While You Were Sleeping
Story Notes: AU, movie-related
He's standing in front of the Canadian Consulate like a wooden soldier, motionless, while everything inside of him wants to scream, wants to run. Run away from here, a place where he never intended to be, where his skills are neither appreciated nor needed.
But he's standing there with his only companion by his side - Diefenbaker, a half-wolf, the only living being that's left of his family.
He's the man from the North - farther north than you can imagine - who came to the windy city on the trail of the killers of his father.
Because they don't want him back.
His home is lost for him and everything he has left can be kept in a tiny box, one that can be easily lost and...
He catches a movement out of the corner of his eyes - it's her.
She seems so alive, so sparkling. Chatting away with the people around her. Laughing.
He yearns for that.
It's been so long ago since someone has laughed with him, has touched him. He longs for a smile, a touch and she gives of herself so easily, she would give it to him.
He doesn't believe in love at first sight, he's too rational for it but he wants to. He tries.
She passes by him, smiling like she always does but this time she does something unexpected, something special - she stops and whispers "Hi there!" and he's tempted to greet back, to just smile at her, touch her to feel her energy, her life.
But she just walks by and he can't move, can't turn his head to look after her.
Motionlessness - that's what his whole being is limited to.
He can hear noises from his left side, coming towards him, passing him and with shock he sees hands that push her on to the street, in front of a car.
It happens so fast she can't even scream. He wouldn't have heard it anyway.
He isn't allowed to but he's moving. Towards her, the small light that has lit up his life for the last two months.
In an instant his skills are needed, desperately.
He breathes life into her lungs, praying that she won't leave him alone, alone in a world with no one who cares about him and no one he cares about but Diefenbaker. He doesn't realise he's talking to her like he really knows her, begging her to hang on.
An ambulance arrives and he's holding her hand all the way to the hospital.
He's standing there with his bright red uniform, his silly pants and that huge hat and he can't concentrate, doesn't hear the questions he's been asked - he wouldn't know her name anyway or the place where she lives.
A gentle touch on his arm brings him back and finally he can hear the noises around him, can see nurses and doctors and he feels silly to be standing in the way when they all want to help her.
He lets go of her hand, feeling the loss to the core of his being and a nurse guides him to a chair, pushes him down gently.
"She's gonna be alright," the nurse says and he just nods his head, following her with his eyes as she disappears behind closed doors.
"You must really be in love."
That brings him back entirely. In love? No, he can't be in love because he doesn't know her and you can't be in love with a person you don't know. There has to be friendship first and then, maybe, you can fall in love. He has tried the other way and it ended badly and he had promised himself to never get hurt like that again.
His eyes focus on and read the nametag hanging from the nurse's breast pocket.
"I can assure you, Mr. Turnbull, I'm surely not." He's blushing. He knows he is because how could he possibly explain what he's feeling for a woman he's never talked to but who's been the focus of his existence since the first time he saw her.
"It's alright," Turnbull interrupts, smiling brightly. Knowingly. "You don't have to tell me."
He wants to answer, making it clear that he isn't related to her in any way but his own wishes when a doctor appears and all he can do is stand up in front of him and demand to know how she is doing.
"Are you a family member?" the doctor asks and he blushes again, knowing very well that he has no right to be here at all or to claim information for that matter.
"No, I am not," he whispers, seeing the doctor turning, leaving him behind. "I'm just someone who wanted to spend the rest of his life with her." What a silly thought, he tells himself, shaking his head.
He prepares himself to go, to leave her behind when he feels a touch on his right arm, leading him through doors that lead to her room.
She looks very pale but unharmed and he can only stare at her face, restraining himself from taking her hand.
"What is he doing here," he hears a rough voice and freezes. At least he has seen her one more time. And then he hears Turnbull whisper, saying that this is her fianc and her rescuer.
He should tell them right now that he doesn't know her at all, that he's is just a lonely man who wants some attention from another living being when suddenly the room gets crowded and all he wants is to back out, preferably unseen.
But the door is blocked and there is just no way to walk around the people who obviously are her family.
A demanding male voice, asking to know what happened to his daughter reaches his ear. Then the soft weeping of a woman. He gets overpowered by the noises; he never knew what it's like to be cared about like this, by a family.
"Who are you?"
He blushes, knowing that he has no place within her caring family.
"My name is Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father..." He is interrupted by her mother just then, who pulls him tightly against her body and he stiffens immediately.
"Poor boy," she whispers in his ear, crying - he doesn't know if it's for him or her daughter.
"What is he doing here anyway?"
"Vincent!" The woman in his arms hisses and pets his chest gently.
"He is her rescuer and fianc, Sir!" Turnbull says, beaming like a Christmas tree and suddenly all the attention is on him instead of her.
Her father, Vincent, looks him up and down before he shakes his hand.
"Welcome to the family," he says and her mother hugs him again, whispering "Finally she got herself a nice boy." against his chest and all he can do is stand there, dumbfounded.
"C'mon, Ada, you're squeezing the man," another male voice says, pulling the woman away.
"You're Canadian," the man says, shaking his hand.
