Beware: This is a tame sad m/m story and... yeah, okay you caught me... sappy in spots too. Hope you find this to be a treat rather than a trick. Comments always welcome. Desi Dsrvbf@aol.com
Happy Halloween everyone. ~v~ ~v~ (<== This is my pathetic attempt to scare you with cyber bats. Oooo scary!) I just polished up a Halloween tale for you all called ARE YOU OUT THERE SOMEWHERE? or alternately called PRAY FOR ME, PRAY FOR ME. Yeah, I know its an awfully long title, but it comes from my singing those lyrics to myself from the Due South pilot as I wrote this. Remember when Fraser's at the airport? Its the neat song that aptly plays for him there as he walks his way into Chicago for the first time. Its rather haunting and sad and this story is too. I've thrown in the requisite amount of ghosts and supernatural events to qualify it for this time of year. Warning, warning! The scariest part is its 37 pages long by my text reader. Although Fraser may argue that the nightmare I dreamt up for him was probably the scariest thing about this story.;->
"Ray! Go home!" The older of the two Vecchio brothers barked over his shoulder, continuing to walk quickly. Trying to shake his younger brother. The twelve year old boy was annoyed that his shadow was still following him. Ray adamantly kept pace with his rapidly moving older brother in front of him. "But papa said ya had to take me with ya.", was the whine from the nine year old boy, who always wanted to be wherever Joey was. "Do you see papa here now?" Came the sarcastic argument in return. Expressive green eyes pleaded, but answered truthfully and deflatedly. "No." The childish logic back was, "Then I don't have to do it. Ray I already told ya twice I got stuff to do that ya can't come along for."
Joey finally stopped to face his tag-along kid brother for a serious talk. "Ray, alotta times I let ya come along don't I?" Ray nodded slowly 'yes'. "Well this time I've gotta go without ya. The guys are gonna be mad if you're there too. Its just supposed to be me, Eddie and Tommy. I'll make it up to ya. Ok?" A sad and hurt Ray pouted. "I wanna come too." His brother sighed exasperated. Ray could be so stubborn. As far as little brothers went Joey liked his just fine; Ray was a good kid and fun to play with - most of the time - but he *always* wanted to be with him and sometimes that didn't sit well with Joey's friends, who didn't want to hang around with the nine year old. Joey hadn't wanted him around that much lately either, since his interests were slowly changing from kid stuff to teenager stuff - specifically girls.
Joey pointed to one of his brother's friends on the other side of the street. "I told ya go with Marco. Finish up trick-or-treating with him. If ya do and promise to keep this to yourself. Don't be telling mama and papa. I'll give ya half my candy. Ok?" Ray thought about it for a minute, then nodded reluctantly, agreeing to the deal, but still wasn't happy about getting ditched *again*.
This was the second time tonight he'd been passed off onto someone else to watch him. The first time it was their father who ditched him. This night had started out with Carmine Vecchio being with Ray and Joey. Maria and Frannie were still really young, so they went out earlier with their mother and were already home by the time Ray and his brother got to go out trick-or-treating. Ray was glad he was old enough that he didn't have to go with his sisters any more. But he almost wished he had, because Halloween night was definitely not going quite the way he thought it would.
His father, Joey and himself had only been out for ten minutes when Freddie Calaveri, a young bachelor somewhat new to their neighborhood, beckoned Carmine Vecchio over to talk as they were about to pass by his house. Freddie was one of Carmine's billiards buddies down at Finelli's. Ray didn't like the interruption of his 'night' and knew his father could easily get sidetracked here. Freddie didn't have any kids, just two room-mates carried over from his recent college days. He didn't really celebrate Halloween. Ray tugged on his father's arm to give him a signal, but it didn't work. Just got the classic Carmine Vecchio you're- annoying-me-wait-a-minute stare that usually meant he'd take more than a minute. Ray knew they were doomed when Freddie invited Carmine inside to show him his new billiards table.
Ray and Joey had gone inside too, their father telling them it would only take five minutes, but after 15 and Ray's fidgeting and whining, Carmine told Joey to finish trick-or- treating with Ray. He had figured Joey was twelve he could watch out for his younger brother, they didn't need Carmine there. Ray liked that plan. They'd never been allowed to go out on this night without a chaperone before, whether it was their mother, father or one of their friend's parents. Ray knew his mother would have a fit if she heard they went off by themselves, but he didn't care. His father thought they were old enough to watch out for themselves and that was fine by him.
He didn't think it was cool though when Joey ditched him a short time later too. Telling him he had other big kid stuff to do that Ray couldn't join him for. Thinking he could finally foist his brother off on someone else, Joey was happy when he saw one of Ray's friends, Marco DiCaprio, across the street trick-or-treating with his mother chaperoning. That's when Joey suggested that Ray join them. He handed Ray his own bag of candy, then motioned for him to hurry before he missed Marco and his mother. Ray crossed the street and pretended to try to catch up to them.
When he reached the other side and looked over his shoulder, he saw that his brother had stopped watching him and was cutting through someone's yard, walking in the opposite direction from where they lived on North Octavia. When Ray was satisfied his brother really wasn't going to be looking his way any more, he tailed him. Ray imagined it would be like a game to follow Joey. He smiled smugly, because he'd had fun doing this once before - when Joey met a *girl* in the park nearby - and his brother never knew Ray was there watching them either. Ray liked this idea of his more and more as he hid behind trees or building corners, never letting his brother get too far out of his sight.
Ray was starting to get worried after a little while. It wasn't as much fun when he realized Joey was leading him on a really long hike. They were several blocks away from home now and definitely out of Ray's permitted radius away from the Vecchio's house. This started to scare him, because he wasn't familiar with this area and was afraid he'd get lost, if at any time he missed seeing where his brother led him next. During daylight hours, never when it was dark, Ray wasn't allowed to be outside more than 3 blocks from the Vecchio's house in any direction when he was alone. When he was with Joey he was allowed 5. His older brother hated it, because Joey was allowed 7 blocks when he was alone. Ray had definitely broken his parent's rule about this, but Joey had too, because of all the zig-zagging through yards Joey was doing, Ray gave up counting at what he thought was at least nine blocks. He watched as his brother led him down a deserted isolated dead-end side street.
This wasn't a residential area, instead there were a couple of run down and deserted office buildings. Patches of junked open lots were between them. At the end of the street was a really dilapidated spooky old building. Ray didn't like the looks of it at all; he wondered why his brother would want to come here. The windows were boarded up and the main door was too. There was a really old faded NO TRESPASSING sign and what looked like yellow caution tape markings near certain dangerous spots. He watched as his brother peered between some cracks in the boards at the windows. He could hear him call out in a low voice. "Hey guys! Where are ya? Sorry I'm late. I had to sneak away from my old man and kid brother."
Joey paused for a second and then jumped a little when he must have heard something that Ray couldn't make out from his position hiding behind a junked red car in front of the building...
The door of the Vecchio house opened slowly as the patriarch of the Vecchio family deliberately tried to walk in as quietly as possible. It was a little after 12 AM. He'd started this night out with his two sons at 6:30 PM trick- or-treating, but had a detour from that duty a short time later, and was just now getting home from Freddie Calaveri's house. They'd played a few games of pool, drank beers and a couple other buddies had come over later to join them. He knew his wife wouldn't like that he was coming in so late, but he also knew that he had left a message with his boys to cover for him. It was in return for his allowing them to go out on their own. He'd made them promise, that when they got home by 8:30, they were to tell their mother he had walked them to the start of the walkway to their house, and wasn't coming in because he was invited to Freddie's.
He didn't expect to see a worried angry wife snatch the door from out of his hand and push him out of the way to look behind him. "Carmine? Where have you been? I've been worried sick. Calling all your friends. I even called Finelli's. Its a school night. You should have been home hours ago. Where are my children?" She was anxiously peering out the door into the night when she asked. His heart sank at her words. "What? They're here aren't they?" Her eyes widened in fear as she spoke out harshly. "Carmine? Don't be playing tricks on me. Its after midnight. Where are they?" Again she tried to look behind him.
She roughly pushed him to the side as she stepped out onto the front porch calling out beseechingly to her sons. "Please. Giuseppe. Raymondo. Please don't scare your poor mama like this." She looked around the front of the house, and peered across the street, then leaned over the porch railings to look down the sides of their home. But her boys wouldn't come to her when she called for them again and again. The feeling of fear in the pit of her stomach grew as she turned to face her husband. His expressive and equally worried face and hand on her arm, told her what she most dreaded, without his having said a word. "Silvia... They should be here. I'm sor...ry." She smacked him on the front of the shoulder hard, pushing him back slightly with the force of the blow. "You bastard! Where did you leave them Carmine?! Where are they?! Where are my babies?!" She was enraged, her eyes brimming with as yet unshed tears.
He couldn't lie to her. Not now. Not with their children missing. He admitted where he'd last seen them was at Freddie's. She showed him no mercy. "I should have known better than to leave my boys with you. You're so irresponsible... so... selfish!" Then began muttering about him unflatteringly in italian as she frantically paced the expanse of their porch. Carmine looked repentant. "Silvia? I'll... I'll call around... maybe they're at one of their friend's houses?" She stopped her pacing to glare at him. "Don't you think I already did that? Over 2 hours ago Carmine." He tentatively reached a hand out to pull her towards him. He'd never seen her this worried and as angry at him before. He knew how much she doted on their four children. They were all well loved and cared for by her... Carmine included. He always felt blessed when Silvia consented to marry him and be the mother of his children. She was an attractive woman, who had alot of common sense and decency and a strong will. He loved her dearly and thought he'd do anything in the world to make her happy.
