Benton Fraser sat across from his old partner, Ray Vecchio, in O'Hare airport feeling strangely nervous. What almost annoyed him (had he not been a mountie and therefore been capable of being annoyed) was how cool and calm Ray appeared. The two of them were waiting for a flight that would get them to Vancouver and from there they'd catch a flight that would take them to Whitehorse where they'd make their way into the Territories and to his father's cabin. They were once again trekking into the far north of Canada to try to repair the inexplicable bond between them. This time though they'd hopefully really make it up to the cabin and finish the repairs that he and Stan had almost finished while searching for the Hand of Franklin.
Ben watched Ray out of the corner of his eye. He was the same Ray Vecchio who had gone up north with him several years ago except his skin was a deeper shade of olive from the Florida sun that suited him, and in his eyes there was a kind of fearlessness and self-assuredness that hadn't been there before. Ben wasn't really sure how to feel about it other than glad that Ray was here with him now. Although Ray wasn't quite the same man anymore Ben was hopeful that their friendship could be renewed on the strength that once again it had been Ray who had wanted to take this step.
He smiled inwardly when he thought of how Ray whined and complained about going to Canada years ago, right from the beginning, even though it had been his idea. His mind wandered back to when he and Ray had been negotiating down a river in their home-made raft with the body of the escaped convict who'd nearly killed them. Ray had been standing at the helm of the raft capably poling them down river when he'd declared that, "We should make this an annual event!" It was such a sweet sentiment really.
Later Ben realized that that had just been one of many opportunities that could have led him to expressing how he felt about Ray. He always stopped himself from completely oppening his heart to Ray and letting him know how much his friendship had meant to him and that he was appreciated. He was terrified though that once he got started he would tell Ray *everything*. So he had risked damaging his friendship with Ray through his silence rather than destroy it completely with a simple slip of the tongue. It had finally taken the two of them being strapped to a bomb and near death for him to open up a little and save their friendship, and indeed he'd almost revealed himself in the process. When he thought about it, with Ray he'd had an abundance of second chances with their friendship. He didn't think he deserved them but Ray was generous and just kept giving them to him. He bitterly regretted not telling Ray thank you kindly enough. On the river up north the oppening had been there, "Ray, is that a waterfall?" and he'd blown it. There had been no waterfall.
Over the top of a best-seller Ray watched Ben who appeared to be absorbed in thought. He wondered what the mountie was thinking about. He hardly ever had any idea what was really going through the Canadian's mind, but he never gave up wanting to know.
'Vecchio, you have it even worse than your sister.' He thought to himself wryly. 'What are you doing to yourself?'
Oh, he could have stayed down in Florida. Could have enjoyed the fun and sunshine, the good company, and the relative quiet in his life. He could have stayed there and forgotten about the past while Benny lived the life of an adventurer with Stan Kowalski by his side up in the Great White North. He could have let it go.
The Hell he could.
When he'd heard from Frannie that Fraser had returned to Chicago alone, he knew what he had to do. Florida despite it's sunshine after all was just a place. Stella was a warm and wonderful woman who was also just a friend, and not the love of his life. And as for the relative quiet in his life...well frankly he was bored. He missed being a cop, missed being overwhelmed by his boisterous family, but mostly he missed Benny. For no real reason at all Benny had returned to Chicago from his beloved Territories and life of adventure. It had to be a sign. What choice did Ray have?
True, Fraser *was* the most irritating man on the face of the planet, but Ray couldn't remember without an aching sweetness the time that Benny had said to him, "You're my best friend." Behind his best-seller Ray smiled.
Then there was the time Benny had pulled him out of the trunk of a car submerged in Lake Michagan. Ben had wrapped Frannie's good blanket around Ray's shivering wet shoulders and let his warming hands rest on Ray's arms a little longer than necessary. Even though they had a job to do and there were bad guys to go catch they had just stayed stock still locked in an unwavering gaze blocking out Frannie and the rest of the world. Benny's eyes had been...beautiful... filled with such elated relief and Ray knew his own eyes must have glowed with adoration.
His mind wandered over many such incedents and others throughout the history of their friendship. He thought about the shameful parts and the wonderful parts each in turn, and the lengths that both of them went for each other.
*You're my best friend.*
Yes, he had made the right decision.
He was suddenly jarred from his trip down memory lane by a certain mountie clearing his throat. Ray blinked and lowered the best-seller to his lap.
"Good book?" Asked Ben.
"Uh, yeah. It's great."
On the inside was was laughing at this typical Benny response. God he'd missed that! Nevertheless he put on his best cranky and annoyed expression and said, "Oh no, don't you 'ah' me Frasier."
On the inside Ben was smiling at Ray's typical cantankerousness and misproninciation of his name. God he'd missed that! Nevertheless he put on his best 'innocent mountie' look and said, "I was just wondering how do you know it's a great book if you've been on one page for the past ten minutes, it seems unlikely that-"
"What I've read so far is good." Ray said in his defense, "I'm just taking a little break from reading, givin' my eyes a rest okay? Doesn't mean I wouldn't know if it's a good book."
"Ray, it's the first page."
"Picky picky! I still say I'm qualified to judge it as a good read."
"That's just silly."
"No, it ain't. It's an Italian thing." He finished with triumph.
Blessedly before Ben could launch into a rebuttle their flight was announced.
"You know," said Ben as he grabbed his carry-on bag, "I don't think Dief will ever forgive me."
Ray gave his friend a weird look, "Why's that?"
"Have you any idea how many times he's had to go through quarantine since I first came to Chicago?"
"Oh I assure you it's no laughing matter." He sighed. "Dief was in a deffinite snit when they put him in that crate."
Ray laughed easily and slung his arm companionably around Ben's shoulders as they entered the plane. "Don't worry Benny," Ray assured him, "we'll swipe a couple of extra bags of airline peanuts for him. You'll see, he'll be like a brand new wolf!"
Despite himself Ben smiled.
Ray decided to be gracious and offered Ben the window seat. Ray sat the middle and set his carry-on bag in the unoccupied aisle seat.
Ben gave him a bemused smile, pleased that Ray had opted to sit closer to him. "Ray you *could* just store that in the upper compartment."
"Nah," said Ray as he tried to make himself as comfortable as possible, "I'd feel better having it where I can see it. Anyway, I have my reasons." He finished vaguely.
Ray rolled his eyes.
Ben took a look around at the extremely crowded plane. He turned to Ray. "Odd that we happen to have an unoccupied seat." Ray shifted uncomfortably, and Ben continued, "I've never seen such a crowded plane before, it's a wonder there *is* even one unoccupied seat."
"Yeah imagine that." said Ray who decided that he'd better change the subject before Benny could get him to confess that he had bought the tickets for the entire row to ensure that they'd have as much privacy as possible on the plane. Ray was in no mood to play 'share the mountie'.
"Why don't you get some shut eye?" suggested Ray. "That way you'll be nice and rested and ready to charge into full 'Super-Mountie' mode should the need arise and you'd have wrestle any potential hijackers into submission."
Ben flashed him one of his all too infrequent beautiful mountie smiles that could stop a woman dead in her tracks at sixty paces. Ray basked in the glow.
The plane had taken off and Ben was already snoring when predictably a drop dead gorgeous pouty brunette slunk down the aisle towards them from the first class section. She gazed at the sleeping mountie predatorialy and asked, "Is this seat taken?"
"Release the hounds." Ray murmurred.
Ray glanced down at his carry-on bag and back up to the pouty brunette who he was pretty certain was a model. "'Fraid so ma'am." he drawled.
Her pout got even poutier, "It's just a bag, so move it!" she nearly spat. "My seat is too lumpy and here's a perfectly comfortable one."
