This short epilogue to the "Dealings" alternate universe completes the series, and hopefully rectifies some of my authorial cop-outs in "Dealing with the Past." Slash; this story includes male/male sex -- if that offends you or you are underage, please leave now.

Laying the Past
by Laura Mason

"You don't have anything to say, Mr. Vecchio? You are paying for this time with me."

"Since I'm paying, who cares if I talk or not?"

"Well, I personally don't like to feel that I'm taking your money for nothing," Dr. Siddons said with a charming smile. But Ray didn't feel charmed.

"I want to fix this. It's not fair to Benny, what I'm doing to him."

"It's not really fair, what was done to you, either," Siddons remarked, having carefully read everything about Ray Vecchio before this first appointment. "Being framed and sent to prison as a child -- there's nothing fair about that."

Ray waved that off without a word. "You're really gay?" he asked yet again. "You don't mind me talking about being in love with a guy?"

"I am homosexual, Mr. Vecchio, and there is very little you could say that would shock or disturb me."

"Yeah, well. I hit him. Benny's so... sweet, that sounds dumb but it's a good word for him. He's polite and thoughtful and kind to everyone. And I hit him."

"Ray." Dr. Siddons' eyes were very kind, too. "You have to forgive yourself for that, since I'm sure Benny already has."

***

They didn't sleep together that first wonderful night when Fraser finally told Ray he loved him. Ray's face lit up while Fraser talked, then Ray haltingly confessed his own feelings -- but nothing happened. They didn't even kiss, and though Fraser thought it might be odd, he really didn't know that there was anything wrong.

It wasn't until they returned from dinner, a full week later, when Fraser tried to kiss Ray and wound up flat on his back with a sore jaw, that he knew there was a problem. But Ray vanished without explanation or apology, and it was several days before he came to the Consulate, offered to drive Fraser and Diefenbaker home, and took them to the nearest beach instead.

They sat on a bench, watching Diefenbaker run in the sand, and Ray talked about being put in prison when he was seventeen. Fraser had always been intelligent, probably more intelligent than most people, yet he didn't understand what Ray was saying.

Ray looked at him, anger and frustration and tears in his eyes, and kept repeating "They beat me up, Fraser. I ... You're bigger than me and it scares me, because the big guys... I know you wouldn't do that, but they beat me up."

Fraser nodded and accepted Ray's apology without trying to touch him, though it wasn't until much later that night as he was falling asleep that he realized when Ray said "beat up," he meant "raped."

***

"You love him."

"Yeah," came the miserable voice.

"He loves you."

"Yeah, he says he loves me."

"You have not been able to separate the physical expression of love from the rapes you endured."

"Jeeze." Ray Vecchio's hands went up, covering his face. "You say that so... It wasn't like having the flu or something. I didn't endure anything. I was raped. Guys were bigger than me, stronger than me, and they hurt me. They held me down and did whatever they wanted, and I couldn't do a damn thing about it!"

"Do you believe Constable Fraser would hold you down and do whatever he wants?"

"Of course not!" Ray was pacing now, arms flailing, but Dr. Siddons was used to that by now. "Benny isn't like them. Benny isn't like anyone." And then Ray was laughing, laughing and sitting back down and bending so far over it looked like he was trying to vomit. "Benny is wonderful. Has been wonderful, considering what a loser I am."

***

It was odd how little anything changed. Fraser loved Ray and had told him so; Ray loved Fraser and had admitted it with glowing eyes and closed-off body language. Diefenbaker romped ahead of them, behaving as if the Field Museum grounds were his personal park. And Fraser helped Ray check the perimeter, just as he'd done for other exhibitions.

Their partnership was unchanged. Their friendship itself was unchanged. But Fraser, having expressed his feelings at last, couldn't help the occasional jolt of lust as he watched Ray's slender figure move. He believed, from what Ray said, that the feeling was mutual.

Fraser had gone many years without love in his life, and that included the physical expression of love. He'd been taught that lustful feelings were to be ignored, suppressed, sublimated into exercise or exertion. Sex equaled love, and only love justified having sex. With that belief, sex was not a common occurrence.

Why was it so difficult, now, to respect Ray's boundaries and keep their love sexless? Fraser thought perhaps Victoria was to blame, since her brief stay in his life had shown him the joy of loving, playful, regular sex. The fact that her love had been an illusion, or at the most a warped version of true love, didn't change how he had felt and what their lovemaking had meant to him.

Fraser wanted that joy again, wanted to know everything about Ray. Wanted to see his face flushed with passion, wanted to kiss his pouty lips and taste that smooth olive skin. But patience was required, now that he'd heard Ray's halting explanation. Fraser followed Ray back inside the building, to the secondary security room they'd set up in an unused office.

