WHAT'S IN A NAME
Set after Call Of The Wild.
Benny muses about the names by which Ray calls him.
An established relationship story .
Written: April 2003. Word count: 2,359..
This story originally appeared under the name Donita Vonette in in Even Steven 3, which was published by Gail Paradis in 2004.
I had often wondered about Ray's insistence on putting the slant on my names that he did. It wasn't as though he did not know how to spell my name, and even though I know of the American's propensity to substitute a Z for an S, Ray knew that my name was not spelt that way. Nonetheless, he tended to call me Frasier, which is when he was not calling me Benny.
Benny is a name that I had not been called since my mother died when I was six. It was a name that I never thought to be called again. After all it is somewhat of a childish name, and yet it never seemed that way when Ray called me it.
The slant Ray put on my surname always surprised me because he was so particular about his own name, correcting anyone who pronounced it VETchio, and Ray always introduced me as Fraser. When he first took me home to meet his family he introduced me as Benton Fraser, which is why I became Benton or Fraser to his family even to Francesca - but not to Ray.
Occasionally someone else would pick up on his pronunciation and call me Frasier, and if it was in Ray's hearing, he would frown and look faintly annoyed, as only he had the right to call me that. I remember once when I was with Charlie in hospital; one of the orderlies came to tell me that there was a telephone call for me. He asked, 'Are you Frasier?' I knew immediately who was on the phone.
Ray called me Benny more and more as time went on. I know that it caused some side looks from a number of people, and it exasperated others. Meg Thatcher, for example, did not like the name - but then Inspector Thatcher did not like Ray.
When Stanley was impersonating Ray, this was the one thing about which never told him. I neither told him about Benny nor about Frasier. Both names belonged to the real Ray Vecchio, not his substitute. I realize now that it was a dangerous thing to do, not to tell Stanley that is. However, at the time I was both angry with Ray and hurting because he, like everyone else I'd ever cared for, had gone and left me alone. But it was more than for those reasons that I did not tell him; it was because I did not want to share those private names.
Two nights ago as we were lying in our bed in our apartment, I finally asked Ray why he had rarely called me Fraser, and why he had never called me Ben or Benton. He blushed, my Ray actually blushed, and admitted that from the moment he met me he had desired me, had wanted me, and had wanted to own me. He said that the names had, at first, been sub-conscious, and then he had realized that they were names only he used, and he said it made him feel proprietorial.
He was very quiet after he told me that, as if he was expecting me to be angry. After all ownership of another person is considered by some to be unsuitable and unstable. I held him and reassured him, telling him that not only did I not mind, but that I actually enjoyed it. I liked his proprietary, I liked his claim on me, I even liked I especially liked his jealousy.
I then told him how I had not told Stanley about the names and why.
Ray's eyes, his beautiful hazel eyes, had filled with tears then, and he gave me the look he had given me in his apartment where, with two words I had blown his cover. The look that told me how cared for I was, the look that gave me hope. He also pulled me into his arms and murmured, "Oh, I missed you, Benny."
After a suitable interval he added, "I'm so glad I brought you home."
Because that is what Ray has done.
Two weeks after Stanley and I had set out to find the Hand of Franklin, both of us realized what a mistake we had made. Stanley was a big city cop, he did not take to the wilderness; he took to it even less than Ray had done.
His inability to recall even the simplest things began to annoy me in a way it never had done before. And soon I knew that if we went on any further, we were in danger of becoming bitter enemies.
Not wanting to lose his friendship, I turned the sled around and took him back to civilization. He did not argue.
He asked me if I would ever return to Chicago, he knew that I was not going back with him. I told him that I did not know. What I did not tell him was that there was no reason for me to return to Chicago. Not when Ray had run off with Stella Kowalski to open a bowling alley in Florida.
Instead I returned to my father's cabin, and began the process of rebuilding it something that Ray and I had set out to do, and had never been able to start, let alone finish. That occupied me mentally and physically for some time, and I began to think that it might be enough, until I realized that I had built an indoor bathroom. I tried to tell myself that it was just because I had been used to indoor facilities after my stay in Chicago, but Diefenbaker did not allow me to fool myself. He knew the real reason that I had built it.
Ray's departure this time hurt me far more than his departure on the undercover operation. That I understood. That was his duty.
His leaving with Stella was not. I could not believe that my partner because that is what Ray always was to me - had left me. As I told Stanley, no matter how many miles separate partners, they are still partners.
My father had told me that about him and Buck Frobisher, and I believe it to be true. All the time Ray was undercover, I never stopped thinking of him as my partner. Stanley taught me a lot about partnership, and he regarded me as his partner. And although I allowed him to regard me in that light, allowed him to say at the hospital, 'So are we still partners?' allowed my self to answer, 'If you'll still have me,' I had never regarded him as my partner. Not in the way Ray was my partner. I had believed Ray to have felt the same, but he had gone. He had left me - again.
