Disclaimer: They're not mine. Sigh.
Ray relaxed back into his chair, a faint smile playing on his lips as he watched Fraser read the report. God he loved this man. Everything about him. There wasn't anything about Benton Fraser that wasn't precious to Ray 'That's Vecchio To You' Kowalski, even the annoying parts. From that one unruly brown curl that had escaped his otherwise perfectly behaved hair to the faint movement of his lips as he re-read part of the report, trying to make sense of Ray's sentence structure, to the scuff on his boot that Ray knew would not be there in the morning. Everything. From that slightly crooked tooth that defied the rest of Fraser's perfection to his big, square hands and those silly, sexy jodhpurs, Ray adored him with an ardor that bordered on worship.
He picked up the thermos on his desk and took a sip of the room-temperature blood. He'd been craving blood lately. Must need vitamins or something, since Fraser said your body craves what it needs. Unless he just flat-out needed blood for this ghoulite thing he had going on. They'd swung by the local blood bank and picked up a pint. Ray wasn't exactly sure how Fraser felt about this undead deal. He seemed supportive, well aware that there hadn't been much Ray could have done to avoid Ellery once the attack had begun, but Ray still worried. Neither of them spoke about it and Ray did everything he could to keep it under wraps. He was a Knight of the City, an officer licensed to slay, and if it became common knowledge that he was turning undead his status as a Knight would be jeopardized. The ultimate conflict of interests, he mused, sipping more of the blood.
He'd been a bit surprised by the reaction he got when he presented himself as Ray Vecchio to demons. Seems in the demonic and undead underground, Vecchio had a hell of a rep. He may not have been the finest detective on the planet, but the man could slay with the best of them. That was another reason he got this gig. Vecchio's replacement had to be a knight and out of the thousands of police officers in the city, there was a mere two hundred licensed Knights. Lately Ray had realized that while he and the Duck Boys and a few others here at the 27th were Knights of the City, Vecchio was referred to as /The/ Knight of the City, capital 'T' in 'The,' thank you kindly. It helped make the job a bit easier, at least.
Welsh's voice came from across the room, quiet as usual but somehow the lieutenant's voice always carried. Ray turned to see Welsh leaning against the door frame of his office waving a manila folder at him. He blinked. He'd thought he and Fraser and Igor were the only ones left at this hour on a Friday. "Good report Red wrote for you for the Parr case. Nice work on that."
Ray grinned. "Thanks, Lieu!"
"Thank you kindly, Lieutenant," added Fraser, then turned to his partner. "Well, Ray, aside from your avoidance of commas, very readable."
He chuckled. "Good, then let's make ourselves scarce. I want some Chinese for my B-negative to wash down here."
Fraser smiled slightly and rose when he became aware of another person had entered the bullpen. He turned and was surprised to see Damian Kowalski walking towards them. Ray was shrugging into his jacket and turned before Fraser could alert him.
"Raymond," greeted his father. Fraser detected a nervousness, an anxiety about the man. Over by Huey's desk, Dief lifted his head and whined in sudden concern.
"Dad, what's up? Everything okay? How's mum?"
Instead of answering, Damian looked at his son strangely. Ray glanced at Fraser in alarm then reached for his father's arm.
Damian looked down at Ray's hand for a moment, then back at him. His eyes were questioning as if he was afraid of something.
"Mrs. Howell saw ya today, Raymond. You remember, the lady that married the butcher down the block in the old neighborhood? She says she saw ya."
"Sorry I missed 'er, Dad. What's wrong?"
"She saw ya comin' out of the blood bank."
Ray went cold. Oh, god, this was not happening...
"I know ya used to donate when ya were a teen, but she says ya were in and out. She was gonna try and talk to ya but she didn't think you'd remember her. You were just a kid then and everything. She said ya had a bag when ya came out."
Ray was silent, staring at his father. He could feel his heart racing. Beside him, Fraser shifted nervously. Damian continued.
"She called yer ma. Yer ma is friends with Mr. Bruce, whose son does the records for the bank."
"Raymond, why did ya make a withdrawal from the city blood bank?"