Carmine felt two inches tall at that moment and would do anything to make up to her for his error in judgement. Right now all he wanted was his wife to just let him hold her and for his sons to walk up those steps behind them - he'd chew them out first and then be thankful they were home again. His heart ached to see Silvia trembling so much with the force of her emotions, tears falling all the while she chewed him out. When she took a deep breath trying to calm herself, she finally relented and moved into his arms for comfort, not realizing that by allowing this she was giving him comfort as well. He kissed the top of her head, which was right under his chin, holding her tightly. "I'm sorry mi amor. They're probably out acting like big shots in front of their friends We'll find them and knock them down a few pegs. They'll be home soon. I promise." She tried to believe what he was telling her was the truth, that she was overly worried for nothing, but she couldn't shake her mother's instinct for knowing when her children were in trouble and needed her.
She let him embrace her for a minute or two, then remembered she was still furious with him. Shoving him away, she spoke angrily. "They'd better be! Don't touch me!" Crestfallen he suggested. "Silvia, I'll call the cops. They'll help us find them." She spat out her next angry words, eyes shooting fire. "You do that! But afterwards, you go out and find my babies! You don't come home until they do! Ya hear me?!"
They'd gone back inside, where he immediately went to the phone. His wife watched in anxious anticipation as her husband called the police to report their children missing. He described the events leading up to when he saw them last; explained that his wife had already tried calling their friends, but they couldn't locate them. He then described his children to the police officer. His eyes closed in frightening realization of what he'd done when the officer on the other end had had him wait while he checked his police blotter. When the officer came back on the line, he reported that they had found a young boy about nine that fit Carmine's description of Ray. But there was no other boy with him.
The voice on the other end of the phone went on to describe how they found him and the state he was in. Carmine swallowed at the lump which lodged in his throat and threatened to suffocate him before his wife would have the chance to do it herself. Silvia Vecchio watched her husband's face change from his confidently doing all the talking for the most part, to his worried scared face when he seemed to be doing all the listening now. This wasn't good.
She tried to get his attention, having heard some of the disturbing information that her husband was asking after or parroting back. In a matter of minutes though the phone was hung up. "Silvia sit down." She looked at him with eyes growing wide. "They found them?" He nodded, and moved with her to sit on the couch. "Yes. But just Ray so far. They brought him to the station around nine." She was crying again. "Oh my poor baby. Why?... Why didn't they call us?" He placed his arm around her shoulders and with his other arm he held onto her hand. "He won't talk to them or answer any of their questions. They didn't know who to call. They took him to Cook County for observation a little after that."
She furrowed her angry brows together, pulling away from him again. "Damn you Carmine! He's probably terrified of them. You've got him so full of your crap about not trusting cops. No wonder he's not talking to anyone. But he'll talk to me. He'll tell me where my Giuseppe is. You take me down there now. My mother will stay with Maria and Francesca." She went to wake up her mother, who lived with them, to tell her what had happened; to receive some comfort from her; and to ask her to watch over their other two children.
At the hospital, Silvia and Carmine Vecchio checked in at the main desk. They were told where they could find the young John Doe recently admitted in the children's ward. Silvia ran quickly down the corridor and rushed into the room where she saw her youngest son lying in one of the bed's there, head resting on a female officer's lap. The woman there was soothing him with words and singing softly, as her hand stroked his head. His hand was in her's in a death grip, knuckles white, his terrified green eyes were open but unseeing. The woman looked up with relief at the approach of Mrs Vecchio and her husband. "Oh dear god." was all Carmine could say in his shock at seeing his son's frightened face. No one should ever look that afraid, especially not his son. Regrets and remorse began to really sink in. What had he done?
The officer said. "I'm Officer Sheila Reynolds. This must be your son?" Carmine answered. "Yes. Yes he is. I'm Carmine Vecchio and this is my wife Silvia and that's our Raymondo. Thank-you for finding him."
Silvia ignored her husband and the officer, because all she had eyes for was her child who needed her. She forced a smile as she got nearer to the bed, trying to catch Ray's eyes. He wouldn't look at her though. Just kept up that stare that was sending chills up and down her spine. "Raymondo? Caro? Mama's here. Its gonna be alright now. Mama's here." Silvia threw a questioning concerned look over to Officer Reynolds. She felt a kinship to Reynolds. Knowing that Reynolds was a mother herself, having noted the motherly way she treated Ray, the wedding ring on her finger and the snatches of conversation she picked up on when she came in here. Officer Reynolds had been telling Ray about her own little boy and she'd been singing softly to him a song she said her son liked. But when she had noticed the Vecchio's getting closer she stopped and gave them her attention, but still continued to reassure Ray with her comforting touches.
Reynolds began her report, never once stopping her hand's attentions on her young charge's head and back. "My partner and I found him over by Gerard Street around 8:45 PM. He was alone and acting as if he were lost. He kept looking up at the street signs like he was trying to figure out which way to go." She stopped the report at the pale look on Mrs Vecchio's face. Reynolds, not knowing where the Vecchio's lived yet, had no way of knowing yet how very far away that was from North Octavia on foot. "Maam. Why don't you sit down." Officer Reynolds relinquished her spot on the bed to Mrs Vecchio. Ray cried out and grabbed for her when she pried his hand from her's, but he settled down again when it was replaced by his mother's. Silvia's other hand moved to caress her son's cheek, then she leaned down to kiss the top of his head which was resting in her own lap now. "My sweet boy. I'm here. Mama's here. So is papa." She pointed over to Carmine. "See we're both here now. We'll take care of you." Carmine reached over and gently placed his hand on top of his son's dark hair, knowing that this sight was going to haunt him for the rest of his life. "Its gonna be ok Raymondo. You're safe. I won't let nobody hurt ya. Nobody's gonna be angry with ya. Come on, please talk to us champ." But the young child, trembling slightly underneath the palm of his hand, remained silent.
After a minute, Carmine had to remove his hand and turn his eyes away from his wife and son. He had to be strong now for them all, and he felt himself weakening in his desire to cry for his found mute son, his still missing son, his wife and himself. He spoke, guiltily afraid at the same time to hear the rest of what officer Reynolds would tell them, "Please continue."
She started up her story again. "When we pulled the patrol car alongside him, I noticed how filthy and blood stained his clothing was and thought he'd been hurt." This produced a gasp from Mrs Vecchio, who began doing another quick check of her son for injuries, but as she had seen upon entering, there weren't any bandages or scrapes or bruises that she could see. The hospital had only cleaned him up and put him in a child's hospital gown.
"I exited the vehicle and began to talk with him. Asking him questions like his name and where he lived. He just stared at me in confusion, then it was like he snapped out of it briefly. He started talking quickly and excitedly about someone named Joey. That we had to help Joey. But he couldn't tell us where Joey was, got frustrated and began to cry. Just knew that it was a big building with boards all over it. Oh god. It was heart breaking."
Mrs. Vecchio was silently crying, still trying to sooth the frightened boy in her lap. "My poor babies. Oh my poor babies." Carmine explained. "Joey's our oldest. He's twelve. He was out with Ray trick-or-treating." Officer Reynolds' eyes softened in sympathy. "My partner and another officer went out earlier trying to find Joey by tracking where Ray might have come from." Carmine looked appreciative. "Thanks."
She gave them a quizzical look. "When Ray was talking a little bit with us, trying to give us information to find Joey, it seemed like when my partner shifted his position to stand up after kneeling down to talk with him, Ray spooked suddenly. I don't mean to alarm you, but we think the sight of his gun might have frightened him. Do you own a gun Mr. Vecchio?" Carmine got defensive. "No. Don't like 'em. I've got four children in the house. I don't want them anywhere near a gun."
She nodded at his answer. "Just curious Sir. Nothing more than that. He screamed then ran to hide behind me. He's kind of adopted me ever since. Won't let me out of his sight. When I got him to calm down a little bit, I checked him over and realized the blood wasn't his." Carmine reached out to touch his wife's shoulder in support, because he could see how disturbed and shaky she was getting by this report.
The police officer went on. "I had my partner Officer Fernandez drop us off at the station around 9PM. My partner and another officer, Cirillo, are still out patroling that area as far as I know. They were going to check out a list of old buildings that would have been boarded up within a 5 mile radius of where we found Ray. I went off duty an hour ago. They might be back now. I'll check in and find out." Partly she wanted to make a call to her own home too and check on her family. Shaken by thoughts of what if one of her children had gone missing or was as spooked as Ray. The thoughts chilled her and made her want to be with her own children right then.
Reynolds tried to give them a reassuring smile as she began to leave the room, but first placed her hand briefly on Ray's arm, "I'll be right back sweetheart.", she softly said to him. His head and eyes shifted to follow her as she walked out of his room to find a phone. His parents were relieved to see this amount of motion out of him at last.
Then he blinked a couple of times and squirmed a little in his mother's lap. Ray yawned hugely, moving to sit up, rubbing his eyes, then placing tired arms around his mother in a clinging sleepy embrace. "Raymondo? Hello caro." She beamed a smile of relief at him in response to this change in her son. Sleepily he looked around briefly at his surroundings, "Mama? This... this isn't my bedroom? Where are we? I wanna go home now. Can we go home?"
