Warning: NC-17 for slash -- a romantic/sexual relationship between two men. Please do not continue if you are underage or offended by such material.
This story was written in response to a Challenge on the Two Axes list ("write a little scenario that you think Ray or Benny would come up with if they were given the power of Q or Merlin or whatever, and could just make up the perfect romance for themselves and their beloved...") However, as usual I kind of went off in a different direction...
Do Over by Laura Mason
Ray Vecchio parked his Riviera a block away from the travel agency. He'd heard about this place before -- the whole department probably had, at one time or another. There was never any proof of wrongdoing, so no attempts to close it down. Undercover cops, men and women, had visited from time to time without finding any suspicious activity. Yet the name would come up regularly, usually a missing persons report that began with a visit to this shabby office.
Ray tried to put it all out of his mind as he entered. He wasn't here to do a job today. He'd come for services that he wasn't sure existed and would never be 'officially' recognized if they did.
It was sheer luck he'd overheard his sister, Maria, talking with Annalise. For once the lack of true privacy in the Vecchio home had worked in his favor. He'd been in the basement, brooding over his father's dismantled pool table, thinking about lost chances, when he heard voices.
"The agency on Elston, you know, that nasty place? The man there was so strange. I couldn't believe what he seemed to know about me. Like he was psychic or something."
"But you went anyway?" By now Ray was listening intently at the return air duct that was transmitting their conversation so clearly.
"He gave me a ticket and smiled. I remember thinking I'd never use them, that I wouldn't pay for them. But then I was handing him a check, and it was like someone else was doing everything. I don't remember packing or going to the airport or any of it."
"Geeze, Anna. You're creeping me out here." Ray could imagine Maria holding the baby a little closer as they sat across from the crib, gossiping.
"But then I got off the boat at this beautiful island, and it was like waking up or something. I'd been, I don't know, it was like I'd never seen daylight before. Since Mark left me, anyway. Like all those years were a dream, not just the time since I left the travel agent but my whole life. Ya know?"
Ray knew. He was so lost in thinking about that horrible, automatic life that he almost lost the thread of the story. He knew -- the whole neighborhood knew -- that Anna'd met up with her long-lost fiancee while on a vacation. They'd rekindled their romance and were going to be married at last. Only the bitter old women reminded everyone of the fight at their rehearsal dinner six years ago, the one that had ended with their wedding canceled.
"So Mark was there, on the island?" Maria loved romance. Ray thought he'd better give Tony some hints about that, before their next anniversary.
"It was so weird. I was walking around that night, watching the sunset and thinking about him. And he just appeared, like magic. Walking towards me, looking just as surprised as I felt."
"That's so wonderful."
"It was just the weirdest coincidence of my life. We talked a little, but we were both kind of shy after what happened, ya know? But Mr. Roark, the ... I don't know what to call him, the owner? He said that when people search for treasure, they shouldn't be afraid to claim it."
"So you and Mark got back together?"
"We walked along the beach after dinner, and the moon was so bright. Then Mark kissed me. We both apologized, and I cried. But it was wonderful, too."
"I wish Tony'd take me someplace exotic like that," Maria began, and they were back in familiar territory. Ray tuned the conversation out, thinking about searching as he walked upstairs and out into the cool March night.
But Anna and Mark's happy-at-last tale was not what kept Ray sleepless that night. Rather, it was his own feeling of drowning, or sleepwalking. What Anna had described, just going through the motions, living without any life. He should be used to it; he'd felt that way most of his adult life. Even as he'd studied, become a cop, and worked his way to detective, there'd been something missing. He'd searched for it, unable to find it with Angie or anyone else. Until the day, nearly two years ago, when Benton Fraser had walked into his life asking for Detective Armani. Then, suddenly, Ray's life had color and a vividness he'd never known. Every day was an adventure, every case was interesting -- just to see what Benny would do or say or taste.