"I'm Harding. Harding Welsh, a family friend, allow me to make proper introductions." He points at the man, now known as her father Vincent and at the woman beside him, Ada, her mother. "You met her parents - Vincent and Ada Vecchio. And these are Frannie's sister, Maria, her husband, Tony, and their two children Matheo and Vinnie."
This is overwhelming, a whole family and he feels so welcome, so ... but he has no right to be one of them, to be among them and he nervously rubs his eyebrow.
"I'm terribly sorry but ..."
"I wish Ray would be here," Ada sighs, taking her husband's arm who pets her gently and suddenly he can't speak anymore. This is everything he ever wanted, a family, people who care and he decides to go along for the time being, to indulge himself, to accept the little comfort. Inexcusable, really but it's Christmas time and he's so alone.
Everyone's attention is on Frannie now - petting her hair, her cheek - and he steps closer to Turnbull, dragging him with him out of the room.
"I'm not related to her in any way," he says and Turnbull turns pale.
"But ... but you just said that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with her," Turnbull stutters, looking confused.
"I was just ... dreaming," he confesses shamefully.
"I'm sorry. I was just thinking ... obviously but ..."
"It's my fault entirely," he interrupts, looking back at her family which is gathered around her bed. "I have to go," and he turns on his heels, fleeing. But he can't stop thinking about her, her family, the way they care for one another and how much he wants to be a part of them.
His superior talking him into a private Christmas party makes him even more aware of what it is he's missing in his life and so he finds himself telling Inspector Thatcher about that woman in the hospital and everyone believing her to be his fiance.
More lies but even Diefenbaker seems to understand, not lecturing him about honour and honesty. He's even willing to stay all by himself in the Consulate while he's going to visit her.
*"I'm very grateful for your understanding," he tells his half wolf while he gets out of his red serge and into jeans and a flannel shirt. "I'm planning on correcting the mistake as soon as ... possible." He doesn't even know who he wants to convince here, Diefenbaker or himself. But all of this will be pointless as soon as Francesca awakes and ... "I'm certain she will recognize me, Diefenbaker. She passes by us every day and ..." 'she smiled at me,' he wants to say but stops himself. This is really ridiculous, unhinged even.
"I'll tell her your good wishes," he pets his friend's head and heads out.
Walking usually does him a lot of good but not today because he's ... wool-gathering, you might call it, thinking about that strong handshake her father gave him, her mother in his arms and he arrives at the hospital without a decision on how to proceed here.
He has no difficulty getting into her room this time, everyone seems to know who he is and now he's helplessly looking down at her sleeping face. Something melts inside of him as he gently touches her faces.
"Hi," he whispers. "My name is Con ... I mean, I'm Benton, Benton Fraser and your family is under the impression that we are engaged ...," and he's telling her everything, things he never told anybody but she has a right to know who he is and what he wants out of life.
He doesn't know how long he talks to her but he must have fallen asleep because he gets woken by a gentle touch on his shoulder and when he opens his eyes, Ada is standing beside him.
"Good morning, Benton," she says and he has to swallow hard because he can't remember the last time someone greeted him with his first name.
"Good morning ... Ada." He's covering his eyes with his hands, pretending to wipe away sleep.
"You were here all night?" Ada gently pets her daughter's cheek, looking at him.
"Yes, Ma'am. I must have fallen asleep."
It occurs to him that Diefenbaker is waiting at the Consulate, that he has to be at work, he looks at his watch, in half an hour.
He stumbles to his feet.
"I'm sorry, Ada, I have to go," he says not knowing if he should step closer to kiss Francesca good-bye but decides that he has no right to do so without her permission.
"Benton?" Ada calls him back and he stops dead in his tracks. She must have figured him out, he thinks, turning slowly, waiting for the blow.
"Dinner is at 6," she says. "Don't be late."
He nods his head absently, not knowing what to ... "Diefenbaker," he says. "I have a half wolf."
Ada smiles at that.
"6, Benton and bring your friend. We have enough food to feed an army."
It's a quarter to 6 when he arrives at the Vecchio residence with Diefenbaker at his heels, looking at their windows. It looks inviting, cosy even and he has to take a deep breath.
He has been looking forward to this all day, standing guard duty in front of the Consulate on Christmas because he was late for work and perhaps he had insulted his superior by getting himself an imaginary fiance but he won't jump to conclusions here. There might be a good reason why he had to stand outside in the cold. Not that he minded the cold, he was used to it, even appreciated it but ... he is playing for time here and he knows it.
Dief is whining, obviously sniffing delicious food.
"Yes, we are going inside," he says. "On our own time."
The half wolf cocks his head, looking at him curiously.
"Don't be ridiculous. Of course we're going inside soon. We're invited and it would be rude to be late," he looks at his watch: 17:56.
A few more minutes.
Just at this second someone opens the door and his heart skips a beat.
"Ah, there you are, Benton," Harding Welsh greets him. "I thought I heard someone out here."
"Good evening, Sir," he greets back, shaking the man's hand.
"Harding, Benton. Just Harding. So," he looks down at Dief, "this must be Diefenbaker then. The kids are looking forward to meeting him."
"Oh dear," he whispers, looking at his friend, requesting him to behave and not to beg for food which he would do, no doubt.