Over her son's head, as she hugged him back tightly - as if this could keep away all the bad things in the world - she traded puzzled looks with her husband, at their child's sudden change in behavior. "We'll go home in just a little while caro. We have to wait for Joey first. Was Joey with you?" Ray looked at her quizzically. "No. Joey's with Maria and Frannie. We were playing hide and seek in the backyard before dinner." His father gave him a serious look. "Ray. What about after dinner?" Ray gave him a confused look back. "I... I don't think I had dinner papa." Looking into his mother's face he declared. "I'm hungry mama. Did I miss dinner and trick-or-treating?" He looked on the verge of tears at this realization. "I did, didn't I?" He started to cry.
A doctor approached them, smiling at the sight of his no longer catatonic patient, even though Ray was lightly crying. But it was from tears of disappointment rather than anything else. He'd heard part of the conversation that had taken place between this family when he entered.
Officer Reynolds had filled him in just a few minutes ago, that the Vecchio's were there and that they now had a name for their young John Doe. "Hello Ray. Here. I know its not as much loot as you were expecting, but I was giving these out to my patients earlier." Ray turned a tear streaked face to the doctor, but wouldn't relinquish his hold on his mother, to see what the doctor was going to give him. He smiled shyly at the man who reached into his lab coat pocket and held out two different candy bars to him. "Trick-or-treat." Ray said and the doctor placed the candies in his hand. His mother whispered in his ear. "What do you say Ray?" She suggested what, when he paused too long in thought. Ray smiled happily and giggled at what his mother told him he should say. "Thank-you... kindly."
The doctor suggested that Carmine follow him for a brief discussion on Ray and they left Silvia to tend a much happier boy. She smiled and talked childish things with him, outwardly pretending all the while that everything was alright, while inside she was crying for the son she was still missing. Carmine signaled to her that he was going with the doctor. She knew he'd fill her in afterwards, so what mattered now was her making sure Ray stayed happy and healthy. Meanwhile she prayed that Officer Reynolds would come back with good news about Joey.
Two weeks later...
Every day Silvia or Carmine would check in for a status on the missing persons case opened with the police. But every day they were told the same thing. 'He hasn't been found. No leads yet.' With each day that passed they feared the worst and prayed for the best. Their friends and family had mobilized immediately to provide them with support and volunteered their help in whatever way was needed in locating Joey. But still it didn't find their missing son.
Every day Silvia or Carmine would bring Ray to see the child psychologist that the hospital recommended. But he couldn't give them any insight other than Ray had suffered a major trauma in relation to the events surrounding his brother's disappearance. That he was suppressing it, because his young mind couldn't deal with what had happened. The doctor believed that in time and with continued therapy he could help their son relate and overcome the events. He suggested hypnosis, which was tried a couple of times, but failed to produce the results they hoped to achieve.
Every day Silvia Vecchio put her children to bed, first the girls then Ray. Ray she saved for last, because it took him the longest to get to sleep. She would let him place his head on her lap and she'd comb through his soft dark hair with her hand, telling him stories. All kinds of stories from fairy tales to real stories about her own life. When he'd finally fall asleep, she'd creep out of the room and go to Joey's room next door. Silvia slept in there now. She couldn't bear to sleep in the same room with Carmine any more. She blamed her husband for the anguish their family was going through and felt the need to punish him for neglecting his familial and fatherly duties - of watching over their children and ensuring their safety. It didn't register with her yet that her husband was spending more time at Finelli's and drinking than he ever did before. She didn't care if he were at home or not any more. Silvia turned a deaf ear to him, whenever he pleaded with her to forgive him. She found that she preferred it when he was out of the house. He subconsciously granted her this and often left the house to find whatever comfort he could - even if it came from a bottle.
Every night, since Joey disappeared, Silvia was out of bed in a heartbeat and running to Ray's room at the first noise or scream. She barely slept any more herself, so most times she was already awake, lying in Joey's bed, just waiting for his nightmarish call to her. It had disturbed the rest of the family at first, but now she got to him most times quickly enough or got there early in anticipation of his need for her comfort. She'd gather him in her arms and rock him and sooth him, until he snapped out of the terrified trancelike state she'd find him in. He'd never remember the bad dreams he was having, but she knew in her heart that they had to be about what happened to Joey. She both wanted and dreaded to know what horror her youngest son saw in those dreams.
One year later...
The Vecchio's no longer celebrated Halloween. There could be no celebration for them on this day. It was forever to be marked as the day Joey disappeared. The Vecchio's still checked in with the police once a week for a status, but the case's leads had run cold. Ray still couldn't remember what had occured that night and was angry and frustrated with himself for suppressing it, trying hard to remember, but each time running into mental blocks.
Ray hadn't had a nightmare in the past six months, much to his family's relief. But as the week before Halloween approached the whole family grew restless and Ray's nightmares started up again. From this Halloween day forward Mrs Vecchio decided that she would always wear black on it until her son was found. The Vecchio's also agreed that the day would be spent resting at home and throughout the night they would spend it together at their church, praying and keeping a vigil for Joey. In this solemn ritual, the entire family was in complete unity and none of them ever planned to do anything else on this day for every year that followed - until they found Joey.
Around 25 years later...
Ben could see and feel that his lover was in distress as he slept. Ray had woken him up with his restless movements and his increasing in volume mumblings. He was in the initial throes of yet another nightmare, which he'd been suffering with for 3 days in a row. But each time Ben asked him about them, Ray pretended there was nothing wrong.
Ben decided it would be best to wake him now. The thought of seeing the nightmare out to the part where Ray screamed, still sent shivers through him. It had happened twice already. The first time had Ben jumping out of his skin when it woke him. The second time, he'd almost been ready for it, because he had been awakened just seconds before. Each time the pale terrified look on his friend's face sent chills through him. Ray would just stare transfixed at nothing, then suddenly snap out of it and clutch on to him, all the while Ben soothed and calmed him with words and skillful hands. However Ray refused to tell him what the dream was about. He'd just cryptically say, he didn't remember. How he couldn't remember such a vivid dream the moment he woke up still perplexed him.
Ben gently reached over and placed his hand on his lover's face. He caressed him there and called to him. "Ray? Ray? Sweetheart wake up now. You're ok. Its just a bad dream. Come on wake up." He was rewarded with a startled gasp and confused sleepy eyes looking up at him. Ben leaned over to brush his lips to Ray's for a quick kiss. "Hello Ray." Ray was still foggy from sleep, then smiled a syrupy smile, thinking he understood why his lover woke him. "Hello yourself. Did you wake me for a reason? Perhaps a little..." Ray lifted his eyebrows up and down suggestively and tried to imitate the noise and gestures his friend once did, the time Ben suffered from amnesia. Fraser had done this in order to ask Ray, without words, if he and the Dragon Lady Thatcher had a sexual relationship.
Ben laughed, "If you're willing to..." - he did the noise and gesture for Ray's amusement - "... then so am I." Ray chuckled and suddenly was on top of Ben, straddling him and cupping the face beneath him. "Oh man I like your body language.", then leaned in to kiss and touch him more and more passionately.
They made love until they exhausted each other. Ben pulled Ray close afterwards, still concerned for his lover, despite his enjoyable distraction from those worries just moments ago. "Ray, I want to help you." Ray teased. "Believe me Benny ya helped great." Ben grew even more serious, forcing Ray to shift his head and look him in the eyes. "Please Ray. Tell me what's wrong. I'm worried about you." Ray yawned, then kissed him quickly on the lips. "Don't worry so much. I'm alright. Probably just anxious about giving my testimony in court tomorrow. The last time I did that I got thrown in prison ya know." He shuddered then yawned again, closing his eyes and rolling away, but not too far, to his side of the bed to settle in for sleep. Ben nodded his head. "Yes, I know all too well."
Ben wasn't entirely convinced, but it made sense, so he didn't push it. Fraser remembered, with his own shudder, that when he'd gone to visit Ray at the prison that first time, and saw the bruise on his face, that Ray was having a hard time of it there. It always bothered him that the court had thrown a good cop like Ray in with so many built- in enemies for a contempt of court incident. In his estimation a punishment which didn't fit the crime. It had bothered him so much, that he got himself thrown in that same prison to help Ray, and in turn another prisoner involved with the case, stay alive.
Afterwards it had taken Ben a little while to recover from the incident, recalling his own nightmares involving being slowly buried alive by Milk Duds. He reached over in empathy and rubbed Ray's back, getting a sleepy contented, "Mmmm. That feels nice Benny." Ben leaned over and kissed the shoulder blade that was facing him. "Good night Ray. Sleep well." Ray tiredly mumbled out. "After the work-out you gave me, I know I will. 'Night Benny."
"Come on Ray. It sounds like it will be good clean fun." Ben cajoled, wanting his lover to go to the 27th precinct's Halloween party with him. Elaine had told him about this earlier and he was surprised at how much he wanted to go, especially with Ray. He still wasn't sure why Elaine recommended, almost seemed as if she insisted, that he come dressed as a Roman soldier. He'd ask Ray about that later. Perhaps there was a theme to this costume party he didn't know about yet? Thinking about being dressed up as a Roman made his mind wander to thinking of Ray as a Roman slave. *His* Roman slave. Something about it tickled his imagination.
He shook himself from his reverie when he realized Ray had answered him. Had he heard Ray right? "Excuse me, what?" Ray gave him an annoyed look. "What part of 'no' didn't you understand Benny?" For some reason a vision of christians and lions entered Ben's head unbidden. And he wasn't the lion. Ray could be so touchy sometimes. His face must have shown his disappointment and hurt, because Ray's face changed expression rapidly to sincere repentance. "Oh man Benny. I'm sorry buddy. Didn't mean to snap your head off. I'm just not into Halloween or costume parties. Its not my holiday."