'Oh, cry me a river.' Thought Ray smugly.
"You have to let me sit here, it's the rules." She stamped her high heeled foot. "I'm a super-model! Obey me or I'll get one of the flights attendants to make you move that bag!"
Ray flashed her a lady killer smile that didn't impress her in the least. He reached into the front pocket of his bag and flashed his badge out at her. "I'm afriad you'll just have to suffer in first class."
The pouty brunette stomped as indignantly as possible away on a cramped plane.
Ray turned to look at the sleeping mountie. He could swear he saw a smile.
Ray was very bored. He was tired of his book, and even more tired of the plane's in-flight radio station which played ten songs in a continuous loop. There was only so much of Alanis Morrissette that he could take. Finally driven to desperate measures he nudged Ben awake.
Ben rubbed his eyes sleepily and turned to Ray, "What is it?"
Ben smiled mischieviously, "Would you like me to tell you an Inuit story Ray?"
"Go back to sleep."
Ben chuckled. He stretched as well as he could and then excused himself to go to the restroom. Ray allowed himself a little treat and leaned over to watch Ben's retreating backside.
'I'm sucha dirty old man.' He thought to himself with satisfaction then settled back and then once again tried to read his book.
On his way back Ben couldn't help but notice that half the female population of the plane was shooting Ray some dirty deadly looks. 'Strange.' He thought.
When he got back to his seat he just had to ask.
"Ray, did you happen to offend anyone while I was asleep?"
Ray just gave him his most innocent look.
Ben grimaced, "You weren't...rude to anyone were you?"
"Hey, rather than tell me some Inuit story whay don't you tell me a little about your search for the Hand of Franklin?"
Ben hated to let Ray get away with so blatantly changing the subject, but he just couldn't resist the temptation, plus he thought it was important that they talk about what they had done during that time apart.
Ben decide to tell hime about his last week with Stan. "Stan and I were camped near this little bay, St.Augustine Bay actually. It had been about eight months since we'd first set out, and by this time we'd pretty much decided to give on our search. One night while we were sitting around the fire and absorbing the beauty of the northern lights Stan poured his heart out to me." Ben paused and looked at Ray. Ray looked slightly uncomfortable, but attentive.
At the first mention of Stan Ray's insides had knotted up. He felt a little flare of jealousy as he thought about the man who'd lived his life off adventuring with Benny, and a little flare of shame when he thought about how he'd run off with Stella just to get back at Stan. But Stan was a part of this chapter in Ben's life and Ray wanted to know, needed to know about it. His feelings for Stan aside, he had asked for this.
Ben continued, "I was pleased that Stan felt comfortable enough to open up like that and talk to me. Throughout our time together I'd had the priviledge to get to know the real Stan Kowalski. He's a good man."
Rationally Ray was sure this was true, but still he couldn't shake his intense disliking for this man who had invaded his life despite Benny's endorsements of his character. He was well and truly jealous of him.
"He was very nervous. He hedged and hedged for a while, but finally got to the heart of what he wanted to talk to me about. He told me that he was in love." Ben paused again.
Ray's heart almost stopped. What?! Love? Love? Ray Kowalski was in love with *his* Benny. The little bastard!
"You should have heard him go on, it was quite endearing really."
Ray thought he was going to be sick he groped for his barf bag, "What did you say to him?" He finally croaked.
"Why I gave him my blessing..."
No, he wasn't going to be sick, he was going to die. Ray was sure of it.
"...I could tell that Maggie had been quite smitten with him. I told him that I would be honored to have him as my brother-in-law."
The world stopped and Ray's jaw hung open. Benny who had been absurdly pleased with Ray's reaction throughout his telling valiently fought back the urge to grin and for the first time allowed the vaguest hope in his heart that Ray might feel towards him what he'd been feeling for a long time towards Ray.
"Who's Maggie?!" Ray squeaked when his brain finally got the message to his stubborn vocal chords.
Ben nodded, "Yes, my sister."
"Your sister?" repeated Ray.
"You have a sister? Since when?"
Ben told Ray the story (sans his ghostly father's involvement) about how his sister had come to Chicago on the trail of her husband's killer and from there he went on to tell Ray about Stan's courtship of his sister and their subsequent wedding. When he had finished his tale Ray was a man transformed, glowing with happiness and grinning from ear to ear.
"Well I sincerely hope they live happily ever after." Said Ray.
"Hear, hear." Added Benny.
"Hey, Benny," said Ray gently.
"I'm really sorry you didn't find it. You know, the Hand of Franklin."
This time Ben smiled gently at Ray, "I guess it just wasn't meant to be."
Ray setteled back in his seat closed his eyes and sighed contenedly. For the time he allowed the vaguest hope in his heart that Benny might feel towards him what he had been feeling towards Benny for the longest time.
"What about you Ray?"
"Aren't you going to tell me about Florida and Stella?"
"I thought I had." murmured Ray.
"Well, although the explanation 'The reports of my elopement have been greatly exagerated' is admittedly an amusing allusion to the great Mark Twain, it leaves a lot to be desired in the way of-"
"Ladies and gentlemen," the pilot broke in, "please buckle up at this time. We're about to hit some heavy turbulence, thank you."
As the plane began to violently shake a woman's piercing scream rent through the rumbling of the plane.
"Oh Holy Mary Mother of GOD!" shrieked the woman, "I broke my water!"
Ben's eyebrows shot up in surprise while Ray just shrugged and said, "Of course."
The pregnant woman's husband cried out in panic, "Does anyone know how to deliver a baby?!"
"Push!" Yelled someone helpfully form the back.
"Well Benny," said Ray blithely, "it may not be the hijackers that you had your heart set on but," he gestured grandly, "have at it Super Mountie."
When they landed in Vancouver the passenger list had been increased, thanks to Benny and an extremely speedy delivery, by one bouncing baby boy the parents of which were heatedly arguing.
"I said no, Nora! I don't care how grateful you are!" Cried the husband.
Nora glared daggers at him, "Samuel, he delivered our baby and we *are* naming the baby after him!"
Samuel was red in the face, "No! It's just cruel to do that to a kid! He'll hate us! I'll not have it!"
Ben stood by uncomfortably until Ray grabbed his arm and guided him off the plane. As they neared the exit hatch the new parent's argument contined.
"No son of mine is going around with such a name as Benton Benton. Absolutely NOT!"
"Oh dear." Muttered Ben.
The flight up to Whitehorse was a significantly less crowded and thankfully less action packed affair. As they approached the small Yukon airport Ray narrowed his eyes. He'd have to deal with *that man* again. He had no doubt that *that man* would still be working there, a perpetual Caeser reigning supreme in the middle-of-nowhere airport. In fact he was counting on it. Ray patted his carry-on bag, this time he was ready for him.
Ben glanced over at Ray's stormy face and remembered what had happened the last time they'd been to the Sgt. Preston Memorial Airport.
"Oh dear." He muttered.
The small plane began its descent and Ben decided that this was as good a time as any other to spring a surprise on Ray.
"Did I tell you that Stan and Maggie will be meeting us at the airport?"
Ray smacked himself against the forehead, "What kind of question is that? You know damn well that you didn't tell me! Jesus Benny, could have given me any less notice?!"
Ray rubbed his eyes tiredly. It would be a little akward but he knew he could handle this. He could handle anything, he was a cop. He'd known that he'd have to face this sooner or later, and thanks to Benny it looked like sooner was now.
Ben opened his mouth to speak again but Ray cut him off.
"Yes, I promise to behave myself."
Ben sputtered, "Oh Ray, I never thought that you might-"
"No that would be rude, but yes you did." He gave him a weak smile, "It's okay Benny, I don't hate Stan as much anymore."