Harding's serious voice makes him look up and at the man's face.
"I really like these people," he points at the house. "They're my family and I wish them to be treated with respect and loyalty."
"I understand," and Harding almost stares into his eyes like he tries to find something there untill he shrugs his shoulders, almost looking embarrassed.
"I'm sorry," he says, touching Fraser's arm lightly. "Bad habit. I used to be with the CPD in the good old days."
"No apology necessary."
They walk inside and if Harding hadn't had him by his arm he would have backed out immediately, overwhelmed by family noises, good smelling food, Christmas cosiness.
But he misses the small chance he might have had of escaping and before he can do as much as blink he's among them - a father who wants to know everything about his career, a mother asking about his own family and hugging him when he tells her that he has no one, a sister, a brother-in-law, children who beg him to tell stories about the wilderness he came from while they feed Dief sitting at their feet.
And he forgets that he's not supposed to be one of them, that he's here because he lied to them; at least until he gets woken up by noises at the front door.
He's on the couch in the living room, a blanket tugged around him and it's obviously morning and he'll be late for work again.
"What do you mean, Maria?" an unknown male voice asks. "You know very well that Frannie doesn't dig ..."
"Shhh, Ray. He's sleeping in the living room."
Dief barks by his side and there is no way of pretending to be asleep anymore. He gets up, straightening his rumpled clothes.
"Good morning, Maria," he greets Francesca's sister, trying not to stare at the stranger because he has assumed that he has to be her brother Ray but the man doesn't look like any of the Vecchios - he's his height, slender with spiky blonde hair and curious looking blue eyes.
"'morning, Benton," she greets him hesitantly, looking between him and the man.
"We haven't met yet," he says, putting forth his hand. "My name is Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police," and he doesn't even know why he feels the urge to introduce himself with his title but this man with his sceptical eyes makes him nervous.
"Frannie got herself a Mountie?" the man asks, cracking his neck.
"Ray," Maria hisses, casting Fraser an apologizing look.
"I assume you would be ..."
"Assume away," the man smiles broadly now, "but I'm Ray, Frannie's brother."
"Ah, I see," he rubs his eyebrow, confused about the missing resemblance with any of the Vecchios.
"It's a long story," Ray says and looks at him and Fraser twitches, somehow feeling uncomfortable in this man's presence but he gets rescued from the intense gaze by Diefenbaker who jumps at Ray, licking all over his face.
"That's disgusting," Ray exclaims, trying to get the wolf off of him. "He's doing disgusting things to my ear, get him off me!"
"Terribly sorry." Fraser almost smiles, grabbing Dief by the collar but the half wolf thinks differently and keeps licking Ray's face.
"Oh, he's very well-trained, I can see that," Ray says kind of accusingly but with a smile in his voice.
"He's deaf," Fraser explains. "You have to look at him, Ray and speak clearly."
"Deaf, huh?" Then he grabs Dief's muzzle. "Get off me, fur-ball," and Dief does, sitting down at Fraser's feet, looking admiringly at Ray.
Fraser looks down at his friend then up again and directly at Ray, becoming short-winded by the intensity of Ray's eyes.
"Benton?" Maria touches his arm gently and Fraser comes back from wherever he just has been, in the depths of the other man's eyes.
"Where you goin' somewhere?" Ray asks then, cracking his neck again.
"Ah, yes," Fraser stutters, looking at Maria not at Ray. "I'm sorry," - collar tug - "I have to go to work and I'm afraid I'm going to be late ... again."
"You want a lift?"
"No!" he says hastily. "Thank you kindly but I think we need the exercise after last nights dinner." The half wolf whines besides him. "We certainly do, Diefenbaker!"
"Huh?" Ray looks curiously between Fraser and Diefenbaker when Maria gently thumps his ribs.
"It was a pleasure to meet you, Ray," Fraser says, smiling. "Maria." He tips his hat and goes outside with Dief at his heels.
"Freak," he hears Ray saying and smiles.
Fortunately, Inspector Thatcher had left for the holidays and he doesn't get punished for being late two days in a row but as soon as he settles down at his desk he reports his own misconduct.
"There are procedures to be maintained after all," he explains to his friend who is lying under his desk, his head on his paws when someone knocks on the Consulate door.
"Merry Christmas," he greets the mail man who shoves a huge package into his arms, mumbling to sign the paper before he turns again, leaving Fraser behind without another word.
"Thank you kindly," Fraser calls, returning to his desk then, looking curiously at the carton.
"I don't know, Diefenbaker," he says as his half-wolf comes up, sniffing suspiciously. "But you will find out soon enough."
Fraser opens the cover, looking inside.
"It's Francesca's personal belongings," he explains, showing Dief her briefcase. "No, there is no candy inside," Fraser assures as he comes up with a can of cat food. "Although, she seems to have a cat. ... Oh dear," he calls out, thinking about how long Francesca has been at the hospital now and that poor pet without any food. "I have to go," he gets his coat. Inspector Thatcher would certainly agree with him that this is an emergency and wouldn't mind him leaving the Consulate vacant.