Part of me understood his leaving. I knew that his time undercover was not something that could be brushed off immediately; forgotten and consigned to the back of his mind. For eight months he had lived a lie. He had become The Bookman'; he had had to be harsh, brutal even, he may possibly have had to kill, or at least stand by and allow a mob killing.
I did not know, because we had not had a chance to talk about it, but I did know my Ray, and if he had had to do any of these things, they would have affected him badly. Ray might have broken the law on a daily basis, going through stop signs, red lights, not indicating all things I am now sure that he did simply to deliberately annoy me but they were minor things. My Ray was an honorable man; he would have hated himself for the things he had had to do as the Bookman.
Naively, I had believed that I would be the one to help him, that he could talk to me, knowing that I would understand and that I would never condemn anything that he might have had to have done. But it turns out that part of the reason he went with Stella, was because he did not believe that even I could forgive what he had become, what he had done.
He wrote me a letter, Buck gave it to me when I returned to him before Stanley went home. The letter told me some of what Ray had been going through, but only the surface stuff.
I later found out more of Ray's reasoning.
As we held each other first in my father's no my cabin, and then in our own apartment, he told me the deep pain he had suffered when I had gone off with Stanley. He had heard the conversation about partners, and had thought that I wanted to be with Stanley.
He told me how he had not wanted me to go off to find Muldoon, but that he knew that I had to; that I wanted to. That was why he released me with talk of flesh wounds and Mounties always getting their men. He also told me that he left because he was in love with me, but did not think he would ever be able to tell me. But I am getting ahead of myself; I am not following things through in a logical way. Maybe that is what being in love does to you.
The only other time I have acted irrationally was over No, I cannot say her name. It hurts Ray too much. It still haunts him to this day, partly because of the constant reminder. Every time we make love or just hold one another, every time his hand comes up to my back, every time we share a shower or simply undress, every time he has to face me. He lives with it every day, and it haunts him. She still haunts his dreams; I know that. More so than she haunts mine.
I was over her long, long before Ray thought that I was; long before he thought I had forgiven him. I forgave him the moment I opened my eyes and saw his anguished eyes staring at me in such pain, heard his voice telling me that everything would be all right.
And if I hadn't have forgiven him then, I would have done on the day I told him that I had been going with her, and all he said was, 'I know, Benny.' No recriminations, no lack of trust, no do you realize what that would have done to me and my family?' speech, or even look.
When I chased after the train, I had forgotten everything except her. Forgotten that Ray had put his home, family, probably career, and maybe his freedom on the line for me, and that if I had boarded that train, then he would have lost everything. He forgave me for that, and I will never know why.
But then he will never know why I forgave him for shooting me. But I did.
But to return to the order of events.
I had rebuilt the cabin and there I stayed for another two weeks, reading and re-reading my father's journals, and wishing that he would return again. With Ray gone too and Stanley I was now completely alone. I had told Inspector Thatcher that I could not go with her, because I wanted to go home. Well I had come home. But why did it not feel like I had done so?
I suddenly knew that I had to see Ray. I would go to Miami, I would find his bowling alley, I would offer him whatever he wanted. I would tell him that he could talk to me, that I would understand, that I wasn't the innocent he seemed to think that I was. I suddenly knew that Ray needed me. My father was correct. Partnership did not just cease with distance, not even with the partners splitting up.
I had just decided to pack, when Diefenbaker started to growl and scratch at the door. Suddenly I had an over-whelming feeling of dιjΰ vu, and began to wonder if Muldoon had escaped again and had come to find me. Dief's growls and whines were getting more and more intense. So I picked up the shotgun and moved to the door.
I flung it open, and for the second time in my life I pointed a loaded shotgun at Ray Vecchio.
We both stood there, staring at one another.
He with his hand raised to knock.
Me with my finger still on the trigger.
Neither of us moved nor spoke. In the end it was Dief who pulled us out of the 'trance'. Diefenbaker was going crazy, leaping all over Ray, nuzzling against him, licking, butting and demanding attention.
Finally Ray surrendered and gave in to Dief's demands, and for several moments, moments during which I must have lowered, made safe, and put away the shotgun, dog and man became reacquainted.
Then as Diefenbaker placed one particularly long and wet lick on Ray's face, he was pushed away. "Enough already, Dief," Ray said, and he was laughing. But still Dief would not let him go.
"Diefenbaker!" My tone even though he is meant to be deaf was the one with which he never argues. With one final nuzzle, he released Ray and bounced off, like a wolf cub or a young puppy, into the snow.
Ray stood up again and looked at me. "Hey, Benny," he said, smiling at me with his eyes and his mouth. "I've come to take you home."
Tonight as we lie in one another's arms, having made love with Dief guarding the door as he always does, I recall another line from my father's journal.
It was written at the time that Buck Frobisher had found my father, when all others thought he was dead, and had carried him home across treacherous and dangerous territory. Buck had saved his life; even my father had thought that he would die.
My father had written: A friend is someone who won't stop until he finds you and brings you home.'
That is what Ray Vecchio has done.
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