Author's disclaimer: They belong to Alliance
Author's notes: Second time lucky!
Thanks to Ruthie for being my guinea pig with this one - it's the longest story I've written and hopefully she helped me hang on to the plot.
It's slightly AU in that Fraser still has his old apartment.
Please let me know what you think.
PAST AND PRESENT
It's dark and cold tonight. Fraser's sleeping next to me but he may as well be a million miles away for all the good it's doing me. I can't stop one thought going through my head, over and over.
I'm losing him. Oh god, I'm losing him. A week ago, I had him, and now I don't.
Every day he goes further away from me and no matter what I do I can't seem to make it right again. I can't correct something I don't understand, and I don't understand what I've done. When I ask him all I get is "Oh it's nothing Ray, don't be so silly."
But it's not nothing. It's a big, huge SOMETHING and unless I find a way of making it right he's going to walk out on me, just like everybody else.
It's so cold.
I turn over in bed and move closer to him. As soon as I touch him his eyes open and he looks at me blankly, like he doesn't know who I am.
"Frase?" I say quietly. "Frase are you okay?"
"Of course," he says. That's all. Then he turns his back on me. I put one of my hands on that broad back, covering the old scar that will always be there and I wonder how to get back the connection we used to have.
"Go to sleep Ray," he says, and his voice is a monotone; he hasn't used that tone on me for almost three months, not since we first got together.
I'm losing him.
I wish there was some way I could break through these barriers I have and speak to Ray, tell him how I feel and try to make it right with him, but every time I look into those haunted eyes of his I find all my words draining away.
I have betrayed him and he doesn't deserve that. He deserves so much more than I can give him. If he knew what I had done he would turn away from me in disgust and never look at me again, and I don't think I could stand that.
Ray has worked his way under my defences and I can't seem to shut him out. I can feel his hand now, resting gently on my back, needing the contact. Part of me needs to turn over and take him in my arms, hold him against me and never let him go. But another part of me won't let that happen.
"Go to sleep Ray," I say, hating the sound of my own voice. He removes his hand and I hear him turn onto his front his favoured sleeping position.
I stare into the dark, regulating my breathing. It's important that he should think I'm sleeping, although I don't really know why. Perhaps it's because I feel, as he does, that if we can take care of the little things in our lives, the big things will take care of themselves.
But not this time.
"Hello Ben," the voice says. The voice that I thought I would never hear again; the voice which has haunted my dreams for what seems like an eternity. I temporarily forget how to breathe, how to speak.
"Victoria," I finally answer. "What do you want?"
"I need your help," she says. I wish I could hate her, or love her less, or something, but just hearing her voice reminds me that once I thought I loved her and that she loved me. Obsession perhaps, craving for something you can never have...
"You know I can't help you," I force myself to say. "I'm going to have to report this, you do realise?"
"Oh Ben, you won't report anything, you know that," Victoria says, that velvet smooth voice of hers stirring memories long buried. I even imagine I feel a bone deep ache in my back where Ray Vecchio's bullet struck me. It's still there; still buried deep in the muscle near my spine some days I can hardly move for the pain it causes me. The pain she caused me.
"Why won't I?" I ask. "What do you want?"
"You won't report me because I'll make sure that your filthy little what shall we call it? How about liaison with Vecchio's replacement will become public knowledge. By the way, whoever thought that he would make a good replacement for Vecchio? A love of pizza doesn't make a person Italian, Ben."
"I have nothing to be ashamed of in my relationship with Ray," I say immediately. It's true. Ray is the light to Victoria's dark, the sunlight to her shadow.
"Perhaps not," she concedes. "But think about it; he's a detective, you're a Mountie do you really believe that this relationship will be condoned? Even if you care nothing for yourself, you care what will happen to him. If I know anything about you Ben, I know that."
She's right of course.
"What do you want Victoria?" I say again and this time I can hear the defeat in my tone. So can she.
"Good boy Ben," she says. "I need you to get me out of this country and back to Canada. I can't go through the usual channels for obvious reasons, which is where you come into it. I want you to arrange the necessary papers and see me safely across the border."
"You know as well as I that there are plenty of unguarded areas along the border," I answer. "Why can't you just go across one of them?"
"Because I need papers," she says. "I need to work. I need money."
"I can't...," I say desperately. "Victoria, look, I can give you money, all the money I have. But I can't get you papers. I can't."
"You can," she says sharply. "Just remember what I said about your little boy. I'll be in touch."
The line goes dead.
I'm well, I'm bouncing down the hallway towards Fraser's office when I hear a loud crash coming from behind the closed door. I bounce the last few steps and push open the door.
Fraser's sitting behind his desk with his head in his hands, fingers tangled in that perfectly groomed hair. His phone is resting against the far wall, doing a very good impression of a useless piece of plastic.
I check over my shoulder and see Turnbull doing his usual gazing into the middle distance, then close the door and walk over to Fraser.
"Fraser?" I say. He doesn't answer, so I put one hand on his shoulder. He jumps about a foot in the air and I jump about a foot backwards.
"Ray, I'm sorry," he says. "I never heard you come in."
"What, that Mountie bat-like hearing didn't pick me up?" I'm amazed. I'm about to start in on him about it when I take a good look at him. He's real pale and shaky, like he's coming down with something or like something's given him a shock. I go to stand behind him and start to rub his neck.
"Are you okay?" I ask. "What happened to make you do that?" He starts to melt under my fingers, head drooping towards the desk. He loves it when I do this; no matter where we are I can reduce him to goo in a matter of minutes. I work my hands lower, but when I reach the middle of his back he suddenly sits up straight and shakes my hands off.
"I'm fine Ray," he says in that buttoned up way of his. He usually only speaks to me like that when he's pissed with me, but I can't think of anything I've done.
"What's the matter?" I ask. "Did I leave the wet towels on the bathroom floor again?"
He's obviously not in a mood for teasing because he pulls away from me, sitting up even straighter. Okay, I can take a hint.
"So do you wanna eat?" I walk back in front of his desk and perch on the corner where the phone used to live. "It's kinda late I know I was caught up in the Crosbie case and forgot to call. Sorry."
"I'm sorry Ray, I can't leave the office today. I have some important paperwork to take care of."
I shrug, trying not to let my worry show. "Whatever. I'll see you later then." I lean across the desk to give him a kiss, but he pulls away from me.
