ENDLESS IS THE NIGHT
(for Violence and sexual inuendos)
Ray ran up the last flight of stairs and doubled over trying to catch
his breath. Thinking to himself how he really needed to cut back on the
doughnuts. Opening the roof door he saw Ben and Analise engaged in a
very passionate kiss. 'About time' he thought and with a big smile headed
back down the stairs. When he reached the lobby of the ballroom he saw
Meg, Frannie, Welsh, Stan, and Diefenbaker waiting for him. They looked
up expectantly as he approached. "Well, what happened?" Meg asked impatiently.
Ray beamed at them "they're kissing!"
There were collected sighs and comments from the group. "It's about time!" Lt. Welsh said as if all the plotting was beneath him. Inside though, he had been just as anxious for those two to get together as everyone else. " I really didn't think he'd be able to figure it out" commented Stan. Was that just a hint of jealousy in his voice? The group stopped their talking when they noticed a soaking wet Ben and Analise coming down the stairs holding hands. Although no one made the comment outloud, they all were thinking they had never seen Ben as happy and relaxed as he was when he was with her. She also seemed to be head over heels for him. Much to the astonishment of the new couple, the group erupted into applause causing everyone in the lobby to look in their direction. Ben and Analise turned bright red as they joined the group. Lt .Welsh was the first to speak "I take it you two are officially a couple now?" His tone hinted at a teasing quality as he nodded to the two's enter twined hands. "Ah... " Ben looked over at me and I squeezed his hand "it appears we are Leftenant" he finished with a hugh smile. "Look at the two of you! Did you decide to go for a swim?" Frannie said as she looked down at the growing puddle of water beneath Ben and myself. "Well, it *is* raining out." I said while looking at my ruined dress. Everyone noted how Ben and Analise couldn't stop grinning, and about every two seconds would sneak a glance at one another. "Constable!" Ben looked over at Meg, noting her tone was no-nonsense and he let go of my hand snapping to attention. "Yes sir?"
"Your uniform is a disgrace Constable." She snapped in her most official 'I am unpleased tone'. Everyone looked around at each other slack jawed. Just what was she trying to do? After all the time it took to get them together.... "Yes sir... I'll..ah... Correct that right away" Ben stammered. "No you wont Constable"
Her voice softened and she smiled "that's why I'm giving you tomorrow off. Tonight, I believe you have more important things to attend to." She looked pointedly at me. Ben relaxed and found my hand again. "Thank you sir"
Stan approached me and gave me a small kiss on the cheek. I glanced over at Ben and saw the fleeting look of jealousy before he schooled his features. Stan was also looking and I could tell he was trying to egg Ben on again. "Listen," he said looking at me, then nodded his head at Ben "if you ever get tired of Fraser here..." I cut him off "I'll keep that in mind *detective*" I said as I smiled at him. Realizing that we were just joking Ben's face relaxed. The message had been clear to Ben and he knew his friend was just trying to tell him in his own way to keep in mind how lucky he was. I nudged Ben and directed my eyes towards the elevator. "Well," I said in an extra cheery voice, "I think it's time to go." "Hey Benny- you two want a ride?" Ray wanted to help his friends but shuddered to think of what they would do to his upholstery. I answered for him "actually, I think we'd like to walk"
"But it's a monsoon out there!" Frannie interjected. Ben looked over at me and squeezed my hand. "We've been through worse." Everyone had basically decided to call it a night and we gathered our belongings. I couldn't get enough of looking at Ben. As we were waiting for the elevator, Lisa walked up to Ben ignoring the looks from everyone in the group. "Oh Benton! What on earth happened to you?" She crooned as she placed her hands on his arm. "Your soaked!" "I'm fine, thank you for your concern" he said edging closer to me. I shook my head as I thought to myself how only he can chase a criminal thousands of miles through every possible terrain and can't even thwart the advances of one pitiful woman. I stepped in front of Ben to the point where she had to remove her hands and spoke in an even tone. "I would thank you kindly to keep your hands off my boyfriend."
"*Your* boyfriend?" She put her hands on her hips as she tried to strike an aggressive pose. She didn't stand a chance. "Yes," Ben spoke from behind me. "*her* boyfriend" he liked the way that sounded he thought to himself. Ben then proceeded to spin me around and swept me into a passionate and deep kiss. Everyone, after getting over their initial shock of seeing Ben act so...so... In public none the less! Was pretty amused at seeing Lisa finally put in her place. The elevator doors opened and everyone filed in still chuckling softly to themselves. Ben reluctantly pulled away, wrapped his arm around my waist and ushered me into the waiting car. He reached over to press the button and added to the still gaping woman "this car is full, although I'm *sure* there will be another one along in a moment." The doors closed and everyone looked at each other, then as if on cue, cracked up laughing. ** Ben held my waist as we walked down the hall to my apartment. The walk home was wonderful and we enjoyed every moment of it. All night the rain didn't let up and if it was possible to get wetter than what we were on the roof then I can honestly say we did. When we reached my door I leaned against it and looked up at Ben. This had to be the best night I ever had in my entire life and I didn't want it to end. Ben slowly caressed my face and leaning down placed a gentle kiss on my lips. I pulled his whole body closer and wrapped my arms around his neck. After an eternity we both pulled back and looked at each other. I was the first to speak. "Ben... I love you with all my heart" the tone in my voice silently said there was more. Ben lifted my chin and placed a quick kiss on my lips. "I know."
He nodded his head and pulled me into his embrace. "Will you stay?" More than anything I wanted to feel his arms around me tonight. "I mean, if you don't want to I understand, I know it would be...you know, but I really wanted to be with you tonight." In reply, Ben took the key from my hand, unlocked the door and scooped me in his arms as he carried me into the apartment. ** ONE WEEK LATER
"Hi Frannie" I said as I walked into the bullpen.
She looked up from her computer "hey Analise, how's it going?"
"OK I guess." She noticed the tone in my voice and walked over to me.
"Is Ben here?" "Is something wrong?" Her eyes grew big "you and Ben didn't
have a fight did you?" "No" I assured her. "It's nothing like that. I
"Lets go get a cup of coffee" she took my arm and escorted me to the break room. After she poured herself a cup and I had my customary Pepsi, we sat at the table and I began. "When we got back, I went into the bank to see about getting my old job back and they didn't have any openings. After two months they thought I was dead and the position was filled. Since it happened because of the company, they contacted corporate to see what they could do. I had put in rsum's at almost all the other companies in Chicago and I haven't heard anything from some, polite responses from others 'so sorry, no openings, or my favorite one, I'm too over qualified for the job'. Anyway, today I finally heard from corporate and they want to offer me a higher position." "That's great news! Why are you so sad?" "I would have to relocate."
Frannie looked shocked "but you wouldn't do that, right? I mean, what about Ben?" "No, I'm not going to leave Ben, I don't care if I have to live in a cardboard box!" "What's wrong then?" I sighed and propped my head on my arm "my savings wont last another two months and I have no clue what I'm going to do after that." "That's not a problem, you could always stay with us until you find something. And what about Ben? I know he wont hesitate to help you out." "Oh no!" I said a little more forcefully than I should have "I'm sorry, it's just I couldn't do that. I don't want him to know. I'll figure something out." "But he loves you Analise."
"And I love him. It just wouldn't feel right having him....support me." "I think I can understand that. Why don't you give me a copy of your resume, I'll pass it around and see what I can do." "You would do that?" "Hey, your practically family. And family looks after each other." I smiled as we headed back into the squad room.
There were people yelling and things being knocked into each other when
we entered the bullpen and Frannie and I looked around trying to see
what was going on. From the other door we saw Ben, Ray and Stan working
to subdue a particularly violent suspect and it took the three of them
to finally get him into a chair. Diefenbaker sat by the man's side growling
menacingly. "You don't know what your doing, you'll pay for this!" He
spat at the trio. "Yeah, yeah, we've heard that before" Ray sarcastically
replied as he locked the handcuffs to the frame. "I'll be out before
you can blink and then we'll see who gets the last laugh." Stan pulled
the man's hair back so his face was tilted up "shut up and sit still"
Lt. Welsh came out of his office "what's all the commotion!?" He had
a napkin tucked in his shirt and a half eaten sandwich in his left hand.
When he spotted the new addition to the bullpen he placed the forgotten
sandwich on the table and walked over. "Well, well, well, look what the
cat dragged in." He said smiling down at the man. "Welsh, you still only
a Lieutenant? What, didn't make the grade *again*?" Harding's smile didn't
wane "I hope you enjoy our fine facilities, Cooper. Your gonna be there
a long time." He looked over at a uniformed officer "get him into holding."
Once the commotion died down Ben spotted me and Frannie on the other
side of the room and he and Ray rushed over. "Are you ok?" I asked putting
my arms around him. He was breathless and his uniform was in disarray
but I didn't see any injuries. Ray was having a similar conversation
with Frannie who was hovering around him. "I'm fine. What about you?"Ben
said with concern in his eyes.
"Me? I'm fine why?"
"Well, that wasn't a particularly pretty scene and....." "Ben," I said in an amused tone "I *am* a big girl!" Frannie hit her brother on the arm "Ow! What ya do that for?" He asked rubbing the spot. "Why don't you ever ask if *I'm* ok Bro?" They stopped their talking as Ramsey Cooper was lead past them. "Aw, aint that touching." He looked over at me and then Frannie, then back over to Ben "I'd keep an eye on them if I were you, it would be a shame if something bad were to happen to such pretty ladies" Ben made a lunge for the man but Ray had managed to block him before he could reach Cooper. "He's not worth it Benny"
Inspector Thatcher picked that minute to walk into the squad room and seeing her mountie try to attack a man in handcuffs, immediately approached the situation. "What is going on here?" Ray let go of Ben and he straightened up. By this time, Stan had also joined the group. "Nothing inspector" Ben said and tried to school his features.
Cooper looked over at Meg "so mountie, I see you are just full of beautiful women. The more to look after. How are you ever going to manage?" "What's that supposed to mean?" Meg demanded
He licked his lips in a suggestive way "you'll find out soon enough sweetheart." Stan stepped in front of Meg and glared at the smirking man. "How about a go at me." His voice was even and the tone was threatening. "What? You have a thing for the mountie, cop? That's so touching." The uniform yanked Cooper out of the room and Meg turned to the trio. "What's going on here? And why did you attempt to attack a man in handcuffs Constable?" Ray interjected "it's a long story Inspector, I'm sure you can wait for the written version." Meg looked at her watch, she had spent half the morning at the station and was running late for a meeting. Making up her mind she looked up at Ben "I'll expect your report on my desk in the morning." With that she turned and left. Welsh, who had been watching the entire play from his office door called the three into his office. Ben looked over at me and caressed my shoulder. "I want you to wait right here for me, understand?" I nodded and before he followed the others into the office, he looked over at the wolf. "Dief, you stay with Analise." **
As Ben shut the door everyone looked at the Lt expectantly. "What's up?" Ray asked
"Tell me you have something concrete on Cooper" Welsh said as he eased himself into his chair. Stan answered "we got a witness that says he was at the Corelli murder" The Lieutenant's eyebrows shot up "a positive ID?"
"Not only that sir," Ray interjected "but he says Cooper ordered the hit" "where is he now?"
"We got the duck boys watching him in a motel on third" Welsh stood up and looked at all of them "after all these years, he's finally gonna get what's coming to him! You make sure nothing happens to that man. I want him alive when it comes time for the trial-- got it?" "Yes sir" they replied.
Ben spoke the question he wanted to ask since the Lt confronted Cooper in the squad room. "Leftenant, if I may ask, you seem to have a history with Mr. Cooper." "That doesn't even begin to describe it Constable. When I was new to the beat, I had only been on the force maybe a year, Cooper thought one of his men betrayed him so as a punishment, he had the man's family killed. The wife was a young and had two small children, the littlest was still in diapers. According to the coroner's report and the crime scene, the baby died first followed by the older child, then the mother was... Well lets just say it wasn't pretty before he killed her. Afterwards, the husband was finally shot execution style." "Why isn't he in prison then?"
"He was mobbed-up. Out of no where, at least fifty people showed up to testify he was at a party all night as the guest of honor. We never found any hard physical evidence linking him to the crime and a witness we did have, disappeared and no one has seen him since." Everyone in the room was quiet as the story sank in.
Welsh was pacing while he recited the story and now was looking out the window at Frannie and Analise. "All the years I've been trying to nail this guy he has never once made a threat he didn't follow through with. I heard what he said to the ladies. Keep an eye on them until the trial." "Understood" Ben replied as his stomach started doing flip-flops. "Get out of here now and get to work."
I looked up at Ben when he approached the desk.
"Hi" I said with a big smile.
Ben bent down and tipping my chin up gave me a soft kiss. "Umm.... What was that for?"
"Just because I love you."
"Ok-- I'll buy that" and beamed at him. "Why did you come down to the station today?" I thought back to the conversation I had with Frannie. "Nothing, just wanted to see you is all." Ben smiled in reply but he was more perceptive than any man has a right to be. "Are you sure there isn't anything else?" I stalled for a minute trying to decide whether or not to tell him about the bank. "Nothing important." I stood and got very close to him " I don't suppose you have a very *long* lunch break coming up-- do you?" Somehow I managed to say this with an innocent look on my face, like he's so good at giving. It had the desired effect I was hoping for and Ben looked around the squad room. "Ray" he turned to look when Ben called his name.
"I'll see you later, I'm going to walk Analise home." Ray got a hugh grin on his face and his eyes held a teasing quality "So is that what they're calling it up in Canada nowadays?" Ben blushed and started tugging at the collar of his tunic. "I'm sure I don't know what your talking about Ray." "Yeah-yeah" he said laughing " I'll pick you up after work"
"Constable, I read the report you left on my desk this morning" Ben was standing at attention in front of Meg Thatcher's desk. "Yes sir"
"Although this Cooper fellow did provoke you, your actions were unbecoming an officer of the RCMP" "Yes sir"
Meg rubbed her temples, sometimes that man could be exasperating. "As a result, I have no choice but to have you stand guard for one week starting today." Ben sighed inwardly but didn't let it show. "Yes sir" "dismissed"
"Thank you sir"
Ben was doing his best to mimic a statue outside the building but inside, his thoughts drifted. The week had gone by exceedingly slow and more than a few times did he think of Analise- which made parts of him highly uncomfortable since he couldn't move. Most of the time though, he would think of the case he Stan and Ray were on. So far, although Cooper had lawyered-up and made bail, he had been unable to find where they were keeping the witness. Ben also found himself relaxing since so far no retaliation had come from the man. He reasoned that if Cooper was going to do something to the Inspector, Analise or Frannie, he would have already done it. Three more weeks until the trial and all would be over with. Between his duties at the consulate and helping Ray guard the witness, Ben had had little free time to spend with Analise. He tried to go over every night to make sure she was ok, and on the day's he had to work extra late he would call. Sometime he wouldn't get off until so late that it would have been inappropriate to try and call and those were the nights he had little sleep for all the worrying he would do. Ben had tried to get Analise to let him stay at the apartment until Cooper was behind bars but she refused. Saying she could handle herself. But he knew there was some other reason she wasn't mentioning. Hopefully though, she would come around and tell him in her own time. The bells from the clock across the street rung and Ben moved from his position and stretched. Smiling, he went inside to check out. Tonight was the first night all week that he and Analise would beable to have dinner together and he was to meet her in an hour. ** I heard a knock on the door and looked at myself one more time in the mirror before answering. I wanted everything to be perfect tonight. I didn't realize how much I had missed Ben until I started looking at the clock every hour waiting for him to show up. I decided to go casual and wore a pair of jeans and a short sleeved t-shirt. I had noticed how Ben normally likes to wear a flannel shirt with his jeans and I just couldn't see how anyone could stand to wear flannel in this weather, even if it is near the end of summer! I opened the door to see a *very* handsome man standing on the other side holding a bouquet of wildflowers. "May I help you?" I smiled at my dashing visitor. "Why yes, you see I'm looking for the most beautiful woman in Chicago and I was told that she lived in this apartment building. The only problem is I'm not sure which apartment is hers. I thought I'd start with this one, and work my way down the hall from here." He gestured at the other doors as he spoke. "Oh really?" I replied crossing my arms and leaning against the door frame. "Oh yes, quite. I'll know the woman when I find her because she will immediately pull me into her embrace and kiss me before I have a chance to get away." How he could keep up a line of bull like that with a straight face was beyond me but I wasn't giving in so easily. "Is that so?" I said as I leaned closer to him. "Uh-huh" he said as he took a step towards me. "I hope you have luck in finding her" By now I was as close as I could get without touching him and I could feel his breath on my cheek. "I believe I already have"
"well then," I said with a glean in my eyes "we'll just have to make sure my boyfriend doesn't catch us." Ben let out a small chuckle and kissed me deep.
TWO AND A HALF WEEKS LATER
"Well Benny, it looks like we got Cooper. My sources tell me he's running
all around Chicago tapping all *his* sources trying to find the witness
and is getting pretty frantic." Ray was beaming from ear to ear. Ben's
brow furrowed "I wouldn't relax yet Ray. He is not a man to give up easily
and I've had a, well I suppose you could call it a hunch Ray." Stan walked
up to the two men "Fraser, you got a hunch? You don't get hunch's, you
taste things. I'm the one who gets hunch's" "well I had one of your hunch's
Ray looked at the two of them and shook his head. How he ever survives his work days is still a mystery, he thought to himself. "Hey Ray?" Ray looked across the bullpen "call on line two." "Thanks Steve"
Jack was holding the another phone "Fraser- call on three." As Ben went to get the phone Ray picked up his line. "Vecchio here" "Ma--Ma calm down. What's wrong?" Ray's face paled and he started to shake a little "Calm down Ma, I'll be right there." Ben came back over to the desk, his face was ashen "that was the consulate." Ray and Ben just stared at each other as the same thoughts were going through both their heads. Stan looked at his two friends concerned "what's going on?"
