Ray and Dief were arguing.
It was kinda unusual, because Ray and Dief mostly united against Fraser on the subjects including but not limited to heat, food, and not being a robot, but sometimes you just had to throw down with a wolf.
Their biggest fight, to date, had been the one when they’d needed to finally come home, once the weather was turning and they hadn’t found the Hand of Franklin. Fraser and Dief had thought that it would be okay to extend the hunt another couple of weeks, but Ray had already fallen into three crevices, seen an avalanche, and listened to Fraser wax poetic about how winter fades into mud season real abruptly. All that had been in the past week. They were going to turn around or Ray was going to walk back to the nearest outpost.
For reasons Ray still didn’t understand, Dief decided he needed to pick the fight.
Fraser had mostly watched that fight looking baffled because apparently Fraser hadn’t realized that Ray and Dief had long conversations, and had been since Ray suspended his disbelief and ended up Fraser’s partner. Ray wasn’t gonna tell Fraser about the times he’d seen an old Mountie walking around, because that was borrowing trouble and hadn’t happened the whole trip.
Anyway, so now they were having their second-biggest fight because Dief loved babies and Ray didn’t have a uterus. Ray was kinda glad Fraser was out communing with the dogs.
“The problem with you is you don’t think human, only wolf,” Ray said, slamming the pan down on the stove he’d just barely installed a week ago. Beautiful, premium range, according to Tommy at the general store. He’d come down and helped with the trickier parts of installation because Fraser was handy with everything except electrical and plumbing. Not so much he was bad at it, more that it didn’t like him.
“No, see, when you ran off that time I defended you, said it was a wolf thing,” Ray pointed out, rooting through the cabinets. “Goddamnit are you—he fuckin’ rearranged it again.”
Fraser arranged cabinets according to the way his grandmother had always done it. Grandma Fraser apparently had had Strong Ideas about organizing, color Ray surprised. Ray arranged cabinets so they made sense and you could find the shit you needed when you wanted it.
“That’s uncalled for,” Ray said, pointing at Dief with the box of noodles. “I can’t have babies. Wrong parts, and besides, Fraser is only good with kids so long’s he can give ‘em back.”
Dief snorted his disgusted agreement, and Ray threw a handful of bowtie noodles at him. Dief crunched them obnoxiously.
“Yeah, I hope you like ‘em, ‘cause you’re not gettin’ sausage. Go out an’ eat with the dogs.”
Dief reared back and chuffed at him before sauntering out, and Ray watched him go and rolled his eyes.
“You pay, and you pay, and you pay,” he muttered to himself.
The thing was, Ray didn’t move to Canada because he wanted to play house with Fraser. He hadn’t been lying to the Ice Queen when he said he didn’t know who he was without Fraser—only he hadn’t said that to her so much as implied it and she’d been too wrapped up in—anyway, not the point, he wasn’t thinking about Thatcher’s massive hard-on for Fraser. It would just give him a headache. Again. Some more.
Point was, Ray and Fraser fit together and were good together. Ray liked it in the great white north, even though there was no pizza on delivery and it was a fuckin’ snow machine ride to get anywhere, and Fraser’d started talking realistically about getting a Hummer.
To be fair, Ray’d been real excited about that until he realized Fraser meant the car, but Fraser’d made it up to him by doing the other thing so that was okay.
But long-term Ray didn’t really know what he was gonna do here. He couldn’t be a Mountie, and there was no equivalent of what Fraser was in Chicago here, through Fraser didn’t seem to bothered by it. Right now Ray was fixing engines and remodeling Fraser’s cabin, doing the odd job to help Fraser kick bad guys in the head, but mostly he just wanted to let things be, regardless of what Dief thought.
He and Fraser, they were good. Really no good reason to change that.
The phone ringing right after he’d had that thought was kinda ominous, and so Ray genuinely considered not picking it up. It was 2001 and Fraser still hadn’t heard of an answering machine, so it wasn’t like whoever it was could—
But it might be something important, and so Ray picked it up and said, “Yeah, hello?”
“H—hi,” the voice on the other end said, sounding confused. “Uh. Hi—is, Frannie, this is the wrong number!” There was a pause, and if Ray strained he could hear an annoyed woman’s voice, and then the guy said, “Is this Benton Fraser’s number?”
Ray pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it. “Who’s askin’?”
“This is Detective Vecchio, could you put Constable Fraser on?” Jesus Christ, Vecchio. Who was apparently a bad detective, seein’ as how he hadn’t figured out it was Ray. Ray always knew he’d done Vecchio a favor, taking over his life for two years. Then his brain clicked over into panic mode because shit why the fuck was Vecchio calling Fraser unless some fuckwad was headed their way?
“Why, someone coming to kill him?” Ray demanded, looking for something to throw at the door to make Fraser come to the phone. “Or someone—did someone die?”
“Kowalski?” Vecchio asked, and then, “No, hey, no. No one died. Kinda the opposite.”
Ray frowned at the phone again and then said. “Yeah okay hang on he’s out communing with the dogs.”
As he put the phone down he hear Vecchio say, “‘Course he is, why not. Communing with the dogs, why not.”
“Hey, Ben, telephone,” Ray said, opening the door. Fraser blinked, and extracted himself from the puppy pile. “It’s Vecchio, only no one’s died. Maybe he wants to say ‘hi.’”
Fraser nodded, and followed him inside, and Ray went back to his pasta.
“Ray!” Fraser said warmly, and Ray mimicked ‘Ray’ with a grimace as he added the browned meat to the tomato sauce.
“I—she’s. Where?” His voice had gone all Mountie-ish, and Ray turned to look over his shoulder. Fraser was all Mountie posture, too. Like when he was doing his impression of a statue in front of the consulate, back in Chicago.
“I see. I—yes, Ray. Yes, I understand. Yes.” He scratched his eyebrow and his glance kept sliding over to Ray, but not quite making it. Shit, they were going to Chicago.
“Of course. I’ll—yes I’ll call you back. Oh no, Ray it’s fine. We can afford the long-distance. Ray—yes, well. If you insist. Thank you. Give my best to everyone.”
Fraser set the phone down carefully, like he was afraid if he didn’t it would rear up and bite him.
“When’re you going down?” Ray asked at the same time Fraser blurted out,
“I have a child.”
Jesus, if Ray never had to deal with that woman’s bullshit again it’d be too soon. Ray felt like he’d been navigating the minefield that she left behind for two years without knowing it, and then they’d been up in the mountains, and a blizzard had blown in and Ray had been convinced they were going to freeze and somebody someday would search for the Hand of Ray, and Fraser had taken Ray’s fingers and put them in his mouth.
And it’d been so stunningly hot, Ray had been breathless with it, only when they got down to doing it, in their sleeping bags zipped together, Fraser’d seemed surprised to find Ray’s dick, and Ray had realized that Fraser hadn’t been with him at all, that whole time.
And that fucking sucked, to be so close to something you’d wanted so bad, to be offered it and then realize the offer wasn’t for you after all.