My heart hits my stomach. It is me. I've done something to piss him off and he's not ready to tell me yet just what it is. Oh god.
"Fraser?" I almost whisper it. "Fraser, please...."
He looks up and his eyes get real soft. I don't think anybody else sees that expression but me. He reaches up one hand and touches my face.
"I'll see you later Ray, okay?"
"Are we cool?" I can't help it. I know that I've got my 'brave little soldier' face on, but I can't help it.
"We're cool," he answers. "Later, yes?"
I don't bounce as I go back down the hall.
I sit at my desk and silently damn my grandmother.
She brought me up to not show emotions, to be 'strong'. When Ray walked in I wanted nothing more than to throw myself at his feet and tell him about Victoria. But I can't. He wasn't there and I don't have the words to explain to him what happened. And anyway, being Ray, he would tell me to find Victoria and turn her in and to hell with the consequences of that action.
But I can't let her destroy Ray the way she almost destroyed me.
If I don't help her she will betray Ray, hold our relationship up to public condemnation, and although Ray would do his best to get through it, his innate fragility would, in the end, make it impossible for him; if I do help her, then *I* will betray Ray.
Perhaps the betrayal would best be done by someone who loves him.
By the time I get back to the apartment after work I've just about convinced myself that his bags will be packed and in the hall. Somehow I've managed to ruin the best thing that has happened to me this side of forever.
So it's a real big surprise to find Fraser sitting on the couch reading some fascinating article on the mating habits of the caribou or something.
"Hey," I say, trying to judge his mood. He's so good at hiding how he feels that it's usually pretty difficult to do; tonight it's impossible.
"Hello Ray," he says, neutral; he's not pleased to see me but he's not going to kick my ass out of here either.
"How's everything?" Boy, am I a good ice breaker or what? Put me in a room full of chattering people and watch them all fall silent one by one.
"A little tired," God, we're both at it! If either of us shows any more emotion we could be accused of having a pulse.
"Yeah, me too." I walk into the kitchen and grab a bottle of water from the fridge. I down half of it before I turn around. He hasn't moved.
"Do you wanna eat? We could go out somewhere unless you're tired, or we could just order in, or I guess we must have something in the fridge..." It would be good to stop babbling now, because he's getting that patient look on his face.
"I'm sorry Ray, but I'm really not hungry." He stands up, and he's not looking at me. He hasn't looked at me since I walked in.
"'Kay, Frase," I say. And I mean to leave it there, I really do. But I've got such a big mouth...
"Fraser, what have I done? What's the matter?" I shut up by drinking more of the water. If I don't stop talking I'm going to really embarrass myself.
He sighs and finally looks at me. He looks sad and tired and old. Like something's happened to drain all that bright Mountie energy away. I wish I knew how to make it right.
"You haven't done anything Ray," he kind of half smiles at me. "It's me. I'm a little tired. I think I'd just like to go to sleep." He bends down and picks up his jacket from the back of the couch. "You get something to eat and watch the television for a little while."
He couldn't have hurt me more if he had walked up to me and slapped me as hard as he could. I know rejection when I hear it.
He walks into the bedroom without even looking at me.
Oh god, his eyes when I told him to stay and eat while I went to bed. I'm not sure I can go through with this.
I must have been lying there staring into the dark for upwards of an hour when I hear him coming quietly into the bedroom. I listen to him as he moves around, able to follow his progress from the noise he makes; the clink of his handcuffs on the dresser; the sliding sound as he takes his clothes off; water in the bathroom as he showers.
The bed sags as he climbs in and rolls over to mould himself against me, the same as usual. I don't move, and after a few moments I feel his lips as he softly kisses my shoulder. He leans his forehead on the back of my neck, and with a whispered 'goodnight' he rolls away again. He can sense that I am rejecting him, and I think my heart will break from the shame of it. It's wrong of me to hurt him like this why can't I just tell him everything?
Because if he knew he would put himself in the line of fire, and I couldn't bear the thought of him being hurt.
And Victoria... I love Ray. I love him. Yet Victoria has been on my mind all day. I remember our time together in the snow of Fortitude Pass and I remember the joy of seeing her again, of having her come to my apartment, of loving her...
I think my mind was made up the second she said what she wanted. I will help her. I will get her away from here, where she can't hurt Ray. And then, if there is any chance, I will try and explain everything to him, and hope he understands.
I spend the night listening to him breathing.
Things don't seem to be any better this morning. He was up before I was awake and out before I was up. I'm not good at mornings and he usually lets me wallow before dragging me out of bed. Today I felt the slightest kiss on the top of my head and then he was gone.
I know this feeling I have in my gut I promised myself that I would never let it happen again, that I would never put myself in a position where it could happen. But I did, and I don't know what to do.
I suppose it's kinda trite to say it, but I thought he was different, maybe even *the one* . Shows what my judgement's like. If there's a chance to mess up a relationship, leave it to me. I just wish I knew what I'd done so I could at least try to put it right.
Work is going to be such fun today.
I'm ready for her this time when the telephone rings.
"Ben." That same silky voice. I feel my stomach clench. "Have you thought about what I said?"
"Yes," I hardly recognise my own voice. "Yes, I'll do it, Victoria. On one condition."
"I don't think you're in any position to bargain, but for old time's sake..." She pauses.
"Don't ever contact me again. I never want to see or hear from you again as long as I live."
There was a silence at the end of the phone and then a little gust of what could have been laughter.
"Ben... I have never stopped loving you, you know," she said. "You should have come with me that time."
"Please Victoria?" It wouldn't take much to make me start begging.
"How long will it take you to get my papers?" she asks, not answering.
"A few days," I answer, "maybe a week."
"I need money if I'm going to stay here for as long as that," she says. "Do you have money?"
"You can have it all if it will get rid of you," I say, more harshly than I intend.
"Don't, Ben," she says. "Don't speak to me like that. You know that I can ruin your career and his with one phone call."
"I'm sorry," I answer. "How can I get the money to you?"
"Are you still living in the same apartment?" she asks.
"Be there at 8 tonight, with the money. Be there alone, Ben."
She hangs up.
I'm kind of draped over the desk pretending to study a report when Fraser calls.
"Ray," he says and my heart sinks at the tone of his voice, but I do my best to keep it bright.