"No, you can't come with me, Diefenbaker. We both know very well how you behave around cats," Fraser cocks his head, waiting for his half-wolf to argue the point but Dief just lays down, martyr-like.
"Don't be silly, I'm certainly not judgemental," he puts his hat on and leaves with another look at his sulking friend.
Francesca's apartment is something of a smaller version of the Vecchio house and Fraser feels comfortable immediately, imagining himself on that soft looking couch with his arm around ...
He blinks, his heart beating fast. Not that he imagined his arms around Ray but the man is standing right in the door, looking as surprised as Fraser does.
"Hello, Ray," he greets, smiling, and Ray cracks his neck the same way he had this morning.
"Hey, Frase. I was just ...," he starts looking around.
"Feeding the cat?"
"Yeah, the mutt has to be here somewhere."
"Certainly," and Fraser enters the kitchen, putting food in a bowl labelled 'Ray', touching the sign with one finger, smiling as Ray comes in with a Persian cat in his arms.
"Hardy ha-ha," he laughs, seeing the cup. "Frannie thought it was funny."
"It is," Fraser grins broadly, looking at Ray and is still looking when Ray puts the cat down and as he pets the animal and ...
"You wanna get that," Ray's voice brings him back and he blushes deeply, now hearing a phone ringing.
"Please," Fraser points at the phone.
"Vecchio," Ray answers, listening then. "Yeah, he's here," he hands over the receiver to Fraser.
"Constable Benton Fraser speaking ... yes, certainly, Ma'am," and he can see Ray rolling his eyes out of the corner of his eyes.
"That was the hospital," he tells Ray as soon as he puts the receiver down. "They were asking for blood donations to which I agreed, of course."
"Of course," Ray says, smiling.
"Would you like to accompany me, Ray?"
"Yeah, 'course. We can take Frannie's car," he decides, throwing the keys that lie on the kitchen desk in Fraser's direction.
"Ray," Fraser hesitates. "I have no idea where Francesca has parked her automobile or if she would be willing to let me operate it." It wasn't even a lie.
"It's right out front," Ray says, "and it was my car first. You have my permission to 'operate it'."
"Thank you." He catches the keys, following Ray outside and right to a pitch black GTO which Ray pets admiringly.
"It's a nice automobile," Fraser says, stupidly, mesmerized by Ray's hands on the car, by his long slender fingers and he can almost feel their touch on his skin.
He suddenly can sense his face growing warmer and the slight tremble of his body in reaction.
"Nice? It's a 1967 GTO, the most beautiful car in the world, Frase," Ray exclaims, fortunately not looking up in Fraser's still flushed face.
"I'm terribly sorry," Fraser clears his throat, trying to get his emotions under control. "It wasn't my intention to insult your ... I mean, Francesca's car."
"Very funny," Ray finally looks at him, cocking his head slightly and Fraser quickly turns away.
"Perhaps you would rather drive."
"No! No, you go. But careful, please."
"Of course," Fraser says, getting in and wishing after a few minutes of driving he had insisted on Ray driving the car.
"What are you doing?"
"Driving the car, Ray."
"That's not driving, that's walking with a car."
"You asked me to be careful."
"Careful. Not stationary. Stop the car, let me show you how to do it."
"I assure you, Ray, I have operated cars before."
"Maybe in the Northwest Areas of yours but not on the streets of Chicago, that's for sure."
"It's the Northwest Territories or the Yukon."
"Right! Would you stop now?"
Ray doesn't look angry or demanding, just kind of ... teasing and Fraser enjoys their easy back and forth, not used to such an easy going conversation. Perhaps they could become friends and ...
He has almost forgotten about her, about what he has made her family believe about him, about them and he abruptly stops the car.
"Hey Frase, you okay?" Ray asks, touching his shoulder and Fraser feels it, deep down; a human touch.
"C'mon, buddy, she's gonna be alright." Ray must think he's worried about his sister's well-being when all he's doing, he's doing for a selfish reason.
He tugs at his collar, avoiding Ray's eyes.
"Certainly, Ray," Fraser says, nodding his head. "Shall we?"
"Yeah, c'mon, let's switch," and to Fraser's surprise Ray climbs over him, his whole body pressed close against him and it takes all his control not to groan with the feel of Ray's body all over him.
"Study and learn." Ray grins, putting his foot down on the pedal forcefully and Fraser would have protested if Ray wouldn't drive with such a joy.
"Why don't you own this car anymore, Ray?"
"Kinda impractical, y'know," Ray glances at him, shrugging his shoulders. "Me being a carpenter and all."
"Ah, I see," he rubs his eyebrow, not knowing how to ask more questions about the man beside him without being forced to answer the same ones himself because he doesn't want to lie. He might very well be on a slippery slope already but ...
"Where's Dief?" Ray asks suddenly, crossing a stop sign without actually stopping.
"At the Canadian Consulate. He doesn't behave very well around cats and I thought it better to leave him behind."
"You left the fur-ball at work?"
"It's the place where I live as well."
"You live in a Consulate? Why's that?"
"My apartment building was burned down by a performance arsonist."
"Arsonist, Ray," Fraser smiles when Ray looks at him in amazement.