They’d had a screaming fight, then, surrounded by the dogs and Dief and the snow and ice and mountains, and there had been—
Well, Fraser had finally told him, and fuck, what Vecchio had avoided putting in that report. It had stuck out at him, at the time, that the Victoria Metcalf case was weird because Vecchio’s paperwork had been almost formal, real brief. Just the facts, ma’am, no details, not like he usually did, just this slim little note in the huge fucking file on the case. Vecchio had been an easier undercover gig because the guy wrote such good reports, all those little details that he thought might help a conviction down the line, but not in that report.
That night, though, Fraser’d told him everything. He’d kept a tight grip on Ray, like he was afraid he was gonna run, which was probably fair. Ray’d felt like he was gonna puke, like that little strain of doubt that said ‘hey, you’re not what anyone wants’ turned out to be right. But Fraser’d told him about finding her in the blizzard, fucking her, arresting her. How she’d come back and then how she set him up, threatened everyone, how after all of that he’d still wanted to run away with her.
“When Vecchio shot you,” Ray’d said, fingers skimming over the scar tissue on Fraser’s back, “Did he mean to hit you or was he aiming for her?”
Fraser had stared at him. “He saw her gun, Ray,” Fraser’d said, full of reproach, like how could Ray think such a thing. “He thought she was going to shoot me.”
Maybe that was true, Ray didn’t know. “I’d’ve shot you,” he’d said, and Fraser had stared at him some more, long enough Ray’d resigned himself to never getting any, maybe being left to die out on the icy tundra, and then he’d been on his back, getting kissed harder than he’d ever been kissed in his life.
“In the leg,” Fraser had agreed, pulling back only slightly.
“Somewhere easy to heal,” Ray’d gasped as Fraser dragged his teeth own his throat.
“Unless you were upset with me.”
“Fraser if I’m shooting at you I’m probably a little upset.”
They’d laughed, then, and Ray had thought crazily that Fraser was crazy, to look fuckin’ charmed Ray was admitting he’d’ve shot Fraser on purpose to save him from that crazy bitch, but that was why he and Fraser worked. They were both pretty crazy.
Not as crazy as Victoria fucking Metcalf though.
“She stole your jizz,” Ray said dully, sitting on the couch. Fraser was pressing a cup of tea into Ray’s hands, and Ray took it because it was easier than explaining that actually tea didn’t solve the world’s ills.
At least Fraser had taken the sauce off the burner so dinner wasn’t a loss.
“Well,” Fraser said, looking embarrassed. “A friend of mine, from the Depot. She and her husband were having trouble conceiving and I never planned on having a family, in the traditional sense—I mean, I suppose I thought abstractly that I might but given my romantic history and the lifestyle I lead and my own experiences with my father it seemed, though of course now, but I couldn’t have antici—“
“Yes. Well, suffice to say, I donated my semen for my friend’s use at her request. She ended up not needing it but I suppose the clinic didn’t dispose of it and—“
“And Victoria Metcalf got ahold of it and decided to make herself a mini-you.”
“So it would seem.”
“Only now she’s been arrested for another murder.”
“And you’re listed on the birth certificate.”
Ray drank his tea.
“How long ago was this, with your friend?”
“Oh—twelve years ago,” Fraser said. “Though kept in stable conditions sperm has been successfully used to fertilize an egg after forty years of being frozen, so it’s not entirely surprising that it was effective.”
“Why don’t they just have you take a paternity test and then go down?” Ray asked. That made more sense, it wasn’t like Fraser was gonna take the kid if it wasn’t his.
“Well,” Fraser hedged, and Ray stared at him. “I don’t know that it matters what the results of that test are.”
He sat down beside Ray and pressed their knees together, and Ray could feel the tension thrumming through him. Fraser was furious, Ray realized. Furious at the violation, that she was intruding in his life even now, in huge, consuming ways. Furious on behalf of the kid, because Fraser wasn’t so great with kids for long periods of time but he always seemed to feel for them, because of course Fraser knew everything about loss, and abandonment, and how it felt to face the world with your shoulders braced for the next hit.
God, it felt like they were just listening to the distant cracking of snow on the mountaintop before the avalanche fell, and Ray—
“Wait,” he said. “Run that by me again.”
“Well, Ray—I am on the birth certificate, and in all likelihood I am the child’s father. And you’ve—you’ve always wanted children.”
Ray put down his mug on the floor, because they were down to three mugs and he wasn’t going to have this one be a casualty of this fight.
“So you just decided, just now, we’re gonna have a kid.”
Fraser stood up, and started to pace. Dief watched them both, one wolfy-brow cocked.
“You didn’t think maybe you should start by being like, ‘Hey, Ray, my domestic partner, old buddy old pal, I think my psycho ex-girlfriend got ahold of some of my spunk and knocked herself up with it and now there’s a kid who has my name on her birth certificate. What are your thoughts/questions/concerns’?”
“Ray, you’ve always maintained one of the primary reasons for your split with Stella was a fundamental disagreement about children,” Fraser pointed out in his most Canadian voice.
“Yeah, sure!” Ray said, waving a hand. “It was!”
Fraser looked triumphant, like he thought that meant he’d won the argument.
“Ben, what the fuck, you think I’m gonna leave you in a few years when—“
“You realize that your situation with me not only means it’s unlikely that you’ll be married, though perhaps not, there seems to be a political shift—“
“Jesus Christ,” Ray groaned, slumping back on the couch.
“I can’t give you children, Ray,” Fraser snapped, like this was something Ray missed. Like even though he was getting fucked up the ass nightly by Fraser’s nothing-to-sneeze-at dick, somehow he missed that neither one of them had the required parts for makin’ a baby.
“Yeah, no shit,” Ray said.
“Yes. So yes. It has occurred to me that when—that it might come to pass that—“ Fraser was really working that eyebrow, looking at the floor, at the rug they’d gotten from Mrs. Tuvik, who braided it herself. “People don’t change what they want, fundamentally. You’ve given up quite a lot, your whole life, in fact, and you and Stella—“
“You and me ain’t Stella and me, and it was a shitty life.”
“A person cannot subvert their fundamental—“
“It’s a shitty reason to have a kid!” Ray yelled, standing up. “That is a stupid fucking reason; ‘cause you think I’m gonna leave. That’s a shitty thing to do to the kid, Ben.”
“You don’t want her?” Fraser asked, still staring at the rug, and Ray put the brakes on mentally because this was not the right response to the argument Ray thought they were having. “I think—we have the space. I think you’ll be a wonderful father, and, though I don’t have a great deal of experience, I always thought I would rise to the occasion, such as it were. That at least I would know what not to do, and that may be half the battle, not repeating the sins of the father.”
Ray shifted his weight. “We need to order a lot of stuff, we got nothing for a kid.”
“We can call Tommy when we land in Chicago, place orders,” Fraser said, staring at him carefully, like he thought Ray might startle and run. “And of course we can shop in Chicago. Prices will be better, even with the exchange rate.”
That was God’s honest truth: living in fuckallsville meant shit that cost twenty-five cents cost three eighty here.