At the same time they replied "Cooper's got the girls" "Analise!" Ben reached for the phone and dialed. As the seconds ticked by without an answer he felt nauseous. He looked back up at his friends "no answer. I'm going over there." "I'm heading home" Stan jumped in "I'll go to the consulate" Everyone in the bullpen stopped what they were doing when it became obvious what was going on. On the way out the door Ray yelled over to Jack. "Get some Black and whites to my house, the consulate and Analise's, along with a sweep team. There's been two kidnappings and a possible third."
When Ben reached Analise's apartment, the uniforms were already there. They had orders to wait until Ben showed up and all they did up until now was knock on the door to no avail. Ben opened the door easily- it wasn't locked. As he entered the apartment the cops fanned out behind him the check out the place but Ben knew they wouldn't find anyone. All morning he had feeling that something bad was going to happen and it did. He should have never left her last night he thought to himself. Ben looked around the living room and drew in a breath. The place was a shambles. Lamps were knocked over and there were obvious signs of a struggle. His legs failed him when he walked to the back of the couch and noticed a good size spot of blood on the white carpet. 'She's hurt! Oh God, why did I leave her last night? If he's done anything to her I'll...' Dief's bark brought him back to the present. The wolf ran up and nudged Ben then ran back to the credenza by the door. Sitting on top was a note which said simply enough 'THE WITNESS FOR THE WOMEN.' Ben headed out the door to the consulate and let the officers finish their job.
When he reached the Consulate, Ben went directly into Meg's office. Stan
turned around and looked at him. "I'm sorry Fraser" he said to his friend
who was taking in the scene very similar to the one he just left. "The
only thing we found so far was a note saying "the witness for the women."
Ben nodded his head as he looked around the mess. Whoever was in charge
of taking Meg certainly must have had a hard time about it because of
the amount of damage in the room. "When did this happen?"
The temporary Constable who was sent to replace Ben while he was missing
stepped up to answer. "Sir, when I arrived this morning, the Inspector
was here. She sent me to pick up her dry cleaning and when I returned,
the door to her office was open and I saw the state of disarray the room
was in along with the note. That's when I called you sir." "You did the
right thing Constable"
"I am going to report what has happened to Ottawa and then go over to the Vecchio house. I want you to keep an eye on things here and contact me immediately if you receive any contact from the kidnappers what so ever." The man snapped to attention "yes sir!"
At the Vecchio house the scene was different than Ben expected. Ray was
in the living room sitting on the couch with his arms around his mother,
trying to comfort her. Ben thought it was odd that there was nothing
out of place and walked up to his friend. "Ray?"
Ray looked up to see his friends. "She's gone."
"I know Ray"
Ben squatted down in front of Mrs. Vecchio "we'll find her" She looked up and gave him a big hug.
"What about Meg and Analise?"
Ben closed his eyes before answering "he's got both of them". The statement sent Mrs. Vecchio into another crying fit and Maria took over for Ray as he moved his friends into the hallway. "Ray, I don't see any signs of struggle."
Ray's look hardened "they weren't in the house. Frannie left for the mall and when Ma went to get the mail, this note was left on the door. "That's odd" Ben said upon seeing it.
"You got something Benny?" Ray asked with hope in his voice. "The other two notes we found said 'the witness for the women' this note says 'if you want your sister, you know what to do.'" "What does it mean?" Stan asked.
"I don't know yet Stan. It might be useful later on." The three men headed back to the station to try and piece together all they knew so far. ***
I slowly sat up and looked around the dank room. Where was I? The last thing I remembered was answering the door and a man forcing his way in. I tried to fight him off and I thought I was doing a pretty good job, but I didn't see the second man until it was too late. Looking around at my surroundings didn't do anything to cheer my spirits. I was in a room about 8' by 10' and there was a toilet, a sink and an old cot which I had been laying on. I looked around but there were no windows and the door didn't even have a handle as far as I could tell. My head was pounding and as I reached up to feel, my hand met with something sticky--blood. No wonder my head was killing me. I heard a noise outside the door and laid back down. I didn't want whoever it was to know I woke up. "Put them in here with the other one." The bodiless voice said. I then heard what sounded like two bodies hitting the floor and continued not to move until I was sure I was alone again. Well, except for whoever seemed to be in the same boat as myself. I carefully opened my eyes and stared in shock. Meg and Frannie! Quickly I went over and felt Meg's pulse- she was the closest. Apparently, they had only knocked her out, but she had one hell of a shiner starting to form under her left eye. Frannie seemed to fair better and I couldn't find any injuries on her. "Meg" I said gently shaking her. "Meg, come on, wake up" she groaned and slowly opened her eyes. "Analise? What's going on?" "I don't know" I said as I helped her sit up "someone broke into my apartment and kidnapped me. When I woke up I was here. Next thing I know you and Frannie show up." Meg hadn't noticed the other woman and she went to her side. Sniffing, she turned back to me. "I can smell direct traces of chloroform, she will be out for a while." I snorted as I felt the back of my head again gingerly "I wish they would have used that option with me!" I got serious again as I looked at Meg "what do you think is going on? Who would take all three of us?" Her look hardened "Cooper". I gave her a puzzled look. The name sounded familiar but I couldn't place it. "Who's Cooper?"
"Do you remember being at the station a few weeks ago and Fraser went after that man who threatened us?" It clicked for me "Oh God." "The trial is in four days and I'm guessing since he's been unable to find where the police are keeping the witness against him, he decided to use us as bait." "That doesn't sound too good." "No, it doesn't"
Back at the station, Ben Ray and Stan were going over every file the
department had on Cooper. Ray was working his sources and Stan was going
over the latest ballistics reports from the crime scenes. "How can three
women be kidnapped in broad day light and no one see anything?"Ray was
ranting. For lack of anything better, they decided to back to the crime
scene to see if there were any clues they may have missed. The first
place they went to was Analise's. Ray was taken aback by the amount of
damage in the apartment. Stan started knocking door to door while Ben
and Ray combed the apartment for clues. When Ray saw the blood behind
the couch he looked over at his friend. "Hey Benny," Ben looked over
at him "she'll be o.k."
Ben gave him a small smile and continued to search. He had fought hard to keep his emotions in check all day. Ben knew he would be of no use to Analise if he let them get the better of him. 'She has to be all right, she just has to.' They stopped their searching when Stan entered the room. He silently shook his head no and all three sat down on the couch. The ringing of the phone jarred the men and Ben lunged for it. "Analise?!" "No... Listen good Mountie. There are four days left. If my sources don't tell me Tangor is out of police protection by tomorrow, one of the women dies. This will continue until the day of the trial." "Where are they!" Ben demanded into the phone.
"You have till tomorrow".
The line went dead and Ben stared at the receiver in his hand. Ray was hovering around his friend. "What did they say?" Stan called the station to see if they could trace where the call came from while waiting for Ben to tell them what the person said. "It was a man, he said if Tangor doesn't show up by tomorrow, he is going to kill one of the women each day until the trial or until he shows up." "Did you hear anything? Anything in the background at all? Something to give us a clue?" "There was nothing Ray" Stan hung up his phone and looked at the two. They said the call came from somewhere on the south side but they hung up too soon, couldn't get a lock. "Let's go" Ray said heading for the door. "where?" Stan asked. "Do you know how big the southside is?" "I don't care! We gotta try something. In less than 24 hours someone we care about is going to die." Dief barked and headed out the door. "Do you think he's on to something?" Ben looked at the two men "you can count on it."
They followed the wolf down the back stairs and into the back alley. Near the end, Dief stopped and sniffed at something. Ben squatted down by the wolf and gave him a pat. "good boy Dief" Ray and Stan caught up "what is it?"
Ben picked up a small gold bracelet and held it up for the two men to see. "It belongs to Analise." Ben choked out. Looking around the area Ben spotted a set of fresh tire tracks. "There look!" "That looks like van tracks" Stan said as he examined the area.
"I'd say a Ford if I'm not mistaken. Probably a '92 or '93 cargo model."
Ray looked over at Ben "you can not possibly get all that from looking
at a set of tire tracks!" "Actually Ray, it's quite simple really, the
tread on the tire has a unique design exclusive to Ford Vans and..."
"Enough already!" Ray held up his hand. "This must be where they took
her." He saw a few spots of blood and quite a few shuffled footprints.
"Here it looks like they were dragging her" he said pointing to the spot.
Ben nodded his head and looked down. The anxiety that had been building
in him all morning had come back ten fold. 'She's bleeding and unable
to walk' he thought to himself. Ray called the station for a team to
sweep the area for evidence. Ben froze "how did they know?"
Both men looked at him puzzled "know what?"
"That we were in the apartment?"
As the implication of the question sunk in, all three ran for the front of the building in time to see a car speed away. "Did you get it!?" Ray yelled at the other two.
Ben's eyes were still following the car although it was out of sight."ARZ 167" ***
Frannie had woke up a few hours ago and we were getting anxious with each passing hour. What was going on? At least nine hours had passed since we woke up and nothing. "I'm hungry" Frannie made the comment to no one specific.
"If we're lucky, they wont come at all."replied Meg. "How can that be lucky? If we go four days without food we're gonna die!" Frannie wailed and I couldn't help but think that this was going to be a long four days. "Frannie, listen. Ben and Ray aren't going to give up the witness, even if they wanted to they couldn't do it. That means the people who took us are going to have to convince them that they mean business." "And that means" finished Meg "that one or possibly all of us are in for a rough ride." Frannie paled but it was worse and Meg knew that they had to know "I've read the file on Cooper. The reason he doesn't get caught is because he doesn't leave loose ends hanging around." "And we are loose ends aren't we?" Frannie's eyes were wide and I got the impression that even though she works at the station, there is still a lot that Ray keeps from her. That night sleep didn't come and all I could think about was Ben and how much I missed him. ** Ray hung up his cell phone and made a sharp u-turn with the riv. "We got an address on the plate." Stan leaned forward from the back seat "let's shake the tree and see who falls out." The address was a dilapidated apartment building not too far from Ben's old apartment. Ray and Stan took the front of the building while Ben and Dief headed to the rear. Stan put on his glasses, eased up to the door, gun drawn and looked over at Ray "ready?" Ray nodded "on three"
"THREE" they said together as they kicked in the door. Ben appeared on the fire escape and the man jumped up reaching for his gun but he didn't stand a chance. "Don't move! Don't move!" Ray yelled and the man froze. From behind Ben grabbed his gun out of his holster and to the shock of the other two, grabbed him and slammed him against a wall. "Where are they?" The hardness in Ben's seemed to come from no where. "I--I--I don't know what your talking about."
Ray put his gun up to the mans head. "My sister is missing and your gonna tell me where she is right now, or so help me I'll kill you!" "I don't know! I swear!"
"Why were you following us?"
"If I talk to you guys Cooper'll kill me" Stan moved forward "if you don't we'll kill you. Choice is yours" "Look, I don't know, ok? All I was told to do was follow you guys and when you went back to the apartment I was supposed to call you." "Wrong answer" Ray said as he cocked his gun.
"Wait! There is one place..."
"Where?" Ben demanded.
"The old jail. Cooper sometimes does business out of there. That's all I know, I swear!" Ray cuffed the man to a radiator "if I find out you lied to us, your gonna wish Cooper got to you first." *** The cell door opened and all three of us froze. Three men walked in and looked at all of us. I recognized one as the first man who entered my apartment but I didn't know who the other two were. One was wearing a dark suit and the other two were in black pants and long sleeve black tops. They looked around the room at us. "Which one should we take?" The man in the suit was obviously in charge and I held my breath as he casually looked at each of us in turn. Meg spoke up an stepped forward "I'll go"
"Meg! What are you doing?" I asked. She looked back at me and I knew she was trying to protect us. The man in the suit ignored her. "That one" he said and I blanched. Meg and Frannie were held at bay by the gun the man in the suit pointed at them, as I struggled with the other two. I felt a sharp pain as another blow to my head turned my world black again.
This time when I woke I was tied to a chair and I heard voices around
me. I looked up slowly to see five men talking in a corner of the room.
Never in my life had I felt so scared. What were they going to do to
me? I could feel fresh blood trickle down my neck and the pain was horrible.
"Looks like our visitor is finally awake" one said.
"Might as well get started. Who got the camera?"
When they walked closer I tried to look up but the pain didn't allow
it. "What do you want with me?" "Nothing much sweetheart" the one said
as he leaned by my ear "we're just gonna send your boyfriend a little
reminder of the deadline." "What deadline?" I didn't like where this
was going and did my best to stall. In response, the man in the suit
hit me hard across the face. He looked over at the other four men "Rough
her up good but don't kill her yet. Just make her wish she was dead."
Then he left the room. I screamed As the four men approached me, the
terror I felt had finally found a voice. *
"Oh God what are they doing to her?" Frannie was crying and Meg held
her doing her best to comfort Frannie through her own tears. Analise's
screams could be heard echoing through the walls. "If I get my hands
on them, they're dead!" Meg stood up and pounded on the door "leave her
I woke up again for what seemed like the hundredth time. As far as I could tell, every time I passed out from the pain they would stop hitting me, and continue when I woke up. I had no clue how long I had been sitting through this assault, the night seemed to be endless as the beatings would continue over and over. My eyes were swollen shut and I could taste my blood. Perhaps this time if I sit real still they'll think I'm still out of it. I heard voices around me. "She looks pretty good now, let's get those pictures." Someone pulled my head back and I could hear the camera going off. Then the room was quiet as they mercifully left me alone. 'Sleep...I just want to sleep.' I remember thinking as the night continued.
Ben and Stan moved silently forward from their hiding place behind the
dumpster. Ray was already ahead of them crouching behind an abandoned
car. After what seemed like an eternity, they made their way to a side
entrance of the jail and were surprised when the door opened easily at
their attempt. So far, none of the teams saw anyone and it was obvious
they weren't expecting their hiding place to be the polices next target.
"Which way do we go?" Stan asked looking up and down at the stairwell
they entered. Dief answered for them by rushing down to the lower level.
Ray followed to wolf "works for me."
When they opened the door to the lower floor they heard male voices. Stan quietly talked into his communicator "we got movement on the lower level" Ben found it hard to try and control the urge to go busting into the room and demanding to know where the women were. Slowly they made their way down the hall and paused outside the open door. Ben held up five fingers, letting them know five men were in the room. They silently nodded to each other and charged into the room. "Police freeze!" They yelled and the men immediately drew their weapons. A fire fight erupted and Stan and Ray backed out the door using the frame as cover. ** "what's that?" Frannie asked as they heard sounds of yelling and weapons being fired. Meg listened carefully "sounds like gun fire.... I sure hope it's our side." After ten minutes of hearing nothing but chaos, the noise finally stopped and both women looked at each other. Hoping beyond hope it meant this was finally over. They started pounding on the door, hoping someone would hear them. ** When it was over, three of the men were dead and the other two were wounded. All six teams were in the room handcuffing the one's that weren't dead and Ray jerked the guy wearing the suit up to his face. "Where are they?" Ray's voice was cold to those who knew him and he couldn't stop thinking about the picture of Analise. "Go to hell" the man sneered at him. Dief barked and Ray looked down at him. When the wolf went to the door and turned, waiting for the men to follow, Ray looked back over at the man he was still holding and let him go so violently, he hit the floor. **
"Hey... We're in here!" The women continued to yell on the door and it wasn't until they heard the lock on the other side start to open did they stop and move to the back of the cell. They hoped it wouldn't be the man in the suit again. "Frannie?" Ray asked as he slowly opened the door.
"Ray!" She screamed in relief and running grabbed him so had his breath was knocked out. Ray wrapped his arms around his sister to try and comfort her. "They didn't hurt you did they?" Concerned filled his eyes. She was crying to hard to answer so she shook her head instead. Ben looked over at the inspector, he was relieved she seemed no worse for wear but the anguish he felt as the picture of Analise played through his mind was evident to Meg. "I'm fine Fraser" she answered to his unspoken question. "I don't know where Analise is. They took her about four hours ago." She paused not knowing if she should continue but decided it might help "I believe she is still on this floor somewhere" Stan looked at her "how would you know?"
Meg took a deep breath and looked warily at Ben "up until about an hour and a half ago, we could still hear her screams." Ben bolted out the room started running down the hall opening every door and calling out Analise's name. Dief ran past him and Ray, Stan, Meg and Frannie brought up the rear. At the other end of the hall, they found a door locked with a padlock and Ben stood back as Stan shot the lock off with his gun. Inside, they found Analise slumped, tied to a chair. "Analise!" Ben called as he ran to her side. She was unconctious and didn't respond. Ben untied her from the chair and caught her as she fell into his arms. Ray had already called an ambulance and Ben scooped her up, not waiting for them to arrive. "I'm taking her out."
As the others cleared a path so he could get by, Meg and Frannie gasped. They hadn't seen the picture and even though they had heard Analise scream, they weren't prepared to see the extent of her injuries. *** Everyone from the Vecchio household and everyone that knew Analise from the station was crowded in the waiting room, hoping the doctor would give them some word soon. It had been almost two hours since Analise was brought in. "Benton, caro.." Mrs. Vecchio sat beside him and gave his hand a squeeze "she will be all right, she's a strong woman. The love you feel for each other will get both of you through this." "It's because of me" Ben said looking at her, unshed tears brimmed in his eyes. "She would have never been put in danger if it wasn't for me." "You can't blame yourself Benton. Analise loves you and she needs you. Your the one who found her." Ben just nodded and Mrs. Vecchio gave him a quick hug, then left him to consider her words. Meg walked up to him next. She had been trying to get the nerve up to approach him since they had been waiting, "Fraser" he looked up at her "may I?" She gestured to the seat.