It ended three weeks ago, when Benny came to dinner at the Vecchio house and announced that his superiors had approved a transfer back to Canada, back to the Territories. And as Ray's family exclaimed and he mechanically congratulated the Mountie, Ray was aware of the color leeching away, the life draining out of him. And Ray didn't know what to do or how to stop it. He loved Benton Fraser. Benny made life worth living. But Benny was leaving him.
Almost two weeks later Ray overheard Anna talking with Maria. It had taken another week for him to make it here, to this dirty, dumpy office filled with faded brochures and posters of exotic locales. A week of telling himself he was crazy, Anna was crazy, he couldn't afford it... It wouldn't do anything.
*Nothing to lose.* He opened the door and entered, a bell ringing to announce him.
Ray felt the plane's descent and sighed in relief. Okay, not every small airplane was automatically going to be hijacked or crash land. At least, not unless Benny was on it with him. The other passengers were pretty quiet, too. No chatting or laughing on this flight to the island. Maybe everyone was a little afraid of small planes, not just him. Or maybe they were all doubting their sanity at coming here, just like Ray.
Better to ignore that and think about -- what? The only thing on his mind was Benny, who by now was back in Canada, reporting to his new post. Benny, who'd been hurt and upset when Ray announced his plans to leave on vacation the day before Fraser left for Canada. Of course, Fraser hadn't said anything. Just looked like Ray had smacked him with a baseball bat, that's all.
But despite Benny's misery and his family's objections, Ray was adamant. He was going away, even if he couldn't say why or what he hoped to accomplish. At least he wouldn't be at O'Hare, watching Benny's plane taking off and crying like a baby. The party for Fraser at the 27th, held on Ray's last day in Chicago, had been bad enough. He'd watched others embrace his friend and wish him well, smiled though his face felt frozen, and couldn't remember anything he'd said to anyone all afternoon.
He took a cab to O'Hare yesterday and boarded a direct flight to Hawaii, his jumping off point, still miserable. His last look at Fraser had been the night before, when he'd dropped him at the apartment after the party. Benny was loaded down with leftover food for his neighbors and silly gifts to take to his new post. Ray got out of the car, crouched to give Dief a farewell rub, and then stood facing the Mountie.
"Thank you for the ride, Ray."
"Yeah. You take care, okay?"
"Certainly. And I hope you enjoy your holiday."
"Yeah. How are you getting to the airport, Benny?"
"Elaine offered to drive me."
"Great." They stood there until Ray couldn't stand the silence anymore. "Well, I guess this is it."
"It has been very... You have been a good friend to me here in Chicago, Ray. You've done so much... I'll miss you."
"Yeah, me too." Ray awkwardly hugged his friend, whose arms were too full to stop him -- or to return the gesture. Then Ray stooped to Dief again, unable to look at Fraser's face directly. "We'll write or something, right? Maybe you'll get a phone in your cabin or something so I can call?"
"I certainly hope to stay in touch."
"Good. Well, you'd better get upstairs before that food starts attracting the rats here. So long, Benny." And he fled, hopping back into the Riv without another glance. Still able to feel Benny's eyes on him.
The look on Benny's face was all he saw on the eight-hour flight, whether he closed his eyes or stared out the window. By the time he boarded the tiny plane very late last night, he didn't care much if it crashed or not.
Now the plane was skimming across the water, pulling up to a dock. The island was lovely, lush with greenery and bright colors. There were people lined up to greet them. Ray stared out his window at it all, trying to feel something other than the numbness of the last month. When the door was opened and the passengers stood, he could smell the fresh air and the tropical flowers. But there wasn't any magic, not here. Not anywhere. He watched the ladies ahead of him be greeted and noticed how smoothly their baggage was handled by the staff.
This was a mistake. He could have had one more day with Benny. But one day wouldn't have mattered, and Ray knew it. His chance was long gone. A tall, white-haired man approached him with a smile.
"Detective Vecchio." Ray nodded, too tired to show his surprise. He hadn't mentioned his job to the travel agency. Evidently this man did background checks on his guests. "Welcome to Fantasy Island."