“I slept in a drawer while my father was finishing my crib,” Fraser added, beaming that smile that made Ray decide to chase the Hand of Franklin and stay in the Great White North.
“Good, you can sleep in the drawer, me and her’ll take the bed,” Ray told him, Fraser surged up against him, kissing him fiercely.
“We’ll figure it out,” Ray said, in the tiny space between them, and then, with dawning horror, “Oh shit, you think Chet’s on duty tomorrow?”
Fraser sighed as he leaned down to kiss Ray. “It’s very likely.”
Chet Weir ran the local airport with his brother, Henry. Henry had his pilot’s license, and could be relied upon to transport people from point A to point B without dying. He was friendly in the way Fraser was friendly—kinda from a distance.
Fraser insisted that Chet also had his license, but Ray was pretty sure Chet got it in 1910 and now got his jollies from seeing if he could flip his planes over, which is why Chet did cargo runs, mostly. Ray’d jumped out of planes before, while being shot at, and he’d rather do that again than fly with Chet. Chet also once asked Ray how long it took him to recover after “gettin’ it up the ass from the Constable” with a truly foul leer, so Ray’s not really inclined to like him anyway.
“Hiya!” Chet slurred at them, baring all five of his teeth. “Goin’ to the States, eh?”
“Good morning, Mr. Weir, and yes we are,” Fraser said, smiling at him. “Headed back to Chicago.”
“Oh, sure,” Chet agreed, throwing their luggage into the back of the plane. Dief stared balefully at Fraser, and Ray only just managed not to do the same. “Well, we’ll get to Whitehorse in a jiffy.”
Chet wandered towards the front of the plane, then came back to put up the stairs so they could get in the plane, chuckling to himself about how forgetful he was getting in his old age.
“I’m with him,” Ray said to Fraser.
“You’re both being absurd. Mr. Weir has flown this route back and forth for decades, and while he’s eccentric—“
“He’s a fuckin’ looney toon,” Ray interrupted. Dief agreed, butting up beside Ray’s thigh.
Dief had insisted on coming, because Dief apparently liked babies and was delighted that Ray was providing Fraser with one. Arguments to the contrary had fallen upon blind eyes, and Fraser had eventually separated them until Dief had pointed out that if Fraser was going to be dealing with Victoria Metcalf, he should be there so he could bite that bitch. Not, Dief had hastened, that he thought Ray wouldn’t do an adequate job, but she tried to kill Dief that time, so it was personal. Ray thought that was reasonable, and Fraser just gave them both a speaking look about his despair and disappointment in both of them.
“He’s a very competent pilot and you two are being very dramatic,” Fraser scolded as they sat down and he set about buckling Dief in.
“I’ll try to make it a nice smooth ride!” Chet yelled over his shoulder. “I know you gotta be sore, Ray!”
Fraser pressed his fingers to his mouth and then said, “Well he’s very considerate of you.”
“Shove it up your ass,” Ray muttered.
They went to the 2-7 right after checking in at the hotel.
“Gentlemen,” Welsh said, beckoning them into his office, and Ray tried not to feel like he was in trouble. He didn’t have a solve rate anymore for Welsh to bitch about, Welsh wasn’t his boss anymore, and huh, that was kind of weird, really.
“Hey, Frase,” Frannie purred, smiling at him and thrusting her tits out. Ray stepped in to hug her while Vecchio pulled Fraser away, and that was actually a nice move, they made a good team.
“How you been?” he asked, patting her back, smiling with all his teeth.
“Ray,” she muttered, shoving him off of her. He grinned, and she stuck her tongue out.
“How’s Ma?” he asked.
“Diabetes, not that she’s taking care of it,” Frannie sighed. “We’re taking turns stabbing her with the insulin. It’s okay, though. It’s very cryptic.”
Ray frowned. “Cathartic?” he guessed.
“No, we’re sneaky, so it’s cryptic,” she corrected, screwing up her face like she still couldn’t believe what a dumbass he was. Ray opened his mouth to argue, because Ben always said as long as Ray could breathe he’d be arguing, which was probably true even though it was always pointless when it came to Frannie, but Elaine rescued him.
“Hey, Ray!” she said, beaming and stepping into his hug.
“How’s it going?” he asked when she stepped back, dropping the file in her hand on Huey’s desk.
“I take my detective’s exam next week.”
“Oh man that’s so great, Elaine! Seriously, that—you’re gonna do great,” he told her, and meant it. Welsh could use Elaine, considering his dynamic duo was now the Duck Boys and the original Vecchio. Really Ray almost felt bad about it, abandoning the 2-7 in such dire straits.
“Kowalski, Fraser, my office, sometime this year. You too, Vecchio,” Welsh barked, and Ray stiffened.
“Hasn’t changed,” he said, and Elaine laughed.
“No, he’s gotten worse. I think he actually misses you two,” she confided, and Ray ducked into the office before Welsh could glare those holes straight through his skull.
He shut the door behind him, since he was the last one in, and sat down in the chair across from Welsh while Vecchio and Fraser continued their little love-fest. He and Welsh exchanged long, commiserating looks before Welsh cleared his throat a couple times before he got tired of the polite and said,
“Am I intruding on your reunion, gentlemen?”
Fraser dropped into the chair like he was a kid getting yelled at by the teacher, and Vecchio, like he couldn’t leave Fraser alone, stood behind him and squeezed his shoulder, ignoring Ray’s look.
He was just thinking maybe Fraser was like, Ray-sexual or something when Welsh said:
“Three days ago Victoria Metcalf was picked up outside of Reno. In her possession was the murder weapon in two active homicide cases…and an infant child.”
Nobody said a goddamn thing, so Welsh heaved a sigh and said, “Her name is Delilah Caroline Fraser, date of birth 1-16-01. One Benton Fraser is listed as her father.” Welsh looked at them each flatly. Ray glanced at Fraser, who was looking at Welsh like maybe he didn’t actually speak English.
Ray and Vecchio shared a look over his head, and Ray mouthed ‘Fraser?’ Vecchio shrugged one shoulder and mouthed back, ‘Crazy’. Then Ray realized that she’d also given the kid Fraser’s mom’s name, and wanted to go kick her head a couple ninety times.
“Metcalf told Social Services it was artificial insemination,” Welsh said, staring up at his ceiling like he’d rather be talking about anything else. “Social Services has the child in custody, there’s a social worker waiting for you down at the clinic. Vecchio can drive you over.”
“Yes, sir,” Fraser said, on what Ray was sure was instinct.
“She still in Nevada?” Ray asked.
“Two counts of homicide one,” Welsh said. “Looks like more loose ends she was tying up, though no sign she was trying to frame anyone this time. Maybe not for lack of trying, the case is still in early stages. The captain I spoke to sounded like he expected the body count to go up.”
Ray nodded. “Still have a warrant here?”
“ASA Kowalski is liaising with the ASA in Nevada,” Welsh told him, and Ray just shook his head because of course, what this shitshow really needed was Stella being involved.
“Come on, Benny,” Vecchio said, clapping Fraser on the shoulder. “Let’s get this over with.”
