Fraser didn’t have many prior experiences to compare with his relationship with Ray, but all in all he thought they were getting along better than ever before.
He didn’t want to fight with Ray and he knew that a relationship required willingness to compromise. Besides, he didn’t mind all that much. People were different and he was the last one to expect people to change who they were. Fraser also thought that he was doing a rather good job of it. They hadn’t gotten into a single argument for over a week.
….but Ray was really making it incredibly hard for him.
Ray took a sip of coffee only to make a face half a second later.
“Gah… Fraser, what is that?”
Fraser swallowed a snippy answer. Ray had been very trying throughout the day.
“I’d venture to say it’s coffee, Ray,” Fraser explained, praying for patience.
“Without sugar? Do I look like a health case?”
“It has sugar.” A normal, teaspoon-sized spoon of sugar. He wasn’t about to over-indulge Ray. Fraser had the sneaking suspicion that Ray was quite the hedonist at heart and that – given half the chance – Fraser might inadvertently create a monster. “I added a spoonful.”
Ray frowned into his mug. “A spoonful? A spoon from a doll house, maybe.”
Fraser had actually hoped that reducing Ray’s sugar intake would make him more amenable. It was almost impossible to get along with Ray today and Fraser thought he had already been on the receiving end of some of Ray’s… more… taxing moods… over the time of their acquaintance.
Fraser tried to find a topic with less potential to explode in his face, but opting to discuss boxing led to discussing protective helmets which Ray apparently felt very strongly about.
“You admit that I’m right or I’ll pop you in the head,” Ray’s smile was all teeth.
How was one supposed to reason with this man?
“Well, in this case, Ray, I believe you’re right,” Fraser said tightly.
In the evening, Fraser tried to make a peace offering by suggesting getting a pizza. The offer was met by a ten-minute rant from Ray, complaining about Tony’s warpath against everything pineapple.
“All right, then what would you like to eat?”
“Hey, I’m easy. I’ll eat anything.”
Fraser suppressed a sigh. He made an effort to smile. “Very well. How about Italian?”
“Again? We just had Italian on Monday—besides—”
Fraser was very tempted to tune Ray out.
He had high hopes when they arrived at Ray’s apartment; hoping without any real cause that Ray’s mood might improve over Thai food –to which he had finally managed to get Ray to agree – and some quality time on the couch.
Instead, they barely made it through the door before Ray pushed the limit – again.
Ray threw his keys on the side table which was already overloaded with knick-knack and change. The moment the keys slid over the wood a small avalanche of odds and ends cascaded to the floor.
“Fuck—fuck!” Ray exclaimed, trying in vain to catch the falling assortment of coins, spare keys, batteries, and whatever else Ray deemed useful to keep right next to the door… or that Fraser suspected Ray simply never got around to throwing out.
“You might consider using a small bowl in which to store your belongings,” Fraser suggested. He was only trying to help. At least Fraser thought it was a helpful idea. Ray obviously didn’t think so.
“Fraser, bite me,” Ray snapped at him.
Something in Fraser broke. He had finally had enough. There were only so many buttons he could stand having pushed—he was only human after all. He had tried to be on his best behavior, but enough was enough.
In a sudden surge of frustration, he grabbed Ray and shoved him roughly against the wall. Ray thought Fraser should bite him? Very well, Fraser could do that.
Ray’s eyes widened a fraction of an inch as he noticed Fraser’s feral expression before Fraser’s teeth clamped over the vein that was pulsating at Ray’s throat.
It was a simple gesture; claiming dominance in the simplest possible way.
Ray’s gasp stirred something in Fraser—it was raw—savage—Fraser loosened the grip of his teeth, about to release Ray and apologize when Ray’s hand stalled him, clamping around Fraser’s forearm like a vice. In his surprise Fraser bit down again.
Ray’s groan was almost noiseless as his knees buckled. Fraser’s arm shot out to keep Ray upright against the wall.
Fraser drew back, the lips still wet from where he had bitten Ray and he looked at Ray’s flushed face. Without taking his eyes off Ray, Fraser sneaked his hand down and cupped Ray through his jeans.
“Frase,” Ray whispered. He was hard.
Suddenly it was all frenzied. Fraser kissed Ray with a desperation that rivaled the frustration he had felt all day. Ray moaned into his mouth, holding on tightly to Fraser’s blue shirt. Fraser had never been more relieved that he had to change into civvies because of an unfortunate incident featuring a bank robber and a truck of ice cream than he was at this very moment, when he felt Ray’s fingers pull on the buttons.
Distantly, Fraser heard the ping of buttons hitting the wooden floor, but he couldn’t begin to care because Ray was hot and aroused against him, and for every shove Ray pushed back – like some weird variation of a dance… or a match.
