PG for mature subject matter. Death Story/Angst/Drama
Sequel to Say Good Night. Thanks for all the great feedback I received from you guys on the previous story. Hope this one meets your requirements. I offer a box of virtual tissues to any who might need them. :)
Fraser sat beside
the Kowalski's as the priest read the eulogy over the casket that held
Stan's body on the small alter, Barbara was gripping his hand and her
husband's to stay upright, even in her seat. She was tempted to throw
herself onto the coffin, it wasn't right that a parent should outlive
their child. She didn't know what she would have done these last few
days without the strong Mountie beside her, for her own husband had closed
in on himself, refusing to speak or comment on what had happened.
When Fraser had shown up at their door with the Italian detective and wolf beside him, Barbara had known something was wrong and she instantly became hysterical. It was too soon, Stanley had only just told them, they hadn't had the chance to spend more time with him or say the things they had wanted to, and now it was too late.
Damien had refused to speak to Fraser at all, perhaps he felt if the words were not spoken aloud then that made then not real, so he had left the room and had not returned while the Mountie and Ray comforted Mrs. Kowalski. Damien had gone for a walk outside their trailer park and then gotten inside his car and drove off. He had ended up outside his son's apartment building, staring at the lovingly polished GTO that was still parked in its usual space.
Damien Kowalski glanced over at Fraser on the other side of his wife and his mouth thinned noticeably. He was furious, there was no other way to explain the way he had felt. Stanley was wrong not to tell them sooner about his condition, hell he had gone halfway across the world with the Mountie on some fool adventure instead of staying here in Chicago and dealing with the matter at hand. Now Damien could not look at the Canadian without thinking of the time wasted that he could have had with his son and how Fraser had seemed to replace he and Barbara in Stan's life.
Granted, he had not always gotten along with his son, especially when Stan had foolishly decided to become a cop, but Damien had finally adjusted to that, had even come to realize how good a police officer his son was and was at least attempting to rectify their damaged relationship. Stan no longer felt comfortable around his parents, Damien had noticed it their first day back and he had been devastated by that reality. It wasn't that he did not love his son, he just had a difficult time relating to Stan, and then to top matters off, they could not see or speak to him often because he was on assignment as the Mounties's absent partner.
Another glare directed toward Fraser and Damien found himself gazing into the solemn cerulean eyes that were filled with such sadness and despair that it almost took the older man's breath way. Damien quickly lowered his gaze, unwilling to see the depth of the Mounties's grief; he didn't care that Fraser hurt because his son was gone. The Mountie had only lost a pretend partner; he and Barbara had lost their beautiful, gentle and loving son.
His eyes roamed around the church at the other people that had filled the church to honor his son and pay their last respects. Most of the people from the department were there, seated directly behind them and a group that the Kowalski's had learned were the family of the man their son had portrayed for over a year. A selection of youths from the center Stan volunteered at were standing quietly at the back of the church, unwilling to intrude but wanting to see their mentor one last time and pay their respects and Stella Kowalski was seated surprisingly with the Vecchio's across from them. Damien noticed some demurely dressed women in the very back pews of the church, which was surprisingly filled to capacity, and he had been told they were actually streetwalkers that knew Stan from his job. Damien didn't think it was appropriate for them to be here, but Barbara had asked them to stay and told her husband to hush, they were all friends of Stanley.
The minister took a break in the service and announced that the deceased had requested his friend, Benton Fraser sing a particular song at his funeral, and though it was slightly unorthodox the minister had agreed to it. Fraser rose from his seat and moved up toward the altar, turning to the crowd of people curiously watching him. When he had agreed to do this, he had not considered how hard it would be to be staring out at everyone that was still grieving for Ray, but he had promised his friend. Though Fraser could not fully understand why Ray had chosen the particular song he was about to sing, he could not fault him for it. Taking a deep breath and without any accompaniment Fraser began to sing, his sweet voice filling the church as he put every ounce of feeling into the words that he could manage.
Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.
Westward from the Davis Strait 'tis there 'twas said to lie
The sea route to the Orient for which so many died
Seeking gold and glory, leaving weathered, broken bones
And a long-forgotten lonely cairn of stones.
Three centuries thereafter, I take passage overland
In the footsteps of brave Kelso, where his "sea of flowers" began
Watching cities rise before me, then behind me sink again
This tardiest explorer, driving hard across the plain.
And through the night, behind the wheel, the mileage clicking west
I think upon Mackenzie, David Thompson and the rest
Who cracked the mountain ramparts and did show a path for me
To race the roaring Fraser to the sea.
How then am I so different from the first men through this way?
Like them, I left a settled life, I threw it all away.
To seek a Northwest Passage at the call of many men
To find there but the road back home again.
flinched each time the rifles fired in respect for her son as they began
lowering the coffin into the dark pit below. She stood beside the gravesite;
her small trembling hands clutched at her purse as she refused the chair
others had offered her. She would stand for her Stanley's last reward
she owed him that much. It was hard for a mother to loose her son, especially
such a loving and devoted son as Stanley had been to her. Her other son
was caring but rarely attentive and he lived so far away, with his own
life and family. Stanley had always made time for his mother, no matter
what he was doing, and Barbara would miss his nightly calls and his tender
She felt a gentle prickling against her skin and raised her hand to press against her left cheek, smiling slightly at the idea that Stanley might be giving her a farewell kiss. She was a God Fearing woman, she knew her son was in Heaven with the Lord above and that he might be watching her at this moment. She raised her face toward the sun that shone brightly above them despite the frigid temperatures and whispered how much she loved him.
Her eyes fell on her husband's shuttered expression and she prayed that Damien would find a way to deal with the death of their son. Barbara suspected he might be blaming himself for all the time he and Stanley lost over the years, time that could have been spent as Father and son that was now forever wasted. Damien needed someone to blame, he always had, he could not admit that he might have been the one to drive Stanley away.
In his eyes it was Stanley's fault for throwing away the education they had worked hard to provide and becoming a cop, it was Stella's fault for coercing their son into becoming more than he needed to be. Also it was Barbara's fault for 'mothering' Stanley and making him a Mama's Boy and not a strong sensible man like his Father or brother. And now, Barbara suspected that somehow her husband was blaming the Mountie as well for the guilt he was feeling about their son, which she could only hope, would eventually wear out as well. She wanted to remain close to the man that had meant so much to her son, even if it meant going against her husband to do so.