Odd that although he'd often thought of Ray's teen years in Joliet prison, Fraser had never conjured the horror of such an intimate violation. Although he'd often felt protective around Ray, he'd never imagined Ray as a victim, as helpless. Even when he'd worked out with Ray, refining his friend's self-defense skills, Fraser had found that Ray could hold his own. Of course, Ray was reluctant to using street moves and "dirty tricks," as Ray called them, in their exercises.

Now Fraser understood why Ray was driven to improve his fighting condition, even now. Though Ray's security job wasn't as active as a police officer's duties, or even as potentially active as Fraser's own duties, he still spent weekends working out with Fraser, and even went running some mornings.

Fraser sighed as Ray bent over his monitor again, checking the camera angle and adjusting the view of the doors. He could imagine a life with Ray in his arms every night, and Ray going for a run with Diefenbaker in the morning. He wondered if it would ever be possible.

And he jumped a foot when Ray, as if reading his thoughts, turned to him and said in a low voice, "I've been seeing a shrink, Benny."

***

"This is dumb." Ray squirmed in his chair. "I mean, I've been coming here for months now, and nothing is any better."

"You can't expect to heal on a timetable, Ray." Siddons was kind but firm. "You are much better at expressing your feelings than you were even two weeks ago."

"Yeah, great, I'm paying to learn how to whine more easily." The doctor coughed, and Ray knew he was trying not to laugh. "I suppose you're right. I should have talked to someone about this years ago, should have dealt with it. Now it just seems to take so long to get anywhere."

"What's the rush, Ray?" Siddons asked, though he knew the answer.

"I want to make Benny happy." Ray sat forward and stared at his therapist. "It never seemed important before because I never thought I'd find someone, ya know? I mean, I was this ex-con loser, and no one wanted me. But now Benny does, and I just can't deal with it."

"You don't feel that you make Benny happy now?"

"We're friends, our friendship hasn't changed. But his eyes. Sometimes he looks at me and I can tell he's waiting..." Ray lay back, deflated. "A guy like him shouldn't have to wait. He deserves more."

"But it seems he wants you and is willing to wait for you."

"Yeah, he says that." Ray knew he sounded unconvinced.

"Would you like to bring Constable Fraser to your next appointment, Ray?"

"No! Jesus, no. If he heard me, how I talk to you... No."

"Perhaps you could speak to him more openly in this atmosphere."

"And tell him what? That I may never be able to love him? That I'm even more of a loser than he guessed?"

"Ray, you are not a loser. You are not even a victim any longer."

"Then why do I feel this way?" For the first time, Ray cried in front of Siddons.

***

Fraser cautiously shifted in his bed, careful not to rouse Ray. He knew how easily startled Ray was to find someone next to him, even after a month of being together. Still, it was worth the risk that Ray might strike out at him, before he knew who was holding him -- it was heaven to sleep holding Ray in his arms.

Seven months ago he'd told Ray Vecchio he was loved, and been assured that the feelings were mutual. Five months ago they'd kissed for the first time. They'd spent months experimenting with touches and kisses, slowly taming Ray to Fraser's arms holding him gently despite his greater strength. Until, last month, Dr. Siddons had finally agreed they should try sleeping in the same bed, though without actually being unclothed or having sex. Ray had moved into Fraser's apartment that same week.

This glacial progress didn't bother Fraser, though kissing and touching didn't always slake his lust. It was still much more than he'd had with anyone else, and there was the hope that Ray would continue improving, would learn to trust him.

Fraser shook his head. Dr. Helm, the therapist he'd begun seeing, would be disappointed to hear he was still thinking that way. It wasn't about trust. Helm had told Fraser that, many times, and the support group he'd joined for partners of rape victims reinforced everything Dr. Helm said. And Fraser knew, intellectually, that Ray had trusted him enough to love him, to admit to that love, and to tell him the truth about his past. Ray simply had to overcome some very painful memories.

But it still felt as if Ray didn't believe in his love. Ray still squirmed when Fraser told him he was beautiful, still quoted his father's words about his own shortcomings, and still seemed to think Fraser would be out of his life as soon as a pretty woman came along.

Fraser wondered how Ray could trust him with his life, but not believe his words.

***

No matter how huge the building you are in actually is, once bullets start flying there is absolutely no place to hide.

The Palmer House filled a city block, but when Ray and Fraser pursued an alarm in the basement, the trouble found them almost immediately. Ray's supply of ammunition was enough to hold up the robbers until the police responded. But now Ray and Fraser were huddled behind a totally inadequate garbage can, caught in the crossfire between the officers and the men who'd been attempting to steal the Faberge eggs currently on display at the hotel.