Fraser bit at Ray’s lips, threading his fingers through Ray’s hair until Ray’s eyes lost all focus.
Ray panted into his ear. “’s that all you got, buddy?” he gasped with a wicked half-smile playing on his lips and Fraser lost the last bit of restraint. He gripped Ray tightly and pulled him in for another kiss, pulling him close.
He had Ray almost out of his clothes and he knew that they must’ve broken something when they had stumbled against the kitchen table, but Ray was right there and all that keyed-up energy was looking for an outlet and Fraser knew he could match it.
He manhandled Ray over the back of the couch, finally naked – well, at least naked enough – and Fraser pressed close against him, reaching past Ray to feel around the couch cushions. Sometime during last night’s shenanigans the lube had ended up somewhere in the upholstery—there! Fraser’s fingers closed around the plastic bottle.
Ray bit his lip as Fraser’s fingers dipped between his cheeks. When Fraser reached down to slick himself up, his hands were shaking slightly with the effort to hold on.
He leaned close to Ray, putting his lips right next to Ray’s ear. “Brace yourself,” he murmured.
Ray nodded, too turned on to speak. He widened his stance.
Later, Fraser pulled Ray down to the floor with him, unable to keep upright any longer. Fraser pushed an arm over his eyes; the image of Ray, sweaty and sated, lying on the floor, was more than Fraser could take.
“…hell…” Ray gasped weakly beside him. Fraser was forced to agree.
“…God, I needed that…” Ray mumbled. Fraser had to smile despite his best intentions not to do so. “You don’t say,” Fraser murmured, completely unable to keep the smile out of his voice. He heard Ray turning over to look at him.
“Good to see you’re back,” Ray grinned cheekily. Surprised, Fraser removed the arm from his eyes. There was a fluff of dust sticking to Ray’s hair.
“You didn’t fight with me anymore,” Ray elaborated. “I was starting to think you had broken your nag-o-meter or whatever is in that starch of your uniform that makes you contradict me all the time.”
“My common sense, you mean?” Fraser offered innocently.
“Haha, you’re a funny man, Frase, you know that?”
Fraser shook his head, a small smile playing on his lips. He reached up to remove the bit of dust and while his hand was already very conveniently in Ray’s hair, he pulled Ray close for a kiss.
“I was trying to be more accommodating,” Fraser said finally.
Ray scrunched up his nose. “That’s—what’s the word for it? D-u-m, dumb, Frase. We’re good together… it’s not the same without the snippy attitude.”
Fraser couldn’t help it, he began to laugh softly.
“You are the most impossible man I have ever met, Ray.”
Ray smirked. “Now look who’s talking. You got any other pot-kettle issues you wanna tell me about?”
Fraser pulled Ray close again, effectively silencing him with a slow kiss.
The next day, when Fraser came back from an errand he found Ray waiting for him at the Consulate.
“Hey Frase, would you mind joining me at the lakeside?”
Fraser observed Ray’s body language. Ray really didn’t want to go to the lakeside… that much was obvious.
“Of course, Ray. What is it?”
“I just got a call, a jogger found a drowned body. I can tell you…. drowned bodies are not a pretty sight,” Ray shuddered. “Gives me the creeps just thinking about it.”
The sight was indeed not particularly appetizing. But that wasn’t what startled Fraser.
What startled him was the fact that he knew the victim. And the last time Fraser had seen him… Ray Vecchio had threatened to kill the man.
Ray looked slightly pale and the way he shot glances at the corpse made it clear that Ray was more than a little squeamish when it came to drowned bodies.
Ray fixed his gaze on some point over Fraser’s shoulder. “What do you mean ‘he threatened to kill him’?”
Fraser sighed and stood up. The face of the man was discolored and the water had done some awful things to the tissue, but there was no doubt that this was the same man Fraser remembered.
“The case involved the murder of a female escort who also provided services of the sexual nature—”
“You mean a dead hooker?”
“Well, essentially…” Fraser flicked a knuckle over his brow.
“Yeah, okay, go on. Then what?”
“Guy Rankin, the man we’ve just found floating in the lake they call Michigan, was the main suspect. He had been the cause of trouble for the women in the neighborhood and he had already been charged with assault for beating up a—a—”
“Yeah, prostitute, I got it.”
Fraser pulled at his collar. “However, we couldn’t find any proof that he was responsible for the murder.”
“So, why the death threat then?”
Fraser really hoped that Ray Vecchio would forgive him for not keeping this confidential, but Ray needed to know this.
“A week later, Francesca was on her way home and Guy Rankin waited for her in an alley. I presume it was designed to provoke Ray and that this wasn’t a coincidence. He wanted to get back at Ray.”