"You must have a lot of fun here."
"You are calling an act of destroying of property fun, Ray?"
"I was being, y'know ...," he waves his hand, struggling for the right word.
"Yeah, that one."
They fall silent again but Fraser doesn't mind, he feels comfortable and relaxed - perhaps a bit nervous - in Ray's presence.
"I hope you learned a few things," Ray says when he parks the car outside the hospital, handing over the key to Fraser as they walk into the building side by side.
"You just violated at least a half a dozen traffic laws."
"You goin' to arrest me, Mountie?" Ray teases, grinning at him and Fraser can't help but smile right back at him.
"I have no jurisdiction whatsoever outside of the Dominion of Canada, Ray."
"That's too bad," Ray mumbles under his breath and Fraser tugs at his collar, trying to avoid thinking about the implication if that in fact was one.
He blushes deeply following Ray who seems to know where to go.
"Hey," Ray hisses at the nurse who's staring at Fraser while she's applying the i.v., "you might wanna put your peepers back in your head here," and she finally turns to him, looking at what she's doing and Ray rolls his eyes. "Cuz he's gorgeous doesn't mean you can cut me open."
"I'm sorry Sir!" the nurse - Betty, Fraser reads on her tag - apologizes.
"You're the Mountie," Betty says, reaching for Fraser's arm now, her hands shaking slightly while she rolls his sleeve up.
"Yes, Ma'am." He avoids her eyes, looking at Ray instead who lays down on his stretcher, staring at the ceiling.
"From Canada?" she asks, obviously hoping to engage him in a conversation.
"He's taken," Ray grumbles and Betty leaves as soon as she has put the needle into Fraser's arm.
Both men fall silent then, looking at their blood running down the tube and Fraser feels tense all of a sudden.
"Ray...," he doesn't even know what to say when Ray interrupts.
"You must get that a lot," Ray says, still not looking at Fraser who rubs his eyebrow.
"So must you," he whispers and Ray's head turns to him.
"You find me attractive?"
"Very much so, yes."
Their eyes lock and the room seems to narrow down to just the two of them.
Fraser feels his growing attraction to this man and wishes ... what? To not be engaged with his sister? To not have lied to his family? What exactly?
Ray's staring right back at him and the urge to be close to him, to touch him brings Fraser off his stretcher, in front of Ray ...
"Constable?" The spell is broken with his hand just an inch from Ray's face and he turns away quickly, blushing deeply.
"Yes?" he asks, his voice an octave higher than usual, hearing Ray curse behind him, getting up from his stretcher and hurrying out of the room.
He wants to call out to him to apologize, perhaps to confess his lies but Ray is out of his sight within a second and even when he gets to Francesca's room, there is no sight of him.
He looks down at her beautiful face, trying to make a connection between her and her brother, failing because where her hair is brunette, Ray's is blonde and he knows her eyes to be dark instead of blue.
He sighs deeply, turning away from the sleeping figure in the bed.
Back at the Consulate Dief greets him, whining softly. He has to sense that something is off with his human friend.
"I made a fool of myself," Fraser says quietly, petting his half wolf and Dief looks at him questioningly. "Yes, Ray was with me and I really don't want to know that you like his smell. Humans don't get involved with one another just because they think that he or she smells right. And no, I don't believe the analysis we read last week to be true for that matter. There's certainly more to a person than their smell."
Dief barks, obviously not agreeing.
"Let's take a walk," Fraser changes the subject by opening the door, Dief right behind him when he comes face to face with Ray whose hand is clenched into a fist, obviously prepared to knock.
"Frase." Ray avoids his eyes, looking at Dief instead. "Hey mutt, how'ya doin," and Dief greets his new friend enthusiastically by licking his face. "Gah, slobber all over my face," Ray exclaims, pushing the wolf off him.
"Pitter-patter, Frase," Ray turns on his heels, walking to a blue extended cab pick-up truck in front of the Consulate, holding the passenger door open. "Before I die of waitin'?"
"Yes, of course, Ray," Fraser closes the heavy door of the Consulate, taking a seat in Ray's truck with Diefenbaker in the back.
Ray walks around the truck, making himself comfortable and turning on the engine.
"May I ask where we're going?" Fraser asks irritated, rubbing his right eyebrow.
"Ma sent me to get you," and since Ray doesn't seem to want to say more about the matter Fraser falls silent until they reach the Vecchio house.
The whole family is gathered around the table and there is already a place reserved for Fraser, right opposite from Ray who's avoiding his eyes all evening, being quiet and distant which is odd with the whole Vecchio family chatting and laughing.
"How did you and Frannie meet?"
All eyes are suddenly on Fraser, even Ray's, and Fraser coughs nervously.
"Well ..." Dief whines besides him and Fraser tugs at his collar, not knowing how to tell just another lie. But he has met Francesca and perhaps he could just indicate ... not mislead but ...
"I guess it was very romantic," Maria smiles, holding one hand close to her chest, looking admiringly at Fraser which gets her a thump from her husband.
"He rescued her," Matheo throws in and everyone laughs.
"Maybe you can help our Ray to find the right woman," Ada teases, petting her son's arm and Fraser looks at Ray who smiles shyly at his mother.