"Hey, Frase, how's it goin'?"
"I'll be staying at my apartment tonight Ray, I thought it polite to let you know," he says.
Polite. Right. My throat closes up and I put my hand over my eyes so that nobody in the squad room can see how I'm feeling.
"If that's what you want," I say. "Will I see you later for dinner?"
"No Ray, I'm sorry." There's a real long pause, then he says it again, "I'm sorry," but in a totally different tone of voice. He wants me to understand something here, but without any kind of a clue I don't have an idea what it is.
"Tomorrow then?" I know I'm beginning to sound pathetic, but I can't help it. I've driven him away and I've got no idea why.
"Yes tomorrow," he says. "We'll have lunch, is that all right?"
"Course. I'll see you tomorrow." Then I drop my voice and mutter, "I love you."
There's a silence which stretches on just a little bit too long, then he says in the saddest voice I think I've ever heard him use, "I know you do, Ray. Goodbye."
Before I can say anything, he hangs up and I'm left staring at the phone. I want to throw it against the wall, like he did earlier. I want to fall onto my knees and cry like a baby. But most of all I want to know what I've done.
The day goes by surprisingly quickly considering that I have just broken Ray's heart a little bit more. I have to arrange to draw out a substantial amount of money from my bank. It seems sensible to draw out some American and some Canadian money, but as ever the mention of Canada sends every bank teller into what seems to be a citywide panic. I try to maintain my usual air of polite bewilderment, but sometimes even my patience can be very severely stretched, and I end up snapping at the most obtuse of the tellers. But I get my money.
I also begin the convoluted process of obtaining papers for Victoria. What I am doing is nothing less than a criminal act, but I have been willing to commit crimes for her in the past. Why should this be so different? At least this time I have the tenuous excuse of trying to protect Ray.
I am as far along in the process as I can be by the time I have to leave for my rendezvous with her. I will shamelessly abuse my position here to ensure that all her papers are cleared and stamped before she makes her trip to Canada.
It feels strange to be making the trip to my apartment alone. Even though I actually spend more time at Ray's than I do here, on the occasions that I do stay here, he is always with me.
I have been able to occupy myself most of the day but now as I walk towards my apartment, my thoughts return to Ray. At the moment he is confused and upset, but I know my Ray he is volatile in the extreme and if I keep up my war of attrition, then he will snap. I can think of no better way of driving him away. And no better way of breaking my own heart. But at least he will be safe. All I can do is hang onto this thread.
I reach my apartment at exactly 8pm, and as I enter the lobby a shadow detaches itself from the other shadows at the bottom of the stairwell.
Victoria. She hasn't changed. Still beautiful. Still deadly.
"Hello Ben," she says quietly. "You came."
"I said I would," is all I say. "I've got your money."
"How long for the papers?" she asks.
"A week at the most, I told you." She's lost a lot of weight, and has a haunted look about her. "Where are you staying?"
"Nowhere at the moment," she says. "I can't stay in hotels, they cost money."
The solution hits me immediately. "Stay here."
She looks at me, amazed.
"I know where you are then," I explain, "I can get the papers to you without delay. I don't I don't really use the apartment very much now."
She gets a look of disgust on her face, but she quickly conceals it as the sheer logic behind my reasoning hits her and she nods.
"No," she says quietly, "I'm sure you don't." She takes a step towards me and I have to stop myself moving away. "Ben, understand something. I don't hate him. I don't hate you. But I need something only you can give me, and you wouldn't be willing to help me if there wasn't a risk to him."
I don't know what to say to that. I hand over the envelope of money I withdrew from the bank along with the keys to the apartment. Ray persuaded me to fit the lock now that I spend so little time there.
"I'm afraid there's no food in the apartment, but you have money now. I'll be in touch as soon as I have more news on your papers."
"Aren't you going to stay Ben?" she says softly and I close my eyes. Oh god. It's not love; it's not even basic human lust. It's fear. She frightens me.
"No," I shake my head. "I think that would be a very bad idea. I will be at the Consulate."
"Not going back to Ray?" she asks, surprised, and I shake my head again, not answering.
"I'll be waiting for you," she says, and turns towards the stairs.
I leave the building almost at a run and begin the long walk to the Consulate. The irony strikes me not long after I start walking. I, who have never truly wanted to be here in Chicago, have three separate places I can stay, but only one can truly be called home.
I wish he'd come home. The apartment seems so empty without him. I feel so empty without him. I suppose it's lucky that he doesn't have a phone at the apartment because I just know that I'd be calling him by now, trying to find out what I've done. This is what really got to Stella at the end she took great pleasure in describing me as obsessive. But I don't think I am I only want to know what has happened to ruin this.
It's past midnight by the time I open the door to Ray's apartment. I have walked for hours, just thinking. I can't bear how much I've hurt him, and I need to see him. Seeing Victoria has made me realise one simple fact I love Ray, and have loved him for a long time now. Victoria has hold of some dark part of me and I can't break free, but when I'm with Ray I can suppress that dark part and bask in his warmth. So I didn't go back to the Consulate. I need to be near him once more.
I go into the bedroom and just watch him sleep, just for a moment, I promise myself. Then I'll go.
He's bundled up in the blankets, clutching a pillow for comfort, and he looks so vulnerable that for a moment I can hardly breathe. How can I hurt him like this? He deserves so much more.
"Frase?" he says softly, not moving. Of course he wouldn't be sleeping. His cop instincts will not let him sleep through the apartment door opening and closing.
"Sssh, Ray," I say. "Just go back to sleep."
He holds out a hand. "Come here."
My feet obey the gesture and I'm moving before he even speaks, taking his hand and letting him pull me down to him. Part of my mind is crying out to me to stop this before it starts. It's wrong and it will only confuse and hurt Ray more. But my body and my soul need this.
His kiss is tentative, unsure, but his hands are warm on the sides of my face and his lips are gentle. I reach up to cover one of his hands with one of my own, perhaps to pull away, but then I feel the slightest touch of his tongue against my lips and without conscious thought I open my mouth, and am overwhelmed by the touch and taste of him.
I hear myself groan into his mouth and push him further back into the bed, kissing him hard and deep. He responds, tongue deep in my mouth, hands moving to the back of my head to hold me close. Pulling myself away from him I quickly strip out of my clothes, never taking my eyes off him. He watches every move I make but he doesn't stir.