Ray clenched his jaw. Fraser had noticed that Ray was very protective when it came to violence against women.
“Francesca screamed and it wasn’t far from the Vecchio home. Ray and I had just ended our shift and Ray had just parked the car when he heard her scream. Ray was livid and if Francesca and I hadn’t pulled him off… well, I believe the hospital would’ve had to care for him instead of for his victims. I remember Ray Vecchio threatened to kill him if he ever so much as glimpsed his face in the neighborhood again.”
Ray chewed thoughtfully on a toothpick. “That’s not looking too good for your buddy.”
Fraser nodded. “Which is why we have to delay reporting the body until we have managed to account for his innocence.”
Ray stared at him and he grabbed Fraser’s arm. “Oh Frase… you’re talking about suppressing evidence here.”
Fraser shook his head. “Delaying, Ray; delaying reporting the body.”
“Fraser you’re not playing with a full mukluk. You’re asking me to forget calling this in? I said I’d take the call, they’ll be waiting for the report.”
“Just a few hours, Ray; I know Ray Vecchio didn’t do this. He’s not capable of an act so monstrous, so hideous. So repulsive to the human condition.”
Ray looked slightly worried at Fraser’s expression. “Okay… fine… where do we put the body? If we take Rankin back to the 17th IA will be chewing on his ass – and ours for that matter – before he’s even dry. The guy at the morgue is a stickler for protocol. I can’t imagine persuading him to keep from booking the body for a few hours.”
Fraser thought about this for a moment. “I might know a place…”
As it turned out, storing the body with Mort at the morgue of the 27th was remarkably easy. Mort was busy with his opera rendition and didn’t even notice the additional body.
Back in the car, Ray gave a final shudder.
“Frase, promise me something, okay? I don’t care how I bite the dust, but if I do—please make sure I don’t get a water burial? I’m really not all that keen on dissolving into fish food.”
Fraser suppressed a smile. “A human body does not actually dissolve, Ray.”
“Hey, you haven’t watched me yet.”
“And you would be burned prior to the water burial.”
Ray thought about that. “I could go for the burning thing. Isn’t there something about the flames releasing the soul or something?”
Fraser nodded. “That is the customary belief, yes.”
“Yeah, okay. Fire is okay, but I don’t want to end up floating in some lake… I can’t swim.”
Fraser shook his head, bemused.
“Tell me one thing, how could Vecchio even have managed to kill the guy? Vecchio hasn’t been working around here for months. And I’ve seen drowned bodies, trust me on this, this one hasn’t been dead longer than a couple of days.”
“Shellac,” Fraser said.
“To you to,” Ray replied, confused.
“No, no. What I meant is that Guy Rankin was doused with shellac; it’s made out of bugs and is commonly used as an effective wood treatment. I noticed its very distinctive smell almost instantly – it’s rather hard to wash off I’m afraid. It preserved the body, and the plastic bag in which the man was found protected him from the water until recently. He was in fact killed several months ago.”
Ray looked shocked. “Wait, you mean he was in the water all this time?”
“Quite possibly. But something disturbed the body very recently. The decomposition of the body indicates that it has only been exposed to water for a few days as you said. There was work done on the sewage system very recently. I would venture to say that the body had been disrupted by that. It would account for the reason why it has only been found now.”
Working on a month-old murder case wasn’t exactly the most easily accessible investigation. What was pretty clear pretty fast was that Ray Vecchio could not have killed Guy Rankin. Because Guy Rankin had been the subject of an investigation concerning an illegal gambling ring only two months ago.
“Illegal gambling, illegal gambling…” Ray muttered. “Ha!” He shouted triumphantly, pulling out an old folder. “I knew it! Here, this guy?” Ray pointed to a picture of an immaculately-dressed gentleman with black hair, but an already graying beard. “This is Alex Farah. He’s a real big player in the illegal gambling scene, but we’ve never been able to nail him. And guess what he’s using as a front? Construction work. He owns this really big building company and does all of this upfront real estate stuff.”
“That would account for the shellac,” Fraser smiled at his partner. “That’s good work, Ray.”
“Thank you,” Ray grinned back. “So Rankin got investigated and therefore ended up a liability and Farah probably wanted to get rid of him so he finished him off and fed him to the fishes.”
“You really have an obsession with fish food, Ray. It’s quite worrisome.”
Ray shrugged. “I’m really more of a heat guy. I’ve seen Nemo and I can tell you one thing, you don’t wanna meet half the stuff down there.”
“Nemo?” Fraser was confused. “If you are referring to Captain Nemo from Jule Verne’s novel—”
“Fraser, forget I said anything.”