The preacher approached and offered the Kowalski's a handful of earth to bless their son's coffin with and the pair stepped forward and sprinkled it over the lowered casket. Barbara Kowalski took part of her soil and stepped up to Fraser, who was still rigidly in place beside Ray Vecchio and his family. The Mountie blinked as tears flooded his eyes as he stared down at the offering and Barbara offered him a shaky smile of encouragement, watching him step forward and allowed the earth to filter through his gloved fingers into the grave.
Fraser stared mesmerized down at the coffin that held the body of his best friend and partner and was tempted for the briefest moment to crawl down beside him. Then a firm hand at his shoulder brought him back to reality and he raised his eyes up to meet the understanding green depths of Ray Vecchio. Fraser nodded, indicating he was all right and moved back away from the grave.
Everyone started to move away, some stopping to offer condolences to the Kowalski's on their way. Ma Vecchio paused beside them and gave Barbara a comforting hug, even as she wiped at her own tears.
"I feel as though one of my own is gone." She told her sadly and Barbara returned the embrace gratefully. She could tell that Stanley's pretend family had not been pretend in their feelings and that pleased her. "You will come to our home, yes? I have food prepared and we will sit and talk and remember our Stanley?"
Barbara had been about to accept, relieved that she didn't have to try and have the after service gathering in their small trailer but Damien stepped forward and pulled his wife away from the larger woman.
"You have not lost one of your own." He declared angrily, pointing at Ray who stood next to his mother. "He is alive. Our son is dead and my Ray spent the last year of his life pretending and protecting your son."
"Hey!" Ray Vecchio defended, as his mother became distressed. "We cared about Stanley too and I won't have you speak to my Mother that way."
"You didn't even know him." Damien defied, then to Mrs. Vecchio. "Go and have your little party and enjoy your family Madam, we want no part of it."
"Damien!" Barbara exclaimed aghast as he started to pull her away toward the car.
"Hush Barbara, I know what I am talking about." Her husband enforced as she meekly followed him, glancing back at the shocked people behind them.
Ray Vecchio opened
the front door, trying not to shiver in the cold winter air, as he moved
down two steps to settle beside his sullen friend. He wrapped his arms
around himself to try and ward of the chill as he sat quietly beside
Fraser, watching him with concern but not speaking.
"You should go back inside, Ray." Fraser suggested finally. "You will catch a cold."
"I'm fine, Benny." Ray assured trying not to shiver and confirm the Mounties's suspicion. "Are you okay?"
"I am fine, Ray." Fraser returned quietly, though he had yet to actually meet the former detective's piercing gaze. "Thank you kindly for asking."
"Sure thing, Benny." Ray returned, his hand coming up automatically to brush some freshly fallen snow off of Fraser's long navy dress coat. "That's what friends do, y'know, support one another." Fraser nodded but remained silent.
Ray decided that he would wait for Fraser to speak next, giving his friend whatever time he needed to gather his thoughts. If Fraser wanted to talk he would and if he didn't, well, Ray would just sit here and wait, and hopefully not freeze to death in his dark Armani suit. He had almost wished he had worn his dress blues as the other officers had, but since he retired he had gained a little weight and could no longer fit into them as well.
"Ray?" Fraser finally asked, almost startling the Italian with the sudden noise.
"Y...y...yah Benny?" He could swear he saw a smile tug at the Mounties's lips, but when Fraser looked at him his face was its usual passive mask.
"Go inside please." He requested quietly. "You are cold."
"N...n...naw, I'm okay." Ray lied his teeth were starting to chatter. "I...I...I'll just sit here with you, partner." Fraser sighed and rose from the steps.
"I am going for a walk, Ray." He informed. "I will return shortly, why don't you wait for me inside?"
"I...if you're sure, Benny?' Ray replied trying not to sound too grateful at the reprieve.
Fraser nodded and headed down the steps, moving at a slow steady pace down the quiet street. Ray sat there for a moment longer, then screamed for Francesca. It took him four hollers before the door finally opened and his sister poked her head out.
"What is your problem?" she demanded as he held out his hand to her.
"Shut up and help me, " he ordered. "I...I think my legs are frozen together."
Fraser wandered for
quite a ways from the Vecchio's home, his mind preoccupied with thoughts
of Ray Kowalski. He knew he would miss Ray, he just didn't realize how
very much. It wasn't as though he hadn't lost people he cared about before,
it almost seemed a kind or requiem for the lonely Mountie in the recent
years, but he had started to think Kowalski would be around to stay.
He'd let himself hope for a solid and long lasting friendship with the
man and perhaps that was his downfall.
He almost smiled as Ray's own words seemed to come back after him. We're a duet, a one two punch. You set 'em up I knock em' down. Just once I'd like to say 'rack that bad boy and cover me'. Fraser felt the smile tug at his lips, then he remembered how sad Ray had looked when they were chasing Muldoon and they were camped by the fire. You ever feel lost Fraser? Fraser had made some inane comment about looking to the stars to find your direction, but he had misunderstood what his partner had been asking him.
"I know now, Ray." He whispered as he stared up at the night sky that for once held no comfort for him. He was lost, just as Ray had been, and for the first time in his life he had no answers and no sense of direction. "Life continues Ray, the Earth will keep spinning, the oxygen will continue to flow and there are still injustices out there to correct, but I no longer care about any of it." Fraser brushed away a stray tear, angry that his composure was slipping yet again. "I miss you Ray, I don't know what I should do without you here. Ray Vecchio has returned, but he is not the same, nor am I. Our friendship will always be true, but it has changed somehow because of you and I cannot regret that."
Fraser paused as he finally focused on his surroundings and realized he had returned to the front walk of the Vecchio's home. He glanced further down the darkened street, tempted to continue his walk, but then something caused him to look up at the second story window where he noticed Francesca Vecchio staring out. She didn't appear to notice him, her mind was perhaps as preoccupied as his own was, but she did look wistfully sad. Fraser lowered his eyes and cast another glance down the lane, seeking refuge when Ray Kowalski's voice sounded in his head once more, going back to their time in the underwater submarine.