"I just wanted you to know that when they came to take her, I tried to go in her place. She spoke up for me drawing attention to herself but I still tried to stop them." "I know sir." Ben was lost in thought. He knew everyone meant well but he wished he could just be left alone.
The doctor walked in and looked around at all the faces "Benton Fraser?" "Yes?" He jumped up and nervously rubbed his sweaty palms down his jean legs. Ben recognized the doctor as the same one Analise had the last time she was here. "She's still not awake, but from the x-rays I don't think there will be any permanent damage. I do want her to stay for at least a few days to do follow-ups and just to make sure." The doctor emphasized his last words, remembering all too well how she didn't like hospitals. "Understood" Ben smiled with relief, "may I see her now?" The doctor looked at all the faces in the room. "She can't be disturbed, but if you make it quick, and don't talk too loud, I'll permit it for a few minutes." "Thank you" Ben said as he left the room.
Ben walked nervously to her bed side. Both her eyes were covered with
bandages and the doctor assured him it was to let her eyes have a chance
to rest. Ben pulled a chair up to the side of her bed and picked up her
hand, gently caressing the back of it. "Oh Analise, I am so sorry I put
you through this...." His voice trailed off as he laid his head on the
edge of her bed. When the doctor came in about ten minutes later with
Ray and Stan, they found a fast asleep Benton Fraser beside Analise's
bed and Ray draped an extra blanket around his shoulders. He turned to
the doctor and whispered. "There is no way he's gonna leave her until
he knows she's ok. I know Analise, and she is going to want to see him
when she wakes up." The doctor looked over at the two and relented. "Bring
him some clean clothes in the morning and make sure he gets something
to eat." By the appearance of the Constable, he didn't look much better
off than his patient. ***
Ray walked into the room carrying two bags. "Hi" Ben looked up "hi"
"how's she doing?" Ray asked as he placed the bags on an extra chair in the corner. "She hasn't woke up yet." "Did you sleep at all?" The concern he felt for his friend was all over his face. "Some."
"Look, Ma packed you some food and I brought your shaving kit and a change of clothes for you. Dief's at the house so there's nothing for you to worry about." "Thanks Ray. How's Franchesca doing?" "Pretty good considering. They didn't hurt her at all and she seems to be taking it in stride. Well... In stride for her." Ben gave him a small smile, knowing Ray was trying to lighten the mood. Movement from the bed caught both men's attention and Ben was at her side in an instant. He placed his hand on the side of her face and Analise jerked flinging her arms wildly. "Nooo!" I screamed as someone grabbed my arms. 'Not again! They aren't going to hurt me again!' "Analise- it's ok, your safe...your safe..."
Through my struggling, I thought I heard Ben. Was he really here? Or was I just imagining it? "Ben?" My voice shook "I'm here, your safe... It's over. It's all over" he crooned to me. I reached for him and clung as if my life depended on it, sobbing. I don't know how long we sat like that before I couldn't cry anymore, but I wasn't letting go of him. "I can't see Ben" I said remembering the chair and my eyes welling shut. "It's only temporary, the doctor says you'll make a full recovery." He pulled back a little and I panicked. "Don't leave me Ben!" He eased himself close again. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm right here." I felt Ben move me back down on the bed and relaxed only when I knew he laid down beside me. I was halfway on my side and Ben had one arm underneath me, cradling me, and the other was wrapped protectively around my waist. Ray looked at his friend and smiled. The relief in Ben's whole demeanor was evident. "Listen, I'm gonna go but I'll be back later. You eat the food Ma packed for you." I jumped at the sound of another voice in the room and Ben held me tighter. "It's only Ray" Ben whispered in my ear.
"I'm sorry Analise, I didn't mean to scare you. I'm glad your awake." I wrapped Ben's arm tighter around me and rolled on my side a little more. "It's ok" knowing that I was safe, I drifted back into a restful sleep. ***
"Ok Analise," the doctor was saying "I have the blinds drawn and the
lights are dimmed. I'm going to remove the bandages and when your ready,
you can open your eyes." I nodded my head in answer and nervously bit
my lower lip. I felt Ben squeeze my hand as the doctor removed the bandage
and heard him breath a sigh of relief. The swelling was down by half
even though the bruises deepened in color. Slowly, I opened my eyes.
I could see! It was a little fuzzy but after three days of darkness I
was glad for anything. I smiled and focused on Ben's face. "Hi handsome"
Ben kissed my knuckles and smiled back at me. The doctor turned my head
towards him and slowly moved a light closer to me, studying my eyes intensely.
"Your pupils are responding normally Ms. Jensen. As the swelling goes
down, your eyesight will improve." "Thanks Doc" I said beaming.
"Don't over do it now"
"I wont" when the doctor left, I looked over at Ben, "I must look a fright." "You look beautiful" he smiled, then his face grew somber. "I'm sorry Analise" "for what?" That man apologizes so much sometimes I have no clue what for! "Putting you in danger. If it wasn't for me--" I placed my fingers on his lips "if it wasn't for you, I'd be dead by now. I love you Ben."
We were interrupted by a knock on the door. "You two have one minute to get decent." "Come on in Ray" I smiled at Ben and caressed his face. Not only did Ray come in, but so did Meg and Frannie. "Meg! I'm so glad your ok" she leaned over and gave me a hug. It was the first time she and Frannie had been to see me-- as far as I knew. "I'm so glad you two are ok" I said as I hugged Frannie. "We're just glad *your* all right." I looked over at Ray and Ben. "Can you guys give us a few minutes? It's a girl thing." They looked at each other and babbled some excuse. "We'll be in the lobby" Ray said as he nudged them out the door.
I pulled my legs up and motioned to the end of the bed for them to sit.
"What's going on?" Meg asked.
"I was hoping you would tell me what happened after they took me out of the room." "You would know better than we would Analise." "What I mean is, how long was I gone before the guys showed up?" Meg looked over at Frannie before answering. "About four hours" They remembered all too well her screaming and hoped they were doing the right thing by answering her questions. "Oh" Frannie leaned over and touched my leg. "Are you ok?" I nodded "it just-- it seemed a lot longer that's all." "Do you want to talk about it?"
I took a deep breath, "there were four of them... When one got tired of hitting me, another would take over. I thought I was going to die." Meg looked at me with a look I've come to know all too well even if I couldn't see it. "Did you tell this to Ben?" "No... He thinks this is somehow his fault. I tried to tell him that it isn't.... I don't want him to feel worse than what he does." "You need to tell him how your feeling."
"I know" I looked over at them "they didn't hurt you guys, did they?" "No they didn't get a chance."
A cough in the doorway drew our attention. "Sorry to interrupt but I just got off the phone. Good news, Cooper is going away for life and his brother is up on 3 counts of kidnapping , aggravated assault and attempted murder." Ray finished feeling pretty proud of himself. "His brother?" I asked confused.
Meg leaned over to me "the man in the suit" I nodded with understanding and leaned back into the pillow. So much had happened in such a short time. "That's wonderful news detective." Meg answered.
Ben walked over and brushed a strand of my hair back. "It's over" he repeated and gave me a small kiss. A nurse walked in and looked around at everyone, then at me. "It's time for all of you to leave, Ms. Jensen needs her rest." Meg and Frannie stood up "we'll stop by tomorrow"
"How about I take everyone out for a celebration dinner--my treat." "That's very generous of you Ray" Ben looked at his friend. "Well, it's not everyday we rid the streets of two scum bags." Frannie chimed in "I'm game, how about you Meg?" "I don't know..."
"Oh go on Meg, have some fun!" I said as I smiled at her. "Maybe for a little bit."
"Great" ray rubbed his hands together "Benny?" "Thank you kindly Ray, but I'd like to stay with Analise." "Ben, that isn't necessary. Ever since I've been in here you haven't left the hospital. Not that I'm complaining mind you, but you need to have some fun." "But-"
"All I'm going to do is sleep Ben, Now go and don't come back until you've had a good time!" Ben's mouth opened and closed a few times but no sound came out.
The nurse who had been waiting patiently for everyone to leave spoke up. "Now people"
Meg grabbed Ben's arm "Let's go Constable" "Yes sir" he answered automatically as she pulled him out of the room. The nurse fixed my blankets and refilled my water pitcher. She was an older lady and something about her reminded me of my mother. "Thank you" "You just get some rest honey. You've been through enough... Especially for someone in your condition! Just a crying shame there are people out there in the world like that.." She rambled on. My mind backed up a little "excuse me, My condition? What condition?" "Oh my..." She said as she turned white. "I'll be right back"
a few minutes later she came back into the room dragging my doctor behind her. "What is going on here?" I demanded. "What 'condition' do I got?" I was getting an eerie feeling from the way the nurse was acting and for all I knew, I could be dying and these people forgot to tell me! "He looked through my chart. "Ms. Jensen" he paused for a moment 'how to approach this subject?' "When was your last menstrual period?" My breath caught in my throat. Just what was he getting at? "Uh... It was July 23rd, why?"
He looked at me and pulled a chair up to my bed. "Ms. Jensen... Analise... When you were admitted the first time, we did a blood test and it was negative. When you came in the other day, it came back positive." "For what?" I knew I hadn't slept with anyone but Ben for way too long. He didn't have any diseases did he? "Analise, your 5 weeks pregnant." "I'm sorry, what was that?"
"That can't be right, we always used protection. ALWAYS. There has got to be some mistake. Do the test again." "We did it twice already. I assumed you were aware.
"Pregnant?" I was dumbfounded "How?"
"No birth control is foolproof, sometimes things happen whether you want them to or not." "Does Ben know?"
"I haven't mentioned it at all."
"Oh God! Is the baby ok? After everything--" "The baby's fine. We did an ultrasound to make sure." "I CAN'T be pregnant! I'm not ready to be pregnant." I wailed. What was I going to do? What about Ben? How could I tell him? 5 weeks! I thought back. It must have happened the first night we were together. Just how long *did* he have those condoms in his wallet? I can't deal with this, I just can't. "Analise, are you o.k.?"
"No" I said shakily and started to cry. "I can prescribe something to calm you down if you prefer. It won't have an adverse effect on the baby." "No... I'll be fine. It's just the shock of it all. A half hour ago I couldn't see and now I'm pregnant. Listen, I don't want ANY visitors at all, none. Understand?" He looked at me quietly for a moment "are you sure?"
"I just can't face anyone right now, not until I have a chance to deal with this." "What about Constable Fraser?" "Especially him! I don't want him to know, not yet anyway. I can't face him right now." "I'll let the nurses know" "thank you"
the doctor turned to go "Doctor?" He looked back "when can I go home?" "It will be at least a few more days."
I sank back down in the bed as he left. What more could possibly happen? **
"your right Ray, I do feel a lot better. Thanks for the dinner it was great." Ben said as he walked down the hallway to Analise's room. As they passed the nurses station, one jumped out in front of them. "Excuse me, who are you going to see?" Ben smiled at her "good evening, we are going to Analise Jensen's room" "I'm sorry but I can't let you go." "It's all right, the doctor approved me staying in her room" the two men made to go past the nurse. "You can't go!" Ray took a step forward "Look lady, we just left that room two hours ago and now we are going back in there." "Is there a problem?" "Ah.. Yes doctor. This nurse is a little confused about our status. If you would be so kind as to tell her we are permitted to see Analise." "I'm afraid I can't do that"
"What? Why?" Ben asked "did something happen?" "It's at Ms. Jensen's request. She... Received some news that upset her and she has asked not to have any visitor for a while." "What news?" Ben was starting to get worried.
"I'm not at liberty to say Constable."
"Certainly she didn't mean me when she said that." "Actually she said specifically not you." "What happened, is she all right?"
He really felt for the man in front of him. It was apparent to all the staff how much he loved her and how much she loved him. He couldn't violate doctor/ patient confidentiality, but what could he say to put his mind somewhat at ease. "Her medical condition has not changed since the last time you saw her. I'm sorry Constable, that's all I can say for now. If you leave a number where I can reach you, I'll call as soon as she changes her mind." "Thanks Doc." Ray said and jotted down both his cell and home numbers. He then led Ben towards the elevator. "What happened Ray?" Ben asked, with that innocent look on his face. "I don't know Benny, maybe she just needs some time to herself. The doctor said she was ok" "no he didn't Ray, he said her condition didn't change. There's a difference." Ray gave his friend a sideways glance before entering the elevator. *** It had been two days since I saw anyone, and I didn't feel any closer to sorting out my feelings than I did when I found out. I loved Ben, of that I was sure. But look at me. Here I am, jobless, only about one month of savings left, and how on earth am I going to support a baby? Why did this have to happen now? Ben and I had just begun to see each other and I have to go up to him and say 'by the way honey, your gonna be a daddy!'. I heard a knock on the door and turned as Meg entered. She sat a bag on the bed and walked over to me, I turned back to the window I was staring out of. "Thanks for bringing my clothes." "What's going on Analise? Why wont you see Ben?" "I just can't is all. There's something I have to deal with first." "Does it have to do with Ben?" Meg's voice was gentle, but I could tell she wanted answers. "Meg, if I tell you, you would have to promise me not to tell Ben. That would put you in an awkward position. I... I just can't face him right now." "What happened?"
I looked at her and took a deep breath, should I tell her? "You wont tell?" "I can't promise you that, my first responsibility is to my men." I nodded with understanding. "Thank you for bringing my clothes. I really appreciate it. I would have hated to go home in a hospital gown." Meg looked down and paused before speaking "whatever it is Analise, he needs to know. This is tearing him up inside not knowing what's wrong. You owe it to him to tell him something." She turned to leave. "Meg!?" I started to shake. She turned back and walked over to me. "I....I don't know how to tell him." I started to cry again for the hundredth time. She hugged me tight and rubbed my back for a few minutes. For as hard as she tries to appear with everyone, she really was a kind person. I don't know if it was everything we went through, but she had become a friend of mine. "Tell him what Analise?" Meg was really getting worried now.
"That I'm pregnant."
Meg stared at me in shock. What could she say to that? "We didn't plan this. We were always careful. I don't know how..." I couldn't continue as my voice choked up. "Oh Analise" she said as she hugged me again. "What are you going to do?" "That's what I've been trying to figure out."
"Is the baby all right? When they took you..." "The doctor says the baby's fine. Luckily, they were more concerned with my face for the pictures." "What time do you get discharged? I'll pick you up."
I shook my head no "I think I'm going to walk. I've been feeling too cooped up in here. Besides, you have a job to do." She smiled at me "that's one of the perks of being the boss, you can leave if you feel like it." I hugged her again. "I know I need to tell Ben, but there is so much more to it than that! I don't want him to be with me out of obligation and if I tell him, how will I know the difference?" "I don't know Analise, that's something the two of you need to figure out." "Thanks for listening Meg."
"Anytime. Now you get some rest, understand?" I smiled at her and gave a mock salute "yes ma'am!"
Meg walked out of the hospital and dreaded approaching the green riv.
Ben and Ray got out as she neared and the look on Ben's face just about
broke her heart. "Is she ok?" He asked before she could even reach the
"She's fine Ben, they are going to discharge her later today." He breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps when she got home he would be able to finally talk to her. ***
I walked around Chicago for the better part of the day. The last place I wanted to go was home because I just knew that would be the first place Ben would look for me. Dusk was starting to set in and I sat on a park bench and looked up at a lone star overhead. "You know, it's dangerous to be out here alone at night."
I looked over at Stan who was walking up to me. "What are you doing here?" He flopped down beside me and stretched out "well, I could tell you that I was just walking by and bull like that, but the real reason is Fraser is so frantic, he has just about everybody he knows out looking for you." My mouth dropped "your not serious? Are you?" "'fraid so."
"I'm gonna kill him."
"Well, at least he didn't put out an APB on you yet." He laughed. "That's not funny Stan."
"Yes it is..."
I looked over at him and laughed. It felt so good after all this time. "You know, you gotta go home eventually." He said on a more serious note. "Actually, I was thinking of becoming one of the park people. You know, no worries, no bills.." "Oh yeah" Stan said in that exaggerated tone of his "freezing in the winter, fighting the pigeons for a bench at night..." "I guess it does have a down side."
He stood up and held out his hand for me. "I'll give you a ride." In the GTO, Stan was quiet and I leaned my head against the seat. It had been a really long day and I was tired. Stan looked over at me. "You hungry? We can stop and pick something up on the way?" "No, I'm fine, I just want to get some sleep." The drive was soothing and I closed my eyes. I was unaware when Stan picked up his cell phone and made a call. ** Stan pulled up behind the riv infront of Analise's apartment building. He looked over at her fast asleep in his car. As soon as she drifted off, he called Ray to let him and Ben know he had found her and they must have broke every traffic violation in Chicago to get to the apartment before him. Ben appeared on the passenger side and opened the door gently.
"She's fine Fraser, just tired."
Ben slowly caressed her bruised face and picked up her hand kissing it and inhaling deeply. He had missed her so much! Without a word, he lifted her into his embrace and carried her into the apartment. Stan took her bag from the back seat and followed Ben and Ray into the building. When they reached the apartment, Ray unlocked the door and Ben carried Analise directly into the bedroom. Ray was surprised to see all the damage cleaned up. I guess with Ben not being able to visit Analise in the hospital, he put all his attention into getting the apartment ready for her. Stan and Ray waited in the living room and Ben came out all most as soon as he went in, minus Analise. "Thanks for finding her Stan, where was she?" "In the park. If I had to say so, I think she was putting off coming home." Ben looked back towards the bedroom. "I'm going to stay here tonight, in case she needs anything." Ray's eyebrows shot up at his friend "are you sure that's a good idea?" "Ray, I have to. I couldn't leave her now if my life depended on it." The two men left and Ben went back into the bedroom.