"Just my luck," Ray muttered, holding Fraser closer as plaster cascaded over them when a bullet struck the wall directly above their heads. "This exhibit has gone around the world, been in hundreds of hotels. But as soon as it comes to Chicago..."

"It does seem odd that the Russian mafia would consider this the best place to make their move." Fraser agreed. He was actually between Ray's legs, backed tightly against his love. If there weren't gunshots, he'd have been thrilled and aroused in this position. "Your firm's security record is excellent."

"Yeah, but since that flooding everybody's heard about the freight tunnels under the loop buildings," Ray moaned. "They figured it was easier to get out underground..."

"It's to your credit that you had this exit route secured, Ray," Fraser began, then hissed and jerked back, banging Ray's nose with his head.

"Ow! Christ, Fraser, what the hell..." Ray stopped speaking and quickly pulled Fraser around so he could see his face. It was covered with blood. "Benny! Oh my God." Ray stood up and screamed "Call 911!" hoping the police could hear him over the echoes of the shots. He pulled Fraser further behind the can and crouched down in front of him, turning his own back on the shots still ringing out.

"I'm all right, Ray," Fraser said, his hand moving up to the flow of blood on his face. "Don't expose yourself..."

"Shut up, Benny," Ray gasped, trying to see where he'd been hit. "Oh, God, I'm sorry I said that. I don't mean it, Benny. You talk if you want to, tell me Inuit stories all night, just be okay, all right? Please, God," he had his handkerchief pressed over the wound now, but he honestly couldn't tell what had hit the Mountie. "I love you so much, Fraser, I know it's been hell living with me, but you do know I love you, right?"

"Ray." Fraser said, a smile on his face despite the pain where Ray was putting pressure on his head. "Of course I know that. Why do you think it's been hell?"

"I see how much you want me to be normal, Benny," and amazingly, Ray burst into tears. "I'm sorry I'm such a screw up. I can't help..."

"You aren't... You're possibly the bravest man I've ever known, Ray." Fraser kept speaking, though he noticed that the gunshots had finally stopped. "I don't know if I could have sought guidance myself without your example. You showed me that it is not a weakness to admit needing help."

"Really?" Ray was red-nosed but at least he'd stopped crying. In fact, he looked amazed.

"Oh, Ray." And then the police were there, paramedics were brought through, and Fraser drifted off in a haze of pain while Ray showed his identification and explained how they'd managed to get caught in the midst of the robbery attempt.

It was hours later when Fraser had a chance to speak to Ray again. Fraser woke in a hospital bed and he realized Ray was in a chair beside him, pulled close enough so that he was leaning on the edge of the bed. Sound asleep, Ray's face looked younger -- and a little sickly -- in the dim light of the room.

"Ray." His throat was dry, and he knew he hadn't been heard. Fraser reached for the glass of water on the tray, and his movement woke Ray immediately.

"Benny. Are you all right?" Ray started up, then moaned as the stiffness from his position caught up with him. He sat back down as if his knees had given out.

Fraser sipped a little of his water, then smiled at Ray. "I'm feeling fine, Ray. I'm surprised to actually be hospitalized, though."

"You have six stitches in your hard Canadian head, Fraser," Ray said dryly, sounding more like himself. "With head injuries they usually make you stay the night. You obviously don't remember, but they've been waking you every hour or so."

"Ah. Well, I do remember that, vaguely, though it is somewhat annoying. But I don't remember what hit me, Ray."

"Okay, now I know you're sick! You, admitting to being annoyed by anything." Ray smiled at him, immense mirth bubbling in his eyes. "I love you so much, Benny."

"Thank you, Ray," he quietly replied, then took another drink, and finally set the water down to look back at Ray.

"You might say 'ditto,' Fraser." Ray was still grinning at him despite the annoyed tone of voice. "Or should I grab a garbage can and see if I can knock some sense into your head?"

"A garbage can?"

"Yeah, like the one we were hiding behind. One of those idiots was using an automatic weapon and the slugs tore up the can. A bit of shrapnel hit you. Fortunately, that pelt of yours kept it from going too deep. They had to shave a tiny patch, but other than that your cute little Mountie face will be fine." Ray's smiled faded as he stared at Fraser. "It just looked so ... There was so much blood."

"Ah, yes, head wounds are like that." Fraser settled back against his pillows. "I honestly don't feel badly. Just a little sore."

"Good. I, on the other hand, feel awful." Ray stood again, more slowly, then sank down on the bed next to Fraser and hugged him. "I was scared, Benny."

Fraser brought his arms up and held his shaking lover tightly. "Yes, Ray."