Ben smiled, "Oh?"
Ray gave him a sideways look, "I have my reasons."
Ben tried to sound nonchalant, "Did it have anything to do with what I told you on the way to Vancouver."
Ray shrugged but smiled.
Ben felt a sudden warmth between them, a connection, and he let himself hope a little more. "You'll like Maggie," he assured Ray with enthusiasm, "and Stan is a lot more relaxed and comfortable with himself since you first met him. The difference is remarkable."
Suddenly Ray shot him a piercing mind-reading stare, "Oh my God. You didn't tell them I was coming ?!"
Ben was flabergasted, "Well, I ah...." he blushed.
Ray buried his face in his hands, "Oh this is going to be so embarassing! Why Benny? Why do you do these things? You should have warned them, you should have warned *me*!"
Ben suddenly grasped Ray's arm in an almost cruel grip. Ray's eyes went wide with surprise.
"Would you have wanted to come to Canada with me if you *knew* you were going to see Stan?" Ben asked with surprising intent.
Ray forced himself to meet Ben's eyes, "For you? Yes." Ray swallowed hard, "For you?...anything."
Ben's eyes softed almost to tenderness and his grip on Ray's arm relaxed almost to a caress as he felt the warmth flooding back between them. He let his hand slide up to rest on Ray's shoulder, "I'm sure you'll all get along great." He said softly.
Ray gave him a half smile, "Oh dear," he sighed.
Ray tried to duck behind Benny as much as possible as they disambarked the tiny plane. Over Ben's shoulder he could make out the figures of Stan and a woman in full mountie dress who obviously must ahve been Maggie. The reunion between Benny and his sister and brother-in-law was predictably joyous and not the least bit dampened by Benny and Maggie's rigid proper mountie behavior. And then Ray stepped forward a little akwardly.
If Stan was surprised to see Ray he hid it very well. He offered Ray his hand and dispelled any akwardness there may have been. "Nice to see you again."
Ray took his hand relieved and put at ease by Stan's surprisingly friendly overture, "Yeah," he said with sincerity, "likewise."
And about then, maybe Hell did freeze over because they smiled at each other. Ben looked ready to go into meltdown his face was glowing with so much radio-active happiness.
"And this," said Ben with a great deal of pride, "is my sister Maggie."
Ray grinned and warmly shook her hand.
"It's a shame that Benny didn't talk more about you." He said slipping into Prince Charming mode. "But I guess even Mr. Dictionary there couldn't find the words to do justice to such a lovely lady."
Maggie, to her horror, blushed, "Thank you kindly." she said a little flustered.
"Hey Benny, she's turning as red as her serge just like you do! Wow, I guess it's a family thing."
Stan chuckled, "I ain't *ever* seen Fraser blush!"
"Oh yeah? Well you should have seen Mr. Shameless over there when we had to question this lady who ran a lengerie store!"
To his horror Ben felt himself blush.
Stan laughed, "It's like magic!"
Before they could be tormented any longer Maggie turned to her brother, "I brought pemmican."
Ben's eyes lit up. "Really?"
Maggie smiled, "Come on, I left it in the jeep."
"Say no more." Said Ben and they started off eagerly for the jeep.
Stan smiled smugly and started a countdown under his breath, "..4..3..2..1.."
Suddenly both mounties halted at the same time, spun around back toward Stan and Ray and said, "Would you like some pemmican too?"
"Nah," said Stan, "we don't feel like livin' dangerously."
"Suit yourselves," they said in unison and then headed once more for the pemmican.
"Geez," said Ray, "synchronized mounties."
Stan laughed, "You'll get used to it."
Ray smiled and let his eyes cast about the airfield as he and Stan settled into a comfortable silence.
"So," said Stan finally, "how long ya here for?"
"Oh," said Ray a little sartled at the question, "I haven't thought about it," he ran his hand over what was left of his close-cropped hair, "I guess till me and Benny fix up the cabin."
"That'll be a short visit then. Me and Fraser finished most of it."
"Yeah, the only thing we didn't get around to were the bathroom fixtures."
Ray couldn't help smiling, "That so?"
"Yeah he just kept putting it off and putting it off till we'd decided to haul outta there." Stan shrugged, "Weird huh?"
Ray slapped him on the back, "Well you know mounties.."
"Freaks. Every single one of them." Said Stan with affection.
They hit another lull only this time Stan started to fidget, Ray could tell that he wanted to say something.
"Something you wanted to say Stan?" Ray had a bad feeling that he knew what it would be about.
"Well, um. I was just wondering, you know, about.. ..how's Stella?"
Ray couldn't help the guilty flush that creeped into his face, he took a deep breath, "The last time I saw her, when I left Florida, she was doin'good. She really likes it there."
"So, she's still in Florida?"
"You goin' back to Florida?"
Ray looked away, "No."
Ray shook his head, "You've been hanging around too many mounties."
Stan gave him a half smile.
"Anyway, about me and Stella," he continued, "we're just friends. That's how it was from the beginning."
"Ah Christ Vecchio, you don't have to say that." said Stan quietly. "It's not why I asked."
Ray finally looked him in the eye, "It's the truth."
"I believe you." Said Stan, and he meant it. "I mean, what I meant was that I'm over Stella. Have been for a while, since before Fraser broke your cover even."
Ray had to look away then. His face flooded with crimson shame, "Had I known that I probably wouldn't have run off with her and let people think we eloped."
Ray had thought he might feel a little better when he'd gotten beyond his extreme dislike of Stan Kowalski and finally confessed what a jerk he had been. Funny thing was he felt like an even bigger jerk. He stared at his feet feeling lower than the ground beneath them.
He was startled by the feel of Stan's hand on his shoulder. "Hey, it's okay. I'm not mad or anything. I'm over that, and a happily married man now. And anyway it really wasn't you that did it, don't you know that? The way you were yanked from your undercover assignment and all...of course you wouldn't be all there."
Ray still couldn't look up.
"If you'll recall, I've done a lotta undercover myself, I know how it is. It wasn't you, and wasn't your style. You're a good guy at least according to Fraser, he never shut up about you."
Ray met his eyes almost shyly and allowed himself a ghost of a smile.
"Let's forget all about it, okay? We were both different people then. We can start over."
Ray's smile widened and he held his hand out to Stan, "Hi, I'm Ray Vecchio."
Stan shook his hand, "Nice to meet you Ray. I'm Stan Kowalski."
Ray grinned mischieviously, "*Stan Kowalski*? You're kiddin' right?"
Stan rolled his eyes and play punched him in the arm, "My Dad had this thing for Brando. So sue me."
They laughed together like old friends. Ray decide he'd have to thank Benny later. This had turned out better then he could ever have dreamed. But then again telling Benny something like that might just encourage him to do other crazy things. Speaking of Benny, Ray looked over at the jeep across the field and sure enough Ben and Maggie were still gorging themselve on pemmican. With both of the rigidly by-the-book mounties thus occupied, this was Ray's golden opportunity.
"Well, Stan, it's been nice meeting you," he looked over at the dinky airport terminal, "but right now I've got a date with destiny."
As Stan watched Ray swagger off towards the terminal like John Wayne with his bag slung over his shoulder he wondered if someone hadn't kicked 'im in the head on the trip up there.
He was there, at the terminal's one reception desk, alone. The tag he wore let the public know that his name was 'Red'. He was bent over a newspaper, and took lazy sips from his coffee from time to time. The same damn 'back in 10 minutes' placard stood gaurd next to him.
Ray breezed through the doors, waltzed up to the grizzled man, and plopped his bag on the counter next to the placard.
Red took another sip of his coffee and looked up at Ray, "You again, eh?"