Ben took off her shoes and then proceeded to remove the rest of her clothes. Digging in a near by dresser, he found an oversized t-shirt that she likes to sleep in and carefully put that on her. After she was settled under the covers, he laid down on top and placed an arm around her. He didn't know what was bothering her, or why she didn't want to tell him, but he would be there for her no matter what. * I stretched and snuggled into the blankets further. Cozy, I felt cozy. I was about to drift off again when reality reared it's ugly head and my hands flew distinctively to my stomach. So much for sleeping in. A wave of nausea sent me bolting for the bathroom and I thought of how much this sucked. After I had a moment to compose myself I looked in the mirror. The bruises were horrendous looking and now I knew why so many people were staring at me yesterday. I splashed some water on my face and went back into the bedroom. Looking at the clock, it was 8:30 am. I decided to get dressed and 'pound the pavement' so to speak. Not that I thought I'd have much luck looking the way I did, but I didn't have time to be picky. When I almost tripped on the clothes I was wearing yesterday, I stopped short. The last thing I remember was being in the car with Stan. Sitting on the edge of the bed I hoped, really, really hoped that he wasn't the one to change me. The smell of something cooking from the kitchen drew my attention and I peeked my head out the door. 'Oh please don't let it be Stan'. 'Ben'. I let out a sigh of relief which was short lived. What was he doing here? I knew I couldn't put it off any longer and had to tell him. I slowly made my way into the kitchen and leaned against the counter. "Hi" .
Ben turned with a start. From the tray he was preparing, he obviously didn't expect me to be up and about. He looked at me for almost a whole minute before answering. "Good morning." "Ben," I couldn't look him in the eyes so I looked down "I'm sorry for the past couple of days." "I must admit, I am curious about your current behavior." His eyes told me just how much he was hurting and I couldn't help but wonder how much more he was keeping inside. "After you left the other day, the doctor told me something that I wasn't expecting to hear. I guess I just... Well, I'm not used to having other people to depend on and I shut down, trying to deal with it myself." Ben turned off the stove, walked over to my side of the counter and placed his hands on my shoulders. "What is it? Are you all right?" "I'm fine Ben. But there is something I need to tell you."
He looked at me and didn't say anything, just waited. I took a deep breath and...and... Stalled. "Let's go into the bedroom." "I beg your pardon?" He was confused and I didn't blame him. "Just work with me here, ok?" I took his hand and pulled him into the other room. When we were situated on the bed, I looked over at Ben and took his hand. "There is something I wanted to tell you, and I figured since this is where we made it, might as well be the place you find out about it." "Made what?" How could that man be so endearing and utterly clueless at the same time? I took the hand I was holding and placed it on my stomach. Watching him closely for his reaction. Ben looked where I placed his hand and then looked back up at me. I saw it finally 'click' in his eyes and they grew big. "You mean? Your... I mean we're... That is there...."
"Yes Ben" I said clearly and slowly. "I'm pregnant." He looked back up at me and just stared. I had no clue what he was thinking and waited. He had to make the first move. "Is the baby all right?" He finally said after an eternity. I nodded my head. "A baby." It was a statement.
I was surprised when he took me in his arms and leaned us back onto the bed. His hand found my stomach again and he looked at me. "Is that why you didn't want to see me?" I nodded again, not wanting to speak. "Why?" "I didn't know how you would react. That's one of the reasons anyway." "What's the other?"
"I didn't know how I was going to support a baby on my own. I only have about a month left in savings to live off of, and the only job I've been offered would mean having to relocate. I just didn't know what to do." Ben leaned over and kissed me. "I love you Analise, and I can't imagine wanting anything more than this baby and you in my life. I admit, I wasn't expecting us to have one this soon, but I never doubted for one minute that we would have children one day. You are my life, and I love you with all my heart." I reached up and hugged him as tight as I could. "I was so scared to tell you- I didn't want to lose you." "You never have to be afraid to tell me anything Analise. I was worried sick about you. I didn't know what was going on and assumed the worst. I don't know where you got the notion of raising this baby on your own, you wouldn't be able to get rid of me if you tried." He paused and continued "there is something I haven't been telling you either." That was a surprise, "what?" I said as I looked over at him. "I've known about your job situation for quite some time now. I also know that's why you didn't want me staying with you before." "How did you know that?" I was shocked to say the least! Was this guy psychic or something? "Because I know you."
I reached behind me and picking up a pillow, hit him with it. The ensuing pillow fight we had was one for the record books and it didn't end until we were laughing so hard neither one of us could get enough strength up to raise our pillows one more time. We laid on our backs laughing and Ben finally leaned over me, resting his body weight on his arms. "Stay here, I'll be right back"
"Where are you going?" In response, Ben ran his hand down my torso and lifted my shirt up. Smiling at me, he bent down and placed a gentle kiss on my stomach, then replaced my shirt. "Just stay here." He returned a few minutes later with the tray he was preparing earlier. **
Ben and I walked into the station four days later to have me make an official statement about the kidnapping. The swelling in my face was almost completely gone but it was going to be a long while I knew before the bruises went away. On the way past the records department, I saw Lisa look up from behind a desk and glare at me. 'I guess it takes longer for some people than others to get over things.' The past four days with Ben had been great. I couldn't imagine why I was so scared to tell him about the baby. The only problem now was getting him to stop doting on me! "Hi Analise, I'm glad to see your feeling better." "Thank you Lieutenant."
Ben looked around the room, "sir, would you happen to know where Ray is?" "I sent him out on a case, but he should be back in a little bit. Why don't you take Analise over to his desk, and I'll send Frannie over to take her statement." Ben nodded and ushered me to the corner desk, holding out a chair for me. "Ben, that's really not necessary you know." "What isn't?"
"I don't believe I am doting, I just want to be polite." Frannie walked over hearing the last part of our conversation. "Problem?" She had a smile on her face and I could tell she thought our banter was sweet. "Yes, the Mountie here is doting, again." "I do not dote" he repeated and stuck his lower lip out. Frannie and I exchanged looks with each other and she continued. "Of course you don't Fraser, just like you never pout." "Precisely". When Frannie sat down in Ray's chair, Ben pulled a little stool over and propped my feet up on it. "What are you doing?" Frannie asked him leaning over the desk to get a better look. "Doting" I replied, crossing my arms in front of me as I tried to give him a mean look. "I am simply making sure that you and the baby are comfortable. It's perfectly logical" he continued when Frannie and I continued to stare at him. "Ben, will you do me a favor?"
"Of course" he said with a smile on his face, finally his efforts were being appreciated. "Would you be kind enough to go get me a pepsi?" "Analise, caffeine isn't good for the baby, perhaps you would care for some orange juice or milk instead." The man had gone too far. I know I didn't just hear those words out of his mouth! I smiled at him and looked over at Frannie who thought this was the funniest thing she ever saw in her entire life. "Ben, sweetheart," this should have been his first clue that something wasn't right, but he continued to look at me with those puppy eyes, "I want to drink a pepsi. Now, I don't drink coffee, I don't drink tea anymore, I don't even eat chocolate! But I will not now, or ever give up my pepsi, understand?" He opened his mouth to say something and thought better of it.
"Would you *please* go bring me a pepsi now?" "How about a caffeine free pepsi?" He just wasn't giving up easily. "Fine."
"I'll be right back" he said smiling as he leaned over and gave me a
kiss. We watched him walk away and I groaned, leaning my face in my hands.
"He's just trying to look out for you." Frannie said softly.
"I know, it can just be a little much every now and then. I love him
dearly, but these last few days he has been extra attentive if you know
what I mean." "I know what you mean" we turned to a voice approaching
the desk, "there are somedays I think I should get a medal or something
for putting up with Benny." "Hi Ray."
He leaned over and gave me a little kiss on the cheek, then he touched my belly before ousting his sister from his chair. "No need to be pushy Ray, I'm moving." She said hitting him with a file. "So Analise," Ray said looking over at me, "are you ready to make your statement?" "I guess" that didn't come out too enthusiastically I thought. "What's wrong? You feeling ok?"
"Yeah, it's just, I haven't really told anyone in detail what happened and it just feels a little weird. It's not something I want to remember." "No one? Not even Benny?"
"It just never really came up."
He looked at me strangely "We can do this somewhere more private if you prefer." I nodded and Ray picked up his tape recorder motioning for me to follow him down the hall. We went into one of the interrogation rooms and Ray shut the door. "Now we wont be bothered." As we were getting situated, there was a knock on the door and Ben walked in. He handed me the soda and I gave him a kiss. "Thank you" I said and he leaned closer again for another one. "Ah-hem! There is another person in the room, remember?" We stopped kissing and looked over at Ray. "Sorry Ray."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Look Benny, why don't you go bug Stan for a while or lick something, this will probably take a while." Ben looked over at me "I don't mind staying Analise, unless you would prefer that I go." "Either way" I said trying to keep my voice neutral. He pulled up a chair and I looked back over at Ray. "Start at the very beginning and try not to leave anything out."
I took a deep breath and began "I was in my apartment and there was a knock on my door....."
By the time I finished telling what had happened I was surprised to see that almost two hours had passed. I looked over at Ben who was sitting with his elbows on the table and his hands were folded, holding up his chin. He had a far away look on his face and I became worried. "Ben?" I walked over to him and put my arms around him from the back. "What's the matter?" He drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Nothing,... It's nothing." He said turning his head to look up at me, and smiled. I looked over at Ray and knew it was time for me to let them talk. "I think I'm going to see what Frannie is doing" "tell her to make sure she picks up the bread for dinner tonight-- you guys are still coming over aren't you?" I answered for the both of us "we wouldn't miss it for the world."
Ray looked over at his friend, "ok, spill it."
"Spill what Ray?"
"You know what, your sitting there like your best friend just died." "I.. Well, I just didn't realize how much happened in such a short amount of time." Ray leaned closer to Ben "I know that must have been hard for you to sit through, but it was just as hard for Analise to relive it again, especially with you in the room." "What's that supposed to mean Ray?" Ben didn't like where his friend was taking the conversation. "She told Frannie how you seem to think this was all your doing." Ben looked down "It is. She would have never been put through any of this if it wasn't for me. They took her to get back at me." "They took Frannie and Meg also, remember? She doesn't blame you for what happened, no one does because it wasn't your fault. Now you need to get over this." Ben sat up straighter in his chair "your right Ray" "I know I am" he smiled at his friend. "I'm gonna start typing this up. See you about six ok?" "We'll be there," Ben said with a smile. After Ray left the room Ben placed his head in his hands again. While she was telling what happened to her, Ben could see it vividly in his mind and his own imagination added more dangers to the tale. Thinking of how much she was hurting, and the baby, he never wanted to let her out of his sight again. The city was far too dangerous for her and his unborn child. How could he be expected to protect them when there were so many other people who needed his help? In his mind there was only one thing to do. He had to take them back home with him. After all, she did say she wanted to see the Territories. And what better place to raise a child but in the clean air of Canada? His mind made up, Ben felt happy as he left to find Analise. He would tell her tonight after dinner. Of course, he paused on the way out the room, he would miss his friends, but they would understand, he was sure of it. And it's not like they wouldn't visit on occasion. Plus, his cabin would always be open to them. *** "That was a great dinner Mrs. Vecchio" I said and gave her a big smile. "How many time do I have to tell you to call me Ma?" She said placing her hands on her hips. "I'm sorry, 'Ma'." She sighed and the smile returned to her face "much better." We went into the living room for coffee, or in my case, a spring water, and just to chat. Ben acted like a different person all afternoon and I was wondering what he was up to. I tried a few times to get him to tell me but he was pretty adamant. As we sat in the living room, Ben wrapped his arm around me and I snuggled into the warmth. Being with him was unlike anything I had ever known and I never wanted it to end. Comfortable was the only word I could use to describe it. It was if I had known him forever. I remember saying that to him once, and he gave me a strange look. Ben was definitely a man of many secrets and I wanted to get to know each and every one. As the evening wore on, I could tell Ben was getting more and more anxious and his fidgeting was becoming more pronounced. I finally had to look over at him and ask. "What has you so jumpy tonight Ben?" He was literally beaming and everyone in the room also had noticed the unusual behavior for him. "Well, there is something I have been wanting to say all afternoon" "well?" I said anxiously. His smile was contagious and I couldn't wait to hear what had this usually serious man so happy. Everyone in the room was waiting for him to continue and he stood to get a better look at everyone and cleared his throat. "I've been thinking"
"That's a start" Ray said smiling to egg his friend on. Ben rolled his eyes at him and continued. "As I was saying, I've been thinking. I've lived in Chicago now for about five years and this has become a second home to me. All of you have welcomed me into your family and accepted me unconditionally. That means more to me than you could possibly know." Everyone in the room beamed at each other. They considered Ben as close as a brother or son also. Ben looked down at me "I have been very fortunate indeed to have found a wonderful woman, whom I clearly don't deserve, who wants me to be part of her life and also, who is giving me the precious miracle of our baby." There were sighs from around the room and I just stared at Ben feeling more love than I ever thought possible. How lucky can a girl get? Ben continued "Canada is also my home, and I have been gone far to long. I want our baby to know the beauty of the Territories, and be raised in a relatively safe environment." He looked around the room at all the stunned faces. "We would continue to visit and of course, all of you would be more than welcome to come up to the cabin anytime. I want our child to know all of his or her family" No one knew what to say. We just sat there as if waiting for him to say 'April fools or something'. Frannie looked over at us "your leaving?" "Not right away of course, I need to put in for transfer and get everything settled but in the next few months we should be able to relocate. I do want to move before the winter sets in." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He hadn't even asked if it was what I wanted! That wasn't like Ben at all. "Ben?" He sat back down beside me and took my hand, smiling. I could tell this meant a lot to him and I didn't want to disappoint him "Yes love?"
"Why didn't you ask me first?"
"It seemed the logical course of action and I know you love the out doors. Also, you did say you wanted to see the Yukon, and now you can." Everyone in the room was still deathly quiet. I could tell from the look on Ray's face he was trying not to go ballistic on Ben. I didn't think the man had that much self control in his body. "You are happy about this, aren't you?" Ben asked looking at me.
"I don't know Ben. This is something you should have asked me first instead of making the decision on your own." I looked around at everyone. "I think it's time for us to go now, we have some talking to do." I looked over at Ben "Ben?" No one argued with that logic and Ben was suddenly quiet as he helped me on with my jacket. I thanked everyone for a wonderful evening and before I could follow Ben out the door, Ray grabbed my arm and pulled me into the other room. "Did you know he was going to do this?" I asked him.
"No idea. He was really freaked earlier at the station when he heard everything you went through, but I wasn't expecting this. Your not going to go are you?" I looked over at Ben standing on the porch, "I don't know Ray. I love him, and I know he really misses Canada, but... I just dont know." I gave him a kiss on the cheek "I'll let you know what happens." ***
All the way home Ben was quiet and I was too busy thinking of the speech he had made to start any small talk. For once the walk back to the apartment seemed too short. I went immediately to the bedroom and changed into an over sized t-shirt. When I went back into the living room, Ben was sitting dejectedly on the couch. I sat down beside him and propped my arm on the back of the sofa. "Ben?" He looked up at me with such sadness in his eyes it tore at my heart. "Tell me what's going on inside you." "I just want you to be safe."
"I am safe Ben"
"No, your not. Here there is too much that can happen to you and it's all because of me. You would have never had to go through that if it wasn't for me. Who knows what will happen the next time!" Ben was really upset about this I could tell and he had been thinking about this for some time. "This wasn't your fault Ben" "I was the one who convinced Tangor to testify, and Cooper knew it." "You did the right thing"
"and look where it got you! You and the baby could have been killed!" He was holding my hand now and trying his best to make me see this was his fault. "So what your saying Ben, is that your detrimental to my health? Do you realize how that sounds?" When he didn't say anything I continued "I love you Ben, and if you want to move back to Canada I'll go with you. But make sure it's for the right reasons, not because your trying to hide me from the world. And what about the baby?" That got his attention "I'm doing this for you and the baby"
"Is there a doctor or hospital nearby? What happens when I go into labor? What if there are complications? The baby is due near the end of April, what's the weather like then?" He looked down considering what I said. After what seemed like an eternity, he spoke, but still didn't look at me. "Your right,... The nearest doctor is three days away by dogsled. It would be dangerous." I lifted his head so he would look at me. "Why don't we plan on visiting before the baby comes, and then decide afterwards? That way, I'll know what it's like and we will still be near a doctor when the time comes, Ok?" He smiled at me, relief was evident. 'She wasn't saying no'. "Fair enough" I leaned over and gave him a kiss that showed just how much I loved him. When I started to unbutton his shirt, he took hold of my hands, his eyes wide. "What about the baby? I....don't want to hurt you." "You wont" I whispered in his ear as I gave him butterfly kisses on his neck. Ben stopped one more time and looked over at me. "What?"
His face was serious "Analise, I would feel a lot better if you let me stay here with you." "Ben, we've talked about this before" "I know, when I'm not with you though, I worry about you constantly. I am already staying here at least two or three times a week." It was my turn to look down "I'm just not ready for that yet Ben, I'm sorry." He pulled me to him and hugged me. "What am I going to do with you?" He faked exasperation in his tone. "I do have one idea" I said slyly, smiling up at him.