He was silent, knowing any lie would sing out to his father. He didn't want to lie, anyway, but he didn't want to have the truth forced out of him, not here, not while he was protecting another man he didn't even know, not because of some gossiping old woman that couldn't mind her own business.
"It was for you, wasn't it?" hissed Damian.
Ray couldn't speak, realizing his father must have heard that last comment about dinner. He just stared down at his father and tried to form an answer from his muddled thoughts. The older Kowalski's eyes narrowed harshly.
"What the hell are you?" demanded Damian.
"Your son," whispered Ray. Fraser edged closer, sensing the degree of distress in Ray's voice.
"That ain't what I meant and you know it!" snapped Damian, his voice rising. In the quiet bullpen, it sounded unnaturally loud. "What's with the way yer acting lately? Always asleep, always with the glasses on, and now..."
He squinted at Ray then finished, "Drinkin' blood."
Ray's mouth tightened into a thin line. When he spoke, Fraser heard the control it was taking to keep his voice steady.
"I was attacked by a vampire," he said softly.
Shaking his head, Damian sighed in undisguised disgust. "I told ya. I told ya police stink. Now ya stink worse than the scum yer supposed ta bring in. Yer a fucking vampire!"
Ray lifted his hand. "No, Dad, I'm -"
Damian took a step away from his youngest son. "Don't touch me!"
"Mr. Kowalski, perhaps I could explain?" asked Fraser then plunged on without giving his friend's father a chance to reply. "Ray was attacked by a Gangrel Elder named Marcus Ellery. At this juncture, your son is not a vampire but a ghoulite. Ellery forced him to swallow vampire blood, true, but he did so without draining Ray or allowing Ray to bite him to drink his blood, thereby bypassing the steps that would make him a vampire in the classic sense."
His frown never faltering, Kowalski snapped, "So what's a ghoul?"
"Ghoulite," corrected Fraser. "He is essentially human with vampiric tendencies. He is going over, but it will take decades for him to be truly undead."
Damian gave Ray a look as if his son was the most revolting thing on the planet. "This is judgment."
"What?" breathed Ray.
"Cops are a dirty breed. Vampires are damned. Now yer both. I'm not surprised this happened. You had it coming."
"Sir!" gasped Fraser, horrified that a father could treat his son in such a manner.
Damian jabbed a finger at Ray's stunned face. "You never listened. You were always right. This is what ya get for not listening to me when ya still had a chance ta make something of yerself! Yer a damned, dirty vampire!" His hand lashed out and he slapped Ray across the face a sharp crack.
Ray wavered, his eyes huge. Tears threatened, but he knew that if his father thought he might cry the man would have no mercy at all. Dief was on his feet and growling at the one that threatened his other human.
Suddenly someone cleared his throat. Damian and Fraser turned to see Lieutenant Welsh back in the doorway of his office. He was glaring hard at Damian and he positively bristled with suppressed hostility as he advanced on the trio of men. Damian seemed diminished beside the lieutenant that bore himself with such authority.
"Mr. Kowalski, unless you have some official business here, I'm going to ask you to leave this precinct and not return unless you have a legitimate reason to do so. I doubt Detective Vecchio," and he stressed the name, "is going to press charges for aggravated assault on a police officer, but unless you leave immediately, /I/ will personally sign the complaint."
Damian Kowalski faced him for a moment before one final shot at his son.
"Ya made yer choices, Ray. Live with 'em. Or die with 'em. Yer not my son anymore. I only ever had the one."
He strode off and Ray heard the door bang behind him. He just stood there, unable to absorb this shocking scene. He knew Fraser was staring at him as he looked at the door his father had slammed, but he couldn't turn to look at the Mountie. Moments ago life had been so good, so hopeful. Now he was an orphan. He knew his father. He would never bend. Ray was dead to him. Or undead. The stupid idea twisted in his belly and he felt the emotion strangling him on the spot.
"Ray?" whispered Fraser.
"Detective," Welsh said in a gentle tone. "Vecchio...Ray, look at me."
Ray obeyed, knowing shock and grief were written on every line of his face.
"Come in my office now," ordered Welsh.