I push the blankets off him and he shivers in the cool air of the apartment. He holds his arms up and I cover his body with my own. His thighs part below me and one foot rests on my calf, holding me there.
His hands are stroking up and down my back, the lightest of feather touches, and his kisses are feather- light too. I put my hands on either side of his face to hold him still so that I can deepen the kiss, but he pulls his head away and smiles at me. I smile back; I can't help it. It may be wrong, but God help me, I need this.
Catching me off guard he heaves us over until he is lying on top of me, then he sets himself to tormenting me. A gentle kiss and then he trails his tongue over my cheek and towards my ear, then down to my jawline, exploring me, tasting me. As he kisses my throat, then bites gently I buck against him, unable to be still. He laughs against me and moves his legs until he is straddling me, trapping me against the bed.
I don't understand why he's here when he said that he wouldn't be home tonight, but he's here and he wants me. I don't need to go any further than that right now. We'll talk about it tomorrow.
Christ but I love his body. He's so responsive to whatever I do. I know he likes it when I'm gentle like now, but hey, we're guys, he likes it when I'm rough too. I'll wait and see what he wants and I'll do it. It's all good for me, so it's not like there's a problem.
I'm biting my way down his stomach, maybe a bit harder than I normally would, but I want him to realise how much this last day or so has hurt me. He may think he's the boss in this relationship, but he has to be taught a lesson sometimes. He flinches when I bite a little bit too hard, and puts his hand on my head.
"Ray..." nobody else hears him use that tone. It sounds like love itself to me, and I look up. He's looking at me, his eyes crazy. Nobody else ever sees this side of him either. The wild side is being let out for a run.
"What?" I kind of slide back up his body, smiling at the way his eyes close at the touch. He gets hold of my hair and pulls me to him for a kiss. It's hard and deep and tender all at once. He's putting everything he's got into that kiss. I give back in kind, and we're both panting when we part. I rest my head on his chest listening to his heart. I'd be happy to stay like that for ages, but he begins to move his hips against me, just enough to attract my attention and I have to smile. I turn my head and kiss his chest, then lower my head again. I carry on kissing and biting my way down his body, but I ignore his cock and he groans in frustration
I get as far as his knees before I can't wait any longer. I have to taste him, have to take him in my mouth and show him how I feel. I slide my tongue up the inside of his thigh and he automatically opens his legs wider so that I can fit between them, snug as you like.
I rest a hand on his stomach and I can feel all the muscles in there tensing and relaxing. He's not noisy during sex and it's a great way of checking that I'm doing it right. Judging by the tension going on under my hand and the way his thighs are trembling, I'm right on the button tonight. So I stop.
"Ray!" it's more of a gasp than anything which turns into an I don't know growl, maybe, as I do my patented slide back up him.
I kiss him and kiss him, on his mouth, his cheeks, his eyes, his nose, just everywhere. I've got my hand wrapped round him and he's so close his whole body is shaking with need. I lick his lips real soft, and stroke his hair with my other hand. "Come on," I whisper. "Come for me. Show me."
His hands rest on my lower back, pulling me even closer and I feel the splash of warmth on my fingers and belly. His face when he comes I can never get enough of that.
We just lie together for a minute. He's still got his hands on my back and he's stroking me real slow. Feels nice. I listen to him get his breathing back under control. I begin to move against him, like he did with me and he gets the hint, pushing me away from him until I turn onto my back.
"What do you want?" he says against my lips. "How do you want it?"
"Talk to me," is all I manage to say. He knows what I mean. Even Fraser hasn't mastered the art of giving head and talking at the same time.
He lies off to one side of me and starts to stroke my chest, fingers circling my nipples, then going a bit lower and pulling at the line of hair on my stomach. He puts one hand flat against my stomach, like I did earlier, then he leans over me and starts to talk. His breath on my ear is one of the sexiest things ever and I buck involuntarily. He presses down harder with his hand and I try and hold still.
This talking thing is something that was a real surprise to me, because believe me, it's not discussing the latest curling scores, and some of the stuff that comes out of that perfect mouth shocks even me.
"I love your body Ray," he says quietly. "I love the way you react to whatever I do -," he tweaks my hair again and I jump. "I love your face. Watching your face when we make love is a joy to me. You are beautiful." This time he kisses me and while I'm involved with his tongue, his hand works its way down to my cock and starts to stroke slowly. I moan into his mouth and he pulls back.
"The noises you make," he continues, still in that same soft, sultry voice. "The way you moan my name when I suck you; the way you scream my name when we fuck..."
Oh god. He said fuck. It's still not something I can get used to. We may take all kind of liberties with each other's bodies, but his language stays clean. His hand's working faster now and I won't last much longer. I'm writhing about on the bed, trying to find something to hang on to. I can't even open my eyes because I just know that would bring on overload.
"Do you know what I like most though?" he says. I sure hope that's a ret, retro, rhetorical question because there ain't no way I'm answering him.
"What I like most from you is the way your whole body trembles when you come." And with that he stops talking and sticks his tongue as far as he can down my ear. And I'm gone. Trembling, shaking, shivering, whatever you want to call it. All I know is that I see stars behind my eyes and I'm making the most intense noise. Not a name, not even a word. Just a noise.
Surely if the sex is this good, whatever else is wrong can be mended?
When the alarm goes off the next morning, Ray stops it before it can do anything distasteful, like wake him up.
He's lying here in my arms and he smells of sweat and sex and satiation. What have I done? I have let my heart rule my head, as has always been the way with Ray, and now I have to hurt him all over again.
I pull away from him as gently as I can. He mumbles but doesn't wake up, and I am able to get into the bathroom without disturbing him. I quickly shower and shave, dressing for the day.
Victoria, who has threatened to expose Ray to the world, is sitting in my apartment, using my money to buy food whilst waiting for illegal papers I will provide, and all I can do is confuse Ray even further. I look at my face in the mirror. Still the same bland face staring back at me. God, I loathe myself.
I leave the bathroom and make my way back to the bedroom. He's still asleep, looking like some kind of debauched angel. I find myself taking a step towards the bed, but stop just in time.
As quietly as I can I leave the apartment.