The next morning, I went into the station to meet Frannie for lunch. Before I could even say hello, she, Stan, and Ray converged on me. "What happened last night?" Frannie asked and I knew they were still talking about Ben's announcement. I looked at the three faces "Ben thinks that if he takes me and the baby to Canada, he will be able to protect us. For the time being, I've convinced him to stay here, at least until the baby is born, but we are going to plan a trip north to visit first. That way, I'll know what to expect." They exchanged looks of relief. A temporary reprieve was better than nothing. "When are you planning on heading up?" Stan folded his arms across himself as he spoke. "I don't know yet. My first priority is finding a job before I'm homeless." Frannie grabbed my arm excitedly, "that's why I wanted you to come down today!" "What?" I was hoping beyond hope this was good news. "I do a lot of shopping and one of my friends knows someone who knows someone who happens to own Goddess Creations. Anyway, their accountant just quit on them and they are looking. I passed your resume along and they want to meet with you!" This was the best news I had heard in a long time! "No way! When?" "Your supposed to call Maria at this number" she handed me the piece of paper and I hugged her. "This is so great! Goddess Creations! They are one of the biggest designers in Chicago!" "Don't I know it!" Frannie chimed in "I have to save for a year just to buy a scarf in that place." "Your the best Frannie!" As we hurried over to her desk to call, Stan and Ray just looked at each other. Ray was the first to speak "Did you catch any of that?" Stan just shook his head no slowly and both men looked back at Analise and Frannie one more time before heading off to their own desks. I screamed when I got off the phone and Frannie was waving her arms frantically "well, what did they say?" "I have an interview tomorrow at 10am!!!" We hugged each other. I didn't see Ben walk up. "Good news I take it?" I looked behind me and after hugging Ben, gave him the biggest kiss in his life. Much to my surprise, I heard cheers and whistles erupt from around the room. Ben blushed but the smile on his face didn't wane. "Wonderful news, I have an interview tomorrow at Goddess Creations!" I hugged him again unable to contain my excitement. "That is good news."
My mind was racing "I've got to get ready!" He looked at me strangely
"Didn't you say tomorrow at 10?"
"Yeah?" I looked at him like what's your point. He smiled "nothing".
Frannie grabbed my arm "I'm ready"
"ah, I take it you two have plans?" Ben fingered the brim of his Stetson. "Lunch." I gave him another kiss as Frannie pulled me out the room "see you later!" He waved as we headed out the door and looking around the room, headed over to Stan's desk where he and Ray were working. "Hey Fraser"
"Hello Stan, Ray" he said nodding at the two men. "So, you not protecting the consulate from marauding salesmen today?" "I had the early shift Ray."
"Well, we can use your help if your not busy" Ben looked at the door one more time before he turned his attention to the papers on the desk. Stan and Ray exchanged looks with each other but didn't say anything. **
When I walked out of the office building the next day, I was surprised to see Ben in his red surge, waiting patiently on a bench, hat in hand. I walked up to him. "Ben! What are you doing here?" He had stood when he saw me approach and from behind, he handed me a single red rose. "I just wanted to tell you I was rooting for you." I took the rose and reaching up, gave him a kiss. "That is so sweet. Aren't you supposed to be working though?"
He cricked his head to the side "I switched shifts and did the early one this morning so I could surprise you." "Well, you certainly did at that!" He held out his elbow and at first I thought of how old fashioned of a gesture that was, but decided to go along with it and wrapped my arm through his. He was so endearing when he was being chivalrous. "Are you going to tell me how it went?" I gave him a sideways glance. "Curious are we?" He smiled over at me and placed his hand over mine. "A little." "Just a little?" I teased.
"Perhaps more than a little." Finally he stopped and looked at me "All right, I'm dying of curiosity, how did it go?" "I got the job!" Ben swung me around and kissed me hard. Remembering he was in uniform though, he reluctantly pulled back "I'm happy for you." "That's not the best part." His eyebrows raised "more?"
I nodded "after I get set up, I can work from home with my computer, and it pays almost twice as much as my last position." Ben was smiling so wide, I thought his face would freeze like that. "I'm very pleased for you. When do you start?" "Monday. That means, we have three whole days to celebrate!"
"There is one more thing you need to do today first." "And that would be?" I said grinning at him. He started walking again and recaptured my arm. "You have a doctor's appointment at three." I was confused "no I don't"
"I made it for you" I stopped walking and looked at him "Excuse me?" He rubbed his ear. "The doctor said you needed to see an O.B., and I saw the doctor's name and number by the phone for the past week, you didn't call so I took the liberty." "Ben, you know how I feel about doctors."
He cupped my face with his hand caressing my cheek and looked at me seriously. "I love you too much to have you put this off. Please go." I crossed my arms in front of my chest. How can I love someone who drives me so crazy? Ben was looking at me with a pleading innocence. It's not that I wasn't going to call, I thought to myself, I just had other things to do. "You are high maintenance, do you know that?" He smiled at me and taking one of my hands, kissed it. "I would like to think I am worth it" "That's besides the point." I said not ready to let it completely drop. He put his arm around my waist and ushered me down the street again. "Where are we going anyway?" "Lunch." I shook my head at him and allowed him to lead me down the street. *
"I am not drinking that stuff" I said looking at the thick orange liquid in the cup. The nurse didn't even look up from the chart she was holding. She must hear that ten times a day I was thinking. So far, I had been poked, prodded, and had enough blood drawn to supply a blood bank for a week I was sure of, but this stuff looked truly nasty. "You have ten minutes to finish the entire cup, and then we will wait for fifteen minutes and take one more blood sample." I had heard enough "how about we save this for another time? We can't have all the fun now, can we?" "Ten minutes" she repeated and left the room. I looked around thinking of how to make my break when the door opened and Ben walked in. I knew it was too good to be true. "I hope you don't mind," he said shutting the door behind him. "The nurse said it would be all right for me to come in." I looked at my clothes one last time. Ben followed my gaze and stepped in between me and my last chance of freedom. Sometimes, I think that man can read my mind. "No, I don't mind."
Ben picked up the cup with the orange glob in it and held it up to me silently with raised eyebrows. I took the nasty liquid and gulped it as fast as I could. Big mistake. I had to lay down to keep myself from having it come right back up. "Are you ok?" Ben asked looking down at me with concern. I simply nodded, not trusting myself to answer. The nurse walked back in and looked at the empty cup. "I see you managed to get her to drink all of it."
"Yes ma'am" I couldn't believe it! He conspired with the nurse! I looked at him start to fidget. My eyes narrowed and I could tell he received the message loud and clear-- he was going to pay for that. "I think I'll, ahh, go back out and wait for you...dear." He was fumbling with the door knob behind him and when he managed to grab it, he was gone like lightening. "You sure got yourself a fine catch there, missy" she said chuckling as she readied the needle.
I felt a hand on my belly and looked over at the man sleeping beside me. When I looked down at my stomach, I couldn't help but feel like a whale trying to squeeze into a goldfish skin. I was almost five months along and didn't think it was possible for human skin to stretch that much! I sighed. I really did love the man beside me, and although at first I was hesitant to have this baby, I have grown to love it. I just never imagined myself having children. Here I was, 31 years old and the last thing I imagined myself doing was changing diapers. There was another subject I had been avoiding and I knew I couldn't put it off much longer. Ben still wants to move in together, and I really want to be with him, so why am I so hesitant? I think about him all the time when I'm not with him and love him with all my heart. Perhaps it's because he hasn't said where he wants this relationship to go. Not once has he ever mentioned marriage. If I wanted a roommate, I'd advertise in the paper. He tells me he loves me everyday and I don't doubt that he does, but when I was growing up, I never imagined having children and a live in boyfriend. I guess the romantic in me just wanted a house, white picked fence, a wedding... The usual. I looked back over at the sleeping form. I tried to get up quietly to let him sleep. It was Saturday and I had a lot of Christmas shopping to do. There were after all, only four weeks left till Christmas and now that I had an 'extended family' there were a lot of gifts to buy. When I reached the bathroom door, I felt something strange and gasped in surprise as I held my stomach. "Oh my God!" I couldn't believe what I was feeling.
"Analise, are you all right?" Ben was at my side and I nodded as I held onto the door frame. Swiftly, he picked me up and placed me back on the bed. "Stay here, I'll be right back"
"Ben-" he was gone before I could tell him it was ok. He rushed back into the room. He had managed to put a pair of jeans on but they weren't buttoned or zipped, and his boots were in one hand, shirt in the other. "I'll help you get dressed and you'll be at the doctor in no time." "Ben!" That got his attention "it's ok, I was just a little surprised, that's all. Come here." He knelt by the bed and I took his hand, placing it on the side of my stomach. He sat quietly for a moment and there it was again! He looked up at me in wonder. "The baby moved for the first time, and I was just a little taken aback." After the relief washed over him, he placed his other hand on my stomach and kissed my belly gently. "Hi there little one" he said quietly to my stomach, "did you wake up?" The look of tenderness on his face was overwhelming and I started to cry. Ben came up to my level and kissed me gently "did I tell you how much I love you?" "Not today" "I love you" he smiled at me and wiped a tear from my cheek. "BENNY! You in here?"
Ben's face paled "Oh dear."
Ray burst through the bedroom door. "I'm here, what happened?" I looked at Ray in his pajamas and bathrobe with a pair of snow boots on. He came over to me beside the bed and looked back and forth between Ben and myself. "Ahh Ray" Ben said standing "I'm sorry, it was a misunderstanding, Analise doesn't have to go to the hospital." Ray looked at his friend "you drug me out of the bed at eight o'clock in the morning and tell me there is an emergency. So I fly out of bed and rush over here with light and sirens going and now you tell me it was a mistake?!" "Ray" I said trying to calm him down and not laugh at the same time.He certainly was animated when he's upset. "I didn't know Ben called you, he thought something was wrong but it wasn't." Ray looked over at Ben who's hand had found my stomach again and back at me. "Give me your hand" I reached up to him. Ray reluctantly stepped forward and I placed it on my stomach after a minute he smiled. "Is that the baby?" I grinned at him and nodded. "I was so surprised to feel it move that I must have scared Ben to death and he in turn called you. I'm sorry Ray." "Well, I needed to get up early anyway...."
"Would you like breakfast Ray? It's the least we can do since you did come the whole way over here." Ben said trying to placate his friend. Ray looked over at Ben "I want a big breakfast! Eggs, bacon, the works!" "Ugh! Please don't mention eggs" I said covering my hand with my mouth. "How about pancakes Ray? Analise is sensitive to the smell of eggs cooking." I groaned again.
Ray chuckled "pancakes are fine Benny. I'm gonna call the house and let them know everything is all right." I took a quick shower and changed while the boys went into the kitchen. I still laughed to myself thinking of the look on Ray's face when he came into the bedroom. Those two are worse than Laurel and Hardy sometimes. I had to finally breakdown and buy maternity clothes but they weren't as bad as I thought they would be. Pulling my hair into a ponytail, I went into the kitchen. "There you are" Ray said smiling at me "I thought you fell in." "Har-de-har-har" I said and kissed Ben as he handed me a plate with sliced oranges, toast, a banana and a glass of milk. "Where are you planning on going today?" Ben asked and I knew he was in his overprotective mode again. "Meg's gonna be here soon and I thought we could go down to the strip, pick up a couple of out of towners looking for a good time, you know the usual." Ben did a double take and I tried my best to keep a serious look on my face. Hoping that wasn't the start of a coronary, I gave in. "We're just going shopping Ben" he walked behind me and wrapped his arms around me, hands finding my stomach again. Sometimes I wonder if they have a will of their own. A knock on the door stopped my musings. "I'll get it" Ray said looking back at us "are you two surgically attached or something?" When Ray opened the door, Meg looked at him with slight horror.
"I don't even want to know Detective" she said holding up a hand. Obviously she was referring to his attire. "Come on in Meg" I called from the other room. "I'm just about ready" "good morning sir, would you care for some breakfast?"
"No thank you Fraser, I all ready ate"
"Ah, very well then"
Ray looked over at Meg "Ma's still waiting for an answer about Christmas dinner Inspector." "I... I guess I can come for a little while." She said as if all this was frivolous. In her heart though, she really didn't want to be alone on Christmas day and was more than delighted when the invite was extended to her. "Great" Ray smiled "she'll be happy to hear that."
"What about Stan?" I asked
"He's coming. Ma cornered him last week in person and you know Ma, no one can refuse her." I laughed remembering all too well. "Well, we might as well get going" I said picking up my plate to take it to the sink. Ben took it from me and wrapped his free arm around what was left of my waist. "Be careful" he said as he kissed me. "Aren't I always?" He smiled and looked over at Meg. "It isn't too icy out is it?"
She rolled her eyes at him "the weather is fine Constable. I'll take good care of Analise." "Ok, that's my cue, see you boys later" I said as I pulled Meg out the door. "Bye" they called back in unison. Ben looked over at Ray "do you have some free time today?" "Sure Benny, what do you need?"
"I have no idea what to get Analise for Christmas. I was hoping we could look around a little." Ray shrugged his shoulders "I still need to get some last minute things, why not? Let's go home first so I can change." *
Meg and I lugged our packages to a bench in the mall and sat down. "I can't believe all the stuff we bought!" I said laughing. "Well, there are a lot of people to shop for. To be quite honest, I haven't had this much fun in a long time!" "I still don't know what to get for Ben. What do you get a man who doesn't need anything?" She shook her head and looked at me "I'm the last person to give advice. One Christmas I gave him a ceremonial sword and didn't live that down for almost a year." "A sword?"
"Like you said, he's a hard man to shop for." We both laughed and Meg continued. "Your ultrasound is this Monday right?" "Yeah, we decided to not find out what the baby's sex is. We want to be surprised." "Well, from the looks of things," she was eying my stomach "you got one big, healthy baby in there!" "I know! The word 'epidermal' pops into my head every time I look in the mirror!" We both laughed again and decided to take the packages to the car.
Ben and I walked lazily down the street. The doctor's office was just ahead and we still had a good 20 minutes before my appointment time. "You know Ben, we still didn't discuss names yet" "names?"
"Is there something imparticular you had in mind?" He asked. "Well, I was thinking that if we had a boy, we could name him Robert, after your father" I paused to see his reaction and was met with a heartfelt smile "and if we had a girl, we could name her Jacinda Caroline, after both our mothers." "Jacinda....Jacinda Caroline. That sounds lovely." "What about you though? Didn't you have any names in mind?" He brushed his eyebrow with his finger "I was hoping if it was a boy we could name him after my father, but I didn't think far enough ahead about a girls name." "You don't mind then?" He looked over at me "I think it's wonderful." Ben's attention was drawn by screaming coming from somewhere in the park. He looked over at me "go to the doctor's office, I'll be there as soon as I can." He looked down at the wolf "Dief go!" He then took off across the street to the park before I could respond. I looked until I couldn't see him anymore and headed into the doctor. You'd think I'd be used to that by now, but I never was. The entire time I was waiting, I kept staring at the clock, hoping he was all right. Certainly he would have been back by now? The doctor came in. "How are you doing today Analise?" "Fine" I said as he motioned for me to lie back on the table. "Where is the Mountie? I believe this is the first time I've ever seen you in here without him." "Someone needed his help and you know the rest..." The doctor nodded as he placed a gel on my stomach. "I know this is a little early for an ultrasound. But you are a little bigger than we were expecting, and I just want to reconfirm the due date. It's really routine." "No problem. We don't want to know what the sex is though. I guess we just want to be surprised." "That I can do." The doctor looked intently at the screen as he moved a device across my stomach. I watched the image change on the screen and wondered how he could even make out a baby from the images. ***
I walked out of the doctor's office and looked around. Still no sign of Ben. Looking across the street I saw quite a few cop cars and ventured over. What ever it was, must have been big. I spotted Stan and walked over to him. "Hey, what's going on?"
"Oh hey Analise, what are you doing here?" "Looking for Ben-- what happened?"
"A woman was stabbed, apparent robbery. They just took her away. Fraser here somewhere?" "You didn't see him?"
Stan shook his head no and I started to get worried "we heard a scream and Ben ran into the park. I went in for my doctor's appointment and he never showed up. That was over 45 minutes ago." We turned towards the sound of barking and saw Dief. Ben came into view a moment later with a man he had in an arm lock. Relief washed over me as he walked up to us. "I believe you'll find this is the man who stabbed that woman." He said handing him over to Stan. I hugged him tight. "Don't ever scare me like that again!"
"I'm sorry, it just took a little longer to catch him than I thought it would. How's the baby?" I looked at him and smiled "perfect!" "I'm going to need to go to the station and file a report." "I'll go with you, it will give me a chance to see Frannie." ***
Christmas was upon us quicker than I had imagined. Time sure does fly
when your having fun! Ben and I decorated a small tree for the apartment,
but we decided not to exchange gifts until we got to the Vecchio's. Stan
came to pick us up on his way over and after about ten minutes, managed
to get all the gifts loaded into the trunk. "Geez" Stan was saying "is
there anything you two didn't buy?"
"I didn't want to leave anyone out Stan" When we reached the house, everyone was there including Meg. We had a lot of help getting the gifts out of the car, and more that a few were being shook by adults as well as children. The day went by rather quick and after dinner, we exchanged the gifts. Everyone was happy with what they received and Ben smiled lovenly at me when I gave him a new set of whittling knives and some shirts. If he only knew what his 'real' gift was I thought. I received quite a few gifts for the baby and Ben had given me a emerald necklass-my birthstone and I was brought to tears when he gave me a carving of our mountain. It had everything, including the little cave we stayed in on the way down. It was the sweetest thing I ever received in my life, and when I asked him how, he said simply enough that he started it when we were out in the woods and finished it when we returned. I thought back to the times I would see all the wood chips all over the campsites and smiled through my blurred vision. On the bottom front, he even carved 'our mountain-A.J. & B.F.'. When everyone was settled in the living room, I pulled out one more small gift for Ben. His eyebrows shot up "another gift?" I smiled at him and nodded "open it"
everyone in the room was waiting to see what the surprise gift was, and Ben carefully unwrapped the paper--painstakingly slow. When he did see the gift-- a small photo in a frame saying DADDY, he was confused. I leaned over and explained the picture. "This is from the ultrasound I had a few weeks ago. If you look here" I said pointing to the picture "you can see a head" I pointed to another area "here are little hands," then finally another area "and here is a head" He looked at me confused "I thought you said that was the head"
I just smiled at him waiting for it to click. He looked back down at the photo and back up at me. "When you decide to do something Benton Fraser, you go ALL the way don't you?" I teased He stared at me dumbfounded "Twins?"