Fraser was tense on the ride over, but Vecchio kept up a stream of conversation, telling Fraser about his family, about Francesca’s newest fixation, how everyone at the precinct was doing, following up on cases that they’d solved together, reliving the glory days.
Ray sat in the back seat with Dief, watching Chicago as it swallowed them up. It was so strange, two years later coming back and feeling a kind of wonder he always despised in tourists. It was just that the buildings were so tall, and the fact that he couldn’t see for miles was actually making him feel a little uneasy. He wondered how Fraser put up with it for all those years—Fraser, who Ray had found asleep out in the yard with the dogs and Dief at least three times in the last six months. Who came alive as soon as they fell into the snow from an airplane.
It was a short drive, though, and Laura-Jane Clarkson, the social worker on the case, had a one of those southern accents you couldn’t quite place. She was very pretty, with big hair and long red nails and the kind of pep that made Ray tired just looking at her. Something kinda Dolly Parton about the whole thing. But she had that aggressive southern friendliness and feminine charm that never failed to bowl Fraser over.
“So obviously we’ve expedited things,” Laura-Jane explained, waving over a tech in green scrubs. The kid was maybe twenty-two, and looked at Fraser with stars in his eyes. He looked a little faint as he swabbed the inside of Fraser’s cheek, and Ray sort of felt like he’d be justified in snarling, but instead just waggled his eyes at Fraser, who hastily looked at the ceiling so he wouldn’t laugh.
“Great, thanks, Tim, honey! Anyway, like I said, we should have these results back by ten o’clock tomorrow morning. What number should I call?” Laura-Jane asked, smiling at them all wide, showing off her white, white teeth.
“Here,” Ray said, handing her the hotel’s card with their room number scrawled on the back.
“Fantastic,” she enthused. “Obviously there’ll be some paperwork, and we’ll have to go to the Canadian consulate for that, but that shouldn’t take too long.”
“If it turns out that she isn’t—biologically—“ Fraser started, and then looked at Ray.
“Can we take the kid even if she’s not biologically his, ‘cause his name’s on the birth certificate?” Ray asked.
“O-oh,” Laura-Jane said, glancing between them. “I—Detective Vecchio said you had requested the DNA test.”
“Of course he wants the test. Fraser, come on,” Vecchio said, frowning. “It’s not like you’re taking the kid if she’s not yours.” He laughed, and then seemed to realize that he was dealing with Fraser and got a little white around the eyes. Welcome to Ray’s fucking world.
“Ray, could you excuse us?” Fraser asked him, and Vecchio’s frown deepened, but he stepped out of the exam room.
Laura-Jane was looking between them with some confusion. “I’m sorry, I—I guess we got our wires crossed somewhere. Did you not want the test? I can tell Tim to throw it out—it’s not mandatory.” She paused, and sat down on the doctor’s rolling stool, crossing her legs and chewing on her shiny pink lips, looking between them. She clearly wanted to say more, but was afraid that they’d come back in six months and accuse her of dumping a kid on them or something. But Fraser had on his most trustworthy face, and Ray put on his Trust Me I’m a Cop face, and Laura-Jane nodded to herself and continued. “Actually, Constable, if you’re serious about you wanting Delilah either way, I would. I would encourage you not to do the test.
“You see, all the state of Nevada requires is that you sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. Because Ms. Metcalf is already a convicted felon, and she’s on trial for murder again, across state lines, she’s permanently lost all parental rights to her daughter according to the United States government. Now, she’s already signed a VAoP, stating that you’re the father, and that was in tomorrow’s paperwork, but—honestly, those two pieces of paper will be sufficient. I really only need those signatures.”
She nodded to herself, tapping her long nails against her knee before she continued, “Now I have been in contact with the Canadian consulate, and they’ve put together paperwork for you to apply for Canadian citizenship for Delilah—I actually have that, here,” she said, reaching down and patting her briefcase. “So, really, Constable Fraser, if you’re interested in claiming Delilah regardless of genetics, I’ll just have you sign this piece of paper and we can get things going, and—and I can bring her over to you tomorrow morning.”
There was a long, long silence.
“So if he did the test, and it came back and it was negative, even with that paperwork, what would happen? She goes into the system?” Ray asked, and Laura-Jane nodded apologetically and said,
“Yes, she’d go into the foster system, and because Constable Fraser’s Canadian the whole adoption situation would be…tricky.”
Tricky, code for impossible.
“Could we do the test under the table?” he asked, and Laura-Jane shifted uncomfortably but Fraser interrupted before she had to answer.
“May I see a picture of her?”
“Oh!” she said. “Oh, silly of me, yes, here.”
She held out a polaroid, and Fraser took it, and Ray craned his neck to look at it. The baby in it had huge blue eyes and curly brown hair, and there was something serious and sad about her and Ray thought, yeah. That’s Benton Fraser’s kid. There was no question.
“I’d like to sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity,” Fraser said, handing the picture to Ray, who held it carefully, not wanting to smudge.
She was small, for six months—though what did he know. She just looked small, had this delicate little neck holding up these enormous cheeks, her big blue eyes watery and her lips sucked into the beginnings of a sob. He drew his thumb gently along the curve of one of those cheeks, taking in the mess of brown curls, wispy and half-mashed to her head, probably from a nap.
“Ray,” Fraser said, and sounded like he’d been saying it.
“Yeah,” Ray agreed, handing over the picture. Fraser looked at him, and then down at the photograph, and Ray thought maybe that wasn’t what Fraser’d meant, but he felt kind of bushwhacked.
“Thank you, Ms. Clarkson,” he said.
Vecchio didn’t like it. Ray didn’t actually give two flying fucks if Vecchio didn’t like it, but Fraser seemed to, so Ray took the picture back and sat in the back seat with Dief so they could sigh over Delilah’s fat little cheeks while Fraser and Vecchio had a heart-to-heart. Dief was as smitten as Ray, but then, they’d both been suckered in by Fraser, so they’d been primed to be weak to this.
“She’s crazy, Benny, who knows what she was really thinking!” Vecchio argued. “I mean, why the hell list you on the birth certificate? She’s trying to get to you. She wants you to testify, or something! Make her seem less dangerous.”
“Be that as it may, Ray, this is a child, my child. And may I remind you that I have been responsible for locking Victoria up once already,” Fraser said, and then, “Ah, Ray, you’ve missed the turn.”
“Ma wants you for dinner,” Vecchio said. “Benny, come on. Think about this.”
“I have, Ray. This is—not something I ever anticipated being part of my life,” he said, and Ray met his eyes in the rearview mirror, because Ray knew that ache that was in Fraser’s voice, the underlying ‘didn’t think I’d get it, so I didn’t think about too much and it only hurt on days ending in -y’. Christ, Ray’d had ten years of Stella dodging the question of kids and then yelling about not wanting to bring kids into a cop’s life, so she could be left to raise their kids alone. If he wanted them so badly, she’d said, he should find something else to do, but Ray hadn’t had anything to fall back on, nothing that she’d have respected him for, and so the two of them were constantly locked in a war. Ray had tried to train himself out of looking in strollers and carseats, tried to make himself stop wanting, stop lingering, and then after the divorce there’d been undercover and Fraser and he hasn’t stopped looking, but he’d had less time to look. When you were Fraser’s partner, you generally only had time to watch his back.