Ray smiled, "I believe that I have a package here waiting for me."
Red gave him a measuring look, then put his coffee down picked up the placard and wandered out of sight into the back to get Ray's package. He took his time and when he came back he plunked a heavy medium sized brown package onto the counter. The contents of the parcel clinked with the sound of metal on metal.
"I hope there wasn't anything too fragile in there." said Red, "My nephew Harold dropped it a few times."
Ray leaned against the reception desy lazily, "I'm sure it's just fine."
Red narrowed his eyes, "I ought to run this through the x-ray. Harold never got around to it. He figured that this was for Edgar Montrose, the local demolitions enthusiast."
Ray reached for his bag, "Oh, I don't think that'll be necessary." he said.
Red watched the American rifle through his bag. He wondered how much money he was going to offer him *this* time. The x-ray was all set to go and he figured that the loud American would get 5 to 10 easily for the contents on the package that he had sent to himself.
With a beatific smile Ray handed Red an unmarked envelope. Red accepted it and glanced at its contents.
Red pushed the package towards Ray, "Smartened up, eh Detective?"
Ray smiled as he took the package and set it on the luggage scale, "This too heavy to go with us?"
"I'll have Harold get it on the plane before your mountie friends get in here."
Ray couldn't help himself, "Thank you kindly," he said with a wink and swaggered over to wait at one of the tables.
"Oh and Dectective.."
"Keep your stick on the ice!"
Red set his 'back in 10 minutes' placard up again and ducked into his back office. He picked up the phone and dialed.
"Hello Bill?...You'll never guess what that American I told you about gave me....Oh you'll never believe it. Not even Hap would believe this, go on guess...No....No....No....No....No....No....That's just perverted Bill, shut up. He gave me season tickets for the Maple Leafs, beauty eh?"
After Stan and the mounties joined Ray in the small terminal they weighed the bags, bought tickets and had lunch. To Ben's astonishment Ray invited Red to join them at lunch and watched the two of them carry on like they were old friends. They then arranged to have Dief let out of holding and went out to the field to wait for the small plane that Ben and Ray would take from there.
When Red approached the small group he unleashed Dief waved goodbye and headed back to the airport. The newly freed Dief gave Ben a dirty look but bounded up to Ray enthusiatically.
"Hey Dief!" cried Ray and got down on his knees so as to lavish much attention on the wolf. Ray laughed, "Good thing I'm not wearing any of my good clothes, so feel free to shed as much as your wolfie heart desires."
Ben stood stiffly by as Dief ignored him, "You're being silly Diefenbaker. You're a grown wolf for God's sake! The silent treatment is very unbecoming."
Deif shot Ben another dirty look and then turned back to Ray and started licking him.
"Aw geez! What's with this deaf wolf and licking me?" gasped Ray in between bouts of laughter, "Do I taste like chocolate or something?"
'I wonder what Ray *does* taste like?' Thought Ben absently.
"Dief has always liked you Ray," said Ben out loud. Ray wasn't looking but he could hear the smile in Ben's voice, "he's regaurded you as one of his packmates ever since he first met you." He explained, "There's no finer recommendation of a man's character than the approval of a wolf. By licking you he's establishing or rather reestablishing the bond between you as packmates."
'I wonder if Benny would lick me?' Thought Ray absently.
"So he *was* getting intimate with me when we first met!" Ray cried out loud.
"Yes, Ray." Ben dead-panned.
Maggie and Stan stood together on the empty field as the plane carrying Ben, Ray, and Dief took off. His arm was draped around her waist and her arm around was his shoulders. They waved to the departing plane wishing that Ben and Ray would have a safe flight.
Stan looked at his wife, her face was radiant with happiness. "Well," he said, "what did you think?"
Maggie smiled, still facing the fast disappearing plane "I think it's cute. Benton just kept going on and on about him. And he seems like a nice guy."
"He's okay." Stan tugged at her waist and guided her towards their jeep. "He said he isn't going back to Florida."
"How long do you think he's going to stay up here?"
Stan smiled, "Forever. He just doesn't know it yet, like I didn't know it."
Maggie laughed easily, "You think they'll visit us often?"
"Are you kidding? If we make Fraser uncle he'll never leave us alone, and Vecchio I know for a fact loves kids."
Maggie smiled mysteriously "Oh, I been meaning to talk to you about that..."
Stan stopped dead in his tracks and turned to his wife, "Huh? Are you...? You're...?"
It may have been a trick of the engines, but Ben could swear at that moment 5,000 feet in the air that he heard someone holler "Yeeeeeeehaaaaaaw!"
Ben turned to Ray to ask if he'd heard it too, but Ray was sleeping. He looked over at Dief, but what was the use asking a deaf wolf?
"Humph, it was probably nothing." he mused.
At the last airport Ben had his Land Rover waiting for them them. Thay laughed and joked with each other as they loaded thier luggage into it, and Dief meanwhile was constantly underfoot and gadding about like mad because he knew he'd be home soon.
They were nearly finished and Ben was bent down scratching Dief's head affectionately. Both man and wolf were back on good terms since Ben had made the peace offering of several bags of airline peanuts. He watched Ray laod the last box into the back of the Land Rover, it was the box that Ray had sent to himself.
Ben's curiosity was piqued, "What's that?"
"What's what?" Countered Ray as he slammed the back hatch shut.
Ray was being evasive, and Ben knew that an evasive Ray equaled big trouble. "That box you just loaded up. I don't seem to recall you bringing that with you from Chicago."
"What did you do, memorize my luggage?"
"They're just some necessary items that I had shipped here ahead of time."
Ben figured that right about now ignorance was bliss and left it at that.
The ride to the cabin was peaceful, mercifully so. Ben felt happy, Ray looked happy, and Dief was indulging in some very un-wolflike behavior by hanging his head out of the window.
Ray watched the scenery pass lazily by. It was so quiet and uninhabited unlike any place he'd ever lived. He wondered if there were any other human beings here at all. It didn't seem hard to picture Benny living in an entire country all by himself.
"Hey Benny, got any neighbors?"
Ben smiled, "Why, yes. There's an entire Inuit village not 40 kilometers from the cabin."
"No kiddin', an entire village?" asked Ray, his tone teasing.
"I'll bet it gets really annoying when they play their music too loud."
They both laughed at his bad joke.
"It's realy nice out here," Ray continued, "I had no idea it could look so green."
"Well, it *is* summer Ray."
Ray laughed, "Yeah I know Benny. This is just my way of saying I love it here."
Ben took his eyes off the road long enough to give Ray a warm look. He felt the connection between them suddenly more acutely than before, "Thank you kindly, Ray. That means a lot to me." He hoped that Ray would understand what he meant.
"Your welcome kindly." Said Ray with a twinkle in his eye. And like Ben what he really meant was 'I love you'.
It was dusk when they finally reached the cabin. They had been traveling for 24 hours and both men were too tired to do more than unload a few essentials from the Land Rover and stagger into the cabin where they dumped their stuff uncerimoniously in the middle of the living-room/dining-room/kitchen floor.
Ever the polite host Ben offered Ray something to eat.
"Too tired," mumbled Ray, "I jus' wanna sleep."
Together they stumbled over to the only bedroom where Ben stopped them in the doorway. "Ah." said Ben, "Well there's only one bed...I do have an extra cot stored in the barn. Go ahead and take the bed Ray. I'll be fine."
"Shut up Benny. We'll both take the bed."
"Are you sure Ray?" Ben was too tired to put up much of a fight, even if he'd wanted to.
Ray gave him a tired and bleary look. He was starting to get cranky and darn it he *wanted* to share a bed with Benny. "Get into bed Benny or I swear to God and all the heavenly saints that I will knock you out cold and toss you there myself."