Ben had never celebrated the holiday before. Although he'd lived in Chicago for a couple of years now, he still hadn't truly experienced it yet. But now that he and Ray were lovers and its being close to Halloween, he had thought Ray would be the perfect person to introduce him to the Halloween traditions and make it fun for him, but he could see now that wasn't to be the case.
Elaine butt in with a glare over to Ray, since she'd overheard their conversation. "Just because the grinch over here doesn't want to go - he never goes by the way - doesn't mean 'you' can't go Fraser. You can be my guest." Ben gave her his most charming smile of thanks. "That's really very kind of you Elaine. Thank-you kindly for the offer, but I think I'll pass." Elaine's hopeful look wasn't missed by Ray or the one of disappointment that soon followed it. She half-smiled. "If you should change your mind let me know." He nodded over to her. His "Thank-you again." in response followed her back to her desk.
Fraser turned in his seat to note that his friend was clearing up his desk, which indicated that he was going to leave very soon. Under his breath, so that Elaine couldn't overhear, he asked loud enough for Ray to hear. "So do we have other plans for that night? Maybe a private party?" That produced a knowing smile from Ray which pleased him.
But the look was too brief and changed to one of apology as he said. "Um. I'm sorry Benny, but ah... it sounds tempting... but I've got other plans then. Family related. Obligations. Ya understand? I'll make it up to ya." At Fraser's crestfallen look back and soft reply of "Sure. I understand." Ray added quickly. "I'm sorry Benny. But I can't get out of this. Hey, why don't ya take Elaine up on her offer? I trust her not to manhandle ya... too much. If she does I'll drown her in the Nile. She's going as Cleopatra." Dawning realization hit Ben, no stranger to reading histories about Cleopatra and her 'relations' with the Romans, making him cough nervously, when her costume suggestion for him earlier made perfect sense now. "Ah. No. There's only one person I'd dress up in Roman attire for anyway." Ray's eyebrow shot up at the remark and pondered the possibilities, liking where it could take him... them.
"Son?" The ghostly figure in serge appeared out of nowhere behind Ben, who was looking at his reflection in the mirror as he just about finished shaving.
Ben startled a bit at the sight of the apparition reflected in the mirror, who was watching him from over his shoulder. Nicking himself slightly with the razor in his hand, Ben responded in controlled annoyance. "Oh, its you. You shouldn't sneak up on a body while their shaving dad. It could be dangerous. You don't want me to join you in the afterlife just yet do you?"
His father looked puzzled, still working on the first thing Ben said to him, not really hearing the rest at the moment. "Who else would be calling you *son* son?"
Ben put on his best pedantic voice and manner. "Well actually dad, its not uncommon for an older man to call an unrelated younger man *son*. As a matter of fact Lt Welsh has called me that on occassion and I believe Buck has too."
"Oh? Well then, forget I asked." Fraser senior accepted the logic of his son's argument back.
Ray's voice came from the bedroom. "What'd ya say Benny?" Ben peeked around the half open bathroom door. His eyes, having a will of their own, distracted him as they appreciatively roved over his lover toweling off from their shower earlier and beginning to dress for work. He shook himself slightly, when he called over to Ray, who noticed him standing there, giving him a knowing smile back. So Ray wouldn't think him crazy for talking with his dead father, he responded. "Ah nothing Ray. Just muttering. I nicked myself." Ray looked over in concern to see how bad it was, but there was barely a mark. His eyes registered his relief and he continued to dress, not looking over any more he sarcastically, but lightly shot out. "Well, shaving with a Bowie knife'll do that to ya. I've warned ya about that before. I like your chin the way it is now thank-you." Ben responded as he was prone to do, in that correcting teacher's voice of his. "Ray, its not a Bowie knife." Ray shook his head incredulous, but amused at the same time, at how literally his friend always took things. "Yeah, whatever."
Ben knew from past experience that Ray couldn't see his father's spirit, who dropped in on him unannounced from time to time. "I'll be out in a moment.", he said, then popped back into the bathroom, quickly shutting the door behind him, willing his lustful thoughts and body to stop where they were going, so he could finish speaking with his father, without that kind of awkwardness between them. Ben was extremely thankful his father hadn't popped in on him and Ray in here fifteen minutes earlier.
He whispered out. "Dad what are you doing here?"
The elder Fraser looked at him as if he asked a strange question. "Speaking with you of course. Actually I've come to ask you a favor for a friend."
Ben gave his father a quizzical sidelong glance. "I'm hoping this friend is the living kind?"
His father's expression turned to one of disappointment in his son. "No, he's quite dead son. But that shouldn't stop you from helping him Benton. I thought I taught you not to discriminate?"
Ben felt like a child getting his hand slapped for wrong doing, but the thought of dead people asking him favors was somehow unsettling to him. "Dad helping the living is something I'm much more comfortable with." A sudden thought struck him and he started scanning the bathroom carefully. "This friend... He's not going to appear to me from now on too is he?"
The red uniformed ghost replied as if Ben should be familiar with the rules of the afterlife. "No son. He can't be seen or heard by you. Well actually that's not entirely true. He can be seen and heard by you on Halloween and also on the day he died. In this case Halloween is the day he died, so he's really got a tough break there."
This talk of ghosts appearing to him - which weren't even related to him - made him respond, "Dad. Ah... perhaps someone else more paranormally inclined can assist him?"
Robert Fraser shook his head. "Benton Fraser I'm ashamed of you. Here's someone in need and you're trying to shuffle him off on someone else. I'm glad your mother and grandmother aren't here to see this day. The day a Fraser refused someone in need."
Remorseful at what his father so rightly told him he thought, he replied. "I'm sorry dad. Alright, alright. I'll hear this out. How can I help?"
Happily the specter grinned at him. "Now that's more like it Benton. My friend is a good kid. Showed me the ropes when I got here. I owe him. You'd like him. Perhaps you'll even get to meet him."
Ben forced a smile at that, somehow the thought of meeting another ghost wasn't high on his list of things he looked forward to, but he had to admit, he was getting used to the idea of a spirit world where ghosts visited with you. It was beginning to seem normal to him now.
He listened to his father's instructions carefully and then agreed to do his bidding on behalf of this ghostly *friend*. When Ben had given his word on it, his father had smiled and thanked him on behalf of the friend, then turned his head as if listening to someone next to him, whom Ben couldn't see.
Fraser Sr nodded his head succinctly. "Alright I'll tell him." Ben realized that statement wasn't for him, but in response to whoever else was in the room with them. He questioned. "Dad? Is he here with us now?" His father shook his head affirmatively. "Yes he is. He's visited here before. I agree with him. You should get shades for this apartment of your's, especially if you continue to carry on with that well... friend of your's." This last part was awkward for his father to say Ben could tell.
He'd had several discussions with his father in regards to his relationship to Ray in the past and they had come to a rocky agreement on it. That being his father wouldn't ask, and he wouldn't tell. They'd just leave it at Ray being a very *close* friend.
As his father started to fade away he made one last comment. "Oh. One more thing. Get Vecchio to go with you. Good-bye son." Before Ben could say anything more, about how Ray had other plans for Halloween night, his father was gone and the bathroom door was being opened.
Ray peered in, knocking lightly as he pushed the door more open and noticed his friend still hadn't finished shaving. "Benny you alright? Ya suffering from blood loss from that cut or something? I was calling ya. Didn't ya hear me?"
Ben shook himself. "I'm sorry Ray. Didn't mean to alarm you. Just caught me daydreaming." Ray smiled curiously. "Oh? About what?" Ben pulled him into his arms. "About this." He kissed his lover, but at the same time purposely made sure to get shaving cream on him as well.
Ben pulled away slightly, still holding a squirming Ray - who had caught on to his game - firmly by the waist with one arm and spred more of the cream on Ray's face with his quick skillful other hand. Ray stopped squirming in his lover's hold and his eyes grew wide when Ben reached over to get the straight razor and brought it towards Ray's face. Ray normally used an electric shaver. "You're not seriously gonna use that on me are ya?" Ben smiled devilishly and held the razor scant millimeters from his friend's face. "Don't make any sudden moves Ray." Ray gulped at the tone and look in his lover's eyes, then accepted his fate, when he heard the sexy husky sounding voice at his ear. "Trust me Ray. You're going to like this."
Ben had borrowed a cellular phone from Dennis, his super, earlier that day. In return he promised that next Saturday he would paint the hallways of their tenement and organize his neighbors to help as well. It was Halloween night, 7 PM, and he just dialed the number that was forever ingrained in his memory. After two rings the phone was thankfully picked up. Ray's subdued voice was in Ben's ear. "Vecchio." Ben answered. "Hello Ray. Its Ben. Sorry to disturb you."
He could hear the concern in Ray's voice and imagined he could see his lover's facial expression to go with it. He knew it was because he rarely called Ray unless it was really important. Ray asked worriedly. "You ok Benny? Where are you?" Ben reassured him. "Don't worry Ray, I'm perfectly fine. Just found myself in a bit of a pickle at the moment and was wondering if you could help me?" There was a voice in the background speaking to Ray in an aside, but he couldn't make out what they were saying, since his friend must have had his hand over the mouthpiece of his own cellular phone. Then there was silence and Ray came back on the line. "I'm in a confessional right now. I just told the priest to take five. Make this quick ok?"