Fraser, once, just once will you trust me, I always trust you. Fraser had agreed, despite his better judgement, he had to learn to trust Ray's instinct, as logic did not always seem to work. Go dat way.
"That way?" Fraser repeated aloud as he had in the submarine and had been rewarded with a small smile from his partner who nodded gratefully. Fraser glanced up at Francesca again, who was starting to move away from the window now. Go dat way Fraser. Ray's voice encouraged again. You admit that I'm right, or I'll pop you in the head. Fraser smiled and headed inside.
Stella Kowalski dropped
her purse on the kitchen table and kicked off her shoes. It had been
an incredibly long day and she was bone weary. She moved to her bedroom
and shrugged out of her simple black dress that she had worn to the funeral,
hanging it back in the closet and sliding the door shut. She pulled her
green satin robe from across the bed and pulled it on over her chilled
body, moving back out into the living area of her apartment to adjust
the heat to a warmer temperature. Then she padded quietly into the kitchen
and pulled a TV dinner from the freezer, removing the wrapping and tossing
it in the microwave to cook.
She retrieved her briefcase from a chair at the table and settled at the desk to sort through the files she had brought home from the office a few days before. Her workload was steadily increasing and it seemed she had very little time for herself anymore. Ray had always gotten upset when she worked herself too hard, he didn't understand that she had to work hard or she'd get lost in the shuffle. She had a responsibility to her employer and to her clients, she couldn't just drop everything whenever he wanted to go dancing at the Crystal ballroom or have a picnic by the lake.
The microwave ringer sounded and she rose to procure her dinner, settling it at the kitchen table and selecting one of the files she needed to work through as she ate. The meal of chicken and vegetables had little taste to it, but Stella had neither the time of the patience to cook herself and she hadn't felt like take out this evening.
Ray used to make wonderful chili when they were married; he'd be cooking it for days and other than steaks it was the only meal he was really good at. Although he often tried to have something fixed when she came home in the evenings. Stella suspected that his mother was the main culprit however either preparing the dishes and bringing them over to their house for Ray to serve, or talking to her son on the telephone as she walked him through what he was trying to fix himself.
Stella made a few notations on her note pad about the case she was reading, then glanced over her handwriting a few minutes later and noticed that she had automatically written a note to ask Ray what he might know about one of their suspects. She stared at the words as though they were written in some foreign language, then quickly shook her head at her own stupidity and started to cross out Ray's name. She paused, her pen not quite touching the paper as she tried to think who else she might ask for information and was startled when she drew a blank. She had almost always gone to her ex-husband with her questions, he seemed to know most of what she required or he would find out for her, she just took it for granted that he would always be around to ask.
Slowly she marked a strike of ink through Ray's name and tossed the file aside, as she rose to drop the remainder of her meal into the trash. She moved to the fridge to pull out a bottle of wine, needing something to settle her nerves and her eyes rested on a small magnet that Ray had purchased during their honeymoon to the Caribbean. She plucked it from the door and inspected it curiously, she had forgotten she even had it.
Suddenly she felt her knees give beneath her and she was sliding to the cool tile of the kitchen floor, gripping the magnet in her hand as she realized for the very first time that Ray was really and truly gone. She had been in some kind of limbo the past few days, as though standing outside looking in and that none of this was really happening to her. Ray was gone, her beloved husband was dead and she would no longer see his shining eyes and smiling face. Stella wrapped her arms around her trembling body and sobbed openly at her loss, wishing for all the world that she could have another chance too make things up to the man that was still so much a part of her.
Welsh watched the liquid in the small crystal tumbler swirl about the
glass with the slow movements of his wrist and stared out the patio window
of his apartment. He had poured the drink almost the moment he had gotten
through the door that evening, after returning from the Vecchio's home
where many had gathered to eat and remember the remarkable Detective
they had just lost. Technically of course, Stanley Raymond Kowalski was
no longer a police officer, he had given up his commission when he stayed
with Fraser in Canada to go on that ridiculous trek across the arctic
Welsh had first thought his former charge had lost his mind in all that snow and freezing temperatures, but less than two weeks later Harding received Stan's written resignation on his desk; post marked Tuktoyaktuk, Canada. He had been stunned that Kowalski was giving up his career, but the more that he thought about it the more sense it made to him. Fraser and Kowalski had been more than just friends and partners, there was a bond between the two men that could not be explained and the fact that they decided to stay together and continue a different type of adventure was, in a way, expected.
Welsh had been unprepared for the effect that Kowalski had had on him while working under his command. He had agreed that the blond was a good choice to cover as the real Ray Vecchio, he had read Kowalski's file and heard a lot about him from others in the neighboring departments. The fact that he looked nothing like the Italian he would be portraying was of little consequence, Stan was an excellent undercover officer and he would be fine for the assignment. However the more Welsh watched the man work, them fonder he became of the erratically volatile and often amusingly temperamental blond.
Welsh swallowed the lump that was rising in his throat for the umpteenth time that day as he thought about Kowalski. Welsh owed the extraordinary man much more than he would ever repay. Kowalski had gotten Harding and his department out of a jam when he convinced Brandaur and his IA muck mucks that the snitch trying to finger Ray Vecchio for stealing nine kilos of seized cocaine had saved Welsh's career. Stan's idea to have the man who was charging him to pick him out of a line up had been a stroke of genius, because even if the snitch had known the real Ray Vecchio, he could never finger the tall, polish cop in the lineup for the missing Italian.
When Fraser and Kowalski helped his brother solve a case in Harding's hometown the Lieutenant had been very grateful to them both as well and Kowalski seemed to share Welsh's animosity for the suits that often made their jobs difficult. In all fairness, Welsh had come to think of Stanley Kowalski as a son and loyal comrade. If ever Welsh wanted someone to watch his back it would be Kowalski and he had been almost disappointed when the real Ray Vecchio finally returned.
"Here's to you, Kowalski." He saluted lifting his glass toward the city below "May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand."
Harding Welsh downed the whisky on his final word; wiped the single tear he had shed from his eye and turned his back on the city that offered both such beauty and such atrocity, to pour another drink.
moved away from the window, allowing the thin material of the curtain
to fall gently back into place, as she walked across her bedroom and
curled up on her bed with her multitude of stuffed animals. She tucked
a large, bright pink teddy bear under her chin as she lay back on her
pillows, remembering the day Stanley Raymond Kowalski had brought the
toy into the station for her. It had been Valentine's day and she had
not received a single valentine or gift from anyone and so when the man
pretending to be her brother walked in with this enormous animal strapped
to his back she had stared at him in shock.