Ray looked through his case notes again. “Okay, let me make a few calls and I think we can go and clear Vecchio’s name before the night is through.”
As it turned out they wouldn’t be able to settle this case tonight. “They said something was going down at this address—some kind of warehouse – in the early hours of the morning. I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean – I never saw anyone playing poker at 5 in the morning. That’s stupid.”
“Well, I imagine we will find out.”
“Yeah, guess so… think the dead guy is fine with Mort for tonight?”
Fraser thought back for a moment. It was Tuesday… that should mean…
“I believe it will be fine. There is a special at Mendelsohn’s, chicken tetrazzini with peach melba as dessert – if memory serves me correctly—”
“That is so interesting to me, Fraser.”
“Ah yes, of course. In any case I believe that Mort will keep his dinner appointment so we should be safe as long as we get Guy Rankin out of the morgue before he comes in tomorrow morning.”
Fraser leafed through the pages of his notebook. He hadn’t expected to fill it so quickly. This was the last empty page. He wondered how his father had felt when he finished his very first journal. Fraser felt something like finality, staring at the blank page. As if he had been waiting for the last page to come, Fraser finally managed to admit something.
I’m scared of letting go. –there, I said it. I trust Ray—I trust him with my life… so why can’t I let go? In the short time that Ray and I have known each other intimately I have learned a lot about myself. I would like to say that I have learned of my past mistakes. But it seems to me as if some things aren’t as easily overcome as others. I have let Ray see more of me than I ever thought I could possibly open up again. And yet… I wished I could lose myself; blindly trust in Ray and not be afraid to feel. Tomorrow we will face yet another potentially life-threatening situation and if—if… I don’t want to have this regret. If anything happens to me I don’t want to die without knowing how it would feel. To surrender.
I regretted it bitterly once to believe so firmly in the better side of someone. But I don’t want to run away from my feelings forever. I already told Ray that I love him – how hard can it be to show him? …words have always come easier to me… I know the words that I want to say and I hope that Ray’s impulsive nature will follow through on them. I’m afraid I try too hard at times.
Fraser stared at the blank space that was still left. It was an odd feeling, but he couldn’t really say why.
Filling this last page feels strange. It feels like an end.
Fraser’s grip on Ray tightened as they rubbed against each other. The sheet beneath was cool against Fraser’s heated skin. His fingers explored Ray’s naked shoulders, the dip of his spine, the wiry strength of Ray’s muscles. Ray gasped, pressing back, pressing Fraser into the mattress and Fraser answered Ray’s hungry kiss helplessly.
“Ray…” Fraser whispered. Ray’s hips moved against his again and Fraser forgot what he wanted to say. Ray’s fingers seemed to be everywhere. “Ray,” Fraser moaned. “Ray…” it seemed to be the only word Fraser could remember.
“Yes…” Ray panted. “…anything, Frase… whatever you want, Ben…”
Fraser’s heart was beating rapidly. He knew the words. “Make love to me, Ray… please…”
The rhythm of Ray’s hips faltered. “Oh god…” Ray groaned. “Yeah… god… yeah…”
Something in Ray’s voice… something in the way Ray looked at him… Fraser thought that Ray had wanted this for a while.
Fraser turned around and swallowed hard. Ray’s fingers were instantly on his jaw, pulling Fraser’s face close for a bruising kiss. “I want you… so much… god, you have no idea…”
Ray’s hands were back on his body, touching every inch of skin they could reach. Fraser had never felt so cherished by a touch.
There was a quiet ‘click,’ barely audible over Fraser’s own labored breathing, and then Ray’s fingers came back slick with lube.
“I got you… I got you,” Ray murmured as he pushed the first finger in. It was hot—it was cold—hell, Fraser had no idea. Ray was almost plastered against his back and Fraser shivered with arousal.
Ray’s finger circled the little opening again and Fraser heard someone make a hungry sound—but then the finger was back inside and it was so much better. Fraser panted against his forearm.
“You look so good,” Ray murmured. A second finger pushed in next to the first and Fraser gasped at the stretch. He consciously relaxed his muscles and felt the finger slip in much easier. It felt—god—it was intense. Experimentally, Fraser pushed back—more stretch—more sparks—more—“More,” Fraser gasped hoarsely.
“Jesus… Ben…” Ray gulped and slicked up a third finger. Fraser’s whole world narrowed down to the spot where Ray’s fingers entered him. No description could have prepared him for the feeling of being stretched and filled. Reading about nerve endings was one thing, but it didn’t prepare you to actually experience it.
“Frase—I need to—god, please, let me…” Ray’s hot lips brushed over Fraser’s spine, his stubble scraped lightly over Fraser’s damp skin, and Fraser couldn’t think of anything more erotic.