But, Christ, Ray wanted Delilah, had been making plans on how to move things around in the spare bedroom while Chet was flying them down. Called his mother from the airport and asked her to send up his baby stuff—which might mean a visit, if the Winnebago could get all the way up the Yukon. Fraser said, sometimes, that they all had dreams deferred, and yeah, okay. This was one of Ray’s, and apparently one of Fraser’s. Fraser, who’d donated his jizz to a friend because he thought he’d never have a kid of his own, which was seriously one of the most gut-wrenching and Fraser things Ray’d ever heard.
But it was one of those things, those things that made them a duet. Crazy and only-could-happen-to-Fraser kind of things, Ray just lucky to be caught up alongside him for the ride, stupidly grateful.
Dief made a sharp, excited sound as the Vecchio family poured out of the house to see them, climbing over Ray to greet them. Ray got out a little slower, feeling strangely awkward.
The house looked nice—not burned up at all anymore, now Vecchio was back to foot those bills. Maria had her two littlest kids, the older ones still in school, and Ray was sort of sad to see Tony still on the front porch, scratching at his belly. Ray’d always had this feeling she deserved better, and the first time he’d been to the house for a “family” dinner, Maria had hip-checked him over dishes, laughing and saying with the look he’d given Tony over salad, he might as well have been her brother.
Frannie was so excited to see Fraser she wasn’t sure which way to pose, her fingers restlessly skimming the bare skin of her waist and the longer ends of her hair.
“Cool it,” he said, heading towards her and Maria. Maria laughed behind them and Frannie shot them both poisonous looks.
“Fraser!” she called, her face transforming into a wide, bright smile as she elbowed Ray aside to launch herself at Fraser, who was too well-raised to let her fall. Ray shot him a look and Fraser’s jaw worked like he was trying not to laugh, because Fraser was also raised too well to laugh at a lady. Laughing at Ray, it turned out, was fair game.
“She takes hints so well,” Maria said fondly. “She always did.”
“Yeah, goes in one ear and outta the other,” he agreed, and she grinned at him, handing over the baby. “Who’s this?”
“This is Angela,” she said. “You only saw me pregnant with her.” She smiled, adjusting Angela’s sweet summer dress, and Angela stared up at Ray with huge brown eyes. Whatever else you could say about Tony, he and Maria made beautiful babies. “Last one,” Maria said. “I sent him to the doctor to get snipped.”
“You see the insurance statement?” Ray asked dubiously, bouncing Angelia a little.
“He wasn’t allowed in our bed until I saw the insurance statement,” Maria scoffed, her grin going wicked. “What am I, stupid?”
They both lapsed into silence, staring down at Angela, who staring intently at the button on Ray’s jacket, fingers clumsily sliding over the raised edges.
“So I hear you’re about to have one of these,” Maria said after a pause. “Ray says that bitch who almost killed Fraser had his baby? God, that’s weird, what do I call you—is it Ray, or are you Stan—“
“Ray,” Ray said.
“It’s Stanley,” Vecchio corrected from over his shoulder, squeezing it. “C’mon, Stanley,” he said in a familiar way. “Give the baby back, let’s get a drink.”
It was things like that that could almost make Ray like him.
Ray had always liked the Vecchios, as a family. There was genuine love and affection, and walking away wasn’t an option, like some kind of gravitational force that had been lacking in the Kowalski house. It’d made Ray wonder a lot about the undercover job Vecchio took, because this neighborhood, this city, it was in Vecchio’s veins in a way Ray didn’t understand. Vecchio was like the superheroes in comic books who protected their cities. Ray hadn’t ever loved anything like that, with that kind of desperate, helpless devotion.
Fraser had that kind of love too, but sort of the opposite way. Not in love with a city, but a wide open expanse of white and a way of life that was from a long time ago. Fraser even loved the land when it turned into mud so deep you could drown in it, which frankly Ray thought was kinda a bit much.
Ray didn’t love either place like that. He’d always been the guy who was better at loving people. He’d loved his mom, and then Stella, and then he’d loved the job, and then, finally, finally there’d been Fraser.
He’d liked the Vecchios, but it had been the best, really, that the house burned. That Ray didn’t have to live in the family home because it’d been uninhabitable. He didn’t envy Vecchio a lot—but he wondered what it would have been like, to grow up all together, to feel a deep sense of belonging.
Vecchio was home here, comfortable and confident, and he pulled Ray into the front room while Fraser ended up in the living room with the Vecchio women. He poured Ray a drink in a crystal glass before handing it to him.
“The thing about Victoria Metcalf,” Vecchio said abruptly, “Is for all she is a crazy goddamn bitch, she loves Benny in her own, sick, twisted way. Loves him stupid.” He took a swallow of scotch and corrected himself, “Loving him makes her stupid.”
Ray looked past him into the other room, where Maria and Mrs. Vecchio had Fraser pinned while Frannie looked torn between being delighted and heartbroken. Frankie, who was three, was snuggling up to Dief, who looked pleased with life.
“How’s he doing, up there?” Vecchio asked, like he’d rather not have to ask Ray that. Like he’d rather not have to ask Ray anything.
“Good. The Yukon is—it’s nice.”
Ray had assumed that when they settled down, it’d be in the Territories, but they’d wound up in the Yukon. Frobisher knew someone, who apparently didn’t care Fraser had offended Mounties everywhere by exposing a corruption ring, and he’d ended up posted out of Dawson.
“The people here, as I recall,” Fraser had said once, when they were building the cabin and Ray’d asked why here instead of Tuktoyaktuk, “are more…progressive, about some things.”
And it seemed to be true. Everyone knew that he and Fraser weren’t sharing a house as buddies, and hell, Chet made jokes about Ray’s sore ass at least once a month. No one seemed to care what the Mountie and his American got up to in the wee hours of the night (which was just more day, because the sun never set. Ever.), so long as they were still helping out around town.
It wasn’t like Fraser was hiding, either. He’d worried, when they’d started, that maybe Fraser would be reluctant to touch him, dumb Puritanical ideas about propriety and public displays of affection, but he was all casual touches. Ray had realized that nothing had changed, really, because Fraser always touched him like that (mostly), only it was different because now Ray understood how possessive it was. It was a nice thing, to be something someone wanted to keep, instead of being the one who was doing all the keeping.
“Good, yeah, I—he looks happy. But I mean it, Kowalski,” Vecchio said, turning his glass around in his fingers. “She’s—why the fuck won’t he take the DNA test?” If Vecchio had hair he’d be pulling it.
“You think there’s a hell’s chance it’s not his kid?” Ray asked, taking a long swallow on his own drink. Vecchio tapped a manicured nail against the drinks cabinet, face tight.
“No,” Vecchio said. “No, she’s crazy, but she—the kid’s his.”
Ray shrugged: there you go, because that was all he needed, and all Fraser was gonna need. Vecchio huffed a sigh.
