A PARTNER IS ALWAYS A PARTNER
Set after Call Of The Wild.
Benny has a dream and goes to find Ray.
An established relationship story.
Written: September 2006. Word count: 1,763.
Up and up he ran. His Stetson long abandoned. The cell phone Ray had thrown him lost.
Two hundredth. No building was that high.
There he was.
He could see him.
He knew the walk.
The body. The head.
It was Ray. His Ray. The real Ray.
"Ray!" he cried, racing along the corridor.
The figure stopped.
Turned and . . .
"No!" Benton screamed, sitting up in bed. Sweat poured off him. His breathing was labored. His heart pounded. He was shaking, and tears streamed down his face.
It had happened again.
The same dream.
Always the same.
Well not quite.
It wasn't always stairs up which he had to run.
Sometimes it was an endless street along which he had to race.
Other times a mountain, the peak vanishing into the sky, up which he would have to climb.
Other times he would plunge through a wood, with the trees becoming denser and denser.
But one thing was the same.
One thing was always the same.
When he got close enough to Ray to call his name and Ray turned around - it wasn't Ray.
It was a hideous face; swollen, scared, evil. Nothing more than a caricature.
Ray was lost to him.
He became aware of a cold, wet nose nuzzling him, and a warm body pressed against him. Automatically he moved to pet Diefenbaker. "I'm going mad, Dief," he said, as he tried to calm his breathing.
"I can't, Diefenbaker. I can't."
Dief barked again. This time his tone was more insistent.
"What is it now, Johnston?" Ray Vecchio ran his hand over his head and sighed. He'd been going over the books and they depressed him. They depressed him because the business was a success, a raging success. At least something is, he thought to himself.
"There's some guy wanting to see you."
Ray sighed again. "And does this guy have a name?"
"Wouldn't give one, boss. Just said to tell you he had to see you."
Ray sat back in his chair and looked up at Johnston. Why the hell not? It beat looking at the depressing figures. "Show him in," he said. Who knows, maybe one of the Mob had finally tracked him down and was here to kill him. It would almost be a relief.
"You sure, boss?"
Johnston looked at him for a moment, before shrugging and leaving the room.
Less than a minute later he came back. Following him was . . .
Ray came to his feet. "Benny?" he whispered.
"Benny. Oh, God, Benny." And before he thought about it, Ray found he'd moved from behind his desk, crossed the room and had pulled Benny into his arms.
After a second, Benny returned the embrace, holding on to Ray so tightly, that for a moment Ray couldn't breathe.
"Benny," he whispered again, unable to think of anything else to say. Unable to say any of the things he wanted to say.
Was it his imagination or did his old partner sound husky?
As the word 'partner' entered his mind, it was as though he'd been hit by ice-cold water. He stiffened and yanked himself out of the embrace. "Fraser," he said curtly.
He watched as the joy that had been on the pale face and in the sky blue eyes that had haunted his every waking and sleeping moment from the day the Mountie had walked into this life, faded.
For a moment Ray felt victorious. "You're looking well," he said, turning away and moving back behind his desk. Liar. He ignored the voice.
"Thank you kindly." The tone was formal, flat, hesitant.
Ray looked back at the other man. Where moments before Benny had been, now Benton Fraser, Constable with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stood.
"How's Dief?" Ray found himself asking, before he could stop himself.
"He is very well. He sends his regards. He would have liked to accompany me; however, the quarantine laws prohibited it." A touch of the old-Benny appeared in the still somewhat more stilted than normal tone.
"And how's . . ." Ray trailed off. He couldn't bring himself to say the name. "Your partner," he managed.
For a moment Fraser said nothing. Instead he just stared at Ray, looking at him intently. Then the voice Ray had loved from the first time he'd heard it said, the tone almost conversational, "I am not entirely certain, Ray. How are you?"
Ray staggered backwards and sat down heavily. "What?" he managed.
Fraser continued to watch him. "I asked how you were, Ray." His voice was quiet.
Ray shook his head. "I don't understand," he managed.
Fraser - or was it Benny? - moved slowly, carefully, gliding rather than walking, moving like the wolf Ray sometimes equated him with.
Ray tensed and leaned back further in his chair, pushing on the ground. It ran back two, maybe three, feet and then collided with the filing cabinet. He sat in his chair and looked up at the other man, who had himself stopped moving once Ray had begun his retreat. He just stood there, hands at his side, his posture relaxed, silently watching Ray.
