UNTIL THE END OF TIME
Set after Call Of The Wild.
Ray's bowling alley is going extremely well, almost too well for his liking. He's getting bored and doesn't know what to do next then a news item has him racing off to Canada.
A first time story.
Written: January 2013. Word count: 2,785.
Ray Vecchio sat in his office looking at the weekly figures for the bowling alley - they confirmed what he'd thought: they had increased for the tenth week in a row. "Damn it," Ray muttered, again checking the figures, just in case he'd got them wrong. But, no, there they were as clear as day showing that the profit had once again gone up.
He closed the book and pushed it away from him and put his head in his hands. He'd hoped, he'd really hoped, that it has all been a blip and that after a week or two of rising that the figures and profits would start to fall. Yeah, he wanted them to fall; he didn't want to go on making a profit week after week - well, not the kind of profit he was making.
He wanted the bowling alley to fail because then he could go home; he could go back to Chicago. It was probably crazy logic, but he felt if he went home when the bowling alley was a success he'd be admitting failure; whereas if he went home because it was failing, it'd be okay - people would understand. Although why he wanted to go back he wasn't sure; it wasn't as if he had anything to go back to.
The most astonishing thing had happened and Tony had not only got a job, he'd got a job he was good at; a job he liked; a job where he was liked - go figure! Thus, he, Maria and the kids had moved out of Ray's house and now had their own home.
Almost as astonishing was the fact that Frannie had met a guy she liked, a guy who liked her, a guy who more than liked her because they were married and Frannie was expecting their first kid. And of course they lived in their own home; no more Frannie taking over the bathroom and leaving her stuff all over the place.
And if that wasn't enough, his mother had met a man and was dating him and the last time Ray had spoken to her she had told him they were thinking of getting married - if Ray didn't and the girls didnít mind. Well Ray didn't mind and he'd called his sisters and threatened them with all kinds of things he wouldn't carry out, if they told her they minded. After all the years of being married to his pop and how she'd suffered she enjoyed some happiness. So to Ray's mind it was great - and the guy was a good guy; Ray had him checked out, just to make sure.
So if he did go home, go back to Chicago, all he'd be doing was going back to an empty house and he wasn't sure if he wanted that. Not that he had company here; Stella hadn't even got as far as Miami with him. She'd decided on the way that she'd made a mistake and running a bowling alley was a stupid thing to do, so she'd kissed his cheek, wished him luck and taken a plane back from where they'd come leaving him to go on alone.
Now if Benny was still in Chicago . . . Well, that would be a different matter. But Benny wasn't still in Chicago; Benny wasn't even in America. Benny had stayed in Canada along with Kowalski and they'd gone off on some stupid hunt for the Hand of Franklin or whatever it was called. Why they'd done that Ray had no idea; all he knew was that Kowalski was with Benny and he wasn't.
He'd thought - But then he'd always had foolish dreams and wishes and thougths; this was just another of those. But he had thought that he and Benny were friends; well they were, they were best friends, so why had he stayed in Canada with Kowalski? Why had he -
He heard the end of a name and looked up at the television; he always had it on in the background but rarely paid any attention. But whatever the newscaster had been saying was over and he'd gone onto to something else. Hastily Ray grabbed the remote control and flicked channels, trying to find the piece of news he needed to hear again. But he was out of luck.
He grabbed the phone and spoke to his secretary, telling her to call the news-station and find out the details of the item that had been on a minute ago. He told her to offer them free passes for life to the bowling alley and bar and restaurant if they seemed disinclined to tell her what the news had been. Although why they should, given it had been on the national news he didn't know, but he wanted to make sure he had all the bases covered.
He couldn't sit still any longer and so got up and paced around his office, flicking through the TV channels from time to time and getting more and more frustrated until the phone rang. He grabbed it. "Yeah?" He listened and as he did his mouth became dry, his vision blurred, his hand was shaking and he had to fumble around to find the chair so he could turn it around and slump into it.
"Book me on the first flight to Canada; I don't care what it costs and what you have to do - just get me on the first flight." And the slammed the phone down and ran his hands over his head. "Benny, oh, Benny, what have you done now?" He had heard the end of the name 'Fraser'; the news item was about an apparent missing Mountie and Chicago cop who had gone off on a trek and hadn't been heard of for two weeks.
