This story, though it may seem hard to believe, was in response to a St. Patrick's Day challenge on the TwoAxes list. PG slashiness; if you are not an adult or do not wish to read about m/m relationships, please leave now. Thank you kindly.
Name Days by Laura Mason
"Here, Benton. Have a bite."
"Thank you kindly, Francesca, but I really don't think..." Ray's sister had just pulled up in her car, exited it, then reached back inside to carefully lift out a long white box wrapped with twine, and a white waxed bag. She'd stopped on the front porch to talk to Fraser, and pulled something out of the bag -- which she was now waving under his nose.
"Aw, come on. They're Ray's favorites."
"Ray's favorite what, exactly?" Fraser moved Francesca Vecchio's outstretched arm down and away from him, trying to examine the item she'd been pushing toward his mouth. "It appears to be a doughnut."
"Don't let Ray hear you say that, Fraser. It's a zeppola."
"That may be its correct name, but it certainly looks like a French doughnut, cut in half and filled with custard and some kind of fruit... raspberry?"
Francesca pulled her hand back and took a large bite of the pastry she still held, leaving a dollop of red and gold -- fruit and custard -- on her nose. "Mmm, yep, it's raspberry alright. God, I'd better take the rest of these inside before Ma starts looking for me." She polished off the pastry in four large bites, crumpled the now empty bag and handed it to Fraser, then picked up her box again and cheerfully walked inside, shouting "Okay, Ma, your humble slave is home with the stuff from Domino's. Can I now have a life of my own?" She was completely unaware of the smudge on her face, and Fraser wondered briefly if he should have said something.
Then Diefenbaker barked, and he turned to see a familiar car pull into the driveway, and an even more familiar (and much-loved) face smiling at him as Ray stepped out. Fraser left the porch and walked toward his friend as if a magnet were pulling him.
"Benny! I'm so glad you could make it." Ray's coat was open and Fraser noted he was wearing grey slacks and a bright red sweater, a color the Italian seldom sported though it flattered his olive coloring. "But you're not in your uniform."
"Though this was a working day for me, Ray, I changed at the Consulate before coming here."
"Ah, I was afraid of that. Well, then, here ya go." Ray pulled a red carnation in a tiny box from his overcoat pocket. "I've got a corsage for Ma, and I thought you might need a little red." Ray was walking toward the house as he spoke, leaving Fraser holding the flower and wondering where to put it on his flannel shirt.
"Yeah?" The Italian turned and looked at his Canadian friend, then sighed and walked back to him. "Here, let me."
Ray stood very close while pinning the flower on Fraser's collar, and the Mountie had to concentrate so that he wouldn't sniff too deeply. Ray always smelled marvelous.
"Now you look like someone who's ready for a St. Joseph's feast." Ray smiled and turned away again, but Fraser stopped him before he was up two steps.
"Ray, I'm afraid I don't know the significance of that term. What is tonight, why are we feasting, and why am I wearing a flower?"
"You're not wearing a flower, Benny, you're wearing red. You know, like people wear green on St. Patrick's day?"
"Weren't you here for the last three years? Of course they do. People wear green, the Mayor dyes the damn river green, McDonald's makes their milkshakes green..."
"What does that have to do with my flower?" Fraser asked, a part of his brain wondering even as he spoke if he could press the flower between some of his father's journals. Or maybe he could borrow Mr. Mustafi's dictionary...
"Okay, okay." Ray was pacing now, back and forth on the front sidewalk. "You're not Catholic, so of course you don't know what I'm talking about..." Ray seemed to be talking more to himself than to Fraser, which allowed Fraser the luxury of merely watching him move. He wished he were sitting on the porch steps so he had a better look at Ray's long legs... "Listen, sit down here for a minute, Benny. This might take a while."
"Certainly, Ray," he smiled as he sat on the step. Ray looked down at him, turned, then spun back.
"You know about saints, right?"
"I suppose I do, Ray, though it has been many years since I read anything on the subject. Still, I remember reading about several martyrs..."
"Good, good. So in the church, we have days for the saints. Like Patrick on March 17. Right? St. Patrick's day wasn't always about parades and green beer, it was started to remember the work he did, to honor him."
"Ah. Yet so much of the modern celebration is not religious in nature, Ray. How did that change?"
"I don't know, Fraser!" Ray seemed exasperated with him again. Fraser lowered his head and sighed, then peered up through his eyelashes to watch Ray's flailing arms and flushed face. He was lovely, even when he was yelling. "Am I giving a history lesson here? Do I look like some professor of ancient religious practices?" Words washed over Fraser unnoticed as he admired his friend. His love.
A moment later Ray wound down and Fraser smiled up at him as the talk began again at a normal decibel level.
"Okay, so you have days in honor of the saints. And if you're named for that saint, then it's also your name day."
"Yeah, so you celebrate, too. You remember the guy you're named for, and maybe go to church and say a prayer. Wear a color to remind you of the day. Have a special dinner. For your name day."
"Ah." Fraser sat for a moment, his eyes dimmed by concentration as he watched Ray nodding hopefully at him. "But this isn't St. Patrick's day, Ray."
"Of course it isn't, Benny! Did I give you a green flower? Is my name Raymond Patrick?"
"No, I don't believe it is... though I don't believe I know your middle name, Ray. Which is odd, considering the years we've been friends..."
"It's Joseph, Fraser. My confirmation name is Raymond Joseph Vecchio."