“Yes…” Fraser moaned. He wanted to feel Ray—he wanted to feel more—he felt as if he had been starving all his life… until now…
“Relax,” Ray murmured. And then he pushed.
Fraser pressed back, gritting his teeth a little against the burn, but not stopping until he felt Ray’s body flush against his back.
Slowly, Ray pulled back a little bit and pushed in again. Just a little motion, letting Fraser adjust to the intrusion, but Fraser had enough of waiting. He arched his back, pushing back, and took Ray deeper.
“Ah… god…” Fraser let his head rest against the sheet. Ray pulled almost all the way out before snapping his hips and Fraser rocked forward, moaning as the friction made his spine tingle.
Ray was talking, saying something Fraser couldn’t make any sense of. He couldn’t hear anything over his own moans and he couldn’t concentrate on anything but on the push and slide of Ray’s hips.
Suddenly, Ray gripped his hips hard and pulled them a little higher. When Ray slammed in again he added a little twist – something that reminded Fraser of watching Ray dance – and Fraser felt a sudden craving—an itch—he—he had no words to describe it.
“Again—oh please—Ray—oh—” Fraser babbled as Ray complied, hitting that spot inside again that made Fraser feel funny all over.
More—more—more—and hard wasn’t hard enough and—Fraser needed this, it was the most intense thing Fraser had ever felt—“Ray—” Fraser moaned helplessly and Ray reached around, gripping Fraser’s erection tightly and suddenly Fraser was right there on the edge—
“Don’t—” Fraser gasped. “Please… not yet…” he whimpered. He could hear the grin in Ray’s voice as he answered.
“You’re the only guy who doesn’t wanna come,” he panted in Fraser’s ear. But he moved his hand lower and closed his fist tightly around the base of Fraser’s dick.
Ray slung his other arm around Fraser’s chest and continued to rock into Fraser, short, vicious stabs that rubbed against Fraser’s prostate again and again, until Fraser’s thighs were shaking with the effort to hold him up.
“Ray, Ray, Ray—” Fraser had no idea how long he had been chanting his name. “Please, let me—I want to—come, Ray, please—” Fraser begged and Ray moved his hand up in one smooth tug—and that was all Fraser needed. He came with a shout, shuddering all over, before he collapsed with a whimper. Ray’s pace became frantic, pushing in once, twice—“Fraser!” Ray moaned and Fraser felt wetness as Ray came.
Ray rested his head against Fraser’s back, breathing hard. He dropped next to Fraser and pulled him into a hug. Ray’s smile looked positively wicked as he kissed Fraser softly on the mouth. Ray pulled back and winked at Fraser. “Never figured you for a screamer, Frase,” he murmured.
Fraser blushed beet red. He hadn’t noticed. “I—ah—I’m—”
“Nah, c’mon, don’t clam up on me now.” Ray’s hands smoothed over Fraser’s arms in a soothing gesture. Ray’s smile softened. “I love you, too.”
“I know,” Fraser said sincerely. “And I you, Ray.” It was impossible not to. His heart would never accept otherwise. Surrendering control was the most terrifying and the most rewarding thing Fraser had ever done.
Fraser had asked for leave for the next morning so that he could go and see if Ray’s hunch was correct. He was still debating whether it was deceiving or not that he had given ‘personal reasons’ for his absence.
Fraser couldn’t think of anything more personal than helping a friend, and since he and Ray were investigating in an unofficial capacity in order to keep Ray Vecchio out of it, Fraser had thought it imprudent to claim professional reasons.
Ray was still in the shower when Fraser straightened his lanyard, wincing as he noticed yet another paper cut on his fingers. Lately he was accumulating them. He couldn’t remember ever being so clumsy when it came to handling paper. He should really be more careful.
He sat down at Ray’s kitchen table and opened his notebook. Maybe it was time to bring his journal to an end. It seemed fitting enough after last night.
There was only a little over a paragraph left anyway. So much for final words, Fraser thought dryly.
I am confident that we will find the real murderer – Ray’s hunches have only very rarely been wrong. There is something I figured out last night… something I had probably known for longer than that. I want to make a home. Once we see this case through I want to find a place I can come home to. I always wanted to return to Canada, but I have finally understood that nothing keeps me from making a home until I can go back.
…and I think I couldn’t find a home if Ray wasn’t there. The idea of telling him this scares me, and yet I have a good feeling whenever I try to picture Ray’s face. Maybe tonight, after we have cleared up this mess, I will ask him. Fraser looked at the last empty line of his notebook. It needed an appropriate last sentence. His tongue sneaked out to wet his lips and then he nodded with a small smile on his lips.
I want to come home.