I nodded slowly.
"TWINS!" He hollered and swept me into his arms. "Were having twins!" The whole room erupted into congratulations and hugged both of us. This had to be the best Christmas I ever had in my entire life. Ben pulled me into his arms one more time "did I tell you how much I love you" he said softly. "Not today" I replied knowing full well he had. He smiled down at me "I love you" he said and gently kissed me. Ben was even more attentive now that he knew I was carrying two babies and he was more than a little curious as to how I kept it from him all these weeks without letting on. That evening, I came out of the shower to see Ben sitting on the couch reading another book. I walked up behind him and kissed him on the top of his head while I wrapped my arms around him. "What book is that?" He looked a little sheepish as he showed me the cover 'Everything you ever needed to know about pregnancy and childbirth.' I laughed a little and walked around to sit beside him. "Oh Ben! If I didn't know any better I'd think you were planning on delivering the babies on your own." Ben put the book down and pulled me into his embrace. "It wouldn't be the first time." "What?" I said shifting to see his face "you delivered a baby before? When?" "It was in Canada. An Inuit woman was in labor and I helped her deliver the baby." "Well what do you know, your a regular jack of all trades."
He smiled at me and we sat comfortably together. I always enjoyed our time together. We could just sit for hours with each other and never get bored. "You know Ben, we still haven't been up to Canada yet, and with the babies, if we don't go soon, we might not have a chance." "Do you think that's wise now?" Concern furrowed his brows. The doctor said I will probably need to be on bed rest from the eighth month on, but I'm only a little over five and a half months along now. If we go soon, we should be all right. Ben's hands found my stomach again and the little one's answered their father by picking that moment to kick. I smiled at the interaction. "I guess we could go for two weeks after new years."
"Why don't we go now?"
"Yeah, the consulate will be closed for at least another week and that way you wont miss too much time at work." Ben was definitely liking the idea. He really did miss home and the worst part of winter wouldn't hit for another month or two. "I'll call tomorrow morning and make arrangements." *
"Benny, all I'm saying is that it's dangerous. Why don't you wait until after the babies are born." Ben looked over at Ray who was doing his best to keep Dief away from his jelly doughnut. "Analise wants to go now and there really isn't much danger Ray. Deep winter doesn't set in for another month or two." "I just don't like it" Ray countered. Ever since he helped to get Ben and her together, he felt overly protective of Analise, almost like a sister. Stan had been listening quietly for the past fifteen minutes as Ray and Ben bickered back and forth with each other about the impending trip, and decided it was time to put his two cents in. "Why don't we all go?"
Both men stopped in mid sentence and looked at him. "Excuse me? You want me to go into the pit of hell in the middle of winter?" Ray asked astonished. "Well, that way, we can keep an eye on Analise and Fraser here can show her around." Ben didn't have this in mind when he thought about spending some quality time with the woman he loved. Especially since it was a one room cabin and very close accommodations. "Stanley, I don't think that would be such a good idea."
Stan stood up and walked over to the two men. "Think about it Fraser, when was the last time you were up to the cabin?" "I did stop there briefly after we caught Muldoon."
"And do you remember what the cabin looked like then? You still didn't have it completely rebuilt after the fire. You'll need someone to help you and I don't think Analise is going to be up to a lot of hard work." He had a point Ben thought. And Ray was thinking it might not be such a bad trip after all. Maybe if he could convince Analise how unappealing life out there would be, she would convince Benny to stay in Chicago. At least for the time being. "I'm game" Ray suddenly chimed in and Ben did a double take at his friend. "But Ray, you hate the cabin." "No, I just hate leaving it to go to the bathroom. That reminds me, does Analise know about the facilities?" "Yes Ray, she knows." "Just curious."
Ben looked at the two men whose minds were obviously made up. It seemed the only thing left to do was see what Analise thought of the whole thing. *
"They what?" I asked incredibly.
"They invited themselves to the cabin. It might not be so bad if you think about it, there is some work that still needs to be taken care of and this way it will get done a lot faster." I looked at Ben and thought how only he could manage something like this. For a brief second, I thought that he would even invite people along on our honeymoon, but then cringed. What makes me think he will even ask me to marry him? So far he hasn't even eluded to the idea. Face it girl, just because you are having someone's baby-- babies-- I corrected myself, doesn't mean they want to make a life long commitment to you. Now don't get me wrong, I know he will always be there for his children, but that doesn't mean he will always want to be with me. I sighed and sat down. "I tried to talk them out of it. Perhaps if we tell them together." It didn't seem so important to me anymore after the epiphany I just had. "It's ok Ben, they can come." "Do you feel all right?" He noticed the play across her features as she was considering what he said and knew there was something not right. "I'm just tired is all. I think I'll head off to bed." "But it's only eight o'clock."
"Early to bed...." I quipped as I stood up. "Why don't you go over to Ray's and let them know it's fine with me." "I can just call from here." "Ben, I think I want some time to myself." Ben didn't know what to say to that. Even though he still wasn't "officially" living with Analise, for at least the past month, he had been staying every night. He was hoping she had finally decided to let him move in with her, but now this... "Understood" he said although he didn't. "I'll lock up for you" Ben gave me a kiss on the cheek and I watched as he left the apartment. I then went into the bedroom and cried myself to sleep. Damn these pregnancy hormones! I thought to myself. **
"This is all your taking?"
I looked over at Ray and nodded. I had a pretty good size bag and I was wondering what *he* was taking. I didn't have long to wait for an answer, because when he opened the trunk to add my bag, it was full. "Your going to carry all of that to the cabin?"
"It's the bare minimum I need for two weeks in the wilderness." I just looked at him and smiled. Stan and Ben were already loaded up and luckily, Stan fortunately didn't pack as much as Ray. Ben took my arm and leaded me to the front seat of the riv. "Ray" Ben said eying his friend "I don't think all of that is going to fit on the dogsled." "I am not taking a dog sled."
"How else are we going to get to the cabin?" "Don't worry, I have that all figured out." I just looked at Stan in the back seat who was looking like he hears this way too many times a day and sighed. It was going to be a long two weeks. The last airplane ride we were on was the most stressful for me. Not because of memories of the crash, because Ray was so paranoid the entire time that we were going to go down again, he didn't give anyone else a chance to rest. I didn't' think the four hour ride would ever end. I waited with Stan as Ben went to make arrangements for a dog sled. Ray had disappeared about an hour ago and hadn't been seen since. "Were all set. I've taken the liberty of renting two dog sleds. I will lead one with Analise and you and Ray can take the other one." "I don't think so Benny" Ray said joining us.
"Ray, it is the only way to get to the cabin from here." "Not the only way Benny just the only way for you. I rented a helicopter." Stan perked up at that "I think I'll stick with Ray on this on Fraser, we can meet the two of you at the cabin later." That sounded like a pretty good idea to me I was thinking.
"Well," Benny said not looking too happy "if that's what the two of you prefer to do" he then looked over at me with such a 'my new toy just broke' look I couldn't take it. "Analise, if you prefer, you can go with Ray and Stan on the Helicopter. It would probably be more comfortable for you and the twins." "Are you kidding?" I said trying to sound cheerful "I wouldn't miss this experience for the world." His smile returned and I thought of all the things I do for love.... "Great, I'll just let them know we'll need only one dog sled" he headed off again and I looked at the two men standing sheepishly in front of me. "Wimps." The ride to the cabin was long to say the least. But Ben not only didn't seem to mind it, he seemed so in his element I wondered how he ever adapted to living in the city. "Whoa" he said pulling the dogs in lead by Diefenbaker, and I had to smile when I thought of the ruse we used to get him past customs. I pretended I was blind and he was my seeing eye dog. Ray and Stan were surprised when Ben actually went along with it instead of telling the truth. I guess he really wanted Dief to come along. "Here we are" Ben said helping me out of the sled. I stretched and looked around at a small cabin and a barn. Ben was watching me intently for my reaction and I looked around thinking I had never seen a more beautiful site anywhere. Everything was snow covered and It looked like a painting in a museum. "It's beautiful Ben" he beamed at me and ushered me towards the cabin. There was smoke coming from the chimney and I knew the boys must have been there for some time now. As Ben and I got to the door, Ray and Stan came out. "About time you two got here. We've been waiting for two hours!" Ray bellowed. As Ben led me into the cabin Ray leaned over and whispered in my ear "I bet you wish you'd taken the helicopter now don't ya?" I rolled my eyes and went inside. Stan and Ray brought in the supplies and bags. "Well, this is the cabin" Ben said nervously. He was walking around the room and fidgeting. "It's nice, cozy." I said and noticed that he let out a breath.
"Well, it does give one a lot of time to think. I've always loved it here." He took off his coat and helped me with mine. I looked out the window and saw the boys were unhitching the dogs. Perhaps this was their way of giving us some time alone. "I figured we could add another room or two to the cabin and attach a bathroom so you and the children wouldn't have to leave the cabin in the winter or at night...." He was rambling on and I could tell it meant a lot to him what I thought of the place. I eased myself into a chair and looked up at him. "It's perfect Ben. I couldn't have picked a more beautiful place if I searched the world over." I said and truly meant it. "She does have great taste, son." Bob Fraser appeared and Ben looked over at his father. I had been seeing the 'ghost' for the past four months at least but I never mentioned it to Ben. He always seems so embarrassed when his father shows up in front of other people and I want him to tell me when he's ready. There were still a few things he didn't feel comfortable enough talking about. I couldn't help but notice over the past few months how much the two acted alike. Not that they would ever admit it. "Yes she does" Ben replied "Who?" I asked seeming oblivious to the presence. "No one" he said and glanced at his father again. "Grand children," Bob said wistfully " it's about time you know, I was beginning to think I would never have any at the rate you were going." "Not now dad" he whispered.
"What did you say?"
He looked over at me. "Oh, nothing just thinking out loud." I nodded and rubbed my stomach. That was a long couple of hours. Ben came over to my side. "Would you like to lay down for a little while?" I was really tired but looking at the one small bed made me hesitate. "We will sleep on the floor and you can have the bed. I insist really" he added when he saw my look. "Ray and Stan have both been to the cabin before and it appears they came prepared this time." He looked over at a corner of the room and I saw two cots and sleeping bags propped in the corner. "What about you?"
"I brought my bedroll" he said pointing to another area." And smiled at me. "All right" I said knowing I was out thought, but I still didn't feel any better taking the only bed in the place.
When I woke a few hours later, Ben, Ray and Stan were playing cards at
the table. I sat up and they looked over at me. "About time you woke
up. I was wondering if you were planning on sleeping all night." I smiled
at Ray knowing that was his way of letting me know he cares. Ben came
and helped me off the bed and after ushering me to a chair, brought me
over a cup of soup. I looked down at it thinking I had never seen anything
quite like it. Stan saw my reaction. "Don't ask what's in it, we made
that mistake. It does taste pretty good if you don't know so just eat
it." I remembered all too well Ben's cooking out in the forest and looked
back at Stan. "Actually, I have ate things that looked a lot worse than
this." Ben smiled at me and Ray and Stan just sat there with their mouths
open. "Can I play too?" I asked changing the subject.
"Sure," Stan answered for everyone "do you know how to play poker?" I
grinned "strip or regular?"
Ben who had been taking a sip from his coffee, choked and I had to pound him on the back, laughing all the while. Stan and Ray just looked at me in shock. "I'm just kidding guys! I would never play strip poker... Not while I'm pregnant anyway" Ray handed me the deck of cards "you sure know how to liven a room up" I blushed looking over at Ben "five card stud, nothing wild"
"Except you" Stan added and it was my turn to have my mouth drop. After a long night of cards and laughter (which by the way the guys were more than grateful we didn't play strip with the way they lost) we all turned in. **
I stepped out onto the porch and looked around at the sun glistening on the snow. I was surprised the cabin was empty when I woke up and I followed the sound of wood chopping to the side of the cabin. All three men were hard at work cutting trees. Ben looked up and when he saw me approach, he stopped. A big smile crossed his face. "Did you sleep well?" "Perfect" I said wrapping my arms around him and nibbling at his neck. "Uh...Analise...we're not alone" I laughed at him and called over to the two men. "Hi Ray, Stan." They waved back and continued to cut away. "Perhaps I should ask them if they mind if I drag you into the cabin and take advantage of you." The look on his face was priceless. "Just kidding" I said and casually brushed my hand against a very personal area. He shuddered and looked down at me. "This is going to be a very long two weeks" he said in a husky tone. I smiled and changed the subject "what are you guys doing?"
"Well" he said turning me around leaning my back into his chest "we decided to finish the repairs the cabin needed and maybe even start on an addition." Amazingly enough, his hands found my stomach again. I looked back at him "are two weeks going to be enough?" He shrugged "it's enough to get a good start." "Your really happy to be home aren't you?" He just nodded and held me. "Hey Fraser" we looked over at Stan who looked like he was fighting the tree he was working on and lost. "I could use a little help here." Ben waved his acknowledgment and gave me one more kiss. "Duty calls"
"Did you guys eat yet?"
Ben shook his head no "we didn't want to wake you" "I'll take care of it." I said as I headed back to the cabin. Ben caught my arm and pulled me back into his embrace. "I love you" "I know" he gave me a small kiss and then released his grip enough for me to let go. When the guys came in an hour later, I had a breakfast of bacon and pancakes waiting for them. "So, are you going to work on the cabin all day?" I said as I cleared the table. "Is there something else you'd rather do?"
"I was kinda hoping you'd give me the grand tour." "I can't think of anything else I'd rather do" Ben replied. They continued to work on the cabin until after lunch, and then Ray and Stan collapsed on the porch as Ben hitched up the dog sled. "Your chariot awaits my love" he said as he held out his hand for me. I laughed as I took it and heard the guys moan from behind. "I think I'm gonna be sick" I looked back at them "pay attention boys, you may just learn something"
We rode for about a half hour and Ben pulled the dogs to a halt on the
top of an ice hill. He helped me out of the sled and guided me towards
the edge. For miles all you could see was tundra, and off in the distance
trees. "This is one of my favorite places in the world."
"I can see why"
Ben went back to the sled and pulled out a tarp. Placing it on the ground, he helped me sit and leaned me against himself for back support. "It's so peaceful here."
"If you sit long enough" he said as his hand swept the horizon "you can sometimes see a heard of caribou go across." I scanned the landscape and saw something dark come into view. What ever it was, was too far away for me to make it out. "Ben do you know what that is?" "That would be a 'whom', not a what."
"Ok, do you know 'whom' that is?" Accentuating the same word he had. "I don't know, we'll have to wait and find out."
Whoever it is has got to be at least a mile away!"
"More like two" he corrected matter of factly.
"Your gonna wait?"
He rubbed his earlobe "they have also already seen us and it would be rude to just up and leave now." "Oh". I guess neighbors are few and far between out here. We sat enjoying each others company for about another hour before the visitor reached us. Ben stood as the man approached and I followed suit.
"Eric! It's good to see you again. How's the family?" Ben asked while he shook the man's hand. "Good- hunting has been plentiful and we have no wants."
"That's good to hear"
Eric looked over at me and down at my belly. Which I might add, with the extra clothes made me look twice as big. "You finally decide to settle down eh, Mountie?"
I was also curious to hear the answer and looked at Ben but he just smiled at the man. "Eric, I'd like you to meet Analise." He extended his hand to me. "Pleased to meet you"
"Likewise" I said.
"Are you moving back? You've been gone a long time and with a little one on the way..." "I'd like to, but there's still a lot of work to be done on the cabin before the babies arrive." "Babies?" Eric looked over at me.
"Twins" I smiled back.
Eric's smile grew wide. "That is a very lucky sign among the Inuit, your mating has been blessed." Ben blushed a little and I looked down. "Actually, we aren't uh... Well, we haven't been bonded yet." Eric couldn't believe what he was hearing. The woman looked like she was pretty far along. In his custom, if a man was lucky enough to have a woman who gave him a child, especially twins, they would have bonded immediately. Certainly the Mountie didn't forget the importance of such a formation. What was going on? "Perhaps I made a misjudgment" Eric continued. "I just assumed the children were yours and you two were mated." He looked pointedly at Ben as he spoke and I could tell there was something else being said besides the obvious. I wanted to know the answer to that question as much as Eric but Ben didn't seem to be too forthcoming. "Are you going to be in the area for long?" Ben asked sidestepping the whole issue. "I'm heading back now. I wanted to check on the condition at the water plant. Are you two going to be staying long?" "Only about two weeks." Eric looked over at me "I know the elders would like to send a welcome wagon out to you while your here. It's not often we have a new person move into the 'neighborhood'." "Well, I'm not actually moved in... But I would like to meet some of the other locals." 'Good, it's settled then." He turned to go but hesitated "may I touch your stomach?" I was a little taken aback by the request, after all I didn't even know the man. Ben leaned forward. "It's Inuit custom. For a woman to carry twins means she has good spirits about her, and others touch her stomach to pass the good fortune along to others in the tribe." "Sure... I guess" I forced a little smile.
