Author's webpage: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Starship/6102/home.html
There once was a group in Toronto
Who made the world's best TV show
People, wolves, places, and plot
All the rights they have got
But here I can do what I want to!
Author's notes: Dedicated to the ladies of RSY! Nothing can keep a great list down!
"Do you ever listen to yourself, Fraser? Do you?! Do you even realize how STUPID you sound?! You and that damned wolf of yours...shit, Fraser, you don't belong here! You're gonna get me killed one of these days with those lame-ass Inuit stories!"
The words echoed in the quiet of the tiny apartment, spinning around and around in endless, hurtful circles through Ben's mind. When he had heard them at first, he couldn't believe them. He had just looked into those angry green eyes, trying to understand. Then Ray had shoved him. Physically placed both hands in the center of the red-coated chest and pushed him away. "Get the hell out of here before I hurt you."
So he was. He didn't need to be told twice. Benton Fraser was a First Class Constable with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. One did not gain that rank through stupidity, and he was not stupid. He knew when he was no longer wanted in a place. He had known well enough to leave Canada for Chicago, and now he knew well enough to leave Chicago for....where?
It didn't matter, really. Inspector Thatcher had told him when she had first arrived that there were plenty of other places he could transfer to, places where he could fit in better, be more useful. He would put in his application for transfer tomorrow morning, and with luck, be gone by the end of the week.
Already, he had spoken with his landlord about renting the apartment to someone else. At the moment, he was bundling his few belongings securely into the backpack he had first brought them in, and he was rather proud that everything still fit into that one parcel. Well, the furniture didn't, nor did the lamp, but those things really didn't matter. He only needed them in the city anyway, and as Ray had pointed out, he didn't belong in the city.
That had been something Ben had known from the very beginning. He was not born to the city, and he knew that he would always hunger for the open spaces and soaring wilderness of his Yukon home. When Inspector Thatcher had offered him transfer the first time, he had very nearly taken it.
Nearly, but not quite. Ben hadn't wanted to leave Chicago for one reason, and one reason alone. Detective Raymond Vecchio, Chicago PD. For the first time since he was a small boy, Ben had a best friend, and he found that it was quite an enjoyable experience.
With Ray, he didn't have to spend every evening alone with Diefenbaker, as the cop often wanted to 'check out a new restaurant before I take the ladies' or 'catch a guy flick'. Guy flicks usually meant a lot of explosions and men sitting around being witty and macho with beautiful women, but it was fun in an almost rebellious way...a small section of Ben that was still partially a teenager had exulted that his grandmother would have never allowed this. Ray also had given him a family, complete with a mother. A mother that fussed over him when he was hurt or late, who always had ready advice and even more ready pasta.
Ray had stood by him through things that neither of them could have imagined, from frozen meat to flooded bank vaults to a backwoods plane crash. They had even survived Victoria, despite her attempts to frame them for murder and conspiracy. Not even the searing physical and emotional pain of the bullet that Ray had accidentally imbedded in Ben's back had been able to separate them. Sadly, the Mountie reached back and lightly touched the point near his spine. He could still feel a twinge of pain if he touched there, but it was nothing compared to the pain he felt now.
He was alone again. Alone, and this time, completely so. As a child, growing up in the emptiness of the Yukon wilderness, he always had his grandparents and the local Inuit children. As a young Mountie in Moose Jaw, and later in other, more remote assignments, there had again been the Inuit. Here in Chicago, there had been Ray. Where he was going now...
As he prepared to cinch the straps shut over the top of the backpack, his blue eyes fell on the corner of an envelope sticking out of his sidetable drawer. Pulling it out to survey the contents, he smiled sadly as he opened it. Photos. Ben recognized them as having been taken a little more than two months prior, at a 'guys night out' with Detectives Huey and Gardino, after Ray's irate family had locked him out of their house.
It had proved a most educational experience. Here, in particular, were several memorable moments from a bar that the three cops had dragged him into. Detective Gardino's soulful kareoke rendition of 'That's Amore', neither his diction or his balance particularly aided by the large quantity of alcohol he had consumed. Detective Huey proving himself a surprisingly fine dancer with a spirited Latin rhythm. Himself, his face visibly flushed even in the dimly lit photograph, being pulled bodily up on stage by Ray, who had a fifteen dollar bet running that he couldn't get the Mountie to sing. He remembered the surprised looks on their faces when he finally, reluctantly had taken the microphone. Ben had thought he wouldn't survive the torturous length of the song, but he had, and been rewarded with the respect of the cops, who were impressed that the Mountie could 'have a little fun' anyway. They had also been surprised that Ben had been willing to have a beer. One beer wasn't exactly alcoholic debauchery, but he knew they had seen him as almost a monk.
He wasn't a monk. Or a machine. Ben was a person, a person with feelings. Feelings that had just been crushed. There would be no more nights out with the guys, no more sitting in the Riv with Ray on stakeouts and contemplating the finer points of philosophy (such as why, exactly, the radio station refused to play ANY songs Ray liked during a stakeout). No more trusting someone with his life, because their minds were operating on such a close wavelength that it was just like trusting yourself.
Losing Ray Vecchio wasn't really losing his best friend. It was losing his brother, a brother he hadn't discovered until he was thirty-four, and had never wanted to lose.