I hear him leave, just like I always do. But he didn't come to wake me up and he always does that. After last night I thought... well, I don't know what I thought. But it was so good, and afterwards, just lying with him, things were okay. We didn't do any real talking, but then it wasn't really the best time for it. I thought that today we'd be able to talk about things. Still, perhaps I'm over-reacting. Maybe when he comes back tonight we can talk and I can finally find out what I've done wrong.
I drag myself towards the bathroom, catching sight of my reflection in the mirror. I stop and look and can't help but smile. I look well, I look like somebody who got it but good last night. Smug and satisfied. God, I can't lose this. I can't lose him.
The day is too long, and not long enough. I continue with the process of getting Victoria's papers organised, but on numerous occasions I find myself simply staring into the middle distance, thinking about last night. Ray and Victoria. Two sides of the same coin. Light and dark. Sunlight and shadow. And I cannot escape either of them. One I do not want to escape, although my duty is making me do just that. The other I cannot escape, no matter how hard I try.
She never did anything without an ulterior motive even when she came back into my life and gave herself to me, there was a reason. Ray has no ulterior motives he gives of himself and never demands anything in return. He has grown to trust me and now I have to break that trust. He will not understand and I will never be able to forgive myself, but I cannot let her destroy him. In the end perhaps this is what love really is just another way to hurt people.
I do not call Ray during the day, but after my shift I drop by the precinct. As I walk into the squad room his face lights up and I feel even more self-loathing. I should have stayed at the Consulate tonight.
"Hey Frase!" he says. "I was wondering if you'd be coming over here. I'll be just a few minutes."
"That's fine Ray," I say carefully, not meeting his eyes.
As he goes past me he briefly lays one hand on my shoulder and my skin burns from his touch. What am I doing here? What is it about me that makes it so easy for me to hurt people?
By the time he's ready to leave I can hardly speak. He looks at me out of those hurt eyes of his and again I just want to tell him everything, but that would be wrong of me.
We get into the car in silence and when he reaches over to touch my leg, I pull away as far as I can.
"Oh," he says. "Do you wanna eat?"
"Yes, that would be nice. Could we go somewhere tonight rather than order in?" I say. He knows why I say this. It means less time spent alone together.
"Sure," he does his best, but I can hear the confusion back in his voice. Why didn't I stay at the Consulate?
Nothing's changed. He still hates me and it's as if last night never happened. I don't understand what's happening. I don't understand what I've done. Last night, he loved me; I would swear that he loved me.
We drive to our favourite Chinese restaurant and order food, and then we sit in silence. I don't know what to say to him and he doesn't seem to want to talk to me. Why is he even here?
I must have said that out loud because he looks up at me. I can see pain in his eyes, and I can see hurt, but I don't see anything for me.
"I'm here because I have nowhere else to go, Ray," he says.
I can't believe that. I can't believe he said that. I know I'm sitting there with my mouth open, but I can't do anything about it.
"God, you must really hate me," I finally say.
"No Ray, never hate," he says, and his hand moves as if he wants to reach out, but then he stops himself. "I could never hate you."
"'Kay then," I say. "You're bored, yeah? You've had enough of me?"
He sighs, and I know that I'm beginning to get louder. People will start looking soon.
"Don't be silly Ray," is all he says.
Our food is delivered and both of us just look at it like it's some kind of alien substance just appeared in the middle of the table. If I eat anything I'll just throw it right back up, and he looks like he feels the same.
I stand up. "I'm going home now," I say, and I don't even recognise my voice. "You can come if you can bring yourself to be in the car with me or you can come back whenever you want."
He looks at me and I don't even recognise him.
"I'll be along later," he says.
How I get out of that restaurant and into the car I really don't know. My hands are shaking so much that I can hardly get the keys in the door, and if my dad could see the damage I do to the paintwork he'd slap me a good one. I can feel some kind of knot inside me that seems to be filling up all available space, making it nearly impossible for me to breathe. I still can't believe he said that and I can't believe how much it hurts.
I get back to the apartment without killing anyone itself a minor miracle, but then once I'm inside I can't relax. I end up putting music on loud and tuneless anything to keep from thinking. If I let myself think I don't know what I'll do. I don't understand why he hates me.
I know him; he won't be here until he knows I'm in bed, so I'm safe for a few hours. Safe? Why did I think safe? It's not as if he would ever hurt me, or at least not physically, but then physical hurt has never been something that's been a problem for me.
I sit on the couch with my head in my hands and let the music pound into me.
He's in bed again when I get back to the apartment, and this time I don't even bother being quiet. I know he's awake. He's lying on his side turned away from my side of the bed and he doesn't acknowledge my presence. I slide into bed facing him, wanting to touch him, but not allowing myself.
He surprises me when he turns over and says, "Frase? Frase are you okay?"
"Of course," I answer, and before I do anything foolish, I turn my back on him. I feel his hand on my back, covering the scar there. He needs to be touched.
"Go to sleep Ray," I say as tonelessly as I can. After a heartbeat he moves his hand away and the bed shifts as he turns over again. I don't think either of us gets much sleep.
I've got the day off, which is okay. I've got a kinda plan in my head, so at least I've got something to do.
He had gone again before I had even woken up, but I think I need to start getting used to this, at least until he leaves me. Because he will. He's already gone in his mind and it's just a question of waiting for his body to follow. I wonder what'll happen to our partnership then? It's not as if we can stop working together, not if we want to keep the undercover thing going.
I don't look in the mirror today, since I don't think I'll like what's looking back at me.
I feel like a heel when I start up the stairs to his apartment. I've been here before when he's not here, but he's always known that I'm going and what I'm doing there. Usually just waiting for him anyway.
As soon as I unlock the door it's obvious that somebody's been here and recently. Cop instincts take over, and I reach for my gun. At that point I get a clear picture of it sitting on the dresser in my apartment. I'm trying to break my habit of carrying it with me all the time. Oh well.
I close the door as quiet as I can and edge forward so I can get a better view of the room. It's only a one room apartment with a kind of dividing wall in the middle not sure what it divides. I can't see anybody, so I sidle around the wall, just in case.
And find myself looking down the barrel of a gun held by a dark haired woman. I've seen Vecchio's files, I know who she is. What I don't understand is what she's doing here.
"What do you want?" she demands. I put my hands out from my sides so that she can see I'm unarmed, and take a step backwards. The gun comes up another inch or so, and I stop.
"I don't want anything," I say. "I just came to make sure everything's okay."