Ray had acted like he normally did, pausing by her desk to chat with Fraser, ignoring the stares other people were giving him as he and the Mountie voiced the aspects of their latest case. Francesca had tried to get his attention three times, before he finally turned to her.
"What is it Frannie?" he asked impatiently as the pretty Civilian aide pointed to the toy on his back.
"What in the world is that?" Ray turned around and glanced at the man beside him, then smirked at Francesca.
"Dat's Fraser, the Mountie." He had replied. "Remember, my partner, comes from Canada, likes ta chase cars and lick electrical sockets?" Fraser blushed slightly but declined to comment as Francesca glared back at Ray.
"I meant what's that on yer back, moron." She retorted saucily.
"Dere's nothing on my back." Ray protested.
"There is so!" she declared trying not to smile. "There's a bear on yer back." Ray reached behind him puzzled, jumping slightly as his hand made contact with the plush animal behind him.
"What da hell!" he exclaimed surprised as he glared at Fraser, who was returning his gaze blankly. "Fraser, yer supposed ta be watchin' my back, why didn't ya tell me dere was a bear there?"
"You didn't ask, Ray." Fraser returned calmly and Francesca realized they were both playing with her.
"Well, why didn't you tell him to get off?" Ray continued.
"That would be rude, Ray." Fraser commented straight-faced. "We have not even been properly introduced. Furthermore if the bear wished to get off your back I imagine he would have done so by now."
"Well introduce yerself and get him off my back!" Ray exclaimed and Francesca watched the Mountie lean toward the bear and politely make the introductions as though he were speaking to a real person, then move closer as though the toy was returning his conversation.
"He says he would be happy to get off of your back, Ray." Fraser informed. "But he is quite cold and he asks that you put him somewhere warm if you prefer not to keep him with you."
"What do I look like, da electric company?' Ray retorted and Fraser offered him a scolding stare, which caused the detective to sigh in defeat. "Okay, okay, tell 'em I'll find him another warm spot if he'll just get off, he's ruinin' my rep."
"He agrees, Ray." Fraser replied detaching the bear from his partner's back and placing him in Ray's hands. "Here you are."
"Here Frannie." Ray remarked holding the bear out to her. "Yer usually nice and warm, keep him outta trouble fer us, will ya?" Francesca pulled the bear to her chest in shy surprise as the two men wandered off toward Ray's desk. She glanced down at the bear to get a better look at the large heart shaped Belly that read Be Mine and giggled happily at their thoughtfulness. When she glanced over at Ray, who was still in depth conversation, he caught her gaze and winked at her.
A knock at her door brought her out of her revere and she sat up, calling to whomever the caller was to come in. She was shocked when the door opened and Fraser stood on the other side.
"Francesca." He greeted quietly. "May I speak with you?" Francesca had been heartbroken when the Mountie had not immediately returned from Canada but she also understood his need to be home, it was where he belonged, as she had tried to explain to Thatcher that day at the precinct many months ago.
"Sure, Fraser." She agreed, trying to appear calm before him. "Com'on in." Fraser shifted his weight a few times on his long legs and lowered his eyes for a moment.
"I...I thought perhaps we could speak somewhere less...ummm..."
"Intimidating?" Francesca offered hiding her smile at the thought that the Mountie was too shy to enter her bedroom.
"Less likely for someone to doubt my intentions are honorable, Francesca." He corrected quietly. Francesca bit her lip to keep from smiling, but didn't quite manage it.
"Sure, Frase." She set the bear aside and slid off the bed, walking over to the door to smile up at him. "Let's go to Ray's study, he hardly ever goes in there, it's just kinda tradition to have one in the house."
"That would be fine, Francesca." Fraser agreed and stepped aside to allow her to exit the room.
They headed downstairs and entered the small room that was on the other side of the large kitchen toward the back of the house. Francesca closed the doors and moved over to settle on the small sofa by the wall, as Fraser remained standing. He seemed nervous, but then when wasn't he in her presence?
"What did you want to talk about, Fraser?" she inquired tucking her bare feet up under the demure black dress she still wore from earlier in the day.
"I...I wish to...er....I...that is to say..." Fraser almost sighed in frustration but his strict discipline prevented it and Francesca waited patiently.
She understood the Mountie had trouble talking to her, she would let him do it in his own way and give him as much time as he required to get past his shyness. She hid a smile as she remembered him trying to talk to her outside her brother's door at the hospital and how Kowalski had come to his rescue and said it for him. She wished the blond was here now and would help Fraser once more.
"What is it, Benton?" she encouraged gently. "You know you can tell me anything." Fraser did know this, he had been aware of Francesca's surprising understanding of him from the beginning, despite her forwardness, and he knew that she would not laugh at him or judge him for not saying something just right.
"Francesca, I...I was wondering." He bit his lip. "D...do you remember what...um...what we spoke of...er...ah...at the hospital before Ray and I left for Canada?"
"You said you liked me." She confirmed then smirked. "Or rather, Ray said you liked me." Fraser blushed and shifted his weight a few more times, as he nervously thumbed his right brow.
"Er...yes well...ah...he was of course...t...telling the truth."
"I know that Benton." She acknowledged quietly "Is that what you wanted to say? You wanted to assure me that you still liked me?"
"I...in a way yes, I...er...oh dear." Fraser turned away for a moment to try and gather his thoughts, moving to the far window to stare out at the evening sky. "I...I am afraid I am not very good at this, Francesca."
"Take yer time Frase." She suggested gently. "I'm in no hurry." The fact that he was willing to be alone with her at all was astonishing, so she would not rush it.
"I...Francesca?" Fraser turned back toward her, and surprised her by moving over and settling next to her on the sofa, not close enough to invade her personal space, but not to far that she couldn't reach out to touch him if she wanted to. "I...I was wondering...I know that I...well, that I have not always been...ah...direct or forthcoming with you about...er...a...about my..." Fraser cleared his throat and pulled at his collar. "M... m...my feelings and that this has at times been a source of aggravation with you."