His own daring shocked him. To hope, to make plans, however tentative, wasn’t something Fraser usually entertained. Life rarely humored him.
Ray came out of the bathroom and grabbed himself a cup of coffee. “You done over there? We should get going.” Ray seemed very serious, but it wouldn’t have been the first time that Ray wasn’t up to his teasing self before he had finished his coffee in the morning.
“Yes,” Fraser smiled fondly at the black leather book in front of him. “I just finished the last page.”
Ray downed the rest of his coffee and ambled over to where Fraser was sitting.
Ray looked thoughtfully at the small book before he grinned.
Cheerfully, he swept it up and pushed it into Fraser’s breast pocket.
“Ray, what are you doing?” Fraser asked, bewildered.
“It’s said that carrying a full book brings good luck,” Ray said, waving his hand around as if to say ‘you know’.
“In which culture?” Fraser asked, honestly puzzled.
“In… doesn’t matter—hey, it saved your life once, right? Anyway, let’s go.”
For the sake of punctuality Fraser decided to let it go.
“How did you find out that Rankin’s murderer is hiding out here?” Fraser motioned to the old building of a meat packing plant. ”It does look deserted.”
“Yeah, well if it didn’t look deserted it wouldn’t make for such a good hideout, now would it?”
“Point taken,” Fraser conceded.
“Someone did me a favor. Ages ago we cleaned up after an illegal gambling ring—that’s what got me thinking when we found out about Rankin. It was all a set-up for this one guy, Alex Farah. As I said, no one managed to nail him. He got away when the cover of our informant was blown,” Ray sighed. “It was a cooperation with the Feds, I guess it’s nothing less than we should’ve expected. I got our informant out in one piece… and her poodle, too,” Ray frowned. Obviously, saving poodles wasn’t very high on Ray’s list of things to be proud of.
“She owed me a favor so I asked her if she could give us some pointers. Turns out, she knew even more than I had expected. Her brother worked for the guy at some point, got killed for his troubles from what I gathered. I don’t know how that business figures in with the gambling, but she’s a tough lady to read. Anyway, that’s where all the threads led to. Home sweet home,” Ray made a sweeping gesture towards the derelict building, as if he was inviting Fraser into a castle.
Quietly, they entered through one of the back doors. The alarm that went off was ear piercing.
“You know,” Ray said conversationally as they ran for cover, “this is fairly well protected for a sleazebag like Farah.”
“I’m afraid you’re right. It looks like they’ve expected us,” Fraser pressed out as they dove for cover behind some old crates.
They had barely made it before the first round of gunfire resounded.
“Really?” Ray asked sarcastically. “What tipped you off? The warm welcome?”
Ray sighed. “Fraser, just once I would like to say ‘rack that bad boy and cover me.’ Okay, go, I’ll watch your back. I suppose it’s best if we split up. We won’t be one big moving target then. I’ll try and get around. On three.”
“Three,” Ray called and opened fire and Fraser hurried along the hallway and deeper into the building.
Behind the next corridor, Fraser took out a guard with a well-aimed punch to the neck. Something about this case bothered him, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
It just seemed odd that an empty meatpacking plant should be this well guarded when the business they wanted to conceal was gambling. It didn’t make any sense. So the question was what was Farah’s real business?
The storerooms were packed with crates. For a meatpacking plant that didn’t seem to be active Fraser found that quite the achievement.
Fraser pulled out a knife and lifted one of the lids. His eyes widened when they hit upon the content.
“Well, I hadn’t expected that,” Fraser admitted to Dief who whined, embarrassed. “No I don’t blame you. Nerve gas doesn’t have a particular smell, you couldn’t have noticed it.”
What were they doing with this amount of biochemical weaponry? So this was the real business, the gambling was just a blind, or maybe a past-time. Farah used his buildings for smuggling… but who provided him with this kind of weapon?
Dief growled deep in his throat and Fraser strained his ears. There was murmuring coming from one of the adjacent rooms. He needed to get closer. He hoped Ray was taking care of himself.
He listened carefully at the door, but the voices were too far away to belong to the room beyond it. Quietly, he pulled the door open and snuck into the next room.
Two men were talking. They were discussing a shipment… to Canada. Now Fraser remembered. Very recently three Mounties had been killed up North intercepting a shipment of nerve gas; he had seen the file. But he hadn’t thought that this case was related to Chicago.
Ray should’ve been here already. What was keeping him so long? He crouched down to talk to Dief, making it easier for him to read his lips. “Go, find Ray.”
Dief pricked up his ears and moved swiftly in the direction they had just come from. All Fraser had to do was keep the situation under control.