In front of him was the man he loved, despite telling himself that those feelings had died the moment Benny had walked out of his hospital room. The man he'd never said the words to, despite their intense more than just partners and close friends relationship. The man he had been about to tell; the man he had been about to risk everything for when he'd been sent under cover. The man who was the most irritating and most caring man in the world. The man who was - his Benny.
And then Benny smiled. "You asked me how my partner was, Ray," he said softly. "I repeat, how are you?"
"You mean . . . ? You're saying . . . ? That I'm . . . ? That you still . . . ? That you . . . ? But what about . . ." Again he stopped. Cursing himself for still not being able to say the name.
"Stanley?" Benny asked quietly. Ray nodded. "Ah, I am a little ashamed to admit that Stanley Kowalski never was my partner."
"But I heard you. When you left my hospital room. I heard the two of you outside. He asked you -"
"If we were still partners. And I said 'if you'll still have me'."
Again Ray nodded. "Something like that, yeah." His mouth was dry.
"Ah, yes. I have to admit that Diefenbaker took me to task many times for that. I tried to explain that it wasn't strictly speaking a lie, because I had never said, never agreed, that Stanley and I were partners. However, Diefenbaker did not quite see the distinction. I believe that the Innuits -"
"Benny," Ray growled.
"I am sorry, Ray. Diefenbaker was, of course, correct. I never should have let Stanley think, let him believe, that I considered us to be partners. But it was necessary in order to ensure both his, and my own, safety before we set out on our final task together. I later explained to Stanley, that he and I weren't partners."
"You did?" Ray couldn't keep the pleasure out of his voice.
"Oh, yes. He asked me whether you and I would go back to being partners, once I returned to Chicago."
"What did you say?"
"I told him about my father and Buck Frobisher."
Ray blinked. "Er, Benny?"
"And how they had always considered themselves to be partners. Even when they were hundreds of miles apart, and when they hadn't seen one another for weeks or even months at a time, how they were still always partners."
Ray blinked again and shook his head. Well one thing hadn't changed; Benny still had the amazing knack of speaking English, but not making any sense at all.
Benny moved again, slowly closing the gap between them. He reached Ray's chair and sank down to his knees. Carefully he reached out and took Ray's hand, holding it gently, as though it were a frightened bird he was trying to calm. "I couldn't go back to being your partner, Ray, because we had never stopped being partners," he said solemnly.
Ray found himself held captive by the blue gaze. Against his conscious will, he raised his hand and touched Benny's cheek. He didn't imagine the tremble that passed through Benny's body, nor the matching one that raced through his own. He swallowed hard. "We didn't?" he managed.
"No, Ray. Not even for a second. No matter where you were, what you were doing, you were still, and you will always be, my partner."
"But you . . . " Ray broke off. He'd been about to say 'left me and went off with Kowalski'. And then a stunning realization dawned on him. "You felt you owed him something, didn't you?" he whispered, slipping his hand into Benny's thick hair. "Kowalski, that's why you and he went off to find the finger of whatsit."
"The Hand of Franklin," Benny said, his tone amused. "Yes, Ray. I did. I knew the trip wouldn't last more than a week or two at the very most. Stanley and the outdoors are not a good combination. It was merely my way of saying thank you to him and goodbye. It just seemed right somehow. We would spend a week or two searching for something that will never be found, and then I would return to -"
"Me. And I screwed it up, by sulking and going off with Stella. Oh, Benny. I'm sorry."
Benny smiled and shook his head. "No, Ray. Don't be. I understand."
Ray blinked. "You do?"
Benny nodded and the smile increased, lighting up his face, lighting up the room. "Yes, because I love you too, Ray." He leaned forward and claimed Ray's mouth with his own.
A year later they added yet another meaning to the term 'partner' as they slipped rings, which their best man, Diefenbaker, had carried in a pouch, onto one another's fingers, and exchanged wedding vows.
"To partnership." Ray raised a glass of champagne towards his partner and smiled.
Benny clinked his own glass against it, smiled gently and said formally, "To Ray Vecchio, my one and only partner."
"Ah, Benny," Ray said, his voice husky. He took the champagne flute from his lover's hand, leaned forward and kissed him.
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