"I'm no expert in the matter, Ada," Fraser says, still looking at Ray. "Perhaps if I would know a bit more about the type Ray prefers ..." which makes Ray choke, blushing slightly.
"Blondes," he answers after a second. "I like blondes. Small. Slender," he throws adjectives at Fraser, daring him to argue the point and Fraser goes silent, suddenly aware of Ray's sad, angry eyes.
"You like brunettes," Maria's voice seems to come from far away because all Fraser can notice is Ray and his hurt posture.
He's off his seat in a second then, excusing himself and is at the door without even noticing someone behind him. But Ray gets to him right at the door and Fraser just wants to flee. He has hurt one member of this loving family already and if he stays ... they would get hurt even more.
"Frase." Ray's hand is over his on the door knob, stopping him.
"Please," Fraser pleads, his heart beating faster than he can remember it ever beating. He has to go, he has to.
"C'mon, I'll give you a lift." Ray's voice is gentle like he's trying to soothe him, his body very close to Fraser's and Fraser wants to lean in, just dive into this warmth. It's so tempting, so ...
Someone behind them clears his throat and Ray turns away from Fraser as Vinnie starts giggling and pointing at something over their heads.
"Mistletoe, Uncle Ray."
Fraser's whole body goes hot. He can't possibly kiss Ray. Not ever and certainly not in front of his whole family.
"I can see that, buddy," Ray tells his nephew, turning towards Fraser then, suddenly very close again. "It's tradition," he says, locking eyes with Fraser, "and you don't wanna jinx my karma or somethin'."
It would be easy. Just leaning in a bit, touching Ray's lips with his but he can not. If he would kiss Ray now he fears he won't be able to stop ever again and so he cocks his head, touching Ray's cheek with his, taking in Ray's scent before he turns his head and places a soft kiss near Ray's left ear.
"Coward," Ray whispers into Fraser's ear and Fraser smiles shyly.
"True," he admits, stepping back - back from Ray and the temptation to just grab him and pull him close for a real kiss.
"C'mon then, let's get you guys home," Ray opens the door to let Fraser and Dief out, calling out to his parents, letting them know that he would take Fraser home.
"Would you mind walking, Ray?" Fraser asks when they reach the sidewalk.
It's cold outside and it has begun to snow again which reminds Fraser of home. Not that Chicago is like home in any way but right now it somehow felt like it with the white flakes coming down on them.
"Yeah," Ray agrees, falling into step beside him.
They walk for a while in silence with just the crunching of the snow underneath their feet and Dief's barks, chasing snow flakes.
"You miss home." It's not question and Fraser nods his head in agreement.
"Very much so, yes."
"Is it all snow and stuff?"
"Where I come from, yes, Ray. It's largely unpopulated as well and very hard to live in but ..."
"You love it."
"Indeed I do, Ray."
"Why are you here then? I mean, not that I mind but ... why?"
"It's a rather long story," and one Fraser doesn't want to tell, really.
"It's a long walk," Ray objects, putting his hands in his pockets for warmth.
"You don't have to accompany me, Ray," Fraser assures Ray, seeing him freezing besides him.
"I wanna," and he kinda stares at Fraser, telling him without words not to argue with him about it. "You wanna tell me how you got that wolf?"
"I wouldn't say that I 'got' him, Ray," Fraser smiles about the other man's strategy of deflection. "He accompanies me of his own free will," and when Dief barks at him, he admits: "Alright, he thinks I'm too clumsy to be left alone."
"That's what Diefenbaker thinks anyway."
"Alright. I'd been dispatched to track down big game poachers that were coming across the border from Alaska. Despite my training, I could not have foreseen that the poachers would convert a mine shaft into a bear trap." Fraser clears his throat in embarrassment of falling down a trap. "I have no idea how long I'd been lying there. When I came to, I discovered I was not alone and saved the young wolf. Not without certain drawbacks." Ray laughs about the picture of Fraser getting knocked out by a puppy. "When I came to again I was alone without any visible means of escape. So I sat down to collect my thoughts, but how could I have known that Diefenbaker would be so grateful as to come back and try and repay the favor?" He smiles about the memory of his lupine friend coming back to him to help. "I was knocked out for a third time, but despite the gaffe a bond was formed and we've been together ever since."
"You have your way in making friends," Ray says, leaning down to Dief and scratches him behind his ears, promising him a donut for saving Fraser's life.
"In fact he's the only one who didn't leave." Fraser is shocked by his own words; he didn't intend to say that at all. Not to anybody and certainly not to Ray but Ray just looks at him, touching his shoulder lightly.
"I know all about it," Ray smiles shyly and keeps walking.
Fraser is glad that he doesn't have to explain any further because talking about his past is never easy for him. Not that he doesn't want to, he just can't. It's too painful to remember the losses in his life. Perhaps someday he'll be able to tell Ray about his parents, about Victoria but not now when he doesn't even know if he and Ray will still be friends when Francesca awakes.