He'd only been here a day when he was ready to leave. Ray was angry with himself, and annoyed by the island's uniformly perfect weather. Why had he ever thought he'd enjoy a vacation where there were no people, no TV, no phones? What had he been expecting, a miracle?
There were no miracles for him. Benny was gone, and there wasn't any other soulmate to come strolling down this perfect beach and give his life back to him. Irene was dead. Angie didn't love him. Benny didn't love him. Benny was in the Yukon by now, snowshoeing after criminals in a big furry hat, not missing anything about Chicago.
Ray cursed himself for a fool and headed back up the beach, toward the exquisite house they'd installed him in. Ray was amazed at how little luggage he'd brought. Trunks, shorts, a few light shirts. He'd never packed this light in his life. Benny'd be proud-- Damn it. He had to be able to think about something else for five minutes. He hoped the maid was done and he could just sit down and have a drink. Ray didn't usually indulge in his father's vice, but the damned peace and quiet of this place was making him crazy. Maybe he could have enough to help him sleep the day away.
But his wish wasn't granted. The maid was nowhere in sight, but Mr. Roark was in the living room.
"Detective Vecchio. How are you enjoying your stay?"
Ray felt relief at the simple question. A quick social lie and he could be alone. The decanter on the mantle winked at him in the sunshine. "Fine. The island is lovely."
"Yes it is. But there are lovely places much closer to Chicago."
"I suppose so." Ray nervously moved toward the patio doors. Roark's tone wasn't what he'd expected, and his lies obviously weren't convincing. "Still, it's very peaceful here."
"Do you really think so?" Roark's face didn't seem angry, just very intense. "Because you are not at peace."
"I just... I wasn't expecting company this morning. I'd planned to be alone." There, Ray was as rude as a Chicagoan could be. Now Roark would leave.
"As you've been every day of your life."
Roark had just zipped past him on the rudeness scale, and Ray had nothing to say. He choked out "What?"
"Do you really want to be alone forever?" Ray felt tears behind his eyes as he stood there, hearing an echo of Frannie's voice in Roark's words. *People like you, Ray, they wind up old and alone because they won't reach for their dreams.* Roark was still talking, and Ray tried to listen, tried to work up anger instead of this horrible grief. "Because it really is your choice, Ray. To reach or not. To speak or be silent. To dream..."
"I came here, didn't I?" Ray had found his anger. "I was there, too, every day. Driving him around, helping him with cases, loaning him money. Don't actions speak louder than words? Am I a coward who's alone because I didn't dream? Or am I alone because nothing I did touched him, meant anything to him. It didn't matter, because I'm just his friend Ray and he's in love with someone else." He was out of breath and amazed at himself when he wound down. He'd just confessed his love for Benny to a total stranger. "I must be going crazy."
Roark smiled at him. "No. But you're finally realizing that you have to tell people what you want. So why did you come here, Ray? What is your fantasy?" Roark smiled. "We want our guests satisfied, you know."
Ray only had to think for a minute. He knew exactly what he wanted. Not that anyone could give it to him, even here. "I want a do-over."
Ray spent hours talking with Roark, until he was hoarse, but he wasn't expecting much when he finally fell into his bed that night. Roark promised that his fantasy would begin the very next day. All Ray really wished was for a chance to say some things to Benny -- a Benny-substitute, anyway. He drifted to sleep, thinking about the pristine island with the few scattered houses which could never in a million years look or feel like Chicago in the winter...
Ray woke up and realized he was cold. Then he realized he was in his own bed. Everything was there, familiar except for the unusual hush. *Everyone's in Florida,* he thought, but then corrected himself. *No, they're home. I'm on vacation.* But he wasn't, not anymore. It didn't smell like the island, it was cold, there was traffic noise outside his window. He was home.
*Roark must have hypnotized me,* was the next thought, but it didn't matter. Ray was up and checking the calendar display on his watch. Time had been rolled back; he was home and his mother was in Florida with the rest of the family. Benny would be over this afternoon to help him move the pool table. Ray was going to have a second chance, and he wanted it to be perfect this time.