***

Ray's long fingers traced the outline of his lover's face, lingering a little to rub the soft hair covering Fraser's newest scar. They kissed again, a leisurely tangling of tongues and lips, and then Ray lay back and spoke to his lover, his voice husky.

"It's time, Benny. Make love to me."

Fraser nodded, only his eyes asking if Ray was sure. The doctor had told them to let their own feelings guide them now. They'd waited so long, explored so many other ways to give and receive pleasure. But now Ray was asking Fraser to do what they'd never done before -- to be on top of him, holding him down with his greater body mass.

Fraser slowly moved closer to Ray, kissing every bit of him that he could reach, rubbing his hands over Ray's chest and belly. He was careful not to restrain Ray's arms at all, to let him participate in the act with his arms and legs and mouth. Someday, perhaps, that might change -- but for now there were certain things Ray could not do. Fraser wondered if he could let Ray restrain him, tie him. Perhaps. Right now, there was so much joy in their mutual explorations that Fraser only wanted to continue mapping Ray's body with his mouth. But very soon that delight was no longer enough for either of them. Ray was moaning and pulling at him, so Fraser carefully moved over him, aligning their bodies.

As the Mountie moved into position Ray felt a frisson of fear. He opened his eyes wide, and looked at his lover, his Benny. There was still some nervousness, but no panic. Benny was beautiful, flushed and transported by the feelings rushing through his body. Ray tried to relax, to let himself feel, but his arousal had been dampened. Still, it was wonderful to watch Fraser, to touch him freely, to feel his powerful body grinding against Ray's own.

It struck Ray as odd that he was under this heavy, powerful man yet he felt somehow enfolded and safe. But then, Benny did that for him -- kept him safe, watched his back, gave him love and protection. Ray smiled just as Fraser opened his eyes and looked down at him, then froze and shuddered as his orgasm took him. Ray felt the warm fluid hitting his own body and moaned.

Fraser carefully lowered himself to the side of Ray, and reached to stroke his penis. Ray stopped him with a hand.

"Ray? Are you all right?"

"I'm wonderful, Benny. You just don't need to do that right now."

"But you..." Fraser's voice was sad, though he stopped himself from saying anything more.

"Not this first time, no," Ray soothed, pulling Fraser into his arms and holding him close. "I just enjoyed feeling that, watching you -- you're so beautiful, Benny, so incredibly..." Ray kissed him again. "I want to do that again, soon. I want to do everything with you, and have you make love to me in every way possible. But for tonight, that was enough."

Fraser relaxed, smiling at the passion in Ray's voice. Another "first time" was over, and they'd survived. There would be a second time, then a third, and finally, they'd begin to lose track of how often they'd done this act. But their lovemaking, whatever kind, would always be just as sweet and exciting and wonderful -- Fraser was sure of that.

***

Dr. Siddons looked at his file once again. A year of listening to Ray Vecchio argue with himself. A full year.

"So it has improved?"

"Oh, yeah." Ray looked so content, so at ease with himself today. "That first time we were both scared stiff." He laughed. "Scared un-stiff, in my case. But we did it, anyway, because we both wanted to. And it was fine, but now..." Ray's smile said it all. Siddons smiled back at him.

"First times are always difficult, even under the best of circumstances."

"I suppose so. You know, I don't think Benny had ever been with a guy, either, though he's been reading up on all that stuff."

"If you had questions you could have asked me for some suggestions, Ray."

"Aw, Doc, it's not like that for me. I don't want to read about it, I want to do it." And Ray almost managed a leer. "We managed just fine, believe me. It was -- well, just how I thought it'd be with Fraser. The best."

"That's wonderful, Ray. But you will do some reading and preparation before you progress to any anal sex, I hope." Siddons leaned forward. "We've discussed this before. You were very lucky not to be more seriously injured, or to get AIDS. But even in a loving relationship there are challenges. I've told you how much I enjoy being penetrated, but that act requires patience, preparation, and protection."

Ray's eyes showed he was listening carefully, though his words were breezy and almost dismissive.

"Yeah, I suppose I'll have to crack a book. I think Benny's already got stacks of 'em I can use. He's got condoms, all types and flavors. He insists that even though we both took AIDS tests, we still need to use them 'to avoid infections of the urethra.'"

"Your partner is very intelligent and seems very careful for your health and pleasure. You're lucky to have someone like him."

"Doc, I've been telling you that for a year now!" Listening to the familiar whine and watching the windmilling arms, Dr. Siddons was reassured that his patient, though much changed, was still the Ray Vecchio who'd walked in a year before. Which was good, because he'd come to like Ray very much.

The end

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