It was too late, though. Apparently, the feelings of friendship weren't as mutual as Ben had thought. He could still feel the hands shoving against his chest, still here the biting words. "Shit, Fraser, you don't belong here!"
Ben bit his lip. Mountie's didn't cry, and certainly not about something as stupid as this. It was just a place, after all. Just a man. And it wasn't even as if Ray had been what he had thought he was. Shaking his head, Ben wondered if he had any character judgment at all. He had fallen head over heels in passionate, erotic love with Victoria, and she had harbored only a twisted love-hate for him. He had fallen equally in love - only it was a brotherly, not romantic love - with Ray, and apparently, been only tolerated in return.
Deciding to take the photos anyway, he placed them carefully atop his other belongings and cinched the straps tightly. Crouching slightly, he slipped his arms through the shoulder straps of the backpack as it lay on the small bed. As he stood, hoisting the heavy pack onto his broad shoulders, he gasped slightly at the sudden weight. This tiny weakness embarrassed him, and he shook his head. It had been how long since he'd carried one of these? Two years? He'd let himself get out of shape.
As he tied the backpack's belt around his narrow waist, Ben admitted that perhaps he wasn't exactly out of shape entirely. He could still run the rooftops of Chicago as nimbly as when he had first arrived, and his stamina was actually better than ever. Running on concrete was far more draining than running on the forest floor. It was simply the fact that he hadn't used the back muscles that the backpack required in a while, and that would take a little getting used to.
"But we can handle it, can't we?" Ben directed his question towards Diefenbaker. "After all, if one can adjust to city life, one can quite easily adjust back to..." The wolf whined suddenly, trotting towards the door with an expectant look. The Mountie recognized the timbre to the animal's voice and sighed. "No, Dief, Detective Vecchio is NOT coming. How many times do I have to tell you th-"
He stopped short as a knock sounded on the door. Forcing down the sudden surge of hope that the wolf might be correct, he slowly opened the door, peering out into the dim hall.
Ray Vecchio stood in the dilapidated wood frame of the door, his green eyes dark with embarrassment as he looked at the Mountie. He leaned his tall, lanky frame up against one wall of the hallway, looking not into Ben's eyes, but rather at a point between his collar and chin. "Hey, Benny."
"Hello, Ray." Ben kept his voice carefully neutral. No need for false hopes.
Ray's eyes quickly flickered away all together, but when they came to rest on the barren room, the open, empty closet, and the laden backpack, his jaw dropped. "What are you doing?"
Green eyes immediately locked with blue. "You're joking."
"Shit!" The cop slammed his hand into the wall, but his anger seemed more self-directed than aimed at Fraser.
Ben reached out, placing a hand gently on his ex-best friend's shoulder. "Ray, you were right. It's best. I don't belong here." He withdrew his hand suddenly, wondering if maybe he didn't have the right for such friendly expressions any more. "My Inuit stories, my woodland habits, even Diefenbaker...we don't belong here."
To the Mountie's surprise, Ray didn't simply agree with him. The response, instead, was a shake of the head so vehement that Ben worried that the long, thin neck might disconnect from the rest of the body. "No! Geez, I mean...that thing...Benny, you can't take it like that! "
"How do you want me to take it, Ray?"
"Take it that I was being a jerk, ok?! You just scared the hell out of me! You go in there, no gun, doin' your whole Inuit gig, and that psycho came this close to blowin' both our brains out. I flipped out, Benny. Mouthed off...Frannie nearly killed me when she heard what I'd said to you!" His voice suddenly dropped from a near-shout to almost normalcy, and one side of his mouth quirked up in a sad smile. "You skip on me, Fraser, and I'll never be able to go home again."
But Fraser was not dissuaded that easily. "Ray, please...this isn't the first time I've caused problems here..."
"And there's gonna be problems." He snorted. "Look, you're a card-carrying, little-old-lady-helping, moose-kissing Canuk. I'm a gun-toting, Armani-wearing, hot-headed Chicago cop. No way in hell we're ever gonna get through this thing without our bumps. Don't mean I want to call the whole thing quits."
A flicker of hope appeared in the blue eyes. "So...you don't want me to leave, Ray?"
"If I said so in a moment of sanity, just forget it, ok?"
For the first time in what seemed like eons, a small smile appeared, dimpling one clean-shaven cheek. "Understood."
Clearly relieved, Ray tried to look casual, as if nothing significant had happened. Glancing at his watch, he motioned to the Mountie. "Uh, better ditch the camping gear, Benny. Ma's expecting me for dinner, and you're my ticket back inside. No Mountie, no food."
The smile widened, as Ben's fingers quickly released the straps and belt, allowing the heavy pack to fall to the floor behind him. Picking up his Stetson from it's hook by the door, he centered it over his close-cropped dark curls. "Well, Ray, considering that it takes approximately eleven minutes to reach your residence from here, we should hurry. That is, of course, assuming all posted speed limits are adhered to. In your case, however, I suppose we should expect-"
Ben's words were cut off by Ray's laughter, and the Mountie turned curiously to see what was so funny. "Ray?"
The cop just choked back the mirth, clapping his friend warmly on the back. "Just glad you're back, Benny. Just glad you're back."