Dinner was loud, and Fraser sat back and seemed fascinated, entertained: distracted. Only kid, raised in the middle of nowhere, with his grandparents, Ray figured this would always be fascinating to him. Ray himself knew of loud dinners, even if he’d been the only kid at the table.
“I mean, so, you’re having a baby?” Ricky asked around his mouthful.
“Yeah,” Ray said. Ricky, fifteen and the heir apparent to the Vecchio family, narrowed his eyes.
“Together,” he clarified.
“Ricciardo, I swear to God,” Maria warned, scooping food onto little Nicky’s plate.
“Ma!” Ricky protested, gesturing, wounded like only a teenager can be, and sort of fascinated by the idea that two men were about to have a kid. Morbid curiosity, but you couldn’t win them all.
“Yes. Ray and I are partners,” Fraser said. “We will raise the baby together.”
“Which one of you will be ‘Dad’, then?” Connie asked, looking between them. She was thirteen now, wearing dark makeup and clothes and Ray was pretty sure if he went into her room he’d find a lot of death metal.
“He look like a ‘Dad’ to you?” Ray asked, jerking his thumb at Fraser, who smiled at Mrs. Vecchio and accepted another helping of primavera.
“Do they have a Canadian word for it?” Frannie asked, perky with interest and tilting her head at Fraser. Ray wasn’t actually sure that Frannie would know what to do with Fraser if she had him. He thought it was some kinda power trip, the way she could make Fraser flustered.
“Well, obviously many of the indigenous languages have—“ Fraser started, and Ray didn’t think he was the only one relieved when the twins, Sera and Sal, knocked over Frankie’s milk, and the table descended into madness.
“You should stop at one,” Vecchio advised them from the head of the table, and Maria kissed Sera’s dark hair and said,
“Children are a joy, Ray.”
“Other people’s children, maybe. When they don’t lie with you,” Vecchio muttered, and Maria whispered something to Frankie, who ran up the table and pinched Vecchio in the arm, his gap-toothed grin wide as he said,
“That’s from Mama.”
Maria was still trying to sop up the mess, and Tony was ignoring it, and Ray got up because goddamn he was going to kill Tony. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Fraser and Vecchio beat a hasty retreat to have a heart-to-heart, and Dief started chasing the kids through the house with wild abandon.
“He’s not so terrible,” Maria said, once they were in the kitchen, Angela in her playpen.
“Your husband’s a bum.”
“He gave me beautiful children,” she said with a shrug. “Big love—it’s all right for some. Raimundo had his big love, and she got shot. Frannie wants her big love and she’s been married twice. Ma had her big love and he turned out to be a good-for-nothing. At least my good-for-nothing doesn’t break my heart.”
She handed him a dish, then grinned. “For you, maybe, it works out.”
“Yeah, but maybe not for Ben,” Ray said, and she slapped him upside the head, pointing in his face severely.
“Listen to me. Benton Fraser is lucky to have you, and if I need to remind him of that you tell me.”
“Is this what it feels like to have an older sister?” Ray demanded, rubbing he back of his head. It was damp and sudsy, he could feel it.
“Yes. Lots of pain, but we’re the only ones allowed to give it to you,” she said, turning back to the dishes.
“Hey, Ray, Ma has something for you and Fraser,” Frannie said, poking her head in.
Mrs. Vecchio smiled at them from her old armchair, her fingers smoothing over a wrapped package. Vecchio came out of the side room with Fraser, who looked tired.
“Here,” Mrs. Vecchio said, holding it out to Fraser. “I made this for you. Both of you.”
Fraser took the package and glanced at Ray, then at Vecchio, and then undid the wrappings. Maria was smiling and pressing a kiss to Angela’s dark hair, and Frannie looked a little wistful.
It was a baby blanket.
“I made them for everyone,” Mrs. Vecchio explained, beaming at Fraser, tears in her eyes. “All the bambinos, and you’re family.” She paused and reached over to take Ray’s hand. “You too, sì?”
It looked delicate, though when Fraser said as much Maria laughed and said, “Trust me, the twins couldn’t destroy theirs.” She smacked both Sera and Sal affectionately on the heads. They didn’t even blink.
It was a sweet, pale pink color with tiny blue flowers worked into it, and Ray sank his fingers into the soft fabric and felt his throat get sore.
“Thank you,” Fraser said, clearing his throat. “We—we’re very grateful. You must not have had very much time—I—we’re grateful.”
“At my age you don’t have much to do,” Mrs. Vecchio dismissed. “Stanley Raymond. You like?”
“It’s beautiful,” Ray told her, and reached over to give her a hug. Mrs. Vecchio had, for two years, been his ‘mother’, and she’d always treated him well.
“You gave up your life so my son could keep his,” she’d explained one night, early into the assignment, when she’d conned him into playing cards with her after dinner. It’d been—early into the gig, maybe after the IA inquiry, right after he met Fraser. “How can a mother not love the man who saves her boy?”
She hugged him tightly now, and kissed him soundly on the cheek. “You will be a great father,” she told him, patting his cheek and wiping off her lipstick. She smiled. “We can’t wait to meet her.”
Their hotel suite was nice—nothing but the best when Ray Vecchio was making your travel plans, apparently. Ray stripped down while Fraser took Dief out for a walk. They came back with sweets, and Fraser looked a little embarrassed when Ray raised his eyebrows.
“It’s not as though he gets them regularly,” he defended. “Everything in moderation.”
“I’m just sitting here thinking about how you’re gonna be the pushover, and I’m gonna end up being the tough parent,” Ray said. “It’s gonna be good cop/bad cop all over again.”
Fraser considered that, taking off his coat and stripping down to his boxers. “I imagine that will probably be true,” he admitted.
“We didn’t talk about—do you want to be Dad?” Ray asked. “I was kidding, you know, at the house. What’d you call your dad?”
“Dad,” Fraser said, and Ray wondered if that was true. If Fraser had called Bob Fraser anything other than ‘sir’ and ‘gone’. “When he was home,” Fraser amended. “Which was—infrequent. What about your father?”
“‘Dad’, ‘Pop’,” Ray said with a shrug. “I can be a ‘Pop’.”
Fraser nodded, pulling Ray in. “I love you,” he said, and Ray flushed, because that was still its own kind of rush.
“You realize,” Ray said. “This is our last night as childless people.”
“The thought did occur.”
“We should make the most of it, is what I’m thinking.”
“I’ve always said, Ray, that you’re very perceptive,” Fraser said, his fingers skimming under the waistband of Ray’s pajama bottoms, sliding down the curve of his ass.
They broke apart to strip down, and Fraser grabbed a condom and the lube from their bags before climbing up onto the bed and kissing Ray in a way that was distinctly not buddies.
Benton Fraser was nothing like the way he advertised, at least, not in bed. Women looked at him and saw that guy in their romance novels—but better, somehow. Good. Kind and gentle and intellectual and Ray had no idea how they thought he’d fuck, how Frannie might think Fraser would fuck, but he was absolutely certain none of them had any goddamn idea. That whatever dream they came up with was nowhere near the mark.