Ray's confessed location surprised Ben, but he didn't want to waste time questioning his friend about it, so instead he put his plan in motion. Hoping all the while he could sound convincing. "I'm on Clearwater and a bit stranded. Would you mind coming to pick me up?"
Ray puzzled over the street name, which didn't sound familiar to him until Ben told him a couple of other streets nearby. "What ya doing all the way over there? That ain't anywhere close to Racine or the consulate. How'd ya get there in the first place?"
Ben answered. "I walked." It was the truth and had been quite a hike from the consulate. Ray sounded incredulous. "You walked it?" His tone became a playful tease. "What? Were ya trying to max out your trick-or-treating potential? With all that candy Dief must really love ya right now. Bet you didn't even have to get a costume. You're wearing your uniform right? Knew it would come in handy for something some day." Ben cut into the teasing remarks before his lover could go on. "Ray, I'm sorry. But I really would appreciate a ride back. If you'd be so kind. I'm missing a boot right now and the thought of walking back in this state is quite unappealing." As he spoke he had been loosening his left boot, then pulling it off. With a wince at what he was about to do he threw it as far from himself as possible, all the while following its trajectory, to see where it would land so he could locate and retrieve it at a later time. Preferably when he left here with Ray. He'd done this, because he didn't want to lie. Now he really was missing a boot - sort of.
Ray answered his request with a sigh. "You've got access to a phone there Benny. Can't ya call a real taxi service? I really can't break away right now." Ben sounded disappointed. Then reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. "Actually Ray, I don't have my wallet on me either." Again it pained him to do it, but he threw it after the boot.
Diefenbaker gave him a curious look and made a motion to run after this object as well, but like with the boot, his human friend signaled him to leave it be, by holding on to him and shaking his head and mouthing *no* over at him. These humans made no sense to him sometimes and he continued to sit by Fraser's side scanning the deserted area around them, his hackles rising. Dief couldn't help but growl low at the feeling of unease and strangeness he was getting from this place his human had brought him to. He felt danger here, but not one he recognized as having faced before.
Ray's voice gradually became more and more concerned. "Oh man Benny. You been mugged or something?" Then he heard Dief. "Hey, what's wrong with Dief?" Fraser was giving his wolf a curious look. "I'm not sure. He's acting rather peculiar, even for him. Probably spotted something he doesn't like." The wolf still growled, then barked twice suddenly. That settled it for Ray, he had an uneasy feeling about where his lover was, knowing that the part of town he was in wasn't all that hospitable. "Stay put and safe Benny. I'll be there in 15 minutes. Then ya can tell me the whole story." It was more than 15 minutes away, but Ray didn't plan on abiding by all the traffic rules to get there. He'd use his police light if necessary. Ben gave him additional directions as to his location. Ben ended with. "I really appreciate this Ray. I'll make it up to you." Ray smirked. "Yeah. Ya bet ya will. I'll tell ya how, when I get there."
They closed their conversation while Ray raced towards the front of the church, cellular phone in hand, snapping it shut, he stopped at one of the pews first. His mother was kneeling there praying the old worn wooden rosary beads in her hand. Maria and Frannie and the rest of the immediate Vecchio family were there with her. She sat on the end so it was easy for him to lean over to kiss her cheek. He apologized for leaving, telling her only that it was an emergency that had to do with Fraser, he'd return afterwards. Her worried eyes and hand on his arm told him she didn't want him to go, but then she nodded once and released him. Her eyes and voice pleaded. "Come back to me Raymondo."
He leaned down to embrace her quickly. "I'll be back. I promise mama.", then left her. She watched his retreating back sadly, hearing the soft sound of the rapid flurry of his unbuttoned long overcoat behind him in the silent church. Her eyes followed him out the front door, lingering there long minutes after he'd left. Then she turned back to her task. Her prayers for Joey resumed, but this time she included Ray and Fraser in them.
At the promised time Fraser saw the green Buick Riviera barrel down Clearwater towards him. He chuckled when he noticed the police light was on, flattered that Ray had been so concerned for him that he used it. But then he cringed guiltily, when he realized that although Ray had a right-of- way status, that usually entailed Ray breaking quite a few traffic rules, which Ben felt didn't need to be broken since he didn't consider this an emergency.
The Riv started to slow as it approached the designated spot Ben had told him he'd be waiting at. Ben had told him there would be an empty lot directly at the end of the cul-de-sac. Ray didn't see an empty lot where he expected one. Instead there was a boarded up building, with yellow caution tape here and there in front, along with an old NO TRESPASSING sign. Ray furrowed his brow, certain he had followed Ben's very precise directions. His friend was excellent at orienteering and Ray was certain that if he had asked for them, which he would never do, Ben could have even given him the exact coordinates of where he was standing. His not seeing Ben there, or even Diefenbaker, began to really worry him. Where was he?
Ray's gut started to clench with concern. *Must have made a mistake. I'll drive back to the top of the street and check the sign there again.* He rounded the cul-de-sac and turned back the way he came, driving slower than when he first came up the street, thinking he might be able to spot his friend elsewhere on the road. As he drove, he still saw no sign of Ben or Dief. At the beginning of the road he noted the old street sign said Clearwater as he thought it did when he first came here. Shaking his head he turned the car around once more for the trip back down the dead-end street, all the while worrying for his lover. At the decrepit old building again, he parked the car and exited it. An eerie tingling assailed him. A feeling of deja vu which he couldn't shake was gradually building within him and causing him to tremble.
Ben had watched in surprise as the Riviera pulled up in front of him at the empty lot. He had been sitting on something which might have been part of an old building in this old empty junked lot, when he saw the lights from Ray's car getting brighter as it got closer. Standing now, with Diefenbaker at his side, he smiled and waved over to his friend, but Ray was looking over towards him as if he really didn't see him there. Then he saw Ray peer over at the empty lot scanning it critically and curiously as if he were looking for something or someone. Ben was about to start moving towards the Riv, but it was too late, Ray had already begun to drive off the way he'd come.
Instead of running after the car as he might have once done, he thought he caught on to his friend's ploy since it was Halloween night and Ben had inconvenienced him as well, so he assumed Ray was playing a trick on him. He didn't put it past his lover to do this to him and decided he wouldn't fall for it as Ray thought he predictably would. He'd wait him out. Ben could be stubborn too. Smugly pleased with himself, he watched as the car made its return trip towards him a couple of minutes later.
Again Ben started to get up from his makeshift seat and approach the Riv, especially when it came to a stop and Ray got out. He watched as Ray again acted as if he didn't see him there. Ray periodically would look directly over at him, but never once really looked at him, instead he was cautiously scanning the area around them, as if expecting trouble, worrying Ben who began casting about doing the same. Dief began growling low in his throat again and then started to whine.
Ray rounded the back of the car as Ben called over to him. "Ray? Ray?" But his friend just looked around him in puzzlement as if he heard him, but couldn't see where he was. Ray called out to him. "Benny? Where are you? I hear you, but I can't figure out where you are. Give me a clue." Ben shook his head in exasperation at this elaborate joke of his friend, which was getting less amusing by the second. "Ray I'm standing right in front of you. You're carrying this joke a little too far now. Don't you think?"
Ray questioned. "What? Are you inside this building?"
Ben turned around to look behind him, not seeing what his friend was talking about. "What building would that be Ray?"
Ray was getting annoyed now and the tone of voice was shaky. "Oh come on Benny. This isn't funny. Ya know damn well which building. Ya can't miss it. Its real creepy looking and all boarded up. I'm standing right in front of it."
It was Ben's turn to be puzzled. "There is no building right in front of you Ray." Ray gasped, his eyes growing wide and his face drained of any color. Ben heard him softly call out incredulously. "Oh god, Joey?" Then Ben watched in amazement as Ray did an even more curious thing. He headed towards the back of the Riv and walked towards the driver's side, which was the side that wasn't along the curb of the street. Ray suddenly ducked down, hidden from Ben's view now. A minute later Ben noticed his friend's head peering around the back end of the car looking over towards him.
Ben's heart began racing at the unusual sight and he started his walk towards the Riv once more, fearful at the sight of his lover's curious behavior. But he could only move so far, since there was an increasingly strong eerie tingling force keeping him behind what felt like an invisible wall. He tested the boundaries of this 'wall' by walking the course of it and determined that it had him trapped as if he were in a box. But all he could see was an empty lot and the Riv with Ray behind it looking over but not seeing him.
There was nothing there to hold him and an equally annoyed and frightened wolf in this place. Dief's hackles were up again and he knew that there was something very strange going on here. Fraser thought he was familiar with the supernatural, since he was aware of Inuit legends and stories on the spirit world, not to mention his routine visits by his dead father's ghost - although to be truthful, he often wondered if his father's ghost wasn't just a figment of his overactive imagination in times of stress or deep contemplation when he felt he needed his father's presence to guide him to a particular answer or decision. As a child he'd been prone to having imaginary friends, that almost seemed real to him, that he believed this could also explain, somewhat, when his father came to him. But his father's ghost was one thing which he thought he could explain away, when believing in the supernatural worried his normally rational mind. However what was happening now was defying any logical explanation that he could think of.
Ray had heard and spoken with him earlier, so he decided his next course of action would be to try that again. He called out to him with just the slightest bit of worry tinging his otherwise precise voice. "Ray? I seem to be unable to reach you. There's something in my way. Would you please approach me? I'll guide you." But Ray wasn't acting as if he heard him. Ben was beginning to think he was invisible too. His voice rose in pitch a little. "Please Ray, respond."