Eric beamed as he gently touched my belly and then headed off in the direction that he came.
That night, Stan and Ray surprised us by making dinner when we returned
to the cabin. As always, Ray brushed the thank-you off by saying it was
either that or suffer through one more of Benny's possum dinners. That
started Ben on a tizzy of never cooking possum, etc., etc. And I took
my neutral position by pretending to fall asleep early. ***
"Analise....Analise wake up"
I opened my eyes "Ben? What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry to wake you... But there are some people here to see you." He gave me a kiss and pulled the covers back. "What are you talking about?" I asked groggily trying to concentrate. Man it sure was cold out. "What time is it anyway?" He swallowed hard "6am". I looked over at Ray and Stan who were staring out the window. Perhaps they could tell me what was going on. "Ray?"
His eyes didn't leave the window "your not going to believe this...." Curiosity got the better of me and I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders as I padded across the floor. "What on earth?" Out in front of the cabin had to be no less than 50 people setting up tents and at least 10 were standing in front of the cabin just waiting. My eyes were drawn to an older woman who stood in the center of the crowd. She was dressed in an elaborate outfit and I could tell she was very important to these people. Pulling my head back from the window I leaned against the wall. "What's going on Ben?" "It's...ahh...the welcome wagon." "Come again?"
"Yesterday when we ran into Eric, he said he'd let the welcome wagon know and....they're here." "A welcome wagon is a couple of women and a basket of fruit Ben, now an entire town camping out in front of your house!" I half yelled as I waved my arms around, the blanket long forgotten. "Actually" Ben countered rubbing an eyebrow "they are from an Inuit village and this has always been the way they welcome new residents." Stan finally tore his eyes away from the window "they look like they're planning on staying for a while." Ben turned to him "well yes, in the territories neighbors don't see each other too often and with the harsh environment it is necessary to depend on each other for survival. It's prudent to get to know the mettle of the new person as quickly as possible." "What exactly do they want Ben?"
"They want to meet you."
I slowly shook my head as it started to sink in. 'And most people think meeting the in-laws is bad....' 'I am not going out there." Ben came over and put his hands on my shoulders "it wont be as bad as you think. There really is only one person that you will officially meet. Everyone else is just along to socialize." "The old lady?" Ben nodded and smiled 'she managed to pick her out right away'. "She's their Shaman- a spiritual leader of sorts." "And what if she doesn't like me?"
"How could anyone not like you? Just be yourself." I really had to go to the bathroom by now and the only thing standing between me and it was an entire Inuit tribe who had all gathered to meet me. I sighed. Why can't life with this man ever be simple? "All right" I stated as I poked him in the chest "but we are getting a bathroom attached to this cabin A.S.A.P.!" He laughed "I'll tell them you'll be out shortly." He kissed me and headed out the door. "I feel for you- I really do" Ray said putting on his boots.
"Where do you think your going?"
"Anywhere but here" Stan answered for both of them and before I could protest, they were out the door. "Well Dief" I said looking down at the wolf "I guess it's just you and me" He shimmied under the bed *whine, whimper*
When I finally stepped outside, I was relieved I wasn't attacked by a mob of belly rubbing Inuits. I scanned the area for Ben and noticed he was talking to two men near the edge their makeshift camp. His back was towards me so I couldn't catch his attention. The older woman was still waiting and I started towards her. As I got closer, I noticed she was dressed all in white animal fur. I suppose it was from a polar bear or something. And there were topaz, amber, jade and opal stones decorating the outfit in various geometric patterns. In her left hand, she carries a staff that looked like it was made out of bone or a very light wood. I could tell she held an authority the people respected by the way they stood about her. For a brief second I wondered what would happen if her and Ma Vecchio were in a wrestling ring together and had to force my smile back down. I noticed that as I neared, the people nearby stopped what they were doing and watched. "Hello" I said and stood tall. I certainly didn't like being the center of all the stares and if I was going to be judged by these people, I had might as well get it done and over with. The old woman didn't say anything- she just kept staring at me. I was equally returning her gaze and we stood like that for a long time. I was vaguely aware the rest of the people around the campsite also stopped their activities and sensed rather than saw Ben approach us. No one spoke but somehow I knew we were communicating. This was a test of sorts but I didn't know why. The morning air was particularly cold and this wasn't helping the fact that I really had to go to the bathroom. She walked closer to me not breaking her gaze and placed her hand on my belly. Nodding her head decisively, she spoke to me in a language I didn't understand. Ben moved closer "she says you have a great strength inside you which is rare for a foreigner." When Ben finished translating, she spoke again but before Ben told me what she said, he looked at me quizzically. "She says you carry a great sadness in your heart." "Your a very perceptive woman" I said directly to her avoiding eye contact with Ben. The old woman handed her staff to a man on her left and reaching up, placed both her hands on my head and said something else. Ben cleared his throat before speaking. "She says we will talk later" Taking her staff back, two men helped her into a nearby tent. I was aware of Ben's gaze on me and mumbling something about having to go to the bathroom, I walked away before he could ask. Apparently I received the blessing from the Shaman because the rest of the morning and the early part of the afternoon I was introduced to at least half of the people there. And as with my luck, they ALL wanted to touch my stomach. Sometime around 2pm I managed to slip into the cabin unnoticed. I was glad there was no one around and gratefully laid down on the bed. This day was going into my record books as one of the weirdest I ever had.
"Geez Benny, you Canadians sure do know how to throw a party!" Ray and Stan had been in heaven with all the female attention they'd received all day. Ben tried to explain it was simply because they don't receive too many visitors in winter, but gave up after the first ten minutes. "Ben" he looked up to see Eric approaching. "Shaman wants to see you."
He excused himself to all who were sitting by one of the many fires with him and after adjusting his clothes, shaked the rattle on the tent. "Enter" came a voice from inside.
The old woman and a few other tribal elders were sitting around a small fire in the middle of the tent. Ben gave them a respectful greeting and lowered himself down by the fire. "You have found a good match in the foreigner" Ben smiled at the old woman's comment. "Thank you" "She is giving you twins?"
Ben nodded in agreement. He knew Eric must have mentioned something for the tribe to have relocated that quickly. "Do you love her?" Ben considered her question carefully. He knew the Shaman all his life and knew most of her questions held more than one meaning. "Yes" "Is it a forever love?"
Ben studied the fire before answering. Yes he did love her more than he ever imagined anyone could. Was it a forever love? He thought back to Victoria and how he felt he'd known her across a thousand lifetimes. He thought he loved her forever. But that was before he met Analise. She's what showed him the difference. Until he met her, he didn't really know what a forever love was. He looked at the woman with certainty in his eyes.
"She is my heartsong. Without her in my life, the heart of the largest glacier would radiate the heat of the sun, compared to the coldness my soul would feel." The old woman's lips turned up a bit at the corners. She remembered having this same conversation with his father almost forty years earlier and his response had been just as short and passionate as his son's. "I am troubled" she continued. "Does she love you?" The certainty in Ben's eyes wavered some but it was not lost on the Shaman. "I believe she does" "you are not certain?" "I... She says she does, and I can see it in her eyes..." "But?"
"She doesn't know about my past. I'm afraid that when she knows the truth, she'll not want to stay with me." "Why do you not tell her?" "I'm afraid to." He said in barely a whisper. " I can't lose her." "Then bond with her"
he shook his head no, tears blurred in his eyes "I can't. It wouldn't be fair to her. She deserves better than what I can give her." The old woman added some plants to the fire and Ben recognized them as calmers. The fragrance had a natural effect on the nervous system. All that he seemed to categorize without thinking. "This...past you have kept hidden from her. Does it bring you joy?" "No." "Ahh.. Then it must bring you comfort?" He shook his head no again. "It only brings me pain." She leaned over and placed her hands on his head. After a few minutes she spoke. "you owe it no allegiance, let it go. If you love her as much as you say you do, then you must tell her." She leaned back against some pillows and closed her eyes. Ben knew this discussion was over and wiped his face before heading out the tent. * I woke later that evening to the face of a small child staring at me. After the initial shock, I smiled at the little girl. "Hello" She giggled and giving me a wood carving- a child made it, that much was obvious- ran back out of the cabin. Eric appeared in the doorway as the girl ran past. "I'm glad your awake. The Shaman wants you to get something to eat and then go see her." I stretched and ran my hands through my hair "now is fine, I can eat later." He shook his head no and chuckled "Shaman says you eat first, then see her." He left then and I got ready to face everyone. I was surprised to see all the fires around the area, there were at least five to ten people at each one and everyone was laughing, having a good time. I saw Ray and Stan sitting by one and went to join them. The evening was not as cold and the sky was lit up beautifully. "Miss me?" I asked smiling at everyone. Ray looked at me and smiled "always"
I eased myself down beside him. The babies were kicking up a storm and I placed my hand on my side. "Everything ok?" Stan asked noting my expression. "Yeah, just the kids trying to play hockey." A woman handed me a plate as soon as I was settled. "Thank you" she smiled at me and went back to her own.
"He got called in to see the head honcho" Stan said jerking a thumb towards the tent the Shaman went in earlier. "Apparently, I'm next on the list. How have you two been fairing?" I noticed how Ray and Stan were both exchanging glances with two women at the next fire and laughed. I guess everyone is having fun. About twenty minutes later I saw Ben come out of the tent and head off towards the barn. I stood to join him but out of no where, Eric was at my side. "The Shaman wants to see you now." "What about Ben?" I knew something wasn't right "He'll be fine. I'll keep an eye on him for you."
Eric walked me to the tent and shook a rattle hanging by a rope.
"Enter" a voice called and Eric held the drape aside for me.
"Thank you" I said as I took one last look in the direction Ben headed
before going in. "Please, sit" the old woman motioned to a space by the
"You speak english?" I was amazed to say the least. "I have for a long time."
I sat down wondering if everyone in the camp knew how to speak english. For some odd reason, I thought Eric was the only one. Not knowing what she wanted to see me about, I waited. "The Mountie is a good match for you."
"Thank you" I wondered why she would think that since she didn't know me, but hey- who am I to question these things. "He is a good man" I couldn't argue with that logic.
"You must love him very much to move here with him." "I do love him" I said wondering where this was leading. "He will be a good provider."
"He already is"
"It takes a special person to be able to not only live in this wilderness, but to love and respect it." I nodded and let her continue. "I have seen many people in my time come to live here and not make it through the first winter. They give up and go home. Do you know why?" Was this a trick question? "If they truly felt they were home, there would be no place for them to return to." She smiled at me. 'This one is very perceptive'.
"Do you love him?"
"Is it a forever love?"
I didn't have to think before responding to that question. "Yes it is"
"Such a quick response for one so young. What makes you love him?" I looked in the fire and tried to put into words everything my heart was telling me. "When I first met Ben, he had helped me not fall apart after a man killed my co-workers and friends in a botched bank robbery. I was the only one to survive. In the weeks that followed, I would see him go out of his way to help people. Little things at first like helping someone across the street, or helping a mother with her groceries to her apartment." I smiled as the memories replayed in my mind. "At first I thought he was just being Canadian. Then I noticed the bigger things. He would put himself in danger to help save someone else, never hesitating. Somehow, he always manages to see the good in people. Everyone thinks he's invulnerable. No matter what the situation Ben can take care of it, but he can't. The more time I spent with him, I realized the hardest thing about being him was all the things he can't do. When circumstances are beyond his control all the cries for help he can't answer. The people he can't be there for. The looks on some of their faces show he was their last hope. I see how that tears him apart inside but he never- not oncedoes he let that stop him. He goes right back the next day to do what he can, never complaining. He faces each new day with such a quiet strength. Seeing him keeping all the heartache and tears inside and not give up made me realize something I never thought possible... ." "What is that child?"
I smiled at her "I love him more"
"Why does your heart weep then?"
My smile waned and I looked down "I... We didn't plan on having children this early in our relationship. Sometimes I think he stayed with me out of obligation." "Did he tell you this?" "No, not in so many words."
"Then how can you be sure?"
I took a deep breath and said the words I barely whispered to myself over the past few months. "I can feel it. I look at him and see how much he loves me and wants to be with me, but there is a part of him that he keeps distant from me. I can see it in his eyes. So what else am I supposed to think? He deserves someone who completes him." The way he completes me, I thought to myself. "Apparently I am not that someone." "Why come all this way with him then?"
Why did I? Was I trying to put off the inevitable? Maybe hoping that look would go away and he realizes he wants to be with me for myself? Perhaps I just wanted to see what my life could have been like. I thought to myself. I looked over at the woman. "I could give you a thousand different reasons but I guess it boils down to one question that I've been trying to answer since the first time he smiled at me.... How do I live without him?" The Shaman leaned over and took my hand. "Things aren't always what they seem. Tell him how you feel and you will have your answers." "That isn't easy"
"Nothing worth having ever is."
She leaned back and closed her eyes. I looked at the other people and a man motioned for me to leave. I looked over at the people around the fires.It seemed odd to see such a celebration when I felt so horrible. I decided to head out for a walk. There was a small outcrop of rocks not too far from the cabin, but before I could get 15 feet, I heard someone call my name. Turning I saw Ray run up. "There you are! Come on over by the fire. You gotta hear these guys." I looked over at the fire and saw Stan, Eric and quite a few other men and women laughing and talking. "Where's Ben?"
Ray looked over his shoulder "he was there a minute ago. Maybe he had to go to the can." He took my arm and started back to the crowd. As soon as I was sitting down, the little girl who was in the cabin approached me. "Hi again"
When she didn't respond Eric said something to her in Inuit. "She doesn't speak english yet Analise." I motioned for her to sit beside me and was rewarded with a smile. Looking at her, I realized she must have been no older than 4 or 5 years. She seemed interested by my bracelet so I took it off and let her play with it. "Careful- she might think your giving it to her." I turned and smiled at Ben who was standing behind me. "It's ok, I bought it at a five and dime." Ray moved down so Ben could sit beside me. Instinctively I leaned over and gave him a kiss. His arm wrapped around me. Something felt strange though. I didn't feel the same comfort I had always felt with him. It was strained somehow. I tried to ignore it. With him beside me, I didn't feel cold anymore- though the temperature was dropping rapidly. Ben had told me before that it wasn't so much the temperature that was dangerous, but the wind-chill factor. So far it had been a nice evening with little wind. I listened to the others tell stories long into the night before it was too cold to continue. Ben walked me back into the cabin and helped me out of my coat and sweaters. "I barely saw you today." I said trying to strike up a conversation. "There were a lot of people." He took me into his embrace and rested his chin of my forehead, and sighed. "Will you stay with me?" I hoped he would say yes. The silence was killing me. Ever since the Shaman spoke to us, I felt like I was losing him. I know it was probably my imagination but he also seemed more withdrawn. I needed the reassurance of hearing him say he would.I held my breath waiting for his answer. "I can't." He said as he held me tighter. It was all I could do to not break down right then and there. This was it. He was leaving. Maybe when the old woman was talking to him, he realized he didn't want to be with me. "Analise, your shaking." He took a blanket from the bed and wrapped it around me. "Here, lie down." He held me as I sat down on the bed and lifted my legs. Then he proceeded to cover me with the rest of the covers but I knew no matter how many covers he added, I wouldn't feel warm. "Do you want some hot tea?" I couldn't let him see my eyes. They would give me away like they always did when he looked at me. "No" I whispered.
"I'll stay, in case you need anything." "Please Ben, just go, ok? I'm fine. I'm always fine. And I'll always be fine. It's not your job to look after me. It never has been. Not now, not ever. Understand?" My voice was strained and I was crying freely but I had my back to him so luckily he couldn't see. I could hear him shuffle about for a minute or two then the door to the cabin opened and closed. All was silent. I glanced around the room to make sure he left and cried into my pillow. *
'Oh God' Ben thought as he left the cabin.' I've done it. I've ruined the last chance at happiness I'll ever have. Why? Why couldn't I just tell her about Victoria? I had been worried all evening about what Shaman said to her. I saw her start to leave when she walked out of the tent and circled around, hoping to cut her off. I was going to make some excuse about just getting wood or something but the next thing I know, Ray was there talking to her. I wish I had felt that same kind of confidence to just go right up.' Ben sat down on the step of the cabin. He could hear Analise inside crying. It was faint and any other man might not have noticed, but he always had extra sensitive hearing. Ben buried his head in his hands. 'What have I done?' He wanted to go back inside and take her into his arms but she didn't need to become more upset. It couldn't be good for her or the babies. He couldn't stay with her, not anymore. It wouldn't be fair to her. Not until she knew the whole story about his past .
The next morning I found a whole Inuit village working on building the cabin. As I went to the bathroom, people would smile at me and wave. I found Stan working nearby. "Good morning" "hey" he looked up.
"What's going on?"
"Well, the mumbo-jumbo lady decided that you two needed to have the cabin finished so you could 'move home' a lot quicker. She said to have the babies here would bring everyone good luck. The next thing I know..BAM! Everyone is working on the cabin." "Amazing" I said looking around. "They really shouldn't have bothered though. I wont be moving up here with Ben." "Did something happen between you two?" "Why?"
"All morning Fraser's been acting strange, well strange for him. And you don't seem like yourself either." "He broke up with me last night." "WHAT!? Fraser did what?"
"I'm ok with it, really. It isn't like I wasn't expecting it to happen. I mean, just because we are going to have a baby-babies doesn't mean we need to be a couple. People do it all the time." I hoped I sounded as calm as I wanted to. "Not Fraser, and not you. What happened?" "I really don't know. You'll have to ask him that. Listen, I'm gonna grab something to eat awhile." I walked away and headed for the cabin. Stan watched her go and looked over at Fraser who he noticed, was also watching Analise until she disappeared back inside. That certainly wasn't the actions of a man who just 'broke up' with someone. He knew if he were to ask Fraser about it, he would just get the run around. Looking around for Ray, he figured between the both of them, they could get to the bottom of this. They were after all detectives.