Fraser fucked like—like he was proving a point. It was like the way he smiled, two years ago when they’d fallen out of a plane and into the frozen north. He was joyful about it, reveled in it, and Ray had given up almost immediately on being coy or shy or whatever, because Fraser acted like it was all new every time. Like being able to touch and kiss and suck wherever he wanted, however he wanted, was its own adventure.
It was so easy to give himself up to it, to just be—bowled over, somehow. Like it was a way to spoil Fraser—who the hell was Ray to deny him anything, anyway?
Except left to his own devices, Fraser would linger over Ray’s asshole, fingers sliding in and out and not enough and too much all at once. And usually, Ray would be up for it, but they had to be up in the morning, and Ray wanted it now, and so he rolled over, put himself on his hands and knees and said, “Sometime this year, Ben.”
The flush on Ben’s chest went all the way down, crested his shoulders and tinged his cheekbones and he was beautiful, like something out of a painting. He had a hand curled around the base of his dick, the other uncapping the lube. And then there it was, that ruthless slide that made Ray’s cock drool and his body shiver, trying to open for Fraser. Fraser had him by the hips, thumbs dragging across Ray’s ass and pulling, just a little, and Ray fucking knew Fraser was watching himself slide in, watching Ray’s body stretch around him, and he whined a little into the pillow.
“Ray,” Fraser breathed, and Ray reached back, helpless, grasping at Fraser’s hip, his ass, urging him on, trying to roll his own hips. Fraser always seems so impossibly deep inside him, and Ray thought that if he ever lost this it would kill him. That the spaces Fraser carved out for himself, left empty, would destroy him more effectively than Stella’s absence had.
Fraser curled over him, pressed hot, open-mouthed kisses to the knob of Ray’s spine, the freckles on Ray’s shoulder, the scar on his shoulder blade from the time he got stabbed by a kid on Madison. Fraser was reverent, and all Ray could do was roll his hips, open himself up against the burn of Fraser’s thrusts, and make desperate noises of encouragement. Christ, it was like being flayed.
Fraser reached down, grasping Ray’s dick and his hand was wet, still from lube, sliding fast and easy and it was too much, inside and out and Fraser murmuring encouragement, and Ray was coming so fast, so—goddamn fast. He went liquid, boneless, Fraser fucking into him harder, now, and Ray liked this bit, too. When he could just really feel Fraser, not even distracted by the fact that he was in the wet spot—the drag of Fraser’s dick as he fucked in and out, the way the head of his dick caught on the rim of Ray’s ass.
It was a shame, really, when Fraser came. It had just started to be too much, but not enough—never enough.
Fraser took off the condom and knotted it and Ray laughed a little, because time was he’d have said there was no point if sex couldn’t be messy, but now all he could think was that it would probably be a bad thing to wake up in the morning and wonder at what point he was going to leak the last of Fraser’s come out of his ass.
Sure, it was hot, but it wasn’t the kind of thing you really wanted to do when you were meeting your daughter for the first time.
Fraser, because he’d been raised right, took the wet spot after he cleaned himself up and then handed Ray the warm washcloth, and Ray, because he hadn’t been raised right, let him.
He thought he wouldn’t sleep—that the what-ifs and the worst case scenarios would keep him awake, but the advantage to being a cop for that many years was the ability to sleep anywhere.
It was a shame Fraser never learned that trick.
Morning came early. Fraser woke up early anyway: Ray’s usual method of getting him to sleep in was blowjobs, but this wasn’t that kind of morning. He felt jittery, hopping out of bed and groaning at the clock: 6:39.
“We should get breakfast, then supplies. We’ll need formula, and the front desk tells me that they have cribs for use,” Fraser said around his toothbrush. Ray nodded.
“Dief and I already went on a run, and he’s had several breakfasts,” Fraser said, shooting a disapproving look at Dief, who looked back at him, and then at Ray. Ray rolled his eyes, because yeah, obviously the only way Dief got ‘several breakfasts’ was if Fraser bought them for him.
“I’ve called the concierge to have the crib delivered, but I thought we could go up the street and make the requisite purchases,” Fraser continued, because Fraser liked a plan of action. He handed Ray a cup of coffee and Ray made a face and put it on the beside table.
Ray wondered, as they headed into the stores, how they were going to know what to get, but it turned out at some point last night Fraser had asked Maria for a list, so that simplified things. Fraser loved him a good list.
The shop associates smiled and were oh-so-helpful, and Ray did some intervening when Fraser got it into his head that they should buy her a full wardrobe, size 6 months to 2 years, because they weren’t that far from civilization. Fraser seemed a little overwhelmed, by the end, as Ray tried to make the sales girl understand that where they lived it was fucking freezing, and the baby needed like, the warmest thing they carried.
Eventually the manager went and dug something out of storage, because it wasn’t the right season so they’d put that crap away. Ray steered Fraser and their overflowing cart towards the front to check-out, and only grinned a little when Fraser pulled out the list and began checking things off as the cashier swiped them.
Such a control freak.
At 11:34, they got to meet her. The hotel was letting them use a conference room, and Fraser and Ray sat in the uncomfortable chairs, trying not to seem nervous or inept or overwhelmed in case Laura-Jane took one look at them and turned heel.
She didn’t though. She came into the room, pushing a carriage, and smiled widely at them both, and said, as she bent to pick the baby up, “This is Delilah.”
Delilah Caroline Fraser was beautiful, and scared out of her mind. She was quiet in Laura-Jane’s arms, but was leaning back a little, like she didn’t want to touch her.
“Delilah, this is your daddy,” Laura-Jane said, beaming, and shifted so Fraser could take her, but Ray reached out and took her.
“Hi, Lilah,” he murmured. “Hi, honey.”
She stared up at him, and big fat, silent tears streamed down her face. Her mouth puckered and started trembling, and he felt like his heart is breaking for her. Fraser was talking to Laura-Jane, signing a few forms, but Ray could hardly breathe for how much he adored this baby girl. This was Fraser’s daughter, and a part of Ray had expected to love her like she was just Fraser’s—but Christ, he loved her like he was hers. Irrationally pissed off to have missed six whole fucking months of her life, like they’d been stolen from him while he didn’t even know there was anything to steal.
Dief whined, leaning against Ray’s legs, and Ray crouched down to let him see. Lilah stared at Dief, and reached out and grabbed a tight fistfull of fur, yanking hard. Dief danced back, sneezing a little, and Ray shrugged at him. “She’s a baby, she doesn’t know,” he said, and ignored Dief’s comment about rude children taking after their fathers. The hell did he know anyway, he was a wolf.
By the time Fraser touched his arm, signaling it was time for them to go back up to their room, because Lilah was theirs, she’d stopped crying and was staring up at him. He kind of felt like she was just lulling him into a false sense of security.
When they were in the room, Ray put her on the bed.
“Laura-Jane said she’d be hungry soon,” Fraser said. “I imagine she’ll let us know.”
“Good thing about babies,” Ray agreed, half to Lilah and half to Fraser, “they’re pretty vocal.”