He pressed himself close against the wall and peered around the corner. His eyes instantly hit upon Farah who stood directly beneath a huge, slightly dusty skylight. He was talking to someone a little further beyond… Fraser craned his neck a little more—that—that just wasn’t possible.
Fraser closed his eyes briefly and then opened them again. This man… should be dead. Because Fraser’s own father had watched him fall into a crevasse. But there was no mistaking him; there stood Holloway Muldoon. That explained the nerve gas… and the connection to Canada.
The tinkle of a glass bottle rolling over the floor made Fraser aware of where he was. His boot must’ve pushed it over. He had been so intent on watching the two men—
Farah had turned around, aiming his gun at Fraser. Farah took a step closer, looking Fraser up and down with a bewildered expression.
For a second, Fraser saw a shadow move over the spot of light from the skylight… like someone passing the window.
“Who are you?” Farah spat, motioning with his gun at Fraser.
The man in the background broke into startled laughter. “Benton… I should’ve known. You’ve come to arrest me?”
“So you recognize me?” Fraser looked straight at Muldoon.
“Something clicked. Made me think of your father. And you know he didn’t get me and I don’t believe you will either.”
Fraser’s face hardened. “You know I’ll never give up?”
Muldoon leered at him. “Well, this will make two members of your family that I’ve killed then.”
For a second, the sentence had no meaning. Fraser stared at Muldoon trying to understand—trying to figure out if Muldoon was just trying to get to him—but Muldoon must’ve seen his confusion.
His grin brightened. “Oh, your father didn’t tell you?” He made a disappointed clucking noise. “Your mother was a pretty woman, Benton.”
His own name on Muldoon’s lips made Fraser’s skin crawl.
“But when I shot her, she dropped like a big old sack of potatoes.”
Fraser gnashed his teeth and took a step in his direction.
“Enough!” Farah shouted and cocked his gun. The next moment, the glass of the skylight shattered, raining fragments of glass down on everyone. Ray fell through, pulling Farah to the ground with him.
Muldoon flinched back, his feet losing traction on the glass pieces on the floor. He collided with the counter behind him, sagging to the ground with a painful “ooph”.
Ray shook his head, trying to get the glass out of his hair. He pressed his knee in Farah’s back, sliding out a pair of handcuffs to slap around his wrists.
“Good work, Ray,” Fraser’s heart felt light with relief. Ray was alright. “Where’s Dief?” He bent down to offer a hand to Ray. “Still up on the roof. I told the furface to wait.”
Fraser was about to ask ‘why,’ but the moment he pulled Ray up he saw movement behind Ray.
Muldoon had regained consciousness. Fraser saw his hand going into his jacket to pull his gun out and Fraser opened his mouth to warn Ray when for one short glimpse he saw his mother, smiling at him. It only lasted for a second, but Fraser could see her clearly, standing right between Muldoon and him and she smiled this gentle, caring smile—and then she faded and Ray’s name finally left his lips in a loud shout and Ray turned around, finger already on the trigger. The grim smile on his face was beautiful in its intensity.
The sound of the shot was deafening and Fraser saw surprise on Muldoon’s face as his body rocked with the impact of the speeding bullet. Muldoon’s hand went to his heart, covering the bullet wound, as his body sagged to the ground.
Ray had been lightning-quick and Fraser’s heart was still beating too fast from the sudden adrenaline rush. He took a step in Ray’s direction, already reaching out to touch Ray’s shoulder, when Ray stumbled back against him.
Automatically, Fraser’s hand came up to catch him, pulling Ray against his chest.
Bewildered, Fraser looked at Ray’s face.
“Ray—what—” And then he saw the dark stain spreading over Ray’s shirt. “No…” Fraser whispered tonelessly. Ray had been quick, but not quick enough. Disbelief marked every feature on Fraser’s face. This couldn’t be. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
Fraser’s heart plummeted as he lowered Ray’s crumpling form to the ground.
A vest, Ray had to be wearing a vest. It was like a chant in Fraser’s head. A vest, there had to be—and then Ray coughed. But Fraser couldn’t stop repeating himself. “Ray, why aren’t you wearing a vest? You are supposed to be wearing a vest!”
A weak smile appeared on Ray’s lips before another cough interrupted him. Fraser could see the color drain from Ray’s face.
“It’s okay, buddy… had to—couldn’t let him shoot you,” Ray spluttered.
Fraser’s vision was suddenly blurry and he tried to blink the tears away. “You shouldn’t get hurt on my behalf. You shouldn’t get hurt at all.”
Ray smiled a little sadly. “You gotta trust me…”
And Fraser kept shaking his head, pressing his hand against the wound on Ray’s chest where the shirt was almost completely drenched by now.