Ben grew hopeful that Ray had heard him this time, since his friend stood up and began cautiously approaching him. "Yes Ray, that's good. Just move a little bit more to your right." But Ray began moving to his left instead. "Your other right Ray." However that didn't change Ray's direction. Ben moved along the length of his invisible prison walls to stand in front of Ray, when his friend had come to a stop.
When Ray was face to face with him, Ben reached out to try and touch him. The tingling in his hand and arm increased and was met by the immovable 'wall'. Frantically he called now. "Ray?! Ray! Snap out of it! Please you've got to see me here! Talk to me!" No reply came back. Fraser placed his hand on his trembling whimpering wolf's head to comfort him, then closed his eyes, putting his head down, 'hmmmming' briefly to calm himself.
When he opened his eyes he was surprised to see Ray had twisted his body into an unusual contortion. With sudden realization he noted that Ray was partly on his side of the invisible wall now, as if he were crawling through a gap in it. He called out to his friend. "Wait Ray. Stay put. Don't come all the way in. I'm going to use you to determine where you're coming in from and try to follow your path back outside." Fraser began feeling the space around Ray's body, but was met each time with the wall. It was as if the wall had formed around Ray's body.
When he began to bring his hands closer to the area directly touching his friend at the waist now, he jolted as if struck with electricity when his hand touched his lover's body. He was shocked by suddenly seeing a ghostly dirty, old, dilapidated, obviously condemned building form around them.
Ben understood now what Ray had seen before and could see the boarded up window with some loose boards that Ray had mostly finished crawling in through, with a bit of a struggle. There was an eerie ghostly glow about everything, which aided in his ability to see what was around him. It was by this supernatural, not quite light, that he saw for the first time who his hand was resting on. But his fingers, unwittingly digging into the arm underneath his hand, went unnoticed by the young nine year old boy, dressed in a Halloween costume of a cowboy sheriff. The boy was entirely on Ben's side of the window now. Fraser stared in amazement and suddenly let go. When he did the boy automatically retook on the form of the adult man he called his friend and lover - Ray Vecchio.
Fraser looked about him and again the empty lot and the Riv by the side of the road came into his line of sight. He experimented and touched Ray once more and the ghostly images reappeared and the young child was there in the adult man's place. Despite the strange events that were occuring, Fraser couldn't help but smile in realization of what he was seeing.
Ben was being given an incredible opportunity to see, in animated detail, what his friend looked like at this young age. He knew it had to be Ray. The hair coloring, complexion, mouth, nose and those unmistakable eyes told him he was right in this deduction. Dief gave Ray a curious look and nudged their friend, who still hadn't noticed they were there. "Dief he can't see, feel or hear us. Although we can touch and see him. It appears we've been invited to share something from Ray's past. I think we're supposed to see this thing through with him. Perhaps this is the favor? Afterall dad just said we were to come here, bring Ray and wait. We'd find out more when the time came."
Fraser watched as the boy, whom he now touched lightly on the shoulder, led him and Dief slowly through the mangled building. He was amazed at being able to see things and hear the sounds of a long time ago so clearly. The young Ray looked scared and apprehensive, his hand trembling slightly, made the flashlight's beam unsteady. Ray jumped and gasped a little bit when he saw something walk by an open door jamb. Young Ray called out quietly in a shaky voice. "Joey? Joey?" But no one responded. Bravely the young boy moved further into the building, unbeknownst to him that he had Fraser and Dief watching over him.
Fraser jumped back suddenly, letting go of Ray when they were snuck up on. The ghostly hairy arm and hand that passed through his own on Ray's shoulder caused it. Ben immediately got himself under control and reached out to touch his terrified screaming friend in front of him. Willing his touch to sooth the scared boy under his hand, but he sadly knew Ray couldn't feel him. The young Ray and the building had coalesced around him once more. Fraser could see what had crept up on them. He knew it would be futile, but he tried anyway to grab the grotesque hands that were holding Ray in place at the shoulders from behind. Ben's own hand just met with air and Ray's shoulder eachtime. Ray was breathing harshly, then began whimpering, eyes staring in fright when the unholy creature, still with a firm grip on him, roughly turned the boy around to face it, as it snarled.
There was a sudden running of feet towards them and two other boys rushed into the room. The first to charge into the room was a boy with dark hair and similar features as Ray's - especially when Ray was angry. The facial expression mirrored Ray's almost exactly. Fraser thought this marked the new visitor as perhaps a relative of Ray's. The older child was yelling angrily. "Eddie! Cut it out! Stop scaring him!"
The same boy protectively came to Ray's side, trying to calm the frightened little boy. He roughly and angrily pried Eddie's hands off of Ray's shoulders. "Let go of him Eddie. Its ok Ray. Its just Eddie Calderone dressed up. Its not really a monster." Joey Vecchio shone his flashlight on Eddie's costume and then deliberately into Eddie's eyes peering out from the grotesque Halloween mask. "See?" He handed his younger sibling his own flashlight, then reached down to pick up the one Ray had dropped in fear earlier. Ray was sniffling a little and trying hard to stop crying in front of the three older boys. "Uh hunh.", he nodded and got himself under control.
Ray heard and saw Tommy Zuko then. "Stop harpin' on Eddie, Vecchio. Your kid brother ain't supposed to be here in the first place. Serves him right, he got the crap scared out of him. It was just supposed to be us. Its supposed to be secret." Joey Vecchio glared at his so-called friend Tommy, then toned down his look, because you didn't mess with Tommy when he was pissed off. Tommy Zuko was thirteen years old and the eldest of mob boss Tommy Zuko Senior's sons. His younger son being Frankie Zuko, who was around Ray's age. Joey spoke apologetically, but still with a hint of anger under his breath. "Yeah I know. He wasn't supposed to come. He must have followed me. But he's here now."
While the two other boys tried to decide what to do about Ray being there, fifteen year old Eddie Calderone, who was Tommy's cousin, quietly taunted Ray. Fraser could feel himself getting angrier and angrier at how this bully was bothering Ray. Ben wanted so badly that the bigger boy could see him, so he could have 'words' with him. Instead he listened and watched as helplessly as the young Ray while the bully kept up his insensitive jibes. "Hey baby its past your bedtime. Why don't ya run home to mama?"
Eddie was a bit of a loose canon and a psycho, he enjoyed watching other people's fear and pain. Joey never really liked him, but knew he was Tommy's inseparable friend. Joey liked hanging out with Tommy though. They'd been friend's since kindergarten. Eddie finished by threatening Ray, coming close to his ear whispering in it. "Ya tell anyone ya were here, I'll cut your throat. Don't think I haven't done it before. Cuz I have and I'd like nothin' better than to do it again. Your brother can't protect ya *all* the time kid. If I find out ya told anyone else, I'll cut them too." Fraser instantly disliked this boy, who he saw make Ray gulp in fear, tears starting to form in his eyes again, his lip quivering, but he valiantly held the tears back this time.
Tommy liked Joey for the most part, thought he was a cool kid and fun. But this was supposed to just be the three of them going to see a dead body on Halloween Night. Nobody else was supposed to find out about the dead body hidden here. They could get into serious trouble should anyone learn of this. That Tommy Zuko Senior had put a hit on someone and the body was here. Tommy Junior didn't kid himself about what his father did for a living. He knew all too well and knew he was expected to follow in his father's footsteps. It both appealed to and scared him.
They had dared each other to come here on Halloween Night, to prove how tough they were. They had each confessed that none of them, not even loud mouth Eddie, had ever seen a murdered person before and that's when the remarks began about questioning each other's bravery. Leading them to this building tonight.
Eddie was the one who told them about what he overheard Charlie, Tommy Zuko Senior's right-hand man, tell some muscle heads that worked for Zuko. They'd reported to Charlie that they had the 'stiff' in the trunk and Charlie had told them to dump the 'body' in the 'hole' in the basement of a condemned building on Clearwater. The building was going to be bulldozed down, by Zuko's wrecking company, the day after Halloween. Nobody'd find it after that.
The three boy's had arranged a time and agreed to meet there. Joking, with serious undertones, that whoever didn't come would be forever branded a coward. Joey didn't want to go, but he felt compelled. He didn't want to lose face in front of Zuko. He knew that if he did, it would just mean other's would also consider him a coward, even if they didn't exactly know what he was a coward about. But now he had the added problem of his younger brother, who picked the wrong time to tag-along, being where he shouldn't.
Joey gave Eddie another glare when he saw him whispering something over to Ray. "Eddie get away from him. You got something to say, ya say it to me. Ya leave him out of this." Eddie laughed. "Oooh I'm so scared Vecchio." Tommy cut in with a no nonsense. "Both of ya shut up."
Joey spoke softly to Ray now, placing his hand on his arm and meeting his sad, confused, scared eyes. "Ray, why don't ya go home now? I'll be right behind ya in a little bit. Alright?" Ray pouted. "But Joey I don't know how to get home from here. I don't know where *here* is." Tommy and Eddie exchanged pleased looks. Tommy let out a relieved sigh and a, "Good."
Joey nodded it was going to be ok to his friends and started again. "Ok, then just wait right here for me. Don't move. I'll be back in a few minutes. I've gotta go somewhere with the guys first. I promise I'll take ya home as soon as I get back."
Ray reached out a hand to pull Joey back as he turned to go. "Joey, don't leave me. Where ya goin'?" Joey gave him a sympathetic smile and a wink, whispering over to his little brother "I promise. We'll go home soon.". Then tried to sound tough in front of his friends, who were at his back and couldn't see his face. "Ray just wait here. You shouldn't be here anyway. Stay put!" Ray bit his lip to stop himself from saying anything else, then his brother and the other two boys left. He could hear their footsteps off in the distance going down a flight of stairs.