"You've ticked me off a few times." She admitted, smiling to remove the sting from her words. "But I know it's hard for you to talk about...those kinda things."
"Yes." Fraser nodded curtly. "It....it is very...extremely difficult for me but I...Francesca I was hoping...ah...I know that you may already be...um...spoken for or otherwise engaged but I...ah..." Fraser pulled off his jacket suddenly and unfastened the top three buttons of his tunic, my it was warm in here!
"Frase, are you asking me out?" Francesca inquired stunned and watched the Mountie blush an even deeper red, so that he almost matched his tunic.
"I...I....I...ah...yes I believe...that is I...I would like...er...to ah...request permission to court you, Francesca." He finally managed and Francesca had to force herself not to throw herself at him or hop up and start doing cartwheels around the small room. "I...I am not returning to Canada until a later date and I...well, if...if things um...that is I cannot expect you to just...forgo your life here and your family but...ummm, if things b...benefit us both and the...um.... relationship proves satisfactory I...ah...was wondering if...er...if you might...possibly...um...go home with me."
He was talking possible marriage! He had to be! The Mountie was wanting to court and possibly marry her and take her back to Canada! Francesca was speechless, she could only stare at him in shock, her mouth gaping like a fish and trying not to shake. Fraser mistook her reaction for a refusal and immediately offered her a way out.
"I...I perfectly understand if you decline my offer I..." he didn't get the chance to finish for he suddenly found his arms full of her soft, warm body as hot moist lips pressed against his. At first he was too stunned to react but then he found himself kissing her back, almost smiling in relief.
"Yes!" she exclaimed when they finally came up for air. "Yes! Yes! Yes!" she cried out. Fraser pushed her away slightly, trying to regain his composure and put a respectable distance between them in case someone should enter the room.
"Now we just have to speak with Ray."
"Why?' she demanded. "What does my brother have to do with the price of tea in Georgia?"
"I...well I am unsure of a connection between Ray and..." Fraser began confused and Francesca shook her head.
"No, I mean it isn't his business whether or not we..."
"You are his sister, Francesca." Fraser reminded firmly. "He is my friend and the head of your family, we would be remiss in not asking for his blessing." Francesca knew her brother and she remembered the conversation she and Ray had at the precinct that day when he though she and the Mountie had slept together.
"What if he doesn't give his blessing?" she whispered, afraid that her dream was about to shatter. Fraser was quiet for a long time, perhaps considering alternatives. Stanley's voice came back to him once more.
"You like Frannie, she likes you, where's da problem?" Ray demanded.
"She is Ray Vecchio's sister." Fraser reminded and Ray grinned.
"I'm Ray Vecchio." He rebuked. "And I say go fer it. I'm givin' ya permission.
"Ray, you are not really Ray Vecchio."
"Still think you should go fer it, though." Ray insisted quietly. "Life's too short not to try for somethin' ya want."
Finally Fraser nodded as though coming to a decision.
"If your brother does not approve, then...." Fraser took a deep breath and continued. "He will simply have to deal with it." Francesca stared at him, shocked and over- joyed at the same time, then leapt up from the sofa and held out her hand.
"Then let's go tell him to deal, Benton." She concluded and Fraser put his hand in hers and rose to the challenge.
Damien Kowalski sipped
his beer and stared at the television screen, not really seeing the show
that was on, just needing something to stare at. His mind was filled
of past Christmases, little league games and nightly homework. He watched
a young Stan run through the field in their back yard, wielding a tree
branch for his mighty sword as he slayed the foes that his incredibly
active imagination dreamed up for him. Saw Stan try and try to be a good
ball player on his school team and never quite making the grade and the
way the other kids tormented and teased him.
He replayed the night of the terrible accident that took Stan's sister and best friend away from them. They had been returning from the local theater, Stan's older brother Shawn had been driving, while Damien sat in the passenger seat, napping. They had just taken the younger kids to see a movie and on the way home it had started to storm. Shawn couldn't see the road well and it was becoming slippery with moisture. He didn't see the drunk driver that was swerving to the wrong side of the road until it was too late.
The car had rolled three times before landing face down in gully that was already filling with gushing water from the rain. Damien and Shawn had somehow been thrown free from the car, having not been wearing their seatbelts, and Stan, Simone and Barry Mitchell were trapped in the back seat. Simone had thrown herself across her twin brother instinctually and the buckling metal of the car had crushed her young ten year old body instantly, pinning Stan between her and the floorboards, leaving him only a tiny window with which to view the unconscious boy across from him.
Damien could still hear his son screaming as he and Shawn worked to get them out, despite their injuries. Barry had awakened and was crying pinned on the lower side of the vehicle where the water was rising faster and Stan screamed his name over and over as he was forced to watch his best friend drown in front of him. Shawn's hands were bleeding with the effort of trying to get to his little brother, screaming at him to keep talking and stay awake, when the paramedics and rescue vehicle had finally arrived, luckily someone had witnessed the accident and called them.
They had to use the jaws of life to get Stan out and Damien was sure that he would forever remember that horrible sound of crunching metal as they tore away the portions of the car that had trapped the three children in it's terrifying grip. When he saw Simone, his sweet baby girl mangled and covered with blood he cried out in anguish, as the paramedics worked to pry the girl's body from his son. Stan had gone into shock and was no longer screaming or trying to move. He was staring off into space as though his mind had simply shut down, unable to deal with the horror around him.
They had taken Stan directly to the hospital, where he was treated for a crushed knee, a broken arm, a skull fracture, three broken ribs, a punctured lung and massive internal bleeding. The doctors did not offer a promising diagnosis and the Kowalski family was forced to wait three dreadfully long days before their son would be stable enough for surgery. It was three more weeks before Stan was off the critical list and over four months before he would be released from the hospital and allowed to continue his recovery at home. Stan had developed a great fear and dislike of hospitals and doctors after that.
Shawn had left as soon as he was old enough for college, the relationship between he and his parents had become strained, Shawn was convinced that they blamed him for Simone's death since she had been the one to die and he had been the one driving. In turn, Damien could not in good conscience admit that he did not lay some of the blame on his oldest son, Simone was the light of his life and he had taken her death hard. However he had to admit to a certain amount of fault himself, for he had gone into the lounge while the kids watched the movie at the mall and enjoyed a number of drinks before leaving. Shawn was adamant about driving since his Father, while not totally intoxicated, had been drinking.