He hurried into his bedroom and pulled out the severe weather gear he'd bought the first time he'd gone to Canada and started to pack. He told himself he shouldn't worry; Benny was a Mountie, right? He'd been born and brought up in the mountains, right? He was at home in them; he wouldn't, he couldn't, get lost. And he had the deaf wolf with him. Nothing had happened; nothing could have happen; it was just Benny being - Totally out of character.
He'd never promise to check in at regular times and then not do it. He'd been born and brought up in the mountains; he knew how dangerous, how deadly they could be; he knew how important it was to keep to any promised check in times. And two weeks was a long time to be over-due; a couple of days, sure, things can happen, but two weeks . . .
No, Ray was worried; he was very worried. So he was going to Canada. He had no idea what he could do; in fact he doubted he could do anything; but he was going to Canada - a place he'd vowed he'd never go to again. He was going to Canada; he'd find Benny, Dief and Kowalski and he'd bring them all home - well, he'd being Benny and Dief home, Kowalski could do what he wanted. And then -
His phone rang.
"So let me get this correct, Detective Vecchio, you wish to take a team of huskies and a sled and go looking for Constable Fraser and Detective Kowalski?"
Ray nodded. "Yeah."
The chief Mountie or whatever he was called just stared at him. "Have you ever driven a dog-sled?"
"Um, no. But I've been on one; so I know what to do."
Ray swallowed hard and crossed his fingers. "Yes."
"And what makes you think you'll be able to find Constable Fraser when so far we have failed?"
"Um," Ray paused; what made him think that? "Um," he said again; he then slumped down on the chair in front of the chief Mountie's desk.
"Look, Detective Vecchio, I admire your desire to try to find your friend, but I cannot, I will not, give you a dog-sled and let you go off alone. If I do, all it will happen is that we will have someone else to look for. I'm sorry," he added.
Ray sighed. "I can't just sit here and do nothing."
"Detective Vecchio, I'm afraid that is the only thing you can do."
Ray glared at the man; what right had he to tell him he couldn't find Benny? Wasn't he Benny's best friend? Didn't he know Benny better than anyone else? Didn't he care about him more than anyone? Didn't he lo-
He stood up. "Fine, I'll find someone who will give me a dog-sled and then . . . . And then I'll find him and bring him home - because that's what friends do." He turned and was about to stomp out of the room when a voice he vaguely recognized stopped him.
"I'll probably end up regretting this, but I'll go with him."
Ray turned around and saw Buck Frobisher standing against the far wall.
A WEEK LATER
"How could you? How could you, Fraser? You? Mr. Perfect. Mr. I-know-all-about-snow-and-ice-and-dog-sleds and every thing, how could you?" Hands on hips, Ray paced up and down the chief Mountie's office. "How could you?" he yelled again, spinning around and stalking over to Fraser. "How could you be so . . . so . . . so - What word am I looking for?"
"Um, I don't know, Ray," Fraser said, his voice calm.
"And don't give me that wide-eyed Mountie look. This is all your fault."
"What is Ray?"
"That I got on a plane and came to Canada - a country, you may remember, I said I'd never come to again as it's a country that hates me."
"Ray, a country cannot hate you. You see -"
"Canada hates me," Ray growled once more closing in on Fraser and glaring at him.
"Yes, Ray," Fraser said softly.
It didn't help. "So I get on a plane and don't even ask me how much it cost me."
"I won't, Ray."
Ray wasn't certain whose growl was the deeper: his or Dief's.
"It's all right, Dief, don't worry, Ray won't hurt us. He's still our friend. He's just a little angry right now."
"A little? A little?" Ray took a deep breath and then another and forced himself to unclench his fists. His throat hurt from shouting. "I went out on a dog-sled to look for you," he said in a surprisingly calm voice. "A dog-sled - something else that hates me. Don't," he growled as Fraser opened his mouth; Fraser closed it again and put his hand on Dief's head. "Well?" he demanded a minute later.
"Well, what, Ray?"
Why had he even worried about Fraser? Why hadn't he remembered he was the most annoying man in the world? Why had he thought for a moment he might be in danger? Because you love him, the voice in his head said. He ignored it and instead took a deep breath, counted to ten, took another deep breath, counted to ten again and then a third deep breath, "Are you going to say anything?"
Fraser glanced to one side where the chief Mountie (Ray really must find out his name) and Frobisher stood, before looking back at Ray. "About what, Ray?" he said carefully.