They were too tired to undress any more than taking off their sock and shoes. Ray flopped onto the bed, burrowed under the covers and moaned. He was unnaturally quiet then for a few minutes so as Ben climbed into the bed after him he naturaly assumed that Ray must have fallen asleep.
Ben had just closed his eyes when Ray muttered into the pillow, "Oh my God."
Suddenly Ben was wide awake and sitting up. "Is there something wrong Ray?"
Ray turned his head so he was facing Ben, "Oh my God, this is such a comfortable bed! I thought you didn't do comfortable Benny. Isn't it against the mountie code of honor or something?"
Ben sank back into his pillow and let out a relieved chuckle, "Not at all, Ray. But when Stan and I were up here fixing up the place I naturally insisted that he take the bed. He had some objection though to the perfectly good mountie issue bed I had and swore to me that he would take it out and burn it unless I got a more comfortable bed for him."
Ben's voice had lulled Ray to the edge of sleep, and the last thing managed to mumble before he succumbed completely was, "Thank you *kindly*, Stan."
Ben awoke, as he usually did, at the crack of dawn. Pale northern sunshine streamed in through the bedroom window bathing Ray and him in a halo of light. Ben lay very still taking a moment to enjoy the fact that he was in bed with *Ray*. True they were fully clothed except for their socks and shoes, but still Ben felt a wonderful intimateness with Ray right then. He closed his eyes for a moment and just felt the heat from Ray's lanky body.
He opened his eyes again and then shifted onto his side so he could enjoy watching Ray sleep.
He was almost shocked for a moment at how vulnerable Ray could look. His face was so relaxed and open. He almost looked innocent and Ben fought the urge to lean over and kiss his beautiful sleep warm lips. He could hardly believe that this was the same brash man that he had first met all those years ago. Had the man who'd carried him on his back on what at the time seemed a death march through miles of Canadian wilderness ever looked so relaxed? Had the insecure man who'd poured out his darkest memories to him of his childhood and abusive father ever looked so peaceful?
He then thought about the last time he'd seen Ray, when he'd blown his cover and when Ray had been in the hospital with yet another bullet he had taken for him. Looking back on it now he remembered that behind the slick exterior that Ray had maintained as Armondo Langostini had lurked such agitation, terror and self-loathing glossed over with a disturbing detachedness. The difference had been like a wall that neither of them at the time had had the strength to break through, and then duty called and they never had the chance. When he thought about it their devotion to duty had cost them so much time, so much wasted time.
But that was then, and Ray was here with him now. To Ben's relief all traces of Armando had been chased away from Ray's soul, and if Stella Kowalski had somehow been a party to this transformation (on a purely platonic level of course) then he was deeply in her debt. It was like having the old Ray back only he was more comfortable with himself. There was almost none of the self-doubt in Ray's eyes like he remembered. It was as though Ray finally *liked* himself.
It was wonderful.
He broke off his study of Ray to sit up and stretch lazily. As pleasant as it was just to watch Ray he did have a lot he wanted to do that day and he was burning daylight. He climbed out of bed carefully, checked to see if Ray was still asleep, and shucked off his sleep rumpled clothes in favor of some fresh work clothes. He wanted to do something about that cot in the barn before Ray got up.
Ray was dreaming that an angel was watching him. Smiling at him and just loving him with every word spoken, with every look, and breath taken. It was nice. Ray smiled in his sleep, the angel looked just like Benny.
Slowly he surfaced from the dream and opened his eyes just in time to see Benny undressing. It was breathtaking.
'Is it my birthday?' He thought to himself.
Ben started to turn around so Ray shut his eyes again. He heard Benny quietly moving around the room, and he tried to imagine how his pale muscled body moved as he went through his morning ritual.
'I'll bet he looks like an angel.' He thought.
Ray felt drowsiness start to overcome him again. As he heard the soft click of the bedroom door closing behind Benny he allowed himself a sleepy grin knowing that he was going to have some damned good dreams.
The early summer morning air was cold and clean, and the world was totaly deviod of any manmade sounds. Ben soaked in the coolness and the silence, and it was good. He watered and fed Dief, then walked briskly to the barn and felt himself already start to warm up from the exercise.
The door to the barn had been kept unlocked. The idea that anyone would take advantage of an unlocked building and rob it up in these parts was not even conceivable. So the contents of the barn was as he had left it, unnaturally neat. Everything had a place, and everything in its place.
The mountie issue cot that he had stored there after Stan had left still remained where Ben had left it, waiting for the day it may or may not be needed again. It was a perfectly good cot that he'd had for years and had served him well, but all of a sudden he was overcome by an almost insane kind of animosity towards it. He knew perfectly well why too. It meant that he and Ray wouldn't have to share a bed again. They could easily slip into the routine of Ray taking the bed and Ben the cot, doing as roommates do. Eventually Ray would leave to go back to Chicago or God knew where else because although having a roommate was pleasant it wasn't a situation that lasted forever.
Ben didn't want a roommate, and he wouldn't allow the two of them them to fall into that trap. He knew what he wanted, he knew why he'd gone to Chicago, and it was not for a roommate. The cot and everything it stood for simply had to go.
Feeling not the least bit sorry he grabbed a shovel and headed out behind the barn to dig a nice big hole for the offending cot. He had been afraid too many times in his life when it came to things he wanted, needed. He'd sworne to himself that never again would he deny himself or others the possibility of happiness in the name of anything like duty or what was deemed 'proper'. Most of his life had been a shining example of what it meant to have a stiff upper lip, and most of his life he had felt like he was only half a person.
Thirty minutes later the hole was somewhat shallow but large enough that it would do. So Ben dragged the cot over to it and savagely shoved it in. He felt hot now and sticky with sweat as picked up the shovel again and began to cover up the hole. He had gone to Chicago not knowing how but praying for a second chance, and Ray had come to him. With Ben's blessing Francesca had told Ray in a phone conversation that he'd returned to Chicago for a visit. So Ray too had returned to Chicago unknowingly compelled to do so simply because Benny had needed him. And Ray never let Ben down, he could never do that to his other half.
Ben stomped on the loosened earth trying to make the little bit of chaos he'd wrought return to some semblance of order. Ray had never failed him and by God this time Ben wouldn't fail Ray. There would never be a need for second chances ever again. Ben was no longer afraid.
Ray was already awake and preparing their breakfast by the time Ben got back to the cabin. He enjoyed watching Ray busy himself with his sure and beautiful hands. When Ray finally noticed Ben's presence he gave him one of his 1,000 watt smiles and gestured for him to take a seat. He'd already set a place for Ben and himself, and as he watched Ben take a seat he felt a wonderful kind of nervousness. Ben's eyes were bright and his cheeks flushed from the physical exertion of the morning. Ray couldn't help but think how the look was very becoming on the mountie.
Ray set down a steaming pot of rice in the middle of the breakfast table. He shrugged, "It's all you had." He said in the way of apology.
Ray took his seat and started filling his plate with mounds of rice, "So, what were you up to this morning?"
"Chores, Ray." Said Ben as he reveled in the wonderful domesticity of the situation. It felt so right, this was what he had been missing. "A man's work is never done in this kind of environment no matter what the season."
"In that case, what's on the agenda for the two of us today? Are we gonna go out and chop down some trees?"
Ben smiled, "Not today. We don't have any need for lumber, we have all the firewood we could possibly want, and anyway we can't since I haven't sharpened my axes." He shrugged, "I thought it would be a good idea though if we went for a bit of a hike to give you the chance to learn the terrain."