Barbara partially blamed both of them for a time, but she soon forgot her anger and threw her devotion into the child that had survived, much to her husband's disapproval. Damien did not want Stan to grow up a 'mama's boy' and Barbara was encouraging the young boy's fanciful dreams and his infatuation with a young blond headed girl in their neighborhood. However, whenever his wife encouraged Damien to take an interest in Stan's life, to learn what sort of things the boy liked to do, or to attend the ball games or dance recitals his Mother took him to, Damien had refused.
Every time he looked at Stan he saw Simone, their matching hair and eyes, even both wearing glasses with the same familiar frames, and it was too painful for Damien to bear. He could not spend any great amount of time with his boy, other than to work on the GTO. They never went fishing anymore, they never played ball in the back yard or went to a hockey game. Stan was alive and Simone was dead and Damien could not seem to get past it.
So instead he worked hard every day and took as much overtime as he could to build up a college fund for Stan, so his boy could go on and be something wonderful like Shawn had done. He tried to make up his lack of attention but looking toward Stan's future and tried not to see the wounded looks his son cast him whenever Damien cast him aside because he was busy or did not show for something important.
He felt Stan would get over these things, after all he had to learn how to deal with hardships like a man. His tender heart would get trampled on if he didn't learn to bury his feelings and deal with things properly, as Damien and Shawn had done. Stan had been weak and Damien had tried to make him into a man, yet Stan continued to disappoint him. If only he had told them he was ill, Damien would have made an effort to get to know his son again, but Stan had shut him out, as he always did and now neither of them would get satisfaction.
stared at her husband's wistful expression from the doorway of their
tiny trailer kitchen. He was hurting and as always trying to bury it
deep inside himself. She worried that he would not handle Stanley's death
well and it seemed she had been right. Shawn had not shown up for the
funeral, something Barbara wondered if she might ever forgive him for.
To not come to his own brother's funeral was seriously remiss in love
and family loyalty. She understood that Shawn and Stanley never seemed
to get along as well after Simone's death, but then there was almost
six years difference in their ages and Stanley had always preferred to
spend his time with his twin.
Of course, he worshiped his older brother, wanted to be just like him, but Shawn rarely had time for his much younger siblings, the usual arguments of an older boy not wanting to drag his younger brother around with him. Barbara wondered if perhaps her remaining son had felt guilty for neglecting Stanley all those years. Stanley had been lost without his sister, he hadn't known where to turn or even who he was anymore; it was as though part of him had died. When he started to hang around a young girl named Stella, he seemed to get some purpose back, but Barbara also suspected he was trying to replace his sister with an urgency and desperation that eventually turned to a devoted passion for the woman he would one day marry.
After the accident people kept trying to tell her that Stanley wasn't quite right, he was retarded, he was slow, things didn't make much sense to him. All his teachers tried to get him moved to a special education class but Barbara wouldn't hear of it. Stanley would not have survived such a blow to his self-esteem so soon after his sister's death. After all, what did they expect of her son, who watched his sister and best friend die before his eyes? Stanley had lost what little relationship he had developed with his older brother and his father was completely shutting him out. He had to learn how to cope with his limitations by studying twice as hard, reading books on how to improve your memory and of course gaining a reputation as a fighter.
Stanley was a very physical person and whenever he became frustrated or upset he would lash out, rarely at anyone around him, but mostly at inanimate objects; walls, window, cars, whatever he could find, which usually ended up in hurting only himself. Only his mother could calm him, no one else dared even approach him when he was in that state but her. Barbara had noticed that Fraser had that same calming effect on her son and she had been grateful for it, though she understood that the majority of the time the Mountie was the actual source of Stanley's aggravation.
Her son worked hard to prove himself worthy in his Father and brother's eyes, but it seemed nothing was ever good enough for them and his constant pursuit of their approval led him to be that way with almost everyone he met. His search for respect and affection often tended to do the opposite, pushing people away instead of bringing them closer, because he never considered himself deserving and therefore his low self esteem played out in front of others.
She sighed and glanced back at her husband, who had started on his forth beer, she had not seen him drink so much since before they lost their daughter and she wondered how they would both cope with the recent loss of their son. Damien Kowalski held his feelings deep down inside and she was simply waiting for the explosion she knew was coming to arrive.
Stella pulled herself
up off the floor and with trembling hands rummaged through her purse
for the letter that Benton Fraser had handed her the day he and Ray Vecchio
came to tell her the news of her ex-husband's death. He had informed
her that Ray's last wish was that she wait until New Years to open it,
but she was in a terrible state just now and desperate to know what it
Feelings of sorrow and guilt over the way she had treated him in recent years had been driven to the surface during her cry and she had to know if Ray had forgiven her before he died for all that she had done to him. She gasped when she read the first sentence of the letter in Ray's subtlety scrawling script.
I knew you couldn't wait, Stell.
Stella's hand flew to her mouth as she struggled over whether to laugh of cry; he had always known her so damn well, it often scared her while they were married. Wiping her eyes she settled in her favorite chair and unfolded the letter further to continue.
That is okay though, I don't mind you reading this early because it will hopefully help deal with whatever you might be going through. I've never been good at writing letters, Stell, except love notes to you of course, so I hope this turns out okay. This will be pretty easy for me, much more than the other letters I have to write, because you already know how I feel about you sweetheart. I've never made my feelings for you a secret and maybe that was part of the problem. I never thought you might think I was suffocating you or holding you back Stella, I hope you realize that, I only wanted to love you as much as I was able. But, over the past few months I have had a lot of time to think about things and I now know that the divorce had to happen, it was what we both needed, despite how much it hurt. I don't blame you darling and I certainly don't hold a grudge against you for doing what you had to do. I do love you, I will always love you and I know that you will always love me. Don't be sad for me baby, I've had a pretty good life when I stop to think about it and in a way I am glad I was the first to go. I would never have survived you dying first Stella, but you know that too. We couldn't grow old together but you will always be my wife, no matter what else happens. Please do me one final favor and find someone who will love you, as you deserve to be loved. Be happy Stella and please don't let your career be all there is in your life. You would make such a wonderful mum when the time comes and you already know that you are a perfect wife. I love you for all eternity sweetheart, don't be sad. I'll always be with you and I want you to be happy. Remember I will be watching my love and I will see you again soon.
