore?" has Ben's eyes scanning the room for me. There are pats on the back and cups of coffee thrust at him and still he doesn't spot me. That might be because I'm deliberately avoiding his line of sight for the minute. And I'm not sure why.
So, I rest my case. Everybody loves Benton.
But that brings my poor brain back to the nature of love again. People respect him and his bravery, they admire his honesty and compassion, they like the reassurance that he's there - doing the right thing, but is that the same as love? Cos I gotta tell ya, admiration doesn't get you a hug when you need one, respect's no substitute for a kiss and being reassuring does nothing for you when you're lonely.
And I didn't see any of these happy faces taking him home last night; nobody was offering to give back what he gave out yesterday.
"Well done", "Good job", a hearty slap on the shoulder and empty smiles and empty words.
So if he's not being refilled every night from the vat of human compassion - if there is no one there to replace what he expends each day - if he's always giving and never getting - how long has he been running on empty?
Frannie is practically hanging off him, but even she, who thinks she wants him - who practices writing Francesca Fraser when she thinks no one is looking - even she, if pressed for God's honest truth, wouldn't take him on, I don't think. Or if she did, she wouldn't be able to give him what he needed or get what she wanted in return.
He looks a little freaked at the reception he's getting and he tries to disentangle himself from Frannie. "Thank you, although Ray was the real hero last night." "Thank you, kindly." "It was a team effort, I can assure you." "Is Ray here?" And he's starting to sound a bit desperate, so I come out where he can see me.
There you are. You okay?
Fine, I'm fine. You okay?
Yes - what's going on?
Don't worry, just smile and say thank you.
"Thank you," he says and backs away from his well-wishers. He turns to me and looks so relieved my heart does a funny stutter thing. And the freakiest thought pops into my head - something so off the wall that it makes me blink; something that answers all the questions that kept me awake - all the 'why is he still here?', 'what does he want?', 'what does Ben need?' stuff.
It couldn't be. This is Big Red we're talking about, a man so straight in every sense of the word, you could use him as a spirit level.
He closes the gap between us, leaving half a dozen lustful glances...and not all of them from Frannie... in his oblivious wake.
He smiles and his shoulders seem to drop three inches now he's away from the crowd of people 'loving' him. Those wide, strong shoulders that just seem to show off how slim his waist is and...
"Hello, Ray. Did you need any help with the report?"
FUCK! What? Did I black out or drop off or something? I pull out my best cocky smile and answer what I hope he just asked.
"All done. The last of the interviews is just happening. I need to go over to Paulo's place and see if there's any goodies there."
"You coming?" And it pisses me off that he waits to be asked - like I'm gonna cut him out of the deal now.
I hold out a hand and gesture that we should leave the room. "After you, Ben," I smile and his eyes get that sudden panicked look in them again.
Fuck it. I called him Ben. I never call him Ben. He's always Frase or buddy or freak - he's only ever Ben in my head. But I don't react at all, my face straining to keep it casual looking. He passes me with a quick puzzled glance and as he walks through the doors towards the street, I smack myself hard in the forehead and take a couple of deep breaths. I HAVE to hold this together and stop letting all this crap leak out where it can do damage.
Ben..fuck...Fraser just doesn't like fuss - he was relieved to see me cos I don't fuss him - that's all - nothing else going on there - except in your dreams, Kowalski.
Still freaking, but determined not to show it, I follow Frase out of the bullpen, using my head to open the swing doors - that should help - sure as hell can't make it any worse.
There's little to see at Paulo's other than some fuckawful interior design and the guy's lame taste in music as evidenced by his CD collection. I don't think he's been here in a while, probably not since he got word that we were looking to ask him a few questions. The Forensic team have already been all over it picking up the grossest things you can imagine for DNA evidence.
We decide to bag a few items of correspondence, some photos and the suchlike. Frase finds a number of cellphones and an electronic organiser thing that we'll take back for the geeks to play with.
And what is weird, cos I've never noticed before, is that he's still doing the sonar thing. You'd think that would be just in high stress situations really, wouldn't you? I glance up and he's already looking at me. And what's weirder is that it works both ways. I look round to draw his attention to something and without a word leaving my mouth, he's on his way over to take a look.
What is this psychic crap? Do we really know each other that well that we can predict the other's next moves? I know the guy talks to Dief as if he could understand him - which is unlikely as he's deaf and a different species - but shit, I don't even believe in that stuff.
I crouch down to check under the coffee table and sniggering to myself for being an over caffeinated, overtired, punch-drunk asshole, I think BEN as hard as I can.
"I don't mind, you know," he mutters. "Ben, Benton, Frase - they're all fine."
In front of me my hands are shaking hard enough to rattle against the wood of the table, so I pull them back and scrub them through my hair quickly before I stand up and turn to him.
Ben, are you in love with me? Cos I sure as hell think I'm in love with you.
He looks up from the pile of bills he's flicking through. From the reaction, I think I must look pretty fucking weird. He's frowning, but as he hasn't come over to turn my face to pulp, I'm guessing this thing we have here isn't psychic.
"Is everything alright?" he asks, setting aside his papers and moving towards me with a concerned look in those blue eyes...you know Ben really has the bluest eyes. He's reaching out a cautious hand before I snap out of my funk.
"Fine," I yelp and duck away from his touch, flapping my hands at him in a "Don't fuss" gesture but not before I see a flicker of regret while he paints his bland "RCMP, at your service" face on.