Learn the terrain? Ray smiled inwardly and hoped that comment meant that Ben wanted him to stay for a long time. "That sounds like it could be fun." He said in between forkfuls of rice, "Tell you what, I'll pack up whatever's left of breakfast when we're done and we'll make a picnic of it."
"That would be lovely, Ray."
"And by the way, we're going to have to get some more food supplies besides rice, and I mean soon. If I have to eat rice three times a day I may just lose my mind and do something crazy like eat furry night crawlers."
Dief ambled happily alongside Ray and Ben as they wandered down the old beaten path that led deep into the forrest beyond the cabin. Although it was still the warmest part of they day they had to wear light jackets. And since Ray had lived so long down in Florida he hadn't had many warm clothes and so had to borrow the denim jacket he was wearing from Ben. Ben for his part was absurdly pleased with the sight of Ray wearing his clothes, "Denim suits you." he had teased.
They had been silent for quiet a while niether really needing to put any of their thoughts in words when Ray suddenly broke the silence, "Hey Benny, how 'bout I give you a piggy-back ride and we'll *really* make this like old times."
"Well Ray that particular experience would be diffucilt to recreate since I'm not blind." Ben deadpanned.
"So close your eyes." Said Ray with devastating logic.
They both burst out laughing.
Soon they approached a steep hill and Ray made like he was going to go around it, "Come on Ray," said Ben, "up we go."
Ray regaurded the hill unhappily, "There isn't even a path going up it, we'll have to beat our way through it."
"Which will make it all the more satisfying an accomplishment." Said Ben as pushed ahead up the hill, "There's something I want you to see, and this is the fastest way to get there." He called over his shoulder.
Ray heaved a sigh, he knew when he was beat, "Okay, okay," he said as he lurched forward in Ben's wake, "but you're carrying me!"
"You'll have to catch me first!"
They both topped the hill laughing breathlessly. Ray leaned slightly forward resting his hands on his ben knees, "I almost had you!" He said in between gasping breaths.
Ben was leaning against a tree breathing hard and smiling, "Not even close."
Ray straightened up, "I bet you I can beat you going down." He challenged.
And before Ben could say anything Ray was already whooping and barreling down the other side of the hill with Dief close at his heels.
"Why you!" Ben leapt after him and started to gain on his break-neck descent till at the bottom he finally caught ahold of Ray's jacket and slammed into him when Ray came to a screetching halt. They both fell together in a tangle of limbs.
Ben was on top grinning down at Ray, "Gotcha!"
Ray grinned back up at Ben, "But I won."
"You did not."
"I got here first didn't I?"
"You asked for it."
And they just lay there enjoying the closness, neither wanting the other to move. Ben wanted more than anything to kiss Ray senseless. He had a feeling that Ray might not object since Ray wasn't upset by the feel of Ben's very obvious erection pressing down on him. In fact the feel of *Ray's* erection pressing up against *him* was another big clue that he might not mind. He could feel that conection beween them agian as strong as ever.
Suddenly Ray's teasing smile turned shy, but his eyes never left Ben's own.
Ray let his arms slip around Ben's waist in a loose embrace. He then started to look around him at where they had landed, he really hadn't had a chance to see where he was going during their game. Ray's eyes widened when when his gaze fell upon what Ben had brought him to see.
"Wow!" He looked back up at Ben, "Benny you remembered!"
Ben climbed off Ray and helped him up. When Ray had straightened himself Ben kept a hold of his hand and tugged him toward the surprise.
It was a river, much like the one they had been so desperately searching for when they had been stranded in the Canadian wilderness. Ray had gone absolutely crazy for the clean river water the first time, Ben hoped this time would be no different. "I thought you might like it."
Ray almost reluctantly let go of Ben's hand and bent down to sample the water.
"Oooooooooh!" Ray moaned almost orgasmically, "This is even better than tha other river!!"
Ben laughed as he dropped the back-pack he'd been carrying. He rummaged through and pulled out a tin cup for Ray, "Manners Ray," he teased, "You musn't use your hands."
"Thank you kindly Benny."
Ben started to rummage through his pack again pulling out various items.
Ray tore himself away from God's Own Water long enough watch him pull out the last item.
He arched an eyebrow at him, "Soap, Benny?"
"I thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity. After such a long journey it'll do a world of good, besides we don't have much of a choice since the bathroom fixtures haven't been installed yet."
Ray picked up one of the wash clothes that Ben had set out, "Well it looks like you've thought of almost everything."
"Oh? What did I leave out?"
"What, my dear mountie, are we going to dry ourselves off with?"
"I thought we might roll around on the grassy bank."
Ray tossed a a river pebble at Ben, "Benny!"
"Or we could use these." Said Ben blithely as he pulled out several towels from his pack.
"Bless your heart." Ray slapped his hands together and rubbed them briskly, "Well, last one in's a Dragon Lady!"
Ben undressed the fastest and without hesitation plunged into the cold river water. Ray who was not to far behind in undressing though was now far behind inching slowly into the water and cursing loudly in Italian. Ben was starting to get impatient by the time Ray had gotten waist deep, so he lunged forward, grabbed Ray by the shoulders, and dunked him.
Ray came up sputtering and shivering, "Mio Dio, Benny! Were you trying to kill me!? Geez, I'm freezing my balls off and you go and do that!"
Ben smiled unrepentantly, "Give it some time, you'll get used to the water."
Ray hunkered down miserably till only his head was above water. He watched Ben splash about like a water creature. He looked so wild and free out here in this environment. This was the side of Benny that Ray had always supposed was there but never got to see. Soon he stopped thinking about how cold he was as he watched Ben swim laps around him.
Ben was reveling in the feel of water against his skin and the sheer freedom of movement that swimming afforded. He was also rejoicing in the fact that he was finally naked with Ray! Ray was watching his every movement like a hawk and Ben was starting to feel annoyed with his playmate for not joining in the fun."
"You'll warm up a lot faster if you move around Ray."
Ray blinked slowly as though he'd just woken from a dream, "That's a good idea Benny."
Ben smiled and opened his mouth to speak but soon found it filled with water as Ray with surprising agaility dove underwater, grabbed Ben by the ankles, and hauled him under. It was Ben's turn to surface sputtering and gasping, and he started off after Ray with a vengance as he swam laughingly away. They were soon engaged in out and out water warfare.
Ben had Ray in a headlock and was in the middle of dunking him for the 4th time. When he let Ray up this time Ray cried, "I give! I give!" before he could be dunked a 5th time.
Ben released him a little reluctantly and Ray swam a safe distance away from Ben just in case he decided to change his mind. Ray rubbed his hand over his face.
"Well, I'm warm now."
"Good." Ben swam ashore and gathered the soap and wash cloths. He swam back hande Ray one of the wash cloths and proceeded to soap up his own. He then hended the soap over to Ray.
"Don't. Drop. The. Soap." He said with mock menace.
Ray grinned wickedly, "God forbid."
They carried on like that for a while, scrubbing themselves clean while handing the soap back and forth to each other in comfortable silence. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky but they still had a good three hours of daylight left.
Ray suddenly noticed that Ben had stilled. He was blushing slightly which Ray thought was cute. He could see the pleading in that big-eyed-mountie look against which he was powerless.
Ray stopped what he was doing and made a big show of sighing and rolling his eyes, "Awright turn a round Benny, I'll do your back."
Ben smiled and did as bade. When he felt Ray's hands through the wash cloth start to work on his back he closed his eyes and sighed with contentment. This was good, this is what he dreamed about. Ray's hands were not only making him clean but also working out the knots in his muscles soothing him wherever they touched. Ben loved Ray's hands, they were magic hands. And suddenly he felt the wonderful hands go still and instead felt a finger lightly trace a particular scar in the middle of his back. A lance of pain shot through him.
