For some reason I have been in an angsty mood lately, and this story came to me last week. It was inspired in large part by Gilda Lily's lovely "Family" series.
Legally, these characters belong to Alliance. Legally, you can get married at the age of fourteen in Utah. Some things in life are just wrong.
I intended no harm or offense by using these characters for this story, and no profit will be made.
Ray took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm the butterflies in his stomach. He reached out and straightened one of the knives on the place setting, lining it up evenly with the spoon.
He grinned to himself. He was getting more and more like Benny every day. That Mountie was a bad influence. Ray's smile faded away. Of course Benny was not a bad influence, or a negative force in his life, but many other people did not share this view; most notably his family.
Ray shuddered as he remembered the scene when he and Benny had come out to the Vecchio family. Rosa, Frannie and Maria had all been surprised, appalled and angry; and had let the two men know it in no uncertain terms.
He and Benny had packed up Ray's belongings that very night and moved them into Ben's apartment. After two weeks of living together in the Racine Street apartment, Ray had announced that if they wanted to save his sanity and their relationship, he and Benny needed to move to a bigger apartment.
Ben had agreed instantly, and after an intense three days of searching they had found this apartment. It was a modest two bedroom, one bathroom unit, but it was luxurious compared to Ben's old apartment, and best of all it was in a quiet, clean, safe neighborhood.
Ray sighed. He really liked the apartment, and he was happier than he had ever been, but there were still clouds hanging over him. The rift with his family had been hard on him and Benny.
Ray felt both sadness that he had lost his family, and anger at his family for taking the attitude that they did. And Benny felt sorrow and guilt over what had happened.
Ray knew that at least part of the reason Ben had agreed to move without the slightest argument, and taken this apartment when he saw how much Ray liked it, was the guilt Ben felt over Ray's separation from the rest of the Vecchios.
But then two weeks ago, Frannie had called him at work. She had offered the excuse of wanting to be sure she had his new address so she could forward him some mail, but Ray had seen through it, and they had wound up having a pleasant, if strained, conversation.
Since then he had spoken with Frannie several times, and Maria once, and today his two sisters were coming over for lunch.
When Ben had heard about this development, he had been delighted, and Ray had felt a strong surge of guilt. He had purposely scheduled the lunch for a Saturday when he knew Benny would be working, hoping to avoid extra strain and tension.
Seeing how happy Ben was at the prospect of his sisters coming over made Ray feel like a heel, especially since he knew if he had asked Benny, he would have gladly stayed away.
The doorbell chimed, interrupting Ray's thoughts. With a last quick glance around to make sure everything was in place, Ray hurried to answer the door.
When he saw his sisters standing on the other side of the door, Ray's heart leapt up in his chest, and he gave them each an impulsive hug before ushering them inside.
Maria handed Ray a bouquet of flowers, and he placed them on the dining room table, then gave his sisters a tour of the apartment. An awkward silence fell over them when they got to Ray and Benny's bedroom and Frannie and Maria noticed the double bed.
Silently, Ray cursed himself, then led his sisters back to the dining room. By the time Ray had finished setting the food on the table, Maria had steered the conversation to a safe, neutral topic, and Ray gratefully sat down to join his sisters.
Things went smoothly during lunch, as they discussed their jobs and Ray's new neighborhood and the latest blockbuster movie; carefully avoiding talk about the family or any other potentially sensitive topic.
They were about halfway through the meal when they heard the sound of the front door being unlocked. Diefenbaker ran into the room and over to Ray, wagging his tail, and stood looking expectantly at the food on the table.
Ray rose to his feet. "Benny?"
Ben walked into the room. "Hello, Ray."
Ray gave Ben a kiss on the lips, and Frannie and Maria looked at each other, then down at the table.
"You're home early!" Ray said happily.
"Yes, we got through all the security clearance reports, so Inspector Thatcher gave us the rest of the day off."
Ray grinned. "Cool!"
Ben glanced over at the two women seated at the table. "Hello, Francessca. Hello Maria."
"Benton." Maria said coolly.
Fran just gave Ben a dirty look.
"You hungry, Benny?" Ray asked quickly. "There's plenty."
"Oh. No thank you, Ray."
"So," Francessca said, her voice distinctly cool. "you got done early?"
"Yes." Ben nodded.
"That doesn't happen very often, does it?"
Ben smiled. "About once a year."
"And it happened on the day that Maria and I are here for lunch. That's pretty coincidental, isn't it?"
Ben looked surprised at the open hostility in her voice, and Ray gave his sister a warning look, which she missed.
Maria looked over at Ben. "It is pretty odd that you would come barging in here now. It would have been nice if Frannie and I could have had our lunch with our brother uninterrupted."
"Oh." Ben faltered, looking down at his feet. "I- I'm sor-"
"Benny." Ray interrupted firmly.
Ben looked over at him, and winced when he saw the anger in his lover's eyes. But then Ray gave him a gentle smile, and Ben realized that the anger was not directed at him.
Ray stepped over to stand directly in front of Ben. "Why don't you go get changed, love?"
Ben heard the slight emphasis Ray put on the last word, but he was still surprised when Ray gave him a lingering kiss on the lips.
"Go, Benny." Ray said quietly.
Ben turned and walked towards the bedroom.
As soon as the bedroom door had closed behind his lover, Ray whirled back around to face his sisters. "How dare you?" He asked, his voice shaking with anger.