"What? Are you telling me that Ben sent you?"
Ben. Well, if that what she wants to believe. I nod, not speaking.
She gestures to the bed and I sit down. I'm not arguing with this chick. I know she's mad and I know she's obsessed with Fraser. But just what the fuck is she doing here?
"So have you got my papers?" she asks.
"No," I say. "That's what Fraser asked me to tell you. They won't be ready on time." I have no idea what she's talking about.
She glares at me, and it kinda scares me. This woman is dangerous.
"No," she says thoughtfully. "No. He hasn't told you what he's doing, has he? He wouldn't tell you. I know Ben's protective instincts. He thinks he loves you, you know."
I very nearly laugh, but manage to stop myself. "He used to maybe," I say. "Not now."
"Oh no, now as well," she says, almost conversationally. "You really don't understand him do you? Not if you think that."
"If you knew how he's been the last few days..." I start, before shutting up. Why am I discussing my private life with this person? Hold on. The last few days. Oh god.
"So," I say carefully, "You been here what? Two, three days?"
"Something like that," she nods.
Oh God. Him and his stupid honour. If he had told me I would have helped.
Victoria moves back and sits on the rickety table. She really is something to see. Eyes to get lost in I can see how Fraser fell for her so bad all those years ago. She crosses her legs and rests the gun on her knee, still pointing it at me.
"He hasn't told you," she said again, almost conversationally. "Probably the best thing to do is for you to just walk out of here, is that right?"
I nod. "Probably," I agree. "But I can't do that, Victoria. You're wanted for robbery and murder in this state, and I can't just walk away from you. You're right, I don't know what Fraser's doing for you, but whatever it is it can't be legal, because he would have told me. You have to come with me."
She laughs. She just laughs. "But Detective what is your name, by the way? - I have the gun. What do you have?"
What I have, although she doesn't know it, is a complete lack of interest in what's going to happen to me. I've got the upper hand here, in a sick kind of way. I don't doubt for a minute that she'll shoot me she's a killer from way back, but if I play this right it doesn't have to end like that.
"My name's Kowalski," I say in a casual kind of tone. "Ray Kowalski."
"Polish?" she asks, and I nod.
"Not the greatest heritage for an undercover Italian cop," she remarks.
"It's not the heritage, it's the style that counts," I have absolutely no idea what I mean by that. Oh well.
"But what do you have?" she asks again. "What do you have that makes my Ben think he loves you so much that he'll give up his honour for you?"
"He's not 'your' Ben, lady," I snap. "He was never yours. You just borrowed him for a while"
Oh, that made her mad. I can see it in the way she suddenly tightens her grip on the gun. Her face goes kinda pinched too, and suddenly she's not such a looker. She looks hard now, dangerous.
"He has always been mine, and he always will be," she snaps. "He will do anything for me."
"Because he wants you away from here. Away from us. From me."
She's off the table now and coming towards me. The more angry she gets, the more chance I have to get that gun away from her. And she seems plenty angry now.
She puts the muzzle of the gun against my temple. "And what if you weren't in the picture any more?" she demands.
I shrug carefully. "Then he would hunt you down and kill you," I say. "He loves me, lady."
And he does. Of course he does. His stupid honour wouldn't let him tell me about this he's obviously going to help her get out of the country and he didn't want me involved.
"No," she says. "He couldn't love you. You're just a diversion. He's been marking time, waiting for me."
I move as fast as I can and grab the muzzle of the gun, pushing it away from me, then try and catch her wrist so that I can disarm her. Damn but she's strong, and she's fighting in that way women have fought since time began; they wriggle and they scratch. I would have no problem with popping her one if she would just stay still.
She screams, a real ugly sound, and goes for my face with her nails, and as I pull back, the gun goes off.
I feel the most incredible blooming of pain in my side, and looking down I see blood already soaking my shirt. I look up at her, and I know I'm blinking like some kind of idiot. Then my knees give way and I end up on the floor.
The last thing I see is her leaning over me. She's smiling.
I don't know what has made me come back to my apartment. I have to see Victoria; I have to talk to her. I don't really know what I want to say to her. Perhaps all I really want is to see her, because I now realise that I'm really no better than she is. Maybe we do belong together, harming only each other.
I climb the stairs slowly. I feel so tired now. I've almost driven Ray away and now I seem to have nothing left. Everywhere I look I see only shadows.
The door to the apartment is ajar, but when I push it open I don't see anything the late afternoon sun casting long shadows through the window. Then I see a slight movement in one of those shadows and step forward.
Then I take another step forward and my world crashes around me. He wasn't supposed to know. Why is he here?
"Ray! Oh god, no. Ray!" I don't know where to touch him. He's lying in a pool of his own blood and I can't for the moment see where the actual wound is. I pick up his wrist, feeling for a pulse, and find it, but very faint and thready.
"Ray! Please Ray, please..." //Please don't die; please don't leave me; please forgive me.//
He makes the faintest of sounds and I lean forward. His lips are blue-tinged and his skin is like parchment.
"It's okay Ray, it's okay," I say, stroking his hair. "I'm going to call for help. You'll be all right, I promise you."
I can't find his cellphone if it's attached to his waist or in one of his pockets I don't want to get it since I will undoubtedly hurt him further. I lean forward again.
"I'm just going to use the phone. I'll be right back. Please stay." I can't help kissing his forehead, and am shocked by how cold he feels. There's so much blood.
I run to Mr Mustafi's and dial 911, then I call Lieutenant Welsh to let him know what's happened. I will tell him exactly what has happened; I should have told him earlier.
Going back into my apartment I drag the blanket off the bed and cover Ray, then lie next to him, not caring about the blood. His breathing is shallow and slow. I can see now that he has been shot in the side, from close range. I don't know how long he's been lying here and I cannot bear the thought of him here alone, waiting for help, which may never come.
"I'm here now Ray," I say softly to him, stroking his hair again. "I won't leave you. I'm so sorry. I don't know if you can forgive me, but please hear me and believe me when I tell you how sorry I am. I only wanted you to be safe, and now I've hurt you."
The ambulance seems to take forever to come, but eventually they arrive and I am pushed to one side as the paramedics take over. Ray isn't bleeding so much now as he goes further into shock and his body starts to close down. He hasn't stirred since I found him; I don't even know if he can hear me, but I have to hang on to the hope.
