by Dee Gilles
Disclaimer: For entertainment only.
Benny & Ray 66
Ray Vecchio had finished been released from therapy few minutes early, and he now sat outside in the late afternoon sunshine, waiting for Benny to pick him up. Early March didn't usually bring this kind of warm temperature to Chicago. It was 60 and Ray wore only a light leather jacket and a wool Kangol hat for his bald head.
Little flowers bloomed all around Ray. There were dozens around the park bench upon which he sat. Some were white, some purple, some yellow. Ray'd have to ask Benny what they were. He'd starting noticing things like flowers since his cancer diagnosis. He felt grateful for the good days, when he was nausea-free, and could eat.
Ray made a mental note of other things to be grateful for, happy about. There was a lot that came to his mind as he sat there, watching the world move by and around him. He was grateful for the warm weather and the clear blue sky, the sun, his family, friends, Benny, and all the little things Benny did for him.
Benny had bought him a beautiful graphite gray Armani shirt yesterday. No reason. He just wanted Ray to have it.
Ray was only working three days a week on his "off-chemo" weeks right now. On his work days, Benny made him a special brown bag lunch to take to work. He made things that were easy on his stomach; soup, Saltines, Jell-O, bananas. And in every lunch, Benny added a chocolate Kiss, to comfort him when Benny himself couldn't be there to deliver a kiss in person. He was a lucky man.
Ray reflected on some other things that his therapist had brought up in session today.
Therapy, yeah. Ray never thought he'd end up like one of those people in therapy, whining about how his father never loved him. But hell, if Tony Soprano was man enough to get help then so was he.
After "The Incident", Benny had drawn out a contract that they both signed, and kept in Benny's sock drawer. It was a set of rules for the two of them; No yelling, no walking away from the other in anger, and most importantly, no hitting, ever.
Ben had asked Ray to see a therapist for his temper, and Ray had agreed. He told Benny he'd do anything to get back in his good graces, and he meant it. Benny even helped him find someone who specialized in anger management. It was also a bonus that his new therapist had some experience in counseling adult survivors of child abuse.
Ray thought he would hate it, but went to his first session without a word of complaint.
Fact was, he actually liked it and he liked his therapist. Guy named Jake Jacopo, born and raised on the mean streets of Newark, New Jersey, a paisano, a stand-up guy and a Rutgers graduate.
Ray'd tried to elude Jake the first session, and somehow Jake saw right through his smoke-screens- the bluster and the yelling. Jake looked him square in the eye and said to Ray "Cut the shit." Ray knew this was no everyday therapist.
He let his defenses down and told Jake about what he'd done to Benny, the real reason he was here. Right after that, the abuse, the drinking, his dyslexia--it all came flowing out like water over a dam. It was a relief to tell somebody.
Ray told Jake about the night when he lost his shit.
Ray had seethed in anger from the time he hit Hugh to the time Benny walked through the door, slamming it behind him, yelling his name.
After he slapped Benny, and Benny walked out on him, Ray's anger had turned to self-loathing. He had abruptly dropped to the floor, feeling sick. What the fuck was wrong with him, hitting Benny like that? The look on Benny's face. He'd never forget if he lived to been one hundred years old.
But by God, he couldn't help his jealousy, his rage. The thought of Benny kissing someone else, touching someone else, it was unbearable. Is this how Benny had felt when he found out Ray had had sex with Tommy deBenedetto? Was it this kind of hurt, this kind of rage? If it was only half of what he felt, Ray counted himself luck that Benny had killed him. If the tables had been turned, and he'd found out that Benny had given Hugh a blow job-- Oh. Oh Dio Mio! God help them all!
Ray had been helping Maria set the table for Sunday dinner and they somehow got on to the topic of Brazilian rainforests, which led to a discussion of Ben's recent trip to South America. Ray told Maria that Benny wanted to go back next year and build more homes for the poor. Maria had said "I can't believe you'd let him go back, after what happened." She clucked her tongue and shook her head.
Ray had dropped Ma's good china on the mahogany table with a careless clank. "What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded.
Maria looked up at him, suddenly chagrined as she placed cutlery next to each plate. "Ummm..."