He obeyed only because Fraser propelled him there with steady and kind hands, one around his shoulder, the other holding his hand. They sat Ray down on the couch in the lieutenant's office and Dief jumped up beside him, pressing close. Welsh produced a bottle of scotch and some glasses and Fraser made Ray drink a mouthful of the liquid. Reaction was setting in and the detective was trembling.
"I'm so sorry, Ray," whispered Fraser, stricken. The blood bank had been his suggestion.
Ray's teeth clattered on the lip of the glass. "S'not yer fault," he replied softly. "I..."
"Detective, I understand you keeping this quiet," Welsh said assuringly. "Vecchio definitely wasn't a ghoulite. This is the kind of thing that appears on a man's record, though. When did this happen?"
Ray bit his lip. "The night Banadauer tried ta frame Vecchio in the Siracusa case. It's an old story. A long story. Ellery had it in fer me, though."
"What happened to Ellery?" wondered Welsh, recognizing the name.
"Dief ate 'em," said Ray matter-of-factly. The werewolf in question snuggled closer, then simply lay down across Ray's lap. The detective, effectively caught, gently stroked the wolf's head and scratched behind his ears.
"You want to enlighten me?" suggested Welsh firmly.
Ray cast a pleading look at the Mountie and Fraser cleared his throat. "If I may, Lieutenant?"
"Please," invited Welsh, pouring himself a splash of the alcohol and sitting back to listen.
The story came out concisely and smoothly. Somehow it seemed less horrible as Fraser told the tale of that night in the cemetery. Ray contributed nothing, just sat in quiet misery as he listened to his friend speak. He fell into a daze of sorts, lulled by Fraser's voice and warmed by the furry security blanket lying across him.
"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Welsh.
Ray stirred. "Was my fault. I screwed up. I didn't want anyone ta find out until this job was over. I'm in it now, can't back out and I gotta cover Vecchio."
The lieutenant gazed evenly at the younger man. He was a damned good detective and a likable person. A good person who had his priorities straight. Annoying as hell sometimes, but there was no doubting he was as loyal as he was tenacious.
"I'm not blaming you, Vecchio. You did a good job of hiding it. It's been going on, what? Eight months now?"
"Nine," said Fraser. Ray shot him a look.
"I don't think anyone knows and as far as I'm concerned, you keep it up as well as you have and you're good to go. Who else knows?"
"No one. He'll tell my mum, but they won't talk. I'm dead ta them." He saw the protest rising in the eyes of both men and shook his head. "No. He won't change his mind. She'll go along with him. They never liked what I was doing. Didn't fit in with their idea of what they wanted the Kowalski boys doing fer a living. He ain't comin' back ever again."
There was sadness in the blonde that it took all of Fraser's self control not to pull him into his embrace right then and there.
"Do you want me to contact them?" asked Welsh, no less affected.
Ray shrugged and shook his head. "Won't do any good. He'll always hate me."
"Then your father isn't a very intelligent man," said Welsh simply. "Detective, I'm giving you a few days off. Take the weekend, don't come back until Wednesday. Got it?"
Ray opened his mouth to protest. He honestly didn't want to be left alone with his own feelings for so long. "Lieu..."
"It's not an option, Vecchio. Constable, make sure your partner gets home safely."
"Yes, sir," Fraser replied.
"Go home, Ray. Get some rest. You've got my phone number if you need me. I'm available twenty-four by seven."
"Thanks, Lieu," Ray said softly, draining his glass.
"Constable, get your partner some dinner and drive him home."
"Yes, sir. Come, Ray."
Fraser phoned in an order from the 27th and picked up the Chinese food on the way back to Ray's apartment. The detective was silent all the way home, not an unusual occurrence when Fraser drove since generally he only let the Mountie drive when he wasn't feeling well or when life overwhelmed him. Once in the apartment Ray dropped onto the couch and Dief once again snuggled close to his second favorite human while Fraser unpacked the food and got them drinks. Ray just picked at the food, which was what Benton had expected, but at least he ate something.
"You think he may be right, Frase?" Ray asked abruptly. He rose and wandered over towards the windows. Dief whined, concerned as much about Ray as the leftover pot stickers.
"No. I don't." Fraser's tones were clipped. Cross. He rose and came to stand a few steps behind the detective. "What your father said and did just now was completely wrong and ignorant. You are not a screw-up, you did not deserve this, and your chosen field does not carry the stigma he insists on tacking to it. If I may be frank and if you will forgive me for saying so, at this particular moment I cannot help but think your father is a fool."
