by Ophelia Coelridge
Author's website: http://www.thepurplebuffalo.net/~ophelia
Disclaimer: Just borrowing them for a bit.
Author's Notes: As always, much thanks to the Bindlechat crew and those others who betaed. (If I'd touched this story in the past two years, I'd remember who, exactly.)
Story Notes: If you're a die-hard one-true-pairing romantic type, this probably won't be your cup of tea. Or cocoa. Or coffee. Or whatever. Takes place at an indeterminate time between seasons two and three.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because I have to."
"No you don't. You don't got to do anything. It's not like they're doing you any favours."
Don't say anything. Just keep packing, slow and careful.
"This is because you shot the Mountie, isn't it?"
I know he's trying to bait me.
"It's got nothing to do with that."
A skeptical silence.
"She had a gun. I shot at her, hit him, she got away, he lived, I'm sorry, he forgave me. That's what he does."
"And what, this don't keep you up nights?"
"I'm Catholic, I'm supposed to feel guilty."
"Don't you get smart with me."
Don't say it. He's my father, ferkrissake. Fold another shirt, put it in the suitcase.
And stop feeling like it's an act of betrayal. It's just a shirt. Just a suitcase. Just another part of the job. I tell myself all this. I know it's all lies.
"Hey." A hesitant voice from the doorway. Frannie. Great, just what I need. The whole family, living and dead, everybody's gotta have their say. What next, Great-Aunt Maria in Florida is going to call? Or god help me, Grandma Lucia from beyond the grave?
"You're really going." Frannie's got that stubborn set to her jaw. This ain't gonna be pretty.
"You're not even gonna wait until Fraser gets back."
"No, Frannie, I'm not," I snap. "What part of 'I have to leave tomorrow' do you not understand?"
"Just like that, you're gonna take off."
"Yeah, just like that."
"I cannot believe you, Raymond Vecchio. Of all the rabbitheaded --"
"It's hare-brained, Frannie."
"--oh, and you can just stop correcting me right now, mister off-to-Las-Vegas, can you just get it through your thick head that some of us are worried about you?"
"I'm a grown man! I can take care of myself! Between you and Maria and Ma all fussing at me--"
"Well what do you expect? This is dangerous, Ray, we all know that!"
"I'm doing it for you! And Ma, and the kids, and everybody else in this whole goddamned neighbourhood! So I can't bring down Frank Zuko, but maybe, just maybe, I can put away some other scumbag who's doing the same thing! Don't you get that?" I'm shouting now, just as loudly as she is.
Aw, jeez. Now she's trying not to cry. I can tell--her face is all red and blotchy and she's doing that sniffling in the back of her throat thing she's done since we were kids. She sits down on the bed, shoulders slumped.
"Crybabies and traitors, that's what my children are." Christ. He's still here.
I ignore him, sit down beside Frannie, and pass her a kleenex. She wipes her eyes and blows her nose. Her mascara's smudged. I don't mention it. We sit in silence for a minute or two.
"Better?" I say eventually.
"Yeah." She pulls herself to her feet and tries to smile.
"Okay then." I turn back to the suitcase.
She's still standing in the doorway. "So you're leaving Fraser..." she says tentatively.
"I'm leaving a lot of things, Frannie." She's my sister and I love her, but right now I just want her to go away. Want all of them to go away. I made my choices, and all of Ma's homemade pasta, Maria's fussing, and Frannie's impassioned, mixed-up speeches aren't going to change any of it.
She hugs me, tight. "You be careful," she says fiercely. "We need you to come back."
"I know. I will."
She squeezes me one last time, and slips out of the room without saying goodbye.
Poor Frannie. She's a mess. I don't know what has her more upset, me going undercover, or Fraser not being around.
She thinks she loves him. Most infuriating man on the planet.
He doesn't love her. He'll never love her. Not the way she wants.
And lemme tell you this, being loved by Benton Fraser carries a hell of a lot of responsibility. He'll go out of his way to give a hand to your every-day charity case, but if you're one of the lucky few to make your way past that careful shield of his of polite manners and arms-length distance of you as victim and him as hero, he'll move heaven and earth for you. In his eyes, you can never do wrong.
And I don't mean petty, day to day, ran a red light, left the cap off the toothpaste sort of wrongs. I mean I could kill someone and no matter how open and shut the case was, no matter how much evidence there was against me, Fraser'd still be trying to clear my name up until the point where I waved the bloody knife in his face. You'd think that kind of trust would be reassuring.
It scares the hell out of me.
"I didn't raise my son to let everybody walk all over him." Jesus, he's still at it.
"No, you were too busy out with your buddies to raise me at all. Lucky for me."
"You watch your mouth, or I'll--"
"You'll what, Pa? You're dead."