"Ray," he said softly, "She doesn't exist anymore." He prayed that Ray would understand. "I don't love her." He added just to be sure.
"My turn Benny." It was barely a whisper.
Ben turned around to find Ray already facing away. Ben started to work on Ray's lean back almost reverently. He hoped that his hands could offer as much comfort and pleasure as Ray's had.
"Stella is really a wonderful person." Said Ray slowly.
Ben looked up from what he was doing quickly at the mention of her name. He wished that they were facing each other for this but he kept the rhythm of his hands steady fearful that if he stopped Ray wouldn't talk anymore.
"She helped me a lot you know, pushed me in the right direction. Helped me figure some a lot of things out."
He took a deep braeth, "I don't know what the Hell we were thinking really when we decided to go to Miami. I just knew that the things inside of me just weren't right. I was terrified that they'd never be right again. I was afraid that I'd never be me again, and I didn't even know if I wanted to be me again. I had to get out of Chicago fast, I knew that. For some reason that I'll never understand Stella agreed to go with me...for moral support." He paused.
Ben let his hands go still and just left them resting lightly against Ray's back as though to hold him up. Silently he willed Ray to continue.
"So we pooled our money together and bought this bowling alley down there. We lived in the appartment above it and we each had our own seperate bedrooms. She took to managing a bowling alley like a duck to water. Eventually it was me that was along for the ride."
"Every night after the place was closed we'd sit and talk. We'd talk about her, we'd talk about me, but we never talked about bowling."
Ben laughed softly.
"It was nice. It kinda felt like having my sisters back. I missed them like Hell, but I didn't them or my Ma to deal with the mess that was left behind of me after the assignment. Stella was a good surogate, she helped me find the pieces of the real me, it also helped that she'd dealt with that kinda thing before, with Stan."
Ben let his hands slide around to rest on Ray's upper arms.
Ray cleared his throat, "I guess during the courses of our 'talks' I'd revealed something to Stella that *I* didn't know I had because one night she invited this guy over, Dale Hawkins.
"She swore we'd hit it off great and said we had a lot in common. And we did, he was a great guy and we soon became friends. He and I started hanging out a lot together and doing things. I started to feel normal again. Dale introduced me to his friends and it was amazing you know? They were all like me, messed up, or had been at one point and I'm not talking about messed up in the way being undercover left me. I'm talking about the mess that was there before that, that had always been there as long as I could remember. Dale and his friends helped me find more pieces of my self that I didn't know had been missing. Suddenly I had a name for what it was that I thought had been wrong with me but had been too afraid to even think about it."
Ray took another deep breath. Ben let his hands slide up to Ray's shoulders and Ray leaned back against Ben's chest, "We talked and had a lot of fun together. Mind you, I still had my special talks with Stella whenever I could. But it got to the point where half the time she would be telling me that I should be out with the guys. She was right. I needed to be *out* with the guys. I'd had my epiphany in Miami. I'm gay Benny."
It felt so good to have finally said it that Ray wanted to cry. Better yet here was Benny holding him while he'd said it, and still holding him after he'd said it. He felt Ben's arms wrap around his chest, and he laid his hands over Ben's where they held him. Ben leaned forward a little to rest his chin on Ray's shoulder and Ray let his head fall back against Ben's.
"I had an epiphany too Ray." He murmured.
Ray smiled weakly, "What? Are you well and truly gay too?"
"Bisexual actually. No that wasn't my epiphany, I'd already known that."
"And how long have you know that?" Ray's voice was slightly teasing.
"How long have I know you?"
Ray swallowed. Oh God, Benny's voice was so sexy when he let it get husky like that. He never knew Benny could sound like that. He felt his knees go weak, "Then what was it?" He asked, his voice ragged.
Ben pulled him tighter against his chest and let his lips hover right next to Ray's ear, "I love you Ray." He whipspered. "I want you to stay with me."
Ray spun around in the circle of Ben's arms to face him. He cupped Ben's face in his hands, "Forever Benny." He whipered back intently, "I love you too."
Then they both leaned forward and met each other halfway for the most soul satisfying kiss either had ever known. Ben tasted so good like Ray knew he would, and Ray's lips were as soft and warm as Ben knew they'd be. Ray felt Ben's tongue slip past his lips and they both moaned. Ray let his hands run through Ben's thick hair while Ben let his hands run soothingly up and down Ray's back. Eventually they broke from the kiss gasping for oxygen. They held each other close and grinned like idiots. Ray could feel Ben's pounding heart against his own, he was sure Ben could feel it too. Their arousels brushed aginst each other and Ben bit back a groan. And as much as he would have loved to take Ray then and there they really had to get home. The sun was much lower now and it was starting to get cooler.
"I love you Ray, but we really have to get going. It's getting dark."
Ray had waited this long, he could wait a little longer. He darted in for a quick kiss, "Lead the way, love. I certainly don't want you catching a chill. Now that I have you I want you to stay good and healthy." There was a deffinite wicked gleam in his eyes.
They left the water holding hands. they let go long enough to get dressed but never took their eyes off each other. Then they claimed each others hand again and headed homeward.
"Oh yeah. Coming to Canada was *such* a good idea." Said Ray smugly.
Thy were kissing again as soon as they'd gotten through the cabin door. Ben's hands were grasping Ray's waist possesively and Ray's hands were just everywhere. They broke away from the kiss after an eternity and just held each other.
"What do you want to do?" Ben asked wickedly.
Ray let his hands drift over Ben's jeans clad ass. He was really liking this side of Ben's personality, "How 'bout we get nekkid?"
Ben pulled away far enough to look at Ray's grinning face, "Don't you mean naked?" he asked in an amused tone, "I thought we were just naked at the river."
Ray goosed him, "Yes we were naked, but now I want to get nekkid. There's a difference."
"Oh?" Ben was deffinitely enjoying this side of Ray's personality.
Ray started in on his lecturing tone that he usually used whenever explaining anything consumately American to Benny, "Naked means you don't have any clothes on."
Ben nodded, and Ray was satisfied to see that his student was as attentive as ever, "Now nekkid means that you don't have any clothes on *and* your up to somthin'"
"Ah." Ben couldn't help giggling.
Ray leaned in for another kiss, "So you wanna get nekkid or what?"
"By all means Ray."
"Race ya to the bed?"
There was a mad scramble as they pushed and shoved each other playfully on the way to the bedroom. Ray got the advantage though when Ben tripped over Dief. So Ray got to the bedroom first an leapt spread-eagled onto the bed like he used to do when he was little. He was bounced into the air a bit when Ben soon landed next to him in a cannonball. Ray had never had this much fun with a lover before. He wonderered what the hell he'd done to be this lucky.
They were breathless with laughter. Neither one really knowing when the last time they'd been this happy. Then they looked at each other and the laughing and playful mood they'd been in quickly eveaporated into something intense and not unpleasant.
Ray reached for Ben desperate to touch him. Ben buried his face against that wonderful place where Ray's neck ended and shoulder began and shuddered against him.
Ben inhaled Ray's scent, "Oh God Ray," he mumbled against Ray's long elegant neck, "so long, I've wanted this for so long."
"Me too," Ray whispered into Ben's thick soft hair. He planted a kiss on his temple, "It was worth the wait."
With shaking hands they helped divest each other of clothing. Ray pulled Ben into a searing kiss made all the more intense by that first feel of skin to skin. Ben pushed Ray onto his back and surrendered Ray's intoxicating mouth in favor of his now exposed chest. He began a thurough oral inspection of his new territory. He nipped every inch of Ray's skin he could reach and soothed all the reddening areas with lazy swipes of his tongue. Ray's head was pressed back into the pillow, his hands clutching at Ben's back and shoulders convulsively. When Ben reached one of his nipples Ray whimpered.