Fraser felt his heart going out to the little boy Ray, who managed to get himself into a mess and was now standing alone in a broken down building; in a place a young boy his age shouldn't have wandered into; with older boys who were obviously up to no good. Ben was curious to know what the three boys were doing here in the first place, but knew that the only way he could see them was through Ray's experiences and eyes. If he released Ray now to follow where the boys had gone, he wouldn't see them. The boy beneath his hand was still trembling and was nervously flashing his light here and there at every noise, whether it was the scurry of a rat nearby or the creaking sound of the building, or just the howling of the October wind outside.
Ben just wanted to gather his friend into his arms and whisk him out of there right then, but knew that what he was seeing now had happened so long ago, that anything he did, probably wouldn't effect the course of events. He decided to test his theory. He embraced his friend, then tried to move him, but his friend didn't notice and wouldn't budge. It was as if he weighed a ton.
Ben looked over sternly at his wolf. "Don't look at me like that Diefenbaker. I haven't heard you come up with any ideas." Dief just turned his head away, so he wouldn't have to read Fraser's lips any more. Then his ears shot up and he was rigidly alert, alarming Fraser. Seconds later strange sounds could be heard, which he noticed Ray was hearing now as well. His young friend had turned ashen at the noises. Ben could see him wanting to call out to his brother, but the name was paralyzed in his throat. He caressed the face of his friend, who didn't know he was there. "Oh Ray."
To Ben it sounded like someone was in the outside hallway coming towards the room they were in. Whoever it was walked at an unsteady pace, heavily thumping against the wall periodically, moaning painfully and there was an eerie shuffling as he seemed to be dragging a leg behind him. The sounds stopped every few seconds, then started up again.
Fraser could tell it was an injured man that was making those noises. But realized that to a young imaginative mind like Ray's must have been, the noises must have sounded ten times more frightening, not knowing what was producing them. Ray looked to be in a total panic, searching all around the room trying hard to find somewhere to hide, but there wasn't anywhere to hide in the empty room. The room just had the one door and a boarded up window as potential escape routes - both no good to him right now.
Diefenbaker moved towards the ghostly door in attack stance, ready to be the first line of defense. Ben realized then why his wolf had been behaving so oddly even before Ray came here earlier that night. All along, Dief must have been attuned to and sensitive to the supernatural goings on around them. He didn't need to be in physical contact with Ray like Ben needed to be. Ben spoke out, despite knowing his wolf couldn't hear him or change the past, but he felt heartened that he would want to come to Ray's defense like this. "Good boy Dief."
"Mmmmm." The moaning and other noises got louder and Ray quickly moved to squat down in a corner that was the furthest from the door's line of sight. He had his head on his knees afraid to look, trying to make himself as small and inconsequential as possible. Hoping that whatever monster was coming into the room with him, would just overlook him and go away again. Fraser stayed with him, his hand still on Ray's shoulder, crouching down by his side.
He knew it might not be heard, but he had to speak. His voice grew in strength as he willed his reassurances to be heard by his friend. "Its going to be ok Ray. Its going to be ok. I'm here. Don't be afraid."
Ray still didn't look up and Ben could hear mostly quiet or sucked in whimpers coming out of him. Fraser turned to see who had entered the room to join them. It was a brutally beaten man of about 35 years of age. His hair was matted with blood and his face showed signs of it as well. There was a mottling of bruises and gashes and one of his eyes was extremely swollen shut. He walked with great difficulty, since his leg was dragging mostly useless behind him, while he pulled himself along the wall of the room. A long board was propped under one arm to help him stand and walk, if you could call it that. He cradled the arm closest to the wall to his chest, clutching at his side and Ben could see dried and sticky blood had covered that hand. Probably had a serious wound that was bleeding there was Ben's assessment. The man obviously had a strong will to live.
Ben was relieved to see that the man didn't notice Ray huddled in the corner and had started to turn back to the door to go out. But then Ray let out a little whimper and the man turned back around at the sound. He painfully shuffled over to Ray and started to lean over him. His voice sounded raspy and to a young boy's ears frightening.
Having been beaten his words came out slurred and almost unintelligible. But Ben strained to hear him. "Don'... scare... Wo... hurt... ya..." Ray whimpered louder and started to cry. The battered man tried to reach over to touch him. "S'okay." But then lost his footing and accidentally fell on him. Ray let out a blood curdling scream and pushed frantically at the body that had fallen on top of him. He just kept screaming, especially when he had opened his eyes for the first time and saw, by some of the moonlight streaming in through the window, the bloodied unmoving man.
Three pairs of legs were heard running up a set of stairs in the distance and coming towards the room. All the while Joey was hollering out. "Ray! Ray! I'm coming!" They burst into the room. Joey and the others flashing their lights all around it, finally coming to rest on the body of the man Ray was trying to get away from. "Ray, its ok. I'm here."
Tommy and Eddie were looking in shock at the battered and bloodied man lying on the floor trying weakly to get up, but not being successful. When the man's head slowly turned to face Tommy, Tommy's face turned deathly white. "Oh god Eddie, *that's* the dead body. That's Guido Francese. He must have come back as a zombie to avenge his death." Tommy began to cross himself. Eddie just smiled viciously. "He ain't so tough looking now Tommy. Want me to finish him off?"
Tommy was too scared to say anything, so Eddie took it as permission. Pulling a pistol from underneath his costume Eddie started to walk over to the man lying prone, who was still struggling to lift himself up. Ray had just about freed himself from his captivity under the man's weight and felt Joey's hand reaching over to help pull him away. "I wanna go home Joey! I wanna go home!" Joey agreed. "Me too Ray. Me too. I got ya. We'll go home now."
It all happened too fast, but Fraser managed to note the events in chilling detail. Eddie had the gun pointed at the dying man's head which had turned to look the young killer in the eye, and with his hand unseen by Eddie reached out to snag Eddie's leg. The sound of the gun going off rang through the room, but it hadn't hit the man Eddie intended it for. Eddie raised himself up a little, having been tripped. This time his next shot finished off the man lying in front of him.
Ben was sickened and saddened by the sight of everything that was happening here. He watched as Ray tearfully leaned over Joey Vecchio, who was writhing on the floor having accidentally been in the way of Eddie's first bullet. "Joey! Joey!" Ray kept tugging at his brother. After a couple of minutes Ben could see, from too much experience with death, that although the young boy's eyes were open he was now dead. Ben shut his eyes at the sight, sucking in a deep breath and releasing it slowly, while he listened to the panicked calls of young Ray. "Joey! We gotta go home now Joey! We gotta go home *now*!" Ray was yelling at his brother angrily. "Ya promised you'd take me home Joey! Ya promised!"
As Ray shook his dead brother, the ghostly building disappeared along with its other participants in the horror. Fraser saw the child Ray morph back into the adult he knew and loved. The empty lot formed around them once more and there was the welcome sight of the green Riv parked nearby.
Ben didn't notice the tears that had slid down his own face. He was too busy pulling his lover into his arms to quell his fears and anguish at reliving that horrific night and the death of his older brother. With relief, Ben noticed that Ray's arms went around him and he burrowed his head in Ben's neck as heart wrenching sobs came out of him. He was thankful that Ray could see and feel him once more.
Ben soothed him as best he could. "I'm so sorry Ray. So sorry." He touched his lips to Ray's head and rubbed his back. A child's voice interrupted him. "I'm sorry too Ray." Ray snuffled and sucked in a shaky breath at the sound of his brother's voice. "Joey?" Still not letting go of Benny, he turned his tear streaked face to look over at his brother standing watch over the two men seated in the rubble of the empty lot.
Ray scrubbed at his eyes, unsure if they were playing tricks on him or not. But he noticed Fraser was also staring at the ghost of his brother, who was forever caught looking twelve years old. "Yeah, its me Raymo." Ray half-smiled. His brother hadn't called him 'Raymo' since he was seven. He'd stopped calling him this when he had owed Ray a favor and he'd requested Joey stop calling him by the hated nickname. "You're not supposed to call me that Joey." Joey smiled over at him. "I know. Just wanted to let ya know I'm the genuine article."
Ray's expression changed to remorse. "Oh Joey, I'm sorry I left ya here. That I forgot what happened and where ya were. Now I know, I'll find ya and we'll bury ya proper." Joey nodded his head. "Thanks. I'd like that. But Ray its me who owes you an apology. I've been trying to do it for over 25 years now. But ya never saw or heard me. I knew ya could, but its like ya tuned me out. Then ma always kept ya at church on Halloween, so I couldn't get ya to visit me here ever. It took my friend Robert Fraser and his son Benton to get you here. Thanks Benton." Ben smiled and nodded his head. "You're welcome Joey."
Ray startled. "Ya know Benny's dad?" Joey shrugged. "Ya meet alot of people in passing here. I met Bob Fraser a couple of your years ago. Did him a good turn then. He said he'd repay the debt some day. Hadn't seen him since we ran into each other again recently at Benton's apartment. I'd been there visiting you and he was there for his son. We got to talking and I told him our story. He said he'd help by getting his son to bring you here on this day. One thing led to another and here ya are. I've missed ya little brother." Ray was both happy and sad. "I miss ya too Joey."
Ben smiled at the sight of the two brothers reunion. He knew from his talk with his father yesterday morning that Ben could only see Joey Vecchio on Halloween or the day he died, which in this case were one and the same day. He wondered if Ray would be able to see him more frequently after this or if this was to be the one and only time.