He drank coffee in the strangely empty kitchen, chuckling over the food his mother had left for him, and tried to think of what he should change. The pool table was a silly idea. It just didn't fit in the dining room; the memories of that Friday evening with Welsh, Huey and Gardino still made him cringe. Plus, he wouldn't have the money for food. Fraser would be with Victoria...
Maybe that was it. Was there a way to keep Benny from seeing her? No, Victoria had a plan to destroy Fraser, and she would keep trying until she caught him. Ray could try to warn him, but Fraser would never believe that the woman he loved had hunted him down in Chicago just to hurt him. That strategy could only drive them apart.
Maybe the thing to do was nothing. Let it all happen again, but this time don't shoot at Victoria and hit Fraser. Let him get on that train, and they'd live happily ever after. Okay, that wasn't exactly Ray's fantasy, it was Benny's. Still, Ray wouldn't have to carry the guilt of shooting his friend. After all, Benny was a grown man and could make his own choices about love.
Well, maybe that was how it should all end, but first Ray needed to say some things to Benny. About how he'd brought joy into Ray's life, and how much he ... well, Ray would just tell Benny "I love you." Let Fraser think he means it like a brother. Then when the Victoria starts hitting the fan, Benny will know he has someone to count on.
Time seemed to be moving at a strange rate; it was later than Ray thought when he looked up. The doorbell rang, and he was strangely reluctant to answer. It was Benny. Or it was supposed to be Benny... Maybe this whole fantasy thing was a mistake.
"Hello, Ray. Am I early? You seem surprised to see me."
"But..." It was the hypnosis thing, he supposed. It really looked like Benny, dressed exactly as Ray remembered. But that was impossible. "No, you're great. C'mon in. I want you to help me measure the dining room, see if I can fit my dad's pool table up here or not."
Ray realized he'd forgotten how much they'd both changed after Victoria. Benny moved easily, no back wound bothering him. He looked younger, too, and very happy. Ray wondered if he looked any different, then shook himself. Of course he didn't; it was all his fantasy, after all. This guy didn't know him, it wasn't Benny. It was some actor or staff person, playing a role.
They crawled around his mother's floor for an hour or so, laughing when Dief pushed his nose into their faces and reluctantly deciding not to try to carry the pool table up. "It just won't fit, will it?"
"It will fit, just barely, but then you'd have no room to maneuver."
"True. Well, since I can't have a pool party for the guys, how about a night watching TV? I'll rent some movies on Friday and order a pizza or three..." He stopped, remembering that by Friday he'd be broke and Benny would be with her.
"It sounds wonderful, Ray. I'll bring some beer."
"Beer? You?" Now he knew this wasn't Benny.
"I have observed what others like to drink, though I don't indulge myself. I can bring a six-can..."
"Six pack, Benny," Ray whispered. How would Roark know about Benny's odd phrases?
"Six pack of beer, and some soda for myself." Fraser looked very proud of himself.
"That'd be great. You want some lunch now? Hey, I really appreciate your help today." Ray wondered if this was the time. Maybe not perfect, but a chance -- "Actually, I really appreciate you being my friend, Benny. You're a great person. I know I complain a lot, but it's been a lot of fun, hasn't it?" Ray tried to get himself under control and stop babbling. And not to cry. The fun was about to end, and it had never been the same. Even once they were 'even Steven' it never went back to the way it had been in these carefree days. Somehow, knowing it was the last time they'd be this comfortable made Ray feel even worse.
"Ray? Are you all right?" Benny put a hand on his shoulder, and Ray told himself again *it's not him.* But it didn't matter, he turned and let this Fraser embrace him.
"I'm fine. I just want to tell you some things. You don't have to say anything. Just listen, okay?" And Ray held him back, so tightly he feared he was leaving bruises.