"Maria," Ray said threateningly. "Spill."
Maria dropped her handful of eating utensils. "Uh, Ray...sorry," she said, literally backing away from him, and wincing. "I thought you knew all about it."
"About what?" Ray came around the table and grabbed his retreating sister by the upper arms, impatiently, demanding. His tone left no room for argument.
"Ben and Hugh made out on the beach in Ecuador!" Maria blurted.
"What!?? Who told you that?" Ray squeezed, giving her a little shake.
"Ray, let go. You're hurting me!"
"Who told you, Maria? Benny say that?"
"Francesca told me! Damnit, let go!" She attempted to jerk free.
Ray let her go, and absentmindedly began to pace the dining room. "I'll kill Benny! I'll kill Hugh!"
"Calm down, Ray!"
"Calm down?! Calm down!? How can you expect me to calm down? I'm gettin' out of here!" Ray leapt toward the exit, not even sure what he was going to do or who he was going after first, Benny or Hugh.
He felt a heavy weight on his back pushing him toward the floor. Maria had leapt on his back, tackling him. They collapsed on the floor. "You're not leaving like that! You're going to calm down first!"
"Get off me, Maria! Get off me!" Ray squirmed.
"Do you have it together?"
"Yeah, yeah." He said.
Maria got off Ray's back, and they both clambered to their feet. "You're not going to say anything tonight and ruin dinner! Wait until you get home to discuss it. And don't attack him. If you attack him, he's just going to shut down on you; you know that."
Ray boiled throughout dinner, watching Benny eat, laughing it up, playing with Marissa and giggling with Ma like he didn't have a care in the world. Fucking liar, was all Ray could think, attempting to bore holes into Benny's head. Liar and whore. Ray boiled, ignoring the looks of worry and warning that Maria was throwing his way.
Ray slipped out that night after Benny went to bed and drove by the hospital where Hugh was an EMT. He searched for Hugh's old battered blue Isuzu Trooper in all the lots, and found nothing.
Ray went home and crawled into bed with Benny. He woke Benny up and fucked him, none too gently, angry member stabbing in and out of Benny viciously, a little too dry. Ben made a half-hearted attempt to pull away, but Ray held him down. Ben passively rode it out, occasionally wincing, but offering no other protest.
Shortly, Ray came with a roar, biting Benny's neck, and finally dropped into an exhausted stupor, not giving a damn whether Benny wanted reciprocity or not. If Benny thought he was acting cruelly, he didn't say anything. Benny had slipped into the bathroom, and cleaned himself. He said nothing to Ray when he got back into bed.
Ray searched for that car for two days, finding the time to break away from other cases to drive by the hospital. He kept a cautious distance from Benny. It was easy to do since Benny had nonstop classes and homework to do.
He finally spotted Hugh's SUV late Tuesday night.
Ray crept in, and searched through the hallways of the Med Center, undeterred. He was Sophia Vecchio's son; no one thought anything of him being there. Ray found the bastard coming out of an employee lounge.
Ray couldn't stand the sight of Hugh; he thought Hugh looked like an ugly little beady-eyed rodent. He marched right up to him, keeping his clenched fists jammed in his coat pockets.
"Ray!" Hugh had looked at him in surprise.
Ray's went from a fast rolling boil to a full-blown steam explosion just hearing his name on the detested lips. He grabbed Hugh by his shirt collar, and pushed him into a wall. "You puttin' moves on my man, huh? You touch him?"
"What?" Hugh asked, his eyes bugging out of his head, a look of fear on his face.
"You heard me. You and Benny been fooling around behind my back?"
"It was just a kiss--
Ray delivered a quick straight right to Hugh's face before he was even aware that he had moved. Hugh's head impacted the wall, and he slid, moaning in pain, to the floor.
Ray stood stunned for a minute, and then backed away. Hugh was not making a move to retaliate.
He then looked around the corridor, found it deserted, thankfully, and got the hell out of there.
Ray drove around the city for a while, trying to calm down. Adrenaline was pumping and his heart raced. Ben was asleep by the time he got home, thankfully, and he was gone in the morning he awoke. But Ray knew there was going to be hell to pay.