Joey pleaded with his words and his eyes, which were so similar to Ray's. "I'm sorry for everything. I should never have ditched ya. And I wish I never led ya to this awful place. As soon as I knew ya were here, I should have just left with ya, instead of worrying what Tommy and Eddie would think of me. Please forgive me." Ben could feel Ray nodding against him, followed by the words. "I forgive ya Joey. I love ya. Be at peace." Joey smiled. "Thanks Ray, ya big sap. I love ya too."
Ray saw his brother turning to move further into the rubble. Joey looked over at Ben and winked, "You've got a good pitching arm. Don't forget your boot and wallet." Joey canted his head as if listening to something, then looked sad. "Ray I think you should go now. I can hear ma. She's really worried about ya. Give her a hug and kiss for me." Joey suddenly stopped in the middle of the rubble and sunk beneath the ground. "Good-bye."
Later when Ray had calmed enough that Ben felt he could leave him to walk over to where the ghost had disappeared, he found his boot and wallet there. He let out an astonished, 'Hnh'. He picked up the boot and placed it on his foot. He picked up his wallet and opened it to take out a picture. It was one of himself and Ray that Elaine had taken several months ago. She had been taking a crime scene photography course at the time, much to her co-workers irritation, since she was constantly taking pictures of everyone there. She'd caught them at Ray's desk talking softly. Unbeknownst to her at the time the reason they were smiling that way was they had just confessed to caring for each other more than as just friends earlier that day. He leaned down and placed it securely between two stones. "This is my favorite picture Joey, so be assured we will come back for it and you."
Fraser pulled the Riviera into the mostly empty parking lot next to the church a little after 10 PM. He'd been especially careful in his driving, because he'd never driven the Riv with Ray as his passenger before. Ben had insisted on driving when he saw how exhausted and shaky his friend was. Surprisingly Ray had submissively just handed him the keys without any argument.
Turning off the ignition he turned to look at his friend's profile. Ray had been silent most of the trip here and had just stared out the side window, head resting on the glass as he was doing now. Ben placed his hand on his friend's arm. "We're here Ray." Ray didn't turn, just moved his own hand to cover Ben's resting on him. "Oh god Benny. How am I gonna tell her?" Ben shook his head. "You'll know when you see her. Do you want me to go in with you? I know this is a time for your family. I don't want to intrude."
Ray startled and turned his head for the first time to look into concerned blue eyes. Ray moved his hand from Ben's to bring his hands to either side of Ben's face. Holding him more with his intense gaze, than with those hands. "Of course I want ya with me. You're my family too Benny." He pulled Ben towards him as he leaned forward to meet his mouth for a kiss. Afterwards he whispered out. "Thank-you Benny for bringing me there and being there for me." Ben responded sincerely. "I'll always be there for you Ray."
They exited the car and walked side by side to the front door of the church. Ray started to hesitate. "Ray? Are you alright? Do you need more time?" Ray took a deep breath and blew it out. "Naw. I'm ok. I'm ready." Ray pushed open the door and began walking down the main aisle towards his mother who hadn't moved from her spot since he left. Maria and Frannie had moved, lighting candles near the altar and speaking softly with Father Garibaldi.
Ray, followed by Fraser, stood near his mother, who hadn't noticed him there right away. She wasn't asleep but he could see her eyes closed tightly and in deep prayer. As he reached over to place his hand on the ones holding the rosary beads, she jumped slightly. He spoke gently. "Ma? I'm back. I need to talk to you." Her eyes opened and a wide smile lit her face as she looked up into his, clasping his hand in both of her own. "I knew my prayers would be answered. You're back at last. Come sit next to me." She pointed to her cheek and he obediently placed a light kiss there, moving into the pew to sit beside her when she shifted over. Ben entered the pew behind them. As she embraced Ray she looked over his shoulder to see Ben, whom she noticed for the first time then reached out a hand. "Hello Benton. You had my Ray worried. I'm glad to see you're well." Ben held the warm hand affectionately. "Hello Mrs Vecchio. Thank-you for sparing Ray for a little while."
Ray pulled away from his mother's embrace and captured her eyes with his own. She clasped his hand tightly in her's and gave him her full attention, especially when she noted the sadness, exhaustion and evidence that he might have been crying earlier in his eyes. "What's wrong? Tell me."
Feeling a sense of deja vu for no apparent reason, Ray felt Ben's comforting hand of support on his shoulder. The touch lent him the added strength he needed to speak of that tragic Halloween Night so many years ago.
"Ma, we found Joey..."
It was a beautiful autumn day, an indian summer lent them warmer weather and sunshine for this solemn occassion. They were burying Guiseppe Carmine Vecchio today. Burying with him years of anguish at not knowing what had become of the child who was both son and brother to this family. They were making sure he could finally rest in peace.
Ray stood next to his mother, his arm protectively placed around her shoulders in support and comfort. They'd spared no expense. This was a funeral that was too long overdue. Ben stood near Ray during the short ceremony, his eyes turning sidewise periodically to watch his friend with concern.
The mourners here were mostly immediate family and close friends of the Vecchio's, however there was one robed and cowled figure standing off in the distance. Ben had seen him once before at another funeral over a year ago - for Irene Zuko.
He'd learned later from Ray that the cowled man, who had also stood apart then, was Tommy Zuko. Tommy Zuko Junior who had defied his father's plans for him by becoming extremely religious as a teenager, to the point where he was sent abroad to Italy. When he'd gone, most thought it was for him to be trained in the ways of a mob boss. Many in the neighborhood had been shocked to find that when Tommy Senior had died, it was his younger son Frankie that took over the reins. They'd learned that Tommy had joined a monastery in Italy and taken a vow of silence. Most said it must have been from a compromise with his father allowing his choice, but that he couldn't share any family secrets.
Ben had been surprised to see him here. They had only just found Joey's remains, along with quite a few others a little over a week ago. Surprisingly some of the bodies there were much more recent, as reported by forensics. The area had been used as a secret cemetary it seemed by the Zuko's for years. Elaine had managed to find a well hidden paper trail that led to ownership of the lands there by Frankie Zuko, inherited from his father.
With the discoveries made here and forensics working at identifying and dating the bodies found here, the Zuko empire was now fielding a third and what appeared to be a final blow to it. All three blows being delivered having been dealt by Ray and Ben's involvement. Fraser felt certain this last time would finish off for good the hold and reign of fear Zuko's underworld organization had on Ray's neighborhood and elsewhere.
At the end of the ceremony, after Ray made sure his mother was comfortably placed in the limousine, he'd pardoned himself and with Fraser following close behind caught up with Tommy Zuko.
Ray motioned for Fraser to let him speak to Tommy alone. "Tommy?" The cowled figure glided to a stop and turned around. Tommy removed the cowl and faced him. Ray hadn't seen Tommy since they were kids. It was amazing how much Tommy resembled his father, but at the same time the eyes were different. They were a little like Irene's had been. Ray's mouth suddenly felt dry and he coughed. "Ah I just wanted to say... Thank-you."
Tommy's eyes registered puzzlement and questioned him at the same time, why he should be thanked. Ray's voice grew stronger, despite the memories he was seeing in his mind right then. "I didn't remember what happened that night until just recently. It all came back in a flood. I know you beat up Eddie real bad after he shot Joey. And ya almost shot him with his own gun. I thought you were gonna kill him. But ya... ya couldn't could ya?" Tommy shook his head sadly.
Ray continued, needing to verify with this man in front of him, that what he was recalling was indeed true. "You threw the gun down. Then picked me up and carried me out of there. Said you'd make sure Joey's promise to me was fulfilled. I vaguely remember seeing the patrol car in the distance and you telling me to wait at the street corner. Then you disappeared." Tommy cast his eyes down sadly. When he brought them up again he looked Ray straight in the eye. The depth of sadness there mirrored some of Ray's own. Ray was surprised to hear Tommy speak. "Mea culpa." Then he swiftly walked away and into a small chapel. Ray just stared after him, until Ben came up to him and placed an arm around his shoulders to lead him away.
Fraser who hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but because of his exceptional hearing and ability to lip read had done just that. He heard what Ray had related to Tommy. He was relieved that Tommy had made sure Ray was taken care of and got home that night, even if it was via the police to do it.
Most of the mourners had left. There was a young boy looking around his new home, which was so much nicer than the one he'd had before. Carmine Vecchio's ghost approached Joey from behind. He didn't let on that he was there. Carmine touched Joey's shoulder and the ghost of his eldest son turned and happily threw his arms around his father. "Hi papa. Ya done playing pool with Freddie now?" Carmine laughed and hugged his son tightly and kissed his cheek. "Oh yeah. I'm done. I've got more important things to do. Like spend time with my sons."
After a couple of years in the afterlife Carmine had despaired of ever finding his son again. Carmine had needed Ray to supernaturally reunite him to Joey. He was their link.
Before entering the car, Ray felt compelled to turn back one more time to look over at his brother's grave site. He was glad he did when he saw his father, looking the happiest he'd ever seen him, with Joey. They caught him noticing them and Carmine called out. Joey waved and their father spoke. "Thanks for finding Joey, Ray. Ya probably won't believe me when I say this. Ya never believed most of what I told ya... but I do love ya kid."
Ben noticed the reluctant smile that found its way to his friend's face and could swear, although he was sure his friend would deny it later, Ray whisper. "Yeah, well, I 'spose I love ya too pop."