"Certainly." They were standing in his house, his mother's dining room, hugging. Ray had his face turned away so he could speak without seeing it was a stranger, not his Benny.
"I love you, Benny. I guess I always have, since we met. I know you have someone else in your life, that woman you talked about on the stakeout. I wasn't asleep for all of it, I just didn't want to talk." Ray felt something brush his head, but he kept talking. "So I know I'm not anything but a friend to you, and that some day you'll be leaving Chicago, leaving me. That's okay, it's all right. But I wanted you to know that you've brought so much into my life that I can't help loving you. I always will." He ran out of words and just clung to the solidly-built man in his arms, his knees weak with relief at finally speaking the words.
"So Francesca was right. You're afraid to reach for your dreams."
"What?" Ray pulled back, frightened. He hadn't told Roark about his sister's words.
"I was in the observation room when you spoke to her." Fraser was looking at him solemnly. "I wanted to hear what she'd tell you. And, I'll admit, I wanted to hear what you had to say, too. About me."
"You're really here, aren't you?" Ray asked in a tiny voice, dizziness overcoming him as he registered the concern on Benny's face. He really was home, and time really had been turned back, just for him. Ray crumpled to the floor in a dead faint.
Ray opened his eyes cautiously, very aware of a large warm body beside him. Not exactly what he was used to in the morning. Except it wasn't morning, it was late afternoon and growing dark outside. Ray was lying on his bed, fully clothed, though his shirt was opened and his shoes had been removed. The body beside him was Fraser, who was watching him, his head on one hand, concern still in his eyes.
"Are you recovering, Ray?"
"Yeah, Benny. I was just a little dizzy, I guess." Ray laughed. "Dizzy and scared to death. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Ray."
"Not going to run away? Or hit me?" Ray sat up as he asked, making sure he could see Benny's eyes. The Mountie also sat up, cross legged on his bed.
"Why would I do either of those things?" Fraser looked genuinely confused.
"Because of what I said. I did say those things, right?" Ray almost panicked again. Had that all been a dream? "I told you I love you?"
And then a beautiful smile broke out on Fraser's face. "Indeed you did, though I'm happy to hear you repeat it. Perhaps if you did that every day for about 20 years?"
But now Ray was confused. "But you don't love me."
"Of course I do, Ray. I think I've loved you since the day you came to my father's cabin wearing that ridiculous snowsuit."
"But..." Ray shut his mouth, unable to continue. Benny loved him, too? It made no sense. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"Why didn't you, until today?" Fraser retorted. "I didn't know you returned my feelings. You've been a very good friend to me, but I thought that was all you wanted to be. You chase women, you encourage me to do the same... why would I believe you would wish to hear about my feelings?"
"You love me like a brother or something, right?"
"No, Ray, I love you passionately and I want to yank these blankets off this bed and strip you naked. Then I want to tie you down, make love to you until you scream, and keep doing it nonstop until your family returns."
Ray's mouth had dropped open and he felt the flush on his neck and face. Benny was blushing, too. Ray no longer doubted it was really Benny, his Benny. Though he'd never known his Benny, quite obviously.
"But what about Victoria? What if she walked into your life right now and wanted you to be with her?"
"It's funny you should ask me that. Do you remember leaving the repair shop yesterday?" Ray nodded and the Mountie continued, "I thought I saw her. That's why I ran off, because I thought I saw Victoria go into that building. And at that moment, I would have forgotten everything in the joy of seeing her again, a free woman."
Ray nodded again, then looked down at the bedspread. Too little, too late. No matter what Fraser said, his love for Ray wouldn't keep him safe. She'd be there, tonight or tomorrow -- Ray never had known when they'd run into each other -- and Ray would be forgotten.
"But last night, as I lay in my bed remembering my time with her, I felt the snow and cold of that pass, the blizzard around us. And I realized that she was like that, like a blizzard, an avalanche. That's how we survived, pitting her will against nature's drives. Victoria is an extraordinary woman."