Francesca, Fraser sighs, drawing the cold air into his lungs. He has to face his lies soon and everything he has right now is going to vanish into thin air. His life will be empty again and he really doesn't know if he can stand it anymore. Certainly at home he would be alone as well but at least he would be in an environment he knows his way in with Diefenbaker beside him for company.
"You okay, buddy?" Ray looks worriedly at him and Fraser tries to smile.
"Yes, Ray. Thank you. On a night like this I just miss home terribly."
"I guess this stuff," he points at the snow underneath his feet, "is whiter or somethin' up there, huh?"
"You know, the Inuit have sixty words to describe snow, Ray, one third of them concern the color," and he goes on and on about his home and what his life was like in the Territories, about his time in Moose Jaw, the biggest city he ever was assigned to before he came to Chicago. He had lasted five weeks there because he couldn't adapt to such an urban life style and Ray smiles at him in encouragement, keeps him talking by asking some questions about the wonder of snow shoes and dog sleds and how you find your way without huge signs marking the streets.
Fraser feels warm inside because no one ever showed any interest in his life before, at least not the way Ray does. Certainly there were people who wanted to be with him but merely for the wrong reasons - something about his uniform and how it fits him or about the way he looks which is something Fraser just doesn't understand because it's not something you can control, it's genetic and proves nothing about the character of a person.
Time doesn't seem to mean anything when spent with Ray because as long as the way back to the Consulate may be it's not long enough and so they stand in front of Fraser's so-called home, looking anywhere but at each other.
Neither of them wants to say good-bye, wants this evening to end and Diefenbaker who has curiously watch his new formed pack is circling around them, impatient to get inside and out of the cold. But both men don't seem to know what to do next and so Diefenbaker decides for them by jumping at Ray, pushing him directly into Fraser's outstretched arms.
The slippery sidewalk underneath Ray's feet makes it almost impossible for Ray to get his feet beneath himself again and so he holds on to Fraser who tries to steady him by sliding his arms around Ray's waist, holding him close to his body.
Ray starts giggling in Fraser's arms, his feet slipping helplessly over the sidewalk and Fraser joins in after a second, barely able to hold himself and Ray upright.
"Sneaky wolf," Ray laughs when he finally finds his feet and looks up into Fraser's eyes who's gone very still but hasn't let go of him yet.
Their eyes meet and when Fraser doesn't break the contact Ray leans closer, his gaze dropping to Fraser's mouth that's slightly open and wet from Fraser's lip licking and ...
"Don't," Fraser whispers when their lips are just an inch apart and Ray pulls back, thinking he has misunderstood, but Fraser still holds him close against his body, one hand at the back of Ray's neck and the other one at his waist, breathing deeply.
"I should go," Ray says into Fraser's chest and Fraser lets go of him, not looking in the other man's eyes.
"See you then." Ray steps back, turning his back to Fraser, leaving.
"Good night, Ray," Fraser whispers, knowing that Ray can't possibly hear him.
"She's awake" is all Fraser hears over his beating heart as he answers the phone at the Consulate the following morning.
"I am perfectly capable of handling myself in any situation. I am a Mountie." Fraser assures himself as he gets dressed to visit Francesca at the hospital and face her family and his own lies.
Diefenbaker of course has an opinion of his own regarding Fraser's ability to handle any situation and tells him so.
"I don't appreciate your attitude," Fraser snaps at his friend, straightening his lanyard.
His patience runs kind of thin after a restless night of arguing with the wolf and therefore with himself about his flaws in character by not trusting Ray enough to make his lies and his feelings known. Now it's too late to correct his mistakes and if he would be a weaker person he might have thought about leaving town instead of standing up for his short-comings.
"I'll be back shortly," Fraser tells Diefenbaker and closes the Consulate door behind him, walking towards an uncertain future.
As it happens Fraser arrives at the hospital at the same time as her family, standing among them in Francesca's room, feeling out of place once more in his life.
Frannie has Matheo and Vinnie in each arm, smiling at her clustered family until her eyes reach Fraser. She frowns, looking up and down his uniform and back to his face and Fraser wishes for a hole underneath his feet into which he could jump.
"What are you doing here?" she asks curiously and Fraser blushes deeply while her whole family sighs, whispering "amnesia" under their breaths.
"I ... I'm ..."
"He's your fianc." Maria grabs Frannie's hand, petting it gently. "You'll remember him, I'm sure."
"My fianc?" Francesca asks again, still looking at Fraser, wide-eyed, then at each member of her family, obviously soundlessly reciting their names in her head.
"You two could get married here at the hospital." Her sister goes all excited over her idea, nodding her head enthusiastically. "Now that you're awake."
"That's a good idea, Maria," Ada smiles, hugging Fraser who shakes hands with Vincent and Tony then, next with Ray who doesn't look him in the eye when he congratulates him.
"I'm getting married," Frannie states. She has to be as confused as Fraser over the turn of events.
He has come here to be confronted with his lies but is invited into their family once more and he may not be weak enough not to stand up for his wrongdoings but much too weak to let pass a chance of a caring family. So he starts smiling, feeling deep down inside that being part of this family means that he will never be alone in his life. But when he looks at Ray who cocks his head at him, his smile vanishes and his face flushes.