“Some have said that’s a drawback,” Fraser pointed out, crouching down to hand Lilah a ball that jangled when you shook it. Ray could already tell he was going to hate that thing.
“Probably in the middle of the night,” Ray agreed.
The earliest flight they’d been able to get, connecting them all the way home, was two days later, and so they had a lot of visitors come by.
The Vecchios all came by.
“She’s beautiful, Benny,” Vecchio said, staring down at her, and Ray and Dief exchanged looks. Vecchio was tearing up. What a fucking softie.
“She is,” Fraser agreed, because he was besotted. Ray’d alway said Fraser was smart.
The Vecchio women all cried, and Maria hugged Ray tightly, told him to call her if he needed any help, or just another person to talk to who wasn’t Fraser or the baby, and Frannie sobbed and threw her arms around Ray and told him she was so happy for him, the baby was so beautiful. Ray had stared, wild-eyed, at Vecchio, who eventually took pity and pulled her away.
Even the Duck boys stopped by, but left pretty quick because Dewey seemed to think that Fraser and Ray being gay meant they were going to try to jump him (Ray might have fucked with his head a little, if he wasn’t so tired and so worried because Lilah was only eating sporadically and she didn’t seem to sleep for more than three hours at a time and God, what if she hated them forever?).
Welsh and Elaine stopped in to congratulate them, giving them diapers as a gift because apparently that was the best kept secret in parenthood: you could never have too many diapers.
Stella stopping by was—well. If Ray’d known she was going to stop by, he would have met her in the lobby or something, because all Fraser’s hackles all up, and pretty much as soon as she stepped foot in the suite she was trying to make like a tree. It did settle that suspicion Ray had always had though—that she’d wanted kids, just not with him. She said the right things, but there was a dubious look on her face when she said them, and she stepped back when she thought that Fraser was going to ask if she wanted to hold Lilah (which was hilarious, because of the two of them, Fraser was the more clingy).
“I’m glad you have what you want,” she said softly, as Ray saw her out. “You’re happy, right?”
“Yeah,” he said, and was sort of surprised it was true. Not like he didn’t know it—he knew he’d been happy, but it was something else to say it to Stella, who’d known him since he was a dumb kid. He was happy.
Ray’s parents called at the exact time Turnbull showed up, and Ray tried not to laugh at Fraser. Sure, his mom was sobbing into his ear and his pop was attempting to sound supportive and not terminally disappointed in his ex-cop queer son, but neither of them were Turnbull. Who seemed to be reassuring Fraser for the eighteenth time that all of Fraser’s paperwork had gone through and yes, he was still here to personally deliver Lilah’s passport.
Fraser kept shooting Ray poisonous looks, but relationships were about compromise, and splitting the burdens of life.
But by the second day it seemed that she was—that she knew them. He didn’t know how long it would take her to bond to them, and figured the plane rides they were going to go on would test whatever bonding they’d managed to do. But when Fraser took her from Ray deftly, or she fell asleep in one of their arms, it felt like the best kinds of victories. Meeting Fraser’s eyes in those moments felt like working a case together, the big ones where they knew they were gonna win, because they were a duet. When they worked—there was nothing like it. And this—they were good, doing this. This was right.
Henry beamed at them from the tarmac. “Chet’ll be sorry he missed you,” he said, with a knowing wink.
“Yeah I’m real broke up about that,” Ray told him, handing Lilah through to Fraser. They buckled the carseat into one of the seats, but Ray picked her up out of it almost immediately.
“She’s beautiful,” Henry told them, his weathered face breaking into a gentle smile. Ray wondered if Henry had kids—he’d never mentioned them, and neither had Chet, but that didn’t really mean a lot. Maybe not everyone felt like hiring a skywriter to talk about their kids.
“Yes,” Fraser agreed. “She is.”
She was also miserable. From Chicago to Vancouver to Whitehorse to Dawson it was twelve hours of flying and layovers, and Ray’d gotten to use his ‘you want to go, asshole?’ stare for the last eight of them. Their stewardesses (“Flight attendants, Ray.”) had been torn between trying to be helpful and clearly hating them. In Vancouver Fraser had wordlessly upgraded them to first class: apparently Lilah was worth the splurge, and Ray had never loved him more than he did in that minute.
It was a relief when they touched down and could buckle her into the truck, bring her home.
Dief stayed long enough to see her in the door and then went fleeing out into the woods, something about checking for predators and needing to be on the ground.
“All it took to make him act like a wild animal was to introduce a baby. He can’t even hear the crying,” Fraser muttered. “Here, Ray, you take her, I’m going to go see to the dogs before they begin rioting.”
Lilah screwed up her face, and Ray pulled the light-blocking shades all the way down, shushing her absently while she cried.
“I know, you’re tired. I’m tired too,” he said, toeing off his boots and wriggling out of his jeans and shirt, so he was just in his boxers, and crawled into bed, laying her on top of his chest, wrapped up in her blanket.
He jerked awake at the feeling of her falling, and Fraser said, “Only me.”
“I thought she was falling,” Ray murmured, and Fraser brushed a kiss on his forehead and then went to put her in the crib at the foot of their bed. Ray didn’t know where the crib came from.
“Tommy left it for us. Apparently Chet told everyone.”
“Ugh,” Ray muttered.
“Ray. Ray. Ray. Ray.”
“Ben, it is time for sleeping.”
“Yes, Ray, but I just—“
Ray groaned (quietly, because he didn’t want to wake up the baby—with every fiber of his being did he not want to wake up the baby), and sat up.
“I realize we didn’t talk about it. I didn’t—I may have pushed this on you,” Fraser said, and Ray stared at him in the murky darkness of the room.
“Don’t be fucking stupid,” Ray said. “You didn’t make me do a goddamn thing.” Ray knew at some point they were going to have to talk about Victoria, and talk about what they were going to tell Lilah when she was old enough to ask. They were going to have to talk about how they wanted—Christ, he didn’t know. How to raise her, if Fraser would want to start going to church and if he would cut back his patrols so he didn’t end up being his father—absent from his child’s life. Ray could tell him for free that wasn’t an option. Ray was not Caroline Fraser: he wasn’t raising a kid alone so Fraser could visit when he felt like it.
“Well,” Fraser relented softly. “That’s good, then. I’m glad, Ray.” He laid down and pulled Ray against his chest, arranging him and the blankets to his satisfaction. Ray went with it: Fraser was weird about how they slept, said it was to preserve Ray’s body heat, maybe some kind of residual thing from growing up out in the Great White North, or that one or six times Ray almost froze to death before he got the hang of this frozen bullshit.
“Kinda funny, for someone who didn’t think he’d get a—what’d you call it? Conventional?—for someone who didn’t think he’d get a conventional life you’re not doin’ too bad,” Ray said around a yawn.
“No,” Fraser agreed softly. “Married with a child. I didn’t—see that. For myself.”
“Someone getting married?” Ray asked, and Fraser grinned, pressed the smile into Ray’s shoulder so he could feel it.
“Well, really, Ray,” Fraser said. “Lilah will need a mother’s influence.”
Ray kicked him.