As he is gently wheeled from the apartment I see a movement in the corner of my eye. My father is standing there, just watching me. So much disappointment on his face. I shake my head, and look away, unable to bear that expression.
I ride in the ambulance with Ray, holding his hand, trying to anchor him with me. The paramedic pushes me away once as Ray goes into cardiac arrest and his heart must be re-started. If I lose him now, I will die. I cannot be without him; I realise that now; realise how stupid my idea of protecting him has been.
We have been at the hospital for an hour before Lieutenant Welsh appears. He looks grim and haggard; he cares a great deal for Ray. He sees me and strides towards me, taking in the blood on my hands and my clothes.
"Well?" he says.
"He's still in surgery," I say. "They won't say much. His heart stopped in the ambulance. It's all my fault."
"Why is it your fault?" He sits next to me, putting a hand briefly on my arm.
I turn to him, intending to tell him just the bare facts, but it all spills out; Victoria, Ray, my guilt, my pain. My love. I can't stop talking. It's as if a dam has burst and nothing will stop the flood of words.
The Lieutenant doesn't speak until I stop, then he sighs and rubs his eyes. "Constable," he says. "This is a real mess."
"I know," I say.
"You've been harbouring a fugitive and a police officer has been shot."
I close my eyes and nod. "I know," I say again.
"Were you really going to help her leave the country?" he asks.
"I needed to get her away from Ray," I answer.
The Lieutenant sighed. "This bitch has really got a hold on you, hasn't she? Listen, I'm going to have to do some thinking about this. You stay here with Ray and let me know how the surgery goes. I'll be back later."
He stands up and puts his hand on my shoulder. "It'll be all right, Constable," he says.
Some different definition of 'all right' than the one I know, obviously.
It's another two hours before a young nurse comes to get me.
"He's out of surgery now, Constable Fraser," she says softly. "You can sit with him in recovery."
"How is he?" I ask in a voice I barely recognise as my own.
"The doctor can tell you more," she says. "This way."
She leaves me in a quiet side room. Ray is almost swamped under the bedclothes, lying so still and small. The quiet beep of the heart monitor and the whisper of the ventilator are the only noises. He has tubes everywhere and a number of drips leading into his hand. He looks pale and ill, and a long way away from me.
I approach the bed and gently touch the back of his hand.
"Hello Ray," I say softly. "It's me. I've come to sit with you until you wake up. You know how I love to watch you wake up."
"This was badly done, son." My father is standing in the corner of the room, still with the same expression on his face.
"I know that now," I say. "Why don't you ever offer advice when I may actually need it?"
"Would you take any notice of me if I did?" he asks, matching my tone. "That woman has led you by the - well by the thing since you met her. This man ," he nods towards the bed, "This is a good man. I've never seen you happier."
"Dad, is he with you? Can you see him?" I can't look at Ray, and I can't look at my father. The wall of the room is not inspiring.
"No, son," he says. "He's not here. Talk to him, tell him everything. He can hear you, you know."
I nod, unable to speak.
When next I look, my father has gone and I'm left alone with Ray.
I sit by the bed and touch the back of his hand again.
"I'm so sorry Ray," I say. "I never meant for any of this to happen, but you know what you're like you would have gone charging in in fact, I think you did go charging in and then you would have been hurt. Why didn't you stay away?"
//Because you hurt and confused him. Because he was trying to find out what was wrong. He's a policeman for god's sake, do you really think he would just accept what was going on without trying to find out why?//
"You have to get better now Ray. I have to find a way to put this right with you..."
The door opens and a doctor appears in the room, beckoning to me.
"I'll be back in a second Ray," I say, standing up and following the doctor out of the room.
"Well Constable Fraser, he's lost a lost of blood, but he really should be fine," said the doctor. "He's on a lot of fluids for the shock and obviously antibiotics to try and stop any infection. He has a bit of lung damage, which is why we need the ventilator it's just to take the pressure off his lung while it recovers. There's a lot of muscle damage he's not going to be up and bounding around the room tomorrow or anything, but he really should be okay. We'll keep him sedated for a couple of days to keep him quiet and help the healing."
I can't stop tears of relief flooding my eyes, and I bow my head in embarrassment. "Thank you doctor," I manage to choke out. "Thank you for helping him."
I go back into the room and sit down again, taking Ray's hand with a little more confidence.
I don't know how long it is before Lieutenant Welsh comes back, but he looks grim as he comes into Ray's room.
"Constable, I've spoken to the doctor. They say he'll be okay."
I nod. "So I understand." I don't let go of his hand. "I would like to be with him until he wakes, if that's possible, sir."
The Lieutenant sighs. "It's not going to be easy this time, Fraser," he says. "She's wanted for murder. This isn't a minor thing you know."
"I know sir," I say, "but I would like to spend a little more time with him, just until he wakes. After that I am at your mercy. I have so much I need to explain to him."
"Okay, okay," says Welsh, looking at Ray for the first time. "You've done a bad thing here, Constable."
He turns away, hands in his pockets, then turns back to me, holding out an envelope.
"Here. This was delivered to the Precinct. The kid who delivered it said it was urgent."
I take the envelope, glancing at the handwriting, then I look again.
"Lieutenant?" I say. "It's her. It's Victoria."
"Open it," Welsh barks at me, and I do as I am told.
I didn't mean to hurt him, but he brought it on himself. He doesn't love you, you know, he's only using you. He knows that you love me and he didn't want to let you go until he had got everything out of you he could.
I still need those papers. Bring them to me at the zoo, where we used to meet. I'll be there tomorrow at 10am.
If you don't bring them then I will make a call and I will expose your nasty little relationship to everybody. Even if he recovers, your boy will be hounded out of the police force. Think about it.'
I hand the sheet to Welsh who glances through it, then looks up at me.
"Okay, you bring her in, we'll see what we can do. Don't blow it this time."
"I have to get to the Consulate and collect the things she needs," I say, standing up. "Could you possibly give me a lift?"
Welsh nods, and I lean over and kiss Ray's forehead. It feels a little bit warmer now.
"I have to go, but I'll be back soon," I say to him. "I love you very much."
We go to the Consulate and I locate the papers I will need, then I have a quick shower to wash Ray's blood off me. My mind is very clear. If she tries to escape, I will kill her. No more obsession, no more fear, no more love. Just a criminal who needs to pay for her past and her present.