I didn't have much of an appetite and found myself staring at Ben most of the morning. Everytime I tried to help out on the cabin, someone would shoo me away. Eric assured me it was because in their village, a woman who was carrying or had very small children was not expected to do any work. And since I had twins.... I sighed with boredom. Looking out over the landscape, I decided to go for a walk. A nice long take-my-mind-off-Ben-before-I-go-crazy walk. No one seemed to notice I was leaving which was good and I headed towards the tree line.
"Benny did what!?" Ray couldn't believe what Stan told him. "She told me he broke up with her last night" "Benny broke up with her?"
"That's what she said. They've both been acting strange all day. So something must have happened." Ray looked around the area. It was past 6pm and they decided to quit working for the day. It was almost dark anyway. "There's Fraser- let's get to the bottom of this" the two men approached Ben who was talking to Eric.
"Fraser, we need to talk now"
Ben looked at them something was obviously bothering them. "Now" Stan added for emphasis.
Ben followed them back to the cabin and sat in a chair. Ray shut the door and stared at him. "What the hell is going on between you and Analise?" "Ray I really don't think..."
"Obviously you didn't. How could you leave her like that? Geez Benny she's having your children!" "Ray I would never leave Analise, what are you talking about?" Ray looked at Stan and Ben followed suit. Stan held his hands up as if to shield himself "hey, all I know is Analise came up to me this morning and I asked her what was going on between the two of you. She told me you broke up with her." Ben stood up and started pacing. How could she think he would ever leave her? Didn't she know how much she meant to him? He folded his arms across his chest and leaning against the wall, looked out the window. "It's all my fault." "What is?"
"Last night, she asked me to stay with her and I didn't. I couldn't. She must have thought..." He couldn't finish the sentence. Stan was confused "why wouldn't you stay with her last night?" Ben sighed and looked down. "I couldn't" "Why Benny? You've been acting strange for the last few days at least. What's this all about?" Ben's voice was strained when he answered. "Victoria" Ray was floored. Victoria? What did that witch have to do with anything? Did he still love her? Is that why he never asked Analise to marry him? Ray couldn't believe him. If Fraser still had a thing for Victoria after everything she put him through then he didn't deserve Analise. "Fraser, you better start talking and I mean right now." Ben couldn't look at his friend directly so he focused on a lantern sitting on the table. "I never told her about Victoria, about what happened. I was afraid if I did, if she knew what I had done, I would lose her. I put off telling her for so long, I didn't know how to tell her." "So-- your not in love with Victoria then?"
Ray was relieved to hear that. When Ben continued, it was barely audible and Ray had to strain to hear. "I've lost her anyway." "It isn't too late Fraser," Stan added "tell her now. She must be going through hell thinking that you don't love her." Ben's face set in resolve. "Your right I have to tell her." They put their coats on and headed out. ***
The outcrop was a lot farther than I expected. I never thought I'd say this but a dog sled would look pretty good right now. I looked up at the night sky. The stars were obscured by cloud cover and the wind was starting to pick up. I had been out here for about five hours and that's not including the two hours it took to walk here. I ate the food I'd brought with me about an hour ago and I knew that I should start back but I just didn't want to be around anyone. The night was pretty cold and the wind didn't help any. I looked around. Perhaps I could make a shelter out of something. I could always head back tomorrow. Besides, Ben himself told me that when people go for walks up here it can take days, even weeks before they return. I at first hoped Ben wouldn't be too upset or worried, but then wondered why I should care. If I knew there was anyway I could walk the whole way to the airport I would. I felt so horribly alone I just wanted to die. How on earth did I get myself into this mess? I sighed, just because he doesn't want to be with me doesn't mean I don't love him. And I knew deep down he would be worried. If not for me, then at least for the babies. I pulled myself up and started to head back. **
All three men searched the entire campsite looking for Analise. When it became apparent she wasn't visiting in someone's tent, Ben started to get really worried. Light snow was falling and it was dark, where could she be? Ben joined the two men. "Anything?" They shook their heads no. Ben looked around for Eric. Spotting him, he covered the distance in no time. "Eric? Have you seen Analise?" Eric looked at Ben, the Mountie's anxiety evident. "She went for a walk." "A walk? She knows not to leave the area after dark. Why would she leave now?" "She didn't" he said as he gathered more things to put into the tent. It looked like a storm was brewing. "She left before lunch." "That was almost eight hours ago! Why didn't you say something?" "Take it easy, she's a grown woman. If she wants to go for a walk, who am I to stop her." Ben wasn't listening any longer. He headed to the barn to hitch up the dog sled. **
Ahead I could see the light from the camp fires and sat down to rest. I really over did it today and I knew tomorrow I would be sore as all hell. I should have asked to borrow one of the snow mobiles from the Inuit. Next time I'll know better. I drank the last of the water from my canteen and laid back in the snow. Since I had been moving, I didn't feel the cold at all. I looked at the sky trying to see even one star and noticed small snowflakes starting to fall. The night was so beautiful. This reminded me of a card at Christmas. I felt the babies kicking and laughed. Hopefully that wasn't the beginning of sibling rivalry. The snow was starting to become more consistent and even I could tell this was going to get worse. So I headed back the rest of the way as fast as I could. **
"Ben" he continued to ready the sled not hearing. "Ben- she's back."
Ben looked up blankly at Eric. It didn't register at first. "I said she's back"
He rushed out the door and scanning the area, saw her head into the cabin. "Eric, would you take care of the dogs for me?" "Yeah, no problem." Ben headed directly to the cabin. Ray and Stan saw everything and knowing earlier the two would need time to talk, arranged to sleep in a tent. It was by sheer coincidence of course, that it happened to be the same tent of the Inuit women who were so friendly with them. By this time, the snow was coming down pretty hard and the detectives helped them load the rest of the belongings into the tents.
Ben rushed up to the cabin and opened the door like something was chasing
him. When he saw Analise hunkered by the fire he paused. 'Calm down,
she's safe.' He took off his coat and first layer of clothes then readied
a pot for tea. I looked up when Ben came into the cabin. At first he
seemed happy to see me but that only lasted an instant. I eased myself
up as he filled a pot and put it on the stove and started to unbutton
my winter coat. I heard a banging on the other side of the door and looked
in time to see a feather shoved underneath. "Oh dear" Ben said looking
at the feather.
"What was that noise?"
Ben stuffed his hands in his front pockets and looked at me. "That would be the sound of us being locked in. They barricaded the door." I know I didn't just hear that. I walked over to the door and tried to push it open. Nothing. Banging harder, I yelled. "This isn't funny! Open up!" "Ray! Stan!"
Ben came over and picked up the feather."it's no use, they wont let us out now." "Why?"
They call this the pu'aiina. Couples go through this when they face a serious problem. They wont unlock the door until we have worked thing out." "And if we don't?"
He stiffened slightly and looked thoughtful for a moment before looking back at me. "Well, I *did* read a book on how to deliver twins..." "That's not funny" I turned to look out the window. Feeling Ben behind me, I let him slide the coat off my shoulders when he started. I must have been a lot colder than I thought because when I started to undo the buttons on my sweater, I fumbled with them. "Here, let me." Ben said as he slowly undid them. He then helped me off with the rest of my outer clothes. "Thank you" I mumbled. Being so close to him my body responding unintentionally. I turned away and felt two arms wrap around my stomach. "Ben, please don't" the emotions were too raw. I missed him so much, to have him do that and know he didn't want to be with me was unbearable. He only pulled me closer into his embrace until my back was nestled into his chest. "Analise," his voice was low and husky, "I love you, I always will. Please don't ever think I'll leave you." I started to cry. What was he saying? Why was he doing this to me? I know he doesn't want to be with me. Why would he put me through this? "Ben... don't to do this."
He turned me around while still holding me with one arm. "I love you, I never stopped loving you. That's not why I couldn't stay with you last night." "Look, I don't need your pity ok? The only reason your with me is because you feel obligated. You don't have to. Just because..." He kissed me on the lips silencing me. My body was on fire and my arms found their way around his neck. Through my tears, he kissed me. Through my anguish, he kissed me. When he finally pulled away I was speechless staring into his eyes. "I love you Analise, and I always will. I didn't stay with you because of some misplaced sense of honor. I am with you because I can't imagine waking up without you. You are the only woman in the world who has loved me unconditionally, and completely. Never think for an instant that I don't want to be with you." "Then why?" His face clouded over "I haven't been completely truthful with you. There is something in my past you need to know and I was afraid when you found out, you wouldn't want to stay." He led me to the bed and eased me down to a lying position. Then he climbed in behind me wrapping his arms around me. "I should have told you earlier."
"Told me what Ben?"
"Do you remember when I told you about Victoria?" I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. "I didn't tell you everything." For the next hour, I listened to Ben as he told me how he found her not far from the cabin huddled in the lee side of a mountain crag. And how he fell in love with her and turned her in. He told me how she framed him and Ray and used him. Made him commit crimes and he was still going with her. Despite all that happened, he was going with her and leaving Ray to lose his house. When he told me how Ray had shot him and she disappeared out of his life again, I felt my heart break for him. No wonder he didn't want me to see his back. All this time, all these years he's carried this burden all to himself. When he finished, I looked over at him. His eyes were pleading for forgiveness though he didn't say it. I reached up and caressed his face. "Oh Ben, is that why you've kept a distance between us all this time?" He nodded and buried his head in my shoulders. I held him and rubbed his back and ran my hand through his hair as he wept silently. "I don't blame you for what you did. You must have loved her very much to be willing to give up everything for her. I can understand your wanting to wait for her. Do you still love her? He looked up in shock "No! Not even a little bit. I love you Analise. Only you." "Is there anything else your not telling me?" "Nothing"
I looked at him and for the first time, his eyes held nothing back. The look he gave me was of complete love. "I love you." He smiled at me and leaned down to give me a kiss. "You forgive me then?" "Only if you'll forgive me."
We laid there for a few minutes and Ben placed his hand on my stomach. As usual, the babies greeted their dad by kicking me. I shook my head. "Ben?"
"Do you think they'll open the door soon?" "Well, these things have been known to take days. Why?" "I have to go to the bathroom."
the snow continued to fall all through the night, by the next morning when I looked out the window, there was at least 2 feet of new snow. Ben wrapped his arms around me and kissed the back of my neck. "Good morning" he whispered. His breath felt warm on my neck and it sent tingles through me. "Careful you might just start something I'll have to finish." "Is that a promise?" He teased nibbling at my neck Turning, I wrapped my arms around his neck and he leaned forward to give me a kiss. Just as our lips touched we were interrupted by a tap on the window. We slowly turned our heads to see a grinning Stanley Kowalski wearing the oddest hat I've ever seen. It looked like a sleeping cap or something on elf would wear. "Are you two going to stay in there all day? Pitter patter let's get at 'er." Ben sighed and placed his forehead against mine. "Perhaps I should have waited to put the eagle feather back out." "Well, I *did* have to go to the bathroom." He looked thoughtful "your absolutely right-- we do need to attach a bathroom A.S.A.P.!" I laughed and gave him a quick kiss. "Duty calls" Ben waved at Stan letting him know he got the 'message' and Stan disappeared from view. As we changed and got ready for the day, we could hear people starting to work on the cabin. It was amazing how quickly everything came together when you had almost 50 people helping! When we left the cabin, Ben kissed my hand and headed towards the woods with an ax. I headed towards the fire. The shaman was sitting down sipping a tea of sorts and I sat down beside her when she motioned. She looked over at me. "Did you find your answers?"
I couldn't resist and leaned over to give her a hug. "Thank you so much" She smiled at me and patted my arm. "You are most welcome." She motioned to a woman, I remembered her name was Jubie and the next thing I know a huge plate of food was handed to me. "Thank you" "Your time here is almost gone." The Shaman continued. "Yeah" I said sadly "we only have nine days left." "Will you be going home then?"
I smiled at her "I will be going back to Chicago-yes. But I am already home." She chuckled "good"
I readied a plate of food and left to find Ben. He was chopping the branches off a feld tree and the look of concentration on his face was so cute! I leaned against a tree and continued to watch him. When he hoisted the ax up again, he caught sight of me and his look went from surprise, to recognition, to warmth and then desire. He was breathing hard from effort and little vapor clouds would form when he exhaled. My breath caught as he swung the ax into the tree and walked towards me. Just looking at that man made my heart race. "I thought you might be hungry" "Thank you" he said as he reached for the plate and kissed me all at the same time. We sat on the tree and talked while Ben ate. "Hello son" Ben jumped from the voice behind him but I had seen his dad appear. "Something wrong?" I asked innocently. "Ah..no,no. Everything's fine."
"It's about time you get the cabin fixed up son, you've put it off far too long." "I did not put it off."
"Put what off?" I blinked wide eyed at him. Bob Fraser leaned closer to his son and tried to take some food off his plate. He grimaced when his hand met with nothing but air. I reached over and taking hold of Ben's jacket, pulled him to me for a kiss. "Ahh...sweet girl, she reminds me of your mother. Don't you think it's about time you introduced us?" Ben sighed and pulled back, rubbing an eyebrow. I cupped his face with my hand and pulled his head up to look at me. When I had his attention I smiled at him. "I was wondering the same thing." Ben stared at me in shock.
"Wh--what were you wondering?" He stuttered darting a glance towards his father. Fraser Sr. Squatted down between us. "You don't suppose she can see me do you?" Ben looked at his father and back at me. "Ben, is there something, ANYTHING at all you want to tell me?" I loved watching him squirm. Over the past few months when his father would show up I would become overtly friendly just to see Ben's reaction. "She knows something's up son, perhaps you should tell her." I grinned wickedly at Ben "yes, perhaps you should." "Great Scot!" Fraser sr. Said as he looked at me. Ben looked like he was ready to faint. "Oh dear."
"You can see me?" Bob asked directly.
"For about five months now."
Ben recovered enough to join the conversation. "Why didn't you say anything?" "I figured if you wanted me to know you would have told me. Besides, your so cute when you blush." Ben thought back to the many coincidences when his father would show up and Analise would... "Oh dear" he said blushing.
"See, just like now."
Bob cleared his throat.
"Oh sorry dad, Analise this is my father Bob Fraser, dad, this is Analise." "Pleased to meet you"
"You've known all this time?" Ben asked again, still not wanting to believe it. "Now Ben, I believe you have some work to do. Mr. Fraser..." "Bob"
"Bob... Would you care to accompany me for a walk? I would LOVE to hear all about Ben." "Dad, isn't there something you need to be doing?" Ben was fidgeting now. Bob smiled at his son, "can't think of a single thing" he said as we walked away. Bob continued to me "Now that you do mention it, There was one time Benton got himself into a pickle. Had to do with a boomerang, a can of gas, and a gold mine, if I remember correctly...." "Oh dear" Ben said again as he watched them move out of sight. ***
Two days later Ben, Ray Stan, the Shaman, Fraser Sr. and myself stood looking at the cabin. In just a short time, we had managed to build 2 extra rooms on the back and a small room for the makings of a bathroom. The only thing missing was the hardware. Like glass for the windows, heat stoves, etc. "It's beautiful" I said looking over at Ben, he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and gave a light squeeze in response. The Inuit had packed up their belongings and looking around, you couldn't even tell there had ever been one camp let alone a whole slew of them. The Shaman looked over at Ben. "I hope to see you by this summer." "We'll be here" he said with certainty and I smiled at him. The Shaman turned to go and nodded at Fraser Sr. "Robert" Ben looked incredulous "she can see you too?" "She is a Shaman son."
"Hey Benny- you talking to yourself again?" I laughed and Ray leaned over to me. "Hopefully the kids don't pick up that personality trait." "Actually Ray I was more then hoping they would." I said looking pointedly at my -hopefully- future father in law. He gave me a heartfelt smile in return. Stan and Ray looked at each other like Ben and I both lost our minds and walked away. "There is one week left" Ben stated.
"What would you like to do?"
I smiled at him and said matter of factly "I want to build an igloo." "That's my girl" Ben said as we left to catch up to Ray and Stan. *** The rest of the week went by too fast. Together we all built an igloo in the 'front yard', Ben took Ray and Stan ice fishing, we had a snowball battles, and mostly just enjoyed each others company. The day finally came for us to leave and Ben loaded up the dog sled. We said good-bye to Ray and Stan about an hour ago. They had arranged to have the helicopter pick them up. "Are you ready?" Ben asked coming up beside me. I had been staring at the cabin and surrounding area for most of the morning. "How do you do it?"
"Do what?" Ben asked wrapping his arms around me. "How do you bring yourself to ever leave here?" He held me tight. "It's never easy. But knowing that we'll soon be back for good makes it bearable." I looked at him as he leaned down, his lips brushing mine. He then led me to the dog sled without saying a word, made sure I was comfortable, and called the dogs. At the top of the hill he paused, and we looked back at the cabin one last time. It stood strong, unyielding against the lonely winter. The wind carried a message up to us from it's sturdy frame. "Home" it whispered, and I smiled. THE END.
And so ends the second chapter in the Ben and Analise saga. Any comments you have will be appreciated. Look for the final (?) Chapter called "FROM THIS MOMENT ON"
Thank you kindly for flying air zzzaney, the temperature in DS land is a balmy 72 degrees F, the pilot has turned on the seatbelt sign. Please make sure your tray tables and seatbacks are in their upright position. For those of you with connecting flights to 'from this moment on', your plane is arriving on schedule. Have a nice day. :0) OTHERS IN THE SERIES 1. Our Mountain