Fraser looked at his hands, drenched with Ray’s blood. They were blue. “Ray… they’re blue,” and Fraser remembered echoing the same words a lifetime ago when Ray was hit by a knife. “Why is it blue, Ray?” He wiped a few drops from Ray’s lips.
“You promised, Ben… no fish food… I warn you,” Ray winced in pain. Fraser shook his head again, cradling Ray’s body a little closer to his own. “You’ll be fine, Ray.”
Ray had to be fine. Ray couldn’t—he would be fine.
“You’re a terrible liar,” Ray almost smiled. “Just—you promised me, Frase.”
“Why did you tell Diefenbaker to wait?” Fraser pressed out, the voice choked with unshed tears. “Why, Ray?” Dief could’ve guarded Muldoon. If Dief had been there—if Ray hadn’t told him to stay….
“…had to do this,” Ray coughed. Had to do what, Fraser wanted to ask despairingly. Endanger yourself? Get shot?
“This story’s finished, Frase,” Ray said gently as his grip lost strength. And Fraser wasn’t willing to let this go—to let Ray go. He wasn’t done with this. This wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. He’d do anything…
“Just like in the books… Ben… I’m—I’m sorry for… for hurting you this way—”
Impulsively, or maybe just to keep Ray from talking, Fraser pressed his lips to Ray’s. The tears left hot tracks on his cheeks, but he didn’t notice. Ray’s lips were warm underneath his own. Fraser held Ray tightly.
And then Ray’s body went limp.
Fraser buried his face in the crook of Ray’s shoulder, fingers digging tightly into Ray’s back, but not even Fraser’s own shaking or his own sobbing could mask the fact that Ray’s chest wasn’t rising and falling anymore.
Only when someone was trying to pry his arms away did Fraser notice that they weren’t alone anymore. The sound of police sirens filled the air and the woman next to him was wearing scrubs—someone had probably called an ambulance—and trying to make him let go of Ray.
“No…” Fraser murmured. “No… he…he’s my partner…” Fraser repeated helplessly. But a second paramedic joined the first and very firmly, they pried his hands loose. They carried Ray to a stretcher and then they took him away.
Fraser kept sitting in the same spot, staring at his blue hands. Another woman came and fussed around him, checking for damage, and Fraser heard words coming out of her mouth, but they didn’t make any sense. Ray was… dead….
Suddenly, a firm, thick hand settled on Fraser’s shoulders. Fraser looked at that hand and then followed it up to the arm that went along with it until he reached the shoulder of the hand-owner and then the face. It was Lieutenant Welsh.
“You’re lucky we do keep track of the stiffs in our morgue,” he said conversationally.
Fraser stared at him blankly. How did that even matter anymore?
Welsh frowned at Fraser’s vacant expression. “You did good, Constable.”
Fraser felt hysterical laughter bubble up inside of him. The statement made so little sense. Good? Under which circumstances could the current situation be called ‘good’? How could any world in which Ray was—was…. be called good?
“Farah’s in custody and Muldoon is dead – and Constable, whatever happened to the gun, I think it’s best if we kept this thing between us. Of course it was self-defense, but there’s no need to advertise it.”
Fraser wasn’t sure if he had ended up on a different planet after all. “I didn’t… Lieutenant, I didn’t shoot him… Ray did.”
Welsh looked long and hard at him. “Fraser, listen, I know things have been tough on you, but I assure you that Ray Vecchio had nothing to do with this.”
Fraser was close to breaking. It just wasn’t—why couldn’t people simply leave him be?
“Damn!” And Fraser didn’t even flinch at the surprise on Welsh’s face at his swearing. “Not Ray Vecchio! I’m talking about Ray—Ray Kowalski, who—who—” died saving me, Fraser thought hopelessly. Dear God. He needed— “Where did they bring him?”
“Who?” Welsh looked seriously uncomfortable now.
“The paramedics, of course. Where did they bring… him… his… body?” The last word was all but whispered.
“There—there was no body, Fraser. You’ve had a shock. Listen, you’ve been shot—”
“Nothing happened to me! I’m fine,” Fraser shook his head.
Welsh crouched down to touch the pocket on Fraser’s serge. “And what do you call this?” He asked gently, pointing at the hole that was gaping in the fabric right where his heart was.
Eyes wide, Fraser reached into his pocket only to have his fingers close around his notebook.
Embedded right in the middle was Muldoon’s bullet.
Welsh looked surprised. “This bit of leather saved your life? I would’ve bet money it couldn’t even protect you from a toy gun. Guess you got lucky.” Welsh thumped him on the back encouragingly.
Fraser kept sitting on the ground, staring at the notebook. “I don’t… I don’t understand…” he murmured, fingers tracing the bullet stuck between the pages.