"Ray..." Maria began.
"No! What in the hell is wrong with you two? How dare you come into our home, into Benny's home, and talk to him like that? How dare you treat him that way!"
"Ray," Fran tried to explain, "we just..."
"No!" Ray cut her off. "I don't want to hear it. There are enough places Benny goes where he is made to feel unwelcome and like an outsider. I will not allow him to be made to feel that way in his own home."
"Ray," Maria tried, "We were just trying to-"
"I know exactly what you were trying to do." Ray interrupted. "What did you think, that we could ignore the way things really are? That maybe if Benny wasn't around, if we didn't see him, we could all pretend that I'm not gay?"
"No, Ray." Maria said.
"Yes, you did. Because I did too. But I am gay. And I'm through denying it, and I'm not going to pretend anymore."
Francessca spoke again, and she sounded angry. "But Benton is the one who..."
"Benny's the one who made me finally admit that. To myself, to him, and to everyone else."
"But before you and Benton..." Fran paused, trying to find the right words, "got together, everything was fine. Things were better."
Ray gave a short, disbelieving laugh. "Better? I was miserable and lonely and felt like my life was going nowhere. But then I fell in love with Benny, and all that changed. He makes me happier, and makes my life better, than I ever thought could be possible.
He's in my life, and he's going to stay. And if the two of you can't get used to that, can't adjust to it and deal with it, I don't know what's going to happen between the three of us."
"But we're your family," Maria said, the contempt and loathing plain in her voice, "he's not."
Ray's barely maintained hold on his anger broke. "Benny is my family. This is his home, and he belongs here. You know who doesn't belong here? You two."
"Ray!" Fran tried to interrupt.
"No. If you can't accept Benny then you can't accept me. I would like you to leave our home now."
Without another word, Frannie and Maria turned and left the apartment. Ray walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water, but his hand was shaking so badly that he dropped the glass on the counter.
Ray turned around to see Ben standing in the door of the kitchen.
"Where are your sisters?" He asked.
"They left." Ray answered shortly.
"Yeah, after I asked them to."
"You asked them to leave?"
"Asked, ordered," Ray shrugged, "what's the difference?"
Without another word, Ben turned and left the kitchen.
Ray followed, and found Ben standing in the dining room, staring at the empty table. As Ray entered the room, Ben turned to face him, his expression miserable. "I'm sorry, Ray."
"What are you apologizing for, Benny?"
"I ruined everything."
"No, you didn't!"
Ben continued as if Ray hadn't spoken. "I got out of work, and I just came straight here without even thinking."
Ben looked back at the table and shook his head sadly. "It looked like everything was going so well, and then I had to come bumbling in here and spoil everything. I should have just..."
Ray couldn't bear to hear anymore. "Benny, don't." He crossed the room and took Ben into his arms, pulling Ben's head against his shoulder to muffle his words.
Ben tightened his arms around Ray's waist. Finally, Ben pulled away to look at Ray, and the mixture of sadness and hope on Ben's face tore at Ray's heart.
"Do you think they'll be back?" Ben asked.
"I don't know, Benny. And right now I don't give a damn."
"No, Benny. The way they acted just now was inexcusable. Of course you should have come here after work, Benny! This is your home. Your home and mine. You should never have to stop and think about whether you should come home or not. You should always come home. This is where you belong."
Ben smiled at him and gave him a kiss. "But Ray, your family."
"Who, you and Dief?" Ray grinned.
But Ben would not be sidetracked. "No. Your mother and your sisters."
"Look, Benny, we knew they weren't going to accept this quickly or easily."
"I know. But I feel like I have come between you and your family."
"No, Benny. It's them. It's their problem. And I know they would love it if we weren't together. But you know what? If we weren't together, I'd still be gay. I'd just be gay and unhappy. It's me they really have the problem with Benny. It's just easier for them to blame you."
"But what if they never accept it, Ray? What if you lose them for good?"
Ray sighed. "I won't pretend that doesn't bother me, Benny. Yes, I still want a relationship with them, and if I lost them it would hurt, and I would miss them. But you're my family now, Benny."
"But that's not really enough for you, is it Ray?"
"Yes, Benny. It is. I'm enough for you, aren't I?"
Ben grinned. "Sometimes you're more than enough for me, Ray." Ben turned sober again. "But things are different for me. I have no one else. I didn't come from a large, close family like you did, and they're all gone, anyway."
"Oh. So if things were different I wouldn't mean as much to you? If your grandmother or your father or even your mother was still alive, you wouldn't need me as much? Maybe you would love me just a little bit less?"
"No, Ray!" Ben was shocked at the question. "Of course not! You are the most important person in my life, and you would be no matter the circumstances."
"Ah." Ray nodded.
Finally, it hit Ben, and he flushed happily. "Oh. Really?"
"Yes, Benny, really. You are the most important person in my life, and you always will be. You're everything, Benny."
Ben reached up and lightly touched Ray's cheek with his fingertips. "Thank you, Ray."
"Thank you, Benny. Thank you kindly." He drew Ben into a kiss, then pulled away to smile happily at his lover.
"You know, Benny. We have an entire afternoon all to ourselves. I really don't think we should waste it talking."
Ben smiled back. "Understood."
Joining hands, Ray and Benny walked into the bedroom.
Comments Welcome. email@example.com