Ray threw his hands up in the air. "I give up!"
"I think, Sergeant Fraser, is that Detective Vecchio is hoping you will comment on his insistence on going to look for you."
"Ah, right, sir. I understand; thank you. In that case, thank you, Ray." Fraser beamed at him.
"That's it?" Ray stared.
Fraser glanced to the side again and then back at Ray. "Er, thank you very much, Ray."
"Why is this my life? And that wasn't a question," he snapped.
"No, I realized that, Ray," Fraser said. "It really was very kind of you, Ray, to come to Canada, especially as -"
"The country hates me?" Ray growled the words.
Once more Fraser looked to one side and then back at Ray. "Er. Well, yes, Ray."
"At least that's settled." Ray actually smiled, okay it was only a half smile, but he actually felt his lips twitch upwards.
"As I was saying it was very good of you to come to Canada and to take a dog-sled and find me. But, Ray, there really wasn't any need. I was perfectly all right."
"I know that now don't I?" Ray yelled. "But I didnít know it then, did I? None of us did, did we?" He turned to look at the other two men.
"Detective Vecchio is essentially correct, Sergeant Fraser -"
The chief Mountie went on as if Ray hadn't interrupted him. "We did not know that you were all right. You had missed your promised check-in."
"Except he hadn't," Frobisher said. Ray got the impression the older Mountie was enjoying this. He glowered at him.
"Well, no, we did indeed discover that the message -"
"The message Detective Kowalski promised to deliver," Ray snarled.
"The message Ra- Stanley," Fraser corrected hastily, "did in fact deliver."
"Had inadvertently -"
"Fallen under a desk. I thought you Mounties were tidy!"
"Well, yes, Ray, we are. But these things do happen."
"But why," Ray took a deep breath and tried hard to control his temper. He tried and failed, "do they always happen to me?" Even he wasn't surprised when Dief not only growled, but put his ears back and took a step towards Ray.
"Stay, Diefenbaker," Fraser said softly, putting his hand on Dief's head.
"Well that's it. This is positively the last time, Fraser. Do you hear me? Positively the last time."
"The last time, Ray?"
"Yes. The last time I come to Canada. The last time I get on a dog-sled. The last time I have anything to do with Mounties, no offence," he added swiftly glancing at the two older Mounties. who to his annoyance seemed amused. "The last time I help you! Have you got that, Benton Fraser? This is positively the last time. Do you understand me? The. Last. Time. In fact," he added suddenly, "it's the last time I want to see your face, got me?"
Fraser stared at him and nodded. "Yes, Ray. I have indeed 'got you'. Well in that case, given this is the last time we will ever see one another, I had better -" And to Ray's complete surprise and utter shock, Fraser closed the gap between them, put his arms around Ray and kissed him and went on kissing him until Ray found himself kissing him back.
Finally Fraser lifted his head and smiled down at Ray who felt his mouth open and close like a goldfish. "You . . . You . . . You . . . You kissed me, Benny," he managed.
Benny smiled. "Why, yes, Ray. I did."
"You kissed me. You. Kissed. Me."
Benny nodded again. "Yes."
"You kissed me in front of - Oh," he said looking around the empty room. "When did they -"
"When I started to kiss you, Ray," Benny said placidly. "It would have been ill-mannered of them to have stayed."
"Oh," Ray said, suddenly realizing if it wasn't for the fact that Benny was holding onto him that he would have quite possible fallen to the ground. "And Mounties of course are always good-mannered."
"Well, yes, Ray, I do believe that is true."
Ray rolled his eyes as he stared up at the most annoying, the most honest, the most troublesome, the most beautiful (because Benny wasn't handsome, he was beautiful) the most crazy, the most wonderful man in the world and knew.
He knew that this was his life from now until the end of time. This, wherever Benton Fraser was, whatever crazy things he did, whatever he wanted to hunt for, wherever he went, whatever his life involved that was where Ray would be as well. He groaned softly.
"Are you all right, Ray?"
Ray smiled and shook his head at the same time as he realized quite what he'd realized. "I don't know, Benny," he said softly, "why don't you kiss me again and we'll see."
Benny's eyes shone; he smiled a smile Ray had never seen before, a smile that made him feel weak at the knees, a smile that made his body start to - A smile that lit his face up and made Ray willing to forgive him everything and anything - well until the next time. Then he lowered his head and once more put his mouth on Ray's and kissed him.
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