"She must be," Ray answered, thinking about the complicated plan she'd executed on her own. That was nothing but the truth, she was extraordinarily clever, ruthless, and vengeful.
"But last night, I realized I don't want to be overwhelmed, Ray. I want to love someone who's like me -- not a force of nature, just a person in love. Someone warm, and caring, and giving. Like you are, Ray. Always doing for others, thinking about my comfort and my safety..."
"Aw, Benny, I know I'm just--"
"Just my best friend, Ray. Just the person who helped find my father's killer. Just the guy who shares his family with me, his time with me..." Fraser trailed off to bend forward, his eyes glowing as he looked at Ray. "Just the guy who loves me, right?" And then he reached out and pulled Ray closer, and they kissed briefly. A light, easy kiss. And Ray felt his head spin again, and he had to put his arms out for support, and they just happened to land on Fraser's warm, wonderful shoulders.
He never did remember how they got out of their clothes. Much of what followed was lost as well, leaving snapshots in his brain rather than a narrative. He remembered crying out Benny's name, over and over, as he was taken into a warm, wet mouth. He remembered the look in Benny's eyes when he entered Ray's body for the first time, so possessive and fierce compared to the controlled, gentle thrusting. And he remembered watching the dawn light fill the room before he followed Fraser into sleep, their bodies still twined together.
"Ray?" He felt someone touching his arm and his eyes popped open. It was dark, and he was in a strange room. No, he remembered now, it was their villa. But he also remembered some other place, where he'd been alone...
"Yes, Ray. I'm sorry, I believe you were having a bad dream."
"Oh. Yeah, I guess so. Too much ... what did I eat at the luau, anyway?" They were honeymooning in Hawaii, having decided that the legality didn't matter, but their commitment did.
"Everything, Ray," Fraser chuckled, then he hugged his lover close. "And you're still thin as a rail." Then Fraser gasped, a little pained sound, and Ray was up and switching on the light instantly.
"Are you okay? Is it your back again?"
"Yes. Sorry." Ray was already in the bathroom, rummaging.
"Don't be. Let me rub it for you." Ray came back with the analgesic cream. "Lie flat. That's good. Now breathe for me." His hands smoothed over Fraser's entire back, feeling the muscles and relaxing him, before he applied some cream to the sore, tight areas around the scar. "I wish this had never happened," he muttered, then caught himself. Fraser was guilty enough without his complaints.
"She was going to kill you. She'd already shot you once, and she was going to finish it." Ray knew that. He still vividly remembered the bullet that tore through his shoulder, the pain and helplessness. Then Fraser throwing himself between them, and the look on Fraser's face when the second shot struck him. Victoria's cry, cut off by Welch's bullet.
"She nearly did kill you. It was days, Fraser, before I knew you'd be okay." Ray kept his hands gentle despite the anger in his voice. As he worked, listening to Fraser's deep breathing and enjoying the feel of the beautiful body he knew so well, oddly fuzzy memories of another time... or was it a dream? He and Fraser weren't lovers; Victoria was on a train and Benny was going with her, escaping. Ray shook his head. That was a very strange dream. As if Benny would have run away with her.
Even worse was the thought of a life without loving Benny. How incredibly bleak Ray's life could have been if he hadn't been assigned the "dead Mountie" case. And that thought brought its own memory, of being soul-dead and looking for help at... a travel agency? Oh, Ray was over-tired, for sure.
"That feels so much better, Ray. Thank you." Benny sounded sleepy, so Ray eased off the massage and wiped his hands off on the towel from the bathroom. He shut the light, then lay down beside his tired Mountie, pulled up the blanket, and placed one arm gently to keep Fraser's back warm.
"I love you, Benny. That could never change." No matter what else might have been different, Ray knew that even in his darkest imaginings, he always loved Benton Fraser.
Apologies to Fantasy Island fans, who'll know how much I've relied on faulty memories of the 70's incarnation of the show. I've only seen the newer version a few times, certainly not enough to attempt this with any faithfulness.
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