"Confirmation names -- I believe you choose those when you are a child, is that correct? For a saint you admire?"
"Finally, he knows something about the Catholic church. It's a miracle for St. Joseph's day!"
"This is St. Joseph's day?"
"Yes, Fraser, March 19 is St. Joseph's. My name day."
"And one wears red for St. Joseph's day?" Ray nodded. "And eats -- ceppoles?"
"Zeppola, Fraser. One eats those, and anything else one wishes. You don't have to observe Lenten abstinence on your name day, even if it falls on a Friday."
"Well, now I understand. This is very kind of you, Ray. Thank you for inviting me to be part of your name day." Fraser smiled up at Ray, then took his extended hand and rose.
"One more thing, Benny. Ma gets kind of emotional. Her youngest brother's name was Joey. He died in Viet Nam. He's the reason I took Joseph as my name. Ma might start crying during dinner, or during grace..."
"I understand, Ray. She must have been very proud of you for choosing that name, to remember your uncle."
"I hope I make her proud in more ways than that, Fraser," Ray solemnly said as they finally walked in the front door and were hit by the steam and scents of Mrs. Vecchio's out of control Italian cooking.
Ray had told the truth; his mother prepared a veritable feast for her son's name day. Fraser ate meatballs, sausage and peppers, pasta, eggplant, garlic bread and salad -- and he didn't sample every dish on the table. Everyone at the table was wearing red, and Mrs. Vecchio did, indeed, cry -- when Ray gave her the corsage and kissed her cheek.
The only dessert brought out with the coffee was a platter of the St. Joseph's pastries. Some were filled with custard, some with custard and fruit, and some with a filling Fraser couldn't identify that Ray called cannoli. Ray did eat more than one, though he'd put down an immense quantity of food at dinner, and smiled at Francesca as he bit into the second one.
"You went to Domino's for me. Thanks, Frannie."
"You are able to identify which bakery these came from by taste?" Fraser heard himself ask.
"This from a guy who tastes mud to get clues. Yes, Fraser, I know these are from Domino's."
"Tell him why, Ray," Maria said, laughing. "Fraser might like to hear that you were always a glutton."
"It's true, Ma. Your little prince gets away with murder, but he is a pig about zeppola."
"You can say that again," Francesca piped up. "Fraser, when Ray was 16 -- he'd just got his driver's license in February. Anyway, he decides for St. Joseph's day he's gonna taste the zeppola at every bakery in town, and decide who makes the best ones."
"Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time!" Ray laughed, and Fraser relaxed, seeing that his friend wasn't upset at the tale his family was telling.
"Well, it might have been, Ray," Maria put in, "If you just bought one at each place, and just took one bite of each."
The table exploded in questions. The children wanted to know how many Uncle Ray bought, and could they do that. Tony was laughing and, Fraser noted, eating another pastry himself. Maria and Francesca were arguing over how many Ray'd eventually eaten.
"Ah, I did not get sick. At least, not until later..." Ray protested, still laughing.
"He almost went to the hospital that night," Mrs. Vecchio told Fraser quietly. "I didn't know why he was so sick, poor boy. He didn't even eat any dinner..."
Fraser looked at Ray's mother and saw the love and the worry that she always carried for her son, the police officer. He smiled at her. "This was a lovely dinner, Mrs. Vecchio. Thank you so much for including me in the celebration."
"This is the first year since you came to Chicago when Ray wasn't working and we could have a St. Joseph's table. It's meant for friends and family, and that will always include you, Benton."
He flushed and smiled at her, unable to answer. The Vecchios' generosity always stunned him, but guilt was a part of the flush tonight. He wondered if Mrs. Vecchio would include him if she knew of his feelings for Ray. For that matter, he wondered if Ray would still be his friend if Fraser ever gathered the courage to speak to him.
Ray drove him home, as always, Diefenbaker lying in the back seat groaning softly, full of sausage and pilfered treats from the children. When the Riviera pulled up in front of Fraser's building, Ray turned to him.
"Listen, Benny, I hope you don't mind if I head straight home. I've got to work in the morning -- and so do you." Ray smiled at him, then rubbed his face with one hand. "And all that food is making me really sleepy."
Fraser laughed. "I agree. Your mother's cooking is a cure for insomnia, I believe."
"Thanks for coming over tonight. It was great to have you there. We'll make you an honorary Italian yet." Ray's eyes were warm, his face and body so relaxed as they sat talking in his car. Fraser wondered if this was how high schoolers started necking in cars -- friendly semi-darkness, close proximity, a sense of privacy -- however misguided.
"I'm always honored to be included in your family, Ray. Thank you." Fraser felt more secure keeping things slightly formal between them. He hoped it would keep him silent, keep him from making a mistake.
But then the unthinkable happened. Ray's hand moved toward him, toward his face...
Then dropped back into Ray's lap. Ray turned back to the wheel as Fraser sat, mouth open, staring at him.
"So, good night, I guess."
Ray's head went down on the wheel in front of him and he made a sound suspiciously like a whimper. "Yeah?" he finally asked.
"Did... Were you... Ray?"
"Yes, Fraser." Ray turned to him, fear and exasperation and ... love in his eyes.
Fraser had nothing to say. He merely put his hand out and gently touched Ray's cheek, completing the gesture his friend had aborted seconds earlier.
They sat like that until it was no longer St. Joseph's day.
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