He could be friends with Ray, Ray would be his brother-in-law but nothing more than that, ever.
Fraser's still thinking about the way Ray has looked at him at the hospital before he * left the room without a word to Fraser when he tells Diefenbaker about his wedding the next day at the hospital chapel.
"Certainly you are going to accompany me," he assures his friend, polishing his Sam Brown. "Yes, Ray will be there as well," Fraser nods his head, "in fact he will be my best man because you are not allowed to stand beside me in such a capacity and no," he looks at the half-wolf, "it won't be awkward. Me and Ray, we will be friends."
A knock at the door saves Fraser from Diefenbaker's reply.
"Ray," he greets the man at the front door with a smile, gesturing him to come in.
"Nah, I just wanted to give you this." He hands Fraser something heavy, wrapped in Christmas paper. "See you tomorrow then," and Ray turns, leaving Fraser standing there, dumbfounded.
"Ray," he calls out in despair.
"Yeah?" Ray looks at him, his eyes full of hope, and he doesn't see anything around him but Ray's pleading eyes, hears nothing but his own beating heart.
"I ... I," Fraser tries to form words, words that could right his wrongs, that could change everything and not necessarily for the better. He could lose more than just one man here; he could lose the family he so desperately needs.
"You have to say something," Ray whispers, his voice shaking.
"I can't," Fraser says, swallowing hard and Ray smiles, understandingly, before he turns again and walks away.
Inside the Consulate Fraser slides down to the floor with his back against the door, Ray's gift in hand.
"I don't know," he shakes his head when Dief wants to know what he has there and on the wolf's request he opens it to find an illustrated book about the Northwest Territories.
"Ray," Fraser whispers while a single tear runs down his face.
Fraser's standing in his dress uniform in the hospital chapel with Ray and Diefenbaker by his side waiting for his bride.
He's as nervous as he's ever been before in his life and it isn't just about getting married and promising his life to another person but about the reasons he's here today, about his own needs and desires.
The whole way to the hospital Diefenbaker has tried to change his mind about the wedding, has argued with him, has even appealed to his honour to do the right thing like he's supposed to but it wasn't until Ray had wished him good luck and hugged him tight that his determination falters.
He's holding Francesca's hand now, facing the priest but all he really feels and hears is Ray's presence beside him and when the ceremony starts: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join ..." he just can't hold back anymore.
"I'm terribly sorry but I have to object."
"l, l, l didn't get to that part yet," the priest says, obviously confused, looking at the book in his hands.
"l have to object, too." Ray touches Fraser's back briefly which makes Fraser very certain about what he has to do now and he looks at the Vecchios in front of him.
"l have feelings for your son," he confirms, standing up straight.
"Ray, what the hell did you do," Vincent asks in shock, grabbing his wife's hand.
"He did nothing wrong, I can assure you," Fraser speaks again. "It was my fault entirely. Do you remember that day at the hospital? Of course you remember that day at the hospital. Well, um, there was a little mix-up. I witnessed Francesca get pushed onto the street, and yes, I have saved her life. But when I arrived at the hospital, they wouldn't let me see her. So, the ..." he looks at Turnbull who's standing at the back,"... someone told the doctor that I was her fianc. But the truth is, I was never engaged to Francesca."
The room gets loud, everyone is talking at once and Ray whispers beside Fraser. "Why didn't you say something?"
"Because l didn't know how to tell you." He says to Ray and then turns to Francesca then, apologizing. "We never even met until that day, I'm really sorry."
"But why?" Vincent demands to know, his posture angry and Fraser knows that the Vecchios have a right to know the whole truth even if he has to confess his greatest weakness.
"I went from being all alone to being ... a fianc, a son, a brother, an uncle... and a friend. You allowed me to be a part of your family, and l haven't had that in a really long time. l just didn't want to let go of that. So even though it was just for a little while, l ... I'm terribly sorry."
Everyone looks at him as suddenly a blond woman rushes into the room, calling: "I have an objection to this wedding," when the whole family sighs a frustrated "Stella," and all hell breaks lose around Fraser until he feels a familiar hand on his back, pushing him out of the room gently.
"Go," Ray says and turns towards his family again which makes Fraser's heart ache but he does like he's told. He has done enough to this family already and certainly Ray doesn't wish to have anything to do with him anymore.
Christmas comes and goes, as does New Year's Eve and Fraser's back on guard duty in front of the Canadian Consulate when a familiar blue Pick-up truck pulls up to the curb.
Diefenbaker barks beside him, running towards Ray, greeting him by licking his face which Fraser would like to do himself, including the licking part, preferably Ray's lips but licking nonetheless.
"Hey Frase," Ray greets him, smiling broadly and Fraser isn't allowed to move, to greet back or even smile but he has waited so long for this moment and he decides there is more in life than duty. So, he grabs Ray by his jacket and shoves him against the Consulate door, shielding him from curious eyes and Ray goes willingly, holding Fraser close until their lips meet for the first time.
We didn't get married right away, me and Ben. I followed him on an adventure to the Great White North instead but when the day came and Frannie by my side sighed and wanted to know when all this has happened, I said: "While you were sleeping."
End While You Were Sleeping by sam80853
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