I want to go back to the hospital, but the Lieutenant insists I get some sleep so that I will be rested to face her. I do not want to rest, I want to see Ray, but I cannot argue with this good man who is willing to bend the rules for me.
I lie on my uncomfortable cot in the Consulate I cannot go back to the apartment, not without Ray and try and relax. Ray will live. That is all that matters. Whether he will ever forgive me is another matter, but even if he cannot do that and we are finished, just knowing that he is safe will have to be enough.
At 10am the following day I am standing by the glass, watching the polar bears swimming. Nothing seems to have changed, particularly when I hear my name.
I turn around and she's there, and I find that something has changed after all. Where once her appearance could put me in a turmoil, now there is nothing. There is just a hollow feeling. I will kill her if she runs.
"Do you have the papers, Ben?" she asks, stepping out of the shadows. She's dressed in black again, and I suddenly find myself wondering whether this is an unconscious acknowledgement of her status as 'bad guy'.
"Yes I have them," I say. "But they're not complete. You won't get past the border with them."
She frowns, concerned. "Why? Why aren't they complete? What are you doing?" She looks around, but there's nobody here. Just us.
"They're not complete because you're not going, Victoria," I say. "This has to stop now. You're a killer and a thief, and this has to stop."
She takes a step towards me, her hands in her pockets. There is undoubtedly a gun in one of them, but I don't care.
"Ben," she stops close to me. I can smell her and memories flood back. Snow and near death; laughter and snatched loving. "Ben," she says again, one hand reaching up to touch my face. "So beautiful. Come with me." A ghost voice in my head and I feel the muscles in my back tense.
"No, I can't do that," I say.
"Why?" she says. "Is it him? Is it that scrawny nothing that I shot? I thought he was dead." She shrugs, dismissing Ray from her thoughts. "You and me, Ben, we belong together, you know that in here," she lays her hand over my heart and puts her other hand around me. I feel the gun then, resting against my back.
"Come with me," she says again. "I can make it good for you, just like before."
I put my hands in her hair and pull her face up to mine, crushing her lips with my own. She moans and pushes her tongue into my mouth.
I break the kiss and hold her head between my hands.
"God no," I say, looking into those eyes which have haunted me for too long, "I would rather die."
She pulls away, but I have hold of her hair. I feel her start to move the hand behind me the one with the gun in it and I grab her wrist, feeling the delicate bones rubbing together. She drops the gun with a frustrated cry and comes for my face, fingers clawed.
I can't believe how easy it is. She's so angry that she has no control. I, on the other hand, could not be seeing this situation with more clarity.
I twist her arm behind her and push her forward so that her face is resting against the thick glass separating us from the polar bears.
"You can't do this Ben," she says desperately. "You have to let me go, you know that."
"The story's changed Victoria," I say. "I've moved on. Time for you to do the same."
Finally the uniforms appear from around the corner and she is handcuffed and taken away. The look she gives me hatred and confusion mixed leaves me cold. Finally, I am free of her.
Lieutenant Welsh nods at me as he goes past. There may even be the ghost of a wink.
I feel utterly stoned. I also feel like there's a lead weight on my chest. Why do people say that? Who goes around putting lead weights on their chest just to see what it feels like? Odd people, that's who.
I always thought that if you'd had a whatchamacallit a trauma you weren't supposed to be able to remember details. Well I can remember the bitch queen leaning over me and smiling, and I can remember bleeding like a stuck pig. And deep down and far off, I can remember his voice, apologising to me, explaining, begging me to live.
I can feel a hand holding mine, and I know who it is. I squeeze as hard as I can. So hard that he doesn't even notice it, just keeps on talking. Inuits, eh? Who would have thought that one race of people could have quite so many stories?
Finally I manage to get my eyes open about halfway, and once they've focused I can see him. Fucking beautiful. Looks like he hasn't slept for about three days, stubble, circles under his eyes. I've never seen a better sight in my life.
He's not looking at me. He's got his eyes closed and I think he's having a power nap. Or a dizzy spell.
I squeeze again, and this time he feels it, because his eyes fly open and then fill with tears when he sees I'm awake. I try and smile, but then I realise I've got a tube down my throat and begin to panic. I try and lift my hand to get rid of it, but he stops me.
"Don't Ray," he says. "It's just helping you breathe. You've been hurt, but you're getting better now. Just try and relax and I'll get the doctor, okay?"
Nah, don't want you to leave. I hold his hand tightly and try and scowl. He smiles and reaches up to brush a hand through my hair.
"I'm not going anywhere," he says, reaching up and pressing what I guess is the call button, because within about 30 seconds I'm surrounded by white coated people doing intimate things to me. And he wonders why I hate hospitals.
They take the tube out now there's a disgusting experience to share with the grandchildren and then fuss around a bit more before they leave us alone. My throat's really dry, but he gets me some water and lets me have a little bit. I still can't speak, but I can look and I can tell him with my eyes how glad I am to be back.
"She's gone, Ray," he says. "Victoria's going back to prison. I'm so sorry for what happened..."
I squeeze again to attract his attention and shake my head. It doesn't matter. He's back with me, and I understand. I'll tell him one day. With an amazing amount of effort I pull his hand up to my mouth and, well I mean to kiss it, but I think it turns out to be a bit of a slobber, because nothing's working right yet.
I'm so tired. I can feel my eyes start to close again, but I fight it. I just want to look at him. He puts a hand on my forehead.
"Go to sleep Ray," he says. "I'll be here when you wake up."
Oh god, he understands. He understands and he forgives me. I should have known. I should have realised I could trust him.
"I have good friends here in Chicago." I tell him, still stroking his forehead. "Lieutenant Welsh has exaggerated my role in the capture of Victoria and has downplayed my part in harbouring her, finding all kinds of extenuating circumstances. I have been officially warned, and suspended from work for a month. He is a good man, your Lieutenant.. So the sooner you get better the more time we can spend together."
Ray twitches in his sleep and squeezes my hand and I can't help smiling.
Once he's awake and a little more aware of his surroundings, I'll tell him. I decided that if he could ever forgive me then I would give up my apartment so that I can be with him all the time. It's the only way I have to show him how much I need him, how much I trust him. How much I love him. I hope he understands.
I think he will.