And he got it when Ben came through door that night, slamming it so hard the apartment shook, screaming "RAYMOND VECCHIO!"
He came out of the study, and encountered Benny, red-faced with anger, and Ray had no doubts as to why.
"What's up, Benny?" Ray asked, standing there in pajamas and robe.
"Ray. You have made me so ashamed. How could you?"
"What?" he said, poorly feigning ignorance.
"What do you mean, `what'? You know precisely what I'm talking about!" Ben said.
"No I don't, Benny!"
Ben put his hands on his hips and tapped his foot.
Ray dropped his head, and relented. "Yeah, well, he had it coming!" he whined. "And besides, you've got no right to be pissed off at me. I should be pissed off at you! Benny, how could you?"
"Ray, please. It's not what you think."
"Nice secret, Benny," he said, walking away.
"Ray, I swear to you, I was going to tell you."
Ray turned back. "No, I don't think so, Benny. I don't think you had any intention of telling me at all."
"I'm sorry, Ray. I'll confess it now."
"Don't bother. Maria told me everything."
"Maria?" Ben paused in confusion.
Ray approached him, casually sauntering. "Yeah, my sister Maria Moretti? Stands about five-five, one hundred twenty pounds, short brunette hair? You might have heard of her?" he said sarcastically.
"Francesca told her." It wasn't a question. Ben closed his eyes.
"Yeah, Francesca told her, all right," Ray said.
"Ray. Let me explain."
"What'd I tell you, Benny? Didn't I tell you he was on the make? Or it was you who asked for it? Is that it, Benny? Did you ask Hugh for a quick little scopata, huh?" He grabbed his dick and balls, thrust his hips to Benny. "You frocio! Troia!" He spat.
"Raymond Vecchio, don't you call me a whore! How dare you!"
"He force himself on you, Benny?" Ray made a fist. "Lo uccider! I oughtta go back there and belt him one more--
Ben reached out and grabbed Ray, who instantly jerked violently out of Ben's grasp. "Ray! You can't go around hitting people. What's wrong with you? How many times do I have to tell you? You need an anger management class! You have to. Get control of. YOUR. TEMPER." He said, talking loudly and extra slowly, voice dripping with disdain.
Benny was talking to him like he was a kid. Ray began to do a slow burn.
"Violence doesn't solve anything." Ben continued, in an irritating preachy tone. "What will it take to get you to understand that?"
And the way that Ben said the next thing, Ray'd swear to his dying day that Benny was channeling Pop. He was seeing Pop's ugly scowl on Benny's beautiful face. "Are you slow, Ray?"
That tone took Ray back. He remembered how his mother would sit with him almost every night at the kitchen table and patiently help him with his reading, tried to help him get past the dyslexia. Ray tried so hard, slowly reading aloud to his mother. One day his father had walked in to grab another beer, and had heard his sixth grade son stuttering through a third grade reader. He had mocked Ray's stammer, and laughed. "Listen to you. How slow you are." He had walked out, chuckling to himself.
The memory exploded like a grenade, and past and present coalesced for Ray in that moment. The vicious stinging slap came from out of nowhere, catching Ben across his lower cheek and mouth. He put his hand to his mouth, hurt. Stunned. He looked at Ray in disbelief.
"See? I'm not slow at all, am I, Benny?" Ray leered. "Betcha didn't see that one coming."
Without a word, Benton Fraser turned on his heels and left the apartment, walking out on Ray Vecchio.
Ray had stubbornly waited for Benny to come back. Why should Ray go chasing after him? It was Benny who was in the wrong here. He had sat on the couch with Pearson, and turned on the TV, but he didn't see it.
An hour went by, and then another hour. It was extremely cold out, and Ray began to worry. He called the house, and got Maria. He told her exactly what happened, and she was understandably unsympathetic.
"See, stupid?" she said, "What'd I tell ya?"
"I know. I'm an idiot. Call me if he turns up, will ya?"
"Yeah, yeah," she said.
He called Frannie next, and unleashed a string of Italian curses at her, most of which she didn't understand anyway, for opening her big fat mouth. He cut the one-sided conversation short by hanging up her.