Something in Ben soared when he heard that small sound, and he desperately wanted to make Ray do it again. Experimentaly he bit the crinkly nub and tugged at it, and was rewarded with a sharp gasp of pleasure from Ray. Ray's hips thrust up against Ben's lower stomach insitently his arousal meeting hot slick skin. It was almost too good to believe. Nothing like this was supposed to happen to Raymond Vecchio, it was a law of the universe. He felt humbled that anyone could feel this way about him, or make him feel this way, let alone Ben. He supposed that Ben just made him a better person. He tangled his hands through Ben's hair and pulled him away from his chest. Ben started to protest the sudden deprivation of the taste of Ray's flesh. For a moment Ray was transfixed by the wild expression in Ben's eyes it reminded him of how Ben had looked while he'd played in the water, it seemed that the free and wild water-creature had followed Ray to land. Now Ray had to appease him, he darted forward and licked Ben's bottom lip making his protests die away.
Greedily Ben leaned in to capture Ray's mouth, but Ray pulled away with a teasing smile on his lips. Ben moaned with frustration as he sought Ray's mouth yet again. Ray stopped his quest by pressing his fingers aginst his lips.
"Shhhh," He soothed, "I'm not complaining lover, but I want to touch you too."
Ben shivered at the neediness in Ray's lust darkened eyes. He took Ray's fingers into his mouth and began to suck them lightly.
Ray rolled them onto their sides, "Oh God Benny, do you know how you look?"
He ran his hands up and down Ben's flanks, and then over his solidly muscled chest gentling him with his touch. He let his thumb brush over a sensitve nipple and placed a reverent open mouthed kiss there. Ben bucked against Ray hard and let his own hands mirror what Ray's were doing.
Ben wanted more suddenly and desperately, and Ray being the mind-reader that he was when it came to Ben reached down between them and grasped him in the most intimate way possible. Ben whimpered as Ray began to stroke him, rubbing his thumb over the tip. He was clutching Ray's shoulders so hard he feared that there would be marks.
Ben was nearly sobbed as Ray brought him closer and closer to the edge. This was so good, beyond good, but he wanted yet more. He wanted to be *with* Ray
Ben arched into Ray's hand. "Ray," he choked out, "I need....please...I, oh God."
Ray laid his cheek against Ben's, "Me too, Benny." He breathed.
Ben took a moment to gather his scattered wits and reached down to stop the movements of Ray's hand. He them took Ray's hand in his own, "I love you Ray," he whispered, "I want to be with you, in you."
Ray's eyes were wide but not fearful, he squeeze his hand tightly, "Are you prepared for this kinda thing?"
Without a word Ben released Ray's hand and from beneath the matress pulled out a small tube of lubricant that he had bought his first night back in Chicago. Ray took it without hesitation and with shaking hands applied it slowly and thoroughly to Ben. When Ray looked back up at Ben it was Ben's eyes that were wide, "How Benny?" He managed with a steady voice.
Ben was in awe of the faith Ray had in him, he'd never had anyone trust him the way Ray did. Ben rolled Ray onto his back and pressed his body against Ray's chest pinning him there, "Like this," he said his voice raw with emotion.
Ray drew up his knees and gave Ben a shaky smile. Ben leaned down to kiss him, reassure him. Ray closed his eyes, his breathing was extremely ragged now and he cried out and arched his back as he felt one of Ben's well lubricated fingers slip into him to prepare him. Ray bit back a gasp as another finger joined the first.
"Did I hurt you Ray?" Ben's voice was panicy.
"Sweet Jesus no. I just....I...you Benny. Only you."
"Always. It's only been you." Ray was gasping hard now as Ben added a third finger to the first two. "I.....waited for you."
Slowly Ben understood, "And I you."
"Please Benny, now."
As Ben positioned himself he felt something ancient and powerful from deep within himself climb to the surface. He slid himself into Ray's warmth, "You're mine." He said in a voice he barely recognized as his own.
"I know." Said Ray with sweet and exquisite defeat.
Ben drew back and plunged in back in, "I'm yours." He said with the same note of defeat.
Then for a long time there was no more talk just inarticulate cries and moans. Ben grasped Ray's cock and pumped hard in time with his thusts desperate to have Ray come with him. He could feel Ray all around him, pulling at him, his scent filling his head. Ray for his part was lost in the feeling of the sweet invasion. He felt so filled, he never dreamed it could be like this.
Ben's movements became more and more erratic and his moans louder. Ray no longer able to hold back let put a hoarse cry as he spilled his seed over Ben's hand and finally Ben gave his up deep inside Ray. He shuddered and collapsed with Ray's name joyfully on his lips.
They lay there panting fused together with semen, sweat, and something altogther indefinable, more than love. But eventually Ben pulled himself out of Ray's warmth and rolled off him. And they huddled together facing each other with their arms and legs in a tangle till finally they slept.
Ben woke as the early morning light poured in through the bedroom window. This time he was he was tightly wrapped in his lover's arms. It was their first morning together as lovers. Ben gloried in the freedom of watching his lover sleep, of tracing his lover's features with gentle ghostly movements of his fingers. He could hardly beleive that he was free to do with impunity this morning what he had hardly dared to hope for yesterday morning. He leaned over and kissed Ray's sleep warmed lips as he had so desperately wanted that first morning.
Ray's eyes fluttered open at the touch to reveal his sleepy green eyes. He gave Ben a corny smile and pulled him in for a deeper kiss.
Ray smiled at the use of the endearment, "Hey," he said running a finger along Ben's jaw, "I like that."
Ben looked mighty pleased with himself, "I'm glad."
Ray hummed with decadent pleasure, "I don't want us to get out of bed today."
"We don't have to."
Ray gave Ben a look of mock shock, "You, Benton Fraser RCMP, stay in bed for whole day? Will they still let you be a mountie after such a thing?"
Ben playfully pinched his bottom, "That's just silly, Ray."
Ray persisted, "Anyway don't you have to feed Dief or something?"
"He's a wolf, he can fend for himself. He rather wisely decided to spend the night in the great outdoors. I'm sure by now he's had a nice fat rabbit."
Ray laughed and pulled his lover closer to him, "Can I ask you something?"
"Why did it take this long for us?"
Ben cupped Ray's face in his hands, "I don't have any regrets that it took this long. Had it happened any sooner in our relationship it would have been a disaster."
Ray nodded for him to continue.
"I guess we had to let go a little bit of who we used to be. Now I'm free to give you everything that I am without compromise, I couldn't before. And I know the same is true for you."
Ray smiled, "I can live with that answer. But don't you ever get tired of being right all the time?"
"Oh I assure you it never gets old."
Suddenly Ray laughed, "Oh my God."
Ray grinned at his lover, "I just imagined what it's gonna be like growing old up here with you."
"This harsh environment is going to be murder on my arthritis."
Ben nuzzled his lover, "You don't *have* arthritis."
Ray nuzzled him right back, "It could happen."
Ben smiled, "We could spend the worst part of the winters in Florida. You could intorduce me to Dale and your other friends."
Ray grinned, "Really?"
Ray rolled over so that he was lying on top of Ben, "I could wear my good suits again."
"I like you in flannel though."
Ray rolled his eyes, but kissed Ben soundly on the lips.
"Ray according to your deffinition are we naked or nekkid right now?"
Ray leered, "Why? Are you up to somethin'?"
Ben caressed Ray's ass and nibbled an ear, "It's possible."
Ray began to move against Ben, "You know what? There's this great club in Miami that you have to let me and the guys take you to. I'm telling ya, Ms. Fraser would be a *huge* hit there."