Christ, I'm behaving like a head case. What is the MATTER with me? How can my whole awareness of my partner have shifted almost overnight? I mean, not that I wasn't aware of him before, let's be serious, you'd have to have been dead a long time not to be aware of Fraser. He's big and wide and red a lot of the time. He's got this killer smile and large, capable hands and no matter how quiet he stays, he's always a presence in any situation.
Suddenly this room is too small, he's too close and his silent reassurances are DEAFENING me!
"Let's report back to Welsh and get this stuff admitted as evidence," I say a liiiittle bit too loud and fast.
"Very well," Frase agrees and I know he's looking for an answering ping from me; I can feel his eyes on me, but I'm away and out of the door.
I'm all out of ping.
By six pm, my caffeine levels have crashed despite my best efforts and I am practically walking into furniture, I'm so tired. I've done all I can tonight as we're still waiting on post mortem reports, so there's something to bounce out of bed for tomorrow, for sure.
My mind is still fizzing pathetically, trying to find a good way to start a necessary conversation with Frase and at the same time, finding ways to avoid it - no wonder I'm wiped.
I look up from the stationery request form I have been trying to complete for the last twenty minutes into a pair of concerned, blue eyes.
"Frase!" I greet him with an almost drunken slur. "You still here, buddy?"
"Evidently. I wonder if I might trouble you for a ride to the consulate?" Wow! I must look like shit if he's pretending to want a ride just to get me to go home.
"Course!" I nod stupidly, and scrape the heap of paperwork on my desk into a folder. "Let's go."
A lungful of Chicago evening air actually does me some good - apparently my system needs airborne lead to work properly. I feel clearer headed than I have all day. And I have come to a decision - probably not a good one, but the alternative is to say nothing and if Frase is as...flawed...as I'm starting to think he is, I need to say something.
It's only five minutes from the two-seven to the consulate, and it takes me that long to screw up my courage to speak. I pull up outside his drab building and put the car in park.
There IS no good way to do this, so I opt for the quickest, most direct method.
"Frase, I love you."
"Well that's good to know. I value your friendship most highly also, Ray. If I shared your American cultural heritage, I'm sure I would be in a better position to return your sentiment, but my upbringing and my national reticence prevent me from..."
He stumbles to a halt. "No?"
"Nope. You're not listening. Please pay attention."
He raises his eyebrows at that and blinks.
"I love you, Frase," I tell him again and look at him significantly.
He nods slowly, opens his mouth, takes a deep breath then shrugs, shakes his head and looks to me in utter confusion.
"I love you."
"Right you are."
Except it's not.
Trying to contain my grin, I reach across him and open his door. He's flustered as he unbuckles and mutters his thanks for the ride. He shuts the door and bends down to the open window. "Ray, just to clarify..." then he's lost for words.
I press the button that closes his window and hear the street noises begin to fade out. Just before the final inch slides home, the smile wins and splits my face from ear to ear.
"I...love...you," I mouth to him, then signal into the traffic and slide away from the kerb, leaving him still bent, hands on knees, watching after me.
I figure I have twenty-three minutes tops, so I make the most of them. I call out for pizza, clear away the worst of the crap in my apartment and ignore the low-level background crap. I change my sheets, brush my teeth and as I'm checking my hair there's a knock at the door. It's only nineteen minutes - either he's REALLY motivated or....
It's the pizza guy. Greatness.
I pay him and quickly retreat to the couch leaving the front door open.
Switch on the game.
Grab a slice of pizza.
Sit back and pretend to be relaxed.
It doesn't take very long.
The wolf lets me know that he's arrived. Dief pads into the apartment and stands in the way of the TV.
He waits until I stop trying to see round him and my focus is squarely on him. Then he looks to the doorway, looks at me and makes the plainest, most eloquent "D'uh!" face I've ever seen before slumping down beside the couch in disgust.
Great, now I have wolf attitude to cope with as well.
I guess Frase is having one last freak before he takes the plunge. It's only a long three minutes later that he appears at the door; three minutes of me doing a pretty fucking impressive freak of my own thinking he's realised how much better he could do than one S. R. Kowalski.
But still he hesitates, standing in my doorway in jeans, that pale blue shirt I like and his stupid hat in his hands. I'm not gonna call for him on this one. This is a biggie and he's a grown-up; he has to choose for himself.
But then if love is this whole weird, abstract thing to him and I don't at least point him in the right direction...
"Hey," I say softly and smile encouragingly. "You coming in or what?" He closes the door behind him with all the precision of a drunk trying to prove that he's not.
He looks sick, scared, and uncertain and I realise how very far we have to go.
"Ray..." he mutters.
"Yeah. Let's eat first," I say as casually as I can under the circumstances. The circumstances of course being me changing my whole life, giving up everything I know and stepping out into the wild blue yonder with a freak and his wolf.
I shift along the couch and finally, he comes to sit down. I take his hat and throw it onto the armchair then hand him some pizza. Slowly, I sit back and my shoulder slides against his as I get heavy against him. A glance at his face tells me that he's aware of it but he smiles sweetly and heart stoppingly bravely, and takes a bite of the pizza.
Okay, one more thing I think should do it. I snake out my free hand and curl my fingers through his. He looks interested, but not shocked as I squeeze his hand, then that slow sweet smile reappears and we sit back to watch the game.
Six remaining slices of pizza.
One day at a time.
End Everybody Loves Benton by Berty
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