He called every place he could think of that Benny might be. The consulate, the campus library, the Y, Walter Spark's, Joey Paducci's, Bruno's, John Ayers', Elaine's...even some places that Benny probably wasn't, like Little Vinnie's, Big Vinnie's, the 27. Nobody had seen him tonight.
He had hit the streets, taking his cell phone with him. Once in his car, he called his partner Micky again, who was working until midnight, to ask if he could patrol the streets, call the other area stations for any accidents, muggings, anything. He called back Fran to apologize, and admitted to her that he was scared, that Benny was missing, and to please let him know if Benny called her.
He called the house and got Ma this time. He foolishly admitted to slapping Benny, and man, did she ever read him the riot act. The finally blow was when she accused him of being just like his father. Ma cried finally, anger finally spent, about the fate of her poor bambino lying dead in an alley someplace, thanks to Ray. Ray felt like a low-life piece of shit after she was done with him.
Maria took the phone away from Ma and told him that Tony was getting out of bed and getting dressed. He was going to get the station wagon, and drive around looking for him.
Ray continued to drive the streets, he and Tony checking in with one another every half hour.
Ray had never been so glad to hear Francesca's voice when she called at 1:20 to say that she was on her way to pick Benny up from Damen Ave.
And when he got to Francesca's, the sight of Ben standing there in the doorway...he couldn't even adequately describe how the joy, the agony, the rage, the jealousy and the hurt all mixed together inside of him.
"Hey," he said softly to Ben, suddenly feeling shy.
"Hi," Ben said back tentatively.
They both kind of stood there for a few seconds.
They both said at the same time.
"Com'ere," he said. He reached out and touched Ben's fat lip. "Did I do that? I'm sorry. I'm such a fucking animal. I hate myself sometimes."
"You hurt me," Ben said voice cracking.
"I know. I'm sorry."
He had leaned in and gently ran his thumb over his lover's bottom lip. Overcome, he dropped to his knees in front of Ben, and hugged him around the waist. Humbling himself.
He buried his head in Ben's stomach for a moment. "I'm sorry for hitting you. I'm sorry for calling you those bad names. Please forgive me, my love," he whispered. "I'll do anything you want me to do to put things right."
"For starters, don't ever hit me again. You hit me, and I'll leave you. I mean it, Ray."
Ray's eyes instantly filled with tears.
"I won't. I swear to you, Benny. What can I do to make it up to you? I'll take anger management classes, or therapy, or whatever. I'll turn myself in to the police. You can throw the book at me, anything, Benny, anything. Please. God, Benny, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Ray began to sniffle a little. "I'm sorry, babe."
Ben bent and tugged on Ray's arms, and he came up into Ben's embrace. Ray kissed the wounded lower lip, gently, softly. And he kissed it again. And again.
They opened their mouths to one another, Ray cradling the back of his lover's head. Ben wrapped his arms around Ray's shoulders, tilted his head more, and moaned. Ray pulled Ben in closer.
Ray heard Fran cough.
They kept kissing.
She coughed again louder.
They slowly pulled away from each other.
Ray looked past Ben's shoulder over to where his sister was standing. "Ah, thanks Frannie, for calling me. I'm gonna take Benny home."
"Nonsense," she said. "It's a long drive in the middle of the night when neither of you has had any sleep. You're both staying here."
"I'm okay to drive, Frannie," Ray said.
"Bull shit. If I let you two leave and something happened to either of my mother's precious boys, I'd be disavowed forever. Take the spare room, that's what it's there for."
Ray shrugged and looked at Ben, who nodded. "Thanks," Ray said. He took Ben's hand and led him toward my guest bedroom.
"Ray!" she said.
"I'm sorry about everything. You know. I'm sorry I hurt you both."
"It's alright," he said. He released Ben, went over to his kid sister and gave her a kiss and hug. Then he pulled gently away, and went back to his boyfriend.
He grabbed Ben by the elbow, and almost disappeared through the doorway before Fran called again. "Ray?"
"Yeah?" he turned expectantly.
"Don't get you get any of your...your stuff on my brand new Egyptian cotton 1000-thread-count sheets. If you do, you're buying me new ones," I warned.
He flashed Fran a wicked smile. "Night, Frannie," he said. He wrapped an arm around his boyfriend, pulled him through the bedroom door, and shut it firmly.