Stella sniffed and
wiped at the steady stream of tears that chorused down over her cheeks,
as she clutched the letter to her chest. Oh God how she missed him already
and how wonderful he had always been to her. She honestly didn't know
if she could survive this, especially now when she knew he had forgiven
her for having hurt him so badly.
She moved slowly from the chair and shuffled into her room. She gently lay the treasured letter on her bed and opened her closet door, pulling down a small shoebox from the higher shelf over her clothing. She returned to the bed and sat cross-legged on the mattress as she began pulling pictures and momentos from the box. There were photos of her and Ray, programs and saved theater tickets to the different places they had gone to, a few crushed flowers that she had saved from their first anniversary and other cherished trinkets.
She removed a small shell chain that Ray had made her during a trip to the beach when they were sixteen. She had worn it every where, not caring if it was a little crooked and some of the shells were not all the same perfect size. She had worn it because Ray had made it for her and at that time she was so much in love with him that she would have worn seaweed had he fetched it for her. Carefully she pulled it over her head and allowed the heavy charm to fall between her breasts, it fit as though it was meant to be there.
She hadn't known when she had started to stop seeing things through rose colored glasses regarding her husband, it was a gradual thing that went on over time. He worked long hours on the force and seemed to loose some of cherry outlook on life after just a few years. That was to be expected of course, after all life, as a cop was not easy.
Seeing the types of horror and degradation that was found on the streets of Chicago would chip away at anyone's good humored armor, but it was Ray not telling her what he was feeling that finally got to her. He always tried to appear happy and humorous around her, regardless of what sort of day he had, but she could see the desperation in his eyes, sense his sadness or fury over the death of a child or the release of a suspect he had worked hard to collar. She always found out about his cases from some one else and that bothered her.
Ray claimed he didn't want to bring her down with the kind of things he had to deal with everyday. He wanted to leave all the bad stuff at the station and just come home and be with her, but Stella felt left out and she grew angry at his instance silence. Ray was a damn good cop and she knew he would never stop what he loved to do, despite the things he was forced to go through everyday, and she tried everything to get him to quit. In all honesty, she was selfish when it came to her own career and she was tired of Ray not being home when she got off work, if he was working on a case or on an all night steak out.
His line of work was dangerous and she worried that one-day he might not come home at all. Ray had reasoned that her work was just as dangerous, she dealt with criminals every day, just as he did. Stella protested this saying she did not wear a gun or chase them or put her own life in danger to apprehend them or keep them from hurting someone else. When Ray had received a citation for bravery, his third during their marriage, she had had enough. She couldn't be proud of him, all she could see was that he had put himself in harms way yet again and she couldn't deal with it. She asked for a divorce and watched the light that had first attracted her to him, that had been slowly dimming over the years due to his job, completely vanish like a flame in the wind. If she was honest with herself she would eventually admit that it was not the job that had destroyed him but her leaving him.
Now, he was gone and there would be no second chances, yet he had known enough about her that he had written that letter and said all the things that she had needed most to hear. Even in death he was a comfort to her and she hoped that they would see each other again soon. She lay back on her pillows, one hand resting on the shells of her necklace and the other on a photo of them at the beach. Finally she reached for her telephone and dialed the Vecchio home, hoping Ray would be there and that she still had a chance with him.
Barbara glanced up as the
clock struck twelve and she could hear the distant sounds of Dick Clark's
celebration on the television in the living room. She never thought this
day would come, she could hardly believe it was almost a week since Stanley
had dies and she had been anxious to open the letter that Fraser gave
them. Fraser of course told her of the stipulation and she had been devastated
that she could not read the last words her son had offered her until
New Years day, but she had managed to hold on. In a way she could see
her son's wisdom in making her wait, for had she read it so soon after
he died she may not have been able to contain her grief and would not
have been clear headed enough to understand the words.
She walked past her solemn husband, still seated in the recliner with a beer in his hand and quietly closed the door to their bedroom as she entered. She pulled the letter from her coat pocket that hung behind the door and settled on the bed. She truly did not care if her husband ever wanted to read Stanley's letter, but she would. She pulled her glasses up from their perch at her neck, tied with a string Stanley had given her to help her keep track of them and propped them on her nose. It seemed her son developed the same bad memory of misplacing eyeglasses as she had always suffered with. With a shaky but determined breath she pulled the paper out of the sealed envelope and began to read.
Dear Mum and Dad,
Well, I guess the time came and you both are feeling pretty bad about now. I am sorry that I didn't tell you sooner about my illness, but I didn't want to make you suffer any more than you had to. You are both protective of me and I try to make things easier for you. Fraser says you are both adults and that I shouldn't assume you can't handle difficult news, but I guess old habits die hard, I just didn't know how to tell you.
Mum, you were the greatest Mum a guy could ask for; you were always there for me and let me be whomever I wanted. I know how much family means to you, so I am sorry Stell and I divorced and we never gave you any grand kids. I could have remarried, I know that, but you always seemed to understand how I felt about Stella, you knew I couldn't do that but I am sorry. I just never found anyone who made me feel the way Stell did. I know I got on you about doing my laundry and treating me like a kid sometimes, but I was okay with it really and I didn't mean to nag you. I love you so much; I couldn't imagine what I would do if I thought I had hurt you. You made me feel loved and treasured and I can never thank you enough for having me as your son.
Dad, we never seemed to click, but I understood why so it was okay. You are still my father and I love you, nothing you could do would ever change that. Don't be mad at Fraser, Pop, or blame anyone for my death, it just happens sometimes. Fraser is my best friend and he saved my neck more times than I could count, so you should be on your knees thanking him for keeping me in one piece. (haha) Seriously though, I know you never forgave me for being the twin that lived, but that was okay because I forgave you a long time ago. I know you didn't want me to be a cop, but it is what I am, my calling and many think I was pretty damn good at it. Don't live in the past anymore Dad, live for the future, because you never know when those things you take for granted will be taken away from you. Take care of mum, tell her you love her every day and bring her flowers once a week so she remembers that she loves you. You're a hard guy to live with at times, but she's stuck it out, so that must mean something right?