"...You been hanging around the Canadian too long."
"You leave him out of this."
"He was leaving, you know. With that... what's-her-name. Veronica chickie."
"Shut up, Pa." And her name was Victoria.
A suspicious silence this time.
"This is because of... that, isn't it?"
I close my eyes, suddenly very, very tired.
"You just tell him that no son of mine is a goddamn queer. Bad enough you're a cop. Never thought I'd see the day, my own son, a goddamn cop."
"No son of yours? It's all about you, isn't it? Your son, your reputation. Your life. Well lemme tell you this, Pa, I'm not living your life, thank god. And you know what else? Sometimes I wish I had fucked the Mountie."
"Or better yet," I continue recklessly, ruthlessly, "let him fuck me. Whadda you think of that, Pa?"
"Fine, go off and ruin the family name, break your ma's heart," he shouts. He fights back with words and accusations, the only violence he's got left now. "Why didn't you? Go then! You're leaving your family already!"
"Don't bring Ma into this," I say automatically. But I know it's no more than a response by rote. And I know that I never could have given Benny what he wants from me.
It happened a couple months ago. It was late. I drove him home. Same as always, right?
I pulled up to the curb outside Benny's building. (God, I wish he'd listen and move some place... safer. Then again, everyone in the neighbourhood loves The Mountie.)
Stopped the car. Turned the key. Silence.
"Fraser, are you okay?" He'd so been quiet and withdrawn for the past week, if it were anybody else, I'd say he was distracted.
He said nothing, just stared at his hands, closed in a white-knuckled grip on the brim of his Stetson.
Dief whined. I waited.
Five minutes. Ten minutes.
"You don't have to tell me," I said eventually, wearily. What in Christ's name ever made me think I could outstubborn a Mountie?
And then I looked at him again.
Could it be? Yes, it was. Benny, tight-faced and brighteyed for all the world as if he were going to break into tears.
"I..." Fraser said hoarsely. And stopped.
And he leaned over and kissed me. It was hot and sweet, and fierce and desperate.
I pulled back so quick I cracked my head on the window.
He stiffened, and withdrew. I could see the masks snapping back into place. And it wasn't Benny sitting across from me any more, but Benton Fraser, officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Funny how that works.
"I'm sorry, Ray," he said quietly. "That was uncalled for."
"What the hell was that, Benny? Uncalled for?"
"Given contemporary North American prejudices involving same-sex relationships, and your traditional Roman Catholic upbringing--"
"Don't try to pin this on my upbringing, Benny," I said harshly.
"I'm sorry," he repeated. "I shouldn't have done that." His voice was remotely pleasant, level, and carefully polite. Vintage Benny. His face was shuttered and still. But I could still feel the desperate, hot press of his lips against mine.
Only Fraser could out of nowhere, lean over, kiss me, and cover it all up with politeness and pretend nothing ever happened. Or maybe it's some weird repressed Canadian thing.
So we let it go and both pretended it never happened, and kept up the same back-and-forth exchange of insults and Inuit stories.
He's my partner. He's my friend. I'd have to sink pretty low to throw all of that away just because he... has feelings for me. Needs me the wrong way. Maybe even thinks he's in love with me, how am I supposed to know what's going on in that thick skull of his?
I mean, I know how much it had to cost him to admit to wanting me. Enough that he couldn't wrap it up neatly in those careful measured words he's so good with, that always ended up working like he was the only one with a script and the rest of us were all on the wrong page. Enough that all he could do was trust it all to one all of a sudden, hell of a desperate kiss. And for Fraser to act instead of talk when there's no bad guy to chase, no little old lady to rescue, that's one hell of a leap of faith.
So it scared me. So it still does. It doesn't make what I did to him, what I'm doing to him now, any more right. But I can live with the guilt. I'm going to have to.
It's not like I killed anyone. It's not like I actually lied to him. I just let him think it was all because we're both guys.
Don't get me wrong, it would take a hell of a lot for me to get past that. But for Benny, I'd try. For him, I'd beg, I'd steal, I'd lie. But I can't give up myself and spend the rest of my life being Benton Fraser's boyfriend. Because in the end, that's what it would come down to. I've got other responsibilities.
"So now you're running away."
Why won't he just go back to hell where he belongs? "I am not running away."
"What else would you call it, Raimondo?"
"Leaving. But I'm coming back."
"Sure you are. Coward."
Maybe I am. But I'll be back. And he'll come back.
And we'll still be friends.
And we'll both know, that he tried to leave first, and that I wouldn't give him what he wanted. And it'll all be there, but no-one will say any of it. Just like always. And I lied, and he lied, when we said it was all right. And we'll go on as we always have.
God help us both.
End Baggage by Ophelia Coelridge: firstname.lastname@example.org
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