They were on each other in an instant, panting, and quickly got their hands down each other's pants. Ray had sucked Benny off, and then fucked him. And not a drop of come landed on Francesca's precious luxury sheets.
"Hey!" a voice behind him said. "What are you leering about?"
Ray startled. He looked up to see Darcy Dawber looming over him. "You don't want to know," he said.
She smiled knowingly. She reached out and smacked him on the shoulder in a friendly way. "Oh, some lurid sex fantasy. Men."
"What? So you never...?"
"Are you kiddin'? All day long!" She said. "HA HA HA!" she laughed in her loud staccato which startled Ray every time he heard it. "Can I have a siddown?"
"Take a load off," Ray said. He liked this woman. She was like one of the guys. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Just labs today. Quick in and out. Waitin' for your super-hunk boyfriend?"
"Yep, he'll be along any minute."
Darcy wore a long red coat and was bundled up in a hot pink scarf, and yellow hat, despite the mild weather. The yellow crocheted hat was frayed and pilling, and probably hadn't been in style since the 60's, if it ever was. Ray could see that high fashion was not one of Darcy's strong points.
Darcy looked him up and down appraisingly. "How you feeling?" She said, although she could tell.
Ray shrugged. "Mmm. You know how it is."
"Mmmph," she grunted, not one for big shows of sympathy. "Mind if I smoke?" she asked, already taking out her cigarette, fishing for her lighter.
"Should you be?"
"Nope, but whadda you gonna do? Smoking. It'll kill ya, right? Killed my Ma."
"Cancer?" Ray asked gently.
"Nah, she was hit by a bus on her way to pick up a pack of squares. HA! HA! HA!"
She lit up, and took a long drag, eyes narrowing. She blew it out. "Lung cancer killed my big sis, though. Died seven years ago today."
"I'm sorry, Darcy."
"What are you gonna do?" she sighed.
"You got any other family?" Ray asked.
"Gotta couple of cousins in Wisconsin. Don't really see much of them except the holidays. Got an aunt with dementia in a home across town. Never married. Got no kids."
"So, you all by yourself? No boyfriend? Girlfriend?"
"Nope. I got nobody to come home to...not even pets. Pretty sad, huh?"
"I didn't say that. Some people just don't need nobody."
Darcy Dawber took another drag. "Got a bunch of houseplants though," she offered. "Some pothos, about five or six spathiphyllum, two Aglaonemas, a Kalanchoe, couple of dracaena. Few cactus, African violets."
Ray nodded. "Benny would love you. He likes plants, too. We got a bunch of potted trees in our front living room."
"Ah." Darcy nodded.
"Hey, do you know what these little flowers are?" Ray indicated the short bright flowers that surrounded the bench they sat on.
"Crocus." Darby said. "That's where they get saffron, you know, from the crocus plant. Crocus sativas."
"You sound like Benny." Ray contemplated the woman. "Hey... uh, Benny and I are going back to house to have dinner with my family. You wanna come? I think you'd like talking to Benny. And my Ma's a good cook."
Darcy smiled. "I think I'd like that," she said. "Yeah."
Ray heard the sound of a familiar engine, and looked up to see Benny rounding the corner and pulling into the patient pickup area.
"Sorry I'm late, Ray!" Benny called through the open window.
"No problem, Benny. You remember Darcy from chemo?" Ray had escorted the lady to the car, and had leaned through the passenger side window to talk to Ben.
"Yes," Ben smiled. "Of course. How are you?"
"I'm okay," Darcy said.
Benny smiled as Ray helped her in to the back seat. "One more for dinner, Benny," he said.
"Wonderful!" Ben said without hesitation. "You're in for an excellent dinner and stimulating conversation."
"Yeah, that's putting it mildly," Ray said. "Okay, so I gotta warn you; my family is a little nuts."
"Oh Ray! They are not!" Ben protested.
"Oh, you better believe they are! Okay, so first, I gotta tell you about my little sister Frannie..." Ray began. He wound himself up to tell a few stories.
Darcy guffawed all the way to the way to the Vecchio-Moretti household.
End B&R66: Springtime by Dee Gilles
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