To both of you, don't be mad at Shawn for not coming to my funeral, I asked him not to. I called him the other day and we talked for hours got a lot of things resolved and I feel pretty good about it. He is having a hard time with his own family now and he didn't take the news of my illness real well, so I told him to stay home and take care of his wife and kids. So, be cool with him okay, he was keeping a promise to me. Dad, I know you love the GTO, so do I, but more than the car I loved the time working on it with you. Please send it to Shawn, he always loved that car and I think he was jealous of the time we spent on it. You should go up and visit him, you and Mum both; there is still a lot of work to be done on the car. (hint hint) I think it might help heal the differences between you guys too and that is also important.
Well, it's late and I'm pretty tired. Fraser and me should make the mainland tomorrow and then we'll be in Chicago, plus my fingers are starting to go numb from the cold while trying to write. Be good to each other and always remember that your son loves you, both of them. I'm kind of excited about going, Mum. I'm hoping I'll get to see Simone, it's been too long and I have missed her.
wiped at her eyes and slowly refolded the letter as she rose from the
bed. She moved out toward the living room and switched off the TV. She
pulled the beer from her husband's hand and settled on his lap shyly.
She gave him a tender kiss, which he returned surprised, and then she
presented him with the letter her son had written to them. At first he
refused to read it, but then she began to read it to him and he was forced
Afterwards, she held her sobbing husband in her arms and rocked him gently back and forth as she used to do with Stanley when he was a child. The time for healing had begun.
Fraser removed himself
from the Vecchio's New Years celebration and wandered out to the back
porch. The sky was clear though the temperatures still caused his breath
to form frosty clouds upon the air, and there was a full moon to read
by. It was still a few minutes to midnight, but he did not think Ray
would mind his premature opening of the letter. He settled on the sturdy
wooden swing that hung from a large tree in the back yard and pulled
the letter from his pocket.
Well, this is about the tenth time I have started one of these stupid thing, lets see if I can get all the way through it. You're sleeping right now, by the campfire and Dief is curled up at your feet. The wind is howling outside our little shelter and the air is freezing but I am warm and safe because you are here. It's not hard to say how I feel about you, Buddy, not really, it's just getting it to where you actually understand what I am trying to say that is the problem. I've never been elo...eleeq...
Fraser smiled at the next two words that were scratched out and began to read further.
...good at what I mean to say. When I took the assignment to be a cover for Vecchio, they told me about you and I didn't really have any problems with the idea, but then when we met at the station that time and I hugged you I thought I had come home. I know that sounds corny but it was like I had known you all of my life and in that split instant I felt great and I also felt desperately sad, because I knew that you were Vecchio's friend and that I was just playing a part. I can't begin to tell you how much your friendship has meant to be, Benton, how much I've treasured having you in my life, even for a little while. Ray Vecchio is a lucky SOB, I said it from the first day but I also know that we are friends too and so I don't feel badly about it anymore. I am no longer jealous of the guy I was pretending to be.
Take good care of Frannie, she's a great person and I really wish she had been my real sister. I don't know if I ever told you this, but I had a twin sister once. She died when I was ten, but Frannie reminded me a lot of Simone and that's probably why I always got easily aggravated with her. She could push my buttons way to easy, just like my twin used to. I hope you do what I said and take a chance on her, Fraser, you and she were meant to be together I know this. Trust me, my instincts never fail. (haha) Let your heart out Fraser; show others what they are missing of you, and what they have been longing for.
Anyway, I wanted to thank you Benton Fraser for being the best friend, the best partner, the best confidant and the best supporter another human being could ever wish for. You were always there for me, even when I didn't want you to be, or was afraid to admit that I need you, you stuck it out. You are a freak and I love you for it. So, I won't say good bye, because I will never truly be apart from you. Instead I will say see you soon and until we meet again my friend. There are red ships and green ships but no better ships than partnerships.
Fraser folded the letter slowly and returned it to his inside pocket as a gentle hand touched his shoulder, whispering a quiet prayer of thanks to his fallen friend. He glanced up into the shining eyes of Francesca Vecchio and he offered her a small smile.
"It's midnight, Benton." She encouraged settling beside him and was pleased when he required no further prompting. Their lips met in a sweet tentative kiss and she looped her arms through one of his to snuggle closer as they both gazed up at the stars of the New Year. "Are you okay?"
"I am good, Francesca." He assured softly linking his fingers through hers. Ray Vecchio had been surprisingly accepting of the idea of Fraser dating his sister, Ma almost crushed him in the strongest bear hug he had ever encountered and Maria had cried in relief and joy, singing it was about time. Francesca pulled out her own letter, which Fraser noticed was also opened.
"I...I couldn't wait." She admitted chagrined. "I opened it a few minutes ago." Fraser nodded, it seemed they had both rushed the New Year, but he was sure Ray would understand. "It....it was very sweet, he told me how much he liked me and that he used to have a twin that I reminded him of." She shook his head. "I...I never even bothered to really get to know him, Frase, not like you and Lieu did and I feel...I feel like I missed something special."
"Ray was a special person." Fraser agreed gently. "I know that he thought very highly of you. It was simply not appropriate at the time for you both to be any closer, he felt awkward for replacing your brother in your life and perhaps you felt uncomfortable with him at times as well." Francesca nodded sadly.
"I...I shouldn't have treated him so rotten, Benton." She commented guiltily. "Especially now that I know how much he liked me."
"Ray understood your reaction to him at times, Francesca, he did not fault you for it." He lifted her chin and caused her to look at him. "Ray loved you just as he loved me, don't betray his affection by feeling guilty for what could not be helped." Francesca sniffed and nodded; cuddling closer to the Mountie who then wrapped his arm around her.
It was amazing how, once Fraser had managed to finally convey his feelings to the pretty brunette beside him, how easily it was to accept her affection and reciprocate. Ray Kowalski had been correct, they did seem to fit together and as was stated in Ray's letter regarding their first meeting at the precinct, Fraser had the incredible feeling that he was home in Francesca's arms.
Perhaps he would stay in Chicago, or he may return home. Whatever he decided, he would make it work because Francesca had given him the chance to change his destiny and a kind hearted blond Chicago flatfoot with experimental hair had given him the courage. It was indeed greatness.