Ray blinked at the unusually blunt speech from his friend. He turned and faced the Mountie with a small shrug of his shoulders.
"Don' worry, Frase, I think so, too." He sighed. "I'm so tired. Tired of bein' alone. I don' mean here," he waved at the apartment they shared. "I mean here." He tapped his chest. "I mean, who would love me...for me?"
Fraser stared at him with an intensity that made Ray want to squirm. For one horrible moment he thought the Mountie might be angry. Slowly, then, the truth dawned. Fraser was seething. Not at Ray, but at the people in his life that had ever hurt him. Stella, his parents, Franklin, Ellery. Fraser was protective, territorial, even, always trying to put himself between Ray and whatever threatened him and standing behind him when no one else would. He was more than friend to Ray. He was the foundation of Ray's entire world.
A faint hope began to swell in Ray's aching chest, hope that this man would not hate him if he knew the truth after all. He loved Fraser. It was so natural, so easy to do, so right and expected. The whole world seemed to stop. Then Fraser quietly spoke four words that would change their lives forever.
"I would. I do."
He absolutely did not know what to say or think or do. Fraser, Constable Benton Fraser, found him worthy. In one night he had lost the world, only to regain a greater kingdom than any he had ever dreamed.
"Frase?" he finally whispered.
The Canadian's voice was just slightly unsteady as he said, "Yes, Ray."
It wasn't a question.
It was an answer.
It was every answer.
Ray swallowed. "Me, too."
His heart started racing as Fraser reached over and lifted his hand. He spent a long time just studying Ray's fingers that rested in his palm, gold against the Canadian's fair skin.
"You have such beautiful hands," he said softly. "I've always wanted to just...hold them. Touch them. Feel them touch me."
Ray needed no second invitation. With his free hand he reached up and with trembling fingers he traced across the Mountie's cheek. He felt tears in his eyes, the uncomfortable pressure of his own emotions threatening to overwhelm him, the glorious knowledge that Fraser, /Fraser/ loved him, Stanley Raymond Kowalski. Despite the glasses, despite the pains, despite the fact that some day he would be a vampire. Fraser loved him. It was written in those blue-gray eyes that shone on him. Then his questing fingers slipped across Fraser's lips and with a sigh that was almost a groan, Fraser closed his eyes and pulled Ray into a crushing-tight embrace.
He needed this. Needed the contact with another person. Male or female, didn't matter. The fact that someone cared was enough to blind him. The fact that it was Fraser...
He didn't mean to ruin the moment. So much had happened in a scant few minutes that his battered emotions were getting ahead of his reactions. There was so much to absorb that he was losing control of himself. He sensed a shift in Fraser's attention and silently cursed himself as the Canadian pulled back and looked at him intently.
There was such a dejected vulnerability about the American. Fraser did not want to let him go, now or ever, but he knew something was tearing the younger man apart. He saw the unshed tears in Ray's blue, blue eyes and he tried to convey some of his own pacific calm through his touch and his steady gaze. Ray was exhausted, as much emotionally as physically.
They spoke simultaneously.
They both stopped, amused.
"Naa. Age before beauty."
"I was...I was just going to suggest that it might be best if you tried to sleep. We can talk in the morning."
Ray managed a faint smile that tugged at Fraser's heart strings. "I...yeah, Frase, I mean...I want...I want ta be with ya. I mean, that is, I...I love ya, Frase. I..." He faltered, unable to put his feelings into words. He touched the Mountie's cheek, loving the faint scratch of stubble he found there. "I love you, but...I'm not ready for...more than that yet."
He turned his head so he could kiss those elegant fingers. "Good. I'm not ready either, Ray. And I can wait until we /are/ ready."
Gratefully, Ray nodded. "I...uh, yeah. Do ya think...could ya..."
"Could ya just...hold me fer now?"
A single thought was running through his mind as he felt Ray glide into his embrace. He bent his head down protectively, loving the feel of him, the scent of him as he pressed close and breathed him in. His Ray.
"Forever," he promised aloud.